Friday, December 29, 2006

End-of-year closeout

I suck and I need to get better. At everything. (I will, for the sake of accuracy, admit to having perfected the recipe for chicken marsala. But we can all agree that is a skill set of limited value.)

End-of-year reflection leads me to ask whether I've reached life's mid-game with the blinds and antes climbing, knowing that if the dealer doesn't slide me some major mojo soon that I'll be taking a stand under suboptimal conditions while left wondering whether the real opportunity occurred much earlier but I lacked brains, ability and chutzpah to recognize its existence.

(How's this for an example: You're in for 5 buy-ins with less than 10 minutes remaining in the first hour of an $8 donkfest and see three all-ins in front of you while holding pocket 10s. You know there's got to be at least one overpair among the three and that you'd be gamboooling in a major way if you make the call for your last 2,800. You don't, of course, the 10 flops and you flame out a couple of minutes later with pocket 9s vs K-Q. Point of this interlude? IT'S A FREAKIN' REBUY, DUMBASS. YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO GAMBLE.)

Ah, the bountiful poker-life analogies. Screw it. Life's been pretty good. I've gotten plenty of breaks. My timing has usually been pretty good. But I can't help but wonder whether I've wrung all the value I should have out of the hands I've been dealt.

I am a better poker player than a year ago. There are more pages in the playbook. There is discernible improvement in both my tournament (more aggressive) and NL cash (probably too loose/aggressive) games.

My enthusiasm for poker has only deepened. I've even become addicted to a new poker drug -- 2-7 TD. I've played thousands of hands since Stars introduced the game and have enthusiastically set about learning the game's complexities.

Triple draw, in fact, will be a good test for my resolve to improve. Learning is best done systematically, although accident and happenstance impart their own sometimes painful lessons. Learning to learn better represents a formidable but achievable challenge. And the biggest step toward becoming a better player -- laying down more hands -- doesn't take a Ph.d. to master.

This is the first anniversary of this blog. While not well read, it has served as an adequate journal of my poker progress. That's good enough for now.

Monday, December 25, 2006


Someone found this blog using Goggle search terms "donkey" and "hacker." That's about right, I guess.

Merry Christmas. Peace, goodwill and poker degeneracy to all.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Remember the Main

It's 10 a.m. on a gloomy, overcast but unseasonably warm Sunday morning in December. We're about to drive out to the country to kill a tree and set in motion Christmas revelry at Casa de Poker Jones.

I should be asleep. Arrived home around 3 this morning from The Group's POY Main Event, passed out around 4 and found myself awake at 8:30. Pine trees must die.

We're lucky here on the North Coast to have an extremely active stable of donkeys who have found each other through the screwy medium of poker. When I found the Cleveland Poker Meetup Group more than a year ago, there were two weekly tournaments that typically had 18-20 participants. Both had turbo-like structures and seemed to serve primarily as an appetizer for The Group's main course -- the $1/2 NL cash game.

I didn't venture into those shark-infested $1/2 waters much. It did not take long to realize that I was but a sardine in their poker chum ball. The mainstays are tough, inscrutable players who typically clean up during forays to Salamanca, Detroit, Vegas and other gambling venues. If you can win consistently in the Group's $1/2 game, casino tourists represent easy marks.

Given that my interest (and strengths) were primarily in tournament play, I began some behind-the-scene discussions, especially with the rock-solid Turbo, about creating events with deeper structures and not long after tournament poker took on greater significance within The Group. (I'm sure others were thinking the same thing, but I like to think I helped get it kick-started.)

By late spring of this year, Commander Data and Brian Wilson created a twice-weekly POY series and tournament poker exploded. In the last few months, the average player count was north of 30, with a high of 41 -- on a Wednesday night.

I had few opportunities to play early on because of baseball commitments and ended up playing 20 of 54 events. I did okay. I won the 41-person tournament, chopped first-place money once, finished second once and had a few other ITM finishes. (These were $20 tournaments and five places paid.)

Data came up with a formula where each dollar won would be worth one point and the points would then be reformulated to determine your starting chip stack for the Main Event. "It's all about the points" became the battle cry. The extra POY dollar we threw in for each tournament would be used to fatten the main event prize pool.

