Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Calling it down?

I'm reading Harrington 3 at the moment. I've heard from some people that it's not as good as 1 and 2, and I have to say that I'm finding that to be true. I haven't got all that far into it, but I'm not sure that his advice to call raises after limping with speculative hands is all that good. It's all very well to pick a few celebrity hands that have played out well, but I think Dan himself would be chucking a lot of the hands he urges us to call.

He's also too willing to play poker in sngs for my liking. At least at the low level I play at, I don't think it's smart. Take his Problem 13. We have AT in the cutoff at a loose table at t50.

One guy limps to us. Harrington thinks it is "mousy" to fold here, but sometimes I will. If I limp, the button is encouraged to limp behind, and that will likely bring both blinds too. I'm not keen on AT fivehanded. It's a trap hand of the worst kind. It doesn't play all that well on an ace-high flop, and you don't get enough T-high flops to make it a great hand either. I don't like raising much though, because if I put enough in to scare off the first limper and fold out the button, I will have put quite a bit into the pot with a middling hand. ATs is probably hand enough for the play.

So we limp and the button and SB fold. The big blind checks his option and the flop comes AhJh5d. The EP limper bets out $100 into a $175 pot.

The bet tells me he likely has one of three types of hand in descending likeliness: an ace of some sort, a flush draw that he's semibluffing with or 55. The last is fairly unlikely because most players would check that in an unraised pot, fearing that no one has an ace. (I wouldn't, as it happens, because players often limp aces, particularly if they're suited, and then play them strongly if they get lucky.) He could have AJ or A5; they're not counted out necessarily, even if many players will slowplay them. I would probably make this kind of bet with AJ, hoping that someone with exactly the hand we have here does what I would surely do in this spot, and raises.

Harrington advises a call. I think that's terrible here. I want to define my hand and quickly. If the guy is pushing a flush draw, a raise to $300 might well push him out. If I get called, I'm done with this hand, and won't piss any more chips away. Harrington won't raise because he is too scared that the big blind might be sitting with something. Well yeah, he might, and let's hope that if he is, he raises us off our hand, so that we don't dribble our chips away with a moderate hand.

The turn comes 9h and the limper puts $150 in. Harrington advises calling. Well, okay, we might still be ahead, but the list of hands we're beating (and likely to be facing) is getting shorter: A8, A7, A6, A4, A3, A2. If he was pushing a flush draw, he just made it. If he has a bigger ace, A9 or A5, we are paying him off. I never like to call down in a sitngo. I might call a bet on the river if I think the other guy is bluffing or betting a worse hand for value, but I will rarely play this passively. It just doesn't pay.

The river is Td. Well, that's improved our hand and I think you have to call the bet on the end. The EP guy puts $250 into a $675 pot. I am hoping that he's been pushing AK, AQ, A5 or one of the other bullshit aces, and I would probably win more than one in four times, so this is an easy call. I wouldn't raise because few hands I beat will call a raise here, and it would be very very hard to fold if the other guy pushes.

The other guy shows Th8h for the flush. Harrington says that it would be results oriented to say that if we had raised on the flop we might have driven the other guy out, but I think his analysis is way off. Most times you are losing even more than this taking his course, because the river bet will be somewhat bigger. True enough, if I raised on the flop and the other guy called, then checked to me on the turn, I'd take the free card, and then be looking at paying off on the river, so I'd probably lose about the same as he did. Many times, I would not pair my kicker on the river, so my way would have been a lot cheaper when I folded to the river bet.

Do I risk folding the best hand? Yes, it's true I do, but I don't think that's as painful in an sng (or any tourney) as it is in a cash game. I mean, I often do. I often fold draws that I do not have the odds to call that come in on the next street. It hurts but of course in the long term, paying too much to draw hurts more. And it's far less painful than going too far with top pairs that are beaten all the way from the flop. One reason I don't think it's too "mousy" to fold away AT in this spot is that you can find yourself in this position way too easily: with too much hand to fold to pressure but not enough that you feel confident about raising.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Bluffs, tells, and telling all about bluffs

So I am in the doctor's office and he spots my Theory of Poker, which I'm rereading. Ah poker, he says, do you play? A bit, I say.

And of course he wants to talk about tells and bluffing, because people think that's what poker's all about. For me, because I mostly play online, tells are barely an issue, and bluffing is just one more aspect of poker, something I do almost without thinking about it. Which is probably a bad thing in itself, because you ought to be thinking about it! I guess that at some point I will need to work out properly a system of bluffs for limit at least. What do I mean by that? Well, as Sklansky notes, if you bluff the correct number of times, your opponent cannot make good choices against you, so long as you bluff at random. You have to adjust the "correct number" depending on your opponent, but you can work out your optimal bluffing percentage for a given pot and bet size. You don't have to do the maths, of course. Experience helps you develop a feel for it. But the randomness is important. You should not bluff every time you have a busted draw, for instance, but you should sometimes, unpredictably for your opponent. I've never really bothered figuring it out, because I play idiots who I don't have that many games against, but one day I hope to play better players who will be regulars in the games I play, so I need to know it. (If you're curious, you should be bluffing so that the odds you are bluffing match the odds that the pot offers the other player. Say you're at the river in a .50/1 limit game and you're first to act. You have a busted draw and you think that your opponent has you beat -- to make it obvious, let's say you have 64 and were drawing to an openended straight but missed. The pot is $5, so if you bet, your opponent will be getting 6 to 1. You should bluff one in seven times in this spot. You can randomise the bluff by deciding on the turn to bet if your straight card comes and if say any queen or ten of diamonds comes off -- which is approximately the right number of cards. In this way, whether you bluff is not something you decide, so your opponent cannot outguess you. You can even announce to him that you are doing it! There is nothing he can do about it. If you want to see the maths that prove it, read Theory of Poker.

I tend to bluff more situationally than that, which works okay in no limit. I probably don't bluff enough in limit though, so it's something to think about.

Live, tells are a bit more important than they are online, but if you're expecting people to put Oreos to their ear or fidget in a particular way, you're dreaming. If people do have tells like that, I don't play against them. You can never be all that sure in my experience, although two of the players I play against do have noticeable tells, which I think are fairly reliable. One puts his chips out differently when he has it; the other tries too hard not to fidget when he is bluffing. Me, I chatter, laugh, smile and fidget like a fool all the time, so that I give out too much information. I don't even try to keep a poker face because I'm hopeless at it. Someone mentioned that they thought I swallowed when I didn't have a big hand, so now I swallow when I do against him. The worst thing a person can do is tell you your tell. What a foolish thing to do. As the guy who told me that I always bet half the pot as a cbet (which I don't, as it happens, far from it), and got his arse busted when I flopped a full found out.

Ultimately though, poker is not a game of tells, because betting is a much more reliable guide. If you've been betting small at pots when you have nothing and big when you have something, I don't need to see you crack the Oreo. You're readable as a book. And if I know you are cluey enough to follow a betting pattern, but you've been betting your top pair timidly, you're getting bluffed reasonably often when a flush card hits the river and I look like I've been drawing.

Back on the horse

So I got back on my horse after that bad day, my first really big loss playing the fiver sitngos, and things went better. Now, I'm still not sure whether I just ran better or played better, but since then I've won back everything I lost and added some more winnings.

Yesterday I signed up to a limit tourney by mistake. I play limit okay, but I find in an SNG you need a bit of luck. The same principles apply, so far as I know. You play ultratight early and maintain a decent stack for when you do get involved. Unfortunately, I became quite shortstacked by getting involved in a hand where I figured to be best but was sucked out on; fortunately, I got it all in with KT, a dog of a hand, but paired the T and was tripled up. You're always a chance when you're playing people who are loose and stupid. My luck didn't hold heads up, where my opponent threebet 93 and flopped twopair against my big cards, and then threebet T6, paired the 6 and I didn't improve, again with a decent hand. But second is okay. I won a game at Stars at practically the same time, so I was feeling good about things just then, and I scraped into third in one of those ultratight games in which seven players get to 200-chip blinds. I do okay in those games, but they're not my favourite. When the strategy I use was invented/discovered, players were much looser, and you used to be able, apparently, to fold for three levels and watch half the table knock itself out. The golden days! That rarely happens, even at PokerRoom, which has more than its share of true fishtards.

Having said that, I was treated in one game today to a spectacular display of donkitude. I doubled up early with KK, raising and getting a caller in the small blind. The flop came king high with two diamonds. Tard bet and I raised. He pushed, and I fully expected to see a flush draw and have my cowboys cracked yet again (they are running second to the biatches as the hand I hate most, now that I mostly play AQ very slowly). Nope. He had K7 for top pair and the backdoor straight draw, which for once did not come in. I hardly played a pot until we reached t150, still with six players in. The way it had been going was that a guy would raise and all fold, rarely playing pots. Then, suddenly, a mania struck the players, and they indulged themselves in loose play, knocking each other out chasing draws, playing weak top pairs (I found myself doubled up by a guy with a gutshot draw!). I was able more or less to sit back and wait for them to finish each other off, and then outclass the last man standing heads up. Which I did. There's a type heads up who's easy to play: raises with good hands, limps moderate ones, folds trash; bets when he has something, checks when he doesn't, checkraises big hands. If you're that predictable, you're going to be minced heads up by someone who's this side of clueless. Which I barely am, so I minced him.

Straight after that, I played a nice game, chipping up where possible, not taking too many chances. On the bubble, shortstacked but not massively so, I picked up 88 in the small blind. A player who had been raising a tremendous amount raised once more, fairly small. I pushed over the top. I figure that at worst I'm going to have a race, but likely he will give up. I'm not passing the hand anyway, and calling leaves me in a tough spot if any OC comes on the flop. I could consider stopngoing it, and sometimes I'd make that play, but I figured that because he had me covered by maybe 900 chips, he has an easy fold with most of his range. But these guys cannot lay down an ace. He called with A3 and didn't improve. I knocked him out two hands later when he completed the small blind and I checked with KQ. I could and probably should have pushed, but the flop comes JT8 and he pushes. I call quickly with my openender and overcards. He has paired the eight and he was quite upset when an ace fell on the turn.

I make it to heads up and get lucky when I run 88 into AA but flop the set. The other guy then pushes or folds every hand, mostly the former. I don't like this play heads up. I don't know technically whether it's good or bad, but it seems to me that you allow the bigstack to pick his hand and beat you. I suppose you figure to chip up a bit though and can slow down when nearer even. I picked ATs to call him with and MHIG. I'm going to have to think about what is best in that spot. He's not pushing any two, but he has a very wide range. Probably, I should be calling with anything that beats his range. I think in that spot I'm probably a bit tight, but I reckon I'm about 80/20 against that strategy, which is better than I am overall.

No! Not the seven!

