Thursday, September 29, 2005

Let me get this out of the way first (necessary in order for me to actually play in it):

Poker Championship

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

This event is powered by PokerStars.

Registration code: 5384013

Now onto the post:

I may seriously consider transitioning over to no-limit play. Assuming I can again play limit like I used to a month or two again, my current expectation in limit is probably far greater than that in NL, but I'm finding my time at NL to be more enjoyable.

I sit at a limit table and my mood can be summed up as, "siiiigh, back to the same ol' same ol'."

I sit down at NL, even though it's itty bitty 2/5, and I'm excited, interested and engaged. In part this is because I can't really play NL any more than I can sing like Pavarotti, so it's kind of new and exciting just on that level. But also NL better rewards people who can get good reads on other players, and allows the bad players to make bigger mistakes. And I feel like I have a leg up on the competition in that I probably have a better understanding for the game in general than most of my opponents, so despite my lack of experience in specifically NL I think I can hold my own, at least at the baby limits.

But really, these guys just make massive mistakes that one simply can't make at limit. Examples:

2/5 NL. UTG raises to $30. Three people call. BB now raises to $180. Three of the four original callers all call. And it's not like it was AA against QQ against JJ or whatever, the BB goes all-in on the flop, and getting better than 3:1, the other three players all fold.

Another hand: UTG raises to $40. Five people call. It's not like people's stack sizes were all over $1000 here. One guy had $150, a bunch of others were between $300 and $500, and one or two were over that.

And hands like that are common. Seven-way pots for $20-30 seem to happen every two or three hands at the better games.

People overbet like crazy. I so often see people bet $50 into a $20 pot, or $250 into a $100 pot, whatever. And people will not fold two-pair under any circumstances. If someone gets two pair and you have something better, you will break him, period.

I don't know what a good win-rate would be, and I don't have enough experience to even guess, but I can really see someone living quite happily off these live 2/5 NL games.

Is 5/10 NL like that? 10/20? Inquiring minds want to know.

Now I'm here about to go back to the limit grind, about to fire up my normal six limit tables on party, and seriously considering just playing four NL tables, instead. Hmmm....

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

So: Bellagio 80/160.

First hand, ever. AKo, three limpers, I raise after having posted between the button and the blinds. Blinds get out, flop comes K 9 7 rainbow (can't remember suits at all for some reason).

I bet out and get two callers. Turn: (K 9 7) 4. I bet, MP raises, button folds.

So, very first hand at the 80 game, big slick, it's the turn and I make my first mistake: I call.

River: (K 9 7 4) 6. I bet, he thinks for a bit, does one of those grunt-laugh things, and mucks.

I think the turn's a clear three-bet, and even at the time I was thinking "hmm...this is a clear three-bet" but my very first hand at a table where every single player is brand new, at a limit I've never played before all kind of conspired against my instincts and reduced me to calling and hoping a 3 or an 8 didn't hit the river.

Someone asked if I CRed the turn. I generally try to reserve getting somewhat tricky for after I've gotten a pretty decent read on the table. I've found live isn't like online, where the button will always bet if checked to. Unless I have a good reason to believe someone will bet even without a good/great hand, I bet out to avoid giving a free card.

A three-bet there is clear because I can pretty much assume someone isn't playing K9, K7 or K4, and if they are, they're probably raising the flop, although K9 is a possibility. KK, 99, even 77 probably raise preflop (77 is iffy) and 44 folds that flop. So I'm worried about 77 or K9 slightly, but much more likely is someone picked up a draw, say 56, or is raising their top or middle pair in a big pot hoping for either a free showdown, or to push me off TT-QQ, AQ, whatever. KQ, A9, 98s, whatever may very well play it that way.

When I've been running well, I three-bet. When I've been running poorly, I get a bit weak-tight and call/lead or call/check-call. Sigh.

