Sunday, December 31, 2006

10 Cool Poker Thoughts I Read in 2006

As most of you know from reading here regularly, I read an awful lot of poker books. I am one of the unfortunate ones who happen to have a regular day job, non-poker-related, and in fact I stand and wait for the train and wait while riding on the train for a good 15 or 20 minutes at least, each way, 5 days a week. And while some people on the train stare into space, and others do the iPod thang, I am definitely the reading type. In fact, I am always reading two or three different books at the same time, keeping one at every place I spend a lot of time during my typical day. And with all that constant reading going on, given my current interests, I end up spending a ton of time reading poker books.

Fortunately, here is the place where you can hear about the smartest and most helpful points I read in all these poker books, because I often have written this year about interesting concepts I've read about during my poker reading. Often here I have specifically mentioned a particular author and book in mentioning a particular poker topic, but other times I have written many, many posts that are clearly "inspired by" a poker book I've been into recently, even if I don't specifically call it out as such in the blog. I am constantly trying out new moves and strategies discussed in my poker literature, and many of those moves or strategies have had a way of eventually showing up herein some form or another.

So, as I put 2006 in the books in terms of the blog, I thought it might be interesting for me and for you all if I included a list of 10 Cool Poker Thoughts I Read In 2006. For each item on the following list, I will make sure to mention where I got it from, and why I that particular point has been meaningful to me and/or my poker game. One thing you'll find among most of these poker thoughts is that some of the points themselves tend to be rather obvious once you read them; nonetheless, one of the things a great author does regularly -- especially in a "methods" book like most poker strategy books out there -- is captures the essence of a key topic, but in a very down-to-earth, easy to understand format. So, many of these points may well seem fairly self-evident to many of you. And you may be right, and I won't necessarily disagree with you on that point. Nonetheless, when read them for the first time this year, I found them to be explained with an appropriate amount of clarity and sensibility that they really managed to drive the point home to me moreso than most other poker texts out there. And I've read 'em all, so the following list is, for me, the best of the best.

1. One book I read and did not like so much during 2006 is Antonio Esfandiari's cash game book In the Money, published by the WPT. I posted about this at some point during the year, as I read through The Magician's cash game book as well as his good friend Erick Lindgren's tournament text called Making the Final Table, also from WPT publishing. Despite not really finding a whole lot of new meaty concepts in Antonio's book, he made a point buried somewhere in the middle that really struck me as something that many of the guys even I play with regularly have not necessarily grasped conceptually. In a section about sizing your bets correctly, Antonio observed that if you are sizing your bets correctly, you should be relatively indifferent if a player calls your bet to draw at whatever he's drawing at, say, on the flop in no-limit holdem. In other words, you should not be pissed off when you flop TPTK with unsoooted big slick in a nlh cash game or tournament, you bet out what what is fairly sure to be the best hand, and your opponent calls you with an oesd or a flush draw. If you are pissed off when your opponent calls your bet, then you're not betting enough. In general, in a no-limit game, you should always be betting enough that your opponent would be taking the worst of it odds-wise to call on any draws, but not too much more than that so that if they hit their draws anyways, your stack is crippled. Antonio's point, which is something I have long practiced in my own game, is that you should be betting the proper amount in these situations so that anyone with only 8 or 9 outs with 2 cards to come is mathematically taking the worst of it if they pay to draw. And in that situation, if you've adequately made them overpay to chase their draws, then you simple have nothing to be annoyed about when they do, invariably, make the bad call to chase. Let people chase against you all night at poor odds; that should not make you anything but pleased whenever it happens.

2. Speaking of Antonio's good friend and known aggro-boy Erick Lindgren, I much more enjoyed his book this year, which I found to be much more full of good tips and strategies from a proven, repated nlh tournament pro. In a chapter of his book devoted to playing the flop, Erick made an interesting point that I had not previously thought about in the exact terms as he put it in. Erick explains that when betting out on the flop in no-limit holdem, either with a made hand of some kind or as a continuation bet, you should always bet more into flops with many draws, and bet less into flops without obvious draws, with rags, etc. Now, this is one of those that may seem intuitively obvious (I don't know), but all I know is that when I first read this passage from Erick, I was definitely intrigued, and I know I had not conceived of that notion before, at least not consciously. The idea, of course, is that you have to try a little harder to chase drawers out of hands when there are many draws available. Again, this is not necessarily brain surgery here, but previously I had been making the exact same sized c-bets at flops, without regard to the substance of the flop, as long as I thought I could steal the pot. I can confidently say that Erick's advice has saved me a good deal of chippage over the past several months of nlh play.

3. Dan Harrington released Volume 3 of his seminal nlh tournament book Harrington on Holdem early in 2006, and as I wrote here at the time, I was disappointed overall in this follow-up to what is without a doubt the best pure nlh tournament book series I've ever read. Nonetheless, one point that Harrington made in Volume 3 that I found very interesting was that it is more likely that other limpers have connected with medium-card flops than with high-card flops. As with many of the other points on this list, Harrington's concept here is not rocket science and may have been intuitive to some of you, but Harrington has a way of explaining in common English a number of ideas that may have been known to some, but which I have never really thought of exactly how he explains it, and this s a great example. While at first I was convinced that Harrington was giving bad advice that was only applicable to the particular hand example he was profiling at the time in his book, in retrospect I can say again that this advice from Harrington has saved me demonstrable chips throughout this year. For example, with 4 limpers including me into a pot, and with me holding AJo and figuring I am likely in front heading into the flop, when the flop comes 778 or 779, I no longer aggressively bet out with a c-bet or probe bet to try to take the thing down. And if I do but get raised, I am outta there like it's my job. Harrington is right -- limpers tend to have middle cards, especially when you're facing a bunch of limpers. Good advice from a serious nlh tournament pro and writer.

4. One really great book I read this year was Small Stakes Holdem - Winning Big With Expert Play, a book that I now know to be considered the leading modern authority on beating low limit holdem cash games. There were a veritable ton of great points in this book, which I will tell you really does contain the basic formula to playing profitable limit holdem, but the one point that has stuck with me most is that even when you don't currently have the best hand, it often pays to raise in limit holdem just to buy yourself some more outs. Again, not the most earth-shattering thing I've ever heard, but when you're mostly a no-limit player, this "buying outs" concept doesn't apply nearly as much, because of the threat of getting raised for all your chips and being pushed off of hands. So, for example, when you're sitting on T9s and the board comes 78K3 rainbow in limit holdem, a well-timed raise might allow you to not only win with a 6 or a J that makes your straight, but also with a 9 or Ten if you can get some of the weaker Kings out there to lay it down to your aggression. The examples in the book are probably a lot better than this one, but this concept of buying outs by raising is one that has come in very handy for me when I've been forced to play limit holdem, such as in the many HORSE games I've focused on over the past several months.

5. As my regular readers this yearknow, Phil Hellmuth's poker book Play Poker Like the Pros was one of the most pleasantly surprising things I read during 206. For such an assholic animal in real life, his book is truly chock full of top-notch advice for all of the major poker games, and I will unabashedly admit that much of the profits and success I've had from non-holdem games this year are directly or indirectly attributable to Hellmuth's book, from starting hand charts to recommendtions and suggested plays along the way. One piece of advice that Hellmuth gives about hilo stud 8 or better, a game which I have focused on from both a tournament and a cash game perspective this year, really stuck with me and has done me quite well during 2006 -- you should push hard from the beginning with your high hands, but you can play your solid starting low hands slower. This is good advice for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that, when you bet third street with a King showing for example, everyone knows you're going high anyways for the most part, so you gain very little from playing that hand slow, other than giving more people the opportunity to draw out on you. Playing low hands slow, on the other hand, often enables you to win more bets from players on later streets, whether they are going high or going low. Plus, Hellmuth's advice also works because when you end up making a high hand from your starting low (a low straight, for example), you've got your opponents in a great position to not be able to put you on a high hand, and to win a number of bets as a result. I know a lot of hilo players follow this strategy, but Hellmuth's book was the first place I saw it in print, so I credit him for this valuable piece of strategy in a game I have had a ton of fun playing during 2006.

6. I finally read Lou Kreiger's Secrets the Pros Won't Tell You About Holdem late in 2006, and this is another one that has a number of good, practical points for the limit holdem players out there, albeit not as many as Small Stakes Holdem. Krieger makes one good point about "trouble hands" in holdem that was a bit different from what I'd heard in the past about them. Trouble hands -- a phrase used by Doyle, TJ Cloutier and others to describe easily-dominated holdem hands like KJ, AT, etc. -- have long been decried by poker authors and strategists because of that very reason -- they are so likely to be dominated whenever you get involved in a bit pot with them. And it's very true (take it from me!). But, Kreiger makes another great point in his book about why you don't want to play these trouble hands, in addition to their likelihood of domination: with the trouble hands, you are likely to either win a small pot, or lose a big pot. Hands like that are always questionable plays in all poker variants, so this is a valuable way of looking at the weaknesses of trouble hands, even if you are inclined to play one in position or under some other circumstance in a holdem game. So, if I'm playing QT for a raise preflop in holdem for example, I'm not going to be able to bet and raise aggressively throughout the hand even if I hit one of my pairs, because of the risk of being up against a higher pocket pair or a higher kicker. As a result, Kreiger explains, I will be left doing a lot of checking and calling instead of calling and raising, which will limit the upside I can realize with this kind of hand even when I am ahead. Meanwhile, as Doyle and others have pointed out, if I hit top pair on the flop, but end up being up against KQ or AQ, I am in big trouble and it will take me at least a bet or two to figure out I am losing a good-sized pot.