Now this is what I call a bad beat! This is in the lucky dollar at PR:

NO_LIMIT TEXAS_HOLDEM $1+$0 (Real Money), #504,076,008
Lucky Dollar Multi Table Tournament, 24 Jun 2007 7:16 PM ET
Seat 8: Dr Zen ($1,410 in chips)
Dr Zen posts blind ($15), totoze posts blind ($30).

Proschaden folds, Gindujun folds, bambosr folds, DanCAP3 folds, kariba1 folds, gaafar58 folds, schimpo folds, shera-76 calls $30, Dr Zen calls $15

I complete with JJ. I could raise here but I figure that with the right flop, I'll make more money with a disguised hand.

totoze checks.

FLOP [board cards 7D,7C,7H ]

Now that's the right flop!

Dr Zen bets $60, totoze calls $60, shera-76 calls $60.

I am obviously ahead here. There's no way the tards limped with anything better than jacks, and I'd put my stack on their not having a seven.

TURN [board cards 7D,7C,7H,2C ]
Dr Zen bets $200, totoze calls $200, shera-76 folds.

So neither one paired their high card. The caller either has a big face card that he hopes beats whatever I have, or more likely, a small pair, which he hopes beats the bluff.

But neither is at anything like smart thinking.

In the first case, let's say the guy has an ace. He has three outs to a pair but cannot beat any pair in my hand unless he does pair. On the flop, okay, you could believe I was bluffing, but on the turn, the bigger bet makes it a lot less likely.

In the second case, you are relying on my bluffing. But when I bet the flop, the pot was very small, and no one ever folds with trips on the board. Everyone peels for a small bet because they don't credit the bettor and they know they can draw to their six outs and maybe get lucky. But again, on the turn, the bet says, no, I do have it. So you are gambling that your pair is better than mine. And the key is, I'm betting mine. I could just check it and call any bet you make. I could get a cheap showdown with a weak pair.

Anyway, this is looking like a nice pot, which I'm sure I'm winning.

RIVER [board cards 7D,7C,7H,2C,7S ]


Dr Zen checks, totoze checks.

Dr Zen shows [ JD,JS ]
totoze shows [ 9H,KC ]


This guy just called 200 chips on the turn with king high. He had four outs to beat any pair, and three to beat ace high, if I had that.

totoze wins $670.

You get this a lot in the lucky dollar of course. I doubled up a bit later in a hand where I raised it to 5BB after a couple of limpers with AKs, a guy pushed, and I called. He had KQ. Unbelievable. Then the very next hand, a guy with 4500 chips pushed. At 100-chip blinds! The big blind covers him -- the only guy at the table who does -- and calls. The pusher turns over KQ.

The guy has risked his whole stack for 150 chips with king high. Still, dollar tourneys are not the preserve of good players, and this is how players try to win. They play the huge gamble and try to get a big chip stack. Problem is, if they get one, they piss it away, because as clueless as they are with a normal stack, they're doubly so with a big one.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Ups and downs

So I'm trying again, with one on PR and one on Stars. I don't know any of the players on Stars, but on PR, there's a couple of familiar faces. Homer J Fong is a semiloose player who can be a bit too keen on modest hands; baNASHed is in a word useless.

I can add another name to my tard list. The guy who minraised with K2s has earned his spot.

(PR) So I limp with TT and get a K high flop. Folding to a bet.
(PS) I get a free ride with 94. Nothing doing on the flop. I fold to a bet.
(PS) 88 in the SB. I call a minraise. The flop is AK9 and I fold to a bet.
The same guy minraises again the next hand and I note that the BB folded. That's usually a sign of having some sort of clue. The raiser went broke with 88 on a board that flushed. He had had a draw to an inside straight but once his bluff had been called, he needed to chuck it.

We lose two at PokerRoom. Both had hands they should never have played in the first place. One had an openender on the flop. A lot of players will go all the way with an OESD, which is terrible. Even worse, the other guy had TP2K.

We lost another on Stars but I wasn't watching. Looking at the history, I see he busted with second pair. Not even top pair! The guy who busted him is playing way too many hands but he's hitting a lot of flops.

I get a free ride at PR with K5. A K high flop. I check it and bet the turn. Some guy raises and I call. The board pairs on the river and we split it.

I win a nice pot at Stars. I call a small raise with 33 and flop the set. Unfortunately, no one wants to put much money in when the turn pairs Ks. Pity the raiser didn't have AK, because he would probably have been busted there.

We lose another at PokerRoom. He was unlucky to fall foul of full over full on an ATKKT board.

I pick up QQ at Stars and make a nice raise. The flop comes A high but I bet out. He calls. The turn and river are checked through. The guy sucks. He had 44.

I pick up AA at Stars in the small blind and raise it to 4BB. No one wants to play.

I complete the SB with 54s and the flop gives me an openender. I bet, all fold. Next hand I call from the button because the BB is sitting out. I have QT. The flop comes Q92. The SB bets and I call. The turn looks like a blank. I'm putting him on top pair, maybe only middle pair. He pushes the turn. He's quite short. This is a tough decision, but it's against Homer J Fong so I call. He has 92. Oh well. I think on balance I would win that more often than I'd lose, but I think I probably should have folded. Hard to distinguish correct play from bad results though. We lose another player on the next hand.

Now I'm quite short at PR, so I'm not too hopeful. Only five left and one sitting out though. I take a chance when the bigstack raises, and push with KQ. He has KJ and calls. Flop a J, but river a Q.

At Stars, I raise it 3BB with QQ. Some guy pushes. I have him covered easily and call. Whoops. He has KK. I flop a Q though and he's gone.

I get hammered at PR. I have KJ and the flop is J22. Big stack has limped from the button. I bet, he calls. Turn a Q and I check, he checks. River a blank. I make a valuebet, and I'm surprised when he raises. I call because this is so often a bluff. Not this time. He had 42s and you know, I could almost cry at the way I keep getting smashed like this. First a guy gets two pair with 92, then this fuckwit flops trips with 42. I then get it in with him with KJs vs QTs, same suits. He rivers a onecard straight.

At Stars, we're seeing a lot of minraising. We're at t100 and I'm the big stack by a tiny amount. I don't get involved in this stuff though, because I haven't had the cards. AK in the big blind. The small blind raises to 3BB. I reraise to 800. He gave up.

I limp KQ in a family pot. Flop comes AQx and I fold to a halfpot bet. Next hand I consider raising with QTs. Wish I had. The board shows a straight.

We're now at t150. I get a free ride in the BB with KT and we check it down. MHIG.

AQ and JJ get it all in. AQ flops two pair. Not bad. The other guy is not quite busted, but he's now fairly short. He completes his small blind next hand and the BB puts him all in. He calls. K2 vs KJ. Not a great call and he's gone. That leaves five of us. I am in second, and under no pressure from the blinds.

I get a free ride with J5, check it down again and MHIG is good when my J pairs. Then I complete with A6 but make nothing and fold to a minbet on the flop.

52s in the BB and another free ride. This time I don't improve and he wins when we check it down. Each time the button has called my blind and the SB has folded.

99 gets it all in with A8. A8 rivers an ace. Unreal.

I fold both blinds. We're now at t200 so I'm beginning to feel the pressure.

We lose another guy so now we're at the bubble. The SB completes and I check with T9. I flop a pair and bet. He folds. I'm still the short stack though.

It's quite tight now. I get a free ride with K8 in the BB and flop K88. I check it twice in the hope the other guy will improve some, but he clearly doesn't and I don't make any money.

I raise with AT and the BB calls. Oh dear. We check a raggy flop and he bets a J turn. I fold.

I make it back though with a free ride in the BB and by completing the SB and bluffing a raggy flop. Next hand I win another pot. I wouldn't normally get involved on the bubble but these guys are playing so poorly that it would be criminal not to.

I get AK a couple of times and take the blinds, then call with K7s on the button and steal on a raggy flop. Now we're at t200/25.

I get a free ride in the BB with 44, but the other guy rivers a Q when we check it down.

I raise with A7s in the SB, BB reraises small. I call but the flop is no good for me. That really hurt. I'm never sure how to play those hands. The small reraise tells me he doesn't have a great hand, because really good hands push.

I complete with A7 vs two shorties. Flop comes A76. I check, other guy bets, I raise big. He has tried to trap with QQ. Nice one. He's gone.

So we're down to three. One guy has a huge stack, one very short, me in the middle. I bust shorty with KT vs K6 and we're HU.

I comprehensively outplay the other guy HU. He gets lucky with one hand QJ vs K8, where he turns a Q, but it's not enough. Eventually, I limp AA, the flop comes 234 and we get it in. He has K4. He ought to know I have an overpair when I raise, but I guess he's thinking maybe I'm bluffing, which I have been quite a bit. The turn is a 5 and that's that.

Different ways to have a nightmare

So here we go. A five-dollar sitngo on PokerRoom. The only player I recognise is milfasseater, who is a tight player who makes big mistakes. I think I’ve played one of the other guys, but I don’t have any notes on him.

Q5 on the button. Fold. That was quite promising. One guy put in quite a lot of money with KT on a K high flop and another called him flop and turn with AQ, giving him second pair.
43. Fold.
TT. I just limp. I flop it T high. Unfortunately, no one raised PF, so it’s unlikely anyone has anything, but it’s bet into me, one caller, so I raise. The turn is a Q. We get it all in. OMFG. The guy has QQ and I’m done.

That sort of thing happens. I don’t mind it. Obviously I have to get my money in with top set on the flop. The other guy’s play was awful, preflop and on the flop and he got lucky.

So let’s try that again. This time I know three players. Muradonna is a recklessly aggro loosetard – my note on him says “retarded”; Britney is close to clueless; and MASTAendgegn a very loose player who plays far too many hands and goes too far with them.

t20 (I begin with 1500 chips)
Q4 in the BB. I fold to a 5BB raise.
54. I fold. I’d probably complete if they were suited, but low connectors OOP are not a great hand.
53. Fold. Another big raise. Which I like. I like it when players make out of proportion raises, because I’m only getting involved if I have a very big hand anyway, and they’ll be playing for pots that are far too big for the hands they have. Britney takes a big pot from the raiser.
J8. Fold.
K3. Fold. A lot of players to the flop. That’s a good sign, because good players don’t play many hands and if a lot of players are playing, they aren’t good. Britney led out about 2/3 pot, and MASTAendgegn put in a huge overbet raise. We’re talking 400 into a 190 pot.
KT. Fold.

t30 (I have 1470 chips)
QJ. Fold. The flop comes KJJ, grrrr.
J4s. Fold. MASTAendgegn got it all in with the shorty. Yes, dude, QJ is a fine hand to gamble a third of your stack with.
93s. Fold.
QJ. Fold.
94s in the BB. I get a free flop. I don’t like it much though. KJ6. All check. Turn another J. I fold to a small bet. The bettor had top pair on the flop. I don’t like his play much. I don’t like his limp PF with K4s and I don’t like his check on the flop. I don’t know whether he was playing timidly or trying to trap.
K5. Fold.
K8. Fold. This time MASTAendgegn got it all in on the flop with an OESD, and got lucky.
Q5. Fold. We lose the guy who got it in with MASTA. 9 players.

t50 (I have 1425 chips)
K3s. I fold to a minraise. The raiser checks a Q99 flop, which is odd. He checks an A turn, but raises MASTA on a J river. MASTA folds so I don’t see the guy’s cards.
A4s. Fold. Someone pushed but no callers.
T3. Fold.
87s. Fold.
82. Fold.
K3 in the BB. I fold to a minraise. Britney minreraised! Totally retarded. She wins the pot though.
T4s. It’s tempting to complete but not so much with cards that don’t connect. The flop comes T high, which would possibly have been trouble for me.

t100 (I have 1350 chips)
AJ. I fold to a raise. I possibly have MASTA’s range beaten but I prefer to wait for a better spot here. A good choice. MASTA has KK, and Muradonna gets it all in with a pair of sevens on the flop. My note wasn’t wrong, eh?
86. Fold.
72. Fold.

