Friday, September 29, 2006

Early numbers

A mad rush of two- and even three-tabling the last two nights has pushed me across the finish line on the first leg of the Poker Jones SNG Challenge.

Fifty games is a quarklike sample, but the early results are big sexy:

ITM: 40 percent
ROI: 41 percent
(10 first-place finishes, 8 second-place finishes and 2 third-place finishes. Bubbled 5 times.)

Given that these were $3.40 Turbos, there's not much to discuss about the play at the tables. I stuck to my plan of tight early/aggro late, punishing limpers whenever I could. It seemed to work well. (I'm especially pleased with how I fared given the fact that I failed to cash in the first eight games and had two five-game losing streaks in between.)

As in all forms of tournament poker, you have to win races. I won my share, but have no idea if variance favored me over those 50 games and whether that 40 percent ROI will be sustainable at the next level. We'll see.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tee it up

A bottle of Patron Silver? Sixty dollars. Playing 54 holes of golf over two days with two of your best friends? Priceless. Waking up and playing 36 holes after killing a bottle of Patron Silver along with several beers and a generous pour of Ketel at dinner? Painful, but manageable thanks to an unhealthy dose of Motrin.

I arrived home in time from that autumnal rite of liquor and links to play The Group tournaments and defend last week'sThe MATH title but chose to vegetate instead. My body bent and mishapen, my brain a mushy glop of cellular annihilation, chances of poker success hovered around nil. Bed proved far more inviting. Sleep is the province of the innocent, sayeth The Monsignor.

On the active poker front, I'm amending my SNG plan -- already. At the current rate, it will take another month to play 100 $3.40 Turbos on Stars. I've played 31 thus far and am bored. It's time to move up. I doubt the $6.50s will offer any more excitement. And I'm not planning to change strategies: Play tight early, let the gamboolers lose or get lucky and attempt to pound people when the blinds matter. (It has required some newfound discipline, meaning no shenanigans in the initial rounds and finding the nerve to push with any two later.) I'm hoping I'll find the slightly higher stakes more interesting.

And now my belated two cents on the Death of Poker Blogs. Don't think so. Too many of you have connected too deeply for this particular viral strain to die. Blogging has, after all, brought a much-needed dose of humanity to the weird world of online poker.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

New math

It did not look to be my Monday night. I doubled up early in the $22 Group tournament on Stars and then donked it all away in such embarrassing fashion that I refused to enter the $11. Instead, I made a crying call and parked a portion of my dwindling Stars roll in The MATH. I got a few chips early in that one and then watched them disappear as each continuation bet and trickery attempt failed miserably. Yet somehow, some way, this happened:

The real explanation is that variance, as its allegedly wont to do, swung my way for once. At T800 with blinds at 75/150, my push with pocket 4s held up against Iggy's K-J. Down to T1,356, I doubled up against Surf with pocket aces.

I'm not proud of what happened next, not by any means. But I'm not complaining either. I can't remember the last time I did this. At T1,800, I pushed with pocket 8s and unceremoniously cracked Iggy's aces, allowing me to limp into the final table. There will be no epic poems written aboout my performance from that point on. The only real strategery I employed there was a push-raise/semi-bluff against a slightly perplexed SoxLover.

The deck did the rest. With blinds at 100/200, lifesagrind opened for T600. Iakaris pondered and made it T1,500, committing about half his stack. Sitting on pocket aces, I pushed my last T5,300, content to get it heads-up. Grind called off the rest of his stack (A-K) and Iak, pot-commited with pocket queens, did the same. Lo and behold, the aces held up, putting me at over 12K.

What I did well at that point was not give away my chips. I pilfered a sufficient quantity of blinds and mixed it up enough to stay even while managing not to double anyone up. I got into the money when Our Inestimable Host bubbled and I knocked out My Arch Nemesis with ummmm ... pocket aces ... again. (New has been a blogger-tournament terror and has gotten into the nasty habit of beating the crap out of me whenever we're seated together.)

Sox immediately called for a deal: A split that preserved $50 for the winner. I agreed, not giving the math any thought. Kind of goofy, really. Because after 10 hands of heads-up play, I sent Sox the princely sum of $17 when my 6-4 flopped trips against his top pair. I don't think anyone will be hiring me to negotiate their next employment contract.

What the hell. All good clean fun. And not only was it my first MATH win, it was my first MATH cash. I'm quite happy to have it.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Prix fixe

Tonight's menu at Chez Poker Jones:

Wedge salad with crumpled goat cheese and white balsamic vinagrette.
Scallops the size of Frisbees sauteed in garlic butter.
The prettiest NY Strips this side of the West Side Scores in Manhattan.
Blanched green beans.
Crisp-skinned baked potatoes smothered in sour cream and fresh chives.

