Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Well, no PPM V cruise for me. I did well in all three tournaments, but not well enough. Two of them I went out within just a few spots of winning a cruise package.

I also played in a few MTTs and a bunch of SnGs the last couple of days, just to remind me why I hate tournaments so much. I must be a sadomasochist because at the same time I'm hating these tournaments, I have this strange compulsion to play in more. The story is always the same. Build up a nice stack, get deep (I final tabled over half of the MTTs I played in this weekend) and then in the span of about three crappy hands lose it all, just out of reach of the real prizes--the cruise package in some, or the big payouts in others.

For some reason that's more irritating than playing the same amount of time in cash games and dropping like $4k.

Ugh, that's it for today, I'm too annoyed.

Goal: PPM V, value $13,500. Total Spent: $1332. Status: Doh!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

So as some may remember, I made it a goal this year to try to qualify for a few tournaments, starting with the PPM V (Party Poker Million V cruise) in March. Well, since I posted that on December 13, this is what I've done towards that goal:

December 14: absolutely nothing
December 15: absolutely nothing
December 16: absolutely nothing
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January 26: absolutely nothing
January 27: absolutely nothing
January 28: SOMETHING!!!

So yeah, between doing well at cash games and my general malaise towards tournaments, I kept putting off working towards the PPM V until "tomorrow."

Until yesterday. I realized I only had until Jan 30 to win a seat! So I got right on it, playing in their 250+20 semi-finals, where one out of every 54 entries gets a cruise package. No, I didn't make it.

So, I only have three shots left. There's one more 250+20 semi-final today, and then tonight there's a 675+40 "PPM V Gateway" where one out of 20 make it, and then finally tomorrow there's a 150+12 super-satellite--to which I've already won an entry--where one out of every 90 make it.

So chances are looking pretty slim for me. But I have hope. And if I don't make it....eh. There's always Aruba!

Goal: PPM V, value $13,500. Total Spent: $347. Status: $985 more in tournaments over the next two days to try and make it!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Not much poker stuff today, other than to say that I spent all last week multi-tabling the 20/40 and 30/60 games on Party and I didn't play a single live hand or hand of NL. I ran quite well, so now NL is on the back burner again. At least until I run badly at limit again, which, given the nature of limit, should be within another day or two.

No the point of this post is that I'm a happy man. Obviously, Jessica Alba in a bikini is enough to make any man happy, but what really made my day was seeing the man who bagged her. That guy's not Brad Pitt or George Clooney, or Colin Farrell, or whomever. He's just a typical guy. Heck, it looks like he might already be thinning a bit on top (of course, that could just be the combination of camera angle and short hair, but I prefer to think he's actually balding).

Seriously, Me - 5 pounds + a few days of tanning = him. Well, plus eleventy kajillion dollars, too, I'm sure.

But talk about giving hope to average guys everywhere.

More poker and less superficial juvenile fawning next post, promise.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

I haven't really had any hands of interest of late, so I thought I'd throw an old one out there. It has stuck in my head for the better part of six months now, so that must mean something.

Mirage 40/80, four-handed. Button is quite loose passive, but the other two players (UTG and SB) while fairly loose themselves are quite aggressive, the SB especially so.

UTG limps, button limps, SB completes and I check my option with K5o (an unraised pot preflop is quite a rarity).

Flop (4 players, 4 SB): K 8 6. Checks around.

Turn (4 players, 2 BB): (K 8 6) A. SB checks, I check, UTG bets. Button and SB both fold.

What does UTG have? What's my play?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

So my "NL-only" week went well. Except, of course, it wasn't "NL-only." I managed to play nothing but NL cash games online (400NL 6-max on Party) and I did well there, but playing live was a different story, as the Bellagio had one 5/10NL game going with a lengthy list every night while the 80/160 game always had an open seat. This led to the peculiar result of my being called from the 80/160 game to go play at a 5/10NL game--peculiar because people usually get called from a smaller game where they kill time to go play in a bigger game.

My results were pretty good, although my handful of hours at the 80 game were by far the most profitable playing time I had this week. 400NL has gone well online, despite getting stacked a couple times with KK against AA, and another time when my nut flush ran into a very well-disguised straight flush. I was actually on the phone with a friend at that exact moment, and I think my exact words were, "hey, someone just went all-in while I have the nuts! Woohoo!......What the fuck!?!?!"

Live NL has been a somewhat harrowing experience, however. I've just been running badly, though, so I imagine it should turn around at some point. Lots of guys play it like others play limit--flop a pair, and call bets to the river hoping to hit two-pair, assuming you'll be good if you hit. At some point, they won't (either hit, or be good when they do), dammit. But besides a mistake here and there, I think I'm playing the game pretty good and, in fact, better than most at the table. I'm making good laydowns, good raises.

The only drawback to online NL is that it kills my Party points accumulation for their VIP offers (and, ahem, MGR for that matter). My points total over any given number of hands is tiny compared to playing, say, 20/40 or 30/60 limit. But oh well; I'll gladly give up a few bucks an hour if it keeps life all the more interesting.

