Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Failure to communicate

Writing has been more difficult than normal. Whatever I attempt to post sounds donkish, uninformed and a wee bit embarassing. The self-editor is now on Orange Alert.

Strange thing is, the poker side of my brain seems fully engaged. The game is starting to make some sense, patterns emerging in the midst of chaos. There have been no ephiphanies or awe-struck revelations. It's more about attention to detail and a renewed effort to never make a move without a good reason. At least for now, confidence is high.

Finished fifth among 58 runners in last night's weekly Wil Wheaton tournament on Stars. (Wheaton starred as a kid in "Stand by Me" and later in one of the Star Trek series. An avid poker player, he was on my immediate right the last half of the tournament.) Played well. I worked myself out of an early hole and had a couple of pocket pairs hold up near the bubble. Got a bunch of chips with a flopped set of kings that turned into quads at the river to put me third in chips. Went card dead after that and had limited opportunities to make plays. With 7,500 chips and blinds at 600/1200/??, I got knocked out with A-10 vs. 10-10 when an ace on the river gave the other guy a flush.

A little earlier, I finished fifth in a 27-person $11 SNG on Stars. I had nearly 40 percent of the chips while five-handed and flamed out in just two hands. An ace on the turn that gave me two pair made the second-biggest stack a wheel. I lost a race the next hand with pocket 9s vs. K-8 It's been awhile since I've donked off chips that way.

Deposited some money in Titan in anticipation of a blogger freeroll in a couple of weeks. The site is all right, although bonus requirements at low limits are too steep. I do like the overlay Titan ends up providing for its guaranteed tournaments. Entered a $22 with 106 runners, which meant $380 in overlay. I didn't adjust well to Titan's weak structure -- 1,000 starting chips and 10-minute rounds -- and finished 51st. If that one tournament is any indication, others also are trolling for overlay. The quality of the play at my table seemed pretty good.

Finally, won an entry into a WSOP satellite on Stars this coming Saturday. Odds are not good (for anyone) with a likely field of 500 players chasing two seats. But I like my chances better now that a month -- hell, two weeks -- ago.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Auto delete

For those of you who didn't read my last post, which is everyone in the world save some stray googler looking for a heroin clinic, it's gone forever. Flushed that puppy down the digital commode. I know I have given myself permission to write poorly and unintelligently about poker while hiding behind my newbie status, but there was no excuse for that.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Lately, in a fledgling effort to test game theory concepts (as suggested in Poker Theory), I've been picking a hand du jour that I will automatically open for a raise. I've used Q-9 and J-9. For no apparent reason, it's been K-2 the last few nights. I tell myself they're premium hands and play them that way. I've won decent-sized pots with them. Losses have been small and not disproportionate to the size of my stack. Getting more comfortable with the idea of looking to raise. Another step, I hope, on the Road to Poker Progress.

And now for some live blogging:

Just completed the first hour of the 8:10 p.m. $33 on Party. (253 of 570 left). I've built my starting stack of 3,000 into 7,605. Won a nice hand just before the break with queens, my best starting hand of the night. But I'm seventh in chips at the table. Four players are above 10K.

9:25 p.m. -- First orbit, nothing. Raised with K-3 sooooted. Big stack pushed all-in, I fold. Down to just under 6K. Par is 7,500. Blinds at 150/300.

9:30 p.m. -- Raised 4x the BB with slick. No calls. There are still a few fingers left in the bottle of 15-year-old Aberlour, but I'm drinking water.

9:33 p.m. -- Complete the SB with Q-10. Three players. Flop comes Q-10-x. I lead for 725 into a 1,200-chip pot. A big stack calls. Five on the turn. I bet 2400 and big stack folds. Check the turn and induce a bet? A better play, I think. Back up to 7,408.

9:37 p.m. -- Call another 800 with A-J from SB. Flop comes A-Q-A. I check, bet of 1K and I raise to 2,500. He folds. Once again ... smooth call might be better. Few hands later become fourth limper with pocket 5s. Blinds complete/check. Flop comes 3-5-7 with two diamonds. I bet 2,100 into a 2,400 pot and everyone folds. Up to nearly 12K. Got to be the set.

9:41 p.m. -- Get pocket kings. Smaller stack raises I put him all in for another 3,500. He calls with Kd-Qd. Flops a FREAKIN' ROYAL FLUSH. Back down to 7,500. Wow. Time for a drink.

9:45 p.m. -- Scotch is good.

9:47 p.m. -- Raise from cutoff with pocket 3s. Blinds, at 300/600, fold. Now 146 left. 60 places pay. Par is 11K.