At this point, I’m only going to play hands that I’m willing to get it in with. I haven’t chipped up at all, so it’s a question of picking a good spot because I don’t have the chips to play poker.

A8. Fold. MASTA has tried to steal with T4s. Called by AQ. He pairs his four.
T5s. Fold. We lose another player.
74. Fold.
K2 in the BB. The SB minraises and I fold. I doubt he had anything, but I let it go because it will pay in future.
Q6. Fold.
A6. Fold.

t150 (I have 1250 chips)
K9s. I've been card dead and it's time to try to steal a blind so I raise to 500. MASTAendgegn pushes and I call. I'm pretty much pot committed with only 750 behind. He has ATs. I flop the K but he turns an A. That’s me done. To be honest, I didn’t notice it was him in the BB. If I had, I would have folded. Never mind.

Okay, I know that was a bad play but MASTA could have had absolutely anything there. His range is basically any two cards. Perversely, a better player would probably have just called, if that, in his spot, and I would have pushed him off the flop, but you can't complain that bad players are bad.

Thursday, 21 June 2007


All of a sudden, my results have gone bad, and I don't know whether it's because I was running hot and now am not, or because I am playing badly, or a bit of both. Looking through the games, I think I am not doing the right things some of the time, often enough anyway to hurt me. I lost a bit at Full Tilt, and it's not like the players were better or anything, because they weren't. But my style means that I don't tend to make the small mistakes that kill the fish, but if I make a mistake, it's going to be big.

These are my notes on how I busted out of each tourney in the past three days:

FT: ran T3 into AA on AT3 flop

The guy had limped AA, so it was very hard to pick this. Could I have laid it down? I had 1160 chips and the blinds were at 60. Four to the flop, so the pot was 240 and I had T3 in the BB. I bet 2/3 pot and villain minraised. I put him on an ace and raised him a chunk more. He pushed. I didn't have much behind so I couldn't fold. Earlier on, we had played another hand in which I was in the big blind with QdJh. The flop had come Q high with two diamonds. I bet 3/4 the pot, he called. So I'm thinking uh oh, maybe a Q, maybe a diamond draw. The turn was Jd, so I bet that. With two pair and a draw to a Q high flush, I figure I'm going to be unlucky to be behind and not draw out. I bet about 2/3 pot, so he has no odds to draw if he happens to have a higher diamond, a hand like Ad5, which would have made middle pair and a backdoor draw on the flop. If he's called with a diamond flush draw, he'd surely raise. So he calls and if he does have the high diamond, well, let's hope another doesn't come on the river. Which it did. I bet out to stop him from bluffing at me and he just called. I was astonished to see his hand. He had AdQ! On the flop he had had TPTK and just smoothcalled. On the turn, he made a mistake but he wasn't to know it. He probably thought he was still ahead and could at worst draw out against the flush if he wasn't. On the river, only he knows why he didn't raise. He had the nuts and had nothing to lose.

Okay, so this suggested to me that the guy thinks he's "trappy", so in my bustout hand, I couldn't put him on anything that beat me, because I'm thinking he'll let me bet them for him.

As a side note, I couldn't help thinking that if the flop had come T32, he would have thoroughly deserved to lose the big pot he would have lost, and would have whined about it to his mates afterwards. These guys think that limping their aces in is the cutest slowplay ever, but whine like bitches when they get cracked by the big blind flopping two pair.

OTOH, I can't tell you how many times this week I've put in a standard raise with AA or KK and watched the whole fucking table fold. The one time someone did call...

FT: raised 3BB with AA, guy with K8 flopped trips

I might have been able to get away from this. But let's face it, the tards love to bluff at a paired flop, and it's hard to fold when they do. Okay, it's hard when you're playing badly. In good form, I shrug my shoulders and allow them to bluff if they're bluffing. I know I'm in bad shape when I start getting all macho about it.

FT: KJ on KJ9 flop of course tard had QT

But I played it badly, because I led out and they pushed and I wouldn't lay it down. I'm not sure you can though. Of course, you can be beaten here, but also you can be ahead of AK, K9 and various other hands that the guy is sure are winning, not to mention straight draws etc. Mind you, I knew the tard had it when I called. I just knew it and should have laid it down.

FT: short 33 into QJ, he rivered straight

Nothing I could do about that. The guy made a very loose call and got lucky.

FT: Q9 vs KQ on Q high flop

Shortstacked, top pair is not easy to put down, particularly in an unraised pot. I had bet the flop and he called on a not too drawy board. On the turn, I checkraised him to represent making my hand, but he didn't buy it. I know, I don't need to be told, that fancy plays are stupid at this level.

FT: AK vs QQ

This was on the bubble, so it really really hurt.

FT: AQ vs JJ

At push or fold blinds, I'm pushing AQ every time, but I can't remember the last time I won a race, regardless whether I hold the pair or the overcards.

A bit short hu but okay otherwise

I just had too short a stack to overhaul the chip leader, but I came second at least.

FT: desperatelyunlucky heds up vs Calling station

I remember this. The retard got lucky on me twice in two hands. First, I raised nicely with AJ and he called with T9, flopping two nines. He bet small flop and turn, so I called with pot odds to outdraw what I took to be a small pair (I didn't think he had the 9, of course). Then on the next hand, I raised nicely with AK and he called with T6. When the flop came J66, I bet pot to take it away (this guy had shown no willingness to lay down hands to halfpot cbets, and I figured I was almost certainly ahead here). He minraised, which I could not call without committing myself. Now, on a good day, maybe I fold here, but I simply refused to believe that he had flopped trips two hands running! He had also made the same move a couple of hands earlier. I had raised nicely with A2. He called with whatever the hell he had. The flop had come down J high. I'd bet out and he checkraised me. I called instead of showing the good sense to fold and he pushed the turn. I was convinced he'd bluffed and when the same sequence came again, I was never laying down my ace high.

I'm beginning to realise that my bad run has a lot to do with bad play. Writing this out makes it clearer.

99 into KK

There was quite a nice pot and the guy had limped. A couple of others limped behind him. There's always a chance they're doing this, but on good days, you steal the nice pot. I figured that worst case I get called by overcards and have a race, with the overlay in the pot making it worthwhile to take the edge. The blinds were quite high, and I don't really understand why these guys think it's a good idea to limp decent hands, and allow others to outflop them cheaply, but I got caught twice by the play. I am never not making this move though. It has paid off a ton of times.

ran K2 into KT on KTx flop

This was just terrible, bad discipline, but when you keep losing, you start to chase it a bit.

FT: very bad

I fucked this one so badly I didn't even have a note better than that. Actually, I think I didn't do much wrong but got rivered on a couple of early hands and then pushed when a massive favourite shortstacked and didn't improve.

FT:33 into AJ, he flopped A

On the bubble again, small vs big blind. This is a fold for him, but he didn't know the theory ;-)

JTs on twoflushboard, he had set

This was just one of those things. I had JcTc on a board showing all undercards and two clubs. The guy bet out about 2/3 pot and I pushed to try to take down the nice pot, favourite against top pair. He didn't have top pair, but these guys will only very rarely bet a set. Whether he would lay down top pair is another question. Arguably, I should not push here, but a/ I will win more than I lose, b/ I have fold equity and many players will lay down a weak pair here, c/ quite often the bettor has nothing at all on a raggy board and thought it looked stealable and d/ I can't fold and don't like calling. Draws are a nightmare in no limit. You chase them and you are going to bleed chips unless the bettor makes it cheap.

AJs vs J7, he rivered straight

Don't ask me why a guy put his tourney on the line with J7. I have been seeing this quite a lot though, in low buyin tourneys as well as sitngos. I'm guessing that the donkeys have read somewhere, or realised, that you are better off with live cards if you're gambling. Yeah, but that means you're often better off pushing with KJ than AJ, not that it's a good idea to call off your stack with J7!

stupidlycalled push from KK with AQ

This is not like me at all. I'm generally able to lay down cards that I've raised with but meet huge strength. I wasn't short enough to be anything like desperate. Still, I was pretty disappointed not even to have a coinflip. The guy had been involved in some hands without decent values, so I didn't have any good reason to put him on as big a hand as he had. But I don't like to be calling allins at the best of times.

FT: JT vs A3. They keep calling with shit and beating me

This was on the bubble again. This was an easy, easy fold for this guy, particularly since I had been playing pretty tight, but some people will call any bet with an ace.

played cosily and bravely heads up

Hooray! A win. If I note that I played "cosily", I mean I didn't take too many chances or push edges, just won the hands that were there to be won.

PS: A9 vs A7, he flopped 7

Well, wtf can you do? I was fourth of five and this guy was third, covering me by a couple of hundred chips. Again, there is no way he should be calling a push with A7, but these guys will do it every time. I was pleased to see his holding, not so pleased to see a 7 on the flop.

PS: K6 short into KK

When you're pushing K6s into the big stack on the bubble, even with a very short stack, you know it's time to take a break. Which is what I'm going to do. No poker for a while, to try to recover my broken confidence. I'm going to do some reading and thinking, but just going through these games indicates to me that my game is really badly off. I'm not sure how to fix it though. The problem with the changing gears strategy of playing SNGs is that you tend to be short when the blinds are high, and if you bet at a flop, you don't have much behind if you fold to aggro, or get called. After all, the plan is to get it in with what you think is a good chance. I need to slow down on blind hands though, even if I think I'm winning with them. There's a huge difference between fearlessly getting it in with KQ on a K high flop and doing it with K2, not least that if you get called with the latter, you're nearly always beaten. Maybe I should play one game tonight, take detailed notes of every hand and post it here, so I can read it back and check on myself. Who knows, maybe a kind soul will stumble on this blog and berate me for my shitty play if indeed I play shitty.

Monday, 18 June 2007

What is he thinking?

