Sunday, May 28, 2006

I should have switched to NL earlier. My results have been amazing. Ok, I'm not winning at a rate that some top players achieve, nor am I playing particularly high (online 400NL, live 2/5 or 5/10), but coming over from essentially 2+ solid years of limit play, my bottom line results are so beautiful they make me want to cry. Why? They're almost all black. 90% black, 10% red. Sure the numbers themselves are smaller, but I'm not sure I'm giving up much if any total expectation. I mean, I might win $X playing NL whereas I'd win $5X playing limit, but the next day playing NL I'd again win $X, whereas I'd lose $3X playing limit. End result is $2X for each, but I'm in a much happier mental state having played the lower-variance NL.

I looked back on my occasional NL play when I was still primarily a limit player, so before about two weeks ago. 8 of 9 live sessions were in the black, as were 6 of 7 online sessions, with the one losing session a whopping minus six bucks. Last year I was a goober and didn't keep track of online very well, but in live play I was 17 for 19 in the positive playing NL.

This week playing only NL I had a great week. Sure, it's one week. Yes, I know about sample sizes. I'm not "counting" on anything yet. But I do know that if this week does become typical, I will have matched my average weekly win playing fairly big limit games, online 20/40 and 30/60, and live 80/160 and occasional 100/200. I'm sure I have yet to see all the ugliness NL can offer, but so far I'm very, very happy with my switch.

That's not to imply I find NL easy by any means. I'm still faced with tough decisions on a regular basis. My biggest problem is when I have QQ or JJ and someone else is representing a bigger hand. So far I've taken the "safe" approach, but I'm not sure. Here are a few examples.

(In each of the first two hands, my opponent is a very good player for the level. The third hand, my opponent is described afterwards.)

Hand #1:

Party Poker No-Limit Hold'em, $4 BB (5 handed)

Button ($394)
SB ($3618.13)
BB ($394)
Hero ($763.14)
MP ($1689.73)

Preflop: Hero is UTG with Qh, Qd.

Hero raises to $12, MP raises to $35, 3 folds, Hero calls $23.

Flop: ($76) 5s, 7h, Ts (2 players)

Hero checks, MP bets $54, Hero raises to $150, MP calls $96.

Turn: ($376) 7d (2 players)

Hero checks, MP checks.

River: ($376) Js (2 players)

Hero checks, MP bets $200, Hero folds.

Final Pot: $576

MP doesn't show.
Outcome: MP wins $576.

Hand #2:

Party Poker No-Limit Hold'em, $4 BB (6 handed)

SB ($546.08)
BB ($682.64)
UTG ($519.84)
Hero ($801.60)
CO ($91.10)
Button ($379.92)

Preflop: Hero is MP with Qd, Qc.

1 fold, Hero raises to $12, 1 fold, Button raises to $42, 2 folds, Hero calls $30.

Flop: ($90) Js, 3h, 6h (2 players)

Hero checks, Button bets $75, Hero calls $75.

Turn: ($240) 9c (2 players)

Hero checks, Button bets $262, Hero folds.

Final Pot: $502

No showdown. Button wins $502.

Hand #3:

Party Poker No-Limit Hold'em, $4 BB (6 handed)

UTG ($362.60)
MP ($231)
CO ($568.10)
Button ($399.40)
Hero ($404.55)
BB ($1165.48)

Preflop: Hero is SB with Jd, Js. Hero posts a blind of $2.

1 fold, MP raises to $15, CO calls $15, 1 fold, Hero (poster) raises to $53, 1 fold, MP folds, CO raises $553.10 (All-In), Hero folds.

Final Pot: $642.10

No showdown. CO wins $642.10.

The last hand I found most interesting because I'd never seen that play before. Call a raise from the CO, then when the SB re-raises, go all-in. I took up all my time thinking about that one, particularly because the CO in that hand had reason to be on tilt from recent hands. I've seen people call a raise then go all-in after a reraise behind them, and they've usually had a middle-pair, like 88 or 99, and relatively short stacks, like under $200. I've never seen someone do that against a blind's re-raise with such a deep stack, however. That definitely left me a bit bewildered.

