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.


Anonymous Meat said...

Nice Post. I have read alot of books about personality types in the past and if I feel that some people possess inheriently that "gut" feeling sense. Not to say that others can't develop it, but for some it takes more work than others. A good example is when I eliminated charlie, only 9-10 of clubs on a 5 2 2 board with two clubs. I can attribute finishing in the money to winning that hand and giving myself the chips to maneavuer early on. I felt strongly about a read and went with it on the flop and turn.

Playing poker like this isnt always needed and can sometimes make you look very foolish, but you just got to have thick skin when it comes to making a read.

6:33 AM  

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