Thursday, March 24, 2005

The greatest suckout of my life…

It was in a $5 SnG on FullTilt. Yes, I’ve sunk to that level. But that’s not even the best part. One of the players (Doctor6981) was proclaiming his supremacy over the table by openly mocking the others with witticisms like “You’re weak.” and “I’m going to take all your money”. I was baiting him with “You’re right, I can only strive to be worthy of your scorn” and “I only hope to learn from your greatness” and shit like that.

Naturally we end up head-to-head at the end, virtually dead even. He seemed like a reasonably decent player, albeit with an annoying tableside manner. He continued to criticize my play and question my manhood. I continued to not-too-subtly feign worship until my massive suckout. I was dealt AQo and raised to 3xBB (SOP, we had been raising each other’s blinds regularly) and he called. Flop was KKx. I floated a half-pot bet and he quickly raised. Now, the question was whether or not he had a K to call the preflop raise, and whether he had the skill to slowplay it if he did. I guessed that he would’ve slowplayed trips, and pushed all-in.

Oooops, he had Kx. I could almost hear Mike Sexton yelling “Oh, the Commish got caught there! He’s in big trouble… He needs Aces on the turn and river, or two running cards for a straight to stay alive!” Oh well,, at least I won $10. Turn was a Ten. Boy, that Carrie Underwood on American Idol is cute…. River is… a Jack! Holy shit, I made a runner-runner Broadway!

Karma can be a bitch sometimes.

Even the Doctor said “I probably deserved that”. I finished him off a couple of hands later, but the odds were roughly 49-1 against me winning the hand (according to the Cardplayer calculator). Suh-weet.

Later in the evening, I jumped over to Pacific and played another $5 SnG. And won. 2 for 2.

Oh, and I need to clarify something. I don’t know shit about Razz. Please don’t take my “advice” seriously. On a scale of 1-10, I’m probably about a 2 or a 3. But you know what? That’s good enough against most of the unimaginative players out there. Stud games are more about the third and fourth level thinking (“What does he think I have?” and “What does he think I think he has?”) than Hold’Em or Omaha, and most players can’t see beyond their own cards (first level). I’m merely pointing out that Razz is a new game for most of us, and those that can think in layers can take financial advantage of the rash of newbies hitting the FTP Razz low-limit tables and SnGs. Remember, FTP is the ONLY major site that offers Razz, meaning that the Razz education for most players MUST be at FTP. Might as well make them pay for the lessons…

Think of it this way, if you’re a good athlete, you have a good chance of picking up a new sport faster than a klutz, and at the beginning of the learning curve for both of you, the good athlete will dominate, probably more at the front end than at any other point. That’s where Razz is right now.

Of course, that’s only my opinion. And I could be wrong. But I doubt it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Lessons on how to play Razz from a guy who never played Razz before, but cashed in his first Razz tourney, probably because it was everyone else’s first Razz tourney too:

Position in Razz after the deal is HUGE, even if it is only for one round. This is where you get the first, best idea of your relative strength. Most people seem to simply call the bring-in bet with 8, 9, or T high (including hole cards), complete with anything lower, and fold anything higher. Seriously, watch a table. This formula seems to be pretty consistent.

I tried to make plays with a low door card, no matter my down cards, especially if everyone else showed medium cards (8 or above). If I hit a second low card, I would bet out, typically taking down pots right there. I guess everyone assumed I had two more low cards buried (why else would I complete?).

If you’re to the right of the bring-in, you can see everyone act before it gets around to you, and probably get a pretty accurate read on the quality of the hands. I saw a lot of people folding aces, deuces, and treys, seemingly unwilling to put out the bets necessary to represent a strong hand. If some limpers also bring-in, you could reasonably put them on a hand based on their door card. If the card was a face card, you could put them on A2 or A3 in the hole. If the card was a medium card (8, 9, T), you could put them on two lower cards in the hole, but NOT A2 or A3 (else they would have completed). If the card was low (less than 7) and they only bring in, you could put them on ONE low down card.

If you’re to the left of the bring-in (the equivalent of EP in Hold’Em, but only for one round), you can base your actions on the board cards for the table and your knowledge of their table habits. Completing with a door Ace and garbage underneath will win some antes. Limping with good hands can be profitable if you KNOW that some schmuck will always complete. Don’t limp unless you’re willing to complete against multiple players.