7. I finally got around to reading Phil Gordon's Little Green Book early in 2006 as well, and as my readers know, I loved this effort from one of the most personable tournament pros I have ever had the pleasure of meeting in person. One of the simplest, and yet most directly helpful, pieces of advice I found in poker books during the year was his straight-out statement that in nlh, the fourth raise always means Aces. While I can't say I've laid down Kings preflop like this guy based on Gordon's advice, I can definitely say that I see people make this mistake all the time in my nlh tournament play. Guys calling a re-re-reraise with pocket Qs or Js, or with AK, defintely do happen, and it's just about always a bad move. In a game with as little useful bright-line rules and advice like nlh, Gordon's statement about the fourth raise is basically always right, in my experience. Unless the guy is really short-stacked or something, the fourth raise really does always means Aces, and you should play every hand (even pocket Kings) as if this is in fact the case.

8. I also enjoyed Matt Maroon's book on Texas Holdem this year, another book related to limit holdem that I have picked up late in the year as I've been focusing more and more on HORSE, and consistently taking a beating during the LHE portions which unfortunately comprise a full one-fifth of the play in this tournament structure. Maroon's book also does not contain the meat of, say, Small Stakes Holdem, the definitive limit holdem book as far as I can tell, but it does have a few great nuggets of advice that almost anyone can work into their games. One of my favorite points from Maroon's book is that the turn is the street in limit holdem where you have to give serious consideration to folding if you have a good hand. On the flop, of course, it often pays in limit holdem to draw or just to stick around for one more card, since the betting is cheaper and since there are still two cards to come. And, on the river, as you limit guys out there know (are there even any limit grinders out there?), the betting structure of limit holdem often dictates that you call even when you're fairly sure you're behind. But Maroon's point is well-taken -- if you're going to find yourself behind on the river, and likely forced by the math to call unless youre something like 95% sure you are behind -- the turn is your chance to lay it down and save some good coin in the process. I have definitely seen my limit holdem game improve from following this advice, and from doing my best analysis and hand reading on the turn before I commit to the first double-bet, and typically tie myself on at the river as well. Very good advice.

9. I re-read Super System II about 10 times during 2006, including again just now as I am reviewing the non-holdem chapters now that I play these other games so much more frequently. As I've written about on the blog over the past several weeks, one game I am really getting into lately is not even part of the normal HORSE routine -- pot-limit Omaha high. I tend to find my way into a PLO tournament online many nights of late, and Lyle Berman said something in his PLO chapter in SSII that has stuck with me and really helped my PLO game overall. In stark contrast to Phil Hellmuth's advice, which is basically to push as hard as you can preflop whenever you are dealt two Aces, Berman advises that you should usually not raise preflop with Aces in PLO. Berman's advice basically relates to the fairly obvious advertising that preflop raising in Omaha high is for the fact that the preflop raiser is holding Aces. Berman points out that any preflop reraise almost always means Aces, and than in general, people will use against you the information they have that you have a pair of Aces once the flop hits the board. So, for example, Berman explains, when you've raised preflop, people more or less know you have Aces, and then they flop top and bottom pair, or middle two pairs on the turn, they are much more likely to move against you since they know you have a pair of Aces underneath. When you don't raise all the time preflop when you have Aces in PLO, you do not give away this information, and suddenly that guy with just a low two pairs on the turn is folding that trouble hand like he should be, not pushing allin against you. So Berman's advice has been very helpful for me, and I can say with confience that I am making more money on average when I'm dealt Aces than I used to when I followed Hellmuth's advice of raise raise raise, at least moreso later in tournaments when they quality of players is usually fairly high when compared to the opening rounds.

10. The last point I'm going to highlight that I read this year came from Mike Caro, though I don't believe it was in his seminal work on poker tells, which I read a few years ago now. Maybe it was in Caro's section in Super System II, I don't know, but the great advice he gave is a simple, direct piece of advice related directly to those who play online poker: when someone reraises allin after pausing until the last second before their time to act is up, this is the ultimate weak-means-strong act. I cannot count how many times I've seen this advice play out -- in random mtt's as well as almost every blogger tournaments at some point -- but the bottom line is that everyone thinks they are great actors online. Everone tries the same tricks, and waiting waiting waiting to givean appearance of weakness, followed by an allin raise, is the ultimate deception that almost everybody tries at some point if they play nlh. In general, a long pause followed by a call might be strength or it might be weakness, but a long pause followed by an allin raise almost always means one thing -- run like the wind, unless you've got the nuts. This is some of simplest, most practically profitable advice I've ever seen for the online poker player, and, like most of Caro's other advice, its pithiness is exceeded only by its usefulness and its profitability.

I hope you enjoyed these ten great poker book concepts that I read during 2006. If you aren't using some of them, and/or are not familiar with the authors who wrote them, you would probably enjoy reading them, and your game might very well benefit from these guys' advice.

I should be back tomorrow with some good goals for 2007, as well as another tournament report from the third-biggest tournament win I've recorded in my online poker career, which happened on early in the a.m. hours on New Years Day. Here's hoping everybody had a healthy and happy holiday season.

Friday, December 29, 2006

10 Great Blog Posts From 2006

Alright, at long last I am back.

Let's get one thing out of the way right up front here: Year-In-Review posts as a general statement are ghey. So are new years resolution posts, Valentine's Day wife-adoring posts, and other similar faegery. At least, they are IMO. And yet nonetheless, we all do them. Most of us anyways, at some point on our respective corners of the blogmension (yes I'm into using stoopid made-up words today), have lowered ourselves to this level, for any number of reasons. Today, my reason is simply that I've been kicking around an idea like this for some time, and the end of my first full year of really blogging seems like a great chance to look back for a bit.

See, I read quite a few poker blogs. Quite frequently. A whole shitpile of poker bloggery, if you will. And so, when a guy like me faces the end of another calendar year since an approximation of the death of Jesus Christ, I can't help but look back. Looking back at the bloggers who influenced me and my game the most over the past year. At which blogs I've wasted away the most workplace productivity in the past 12 months. At the new crowd of bloggers who have come on the scene and really made an impact. At all the best, worst and funniest posts to be had during the year 2006.

And that's what brings me here today. I've spent a great deal of time reading and remembering and linking great poker blog posts during the past 12 months. After taking in all that combined data consumed this year from the thousands and thousands of blog posts from hundreds of different writers, each with their own unique style and outlook on poker, on blogging, on life, here I have boiled down to 10 Great Blog Posts From 2006.

To be clear, these are not your favorite posts. They're my favorite posts, and I'm not trying to say you should love them, or even like them, in any way. I'm just posting in my online journal 10 posts that I liked from the past year. That's it. Also for clarity's sake (I get the nasty comments and emails from trolls just as much as the next guy), these are not even necessarily my 10 "favorite" posts from the year, or what I deem to be the 10 "best" posts of the year. It's just the list of ten posts that have come back to me as I look back over my experiences in the world of poker blogging during 2006.

Also, I'm not going to sit here and say that I bet I am leaving someone out. I already know I'm leaving lots of awesome bloggers and lots of awesome blog posts out. I can think of them now. In true Me style, I'm not going to sit here for 20 hours obsessing over whether I'm missing someone, or have something ranked wrong. These ten are not ranked, and I'm not trying to rank anything. Again, it's just me listing ten blog posts I liked during 2006. That's it. And to the trolls: Try to sit back and fucking relax for once in your life, willya? Thanks.

OK so here they are, in no particular order, my list of Ten Great Blog Posts From 2006:

1. Looking back over the year chronologically, the first huge piece of news in my own poker experience had to be Ryan taking down Event #1 at the LA Poker Classic, for a payday way well into six figures. Holy fucking shit is all I was thinking that day, and frankly the mystique still hasn't worn off, even as I write this right now. Here is the first post from after Ryan's incredible victory -- and the first post on my list of blog posts I loved from the past 12 months. How can you not love a post like this? Ryan has a very enjoyable and analytical style to his writing that always makes his blog a great read, and to read this story, focusing on a particular kickass call that he made, in the context of what Ryan had just accomplished was, and still is, a real treat for me. If you haven't read this, go now and feel the rush.

2. Sometime around late winter or maybe springtime in New York City, a brash, irreverent mother effing filthy fucking Cowboys fan named JJ burst into my own poker blogging conscience (others may have known him earlier, I don't know, who cares), and to this day remains one of my own personal daily favorite reads. JJ has rocked his readers with almost innumerable hilarious posts at various points throughout the year, and a couple of his real gems have got to be on this list for me. I mean, this is shit I've laughed about for hours with my fucking friends, people who don't play poker and definitely couldn't even tell you what a blog is, but they've heard from me about the funny shit JJ has introduced into my life. This post remains without a doubt one of the funniest things I saw all year in the world of poker blogdom, and what's great about it is that, since over 85% of my regular audience are men, most of you out there can so totally relate to what picking out movies for both of you to watch together can be like. If you have not read this post yet, get ready to laugh out loud: JJ's "Movie Nights" post. Enjoy.