But, I won the pot, and went on to play five hours in what turned out to be a surprisingly good game. The cast of characters was long and varied. One guy sat down who didn't even know the mechanics of how limit poker worked. Seriously. Didn't know how much to bet on what rounds, had to be constantly reminded, kept trying to push in two stacks or whatever. It was a field day for the rest of us, although as always the frustrating field day that comes with the territory of this being poker: it'd be three bets to the guy and he sits there and asks, "how much to me?" gets his reply and nervously places out the call with whatever random hand he feels like he should play, and of course on a board of all rags suddenly starts betting and raising causing the guys with obvious big pairs to get that "creeping doom" look that anyone who's played poker knows quite well.

But, as usually happens, he rode the variance of poker up and down before finally busting.

Another guy was one of the most unthinking LAGs I've ever run across. He raised every single time he was UTG. Every. Single. Time. He probably raised 30% of his hands, and played about 50% of them. If he hit anything on the flop, a pair, a draw, whatever, he was capping if he could. If the board got a little scary, he'd call down from there, but under no circumstances was he folding. He'd bluff in position, and regularly CR out of position. In other words, he'd fit right in on Party Poker. Being a long-time veteran of Party Poker, I managed to do pretty well against him, despite a couple of aggravating hands.

There was the usual assortment of tight-aggressive players with various leaks in their games, but what was most interesting were the best players. They were, in short, quite good and accomplished players.

At, say, 4/8 the best players are those who actually read a few books and maybe that guy who was good enough to try 15/30 for a while before slinking back down. They watch those big tournaments on TV.

At 15/30, the best players were those who not only have read the books, but think about making a living at the game, and actively try to, say, play in the big tournaments. Every so often you'll run into a guy who won his way into a big tournament.

At 30/60 or 40/80, it's not uncommon to play against guys who play in those big tournaments. They don't necessarily win, but they do play. And there are plenty of people who make their living at that level.

At 80/160? The best players are the guys who win those big tournments. There were two 80 games going Saturday night, one of them a must-move. I was in the main game, but I looked over at the MM game, and there were five players...and four WSOP gold bracelets at that table. Yikes.

Admittedly, three of those bracelets belonged to David Sklansky, but still. As it happened, David sat down about 30 seconds after I left the MM game, and left before getting into the main game, so I never got to play against him. For those curious, the other bracelet belonged to Todd Witteles, who won his in limit hold 'em just this past July. I did play against Todd, but we weren't really involved in any hands.

Two other players were very well respected (and very winning) high-limit online players that I recognized, but most people probably wouldn't.

Despite the seemingly tough lineup, the game was actually quite good. It was definitely tighter than 30/60, and more aggressive, but there were plenty of four- and five-way pots.

I had one other hand that I think I also made a mistake on:

I'm UTG+1 and raise with AdQc. It folds to the CO, a very tight player who's also way too passive for this game. He cold-calls, as does the button, who is one of the excellent high-limit online players. I know he plays higher than 80/160 online, multi-tabling at that, and probably has just about every trick up his sleeve. Similarly, I assume he has pretty good radar for sniffing out just about every trick around. The unknown BB also calls.

Flop comes: Kd Qs 7h. I bet. Super-tighty CO calls, high-limit button calls, BB calls.

Turn: (Kd Qs 7h) 8d. I bet. Super-tighty calls. Button raises. BB folds.

Out of the standard three options, I internally ranked them as follows: 1) three-bet, 2) call, 3) fold. 1 and 2 are close, though, with 3 way, waaay behind.

The tighty, although relatively passive, would most likely raise a K on that flop with so many to act behind him. I figured him for almost definitely JT, since he would most likely fold a weaker Q already, though I really can't say for sure.

I was a little scared that he was slow-playing a monster--top-two, a set, whatever, but I'd worry about that if and when he began raising (a raise from him would represent about as easy a fold as there is for me).

My main concern of course was the button. I know for sure he likes to mix it up a bit, especially with position in what's becoming a big pot, so a semi-bluff raise is very likely.

What makes it more likely, is I can't really see what he'd CC with on the button that beats me. I know after one CCer, and having the button, his range is pretty big there. But he's also smart enough not to CC an early position raiser with the classic dominated hands like KQ or KJ. Perhaps he has JT, too?