I'm going to try to do for NL what I did for limit: play many tens of thousands of hands at a given level and move up. I already put in plenty of time at the 25, 50, 100 and 200NL levels--spread out over the last 2+ years--and so I'm at 400NL now. Maybe in a few months I'll be at 600NL and by mid-year, 1000NL. The 2000NL seems daunting just because that's where a lot of the super hardcore NL players play. Of course at one point live 6/12 limit seemed daunting, so I imagine by the time I get there it'll just be another step in the ladder.

Overall, I think NL is going to become at least 50% of my game now, meaning 50% of my playing time. The variety is great. Perhaps I'll be comfortable and confident enough in my NL game by mid-year to spend the rest of the year building up my other games so I can start jumping into some of the big mixed games around. 100/200 mix is pretty popular at the Bellagio, and if some of the players are as "good" at the other games as they are at limit hold'em then I should make out pretty well.

I'll end with an interesting NL hand from the other night--at least interesting to a NL newbie like myself.

Bellagio 5/10NL. Five-handed. I have about $900 behind, everyone else has me covered. Cutoff and I have been playing for a while, and he's rather weak-tight, although he's not oblivious to the benefits of position. He respects my bets and raises. SB is a brand new player playing his second hand.

UTG limps, CO limps, I limp on the button with K8o. I've been making a real effort to play more hands in NL when it's both shorthanded and I have the button--but I freely admit K8o might be stretching it. I dunno. SB completes, BB checks.

Flop ($50, 5 players): Js 8d 7h, rainbow. Checks to the CO who bets $40. I can narrow his holdings pretty easily here to most likely one pair, JT or better, and since he's able to get away from one-pair hands to big bets, I call planning on raising most turn cards, depending, of course, on my read. SB calls, the others both fold.

Turn ($170, 3 players): (Js 8d 7h) 7s, now two spades. SB checks, CO bets $80. I raise to $200. I expect to take the pot right there. But the SB now agonizes. "How can I lay this down?" He thinks and thinks and thinks. And thinks. Finally, he calls. The CO now agonizes as well, saying finally, "I have two outs" and calls. Yikes. My interpretation of CO is that a big river bet will get him to fold almost definitely. I felt the SB would either fold the turn or not fold at all, but he was too new to tell for sure.

River ($770, 3 players): (Js 8d 7h 7s) 2s. Both check pretty quickly to me. I have about $650. All-in or give up and check?

Friday, January 13, 2006

My annoyance with limit poker has crescendoed to the point that I am now, for at least this week and maybe longer, a no-limit player.

True, I've been spinning my wheels for about a month, now. True, I've ascended to limits that very few can hope to ever beat. But the main problem hasn't been the mediocre (recent) results or the difficulty of competition. Rather, I'm starting to feel hamstrung by fixed limit. I feel like I've developed skills that are rewarded more in NL play, but are practically squandered in limit.

One skill is hand-reading. Obviously, hand-reading is valuable in any form of poker, but one can exploit the skill much more readily in NL, via pushing people off of mediocre holdings, or folding fairly strong holdings. Here's an example from the other night:

Bellagio 2/5NL. I'm in the SB with 88. MP and button limp, I complete, BB now raises to $15. We all call.

Flop ($56): Jd 5s 2s. I check, BB makes a very weak bet of $15, followed by weak calls from both MP and the button. I call.

Turn ($116): (Jd 5s 2s) 3c. I bet $60. BB grinds his teeth a bit, almost calls, but ultimately folds. MP folds quickly, and button thinks for a while and calls.

River ($236): (Jd 5s 2s 3c) Jc. I bet $100. Button folds.

Now let me explain the hand a bit, and then I'll contrast how it played out in NL with how it would play out were it a limit game.

What's BB's hand range when he raises preflop? AK/AQ/AA-?? for pocket pairs, essentially. I hadn't been playing with him for too long, but he didn't seem to be much more than a basic weak-tight straight-forward player, the type that pervades Vegas poker rooms in the very early morning hours during the week.

He then leads out very weakly. Well, he could have JJ, but my read was that he was legitimately weak. AsKs or AsQs are possibilities, while much less likely are other suits of AK or AQ. Also very possible are TT or 99 (or 88, 77, but very doubtful lower).

The weak calls show that either no one has a J or at least no one has a J they're happy with.

I could go ahead and raise right there but there is a possible flush draw, and if there's one thing I've learned about NL players, even with your typical weak-tight mid-week Vegas crowd, it's that people have a hard time laying them down on the flop, regardless of the money involved. Looking back, I probably still should have gone ahead and raised, but at the time I decided to play it safe and wait for a good turn card. This, of course, ignores that there are many more "bad" turn cards than "good" turn cards for me, but it's what I did at the time.

The turn card thankfully was fan-fucking-tastic, so I lead out. This shows a lot of strength, and given I was in the blind, people really can't put me on too specific a hand. A straight, two pair, whatever, are all possible. But this is still baby NL, and so no one's folding AA/KK/QQ on that board, so really what I'm trying to do is get out what I think are hands that beat me but aren't too happy regardless--say the BB's TT and MP's J6s, for example.

