Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Won't you try just a little bit harder?

With a busy summer of looming deadlines and coaching the Poker Jones Junior Traveling All-Star Baseball Team and the Jonesette Saturday Softball Spectaculars, I planned to be an even lazier-than-normal donk in terms of contributing more unnecessary drivel to the blogosphere in the coming months. Less time at the felt, both real and virtual, leaves less fodder for these weakly written missives.

But alas, my plans have been foiled by what surely must be the unconsecrated vestiges of Catholic-induced guilt. I've been a regular in the last month or so in blogger tournaments such as the WWdN, Mookie and WWdN Not and would like to play, when possible, in the various blogger freerolls that various sites have been holding. (Including a big one on, gulp, on Father's Day. Not sure I can pull that one off.) Thus, it would be unseemly for me to pose as a blogger and not actually get off my ass and post something, no matter how inane, on a slightly more frequent basis.

Having played in a few blogger tournaments with Iakaris, who lists Cleveland as his current hometown, I finally asked for his blog URL last night. Not only am I now aware that another Cleveland-based poker blog exists, but I've discovered that his happens to be the most literate of the myriad poker blogs I have read in the last several years. A physician/philosopher/comic/degenerate poker player, Iakaris had mad skills to which I can only hope to aspire. I'm quite proud to now be the second-best poker blogger in Cleveland, a ranking I will keep only until another of these rare beasts has been sighted.

Not much actual poker content to add here. (I got knocked out early in tonight's Mookie tournament on Stars with A-K vs. QQ vs. JJ.) But I'm enjoying sitting on my porch, sipping Glenlivet and typing as the sky blazes brightly with a late spring thunderstorm, harkening a tremendously fond Dead association. For reasons I'm not able to fully explain, even to myself, it seems deliciously apropos.

The wheel is turning and you can't slow down,
you can't let go and you can't hold on,
you can't go back and you can't stand still,
if the thunder don't get ya then the lightning will.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Gone but not forgotten

Poker Jones is back from a self-inflicted, technology-driven hiatus caused by the death of my 3-year-old laptop. (I would think three computer years equals about 60 human years.)

It was not a natural death. I killed it. After falling asleep in my big-ass recliner several weeks ago, I regained just enough consciousness to drag myself to bed, got out of my chair and took one small step for man, causing a hideous crunch. Yikes. Let's just say 200-plus pounds of foot pressure on a laptop screen is not a pretty thing.

Never fear, though. I called Dell and ... voila ... a new laptop arrived via UPS a week later. It's a signficant upgrade (1 MB of memory, Intel duo-processor), but I still feel like a donk. The old girl still had life in her before I dispatched her to the Great Computer Junkyard in the sky.

But there's been some good karma pinging inside this new machine. Last night, for example, I looked around for a tournament to play and signed up for a $5.50 on Stars. Five and one half hours later, myself and three other low-limit denizens were chopping the remaining $2,600 in the prize pool.

My voyage to the final table (1,198 starters) seems non-adventurous in the light of day. I got to the first break with around 1,800 chips after dipping below 1,000 and chipped up steadily. A couple of double-ups with aces helped in the second hour followed by tight, solid, aggressive tournament poker. Surprisingly though, there were no suckouts along the way and actually lost a fair number of races against short stacks in the latter stages, but I had enough chips to easily withstand those losses.

Pocket kings served me well later on and, in fact, propelled me to the chip lead shortly after making the final table. I then went steal crazy, flopped a boat with A-J, and by the time we got to four players, I had accumulated double the number of chips (750,000) of my nearest competitor.

I felt in control and confident that I could take the puppy down. Perhaps I had gotten some inspiration from Hoyazo's recent win in a Party 40K guaranteed, having gleefully read his post during the early stages of the tournament. A few previous final table appearances in large-field MTTs didn't hurt, obviously.

My trip to the Winner's Circle got sidetracked, however, by my least favorite hand -- K-Q. It has gotten me in enough trouble in my short poker career that it's not uncommon for me to lay it down from early position (something I did earlier in the tournament) or, if I'm feeling especially frisky, try to limp with it.

But four-handed, it would seem strong, and I raised it to 64,000 (blinds at 8K/16K) preflop. A strong player named Asianj (15 final tables and $35K in tournament winnings since March 2005) shoved his remaining 300K in chips, leaving me a tough decision. He obviously has "steal" in his bag of tricks, but would he make that move at this point in a tournament? I doubted it. His range, I figured, was anything from a big to medium pocket pair to ace-something. I had 232,000 to call. If I win, I've got over 1 million chips and should be a huge favorite to take down the tournament. If I lose, I still have ammo.

I called, hoping for a race. He showed A-6o. Cool. I got what I wanted. But an ace came on the flop and a meaningless queen on the river. I remained in an aggressive, blind-stealing mode and got it back to 400K. With our stacks pretty much even, Asianj proposed a chop, to which we all quickly agreed. It seemed like a good deal to me.

All in all, I consider it a good night. The cash, after all, will go along way to paying off this new laptop.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Paying a premium

I realize this is an elementary concept to accomplished poker players, but since I'm a donk trying to metamorphose into something ... more accomplished, it's worth mentioning.

Big pocket pairs have cost me way too much money/tournament chips lately.

Here is the typical cash-game scenario: You get aces in early position, raise 3-4x the BB and get one or more callers. The flop comes crap. You make a pot-sized bet or something close, get raised all-in by a smaller or similarly sized stack and find yourself and call. Mr. All-In, of course, has a set or two pair and you're digging into your pocket to reload. That move has cost me several buy-ins over the last month.

Here is a less severe, but no less poignant example of how I need to learn to treat those premium pockets like that achingly beautiful girl in the 10th grade who let you get to second base then forgot you even existed the next day. Let them (her) go.