Yes, this was a dinner likely dreamed up by researchers at Merck running assays for the next generation of billion dollar statins, but damn, it was good. The occasion? None, save Mrs. Jones and the Jonesette being out of town on girly business, leaving your author and Jones Jr. to scavenge for themselves.

Shit, we had reason to celebrate ... sorta. Our fall ball team got run-ruled in both ends of a doubleheader (we at least made it to the sixth inning in both games). The Poker Jones Traveling All-Stars are playing solid but were no match for our opponents, a team of oversized 13-year-olds that mashed everything we threw at them. But it had been a beautiful late summer afternoon on the North Coast and we had the distinct privilege of playing baseball. No reason to be results-oriented on this day.

Jones Jr. and I made satisfied noises as we tucked into a meal that almost didn't happen. We were done with baseball in time for me to make the weekly Saturday tournament at TK's, which I was eager to play. When I asked Jones Jr. on the way home what he wanted for supper, he insta-called: steak. I knew immediately it would be a boys' night in to indulge carnivorous appetites, taking poker completely out of the equation. It proved to be the best tournament I've ever missed.

Fathers and teen-age sons are tricky business, especially when Dad can be demanding and a bit of a hard-ass and the son is a smart kid who has, for better or worse, inherited many of Dad's traits. It hasn't made for many Walton's Mountain moments at Casa de Poker Jones, but let's say our relationship has found a peaceful equilibrium in recent months. While the food was terrific, the company for the night was immeasurably better.

After dinner, a Kill Bill marathon running on TNT, our bellies full and the kitchen looking like the aftermath of Iron Chefs Gone Wild, I allowed myself a satisfied smile. Life is good.

Friday, September 15, 2006

At the quarter pole

I'm one-quarter way through Level One of the Self-Imposed Poker Jones SNG Challenge. The plan is to play 100 turbo SNGs of the $3.40 variety on Stars and then see where I'm at. The obvious hope is that I'm crushing those games at that point and will be ready to move to the next buy-in level ($6.50s). Or, given my short attention span, I might be bored to tears. We'll see.

A harried father with much more game than than me suggests there's no difference in skill level from $3.40 to $6.50. I'm sure he's right. And while it's just short of life changing money, the payouts are obviously better at $6.50. But at this particular point in the poker space-time continuum, it's less about money and more about practice -- and discipline. I'm treating the challenge like minor-league baseball, rewarding myself with a promotion to the next level when I believe I have earned it.

I am getting a better feel for the rhythm of turbos. The structure feels similar to the old 1,000-chip Party SNGs. I'm still learning to groping a bit, but the one play I've adopted is to turn into a push-monkey when blinds reach 75/150 and try steal every pot I can. I've been surprised how often it works.

I'm planning to order Scott Fischman's book. I've found a couple of useful nuggets about SNGs in his Cardplayer columns and hope the book will prove even more insightful.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The road less unraveled

Standing at a crossroads in this twisted journey of mine, I've decided to gambol down the slightly familiar path of SNGs. It makes sense. I'm better at tournaments than cash. I prefer tournaments (at the moment) to cash. And I'm guessing I showed a profit when I played a fair number of $11 and the occasional $22 SNG during my Party animal days. My recent peep token efforts on Tilt have been downright impressive. And I'll obviously keep playing MTTs.

I've started with $3.40 turbos on Stars. Early results (dutifully noted and annotated in an Excel spreadsheet) have not been pretty. I've not played poorly. What I've seen thus far is that kids (donkey asswipes) will call with the darnedest hands. I'm thinking about moving up in class. Maybe there's someone at those buy-ins who actually fold Ace-junk or Q-J. We'll see.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Ways to dusty death

What now seems a lifetime ago, a strange set of circumstances prompted me to quit my job and head back to college to pursue a career in acting. Our training required us to behave strangely (Be a color!), prance around dance studios (which at least improved my footwork on the basketball court) and ululate like keening mourners. Two years of this nonsense told me that I had had enough. I still liked to act but had come to despise the theater. Fortunately, my previous profession welcomed me back and there I have remained.

I knew little about the craft of acting when I showed up on the doorstep of that well-respected BFA program save for the oft-repeated and usually misunderstood notion of asking oneself, "What's my motivation?" I was soon taught that the question is better framed as: "What do I want?"

The fact is, nearly everything we do is guided by that one question. We are needy sumbitches after all. People go to church/temple/mosque asking Higher Powers for ... stuff, both corporal and spiritual. We give love expecting love in return. The dollar bill we hand to a beggar usually has hidden if unexamined strings attached. How often do we perform a truly selfless act?

