Monday, March 31, 2008

Setup or Stoopid?

So after a rollercoaster weekend in which I qualified for Iron Man Iron status once again while at the same time seeing my fortunes fluctuate wildly based on some aggressive and in some cases reckless decisions, I sat down to the latest Big Game ready to extend my dominance in this particular monthly blogger tournament. I believe I have cashed in fully half of the Big Game's I have ever participated in, including one win, one second place and one third place in just the small number of these that have been run over the past year, year and a half or so. Actually, I forgot all about the tournament and missed the first half hour due to a charity auction I was attending, but when I got back I quickly doubled up off of smizmiatch with AK allin preflop against his pocket Jacks, and from there I remained in the top 10 of the tournament throughout the balance of the first hour of the event.

Early in hour two, with me still perched near the bottom of the top 10 with about a third of the starting field of I think 62 runners already eliminated, I engaged in maybe my third or fourth battle of the blinds with Julius Goat who was seated to my immediate right and thus got to have me attempt to steal his blinds almost every chance I got. He pushed back some, he let me have them some, and in the end I was happy with that situation, especially when this hand came up which saw me open-raise from the button I think with JTo. Goat called from the small blind and the big blind folded. We saw a heads-up flop of JJ9.

This is exactly why I like to steal so much even from early on in mtts. Now, there is no doubt that the value, even the necessity, of stealing increases dramatically later on in tournaments when the antes kick in, the blinds are high and the Ms are correspondingly low. But for me, I have enough confidence in my abilities to avoid trouble most of the time after the flop with marginal hands, that I like the kind of opportunity that being known and recognized as a blind stealer has brought to me over time right from the earlygoing in these tournaments. So when I can raise preflop from late position and know I am going to be put on a steal, and then a follow-up steal-cbet on the flop, I like my position. And occasionally I flop a monster like I had here from steal position, and then I know, in the words of immortal blowdog "pro" Josh Arieh, it's on.

So here I am, I've steal-raised from the button, been called by a guy I know thinks I am a blind stealer -- in fact he had called me down earlier for a large pot on the river with just KT-high on the assumption I was full of shit from the blinds -- and now I have flopped JJ9 with JT in my hand. It's a good situation. I don't remember exactly the action but I believe Goat checked this hand to me, and I bet out my normal-sized continuation bet, knowing Goat would give me no credit whatsoever for the play. And frankly he is right, because a lot of the time I am going to bet out here with ATC after the action checks to me in position in a heads-up pot that I had raised preflop. So he checks this flop, I bet my trips -- because I am a man -- and Goat I think flat called. Now I know he has some kind of a hand.

The turn is some raggy biatch card, an offsuit 2 or something. This time Goat checks to me again, I bet out about 3/4 the size of the pot, and Goat fairly quickly minraises me. A minraise of a bet from me, coming from the Goat, definitely suggested that he liked his hand in this spot, I was sure of it. But still, I felt in a stealy-button vs small blind confrontation, my JT had to be ahead of his range, which would include most Tens, most pocket pairs and probably some KQ or other two-high-cards-plus-a-draw kind of hands as well. So I reraised Goat allin there on the turn, and he beat me into the pot with his call for almost all of his chips. He flips up?

99. I think the river brought another 9 as well, giving Goat quads instead of his boat just for good measure, and I was left dealing with another setup hand elimination from a BBT3 tournament.

With a few hours now having gone by to think about the situation, I am left wondering just how much of a setup hand this really was. I mean, I know it was a setup in that it is clearly not wrong of me to believe I am ahead in this circumstance, and I happened to flop a set with a decent kicker in a heads-up pot from a stealy position, and yet happened to run into the flopped boat from my opponent in the small blind. It is affirmatively hideous luck, I don't need anyone else's opinion to know that. But the question I have for you today is: Did I need to go busto on this hand? What would you have done with this hand? Who out there is not going to push hard with JT on the JJ9 flop from a stealy situation, and, more importantly, why not?

Don't forget, the 6-max nlh Mondays at the Hoy is back tonight at 10pm ET on full tilt as the BBT3 rolls on:

Password as always is "hammer", the buyin as always is $26, and anyone and everyone is welcome to join as there are no prerequisites or other requirements for anyone to be able to play. Just log in to your full tilt account, click on the "Private" heading under the "Tournaments" tab, find the MATH and register for the event using the password of "hammer". That's all it takes to sit down with the bloggers and get donked.

See you tonight for Mondays at the Hoy on full tilt!

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Friday, March 28, 2008

WPBT Summer 2008

Today I am beginning the serious phase of my plans for the WPBT Summer gathering 2008.

I was really excited the other night during this guy's tournament when this guy said on this that this guy had posted about the WPBT summer gathering plans. I got the link and clicked right over to read what he had to say. Essentially, this guy has had preliminary discussions with this place about hosting another private blogger nlh tournament for us there in early June, and otherwise it is more or less up to us to book rooms at the hotel of our choosing which frankly is not a big deal for me as I have always tended to stay wherever I feel like it even in my two previous trips to Vegas to hang with the bloggers. My first time out there, I ended up staying with the larger group at this resort, which I actually thought was a great place for our big group to be, and then last year I did not want to stay at the Orleans where I think the block of rooms had been set up, so instead I opted for my old stomping grounds on the strip of this place. Both served me well and have a great central on-strip location for reasonable price among the large strip resorts.

Anyways, I got excited just reading about the preparations already being made for the WPBT Summer gathering 2008. But then I looked at the dates and saw that it is being planned for the first weekend of June this year, June 7-8. As I had written about previously, I feel that the second or even the third weekend of June both present better overall options as far as people who are interested in playing in the World Series of Poker during their stay in Sin City. Such as, me.

See, here's the issue. If I want to come the weekend of June 7, my WSOP options are as follows:

Thursday, June 5, 12pm PT: WSOP Event #9 Shorthanded NLH $1500
Thursday, June 5, 5pm PT: WSOP Event #10 O8 / Stud 8 $2500
Friday, June 6, 12pm PT: WSOP Event #11 NLH Shootout $5000
Friday, June 6, 5pm PT: WSOP Event #12 Limit Holdem $1500
Saturday, June 7, 12pm PT: WSOP Event #13 NLH $2500

I really could not play in any events starting later that Saturday at noon, as for various reasons I basically am slotted to take my time at the beginning of the weekend (i.e., Thursday and Friday) as opposed to later on Sunday or Monday. As it is, I can't really even play in a 3-day event that starts on Saturday at noon like Event #13 does, and more than that, I would prefer to play in the live blogger tournament if I am out in Vegas for the WPBT weekend, so that basically takes Saturday out of the picture again anyways. Which leaves me with just the four WSOP options on Thursday and Friday June 5-6. And here's the thing: Event #9 is shorthanded nlh. It is the exact event that I played and cashed in in 2008, and it's a game that I am fairly familiar with. But that said, I don't really play it anymore. Last year at this time I was Mr. Shorthanded Tournament, as I was playing in multiple satellites every single night just about into the nightly 6-handed 30k guaranteed tourney on full tilt at 11pm ET. I was living and breathing shorthanded nlh tournaments, and as a result that is the event I chose to play in, and I fared very well. But ever since I hit that 30k for a 5k score around the middle of 2007, I have really not been playing it much anymore. In fact, to be clear, I bet I haven't played it more than two times since returning from Las Vegas in June of 2007. So, I am not really inclined to pony up $1500 from my roll to play a game that I am just not really attuned to at the moment. So I think that one is not the best idea, as good as it was to me last year.

Now, I could be a badass and play that Event $10, Stud 8 and O8. These are two games I feel quite proficient in and in which I have had a modicum of success at over time. But, do I really feel like dropping 25 hundy to sit down and play limit poker with at least some people who will surely have more experience and knowledge of these games than I? I'm thinking not really.

Which leaves me with the Friday events. First is the nlh shootout, which I could see participating in, but at 5k a pop? Uh uh. And that leaves the Friday 5pm Event #12, which has the $1500 buyin that I like, but alas it is a limit holdem tournament, and that is no good for me. Many of you have seen how frustrating limit holdem can make me for the most part, and I'm just not seeing it making sense for me to fly all the way out to Vegas for my once-yearly WSOP pilgrimage just to get donked by some monkeychaser who won't lay down his bullshit regardless of how many bets and raises it is to him.

So therein lies the problem. What to do, what to do? I mean, I really want to hang with the bloggers who are cool enough to trek out to the middle of the desert in the summer during the WSOP, easily the most exciting time to be in Vegas for any poker fans and also one of the most fun. So I don't want to miss that weekend. But the following weekend Thursday - Saturday June 12-14 has multiple WSOP options for me that are better than anything going on at the WSOP during the WPBT weekend this year.

Obviously I see a couple of options for me here. #1 I can suck it up and pick one of these WSOP events from that first weekend and just play it. I know I am good enough to go deep in any of the events going on that weekend, so maybe I should just suck it up, play the shorthanded event again or something and be a man. That is certainly one option. That way, I will be there with the bloggers, we can share some good times, I can get my World Series fix and I can still almost surely be around for the Saturday blogger tournament at the Venetian. It's not a terrible solution, except for the WSOP options which are not great.

