Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In the book

I got a glimpse of what it's like to be a professional poker player tonight at Nautica. My professional play went like this: I folded for the first hour. Folded for the second hour. And for the final two hours of the session, I merged my range and really tightened up.
I had A-Q once, the third of four players to call a $12 preflop raise. Whiffed the flop. I did get 6s during the first half-hour. Raised preflop to $6 UTG. Had an out of body experience and watched helplessly as I c-bet the J-high flop. Babies cried and dogs wailed in despair.

Those were my big hands. Runners-up included pocket 4s (limp-called for $17 total) and A-10. Won two pots with garbage, netting $28. Lost $74 on the night.

And I'm booking that mofo as a win.

Tonight I watched semi-competent players having bad nights needlessly piss away good cash money making crying calls when the villain's hand, for fuck's sake, was practically face up and there was no way on God's green Earth that the villain did not have it.
Why chase? There's nothing to catch in the long game, correct? Thus I view tonight's abysmal run of cards were an outlier, an aberration. I've run mediocre before. I'm certain I will run mediocre again.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Must read

Found this thread yesterday on 2+2. Great stuff.

This description of a player type is one of my favorite passages:

Soul-reader donk - this guy is obsessed with putting you on an exact hand. His ego and pride in soul-reading skills are almost more important than making money - it's almost like he'd rather make that awesome fold than win a big pot. Like the nit-donk, he's quite bluffable - the key is you have to think, how would the soul reader himself play the hand I want to represent, and then play accordingly. Flush card hits on the river and you missed your straight draw? Feel free to bluff this guy - but the key is figure out the exact bet size that HE would bet if he hit the flush, and bet accordingly. He'll tank, then say "man I knew you drew out on me", and fold - the correct response is to sigh, tap the table and say good fold, quickly muck and give him credit for a great soul read.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The week in re-spew

Run good went off the rails this weekend. Lost over a buy in Friday at Nautica without much effort. Some of it was transferred to the awful old fart who rivered gutshots not once, but twice. Some was lost playing speculative hands that went nowhere. Another $120 was spewed near the end of the session when I called a preflop raise with 6-5o from EP.

Why did I play 6-5o from EP? It was only $5. Why did I call $8 on the flop of 8-5-x? It was only $8. Why did I lead for $40 (~pot) when the 6 hit the turn? Stupidity, I guess. I kinda sorta thought I was ahead, but $20 was a much better choice. Unfortunately, an aggro-chick regular (VP$IP of >70%) min-raised. I tossed in my last $65 without much though. WTF am I beating there? Nothing, of course. Her flopped Texas Shoebanger (8-5) held. I reloaded and bled a little more before leaving for Linda's tournament.

A losing session is no bother. Gutted by an AOF? That's poker. But the 6-5 hand sucked from the moment I peeked at my cards. Forcing the issue when the deck won't cooperate is a losing proposition.

The tournament at Linda's went no better. Spewed early, rebuilt with steals and then reraised AI for 11K with pocket 3s against a shortstack with T4600 at 250/500. I was certain that I was no worse than a flip and was proved correct. Shortie had K-J and a 3 hit the flop. Unfortunately, so did an ace, which gave Data, who had pushed AIPF behind me, the overset.

On Saturday, got coolered early in the tournament at Dave's tournament with an underset for most of my stack. Meh.

(I failed to mention earlier that I binked Dave's tournament the previous Saturday for $460. Survived a flip at the bubble with 6-6 v K-J and then steamrolled the rest of the table in God mode for what proved to be an easy win.)

Hoping to get in two Nautica sessions this week and will be playing the POY tournament Saturday/Sunday.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Nautical voyage

Run good continues and I’m not ashamed to say that makes me happy.

Trudged down to Nautica on Wednesday. Took the same 10 seat at the same table as last Wednesday. Active early, winning some medium-size pots but went into lockdown mode for the last hour of a three-hour session thanks to crappy cards. I’m okay with that. Call me a nit. Until I learn otherwise, my strategy for Nautica’s $1/$2 game is patience and value extraction. Good at the former and need work at the latter

Left some money on the table Wednesday. Here’s an example:

Raised to $14 from the SB with queens after some limps. Three callers. Flop is Q-5-5. Checks around. I fire $25 at the turn. All fold. Crap. Should have led the flop. May have gotten the same result, but I suspect that line would have given me a better chance of getting more out of the hand.

I’ve started thinking a bit more about image. I'm guessing I'm viewed as a middle-aged guy who plays pretty tight preflop, who usually comes in for a raise when he does play and typically c-bets the flop. I hope they see someone who is friendly and non-threatening, someone who has some kind of clue but isn’t a shark by any means.
The trick here is to exploit that image by inducing folds to pick up the random $30-$50 pots that make live poker profitable. Snagged a few of those Wednesday, which led to a decent-sized win (+$280) without much stress.

Leaving after just three hours Wednesday may have been –EV. I had a goof on my right who was in for around $500 and had rebuilt to nearly $700. He played a ton of hands, liked to bluff and seemed clueless overall. I kept waiting in vain for an opportunity to take a chunk out of his stack but found none. He did fold to me a couple of times early, which made me wonder how he would play against me with some of the hands he showed others.

I left because I had grown tired of the (volunteer) left-handed dealer who practically elbowed me whenever she dealt my end of the table and because I wanted to check out Jen’s $1/2 game in her office downtown. Skill-wise, I knew the lineup of Group regulars at Jen’s game would be tougher, but I was good with that.