In that title, the "What" is extraneous. I'm not this guy did any thinking at all.

This is a fiver sng.

Seat 2: brett_favre4 ($3,115 in chips) Seat 3: X carpy12 ($1,630 in chips) Seat 4: stoneroooo ($1,290 in chips) Seat 5: Marmalaise ($1,590 in chips) Seat 6: Wil Turner ($1,960 in chips) Seat 8: schatje53 ($2,600 in chips) Seat 9: Dr Zen ($1,470 in chips) Seat 10: klanglicht ($1,345 in chips) ANTES/BLINDS
schatje53 posts blind ($50), Dr Zen posts blind ($100).

I have 9c2d, so I'm not expecting much out of this hand. I've only played one hand all tourney, betting 4BB UTG with AA. All folded. I don't like getting aces UTG. It's a double bind. If you raise it up, you're not likely to get callers; if you don't, you're likely to get far too many. This table has not been quite aggro enough to limp and reraise it. So anyway I don't expect to make a lot of money from AA necessarily.

klanglicht calls $100, brett_favre4 folds, X carpy12 calls $100, stoneroooo folds, Marmalaise folds, Wil Turner calls $100, schatje53 calls $50, Dr Zen checks.

A free ride for one of the worst hands you can be dealt. What makes this level eminently beatable is that players are willing to limp at these blinds, even with hands that don't really figure to do well multiway.

FLOP [board cards 9D,2H,5D ]

Woohoo! You could not score a better flop for 92, except to have it rainbow. I'm playing this fast.

schatje53 bets $100, Dr Zen bets $500

About potsized, which should hopefully fold out any flush draws.

klanglicht calls $500

So I put him on a flush draw or just possibly A9/A5/A2. An ace on the turn would be a bit scary.

X carpy12 folds, Wil Turner folds, schatje53 folds.

TURN [board cards 9D,2H,5D,KS ]

No scare cards there so I'm going to put it in and hope he calls with whatever shit he peeled with.

Dr Zen bets $870 and is all-in, klanglicht calls $745 and is all-in.

He turns up KhQh. WTF? How does he call that raise on the flop? Even if he puts me on a bare nine, he doesn't have the odds to draw to his six outs. The backdoor flush draw is a plus, but not a huge one. On the turn, I suppose he has to call.

No one with a clue would have put themselves in this position. Had I simply smoothcalled the bet on the flop then yes, I can see a call there and hope to get lucky. But potcommitting yourself with overcards is not good poker. This is not floating with a hand that you can be fairly sure will be a winner if it comes in. This is not even a loose call for a single bet preflop. This is gambling hopelessly. No one wins at poker if they do that. Yes, he might have got lucky this once, rivering a K, 5 or Q, but what about all the other times he does this and does not get lucky?

They don't think about that.

RIVER [board cards 9D,2H,5D,KS,JC ]

Dr Zen shows [ 9C,2D ]
klanglicht shows [ QH,KH ]

Still, I made my own bad play later to bust myself on the bubble. On the button, I raised 99 and a player I know to be pisspoor called in the BB. The flop came T high, so I pushed. Whoops. He had TT.

Thursday, 14 June 2007


This morning I lost four straight sitngoes, playing horribly and getting not a sniff of luck. But last night I won a ticket to a ten-dollar tourney by winning a three-er, so I got into a 52-man tourney.

On the first hand, I took a risk. I had limped with QJs and the button raised to 50. I called that and so did three or four others. The flop came A98 with two of my suit. It was checked to the raiser, who bet. I put him on an ace, and just pushed. I'm representing a strong hand, so I'm hoping for a fold, but if called, I have thirteen outs to beat top pair. The raiser called and showed A9. I rivered the flush, which was a cue for a ton of shit from the raiser.

But dude, I said, raising that shit so little is going to get you callers and my play on the flop is fine. The raiser didn't agree but that's his prerogative. I thought it was worth some risk to get doubled, otherwise I would never have limped QJs in the first place.

So I had a stack and then didn't pick up a hand right to the bubble. By the time we were down to 16 players, I was down to 14th place and desperate. I found ways to chip up, and survived to 11th, with ten getting paid. In one spot, I folded AKs to an allin, which is ultratight but this was my first 10er ever and I wanted to make the cash at least. Finally, the bubble burst and I doubled my stack when KQ called my push with AK and neither of us improved. I took more chips when AT was called by KT and neither helped.

I played tight, allowing the desperate players to fall by the wayside, getting more and more excited as my position improved. I got it in with a big hand and doubled again, so that I was over 20,000 and second of three. I played cagily, looking to chip up where I could, but mostly getting battered by the big stack. The other two players were keener to tangle, and one was beaten down but not out. I finished him with a push that he called light.

Heads up, I was nervous. I had a chip lead but it wasn't huge. I came out firing, and took down a decent pot, giving me a decent lead. A couple of hands later, I woke up with AT and raised. He called. The flop came 543 and I pushed, hoping to fold out a draw or worst case, get called by high cards. He called and showed K6, but he didn't help. AND I WON!!

I will win again, I hope, and I win sngs often, so I'm used to coming out on top, but this is the first time I've won an MTT. Even better, I never had to rely on luck, never going in behind. I just picked my spots and won the pots that were mine to win.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

The principles of poker

So I was disappointed to bubble in R’s tourney, but I guess I only had myself to blame. It was all quite instructive, illustrating how the game might have its ups and downs but good play rests on solid principles. I think you cash small tourneys more often than not by playing solidly, but you have to play solidly all the time, not just most of it. It’s a failing of mine that I can go wrong for a hand or two. The principles I felt were illustrated yesterday were:
Solid play is best.
When they raise, they have it.
Don’t expect them to play well.
If you hope to be a good player, you must be able to distinguish good play from good luck.
Do not play scared.
I pick up KsTs on the button and make it 3xBB to go. This is the standard raise and I’ve made it all night without varying for hand strength. L, who thinks he is a good player but has been a calling station all night -- I guess he thinks he’s good enough to LAG it up -- calls in the BB. The flop comes QJx with one spade. I bet out, hoping to take it down right away. He calls. Another spade comes on the turn, he checks, I check behind (I think). The river is a third spade. He bets, I raise big. He thinks for a very long time and folds. I can’t figure out what you had, he said. I can’t see what fits that action. I don’t tell him but later he tells me he had AA. Well, you fucking butchered that, I’m thinking. Solid play is best. But I’m kicking myself for betting so much on the river, because he could call a smaller bet, I think. Still, the big bet looks a lot like a bluff. Unfortunately, the river card also brought in a straight draw (not the one I had), so he was more willing to lay it down than he would have been had it bricked.

Later, W, who has tightened up a bit preflop but is awful postflop, completes his small blind and I wake up in the BB with Q9. I should just openfold that hand against W because a month or so ago I flopped two pair out of the BB and raised him when he bet. He called the raise and turned an A, which gave him two pair and I boneheadedly pushed into the exact hand I had put him on. Anyway, this time the flop comes A96 and he checks. I make a small bet calculated to get him to lay down whatever shit he completed with. He calls. Uh oh, I’m thinking. He’s probably slowplayed an ace. So the turn is nothing and he checks, I check behind. The river is a Q. I bet out and he raises quite big. I call it. He shows AA for the flopped set. WTF? Well, okay, I made a mistake. I’m quite capable of laying that river down. It’s a mistake I make to rationalise others’ plays into ranges of cards that I beat. In this case, I put him on Ax, but not two pair. But W is a weak player, who will not bluff in this particular spot, and would likely just call with that hand. When they raise, they have it. So after the hand, he starts mouthing off about how he “milked” the hand? I’m like what the fuck? Dude, if I hadn’t rivered a Q or 9, you would have only made the bet I made on the flop. Milked me? Hardly. Quite the opposite. He played the hand very weakly, giving me a chance to outflop him for free, failing to get money in when miles ahead, and then needing to be lucky to make any sort of pot from a huge hand. I don’t have a problem with slowplaying a monster and letting the other guy catch up, but you can’t claim you’ve done anything special. If you hope to be a good player, you must be able to distinguish good play from good luck.

Trying to get tricky preflop is usually a bad idea. Now, I played some of my starting hands a bit too fast, and didn’t get action on them, which was annoying, and I also played made hands too fast, playing scared. When you’ve been burned, sometimes you tilt a bit and start thinking they’ll always catch up if you don’t take pots down. That’s a big failing in my game. I need to remind myself: don’t play scared. I am tons better when I play aggressively and bravely. But slowplaying is a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, it didn’t bite my opponents, but it easily could have done. In one hand, D, an older guy who fancied himself a player but didn’t look all that solid to me, limped from the button, W completed and I checked my option with J4. The flop came all diamonds, KJx. All checked. The turn was nothing special. W checked, I checked, D made a weak bet. I knew he had hit the flop so I chucked it. He showed his hand, AdKc. A monster. But here’s the thing. He made nothing with it, and risked everything to get it. Preflop, he gave us a chance to outflop him for nothing, and after the flop he gave me a shot at pairing my kicker on the turn. An offsuit four on the turn and I likely bust the idiot. A jack and he’s in a bad position, unsure when I bet whether I really have it, and hating to throw away his draw (which could be -- but wasn’t -- dead).

The biggest hand for me was one I’m not sure about. On the bubble, I had the big stack (which makes it all the more painful to win nothing). UTG I have 77, and make it 3xBB, which at this stage is 3000 chips, a big chunk of most of our stacks. I expect most times to fold everyone out. T, a weak player who has been riding his luck, but has learned since I last played him to get aggro with a shortstack rather than get blinded out, pushes. I have him covered by plenty and I’m getting 11.5 to 4 on the call. In this spot, I tend to discount the likelihood of both big and little pairs. He doesn’t have the balls to push 22 in this spot, and there are far more big aces than big pairs. So I figure I’m probably ahead of AK-AJ. Against his range, I am probably dead on even. I think he folds smaller aces. Do I call? The pot odds say yes yes yes, but I can fold, avoid risk and maintain a very decent stack. I can definitely find better spots to get money in than a coinflip. I don’t think I can lay it down though. Maybe the result is influencing my thinking too much. Had I won it, I would have had a stack big enough to slap the other guys around, and I think I would have won the tourney. Anyway, I call quickly, and he shows AK. It doesn’t really matter which overcards he shows, of course, so long as they’re not suited. Except that the flop and turn were all lower than a seven but the river was, of course, a king.

Finally, I forgot that even though I have started treating Friday home games as SNGs, and playing them accordingly, my opponents don’t, and they don’t have a clue what good play even looks like. Shortstacked, but covering W, who is BB, I push UTG with QTs. I think this is a good play, because the table is playing tight and I’m a good chance to get three folds. But W calls with KQ. WTF? This is an autofold in the BB against a player who has you covered. Against any range he can put me on he’s behind for all his chips. But he doesn’t think like that. He sees two face cards and thinks “wahey!” Don’t expect them to play well. I do not improve and double him up and that’s me very short. Well, it could have been different. I played pretty well, and my mistakes were not horrible. But for a rivered king, I would have had the stack my play had merited. Maybe folding 77 on the bubble might have been better because I really didn't need to get involved. I dunno. It's easy to think you played even worse than you did when you lose.


