Monday, January 29, 2007

Same as it ever was

A few hands into Sunday's Group tournament, I re-raised J.C. from the SB with A-K. He made it 2,500 total and folded face-up. J.C. tabled his own version of Big Slick Unsooooted.

No big deal. It was only 600 of my 10K starting stack. I said, "Nice bet, sir," and moved on.

But there was no where to go. I stumbled to the break with 6,100 after stealing the blinds two or three times -- the only pots I would win. Quality cards were lacking. Other than the aforementioned Big Slick, the best hands I saw were a few smallish pocket pairs that failed to connect on the flop. My one attempt to float with them post-flop failed miserably.

I donked off my last 4K at 400/800 blinds with A-8 suited. At least there was a cash game waiting.

Hell, I only won one pot in the hour or so I played cash. Fortunately, that hand turned a losing session into a winning one, covering the tournament buy-in. The game (.50/.50 blinds) broke up sooner than I would have liked. (It’s far easier to be patient playing cash, the game that never ends.)

I did decline an invitation to join the $1/2, probably wise on several levels. I white-knuckled my way home through something just shy of a blizzard, one of the few heavy snowfalls we’ve seen on the North Coast this winter.

This persistent cooler continues to frustrate. I don’t think I’ve played that badly. Yet I know good tournament players regularly cash and make final tables. Since I do not, I can only assume that I’m not playing as well as I’d like to think.

Where do we go from here? The Stars account sits barren. (ePassporte is taking its good old time getting my account established.) I’ve got crumbs in Full Tilt and am playing $2.25 SNGs. (I’ve actually doubled the bankroll after about a dozen of them.)

Wait a second, you say. You vowed to take a break.

I admit it. I'm weak. If I've got chips, I'm going to play.

I am Poker Jones.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Public service announcement

The Bears (+7) and the under (49).

The money lines are poorly priced.

Do your homework and you'll find a few value plays left in the 300-plus prop bets available at the different books.

And remember ... the Super Bowl is just one game.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Elizabeth Shueless

As I spend the night guzzling the backwash of my poker accounts, I feel a bit like the Nicholas Cage character in Leaving Las Vegas. Am I donkeying myself to death? Or will I enter rehab and triumphantly return to the felt clean and sober? Maybe I can snuggle with Lindsay Lohan as we exorcise our demons together. (Resist ... urge ... to ... type ... "Hey. I hear that Betty Ford is available."

Having already bled off some of the 'roll tonight playing .10/.25 NL and a card-dead Riverchasers tournament, I'm using what's left in my Tilt account playing $6.50 SNG turbos. I just finished 9th in the first of these when kings fell to A-Q on the second hand. We've played two hands in the second one and I'm still in. A moral victory.

I told the Monsignor on the way to lunch today that I need a break. I seem distracted. I can't get any traction in tournaments and my cash game skills have improved to the point where I've become a danger to myself. Sessions find me chipping up steadily with smart play and giving away those profits (and more) thanks to a couple of inexcusably stupid decisions.

I'm playing Sunday in a $50 deepstack tournament (10K in chips, 20 minute levels) that's expected to draw 70-plus players. After that, we'll see what my poker future holds. Of course I'll be back. But a hiatus, even if for a week or two, is in order.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Lessons learned

I'm suffering a bit of blogger regret this morning for my previous post. Perhaps I should have given Duggle a chance to quietly remove his post before anyone else was the wiser. But what's done is done.

I guess there's an object lesson for all of us. If you hit a dry spot and need to embellish the truth to post something interesting, resist the temptation. Turn on the TV. Or better yet, read a book.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Duggle say what?

I think I have steered clear of controversy during my year of blogging, but this is an instance that cries out for setting the record straight.

Diablo, who uses the screen name "pornstar69" on Stars, posted a hand history on our Group message board early this morning about a player named DuggleBogey cracking his pocket kings with a runner-runner straight. When I read it, I assumed that Duggle was just donking it up at low limits.

It's safe to say that Diablo was. He is an extremely aggressive and (when he's not had too much to drink) talented cash-game player (but doesn't play much online). He is a terror in the $1/2 and $2/5 home games and has had some nice scores in Vegas and casinos around the Midwest. Players of his ilk (along with my paltry bankroll and mediocre skills) are why I avoid the Group's higher-limit cash games.

