Monday, July 31, 2006

Back and Better Than Ever

Wow, what a great time a week away can be. And I mean totally away. Unplugged completely. No web surfing. No blogs. No internet at all in fact. It turns out there was a cyber cafe kinda place in town where my family was, but I never ended up hanging out there. Needless to say I have tons of blog reading to catch up on in the coming week as I try to figure out what the hell happened while I was away. It turns out, the poker world doesn't automatically stop when I'm not around.

Speaking of which, as a quick reminder tonight is once again the latest Mondays at the Hoy tournament at 10pmET on pokerstars:

I will be back and better than ever in the event tonight, as I look to make my triumphant return to online poker in general, and to the MATH tournament in particular, in blazing fashion by destroying the field and taking down hopefully a hefty first prize. If you read this blog, then you're playing in my weekly tournament, right?

Anyways, one of the first things I did upon my return this weekend was check out Smokkee's blog, to find out if he ever made the WSOP Main Event or not. With no posts since he left for Vegas (without his ME seat) on Thursday, I will assume he did not. That sucks. I thought for sure our man would be representing at the Main Event.

Speaking of which, my brother mentioned to me this afternoon over Hammer Wife's special hamburgers for dinner that Phil Hellmuth went out very early. I love it. He also mentioned that Doyle busted early allin preflop with 9s against someone else's 10s. That I don't love. How the F does Doyle of all people get himself allin preflop with just a pair of 9s? That is just not like him. I'll have to read up more about what's happened in the first three days of the Main Event tonight.

Oh yeah, let's talk for a minute about my buddy drraz. I see that the man again cashed in the Hoy tournament last Monday, again in my absence. What the FUCK?! As I've posted here before, the guy knows how to play. But there is no doubt that he isn't that good. There is just no excuse for all of us allowing him to consistently win like this. I think that is 5 top-3 finishes in seven attempts at the Mondays at the Hoy tournament for him. Again I ask: What The Fuck?! I may have to bounty this guy's ass again this week to help incent everyone not to play like pussies when this clown is around.

And the best part is, I talked to drraz today and he complained bitterly about his current status on pokerstars. For those of you who don't know, drraz got a little too "creative" with his trash talk a couple of weeks back in a private tournament that I managed to guess the password of. Drraz was just observing me in the event, and he decided just for fun to get so crazy rude with the guys I was playing with (those of you who play the Hoy tourney on Monday nights at 10pm will know exactly what I mean about this guy), that he got not one but two complaints registered against him for his inappropriate commentary. Long story short, about 12 hours and 25 or 30 bukkake comments later, drraz had his chat priveleges revoked by the brass at pokerstars. After a few choice emails exchanged, drraz now knows he will not be permitted to chat at all for one month, which is about two more weeks from now. As a result, even while the guy keeps winning and cashing in at the Hoy, one of the most prodigious garbage spewers of our time is unable to say anything. Anything. He wants to chat, desperately. He wants to tell us all how much he dominates us. He wants to tell us how little chance we have of ever rising up to his level. But he can't, and it's killing him. Drraz of all people, it is just killing him.

As such, drraz asked me to pass on a message to everyone here in the blog, and I am happy to oblige the guy who has won I think more than triple the amount of the second-biggest lifetime money winner in Mondays at the Hoy. Drraz wants everyone to know that he enjoys our money, he plans to continue taking it, and that, and I quote, "direct deposit is available for a small charge". I love it. And I love even more that we can taunt his ass on pokerstars, repeatedly, and he can't say a damn thing about it. So chime in and embarrass this clown in the chat Monday night in the Hoy tournament. Get your digs in now while you have the chance.

In other poker news, I wanted to pass on another online poker move that I am a big fan of. I saw this first a few weeks ago on full tilt in a game I was playing with drraz, and I think it was a really great way to F someone you really don't like on one of the online sites. There was a guy playing at drraz's table, and he was mouthing off like a real dickwad. Then, out of the blue, an observer jumps on to the table, and before you know it the observer has posted, right in the chat at the tournament table, every single note he has on this particular dickwad player. For everyone else at the table to see. And let's just say, they weren't what you'd call flattering notes on his play. And they were spot on. This note-posting move effectively ruined the dickwad's chances in this tournament, at least his chances of playing his game. It was a pretty debilitating thing to do, and, like the reverse hoy, it's completely legal according to all of the sites' rules and regulations, at least as far as the sites I play at. So that's something for you out there to keep in mind if you ever meet a real fuckbag at an online poker site, and want to do something grand and assholic to him without facing the drraz fate of one month of no chat priveleges. I like that guy's style. I like it so much that drraz and I are trying to get him to play in Mondays at the Hoy this week. Anyone with that kind of attitude is worthy of a seat in our game, at least as far as I'm concerned.

What else....Oh yeah, so I go away for a week, and it turns out that Iak has final tabled about 5 major MTTs in a week. And, as I correctly predicted just a couple of weeks ago, Wes is no longer playing cash games. Wtf?! You guys really go crazy without me to keep you in line for a week. Sheesh.

And on more thing, how could I forget that I played in a live nlh tournament at the Taj Mahal in AC during my week away. There were 138 players entered, and in the end I went out in the upper 20s somewhere, easily my best performance so far in the handful of live casino events I have played in in my life (other than the WPBT live event earlier this month, which I dominated). In the hand I lost, I was sitting with a little over half the average stack, an EP guy raised it up 3x preflop, and I looked down in MP to find TT. Pocket Tens was easily the best hand I had seen all night in about 4 hours of play, and the EP raiser had shown himself clearly to be an aggressive, if not over-aggressive, type of player who I couldn't possibly put on a hand that was ahead of mine. So I reraised him preflop to 9x the BB, hoping to take the blinds and his raise without having to see likely overcards on the flop. Sadly, a man in late position with a large stack reraised my bet allin preflop, and the first guy, the original EP raiser, quickly folded. I took one look at the guy at the end of the table, and I knew he had me dominated with a higher pair. But at that point, I had only 800 chips left and the pot contained around 6500 chips at the time, so I felt I had to call, and I guess just hope he had AK and not what I figured him for. I told my buddy who was watching that I was about to go out, made the call, and he showed me...

Pocket Aces. My old mother fucking nemesis. I have gone out of tournaments more against pocket Aces than any other hand, without a doubt. Of course I failed to improve to one of my two outs in this hand, and I went home very close to the bubble. Running into Aces, again. Fuck!

But the big take-home lesson for me from my first time in AC since my beach trip to the Jersey shore last year this very same week in July was actually something I was very surprised and interested to see. Remember, in July 2005 I had not yet started playing online poker. Other than the 2005 bloggers freeroll on pokerstars, I had never even looked at any online poker site. Now, probably 250,000 online poker hands later, I was back for my first live action against random casino players in a year, since just before I embarked on this whole online poker thing. And you know what? After honing my skills reading other players online, basically learning to excel at gathering information solely from betting patterns, it turns out that, at least for me, it is easy as balls to get reads on random players in a live poker setting. Laughably easy. I mean, I've got the betting patterns thing down pat, but on top of that, I get to watch these guys (through my sunglasses of course -- much like Jordan when he plays live games, I am all about creating an image for the other players to glom on to, and then exploiting that image, in this case that I am a young internet pro who will push with garbage and basically get beat down if the others will simply call my aggressive bets). Anyways, I get to watch not only the betting patterns, but their mannerisms, how they react when they first look at their hole cards, when the flop first comes down, etc. It's almost not fair. I had everyone at my table labeled fairly well within maybe 30 minutes. That guy is tighty-whitey. That guy calls with draws on the flop against poor pot odds. This guy will call a lot of bets and raises preflop, but then quickfold against any showing of aggression on the flop unless the flop slammed into his pocket cards. This chick honestly is as bad and as inexperienced as she looks. It was so easy, it was like taking candy from a baby. And it all led me to my best showing in a live nlh tournament AC in my entire life to date, including my knowing from one look at the guy who eliminated me that I was behind when I went out, but I had to call anyways due to the pot odds and my somewhat short stack. Anyways, that aspect was a really great experience for me. Live poker is almost unfair how clear of reads you can get on people, if you really know what you're doing. And it's clear as day that thousands upon thousands upon thousands of "training" hands online, where you only have betting patterns alone to rely on for your reads, is an extremely beneficial exercise to anyone who takes playing live poker tournaments seriously.

OK that's all, other than to say that I'm glad to be back, and excited for tonight's MATH tournament to get here. I just can't wait to tell an impotent drraz in the chat that he blows goats while I knock his ass out of the tournament now that I'm back in da house and ready to roll. God how I love it when someone else's chat priveleges are suspended instead of mine.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Vacation Post

That's right everyone. The Hammer Family is going to the beach next week. I will be bringing my computer, but as far as I am told, there is no internet access at our beach house. That means there likely won't be any updates here during next week.

As I said, however, I am still bringing my computer. If I find somewhere convenient with internet access, I will try to post. And, in my ever-present optimism, I am still hoping to show up there and find at least a wireless network I can hack onto if not some form of internet access at the house itself. I mean, it's 2006. Who the F doesn't even have the internet in their house? Sheesh.

Now I have a slight bone to pick this morning. Let me start by saying that I absolutely love what Byron has done with the WPBT tournaments and leaderboard. I've posted about that here many, many times. As I've said, I love the WPBT events, I look forward to playing in them, and, probably saddest of all, I really actually care about how I do in them. For whatever reason, since the beginning it has been very important to me to do well in the WPBT race, and I have taken every single event I've played in seriously. I'm so glad that Byron has taken the time and effort to keep running track of bloggers' performance in a whole series of holdem and non-holdem poker tournaments, and I've had a great time in each event, bar none.

Now, after all that disclaimer, why do I have a bone to pick with Biggestron this morning? Because I checked out the finally updated WPBT POY leaderboard on his site last night, and found that, after my impressive 18th-place finish in the event last week, I somehow dropped in the standings from 11th place to 14th place. Now, I'm not typically one to make sweeping generalizations about things I actually know nothing about, but in this case that is Absoeffinglutely Redonkulous.

First of all, let's look at the players ahead of me in the race, as I was in 11th place going into the live wpbt event two weekends ago at the Caesar's Palace poker room in Las Vegas. I personally eliminated StB, well before the money positions of the top 30 slots for the WPBT race. Second-place Lucko didn't play in the event, nor did Lifesagrind in 5th place. Gracie in 5th place failed to cash in the live event, as did SoxLover, and Drizz didn't make it out to Vegas to play. Tony Soprano (aka Cracknaces) was busted early from the live event, and Blood couldn't make it out either. In fact, the only guy who had been in the top 10 players before Vegas and who finished higher than I did there was StatiKling.

Now let's look at the other guys who did do well in the live WPBT event. F-Train won the event. He wasn't even on the WPBT list before the live event. Pii came in second place, another guy who also was nowhere to be found on the WPBT board. Esteemed poker author DoubleAs was in the top five of the live event as well, but he was in 26th place prior to the live event and thus way out of the WPBT's top ten. Other final tablers as I recall included Donkeypuncher, who was near the very bottom of the WPBT list going in, Change100 as well ended near the bottom of the top 10 in the event, and Bobby Bracelet also made the WPBT final table but also was down near the bottom of the WPBT standings before Vegas. These players also were not near the WPBT top 10 prior to the event. So the few people who did better than me in the live event were not near me in the WPBT standings heading in, and the people who were ahead of me on the WPBT board did nowhere near as well as me in the WPBT live event, with the exception of Mr. Kling. So I'm thinking I have to have moved up here, from 11th place prior to the live tournament, to probably something like 7th ot 8th place.