The problem I had was that I couldn't just sit there and put them both on JT and be done with it. I had hit a spot where I was pretty sure I was good, and pretty sure that my correct play was to raise, but once again the combination of the new, higher limit, and my recent bad run making me a bit gun-shy left me simply calling.

Super-tighty called, and we saw the river of (Kd Qs 7h 8d) Td. My gut instinct was to bet out again (I was just loving those stop-n-goes that day, I guess) but the completion of the flush against a guy who loves to semi-bluff got me figuring that I was in a position where my opponents would either fold their missed straight draw or raise their possible set or backdoor flush (AdJd, AdTd, QdJd, whatever, all possibilities for a flop call and turn raise). So I checked, and it checked around. I showed and MHIG.

Of course I could have three-bet, lost the CO, had the button call and then fold the river, and I would have ended up winning the same amount. But at least I would have charged the draws the most (CO probably grits his teeth and calls with JT for example) and perhaps gotten a crying call on the river in a huge pot when the T falls. Most likely not from the button, but perhaps from the CO.

Gah, just an ugly hand, all around. Just call me Mr. Weak-tight.

Anyways, I ended up bouncing around a bunch, up, down, up down, and when the live ones left and were replaced with decent-enough tighties around 3am, I got up and left up just under 15BBs. Not a huge win BB-wise, but still represents a decent amount of cash.

As a coda, I played in the 80 game again Monday night. I only lasted an hour. There was one live one, but he left soon after I sat down (after handing me a nice runner-runner bad beat, which he had been doing to the table with regularity) and the game became probably one of the worst games I'd ever sat in. Super tight, with the button or CO going HU against the BB every hand that wasn't just folded around. The two or three decent-sized pots I got involved in didn't go my way at all, and so I ended up losing. I left after an hour when it became clear that people were not going to be making a whole lot of mistakes and I'd be better off spending my time elsewhere.

I think what all this means is that I'll try to make the 80 game my regular game at least on the weekends, with still more time at the 30 or 40 games, but I'll stick to developing other games during the week. I played 2/5 NL for five hours last night, and plan on doing that again tonight. NL is going to be my new focus, starting at 2/5 and perhaps in a couple months progressing to 5/10 and hopefully 10/20 at some point.

Anyways, that's long enough of an uber-post.

Monday, September 26, 2005

I didn't make it back out to the 80 game last night. A combination of going running and then having an exasperating (although winning) session online left me a little too warn out to go play such a big game.

But, like I said, I played in it Saturday night. Wow. Poker was fun again. Everything about that night was exciting on some level.

First, before even getting into the game, I had to of course put myself on the list. Now, for people who've never been to the Bellagio poker room before, it's laid out thusly: there are a number of podiums where one can put themselves on waiting lists. The first podium is immediately inside the entrance, practically blocking the entrance. That is where people sign up for 4/8, 8/16 or 2/5 NL. One could call it the low-limit podium. Set back a little ways and to the right, amidst all the action, is the next podium, where one signs up for the middle limits, 15/30 and 30/60 hold 'em, plus 20/40 and 40/80 omaha and seven-card stud, and a 40/80 mix game. That is the podium I've been visiting for oh about a year and a half now.

Now behind even that podium is yet another one, placed like a sentry in front of the area that appears, at least to this envious middle-limit schlub, like poker nirvana: the high-limit room. Set apart a bit and elevated, this room is for players only; no gawkers please. What is there to be envious about? What's not to be envious about: it's private, exclusive, well decorated, less busy, more TVs and more cocktail waitresses (per table that is), it's full of games that use exotically-colored chips, heck even the lighting is better, which serves to make it appear even more heavenly to those of us jealously watching from afar.

After so many hundreds of hours watching that area at first with apprehension (it is a bit intimidating) and eventually with yearning, I finally was at the Bellagio with the intent of playing specifically there. Nirvana. Heaven. The high-limit room.