Lo and behold, Duggle also posted about the hand. Except he changed a few salient facts, such as the stakes being played. Duggles says it's $100NL, which by my reckoning has blinds of .50/1. But the HH posted by Diablo indicate that the blinds were .02/.05. I have no reason to think Diablo would have altered the HH. He doesn't know Duggle from any other of the millions of donkeys in the virtual poker universe.

Here is the hand history in question, abbreviated to include only Diablo's and Duggle's actions:

PokerStars Game #8079036103: Hold'em No Limit ($0.02/$0.05) - 2007/01/23 - 01:03:17 (ET)
Table 'Dolios V' 9-max
Seat 1: DuggleBogey ($16.49 in chips)
Seat 6: pornstar69 ($10.92 in chips)
pornstar69: posts big blind $0.05
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to pornstar69 [Kc Kd]
DuggleBogey: raises $0.15 to $0.20
pornstar69: raises $0.80 to $1
DuggleBogey: calls $0.80
*** FLOP *** [3c 4s Jd]
pornstar69: bets $2
DuggleBogey: raises $3 to $5
wirewraps: folds
pornstar69: raises $4.92 to $9.92 and is all-in
DuggleBogey: calls $4.92
*** TURN *** [3c 4s Jd] [2c]
*** RIVER *** [3c 4s Jd 2c] [6s]
*** SHOW DOWN ***
pornstar69: shows [Kc Kd] (a pair of Kings)
DuggleBogey: shows [5c 4c] (a straight, Deuce to Six)
DuggleBogey collected $21.81 from pot
DuggleBogey said, "thanks"
pornstar69 said, "wow"

You'll notice other discrepancies between Duggle's account (slowplayed kings?) and what the HH shows. And why do I bother to bring this up? Diablo is a friend of mine. Plain and simple.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Maladjustment

I never heard back from Full Tilt and played the $109 satellite for Sunday's $750K Guaranteed. There were 154 seats to be won, which was good. The 5-minute turbo structure, however, sucked. I lasted just under an hour, 250 players from the promised land. You need to build a stack early in these things and I never got above 1,800 and change. I lacked a game plan going in. I think you've got to be willing to gamble in turbo structures. While I can't think of any spots where the opportunity presented itself, there must have been at least one or two. Meh. My investment was only $5.50.

My bankroll in the Absolute Challenge stands at $17.61. I donked off $7 last night playing a 5-table SNG. A-K fell to A-9 when he rivered a 9 after the chips went in on an ace-high flop. Stupid me.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

There are no guarantees

Absolute Poker
$2.20 3-table NL SNG

Seat 2 - PROACES ($2350 in chips)
Seat 3 - JAMES14411 ($285 in chips)
Seat 4 - OZZY23 ($1430 in chips)
Seat 5 - JAXONBROWN ($1140 in chips)
Seat 6 - SKITTIE ($2990 in chips)
Seat 8 - NEALCASSADY ($3145 in chips)
Seat 9 - CRAPPGAME ($1285 in chips)
JAMES14411 - Posts small blind
$25OZZY23 - Posts big blind $50

*** POCKET CARDS ***

Dealt to NEALCASSADY [10h 10c]
JAXONBROWN - Calls $50
SKITTIE - Calls $50
NEALCASSADY - Calls $50

I know. Just calling here is weak. But it's early and the action thus far has featured lots of limping and screwiness. I've got chips and hope to see a raggedy flop.

CRAPPGAME - Calls $50
PROACES - Folds
JAMES14411 - All-In(Raise) $260 to $285
OZZY23 - Folds
JAXONBROWN - Calls $235
SKITTIE - Raises $720 to $770

This is where it gets interesting. There is no way I don't have the re-raiser beat. He's got a middle pair of some sort and wants to isolate. Smart move. But it's time for a squeeze play.