So I'm playing in the WSOP stage 1 tourney. It's a dollar to play and it's the first step on a ladder that leads to the WSOP main event. Okay, it's very unlikely I'd get there but you gotta dream, right? (And anyway, the other day I was deep enough to smell a ticket to the online final in the stage 3 event when some guy laid a horrendous -- and I mean horrendous -- beat on me: runner runner flush to suck out on my set on the flop.) Fourteen will get tickets to stage 2 and there are 15 still alive. The blinds are 400/800. I have 5K and will comfortably qualify. The shortest stack has 550 at the other table. Here is what people do not understand who play these qualifiers: you win nothing more for coming first than you do for coming 14th. Nothing. Not a cent. No prize. Nada. Now I know people are too dim to grasp this, so I wasn't surprised when a guy with 3K called the blind of a guy with 20K, which is disastrously stupid with only one to die. I'm not even surprised when he bets the flop, and then pushes the turn. I've seen this a lot. But what does surprise me is that when the shorty calls the BB at the other table, sitting at UTG+1, the rest of table does not call. There are guys with 20K stacks, and they fold! WTF? This is just crazy. There's no problem with doubling, tripling, quadrupling, quintupling the shorty. You just need to school him and cut his chances. Something else struck me while playing the lucky dollar. I wake up with KK and a shorty in front of me puts it all in. The pot's decent so I pop it up big to discourage any but the really serious. The button calls for all his chips. He must have a big hand, right? No. He has T9. So of course he sucks out to a one-card flush. I let him know that he's an idiot and he says, as fish often do in this situation, it's only a dollar. But here's the thing: it's precisely because it's a dollar that this is so bad. You don't play the lucky dollar to make money. The prizes are tiny. I made the final table last night and scooped seven dollars! Obviously, you play the lucky dollar for fun, not money. But where's the fun in trying to get lucky? It's soulless, joyless. Playing well is its own reward. Outthinking the fish, outplaying the table. That feels good. But how can it feel good to make a terrible move and just get lucky? If the prizes were bigger, then maybe it would make some sense. You gamble to try to take down big dollars, okay. Now, I'm not complaining. I'm still in the tourney, and I've increased my stack at the expense of further idiots who called allins with very weak holdings. But I do wonder how people think. If they think. Which I doubt. Here's another example. A guy calls the blind of 400. He has 5K. I call on the button with KJ. I have 11K. I'm willing to play this hand because there's a shorty allin and the limper is pretty loose, so I probably stand up okay against his range. The flop comes AJ2 with two diamonds. I'm going to bet at this if the other guy checks. But he doesn't check. He pushes. WTF? Clearly he has an ace, I'm thinking, and quickly fold. In an unproteced pot, maybe he could have a flush draw, but I'm doubting it here. Because the shorty is all in, both guy's cards are shown. The pusher has A6s. In my view, pushing here is terrible. If he bets small, I might call (I mean, someone else might; I'm folding here). If I raise him big, he's probably beaten and doesn't get busted with a trash hand. But pushing means he gets called only by hands that beat him. Yeah, he denies me the chance to draw out, but he can bet enough to make it a mistake to try without committing his whole stack. It's not that I mind pushing. If he'd shown some balls and checked, maybe I would have bet and then he could have pushed, making some money on his hand. Anyway, I'm quite grateful to him. He let me get away from my hand very cheaply. This is the good side of playing the lowlimit idiots. When you have a big hand, they are often willing to pay you; and they all too often let you off a hook a better player would hang you from.

Do I have what it takes?

It's a subject I return to because I don't yet have the answer. Do I have what it takes to be good at poker? I could well ask, do I have what it takes to be good at anything? I know that I can write -- I mean I am confident that I can, which is not quite the same thing, but feels the same. But I do not know whether I can write novels, my form of choice. I feel I can, but what I've written has not been quite good enough, or, truth to tell, anywhere close to good enough. The few people that have read what I've written have given it a mixed press: mostly good, I'd say, but some have had criticisms that have been quite painful to think about (although, in some cases, almost certainly not accurate). So far as writing goes, I need a break, and have never had even the least sniff of one. I know that I should, could work at it, make my own openings, and so on. But saying that one should do that is a lot easier than doing it. So, poker. I have days when I feel I'm understanding it but other days when I just don't know anything. It's difficult to extract information from noise. When I have a good day, did I have good cards or did I make good decisions? Sometimes, when I run badly, I know that it's down to poor play, and sometimes I feel it's just an outcome of luck. Not even luck. When I read people on the site whining about their aces' getting cracked allin against trash, I remind myself that even a 90% chance is going to lose one out of ten. And you do tend to forget the nine! A couple of months ago, I think it was, I wrote a post about how I didn't feel I was progressing. This was because I have mostly given up limit and I felt I was struggling to get any better at no limit. I gave up limit because PokerRoom has become very tight and my game definitely is not good enough to guarantee winning against very tight tables. I know I could adjust, but I don't have the time to concentrate. The mechanical play needed for a loose table is a lot easier to do while you're working or reading. But suddenly I came to a realisation -- two realisations -- about my play, which I think will please boots (who is probably the only person reading this anyway!). I realised that I was afraid to take risks, and that I could never hope to gain rewards if I stayed that way. I say "was" but of course I still am. I'm trying not to be. I realised above all that a smallball, chiseller's game suits cash but does not work in tourneys, particularly not in SNGs. So I switched my game to a better strategy. Don't get me wrong. I was doing okay in SNGs, but now I do better. Or at least I think I do. The core of my strategy is trusting myself to be able to read the game. (Which is not entirely easy when you're not paying all that much attention, but I do not mean that I particularly look for reads on players: I assume they are all idiots and play accordingly, and that works!) The other part of my realisation was that I have been playing the wrong type of game for SNGs. Opinions differ on how you should play them, and I'm glad they do, because if everyone played correctly, I'd never win a cent. Some believe you should try to get into pots cheaply and chip up; others believe you should avoid action early and keep your chips for the shorter table. I had, like most novices who are better than the average fish and are keen to use their knowledge of the game, been playing the former game. Switching to the second has made me a better player, not least because my judgement in shorthanded poker is much better than my average opponent. I make mistakes but nothing like as many as most opponents. Hilariously, some whine at me for playing correctly. They'll say "you only want to push or nothing". Which is true. The key to my game is looking for opportunities to get all my chips in. Why husband my stack through the early rounds just to piss it away small bet by small bet? That's what I wasn't understanding: tightweak takes you from A to B, but you need fearless, even sometimes reckless, aggro to get to C. I know that I have room for improvement, tons of it, not least because I don't use an ICM model and should (this is a means of working out when it's profitable to shove your chips in and when it isn't; I go by feel but you can use maths to make your decisions stronger). Those players who think they are good at the game but cry because I won't play poker with them are missing the point. Which is that my way is actually better, the right way to play that particular form of poker. But does that mean I've improved? Is it getting better to shift to a new approach? Well, I suppose that it is. I feel that I haven't just had better results but have changed my understanding. I do need to return to doing more analysis of play, instead of just playing for the hell of it. It's such a drawback being on PokerRoom, for two major reasons: one, that it doesn't d/l tourney hand histories, so I can't easily analyse them, and getting them from the website will be very timeconsuming (but it's something I have to do), and two, it doesn't have enough games, so getting the experience takes a long, long time. I'm yet to figure out how best to get my money from PR to Stars or Full Tilt, which are much better sites these days. Experience is the big thing for me. I need to play many, many more games to be sure that I'm a winning player and haven't just been lucky. I need to do much more analysis of games to figure out why I win, so that I can do more of the good things and fewer of the bad. I need to get back into working at it. Because I do want to be good at it. I read about online players who are making tons of money and I think, well, I only want to make the same hourly money I make from editing, is that so much to ask? I dunno. I suppose I've become a little better, but I still can't answer the question whether I will be able to grind my way up to pro level. I won't give up just yet though.