9:52 p.m. -- Ace-9 on the button. Mr. Royal (3 to my right) opens for 1,600, I fold. Next hand, K-10o. I want to raise but player to my right beats me to it and takes the blinds. Two hands later, pocket 7s. I raise 3x the BB and get the blinds. At 8,305. About 140 left. Stack of 35K just seated at the table. Need some of that.

9:59: -- King-queen suited in the cutoff. Raise to 1,800 and blinds, including Big Stack in the BB, fold. Scotch is still very good. Developing expensive tastes. Wish I could afford them.

10:01 p.m. -- Blinds at 400/800/25. Stack of 20K plus just seated to my right. I've got 8,300. M is under 6. It's the "I need some cards" portion of the program.

10:05 p.m. -- Pocket 8s on the button. Stack of about 14K opens for 2,300. I fold. Very small stack calls what's left. Board makes two pair (jacks and queens) for pusher. There's 107 players left. Time for me to think about picking a spot to make a stand. Need some cards to do it.

10:11 p.m. -- Four minutes to the break. I'm on the button with 5,555. Fold J-7. Would like to get a hand before the break.

10:14 p.m. -- Get jacks in the cutoff+2. Player to my immediate right min raises, I push for my last 5,400. Big Stack pushes over 30K and min-raiser calls ... with aces. Big Stack has 8s. Ace on the flop and I'm gone in 93rd. Shit.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Group think

Bubbled in tonight's $22 Group tournament on Stars (11 starters/3 paid). Doubled up with aces to put me comfortably in second while four-handed and didn't get much of anything else after that. Blinded down, I pushed with K-Q and got called by Theo's A-J.

Having lasted awhile, I was 2-tabling while playing in the Group's $11, which starts an hour later. Played aggressive at the start of that one, but didn't give it too much attention until I'd busted out of the $22.

The $11 proved worth the price of admission. It took 2:37 to finish what in essence was a 10-person SNG. Intense stuff. I finally made it heads-up with Meat (aka Matt). Didn't time it, but I've got to believe the heads-up portion of the program took 30 minutes or more, a lifetime in the online world.

Meat's got mad skills, and it showed. He not only knows when to press the accelerator, but has a good sense of when to hit the brakes as well. Heads-up play is a crapshoot, but this felt more like an epic gun battle with both sides refusing to die even after suffering near-fatal wounds.

Heads-up went something like this: I started with the chip lead, lost the chip lead, got back to even, got the chip lead, lost the chip lead, got back to even, lost the chip lead, got back to even and then got the lead and finally won it. My K-Q vs. Meat's short-stacked 7-8 suited and nothing on the board for either one of us. To employ the old cliche, neither of us deserved to lose.

An encouraging night. Played well in the $22 but ran out of cards. It happens. And then I managed to outlast a player of Meat's caliber, which is obviously satisfying.

Yet tonight also made me aware of some leaks that need to be sealed. No problem. It should only take a lifetime or two to make my game air-tight. Funny thing about poker: A little knowledge about the game only shows you how much more there is to learn.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Poker's oldest profession

I've spent the last couple of days bonus whoring, first on the much improved Party Poker and then on Paradise. Bonuses for both are easy to reach. The fact that I've been winning has made the effort enjoyable.

You have to play 100 raked hands for every $10 of bonus money on Party. And it can be any size rake, including the nickels and dimes they skim from the $25 NL game. Stick three or four of those up on the screen and bonus requirements are reached quickly. (I really do like Party's table-size reduction feature. Finally makes multi-tabling on a laptop doable.) Paradise is 100 raked hands of at least 25 cents for every $10. Playing $1/2 limit, it's not difficult to achieve.

Signed up for Paradise because of a $30 blogger tournament for a $1,500 WSOP buy-in tonight. All is not well with Paradise. They fail to offer instant hand histories, which means no simultaneous Poker Tracker info on my opponents unless you want to load hand histories via e-mail. I'd rather take my money out after clearing the bonus.

After some $1/2 limit this afternoon, I saw a $30 tournament about to start on Paradise and registered. It wasn't until we were seated that I realized I'd signed up for a 5-max tournament. Too late to unregister and, besides, it almost felt like a freeroll. Plus, I've played far more hands online at short-handed tables than at full tables.

I worked my way up to 5,400 about 20 minutes into the thing after hitting two big hands and hung around for a while. I got comfortably into the money with just under 10K in chips (301 entrants/40 paid). Then went on a mini-rush, doubling up with pocket jacks and winning a big pot with 9-8 suited by making a pair of nines on the flop and betting my opponent off the hand despite a scary jack and king on the board. Stole a little and got it up to a high-water mark of 40K, around fifth place with 20 players left.

