Friday, August 31, 2007

Cash on the line

Knowing that I'd be working late, I made plans on Thursday to stop at JC's weekly $1/2 game on my way home. While I hadn't played live poker in awhile and had the itch, JC's game is not one that I normally play. I probably hadn't been back in over a year after having gotten mauled the few times I did play because of non-existent cash-game skills and an inability to adjust to the wacky nature of that game.

I felt a little better about my prospects Thursday. I've became more comfortable playing cash thanks to numerous sessions in the .25/.50 Donkey Game that invariably broke out during Group POY tournaments last fall and winter. The game earned its name -- the play sometimes bordered on the nonsensical -- but I found it profitable relative to the stakes. My comfort level also was helped by playing cash games online, where I've had limited success.

There were two tables going when I arrived at JC's, one with eight and the other with seven players. Diablo and Charlie, two of the trickiest cash game players in The Group, were at the shorter table. Both had stacked me during previous $1/2 forays. But I happily took a seat at their table, ready to play. I figured I'd proceed cautiously whenever I got into a hand with them.

Also at the table were JC, a rock-solid player, Jeff, with whom I played a bit in The Donkey Game, Uncle Bob, a wealthy retiree who plays and chases with ATC, and three guys I didn't know. I bought in for $180, nearly all the cash I had on me. I planned on nursing it by playing smart and fairly tight.

JC monkeyed up my chips as I was dealt my first hand: A-Q off. There were three or four limpers in front of me and I limp from the CO. That might seem weak, but it was my first hand for mercy's sake and I wasn't going to crazy with it. That's the way I stumble.

The flop came A-Q-x with two spades. Wow. Diablo bet $15 and I made it $30. Everyone else folded. Diablo called. He is a tough player who has been known to spew chips when he's had four or five too many beers. On this night he was completely sober and drinking a Coke.

The turn was a small card, but not a spade. He checked and I bet $60. A spade hit the river and Diablo pushed his last $49. Fuck. A flush? That didn't make sense. I didn't think he would spend $60 chasing. A set was possible, I supposed. I sighed, took some time counting out the $49 while surveying the meager stack that would remain if he a set or the improbable flush. I briefly considered folding, but knew there was too much money in the pot to back out now. I tossed the chips into the pot, a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that I'd been pwned again.

Diablo announced, "Two pair," without showing his cards. I happily tabled my A-Q and he mucked. My heart raced as I dragged the substantial pile of chips and stacked them will less-than-steady hands. Nice start. I lit a cigar, pleased with the outcome.

I stuck to my plan and played fairly tight by JC $1/$2 standards, winning a couple of small pots over the next half hour or so. Wanting to get involved, I raised to $7 (a smallish preflop raise in this game) with Kd-8d from late position. Charlie, in one of the blinds, made it $15 total. Charlie is unquestionably the best cash-game player in The Group. No one who has played with him on a regular basis would argue the point. He's fearless and smart and possesses an uncanny sense of where he is at in a hand. He's an action junkie with skills and a deep bankroll, a dangerous combination.

I called Charlie's raise with those homely cards and got a flop with two diamonds. Charlie bet $14 and I insta-called. He's not likely to pay me off if I make my flush, but I didn't think I should back down ... yet. The turn was a non-diamond small card that gave me a gutshot to the 8. Charlie checked and so did I. A bit of scared play, I admit. I might have been able to take down the pot there, but I feared a check-raise from Charlie if he sensed weakeness.

The river was a 6, which filled my 8-high gutshot but missed my flush. Charlie led for $15 or $30 (recollection is vague) and I made it either $30 or $60. Charlie immediately put another $100 on top. Oy vey. Now what? Only one hand beats me -- 8-9. I assumed he had an 8, but dreaded thoughts began circulating that he might have the muthafuggin' 9 and that I'm toast. I reluctantly called, he showed the 8 and we chopped the pot. I only won a pittance in the hand, but it almost smelled like victory. I'd gotten into a big hand with Charlie and had lived to tell about it.

I mostly avoided him and Diablo the rest of the session. I did get Charlie (and Uncle Bob) to fold on a king-high flop when I C-bet my pocket queens with about $60 in the pot. He took his time before mucking his cards.

Charlie: "I wanted to see how much your hands were shaking."

Me: "If it's any consolation, my hands were going to shake regardless."