Badly beat

I am trying not to think about poker. I was playing an online final this morning with the prize of a seat in the WSOP potlimit holdem tourney. I wasn't going particularly well but I was still alive with 19 of 90 runners still playing, and within one double-up of the top five. So when someone minraised and I woke up with KK, I was delighted. I raised pot and they called. This guy had maybe double my stack but I think that this was arguably a poor call, given his holding. He was best case a coinflip and could simply have folded for his raise. If Lady Luck had been favouring me, the flop would have shown some paint, inducing a fold from villain, fearing overcards, but it was all rags. He checked and I pushed without hesitation, of course. He called with TT. Because this is a bad beat story, you know the rest. Now, I know that the pros will tell you that all you can do is get your money in ahead, blah blah, but it still hurts when that one in ten shot happens on this occasion and not one of the other nine. Someone asked me, does making progress like that mean you're getting better? Well, I don't know. Yes, I am, but how much is a difficult question to answer. In the short term, luck plays such a huge role in poker that you cannot know whether you are doing better or being luckier. I feel I am understanding some things better and still just not getting some others. You could see progress if you wanted to: I began by learning to play tight, which takes you this far, and have been learning the right spots for aggression, which takes you a bit further. Experience helps you with hand reading -- or at least helps you determine when you're facing a real hand or someone who's full of shit. But I have the perennial problem of not being able to chip up in tourneys, so that I often get to the bubble, and sometimes limp into the cash, but rarely have enough chips to go very deep. Do I lack gamble? I dunno. I'm trying to find spots to push a bit harder, and it's working for me, so maybe that's what I needed. At the same time, I mostly play low-limit sitngoes, where patience, discipline and shifting gears appropriately are the most important skills, so far as I can tell. But even there I'm a bit at sea. I am beating the game -- I'm confident that I am although my sample size is too small to merit confidence -- but I know that I do not take enough opportunities on the bubble. I could be beating it a lot more. The chief problem is that the strategy I use, which would be instantly familiar to anyone who reads 2+2, is much stronger in a wild game than it is in a tight one, and I'm not sure how to adjust to the latter. (It doesn't help that PokerRoom plays 8-minute blinds, which tends to make the play a bit faster than is good for me.) If there are five of us left at t100 blinds, I'm confident of making the money. If there are seven, not so much. What tends to happen in a tight game is that the players will not gamble early but are much too willing to gamble closer to the bubble. (In a loose game, players will be far too loose in the first few levels and then far too tight when shorthanded, which suits my strategy perfectly.) This means that they won't fold anywhere near optimally on the bubble, so it can be hard to play if you are running cold. If I have an M of less than 5 and there are seven left, I know I will need a slice of luck or some decent cards. I hate to have to rely on luck! The problem is, of course, that I have not been taking detailed notes, and in any case too few players are regulars, so I don't know which kind of game I'm in straight away. If I'm not paying enough attention, I do not necessarily get a good handle on my opponents. Well, there's one route to improvement right there! I am now listening to Phantom limb by the Shins. I am thinking ahead to Thursday, when my parents come to visit. I haven't seen them for at least a year, and I was pleasantly surprised when they told me they were coming. I have unreservedly good feelings about my parents. It is one of the blessings of age that I have been able to lay aside bitterness at their failings and allow myself to love them without conditions. When I think about Mrs Zen, and how it could be feasible to rebuild our relationship, I remind myself that my relationship with my father was poisoned, but now is good. I can happily sit and talk with him. I'm older and wiser, and can avoid areas of discord. He is not on the whole a bad person. He just fucked up. But you cannot punish someone for fucking up forever. Eventually, you have to be able to forgive them. Erring is human; forgiving too. I believe this because I believe I fuck up too, and I want to be forgiven. If I am not doing it on purpose, I do anyway. Or even if I am, if my reasons for it were not unforgivable but simply misguided, then I hope that others will forgive, and the price I pay is to be willing to forgive on my part. Not that I find it difficult. My mother used to say when I was a child that I was notable for not holding a grudge. I still don't. Which is why I know that if I am taking "revenge" on someone who has slighted me, I'm almost certainly acting out of spite, rather than because I have residual bad feeling. (I'm wondering whether that makes sense. I know exactly what I mean. I pay you back because I'm vicious and think in some abstract way that you probably deserve it, not because I am punishing you for any particular crime you've committed.) This SNG I'm playing now is a good example of what I was talking about. It's t150 and still eight players in the game! I have the big stack, so I'm under no pressure, but if I play pots, I'm going to have to be willing to put chips in. Just picked up TT and made it 4xBB to go. Bugger! Called by the guy to my left. Can you believe it? He had QJ and flopped a queen. This is how it's been going for me. Awful calls rewarded left right and centre. Luckily the pot was semiprotected by an allin guy, so I checked and folded. I am going to have to call an allin somewhere in here though, because I can't just fold into the money. Wow! I wake up with AQ and call a tighty who might be pushing it a bit. He has 66. The flop comes Q6x. Oh noes! Turn Q, which means I'm still way way behind. LOLZ abound at the river A. Ah well; it's about time I handed one out. Now it's tough. T200 and the other players have no idea how to play an SNG, so they are walking each other's blinds, limping into hands and basically playing horribly. This doesn't suit me. I want them to be battling it out with each other, of course. So I bust one out. I limp into his big blind and he minraises. So I call of course with T9. The flop comes T high and I check, he pushes, I call. He shows A4 for bottom pair and doesn't improve. If he had pushed preflop, he probably would still be in the game. I would have pushed myself -- the strategy demands it -- but I think he would have called very wide there, having a quarter of his stack in as the blind. In theory, I should be able to push nearly every hand. Here's where I struggle though. I just can't make myself push, because I know these guys are going to call wide and I'm not sure whether it's going to be +EV. So get this. We're on the bubble and a guy gets a few chips, so that now he has a stack about the same size as mine. But instead of attacking the shorties, he keeps trying to steal my blind. I resteal a couple of times but I'm worried that he's only playing values and will eventually be stupid enough to call one. So I let him steal a couple. He has no idea how to play poker, obviously. So I pick up AQ and he raises. I push. He calls and shows 99. I flop a Q and MHIG. He had me covered by quite a bit, thanks to one of the shorties walking his blind or worse, calling it and then giving up on the flop. The guy starts to whine. You were lucky, he says. Dude, I say, you are totally retarded. Two shortstacks and you try to steal my blind instead of theirs! I wasn't trying to steal, I was trying to bust you, he whines. Oh. My. Gawd. Well, lord send me players like that, I suppose, because that's breathtakingly clueless. But worse was to come. The shortstack -- patently without a clue -- allowed himself to be blinded down so that he only had a big blind left. To my astonishment, both the other players folded! Here is the guy telling me I'm a donk and he doesn't know to limp and help me bust the shorty. Obviously, with more than two-thirds of the chips in play, I go on to win. The whiner ran his AQ into my AK, and then, to my absolute delight, I called a push HU with T4 suited in spades and laughed like a drain as I flushed. You lucky fuck, whined the whiner. Lollerchoppers! Yeah, but I was only in the position to get that lucky because he donated his stack to me.

Lady luck hates you

You know the goddess of luck just plain hates you when this happens. I wake up with 22 in the BB and call a minraise from the button. We are threehanded in a small sng. I am hoping for a raggy flop so that I can steal it from him when I check and he bets. The flop comes 552, so I'm miles ahead and loving it. He bets, I call. No point scaring him off because whatever he has, he's not likely to catch up now. The turn is another rag. He pushes. I call, of course, and he shows 66. Now those of you who know a little poker will be expecting a routine bad beat here. He rivered a 6, right? Of course not. I wouldn't be writing this post if the outcome had been that banal. He rivered a 5! Which counterfeited my boat and gave him a huge suckout. Still, it's providing light relief from my ongoing nightmare with QQ in the five-dollars. I have won an allin with it precisely once in the last 60 games, and that was against a tiny stack. Apart from that, I've busted against K3 (called my PF push, rivered a K), AKs (rivered his flush), AJ (hit his ace), KJ (rivered trips), AK (on a raggy flop, he bet I pushed, he rivered his A), AJ (he pushed on a twosuited flop, he runner-runnered a onecard flush), AJ again (flopped his ace, then rivered the J for good measure). I'm thinking I need to openfold those biatches.

As part of an effort to learn why I am shit at poker, I've been studying heads up matchups. I'm none the wiser. This is where I'm at: I can beat .25/.50 limit for 3BB/100. I can beat .50/1 as well, I think. I haven't played many hands but it didn't seem any harder to me. I am beating $5 sngs but I don't have a big sample. I'm not convinced my play is correct though because I seem to need a bunch of luck to win. I also beat the dollar sngs, which is a lot harder, because the rake is huge at PokerRoom and only two places pay. I am hopeless at tournaments. Not hopeless hopeless; but I lose money at them. I can't put my finger on where I'm going wrong. Maybe too tight? Not good enough postflop? The latter could well be it. In an sng, I'm a reasonably good judge of when to get my chips in when I'm short but I don't play well threehanded if the blinds are not very high. Okay, so half the battle is working out where you're deficient. All that remains is to fix it. Easy! (Actually, I go okay heads up. I've grown the requisite balls and I mostly win, rarely coming second unless the other guy gets hit by the luck shovel.) I'd definitely be better if I knew how to work this, and if I start taking sngs more seriously, I'll learn.

Play by play

I am listening to Tom Waits, Swordfishtrombones. I'm a latecomer to Tom Waits. At least, I've always sort of liked him but didn't own any of the albums. I'm playing a five-dollar sitngo. I'm a winning player at this level, based on my thin record. I'll need to play thousands before I can be sure. Maybe I've just been lucky. I never seem to get any better. It feels like there is something I'm fundamentally just not getting in poker. Well, how does that make it any different from any other area of life? So I'm editing this book on information systems, and it's not how I would have written on that subject. It's so dull and information-free. But it's a third edition, and I don't play any part in developing this rubbish. I just fix up the gross errors and silently weep at what a waste of my time this is. The problem is, I suppose, that you don't get to be a professor of information systems by being a smart or insightful guy. If you were that, you'd probably be coining it in business. If your public service ethic didn't allow that, you'd be doing exciting research. Not retreading the turgid bullshit that you teach undergrads. The sitngo isn't going well. No hands in three levels. I pick up JJ and raise large UTG. I'd settle for just picking up the blinds. I hate the hooks. All fold. I play the big blind (folding a gutshot on the turn getting 3 to 1) and return to folding my hands. I have put on Arcade Fire's new album. It's not as good as Funeral. But not much is. That's not to say it's not a very good album. It has some rather weak tracks but a couple of the standouts (Intervention and My body is a cage, to name two) really do stand out. We've gone another orbit and I haven't played a hand. Blinds at t100 and we still have eight runners. This is going to be tough if I can't double up in the next orbit, particularly with a very big stack on the button when I pay the big blind. K3, I miss the flop again and fold to a minbet. The guy only had a draw but I'm not going to play with no pair, no draw. He rivered the straight card anyway. Bugger. Picked up ATs in the CO and would have pushed, but some guy bet before me, making my hand trash. He had A7 and should have pushed if he was playing that shit. Intervention shows what's possible if you think big. The song itself is nothing all that special. If you heard it acoustic, you probably wouldn't think much of it. But the instrumentation is everything. I'm a sucker for a well-placed organ. 33 in the BB. I check. The flop is 665. I stopngo and push. All fold. I make a small pot. We are now on the bubble. Unbelievably, I've voluntarily played one hand and have made the bubble. KT in the BB. The SB completes and I push. He folds. A3s on the button. I push. Both blinds fold. I like the bubble much more than the middle game, although I'd like not to be so card dead. You can't keep pushing at this level. You'll be called out of spite. Okay. Card dead. Pushing with any two. The other guys are just trading chips, none getting it in, so I'm fucked basically. The SB has learned to push at me with ATC. I can't call so he's taking my blind every time. I am not enjoying this afternoon. I can't find a comfortable way to sit and I have a headache. I have made the money. I folded AQ to an all in and it was a good move although I would have won the pot. I suck out with J7 against A9 and I'm going to be at least second. I'm so short that it's push/fold heads up though. This guy is so negative. He doesn't really want to win. Eventually, he overbets K9 and I push with 77. Of course he hits a 9. Never mind. Second place pays $15.

A dollar tourney

This is a dollar sitngo with ten-minute blinds. I thought I might blog it just for fun (my fun, not yours, obviously). The action's a bit too fast for too much commentary but anyway, this is how it went. I give my hand, whatever action mattered to me, and what I did. It's a fairly typical dollar sitngo. There are usually a couple of very aggro players, who aren't selective enough, three or four terrible calling stations (who if I bust out early will be the guys who call my all in with middle pair no kicker when I have TPTK and then turn their kicker), maybe one other player who has anything resembling a clue and a couple of players who are more selective but don't up gears. Only two are paid in this format. I'm not aggro enough on the bubble, I know, but I'm up against players who will call with a very wide range, and you just can't play the same way you would in a tourney for more money. (I know that it sounds weird but I'm pretty convinced that the normal SNG strategy that most good players use is effective only because one's opponents are close to sane and make rational decisions. I don't think you can be as aggro in a $1 as you can in a $5 because you will simply get called an awful lot. In this game, for example, the BB called a push with J8 when he still had an M of about 12. On the bubble.) These games don't usually end this quickly (they'd normally get to at least t400 and often more).