3. Here's a kinda sick one, something which I don't even recall ever commenting on or linking to in my blog (though I might have, who cares) despite having gotten a huge chuckle out of it the first several times I read it. It is a quick post from Bloody P -- still probably in the top three coolest animated avatars around (I do love the crazy drummer guy, Dave, don't want you to feel unnoticed or unappreciated) -- and it is about winning a couple of dollars are some microlimit ($.01 - $.02) holdem cash game online. For whatever reason, I can not get over what BP types into the chat at the end of his thorough nlh domination of his opponent in this post. It just kinda jumps out at you when you first read it, but the more times I think about it, the funnier this seems to get. Don't ask me why, but the reality of someone typing this in to me in the chat at a microlimit game like this seems really fucking funny. Maybe it's just me. I do love me some masturbation jokes. Anyways, here's the post, it's fairly quick and you get to read some naked hand histories too, always a thrill. If you haven't read this one yet, you might love it, or you might think it's sick, or you might think I'm sick for pointing you towards it. Who cares.

4. This is a fun one for me to do, because the writer has turned into one of my personal favorite guys among the poker blogging crew. When Iakaris burst onto the scene sometime around spring maybe (?), I had never heard of the guy, but he slow-played me and busted me out of one of the regular weekly blogger tournaments. At the time from reading his name on pokerstars, I thought he was "Lakaris", but it's funny how much a part of the regular poker blogging conscience Iak has become in a very short time. Iak has an honest and direct way of writing, and yet the guy is funny as hell. And he has perhaps the best (or worst, I wouldn't know) vocabularies of any of the bloggers I know of offhand. And, one of the best parts of all is that Iak has matured very obviously right before our eyes during 2006 into a very strong, strategic and smart nlh player, adding an extra dimension to his posts that you just can't get anywhere else. I thought long and hard about which Iak post to include on my list. There are so many funny ones to mention, and the insightful ones, the poker strategy kinda posts, and of course all the silliness with the erstwhile Melinda. There was of course the post after the man took 4th place in the FTOPS pot-limit holdem event for a cool 12k. But after reviewing them over and over, I've decided to go with this post right here. This is Iak's third ever post on his poker blog from back in April, and I like it for this list because Iak is probably the new-in-2006 blogger with whom I have identified the most during the year, and I like something from the beginning to show how it all began. This post in particular is a very insightful piece into Iaks own game, showing that combination of honesty and humor that only Iak can whip up. If you haven't read this post yet, go enjoy the humble beginnings of someone with a lot more poker action in him to come. And speaking of which, Where The Fuck Are You Iak?

5. Dr. Pauly's WSOP coverage is going to be the only item on my list where I cop out and don't really want to pick one single post. I'm going to link here to Pauly's final post live from the floor of the Rio as Jamie Gold took down the $12 million first prize in the largest poker tournament ever played, but really the story with Pauly at the WSOP cannot be captured in one post or one link. For each of the past couple of years, a working stiff like me, who doesn't have the time to watch the live WSOP feed from my office and can't always read the latest updates on Cardsquad, Pauly is an absolute fucking must-have. His hand-to-hand WSOP coverage is without a doubt second to none, year after year, and there is simply very little that compares to the ability to hear what's going on at the tournament I so desperately want to know about, and all from the friendly pen keyboard of one of my favorite poker writers. No year-end list would be complete without citing Pauly's top notch coverage of the grandpappy of all poker tournaments. You can spend an entire afternoon or more just perusing Pauly's 2006 WSOP coverage, photos, and behind-the-scenes stories you just won't read about anywhere else. If you haven't read Pauly's WSOP coverage, I really don't understand you at all.

6. Another new (to me, anyways) poker blogger during 2006 was CC, whom I first heard about again sometime during the early part of the year. CC really burst onto the scene, at least for me, with this post on Poker and Relationships, which really hit home with a great many of us poker bloggers and poker players out there, for obvious reasons. CC has a way with words and a way of writing about the issues that hit us all most deeply and most directly, and this post in particular really turned a lot of heads, my own included. Part I and Part II of CC's "Poker and Relationships" post really made myself and a lot of you and others just like us turn our heads inwards, and think about an issue that affects most of us to some degree, but which many of us don't typically like to deal with all that much. In fact, from my perspective this was one of the most influential and most read posts of the year among the bloggers, so go check it out if you haven't already. And if you haven't read this one yet, then you were clearly living under a rock during 2006.

7. Obviously, one of the biggest and baddest stories of 2006 in the world of online poker was the passing of the UIGEA in late summer. For a good few weeks there, there was total uncertainty among basically all of us. I withdrew most of my online poker site money and neteller funds, as did most of the people I know, for a few weeks in September as we all waited with baited breath for the next shoe to drop, for the next site to cowtail to the U.S. government and kick us all off of their servers, and the next electronic funding company to refuse to service U.S. customers interested in online gambling. For a while there you really never knew what was the exact state of affairs in the online poker world right after UIGEA went down. And then came along Up For Poker. The crew at UFP stepped in and became for me and many others the definitive source for opinions, analysis and updates on the UIGEA and its impact on our daily lives as online poker players. I can't say how many times I tuned in to Up For Poker's UIGEA coverage, and to this day it remains the place on the Internets to go for the latest on whether or not the clowns in DC today think we're allowed to invest our own money in this habit hobby anymore. If you did not read about the UIGEA at UFP during 2006, then you must not live in the U.S.

8. Thinking back on the funniest shit I saw this year on poker blogs, this Youtube video of Otis eating two Keno crayons for $400 after a losing session at the tables is definitely right up there with the best of it. I mean seriously, this is gold, Jerry, gold! As a picture is worth a thousand words, and a video is often worth a thousand pictures, I don't think see how this item could possibly be left off my list for 2006. If you haven't seen this one yet, you're in for a good gross-out.

9. Back to JJ for a minute here, this guy made it on to my list for a second time with this creative and really fun post, actually reviewing the very first blog posts a number of other bloggers uploaded to their own blogs. JJ picked some great guys to detail, and some really great content in those posts along the way, and the perspective you can get from it is really funny in a lot of cases. I mean we're talking about big-limit guys who were starting out at the low levels and seeing if they had any skillz at all, and just some really funny people posting about what they were intending their blog to be, without the foreknowledge that we now have about what these guys were to become. This post is a really great read, so if you haven't yet seen it, you've totally been missing out.

10. And no 2006-in-review post among poker blogs could possibly be complete without referring to this post, a "100 Things About Me" post from our resident crazyman Waffles. When this post hit the Internets in April of this year, it sent shockwaves all across the poker blogiverse. Many people had tried to do a list like this in the past, and it's always great to learn more about the person, the individual, behind our favorite blogs for sure, but no one even came close to the jarring impact felt by everyone who read almost any poker blog back in the spring of this year. Waffles' 100 Things list, aptly subtitled "Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid", simultaneously intrigued and sickened us all, and I am not ashamed to admit I probably took 7 or 8 spins through the entire list before I had to file it away, forever, my retinas forever scarred from some of the more descript imagery and thoughts conjured up by Waffles' little masterpiece. But I thank him for it, as this badboy probably took up the most of my energy out of any blog post during the year.

And there you have it. In all, it was a huge year for me, both poker-wise, and blog-wise. The list above just highlights some of the posts that immediately come to mind when I think about the stuff I spent the most time reading, analyzing and reviewing during the year. Flame away.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas MATH

That's right, just a quickie today to let you all know that, should you be the type of extra special degenerate gambler guy who is looking to play some online poker on Christmas night, the Mondays at the Hoy is on in its usually-scheduled time slot at pokerstars:

I know it's Christmas night, but it does't really matter to me whether I'm kicking 3 people's asses or 23 people's asses, yknow? Just give me your money and we'll call it a day, starting tonight at 10pm ET on pokerstars. See you there!

I made a nice run in last night's Christmas Eve 30k HORSE tournament, which I will get up a post about within the next day or two. Until then, I hope everyone has had a great holiday and maybe can even get some fucking time off from The Man during the next week or two.

Back at you soon -- I've got lots of fun stuff planned for the next week (hopefully I'll actually get to posting it all).

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Another Year Coming to a Close

And what a year it's been. Later during the last week of the year, I'm planning to do some of the more "year in review" type of posts, including some top ten lists I've been putting together over the past several weeks, so you can look for that right here in the days to come. I know I've been horribly lax in posting this week, but I am out of the office for the rest of the year after today, and as a result I've been running around like crazy trying to get everything done in time for a seamless week off from work. The better news is that, as of tonight, I should be able to get right back to my normal routine of daily posting, as I won't have work, or holiday shopping, or family visits, etc. to get in the way of me doing my thang. Next week will be all about you guys, I promise. Well, you guys, the Hammer Wife and the Hammer Girls I guess.

I wanted to write for just a few seconds today about the WPBT. As you all probably know, Byron's WPBT POY race is over for 2006, with Lucko taking the thing down in a big way, posting three WPBT wins in individual events during the year, and really just generally wowing us all with his consistent stellar performances week in and week out in these things. StB built up a nice lead early on in the WPBT POY race, but Lucko came on like a bat out of hell around the middle of the year, and the man basically never looked back after that. I posted often during the year about my own interest in this race, as it is something that I took very seriously in 2006, so I have to give props where props are due. Congratulations to Lucko, and here's hoping you make even your 25k score from a couple of weeks ago look like nothing in 2007. I'm still waiting for a good "How to Win Multi-Table Tournaments" post from you, but until then I guess CC's article on how the bloggers are all weak-tight will have to suffice.