Another option is that I could come out for the WPBT weekend June 5-8, and just not play in the World Series. I understand that the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza is going on during that time, and I have had a number of other bloggers mention that possibility to me. Here is the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza schedule. So I could plya the $540 Friday night tournament and see how that goes. But then I am giving up playing in the WSOP this year, which I will admit is not exactly what I want to do.

And of course my last option is that I could come out the following weekend, on Thursday June 12 as I had been writing about previously, and then I could play in the WSOP on Thursday at noon in an event I would look more foward to playing than any of the WSOP options for the previous week. But although I will still have a few bloggers around that weekend whom I would really look forward to hanging out with, I will then miss the big WPBT gathering from the previous weekend. And that makes this not a great option either.

So what to do, what to do? I am open to any and all advice or thoughts any of you may have. Why can't you fonkeys just be going the second weekend of June instead of the first?

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Credit Card Mania

Part I

I looked down at the MBNA statements that had just spit out of the printer on my home fax machine with tredpidation. As I look back on it, part of me already knew exactly what I would see there, but I guess I was just hoping against hope that I would be wrong. Or at least that I wouldn't find anything on this specific piece of paper, the very first of the credit card bills I was reviewing. Please oh please oh please don't list any casinos pleasepleaseplease....

MGM Mirage, LV Nevada...$2000.00
Finance Charge $184.00

And there it was. On the very first statement I received from MBNA in response to my inquiry that I believed my credit card account had been hacked, staring me right in the face in black and white. On the very first line. In fact this was the very first charge made on a brand new card that had just been opened days earlier. Someone with a raging gambling problem had been using a credit card in my name to make cash withdrawals in casinos and gambling with it. This sicko needed the money so bad that he was paying nearly 10% on top just to get the cash immediately so he could hit up the craps tables. This was someone who had stolen my identity, presumably because they had run out of credit themselves due to brilliant financial decisions like this. We were looking at a hardened gambler here, and a thief with obviously no scruples whatsoever, and he was holding a credit card with my name imprinted on the top. And who was this deranged lunatic?

My father.


As I look back on things, I should have known long before the proverbial shit hit the fan. I mean, when the other kids were going to Disney and to Mexico and to the Caribbean with their families for vacation in middle and high school, my family was going to Atlantic City for extended weekend trips, where my father would disappear in the evenings every single night while my two brothers and I and our mom were heading to bed in our hotel rooms. While the other Jewish families in New Jersey were busy ordering in Chinese food on Christmas Day and going to the movies on Thanksgiving, we went to? Atlantic City. Where my dad would, predictably, disappear in the evenings every single night while my two brothers and I and our mom were heading to bed in our hotel rooms. When we got a little older, the family vacations stopped being to Atlantic City and changed instead to a more exotic locale, 3000 miles away from home and in the blistering hot desert with lush pools and fabulous, expansive resorts. Las Vegas.

It's always so easy to pick up on the signs in retrospect, isn't it? I am a grown man now, and I've had well more than enough independent experience in the world to recognize a problem when I see one. But when you're a little kid, and these are the only parents you've ever known, and you grow up like most of the rest of us thinking Daddy is perfect, it just wasn't something that ever crossed my mind. I mean sure, I was aware that as a family we seemed to gamble a whole heck of a lot more than the next guys, but that didn't feel like a problem to me when I was younger. It felt like maybe we were cooler than them, more daring than them, just generally more badass than most of the friends my brothers and I had. But to be honest, at the time, even as late as when I was starting out as a lawyer in my min-twenties in Boston -- when I myself was spending weekends in Vegas as much as 8 or 9 times a year -- it never really dawned on me that there was a gambling problem to be concerned about.

There were other signs around that time, when the symptoms had been growing for some time already, that should have made it really obvious that something was going on. At some point I really should have questioned why my parents were taking four trips a year total, all of them to Las Vegas, and when I would go out there with them on occasion, every night consisted of my mother sitting in the hotel room and reading a book from 7pm until she fell asleep, alone, while my dad was downstairs at the tables. Sometimes I would be down there with him, too, but often out of sheer guilt I would spend a few nights each week up in the room with my mom, reading, just chatting about life as a lawyer, new friends or girlfriends, her teaching job, whatever. I never understood how she could be happy taking vacations exclusively to a city that she hates, spending her precious little time off in a city that is created ultimately around a gambling habit that she reviles nearly as much as anyone I've ever known hates anything. To this day I will never understand it, other than to say that my mother has proven to be the ultimate enabler -- those familiar with the various 12-step Anonymous programs will know exactly what I mean when I say that -- who simply is too willing to let her husband, the father of her children with whom she has spent every single night for the past 40+ years now, do whatever he wants, even at the cost of her own happiness.

There were more direct signs as well of my unwitting involvement in this. Shortly after moving from Boston to take my first in-house job as a lawyer for a major technology company in suburban New York City, I received a surprising letter one day from Fleet Bank in Boston, from whom I had acquired a credit card that I had actively used for the past several years since arriving in Boston back in the mid '90s. It seems that, unsolicitedly, Fleet Bank had decided to cut my credit limit from the $18,000 or whatever it was, down to a comparatively meager $3,000. Now, this wasn't a problem for me as I had almost no balance on the card at the time, and was in the habit of regularly paying it down every month or so. By any counts I had been a good customer of Fleet's and I remember thinking how odd for a bank to want to slice my potential credit unilaterally like this out of the blue. I even called them shortly after receiving this letter to inquire about the reason for the cut, and was told only one simple sentence, full of foreboding although even that went clear over my head at the time in the bliss of parental ignorance and the blindness of someone who could not conceive of the heights to which an addicted gambler would climb to get his fix. "Too much credit outstanding" is all Fleet would tell me, with no other discussion or details to be provided no matter how much I prodded or poked them about it.

At the time, I dismissed Fleet's action as one of a poorly-run bank with no concept of how to treat its good customers and how to keep its excellent clients happy. No matter, I had plenty of other credit cards and like I said, I had not been relying on them in any meaningful way in any event for my day-to-day standard of living, as I had been working in a big law firm and frankly had far more money than I had time to spend it all. So much so, that when a second credit card company abruptly decided to close my account -- never missed a payment, mind you -- maybe two or three months later, I also shrugged it off. The banks are tightening their credit standards I guess, is what I told myself at the time. It didn't matter, like I said, and I knew I wasn't missing any payments or anything or maxing out my credit lines, so I just didn't worry about it at all. Everything was fine and the banks were just being stoopid, right? Right?

How very very wrong I was.


Congratulations to Tilt Away (do you have a blog? Why not?!) for winning the Skills Series in razz on Tuesday (forgot to mention that yesterday), and congratulations to hellory (blog?) for taking down this week's Mookie as tilt away and hellory have now nabbed the two most recent BBT3 Tournament of Champions seats in this week's action. The list of non-bloggers or people who have not traditionally played with our group who are winning ToC seats is growing, and the percentage in the ToC of traditional members of our crowd are shrinking. Who will be the next to step up and defend our honor? Thursday night, 9pm ET at the Riverchasers, the brainchild organization of last night's Mookie runner-up Riggstad will be your next chance. Straight-up nlh tonight, again at an earlier start time than the rest of our event at 9pm ET, and the password as always is "riverchasers" on full tilt. I'm hoping to make a strong showing in the first Riverchasers tournament I will really play since Lost came back to the airwaves in its new Thursday night slot. See you then.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Small Field vs Big Field Mtts

As we approach another Mookie Wednesday, I am left to ponder the topic I have returned to the most over the past several weeks concerning my poker play: why am I once again completely invisible in terms of my performances during the BBT3? I mean, I am still running hot in my mtt game overall; just in the past week I have recorded probably three top-100 finishes in the 5050 tournaments on full tilt and pokerstars, two of them ending well into the top 50 players, in addition to some other random tournament cashes in various forms of poker plus a number of nice hits in the sitngo arena. So my tournament game is still doing fine overall. But the problem is the blonkaments.

Sure, I managed to win one more blonkament in the past month -- the first of the $10 Turbo PLO Dookie's a few weeks back -- bringing my total blonkament wins for the year up to 4 -- two Dookies, a Donkament and an O8 Riverchasers event in January. But in general, my blonkament game overall has not been up to snuff so far in 2008, and I keep asking myself the same question over and over again: Why?

I've done a lot of soul searching on this point, and I am simply not hitting on any of the right answers. So I thought today I would use this space to write down my thoughts and solicit any opinions that anyone has on the topic. I really don't have any conclusions to make in this post, though, so it will probably end up being more stream of consciousness than anything else when all is said and done.

The biggest thing about the blonkaments over the past few weeks in particular has to be the large fields. With the BBT3 in effect, the average blonkament between the Big Game, the Hoy, the Skills Series, the Mookie and the Riverchasers has probably been what, around 90 players? Compare this to the non-BBT "usual" size of these events, which is maybe 20 for the Big Game, 30 for the Hoy, 40 for Skills, 60 for the Mookie and 50 for the Riverchasers, for a back-of-the-envelope average participation of around 40 players. So with the BBT, the fields are a good twice the size of average if not a little moreso than that even. Obviously this makes it very much more difficult to win a tournament when the field is more than twice as large.