Instead, I log in this morning and see that I am down to 14th. Huh? Can't be. Then I look a little deeper, and a guy like F-Train who wasn't even on the list prior to the event, is now up to 11th place overall? Whaaaa? Pii, having played in only one event, is in 26th place overall? Not cool. How do you play 10 events over several months, and then a guy plays in his first event, comes in 2nd place in that one event, and is in 26th place out of 140-some players? And a guy who wasn't even on the list, comes in an wins one event, and is suddenly in 11th place. No way. Byron, you gotta change that. I couldn't say enough how much I love what you've done with the whole WPBT thing. But in this case, no way. One event can't possibly count as much as 10 events and 10 solid finishes by other players. Please tell me I'm just misreading this thing.

OK I'll post again when I can. Have a great week if I don't chat you before then.

**UPDATE: Byron has come through again, very quickly notifying me today that he had in fact failed to add in my points from the live WPBT event. So now I'm up to 7th place in the overall WPBT standings, and 5th overall in the points-per-event standings. That's more like it. And Byron updated the shizz about an hour after I posted on his blog this morning. Now that is service. Anyways, I still question how coming in 2nd place in the one event can be worth so much as to get Pii into 26th place after just one event played, or how F-Train can jump a million spots into 11th place overall with just the one win and only one other WPBT event played (did he even cash in that event?). But I guess I don't care as much, as long as I am back in the top ten ;)

Thanks Byron for your quick response. He runs a tight ship over there at the WPBT headquarters.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Another Day, Another Blogger Race Lost

Yep. It happened to me again last night. I made it about halfway through the Mookie's 50-person field last night, and then I reraised Jules allin preflop with a short stack and holding AKo. Everyone else folded, and Jules thought for about 2 seconds, and then called, flipping over JJ. Good call by Jules I'm sure, as I would have been likely to make this move with TT, 99 and maybe even 88, and I guess conceivably with 77, all of which Jules is an 80% favorite over. Or I could make the move with AK or AQ, which she is a 51% favorite. So clearly calling with those Jacks is the right move. But I was in fact just a 49-51 underdog when the cards flipped, and for the the 4th time in the three blogger events I've played in this week, my stack was decimated by me losing a race. Oh well. At least I know that all three times, I was the one doing the pushing allin, not the other way around. That's the way I want to be playing my game, yknow? Aggression still wins in this game, in all its variants in fact, so that's where I want to be.

Which leads me to the real topic of my post today. Yesterday I made it 9 profits out of 10 sessions of stud hilo cash after the Mookie ended for me (congratulations to Tripjax for taking that tournament down in a big way, having held the lead through more than half of the tournament as far as I could tell). This time I even had my boys drraz and jeciimd there with me to see the action, and even to donate a little to my cause.

The link between holdem and stud hilo here is, as I said above, the key to all the major poker games of which I am aware -- Aggression. Aggro or no go. That's my motto. Or it would be if I hadn't just made it up and didn't think it was pretty ghey now that I actually read it. But seriously. Aggression is king in Holdem, there is no doubt about that. All the great players are out there, betting at pots when they have nothing but are confident no one else has anything worth defending either. Bluff-raising with nothing on occasion to deter stealing and restealing. Betting their drawing hands aggressively. That is what truly playing winning Holdem is all about. And the exact same is true about being a winning hilo player as well.

A perfect example of how aggression pays off in stud hilo was this hand, near the beginning of my playing session last night on pokerstars:

Having not bet out on the fourth street, this player hits a Jack on 5th street, and now suddenly he bets out. That tells me he must be going high. So what do I do, with what is basically a nothing, worthless hand here? I raised it up. Why? Because I had three clubs showing, and had opened for half a bet on third street, and had bet out after my opponent's opening check on fourth street. So I figure there is no way this guy can't fear my three clubs showing at this point, and I have him on a high hand because he did not bet out until "catching bad" for low with his Jack on 5th street. I expected he might fold here, but figured he might not since it only costs him another $2 bet to see 6th street, but at the least I knew I was setting this guy up such that if I made another open club on 6th street, or he caught a worthless card, I was going to double-bet him again and he would have to fold. This is a perfect example of an aggressive play, where my actual hand is more or less terrible here and almost surely behind his, but where I think I can set up my opponent to fold and allow me to scoop the entire pot on a later straight. It's really very similar to limping in with Kh6h in holdem, the flop brings Ah9h3s, and you bet out on the flop after three checks to you. You're betting your draw, you don't have anything yet and are likely behind, at least to anyone holding an Ace, and yet you bet it, hoping to either win the pot right there, or to be able to bet someone out of the pot (or hit your draw) on the turn or the river.

So 6th street comes in the hand above (my opponent called my raise on 5th street above), and for me it's basically a dream card:

You will notice that this guy led out again, when he presumably open-paired his Aces to go along with his split pair of Jacks for a two pair. And at this point, I had to raise again. I had raised him with an obvious high hand on 5th street, representing a flush with my three clubs on the board, and now I made a fourth club. He doesn't know that I'm full of shite with the flush business, and given my betting, I think it was a hideous move on his part to lead out again with what was most likely two pairs, against what he had to think was a made flush at this point. So he led out, and I raised him again. Shockingly, he called me again, at that point presumably just hoping to make a boat on 7th street, or something (I never can understand these hilo players at the $1-$2 level).

And here was 7th street:

Talk about a miracle card! Notice, finally it dawned on this guy that I must have a flush, as he checked to me, I bet my made flush on 7th street, and he had to call:

and I took down a huge pot for this game. Now, mind you if I had not hit my long shot flush on 7th street, I would have ended up losing this big pot to what I'm sure was his two pairs. But, that doesn't change the fact that I liked my play, especially when I made the 4th open club on 6th street. Any reasonably skilled player would have had to fold his hand at that point. Aggression is key.

Another great aspect of the aggressive nature of good hilo play is betting out, even if you don't love your hand right now, when your board is either the clear highest or the clear lowest of the remaining players (and there are more than two total players left in the hand). In other words, if you have KQA2 (with only the A and the 2 showing), and another player is in with xx3K, and a third player with xx7J. Yes, you know you don't have shite for low. But they don't know that. All they see is a guy who called a bet on 3rd street, and clearly now looks like he's building a great low hand. And they both just caught bad, so my board is significantly better for low than both of their hands that are visible right now. Here is a great opportunity to bet. It gets (at least) one of those players out of the hand in most cases, which increases your chances of winning the hand in and of itself, and it also has a chance of chasing out both players, if they don't like what they have for high, and they know I have an Ace showing (for a possible split pair of Aces already).

There are lots of examples of just this kind of play:

Here is a situation where I actually figured I was currently ahead on both the high (pair of 5s) and the low (three card low so far) here, so I bet out, even though I don't exactly have much of a hand yet here. My opponent quick-folded after this play:

Similarly, here is another situation where my opponent quick-folded to my betting out on fourth street, when I had 2 cards to a low and a possible straight showing, and I guessed (correctly, it turns out) that my opponent had nothing but a busted low draw when that King fell on 4th:

Next is a great example of a hand where I figured I was probably behind, at least on the low side and probably going both ways, on 4th street, but I went ahead and led out anyways. Why? Because my board was the lowest, lower than even the guy to my left with the 72 showing. I had an A6 showing, so that could be not only a low hand but a very good low hand. The guy to my left thought for a few seconds, clearly (to me) indicative of him having one more decent low card underneath (but not two more, or he likely would have called to see one more card to him and me here), and decided he had to fold his drawing hand. And then the other opponent also folded because he had just "busted" his low with the 9 on 4th street, and didn't want to go up against my Ace showing for high (a correct hilo decision, in my view). So again, in all of these examples, I am betting without much of (or in some cases, any) real hand to speak of, and yet I am doing it in controlled, planned ways and in the proper strategic context, and I am winning a lot of small pots in so doing where I didn't really have anything, but neither did anyone else. Does that sound like the way I play any other poker games to anyone out there? Exactly:

This is another very similar hand to the one immediately above, where I had not much showing on the board, but figured that my AK in the hole was probably, at this point in the hand, the best high hand out there. So, I bet at it with 3 players in the pot:

In this case, the play had the desired result as the guy to my left quickly folded, leaving my other opponent up top to fight for the low, and I ended up pairing my Kings to take down the high part of the pot. And who knows if the guy to my left would have beaten that pair of Kings for high if I had allowed him to stick around. Instead I won 4 or 5 dollars by making a solid, aggressive play early where I felt I likely had an avantage, and that advantage seemed vulnerable if I continued to let others stick around and see more cards.

Here is a solid pot I won when I made a very well-concealed low hand, and played it along the way as if I was going high all along. This enabled me to put in a stealth raise on the end, and get the crying call from an opponent who might even have known at that point he had lost:

Another $19 and change to my stack:

God how I love seeing that "Muck" on someone else's avatar on pokerstars.

Lastly, I will end today with this hand, probably my favorite hand from last night's hilo action, not only because it was a large pot to me, but because I nabbed a good $10 from drraz, the formerly successful Hoy tournament player, by playing aggressively with what started out as an excellent drawing hand and ended up flourishing into a downright kickass hilo hand for me. Things started innocently enough, with me calling with a great low hand on 3rd street:

Notice btw this is one of my hilo secrets -- I very rarely raise it up on 3rd street. Although I will raise with the true monster starting hands in this game -- rolled up trips, or three suited low cards with straight possibilities -- in most cases, in general I like to disguise my other good starting hands by usually only limping in. So here I am in the pot early, I've got an excellent starting hand, and yet no one can really put me on nearly as excellent of a hand as I have, because I limp all the time in this game.

This deception comes in very handy, when on 4th street I hit a high card, and one that is suited, and then I call a $1 bet with that:

Here, I figured that my AJ probably gave me the highest high hand right now, and plus deep down I also knew I still had a very solid low draw, so the call with two players already in, and with two of the three players still alive in the hand both pretty clearly going low, was pretty automatic here when you take an aggressive standpoint.

On 5th street, I got a 2, giving me 4 cards to a very solid 6 low. The player on my left had picked up an open pair of 9s on 5th street, so he bet out, drraz just called, and I just called too even though I had this great drawing hand for low. This play worked because I had already bet out from the get-go as if I was working on a high hand, maybe a possible flush, etc. So I thought it made sense here to feign a lack of strength, take one more card and see where I'm at before pounding it with what would hopefully seem like a lot of deception about what kind of hand I was on.

Then on 6th street, Drraz picked up an 8, giving him 2478 on his board showing, for an obvious low. But I nailed my 6, making me the 6-low that I had been after, and basically almost ensuring me the low end of the pot (drraz would have had to have been absolutely perfect underneath, and have caught perfect on 7th street as well, in order to beat me with a 6-4 low). So when the player to my left, who had two 9s showing, bet out on 6th street, drraz made the mistake of raising it up to try to isolate and get me and my potential low hand out. And this was where I sprung the trap, re-reraising it to 6 with what I more or less knew to be the better low hand:

Thanks to my aggression and deception earlier in the hand, drraz clearly didn't know what to make of this play, so he just called. My only regret is that the player going high to my left did not have the good sense to cap it there at 8, putting drraz in the middle and getting an extra $2 for each of us on this round of betting. But you know, you can't make the fish play well, you just have deal with what they bring to the table, so what can you do. And incidentally, I also liked this raise here by me, because I had a draw at an inside straight that I had reason to believe would beat the two-pairs that the guy on my left was most likely working on at that point. If I had hit the 3 on the river, I had a great chance of scooping the whole pot, and I already knew I had the low half more or less locked up as it was, so that extra raise by me there was pure freeroll. In the end, I did not make the inside straight, but I did take the low half of what had grown to be a pretty good-sized pot, and sent drraz to grumble to me on the girly chat about how he needs to learn this game better.