As an aside, while I'm on the topic, is that something that you all agree with? That the bloggers as a rule are weak-tight? As I read CC's article, which I enjoyed thoroughly as it included input from a few players for whom I have tremendous respect, I could not help but thinking how much I do not agree with that weak-tight characterization of the poker blogging crew generally. Seriously, if anything I find the bloggers as a group to be overly aggro, not weak. Tight, maybe, or at least certainly tighter than Lucko tends to play once he's got a big chip lead in a tournament, yes. But weak? That's just not my experience among the bloggers, with whom I play at least a couple of tournaments a week. That's not to say that there are no weak-tight players among the group, for I'm sure there are, but for the most part, I find the bloggers to be far more aggressive and hard to deal with than weak. Maybe it's just me. But I really don't get that whole thing. The people I'm playing with in the WWdN, the Mookie, etc. are for the most part not at all weak, and many of them aren't so tight either. That's just my opinion, though, so ymmv (one of my favorite internet abbreviations btw).

So, back to the WPBT POY. First let me say again how kickass of a job I think Byron did with this this year. At the beginning of the year, there was seriously nothing out there that enabled the bloggers to keep track of how well players were doing in these regular blogger events. I myself had identified that as something that I really wished would change, and then Byron came along and did just that. Even though I had some questions about scoring along the way, in general I thought the whole POY race was -- literally -- one of the most fun things I had to focus on among the poker bloggers during the year. So I would like to fomally thank Byron for getting it together enough to do this, and for doing it as well as he did. I know Byron was a bit disappointed about attendance at some of his late-season events this year, but frankly I think that is to be expected when you're running a year-long leaderboard and most of the people in your potential audience are no longer in the running for the top spots in Player of the Year. In the end, I loved the format of the games, I loved having the only real consistent multi-game poker series among the bloggers, and just generally everything about the WPBT and its POY race was really excellent to me.

As a result, when I saw a couple of weeks ago that Byron was not planning to do the WPBT again next year, I was really bummed. I know it was an incredible amount of work and I'm sure the bellyaching from dickheads like me about the scoring, format, scheduling, etc. was not always appreciated (why would it be?). Nonetheless, I am overjoyed to see Byron's latest post, where fellow compadre Columbo has agreed to take the mantle but to keep running with the WPBT in 2007. IMO, that is a kickass decision by both Byron and Columbo, and I can always be counted on to participate in these events as long as they fit into my schedule. And, while we're at it, if you can avoid the Sopranos and Lost next season with the scheduling of the tournaments, then all the better. But even if not, with my DVR fully active at this point over at my place, I will make do no matter what.

Oh also, did I mention -- and this despite not even playing in the big-points live tournament earlier this month to end the season -- that I ended the year in 4th overall in WPBT points, and in 4th place overall as well in average points per event if you only count players with at least 10 WPBT events played. I'm certainly not going to go nuts about a 4th place finish in anything, but at the same time, to end up a year in 4th place among a group of poker players whose game I respect more than any other group in the world, especially when on January 1 of this year I had never won an online mutli-table tournment in my life, it all really means a lot to me.

Here's looking to lots more fun together as poker bloggers and online poker players in 2007!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Busy Busy Busy

I know there is really no excuse, but I have to admit that I have been ubelievably swamped over the past several days, and it has kept me from my normal blogging schedule. This isn't usually a problem for me, but I've had some days off from work and I've been running around trying to get everything done before the inevitable end-of-year crunch that happens, at least at my company where I work it does. Add to that that the IT dorks at my place of business have been fiddling with the list of sites that websense blocks through my office firewall, so I've run into some trouble over the past several days with keeping up with things blog-wise. But as always I will find a workaround, because I have been thoroughly enjoying how 2006 has been the Year of the Blog for me, and I'm not quite ready to hang it up yet. I have to admit, for probably the first time in the year or so I've been blogging at poker every single work day, I can actually see what Pauly, Iggy and others mean when they talk about feeling burnt out and just needing some time away from the blog once in a while to recharge, get their bearings, etc. I still feel strongly about this blog and I plan to keep writing in it daily, don't get me wrong. But it's just the first time I have ever been able to even conceive of not wanting to keep up with my daily commitment to poker, to writing about poker, and to trying to provoke some of your thoughts about this game weall know and love.

All that said, I realize that I am really overdue in a general poker update on my own play. This whole thing did start out as a daily poker journal of my online play, so it doesn't hurt to actually return to my roots in a sense once in a while and let you all know what I've been up to, poker-wise. I've been playing a lot lately, including even a little live tournament play, although I continue to focus on non-holdem games at least as much as the old nlh tournament standbys. This means I've been hitting up the good ol' 25k when possible at night, although lately this tournament has not been the priority for me that it once was. Instead, I've been focusing on that nightly 10:15pm ET HORSE multi-table tournament on full tilt, where I have final tabled twice but not actually in a few weeks now. I've also been playing that $11 PLO tournament on pokerstars at 11:15pm ET almost every night lately. I know I mentioned this tournament earlier, but to recap this is an $11 rebuy pot limit Omaha (high) tournament, that features 1 rebuy and 1 addon, and that's it. It's been getting in the upper 100s of players every night, and I've been hitting that shit every chance I get.

But here's the thing. I've been fucking Bubble Boy for most of the past two or three weeks. I'm at the point where my solid knowledge and experience in all the games is enough to regularly get me past the first half or more of the eliminations almost every single night in these events. However, invariably I am bouncing out somewhere between 50 and 30 players remaining almost every single time I play one of these non-holdem tournaments just lately. I can't exactly explain why, although I am introspective enough and open-minded enough to appreciate that it is highly unlikely that bubbling with this consistency is pure randomness. Most likely, this is indicative of some kind of leak in my non-holdem game, although for the life of me I can't put my finger on anything specific. In general, if someone were regularly bubbling any kind of tournament, I would tend to think they are not being aggressive enough and getting themselves into a position to have a big stack as the money spots approach. However, take it from me if you don't already know this about me (somehow) -- lack of aggression is not my problem, even outside of the holdem world. So I'm not quite sure exactly what is going wrong with my Omaha and HORSE games of late, but there's got to be some reason that I am hitting an extraordinary amount of bubbles just late in my non-nlh tournament action, and I have got to figure out why. To be fair, I have final tabled a few events, most recently a $30 PLO tournament on pokerstars a few nights ago, but in the end the bubble eliminations have been far more common than the cashes and final tables, and a lot more common than I am satisfied with to be sure.

In general, I've been thinking a lot lately of my HORSE game, and about which games in the HORSE format are my strongest, weakest, etc. For a guy who learned to play poker against the denizens in Billy's poker room at Bally's in Atlantic City some twenty years ago, and who has then focused on holdem tournaments for the better part of the last several years, you would think that the H and the S of the HORSE format would be the most profitable games for me. Not so. In reality, looking at things objectively, my most profitable leg of most HORSE tournaments I play in is without a doubt Razz. That's right. Razz. The little phucking bitch herself. I've had more HORSE events that started off bad, but then managed to turn around on the strength of one or two huge razz hands than I could count at this point. So I've got to give razz its props, it is secretly my best of all the HORSE games, who would have ever thunk it?

Probably not surprisingly, next on the list for me is stud hilo. This is a game I've played forever and I feel very comfortable in most any hilo context in almost any hilo game. And it's a game that has also been very good to me in terms of my HORSEplay (pun intended). Stud high, as compared to its hilo cousin, is a game that I know how to play but which I always seem to lose too much coin while chasing draws I feel I "can't" lay down -- you know what I mean, the four flushes on 4th street, the open end straight draws on 5th, the two pairs on 5th that can make a big boat for a huge scoop. Stuff like that. While in hilo I seem to have a very useful grasp of the fine line between aggro and stoopid play, at stud high I seem to get caught in these -EV situations far more often than I feel I should, so that is a weakness in my stud high game that I need to continue to work on. It's hard because I almost never find myself in a mood for a stud-high game, largely because there seem to be such tighter starting hand requirements than most of the other HORSE games, but of course the only way to really improve at these games is to play them, to practice, practice, practice until the proper play comes as second nature to me.

Next on my list of HORSE games is Omaha hilo split. While I find myself to be quite proficient at Omaha high at this point, from playing both cash games and tournaments of the pot-limit variety in what has recently become my favorite poker variant to play online, I have to admit to myself that for whatever reason, the details of excellent O8 play have eluded me thus far. I think I have a very solid grasp of starting hand requirements and such in O8, and I've read and re-read all of the great
Omaha and O8 books and authors, and have really absorbed the material provided by these guys. Somehow, I need to figure out why I keep getting quartered in pots where I think I have the nuts for half, and why I keep getting counterfeited and losing to better hands I thought were going to be far worse. I know some of this is obviously just a part of the game, but my O8 performances in my HORSE play online don't lie, so I must be missing something.

And all this leads me to my big admission of the day: My Limit Holdem game sucks. I mean, it really, really sucks. So much so, that I have for this very reason started reading over the past couple of months the books that everyone typically identifies as the definitive works on LHE. It's long overdue for me to learn some of the nuances of limit holdem, in particular because many of the world's grinders make their nut from playing this game, one that I have generally associated with a part of the female anatomy most of the time. As I've been reading, I have to say that I am more and more intrigued with all the fancy moves you can make with limit that you simply couldn't even consider in no-limit, and I am beginning to be a little bit intrigued. That's about as far as I'll take it for now, but suffice it to say, I have identified the fairly embarrassing concept that my weakest poker variation, by far, is Limit Holdem, and that is something that I plan to change over the coming weeks and months. You can probably expect to see some more hand analysis involving limit holdem situations as I struggle to learn and see others' input on key limit hands.