I finished eighth in the points race while figuring out how to play live poker (i.e. -- play the player) and would start the ME with 47,800T. Data, the manically efficient TD and organizer of these tournaments, won the points race and would have 110,000T. The smallest stack would have around 11K.

Anticipation ran high for the main event with plenty of chatter on on The Group message board. Predictions were made and odds set. Yesterday -- the big day -- came and I didn't want to play. A cold had turned into a nasty sinus infection that seem to trigger migraines or something that surely felt like one. Mrs. Jones suggested again that I might want to see a doctor and I finally took her advice. A doctor loaded me up with prescriptions for antibiotics, decongestants and Vicodin. I still felt like crap by late afternoon but headed out, knowing sometimes you have to play hurt.

Thirty one of the 45-plus eligible players, including all but one of the decent-sized stacks, were in attendance. I had one of the bigger stacks at my starting table, which gave me license to raise a bunch of pots preflop and float a bit afterward. A rivered straight with 3-5 soooted won a nice-sized pot.

I built it up to nearly 70K and then donked off a bit calling raises in position with small pairs hoping to hit the lottery on the flop. I lost one-third of my stack just before the first break when I called a 20K all-in with A-K and failed to suck out against queens.

The break ended and my head began to pound. I reluctantly popped the emergency Vicodin I brought with me and determined to muddle through. The head torture subsided but the deck decided to punish me instead.

The blinds began tearing larger and larger chunks out of my stack. Short-handed while waiting for tables to combine, I stole blinds to survive, pushing with any two decent cards. Details are a little blurry, but I made it to the final table of 10 players with an anemic 47K. There were two other similarly sized stacks while the other seven players shared around 1 million.

With a couple exceptions, it felt like every hand at the final table contained a 2. (Stole the blinds twice with aces, doubled up one with jacks and crippled Pete while shortstacked with A-K vs. his pocket 4s). I could never gain any traction yet managed to finish fourth. It was nice to finish ITM, but I'm hardly celebrating.

I wimped out on the bubble when I folded pocket 9s to an all-in for slightly more than half my stack. Had I called and lost, I would have had less than two rounds of blinds left and decided not to race. Something told me that Johnny Underpants had a big hand, but that might be a rationalization read. (Johnny U., one of the talented young players in the group, went on to win the tournament.) I think I had to call there to have any chance to win, bubble be damned.

Friday, December 15, 2006


The dude had put me slightly on tilt. Yeah, it was only a .10/.25 PL Omaha table that I had fired up out of boredom while playing a $5 NL tournament. But tilt is tilt. We were playing short-handed and he kept pushing me off pots when the board went bad on fourth street. My head aching from a sinus infection, it didn't take much to piss me off at that point.

Meats, a solid and talented player in The Group, asked me recently during a post-tournament Denny's session whether I ever tilt. I assured him that I don't. I guess I lied.

Omaha Pot Limit ($0.10/$0.25) - 2006/12/15 - 22:38:50 (ET)

CONURE33 ($46.30 in chips)
hacker59 ($30.55 in chips)
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to hacker59 [7s Jc Ad Ah]
CONURE33: raises $0.50 to $0.75
hacker59: raises $1.60 to $2.35
CONURE33: calls $1.60
*** FLOP *** [2c 6d 5d]
hacker59: bets $4.60
CONURE33: raises $13.80 to $18.40

This put me into mull mode. A set? A draw? WTF? I mindlessly pushed what's left of my stack.

hacker59: raises $9.80 to $28.20 and is all-in
CONURE33: calls $9.80

*** TURN ***
[2c 6d 5d] [As]
*** RIVER ***
[2c 6d 5d As] [Ac]
*** SHOW DOWN ***
hacker59: shows [7s Jc Ad Ah] (four of a kind, Aces)
CONURE33: shows [4c 3s 3d Qh] (a straight, Deuce to Six)
hacker59 collected $58.20 from pot

Sick stuff. I like it. That'll teach him to fuck with me.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Wednesday Night Light

The Triple Draw Experiment has been going well, especially as I become more comfortable with the rudiments of the game. But I ran into felt like skullduggery for the first time at a $1/2 limit table. The guy raised virtually every hand. I had decent, and a few times very good, starters and draws against him that never hit. A little frustrated, I even called with pocket 2s on the end at one point to see what the hell he had (a decent 8).