I had butterflies. Almost like a middle-school kid approaching a girl at the school dance for the first time, I walked up. The lump in my throat had me worried that I might not even be able to talk intelligibly to the floor person. Seriously, that's how hard up I was.

But I managed. They actually ended up having three games going. I wanted to check them out first, so much like that same kid with that girl after the dance, I was meekly asking permission for anything and everything, expecting to get shot down, "Is it okay if I go up there to check out the games for a bit?"

"Of course."

So up the handful of steps I went, to enter the high-limit area for the first time.

As it turns out, they had three (!!) 80/160 games going. One was running very short, though, at three-handed. The other two were full. Well, I wasn't about to have my first experience at 80/160 be playing four-handed--I might get scarred for life--so I put my name on the list to be called when a seat opened at a full table.

And back down the steps I went, leaving the exotic foreign land for the drab elegance that is the poker room as I've always known it, returning, temporarily, to my proletarian poker.

I didn't stay long, as twenty minutes later I got called back to the promised land. Time to play 80/160. Would I lose $5000? Win $5000? Get completely run over, and have to scurry away with my tail between my legs?

I sat down just in time to post between the button and the blinds. I threw out my four yellow chips and just like that I was simply playing poker. The lighting was better, there were fewer people bumping into me from behind, the walls were filled with pictures and paintings, and the chips were a really cool color, but this was a poker table, and I know what I'm doing at a poker table.

Three limpers and I look down to find AKo. What an introductory hand. I raise from my worst position, both blinds fold and everyone else calls.


And I was off.

To be continued...

Sunday, September 25, 2005

I finally played 80/160.

I may play in it again tonight, so I'm going to wait until tomorrow before talking about it much, but I just thought I'd throw that out there.

And oh yeah, I did win. Thankfully.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I'm still alive. I've just been enjoying my time away.

It has now been nine days since I last played a hand of poker. At first I was sick of poker. Then I was indifferent, but when I walked past a poker room in a casino I'd feel somewhat queasy. Eventually, I started missing it and ended up really wanting to get back to playing. But finally, now after nine long days, I'm sitting here thinking, "Pok-er? What's that?"

In other words, I think I may have stayed away long enough to go past being recharged, and am now technically "rusty."

I plan to next play this Thursday, to make my total vacation eleven days. That will be the longest I've gone between poker hands since I started playing seriously nearly two years ago. I may need to be reminded whether a straight beats a flush or vice-versa, but I think I can get back into the swing of things.

If you see a guy fumbling around at the 40/80 game going, "Who's it on, me? What's happened? Oh, I didn't even see the flop, gimme a second here..." and he's not kidding, well that'll probably be me.

Anyways, because I spent the first eleven days of the month losing and the next eleven days on break, it looks very likely that I will have a losing month. It happens. March was actually a losing month play-wise, but I managed to barely squeak above even thanks to bonuses and rakeback. And then April-August was a five-month rush the likes of which I could never have imagined, where even my worst month was more lucrative than I could have believed possible. Similarly, October '04 was losing and then November-February was an excellent four-month run.

So clearly, if the pattern holds, I'm about to go on a six-month run that blows everything preceding it out of the water.

All right, I admit I'm not exactly holding my breath for that.

I leave you with an interesting article on psychopaths and financial trading, for which the parallels to poker are obvious.

A team of U.S. scientists has found the emotionally impaired are more willing to gamble for high stakes and that people with brain damage may make good financial decisions...

In a study of investors' behavior 41 people with normal IQs were asked to play a simple investment game. Fifteen of the group had suffered lesions on the areas of the brain that affect emotions.

The result was those with brain damage outperformed those without.

...Baba Shiv of Stanford Graduate School of Business said lawyers may also show they share the same trait.

Heh, is anyone surprised by that last part?

I know, I know. Low blow.

Monday, September 12, 2005

I am officially on a poker break.

I've had what amounts to my worst run of poker ever, and it's not all the cards' fault. It's gotten to the point where I'm playing impatiently and desperately. I'm not making good decisions, I'm not reacting to the situation, I'm just numb and playing very, very badly.