In all, another winning session of hilo and I'm not going to complain one bit about that. Hopefully this has been illustrative for those of you who are interested in learning about some other poker variants. At the least I hope it shows clearly again how aggression is the name of the game when it comes to most poker games, in particular online and at the $1-$2 limits.

I might be able to do the WWdN Not tonight, but it may be unlikely. This is Hammer Wife's birthday today, and we're going out to a fattay dinner and who knows what else after that. Heh heh. Either way I'll be back tomorrow for my final post before a week's vacation at the beach. But more on that tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Random Poker Thoughts

Well, Hammer Wife really needed to use the computer to plan for our upcoming week at the beach, but I went ahead and registered for the WWdN anyways. Then even before it started it was clear that I really didn't have time to play last night. So I played like a true donkey, basically offering up my chips with my poorly-timed allin reraises with nothing to whoever was ready to step up to be the first to call me down. I actually managed to last maybe 15 or 20 minutes, and somehow once again I was beaten to the punch by not one but two other jackasses players who somehow managed to sneak out of the tournament literally just seconds before I did. For the life of me I can't remember who it was who called my hoy on the river with Kx on a board of AKQxx, but hey more power to ya, you got me there.

One props I will give was to Hacker59, who played his usual aggressive game, and showed me something when he hoy-raised me on a flop of 567 rainbow, and I folded my AJ, only to have Hacker show his KJ. Nice play, Hacker. That one went straight into the notes. I should sell those things someday, I really should. Some enterprising blogger out there would be willing to pay me something for notes on how all of you play, wouldn't they? There's got to be someone. Which bloggers would be most apt to pay for that list? Hmmmm. Well it's got to be one of the guys who plays in most of these blogger tournaments, to make it worth their while. And they'd have to have some kind of a bankroll, because my notes ain't gonna come cheap. Let's see....

Iakaris really loves the blogger events. He seems to make it to most of the Hoys, WWdNs, Mookies and WWdN Nots. And he loves his fellow bloggers, and would really enjoy consistently winning in these blogger events. And, the guy is a doctor, so you know he has the bank. Iak is a definite possibility.

Smokkee is another potential candidate. I don't actually know the size of Smokkee's poker bankroll, but let's just say that I've seen him win $3500 by bubbling in an event, and not even seem to care. Thirty Five Hundred Dollars. The guy didn't even flinch. He was pure pissed at bubbling, and didn't even seem to care about the dollars. 3500 of them. So the guy's gotta have the bank. And for a guy who brings the pain in terms of smack chat as much as Smokkee, you know he would get great use out of notes on how all the other bloggers play.

I suppose you can never really count out Waffles when you're dealing with something like this. I mean, I never know where his bankroll is at, what with the constant playing of 42o and the truly unbridled aggression at other times, so I guess I can't say whether he'd be able to pay what I would charge for my complete set of blogger notes. But when you take shit-talking to an art form, those notes can always come in handy and would provide a constant opportunity to take advantage of players' weaknesses and really get some good comments in.

Anyways, there are lots of potential suitors out there, so one never knows when I may decide to leave the game forever, and make some money on my way out by setting someone up to beat up on the bloggers for ever more.

OK a few more quick items today. Felicia has a great post about the various forms of poker that are commonly played. Her comments on each of the games, and her thoughts about them and the differences between them, are valuable, spot-on, and for the most part very interesting if you're someone who is into variations other than just Holdem. And, if I can weigh in with my commentary here, I am going to agree with Felicia and the many other poker pros out there who say that, if you truly want to take your poker game to the next level and be generally regarded as a top player of the game of poker, you ought to play more than just Holdem, or more than just any one variant of the game. Not to mention how much fun a changeup can be from your usual Holdem games, all the time.

Lastly, CJ posted a comment to my post yesterday that I thought gave rise to an interesting distinction. I had said in yesterday's entry how I thought that the two plays that cost me my chips in the Hoy tournament from Monday night were both negative EV plays. I went out of my way not to call these "bad" poker plays, because frankly I don't necessarily think they were. But I do think they were -EV plays over the long term. CJ's comment essentially stated that he thought both plays made sense, and why would I call them bad plays. The answer is that I did not call them bad plays, and I don't regard them as such. Just negative EV plays, which I'm going to stick with, in particular with respect to the first play that was made against me. Basically, a player in MP raised it up 3x preflop, and then I reraised allin preflop from LP with pocket 9s. This player than called my allin reraise with AQo. And promptly hit two Queens on the board and took significant chippage from me. CJ's comment was that the player was short-stacked, and basically already had a significant portion of his stack invested in the hand when I reraised preflop, such that AQ was a perfectly acceptable push hand given this player's low M. I agree. That's why I'm not calling it a "bad play". Maybe it was the right play, given this player's M. But, calling preflop allins from a guy like me who almost never goes allin with a big stack with a hand that is worse than AQ. There is almost nothing that player could have put me on that would have his AQ in the lead. Maybe he was ok pushing due to a low M with a hand like AQ. But that is a desperate push. It's based on having a low M, not on being a good situational play.

To use an extreme example, imagine that player had 1000 chips remaining, was holding pocket Queens, and raised a pot from the BB of 200 up to 900 from first position. Then imagine if 6 other players all call this 4.5x raise, such that 7 players total are seeing the flop. The flop then comes AAK. Our first player basically knows he is going to lose here. With 6 callers of his preflop raise, at least one of them if not several are holding an Ace of some kind, and the rest are probably holding at least a King. His QQ is way, way behind here and likely drawing to just two outs. Nonetheless, since he only has 100 chips remaining and the pot is nearly 6000 chips at this point, pushing in that last 100 chips is clearly the "right" move. But it's also very obviously a negative EV move, since he knows he is going to lose this hand unless one of the remaining two Queens in the deck hits the board. His odds are terrible, it's a desperate push, but one that makes sense given his stack size and the amount of chips already in the pot. So the 100-chip push on the flop makes sense. But it's not a +EV move. It is in fact a decidedly -EV move.

This is the only distincition I was trying to make about what happened to me in the Hoy on Monday night. Someone on a short stack made a -EV call of my allin reraise preflop when holding just AQo, a hand that cannot reasonably be expected to be ahead of anything I would reraise allin with preflop. That's not a positive EV move, even if he more or less "had" to do it because he was on a very short stack and AQ is a push-worthy hand for his low M. So a play can be both the "correct" play chip-wise, but also a negative EV play, at the same time, and in my view the two are not mutually exclusive.

That's all for today. I didn't get to play other than a few minutes of hyper-aggro WWdN last night, but I look forward to playing in the Mookie tonight at 10pm ET on pokerstars. Password is "vegas1" as always. You should all know that the Mookie has, over the last few weeks, basically become the blogger tournament of the week every week, as it has recently surpassed even the WWdN as the largest regular weekly gathering of bloggers and non-bloggers (who like to play with bloggers). If you like playing with a bunch of guys who are funny, trash-talky and yet who really know their stuff about the game of Holdem, the Mookie is definitely the place for you to be tonight at 10pm ET. See you there!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Poker Night

Turned out, Monday night was online poker night at the Hammer Household. I didn't know this was on the schedule for the evening, and in fact I didn't get on to the pc until maybe 4 or 5 minutes before the Mondays at the Hoy tournament was scheduled to start at 10pm ET. I'm going to take you through my night, as close to chronologically as I can, as I multitabled bigtime throughout what proved to be my longest and most profitable session playing poker online in several weeks. A few days ago I wrote about potentially turning a corner after a protracted losing streak. After last night, my confidence is definitely at a recent high. And I think an unberpost is in order as a result.

When I logged on at around 9:55pm ET on Monday evening, I was very pleased to see a new record turnout for the MATH tournament. In the end we had 38 players, easily surpassing the old record of 31 from a few weeks ago, although I guess I'm not sure how much if any of that was because of the $10 buyin to the event. To be completely honest, that was merely a mistake on my part, and I didn't even realize I had made it $10 instead of $20 until I looked at the total prize pool as the tournament began and noticed the pussy level it was sitting at. 300-some dollars? Come on. So anyways that is my mistake, but to the extent it contributed to bringing together 38 bloggers and blogger wannabes to play some poker, it's all good with me. A few of the notable first-timers that showed up to play the Hoy last night included Bobby Bracelet, Donkey Puncher, and Iggy even managed to find a stepladder to get his head up to the registration counter, so I was thrilled to welcome these old school bloggers into the fold for the first but hopefully not the last time.

Despite the bad run I've been on lately in the large mtts, while I'm waiting for the MATH to start, I stared in horror as my finger quickly darted the cursor over to the ftp 20k, clicked "register", and boom. Apparently I was also playing in the 20k last night. Ok. I'm still not sure why that happened, but something I didn't mention is that over the weekend, I managed to more than double up in the first hour of the party 40k. Sure, I was still gone before the first break, but this literally was my first double-up from my original stack size in any large mtt (more than 100 people, say) in about three weeks. So if you can believe it I guess I left that 40k with some confidence, managing to last all of 50 minutes but at one point having over 7500 chips as compared to my starting stack of 3000. That's how bad things have been for me lately, and I imagine that must have contributed to my body taking control away from my mind and force-clicking its way into the 20k last night.

While all this was going on, a few minutes before 10 as well, a buddy I work with also hit me on the girly chat, to see if I wanted to play some cash nlh. Now you all know my feelings on nlh cash games. I should like them, I should be dominatory at them. But I don't. And I'm not. I typically manage to get stacked repeatedly every time I play, mostly because eventually I get sucked in against a guy who's hit a monster either preflop or on the flop. Anyways, I haven't multi-tabled three tables like this in several days, I've been feeling like I've been turning a corner lately, I doubled up in the 40k last weekend, so I figured why not. I got on the waiting list at the $.10 / $.25 nlh cash table he was on (that's right that's the limits I'm playing. You don't like it, get the funk out.) at full tilt and waited for that to let me in. The 15 minutes or so I sat on that waiting list gave me some time to get settled into the 20k, and especially the Hoy as I looked for hopefully a soft-ish starting table to be able to be aggressive early.

Instead, I got this to start the Hoy:

Let's review. In clockwise order, we've got perennial blogger tournament casher GScott, the recently very hot in blogger tourneys KJ, a guy who's played more live poker in the past year than I've probably played in the last 10 years Weak, me, the immutable Waffles, the most aggressive Canadian poker player I know in Guin, the always willing to reraise me with nothing and also recent hot blogger tournament casher SoxLover and NewinNov, whom I don't know a lot about but whom has cashed in at least one of the last couple MATH tournaments. To me, this is, without exaggeration, the toughest starting table I've ever sat at. No doubt. I took one look at this, and for the first time I really thought it was going to be basically impossible to really play my game. And I loved it. As I've said many times here, I love the high level of competition that these blogger events create, when you really get to know how everyone else plays their game.