But my problem with it all just being that simple as far as my complete lack of success in the blonkaments since the BBT3 hit is that for the most part I am not even cashing in these events. Should it really be that much harder for me to finish in the top 10% of the field, say, with 40 players or with 90? I think not. So clearly, I am simply doing something wrong.

For example, after how many Skills Series events there have been so far this year -- let's say around 12 at this point -- finally this week's Razz event saw me score my first elimination bounty of the entire series when I knocked out blogger razz champion Gary Cox when he boated up on the river (you gotta love razz!). My first fucking bounty! In 12 events. How can that be? I keep asking myself that question, and on that particular point I think the answer is a little clearer than the other blonkaments in general: I am playing way too loose up front.

I told myself I was playing too loose after my first several Skills Series failures, don't get me wrong. I went back and reviewed my hand histories and noticed that I was taking a lot of chances that, while maybe sensible plays given the context in the tournaments at the time, simply did not need to be made at that point in time. Like, for example, I'm playing razz and I am dealt (KJ)4, the action folds to me with just two players left to act and up cards behind me of 7 and J. Do I need to raise here? Sure I am tempted to raise and likely steal the blinds, and generally speaking that is how I try to play razz as a rule and I believe that is a winning approach to the game. But in a freezeout tournament, especially one with a bunch of unlesser-skilled players who are more likely than your average bear to make a bad-looking call or to chase a draw down to the final card, I think perhaps in these situations, where the hand I actually have is not a good or even playable one at all, I can pass up playing in more of these situations than I have been. This in fact was the exact approach I followed for the first time in the entire Skills Series run this very week with razz, and I ended up posting not only my first elimination bounty but also my best overall Skill Series finish, a still disappointing 22nd or 23rd place out of 80-some runners on Tuesday night. Still not where I want to be, but I definitely felt like, at least where the Skills Series limit poker events are concerned, I need to actively focus on playing tighter early in these events, and that should help my bottom line going forward. It is definitely not something I have focused on at all to this point, and I think that fact shows in my results thus far.

But my better question involves when I move my self-analysis away from just the Skills Series. The rest of our games are, for the most part, no-limit holdem tournaments, and it is in those events that I am most surprised and most disappointed with my complete inability to even cash. Now to be fair, in the very first event of the BBT3 in the Big Game, I played great and ran all the way to 3rd place before being the second-to-last cooler victim of Scott Fischman's at the final table. I won $953 or something for my efforts, basically paying for all of the BBT3 events I will be playing in (most of them) and giving me a very confident feeling heading into the rest of the challenge. But since then I do not believe I have cashed in a single tournament of the BBT3. So again I ask, what am I doing wrong in these nlh tournaments? Here is my analysis:

In the Mookie, I already wrote earlier this week about my theory on the 1500 vs 3000-chip starting stacks. I have been playing every one of our events as if it were a 3000-chip tournamnet, even though in reality only the last Mookie of every month -- including tonight's, btw -- starts with 3000 chips. The rest of the Mookies over the past couple of months have been 1500-chip starters, and as I mentioned earlier in the week, I know now that I have been playing those also too loose. Again as with the Skills Series tournaments, the majority of my LAGgy weakness has been occurring early in the Mookie tournaments, where I have been raising preflop too liberally with less than stellar cards, and I have been betting and calling too liberally on the flop as well. As much as that is a drag on anyone's results in anyone's tournament game, doing so in the shorter-stack Mookie tournaments has been a complete disaster. I think I have figured that out and internalized it now, so hopefully starting with next week's Mookie tournament I can see some better results with my new 1500-chip tournament approach. So I think that explains my terrible Mookie showings so far this year.

But what of the other tournaments? In Riverchasers I do have the one win this year already, and otherwise I have missed probably half of them, and all the RCs during the BBT so far, to watch Lost, so with that particular tournament I have not really made enough attempts to claim a real lack of success yet. But take the MATH for example. This is an event that I won what, 6 or 7 separate times in 2007. Now this year, I am relegated to just one cash, an early final table exit at that, and an overall loss of a good $200+ in my own tournament so far in 2008. What is up with that? Now this is a 6-max tournament so in some ways I doubt the story is as simple as me just playing too tight early on. In 6-max I think you really have to play a much looser game in the earlygoing just in order to keep up with the escalating blinds and the shorthanded format in general. I have reviewed my hands from every Hoy of the year so far, and for the life of me I can not focus on one single thing that I seem to be doing wrong. So those of you who have been playing with me in the blonkaments lately, if you have any ideas what I've been doing wrong this month as compared to my past performances, I am all ears.

Lastly, I will mention that I have been a bit of a tiltmonkey in the blogger games through much of this year so far, and I know that is something that has affected me in every single one of our regular weekly events. Too many times I have taken a bad beat or two, or lost a nice portion of my stack, and then proceeded to auto-donk the rest of the way out of the tournament. Now, this is not an approach that I use in my sng play, nor is it something I would ever do in my larger mtt play either, which tells me that on some level I know it is losing poker to allow myself to tilt-donk in this way. And yet, so far over the past several weeks I am just not giving myself a chance to survive, to clear my head and to come back from a big loss. All that I realize now as of this week and I am specifically targeting that as one key area of change going forward.

In all, I think it is a very tricky business trying to act like anyone actually has an actual plan to win one of these large-field blonkaments. But I certainly know that I have the skill required to be making some final tables, at least to be consistently making the BBT points cutoff. Not that I would ever in a million years "play to make the points" (you donks), but as a benchmark of my performance I should definitely be in there more than the three times or whatever I have reached this plateau so far in the first month's worth of BBT tournaments. So look for me tonight in the Mookie at 10pm ET on full tilt -- password as always is "vegas1" -- and I will once again be planning to practice a tighter strategy, at least during the first hour or two of play. At some point as I have mentioned previously I bellieve that my advantage increases exponentially over most of my peers as the tournament progresses to the late stages and the game becomes more of an instinctual pushfest stealfest and even restealfest, but in order to be able to benefit from that advantage I feel I have, I need to focus on the fact that first I need to get to the third hour of a tournament before I can start to open up. So that's the plan for tonight, but I really do welcome any thoughts from any of you on my plan in the blonkaments over the past month or so.

Cuz boy do my results suck some balls.

See you tonight for the Mewk.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

MATH Recap, and Semi-Bluffing on the Flop

75 runners showed up for the MATH on Monday night on full tilt, making for a nice round $1800 prize pool and payouts to the top 8 finishers. As usual given the faster 6-max format of the MATH, our first bustout happened within just a few minutes as last week's winner dwal78 was gone within just a few hands played. I actually managed to hang around a little bit for a change, taking advantage of a lucky situation when I flopped a set of 6s near the end of hour 1 at the same time as Kat flopped TPTK with her AQ. As I've said many times, TPTK can be hard to get away from with escalating blinds and antes, especially in a fast-structure blogger tournament, and double especially when the other player is playing a monster hand slow like I did in this spot. So this doubled me up to around 10k in chips and a top 10 stack heading into the first break, the highest up there I have been in the MATH all through the BBT3 so far.

The big hand with Kat also enabled me to get to experience my favorite time in the Hoy, which is from roughly 11:15 to 11:30pm ET -- basically from shortly into Hour 2 to the midway point of the second hour -- when a ton of players who barely made it through the first hour decide they've waited for AA long enough in Hour 2 and now have to start making moves or going busto. And go busto they do. For the 15-minute period from 11:15 to 11:30 on Monday night, we went from 55 players left to 35 players left, with 3 and 4 bustouts every minute it seemed as I guess the blinds just catch up to the donks, the passives and the unlucky around this time. At 11:30 after busto time I was sitting in 7th place of 35 remaining with around 9500 chips and doing well.

Then enter the card death. I didn't see another good hand the rest of my time in this tournament, and that just makes things very hard to deal with, especially when other players at your table always seem to have some kind of a hand and when you're into the antes in a 6-max nlh structured event. I had to lay down a resteal when I tried to use this move to make up for all the blinds and antes I had lost while folding hands like 63o and 74o and J5s. I blinded off for like it was goin' out of style, and before I knew it with the resteal laydown I was down to just over 5k in chips and in the bottom quartile of the 25 remaining players or so. And as I've written about here so many times, when eventually I was dealt KJs after bleeding off all those chips with nothing, those two cards looked like Aces to me. Scottmc raised preflop, and I pushed allin, knowing I would be pot-committed if I called his raise and really hoping to take it down then and there, and unfortunately Scott called. He showed TT, and I was actually in a much better position than I could have otherwise hoped. Alas I did not hit my 49% shot and IGH in 25th place of 75 runners, while Scott was off to the races for yet another MATH cash in the end.

