Sunday, June 10, 2012

I'm Telling You

I've recently been reading a really good new book on tells.  Reading Poker Tells, by Zachary Ellwood does a great job not only of describing common tell behaviors, but also looking at the emotions that underlie those behaviors.  I think understanding those underlying emotions takes you further down the road towards understanding the basic difference between how a person behaves when they're relaxed as opposed to when they are stressed, and that is a fundamental part of reading people.

Another thing the book has caused me to do is to become more aware of some of my own behavior and the tells I might be giving off.  Now this process requires concentration and a good deal of self awareness.  You've got to be able to pick up the subtle changes in your own behavior, but it's a good exercise.  I want to tell you all about a particular tell I realized I was giving off in the hopes that it will give you a shortcut to making sure you aren't doing the same.

So the scene is the Bellagio and once again I am playing with AVPer turdferguson and his wife, Mrs Turd.  This is a different night from the time discussed in this post, and we're just there getting the last couple of hours the turds need to cover their poker room rate.  The conditions are even more cramped then they were the other night as we were seated at a smaller than usual poker table (a stud table I believe) that is tucked into one of hte back corners of the room.  This wasn't a great table, with only one or two real spots, but we're just getting the time out of the way with the plan to head out to Aria once the Turds have punched their clock.  I've also managed to end up again with TF a couple to my left which is not a great position.  I know that his post flop skills are well above mine and that he's going to have a big advantage over me in any big pots we play.  Between that, the general table conditions and the fact we weren't going to be playing there long I was keeping things pretty snug.

Since this was as much a social event as a money making endeavor I decided to have a cocktail and had ordered a mojito.  As the side of the table I was sitting on was close up against a wall, there was no way to get a side table in there (do they even have side tables at the B?) and so I set my drink on the table, tucked right against the rail and to the right of my stack.  My general practice is to protect my cards in my left hand, check them quickly using both hands to squeeze the cards when the action was just about on me, and then bring my right hand back to cut out chips as needed.  Consistent with trying to manage tells, I've been working on keeping a consistent physical routine when I play a hand.

In the hand in question, I am in the BB and TF opens from early position.  His range here is still pretty wide approximately one astronomical unit wide and because folks have been paying some attention he gets about three callers before it gets back to me.  I look down at QQ which is nice because a three bet here looks a ton like a squeeze and so I think I can get some action from TF with weaker hands.  Post flop can be fun because I'm going to have to be willing to go further with a marginal hand than I might otherwise like to, but I'm ready for that.  I'm calculating how I want to size the reraise and start to bring my right hand around to count out the chips...

Annnnd .... right into the beverage.  At least I managed to direct out into the felt and not where it covered anyone's hands cards or chips.  I was in shock for a moment never having done anything like that before, but went ahead and put out my raise while the dealer called for a towel.  Everyone's cards hit the muck before the towel arrived and I raked in a decent pot just off of everyone's raises.  I certainly didn't maximize value however.

So there it is, the mojito tell of strength.  I know that it's an easy tell to give off without realizing it, so I hope that my experience allows all of you to avoid doing it ... unless of course you are pulling a reverse tell while three betting with junk.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Actual Poker Content

OK, it's definitely a challenge to come up with material for posts in a poker blog when you don't actually, you know, play poker.  That's definitely the situation I have found myself in over the last few weeks as I just wasn't playing at all.  As I posted before, I've taken on some new commitments with music that have occupied a portion of what was previously poker time.  That's only part of what has kept me away from the tables though.  The fact that work is buzzing along pretty well is also part of it, but there have still been times that I've had available to play, and intended to play, but when it's come right down to it, I've generally found myself deciding to do other things instead.

I've reflected on this situation a lot.  I was wondering if I had just lost my interest in the game.  I did not believe that was the case as I would still enjoy the mental stimulation of thinking through a poker hand.  Thinking about actually going and playing would produce kind of an "ugh" reaction however.  What I finally decided was that I was giving myself a break from most of the people that you tend to find sitting around the tables.  Before I go any farther, I should clarify that I don't include poker bloggers or poker blog readers in that group.  The fact is though, that is a relatively small subgroup out of the overall group of poker players.  You know the kind I'm talking about - generally miserable people who seem to exist to complain about things and just throw a lot of negativity around.  I think in general I was just tired of spending so much time around that group.

Last week though I ended my hiatus from play.  I actually had a false start in my return to the tables.  Last Tuesday I went to an after work reception that was supposed to last a couple of hours.  Since I was going to find myself down in the area of the Strip in the evening, I decided to take a shot and sent Rob a twitter message asking if he was going to be playing at "BSC" later that evening.  He responded quickly that he would and I said I would probably swing by.  True to recent form though, other things came together to keep me away from the tables.  The reception ran a little long and then some friends asked me to go grab a bite afterwards.  I was wanting to catch up with them, so I sent my regrets to Rob.

