Monday, September 17, 2007

Poker Weekend, Reading Hands and the NFL

Good morning to everyone from what is definitely a beautiful late summer morning in New York City. It's inthe low 60s for the commute in what for the past several months have been the intolerably hot and sweaty tunnels under the city, and I have to say that really does wonders for my mood in the office in the morning. It's nice not to show up at my office in my dorksuit and dorktie already sweaty and uncomfortable. It's been a few months since I haven't felt that way upon my arrival at the office, so hopefully this will be a trend for a bit and maybe we can have a nice fall for a good month or so unlike usual here where things often tend to jump straight from summer into winter, and winter into summer. And all this has me in a nice mood this morning to make the usual Monday morning announcement here at the blog, once again banner courtesy of Duggles this week:

Yep, Monday night at 10pm ET on full tilt is the latest Mondays at the Hoy tournament. As always our little shindig will have a buyin of $26 or a single Tier 1 token, and it can be found under the "Tournaments" - "Private" tab. The password as always is "hammer". Last week we saw a handful of first-timers show up, none of whom made the money as I recall in stark contrast to our usual run of beginners' luck in this weekly Monday night event, but maybe this week will be different if some more of you out there will make tonight your first time playing the Hoy, if not your first time playing with the bloggers as a whole. And plus there's still that juicy logjam atop the 2007 MATH moneyboard between BBT killer Bayne, Columbo and myself, so you never know if this Monday will be the night that one of us breaks the virtual tie and asserts himself in front of all other players who have participated in Mondays at the Hoy so far this year. I am already registered and I plan to make some noise myself, so hopefully you'll be there on full tilt tonight at 10pm ET to see how the action unfolds.

This weekend was more or less a wash for me on the poker front. First of all, I barely played as I was out with friends from out-of-town both Friday and Saturday evenings, although I did put in maybe 2 or 2.5 hours of play overall between Saturday late night and Sunday evening, the end result of which was basically about a half a buyin loss at the 2-4 6max cash tables overall, and no major tournament cashes worth mentioning here. If anything, my best poker news of the past few days and what enabled me to turn a slight profit overall on the weekend was when I sat down to a late-night session on Saturday, I did not like any of the mtt's that were running, so I ended up jumping into another of those $110 buyin 1-table turbo sng's, the same thing I had messed around in a bit a month or two ago. This would be only the fourth of these I have ever played in, with an early suckout elimination and two victories to show for my first three forays into the world of higher-buyin sngs, and, well, here was the result:

After four of these $110 turbo sngs, which admittedly is nothing resembling a large enough sample to really be able to draw profitable conclusions I know, but I have got to say that the play at this level buyin is absolutely not any better than the play I see in the lower-buyin mtts and other sngs I have played in. In this particular event, a couple of guys busted out early moving allin with basically 2-to-1-against flush draws and failing to hit, and at least two doofuses who busted early on foolish river bluffs that had not been set up properly. Otherwise I was able to get value from my strong hands and use deceptive-looking betting to knock a few guys out by getting them to call my bets with inferior hands. I did get brutally sucked out on once when I had amassed a huge chip lead 3-handed (we were already ITM at this point), but then I nailed a triumphant suckout of my own to make two pairs on the turn to get my stack right back once again be in great chip position against my other two ITM opponents. In the end I busted #3 when he pushed allin from the button with a crappy hand and high blinds and antes and I called him with the JackAce, and then on a 567 flop I purposely played my A7 slow when heads-up, successfully goading my opponent to reraise me allin on that flop with just an 8 in his hand for the oesd. My TPTK held up and I was $495 richer. I really should play in these things more often, given my track record in just a few of them so far. Sitngoes really are the most boring thing a guy can do in online poker though, so I'm trying my best to stay away as much as I can.