Speaking of which, here are your cashers for this week's Mondays at the Hoy tournament on full tilt:

8. $63 jamyhawk
7. $63 scottmc
6. $99 mattazuma
5. $144 iam23skidoo
4. $198 recessrampage
3. $261 numbbono
2. $378 Pirate Wes
1. $594 corron10

So congratulations out to corron10 for taking down this week's Hoy, and more importantly for winning already his second seat in the BBT3 Tournament of Champions coming up at the end of the series. That is impressive now, with a Skills event win and a Hoy victory already, joining Lucko as the only two-time winners so far in the BBT3 events, and bringing now the maximum number of seats in the Tournament of Champions down to 53 with those two repeat winners.

And also congratulations out to this week's second place finisher Pirate Wes, better known to some of you as a104I9 on full tilt, for taking over the lead in the the updated 2008 MATH moneyboard, including this week's results:

1. Pirate Wes $959
2. columbo $928
3. astin $664
4. lucko21 $650
5. dwal78 $597
6. corron10 $594
7. Tripjax $553
8. fuel55 $512
9. surflexus $488
10. pureprophet $484
11. zeroluck001 $476
11. Jordan $476
13. TuscaloosaJohn $423
14. twoblackaces $409
15. Loretta8 $389
16. ChiipyMcStacks $316
17. Breeze81 $310
18. bayne_s $291
19. tilt_away $289
20. jmathewson_III $274
21. numbbono $261
22. Miami Don $224
23. Roberto55 $217
24. Donkey Shortz $215
25. VinNay $203
26. DaBag $202
26. Byron $202
28. recessrampage $198
29. buckhoya $150
29. Mike Maloney $150
31. iam23skidoo $144
32. BuddyDank $142
33. chitwood $127
34. cubanlinks $120
35. LJ $119
36. kevin_with_AK $106
37. mattazuma $99
38. BamBamCan $95
38. thepokergrind $95
40. ANIguy $89
40. bartonf $89
42. HotPants29 $74
43. katiemother $67
43. Hoyazo $67
45. scottmc $63
46. jamyhawk $63
47. CheckinMyAA $62
48. PirateLawyer $60
49. DonkeyPuncher74 $56
49. RaisingCayne $56
51. jeciimd $52
52. zeroluck001 $52
53. AltronIV $47

Now for today's poker topic I wanted to discuss semi-bluffing on the flop. Semi-bluffing, or the practice of betting with a hand that is not likely to be the best right now, but which if called has a reasonable chance of becoming the best hand later in the hand, has its time and its place in every serious poker player's arsenal. I know against most of the competition I am playing against, say, once the big mtt's get deep into the money will easily adjust and outplay me if I never ever bet without a made hand, and always bet only when my hand is not on the come. So sometimes I know I have to be willing to bet on the come, to bet with a draw, on the flop if I want to get fully paid off when I do hit those hands.

But semi-bluffing can be a nasty business. Especially as the blinds / antes get big and the Ms get small, I can really hurt my overall results if I semi-bluff too much. I remember two distinct occasions where my careful hand analysis after every one of my sessions saw me finding an over-inclination to semi-bluffery that was costing me cold hard cash. Specifically back during my cash game nlh days in 2007, I remember at one point realizing with a sort of a shock that I had actually been betting with almost every single draw I had without regard for any other circumstances of the hands in question. This strategy works great when you're hitting your draws, don't get me wrong. Nobody can consistently put you on a drawing hand if you bet on the come on the flop and then your draw fills on the turn, especially when like me you have good instincts about slowing down just enough with the action on the turn. But when you are missing your draws, or even when you're only hitting them your mathematically expected 1/5 of the time or so on the turn or river on the primary draws, habitual semi-bluffery will drain your bankroll. Once I corrected for this error, my cash game results improved dramatically.

So what do I use when deciding whether or not to semi-bluff with, say, a primary draw? There are basically three criteria I focus most on with this decision, one related to my opponent(s), one related to the size of the pot and one relating to the cards on the flop. And here it is important to note once again that I do not handle this same question in this same exact way in every situation. Any pattern, any consistent repetition, will be sniffed out by the stronger players, so I basically never play something the same way every time. But the other players, the chips in the pot and the cards on the board play the major roles in determining my decisions these days as to whether or not to semi-bluff the flop.

First, my opponents. Sklansky has a number of great discussions of this in all his various books, but I think the place I remember it most vividly is his No Limit Hold'em: Theory and Practice book which I have read a few times over the past year, year and a half or so. There, Sklansky discusses the semi-bluff at length, and the key point I take from his discussion there that I agree with 100% is that you only semi-bluff when you think there is a reasonable chance of making your opponents fold with the flop bet and taking down the pot right then and there. So, in other words, if I think it is highly likely that my opponent is going to call my bet, I generally try not to semi-bluff in the first place. I want my opponents to all fold when I am on a draw that is expected to fill only 18, 19% of the time on the next card. But if I know I am playing against a passive player, a calling station or what I have come to think of generally as pairmonkeys, then I generally try to avoid the semi-bluff in this spot. He is going to call my bet anyways, so why not try to draw to my long-odds hand as cheaply as possible, right? So against calling stations generally, I tend to slow down with the semi-bluffing. Whereas, against players whom I know to be tight post-flop and more likely than average to fold to my bets, I am more likely to semi-bluff there to try to get a fold and end the hand right there.

Seconly, there is the size of the pot. Generally speaking, when the pot is small relative to the stack sizes, I tend to be slightly more liberal with my semi-bluffing. This is purely an absolute dollars and cents thing, but in general, say I am the small blind, say very early in the Hoy with 3000 starting chips, and both myself and the big blind limp in to a pot with 60 chips in the middle to see a heads-up flop. Then I flop an oesd or a flush draw with the flop cards, and it will only cost me 40 or 50 chips out of a stack of 3000 chips to put the semi-bluff out there, I am generally speaking more apt to do so. In a way this is counter to my first point since the small number of chips tends to make that flop semi-bluff more easily callable by my opponent, and therefore perhaps I should rethink my position somewhat here, but at the end of the day when it is a very small portion of my total stack I tend to be a bit more liberal with the semi-bluffs, because I can afford to be, and because of my ability to win a large pot if I do hit my draw, having bet the flop before that draw ever filled. But, conversely, if I have 2000 chips say 90 minutes in to the Hoy with blinds of 250-500 and 50-chip antes, and I limp in to see a flop from the big blind, then in this spot with such a low, low M I will often try to avoid the semi-bluff if at all possible so as to hold on to my precious few chips in a spot where I have no made hand at the time.

Lastly, and to be honest probably most important in my decision of whether or not to semi-bluff is the cards on the flop, and more specifically, the "texture" of those cards. I have written about this before in the context of continuation betting, a similar exercise in some ways to the semi-bluffing decision, but generally speaking, I am more apt to semi-bluff on a ragged board, with no likely draws on it. This is because, harkening back to my first point, such flops increase the likelihood that my opponent will fold to my bet. Additionally it also becomes easier for me to put my opponent on some kind of a decent-at-least hand if they do call my semi-bluff flop bet on such a raggy flop. So if the button open-limps and I limp behind from the big blind with 54s and then the flop comes 239 rainbow, I am more inclined to semi-bluff there with my oesd, all other things being equal, because the flop is so ragged I feel that there is a high likelihood that my opponent will fold to my bet on the flop. But, alternatively, when the hijack open-limps, the button overlimps and then I limp in from the big blind with a hand like 98s, and the flop comes down KJT with two of a suit that is not mine, that is a board I do not like the semi-bluff on. Why not? Because with a limper out of the hijack and the button, the odds are that a three-high-card flop like this has clearly hit someone, hard enough at least to make them want to call my bet here. And if I am just 18% to fill my draw on the turn -- assuming it will be ahead as it is even if it does fill -- then I do not want to put more money into this pot in this spot as a significant underdog. So more than any other single factor, the texture of the flop tends to have the most impact on my decision of whether or not to semi-bluff with my drawing hands on the flop in nlh tournaments.

In all, the question of when (or if) to semi-bluff is one that may seem trivial to a lot of players out there, but careful analysis of these situations is a crucial piece of any properly introspective approach to one's poker game. As I mentioned above, I can specifically recall two separate occasions where I realized from studying my own hand histories that I was playing too liberally with my draws, and frankly there have probably been times as well where I was failing to ever bet them enough. As with any consistent poker situation, the proper handling of such decisions cannot be based on the exact same factors leading to the exact same results every single time or I know I will be playing identifiable, and therefore exploitable, poker. But having guidelines like the ones I follow above in this post has still helped me dramatically in facing what can otherwise feel sometimes like a very eenie-meenie-miney-mo decision for many players out there.

Now don't forget to come out to the latest Skills Series event tonight at 9:30pm ET on full tilt and to use these fresh semi-bluff decisionmaking skills (password as always is "skillz"). And tonight is gonna be a doozy too -- $12 limit Razz. Ahhhh I just threw up in my mouth just thinking about that. What fun. But you gotta come out and play the most frustrating of all the poker games, because tonight by around 1am we will have awarded yet another seat in the BBT3 ToC coming up in early June. And also don't forget to check out the BlowDonkey tonight at 9pm ET if that's how you roll, hosted by Smokkee who recently won over 6k in the 40k guaranteed nlh tournament on full tilt last week. I won't be on Blowdog but I will definitely be in there for Skillz razz at 9:30pm ET tonight, trying in vain still to pick up my very first elimination bounty of the entire year in any of the Skills games. Hopefully that bounty will come against you tonight on full tilt!