Except for a couple of small pots early, I pretty much bricked the rest of the 45-minute session and lost a decent chunk by the time the table broke. Overall, I played like shit. My few attempts at trickery failed miserably.

I suppose the success that I've enjoyed thus far has been due in large part to how passive (i.e. -- bad) the play has been. Hitting hands helps as well. (Especially when you defend your BB in the .25/.50 NL game with 2-7-x-x-x and make the nuts after the second draw and have raisers to your left and right.)

But to move up in limits, even if it's just $1/2, I'll need to learn how to better deal with those willing to make plays. It reminds me of my first forays into $1/2 6 max limit HE on Party. It took awhile to adjust, but adjust I did.

I'm currently at a .25/.50 NL table while playing the $3 rebuy. Not doing very well at either game. I'm getting lots of pairs and big cards at TD and nothing but little cards in the tournament. I'm sure this post sucks as well.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I'm too tired to think of a title

Went deep again in the $3 rebuy on Stars. Finished 67th (3,162 runners) when I pushed my last 91K with A-Q suited against a big-stacked min-raiser who happened to have aces.

Nice to wade that far through such a large field, but it's a lot of work to net $50. First place, on the other hand, was worth $6,300, an amount for which I'd be willing to skip even more sleep.

But to get to the promised land, you can ill afford to miss opportunities to get big and I think I let one slip through my fingertips tonight. With blinds at 1,500/3,000/150, the very active player to my right min-raised. I folded pocket 2s from the button while sitting on just over 52K. He gets K-J to call. The flop came K-2-x. Shit. They got all their chips in the middle after the flop and min-raiser showed pocket kings. Wow. Good fold, me.

But there was a problem. The turn and river were spades, matching the two on the flop. They had no spades. I did. A triple-up plus would have put me in the top 20 with around 300 players remaining. I keep thinking that hand would have gotten me way deep. Maybe final-table deep.

Played some more triple draw Sunday, both .25/.50 NL and .50/1 limit, and did not do goot. Lost a big chunk -- but not all -- of my stack with the second nuts in an NL game and failed to hit any of my decent draws in limit. And there was a fair amount donked off by someone still figuring out how to play the game.

I got stuck even more while two-tabling (1 limit, 1 NL) earlier this evening but managed to eke out a smalll profit after winning a nice-sized NL hand. With the rebuy tournament about to start, I was glad to take a save and get the hell out of there.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Draw by numbers

I begin with the warning that this is not a strategy post. It's more of a cautionary tale: Do not try this at home or without a doctor's prescription.

While I'm not one of those people who runs out to the store to buy the hot product just because all the cool kids have it, I did have an interest in trying 2-7 Triple Draw when Stars added it to the mix. I think I played a little bit of micro-stakes TD over at UB at one point, but I was likely in the midst of a crack binge at the time.

A check of the Stars TD lineup, though, showed that the game is selling worse than Obstetric Barbie Gynecological Exam Kit this Christmas season. There were few tables open and the limit games were always full when I checked.

Finally, in a what-the-hell moment, I joined a .25/.50 NL table with a wimpy $30. I more than doubled my buy-in pretty quickly thanks to some good hands, including the nuts. I played two more sessions yesterday and essentially broke even, a ridiculous feat given that I played 15 hands heads-up with a guy who kept min-raising and then drawing 4 cards.

I jumped into a game this morning, which prompted the following hand history. I'll try to recount in the best Fuel55 fashion that I can, keeping it short and simple.

(Side note: Fuel's frequently posted hand histories have added greatly to my limited NL cash-game skills. For example, the idea of "floating" was only a vague, poorly employed notion before finding his blog. Thank you, sir.)

PokerStars Game #7382256246: Triple Draw 2-7 Lowball No Limit ($0.25/$0.50) - Table 'Memnon II' 6-max

I bought in for a wimpy $30 and won a $20 and a $15 pot in the first four hands. This is the 11th hand of the session.

Button: MK_Sniper ($60.55 in chips)
Seat 4: brenngeorge ($16.25 in chips)
Seat 5: hacker59 ($45.15 in chips)
Seat 6: Katertot08 ($7.75 in chips)
brenngeorge: posts small blind $0.25
hacker59: posts big blind $0.50
Dealt to hacker59 [2c 9h 3h 4s 8d]

This is a decent starting hand in TD, I guess. I knew I'd toss the 9, but wasn't sure about the 8.

