Tuesday, April 18, 2006

On a roll

I haven't had the time or energy to blog lately. And I haven't had much to say about the state of my poker game because I'm not sure where it's at. It might be evolving. It might be sliding ass first into Signor Donkey's Third Circle of Hell. You know, the one where you lie in mud as torrents of shit rain beat down upon you.

Here's an amazing fact: I've bubbled the last three Group tournaments on Stars. The first two resulted from decks gone cold. Last night's can be attributed more to sketchy play. No major donks, but misreads/misthinking throughout the night collectively cost me a decent amount of chips. (Side note: I did flop quad aces last night. That's right ... quad aces, beeatches. Too bad I had about 16 chips at the time.)

Poker's been somewhat of a mixed bag. Bonus whoring effort (200%) at Absolute has gone nowhere. Cold cards and nasty beats at $1/2 limit ate through my deposit with alarming speed. No limit, mostly .50/1 on Titan, has continued its upward arc. There's some bad poker being played on that site, folks. Not much challenge, but profitable. And I've booked a couple of winning sessions at .50/1 on Stars as well.

But with the demands of life and work pressing and the days growing longer and mercifully warmer, poker ambitions appear on the wane. I played my first round of golf in almost five months on Sunday and am eager to return. Hit the ball remarkably well tee to green but did my Robert Duran imitation with the putter. Hands of stone. That's to be expected, though, after a long layoff.

Golf was once a major obsession, and all of that time, effort (and money) resulted in me being able to play a little. But the last 2-3 years have seen a diminuition of skills as I've played appreciably less and practiced not at all. In the meantime, golf has not gotten any cheaper. I've started to think of those $50 greens fees as the fully amortized cost of a future college textbook.

Poker, at least, represents some earnings potential. That's easier to type, of course, when the bankroll is sturdy. But overall, I feel pretty good about what's starting to develop, especially with my tournament play. Things seem to be making sense. I'll likely continue to concentrate on tournaments in the coming months when I do play (and of course I'll play some -- I'm a low-limit junkie, after all).

In fact, I just busted out of the Wil Wheaton tournament on Stars. At least I didn't bubble. Actually, I made the final table, finishing 8th out of 98 runners. Down to an M of about 5 and the short stack, I called an all-in with pocket 7s. She had just gone on a mini rush and I believed I was ahead. And I was ... slightly. An ace on the flop paired her A-Q and no miracle arrived for me. Played well with the hands I got and made no major mistakes. I'm not displeased with the effort.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

I don't need nothing

There are days when a pitcher's stuff is especially good. Days when the breaking stuff is filthy and fastballs are a blur. I've never had one of those, but that's not the point.

There are days when poker has its correlary. Everything is crystal clear. Your plays are tricky but correct, your reads sharp. I'm not sure I've had one of those, either. But at least we're closer to the point.

And there are days when the brain is only half engaged. You make plays (usually calls) that you know are ill-advised but make them anyway, and watch helplessly as your chips disappear. Memo to self: Folding is often the correct play. For example, fold pocket aces when the flop comes one suit (not yours) and there's a big reraise. Not that a low-limit junkie like me would lose with aces that way.

Hopped back into $1/2 NL on Titan last night for longer sessions. Don't know how many hands (Hey, Titan: If you want to be a real poker site, upgrade your fucking software to allow for stored hand histories), but I'm guessing somewhere around 300. Up in two shortish sessions, then down in two longer ones. Finished the night even.

Two funny stories. A few hands after taking a nice pot off some aggro-donk, he reraises me all-in for his last $40. I have aces. He has 5s. Aces are good. Before the penniless 'wipe skulks off, he types "N.I.G.G.A."

Say what? Then I remembered. My avatar. For the record, I think avatars are worthless and always turn them off. But I recalled that when I checked out the (scant) options available on Titan, I noticed that my default avatar was that of a sharply dressed brother. I didn't bother changing it and didn't think anymore about it until the racist donk reminded me of my true identity. Yes, I was born a poor black child. On Titan at least.