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Monday, March 24, 2008

The Law Chica Scores Again, and Single Stacks vs Double Stacks

Don't forget the Mizzle tonight, 10pm ET on full tilt:

Password for the MATH as always is "hammer", and one and all are welcome as the BBT3 rolls on tonight for some 6-max nlh fun times.

So yeah I was gone for a couple of days there, I have heard about it from enough of you but what can I say, sometimes a guy just needs to recharge. Actually last Thursday the culprit was work, as one of my colleagues left my group and my company for good (riddance) that day, but the transition and the increased work responsibilities for me will be noticeable for the foreseeable future. That said, in the end I got just what I wanted as far as my promotion at work, and my company did not go out of business last week like some investment banks did, so for the time being things are going ok overall I suppose. And this past Friday was Good Friday, a bank holiday, and as such we are closed at work and I generally tend to take my holidays seriously even as blog holidays when I am able. So that's my excuse for two uncharacteristic days of absence, it's not much but it's all you're gonna get. I'm back now and better than ever, and that's all that matters.

For starters, last night I watched LJ absolutley manhandle the field in the nightly 32k guaranteed on full tilt, treating me to a masterful show by her over maybe two hours or so of early Push Time as she navigated the field from around 100 players left down to around 25 before I finally hit the sack for the night. LJ was playing like a pro, barely showing down a hand in two hours, and using selective aggression like a champion on her way to an eventual 2nd place finish out of 1721 runners for over $5600 cash money. You cannot play Push Time any better than LJ did there, and she is rewarded with her biggest ever online win. so go stop by her blog and congratulate LJ for yet another big tournament score. Does anyone in our group cash in the big ones with LJ's regularity? Anyone?

And while I'm on the topic, while I was away our man Smokkee went and came in 3rd place in the daily $165 buyin 40k guaranteed tournament at 3pm ET. Go read about his exploits at Smokkee's blog and make sure to congratulate the man on his largest-ever online poker cash of over $6000 and change! What is in the water this past week or so that has all the bloggers turning in huge performances for largest-ever scores? I don't know but I want to get me summa that for myself, I know that much.

So today I wanted to talk a little bit about one of my favorite topics -- the Mookie. Over the weekend I was reviewing my last few Mookie finishes among other things, and a very obvious fact jumped right out at me. There is quite simply a major difference in the proper tournament strategy for a 1500-chip tournament and a 3000-chip tournament. I've heard and read a number of people saying the opposite around the blogging world -- heck, I might have even said so myself at one point or another -- but that shit could not be further from the truth. When the blinds are starting out exactly the same in either format, the simple fact is that there is a ton more room to splash around, to play some small ball and try to see some cheap flops and nail 'em, or to wait for the good cards and pick your spots, in a 3000-chip event than in a correspondingly-structured 1500-chip one. Way more.

One of my many Mookie problems over the past couple of months is directly related to this. I have clearly been playing the regular-stack Mookie's identically the same way as I approach the 3000-chippers, and that is no way to survive and accumulate in a blonkament or any other mtt. It just cannot possibly work, unless I get smiznacked in the face hard with the deck, which just doesn't happen nearly often enough to plan a strategy around. Let me give you an example of exactly what I mean:

So I'm reviewing my hand histories and screen shots over the last several Mookie's, and here I go maybe 30 minutes in, with blinds at 25-50, limping in from middle position behind an EP limper with a hand like 97s. I'm hoping to attract a couple of more stragglers into the pot behind me and maybe hit something big with soooted one-gapper. So EP limps for 50, I limp for 50, the cutoff limps for 50, and then the button makes it 150 to go. The big blind calls the 150, as does the EP player, and now I have to call another 100 to see at least a 3-way flop and more likely a 5-way flop once I get in there with 97s. So I make the call, thinking my pot odds and especially my implied odds easily justify such a move here. And you know what? Implied odds probably do justify the call here with 97s, all other things being equal.

But here's the problem -- all other things are not equal, in particular in this context the variable of stack size. We are 30 minutes in to the Mookie, let's say my stack is right where it started at 1500 chips, and now here I am calling off 10% of my stack with 97s. I don't know about you, but that is definitely not where I want to be if I am trying to win the dam thing. 97s for 10% of my stack preflop? Blech. Whereas, if I had started with 3000 chips instead of 1500, making that same limp-call move 30 minutes in to the tournament doesn't bother me in the least. Yes it's still 5% of my stack with a speculative hand, but frankly the difference between those two is quite noticeable in my eyes. I have little trouble making a well-timed play for 5% of my stack preflop with a sooted one-gapper. If I miss, I fold and so what, I have 2850 chips instead of 3000 in my stack. No big whoop. But when I fold the flop after completely missing it and am down to 1350 instead of 1500, that is a much bigger difference.

But the even bigger problem for me has been coming after the flop is already out in the short-chipped Mookie. As most of you know, I tend to play pretty aggressive poker overall, and that definitely extends to my postflop play in addition to my preflop play. So if I like the flop for my hand, or more accurately, if I sense a lack of strength on my opponents' part, I am likely to bet at almost any flop at any point in the tournament. And, depending on the preflop action and the exact texture of the flop, I am likely to bet somewhere between 2/3 and the full size of the pot when I make such a bet on the flop. So look at what this does to me in the 1500-chip stacks:

So going back to my example above, let's say I do go and call the 150 and end up seeing a 4-way flop with my 97s, making 625 chips in the pot and bringing a flop of 983 rainbow on a hand where I had started out even with the starting stack of 1500 chips. The big blind and the EP player check to me, and what's my move? On this type of flop, I would likely as in most cases want to put in a bet of roughly two-thirds the size of the pot, which in this case is around 450 chips. So let's say I do that, and then someone in late position raises me allin. Now look at me. I've got 1500 - 150 - 450 = 900 chips left, and there is now 1075 chips in the pot. Yes I can fold my top pair no kicker to the allin raise on the flop here just 30 minutes in to the Mookie -- most likely that is the "right" move in terms of me probably being behind here in some way with just two cards to come -- but how sure am I that I am definitely behind here? Basically I am facing a poor decision either way on my part, one that is mostly a direct result of the fact that I have been betting over my head with a mediocre hand right from the getgo here. Either I decide I am pot committed and I call off my last 900 chips into a 1075-chip pot with just top pair 9s no kicker (and I am a donkey), or I fold my top pair and am left with just 900 chips and a very poor chance of recovery to respectability. Damned if I do, and damned if I don't, and again it all comes back to stack size. That exact same decision for the exact same numbers of chips involved just isn't nearly as tough if I still have 2400 chips behind as opposed to when I have just 900 behind. Laying down to the reraise is a much easier decision I think with just top pair 9s no kicker, and reraising allin is even a better option that simply is not available in the 1500-starting-stack scenario due to the limited number of chips involved.

When it comes right down to it, long before even the first hour is up in these 1500-chip blonkaments, the starting stack all but requires you to be nearly committed to the pot to even bet or call a normal-sized bet on the flop, one time. So, I need to play different kinds of hands differently in a 1500-chip tournament to adjust for this fact. I'm sure I used to know this back in the day when all of our regular weekly blogger tournaments were 1500 chips to start, but it didn't all click in my own mind again until this past weekend while reviewing my recent Mookie failures. I can't play a hand like AJo for a raise preflop and then withstand (or even lead) one round of normal-sized betting on an Ace-high flop in a 1500-chip tournament, whereas I can do so in a 3000-chip tournament quite easily without really risking a significant portion of my stack on the hand. With 1500 chips, I have to noticeably tighten up my preflop play, and more than that, I need to very directedly practice pot control from the very earliest parts of each hand in order to see flops, turns and rivers on my own terms. Once I start adjusting for that, I am hoping to see a noticeable improvement in my Mookie performances, hopefully in time to win me my prop bet with Mookie at some point before this year is out. Ha ha yeah right.

And don't get me wrong here btw, I'm not complaining even a little bit. I enjoy the 1500-chip format. I love the shorter (what used to be "normal") stacks and I am a huge fan of the variety in the whole thing as I have written about here previously. I am merely making an observation that I have not previously made, and in fact which I have been practicing as if the exact opposite of this observation were in fact the truth. So much of poker is all about adjusting, and in this case it's no wonder I haven't done squat in the Mook since the switch back to 1500 starting chips a couple of months ago. I've been playing it as if no switch actually occurred at all, when in reality a significant switch went down which has noticeable impact on the proper strategy of play compared to the 3000-chip donkfests I've become used to over the past half a year or so since the first BBT hit town and we all upped our tournaments to double stacks. I've been the deadest money in that tournament week in and week out, for going on a couple of months here.

But now all that changes. And hopefully I can start the change tonight by focusing on adjusting my game a little better for the 6-max superfast structure of Mondays at the Hoy as well. See you tonight at 10pm ET for the MATH on full tilt!