Friday, May 26, 2006

I've finally had a couple big winning sessions, at least in relation to the stakes I'm playing (online 400NL). I'm definitely getting more comfortable playing some of the more precarious NL situations, like one-pair hands while heads up and out of position.

In fact, here's my favorite hand from the last couple of days.

Party Poker No-Limit Hold'em, $4 BB (6 handed)

Button ($472.20)
Hero ($388.60)
BB ($303.08)
UTG ($462.82)
MP ($916.75)
CO ($514.10)

Preflop: Hero is SB with Kh, Kc. Hero posts a blind of $2.

1 fold, MP raises to $8, 2 folds, Hero (poster) raises to $24, 1 fold, MP calls $18.

Flop: ($56) 8d, 7s, Td (2 players)

Hero checks, MP bets $60, Hero calls $60.

Turn: ($176) 2h (2 players)

Hero checks, MP bets $35, Hero raises to $150, MP calls $115.

River: ($476) 4c (2 players)

Hero bets $152.60 (All-In), MP calls $152.60.

Final Pot: $781.20

Hero has Kh Kc (one pair, kings).
MP has 8h Ah (one pair, eights).
Outcome: Hero wins $781.20.

What I like about that hand is that if I had played it faster on the flop then I probably wouldn't have gotten all-in. But by letting him take the lead and therefore define his hand more, I was able to confidently push knowing my hand was best.

NL definitely seems to reward skill more than limit poker. Here's another example of a hand where, while on one hand it was easy to play (I had the nuts after all), the fact that I knew my opponent was obviously strong allowed me to take his whole stack by way overbetting the pot rather than just dink a couple bets off of him, a la limit, or string him along afraid he might fold if I bet too big, a la most NL hands.

Party Poker No-Limit Hold'em, $4 BB (5 handed)

Hero ($448.72)
UTG ($450)
MP ($485.50)
Button ($416)
SB ($605.50)

Preflop: Hero is BB with Js, Tc.

3 folds, SB (poster) raises to $10, Hero calls $6.

Flop: ($20) Qh, As, Kc (2 players)

SB checks, Hero bets $12, SB calls $12.

Turn: ($44) 7c (2 players)

SB checks, Hero bets $35, SB raises to $85, Hero bets $391.72 (All-In), SB calls $391.72.

River: ($897.44) 4h (2 players, 1 all-in)

Final Pot: $897.44

SB has Ah Kh (two pair, aces and kings).
Hero has Js Tc (straight, ace high).
Outcome: Hero wins $897.44.

Here's a hand that illustrates pretty well the value of hand-reading and position.

Party Poker No-Limit Hold'em, $4 BB (6 handed)

MP ($110.69)
CO ($386.81)
Hero ($801.19)
SB ($888.50)
BB ($184.99)
UTG ($219.04)

Preflop: Hero is Button with Qc, 8c.

3 folds, Hero raises to $12, 1 fold, BB raises to $30, Hero calls $18.

Flop: ($62) Ah, 6s, 5h (2 players)

BB bets $30, Hero calls $30.

Turn: ($122) 9h (2 players)

BB checks, Hero bets $100, BB folds.

Final Pot: $222

No showdown. Hero wins $222.

But really, some guys are just donkeys. It really seems as though once a guy has made a bet at a pot, or the pot has gotten to be, say, at least $50 or so, some people just won't fold any pair. Here's an example which really isn't of any value except to laugh at my opponent.

Party Poker No-Limit Hold'em, $4 BB (6 handed)

SB ($805.20)
BB ($448.30)
UTG ($684.13)
Hero ($1028.60)
CO ($189.40)
Button ($726.45)

Preflop: Hero is MP with 4d, 4c.

UTG calls $4, Hero calls $4, CO raises to $20, 3 folds, UTG calls $16, Hero calls $16.

Flop: ($66) 4h, Jh, 9c (3 players)

UTG checks, Hero checks, CO bets $40, UTG calls $40, Hero raises to $200, CO folds, UTG calls $160.