A series of raises/continuation bets went nowhere, reducing me to 30K, and lost another 10K calling a short stack's all in with Ad-Qd. She had K-9o. River-river hearts to hit the one in in her hand for a flush. I lasted about five more minutes and finished 13th. I called off my final 10K on an open-ender. Blinds were about to hit 1000/2000/100, I had 5K in the pot and I figured it was a good time to gamble. Wrong, sir.

Played well, overall, but I feel I missed out on an opportunity to go deep. Disappointing.

I am looking forward to tonight's tournament. A tough field full of proven players that should prove, at the very least, educational.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


The Poker Group has been holding weekly online tournaments for almost two months. (It's a bit strange, almost like telecommuting.) I had done nothing in these tournaments until Monday, when I won an $11 against eight other players. (Busted in the earlier $22).

I really needed that win. Not for the inconsequential $45, but for an invaluable boost to the poker psyche.

There's a marked difference between playing against Group members and the Rest of the World. At these limits, the quality of the World's play is spotty. Many in The Group are well-schooled and quite capable of purposefully engaging in trickery and other forms of deceit. It's difficult to win against these guys unless you are committed to mixing it up. You've got to play poker.

I showed a couple of bluffs Monday night, something I rarely do. But given the reads (weak-tight) some players in The Group have on me, I hoped it would pay to advertise. I befuddled Vinnie with a push after a harmless 6 fell at the river and showed him my busted draw. I later induced two folds (after a bet and a call) with a shove while holding J-10 on an 8-9-x board. Finally got some hands, played them well, and got heads-up with Theo, who had won the $22 earlier. While holding a slight lead, I turned a gutshot to beat his two pair and end it.

I realize it's easier to bluff people you know -- and who know you -- than against the low-limit universe of maniacs, calling stations, draw monkeys and other assorted shallow mouth breathers who barely know what's in their heads, much less what you're thinking or what they think you think they're thinking.

For example: I essentially busted out of the 7:45 p.m. $11 tonight to an idiot who called my K-Q all-in (First hand out of the break ... I've got a little over 1,000, have him covered by $60) with A-6 and caught his ace on the turn after my king flopped. Asswipe. Earlier he called down a nasty board with pocket 6s against my pocket nothings.

I then won a $6.50 Turbo SNG after building a big stack early with great cards. (Have won 4 of 5 of my last SNGs, counting The Group event.)

Not quite done with poker for the night, I took the next logical step in the Poker Progression. I poured a few fingers' worth of the 15-year-old Single Malt obtained on my birthday and sat down at a $2/4 limit 6-max table on Stars.

It occurs to me that I would have played higher on Party if they had had 6-max games at $2/4 and $3/6. Instead, the 6-max game jumped from $1/2 to $5/10 there and I never felt properly bankrolled (or eager) to make that leap. I've played enough $2/4 and $3/6 full-ring games at Party to know that's not where I want to be.

I might try this $2/4 for awhile and see if I can move up. I've only played 60 hands, so it's impossible to know what the overall skill level might be, but I'm hard-pressed to think that it will be much different than $1/2. We'll see.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Reading is fundamental

Went home 15th out of 21 last night in a sub-satellite for a $2,500 WSOP buy-in. With a $60 entry fee, we were competing for the last 2 seats in a 9-person SNG to determine who would be heading to Vegas. Third through fifth paid cash.

With a starting stack of 10,000 and 30-minute rounds, there was plenty of room to maneuver and time to be patient. Not much maneuvering for me, but I did remain patient. I could sue the deck for non-support. Aces early got no action post-flop. After that, there were a few ace-littles and lots of hands that contained 2s and 4s. I got all-in once after raising with A-8 against a limp by The Eskimo and his subsequent re-raise. I didn't figure him to be too strong. He wasn't: He had A-8, too.

About 3 hours into the tournament and blinds at 250/500/25, I raise 4x the BB with A-K. The small stack to my left pushes, which is cool. I've got about 2,000 more than him and am happy to call. But there's a complication: The player two to his left pushes as well and has me covered. Having bet the 2,000, I've got a little over 4,500 to call to win a pot of 17,000. The kid on the short stack has seemed frustrated and I figure A-Q or A-J are possibilities. I have no idea what the second guy has, but I don't think it's kings or aces. The pot is laying me great odds, but is it worth it to expose the rest of my stack? While I would still have chips if I opted to fold, my chances of grabbing a token or at least some cash improve greatly if I win the hand. Time to gamble and I call.

Short stack flips over queens, the bigger stack jacks. Cool. I've dodged kings or aces. I wish I knew the odds then, but looked it up after I got home and discovered I was a slight underdog to the queens and a favorite over the jacks (46% to 36% to 17%). A third queen arrives on the river to seal the deal and I'm done.