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Workin the Wii

Congratulations to Chippy McStacks for taking down this week's Skills Series event. In what, 9 or 10 Skill Series tournaments this year, yours truly still has yet to pick up even one measly bounty. That's right. I haven't eliminated nary a soul from the entire Skill Series, with no exceptions. Between that and the BBT3 in general, I am absolutely donking the shit out of the world of blonkaments, one of my worst performances ever. And last night was no different, with me busting in the first quintile or so when my split Kings went up against someone else's split 7s -- both of which were very obvious, mind you -- when the 7s declared he was allin and going home right from 3rd street. We got all the money in by 5th, and BOooooooooom there was 7s over 3s at the river for my opponent to not only keep me out of the top 5 in chips but to eliminate me entirely from the tournament. Awesome.

I wanted to write today about something related to all the 5050 final tables I made in the past month. It's something that I spoke about on buddydank radio on at least one occasion, but from some of the emails and IMs I have gotten lately it reminds me that I never really mentioned it here at all even though far more people read here than have been listening on BDR on the one or two nights where this came up. So the question is, was there anything tangible that I did differently on the nights when I made the deep mtt runs, from how I otherwise handle myself on other nights I am playing online poker? And the answer is:

The Nintendo Wii.

Yep, the Wii. See, early in the evenings, most of you who have ever searched for me online will know that I am a notorious multi-tabler. I am basically always in 2 or 3 tournaments or at 2 or 3 tables at the same time when I play 95% of my online poker. While I did not start off that way, it quickly became apparent to me that, for my particular mindset and style of play, a few tables actually is easier for me to play my game and stay focused on my style at all three. With just one table open I tend to get bored and lose focus, start playing too many hands, get awfuckitty, whatever the vice. So I'm usually at between 2 and 4 tables at all times early in the evening, say before midnight ET or so, in most cases. Nowadays with me playing at a few different poker sites again I may not always been at multiple tables on full tilt, but trust me I've got it goin on back at the Hammer House with at least 2 or 3 other tables even if I'm sitting in a blonkament or something with you.

But later in the evening, this all changes. When I'm getting decently into the money in an mtt, #1 it is very late and I am always loathe to start a new mtt or other tournament that could involve a substantial time commitment even if I bust from the 5050 or whatever tournament I am ITM in one second later. But #2, as these games move into the late stages, as I have written about previously, my game morphs from a generally tight-aggressive style, waiting for good cards in good situations and then trying to get maximum value from them while losing as little as possible when I miss, to a more purely instinctual approach, where I am basically reading my opponents for strength or weakness, and trying to use maximal pressure to take down pots before the flop except where I happen to hold a monster starting hand. This kind of game requires much more work and much more focus, and generally speaking I try not to play any other tables for this highly read-dependent, highly instinctual brand of poker that I only really crack out during what I call Push Time once down to the last 5% or so of the field in the big mtt's. I end up being fairly tense and very painstakingly involved in all the action at the table, and as a result the feeling can be highly intense and frankly, very draining on the person who does it.

And this is where the Wii comes in. During the 5-minute hourly breaks from the big mtt's earlier in the evenings, I am always playing at a few other tables at the same time, and they never all have the exact same starting times or break times. So when the 5050 takes it first, second or third hourly breaks of the night at approximately 10:30pm, 11:35pm and 12:40am ET every night, I sit right at my computer and play through whatever other sng or mtt or cash table I have open at the time. But come those 4th, 5th and 6th breaks starting in the 1 and 2am timeframe New York time, I try not to have any other tables working, so when breaktime hits, I am left with a quandary. What to do?

Now, a wise man once told me that he recommends people always get up, stretch your legs and take a short time off during your breaks, especially as we get later into an mtt, and even though much of that wise man's advice has proven to be laughable, this one has always stuck for me. Again it's not something that I worry about early in the night for the first few breaks, but I have had much success over the past several weeks by getting myself away from the computer screen for 5 minutes every hour in these deep mtt runs. I would be interested in hearing if anyone takes a different approach, but for me I find that getting away from the laptop for a bit is a helpful diversion for me, and in some ways can actually be affirmatively beneficial to some of the skills I am relying on at these deep ITM mtt stages of play. And lately, during my 5-minute breaks in the wee hours of the morning, I've been playing the Nintendo Wii to a great deal of success. So far, I've played the Wii four times during the break of a 5050 type of tournament, and I have final tabled all four times.

And I'm not just playing any old Wii game either. It's been all Wii baseball for me late at night in the midst of big mtt runs, all the time. In fact, it's not even regular Wii baseball. It's been purely the home run hitting contest under the Wii Training tab on the main menu. The 5 minutes is perfect for this. It gives me just enough time to maybe make a quick trip to the head, especially good if it's a "drinking night" in the Hammer House as usual, and then still leaves me with enough time to get through one if not two rounds of 10 pitches and try to take my swings for the fences. And given my four-for-four final tables when hitting home runs on the Wii during my breaks, I have spent a good deal of time trying to figure out what it is about the Wii that might be helping me in my poker performance late into the night. I've come up with a few explanations.

First and foremost, there is a lot of self-selection going on here, and the 4-for-4 is not really as impressive as it seems. In other words, I've only been playing the Wii in those 4th and 5th and 6th hourly breaks, which itself has only happened just a small handful of times. It's not like I've been playing the Wii after the first break in the 5050 every time I last for an hour, and then I'm going and final tabling every time I do that. Rather, I'm only hitting the Wii when I'm down to, say, the final 100 or fewer players in the big mtts, so me final tabling every time I've done it is not nearly the big feat that it may otherwise seem. And yet it still seems significant to me.

One other major point to make here is that it may just be getting my mind off of poker for 5 minutes at a time has a real impact on my ability to return to the laptop 5 minutes later and start deeply focusing once again. Like, maybe if I was exercising or something instead of hitting Wii home runs "Out of the Park!", I would be seeing the 100% identical results. That could easily be. I also am sure to stretch my legs, I sit back in my highly comfortable rocking chair while I play the Wii, and just generally I am doing something that makes me feel comfortable and might reasonably realistically work to prepare me to get back into the grind a few minutes later, almost like a 5-minute pitstop for these Nascar donks in their wifebeaters and with their mullets blazing.

But I have another theory. For those of you with the Wii and especially those of you who are familiar with the home run hitting contest, what that thing really comes down to in my mind is instinct. I mean, you see the pitch coming in, but you still need to time it and swing it just right if you want to hit that home run. A lot of it is about reaction time, and about early recognition of the location and type of pitch hurtling at you at 75 miles per hour. In the end, swinging for the fences like this is very much instinctual above all else, and my theory is that taking 5 minutes to hone my instincts like this during my break is really helping me to play a fine-tuned brand of instinctual poker in the very late stages of Push Time, and heading right up to the final table. In fact, this theory might also help explain why, after probably 500 separate attempts to take on the home run hitting contest, I today have officially one time and one time only when I actually hit home runs in all 10 at-bats I had. And that time was? The break immediately before I went on to win the 50-50 outright a couple of weeks back. That was it. Now isn't that awfully coincidental, if there is no relation at all between the quality of my Wii hitting and the quality of my poker play? I find it too coincidental to believe.

So I definitely think there is something to my Wii playing during the hourly breaks in my late mtt runs. Like I said, I spent a good deal of time talking about this during a couple of appearances I had on Buddydank radio since those few final tables, but I don't believe I have mentioned here at all yet and I wanted the rest of you to hear what one thing more than anything else I have done differently on those days than basically on all other days I am ever sitting in my place and playing online poker. Somehow, some way, trying to time and whack ten consecutive pitches out of the stadium in the Wii home run hitting contest really seems to help my poker game in real time. Working on my timing and my reactions and my recognition of situations for just 5 minutes out of every hour has seemingly shown a noticeable good effect on my late-stage mtt game generally. So take that for what you will, and if I can help any of you in your own mtt performances with what I've said here today, then that's all gravy as far as I'm concerned.

Don't forget the Mookie tonight at 10pm ET on full tilt. It's the latest BBT3 tournament and the latest chance to win a BBT3 Tournament of Champions seat to play for the four WSOP packages at the end of the 3-month BBT3 challenge, and the buyin is a mere $11, making it an affordable play for most of you out there. The Mookie password as always is "vegas1", and I will be there to donate since I couldn't win a Mookie tournament even if my life depended on it. The past few weeks I have played the Mookie fine but gotten sucked out on in redonkulous fashion, so I look for more of the same tonight, while Lucko will probably have a monstrous stack at some point along the way if things hold as they have been in the blonkaments lately in general. And I guess I should mention, my Mookie buyin is being paid for courtesy of another blogger who I helped make some money this week -- this is the second time now in a month where this has been the case, strangely -- in this case on some call options in a very juicy and very volatile stock market earlier this week. So will that $11 transfer I received yesterday prove to be my good luck charm for the Mookie?