Alrighty, then. A strange segue into some poker content. But I've been pondering what I want from poker? Primarily, it's money. And while too often my performance would cause to conclude otherwise, I really do like profiting from this game. I like calling up Neteller account and clicking the withdrawal button. Yes, those cashouts have prevented me from playing higher stakes, retarding my poker progress, but it has seemed more important to take that "mad" money and pay for trips and vacations, obtaining a tangible return on the time and energy I've invested.

And, like every other aggro-donk, I like -- no, need -- to compete. Against others and, in some ways, against myself.

This particular tangent was spurred by my appearance Friday at a Group tournament. Despite a vow beforehand to play solid poker, my performance said otherwise. What the hell did I want when I showed up? If I wanted to make money, why the hell would I play that badly?

It occurred to me later that so much of one's crappy play at the poker table can be attributed to ego. What is tilt, other than ego run amuck? Were it not for ego, would we find it necessary to focus on a particular donktard at the table because they've had the gall to piss us off? Isn't ego the culprit when we decide to try fancy plays because we think were better or smarter than everyone else, only to discover we are not? Why the fuck do we call when we know the odds are high that we are beat?

Compare the styles of Mike Matusow and Phil Ivey. Matusow's approach teeters somewhere between genius and madness, a train wreck waiting to happen. Phil Ivey, on the other hand, strikes fear because he does not (or rarely) displays weakness or emotion. Nothing he does appears ego-driven or uncalculated.

Sure, luck in poker seems to bite you on the ass far more often than it gives you wet sloppy tongue kisses. But for all that time in between being mauled and frenched, pushing ego aside in favor of smart, thought-driven play appears to be the only option if what we truly truly want is to win.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The real McHoy

I made a passing comment in a recent post about how no one in the bloggery poker world thinks more about the game than Hoyazo. The dude's treatise about playing small- to mid-pocket pairs is tremendous. (A co-worker has brought up Hoy's that post twice in discussing hands he had played.) Toss in his recent narrative about his march to a 180 win on Stars and his 6-4 sooooted hand quiz and you have the start of a saleable poker primer -- Hoy's Rules of Poker?

And while I'm in appreciation mode, I would like to express a heartfelt thanks to the bloggerly community. I type in awe of its members near and far who have educated, entertained, and, in a few instances, irritated. And that's good, too. Isn't a little friction healthy, after all?

While I can never dream of achieving Waffle's Howard Beale-like status, let's say I'm aware of my occasionally abrasive tendencies (as well as my contextually poor stabs at humor). If I have offended, I apologize. And if I transgress in the future, I would appreciate it if you could find a small measure of pity and/or understanding for this hopeless cretin.

None of those sentiments, however, apply to Young Dr. Benson, who had the temerity to make fun of my tragic laryngal deficiencies. How would you like it if you spent your entire adult life answering the phone and being asked by strangers to speak to your parents? Or having every 1-900-SEX-TALK line in the universe refuse your credit card number and business because you sound like an 8-year-old boy? It's rough, mister. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Speaking of Hoy's 6-4 soooted quiz, I believe I failed it miserably. I commented that I would have used the same line of play until the re-raise, where I would have insta-folded. (Hoy called, hit a card and won a nice pot.) The real answer is, of course ... there is no real reason to play those garbage hands early, middle or late in a tournament. Must ... stop ... playing ... junk ... hands... hacker. (Of course, you are occasionally encouraged to engage in such hijinks when you take down a nice-sized pot with powerhouses like 5d-3d, which just happened in an $11 tourney on Tilt.)

Finally, I witnessed the absolutely worst 27 minutes of poker ever during last night's 10K guaranteed on Tilt. Virtually every hand featured a donkey play so egregious that it made the play of my opponent in my near-bustout hand appear brilliant in comparison.

I doubled up on hand 7 with pocket queens. Twenty-seven minutes in, I find pocket aces on the button, re-raise the loose-agg donkey to my immediate right and get called by the new guy to my immediate left. Agg Boy folds. New guy shoves on the queen-high flop and I call, leaving me 295 behind. He has Q-J, gets runner-runner jacks and I'm gone a few minutes later. Such is life. But it did give me the opportunity to type: "How do you people afford the $26 buy-in? Plasma clinics." Felt much better after that and won me a peep token.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A little closer

I managed to cash in another 10K on Full Tilt tonight, this time finishing 30th (588 runners). Saw an astounding 8 percent of the flops and got stuck for an extended period at a table with some big stacks who knew what they were doing. As we got near the bubble, I folded some nice hands, including 9s and jacks. Yes, jacks. (Sigh.) Wimpy? Yes. But I really do hate jacks. And, as it turns out, both hands would have lost.