I'm happy with the call, even if it meant getting my chips in the middle with less than the best hand. It was an okay read. I thought both players had hands (although I was off a bit on the short stack) that slick had a decent chance to beat.

Overall, the night proved a good experience. While the deck did not help me, and I think I played my cards as well I could, I realize that there's something major missing in my game. That final hand notwithstanding, I need to become better attuned to everything and everyone round me at the table. I think I've become proficient with the math, stack management and other technical basics of tournament play, but it's that mystical, sixth sense sort of thing that good players possess that I lack. I'm sure it's an innate skill for some people. For me, it will have to be acquired.

Jason, a regular member of our Meetup group, takes great delight in making reads, going with his gut and winning without cards (and dumping strong hands when he believes he's beat). "I play the player," Jason says.

He does seem to be pretty good at it and is willing to splash around in pots that his cards say he has no business being in. I know he's made several good reads against me in the past. Winning with aces, he says, provides no thrill because you're supposed to win with them. (I think that's a slight exaggeration, though. Who doesn't get a little adrenaline boost after peeking down and seeing the rockets staring back at you?)

I'm not sure how else to become literate in the reading of players except through experience. Live sessions in the future should be dedicated to that very thing.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Strange days indeed

The Poker Jones blog has been dark for awhile. And for good reason. There's been nothing to report except more bad luck and (shocking) bad play. No one, including me, wants to read how I suck and every donk in the world has been bitch-slapping me around like I'm a 25-cent crack ho.

Then tonight happened. In all of its glorious, insane and maddening weirdness. With a grand total of $22 left in my Poker Stars account (down from nearly $600 a month ago), I signed up for the $11, 7:45 p.m. tournament almost as an afterthought, figuring I'd zero it out (as I did with accounts at Party AND Full Tilt over the last week) and, like a brokeback cowboy, quit you poker and get on with my life. But a funny thing happened. I managed to finish second for an $1,800 payday. Go figure.

Some luck finally fell my way. What's even stranger is that while I'm heads up with a nice guy from Rochester, Minnesota (screen name: kirbyelway -- which is a combination of my all-time favorite baseball player who died a couple of days ago and an asshole villain QB who I detest for obvious reasons) I'm calling 9-1-1 because someone is literally SHOOTING AT MY FUCKING HOUSE. What kind of weird karmic convergence is occurring here, for God's sake?

After I made the final table and I kept hearing a "plink" against the dining room windows. I thought initially that it was one of the neighborhood cats jumping on the sill looking to steal the virginity of our dear, sweet, randy 6-month-old Belle, who has a major date to get her kitty tubes tied this weekend. But when the glass starts breaking, I realized: Holy Shit, we're taking fire. Lacking the coordinates to call in artillery or possessing any armament beyond a half-dozen dead Top-Flites, I called the Poker Jones Police Department.

While the dispatcher is telling me to stay on the phone, I turn a 1.3 million to 300,000 chip disadvantage into a slight lead because countless SNGs have taught me how to play heads up, for Christ's sake. But then I get Qh-Jh, push and get called by Ace-crap, lose the hand, and find myself on drip -- WHILE STILL ON THE PHONE WITH THE POLICE. I'm out two hands later and my laptop goes dead because I need a new battery as bored cops armed with high-powered flashlights arrive and begin patrolling my backyard. WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING HERE?
Bad beat? Anytime someone shoots at you or your house, that's not a good night. Fortunately, it was only a pellet gun and not real weaponry, but I'm pissed off just the same and wondering if it's not time to brush up on the marksmanship skills that earned me an Expert Badge in the U.S. of A. Army and get me a gat to bust some caps on some motherfuckin' G's.

Pokerwise, I was one lucky sumbitch. I managed to turn my starting stack of 1,500 into 14K at the first break, got blinded down with card-dead hands, stay patient and survived. Turned 10,000 chips into 150,000 in a span of less than five minutes with around 20 players left.

With the world passing me by at the final table and with the blinds eating away at my stack, I managed to win some races, sucked out twice, including a cracking of kirbyelway's aces with pocket sixes (I DID push first) and watched as all but one of my final tablemates fell by the wayside. Along with the luck, I did play goot. Throughout the night, I consciously reverted to my former tight, conservative and selectively aggressive Poker Jones self that previously won me me a decent amount of dough and felt all the better for it. (Did I mention I was drinking vodka gimlets virtually the entire tournament?)

If any of this post seems a bit incoherent, tough shit. I'm wired, weirded out and don't know if I should laugh, cry or kill someone. I do know that I've got a bankroll again. Thank God. Wasn't looking forward to going cold turkey on poker. Now if I can just find the asshole who decided to use my house for target practice. That, ladies and gents, would be a very good thing.