Not. See you then though for the donation, 10pm ET on full tilt.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

MATH Recap, Sickness Recovering, and WSOP ME Satellite

As Monday evening rolled around at the Hammer House, I was still feeling kinda sick after a weekend of the flu. I had gone to work in the morning on Monday but ended up heading back home for the afternoon where I was on back-to-back calls in what proved to be a crazy day across the financial markets in the U.S. Come sundown I was feeling up to making a run in the MATH, and I figured I would find something else interesting to run while the Hoy was going on. I ended up settling on this $215 buyin satellite on pokerstars to the $1050 buyin WSOP ME qualifier on Friday night. With better than one in five entrants winning the big seat, that is the kind of satellite ratio I am always looking for, so I decided to give it a go to try to win a 12k Main Event prize package for the first time in my life ever even playing a satellite to one of these things. In the past I could never play these things because my life is not set up to allow me to play the Main Event, but nowadays with these events awarding only cash to my account, I figured now is as good a time as any to try to make some runs for the cash.

I relied on some reads and got lucky to run into some stoopidly aggressive players early on in the $215 supersat on pokerstars, getting me off to a 1st place start with 13 players remaining out of the original 17 who started. When we made it down to the final table with 9 players remaining, I was in third place but that was ok because the top 3 runners would each win the $1050 seat to the Friday WSOP tournament. From close to the top of the leaderboard, I then followed a strategy that I almost never adopt in these multi-seat satellites with a good chip stack, in that I decided to go right at the one prohibitive largest stack at the final table, hoping to use my sizeable stack to make him lay down rather than risk what probably seemed like an almost guaranteed fold-to-the-points victory for him. Generally this is not an advisable strategy when I myself was still already in the winning top 3 slots, but I was only barely ahead of 4th place and I knew I needed to make a few moves to solidify my position. And I was only semi-lucid, which always helps.

So first I made this ludicrous two-bullet bluff (raised the flop and then pushed here as well):

Luckily, he folded:

And I was solidly in 2nd place of 7 remaining, again with 3 winning ths $1050 seats. A few hands later I just pushed allin again when I held Jacks and the flop came Queen-high with two rags, in a heads-up pot with just myself and that same big stack, after he had called my preflop raise. I was playing highly aggro poker, but it worked for me and before I knew it I was basically tied with the other guy for the two large stacks at around 8k apiece, among 5 smaller stacks largely at 2k or below, with the top 3 finishers winning seats. From there it was fairly smooth sailing, using my big stack to steal enough pots to maintain my stack size while letting the smaller stacks clash or waiting for myself or the other big stack to pick up monster hands. By the time I picked up pocket Aces, we were already down to 5 players, and I made it 4 as the table shorty pushed into me before the flop. A few hands later saw the other big stack call allin with Ace-rag against the new table shorty's King-rag, the favorite held, and I was in:

So that will be me at 8:30pm ET on Friday on pokerstars, playing in the $1050 WSOP ME qualifier to win the 12k prize packages for the World Series of Poker. Woo hoo.

So most of my other poker attention on the night where I still wasn't feeling up to snuff consisted of Mondays at the Hoy on full tilt. 79 runners came out for the MATH, with the top 10 spots paying out a lofty $1896 prize pool, including over $597 awarded to first place. As with last week, our first elimination came on the very first hand, this week with OMGItsPokerFool scoring the gigli honors, and I have to be glad he did since I busted just a few minutes later as the third player out. Basically, I was dealt pocket Jacks, I reraised preflop and the original preflop raiser just called my reraise. The flop came all rags, I bet a pot-committing amount, and thus when my opponent raised me I felt obligated to call despite knowing pretty well that I was beat. He flipped Aces (natch) and IGH just like that. A bad play by me no doubt, and my earlier than usual blonkament eliminatio nis probably at least somewhat caused by my state of mind and ill disposition on the night, but in the end a bad play is a bad play, and nobody made me push just overpair Jacks very early on in an mtt against a guy who had raised preflop and again on the flop. Bad play.

Here were the ten cashers in this week's Hoy:

1. $597.24 dwal78
2. $388.68 Loretta8
3. $265.44 TripJax
4. $199.08 Chippy McStacks
5. $142.20 BuddyDank
6. $94.80 BamBamCan
7. $56.88 Breeze81
8. $56.88 kevin_with_AK
9. $47.40 AltronIV
10. $47.40 DaBag

And here is the updated 2008 MATH moneyboard, including this week's results:

1. columbo $928
2. astin $664
3. lucko21 $650
4. dwal78 $597
5. Pirate Wes $581
6. Tripjax $553
7. fuel55 $512
8. surflexus $488
9. pureprophet $484
10. zeroluck001 $476
10. Jordan $476
12. TuscaloosaJohn $423
13. twoblackaces $409
14. Loretta8 $389
15. ChiipyMcStacks $316
16. Breeze81 $310
17. bayne_s $291
18. tilt away $289
19. jmathewson_III $274
20. Miami Don $224
21. Roberto55 $217
22. Donkey Shortz $215
23. VinNay $203
24. DaBag $202
24. Byron $202
26. buckhoya $150
26. Mike Maloney $150
28. BuddyDank $142
29. chitwood $127
30. cubanlinks $120
31. LJ $119
32. kevin_with_AK $106
33. BamBamCan $95
33. thepokergrind $95
35. ANIguy $89
35. bartonf $89
37. HotPants29 $74
38. katiemother $67
38. Hoyazo $67
40. CheckinMyAA $62
41. PirateLawyer $60
42. DonkeyPuncher74 $56
42. RaisingCayne $56
44. jeciimd $52
44. zeroluck001 $52
46. AltronIV $47

So lots of repeat winners on this week's list of 10 players to make the cash. And congratulations out to dwal for taking down this week's title as well as the latest BBT3 Tournament of Champions seat to play for the WSOP packages that I'm going to be busy winning Friday night from pokerstars. Dwal calls himself an "up and coming blogger" in his own blog, so go check him out if you are looking for a new cynical view on this whole blogging thing.

And don't forget tonight with the latest BBT3 tournament on full tilt with the Skills Series. Yes Chad has pretty much dropped off the face of the earth, but his Skills games are still going strong, with this week's flavor being HOSE, or alternating rounds of limit holdem, O8, Stud Hi and Stud 8. Basically "HORSE", minus the razz to save a few heart attacks and get a few fewer pets kicked. HOSE goes off at 9:30pm ET on full tilt, with a password of "skillz". And of course you also have the Tuesday night Blowdonkey by Smokkee at 9pm ET.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Shitty Bracelet Race Schedule, and Cash Hand Concluded

OK just a quick post today (by my standards anyways) as I have been sick as a dawg all weekend and am just getting back to my senses a little bit this morning. I did want to rant a bit about the Bracelet Races on full tilt, and then I will get up the results of that cash hand I was posting about on Friday. But first....

Yeah don't forget that the BBT3 rolls on tonight, with the 10th of 55 Tournament of Champions seats available to the winner of tonight's 6-max nlh tournament for Mondays at the Hoy on full tilt. As always, the time is 10pm ET and the password is "hammer", so come out and play with all your fake internet friends tonight as we continue the battle to win the WSOP packages being offered up to us all for free by full tilt. See you there!

So, about the Bracelet Races, wtf is up with the schedules for these things? They totally fawked the United States customers off, hard! Check it out:

Race for Bracelets tournaments running at the following times each day through June 22nd:

~ $24 + $2 tournaments running every Monday, Tuesday and Saturday at 18:30 ET (23:30 GMT)
~ $69 + $6 tournaments running every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 18:30 ET (23:30 GMT)
~ $200 + $16 tournaments running every Friday and Sunday at 21:00 ET (02:00 GMT)

What are these jackmonkeys thinking? Only two Bracelet Races a week that are not at 6:30pm ET and 3:30pm PT? That time isn't even great for the Euros, as it is basically an hour or two past prime time in that part of the world as well. So, who exactly is this 6:30pm ET time for 5 of the 7 weekly Bracelet Races good for? The Bermudan full tilt players? The online poker buffs in the Falkland Islands? Why would full tilt do this? The only options that a reasonable American male like myself have are to play the 9pm ET Bracelet Races, which have the shitey $216 buyin and which even still only run two nights a week. So in sum, the West Coast of the U.S. has zero BR's that they can reasonably play in, period. Us East Coasters have to put up more than two hundy to play and even still can only do so two nights a week. WTF full tilt, WTF?!!

OK with that out of the way and with the financial markets in this country continuing to plummet while I sit here writing this, let me return to the cash hand I was profiling on Friday. Basically, I had played KQo for a limp into a 3-way pot from the small blind at a 2-4 6-max nlh table, and the flop came down KK8, giving me top trips with second kicker in a limped pot. Hard to beat that. But then the big blind led out for the size of the pot on this flop, and the other middle position limper then minraised his bet. I opted to smooth call the flop, as did the original bettor in the big blind. Then the turn card brought an offsuit 7, and the big blind proceeded to bet out $56 into a $81 pot, causing the middle position player to fold and bringing the action to me:

I asked how to play this here. Mostly all of you said that I am almost surely ahead, and that if I lose to some kind of a cooler here in an unraised pot preflop then so be it. I sort of agree with that thinking, although I would take me a long time to count all the times I have lost with hands just like this, either to 88, 77 or even just AK or something.