NEALCASSADY - All-In(Raise) $3095 to $3145
CRAPPGAME - Folds
JAXONBROWN - Folds
SKITTIE - All-In $2220
NEALCASSADY - returned ($155) : not called
*** FLOP *** [As 5s 3c]
*** TURN *** [As 5s 3c] [3h]
*** RIVER *** [As 5s 3c 3h] [3s]
*** SHOW DOWN ***
JAMES14411 - Shows [4s 4h] (Full house, threes full of fours)
SKITTIE - Shows [9h 9c] (Full house, threes full of nines)
NEALCASSADY - Shows [10h 10c] (Full house, threes full of tens)
NEALCASSADY Collects $5410 from side pot
NEALCASSADY Collects $1240 from main pot

I didn't expect a call, but realize this was a $2.20 SNG. I managed only a 5th-place finish, when the deck went frigid and steal situations were virtually non-existent. One hundred percent ROI, though. Wooot.

The fact I'm playing on Absolute at all is quirky. My account stood at zero when I collected $3 in rakeback and turned it into $8 ... playing blackjack. I bolstered it a bit more with a second-place finish in a $2 SNG and a second-place finish in a $2 3-table SNG yesterday.

I'm trying a modified Chris Ferguson low-limit challenge, using micro-limit games at a steppingstone to a million-dollar bankroll. Granted, it might take awhile.

And continuing the micro-limit route, I entered two $2.25 7-table satellites this morning for a seat into Full Tilt's $109 100-seat satellite to the $750K guaranteed. I flamed out of the first one and then:















I was severely short-stacked (7K) with 6 players left and the blinds at 1,500/3,000. The big blind hit me and I looked down at Q-5 suited. A big stack pushed and the second-smallest stack called all-in. I wish I was better at roughly calculating 3-way pot odds on the fly, but guessed that I was screwed. I folded and hoped for some minor miracles in the next few hands. I would have busted had I remained in the hand.

Details are hazy, but I basically won the thing in less than 20 hands. I won races, but got my chips only once while behind -- the first and only hands of heads-up, taking out the short-stack's A-Q with 7-9. (I had a 9-1 lead at HU.)

The satellite starts at 3:30 p.m ET, not long after kick-off for the NFC championship game. I had hoped to unregister and take the cash so I could concentrate on football but that does not appear to be an option. Sheeit.

The cash would have been particularly sweet. Why, you ask? Because I've blown through a big chunk of my main online bankroll on Stars playing $1/2 and $2/4 triple draw the last couple of days and am running low on gas. It's amazing how fast you lose money when your priced-in quality draws refuse to hit time and time again. I was running bad, but the games seemed good and I was certain I'd finally have a run. Didn't happen. I sort of know how Chris Fargis feels.

It's a little disappointing. I haven't tried spending consistent hours playing cash games since I quit the $1/2 6-max grind on Party several years ago. I hoped TD would be the ticket. I'd been winning at the game, albeit at a low hourly rate. Variance and some poor bankroll management were mostly to blame for the skid. I don't think I played badly -- the percentage of draws seen stayed consistent at or even below my normal 33 percent. I like TD very much and have no plans to give it up.

Before the day's out, there's a good chance I'll be putting what's left of my Stars 'roll in play for TD. If I go broke, no big deal. While I hardly embrace the concept, I easily accept it as a consequence of poker growth.

(And I'm far from "broke." Online poker has treated me fine, given the amounts I've been willing to risk. Hell, I've been playing off a $100 buy-in at Stars for more than a year and a half and financed a nice family vacation and other expenses with last year's profits. And I've still got a little money on Tilt and a whopping $24 on Absolute.)

I'll reload with elan, if such a thing is possible. Too bad we Ugly American Poker Degenerates are being persecuted by the Uglier American Morality Police. Fuckwads. I'll have an ePassporte account funded in a few days but wonder how long that option will last. I tried to open an alternative Click2Pay account but got this e-mail after my IP address was rejected.

From: Support Team Munich in general
[mailto:support.click2pay@click2pay.com]

Dear Sir or Madam,

Thank you for contacting the CLICK2PAY Service Team.

Due to the existing US legal situation the decision has been taken to not accept any new sign-ups from US players. Please respect our decision in this regard.

Kind regards
CLICK2PAY Service Team


I replied:

"Wimps."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Zoned out

I chatted with Monsignor the other day in the cafeteria about the state of our respective poker games. The discussion centered mostly table image. He thought his was donkey, which he knows isn't true. His tournament skills are solid and evidenced by some recent cashes in Group tournaments. His cash game is not so strong, which is understandable given how little he plays it.