MP2 J4s fold
97 fold Some guy called a 210 bet and then folded to a push on a K high uncoordinated flop. There just isn’t a hand that makes sense for that action.
KT fold Same guy folded to river raise on fourflush board. Basically, I don’t think you’re ever betting into the fourflush if you don’t intend to call a raise. T9 fold
K9 fold
BB T2s, folded to 275 raise. Don’t ask me why donks make these huge raises at low chip levels. And call them! Anyway, down to nine.
SB 76. Fold to a 3BB raise. I’d probably complete with this at the lowest chip level, although I’m trying to stop doing that. Down to eight. If the other guy looks like he has boated his kicker, he probably has.
63 fold. KJs fold to 500 (!) raise. Wish I hadn’t. KK9 flop. I don’t know why these idiots make these huge raises. You are only going to get played with by hands that beat you or you’ll fold everyone out and win nothing much. Unless you find an idiot. Which this guy did. Down to seven.

J3s fold. Nearly lost someone JJ. I raise to 4BB because there’s a limper in. Flop 433. Some guy bets 300. I push. All-in guy has Q2 and turns a Q! I chip up to 1675 anyway.
A8s. I fold this in EP. Shorty wins again. He’s back to nearly 1000.
87 fold.
BB K4 check my option. K high flop. I bet out a probe. Big raise from BTN. I fold it. I’m not going to war with top pair this early. 1570 chips.
T3 fold.
A8. Fold to 3BB raise. Calling raises with offsuit aces is a fast road to busto, even on the button.
A3s. I limp after a couple of limpers. K88r flop. Aggro guy bets big and I fold it. Note that he had TPNK and way overbet it flop. Bet again turn and was called down by guy with bigger kicker. They split it though.
92 fold.
95 fold. Aggro guy is betting at the flop again. Some guy had slowplayed aces PF and trapped someone. Down to seven.
A7 fold. AT vs 66 race. Shorty loses out to river A. Down to six.
87s fold. Maybe from the button but not UTG.

BB T8 check. K high flop. Nothing in it for me so I fold to minbet from SB. He had bottom pair but turned another 6 and made his money.
52 fold to 4BB raise. Same guy slowplayed AA again! The other guy bet all the way to river but folded to push on river. Dunno what he had. Intriguingly, I would have won the hand with a str8.
A8 fold to big raise. Another busts. Down to five.
75 fold.
43s fold. You’ll note that we’re down to five already and I have put money in once! The other two hands I’ve played were in the BB. This is how it often goes. I’m nearly the shortstack.
BB K5 check. J high flop. I don’t fancy it. Fold to a minbet several callers.
55 fold to big raise and push reraise. Slowplayer calls too and we’re down to four.
T9. I limp on the button. 864 all spades flop. I have a draw to the flush and a gs but I don’t fancy this and fold to 1/2 pot bet. In the circs a bad choice. The gs came in. But the pot odds really didn’t favour me, particularly given that bettor can easily have bigger spade.
KT fold from EP. Not big enough blinds to worry yet.
BB A6. Fold to big raise.
Q7 fold.
96 fold.
J4s fold.
BB A9 fold to 4BB raise. I don’t like playing raggy aces OOP
99. I raise unopened to 225. BB calls. I push j85 flop. BB calls with K8. He sucks! MHIG and I double up to 2340.
63 fold.
64 fold.

BB A6s. Fold to 4BB raise. The guy knows I’m folding my blinds but it’s not worth playing back with dodgy hands just yet.
63 fold.
Q3 fold.
AA. Limp. Hope to reraise or just slowplay it. QJ3 flop. 800 into me. I push. He calls with J9s fourflush. MHIG. 4560 chips
BB j9s. check. Fourflush on the flop. I call flop and turn and flush on the river. Idiot calls value bet and I am up to 5610 chips.
J5s. I fold to raise.
JJ. I raise 3BB. K high flop. I fold to a potsized bet.
82s. We have a megashorty I just noticed. He’ll be gone soon. Idiot checked it down with shorty!
BB 74. He raised me out of my blind again.
92 fold.
T2s fold.
JT fold. Not from EP. Down to three.
BB 33. I check. AK3 flop. I checkraise. He reraises but folds to another raise. 6310 chips.
97 fold. The guy’s aggro but I think he’s going to be easily trappable. Let’s see.
52 fold.
BB 54 check. Fold to bet on 933 flop.
43s openfold.
Q5 fold. In a bigger game, I’d play more aggro. But these guys will call just about anything. And this is the bubble. I’ll make the money if I keep out of trouble.
BB 32 check. Miss flop again. Fold to a bet.
85 fold. Guy showed that he bet 42. Idiot. Now you’ll get called by other guy
K5s. Hard choice but I fold at these blinds.

KQ. Raise. I reraise. I call down idiot's smallish bets and river a pair.
AKs. Raise, reraise. A high flop. I bet out. He folds.
AT. 3BB raise. All fold. I now have more than half the chips in play.
BB 44. Fold to a big raise.
Q4s. Fold.
Q2 fold.
BB J7. fold to 3BB raise.
A9. Fold. I could reraise but I’m waiting for the right hand to trap him with.
A4. 3BB raise. Idiot calls. I pair my kicker on the flop. Call small flop bet but fold to big turn bet. He probably has TP. I'm willing to call an aggro merchant down with a pair if the betting indicates he has nothing. I'm also willing to call a flop bet to set up a play like the next one or the one on which I just about busted him.
Q8. check. Raggy flop. I call small bet. Raise his probe turn. I have nothing but I'm guessing he has air too. He folds.
52 fold. BB reraise pushed over his raise this time. Idiot sucked out though. Heads up.
J8s. I fold.
A3. He raises. I push. He folds.
22. Fold.
T6. Fold to minraise.
K8. Call. He checks. I bet potsize on flop, check turn, fold river. This is an odd hand. I don't like K8; I don't like calling preflop when heads up (or ever to open the betting) and I don't like betting, checking, folding. So why? The call was aimed at luring a raise from him. I'd push over the top and he'd likely fold. I sometimes play this strategy against overaggro players because they will often try to push you off when you call but will fold to the reraise because they have nada. K8 is a bit light for it but I don't expect to get called. Having got to the flop, and it was nothing special, I bet out to try to fold him out. I don't like his call. There's one card higher than my kicker, so I'm possibly playing with three outs. The turn is also bigger than my kicker, so I check it. I'm willing to fold to a bet because I have nothing. He probably doesn't either, but I am not trying to win a few chips in a nothing pot here. I'm trying to bust him out. He checks behind on the turn. The river flushes and he puts a reasonable bet in. I'm getting about 3 to 1, I think, that he has not paired and is bluffing (I don't believe he has the runner-runner flush at all) and that my K beats him. I'd often call this, particularly against a player who wasn't this aggro but was willing to have a go at an unclaimed pot, but I want him to think I'm a folder and keep bluffing at pots.
87. He is minraising each time. I call. Flop an oesd. Check. Call minbets flop turn but fold river.
T9s. Raise. He pushes. I fold.
87. Call minraise. Miss flop.
JTs. Raise. He calls. Bets flop. I call with middle pair. I’m going all the way with this. Top pair would be a K but I don't put him on one. His bet on the flop was too small. It was another "I can push him off this" bet. I know he'll interpret the call as weak and try again on the turn. He pushes on J turn. I’m delighted to call. He has air and I am up to nearly 12,000 chips of the 15,000 in play. This is the hand I was setting up with my earlier play. I allowed him to steal the K8 pot without a fight because I knew I'd get a decent chance at him. At these low blinds, I'm not going to run into blind trouble if I don't put money into pots where I don't have hands.
64. He pushes, I fold.
J3. Fold.
A3. He pushes, I call. I pair my ace. MHIG. I win $7. A couple of brief comments. One of my big failings in poker is that I'm a bit weak-tight. I don't think it's a terrible way to play these tourneys though. I only ever really fuck up when I make ballsy calls on reads that are wrong. I do find too that allowing a superaggro player to think you are a folder is a good strategy. They start thinking "folds to a raise" means you are a fish, so when they try to blow you off a hand when you actually have one, they'll put all their chips in with air. They just don't realise that you might have spotted that they have been betting and raising just about every hand, and they don't realise that at lowish blinds, you can afford to pay them a few chips to get the chance to bust them when the right hand comes. When I flopped KJx, holding JT, and he betted out another small bet, I knew I had the right hand to take some chips. That he decided to bluff that he was holding a J was not smart, but I'd already realised that this guy was not smart. Earlier in the tourney, I had reraised his minraise with KQ. The flop came rags and he bet small. I knew he had nothing. You know why? Because he had only read the chapter of the poker book that says "aggression is good" and forgot even to look at "don't be too predictable". He tries to steal smallish pots with smallish bets. Here, I've raised, so he puts me on big cards and thinks he can steal it when it comes rags. So on a raggy flop, chances are my K high is good. The turn is another undercard and he bets again, quite small. I river top pair and given that I'm going to call him with K high, you know that I'll put money in with TP2K! So I call a bigger bet on the river. (I didn't raise him. He's not calling a raise with a worse hand on that board. There are no draws and I raised PF, so he can believe I have a K and will call a bluff push. So he only calls raises with hands that beat me.) He showed 64. That one hand told me all I need to know about this guy. First, a positive. He is willing to raise with trash to try to steal the blinds. Second, a big negative. He is not willing to lay it down to a resteal. Third, another big negative. It's a subtle one but it's the key to this kind of player. The board did not have a reasonable draw for a player like me on the flop and I called a bet. So I either have OCs, I paired the smaller of my cards or I started with a mid pair that wasn't bigger than top pair on the flop and played it cautiously. The turn didn't coordinate the board any and I called again. Half the negative is that he bet out again. I'm simply going to call with the hand I've already described to him with my action. Even if I did credit him for a pair, I had six outs to draw out and he was offering me something like 4 to 1! The river brought a big card and he bet again, more but not anything like big. But I'm never folding. If I call flop and turn with one pair, I will call again on the river if you offer me decent pot odds. I'll take the odds that you're a/ bluffing, b/ have a smaller pair than I do or c/ I outkick you. If I'm right oftener than the odds, it's a good call. And I will be. The other type of hand I might have had is OCs. And I reraised PF, so chances are, given that I'm tight, that I have either an A or a K. So the guy is thinking I must have Ax, didn't pair my kicker but still played on but will now fold to a scary K. What are the odds though? I've been more or less playing fit or fold, so you're reckoning I've reraised your minraise with AT+ (but not AK) -- because a fit or folder is not going to be playing to three outs very often, didn't like the raggy flop enough to raise your minbet on the flop but was willing to take the worst of it twice to try to suck out to my sixouter? And will then fold to a bullshit bet on the river? If he had K3 and I had had AT, I'd be paying him off till Christmas on that board if I was dumb enough to call him down in the first place. The other half of his negative is that he didn't realise that. My other comment is simple. When I'm playing well, I'm very patient. I wasn't interested in playing marginal hands, even when we had lost a few players. When I'm playing badly, I make terrible decisions, born out of a lack of discipline. Oh, and I forgot. One hand where I had 33 on an AK3 flop. I'd normally bet out here. Because everyone checkcalls sets on the flop, then puts the money in on the turn, I do something different and bet out. Usually. It's just that much more deceptive! But the aggro guy didn't raise PF. So I'm thinking he doesn't have an A or K and will likely fold. If I check, he'll try to take it, and I at least make that much money. If he has an A or K and just didn't raise PF, he will at least call a small checkraise. Or as it turned out, reraise it.