In all, I've been having a real blast with my non-holdem poker tournament games lately since the last time we've chatted about this. In fact, the cool thing is that my nlh tournament game has actually been fairly strong as well. Not only did I recently make my first-ever live casino cash by finishing in 2nd out of 30-some players in a $100 buyin nlh tournament in AC, but I cashed in the Hoy tournament last night, my second Hoy cash in a month, to go along with my recent cashes in the Blogger Big Game and the Mookie. I've also been playing to a nice profit in some sng action on full tilt, an area I really haven't delved into since learning to play poker during that fateful few months in late 2005, the very sames ones that eventually led to the creation of this blog. Who knew?

I should be back to my regular daily postings here now, although the usual times of my posts may change a bit as I try to adjust to whatever it is I have to do during the time being. And as I mentioned earlier in the week, I've amassed a ton of cool hands to profile and for you to review and comment on. You should be seeing many of these over my next several postsregularly-scheduled poker posts. And hey -- if I don't get off this non-holdem bubble soon, I'm going to have to go on another major rant on somebody here on the blog, just like the thing that worked so well to change my luck earlier in the month and still seems at least partially with me as I write this now.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Quick MATH Pimp Tonight

Lots of things came up today to prevent me from getting up a proper post for y'all, but I will be back either late tonight or early tomorrow with some more pokery goodness for you. For now, I am hoping to see you all tonight on pokerstars, as usual:

Be there or be square!

I've played a lot of poker over the past several days, and I've got tons of great hands to review and analyze. You'll be seeing them here over the coming days and weeks. In the meantime, come play the Hoy tonight at 10pm ET on pokerstars (password is "hammer", as always), and check back here lata for more of what you have come to expect here waiting for you on Monday after a long weekend away from the office / partying / home with the family, etc.

See you tonight at Mondays at the Hoy!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Hot Hand #11 -- Blogger Razz (Part IV)

Today is the conclusion to the stunning razz hand from a couple of weeks ago's Mookie 2nd Chance Tournament on Wednesday night at 11:30pm ET.

When we last left our hero, I had made an 8-5 low with 25J8 on my board, and was heads-up against the Love Elf on 6th street, with her board of (xx)4987. Tina led out for 80 chips with what seemed to be a made hand of some kind (with 986 chips in the pot before this round), and I asked yesterday whether you would smooth call or raise here.

The comments showed that mostly everyone can now see the important concept of "board lock". Looking at the cards in play, I obviously know my own cards so I know I have a made 8-5 low. From Tina's board, even assuming she is perfect underneath (let's say she has A2 for her first two facedown cards), even then that still gives her just an A2478 low. So I am already ahead of what Tina's best possible hand could be at this point, and in razz with just one card to come, that is a very powerful position to be in. Tina of course does not know that I have her board-locked, but I can see my own cards so I know it to be the case. I'm ahead here no matter what Tina has underneath, so she will have just a slim draw to a better hand than mine on 7th street, and even then I will have at least as much chance to redraw out on Tina with my own final facedown card on 7th street.

Thus, I think only one play makes any sense here -- the raise. Keep in mind how little there is to be gained from slowplaying by the time you're on 6th street in razz. The bets are already as big as they're gonna get, and if you and your opponent know how to play, little to no action should be created by a 6th street slowplay. Typically by that time you're either going to stay on until the end, or at least until you see your own 7th street card and then you will decide based on that card if you want to stay. Your opponent's actions on 6th street should have little to no influence on your decision on 7th street in all but the rarest of circumstances, so given that, right now my motto should be bet and raise!

I think it probably sunk in here to Tina that she was likely beat at this point. Tina just smooth called my raise -- probably the right move given the size of the pot and given the one card left to draw to for her to make a strong 7-low hand.

7th street brought me a useless 9, but I did not feel I needed any more help unless Tina was in fact perfect with all three cards underneath. So when Tina checked it to me on 7th:

I knew I had the hand. I bet out with my 8-5 low, and Tina made the crying call at the river in a large pot, and I took own a nearly 1500-chip pot, pretty large for a 40-80 limit game in the pretty early stages of the turbo tournament:

Hopefully, to everyone but my boy Tommy, this series of posts gives a nice introduction to some of the kinds of things I think about when I play a hand of razz. I'm always looking for players who will raise with abandon on 5th street because I have one brick showing that is higher than any of their five cards, even when my hand is in fact the favorite due to the significant draw I've got running with two cards to come. I'm also always thinking in the early rounds -- really just 3rd and sometimes 4th street where the betting is half of that on 5th street and later -- about whether a particular call or raise is likely to make me or cost me money in future betting rounds later in the hand. In all, razz can be a very frustrating game, but I find that these aspects of the game help to keep it one of the most interesting for me to play on a regular basis, both in tournaments and in cash games online.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Hot Hand #11 -- Blogger Razz (Part III)

EDIT: Hopefully you all have heard this news by now, but we have an official poker dominator on our hands here. Go check out Lucko's site for details on last night's tournament win on pokerstars. I think he won a little bit of money to go along with the glory of this victory as well. Huge congratulations to Lucko, the new hero of myself as well as probably most of you out there reading this blog today! Way to go brotha! Now back to our regularly scheduled poker programming....


You guys are too clever.

As usual it was another round of great comments to Part II of the latest Hot Hand post. As a quick reminder, here's where we were as of the last question yesterday:

So I bet out for 80 chips in a limit razz tournament with a Jack-high board on 5th street but also holding a monster wheel draw. Budo smooth called the bet, but then Love Elf (who final tabled the Mookie last night btw, nice job Tina) raised it up with her best board showing, and I asked whether you all thought I should fold or just call.

And here again is where I point out just how clever my readers are. I was trying to mess with you people, leaving out the option of reraising Tina here, but I couldn't get it by most of the commenters. Again there are a group of commenters advocating just a call here, since we still do not have a "made" hand with my Jack-low, and I think that is an acceptable way of playing the hand as well, but as I pointed out in yesdterday's post, that is definitely not the way I play, and I believe that the smooth call here has a lower expectation overall than the preferable move IMO, which is to reraise. Yes I am not yet made, and yes Tina is playing the hand as if she is already "made" with a 9-low, but razz is never as simple as just "made or not made", in particular on 5th street when there are still two cards to come.

In this instance, I have A235J, and Tina is looking at a 9-low. That means that any 8-low or better in my hand will beat what Tina has working so far. And that means that I have two chances to catch any 4, 6, 7 or 8 to automatically be one card ahead of Tina's current hand. In fact, even any 9 puts me ahead because Tina has the roughest of 9s, a 9-8 low showing right now on 5th street. So I can catch any 4, 6, 7, 8 or 9 and be guaranteed to be ahead of Tina's hand right now, unless she also catches good on 6th.

So exactly what are my outs here? Well, there are four of each of the 4s, 6s, 7s, 8s and 9s, for a total of 20 out cards. However, and this is where remembering the discards becomes so crucial in all stud variations, Drizz folded a 6 up on 3rd, Budo also has a 68 showing, and Love Elf is showing 489. So, of my 20 total possible out cards, 6 of them (6, 6, 8, 4, 8 and 9) have already been seen and/or discarded on the board, leaving me a total of 14 cards to hit to make my 9-low. Since I had seen 16 total cards by fifth street here (5 upcards folded on 3rd street, 3 cards in Budo's hand and 3 cards in Tina's, and 5 cards I can see in my own hand), this means there were 36 cards remaining. Thus, 14 out of 36 of the remaining unseen cards in the deck will give me a better low hand than Tina's, and I have 2 cards to come to make that low hand. This makes me significantly more than 50% to win the hand (any of you math guys can confirm with the exact number I'm sure). And that means that I can actually reraise Tina here, as many of you suggested in the comments, even though I am technically "behind" right now with a Jack-low to Tina's probably 9-low:

As an aside, think back to my question from Part I, where we debated the merits of reraising Tina on 3rd street with an A23 to start, or rather just smooth calling, which I elected to do instead of being overly aggressive at the beginning of the hand. Now think about what just happened here -- I just got in a three-bet of a double-bet here on 5th street, where I am the clear favorite to win this hand. Do you think Tina would have reraised me here on 5th street if I had re-reraised her back on 3rd street? I submit the answer is a resounding No -- at least, not if she knows her way around a razz table. And this is the key to why I sometimes take my foot off the gas just a bit on 3rd street in razz when I secretly have a superior starting hand. Double bets on 5th, 6th and 7th are worth far, far more than the one extra single bet I can make on 3rd street when I am holding something awesome like A23. Just something to keep in mind.

So, per the above screenshot I went ahead and re-popped Tina here on 5th street with the favorite (albeit not "made") hand, and one very nice side effect of Tina's raise and then my reraise was that Budo made a quick exit from the hand. With a King showing, and two players betting aggressively on 5th street, Budo made the wise decision and got out of the way. Given that I am making a play directly at Tina's hand here, getting Budo out of there is all goodness for me, since there won't be any chance of him catching perfect on 6th and 7th and stealing this pot away from me with two lucky drawouts.

So 6th street fell, bringing me an 8 for a board of (3A)25J8, and bringing Tina a 7, for a board of (xx)4987. Tina now leads out for 80 chips into the 986-chip pot, and action is to me.

What's the move here? Call or raise? If just a smooth call, why? Should I be worried about Tina drawing out on me with a 7-4 low on 7th street to come? Or do I need to raise here to get the money in before that 7th street card falls?