I limped once UTG with A3/2 and allowed the guy to my left (who loved to complete with mediocre hands) to complete with his door 8 and bring four callers. I promptly raised, got all five to call. Got a seven for my next card (I don’t know all the terminology yet for stud games), and noticed that there was only one card between 4-6 on the board, giving me great drawing odds to my 7-high. So I raised a bet from a guy showing 76. Four callers now. I paired my board deuces on the next card while everyone else got cards higher than 8, which I actually liked because it cut down everyone else’s draws (and me look weaker). The dual benefit was that it likely made someone’s 9 or 10 high, meaning they were likely in for the duration. I hit my four on the next card, giving me a nut-7. Someone decided to bet their 976A board which I raised. Surely he knew I made my seven by now. Nope, he called. And bet the river. Which I raised after getting a 6. He called with 7652A. And complained about me hitting my six on the river, ignoring the fact that my seven already had him beat.

Razz is still very early on the learning curve for the online poker cognoscenti, and, now that I’ve had time to reflect on it, I might try to take advantage for the next few months. I did much the same thing last year when Omaha-8 first burst onto the online poker scene. Very little analysis is available on Razz and early adopters (and adapters) should be able to pick off some of the toe-dippers that are starting to discover the “new” game in town.

Some more quick hits from the nobody-asked-me file:

· This is my official legal declaration that if I should be declared brain-dead or in a “persistent vegetative state” by multiple doctors, you should pull my feeding tube immediately. Then, do what the Indian did to Jack Nicholson in “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.

· And it’s none of my parents’ business. Nor should Congress give a rat’s ass about prolonging my life while hundreds are dying in Iraq and thousands are starving in the US.

· Hey, I came in third in a 100+ person Razz tournament on FTP (my first Razz tourney ever). I actually had the chip lead for a while before losing it with a made 8 to a rivered 7. I followed that up with a made 7 losing to a rivered 6. Oh well, I think I understand the mechanism of the bring-in and complete a little better now, and how to steal antes with relative impunity. Razz is too mechanical and slow for me, but it’s nice to add one more arrow to my online quiver.

· Now I’ve won money in tournaments for 7-stud, Razz, Limit Hold’Em, Pot Limit Hold’Em, No limit Hold’Em, and Omaha-8. Of course, that means I’ve also lost money in all of those types except Razz. I just need to cash in Stud-8 and Omaha-hi and my life will be complete.

· Three more days before I take my family on vacation. I’m totally short-timing it right now at work. Of course, it may or may not be especially intelligent to book a FAMILY vacation to Cancun at the end of Spring Break. Maybe this will give me a chance to teach my son about drunken coeds…

· Coaching Little League is tough. Getting 12 preteens to play baseball properly and act as a team is akin to training hummingbirds to fly in formation. The hardest part is the lack of parental assistance. Before I agreed to coach this year, I was always the “volunteer” parent/coach who would hit fungoes, warm up pitchers, throw the occasional BP, etc. Now that I’m coach, I’m still doing all that, and I have very little help from the other dads.

One dilemma I have is that the one dad who has volunteered to help out doesn’t know shit about baseball. Some of the kids have complained that he’s confusing them with his goofy advice on how to throw (“Point your toes downward to throw”), hit (“You need to have your elbow behind your head”), and field (sometimes re-positioning fielders that I have positioned), etc. I don’t want to discourage him since I need him to help organize the kids, but it’s a huge trade-off since he isn’t shy about sharing his warped view of how to play the game.

I’m a great believer in letting the kids play the game according to their own styles. I never believed there was one overriding method of hitting or throwing. So I won’t make a kid change his batting stance or throwing motion, though I might suggest adjustments. I’m more of the theory that consistency and repetition leads to mastery, so I’ll have him hit a gazillion balls with his batting stance until he knows exactly how to hit using his own way. Or I’ll have him throw a gazillion balls to develop consistency in arm slot and accuracy. Most of them have been playing baseball for six or seven years (Majors is 11 and 12 year olds) and two months of practice isn’t enough time to change someone’s fundamentals that have been ingrained.

