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.