About 30 minutes into the Hoy event, I had my first big hand (I had eliminated LamarVannoy early on, but as I recall he just moved in preflop against my better hand, and it was an easy call for me), this one against Waffles. Weak limped in from EP with the blinds at 25/50, and I raised it up to 170 when I looked down to find pocket Aces. Waffles called my raise from MP, everyone else folded, and we saw a raggy flop of 753. The pot size was 465. I bet out 300 with what I was fairly sure had to be the best hand, unless Waffles had nailed trips, a highly unlikely possibility. I figured that my 2/3 pot bet would make an astute fellow like Waffles believe I was weak. Waffles complied with my jedi mind trick, raising me with what I figured at this point was some kind of medium pocket pair, but I believed he would have smooth called if he had had trips:

By the time Waffles made this raise, I knew he was pot-committed, so I went ahead and moved him allin there, which he had to call, although I figure at that point he probably knew he had just made a mistake. My Aces held up against his pocket 10s, and I was doubled and Waffles was out. It's always a pleasure knocking out Waffles. I can't explain it, but you know what I mean when you get to experience it for yourself.

Eventually, with a sizeable chip lead, I got moved to this new table, another really fun one to be at:

Here we're looking at 6-grand Bodog winner Wes, new pokerworks blogger cc, the artist formerly known as tight Gary Cox, new poker blogger Meanhappyguy (welcome to you), my usual ATM user in the Hoy Monday night tournament ShadowTwin, DADI organizer Jordan, me, KJ and freak nasty daddy of triplet girls JJ.

Just after this table change, I won my first big pot at the cash nlh table with my buddy from work. And I did it with pocket Aces, my second of the night already as I multitabled on three tables from nearly as soon as I logged on:

This had to be my biggest hand win in several months in an online nlh cash game. Again, that's how sad my performance has been of late, and how rarely I manage to hit big hands when I have played. Then, about 10 minutes later, I had my first big hand of the night in the ftp 20k, and this one was huge as it took me from well below average about an hour into the event, and vaulted me to just above average and right back into the thick of things for what was already my best, deepest large mtt run in over a month:

My opponent for some reason pushed on me when he held just a King, so again this was an easy call for me, especially with the top kicker to go with my trips. No way I was putting him on KK or KT there, so I figured my third nuts had to be good, and it was.

About 10 or 15 minutes after my big move up in the ftp 20k, the Hoy turned into a battle of the races for me, and I came down on the wrong side of both of them. First, KJ called my allin reraise preflop with just AQo. Not a +EV poker move in my view, especially given that I had pocket 9s and was a slight favorite, but it worked for KJ here:

Blech. Then, about five hands later, I again got allin preflop, this time with my AK the slight underdog to Meanhappyguy's pocket 8s, who made another allin call with his 88 in what I also believe is a -EV poker decision over the long run, and in that case, again, my opponent's hand held up:

And that's how it goes in tournaments. You gotta win some races, period. If you're not in many races, in particular as the tournament progresses to its later stages, then you're not playing aggressive enough. And if you don't win the key ones, you go home, period. Over five hands, I went from 4th place in the Hoy to out in 18th place because a 51% favorite and then a 49% dog both failed to hold up, and in both cases my opponents put too much faith in my known aggressive style and called me with hands that they thought could be significantly ahead. Sucks, but what are you gonna do. I still have failed to cash in the Hoy, now out of 7 tries once I invited the bloggers to play, though I guess I shouldn't be too surprised given how things have gone for me lately.

And congratulations to Astin for taking down the MATH tournament last night, after holding the chip lead for the majority of the last 90 minutes or so of the event:

Congrats in fact to all of our five cashers last night, Astin, as well as four other bloggers who have all been on hot streaks lately when it comes to the blogger events: GScott, KJ, Skidoo and NewinNov. Sorry again for the smaller buyin, and next week's Hoy tournament on Monday night at 10pm ET will be back to the normal $20 buyin level.

Meanwhile, just minutes after my untimely elimination at the Hoy, I stacked another opponent in my cash nlh game:

When my buddy decided to call it a night shortly after this hand, I left as well, with my final tally here, up over $22 from my initial max buyin of $25:

For me, nearly doubling my buyin at a nlh cash game is just about equally rare as me winning $10,000 in a large multitable tournament. I was loving it, and really liked that my friend from work was there to see it. Don't tell him if you see him -- he probably thinks I know how to play no-limit holdem cash games!

OK so at this point my night was at a bit of a crossroads. It was around 11:40pm ET or so, and so it was getting late for a working stiff like me. That said, I had had quite a bit of fun playing the cash nlh game, and seeing as I was still in the ftp 20k with just under the average stack size, I figured what the hey, might as well play some more poker. So, my hometown buddy and four-time Hoy casher drraz had just been eliminated from the Hoy tournament as well, and he and I decided to enter an Israel war token sng on full tilt (is that cheap google search value or what?). At the same time, I finally gave in to the enticing pull that had been nipping at me all night since I first sat down to play the MATH and the 20k -- I jumped on a $1-$2 limit stud hilo game, and bought in for the recommended $40 as I typically do. As I've written about over the past week, I have won in 7 of the 8 stud hilo sessions I have played in online since returning from Blogger Vegas and enjoying the $2-$4 HORSE games so much with the bloggers at the MGM Grand. I couldn't resist, so I jumped on, and quickly ran into more of the usual fishmongers that I've become so accustomed to, and that my bankroll has become so addicted to, of late.

I quickly got into a pot against a guy who was on massive tilt. Kolg8 reminded me of, well, me, several months ago. He was typing incessantly into the chat that he couldn't win a hand no matter what. How he was the best player at the table but hasn't hit shizz all night long. He was predicting his losses before they happened on every hand he played. As most of us know, a guy focusing on that stuff and with that attitude is a sitting duck to make some dumb plays, and I took advantage early. He was showing a low hand, and kept calling me even after I made an open pair of Jacks on 5th street, (and had another wired pair already as well, unbeknownst to Kolg8). Eventually we showed, and it turned out he did not make his low, but hit two pairs 4s and 3s instead, which my Jacks over 6s scooped a nice pot to start things off right in this session as well:

Then, check out this hand I hit in the ftp 20k just before the second break:

Royal Fucking Flush baybeee! I've hit one or two before, but never this late into a large mtt. What a thrill. And this hand got me right back up near the average chip stack with only around 200 players remaining out of the nearly 1200 who had started the 20k two hours earlier, and 108 players slated to make the cash. I hadn't been this far in a tournament in a long time, and yet, kicking it up a notch like one has to around this point in the tournament to stay ahead of the ever-increasing blind structure came very naturally to me here. I started stealing with reckless abandon, both before and after the flop. And I barely ever got called on it, as I was choosing the right spots, and even folding hands like low pocket pairs from MP to an EP raise, etc. I protected my stack, but grew it steadily through the power of selective thievery, the way only I know how.

Meantime, I won another whole pot in my hilo cash game when my hidden high hand that looked like a low to my opponent with an pair of Aces on the board, suddenly looked like a different high hand and a made low:

About 15 minutes later I won my largest cash hand of the night, when I made the elusive wheel and scooped both ends once again, this time from LeJean to my immediate right who had been showing a high hand all along, and against whom I was sure to play my low-looking hand exactly like I would have played a low against just one player, including just checking down on 5th street when I made my high straight. By just quickly checking down with him on 5th street, I firmly planted the idea in LeJean's head that I was surely going low, and had realized that he was surely going high. This way, I got to put in a double-bet on 6th street, which he quickly called thinking I was still surely going low, and then he even bet out for some reason on 7th street, I think to teach me a lesson about betting out after implicitly agreeing to check down to one opponent who is clearly going the other way. So I got to raise him on 7th street too, and then take down the entire pot with the scoop as I had the nuts for low and a near-lock on the high hand with my straight with my first five cards:

Within the next few hands, I scooped another pot that I checked down through the last few street because I thought I was looking at a low hand, but I ended up winning again with a higher two-pair against a lower two-pair and a busted low draw:

Here, I raised a guy who was obviously going high, even when he was my only opponent on 4th street, hoping to make a play later in the hand after putting on the exhibition I had in scooping pots and hiding the true nature of my hands for the past 45 minutes or so:

My plan worked great, when on 5th street he caught another bad card for a possible low, and I hit an Ace. When I bet out again on the bigger-bet street, he figured his low was busted, and his pair of 6s was no longer good given my raise on 4th street and now my double-bet with an Ace on fifth:

A short while later, as i crossed into the cash payouts in the ftp 20k for my first large mtt cash in over three weeks, I decided to leave this cash stud hilo table so that I could focus on the end game in the 20k. I left up $36, nearly another buyin for my 8th profitable session in the last 9 days at stud hilo:

As I cashed out of the hilo table, I had my biggest hand of the ftp 20k yet, when I raised allin with AQo on a shortish stack, and found a caller from a guy who obviously doesn't understand winning tournament poker and called with a hand that he had to know he was behind:

This shot me into the top 20% of the less than 100 players remaining in the 20k guaranteed tournament. Could I get back to the final table?

I won this big hand on a re-steal from the BB with two cards I definitely did not want to go to a flop with:

When my stealy opponent on the button folded what I'm sure were shizz cards:

which got me over 20,000 in chips for the first time in the event. Three hands later, I pulled off one of the largest reverse hoys ever captured in screenshot format:

which got a call, and then I flopped trips for the first time in the night to knock this guy out and amass a large stack, putting me into the bottom of the top 10 players with around 40 players left:

Unfortunately, the magic would run out on -- you guessed it -- another race for me about 20 minutes later, when I got allin preflop with AK and lost to an absolute clown who called me with 22:

I mean, he won the hand, so I guess I can't rag him too hard for the play, but man is that a fucking idiotic donkeyplay or what?! Calling my allin raise with 22 preflop? By definition since it's 2s, he can't be dominating any other pair, and, again since it's pocket 2s, he knows I have two overcards. So by definition, he knows he is either a 50-51% "favorite" in the hand, or an 80-20 dog if I have a higher pocket pair. Would you call allin for a huge pile of chips late in a tournament when you know there is maybe a 50% chance that you're a 20% dog, and a 50% chance that you're 50-50 in the hand? Why? How? Hee haw? But he did it, and he got me, and IGH:

Out in 30th place out of 1194 players in the ftp 20k. Easily my best mtt finish in six weeks, easily the best tournament poker I've played at least in this month, and a perfect ending to what was easily the most fun night of poker I've had online in quite a while. And good for a $100 cash payout to boot, bringing my total winnings for the evening to over $150 in both my pokerstars and full tilt accounts.

And, suddenly, I'm feeling it again. At least, I think I am. I guess only time will tell. I do plan to play in the WWdN tournament tonight, though I won't know for sure if I can get on that early until later tonight. Wouldn't it be nice if I could actually win a WWdN, for the first time? I will need to stop moving in and calling allins in what I know are race situations early in the tournament if I want to really make a run, but I'm thinking it really is about time I made some noise in Wil's weekly tournament, or at least eliminate Wil himself and get me some naming rights for the first time as well.

See you tonight in the WWdN! 8:30pm ET on pokerstars, password is "monkey".

Question: Do you all think I should throw some more variety into the MATH tournament buyin? Like, $10 sometimes and $20 sometimes (or $30 sometimes)? I'm not inclined to do it, but I would certainly consider it if that's what people really want.

