Thursday, 22 November 2007

News just in: bad beats happen

The ultimate aim is to laugh off bad beats, of course, and I do try, but how do you avoid tilting hard when something like this happens?

Threehanded, I have about 7000 chips in the BB. Blinds are 150/300, no ante. The other stacks are about 5000ish and 3000ish. So the small blind completes and I have A9.

We're a bit bigstacked for me to push and I have the stack because I have completely outplayed this guy after the flop in so many hands, it's a wonder he still wants to see flops with me.

The flop comes down AJ9 rainbow. He bets the minimum, I raise to 700, he reraises to 1100 or something fucked-up like that, so I push.

In his shoes, I'm folding everything but AJ or a set. I can understand calling with AK/AQ here, but I think it would be bad. I am not doing this with QT, no matter how much you try to convince yourself I am. The first raise can be a bluff, but the push isn't ever.

So he calls, and turns over AT. Dude, how am I not beating that? And how the fuck do you not raise it preflop? It's not that strong a hand that you want to play it OOP against a player who is dancing rings round you postflop.

So it's not the worst suckout ever. He has 6 outs, and rivers the T.

Again, it's not the bad beat! It's that I played well and he played badly. Yes, I know that's what I want. The three out of four times I bust him -- taking all his equity that he gambled that I was bluffing with -- I am delighted. But the other one sucks.

Actually, maybe I'm probably giving him too much credit in suggesting that he thought he might be beating a bluff. He doubtless didn't think at all. He had TOP PAIR. Everyone knows that top pair is the nuts.

Anyway, I still have a couple of thousand chips, right? Right. And I pick up AKs next BB. The button, a timid, awful player, limps, and I push over him. He has a bit over 3500 chips and I still have about 2000, so I should have quite a bit of fold equity. He's in desperate straits if I beat him.

If you play STTs, think about what range you would conceivably limp and call a push with here. Let's say that you've for whatever reason decided I'm going to check most of my range, and you can play it cheaply. So you limp a fair range, okay. I can go that far with you.

But you are not calling the push with 98 off.

Well, you're not, he is, and he flops a 9. I played a fantastic game in this STT, probably as well as I've ever played. But the records say I finished third.

And I know everyone has bad beats. I'm not boring anyone with this shit but myself, because no one reads this. Just blowing off steam.

And if anyone is, I'm going to make up for it by posting some theory.

Push, push or pussy?

So I feel like I'm playing pretty well, and my results are okay, and I know I think much better about poker than I did a year ago, say. (I cringed with embarrassment when reading an old thread in which I argued fiercely for a play I wouldn't go near today.)

But I'm not feeling confident. The problem is, I feel I'm playing the bubble all wrong. When I'm shortstacked, I'm pretty aggressive. Probably not as aggressive as I should be, but still putting in my chips fairly often. However, when I have a bigger stack, a/ I'm not choosing my spots well and b/ I don't feel like I'm aggressive enough.*

These seem like contradictions but I think they are both true. The first is truer when I have 10-15 BB; the second truer when I have bigger stacks than that. Can that be right though?

STTs are not the same now as they were before UIGEA. The tight early, get aggro later strategy still works, but now there seem to be slightly more players with something approaching a clue. Well, not so much, but they are clueless in ways that it's harder for me to pick up if I'm not paying attention. Here's an example. I am holding K6 in the big blind and some guy much shorter than me pushes. I am being offered a bit shy of 2 to 1 to call, so I call, obv. This is routine and folding here is rubbish. I catch a king and bust the guy. He had ace-rag. He starts berating me in chat -- in German, to make it worse -- about how I'm such a donkey calling with K6. Unfortunately, his avatar had disappeared so I couldn't make a note about this, because this is a guy I want to push into with ATC on the bubble, he'll be calling so tight. But I only realise he's this clueless after the play. In case anyone reading this -- if anyone reads this -- doesn't get why I think the guy's clueless, it's because he clearly has no concept of pot odds, and/or no ability to realise that a shortstacked pusher is not going to be better than 2 to 1 to beat K6, and/or no ability if he does get that to understand that I can bear the risk because I am still chipleader or close to it even if he wins. All he sees is that I called with a weak hand.