Conclusion coming tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hot Hand #11 -- Blogger Razz (Part II)

What a great set of comments to my first ever Razz Hot Hand post. I truly appreciate everyone taking the time to post their thoughts on whether or not I should reraise or just flat call in this situation from the Mookie 2nd Chance Tournament (Turbo Razz) last week:

So here I am with the best possible starting hand in Razz, I've raised it up preflop, got a caller and then got reraised by the newly-engaged Love Elf. So I put the question to you all as to whether or not you advocate a reraise here on third street, or just a smooth call.

There were lots of great comments here. Mike and JJ both advocated the smooth call in this situation, for the simple fact that you just don't know yet how good this hand is going to get. Having only seen three cards so far, they argue, with a game like razz especially, this thing could still turn into a full house or quads or something before all is said and done, so why get too much money into the pot when you've only seen such a small portion of your ending hand? On this point, I do not agree as a general statement, though in many individual cases I think this ends up being good advice. IMO, as I have played lots of stud games for many many years, I have found that I absolutely, positively make more money by getting my money in when ahead, even before I have a made hand. Moreso than in a game like holdem, because in stud there are still 4 more cards to come after you see your first three and the betting begins, you are just never going to maximize your potential in any stud game if you are never willing to bet before you've got a made hand. This is not to say that I always, always bet every single time I am ahead through 3 or 4 cards in razz, but as a general rule I do not subscribe to the theory that says not to raise any time on 3rd street. There are plenty of situations where I will put in a raise, or even a re-raise, on 3rd street in razz, if the situation seems right.

In contract to the above position, many of the commenters to Part I of this Hot Hand post took the opposite approach, also logically defensible IMO, that since I know I am ahead here, I ought to automatically be looking to raise, raise, raise with reckless abandon. Jordan seemed to be the biggest proponent of this approach, and I'd like to discuss that for just a minute. Jordan commented that he would re-reraise here without a doubt, and keep raising as much as he could here given this set of circumstances. As Jordan explains in his comment:

"The raise here does nothing but get more money in the pot while you are ahead, which is optimal in Razz."

Jordan also goes on to ask in a later comment:
"Also, what is the upside to flat calling? Are you protecting yourself from losing more when you fall behind? Why? You are still ahead and there is no reason to be scared. Are you inducing more action later with deception? Why? Most players will be too focused on your board, so they'll be no deception if you proceed to hit a bunch of low cards, and likewise, none if you start to brick out."

Now I'm going to address these points, and this is where my personal strategy in razz may differ from many of yours, and from what I've read in a number of poker books that cover razz in any meaningful way. For me, I like the initial raise here since it gets more money into the pot when I know I'm ahead. I also have the lowest upcard showing, so my raise is very well disguised in a way, in that it gets more money into the pot, but it does not necessarily scream "I have a monster starting hand!" since I am the lowest upcard, and many players (myself included, usually) will put in a raise anytime they are the low up card on 3rd street in razz. That's the beauty of that initial raise to me, not so much the additional chips it adds, but rather the combination of the additional chips in the pot and the fact that it still does not betray too much about my hand.

See, I have made lots of profits in my razz game by hiding the ball a bit early on in the hand. Seriously, this has been generally one of my most profitable moves in all of razz. Sometimes when I am very strong to start, I like to not give away just how strong I am until later in the hand, when more cards are out, and the bets have doubled. In fact, I would say that any time I am giving away information to my opponents about more or less exactly what my upcards are, I am at a disadvantage, and that is a situation that I always try to avoid playing in this game whenever I can. For example, if 4 players call a raise on 3rd street with upcards between A and 8, and then I call with a King up, I am basically telling my opponents, beyond a shadow of a doubt if they are paying attention, that I have two very low cards underneath. I'm not calling a raise on 3rd street with (87)K. No way, no how. I'm not even calling that raise with (82)K. No way no how again. If I call a raise with a King showing on 3rd street, then everyone around that table should know I am sitting on A2, A3, 23, etc. underneath, and nothing much better than that. So, armed with that knowledge, if I go on to make three more good low cards on 4th, 5th and 6th streets, then my observant opponents should know to fold their hands. If my board comes (xx)K345 by 6th street, and I had called a raise on 3rd street with that King showing as my upcard, then I would fold to me any day of the week unless I was working on a smooth 7 low at worst, and maybe even a 6.

So, that's why I don't like to give away too much information about my specific hole cards early on in razz hands. If I re-reraise Tina here, then Tina and everyone else will have to know that I am sitting on two other very low cards to go with my 2 upcard. For only another 40 chips into the pot -- assuming maybe Budo will fold rather than having to call two bets cold -- I will be telegraphing to Tina more or less exactly what my hole cards are. And, in my experience, that telegraphing is worth far more to me than just one small bet on 3rd street.

For that reason, I elected to just smooth call Tina's raise here:

I didn't mind Budo joining in the hand either given my lack of a reraise, as his 6-up figures to be well behind what I'm holding right now, and the little bit of deception I get from not re-reraising Tina on 3rd street here can become very useful later in the hand. So, in general, that's my answer to Jordan's very good question above, asking what is the upside of just smooth calling here? To me, that answer is simple: I have already raised so I've gotten some more chips in the pot early on, and yet by just calling here, I've also allowed Tina (and Budo, should he decide to play) to convince herself that maybe I've got a 7 or 8 buried under there along with another lower card. Or, maybe I've got one great low card and one brick, like (AK)2, and I was making play on the strength of just my two very low cards to start with. By re-reraising, I am guaranteeing Tina and Budo that I have 3 very low cards, so if they see two more low cards hit my board, I'm going to lose them, and the opportunity to maybe make 3 or more big 80-chip bets from them, all because of the 40 chips I re-reraised with up front here on 3rd street. So while I respect and agree with Jordan's general feeling about raising when you know you're ahead in a game like razz, I flat out disagree with the automatic nature of Jordan's raising here. As with all forms of poker the way I play them, there are basically no "automatic" decisions, and this is just another example. I will raise a hand like this once -- for pot-building purposes and for thinning-the-field purposes, but generally do not see the benefit of one more 40-chip re-reraise here, which could easily end up costing me several hundred in chips on the later rounds if both of these players stay in. So, I smooth called here, opting not to give too much information, and maybe Tina is thinking I was just raising because of my lowest upcard and I really don't have anything. Who knows. And that's just the point -- now I've got more chips in the pot, and yet Tina and Budo don't really know what I'm holding now at all. Let's see how that ends up impacting this hand as it plays out.

So, on 4th street, I picked up a beautiful 5, giving me a 4th street board of (A3)25, while Budo picked up (xx)68 and Tina got (xx)49. With my 25 showing, and having already raised it up on 3rd street as it is, I went ahead and bet out again here for 40 more chips, the last of the small-bet rounds. And my bet was quickly called by both Budo and Tina, an outcome which I obviously loved at this point, given that I was holding A235, a draw to a wheel and was clearly well ahead of whatever my opponents were holding at the time. And, I know that at least some small part of both opponents' decision to call me was that I had not re-reraised it on 3rd street. If I had re-reraised it there, basically screaming out to my opponents that I had A23, A24 or something similar, are they going to call me with 8-low and 9-low hands showing, when I've just picked up a 5 to go along with my A23 or A24? Would you call there? I'll give you a hint -- generally speaking, if I know someone is working on a wheel on 4th street, and I have only a rough 8 or a 9 low working through 4th street, I am done. Finito. Maybe I call one more cheap bet on 4th just to see what happens and just to throw some money away, but I'm cognizant of the fact that I am doing just that. I'm throwing money away. Now if my opponent picks up any low card that is not an open pair, I have to figure I'm probably beat, even with an 87 or maybe even 86 low. Why put myself in that situation? That's why I'll usually fold in this scenario, and why many opponents will usually fold as well if I have 25 showing and also basically confirmed beyond a doubt for them with my actions on 3rd street that I am super-low underneath as well. So, in my book, my smooth call of Tina's reraise on 3rd street has already netted me at least 80 chips in calls from both Budo and Tina on 4th street, even despite me picking up yet another wheel card on 4th myself.

So I bet out the 40 chips on 4th street, and got called in both places:

This is where things get interesting in this hand. 5th street comes out, bringing me an unwelcome Jack for a board of (A3)25J, Budo picked up a King for (xx)68K, and Tina pulled a 9 for (xx)489. Now here, given that I know I projected a bit of weakness by only smooth calling Tina on 3rd street, and now I've picked up a Jack to go along with that projection of weakness from early in the hand, I am going to bet out here again for the big bet of 80 chips. Only I know I am still working on a wheel draw with just one brick through 5th street, but I also know that my opponents may have their doubts as to whether I might already have two bricks and be in a bit of trouble here. So, since I think I can get one or both players to call me, and since I have such a great draw with two cards to come, and since the bets are now bigger on 5th street, I want to make the pot bigger here and try to get as many chips in as I can while I still have such a great draw and two cards left to make it:

Budo calls me again as you can see above, and then Tina goes aggro once again, raising my action for the second time already in this hand:

Now what? Do I fold, since I have only a Jack low and Tina is likely working on a made 9-low at this point in the hand? Almost surely I need to hit a card now in order to beat Tina's hand, so is it worth it for at least one more big bet of 80 chips to draw in this situation? If yes, am I smooth calling here, and hoping to make my card on 6th street before re-evaluating my position and whether I can call another big bet on 6th street? Or, am I committed to taking this hand through 7th street at this point, just based on the size of my draw? What is the best approach for me given where things have progressed at this point in the hand?