OK so today I'm going to start a project here that I suspect will take the next few weeks to get through, and that is focusing on how I lay reads on players when I play online poker. I want to discuss what contributes to my reads on players, how I act early in the hand to try to isolate or confirm those reads in some way, and then what I like to do to react to the reads I do have on these players. The first hand I want to review is one that I played through over the past few weeks in my online poker travels. Here's the setup:

You're playing the nightly 10pm ET 28k guaranteed nlh tournament on full tilt. The buyin is $26, and this is still the very early blinds rounds, with blinds of 15 and 30, and starting stacks of 1500 chips. You are in the big blind with K9s. UTG limps for 30, and the player second to act limps behind. Third to act then limps behind as well, and the action folds around to the small blind who also limps for another 15 chips. I'm sitting on a good sooted hand here, and can probably even get equity value from a small raise if I can keep all five players in this pot, but in the end I like the check here:

I might actually be more apt to bet here if I had held a weaker hand, thinking that I don't mind reopening the betting because if anyone reraises me I will quickly fold, and otherwise I probably have very little chance of winning a multiway pot with a poorer hand. With K9s, however, I actually could win this hand, either with a strong flush, or by pairing either of my hole cards if things break out just right. K9s is not a hand I would call a reraise with, so I risk being blown out of a pot that I would like to see a flop with, when instead I can just check, give away absolutely nothing about the strength of my hand, and take a shot at hitting something on this flop and trying to win what is shaping up to be a nice sized pot in the earlygoing of a large mtt where it's so important to get off to a good start early.

The flop comes K6T, all suited, unfortunately not in our suit, and the small blind checks the action to you in the big blind:

What do you like to do here? Are you betting out with your top pair 9 kicker into five other players on a 3-suited flop? Does the all-suited nature of the flop make you more or less likely to want to bet out to protect your top pair in this spot? Can you risk giving away a free card to anybody holding any spades in their hand? If you bet, how much would you bet into the 150-chip pot, and if you check, do you check with the intention of folding to a reasonable-sized bet of say between 2/3 and the full pot, or do you intend to call or raise a normal-sized bet with your top pair in this spot?

Please leave your thoughts if any in the comments and tomorrow I will move on to the rest of the action with this hand.

Otherwise, before I go I just wanted to hit on a couple of very brief notes from the NFL this weekend. First off, GO E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES!!!! tonight. If we start off the season 0-2 with losses to the hapless Packers and then the even worse Redskins, I am not going to be a happy camper as a lifelong Philadelphia sports fan. Even after the Phillies spent the weekend beating down on the Mets again for their 6th, 7th and 8th consecutive victories head-to-head against our hated New York rivals, an 0-2 start to the Eagles season is not going to be received well by anyone or anything Philadelphia. I picked the Eagles minus 7 points as one of my two picks of the week here on the blog on Friday, and I'm sticking with that today.

And speaking of my picks of the week, my other pick was a 7+-point victory for a team that is considered one of the top teams in the AFC, a team who ended up running up 45 points against the alleged worst team in the NFL on Sunday. So, you figure I had to win that bet, right? Nope! Not only did the Cincinatti Bengals fail to cover the 7 point spread against the lowly Browns in scoring 45 points this weekend on 6 passing touchdowns from Carson Palmer, but they didn't even win the game straight up. Somehow the Bengals, who it seems have literally the worst defense in the NFL, managed to give up 51 points to Derek Anderson in his first NFL start for Romeo Crenell's Browns team. So that was one game that I was kinda right about, but overall still wrong about, and that takes me to 1-1 so far on the season.

Interestingly, though, I wrote on Friday about the three "setup"-looking lines I saw for this past weekend, one of which was the Bengals and a 7-point line that looked strangely low for one of the league's best teams against the league's worst, in a week with 4 or 5 other games with higher lines than that one. And look what happened -- the Bengals didn't even win the game outright, let alone cover that seemingly too-low spread. Surprise surprise. Similarly, I declined to pick the Saints -3.5 points despite that laughably low spread against a Bucanneers team that also seemed to be one of the worst in the NFL. The result? Bucanneers surprise most everyone by blowing out the Saints, in what now has to start us asking questions about just how good the Saints are this season. Despite leading the entire NFL in offense in 2006-07, this year's Saints so far are absolutely blowing on offense. No other way to say that. They blow so far, period. So that was another interesting one that I correctly identified as a trap game that the Vegas linesmakers love to try to dupe people into playing as often as they can every year. In the end, they only one of my three "too good to be true" picks that managed to win their game and actually cover the spread this week was the hated Cowboys, who scored a 17-point victory at Miami and covered the half-a-touchdown line Vegas laid on the game. Even the Cowboys did not look dominant in this game, but in the end it was just too much Marion Barber and too much TO for the Dolphins, who really do look to be one of the very worst teams in football so far through two games this year. Hopefully my Eagles will not be following suit tonight, where I still fully expect them to pounce all over the Redskins at home in The Link in South Philly.