Monday, July 17, 2006

It's baaaaaaaaaacckkkkkkk

It's that time again!

Again I want to thank Tripjax, co-sponsor of the upcoming DADI 8 tournament, for unsolicitiedly making this kickass banner for the MATH tournament. Trip, hopefully you will make it out to play in one of these soon so I can make you the guest of honor, maybe even with a $5 bounty on your head to see who can be the first to knock you out. Heh heh. Seriously, thanks man.

OK so I played just a little bit of poker this weekend, winning another 2 out of 2 sessions of $1-$2 limit stud hilo. I swear the players there are significantly worse than the players at the other games, on a relative basis. The main thing these players are just flat missing is the whole idea of putting players "in the middle". Unfortunately for them, putting players in the middle appears to me to be the single most profitable strategy at these limits of stud hilo, and it is truly amazing how often people (1) fail to do this to me when they should be, allowing me to draw out for half of the pot on a later street, and (2) more directly profitably, insist on calling my own attempts at putting them in the middle, which is just pure suicide in a game like stud hilo. I will give you an example of each of these kind of plays so you know exactly what I mean.

Example #1 above is where there are, say, three opponents left to see 4th street. in stud hilo. I have K237, with just the 3 and the 7 showing. The high board who acts first has xxKK (the x's are cards I cannot see), and he bets out. To his left, acting second, is a player showing xxA4. Now, if this player merely raises, I will fold. I have to fold. He looks to be lower than me already, plus one of my hole cards is no good for a low, I have no straight or flush draws available. If I know how to play hilo, I have to fold to the bet and the raise here. The simple fact is, even if the second player also has one high card in the hole, and thus is only working on a draw for low just like I happen to be, it is correct for him to reraise here before the action gets to me. He is lower than I so far, and he acts first. Here I would have to fold to player 2's reraise, because not only is he lower than I, but if I call the raise, the first player is more or less sure to reraise again. Effectively, I would be put in the middle here, having to call 2 or 3 more bets with what appears right now to be the worst low hand and clearly the worst high hand. I can't call that. So player 2 needs to reraise here, putting me "in the middle" and causing me to quickly fold. Instead, what's been happening time and time again as I play $1-$2 hilo online, is player 2 here just calls. Obviously, now I know he has at least one crap card in the hole, and now I can just flat call the one bet as well, and then on 5th street when I catch good and he catches bad, player 2 ends up folding before the action even gets around to me, and now I have a clear shot at the low since player 1 is clearly not going low from his board. Other people constantly fail to put me in the middle when they clearly should, and I end up making a lot of money by recognizing these situations, and taking advantage by staying in a pot at good odds as a result.

Similarly, my opponents in $1-$2 hilo online also tend to allow themselves to get put in the middle all the time when I am playing. It's almost amazing to see some of the cripe people are calling with in these situations, where they end up getting capped on multiple streets and yet end up having been behind the entire way. For example, say after 5th street I have JKKKJ (with only the last three cards being visible to my opponents). Player 1 has xx378 and Player 2 is showing xxA47. Obviously, I am going high, and both of my opponents appear to be playing for low. So I open with my pair of Kings on the board and bet out, and Player 1 to my left flat calls with xx378. Player 2 then raises, working on an obvious low draw if not a made low. Of course, I reraise here, making it $6 to play, because I am quite sure I have the best high and therefore have half the pot locked up already. Now Player 1 limps for the $4 more with what is seemingly a worse low or a worse low draw. Then, adding insult to injury, if Player 2 knows his shizz, he will re-reraise again, capping it at $8 to go, which I of course call and so does Player 1. Player 1 just got sucked into dropping an additional $8 into this pot, knowing full well that half of that money will go directly to my pocket, and being able to see quite clearly that he is, at best, working on a very rough low hand, as opposed to what is likely a much smoother low hand from Player 2. And I just made $4 on what is basically a freeroll, just from Player 1 allowing himself to be put in the middle.

I know I've covered these types of examples before recently, but it's worth re-mentioning because, at least at the limits I have been playing -- mostly on pokerstars, but also on party and ftp -- the players simply do not understand this, one of the most key precepts of profitable hilo play. This has created many, many opportunities for me to profit of late. ShadowTwin railed for a bit just as I was finsihing depleting one or two guys of about half of their stacks at hilo on Saturday night, and he got to be treated to some serious smack-talk from me as I was letting some clown have it but good when he suggested that I didn't know what game we were playing after I lost $10 in the first few minutes on some bad draw-outs but in good opportunities, and then two hands later the guy got stuck in the middle of me and another player three times on three capped betting streets, with just a draw at a low that he ended up making but then losing to my high hand and our opponent's lower low hand. I bashed him so hard in the chat when he mouthed off to me that I think the game broke up within 5 minutes or so. People just didn't want to play with me I guess. I had managed to make about half a buy-in over maybe 30 minutes total, and after this guy's trap opened, I shut it up good but lost my game where I had been profiting. If nothing else a good lesson on not tapping on the aquarium glass I suppose.

OK well before I go, I just want to call out Wes, who won over 6 grand in the bodog 25k guaranteed tournament over the weekend. Over six grand!! And this from the guy who refuses to play tournaments for the most part, opting instead to unleash his hyper-aggressive style of play on the 6-max nlh cash tables for the most part. Go stop by the Boobie Lover's blog and congratulate him on a job very well done. Also hitting it big this weekend was Byron who played for over 8 hours in taking down $1500 in a $30 buyin deep stacks tournament on pokerstars, so please go congratulate our esteemed WPBT host as well. And lastly, Bone Daddy's blog has a nice writeup of his very impressive 7th place finish in a live tournament in the Borgata Summer Classic down in AC last week. Winning some serious coinage in an online tournament is always great. But final-tabling in a live event adds an extra level (or three) of fun, excitement and, frankly, difficulty in my view, so BD really busted out here with some serious poker play and congratulations are due to him as well.

Before I go, I wanted to weigh in myself with a few of my favorite writeups from the WPBT Summer Classic in Las Vegas last weekend. It's been a week now and people have basically had the chance to post what they're going to post by now, and I've read I think every single writeup and have some opinions as to whose I enjoyed the most. Donkeypuncher has what has got to be one of the funniest things I have ever read in a poker blog, and his storytelling skillz are legendary as far as I'm concerned, at least when it comes to drunken donkeyrrambling weekends. Bobby Bracelet came through with a recap post that is similarly likely to cause you to double over with cramps from laughing so hard. These guys make my pussy little tournament recaps and strategy posts look like my keyboard just threw up or something, so go read their writeups and enjoy what true writers can do with a blog.

Lastly, the WSOP $50,000 HORSE event went down last week, and I have watched this one closely as I've been curious to see who will win the title that probably more than anything else this year will provide bragging rights for the "best overall poker player" argument. From Pauly's site and his fabulous running WSOP coverage, I understand that the event took more than 12 hours overall (140-something entrants signed up, as I recall), including more than 7 hours of heads-up play between Chip Reese and Andy Bloch, with Reese taking it down in the end, including the $1.7 million first prize.

Here are the $50K HORSE final table results:
1 Chip Reese $1,716,000
2 Andy Bloch $1,029,600
3 Phil Ivey $617,760
4 Jim Bechtel $549,120
5 TJ Cloutier $480,480
6 David Singer $411,840
7 Dewey Tomko $343,200
8 Doyle Brunson $274,560
9 Patrik Antonius $205,920

Now if that ain't a whose-who of all-around poker players in the world today, I don't know what is. Chip Reese, Andy Bloch, Phil Ivey, TJ Cloutier, Dewey Tomko and Doyle Brunson all at the final table. Can you imagine what playing at that final table must have been like? Sheeeeeeit.

OK see you tonight at Mondays at the Hoy! Right?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Hi-Lo in Stud vs. Omaha

I've been thinking a lot this week about how much fun I had playing HORSE with the bloggers last Friday night at the MGM in Las Vegas. As you know I've even played $1-$2 hi-lo on stars, party or full tilt every night this week since my return the the online realm. Last night btw makes three out of four winning sessions for me at 1-2 stud hilo. I really love that game. Which got me wondering....

Why is it that I love playing stud hilo so much, but really can't stand playing Omaha hilo? One would think, if I enjoy hilo split games, then why wouldn't I enjoy Omaha hilo the same way I like stud hilo? Well, I've been thinking about it all week, and I have the answer.

In Stud, I enjoy a good hilo game because, among other things, I feel like there is a lot of opportunity to play at least through a card or two, in stark contrast to proper holdem play, say, where I tend to fold roughly 80% of my hands preflop. Sure, sure, I can get dealt something like 9JK in stud hilo and I will happily fold that hand regardless of how many bets it is to call and see 4th street. But in general, you can certainly play a hand with three low cards, and I am willing as well to see at least 4th street most of the time when I have a big pocket pair among my three starting cards. Say, for example, if I have KK4 to start in stud hilo, I will most likely be willing to at least take one more card with that hand, unless if multiple Aces are out and raising it up preflop or something like that. I will also play a hand like A29 if I think I have the proper amount of deception running at the time, and there are several other drawing-type of hands as well that I'm willing to at least call one bet with on third street. This creates a much higher level of involvement and interest than proper play at most of the other common forms of poker out there, and that in itself helps make stud hilo such a fun variation for me. I like many other more advanced aspects of hilo as well, as detailed earlier this week in the blog, but the number of playable starting hands is a major factor for a guy who is otherwise used to playing a lot of Holdem.

Since being able to go high or low in stud creates so many more options for playable starting hands, one might reason that the same would be true in Omaha games: that Omaha high allows you to start with x starting hands, so Omaha hilo should let you start with some number of starting hands that is clearly higher than x. In reality, however, Omaha's nature as a nuts type of game (meaning that it often takes the nuts or very close to it to win, especially on the low side), actually requires you to be even more selective with starting hands in Omaha hilo than you have to be in straight Omaha high. Let me give an example. If we're playing Omaha high, and I look down to find a hand like JJ88, I will be likely to stick around to see a flop. Why? Because if either an 8 or a Jack comes on the board, I am likely (obviously not definitely, with all the straights and flushes that win in Omaha, but likely nonetheless) to be in a very good position to take down a nice-sized pot. However, in Omaha hilo, playing with JJ88 preflop is a really, really bad idea. Now, you're playing for the longshot that one of the four remaining Jacks or 8s will hit the board (really, on the flop since you will likely be bet out of the pot on the flop by the straight or flush draws, or top pair players, if you don't hit your set on the flop), but the problem with hilo is that your longshot that another Jack or 8 hits the flop will still only get you half the pot even when it does hit. So suddenly, your JJ88 goes from a decent shot at winning a nice-sized pot, becomes a decent shot to win only half of a pot, and thus hands with two middle pairs like this tend to be throwaways for the most part. In fact, in Omaha hilo, I generally won't play any hand that doesn't have at least a suited Ace, along with another low card (there are exceptions of course, but still).