In last night's $11 Group tourney on Stars, I get pocket kings and re-raise Terry Savalas, who calls along with Turbo in the small blind. The flop comes A-Q-x. They both check, I bet two-thirds of the pot, which prompts Turbo to check-raise all-in. Terry Savalas (pocket 10s, he says later) folds. It's basically 300 more to me with 1,800 already in the pot. Turbo, obviously, has an ace. Do I make the crying call and hope for some sort of miracle on the turn and/or river? Or do I preserve those 300 chips, which now represent nearly 1/7th of my stack? I, of course, call and the vicious suckout fails to arrive.

In cash or tournament play, it's an easy fold. Screw pot odds. Your chances of winning are as remote as an R. Kelly menage a trois with the Bush twins (they're obviously too old for him).

This self-imposed lesson also needs to be applied to other forms of poker, especially Omaha 8, which I've been playing more of lately. In that game, if you think someone has the nuts, fold. Chances are they do.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Blogged down

Bloggers Championship I am registered to play in the
Online Poker Blogger Freeroll
Win your share of $25,000 and a set
of Nevada Jacks poker chips.
Hosted By: Absolute Poker
Sponsored By: Poker Source Online
Registration Code: 77144840

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Hammer time

I managed to cash in the Wil Wheaton tournament on Stars last night for the third time in the last four (or is it five?) tries. How I got to the final table and my eventual exit were mildly entertaining.

I'm not sure if it's the small buy-in ($11) or the nature of the blogerati beast, but many of the players in the WWdN exhibit unbridled aggression. And it's a longstanding tradition to play 7-2 unsuited (The Hammer) hard and fast and, of course, waving them as if they were Molly Ringwald's panties when they go uncracked.

The deck treated me kindly from the start, flopping a set of 10s on the second hand and doubling up-plus with aces within the first hour. In the second hour with blinds at 75/150, I found the hammer in early position and raised 3x the BB. Got one caller from the blinds. The flop came 7-7-Q. Nice. He bet 450 and I called. Turn came ... the case 7. Whooooooo. He pushed (pocket nines), I called and The Hammer put me among the chip leaders. (Strangely, my chip count after the hand was 7,220.)

The player two to my left continually re-raised me when I was on mild steals with hands like A-8 and I wondered for a minute if he was targeting me until I saw him bullying other players. Yet somehow I knew(?) that patience would be rewarded. With blinds at 100/200, I limped with pocket 5s, he raised to 800 and I called. The precious 5 appeared on the flop, I checked, he pushed (pocket jacks) and Aggro-Boy rode off into the sunset.

That hand made me the chip leader and allowed me to slip comfortably into a seat at the final table where nothing much happened. Down to around 7,000 chips, I found 7-2 in the small blind, raised and was called by the smaller-stacked big blind. I pushed the rest of my chips on the 10-high flop, hoping I had some fold equity, and she called with Q-10. The Hammer giveth, The Hammer taketh away. Not long after, my pocket queens were crushed by a rivered flush and I was gone in seventh place.

Ryan of Absinthetics -- who took down a $100K payday earlier this year at the LA Poker Classic -- won the thing after bringing a huge stack to the final table.

Otherwise, poker has been sparse. A few hours of unproductive, card-dead .50/1 NL on Stars and Titan and, gasp, a final table Sunday night in a 368-person stud tournament on Stars. Four and a half hours of play netted me a whopping $12 profit. Guess I'll have to venture higher than $1.10 buy-ins in the future. Then again, maybe not.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Stayin' alive

I have a leak in my blogging game that I'll never fix. What makes some poker blogs so compelling is the willingness of writers to share their lives, often in uncomfortable detail. I can't do that. I won't do that. I'm too private a person. Writing about my meager poker efforts is one thing, the comings and goings of my life are off-limits.

I mentioned this recently to the The Always Pious and Abstemious Monsignor, one of the few individuals in the world who can say they do know me ... fairly well. He reminded me that the blog should be for him, members of The Group and and other degenerates who only care about poker content anyway.

So here you go degenerates, a wee bit of content. Entered a $5.50 on Titan tonight with 211 other donks and ended up third. Played well. Cash game play at Titan is really quite bad. Tournament play is not markedly better. Tripled up early with big slick and glided to the final table with few a big hands while avoiding donk-driven suckouts.

Down to three, I thought I second locked up twice when they went to war, only to watch the river bail one or the other out. Misplayed only one hand. Pocket kings. I raised from the button and won the blinds when a limp was in order. It was worth the risk. I could have folded them to a bet if the ace flopped and no one would have been the wiser.

With blinds at 4,000/8,000 and just under 40,000 left, I pushed with Ad-10d and got called by the big stack's Q-9. A queen on the turn ended my night. Disappointing. I liked my chances heads up, even from the short stack.

Lastly, an interesting hand from Monday's Group $11 tournament on stars. The week before ended my bubble madness with a second-place finish to the Monsignor. (Picked a bad time to bluff). Finished second again this Monday to TK on what I still think was a not-so-ill-advised semi-bluff. I've analyzed this hand a number of times and still haven't concluded whether I played it well or like an ass.

With blinds at 200/400 and TK only a few thousand ahead, he min-raises from the button and I call with Js-7s. The flop comes A-J-x. He bets 800 and I check-raise to 2,400. He calls. Turn was a blank and I pushed my last 7,600. I don't believe he has the ace and my jack is looking good. He does not have the ace. He has J-10. No miracle on the turn and I'm gone.

TK said later he put me on a stone-cold bluff and that he was I even had the jack. While I obviously could have played the hand differently (fold to the min-raise?), I can't help but think that in most spots against most players, I would have induced a fold.