A couple of players have really stood out as well so far through two games in this new NFL season:

Where the hell has LT been? You can throw all the option touchdown passes you want....but 1.9 yards per rush? Whaaaaa?

Similarly, where in the world is Larry Johnson? 28 attempts for 98 total rushing yards and no scores through two games so far in 2007? For a guy who was picked top-three in mostly every fantasy league out there? Blech.

Seattle Seahawks? You suck.

Chad Johnson. Yummy. Two games, two huge performances with multiple touchdown scores.

Plexico Burress. Mmmmm-hmmmm. Also four touchdowns in 2 games so far for the Suckgiants.

And oh yeah -- Randy Moss with Tom Brady throwing to him. Oh shit.

One thing has been constant though -- the NFL continues to rule the hearts and the minds (and the televisions) of Amercan sports fans. For the time being, American football continues to be the sport to watch in this country, and it consistently delivers an interesting, and more than that, a competitive product. In stark contrast to baseball where teams can set up their own television networks, build their own new stadiums and use that money to continually outspend all other teams by sometimes a significant multiple, the NFL consistently puts out a product that everyone loves to watch, to play fantasy games around, and just to root for since any year, just about any team can win.

OK that's enough for today. Let me know your comments on the hand I profiled above, and I'll see you tonight for Mondays at the Hoy!

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Blogger stlphily said...

Sup Hoy. I really, really struggle w/hands like that at any level. Usually I bet about 100 and pray all fold.If I get called by 1 or 2people I feel like i have to bet again at least about 300, which is now a big chunk of my stack, but then fold if played back at even tho I know I could be getting semi-bluffed by a single spade. Checking seems like your just giving up. Maybe check raising?? Tough spot, I'm looking forward to your take on it tomorrow. Peace

12:30 AM  
Blogger Fuel55 said...

I am checking to see what everyone else does first. Someone has a decent spade most of the time here.

12:42 AM  
Blogger jusdealem said...

I would let it go with a check/fold to any bet. It's early, I wouldn't waste chips here. I'm very conservative, tho! Interested in seeing how you played it.

1:21 AM  
Blogger Alan aka RecessRampage said...

In a tournament, I will most likely check fold, looking for a better spot. In a cash game, I would check call. The only reason I'm playing tentatively is because if I get called and a nonspade falls, I still don't know if my hand is good or not. OOP and with not enough info, I'd be putting a lot of money into the middle where my initial investment was very little.

As for the NFL...

Don't forget Steven Jackson. Top 3 in most leagues. Nothing so far. Also, keep in mind LT did start the season against the Bears and Patriots. I would think LJ would start picking up the slack since even he mentioned that it will take him a few weeks to get up to game speed after being away from the team with the contract dispute.

Cincy sucks. I'm glad they lost but it cost me over a full buy-in at a 2-4NL table because of that... Worst case scenario would've been them winning but not covering. At least they got pummeled by the same Browns that the Steelers thrashed.

1:32 AM  
Blogger RaisingCayne said...

Another nice win in a $109 turbo sit 'n go... nice work Hoy!

Regarding the hand you discussed... In this situation, I bet out 100 chips here myself, 2/3 the pot. No free cards for the villian(s) holding a spade. This would pretty much be my one shot at the pot: If re-raised, even the minimum, I fold (and assume someone has at least two pair.) And if called, even just once, I shut down... (unless the turn is a king or a non-spade nine, then I probably fire another bullet holding trips or two pair.)

If a 2/3 bet is just called on the flop and the turn is not a spade (or a king or a nine,) I check. I believe someone willing to call 100 chips on a four-flush draw on the flop, would be the same donkey to call a pot bet on the turn, with the same draw. And given it's so early in the tourney, I might as well find out if a spade's gonna come or not first, before I build the pot some more. (And after my check, I don't think 'just a spade draw' would bet out with a semi-bluff here, wanting another free card instead.) I make this check especially considering the fact that a villian still in the pot maybe was NOT on a draw, and if that's the case I'm probably behind, as TP9K is far from a monster. I don't believe there's many non-spade holdings that I'm ahead of that would still be in here. After my check, I fold to any raise over 150-200 chips. Any raise under this amount, and I go into the tank.

But that's just what I would do... and before you put any merit into my comments, remember, I'm a donkey!

See you in the MATH tonight! (I'll be scared of you the whole time, after your MATH recap last week!) I'll have my fingers crossed that I can join you, Bayne, and Columbo atop the leaderboard with a repeat tonight.