For example, in Omaha hilo I will play a hand like Ac2c3dQd, or probably AcAh9h4s, but I'm probably not going to play 7c8c9d10h, and I wouldn't want to pay to see a flop with a holding like TdTcJcAs either, both hands I would surely likely to see a cheap flop with in straight Omaha high. In fact, if you play Omaha hilo according to proper strategy, most high-only hands become largely unplayable preflop unless it is a very strong hand, and hopefully it contains at least one or two potential low cards as well. Playing for only half the pot is just so unprofitable unless three or four or more players are sticking through to the river, that you basically have to know that you have good odds of winning the high end in order to stick around with a bunch of high cards preflop. So, while stud hilo creates many more options for starting hands to play with, in Omaha the hilo aspect actually ends up limiting the amount of starting hands you can play, even below that which you would play in straight Omaha high. That's one of the big reasons I like hilo so much in stud games, but am really uninterested in Omaha hilo as a general rule. I'll still play Omaha 08 in HORSE or other mixed games, but in the end, if I want to sit around and fold fold fold all day, I can just play Holdem for that.

OK so tonight I am hoping to play some online, though it's unclear just now if that will happen or not. If so, come and find me on the stud hilo $1-$2 tables on pokerstars, as I'd love some company while I tool around winning $40 and $50 at a time from the fish who play there. You think online holdem players are fish? I don't know what it is -- maybe there are always a bunch of holdem players who think they can make it happen in the other poker variations as well, I don't know -- but for the most part I find in the vast majority of cases these people really don't even know the most basic strategy points, let alone the nuances and finer points of non-holdem games. I'd love to get some guys together to play limit stud hilo if anyone is interested. I could also probably be talked tonight into playing some holdem cash, but that would be lower limit than the $1-$2 I play in stud hilo since the holdem would be no-limit, and since I seem to like getting stacked regularly whenever I play cash nlh online.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Slowly Turning a Corner

Well folks, I might, just might be slowly turning a corner here. For the fourth consecutive Mookie / WWdN blogger tournament (notice that the MATH event is conspicuously missing from this list), I played excellent poker, made great reads, laid down some great bluffs, raised and reraised with some hammers, and made a great run to at or near the final table of a blogger nlh tournament.

On Wednesday night I finished 4th in the latest Mookie tournament, for a handy dandy cash of $57 and change. I'll take it. I believe that is my fourth Mookie final table, although that is not as impressive as some others who have final tabled the event multiple times because I've been playing this tournament since the beginning, and thus 4 final tables is not such a huge accomplishment overall. What is more significant for me, however, is that I played awesome poker last night, outlasting more than 90% of the field in the always-tough Mookie tournament. In this case, I took down a huge pot at the final table, where my TT held up against cc's pocket 8s and Guin's pocket 5s to give me a huge chip lead with 7 players remaining:

Unfortunately, down to four players, and with me still solidly in the lead, I decided to go for an allin reraise with the Hammer. Normally this is a move I advocate making religiously, especially at big mtt final tables. However, the Hammer reraise is far, far less advisable when it is thoughtlessly executed against a solid Mookie who had raised it up from early position. I've seen our boy and esteemed host bluff with quite a bit of trash in blogger events, but not from a decent sized stack and not from early position. Nonetheless, the reraise allin was my big idea late in the final table last night:

I should have taken who the raiser was and what position he was in into account before making such a strong move with the Hammer in this case, but instead I let being dealt my favorite hand get me a little out of control, and I paid the price when Mookie called (he had to, given the cards he held). My problem late at the final table, other than getting a little too cute with the Hammer there, is that I kept running into big hands in shorthanded situations:

a problem which hit me again to eliminate me in 4th place overall:

But I'll take the 4th place. Like I said, 10th place in the WWdN out of 55 players, and then 4th out of 57 in the Mookie, hopefully that is a sign of better things to come for me. My mtt game is still utter garbage, confirmed again yesterday with my latest donk out of the ftp 20k tournament. Without exaggeration, I have failed to so much as double my chips from the starting stack size at any time in any large mtt over the past 3 weeks. Think about that. That's where my big tournament game is at. Seems I am doing much better once again in the blogger events, after a truly terrible two-weeks-or-so run, but at this point I really need to identify whatever gap there is in my mutli-table tournament game and fast.

In other news, it appears I also may have turned a bit of a corner with fellow blogger Felicia, who left a nice comment to my last post, and even posted an apology on her site. That was very decent of her, and really unexpected by me. For what it's worth, I've never actually been looking for any kind of apology from her, just a little understanding I think. Deep down, I think Felicia and I are very similar in at least one key way -- we both tend to speak our minds when we have an opinion on something. That's what I love about this blog, and I think it's something that you readers enjoy as well, and the same can be said for Felicia's many readers I'm sure. So when I see someone make a bad play, I am apt to blog about it. When someone says something about me that I find insulting and that I don't even think is true, I'm apt to blog about that too. It's never been anything personal for me, and in fact as I've said again and again, I actually really enjoy Felicia's blog and read it daily when I can. And to be honest, I liked playing HORSE at the table with her in Vegas last weekend. In my view, there are not many players out there who can capably play all five of holdem, omaha hilo, razz, stud, and stud hilo. Felicia is clearly one of them, and I think that is really cool. And as an aside, I would like to officially apologize to Felicia, and Glenn, and Alan Penner (another great guy I hung out with in Vegas who I totally forgot to mention in my earlier recap post), Veneno, Donkey Puncher and anyone else I may have forgotten who sat at my HORSE table last weekend, because as Felicia mentioned Glenn had mentioned during the night, once the bloggers really started arriving, I was taking longer than I should have to play some of my hands as I was up meeting and chatting with people I had never laid eyes on before. Maybe I should have left the game for a bit. But I can't change it now, so I can only apologize, admit it wasn't my best move, and take it from there. So there you go. And, it seems Felicia really does feel like I've taken her bad beats comment out of context, and I'm comfortable with her having that opinion. The fact is that, when Felicia made that infamous post several months back, I happened to be mired in what was still the worst run of bad beats I have ever encountered in my poker career. When I've lost 12 or 13 straight mtt's on bad beats at the river, and then someone whose blog I love to read comes out and says that most bad beats are really just attributable to bad play (many of them are btw), I guess it just really hit a chord with me and set me off. Ever since then I can't get that post out of my mind. Reading Felicia's thoughts about it, maybe I have used the comment outside of the exact context in which she meant it. That's cool. I understand Felicia most of the time and I think and hope that she and I are on the same wavelength about things now. Anyways I don't hold grudges, and I wouldn't have one to hold against Felicia anyways. I love the blog, I'll keep reading it and hopefully learning from what she has to say about poker, and maybe someday I can even be one of those people who can give something back to her, in a way that it seems some of her closer blogger friends have failed to do.

One other new "corner" I've been turning lately is that -- get ready for this -- I've actually been playing some stud hi-lo cash games. That's right, you read me right. Stud hi lo. Cash games. $1-$2 limit mostly. Basically, out in Vegas, playing the HORSE event, I was reminded of just how much I love to play hilo, and frankly how good I am at it. Keep in mind, 20 years ago when I was at Bally's and the Taj in AC playing poker with my dad, holdem wasn't nearly the rage it is nowadays. I don't even recall if they had a single table of holdem available on your average night. There, the games were stud, and stud hilo at various blind levels. So stud hilo is the game that I was trained on, in the casinos, even long before I was of legal age to gamble. I've definitely played it more than any other poker variation other than holdem, and I would say that my skill level at hilo is probably as good as my level at no-limit holdem, in that at any table I usually tend to feel like I am good enough to stick with the best players there if I get any modicum of good cardage to play with. So anyways, I really enjoyed the stud and hilo components of HORSE out in Vegas, and since I returned home, I've found myself hitting the cash tables every night this week for at least a quick jaunt into the hilo cash world. And, so far so good, as I've posted 2 out of 3 winning sessions.

Here are some choice screenshots for your viewing pleasure of me at the hilo tables:

First, there is me raising it up on the river against a guy who was playing as if he was going low the whole way. I hadn't been pushing too hard given the way his board was opening up, as it appeared that my nut straight on 5th street was just going to be chopping the pot. But, as I attempted to check it down, my opponent decided to bet here on the river, knowing full well that I likely had a straight for high, something I did not think he could beat (the flush was very unlikely since I had seen several clubs in other players' hands already, something not discernible by the screenshot above). So, I looked at his pair on the board from 6th street, where he had checked it to me btw, and figured this guy probably doesn't know what he's doing, and very well might not have made his low at all. Since I didn't think he could beat me for high, so there was next to nothing for me to lose in a pot that was almost certain to be chopped here, I reraised in this shot above. I figured maybe he had his 2 pairs or trips, was going to lose the high hand to my straight, but perhaps also missed his low. He called my raise, and then this when I showed my cards:

A nice scoop for me. And if there's one thing I learned from Super System's hilo chapters, it is that this game is, above all else, all about the scoop baybee.

Here's another hand where I was able to make a lot of coin, this time thanks to putting one opponent in the middle of myself and another happy raiser with a made low hand on 5th street. Between scooping pots, and putting players in the middle, that is probably where about 80% of my hilo profits come from. Here, I had top two pairs through 5th street, and was all but sure that I was ahead on the high side. Here is what the action looked like on 5th street:

Notice, the first player in the bottom right of the screen bet, with what I read to be a 4-card low (if it was a high hand using the Jack, then I was probably in even better shape given my top two pairs). Then the player in the bottom left raised, with what was I'm sure a made low. Now, I could have just called this raise, being cautious in case a secret high hand was out there or someone was rolled up, etc., but that's not my style, and it's not winning hilo play. Instead, as you can see I reraised here, effectively putting the first bettor in the middle, who was now faced with calling two bets, in a situation where I was about 98% sure I was the only player going high already in the hand. Then, smartly, Dan in the bottom left capped it, getting another $6 into a pot where I was already sure half would be coming to me. We ended up all three of us capping it on 5th street there:

on my way to taking down the high half of what turned out to be a very nice-sized pot. Putting people into the middle, raising when you're the only player with a low or high hand out of 3 remaining opponents, this is how you play good stud games.

OK that's all for now, I want to get this post up before too much of the afternoon passes by. Hopefully the stud stuff isn't too uninteresting for you all who are accustomed to me writing mostly about holdem, the no-limit variety.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Playing Against a Strong Board, WWdN and Felicia

For many of you, the discussion today might not be very applicable. What I mean is, this post is going to deal with some situations where one might decide to bluff at a pot even when a strong board has hit the flop, making it somewhat more likely that your opponent has hit something. By its very nature, this is a very aggressive move, and it requires a very aggressive player to even really consider making such a move at most any time, let alone against a board with high cards, suited or straight cards, etc. But this is a position in which I find myself quite frequently, as I am always looking to pick up pots where no one is showing much interest in defending their right to the chips in the middle. And while it's one thing to make a move at a raggy flop with two high cards, and on the button when it's been checked around to you after a preflop raise which indicates mostly high cards in your opponents' hands as well, it is quite another thing entirely to make such a stab at the pot on a flop of, say, KQJ all suited, after the same raise and a few callers preflop. This post will detail my thought process in such situations.