Two nights later though I had made some plans to visit with an AVP member who was visiting from the Great White North.  That would be user turdferguson.  Turd grabbed my attention as soon as he started posting since his board handle comes from one of my all time favorite SNL sketches:

I have met him here a couple of times in the past along with his wife, the lovely "Mrs Turd" (who by the way is cool enough that she thinks it is hilarious to be called Mrs Turd) and he had sent a message on AVP letting me know they were visiting last week.  We decided to meet Thursday evening at the Bellagio.  They were going to be staying there a couple of nights on the poker room rate and needed to get their hours in.  I wanted to check it out as, believe it or not, I had actually never played at the Bellagio before.

I got to experience for myself some of the things I had read about the room, most notably the fact that the table were really squeezed together.  I did not experience what I have seen reported before, namely an attitude from the staff that low stakes players were not really worth their time.  I found everyone who worked there to be helpful.

I arrived at the room about an hour ahead of time and grabbed a seat.  Here I started noting another thing that singles out the game there.  The B's buy in for $1-$2 game is $100 min $200 max.  I like to buy in for $200 so that was not a problem but having a buy in range between 50 and 100 bbs really works to make the game play short.  As Turd noted later when he arrived, so many poker problems at the B are stack size problems more than anything else.  Still, the overall effect of that is to simplify decisions in the sense that you're deciding fairly early usually whether you are willing to play for stacks and once you make that adjustment the play is not overly complicated.

When I started out the table was very soft and also very passive.  After about an hour, Turd showed up and was able to get sat at my table.  Not to soon thereafter, Mrs Turd also arrived and likewise got seated at our table.  I was in the 2 seat and Turd was in the 3 seat.  Now the Turd likes to play a very aggressive style, so having him on my left was not the most favorable situation.  I dealt with it though I thought I was going to get some relief when Mrs Turd arrived.  You see, the seat that was open for her was the 1 seat and she remarked that she didn't want the two of us on her left.  I observed to her that she was probably pretty likely to get the 3 seat and have him move to the 1 seat if she wanted, a move that I was sure I could not pull off.  She elected to go ahead and take the 1 seat however, leaving me sandwiched between the Turds (yes I find that amusing, I'm embracing my inner 12 year old boy).

As the Turds were coming into the game, the table was in the midst of a metamorphosis.  Still very soft players, but the aggression was increasing.  We ended up with a bunch of Euros at the table including a group of 3 guys all together who I believe were Russian.

Turd and I observed that the table was great.  People were plenty interested in splashing around and getting money in bad.  Unfortunately, these Russian guys had perfected the art of getting money in bad and getting there.  It probably started in a hand where one of the Russians and I both flopped top pair on an A high board.  I was  pretty sure I had him dominated and he was playing very short at that time, so we got it all in on the turn I believe.  I do recall the river being a four and him quickly rolling over A4 for a rivered two pair.  I sighed a bit and sent my cards (AT if I recall correctly) to the muck.  I had met my Newman.

That was kind of how the night went.  Everyone at that table was pretty easy to read.  Unfortunately, they were also getting run over by the deck.  Twice my flopped two pair out of the blinds got overtaken (once against a short stack who had flopped the straight and once by Newman turning a better two pair after the money all went in.

The night ended in fitting fashion.  Newman limped under the gun. and it folded to me on the button with AT.  I raised, the blinds folded and Newman three bet.  Again, this was a stack size problem I was deep enough to have some fold equity that I thought could fold better Aces and, if he was doing this with a smaller pair then I wanted to get his money in the pot before the board scared him so I shoved.  He gave a textbook snap call and rolled over his AA.  *sigh*  You know folks, every time someone open limps/three bets with AA a puppy dies.  Don't be mean to puppies OK?

I actually turned a gutter draw and thought it would be sweet irony if someone sucked out on Newman for a change (he had amassed a huge stack by this point) but the river did not come in for me and that was all of my second buy in, so I decided to call it a night.  I bid Turd and Mrs Turd adieu.  We had plans to meet up Saturday night along with Mrs Flops for dinner ... but that's another post.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I Have a Thing for Blondes

Ah, things are bustling in my world these days, but I do have a few stories cued up to tell.  For starters I need to tell everyone about the new woman in my life.  She's blonde with a long lean body and a deep throaty voice.  She's super sexy and I definitely have the hots for her.  Things have actually progressed pretty fast, in fact, she's moving in to the house today.

Some of you may be asking, "wait, what about Mrs. Flops"?  Well, for those of you who haven't already figured it out, Mrs. Flops is a super cool chick and she is welcoming this new lady with open arms.  In fact, the Mrs. has been pretty blunt about how she's looking forward to watching me do my thing with this new hottie.