The other funny story: I open a table after the after two winning sessions and get pocket queens the first hand. There are four limpers and I raise to $10. I get one caller who has only $40 behind. Flop comes 2-high. (Okay, a 2 and some other rags). I bet $14 and he calls. A 3 comes on the turn. and I bet $16 and he calls. A useless rag on the river and I put him all-in. He calls. Queens lose to a monster -- 2-3. And they're not even suited.

That's why the Titan game can be so good. He not only limped with 2-3, he called an $8 raise with it. Nice. Crappy play led to more chips disappearing. Some competent players showing up did not help.

Reminded by blogger Acorn about the importance of table selection (make sure there is a donk or two at the table), I opened up a $1/2 tonight and within a few hands got bet out of a nice-sized pot when big slick failed to improve on the flop. I reloaded, won a few small hands and then limped/called $6 with pocket 3s. Raiser is a solid Danish guy who had been at one of my other tables. A short stack calls, as expected. Flop comes K-3-3. Nice. Great Dane bet $18, I called. Short stack goes all-in for his last $12. Check-check on the turn. Dane checks the river, I bet $20 and he folds.

There probably is some blogging prohibition against telling quad stories with anticlimactic endings. I bring it up, though, because I made a mistake not betting the turn. The Dane said he was open-ended, and I'm sure he would have called something reasonable. Moral of the story: Even with the dead nuts, slow-playing is usually wrong.

While not totally relaxed and confident at $1/2, I'm feeling okay. I'm getting more comfortable calling raises with ... pocket 3s. I'd call $2 in a .25/.50 game with 3s, so why wouldn't I call $8 in a $1/2 game?

I'm still too self-conscious about the cash I'm betting and calling with. You should never ignore the fact you're playing with real money that buys real stuff. But it would be better to think of those chips more as the important tools of a very strange trade.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

House party

The Blogfather reminded us all recently about the importance of occasionally testing yourself at higher limits. Last night, after busting out of a Group tournament on Stars, I decided to take my shot. Nothing extraordinary. I had a little profit in Titan to play with and decided to sit at a $1/2 6-max no-limit table for the first time.

I've played some $1/2 NL live with The Group. While I have fared okay at times, there also were occasions when I felt overmatched. I couldn't adjust to people calling $8 and $10 preflop raises with ace-rag and other odd holdings. I couldn't adjust to the big post-flop bets. I couldn't adjust period. Understand: Many of the people in The Group can play. But there are others who have some skills and are recklessly aggressive to boot. I've stayed away from $1/2 since my last expensive donk session. The friendlier confines of the .25/.50 "kiddie" game have been more my speed.

But online is a different situation. And I viewed the $100 I was taking to Titan's $1/2 table as mad money. I don't think much of the site (no stored hand histories, awful tournament structures), so I figured that if I lost my buy-in and whatever else I had behind it would be no big deal. I needed to take a shot and last night felt like the right time and place.

I'm not sure how much I learned other than the fact there are some bad poker players on Titan. We're talking .10/.25 Party Poker bad. I had seen some horrendous play at lower limits on Titan, but I expected $1/2 to be much tougher. I cashed out with $250 during a 30-minute session. I got all my money in with A-Q after hitting an ace on the flop and a queen on the turn and got doubled up by ... pocket 8s. Alrighty then. Not long after, I took a big chunk off someone with a flopped set of 9s vs. A-K. He got his ace on the flop and fell hopelessly in love with TPTK.

After busting out of the Wil Wheaton tournament tonight I ignored conventional poker wisdom about short sessions and decided to sit at a $1/2 table for the 15 minutes that stood betwen me and a $5 rebuy tournament. I cashed out $135 in profits just as the tournament started. Playing mostly four- and five-handed, I didn't see too much talent at that table, either. Get-the-nuts-and-wait-for-someone-to-inevitably-pay-you-off poker continues to be a worthwhile strategy.

I realize that 45 minutes is a meaningless sample of what the actual level of play might be. Nor, as they say in the fine print, are these two sessions any indication of future performance. I can see me kissing those newfound winnings good-bye in a hurry when the donks start sucking out instead of paying. Or when the real players show up.

While a wise gambler once admonished me to never think of winnings as the house's money, my Titan bankroll feels a little bit like that right now. And, I figure, sitting at a table with the house's money is preferable to playing with scared money, no matter who it belongs to.