But first, let me just give you a perfect example of just how bad things have been going for me lately online. Last night in the WWdN, I played great. I made it to the final 10 players, and was in 6th place with 10 remaining, when I found K7 and played at a short table, hitting two pairs on the flop, and soliciting an allin call from an opponent who held just top pair Jack kicker:

This was going to vault me into 3rd place, and send me to my second WWdN final table in the last three weeks, and into one of the money positions in the event. But then check out the turn and the river on this board:

Mother effing effers!!! I mean, it has got to be hard for the poker gods to continually come up with new and inventive ways for me to lose these hands. Runner runner flush for Joe Hachem to knock me out of the WSOP after I made a masterful call on the flop? Now runner runner straight to eliminate me from the WWdN on the literal cash and final table bubble? When will it all end? But that's just how things have been going for me, for the better part of a month now. More than a month actually. I can't do anything in these events if runner-runner is now going to replace the straight river as the way I lose big pots in big situations every single time I sit down to a tournament. I think that's one of the things I loved about my performance in the live WPBT event in Vegas last weekend -- as I mentioned in my earlier post, I lost by getting outplayed by a guy who smooth-called my pocket 2's raise with his pocket Jacks, and then waited for me to move him allin on a raggy flop before springing his trap. I liked losing like that, I appreciate losing like that. This shit like last night, and it just leaves the most bitter taste imaginable in your mouth, yknow? Anyways that was my big story from yesterday, out on the bubble in the WWdN to runner-runner straight against a guy I had dominated on the flop. What else is new.

Anyways, on to the strong board discussion. I'm going to give you a few examples of hands where I was tempted into making a play (holding more or less nothing) at a board that had some real meat to it. I will take you through my thinking on every street, ask some questions, and can post the actual results because these were both real hands that I played in the WWdN yesterday evening.

In the first hand today, I was dealt JJ in the small blind. As a general statement this is a great situation for me, because the aggressive, blind-stealy image I have built up over many, many hands with the bloggers almost always gets me paid off when I get a big hand in late position. People either put me on an outright blind steal if no one else is in when the action gets around to me preflop, or, even better, they will put me on an outright resteal from the blinds if only one or two MP or LP players limp in or even go in for a small raise preflop. So I'm happy to see two limpers from EP, and then a smallish 3x raise from skidoo in MP, which I happily call with my pocket Jacks:

I had debated reraising here, but with two limpers in from EP, and then someone raising 3x, still only in early MP, I figured the odds of a higher pair or, more likely, at least two overcards to my pair of Jacks were fairly good, so I decided a limp was in order, to at least see the flop and make a decision at that time. But then wwonka, in first betting position after the blinds, reraised it preflop from 60 to 200. I took this as a mildly bad sign, but wonka had been playing like a crazy man thus far in the event, so I didn't go too nuts about the move. When the other preflop limper (on_thg) also called the 200 bet, but then the original preflop raiser (Skidoo) folded, I decided the pot odds dictated that I throw in the additional 140 chips and see what unfolds on the flop. So with three players in, here came the flop:

I don't love the flop with the Kings, since I already was planning on someone having two overcards to my Jacks, which basically means either AQ, AK or KQ, two of which contain Kings. So I check this flop in first position, and both players check around to me.

One very important point here to keep in mind in situations like this, which is actually something raised to me by my buddy Buckhoya who plays in the blogger events from time to time: Do NOT act like this check-around contains any reliable information about the strength of the other two players' hands. That is because the vast majority of no limit holdem players (online and live, in my experience) tend to check the flop when they make trips, opting instead to bet on the turn after slow-playing the flop to remove the suspicion that someone made trips on the paired flop. So, once you accept the clear truth that someone who made trips with a King in their hand would have checked this hand, then the fact that there were three checks here should not make anyone think that no one connected with this flop. People who nailed trip Kings here would check, and people who made nothing would also likely check. Everyone checked, but we don't actually know anything about anyone else's hand yet, at least not in my book. I now plan to look for people betting solidly on the turn, especially if it comes raggy, and I will expect that will mean someone who made trip Kings.

So it is checked around behind me on the flop, and here comes the turn card:

Notice what an extraordinarily bad turn card this is for me and my pocket Jacks. Not only is there still the possible trip Kings -- which was checked on the flop, just like a Kingtripper would have done here -- but now there is another overcard with anyone holding a Queen in their hand is now ahead of my Jacks as well. And there is now a possible straight draw and a possible flush draw out there, both making nut or near-nut hands since people tend to play high pocket cards, in particular in a raised and reraised pot preflop. So this is a truly terrible card for me. Here is a great situation where not to try a steal bet. Even with all the checking on the flop, now anyone with a King, a Queen or pocket Aces, Kings or Queens has me beat, and anyone with two hearts or two high cards is likely on a drawing hand just one card away from beating me as well. With the two straight/flush cards in high hearts, there are just too many ways that one or both of these players could have hit this board, and betting out here will almost surely result in a raise to which I will be forced to fold. And remember, I'm still waiting to see if someone bets out strong on this turn card, which will still likely indicate trip Kings to me, something which I have feared all along with this hand.

So I check it, and wwonka bets out 160 into a 680-chip pot. On_thg folds, leaving me to ponder this quizzically small bet from wwonka. This is one place where knowing your opponent and paying attention to their play comes in very handy. I had personally watched wwonka play the Hammer very aggressively once already in this tournament, and in general I have the Hammerlover as a potentially wild player who does not like to give up pots when weakness is showed any more than I like to give up those kind of pots. And I was just very, very curious about the size of wwonka's bet here. I mean, as I've said, just about anyone and everyone online would have slowplayed trip Kings on the flop here. But then just about everyone among those slow-players would have bet out on the turn card, moving a decent amount of chips to try to "make up for" missing out on a bet on the flop. With the pot at 680, I'd be looking for the trip Kings slowplayer to now move in here for somewhere north of 500 chips, something approximating the size of the pot or close to it. Try as I might, there is just no way I can put wwonka on trip Kings here. And, given that, that means that wwonka can be scared into thinking that I have trip Kings, if I can present a good story. In this case, I checked the flop, which as I've said above is actually consistent with me hitting trips here. I did call a raise and then a reraise preflop, also consistent with high cards of some kind, and to me wwonka's tiny bet is just screaming out weakness. Seems to me he is likely now on some kind of a draw after the turn card made a straight draw and a flush draw possible with high cards, and, with one card to come, that makes it fairly easy for me to make it unattractive for him to draw at what my instincts tell me is a drawing hand.

So, with all that in mind, and knowing how I like to trust my instincts and my reads in these situations, I made a strong move against this scary board:

I basically raised wwonka the pot here. While I am leaving myself enough chips to at least still be in it if wwonka reraises here (in which case I will surely have to fold my Jacks on this board), what I've really done is taken my read, that wwonka is drawing to let's say an OESD or a flush, either one of which is a 5-to-1 shot to fill up on the river. So now wwonka will have to call 440 to win 1440, which is nice odds of around 3-to-1, but nowhere near what he needs to call this with what my instincts tell me is just a flush or straight draw on his part.

Wwonka considered my bet for about 10 seconds, and then this:

Victory. This was a great example not only of how trusting in and acting on your reads is important and can really work, but I also feel like it was a very good example of how to play with not a great hand against a scary board. Notice I did not bet when I had reason to believe someone might have hit the Kings on the flop. I didn't even bet again on the turn despite all three players checking the flop, because at that point even more outs were created that would beat my hand, and because of the possible trips still looming out there that would have been checked on the flop just like it was. Betting out at strong flops and strong boards, full of high cards and often suited, can be a real money drain on an aggressive player if you don't understand how and when to reign things in, and in this case I only waited until I had what I felt was a good read on a very low bet on the turn by my remaining opponent before I acted on my read of him and bet him out of the pot.

The second example of playing into a strong board occurred about 90 minutes into the WWdN on Tuesday evening this week. Again I am in the blind, the big blind this time, and again I'm dealt a solid hand, in this case pocket Kings. Shadowtwin limps in for the 100-chip big blind amount in late position, and Jaxia calls from the SB. Here I go for the raise, but only to 3x because I didn't really want to chase anyone away with my second-best-possible starting hand:

Both players call, which is more or less what I wanted, and then, true to their "magnets" nickname, my pocket Kings are dealt a bad blow when, with two callers of my raise seeing a flop, a single Ace hits the board:

Now I know all of you have been in this situation before. It seems like every effing time anyone plays Kings to see a flop, at least one Ace hits and all of our best-laid plans suddenly are up in smoke. Well, here it happened again, and with two players calling my preflop raise, I almost have to put at least one of them on an Ace. So, the question becomes, am I going to be able to push him or her off of their Ace, hoping that maybe their kicker isn't so great, since after all I am the one who raised preflop? Anyways, Shadow in first position checks here, and Jaxia checks right behind. No way I'm betting out my Kings here, since, just like in the previous example, it is fairly common for people hitting a single Ace on the flop to go along with a decent Ace in their hand to check that hand on the flop, trying to inject some deception into the hand and give the impression that they, too, do not hold an Ace and have been stalled by its appearance on the flop. I'm thinking, in the unlikely event that no one has an Ace in their hand, I should be able to get a read on that later in the hand, and play it accordingly and win the pot. No need to fall right into a slowplayer's trap here on the flop, not when I already had at least one of these players on some kind of Ace preflop, and then the nightmare Ace hit the flop as well. So I check it as well, and we see a turn card:

An offsuit Queen. So, anyone hoping for a flush on the flop has not filled, nor has anyone going for a low straight on the A-2 combination on the flop. What's more, the Queen, while a high card, actually might help me here since it could make someone holding, say, KQ or QJ, a pair which they are willing to put some chips behind given the check-around on the flop. Of course AQ is now way ahead of me, but AQ was already ahead of my pocket Kings when the Ace hit the board, so again although the Queen looks like another bad card that is likely to have connected with one of my opponents' hands, in this case its appearance on the turn doesn't really have much effect on me. And remember, I'm still putting one of these players on some kind of Ace, meaning that they hit top pair on the flop, but then slowplayed it there with a check in an attempt to draw out a bet from an aggressive player at the table (i.e., me), and that now they will make a bet of between 2/3 and the whole pot or so, again to "make up" for missing the bet they slow-checked with on the flop.

But in this case, both Shadow and then Jaxia checked it back to me again. Now that move got me thinking. Remember, two seconds earlier I was not willing to commit any chips to this pot at this point because of the slowplayed Ace possibilities. But in my head, much with the previous example with the slowplayed trip Kings I was fearing, almost everyone who slowplays a flop of A42 while holding, say, A9 or AT, would almost surely bet out on the turn card, now wanting to ensure some action on what they are now fairly confident is the best hand out there. In this case, they both checked to me. I've played a lot with Shadow and know he knows how to play the game, and I've written here in the blog before specifically about Jaxia's extreme prowess around a poker table, so I'm thinking that both of these guys would have bet out on the turn with any kind of an Ace, except that maybe Jaxia could be playing a low Ace here and is getting suspicious at the lack of betting on a board that so obviously must have hit either Shadow's or my hand. So, again after remaining cautious through a round of checks on the flop with this scary board for my pocket Kings, and starting off the turn cautious as well, after two more checks to me, I'm starting to think maybe my Kings are the best hand here, or can support me making a move to push one of my opponents off of what I now believe to be a weak Ace, if even an Ace at all in either or both of their hands.

Thus, armed with the new knowledge of two more checks from my opponents, I did this:

So here I bet out 500 into a 900-chip pot. This amount was not arrived at without thought. I'm thinking, 500 into a 900-chip pot should be more than enough to chase out anyone drawing, and in particular to chase out Jaxia if she was indeed playing a low Ace and now believes I have a stronger Ace with this bet. Again, remember that it was I who raised this pot preflop after two limpers were already in, so Jaxia and Shadow have every reason to believe that I'm the one sitting on AK or AQ here. Yet, the 500 chips is just small enough that, if it turns out Jaxia (or Shadow) really do hold a high Ace here, they will likely reraise, and I can fold it without killing myself too much for losing 500 chips out of my stack of over 2000 at the time. This is an idea that is brought up again and again in books like Harrington and Super System, and is something which our esteemed poker author friend DoubleAs also lives by in his game -- here I am putting pressure on my opponents by representing a strong Ace that I now finally do not believe either of them are holding after their back-to-back checks to me on the turn, while I am not really at a pressure point myself, having the ability to fold this hand to a substantial raise from either party and still retain most of my stack.