Not that window!

I am crying. Sometimes in PokerRoom, when you have two windows, one will pop up when you are doing an action in the other. That can lead to folding in the wrong window. Like here:
Texas Hold'em $0.25-$0.50 (Real Money), #43,702,128 Table El Alaiun, 12 Mar 2007 3:11 AM ET
Seat 1: abex66 ($14.10 in chips)
Seat 2: jismbreathe ($5.45 in chips)
Seat 3: baragon ($13.75 in chips)
Seat 4: TomatoTom ($4.85 in chips)
Seat 5: vonschnappen ($6.55 in chips)
Seat 6: Jegola ($13.60 in chips)
Seat 7: Dr Zen ($26.25 in chips)
Seat 8: cheef82 ($22.50 in chips)
ANTES/BLINDS Dr Zen posts blind ($0.15), cheef82 posts blind ($0.25).

PRE-FLOP abex66 folds, jismbreathe calls $0.25, baragon folds, TomatoTom folds, vonschnappen calls $0.25, Jegola folds, Dr Zen calls $0.10, cheef82 checks. Easy call from the small blind.
FLOP [board cards 5C,6H,KC ]
You beauty! I hit my set and now I extract the money! Dr Zen bets $0.25, cheef82 calls $0.25, jismbreathe bets $0.50

This guy I know to be an idiot.

vonschnappen folds, Dr Zen bets $0.50, cheef82 calls $0.50

And this guy's a very weak calling station. It's your dream when you have a set. A lagtard who will jam it with you and a calling station who will put dead money in.

jismbreathe bets $0.50, Dr Zen calls $0.25, cheef82 calls $0.25.

TURN [board cards 5C,6H,KC,KH ] Dr Zen checks, cheef82 checks, jismbreathe bets $0.50

I knew the lagtard would bet it for me...

Dr Zen bets $1

... so I C/R'd him

cheef82 calls $1, jismbreathe bets $1, Dr Zen bets $1

And more! If he has K6 or K5 I'm fucked, but the chances are he has Kx, 6x, 5x, a small pair or fuck all.

cheef82 calls $1, jismbreathe calls $0.50.

RIVER [board cards 5C,6H,KC,KH,AS ]

Want to bet I can't checkraise the fucking idiot again?

Dr Zen checks, cheef82 checks, jismbreathe bets $0.50, Dr Zen bets $1

LOL. Now to rake it in. Come to poppa!

cheef82 calls $1, jismbreathe bets $1, Dr Zen folds
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! I was folding trash in the other window. One bad click just lost me 13 bucks 75. I am sobbing like a child who's lost his favourite toy.

cheef82 calls $0.50.

SHOWDOWN jismbreathe shows [ 3S,AC ]
Oh. My. Sweet. Jeebus.
cheef82 mucks cards [ 6C,QD ]
See? Called a ton of bets with middle pair.
jismbreathe wins $13.75.
That's my money!
SUMMARY Dealer: Jegola Pot: $14, (including rake: $0.25) abex66, loses $0 jismbreathe, bets $4.75, collects $13.75, net $9 baragon, loses $0 TomatoTom, loses $0 vonschnappen, loses $0.25 Jegola, loses $0 Dr Zen, loses $4.25
Sigh. I make about 3BB/100. A bit more maybe since PokerRoom tightened up (because I play more hands against maniacs and less against suckout merchants maybe?). So I lost 300 hands' profit. (I would have netted 600 hands' worth of winnings.) Sigh.

Don't drive drunk

The other night, playing a five-dollar tourney, I made a call, drunk, that I would not have made sober. Probably. Who knows? I've made stupid calls sober, drunk and at every point in between. It will probably be my last gasp: "Can someone please push all my chips in for me with AT?" It probably cost me a hundred bucks. That's a pity because like anyone I need a bit of luck in a tourney and a decent win makes up for all the nearlies. It turned decent into nearly. Never mind.

So the key hand on Friday is for once a good one for me, because I didn't really have too many opportunities to do anything but fold until we were down to six and then I was short enough that I had to push it a bit. The blinds are 150/300 and I have about 4000 chips. The mathematically inclined will see straight away that I had nearly 9x the combined blinds (this number is called M; it's a representation of how many orbits -- or rounds of the table -- you can go before being blinded out). In R's structure (20-minute doubling blinds, no antes), this is not desperately short but it's short enough to mean you need to start gaining chips sooner rather than later. D, R's wife, a terrible, loose gambling player, limps and so does J, a calling station who has been lucky up to now. I wake up with A9. This isn't a particularly strong hand and with a bigger stack, or more players left in, I might even fold it. Online I'm not keen on limping with A9, unless it's suited, because players are so keen on limping bigger aces. I decide to raise. Given the size of the other stacks, I think 1000 will be enough. This is not a big raise, and theoretically I should be putting more in. But putting more in would necessitate pushing, which I think is an unnecessary risk. I expect to fold the blinds and both limpers. If I don't, I have position and the way our game usually plays, a push on the flop should do the trick. The blinds fold but D calls quickly. I think she must have what she considers a good hand. This could be just about anything! But her range for calling this raise is probably any pair, Ax, K9+, maybe QJ, possibly connectors of some sort: 98s, 87s, that kind of thing would be very possible. J folds. If I wanted to know whether he was any good, he told me with this fold. He is being asked to put in 700 chips and the pot holds 2450. That's better than 3 to 1! What can he have that isn't worth a call at those odds but was worth limping? This sort of thing often happens. Earlier Da, a useless and predictable player who was pretty much bludgeoned by the deck this night and ended up winning, had folded his big blind to a min raise from the small blind. Let's say the blinds were 50-100. The bet into him is 100. The pot holds 300. There simply is no hand bad enough to fold here. Yes, the small blind might have AA and you might be crushed (a worse than 6 to 1 dog) but nearly always you will have chances (even a badly dominated hand, such as 72 vs A7 is just shy of 3 to 1; with live cards you are nothing like that badly off).

The flop comes 873r. I have missed (I don't give any value to the backdoor straight draw or the overcards at this point) but I have already made my decision. Whatever D does, I'm pushing. Unless she pushes. Then I'm folding. This is why. If she bets, she has likely hit the flop. Maybe she had A7 and hit her kicker. It's possible she began with a pair but if it's an overpair, she is likely to checkraise. If she has a set, same story. A check is likely a sign of weakness: an underpair or overcards, maybe a draw; although she's aggressive, she is dumb with it, so she'll tend to bet overcards on a flop like this but not T9 (terrible players don't often have a semibluff in their armoury). Although she checks a strong hand, there are many more weak hands she can have. So why if she bets, would I push? And why if she checks, would I not just bet out and try to fold her out? If she bets, I may or may not have the odds to call, but doing so is just a way to piss your stack away. I only have about three thou left and calling a couple of bets to chase the odds here will severely dent that. If I chase for two bets of 500 say, which would be about the least I could see her betting, I am down to 2000 and I'm looking for spots to push in. My opponents are weak players precisely because they do just call the bet here. I've learned not to (unless I and my opponent are deep enough to make it worthwhile). If she checks and I bet, I have to fold to a raise. So I just lose whatever I bet to any decent hand. I have to bet a decent amount if I bet, because I want to take this down, preferably folding out smaller pairs (which are of course beating me) and hands such as AJ/AT, which are possible holdings (and also beat me). But any decent bet that is raised is going to cripple me and she might just call with the pairs and bigger but not massive aces. So I push. She thinks for a long time. There's some input from other players, which I find irritating, because they frame it in terms of pot odds, which would not be a consideration for a player like D. It's annoying because they want her to call (everyone likes the big confrontation and they suspect that I'm bluffing on this raggy flop) but of course I want the fold. She folds. That gives me enough chips to see me through to the money.

When we are down to three, I am in the short stack by a mile. I have an M of about 2 (mostly because players have been so slow counting off chips when they've gone all in, so that the blinds have risen quickly with few hands dealt). I am in desperate straits so I need a break. I get one. W, who should simply fold and allow me to bust out, gets into a confrontation with the big stack. They get it all in on the flop. W is miles ahead but the other guy has called him with a flush draw (without the correct odds of course). The other guy catches his flush and that leaves me HU with him. I put it all in blind. There's no point even picking up my cards when I am this short. It turns out I have a decent hand: QJ. I would have pushed anyway. But let me tell you how Da's night has been and what kind of player he is. Earlier, when we were on two tables, I picked up A2 in the big blind. I'd hardly played a hand but this was just limped to me. So the flop comes KK2. You tend to think that you are ahead in my spot, because whenever the board is paired, it's unlikely, especially six- or seven-handed, that one of the others has trips. So I bet out and Da calls. Calls! He might as well send me a note saying "I have a king". I check the turn and he bets. I automuck. He flashes me K6 (which I would not have played in his shoes). That's good, right? Slowplay it some? Well no, I don't think so or not enough so. I can have several types of hand on this flop: a K of my own, a 2, a pocket pair or nothing. But the only way I'm putting more money into this pot is with a PP or the K. If my K is big, I'm going to bet the turn and river and he's going to be paying me off, maybe going bust. If I have a PP, I'm not betting, but I might call a small bet on the river if I don't think he has the K. But this is an unlikely holding for me because we are only three to the flop and I am likely to have raised two limpers with my pair, particularly if it's a decent one. And he has to check behind the turn (this is a common move in poker, strong-weak-strong; it's what players will often do to make a very strong hand look like a bluff on the river). With the hand I had, even if I paired my ace, I'm not keen on putting more money in. Maybe he should raise the flop? I dunno. That way, he can get away from a strong king, but some players are reraising with K-baby here, so he can't fold.

Anyway, I push with QJ, he has K7. Of course. And I get no help and that is that. I'm happy though. I played solid poker. I didn't get much in the way of cards until we were shorthanded and then I couldn't get action. It's tough with hands like AQ and low M. You have to push but if the table lacks gamble, you just pick up the blinds. On one hand I woke up with 66 and pushed. J, who had limped, agonised and agonised. But he folded his 55 face up. Pity. If he called, I probably would have won the tourney, because the double-up would have put me second in chips.