Let me know your thoughts, I'll be back tomorrow with more of the goods.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hot Hand #11 -- Blogger Razz

OK today I'm back with the newest Hot Hand post, and this one, in response to numerous reader complaints requests, will be all about Razz. One of my top few poker variations to play for cash, I first played razz two or three years ago in a regular homegame I was playing in in the city at the time, and quickly got addicted. Then I learned to hate the game, as almost anyone who plays enough razz will experience. Eventually, I have come to a good place in my relationship with razz. Well, a fairly good place at least. Nowadays, I can play a razz tournament and not go crazy, most of the time, and can even remain calm and patient enough to take the thing down with a little bit of luck. I can play razz cash for hours some nights and hold my own at any level I've played at so far (as high as 20-40 on occasion). This Hot Hand post will show some of my best thoughts and guidelines for how I play razz, a game which has been highly profitable for me overall during my online poker career.

So, for this hand we're actually in the Mookie 2nd chance tournament from last week, which was a really fun setup of Turbo Razz. So the junk-kickings can come even faster and more furiously than usual. I am sitting in middle position, and I've been dealt the granddaddy of all starting razz hands -- A23. With a 2 showing, which is the lowest of all the upcards on 3rd street, I go ahead and complete the bet to 40 chips after only Tina has limped in for 10 so far:

This was an easy raise for me. Often times I find deception on the early rounds in razz to be tremendously helpful in inducing more significant calls (and even raises) on the later rounds when the bets are bigger. But, in this case, as I have the lowest upcard to start the hand, I will almost always bet or raise with no other raisers yet in the pot when I am the low man on 3rd street and where I actually hold 3 low cards to start.

After my raise, Budohorseman smooth called me with his 6 showing, and then Tina re-popped it again with her 4-up, this time to 80 chips. So here, I'm holding A23, the single greatest possible starting hand in razz, and I've raised it on third street and now I've been reraised by someone holding a 4 upcard, higher than all three of my cards to start. But there is no way Tina can know this.

What do you do here? Obviously folding is out of the question. But do I smooth call, and hope to make more bets later on when I can see how my hand develops first and the bets are double? Or, should I re-reraise here, and push things as hard as I can while I know I am the favorite at this point in the hand?

Let me know your thoughts, and I'll be back tomorrow with the next post on Hot Hand #11.

By the way, congratulations to manik79, who won the Mondays at the Hoy tournament last night in his very first time playing in this event. Manik did a great job outlasting drraz in a fairly short bout of heads-up play for his first Hoy title in his first appearance in the MATH. Congratulations, and hope to have you back next week to defend your title as only the second back-to-back Hoy winner.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Another Shot at the 25k, and MATH Tonight

First things first:

The Monday night MATH tournament has been heating up for me, as I've written for the past several weeks. A lot of this is not visible to the blogging crew, but some of my homegame guys have been getting pretty loud about this weekly tournament with me over the past several weeks, this weekend being no exception as we got together for some online donkery on a couple of occasions over the weekend. These guys are either talking about winning the tournament again, winning it every week, winning it back to back, or just plain destroying everyone else who plays. It's fun because these guys are good, aggressive players, all of whom I have witnessed winning good money in tournaments live and/or online, and I am really into them being really into taking this thing down. We've managed a surprisingly consistent base of players for the Monday nightly $20 buyin tournament on pokerstars, and I hope to see you there tonight.

Is there anyone out there who actually reads this blog every day but does not play in the Hoy? Is there really? Why? Why would you do such a thing? This is your tournament after all. See you there on pokerstars at 10pm ET tonight (password as always is "hammer").

Anyhoo, so, after another several days off from my old standby tournament, I decided to return on Sunday to the nightly 35k (25k except for Sunday nights) guaranteed tournament on full tilt. I convinced my buddies drraz and jeciimd to play along as well, and I imagine a number of the bloggers not smart lucky enough to be out in Vegas for the WPBT this weekend were also in attendance. For me, as most of you know, this was big because I was on a streak of four consecutive cashes in this event over the past couple of weeks Since The Rant. These finshes ranged from 16th place to 167th place in tournaments that probably averaged around 1600 entrants overall, so it had been no small feat as I fired things up last night, hell bent on continuing the run.

As has happened often with me over The Streak, I fell a bit behind early. I called a standard-sized preflop raise with AJo -- not my best move early in a large tournament, but I was pressing a bit to try to get a head start early -- and then had to fold when the flop missed me and the preflop raiser bet out. So that was 120 chips gone within the first orbit. In the second orbit, I called a standard preflop raise with 3 other callers already in the pot with pocket 6s. Again the flop missed and I had to fold to a bet. Another 120 chips down the drain early.

After a few move hands just like these, there I sat at just under 1300 chips maybe 20 minutes into the 35k guaranteed tournament. So I'm down, annoyingly so given my lack of flop hittage (I think I've become spoiled over the past couple of weeks with all the help I've received both in starting cards as well as strong flops for my holdings) when I look down to find AKs. I'm on the button, and blinds are 20-40. The first 3 players after the blinds fold their hands preflop. Late-middle position raises it to 140 chips. The cutoff calls the 140, and action is to me.

What would you do here with AKs?

I know what happened. I reverted. I got stoopid and played this hand like the way I used to play it until a couple of weeks back. I started to feel entitled, entitled to cash in this tournament, entitled to double up early in the first round every night in this thing, entitled to get good cards and then more or less automatically win with them. Without really thinking it or meaning to send the impulses to my hands, there I was pushing allin preflop here, trying to take it down now and get myself basically back to even in the tournament, a fresh start for me to make my inevitable run.

Everyone folded around to the cutoff, who called me fairly quickly. He flipped over pocket 10s.

As an aside, this is not a smart call on his part. I did not put him on a hand as good as pocket Tens per se, so I'm not trying to justify anything about my play, which I just spent a full paragraph up there saying how it was stoopid, it was bush league, it was amateurish as far as early mtt play goes. But so was his call. With me pushing allin there preflop after a raiser and a caller, I must have something strong. Let's say I would not push there with a small pair -- 2s, 3s, even 6s or 7s, and I'm not pushing there. I wouldn't even push with 8s, personally. 9s, maybe. Let's just say that my range of pushing there was pocket 9s through pocket As, and AK, AQ suited or unsuited. I'm trying to be reasonable here. Of all those combinations, his pocket 10s are an 80% favorite over 9s, 50% against pocket 10s, 20% against pocket Jacks, Queens, Kings or Aces, and 51% against AK or AQ. Basically, it's very early on in a large nlh mtt, and now he has a choice of whether to call a preflop allin where he is an overwhelming favorite to be a 51% favorite or a 20% underdog. Blechy situation for him. I'm not saying it was the redonkulous move of the century or anything (no, that's already happened to me this year, several times), and I'm not saying that I have never made that call myself in my life -- I most certainly have. I'm just saying that a Real Man lays that down, this early in a multi-table no-limit holdem event. Daniel Negreanu, he lays that down. Phil Hellmuth lays it down. Now, that's 100% my own fault for making a play that would work against Danny Boy or Phil, when instead I was closer to playing Danny Bonaducci then Daniel Negreanu here in the early rounds of the 35k, don't get me wrong, but I'm just saying, he didn't have to call.

But he did. I flopped top two pairs with my AK. Welcome to Suckout City!

Then my opponent hit a 10 on the turn and took the pot down with a set. Rightfully so. I did not deserve the pot with my play there, which is perfectly fine for the second hour of the 35k but is just not appropriate 20 minutes in, with a perfectly playable amount of chips in front of me. Bad play by me. So last night I got reminded, while the poker gods may be with me for a while still here, I can't exactly go and flaunt them or they will be happy to drop me. I need to play smart tournament poker if I expect to win, that rule applies to me just as much as anyone else. Last night was my chance to learn that all over again.

So, The Streak is over. Time to start up a new one tonight, perhaps?

So the bloggers will be returning from Vegas last night / today. I already heard about one big huge piece of news that regular readers here will know I am in to, but I'm going to let that person make that announcement however he or she sees fit, and maybe I'll link it here if and when that time comes. Otherwise, who is going to be the first blogger today to clue me in on the details of the weekend? You know, who the big hits were, who the cool new guys to meet for the first time were, how -EV managed to take down the live tournament (yes, that is the first time I have ever linked -EV on this blog, what a historic moment), what was said by the group about Iak's last-minute bagging of the event due to unforeseen work assholery, etc. Do tell fellas, do tell! I wish it would be The Dwarf, who always has a special take on these live events as he gets to meet the new guys and determine how freaked out they are by his actual size, but I'm sensing his report won't be up for a few days. So far Pauly has the first mention I've seen this morning, but that is just a cursory review of the live tournament so far, with promises of more to come. Who's going to get the first good trip report up?

One more quick administrative link: Al has what I deem to be a very cool poll up from last week called "The Battle of the Jessicas". Go take a look at Al's post, and follow the links and then place your vote on the hottest Jessica. I have to say, I voted for the big leader, but I am still surprised nonetheless at the lead she has amassed over the other two hot, hot chicks.

See you tonight at Mondays at the Hoy!!!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Fun Friday Post

So the way I see it, today is a free blog day. With all the cool bloggers on their way to Las Vegas for the semiannual WPBT gathering, I figure many of the regulars here won't be reading today anyways, and that means I get to stray from my usual all-poker, all-the-time rantings.