So, I thought you might want to see a picture of my new lady.  Is it safe for work?  I suppose that's up to you, and really why would you want me to tell you in advance.  Half the fun is not knowing:

Monday, April 9, 2012

Weekend Update

The Flops had a very busy weekend.

Friday after work, I met up with someone that I know that plays in a band.  I mentioned in this post that I need to find some folks to play with.  A week or so after I decided to pursue that, I found out this guy who I have known casually for a few years in fact played guitar in a band.  I was at a lunch with him and just plunged in with, "so do you guys need a bass player?" and it turns out they did.  We arranged to meet last Friday evening for the band's regular practice.  It turned out really well.  I played real simple stuff but for the most part was able to fit things into the songs.  Although I wouldn't call my playing performance ready by any stretch I think I made clear that I understood the basic role of the bass player in a band and that I had enough knowledge and basic talent to give them faith that I can get up to speed by the time they perform next which is sometime in May, so ... I'm in my first band.

Which means Holy Crap, I've got a bunch of work to do!  Their set list has over 30 songs on it, some of which I had never heard before last Friday and none of which I really know how to play yet.  There are a couple of tunes which have parts which will technically challenge me, but I think the challenge is exactly what I need to improve my technique (i.e. the physical manipulation of the instrument) and having more confidence in my technique will allow me to get over one of the really big hurdles I've had as a musician.

Saturday was breakfast with Mrs. Flops followed by my bass lesson.  As you might imagine from the work I've outlined having to do above, I'm seeing my lessons with a heightened sense of urgency.  My teacher was definitely excited to hear about me taking this step and he's promised that we'll go through the whole song list and that he'll help me get ready.

After the lesson, the Mrs. and I headed out to run errands, the biggest of which was me making a run to the mens store to pick out some new suits.  That was an involved process, but I'm very happy with what we've picked out and think it will help me stay looking sharp during the day job.  When we got home the Mrs. announced that she had a bunch of work to do around the house and suggested I should go play poker.  Who am I to argue with a suggestion like that.

I got to the room about 10 minutes before the evening tournament was supposed to start and there was also a cash game going.  I elected the tournament which ended up only getting around 20 folks.  That was fine with me as I was starting to feel pretty tired (up late the night before and early that morning) and I knew the tournament wouldn't stress my brain too much.  

I was groovin' to some great music in my ear buds while I was playing and was able to get into a zen like state pretty quick that helped me be very aware of what was going on.I spent most of my attention focusing on the player two to my left.  I was able to pick up some tells on him, both bet sizing and physical which really let me know where he was at pretty solidly.  The hands he was in where I wasn't (which was a lot since he was playing just about every freakin' hand) I would watch his behaviors and then make a prediction on what he would showdown and I had him pretty well dialed in.  Unfortunately, the main way I got to put those observations to actual use was to know when he had hit some crazy hand that now had me crushed and making laydowns.  Meh, that's how it's going to run some time.  I played patient and as my stack dwindled and the blinds escalated found myself in EP with two 9s and about 11 big blinds.  I stuck it all in and it folded to the button who went into the tank and started counting his chips seeing how much he had left after a call.  The tanker had about twice my chips.  In my experience at this level of play someone taking this long to make a decision almost always has a hand that has decent equity against something like 99.  In this case it was AK.  Flop king, turn brick, river king.  I smiled and said, "that last one was just kind of rubbing it in."  Stood up, wished everyone good luck and headed out of the room.  It's nice to be able to bust out of a tournament and not feel that whiny "why can't I ever win a flip" feeling that can be so prevalent among poker players.  It's nice to be able to divorce the results from your analysis of how you played.  I was actually really happy with how I played especially with being so locked in on one player and knowing that if presented witht he right opportunity I would definitely be able to exploit him.  That fact that the deck didn't present me with that opportunity in that session is just the way it goes.  Besides, I was freakin' tired and the idea of crawling into bed was pretty appealing right then.

Sunday the Mrs and I got up and started working on a meal we were taking over to my Mom's apartment that afternoon.  We made the traditional Easter fare of cheese enchiladas.  That's one of Mrs. Flops' specialties and we worked on it together.  Rolling enchiladas is kind of a PITA, but when you have two people doing it it feels better cause it goes by faster.  I also smoked a chicken to take over to Mom's.  We wanted to make sure she had plenty of food at her place that she could just heat and eat because, well, because Mom is starting to show signs of not being so great at taking care of herself ... but that's a whole nother post.

Anyway, we shared a nice meal and then headed home in time to crash and get ready for another week.  It was definitely a busy weekend, but also a fulfilling one.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Honey Badger Don't Care

I suppose I should strive for some occasional poker content in this here poker blog...

Last weekend I played quite a bit all at the MGM and all involving related activities.  First up was Day 1 of the first AVPT event and the next day I played in the AVP XV Meet Up tournament.  I took some video while I was there so expect that in a few days.  As a teaser I will tell you that the AVPT day I played was the toughest group I have ever played against.