One from the bubble with a stack of around 5K, I found pocket kings. I pushed and the big stack called with A-4 from the big blind. I won my race and cruised into the money. Nothing happened after that. N-O-T-H-I-N-G. I stole with A-Q once and finally pushed pocket 9s with around 5K left and got two callers. King-queen got his king on the flop and I was done.

In the meantime, I'd been chipping up nicely in the Tanner Evers Charity Tournament hosted by Mookie. I managed to final table it, finishing eighth, but more importantly, captured bodacious bounty -- cookies! -- by knocking out Mrs. Mookie. A fun tournament. Let's hope Mr. Evers rebounds nicely from his bad beat.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Dust funnies

A few weeks ago, someone (can't remember who) mentioned "monsters under the bed" during Yahoo chat. I chuckled when I realized that one of poker's greatest weaknesses is embodied within basic childhood fears. (For me, it was aliens, but I attribute that to an old Superman episode. I harbored no belief they would abduct me and perform painfully intrusive experiments. I just didn't want the ugly fuckers in my room.)

While poker players aren't (and should not be) Pollyanish, they need to possess a certain sense of optimism, believing in themselves and their abilities. They need to be able to stare down those beady-eyed bastards as they dry hump the dust bunnies beneath the bed, tell them to piss off and then happily attack some donkey's stack.

A recent article on Pocket Fives does a far more coherent and thorough job of making this point, by the way.

End notes: Played two more HORSE sessions and lost everything I had made (and then some) in the first two sessions. I'll blame bad play for the first losing session and variance for the second. (And, while I don't have stats, I swear that I had the bring-in for 1 of 3 hands in the stud games in the second session.) The real problem is I don't yet know what I don't know. I got me some book learnin' to do.

Busted out of tonight's 12K when my trip 6s on the river ran into a turned straight. Donked off my last 400 with 4s vs. Qs. Two peep token tries went down in flames as well. King-high flush lost to the ace-high flush in the first. Ace-queen crippled my Big Slick in the second.

I'm currently playing an $11 5-table on Party with the $11.48 I didn't realize I had left in the account. I've won one pot in the first 20 minutes. On a bluff. I still hate Party's interface. Can't those greed monsters create something at least slightly less ugly and a little more useful?

A quickie

I cashed in the 12K last night on Full Tilt and I'm kinda pissed that I did. Why, you ask? We're 10-15 players from the bubble. I've got 6,400 with blinds at 250/500/50, get pocket 9s in EP and make a standard 3x BB bet. Player to my immediate left, sitting on 9500, calls. Flop comes A-K-7. Hating the flop, I check and he checks as well. Turn is another king. I hate this card also. I check again. He bets 2,500 and I fold.

I had no idea where I was in this hand and did not feel comfortable firing out, given my now very small stack relative to the blinds and the bubble looming. Kaellinn18 and I discussed the hand afterward and he suggested I needed to lead out after the flop. He's right, of course, but I wimped out knowing that I could fold my way into the money.

That hand harkened back to my early weak-tight tournament days on Party, where I played to cash and not to win. I needed chips to go deep, had an opportunity to build my stack and failed to take advantage. Sure, he might have called whatever I fired out, crippling me and leading to an ignominous bubble. So what? Instead, I cash, finishing 41st and making a huge $40 profit (another peep token entry). You can't play to cash in these things. You play to win. Nearly 12 hours later, I remain haunted by my poor play there.

Both Kaellinn and Iak were entered in the tournament. Both played well despite a severe shortage of decent cards and both suffered vicious bad beats by donkeys with the bubble in sight. Sick stuff.

I've got another token I plan to use (won two in two tries yesterday) today or tomorrow. The important lesson learned from the above-mentioned debacle will be applied with extreme prejudice when that situation arises again.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Not far enough

Just busted out of the Friday night $20K on Full Tilt, finishing 42nd. Got it up to 10K -- just about par -- and then barely played a hand for the next hour. Cold-carded, I watched my stack whittled by the blinds to around 2,500, but in the money. That's around the time kaellinn18 -- you know, the guy who took down a Tilt MTT Thursday night -- popped up in chat and nursed me through to the end. Many thanks, sir. (He along with Hoyazo, Jordan, Miami Don and Smokkee also were entered.)

After making the money, I used a couple of suckouts and some blind steals to make it as far as I did. No big hands at all. Ace-10 was it. (Do pocket 6s, which I wimpily folded UTG, count as a decent hand?) I finally busted pushing A-9 from EP (I had around 18K with blinds at 1,200/2,400/???) and got called by pocket kings. I probably should have waited and hoped for a better spot, but the blinds were too tempting to steal. Oh well.

It was the deepest I've gone in the handful of 20K and 12K tournaments I've played on Tilt. I need to win a few more peep tokens and see if I can final table one of these puppies.