Thursday, March 26, 2009

Operation Overlay

In all of the time I've played on Stars, I can't recall seeing a guaranteed tournament not reach its intended prize pool. I was signing up for some 45s late this morning when I peeked at the tournament lineup and saw that the noon $30K guaranteed appeared to be well short of its target.

The sucker I am for overlay value, I paid me $22 and proceeded to fold into the money for the last 45 minutes or so. (Wasn't difficult, given the super crappy cards I was being dealt.) The tournament ended up $4,440 short of its $30K guarantee. I'll be on the lookout for similar bargains in the future.

While I've largely stayed away from the blogger tournament circuit for the past year or so, I did manage to sign up, at the last minute, for the Skillz game (limit) on Tuesday and the Mookie last night (where I donked off a middling stack bluffing with a pair of threes. Damn, I'm good.)

Given last night's performance, I have absolutely no moral authority upon which to base the following statement, but meh, it's my blog and no one can stop me: Bloggers, overall, ain't all that good at tournament poker. Too bad I have to include myself in that cohort.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Skim graph

I guess this qualifies as a brag post, given how pleased I am with the direction my Sharkscope graph is headed after 911 games. It's nice to have some good news to report.
The initial spike downward resulted from a failed effort a couple of years ago playing a bunch $20 180s on Stars. Never cashed ... in ... a ... single ... fucking ... one. I've since failed to cash in any 180 at any amount, including a handful of $4.40s. If the tournament has a 180 in it, I'm extra-dead money.
The graph began drifting upward when I started playing single-table SNGs, starting with the $3.40 turbos and then advancing to the $6.50s. As is my nature, I got bored with SNGs and moved on to less fruitful forms of poker.
The latest positive trend comes from the 45-man $3.25 turbos I've been playing the last couple of weeks. Through 169 games, I'm running at an obscene 35 percent ROI. While it's highly doubtful I can sustain that rate, I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts. Sure beats repeatedly kicks in the junk.
My only slight quibble has been a couple of HU situations where I couldn't put my opponent away thanks to some lousy luck. My ITM distribution, however, shows how evenly they are spread with 5 wins, 6 seconds, 5 thirds, 5 fourths, 7 fifths, 6 sixths and 5 sevenths. There are also 4 eighths (the bubble) and 4 ninths (bubble +1).
One of the things I like about 45s is that you do not need to cash in a high-percentage to be profitable. My ITM is at 23 percent at the moment. If I recall correctly, it was somewhere in the low 40s for single-table SNGs.
Unquestionably, I'm running better, winning more races and (ahem) benefitting from a few more suckouts. But my game is also more sharp and focused. Situations present themselves more clearly, which is a nice feeling. Basically, I'm making fewer mistakes while getting slightly better cards, which should be a good combination.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Good is bad

Howard and the boys (minus Clonie, of course) turned off the doomswitch yesterday long enough for me to final table a $5.50 NLHE tournament with 743 runners. When I wrote my whine in the previous post about Tilt eating my lunch, I had already built a sweet-looking stack in this tournament thanks to contributions from the stupid money and some good play. I waltzed past the bubble in this one.

So, it should be apparent that making a final table is an especially good thing given my recent bout of futility. But that's not the case. My presence at that shiny, azulean table was tainted by the fact that I did not deserve to be there.

The first hand was just pure luck. No biggie. After the bubble broke, I raised and re-re-raised a guy AI with pocket jacks. He called with kings and the flop came Q-J-9. Made quads with a jack on the river and I vaulted into the chip lead at 136K.

Not long after, at a new table, this hand occurred. I called a small stack's EP raise with A-K from late position. Guy to my left re-raised on the button and the small stack raised AI. I just called, putting around 93K in the pot and leaving me with 110K behind.

Why did I just call there? The short stack is a non-issue. The guy to my left had just under 50K to start the hand. Why didn't I get him AI as well and proceed to play bingo? The flop came rags, I checked, button pushed, I folded and he won the hand with ... A-K. Fawk me.