For today I thought I would talk about a certain poker hand.  I've come to appreciate the power of so called "trash hands".  Trash hands is a misnomer because while these are starting hands that the untrained eye regards as having little potential for showdown value those wise in the science art science/art of the power of "trash hands" know better.

The pioneer in this field is of course, Dr. Grump who was the first to unlock the mysteries of Duo Quattuor.  As with many areas, further advancements were spurned on by what are most likely highly classified government operations working under the deepest cover.  Of course, I am referring to the Ironman of Poker.  Sadly, these men advanced perhaps too quickly in the field.  They simply did not have time to fully consider the ethical implications of their work.Sadly, if they had such time available, they might not have unleashed the Spanish Inquisition on the poker world.

Now up till very recently I was one of those naysayers, the ones who disregard these powerful poker tools.  Recently though, my eyes were opened - and it was all due to, the Honey Badger.  You see, every time the Ironman travels through Las Vegas, another powerful signature hand is unleashed upon the town.  Each such signature hand has a nom de guerre and this most recent trip it was to be 52 aka, the Honey Badger.

Now here is the interesting thing.  Long before this past IMoP trip I had been exposed to the Honey Badger, just not by that name.  You see, at my local casino 52 - or fiddy deuce as they like to call it is know as the nuts.  It's a point of pride among some players to felt someone with fiddy deuce and yet, I was never one of those who got it.

The moment it all coalesced for me was when I played in one of the Ironman tournaments from their last trip. The Ironmen all descended on the Aria for their daily tournament and I settled in hoping to see some hilarity ensue.  Deep down, I knew I should be looking for opportunities to deploy the Honey Badger, but still I resisted.

In fact, I was even presented with a golden opportunity to do it.  An early position raise ... a call ... folded to me on the button and I squeeze up the cards to gaze at 5 of hearts, 2 of hearts ... a Honey Badger sighting.

Now of course, the first rule about the Honey Badger is, Honey Badger Don't Care.  Mere pocket Aces?  Please.  In that moment, I would like to report to everyone that I felt the spirit of the Honey Badger move through me and that I called, or perhaps even was brave enough to throw in a substantial three bet.  Alas, I could not pull the trigger.  I played smart poker, conserved chips and sent my cards to the muck.  On to the flop then:




Yup, Honey Badger would have hit Donkey Kong.  Now you might think this is the part of the story where I talk about seeing the light and appreciating the power of the Honey Badger.  Nope, we're not even there yet.  You see after the action of the hand completed and as we were preparing for our next round of combat, the rather striking young Asian lady on my right uttered these words, "Huh, I folded five two."

There is no doubt in my mind she spoke the truth, she and I folded the same hand and then watched as one of the last two fives and both of the last two twos in the deck came on the flop.  Ladies and gentlemen, I'll defer if the Grump wants to correct my math but I believe that is about a 5000-1 shot.

OK, I may not be the quickest on the uptake, but even I can take that hint.  Just to make sure I got it though, the Poker Gods saw to it that immediately after disrespecting the Honey Badger I began the process of stack implosion.  OK OK, I learned my lesson.

I'm happy to report that since then, I have deployed the Honey Badger on several occasions with much success.  Plus, when you take a big pot off of someone and they start asking how you call with that, you get to look at them and say, "What?  I had the Honey Badger."  For some reason, hearing about that vicious furry bugger just makes people smile and maybe even helps them forget the beat they just suffered.

So, fair warning, if you ever find yourself at a table with me and the board is favorable to the Honey Badger, tread lightly.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Play That Funky Music

I've always had strong roots in music.  Those roots stem from my mother's side of the family.  My maternal grandmother got a masters degree in music back in the early part of the 20th century when the idea of women pursuing higher education wasn't such a common thing.  My grandmother, mother and mother's sister were/are all accomplished vocalists and my grandfather and uncle on that side of the family were/are also singers.

I sang in church youth choirs as a child, and I remember when I was in third grade one day the music teacher came in with a violin.  She was talking about how in the fourth grade students could start taking violin lessons in school.  I knew I wanted to play an instruments in addition to singing and since this was my first opportunity to do so, I rushed home to talk to my parents about getting in the violin program.

My mother had enough musical background to know that it was important to have a solid foundation before moving on to advanced levels and so her requirement before I could take up any other instrument was that I do two years of piano lessons.  I did, but rather than really diving into the piano I treated it more as a box to get checked off so that I could get on to the fun stuff.

By the time I finished my two years of piano lessons I was now old enough that in addition to taking up the violin, I could choose to learn how to play wind instruments.  So many opportunities!  I basically narrowed things down to clarinet and trumpet.  I remember deciding on the clarinet because I thought I would have too difficult a time playing different notes on the trumpet because there were only three buttons to push.  On the clarinet, there would be a certain fingering that would produce a certain note - easy right?  Yeah, that's what I thought, but I was like 10.