But the actual subtext of the conversation was more about self-image and how we want people to perceive us. What I should have said then (and did mention today) is, "Dude, you need to get out of your head and into theirs." Understand, this admonition was as much directed at myself as it was to Monsignor. My inability to crawl out of my own obsessive-ridden head and into my opponents' is one of those nagging weaknesses in my game.

Here is an embarrassing but telling example: It's perhaps the second hand of last night's Mookie. I get pocket jacks in early position and raise 3x BB. The big blind (who I don't know) calls and the flop comes 2-2-5. I bet 3/4 of the pot and he min-raises me. Hmmm. He doesn't have a 2. I know he doesn't have a 2. A set of fives? I don't think so. Screw it, I say, and push. He calls. I'm right. He doesn't have a 2 or presto. He's got freakin' kings and I'm toast.

I completely fail to consider that he might make either a weak or trappy play by simply calling the preflop raise with a bigger pocket pair. I eliminated the 2 and pocket 5s and then made only a half-assed attempt to get into his head, put him on a range of hands and donked off my stack. And there have been other similar miscues in recent days/weeks that have turned MTTs into a money pit for me because of unfocused play, including my first attempt last night at the new $25+2 on Stars. (I saw some truly awful play in the 20 minutes I lasted but only contributed to the stupidity.)

Unfocused poker costs money that I don't want to spend. My last two MTT cashes, Riverstars and an online Group tournament on Monday, only occurred because of ginormous suckouts. If I don't get extremely lucky in those two instances, I make nothing.

There has been plenty of discussion of athletes being "in the zone" and even at the low-levels of competition I experienced over the years, there were instances when I felt it. You know the ball will rip the nets when the shot leaves your hand. The baseball speeding toward you is the size of a beachball. Or there's no doubt you're going to put the football squarely in the receiver's hands.

I didn't begin playing golf until my early 20s and fell deeply for the game. I slowly improved, took some lessons and embraced the game with a passion that bears an uncanny resemblance to my relationship with poker.

Eventually, my scores were low enough that I tried to compete in some small local tournaments. The results weren't good, but that was okay. I was learning. Playing a round with your buddies is one thing. Shooting a score in competition is another matter.

I entered the course championship at the Metroparks course I regularly played. (The top finishers qualified for the systemwide Metroparks championship.) A 41 on the front 9 put me well behind the leaders. I didn't feel nervous or uncomfortable, which I had in the past, but I basically schlepped around the course at a mediocre pace.

But I didn't abandon hope. I reset my goal of qualifying and decided to seek a moral victory with better play on the back 9. I managed to do that and reached the 17th tee just 1-over for the back. I found the fairway at 17, a semi-tough par 4, put it on the green and sunk a 10-footer for birdie.

Unfortunately, the 18th awaited. It's an almost unfairly tight par 4 down into a valley and back up to a severely elevated green. Many a score at Manakiki had been fattened over the years by the 18th hole and tee-shots that had wandered into the woods left and right. Adding to the pressure was the realization that a par and a 77 might get me into the championship tournament.

What's a hacker to do? Get a clue. Take your time. Don't rush. Rush I did not. A smooth 3-wood found the fairway. I took my time reaching my ball and was in no hurry to play my approach. I visualized the shot -- freaking saw it -- and put the ball about 20 feet back of the pin. The instance the ball left my putter I knew I had drained it. A 35 on the back and a 76 for the round proved to be the exact number I needed to qualify.

For most of the back 9, and certainly for those last two holes, I resided in the zone. I quieted the voices that can creep into your head in such situations and performed without effort or strain.

Are there poker lessons to be learned here? (By the way, I bombed out of the bigger championship tournament.) I think so. I believe that successful poker players not only possess a better understanding of the game than the rest of us, but are better at thinking and concentrating. They're better at muting negative and extraneous thoughts.

And they are better at getting into our heads, using shadow puppets to project scary images when they're weak and harmless bunnies when they're strong and having us buy it more often than not. And while they may not always be in "the zone," they're at least somewhere close.