But that's the thing. A lot of these guys are completely level one. They only look at their own hands. On the bubble, they do not understand that calling an allin from a guy who covers or nearly covers you is a disaster and that they should fold *everything*. They see KJ and think, that's a big hand, I call. When I'm pushing with AK, that's okay (until they flop a J), but when I'm pushing with T7o, it's not so good.

The players being a bit better means that they are not always willing to stack off too lightly. Yes, they'll call pushes with top pair early, and any pair late, and many think that a bare flush draw is worth risking all your chips on, but they select their hands quite carefully, and tend not to go too far with weaker draws and small pairs. The default player on PokerRoom is not a clueless donkey who will play any two, although they do exist. He plays reasonably tight (I don't have stats on PR but I'd guess the average is about 25/5, something like that, tightening up on the bubble), cannot resist slowplaying a decent hand (turnraiseaholics, every last man of them), often willing to bluff quite transparently (it really hurts to have to fold to minbets on flops that you feel definitely didn't hit your rival, but you have to, because a/ sometimes you get it wrong and throw away your whole tourney to some guy who called PF with K4 and will call a push with bottom pair and b/ sometimes they'll call with overs and you're fucked). Some will call a lot with any pair, so you can't bluff them, regardless how many chips you throw at them (because they are only looking at the hand they hold, not their position in the tourney/stack size/anything else that you or I might think about), and others will pride themselves on big laydowns on scary boards. You need to have played them to figure out which of those they are! The latter tend to think like this: I would call with a pair or decent draw on that flop; the board paired/draw came in... so he must have it when he bets. Which would be fine if I *never* floated you with crap draws and the intention to steal it from you down the track. There are other types: LAGtards who can do damage with a bigger stack, ultrapassive players who will not bet the nuts, let alone anything short of it, rocks who make it to the bubble often but are too tight to win much, and a few players who clearly know the score.

Anyway, the point is that when shorter I need to take more care thinking about what range they are calling with, and I definitely need to stop assuming they will be able to figure out that they're going to make the money if they simply fold their QJo to my push and let the shortstack get busted. But I need to be more aggro with a big stack and highish blinds because the extra chips increase your cushion when you *do* get called and lose, and if you push often enough, you can get enough chips that others are simply scared of tangling with you. The benefits are clear: they walk your blind more; they give up on the flop more; they consider you already in the money and don't think it's worth trying to knock you out. This last is, I think, why the two ideas are not contradictory. They'll call me when I have 12BB and they have 13BB because they knock me out when they win. When I have 25BB, they are the only guy whose tourney is at risk, so they have to tighten up a bit.

Before I started thinking much about STTs, I was pretty good on the bubble, but probably only a slightly more aggro version of the rocks, although I played more loosely early than I do now. I just pushed when I felt it was a good spot, and I was often right. Now I might be overthinking it without doing the legwork. So what I need is push/fold tables to give me the basic idea, while I do the hard work of Wizzing hands and looking at charts to work out what exactly is +$EV and what isn't. There are some in Collin Moshman's book, but I really doubt they're as good for the PokerRoom game of now as they were for the Party game of five years ago.

*I mustn't be too hard on myself, because I've had quite a streak of losing allins with my money in good. It's going to feel like a mistake when that happens, even if your play was okay.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Next station, busto

Play lowlimit sngs and nothing should surprise you. But still the extreme bad play of my opponents does surprise me.

I'm playing a $10 turbo on Party. It's t400 and the bubble. One guy has less than a big blind and will be in the BB next hand.

I'm in the small blind and pick up 44. Not a great hand but when it's folded to me, it's an easy push. I have the big blind covered, and can push here with any two. He must fold unless he has aces.

Calling is the worst play ever. He is risking all his tournament equity, more than 20 bucks, and will gain less than that if he wins.