My only difference in how I played the hand from what most of the commenters suggested was that I opted to smooth call the turn again here. I figured this guy could have a pocket pair and think he is ahead, or he could have a low King, and either way if I simply move in right now, a serious Man might actually find the fortitude to fold a hand like K3 or K4 which can easily be behind in this spot given my action if I push the turn. I figured the smooth call made it seem more like maybe I was the one on one of those lesser hands, and therefore made it a bit more likely that I could deplete this guy's stack on the river without losing him to a big turn raise. I don't think either play was bad, and I understand that my way foregoes the chance of getting my opponent to fold here, but frankly as the commenters seemed to think I knew I was emptying my stack in this one by this point so I figured why not take the action that increases my likelihood of stacking the guy. If he is on a lower King or some other playable non-boat hand, I like the smooth call better because it gives that much more of a chance to stackage on the river.

Anyways, so I went with the smooth call on the turn, fully intending of getting it allin on the river, and figuring to have an interesting option of inducing a bet or just emptying out myself as I would lead the river betting. And then the river came down a beautiful Queen of spades, giving me the nut boat. Suddenly I'm hoping that he somehow does have one of those few hands that was actually ahead of me up to this point. At this point I've got the best hand I know, and I figure he is most likely on a weaker King or some pocket pair or something. Given that read of his cards, I did not like the thought of checking here to try to induce a bet, so intead I planned to just bet out myself. How much was easy. There's $193 in the pot, and I have $186 left, holding the nuts. He's acted like he has something strong, and I want to get maximum value. I figure if I bet half the pot or something, he will call. The better question is, how much will he still call if I bet more than half the pot? My answer was, at these dollar amounts, he will probably call with any King, so I opted to take the Sklansky on NLH approach of betting the hand at the river as if my opponent had a truly strong hand, and I just emptied out right there:

He instacalled, and I won the $565 pot with my nut boat:

Anybody wanna guess what this guy was holding there, given the allin turn instacall? I will give you some space to consider the options and then scroll down when you're ready to see it.

Ok here's the final shot:

Dammmmm. Eff you full tilt. They really tried to hose me by making me actually go from way ahead to way behind for a $565 pot on the turn there, before the river resuck made all right in the world again. Now if I don't hit the Queen on the river, is anybody possibly getting away from this hand at the end?

OK back to watching financial ruin for hundreds of millions of investors worldwide. More good poker stuff as well as my NCAA Tournament thoughts coming later in the week. See you tonight for Mondays at the Hoy on full tilt!

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Another Fun Night, and the Bracelet Races are Back!

Thursday was an interesting day for me poker-wise. As you know if you read here with any regularity, my Thursday nights basically consist of anticipating Lost, watching Lost and then thinking about Lost. I am completely mesmerized by that show and although it is once again seemingly changing the entire direction of the show this year, they are once again pulling it off well. Anyways, so the plan as on most Lost Thursdays, is that I simply do not log on to the pc until 10pm ET or so after we catch up on the DVR at the end by starting it at 9:20 and then skipping through all the commercials.

This week I opted to do something just slightly different from that. Figuring that the buyin is a mere $11 in the face of a nice heater I am on here, and given that it is the BBT and all with the Tournament of Champions seat up for grabs, and since after all the Riverchasers is the tournament that I dominate above all others, I decided to play in the RC but adopt an unusual strategy. Since as I mentioned Hammer Wife and I don't usually start Lost up until around 20 past the hour on the DVR, I figured I would play a few hands of the RC when it starts, and just make sure that I either double up or bust out when it's time to watch Lost. If I doubled, then I could sit out the rest of the hour for Lost and then jump back in for Hour 2 in not too bad of shape. It's not the first time I've done this, and it has actually worked for me a few times over the past couple of years. This week, it did not. I ended up eating a late dinner with Hammer Wife and didn't even sit down to the Riverchasers until about 9:15pm ET. I maybe played 3 or 4 hands, just waiting for any two high cards to push with in the 5 minutes I knew I had to play, and ended up reraising allin preflop with A4o. Big Slick made the easy call and IGH. Them's the breaks, I knew what I was doing, and I noticed that the guy I donked my stack to did not end up winning the tournament despite briefly having the chip lead when down to two tables remaining.

And before I forget, congratulations so swimmom95 who took down this week's Riverchasers and the latest BBT3 Tournament of Champions seat. When I shut it down with around two tables remaining, Lucko was getting into position with a top-5 stack and I thought for sure he would be a force at the end, but of course no one is a match for swimmom in these things. So far the ToC is shaping up to have all kinds of different playing styles. Good times.

So I started my Thursday poker later than usual due to Lost, and, not feeling up to another late-night marathon mtt session, I ended up running a bunch of sitngos. Those $55 and $110 turbos that I've been loving for a while. My recent mtt success has made it very easy for me to focus primarily on the $110 level turbo sngs without fear of significantly depleting my roll, and I have to say so far I am definitely winning at this level. Most of the players simply do not understand strong turbo sng play, period. So I ran a bunch of sitngos, starting with a 6-max $55 turbo sng where the top two players win roughly $250 and $150 respectively. So we're down to three-handed and it was a pretty tight race between the three of us, making for some fun bubble play. I must have allin raised with ATC four times in a row from my small blind against the big bling, and after the fourth or fifth time he types in this:

"Next time you do that I am calling and taking you out."

Why? Why would you ever say this? I mean, does anything show total and complete tilt and just throwing up your hands and giving up than telling someone you will autocall them the next time they push on you? It's highlarious, and to a guy like me it makes my entire night better to even see him feeling and speaking this way. I love it. So I fugged with the guy back n forth for another minute or two in the chatbox, and on the very next small blind to me, I pick up this hand:

So of course I instapush again and type him some chat designed to belittle him further. And the pussy folds, even after proclaiming he would call and eliminate me the very next time I did this. I let him have it good. And then to make matters worse, on my very next small blind I pick up this hand:

I taunted him appropriately again in the chat before I pushed in here, and he instacalled me with?

Booom! Taunting and then getting the cards to back it up is one of the best feelings in poker. Especially when you're sitting at a table full of puds. Four hands later, I won the sng and the $217 or whatever it is. Later I would win a $110 9-person turbo sng outright for $495, I would fail to cash in two other sngs at the $55 and $110 level, and then I ended the night by defeating a guy in a $110 hu plo turbo sng. Good times, and total profit on the night from sngs: $478. I'll take it.

At some point near the end of the night, I even sat down at my old stomping grounds, the 2-4 6max nlh tables on full tilt for a little cash nlh action. First time I've played online cash nlh other than with bloggers since I rediscovered sitngos maybe 4 or 5 months ago. It was fun to crack back out the cash skillz for the first time in a long time, and I played one hand in particular that I would love your thoughts on.

So middle position at our 6-person 2-4 table limps in for $4. It folds back to me in the small blind, where I have KQo. I limp for the half-bet, and the big blind checks his option to bring us a 3-way flop. I checked, figuring someone else would be out and I could raise and take it down here or figure out if I am somehow beat. The big blind bets out $12, the size of the pot, and then the middle postion limper minraises him up to $24:

What do you do here?

I opted to smooth call. I reasoned I'm only beat by one or two specific hands, neither one of which is indicated by the 3-way limped pot preflop, but I was a little spooked by the bet, the raise and then the overcall behind my call on the flop.

Then the turn card came a harmless-looking 7:

Now how do you play it?

As you can see, I checked again. I just think given that I had already checked the first time around, it only made sense to check again here to not one but two players who had made aggressive moves on the flop. And here is what the big blind did:

Now what? Am I assuming I am ahead and just pushing here? Or do I know I will empty out on the river so maybe add a little deception by just check-calling here? Should I be worrying about being beaten? What's the best move, cash gamers?

I will post the results of this cash game hand later after some people have provided their comments.

Anyways, overall it was another good day on the poker front. I ended up a few hundy after all was said and done, and I had a really fun time doing it as well. I just keep trying to appreciate this good streak while it lasts. I mean even cash was fun for me, which is not something I would have said by the end of last year.

Oh one other thing, something that I consider to be Big News: the Bracelet Races are back on full tilt! That's right, the first Bracelet Races ran on Thursday afternoon, with already three winners of the 2k WSOP preliminary event prize packages. Although as I have mentioned previously the suspense is gone this year in that I easily have the roll to fund a trip to play a preliminary event or two in this year's WSOP, I still do plan to try to win as many of the Bracelet Races as I can. The first accessible tournament for me is a $216 buyin Bracelet Race that takes place Friday night at 9pm ET, same time as le donkament. I have won a $216 Bracelet Race satellite in each of the past two years, and generally speaking the larger-buyin BR sats are a great tournament structure for me, personally. So I'm looking forward to that, and I encourage each and every one of you to try to get yourself into as many of the Bracelet Race tournaments as you can play. If you love poker like I do, then once you've played at the actual World Series of Poker in the Rio you will never want to miss it again.

Have a great weekend everybody. Lost kicked ass again, did it not?

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