Turn: ($506) 5c (2 players)

UTG checks, Hero bets $808.60 (All-In), UTG calls $464.13 (All-In).

River: ($1778.73) Ah (2 players, 2 all-in)

Final Pot: $1778.73

UTG has 9d Ad (two pair, aces and nines).
Hero has 4d 4c (three of a kind, fours).
Outcome: Hero wins $1778.73.

He called a large bet and then an all-in with a fairly deep stack with middle pair. And while that's the most extreme case I've run into--so far--there are a dozen other hands which are similar, where a guy has middle pair and no real draw yet is willing to get his whole stack in the middle over the course of the hand. It boggles my mind, but I'm definitely not complaining. Those guys pay my bills.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

NL has been going okay. My wins and losses have been quite small in relation to limit, even when I just played 5/10. I haven't been playing a whole lot, though. The sense of urgency that compelled me through 40 hour weeks back in '04 and '05 (and rocketed me from 4/8 to 100/200 in the same timeframe) seems to have deserted me.

One trend I've noticed, which I admit might be just some combination of selective memory and small sample size, is this: If someone goes all-in when I have the nuts, they invariably are completely bluffing. They didn't decide that I didn't have the nuts when they held the second nuts or whatever, they were just all out bluffing. However, if someone pushes all-in when I have the second nuts, they invariably have the nuts.

First, this leads me to the possible conclusion that a person pushing either has the nuts (or close enough for government work) or it's a total bluff. Assuming stacks are reasonably large, people just won't push with very strong but clearly non-nut hands, nor will they with relatively weak hands that aren't total misses (middle or top pair or something). I guess that makes sense. If you have no hand whatsoever the only way you can win is if the other guy folds and if you have a great hand, well hope the guy has something he can call with. But between the two, why risk blowing a person off a weak hand with which he might call a smaller bet, or make a huge bet that only hands that beat you can call?

But also, one thing I'm still confused about is how come it seems as though a person never pushes on a bluff when I have the second nuts? They've certainly shown a willingness to push on a bluff. And I'm not going to play the second nuts much differently from the nuts, so I doubt my play influences their decision. Yet the #2/pure bluff combo never seems to happen.

I guess I should just chalk that up to either selective memory or small sample size.

Anyways, I really feel like I'm approaching NL much like I used to approach limit when I did 2/4 and 3/6 limit online. I'm very wary about moving up. I always feel like if I won or have been winning for a while it's just luck and it'll all come crashing down soon.

I still haven't had the convincing string of wins that I would have at limit. At NL, the wins are supposed to be large and the losses rather small and sporadic. Well my wins are bigger than my losses, but still not overly large. And my losses seem to occur more frequently than some good NL players experience. Although many of those can usually be traced back to that one bad call, or one bad attempted bluff.

Certainly it should be expected that I'm not as good as guys who've been playing NL like I used to play limit. But it would be nice to just have that one day like I had with limit where all of a sudden I was winning and winning regularly for 18+ months. I guess while I'm at it, it would be nice to have a Ferrari, a beachfront mansion and a supermodel girlfriend, too.

I guess if how much attention I've been paying to my blog lately is indicitive of how focused I am on poker then it shouldn't be too surprising my results aren't improving as much as I'd like.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

I'm back.

I played last night, Friday, at the Wynn. 2/5NL. Last time I'd played live was March 10. Last time I'd played online was March 24. In fact, I didn't play at all between those two dates, so besides that one day in late March this is the first time I've played in over two months.

I actually started writing about it as soon as I got home last night. I spent over two hours on a long, rambling emotional examination into how apparent it is now that I've played how burnt out and out-of-it I was a few months ago, but how excited and eager I am to be back playing. Well you all know what's coming next. I lost it. It's almost a rite of passage for bloggers to have that one post complaining about a lost post. Personally, I would smugly look down on all those guys who would sit there and whine about losing a super-long entry, since 95+% of the time the reason was "blogger ate it! I clicked submit and it disappeared!" Ha-HA, I would think to myself, I am superior to these other twits because I make sure to copy what I wrote before I submit it. Good ol' Ctrl-C. That will never happen to me.