I showed him the queens. After that, I won a few decent-sized pots after that, including a couple against Jeff and Uncle Charlie and finished $310 to the good when the game broke up shortly after 2 a.m. I doubt I'll be playing at JC's frequently, but there's no reason I won't be back at some point in the near future. The poker was interesting and makes me curious if I can replicate the results and learn a little bit more about my game -- and myself -- in a game for which I'm only vaguely familiar.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Old-time religion

Back from a week's worth of vacation, I fired up PS and got a pop-up informing me that I was one of the lucky ducks allowed to load my account with E Checks. And load I did. Just like the good old days. Instantaneous. No fees. Made me proud to be an American. Again.

My efforts, so the plan goes, will be directed at learning how to (finally) play NL cash games. In accordance with my bankroll, it will be micro-limits and 6-max tables, which will provide more opportunities to work on post-flop play. If I go broke, I reload.

But in the not-so-long term, I think that if I can't beat these levels, I should probably quit poker.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

News flash

Forgive my inflicting eye strain by posting again, but there's poker content to report.

I played in a $30 tourney last night hosted by Chris, a fellow member of what has been dubbed the Dead Tree Mafia. (Not my invention, but it works.) He got a nice turnout with 24 players. By 1:15 a.m. and a 7:04 a.m. tee time looming, I worked out a chop when we got three-handed with a premium going to the chip leader (not me.)

Cashing was a nice boost for the poker psyche, affirmation that time away was indeed refreshing. I feel as if I have a grasp of a broad outline for success: Play smart, don't get grossly unlucky and selectively pick spots for unbridled aggression.

While I no longer have a fascination with dropping the hammer, I did sneak one in at a crucial moment last night. Down to about four big blinds, I successfully dropped le marteau from the small blind, collecting much-needed chips from numerous limpers. I would have made this move with ATC, but it was kind of sweet that I had the power of the hammer at my disposal.

In online news, Full Tilt finally transfered the $75 I was owed, so I'm back in business there. I even won a buy-in at $25 NL game with a flopped set of 4s while UTG. Five players, unraised pot and a 4 arrives on a rainbow flop. I bet less than the pot and get a caller from the big blind. I bet pot at the turn, which put two clubs on the board, and BB check-calls again. The river is a third club that pairs the board (jacks) and he pushes. I insta-call. If I go broke here, so be it. He has the flush and I win. That's cool. That's poker. Patience and a measure of luck.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Gone but not forgotten

Bless me bloggers for I have sinned. It has been 3 1/2 months since my last post.

Poker has been a low priority in my life. I've played two live Group tournaments and, until a couple of days ago, nothing online. Got an itch and played some FPP satellites and SNGs, which is my only Internet option given the fact that I'd frittered away the crumbs in my online accounts months ago.

I came from way behind heads-up in a 70 FPP SNG for a seat in the $100,000K guaranteed Sunday tournament, unregistered and took the T$11. Used that to enter a $5.50 MTT on Stars this afternoon and am still in it with just over 200 players left. Woot! That's profit, baby! Poker Jones is back!

(There's also $75 waiting for me in my affiliate account on Tilt, but can't get support to figure out why I can't transfer it into my poker account. I'm sure it will be rectified eventually.)

I've not missed poker until now, and I'm not sure "missed" is completely accurate. I've kept tabs on blogs, followed the WSOP primarily through Pauly and still occasionally watch TV poker. But I actually feel eager to play again and the time off seems to have been refreshing. Poker had become an onerous chore when I began my hiatus in the spring. Let's see how long this newfound enthusiasm lasts.

Golf has been a far bigger deal this summer. I''ve enjoyed working on my game again and there have been some nice results. I've had the opportunity to watch a fair bit of professional golf up close this summer -- I've seen Tiger Woods play close to 60 holes -- and that's provided some inspiration. It's kind of cool to say that you've gotten to watch the best who has ever played the game. There is no doubt in my mind about that, either. The guy is amazing.

The reason I'm (still) playing poker this afternoon is that I took one of the many vacation days I have left today to play in a skins game on a great course with some local club pros, a few aspiring playing professionals and some other solid golfers. I wanted an opportunity to play with better golfers in an effort to elevate my game. Struggled, but still scraped together a 79 and even won a skin with a par 5 eagle after hitting a hybrid approach to 3 feet. It paid for the round and most of the skins buy-in.

There are 150 players left out of the nearly 2,000 who started this donkfest and my M is shrinking fast. Surrounded by big stacks, I'm in push and pray mode. Despite my dire circumstances, it's kind of nice to type such pitiful words again.

It's good to be back.

(Addendum: Poker sucks. With 21K left and blinds at 1k/2K, I raise from EP with aces. Get called by BB whose K-9 flops two pair and boats on the turn. I take it all back. Out in 101st. Poker sucks. LOL.)