I played all throughout middle school and high school.  I really enjoyed my time as a "band geek" and it led to some wonderful opportunities.  I've played halftime shows at NFL games, played before Major League Baseball games, marched in the Rose Parade and spent a summer touring the US and Canada performing in a competitive drum and bugle corps.  

Fairly early on in my musical experience I found myself attracted to the low end instruments.  I moved from clarinet to playing bassoon and baritone sax and learned how to play a baritone bugle for the drum corps experience (those groups have brass only).  Something about those bass notes really drew me in.

As I got older, I got away from music.  Other things just kind of took over.  I missed having music in my life though.  Of course, I would share that fact with Mrs. Flops and about 10 years ago, she brought me an electric bass starter kit.  A good friend of mine who has since moved away was taking guitar lessons with a great teacher who also taught bass.  I started taking lessons.

I treated my playing as just sort of a getaway.  Frankly, I didn't put a ton of effort into it.  It was a good way to unwind though.  My teacher is a very wise soul who understood what I was there for and allowed me to have that experience be what I need.  So, it was basically good (and cheap!) therapy, but it wasn't anything that was driving me to share my music with anyone else.

So I just basically farted around with going to my lessons for about ten years.  I'd have fun with my teacher but really, I was spinning my wheels.  It was OK though, because spinning my wheels was what I needed in my life at that point.

All that changed a few weeks ago.  I don't know how to describe it any other way than saying that I found something that was always missing from my musical experience, passion.  Before I had always discounted the idea of finding people to play with.  I wasn't good enough and wasn't prepared to invest the time needed to get there.  One day we went to some friends' house, one of whom is a legitimate professional musician (albeit with a day job).  He urged me to bring my bass to the house so we could play and we did.  I kept it pretty simple, but I was playing with someone else.

It was awesome!  I needed more of this.  The point of music isn't to sit in a lesson studio working on things, the point of music is to express yourself and maybe I finally realized that I had things worth expressing - or maybe it was just that it was fun.

I've also started to see how a deeper understanding of what is involved in making music can carry over into other areas of your life.  In fact, I've got a post brewing around that I'm working on that will even tie music into poker.

So in addition to poker discussion in here, you can expect to see more talk about my musical journey.  I can't wait to tell my first story about some woman throwing her underwear on stage!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Another Year ...

Yesterday was my birthday and it was an exceptionally nice day.  Things started off with Mrs. Flops delivering me a birthday cupcake in bed.  In this case, that is not a euphemism.  I had planned to take the day off and so once I got up I just took the day as it came to me.  I did some blogging, some AVPing and spent some time practicing the bass.  One of those great days that unfold exactly the way you think of on a day when you're busy and you say, "man, if I didn't have anything I had to do today I would ...".

We had planned to hit a showing of The Hunger Games, but we ended up whiling away the daytime hours relaxing.  Presents were opened and, as usual, Mrs. Flops thoroughly spoiled me.  The pinnacle of the spoiling was the evening's meal.  This was no ordinary meal, the Mrs took me to eat at experience e' by Jose Andres.

For those not familiar, e' is an intimate, interactive dining experience.  A "restaurant within a restaurant"  at Jaleo in the Cosmopolitan that has a small capacity of eight guests per seating.  The meal is a series of close to two dozen small courses and the fare is based on Spanish food, but prepared using techniques of molecular gastronomy.  Basically, it's what happens if you cross a chemistry set with an kitchen.  It was really an amazing dining experience and it will be the subject of a detailed upcoming blog post - complete with pictures.

Today I have my usual Saturday bass lesson and then I am heading out to play day 1B of the inaugural All Vegas Poker Tour event.  I'm feeling good and I'm armed with some powerful music to listen to while playing.  It helps keep my head in the right place!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Did I Just Pwn Someone?

It's been two weeks which really sucks.  I've tried 8 times to finish that sentence with something that starts with, "because I want this blog to ..." and every attempt ran right into the realization that that would just be a stupid thing to say because I mean, if I want the blog to be something, then just do what needs to be done for it to happen.  Especially since it's not like I don't have ideas about what to write.  I must have half a dozen post ideas floating around in my brain, so fine.  Just do it.  Alright, enough of the introspective stuff.  Let's talk some poker.

So after the last session I wrote about I knew I needed to dose myself heavily with niticillin.  Fortunately I had a good opportunity just a couple of days after that session.  I was meeting some guys who were in for the first weekend of the NCAA tournament for dinner at Craftsteak on Friday night after work.  I got to the MGM a couple of hours before we were meeting because I knew that there wasn't anything wrong with my game that a good hour or so of ABC TAG $1-$2 at the MGM poker room couldn't help cure.  I got to the poker room, got on the list and, after a brief wait, got a seat, and resolved myself to sticking to spots where I was comfortable going for value.