Surprisingly to me, however, I am bummed to see Shadowtwin flat call my 500 bet on the turn, and after Jaxia folds her hand, we see the river card:

So, with Shadow's call, I've got to be almost certain that he holds some kind of an Ace here. Probably a middling Ace as opposed to a high one though, since he failed to reraise for his last 406 chips into a now 2000-chip pot. I found that move to be very telling actually. Any AK or AQ here probably just pushes in the rest of his stack, and I would have almost surely folded even given the pot odds I was getting to make the call there. I would have been that sure that Shadow had some kind of Ace, and would not have wanted to drop even one more penny into the pot at that point, having lost too much already when I thought someone likely had an Ace in their hand all along. But the checks on the flop and then again on the turn told me that noone loved their hand here, so I decided to go for it and I don't regret that decision.

Even with 1900 chips already in the pot, I'm basically ready to fold to any bet from Shadow here. Yes I would be giving up on a 1900-chip pot just to avoid calling a bet of 406 chips, but my instincts told me he had some kind of Ace here, and as you all know I play poker by sticking with my instincts for the most part. Well, shockingly, Shadow just checked to me on the river. That's right, he checked the 1900 chip pot for which he had just called a 500-chip bet from me on the turn, with only a measly 406 chips still remaining in his stack. He checked this river to me. So did I bet at it?

No way. I just finished explaining how sure I was that Shadow held an Ace of some kind, and with this check instead of an allin bet on the river, I figured he likely had a middle Ace (something between maybe A6 and A9 or so), so I was not about to put another dime into this pot at this point. I checked as well. Any guesses as to what Shadow was holding here? Scroll down below for the answer.

So here I ended up winning a hand, because I waited on a bad flop until two rounds of checks from all of my opponents just didn't seem to indicate any strong Aces out in the other players' hands. At that point I made a right-sized bet, one that would leave me with plenty of chips if I had to fold to any reraise, but which was small enough for someone potentially to call with a less than premium hand (although I definitely do not agree with Shadow's call of my 500 bet on the turn in this instance with his pocket 7s). Hopefully from the above examples you can get a sense of the way that I play hands against big boards that seem likely to have hit a number of other likely holdings already out there. In a nutshell, I strongly advocate not losing a dime in these sorts of situations where it seems likely you are behind, unless and until you get a genuine and solid read that your hand might be ahead or might at least be enough to push someone else off of their weaker hand, and then bet accordingly.

One more item I wanted to discuss briefly today, and that is Felicia. I just had the time for the first time since returning from Vegas to catch up on Felicia's weekend experiences in Las Vegas, what was a truly fantastic time for all of the bloggers with whom I have spoken. What I found on Felicia's site, however, was much the opposite. Turns out, Felicia felt very hurt and left-out and just generally dissed by some group of the bloggers whom she felt owed her some loyalty, some interest, and some support. Something. Anything. Apparently Felicia played in an Omaha event (presumably the WSOP?) that weekend, and nobody thought to ask her how she did, let alone to show up to cheer her on in the event itself. I can see how Felicia would take offense to that, given that I must have fielded no fewer than 100 questions, cell phone calls, emails, etc. about my WSOP Event #13 experience on Friday, and given that I know a bunch of the group went out to the Rio to support Factgirl, Mrs. Spaceman and a few other of the blogging crew who played in the ladies' WSOP event later in the weekend. When I read Felicia's recounting of the weekend events, I feel bad for her. I do think that Felicia would admit to having a generally negative attitude towards most of the bloggers in general, and I would imagine that that attitude contributed, probably to a great degree, to the way Felicia perceived her treatment by the bloggers last weekend in Vegas. That said, when I read her posts, I feel bad for her the way that I would feel bad for anyone who felt betrayed and left alone. Certainly when Felicia writes about all that she has done for some of the blogging community, only to get nothing whatsoever in return, that sounds bad to me (not knowing, or caring to know for that matter, any of the details of what exactly she did for them).

Once again, in Felicia's posts about the weekend, my name comes up a couple of times. I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I actually had a really fun time playing 2-4 limit HORSE with the bloggers on Friday night at the MGM, including a good few hours with Felicia, and eventually her husband Glenn, sitting at my table. Now here is Felicia's recount of that time playing HORSE with me:

"Hoyzano was polite at the table, and caused no problem for me. Thanks for that. Why he is always going after me or Glenn online is a big mystery to me, but I didn't cause a scene at the table. I was having fun and playing the very games I love, so I didn't go out of my way to question his constant taking me out of context or quoting things about me that simply aren't true. I don't care for a person who plays against someone for 30 minutes, then proclaims them as a "bad player" or something similar. No one can watch someone play for very little time, then make such huge, sweeping assumptions about their play. No one besides God is God."

I don't know why I care to respond to this, but I do. Maybe it's because deep down I have always enjoyed reading Felicia's blog, and deep down I feel like I understand much of what she is talking about, even if others do not. Maybe it's something else. I don't know. But in any event, I want to start off by saying how much I am into the "accidental" misspelling of my name. Although I link to Felicia often in my blog because she often has intelligent things to say about various poker games, I have never been directly linked in Felicia's blog. I find it interesting that, where you can do a search of my real poker handle and find hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of references to me in other blogs, replete with links and even maybe a nice word or two (or references to me as a donkey, a fish, an asshole, etc.), in Felicia's case she has managed to refer to me directly or indirectly probably ten times over the past couple of months in her blog, and yet has never linked me directly. Of course that is 100% Felicia's prerogative and I would defend to the hilt her right to link or not to link to whomever she pleases, it is still pretty telling that she seems to go out of her way not to give me any traffic or any pub whatsoever (as if I care about that sort of thing), even when she directly talks about me in her blog. I've always thought that the medium of blogging has as one of its best and most central points the ability to link to other blogs, or other websites generally, and that is one of the main things that has helped our little community of ghey bloggers to grow, learn from each other, and support each other generally. Again I would imagine this is part of the reason why there was so much interest in my WSOP experience, and apparently so little in Felicia's.

It's also interesting to me that Felicia wonders "Why he is always going after me or Glenn online is a big mystery to me." Hmmm. First of all, I've never heard of Glenn until maybe two weeks ago. Literally. Never. Heard. Of. Him. I've never "gone after" the guy in my life, since I don't know a thing about him and that's just not my way when I don't know someone. Presumably Felicia is referring to the time in my blog that I mentioned how poorly I thought Felicia had played in the pokerstars blogger freeroll a month or so ago, and that was when Felicia then posted on her blog that it wasn't her who played, but Glenn. That's the only time I've ever said a word about Glenn, and let's be honest, I didn't say anything about Glenn there either, but rather I was talking about Felicia. And as far as the comment about me "always going after" Felicia online, I take offense to that. It has repeatedly been Felicia, and not me, who makes bad reference to me in her blog. It was Felicia who wrote the scathing comment about me on Wes's blog that later got deleted, all claiming that she did not make a statement that I then later linked directly to Felicia making in her blog. It was Felicia who railed on me in a veiled form on a few different occasions recently in her blog, for having "hammer" in my name, and for posting screenshots, telling bad beat stories, etc. The list goes on and on. To suggest that I have "repeatedly gone after Felicia" or her husband is just not true. As I've stated many times here, I actually like reading Felicia's blog and like much of what she has to say, and more often than not I find myself the only one in a conversation among bloggers who is defending Felicia, instead of being the one who rips on her. I admire what Felicia has done after what she's been through, and I recognize the value in many of her poker-related posts. Most bloggers can't say that. And yet, because I called her out on something that she did in fact say on her blog, which I later linked to as if anyone needed proof of that, I get constantly flamed by her on her blog. It's sad, really.

In her comment above, Felicia also says about me "I don't care for a person who plays against someone for 30 minutes, then proclaims them as a "bad player" or something similar. No one can watch someone play for very little time, then make such huge, sweeping assumptions about their play. No one besides God is God."

Hmmmm. All I know is, I never labeled Felicia or Glenn as any kind of a "bad player". You can see the link to my post for yourself right now -- I did comment on his/her bad play in that particular tournament, which I will stand by. But otherwise, I did not, and would not, make any sweeping statements about anyone's play generally. You suck it up in a tournament at my table, and you may make my blog just for that performance. I cannot count how many times I've been written up in another blogger's column for some bad play or donkeyfest I had at their table the previous evening or within the preceding few days. But I don't begrudge anyone that. I suck it up at your table, I make a moronic call on you and then suck out, I understand that you may blog about it, and in fact I expect that. For someone with as thick a skin as Felicia seems to have, I find it very odd that I can point out (quite correctly, might I add) that she or her husband played poorly on one given day, and then be accused of making "sweeping generalizations" about her or her husband's play, generally. Read the post I linked to above -- I never call her or him a "bad player" or say they don't know what they're doing at the poker table. I know Felicia is a good player, and while I've never railed him, I have heard from several sources whom I trust that Glenn is quite good as well. I even mentioned that I know Felicia is a good player in that very post. So, I'm really not trying to make any generalizations about Felicia's (or Glenn's) poker play, and if I were to do that, they would be positive ones, not negative ones. For Felicia's blog to say that I made sweeping generalizations about her play, that right there is a misquote and it is taking something out of context. I would not say that, I did not say that, and once again, just like with the "no bad beats just bad play" comment, I have the link to prove that what I'm saying is true. Not that it actually matters -- because clearly it doesn't -- but I guess I'm still trying to figure out why Felicia has something against me, especially in light of how I defend her and will continue to do so in the future, regardless of the response from her (or more likely, the lack thereof) to this post. Felicia did also mention me a bit later in her post, by the way, as thanking me for acting like an adult, so I guess I will take that compliment for what it is and just move on. But in general, I have never misquoted Felicia, and she has misquoted me now on a few occasions, and has slandered me several times in her blog. Why I just don't know.

And btw, as far as the "only God is God" comment. I'm not trying to be God. I don't think of myself as God. I don't know what religion Felicia is, and I don't know what she believes in as far as a supreme being of some sort. But in my world view, God is not someone who spends His or Her time trying to determine which of His or Her miraculous creations is a good or bad poker player. Maybe others don't agree with me on that point either, I don't know, but in no way I am trying to play God or do I think of myself as God, just because somebody plays bad poker on one given day, and I am there to see all of it, and end up commenting on that in my blog.

Despite all this, you know what? I'm going to keep enjoying Felicia's blog, even if I disagree with some of the points she makes there from time to time, and even if I question the quality of her play on a given day from time to time. I don't know what Felicia could say that would make me stop enjoying her blog and her posts and her unique outlook on things. I will admit that I wish I was part of the big apology post she made the other day on her blog. I think I deserve that from her, even though I know it is not going to come. I don't mind a little disagreement among people, even bloggers, and I'm not saying or expecting that she and I will agree on every statement, every play, every anything all the time. But so what? Does that mean every time I check out her blog for my daily dose, I have to wonder what bad thing she's said about me today? I sure wish it didn't. Am I off base here? Does anyone even care about this silliness other than me (and Felicia, obviously)?