So when we drafted players, we drafted players that already seemed to have good fundamentals, and could be developed (not re-molded). Other coaches picked big players, we picked small, smart, fundamentally sound players. So far, based on four or five scrimmages, we should be contending for the top spot in the league. We have the best defense in the league (by far) and strong pitching. We’ll be in a lot of 4-2, 3-1 games this year, which is more stressful for the fans and coach, but it’s better baseball than the 12-11 crap that most Little League teams feature.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Probably not a big deal to the high rollers out there, but I busted my cherry at FTP with a 20-seat SnG victory last night. OK, it was a $5+.5, but a victory nonetheless.

That makes six sites with SnG victories… UB, Party, Empire, Pacific, PokerStars, and FullTilt, which is the extent of my online deposits. I’ve looked at Daniel Negreanu’s Poker Mountain a couple of times, but there is never more than about a dozen people playing at any one time, certainly not enough to even host a small dinner party, let alone a reasonable poker tournament.

So now I’m back to being profitable at FTP after wasting money in the HORSE tournament and a couple of abortive Razz and 7-stud ventures. Play doesn’t seem to be exceptionally different from any other site, although there is considerably more trash talking and posturing. Perhaps the Tiltboy/Crew attitude has led to the degradation of poker table manners in general, or these penny-ante Hellmuths-in-training are using the site as their sandbox. Regardless, it’s almost like any other negotiation. Whoever talks first, loses.

One thing that I’m definitely improving is my positional play and pot-odds calculations, playing more speculative hands when I’m in LP (sooted connectors, even two-gappers), as well as getting away from weaker hands (pocket pairs, medium aces) in EP. This has helped me avoid the early train wrecks that were derailing me early in previous SnGs, as well as establishing an early table image as someone that will play looser hands.

I was limping with virtually ANYTHING if I was getting good preflop pot odds. One key hand was when I was SB with blinds at 25/50 with 3-4 limpers, I called with 84s (and roughly 8-1 preflop pot odds). When the BB checked, J75 with two spades flopped, and gave me flush and gutshot draws. I bet around 100 into a 250+ pot, and brought along two callers for the turn, which completed my flush. No time to dick around now, I pushed all-in and was called by AJo with the ace of spades. TPTK had seven spade outs and missed them all on the river. And I took over the chip lead, never to be relinquished.

In the past, I would NEVER have played such a weak hand, no matter the odds. I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or not, because chip stack still must be considered. I actually laid down pocket tens to a raise and re-raise all-in when we were four-handed, figuring that it wasn’t worth it to gamboool at that point. Turns out I was right because someone turned KK and hit his set. Later, three-handed, with a 3-1 chip lead over both other players, I called a re-raise all-in with 88 and caught my opponent with AK which didn’t improve.

Yes, this old dog is learning new tricks. Or at least new ways to get fed.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Excuses, excuses…

Way back when I first played poker regularly (like a hundred years ago), my high-school friends and I played a game called 7-stud, hi-lo split. Now THIS was real poker, full of complexity and deception. None of this crap about “cards speak” or any computer-generated pablum like that. At the end of the hand, you had to “declare” whether you were trying for the high pot, the low pot, or the scoop. We’d take three chips in our hands, bury our hands under the table, shift one chip into our right hand for low, two for high, three for scoop, and put our fist up onto the table. It was a very elaborate ceremony, punctuated by slamming chips onto the kitchen table, and frequent swearing.

It usually required table reading skills and deception to pull down your fair share of the pot. If your board cards were 743A, others might think that you were playing for the low pot, and be positioning themselves for the high pot. If you had rolled up aces or a low straight/flush, you could scoop a pretty sizable pot, if you had the cojones to try. You see, you had to WIN both ways outright to scoop a pot. So if two schmucks had matching wheels and both declared with three chips (scoop try), they both LOST, and you could win a full pot with complete garbage. When the “cards speak”, you don’t have that option.

This was real poker. Someone with KK/A456/Q might raise every round and declare for the low pot and probably take it down uncontested, despite having Q-high. Someone might stick around through multiple raises because he assumed the rest of the players were all going low, and that he could slip in for the high pot. Of course, we had played together almost every weekend for three or four years, so I had some pretty clear tendencies on the rest of the table.