Think about it. If I have 72 and he has a pair of jacks, he must fold. He'd be an enormous favourite, but the equity he loses is too much to risk. He should just fold, because the difference in equity his blind represents is tiny. I have him covered, so a loss means he's busted, and hands ALL HIS EQUITY to the shorty.

But of course my opponents are idiots and don't think like that. They are completely level one. So they'll call in this spot with AK, AQ and big pairs. But those hands are rare, and of course, I'm ahead of AK, so if he does call, he's still behind.

He calls. Things move very fast on Party so I know I'm beaten at about the same time I know that he called. I am just gobsmacked. Needing only to fold to just about assure himself of a cash, the guy gambled with ATo.

He didn't push with it, you'll note. He didn't get it in with me *and* shorty, which would be bad but at least he needs both of us to beat him not to cash.

He flopped an ace. He doubtless feels he made a good play. After all, he won, didn't he? That's how these players think: level one and results oriented. If you asked him, he'd say he was "playing for first". You couldn't explain to someone like that that the best way to play for first is not to lay odds for all your equity.

Of course, my problem is I don't play enough games. I'll get used to very bad players making very bad plays when I've seen many more of them. I think though that a small part of me will always hate the sheer injustice of the guy flopping his ace when I played well and he played so so badly.

Maybe next time I'll just fold. It's the wrong play, but relying on my opponents to be even close to sanity has cost me yet again. Yeah, next time I fold and let the shorty get knocked out. I know it's very wrong, but right hurts when it goes wrong.

No amount of outs too few for you

I hate poker.

I'm playing the plus 500, PokerRoom's premier donkfest, and I haven't been picking up many hands. So I limp in with 88, and the flop comes T86. I bet and we end up with three allin. I treble up.

Now I am happy.

Then I pick up AA, UTG+1. I limp, which is very unlike me. But the table has been fairly aggro, so I hope to get raised behind. No luck with that, we go six to the flop. It comes fairly dry J high rainbow. A good flop for me, and I lead out nearly potsized. Some tard pops it up a ton. I figure he likely has AJ/KJ rather than a set, because there isn't a donk alive who will raise a set when he can slooooowplay it in the most retarded way.

So I push and donkey calls. He has JT.

WTF? There is no way I don't have JT beaten. How can he think I don't? The board is so dry that I cannot realistically be trying to get him off his monster with a draw. The worst hand I have is AJ, and given the action he can expect to see a set.

But of course he's at level one, so all he sees is TOP PAIR. Woo hoo. Stick it in with that, dude, who cares what everyone else has?

So I'm happy anyway. I've got his stack, right? Wrong. It wouldn't be the JokerRoom we know and love if he didn't river a J.

This is the thing that puts me on tilt. Less and less the more I play, but it still makes me seethe. The idiot puts all his money in with a hand that is beaten EVERY TIME but the poker gods bless him with one of his five outs.

Anyway, that cripples me, but I get a free ride in the BB with KJ and the flop comes KJx, two diamonds. Not bad, because I know that I will likely have a customer for my whole stack. But I can only bet so much on the flop and one guy calls.

The turn is an A.

He could have called on the flop with a range of hands, but let's face it, when the A comes, the only hand that he can have is QT. Because otherwise, I would not have a hard-luck story.

What I hate is that he never did a thing right in the hand. He limped QT, which is bad. He didn't raise his straight draw on the flop but called at bad odds. All he did was call pf, call flop, call turn and he is still in the tourney.

Caps off the day for me, because after struggling up to step 4 in the APPT steps on Stars, I got sucked out on when a tard raised, I pushed over and he called with J8s. I am not kidding. The concept of having fold equity is in the shitter against players like that. We are talking about a guy who raised to 1200 at t400, then called a push for 3000 more.

I won't even talk about what then happened at step 3. It's gruesome.

For all that, I'm actually winning more than I'm losing, and to celebrate I'm going to write some posts about sngs, which obviously no one will read, but you never know, someone searching for sng strategy might stumble across it and find it useful.