That hurt, but was hardly a fatal blow. I built my stack back up to around 130K and got dealt QQ in MP. There might have been around 35 players left at this point. Small stack from MP raised AI. Huge stack to my immediate right at a relatively new table re-raised a bunch. I pondered, thinking that I could afford to fold queens at that point. Good players can fold queens, right? And fold I did. Short stacked showed A-Q and the big stack pocket jacks. The queens, of course, would have been good and I would have had the chip lead at 320K.

Idiot. Am I being results oriented here knowing the outcome? Perhaps. But it feels like cowardice. Had we been on the battlefield, the commander would have ordered me shot.

My march to the final table was uneventful as I folded and floated enough to keep my chin above water while silently cursing my nittish nature. I was very short-stacked at the final table and was happy to get seventh. Interestingly, the $109 in profit put me slightly in the black over 154 MTTs on Tilt since the first of the year. Meanwhile, I'm down just over $300 in MTTs on Stars, the site where I thought was doing better. Go figure.

I did discover another significant leak in my game -- playing tournaments when I shouldn't. I was hanging around in the $8.80 Turbo on Stars (8:40 p.m. start) when I signed up for a $5.50 PLO8 tournament that began at 9:30.

I like PLO8. I've had break-even results playing about 5,000 hands of no-limit O8. PLO8 tournaments are fun to donk around in. I busted in the $8.80 and built a stack in PLO8, but started losing interest fast. I'd already played a ton of hours that day and was tired. I squeezed into the micro money and then shoved with a hand full of paint, not unhappy to lose the hand. It was 1:15 a.m. by that point. I've pissed away far too much money on tournaments that I had no real desire or motivation to enter. Another lesson learned.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Getting better all the time

Variance has been swinging in a positive direction the last couple of days. I've had a couple of nice sets of 45-man $3.40s on Stars that have given me an 18 percent ROI over 139 games. As always, the small sample is meaningless statistically, but important psychologically. I'd always prefer to be kicked in the junk less than more.

You must grind to be a profitable SNG player. And it's virtually impossible to win a meaningful amount playing $3.40s unless you were playing hundreds a day while maintaining an off-the-hook ROI. That ain't happening.

While my stated goal remains to win 100 buy-ins for the move up to $6.50s, that looks like a pretty daunting task. I need to find the energy to play a whole lote more than the 139 I've gotten in over the last 11 days. I need to get in much better shape both physically and mentally while continuing to plug the leaks in my game.

My MTT results have also been slightly better as of late. And that applies only to Poker Stars. Full Tilt results are awful. I'm not sure why Howard Lederer hates me. I might be hallucinatting, but I feel as if I'm ready for some bigger tournament scores. Lord knows I'm due.

On the rehab front, my knee continues to improve and get stronger with each passing day. I've received permission to drive (about two weeks ahead of schedule) and will begin outpatient physical therapy on Tuesday.

Got out yesterday to watch Poker Jones Junior make his varsity debut in the team's first scrimmage. (He's a sophomore.) Junior pitched two innings and allowed one hit, two walks and struck out three. Very impressive. (I'm not proud.) He also flew out to the warning track in right field on a day when the ball wasn't carrying.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Playing kvetch

Screwed myself royal when I used the "S" (success) word in my last post to describe my fledgling efforts at multi-table SNGs. I've been on a big downswing since Tuesday, cashing in only 12 of 72 in 45-man $3.25s. There were no wins during that the stretch with one 2nd and two 3rds. It's a given that these 45s are swingy, but for fuck's sake, variance swings back the other way, doesn't it?

At one point during this streak, I cashed just once (a 7th) in 32 tournaments thanks to a flurry of bad beats and bad cards. I managed to pull that sucker out of the tailspin with a solid bunch of cashes only to lose another engine and resume the nosedive. Here are my bustout hands from successive 45s today:

1) Kings vs. A-J
2) Jacks vs. A-K and A-Q
3) A-K vs. A-Q and A-J (A-J made Broadway)
4) A-K suited vs 4-4
5) Jacks vs. A-9
6) Flopped 2-pair counterfeited at the river

A bit ago, I lost most of my stack at the bubble with kings vs. Q-9.