This session actually ended up being the perfect exercise to combat a case of FPS because I started off running up against the dreaded muerte de las cartas.  I don't mean that I wasn't getting many hands, I literally did not find one spot that justified putting a dollar in the pot until it was almost time for me to go.  I Tweeted at one point that I had gone a down and a half with a VPIP of zero, and it continued for a while after that.  During that time I was very pleased that I was able to isolate poker decisions from external pressures like the need to end a session at a certain time.   I can honestly say that I felt no desire to push a bad situation because I "wanted to play" and my time to do so.  Perhaps I realized, that I was, in fact, playing in the most effective way possible under the circumstances.  Patience paid off, I found myself in two playable situations, took solid value lines in both and won a couple of twentyish dollar pots.  It was time for dinner, so I racked up with my modest profit with a little under an hour invested and headed off to dinner ...

It was one of those fantastic "guys" evenings.  There were nine guys, one of them took charge of ordering wine and another food as we had everything family style.  We started with luscious fois and several helping of an amazing waygu tartar.  For entrees our  "food captain"  selected items off of the roasted steaks menu.  This was something new for me as I always default to grilling steaks at home.  The gentler cooking of the roast definitely helped tenderize the meat more and there was still plenty of seer and caramelization on the surface.  A definite feast!

Now, niticillin, like any other antibiotic, isn't a single dose cure.  So I knew I needed to hit it again.  The next time I played was at a local casino.  I again played super TAG and again didn't have much to work with.  This time though, I didn't have any set time I had to leave.  I ended up playing almost three and a half hours and cashed out a sub fifty dollar profit.  Significantly, my stack during the session wasn't wildly fluctuating.  When I had a hand I bet it.  I didn't win every hand, but the hands I won had pots a lot bigger than the hands I lost.  OK, I felt like I was back in the groove of playing patiently.

The first time Bill Cosby introduced the character of Fat Albert in one of his routines he did an entire routine that was a set up for the next part of his act.  He transition between the two stories was something to the effect of, "Now, I told you that story, so I could tell you this one."  I feel like that because now, I'm finally going to get to the part of the post that is referenced in the post title.  I think this is known as burying the lead.

I figured the next step in this process was to remove the nit clamps a bit.  Tight and aggressive play was still the way to go, but there was going to be room to open up a bit and, if justified, attempt a reasonable play (i.e. not some hair up my ass spaz bluff).  So with that, I sat down last night.  One particular character caught my eye.  He was a player who played quite LAG.  He won a lot of pots without showdown because he would bet very aggressively preflop and on the flop (he tended to reel things in more on the turn and the river.  This is a playing style that has given me trouble in the past, but I've come to the realization that the wide ranges those players hold lead to big swings and that you just need to be OK with those swings.  It's going to sting pretty bad when you run into the higher part of such a players range, but you just have to remember that part of his range is balanced out by the low end and over time, if you do it right the swings will balance in an upward direction.

The first hand I got into with this guy was on his straddle.  He was in seat 7 and I was in seat 2, so his straddle (and he did it almost every time) was when I was in the hijack seat which was a favorable spot.  In one hand after three limpers (so everyone) to his straddle I look down to pocket 6s.  In a late position spot like this after limpers I will raise more than I overlimp as I think the raise lets me take the pot on a lot of flops that I miss.  Three things quickly flashed through my mind though:

  • The straddler would call the raise with a wide range and would probably be more inclined to call a c-bet light.  In other words, even with position, I'd end up in tough spots post flop
  • 4+ limps to this guy in the straddle was going to be like waving a red flag in front of a bull.  He would very likely raise very light.
  • If I let him take a stab at it I'd have a chance to find out if any of the three people between us were setting a trap
So I go ahead and overlimp, cutoff, button and small blind fold.  Sure enough, the straddler throws out a healthy raise, I shove.  He thinks for not too long and mucks.  I think most likely it was a flip, but I'm OK putting my stack in on a flip there against him on the times that he calls.  I'll make enough money on his folds to make up for the relatively small part of his calling range that has me crushed.

The next hand we got involved in our Villain raised on my big blind.  Small blind calls and I look down at KK.  I put out a healthy three bet and get two calls.  Flop comes QTx.  I make a value bet that looks like I'm trying to give myself room to fold, he shoves, I call.  I got a bit nervous when a Q hit the turn and I think I even said, "Oh Shit" out loud, but he just started shaking his head saying, no you're good (I had flipped my KK).  After the river came, he mucked and I doubled up.  A while later, I racked up and headed home, with a nice healthy profit.

So this was a first for me because while I have "targeted" players before they usually tend to be weaker players.  This is one of the first times that I recall figuring out specific things to do against a LAG player and it was nice to have them come through.