Steve was prone to overbet just about everything, loved to bluff, classic profile of a loose-aggressive “maniac”. Note: now General Manager of a printing company and born-again Christian

Craig was shrewd, tight with his chips, and had the best card sense I’ve ever seen. Knew your cards before you did, almost played poker hands double dummy. Note: now runs his own marketing firm, always looking for new entrepreneurial opportunities

James was tight, weak, and bluffable. Would only raise with the mortal nuts, would fold if there was any doubt. If he was in, he was probably solid for one of the pots. Note: now Director of Finance for

Mike was unpredictable, liked to splash chips into the pot in inventive ways, would call bets down with little or nothing, laughed the whole time. Impossible to put on a hand. Note; now a successful dentist in Washington and born-again Christian

Todd was tight, passive, analytical. Watched faces, behaviors, and gestures as much as cards. Wouldn’t bet on draws, would bet the hell out of made hands if he thought you were on a draw. Note: now Training Specialist for a large biotech firm, part-time blogger, full-time dad, and online poker mediocrity.

Of course, none of that helps when you’re playing HORSE online with a bunch of professional and semi-professional poker players. And the rules are different. And the “cards speak”. And you’re too stupid/pigheaded to know the difference.

There, that’s my story. And I’m sticking with it.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Note to self: Don’t pay money to participate in a game where you don’t know the rules.

Note to self: The “E” in Horse stands for something…. What was it again?.... oh, EIGHT, as in Stud HiLo EIGHT.

Note to self: You don’t play limit Hold’Em well.

Well, if nothing else, the HORSE tourney last night on FTP was educational…

First hand in “H”, pocket Aces in big blind. Everyone folds to my blind. Bad sign.

Third hand in “H”, pocket sixes. Limp in with four or five others. Flop is TT6. Well, that’s nice. I think I smooth called a bet, hoping to give straight and flush draws the pot odds to come along. They didn’t, so of course I ended up with quad sixes on the river. Didn’t make much money. I hate limit poker.

Table was tight… painfully so. Damn bloggers anyway. I was getting great hands and nobody would pay off. I knew I was in trouble if I couldn’t double up in Hold’Em since I never play stud games and I would need the cushion.

First hand in “O”, I flop a dual nut draw to the nut flush and low, and start raising immediately. Of course the turn and river are paired JJ, and my “H” winnings go bye-bye.

In “R”, I have NFI what I’m doing, but stay afloat by folding… a lot.

In “S”, I have some idea what I’m doing, but lose a big pot with AA in the hole to someone else with paired Aces, but a better kicker.

In “E”, I forget (if I ever knew, which I’m still not sure of…) that there is an eight-qualifier for low and piss away 90% of my stack on A4/4389K to a guy that clearly had the high hand. I was mightily confused when the stack of 1600 chips or so was being pushed across the table. Shit. After that, I was a dead man walking. Two hands later, I was a dead man buried.

Oh well. At least I learned something. Or not.

Props to the winners and cashers. I saw that Maudie cashed despite being shortstacked for most of the first rounds. Damn these games that require skill and experience!

Friday, March 04, 2005

With my Party bankroll at a robust $35+, I was feeling my oats and decided to risk over 30% of my wad in a SnG. Of course, since this was Party, one person exited early after losing most of his stack with QQ vs. KJ rivering a Kings-up two pair on Hand 3, and immediately going all-in on Hand 4 with JJ and running into QQ and KK. Bummer.

15 minutes in, I was the shortstack with nine players left. And this was after a pretty good laydown of ATo with a board of AKKxx when I smelled something fishy after a raise of my pulse-checking river bet. Sure enough, Kx had been slowplaying (weak-checking?) his set and boated on the river. Later, my pocket nines went unimproved against a weak-passive player with QQ (who NEVER raised), and I did well not to overplay my medium pair into Bust City.

Shortstack. Again. Stop me if you’ve heard this tune before.

I showed Mr Weak-Passive how to play a pocket pair by pushing with JJ with a 9-high board against 88, and doubled up. Now I was back to my starting stack of 800, and ready to go. I’m allowed to see a free flop in BB with four limpers with J9 and Glorioski, I see JT9 flop. I immediately priced out the straight draws with a pot-sized bet and they all dutifully fold. With seven left, I bust someone with 77 when he calls a 644 board all-in with Q9o (?). God bless Party.