Katertot08: folds
MK_Sniper: raises $1.50 to $2
brenngeorge: calls $1.75
hacker59: calls $1.50

It's $1.50 to call into a pot of $4.50. Easy call given my holdings.

*** FIRST DRAW ***
brenngeorge: discards 1 card
hacker59: discards 2 cards [9h 8d]

I guess brenn has pretty good starters as well. Good-bye 8.

Dealt to hacker59 [2c 3h 4s] [3d 2d]
MK_Sniper: discards 1 card
brenngeorge: checks
hacker59: checks
MK_Sniper: bets $3.50
brenngeorge: folds
hacker59: calls $3.50

Ugly draw. I admit to having no real business making this call. If he stands pat, I fold.

hacker59: discards 2 cards [3d 2d]
Dealt to hacker59 [2c 3h 4s] [6s 7c]
MK_Sniper: discards 1 card
hacker59: checks
MK_Sniper: bets $5
hacker59: calls $5

I actually loaded up for a check-raise, planning to pop him another $10 but stopped myself and decided to go for a slowplay. I probably should have followed through on my first instinct.

*** THIRD DRAW ***
hacker59: stands pat on [2c 3h 4s 6s 7c]
MK_Sniper: stands pat

Ugh. No check-raise now. I toss out a blocker.

hacker59: bets $7.50
MK_Sniper: raises $42.55 to $50.05 and is all-in

Sheeit. Does my man have the nuts? I can't fold here. If the second nuts ain't good enough, so be it.

hacker59: calls $27.15 and is all-in

*** SHOW DOWN ***
MK_Sniper: shows [7h 5s 6d 2h 3s] (Lo: 7,6,5,3,2)
hacker59: shows [2c 6s 3h 4s 7c] (Lo: 7,6,4,3,2)
hacker59 collected $90.30 from pot

Let's be clear. I only have the vaguest of notions about how to play TD. But it's a nice break from hold 'em stasis that seems to have set in. And I love the strategy implications. When do you break/not break/stand pat?

Having read some of Chris Fargis' posts about TD, I know there are ways to "float" in this game. But I'm guessing that mostly applies to higher limits. At the stakes I'm playing, an ABC approach -- whatever that is -- is more in order. Folding does not appear to be an option for many of these players.

And If I'm actually going to learn TD, I need to do it a limit where the inevitable mistakes are less pricey. There is some forum action over at 2+2 that should be worth exploring.

Saturday, December 09, 2006


I can finally post. Something good happened tonight.

Finished 45th in the $3.30 rebuy donkfest on Stars (3,198 runners). Down to 191K with blinds/antes at 15K/30K/1500, I pushed on the button with A-3 and got called by A-7. No help for me. Not a huge profit, but I'll take it.

This last month and a half of MTT play has amounted to a deluxe room at Abu Ghraib, where
Sgt. Variance has been giving me an unrelenting foot massage with a bamboo stick. But tonight I got cards and hands held up.

The evil ways the RNG has been tossing me from tournaments has been amazing. How many times can a man lose when his opponent flushes while holding the same pair? Paranoid and fearful, I probably played a couple of big hands too fast tonight, failing to extract maximum value. In my tepid defense, I thought there was a decent chance the donkey in the example below might actually call.

The donkey folded, however, and nothing much else happened after that.

A little bored at one point yesterday, I bought into a .25/.50 NL Triple Draw game with $30. My first attempt at NL Triple Draw. We were 4-handed and no one at the table had more than $50. I won a few small pots early and then stacked a guy with the nuts ... yeah I got it on the third draw and his second nuts were no good. The game broke up a few hands later and I left $45 richer.

A sign of things to come? I can only hope. As idiotic as it may sound, I'm due for a heater online. Yeah, I know. We're due nothing in this life or any other. But dammit, a paradigm shift is very much in order.

Thankfully, I've had been playing live much more often. And the more I play live, the less interesting the online game seems. Playing poker on a computer is convenient, but jousting with real people is far more rewarding.

There's a $50 buy-in tournament later today that should draw 35-40 players. The event will include the first annual CPMG Chili Cook-Off and I've concocted a new recipe. And least I know it will have some heat.