OK, I know I've definitely descended into the tl;dr layer.  My goal for the next week ~ more posts, but shorter!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Doctor Doctor Give Me the News, Ive Got a Bad Case of the FPS Flu

Hmm - this is the second straight post that I've begun by referencing a song title, perhaps that is a trend.

So, as I talked about in a vlog entry from last year I have focused my play on tournaments for the last several years.  While I definitely still enjoy tournament dynamics, for several reasons I've decided that I should really play more cash.  So lately, I've been dipping my toes into the cash game pool a bit more.

I decided after work yesterday that I would get in a session at my neighborhood casino.  They've been getting 1-2 going regularly in the evenings, and I find the game to be a good one for me.  The play is loose enough that you can get paid off on good hands, but passive enough that you generally aren't put in a ton of tough spots.  Well of course, that's assuming you don't play like a complete spew monkey.  Doing that, can cost you plenty of money.  How do I know this fact you ask?  Well, let's just say that when I looked in the mirror last night after getting home my face had taken on a decidedly simian appearance.  I'll tell the story in more detail below, but the basic premise of the situation is that I repeatedly tried to force situations rather than letting the game come to me.

Things didn't start out that way, in fact early on I found myself in what looked to be a good situation.  I was on the button with two players limping in front of me.  Discovering two red 8s in my hand I raised the bet to $10.  The blinds folded and both limpers called.  Effective stacks were around $160.  The flop was a very agreeable 10 8 6 rainbow.  Yes, if one of them was playing 79 I wasn't in great shape and if one of them had pocket 10s I was screwed but there was no reason to assume either of those scenarios to be true.  They both checked to me and I bet $15 (half the pot), both of my opponents called.  There are way more hands in their ranges that I'm way ahead of then the two hands that have me beat so I'm still feeling pretty good and am in fact contemplating exactly how to size my turn bet with there now being about $75 in the pot.  I'm thinking that a $50 bet will set me up to logically shove the river and that's my plan because I haven't seen anything yet that tells me I shouldn't be ready to get my stack in this hand.

The turn is the Queen of spades which puts a spade draw on the board.  The first Villain checks as anticipated but the second Villain starts to fumble with his chips.  He eventually bets $20 into $75, and I take a few moments to ponder what to do.  Possible scenarios are running through my head.  Did he flop huge and slowplay?  Even if he did, 66, 68 and T8 are all hands that he could have played that way along with TT.  If that was his whole range, I'm still comfortably ahead.  The most logical explanation though is that the Q somehow changed things for him.  QT certainly fits that description and in this case (especially given the small bet) a hand like AQ or KQ that peeled the flop fits his play (I didn't even factor QQ into my thinking as I'm confident V raises that hand pre-flop.  Of course, another hand that fits his play is J9 that flopped open ended and turned the nuts.  No need to get MUBSy though, looking at his whole range I'm still way ahead.  I look at his stack and my estimation is he still has room to fold something like two pair or 66 if I shove, plus I still want to hear from our first V and encourage him to keep putting money in bad.  I decide to flat and shove the river.  I consciously decide at this point that I'm willing to stack off in the hand.

The river is a meaningless 4 of diamonds.  First Villain checks and our aggressor villain now leads for $45 into $135, right about 1/3 pot.  I go ahead and raise, the first Villain folds and the second Villain pauses for a bit and then calls.  I flip over my set and hope to see him roll over top two pair.  Alas, it was J9 of spades so he turned the nuts with a flush redraw.  Nice hand sir and there goes almost all of my initial buy in.

I reload and I'm bummed out.  Looking back, I do feel good about the way I played the hand.  I was thinking through the situation, had a reason for all my decisions and made those decisions on the whole range of hands he could have had there.  I'm also happy that I followed through with my plan and raised the river.  One of the things I need to work on is making sure I'm getting full value for hands and that was a spot where I can get paid off by him with worse.  There were enough hands he would play that way that I beat that I believe I was making +EV decisions and just ran into the top of his range.  As a noted philosopher once said, "excrement occurs".  If I'm honest with myself though, I have to concede that following that hand there was an urgency to "recover".  This urge is a bad thing.  If I get it again and can't control it, then I should just get up.

Now thereafter, I didn't get much to play with at all.  I did raise JJ from EP once and won a decent size pot with.  Other than that though, pretty ragged.  The best ace I recall seeing was A8 and I think I may have gotten on or two small pairs that I saw a flop with and folded.  Other than that, lots of junk.

And then, you know it just happens.  The thoughts start to go through my head:  "You're a poker player, you should be aggressive.  Cards aren't really the issue, you can just outplay people."