I sneak into my scaled-down version of the zone occasionally. But those moments are infrequent and all-too fleeting. Experience and knowledge can help get you there, but clearing out the clatter in your head seems equally important.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Drawn and quartered

Not long after finishing the recent post floating the idea of discipline, I bought into a Tilt $24+2 and, after several table changes, was seated to the left of a player with the screen name "Discipline." He finished fourth. Very strange.

(I, on the other hand, was booted around 250th (1,000-plus runners) while possessing a slightly better than average stack when a 'tard with A-J called my A-A re-raise and all-in bet postflop with no pair and no draw save the mighty runner-runner flush. End of rant.)

Discipline does have many guises. Concepts like not leaving a table when it's good, regardless of whether you're winning or losing. I tried to adhere to that principle last night in a TD game until yet another sexy draw -- 2-3-4-7 in this case -- K'd with three swings reminiscent of John Kruk's at-bat vs. Randy Johnson in the '93 All-Star Game. (Gotta love Google.) I finally bailed after these repeated body blows added up to my worst-ever TD session.

Because it's what I do, I jumped into a .10/.25 NL game that included some Group compatriots. I made two very nice plays to double up against The Canuck and Chan and then donked off the profit with pocket queens against an unknown player's flopped set of jacks. It should have been an easy laydown after his post-flop raise. Yet I greedily hoped for A-J and put him all-in. Typical big-pair donkey dazzlement on my part.

Once again, it's about discipline. It's about not wasting $20 while practically wishing your opponent lacks the the set you strongly suspect he has.

It is about calling a pot-sized bet with second pair postflop because you believe your opponent is floating with big overcards.

Discipline is ignoring the incessant braying of your inner donkey.

Discipline is the courage of your convictions.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Presto is Gold (The Live Album)

With apologies to Fuel.

Flamed out around 20th place (34 runners) in last night's Group tournament. Never got anything going. (I did, however, move in blind UTG with 1,100 chips left and the blinds at 300/600. Two callers. My K-7 boated. Alas, my tournament existence proved short-lived. I lasted less than an orbit when A-10 fell to pocket 9s.)

I jumped into the normal loosey-goosey .25/.50 cash game. Folded, limp/folded for a couple of orbits. I straddled and was dealt pocket 5s. There were 4, maybe maybe 5 callers. Out of principle, I put a symmetrical "hat" ($5) on it, figuring my tight-ass rep might win me the pot right there. Nope. Min-raised by Tony. Ack. Can't be good. I called the other $5 and everyone folded.

The Poker Gods delivered a Fuelish flop of A-5-x. Hoping the ace was a good card for me, I checked. Tony bet $10. Yep. He's got one. I pushed my last $30 or so and he reluctantly called with A-K. Trip 5s are good and I take down a fair-sized pot. I found myself up two buy-ins when the game broke up an hour later. Not bad for 90 minutes work.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Not-so-smooth chaser

Discipline -- and I'm not talking whips and leather -- in poker seems to be an instilled trait. Perhaps the S&M reference is appropriate given how painfully poker lessons are sometimes imparted.

The learning goes slowly. In my current token turbo on Tilt I had a breakthrough. I folded aces to a raise and reraise after a paired flop. Eyes may now roll at the moronic simplicity of that move, but I'm still pretty low on poker's evolutionary scale. My knuckles have only recently ascended above ground level. (I just busted 10th when my push with eights failed to hold up against kings.)

For one hand in the Riverchaser tournament last night, said discipline was sorely lacking. We were not quite in the money when I called UTG's min-raise from the BB with 8-9o. The flop came 8 high with a gutshot. He bet weak. I think, shit, he just might have aces. In fact, I think: It's 50-50 he has aces. And then I push. Yep. Push. Risk my tournament life despite a read that screamed "You're behind, 'wipe." He instacalls and has the aces. I happily straighten on the river, the recipient of blind luck.

I made the final table and chipped up nicely when eights held up against A-10. I donked off almost one-third of my stack unnecessarily by calling an all-in with A-5 and proceeded to lose races with A-K vs. Gary while 5-handed and A-K vs. pocket 9s a few hands. (Gary finished third while nursing a short stack with timely aggression. Who's weak-tight? Good job, sir.)