Anyway, I probably play about ten hands the remainder of the time and make the final pair with a nice little 5-1 deficit (about 6700-1300), cashing a windfall of $30, almost doubling my bankroll! I need to maintain my playing discipline and not lapse into the malaise that sent my bankroll spinning downward earlier. Last year, I made the bulk of my money playing $5 and $10 SnGs with a few $20/30 thrown in, but my bread and butter is the low buy-in NLHE and O8 SnGs. Admittedly, it’s not exactly the WPT or WSOP, but it’s profitable…. And like someone said (Sklansky?), the goal is to MAKE MONEY.

My goal is to parlay my Party cash or Pacific cash (currently $54 at Party, $100 at Pacific) to $200+. If I can do that, I’ll pull $100 from that site to Neteller and slide it over to FTP to try it out.

And not that anyone axed me, but the June 4th blogger tourney, while an intriguing thought, is probably a no-go for me. I’m coaching Little League and we have a 4:30 game that day. If the tourney starts after 9pm or so, I can catch a quick flight and play.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Warning: Self-congratulatory poker content ahead!

I’d been losing money lately on Party. Yes, you read that right… LOSING at Party. I know all the bloggers talk about killing the Party fish, blah blah blah, and I am net cash-positive for my time at Party, but I had been bleeding money back for about a week. I was playing like shit, tossing away SnG buy-ins like they were beads at Mardi Gras, going all-in within the first three rounds on beatable hands, trying to bluff out calling stations (never a good idea), and chasing draws without pot odds. Small potatoes, sure, but dropping $100 in a week still sucks, especially when it’s from bad play and not bad luck.

So I found myself down to $17 in my Party account last night. My college-educated brain quickly figured that I could play a $5+1 and a $10+1, assuming the worst. I decided to start with the lower buy-in, well, just because. Anyway, Trevor (my 11-year old) wanted to sweat me since he has been banned from playing any computer or video games due to a homework fuck-up. So despite being a mediocre poker player at best, I started talking him through the hands [Remember, those who cannot do, teach. Those who cannot teach, manage. Those who cannot do, teach, or manage, end up executives.] I impressed him early by calling a couple of hands accurately, putting one guy on a K-high flush and another on a set. While I was teaching my son how to categorize other players, I was improving my read on the table. “So-and-so is a calling station. Watch the way he limps every hand.” Or “So-and-so is weak-tight, I can bluff him out.”

Basically, the entire table was an open book, partially because I was using the table as a textbook to teach my son how to THINK during a NLHE tournament. Of course, some of it was because it WAS Party and it WAS $5+1. And yes, I ran over the passive table and won the damn thing, bumping my “bankroll” to over $35. Woo hoo!

In checking back, I didn’t even have an abnormal number of premium hands. I had KK once (lost when AA5 flopped, K on turn, 5 on river for Aces full for someone who called my big pre-flop raise with A4), QQ once (held up), and AQo once. Out of 81 hands! So it’s not like the deck ran over me, I just had a good read on the table and was allowed to limp with a lot of really borderline hands.

I guess what I’m saying is that it was helpful for me to talk through my thought process as I was playing online. For early evening, I’ll continue to use my son. I may bring over a stuffed animal or my dog for post 9pm sessions, just to have someone to talk to, a friendly ear to bend regarding the various players and plays at the table. It forces me to actually defend my plays, rather than simply clicking with impunity. Of course, I’ll look like a complete moron to my family, but that’s something I can live with.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Party and Empire must be feeling a little bit of pressure from some of the other websites. Yes, I know they have eleventy-billion online poker players at any one time, but both have sent me “Money for Nothing” during the last month. Party sent $15 and Empire sent $10. For nothing. There are some bogus rake requirements for withdrawal, but I will use the money for SnGs, trying to immediately parlay their largesse into a useful amount.

My Empire account has been largely dormant recently, with most of my focus on Party and Pacific. This little bump will stake me to a quick $5+1 SnG or perhaps a couple of quick orbits at $.5/1, just to try and quickly double up to $22 to allow two $10+1 SnGs. And I’m not one to look a gift casino in the mouth, but why give away money?

I mean, there are plenty of willing [whores] players who will deposit large sums of money chasing deposit and re-deposit bonuses. Are they assuming that free poker money is like crack, and we are all addicts desperate for a poker fix? Or are they simply trying to lure people back from FullTilt, PokerStars, Pacific, et al into the Party-skin tank? Hard to say, but I know I’ll actually be firing up Empire for the first time in months tonight. So, if they’re just trying to bump their traffic, it’s working.