So, these thoughts are another good indication that it's time to leave the table, but I didn't.  I started to "make plays".  Now the first one, I actually feel pretty good about.  There was a standard open and a flat call in front of me.  I gaze down at, the Honey Badger, suited no less, and you know, the Honey Badger just don't care.  I three bet, get calls from both the original raiser and the flat caller and take the hand down with a c-bet.  Oh, now the little voice in my head is just gushing, "you are so good, you can just keep outplaying everyone."

I need to learn when to tell that little voice to STFU.  Instead, I decide to activate my Spew-Monkey powers!

I open from EP with suited connectors and fold to a three bet from a young kid who hadn't been too active.  He shows 78 os.  A ha!  We have someone else here who wants to play, let's get into it.  I get into it with this player a few hands later.  I limp AJ in EP (I should have opened, but I'm looking to play "tricky" now).  The Kid raises.  I call.  I flop nothing and checkraise him anyway.  He flats.  The turn puts a flush draw out.  I bet big and he shoves.  I think and convince myself that he's weak.  So I call off with ummmm .... AJ high?!  I was right, he was weak, bottom pair weak.  Seeing as how bottom pair beats A high, I shipped a good bit of chips over to him.  Two hands later he racks up and leaves.

A few hands later, I raise QT sooted from EP.  I mean c'mon, I had 40% of a royal flush so I had to build a pot right?  I get 17 callers (how do you think my image was at this point?).  The flop comes out AKx with the x being of my suit.  I'm out of position and that board must have hit someone who called, so I check and it checks around.  The turn is another A and I decide to take a stab at it even though really, what hand am I representing?!  Well, I actually only get one caller, so I decide to shove the river.  He pauses for a while, eventually calls, he had QQ.  Now really I know that there is just nothing he has that calls the turn and folds the river, especially not this guy who'd shown himself to be pretty stationy.  I at least come to my senses at that point, pick up the few chips I have left and head home.  As I'm getting up, one of the older regulars in the game sitting next to me says, "well it looks like your night of bullshitting is over."  It was a very apt observation and a needle I well deserved.

So in the hopes that I can actually get something of value from this experience, I have put it all down here.  Humans are supposed to be intelligent creatures that can learn from their mistakes.  Hopefully, I've learned from last night's mistakes.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Like Stevie Wonder - I've Got a Superstition!

One of the beauties of this little card game we like to play is its blend of science and art.  There's science in figuring odds and probabilities down to the nth degree.  There's art in recognizing how the opponent that you've been playing with for the last few hours is going to respond to a certain situation and how you can act to exploit that response.  The two blend together in the construction of a hand range for an opponent, the mathematical combinations of what he could have, intertwined with the insight in how someone with his psychology will react at each decision point.  Artistic?!  Hell, the game is practically mystical.

Which is just a really flowery way of justifying the fact that in such a mystical setting, I am perfectly entitled to hold a completely irrational and groundless superstition.  I've studied the math of poker.  I've spent hours (to be clear, not actually at the table) analyzing a single decision to calculate the EV down to a fraction of a penny.  I appreciate that the game is grounded in math and logic.  However, I think the game is schizophrenic enough that it will forgive me this dip into the pool of irrationality.  Here we go ...

Imagine a tournament setting where two players are all in.  In accordance with the rules, they flip their hands up.  One player has the other clearly dominated.  AK vs A9, AA vs 66, top pair top kicker vs top pair no kicker.  The dealer gets ready to expose some cards and some yahoo at the table pipes up with, "I folded a (insert miracle card to save dominated player here)."

Kiss.  Of.  Death.

I witnessed a perfect example last night.  About 80 bbs all in preflop.  It's AA vs. QQ.  The flop is three inconsequential cards and as the dealer is preparing to burn and turn, someone observes that he folded AQ.  Now you might think that the invocation of the A would somehow offset the mention of the Q, but you would be wrong.  This is a curse my friend, and curses don't roll like that.  Turn, Queen-ball in the corner pocket.*  Good game sir, and that's that.
  *Since I did not specify which, if any, of the above players was me, this is not technically a bad beat story.

So, I respect that curse of the folded out.  When I know that I have mucked one of the few cards that can save someone, I keep my mouth shut about the fact and I hope that the above public service announcement will assist you in avoiding visiting such horror on someone else ... well, unless they really deserve it.

Now I don't think for a second I'm the only one who holds such superstitions.  So, c'mon everyone, spill.  Tell me about that deep dark superstition you hold at the tables.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sh*t Poker Players Say

One of the recent memes going around the Interwebs are "Sh*t people say" videos which typically feature quick cuts of folks in different settings throwing out little sayings specific to a certain category. 

I believe it all started with Sh*t Girls Say and now you can find lots of others.  For those in the corporate world, there's Sh*t Project Managers Say.  If you spend a lot of XBox time, then you might be into Sh*t Gamers Say.  Shoot, there's even Sh*t Dogs Say and Sh*t Nobody Says.  So obviously, there needs to be:

Sh*t Poker Players Say