Of course, rewind to many months ago after my UPS dies--and after finding this out by my computer dying along with the power during a rare storm here while in the middle of frickin 8-tabling--I decide to procrastinate for a half a year before replacing it right up until the moment the power blinks out again, last night, with clear skies overhead, 2 1/2 hours into typing what would have been my magnum opus, and about 5 minutes away from finishing it and clicking submit. So instead of a deep, meaningful, serious post, you get this somewhat sarcastic, slightly bitter, semi-whine post (which I've saved about 8378304362928 times so far). But, hey, it's shorter, so maybe you win anyways.

I'll summarize the long-lost entry in list form:

1) Haven't played in a while
2) Haven't wanted to play in a while.
3) Played last night because I actually wanted to.
4) It was like I'd never left
5) Except I was more emotionally detached and mentally engaged than I was two months ago when I was the exact opposite--emotionally engaged and mentally detached. Last night, I was playing more like I'd played 6 months or a year ago.
6) Yay, poker!

Of course that means I won. And, for the first time in forever, I actually have hands to post! I can't guarantee they're interesting, only that they're the most interesting hands I've played in the last two months (spanning a whole 5 hours of play!).

Hand #1:

UTG seems to be slightly on tilt. What this means is that he's as tight as ever (which is very tight) but he is uber-aggressive. I've only seen him call once, on any street, otherwise he's been in pump-it-or-dump-it mode. He bets, raises or folds. Because of this he hasn't shown down many hands, but those he has shown down have been good. He has, however, mixed it up a little preflop, like the last round where he raised 3X the BB from UTG with A2s.

MP is the exact opposite. He's been very, very passive. He merely called out of the BB with AA after a few limpers and a late-position raise. Then he proceeded to check-call both the flop and the turn, only betting the river when he looked down to find himself almost all-in in a large pot heads-up.

$500 effective stacks, 2/5NL, full game.

UTG raises to $15. One fold. I'm next to act with QQ. I make it $45 to go. MP calls right after me. Folds back around to UTG. He immediately makes it $115 to go. I fold.

Hand #2:

BB has been playing tight and fairly solid, but for the last 15 mins or so, so has the rest of the table. He's gotten somewhat antsy. He straddled, he's made a couple of moves with mixed results. He's essentially playing like someone who's gotten a bit impatient and feels he can push the rest of us nits around on occasion.

$600 effective stacks, 2/5 NL, full game.

Everybody limps, I limp along in the CO with 8d7d. Button limps, SB completes. BB raises to $40. Everyone folds to me, and the button and SB are clearly folding after me. I call. Button and SB do as they promised and it's heads-up. BB seems nervous.

Flop ($101 in pot): Ad Kc 9d

BB leads for $50. I call, planning on betting or raising any turn.

Hand #3:

UTG has been very tight and fairly inactive for a while now. No real reads on him except that he's not a lunatic.

$700 effective stacks, 2/5 NL, full game.

UTG raises to $25. I'm in MP with AhKh. I call. Everyone else folds.

Flop ($54 in pot): Ad 8s 4c

UTG leads for $100. What's my best move here? What about if I didn't have an A?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Living in Vegas means I'm regularly entertaining out-of-town guests. One item that has always been of great interest (to the point of earning a permanent spot on the "visitor tour") has been the $5,000 slot machine at the Wynn. Almost without fail, everyone who sees it looks at it in awe and bewilderment for a few seconds and then asks: "Who the heck would play that thing?"

Until now, I could never answer because I'd never seen it in use. Well, finally, here is your answer.

John Daly says he has lost between $50 million and $60 million during 12 years of heavy gambling...He told one story of earning $750,000 when he lost in a playoff to Tiger Woods last fall in San Francisco at a World Golf Championship. Instead of going home, he drove to Las Vegas and says he lost $1.65 million in five hours playing mostly $5,000 slot machines.

Sounds like I should install a $6,000 machine in my apartment and try to take all their business.

But thank you, Mr. Daly. Sounds like we owe a fairly large fraction of 1% of the strip to your generosity. Have you ever considered poker?