1:34 AM  
Blogger Julius_Goat said...

I'm pretty much playing that hand as cheaply as I can. This is the 28K early on, so if anybody has a spade as good as a Jack, they're probably not laying down here, even to a very big bet. Thus, pricing a drawing hand out of the pot is not an option, as your opponents are wearing pot-odd proof Kevlar vests. You don't want to find yourself in a situation where the size of the pot is sucking you in on later streets if you can help it.

I'd say a small blocker bet of around 1/3 to 1/2 of the pot is a good play, and a check is a good play. With five players in the hand, I just don't see you scaring everybody off with a bet often enough to make it worthwhile.

1:49 AM  
Blogger Mike Maloney said...

I check-fold. I have TP no kicker out of position on a flush heavy board, sitting early on in an MTT full of people who will probably take their flush draw to the river. The pot is small, there's no need to risk a bunch of chips here on a hand where you have no idea how far ahead/behind you are and are in a multi-way pot.

And to be fair to Tomlinson, his o-line has looked like crap so far. We knew KC's o-line was going to suck, so I'm not surprised by Johnson's problems. St. Louis was hurt by Pace's injury, which probably has some effect on Jackson. LT actually has a good line, so maybe they'll start playing like it one of these days.

2:19 AM  
Blogger emptyman said...

Is fold out-of-turn too weak tight?

I check/fold here too. It's one thing to try to get value from one or two people here, but by not raising and defining our hand, we could be looking at T6, some gutshot/spade draw combo, etc. If we bet and they call, or we check and they bet, it's pretty damn hard to put them on any specific hand. And our hand isn't that great anyways, OOP, etc.

2:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I open bet that sucker for half the pot. Let's see where we are right off the bat for as cheaply as possible.

Depending on the action to follow would determine how to play the rest of the hand.

NFL dogs and only dogs!

3:23 AM  
Blogger 4dbirds said...

I've had luck with betting 2/3 to full pot. I can usually take it down with just that and get the raggy flush draws out. If I'm called or reraised, I'm on notice that one of them prolly has a hand. Unless something tells me otherwise, I'll most likely slow down.

3:30 AM  
Blogger Steven said...

sometimes this bet is about projecting an image...which can change as the tourn goes on..

blocker bets are fine...try and keep the pot smallish and under control and see what happens...any big raises im folding..

sometimes on these hands ill bet out and see if i can take it down...if someone comes back..again..time to fold. i like changing it up.

and steve jax is killing me. killing me.

4:20 AM  
Blogger ckbluffer said...


No MATH for me tonight. Will be at Wogies with the rest of the NYC Eagles fans.

4:23 AM  
Blogger KajaPoker said...

Since this is Flush Tilt Poker you will see a few thousand flush flops every night. You are obviously up against QsJs who will call any bet on any street.

The only way to win this hand is to go for the good old min bet out of position.

I keed. Check/fold it.

5:36 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

Three comments about this hand:

1. In a MTT like this ($26 token, $28k), KQ-KT seem like hands that could be limped from any position. Hench, my original thought was to check-fold.

2. Since it's checked to you, anyone else has to somewhat respect a bet here. You could've hit the flop huge with something like T6 or some weak spades. I think a bet of 100 will help you figure out where you're at. With so many limpers, everyone else has to play as cautiously as you would if you didn't bet.

3. Nevertheless, taking into consideration your position, a 5-way limped pot, and only TP9K on the wrong suited board, I think the risk here outweighs the reward. I check-fold and bask in my weak-tightness.

9:04 AM  
Blogger HighOnPoker said...

To me, this hand is a check/fold situation. I'd be worried about a better King, and/or a high suited card drawing for the flush. Since we are out of position, I think a fold is best. If you bet, you WILL get called by at least one other player out of position. Then when the next card comes, how do you react? He may already have the flush and he's slowplaying you, or he could have a better King and he's tentative too, so betting won't get much info here, UNLESS you get raised, in which case you fold anyway. In both scenarios, your bet will be ineffective and will only cost you money. But I'm sure that analysis is too easy/typical, so I'm curious to see what actually happens.

8:58 PM  
Blogger pokerpeaker said...

I'm checking. It's early. You're out of position against three other players. You've probably got the best hand, given no one raised, but I'm betting you'll get called at least once and maybe by two people. IF you want to go to battle with this hand be my guest, but I wouldn't bother.

10:21 PM  

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