We got to 12 players soon after I arrived and split into tables of six. Played much different than Nautica with button straddles and few unraised hands preflop. I was not uncomfortable, but the table helped raise awareness of the need to improve and expand my game.

One hand of note. I raise to $8 with A-Q and got one caller, a guy named Bill who I’d never met before, calls behind me. Flop comes Q-J-6. I lead for $15 and he raises to $40. Huh?

Here’s my read. Don’t think he’s raising here with two pair or a set, so I call.

Turn is a blank, completing a rainbow board. I check. Bill bets $65. I ponder. I think I’m still ahead and call. Is my check-call weak? Probably. River is a 6. I moan that that’s a bad card, but really don’t believe it. I'm pretty sure he doesn’t have a 6, but I check hoping to get to showdown without committing any more chips. Bill foils that plan by betting $100. Shite. The pot is ~$250. I take a minute and throw in a chocolate chip. Bill immediately states, “Good call,” and mucks.

This hand bothers me a bit despite the good result. I’m not comfortable playing pots that big with one pair, but given the pot odds at the end and my read, felt the call was justified. It’s not a spot where I want to find myself often, however. A more aggressive line would have meant a smaller profit in the hand, but passive, check-calling lines seems spewish in the long term.

Day off today, so headed to Nautica soon to play a couple of hours, followed by a $40 Group tournament at Linda’s. Will try to post this weekend. For anyone reading, sorry about the longish posts. Need to come up with a briefer, more reader friendly format.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Live conversion

Last week, I left Nautica, the charity poker "festival" in the Flats, disappointed that I failed to pull the trigger with ace high to a turn bet. I knew the guy was trying to steal a $50 pot with a $40 bluff. Everything in my being said he was stealing. Yet I folded. He showed. I was good, of course.

That hand crowded my thoughts as I fell asleep that night. It lingered the following day, a stark reminder of the mediocre state of my game. A good poker player would have called -- no, raised -- in that spot if he really believed in his read. A good poker player would have taken down a $90 pot. I did neither. Draw your own conclusions.

The demise of Stars and Tilt has put me in a bad spot. If I want to play poker, I now must put on pants, get in my car and drive somewhere. Playing poker now requires an effort. Yet I have no choice. I must play poker.

Addiction specialists (and addicts, I suppose), talk about triggers that remind people of their hunger for their drug(s) of choice. My laptop is a trigger. Open it up to check e-mails and I find myself staring longingly at the Stars icon on the desktop.

Fortunately, I have opportunities to play live. The Group typically has at least two games a week, usually more. Nautica is downright convenient, although the $6 max rake at $1/2 sucks. And Cleveland's first and only casino (with a 25-table poker room) is scheduled to open early next year.

I've played nine times since Black Friday -- six times with The Group and three times at Nautica. Not great volume, but it's a start. What I don't have at the moment is a proper roll. That's a problem. You need a lot more money to play $1/2 properly than is required to donk around at low limits online. I started with an exploratory $200, doubled it up fairly quickly and then saw it dwindle to a single hundred dollar bill.

Tonight, despite feeling a bit tired, I caffeined up and headed to Nautica. I had reached Public Square on Superior when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a car in the other lane swerve toward mine followed by a dull-sounding thump. I pulled over and the driver pulled in behind. It was a 21-year-old kid who had driven up from the 'burbs of Columbus with his girlfriend for a concert. He couldn't figure out where to park. I resisted the urge to point out that a parking lot sat 20 feet away.

He gave me his information and I didn't give him a hard time. He seemed a little shook up. I considered calling police for an accident report but decided against it. I had poker to play.

At Nautica, I was pleased to discover open seats at several $1/2 tables. I grab the 10 seat at one of the tables, which has some decent-sized stacks but no monsters. (Sorry for the change in tense. But poker narratives always sound better in the present tense.)

A new player takes the 2 seat right not long after I sit down and immediately wins a pot by raising preflop in position and chasing away a few limp-callers with a c-bet.

A few hands later, I find A-Q in the big blind. The same guy raises to $12 from EP and gets three callers, including me. Flop comes 10 high. He bets $25, two folds and I ponder. Folding would be easy here, but I call. No need to give up yet. This is something I must learn.

King on the turn. I check and he casually tosses out another $25. I still think I'm good. If not, I could be drawing live. An 8 on the river completes no draws. Villain immediately pushes in his last $45. Fuck. I give him a look and analyze his story. The turn bet? Weak, I decide. The instapush at the end? Fishy. The way he held his cards in the air and rubbed them back and forth? I cut away chips and toss them in.

"Good call," he blurts. Shit, maybe I'm good. But, as it turns out, I'm not. I wait for him to table his hand and he finally shows A-Q. The table murmurs. I shrug, offering no explanation.

Fact is, I had to make the call. I had to prove to myself that I'm capable of listening to my inner voice. That I can call thin. That I'm able to draw conclusions from how a hand plays, ignore the monetary value of the chips and follow fucking through.

I then took a one-way trip to Rush City. Couldn't miss. Even the crap hands I folded would have dragged pots. People didn't seem to respect my bets and each time I showed I had the goods. Cracking aces with a set of deuces didn't hurt. As tough as the A-Q hand might have been, the rest of the session proved simple, easy. There were a few good players at the table and no real fish. But there was no one to fear. A standard Group cash game table is typically much tougher.

I hit and run after two hours, cashing out $729 on a $200 buy-in. Should I have stayed longer? Meh. I had booked a solid win and much-needed bankroll boost.

Conclusions to be drawn? We'll see. It's only one session. But as I sit here, I'm certain of one thing. I'm jonesing to play poker. Just hope I can get a session in tomorrow somewhere.