As an aside, I met the WPBT this past summer when I went out to Vegas to meet the bloggers as well as to play in the WSOP, and had a beyond fabulous time. I highly encourage any of you out there who are not already on your way to Vegas this weekend to try to find the time to be at one of the future WPBT gatherings. There really is nothing like putting faces to names, and getting to shoot the shit live with the guy or gal whose thoughts you read every single day. And, of course, there are the indescribable things like meeting the angry dwarf live and in the flesh, 4am dinner/breakfast in between 2-5 no-limit holdem sessions with new friends, playing 1-2 HORSE next to an all-time favorite read, and winning a bounty t-shirt for eliminating the WPBT Player of the Year leader from the live WPBT tournament and sucking out on noted poker author Michael Craig's pocket Aces in the exact same hand. Last July is not a time that I plan to forget any time soon, and I can only hope I will make it back out there for another run in the WSOP next June, in addition to some good old-fashioned druken revelry when that time comes. So though I am not there in person this weekend, I am there in spirit. Everyone get sucked out of a $500 pot to a 2-outer on the river for me, willya?

So, today I'm thinking I'll talk a little fantasy football. I haven't updated you all in several weeks on this stuff, so here it comes. Duggle I know you will be most interested in this. As I've mentioned previously on the blog here, I am playing in three fantasy football leagues for 2006-07. One is my own league, which I have run now for 5 straight years, and is the league I take the most seriously every year. It's my friends who are playing, some from growing up, some from college, some family members, etc., and we have a great time with it. Anyways, here are the standings through 13 games in my league (I am StockLab):

As you can see, I have clinched a playoff spot (top 4 spots), which is always the goal in fantasy football. Despite not having nearly the energy level for fantasy football as I have had in previous years, I am really psyched to be back in the playoffs in the only league that really matters to me. And, a solid second place in the standings heading into the last matchup of the regular season, with the third-most points scored despite having neither LT nor Peyton Manning on my team, I have a lot to be proud of in that league IMO.

Similarly, my college buddy Brad runs his own fantasy football league every year, this now being the third year of his league, and here is the leaderboard for that league:

In this league you can see I am actually the clear leader, the first time I can say that about Brad's league since its inception a few years ago. While I have never failed to make the playoffs in three years of Brad's league, I have always been behind some luckdick who drafted a bunch of stiffs and rookies who then went on the luck their way into big huge years. So this is a nice, nice year for me in my #2 fantasy football league, with me clearly in first in both fantasy record as well as total fantasy points scored. As you can see, I'm the only team to have clinched a playoff berth even heading into the final week of the regular season, so this is a real standout performance for me. That team is anchored by LT, easily the #1 fantasy stallion of 2006-07, which has helped me to smooth over any number of minor weaknesses and to shine as the blatant #1 seed in my buddy Brad's league.

Now on to the fugliness...the blogger league. I will repeat what I've said several times before on the blog, that my draft in KJ's blogger league was just about the best one I've ever seen. Especially given that this was a 12-team league (my usual is 10 teams, which allows for a bit more concentration of talent among each team), my starting roster to begin the season was, IMO, far and away the best among the entier blogger league. But then some strange things happened. Larry Fitzgerald got hurt. Trent Green got hurt. Hurt Warner got hurt. Ben Roethlisberger got hurt. Hines Ward got hurt. Chris Brown never took off at all in Tennessee this year. Edge James ended up being the literal single greatest fantasy bust of the season, on whom I wasted my #1 pick overall despite him not even being worthy of a frigging start in any week since around halfway through the season. Marc Bulger got hot but then very, very cold. Tampa Bay's Chris Simms got hurt, killing my hopes for another huge season from Joey Galloway. Basically almost every one of my picks ended up with more problems than results, and the consequence of that has been that, for most of the latter two-third of the NFL season so far, I now play a team that fields Brandon Jacobs and Edge James at runningback (ugh), Jerricho Cotchery, Joey Galloway and Keyshawn Johnson at wide receiver (ugh) and Marc Bulger at quarterback (hmmmm), week in and week out. Occasionally like this past week against Don's team, things work out for the best, but more often than not I've been on the losing end of the stick. I just cannot consistently score in that league, and when you can't score in fantasy football, you can't win. Period. So here's the standings in this very humbling league for me, with just one game left to play this weekend in the regular season:

Yep, these's me, all the way down there. In 9th place out of 12 teams, with the 8th most total fantasy points scored. Blech. This is somewhat historic for me, in that, out of now 25 total fantasy football teams I have managed over the past seven years, I have failed to make the playoffs (winners' bracket) with only 3 of those teams -- two of which were the first two times I ever played fantasy football -- and now this year's blogger league will be just my 4th missed playoffs out of 25 leagues, and only my second since my 2nd year playing fantasy football. So, I'm embarrassed and I'm ashamed about my performance in this league, but what can I do. This season in the blogger league, I was just a victim of a whole array of crazy circumstances.

Lastly, I'd like to move on to my NFL Pick'em league, to which I actually invited my readers here, and which as a result as 35 players for what is easily the biggest pickem game I've ever had out of the last five years of running this league on Yahoo! Here are the updated standings in pickem as of the end of last week's games:

There is me down in 15th place. Not horrendous, but having won this league in each of the past two NFL seasons, it is obviously a bit of a letdown for me. Even more annoying for me is that my little brother, Aquaverse, is in 2nd place overall, and my brother in law Lobos is up in 4th. These are the guys that I've been competing against and beating in pickem every year for the last few, and succeeding at that, so being so far down below them in the standings is not sitting well with me. But I've had a few horrendous weeks this year -- such as last week when I literally got my #16, #15, #14, #11 and #9 games all wrong in the same week -- and when you're doing that on multiple occasions in the same year, then you can't complain too much when it comes to not being among the season leaders thus far.

OK well lastly, I thought I'd leave you with a nice poker hand to enjoy for the weekend, for those of you like me who are not luxuriating out in Vegas in the comfort of a hundred other bloggers. This hand is a great example of how I like to basically "make my own luck" by convincing someone else to pay off my strong hand with their so-so hand. Here, I'm in the small blind with AQo, and I just limp in for 40 total chips preflop rather than raise it up, something I like to do with a hand like AQ, for which my best opportunity to profit is typically a weak Ace played by someone who does not realize that I am holding a stronger Ace in my hand:

The flop comes Queen-high, but with some possible draws, so I bet the pot here to try to take it down right now with my TPTK, or at least make it unprofitable for my opponents to draw at this point in the hand:

Just the player in late position calls my potbet on the flop, and the turn card comes a raggy, offsuit 3. Highly unlikely to have changed anything about the respective strength of either my opponent's or my hand. And this is where the whole hand is won or lost by me here. After betting the pot on the flop, and getting a caller, I still have got to figure my TPTK is ahead here. But how do I convince an opponent to put any more money into this pot in that situation? Is he really going to call any substantial bet with something like 2nd pair, an Ace with another wheel card kicker, or a draw here? To me, there's only one way to be aggressive in trying to convince an opponent that his hand is worth losing some more money with. I check it here:

I call this move the reverse delayed steal -- I want to make my opponent think that I was just trying a c-bet type of move on the flop, trying to take down the pot with nothing, but that now that I found a caller of that pot-sized bet on the flop, I am shutting down since I have nothing. So I check it to him, and in this case, he checks it right back to me so we both see a free river card. Not a bad outcome for me -- and just because my opponent did not bet out after my check on the turn, don't think for a second that this means my turn check has not had the desired effect.

The river brings a 10♥. While this does complete a possible straight, it would be an inside straight only, and thus not likely something that I would have bet the pot with or that he would have called my potbet with on the flop, so I'm not too worried about that possibility. So here, with the action on me to start the river betting round, I know I have TPTK, I know it is almost surely best, and I know that my opponent now saw me bet the pot on the flop, get called, and shut down on the turn. So here, I want to just complete the picture of weakness -- but I'm not checking it to him again, because then he almost surely won't bet given the action thus far in the hand, and I won't be able to profit from my check on the turn. So, instead, I'm going to do the next best thing, something that continues with the weakish impression I'm trying to give off, but at the same time gets some kind of chippage into the middle here:

A bet of 2/3 the pot. Following up on a full pot-sized bet on the flop, this 2/3 potbet on the river seems downright small, and weak if I ever saw a weak river bet. In general, with this setup of potbet the flop, check the turn and then 2/3 potbet the river, it is not realistic for my opponent to actually put me on a hand as good as TPTK. And, if done correctly, the 260 chips I've pushed in on the river is an amount that is easily callable by a lot of the inferior hands that I am hoping my opponent might have here.

He calls:

and I win 880 chips from a hand that I could have easily made only a couple hundy on.

And, just to see how well my check on the turn worked to get him to call me down without even a top pair kind of hand (even despite my betting the flop when it first came down), let's use that handy "Last Hand" button up in the top left corner of the screen to see what hand he had when he called me down on the river:

Second pair, second kicker. Easily playable if you have reason to believe your opponent is weak, but also easily foldable if you believe your opponent has made some kind of top pair or better hand. So there you have it -- how I use the reverse delayed steal to make opponents think their second-tier type of hands are actually best, and then get them to call decently large bets from me at the river to pay me off based on my trickery.

To the lucky WPBTers, have a great weekend in Vegas. Somebody please knock out StB and Lucko early from the live tournament on Saturday so they can't further pad their WPBT POY standings in the last event of the year. Thanks.