The BB's very reluctant fold tells me he had something more than just AK--perhaps AsKs but then I'd think he'd call. I'm willing to bet just about anything he had TT/99 there, most likely TT. MP mucks quickly, so I figure he wasn't even as strong as J6s (66? A5?), but then button annoys me to no end and calls after a bit of deliberation. Turn pairs the Jack. Now, what does he have? A flush draw would call quicker. A Jack would either put more assertive action in on the flop or call quicker on the turn. He has a pair. And not only does he have a pair, it's not a 5--it's something he's reluctant to put down. He's got a pocket pair from 66-TT, but given that both he didn't raise and he really doesn' t want to lay it down, it's in the 77-99 range, and much more likely 99.

Now obviously he could have his J6s or whatever, in which case he's calling my final bet--or raising--but I'm 80+% confident he has a pocket pair and about 50+% sure he has me beat. Getting him to fold a better hand here is both 1) huge and 2) very possible. So I have to bet out and hope my read is true.

He folded, and claimed to have none other than the other two eights.

So I accomplished exactly what I wanted--I was pretty sure people were weak enough that a show of strength got me the pot. And not only that but I folded out one hand that was most likely the winner and another hand that would have chopped the pot with me.

Plays like that are possible in limit, but in very rare situations. You need the right image, the right opponents, and even then you're probably SOL. What does TT/99/88 do on that board? Raise preflop, bet the flop, call the turn bet, call the river bet. Next hand. All the hand-reading in the world doesn't get me that pot.

Another skill that is much more suited for NL is forcing people to make mistakes. I tend to play a fairly aggressive style and so anyone paying attention will realize that I don't have a hand every time I'm betting. That makes me look foolish at times, but also wins me a bunch of payoff bets on the hands I do make. It's a tough line to straddle in limit, since playing too crazy will just lose you money, while not crazy enough won't give people a reason to call down your full houses. And even if they do, it's only a bet or two. In NL, their poor calls and poor folds are much, much bigger mistakes, thus more benefiting my own natural style.

And, finally, although it's not really a skill per se, I simply like that I'm not limited with how much I can win in a hand. In limit, if I make a powerhouse to someone's second best hand I win a few bets, just like if I make a medicore hand to someone else's slightly more mediocre hand. In NL, my powerhouse gets the stack of my second-best opponent. As long as I'm better at folding #2 when mine and my opponent's positions are reversed, then I'm profiting, and hugely.

Now, all this isn't meant to disparage limit. I've played probably 400,000 hands of limit poker in my life, and I'm sure I'll play plenty more. Each game accentuates different skills, and has its own beauty. For now, I just need a change, and so will focus on NL for the time-being. With luck, I'll get proficient enough to hold my own at the Bellagio 10/20 game (or even, yikes, 25/50, which has been running pretty regularly), and so I'll have my choice of games when I show up--80/160 limit or 10/20NL? Which one looks softer? More variety is always good.

Monday, January 09, 2006

I've been quite busy lately which is why I haven't been posting. I've had multiple friends in town visiting, and had a three-night trip out to LA.

LA was tons of fun. I may have to move out there. I'm not kidding. The games were great, even the 100/200, which played more like the Bellagio's 30/60. Now if only the cost of living and income taxes weren't both much, much higher...

I finished December having my second losing month of the year, and the second of the last four months. Unfortunately with poker, it's impossible to tell if that's a trend (ie, I'm starting to play "out of my league" a bit) or just random fluctuation.

Graphing my income over the last year and a half or so looks like this (I hope this makes sense, I'm doing it the ultra-lazy way):

June '04: +
July: +
August: +
Sept: +
Oct: 0
Nov: ++
Dec: +++
Jan '05: +++++
Febuary: ++++
March: 0
April: +++++++
May: +++++++++
June: +++++++++
July: +++++++++
August: ++++++++++++++
Sept: --
October: ++++++++++++++++
November: ++++++++++++
Dec: ----

Oct '04 was technically losing and March '05 was technically winning but each by trivial amounts.

By Sept '05 I was both playing significantly higher, and significantly more live, so both of those increase variance in dollar amounts. But we'll see. Oct '04, March '05 and Sept '05 each represented a 40-day or so break-even streak (over-flowing a bit into adjacent months, of course), and it looks like Dec '05-Jan '06 might be the same. I guess there's no reason to go through one every five or six months like clock-work. But if my average income isn't going to increase--I'm just going to have bigger winning months and worse losing months--then there's really no point in my playing higher. But we'll see. If there's one thing I've learned about poker, it's that there's way too much randomness to ever really conclusively tell anything.

Also, just for fun, I figured out which limits I'll be playing on Jan 1, 2007 if I have the same proportional increase in limits during 2006 as I had in 2005:

Live: 600/1200 limit, 10/20 NL
Online: 200/400 limit, 2000NL

Hmm...something tells me I'll slow down considerably in my ascent up the limit ladder, but those NL numbers may very well be correct. In fact, I hope they are. I'm giving serious consideration to trying to make NL my main game. And to help me out, Bellagio has just started spreading 5/10 NL, with a $400-1000 buy-in, which will be my next step. Woohoo, go Bellagio!