I'm comfortable 5- and 6-tabling, and I've kept misclicks and missed situations to a minium. (I did fold my SB to a guy who was sitting out.) I initally had some problems not getting aggressive enough with a dwindling stack and rising blinds, but I've mostly fixed that and have been pushing with ATC when appropriate.

So, I'm working on the assumption that my SNG strategy is sound. There are still a few situations where I'm not quite certain of the correct "standard" play (A-x with a middling stack from early position at the final table is one.) But otherwise, I'm using the right approach. Now it's just a matter of the poker gods getting their feet off my neck.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Taking my medicine

I'm way to old to join the ranks of fan boyz, but I'm afraid I'm there. It's hard not to trip over yourself in praise of a chubby German kid who has performed a feat of Internet pokering that you would not think possible.

Last month, Boku87 proposed a donktastic prop bet on 2+2 that he could run $100 in his Poker Stars account into $10,000 over 15 days playing nothing but low-limit SNGs. The rules stated that the SNGs could have more than 45 entries with a maximum buy-in of $16. He was looking for 3-1 odds and finally got around $10K in action.

I'd never heard of this kid, but he's apparently a highly successful SNG ubergrinder who regularly plays 30 tables or more ... on his laptop. Poker Stars got involved by escrowing the bets and updating Boku87's progress on 2+2.

Yesterday afternoon, about 40 hours short of the deadline, the sonuvabitch did it when his account drifted over the $10,000 mark. There were so many people on 2+2 at the time that the site's servers crashed.

It's hard to fathom that anyone could pull this off. He started off 50-tabling $1.10 SNGs and absolutely crushed them. It took him only a couple of days to work his way up to the $12s and $16s. His Sharkscope graph kept climbing while playing 7,432 SNGs and an astounding 381,000 hands during his run.

I had one encounter with the wunderkind. A couple days from the finish line, Boku87 added a bunch of $3.25 and $6.50 tables, which happen to reside in my neck of the poker woods. Early in a 45, I got dealt jacks UTG. That's when I discovered Boku87 sitting to my immediate left. I raised, he re-raised and I pushed AI. He called with his aces and I rivered a jack to put him on life support.

I almost felt bad for having sucked out against him, but I had my own worries. I'd been running grotesquely bad. Dog shit bad. I had really looked forward to playing a ton of poker during my rehab at home, but ended up cursing myself for ever playing this stupid game.

At one point, I failed to cash in 24 successive tournaments on Poker Stars and a robust 25 on Full Tilt. I can't remember ever being so discouraged. I didn't whether I should destroy my laptop in a fit of rage or curl in a ball on the floor and cry my eyes out. Instead, I kept playing.

Was the deck running cold? Absolutely. Redonkulously bad beats? Way more than the usual. But I knew there had to be more, that there was something fundamentally flawed in my play.

My medicinal regimen could not have been helping. Knee replacement is a painful mofo, necessitating the use of strong narcotics. (I've been writing about my brand new knee at my other blog.) I didn't feel as if the drugs were causing me to play stupidly. Yet my game was off. Nothing seemed to work and variance could not shoulder all of the blame for the downswing.

I backed off on the painkillers about a week ago, and things seem to be a little more in focus. It helps that I'm now playing a game that I've had success at in the past. I'd been doing too much meandering, playing all sorts of different tournament types and some cash as well. I'm now concentrating on 18- and 45-player turbo SNGs. I started with $6.50s, which resulted in a small loss, before dropping to the $3.25 and $3.40 varieties. I've worked my way up to six tables with some limited success.

It looks as if six tables is the most I can comfortably play at the moment. I only started cascading the tables last night. (I previously maxed out at four, sizing the tables so they slightly overlapped and I could keep an eye on the action at all of the tables.) It's strange to lose sight of big hands you're involved in when another table pops to the front. The hope is to get the bankroll to 100 buy-ins and move back to $6.50s. That might take awhile.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

I used to hate Q-9