I don't know how long I'll be on break for. Hopefully at least a week. I need to step back and regroup. And I really need to get my mind on other things. I'll focus more on being physcially active, focus more on developing a social life out here in Vegas where I know practically no one that I haven't met at a poker table. Heck, I might even get around to unpacking those boxes in my living room.

One thing for sure is that I'll not be thinking about poker.

Friday, September 09, 2005

I've been running pretty badly lately, so there's not much I can say that won't come across as whining.

Hmm...non-whiney stuff to write about...hmmm....

Well, I continue to really, really want to try the Bellagio 80/160 game, despite the fact that most of my recent bad run has been at the Bellagio 30/60. The reason I really want to move up is that for me to play my best I need to have a healthy respect for both the amount of money involved and the other players at a game. Once I play at and beat a certain level for a long enough time, I tend to lose my respect for each. It happened at 5/10 and 10/20 online, it happened at 15/30 live and now I think it's happening at the 30/60.

I could just play primarily at the Mirage 40/80, but there's almost never more than one table going and about five or six of the players are always exactly the same. That isn't necessarily a problem except that with only one table going and those five or six regulars bolted to their seats, I often have to wait quite a while before getting into the game, and that's just no fun.

One of these days.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Just a quick update. I've had a couple friends in town and so have been pretty busy.

August ended spectacularly. I had my best week ever and so that contributed to my best month ever, by a large margin, at that.

September has not been kind to me yet. I've been alternatively winning big live and losing big online or vice-versa, and have ended the first week down a little bit for only my second losing week since March (but my second in the last three weeks--sandwiching the best week ever).

I think this past week is more a function of not playing enough. I only played five hours online instead of my standard 15+ and so with the smaller sample size comes the increased probabilty of finishing down. I finished up in my live play.

I'm not too distraught about the losing week. That's just part of the profession. It's always nicer to win, though.

I had some hands I wanted to post but I'm having trouble remembering them all. If I remember more I'll post, but here's one for now (then I have to get to bed):

Crazy 30/60 game at the Bellagio. I'm three off the button with black 99. A couple limpers, the guy to my right raises and I reraise. CO calls three cold, SB and BB both call, everyone else calls. Seven see a flop of:

Tc 6d 6c

I'm sixth to act, 21SBs. Checked to the first raiser who bets. Since he didn't four-bet preflop, I have a hard time putting him on a big pair, although JJ is a possibility. Otherwise, it's probably a club draw (perhaps AK or AQ) or even a pocket pair like 88 or 77. I didn' t have the greatest read on him, but I was pretty sure that there was a good chance my hand was still good, at least compared to him.

No, I was worried about the fact that it was a big pot and there were still five other players in. A flop raise wasn't driving anyone out, but it was too big a pot to just let go immediately, so I called planning on raising any non-threatening turn (ie, anything below a 6). Only one person drops, making me very worried, and six see the turn:

Turn (13.5 BBs): (Tc 6d 6c) 9d.

Well, I hit my money card.

Checked to the bettor again, and he bets. I call. CO folds and now the SB check-raises. The BB calls two cold, everyone else drops even the bettor, and now I finally wake up and three-bet. The SB agonizes a little while before finally calling (in general he has a very keen sense for when he's beat--but he still won't fold), and the BB also calls.

My read: SB has a 6, and BB is an atrocious hand-reader and still chasing a flush. I mean, c'mon, the call/three-bet on the turn in a huge multi-way pot is about as a clear and strong a signal as just turning your monster over for everyone to see.

Despite what I think their most likely hands are, either one could easily have a T--people who can't let go of TPTK no matter what are relatively common. Unfortunately, I have no real read on the BB yet, this being the second round I'd ever played with him, so I have to assign to him a small amount of intelligence and that means flush draw.

SB now checks in the dark. The river:

(Tc 6d 6c 9d) Ts

23.5 BBs in the pot. BB checks, it's on me.

Who bets here?