Friday, January 05, 2007

Funny line

If Triple Draw is the new drug on Stars, then the NL version must be a baseball-sized rock of crack. It's a hoot to play, but you know it's really not good for you. I've stuck to limit the last week or so after watching several NL sessions turn into train wrecks. The limit games have mostly been good, although I got stuck a bunch (for me) last night before making a minor save. (And I've run into some bloggerly brethen testing the TD waters, including Princess, waffles, and Milwaukee's Best. )

Limit dictates that you pound the pot with premium draws preflop, slow down after the first draw if you don't make a hand or a solid 1-draw and occasionally attempt trickery after the second draw or on the end based on position and whatever info (betting pattern, number of cards drawn) your opponents are giving you. Losing sessions lately have been a mattter of watching those premium draws refuse to fill. Donkitude is a contributing factor as well, but I've mostly reigned that in as my comfort level with TD increases.

In a fit of madness, I jumped into a .25/.50 NL game today and decided to try a new approach. For example, instead of standing pat after being dealt 2-4-6-7-8 (which I would quickly do in limit), I decided to break 8s for the implied odds of making an even better hand. Rough and even perfect 8s (2-3-4-5-8) have not treated me kindly in NL. They are not the kinds of hands I care to invest alot of money in.

The NL session started poorly. I put $8 into a wheel (2-3-4-7) draw that I folded after the second draw to a big bet. I donked off a little more calling at the end with a sketchy 8. And then I doubled up a short stack when the donkette called off her last $9 to my bluff at the end while holding a queen. (I refuse to give her credit for making a brilliant call. I had raised "preflop" and had drawn only 1 the entire way. She drew 2 on the third draw.)

The hot grease of tilt sizzling in my brain pain, I reloaded for another $25 and waited. Then this hand occurred with Ms. Queen:

PokerStars Game #7777814981: Triple Draw 2-7 Lowball No Limit ($0.25/$0.50)
Table 'Leukothea III' 6-max
Seat #2 is the button
Seat 1: puffcloud ($27.50 in chips)
Seat 2: Vlyrr ($48.25 in chips)
Seat 3: hacker59 ($48.20 in chips)
Seat 4: whoz yadaddy ($50.30 in chips)
Seat 6: Francesa ($28.90 in chips)
hacker59: posts small blind $0.25
whoz yadaddy: posts big blind $0.50
*** DEALING HANDS ***
Dealt to hacker59 [8s 3h 7d 4s 5h]
Francesa: calls $0.50
puffcloud: folds
Vlyrr: calls $0.50
hacker59: calls $0.25
whoz yadaddy: checks

Is this a weak play? Maybe. I probably should try to thin the field. But I've already decided to break the 8, the strength of my hand is well-hidden and if I don't hit, I can get out cheaply. If I do hit, I've got tremendous implied odds to trap.

*** FIRST DRAW ***
hacker59: discards 1 card [8s]
Dealt to hacker59 [3h 7d 4s 5h] [2c]

Whoot!

whoz yadaddy: discards 2 cards
Francesa: discards 2 cards
Vlyrr: discards 3 cards
hacker59: bets $1.50

Got to bet something here. If I check, standing pat will look especially fishy.

whoz yadaddy: folds
Francesa: calls $1.50
Vlyrr: folds
*** SECOND DRAW ***
hacker59: stands pat on [3h 7d 4s 5h 2c]
Francesa: discards 1 card
hacker59: checks
Francesa: checks

I desperately want her to have a free card and make some kind of hand.

*** THIRD DRAW ***
hacker59: stands pat on [3h 7d 4s 5h 2c]
Francesa: discards 1 card
hacker59: bets $4.50

A pot-sized bet that I'm hoping smells like an 8 or even a 9.

Francesa: raises $22.40 to $26.90 and is all-in
hacker59: calls $22.40

I couldn't get the money in fast enough.

*** SHOW DOWN ***
Francesa: shows [7c 4c 6h 3d 2s] (Lo: 7,6,4,3,2)
hacker59: shows [2c 3h 7d 4s 5h] (Lo: 7,5,4,3,2)
hacker59 collected $56.80 from pot

I would have played this hand much differently in limit --raising preflop and leading the entire way. Yeah, I hit the lottery after the first draw. But I think the slightly unorthodox line I took gave me the best chance to get all of her money.