Friday, June 30, 2006

Half-Year Update

I was sitting around a few weeks ago and I was thinking about my poker goals as I posted them on New Years of this year. New Years 2006 is what I think of as the *real* start to this blog. I technically made the blog in April 2005 when I first heard of the pokerstars world blogger championship of online poker, and at that time I just put up one or two fake posts and the pokerstars banner, and I was in. Although I've been playing poker for many years, I didn't actually start playing poker online until late August of last year. By October I had actually started formulating my thoughts about online poker play, and I came back to the blog and put up a few posts, but as I read them now, they are really just mostly rants about the online poker sites being fixed, how furious I am, bad beat stories like I love to tell. It's funny to read, but I love that that stuff is up there. That was a window into my poker thoughts at that time, just like this entire blog has been all along. Things have really changed for me in the last six months of online play, and so there I was thinking about my goals for 2006, and how I'm doing with them thus far six full months into the year.

1. Goal #1 on New Years 2006 was "Win an MTT this year." Wow. At the time as I recall I had never won any online event of larger than 55 people or so, and this despite having won multiple live tournaments and final tabled several others. I was frustrated daily at my lack of mtt success, and so I set my goal to win an MTT, thinking if I could possibly pull that off at some point within the next year just one time, I couldn't even imagine how psyched I'd be.

Then a crazy thing happened. I won a 191-person satellite into what was then the fledgling monthly Party Millions tournament, the precursor to the now weekly Million Dollar Guaranteed tournaments on party. I barely remember the details now, it's been so many hands and so many tournaments ago, but I recall being in great shape through most of the end of the tournament, and I recall for the first time in a long time I was "in the zone". I wasn't necessarily bluffing more than I usually do, but I was putting my opponents on hands like a hawk, and I was always right. The closer to the end of the tournament we got, the more on-target my reads were. I was in everyone's heads in that game. I was the game. It was incredible. I won that thing, and suddenly it was like the floodgates were opened. I realized, seriously here, that I had not been playing enough to my poker strengths. I could read people generally very well in large mtt's, and that didn't leave me to just make the plays I'd read about or seen others do at the poker table. Shit, when I know the other guy is weak, I can do whatever I want to him. A child could win with that knowledge. Ever since that tournament, I have opened up my game just by playing and watching and learning and reacting, and from that moment on, I never looked back. I've won three or four mtt's since that time, and final tabled in several others. As I've blogged about, I have made at least two mtt final tables in every month of this year. Then in May I won the party 40k guaranteed tournament, something which still seems surreal to me. I think I'm a great poker player, but I also recognize that my chances of ever winning a 2300+ person holdem tournament are quite low. My bankroll is something I don't even think about anymore, because I don't want to be a high-roller and I am happy with the stakes I've been playing at for some time. I've said it here before and I'll say it here again -- I play to play poker, not to make money.

So, it's been a brilliant six months with respect to my first goal of 2006. I've obliterated it. So, I am taking the unusual step of revising my first New Years Resolution halfway through the year, to more accurately reflect the current reality. My new mtt performance goal has to be aggressive. In January at this time I had never won an online mtt, and I made winning one as my goal, something I had never accomplished in several months of mtt play online. So now I need to be similarly aggressive.

My new goal for 2006 is to win at least one tournament a month, and final table in two others. I need to get more consistent with my play. I have long since accepted that you don't need good cards to win a large poker tournament. It helps, sure, but you flat out don't need to get good cards. So I need to make my play more consistent, such that I should be not just final tabling, but winning an mtt a month. Other great poker players do this (even some who blog, despite not exactly being part of this whole "community"), and I want to be one of them.

2. Goal #2 on New Years 2006 was "Stop steaming so much." Hmmm. I am still a big tilter. No argument there. However, most of you didn't know me back in January. I used to be the type of guy who gets knocked out on a bad beat, and sits and angrily out-of-controllingly berates the guy in chat from the rail for the next 15 minutes, and then threatened to maim, throttle, cut, or slice n dice the owners of pokerstars in chat for the next several minutes as well. I would enter entire other tournaments right after such a beat, just to go allin on the first hand with nothing and lose. I would know I was going to do that going in. It was not a healthy relationship to have with the game.

I can't describe how much winning and cashing in so many of these mtt's has changed my perspective. I know a lot of the reason I was so frustrated was that I was a great poker play with a whole lotta chutzpah, but I was kind of trapped in some other type of player's body. Once I opened up my game, and really started focusing on my reads of other players, I realized that was how I was meant to play, and I have had increasing success over time. My emotions are so much more in check today than they ever were six months ago. I haven't ragged someone who bad beat me in the chat in months, and I have completely given up threating physical harm against Lee Jones and friends. I haven't had my chat privileges suspended on pokerstars since the end of 2005. So I am definitely making progress here. This goal does not need to change, as it is still a key area I have to work on. Now, my problem is making fishcalls when I'm tilted, instead of raging uncontrollably. Still a bad problem, and still something that needs to improve in the second half of 2006.

3. My final New Years resolution this year was: "Continue to get better at trusting my instincts." I can honestly say that I have taken this goal to a whole new level so far in six months of 2006. I had no idea when I wrote that on January 4 just how much my game nowadays would depend, utterly rely on my read of my opponent, each and every hand I play. Sometimes I get that read wrong, no doubt about that, but I play the game by my reads and my opponents these days, much more than anything else. Like I've said, I don't need good cards to win a big mtt anymore. I just need good situations, and stellar reads, and I'll get there. So I have largely met this goal already six months into 2006, and I will be revising this one as well, to address what I think is the new largest area I need to excel in:

My new goal for the rest of 2006 will be to continue to refine my hand-reading abilities, focusing specifically on not getting trapped as much by slow players.

I have had several situations of late where I have folded big (or small) hands to even bigger hands that my opponents have been lucky enough to have at the same time as I am pushing hard. So I know I can do this. But I also know I have a lot of work to do. The amount of times that I run into Aces in big spots in mtt's is mind-boggling. I need to get better at recognizing those times, or at least at recognizing the warning signs early on that I might be up against a better hand. I need to focus every time a solid opponent smooth calls me on the flop, and really ask myself if this guy has the goodz or is just full of it (often like me). Again this is something in which I have improved dramatically during the past six months, but I still get caught far too often. If I'm going to continue to play these large mtt's like I like to do, then I need to get better at avoiding the situations which can cost me a huge portion of my stack because I pushed too hard into a slow player. I basically feel like I'm doing great on the offense part of poker right now. It's the defense I need to work on. So that's one thing I will be focusing on during the second half of 2006.

In all, I really can't believe how well I have accomplished my yearly goals by only six months into the new year. The success I have had this year has really come as a total surprise to me. Don't read me wrong -- I have always known, and never for one second doubted, that I am a great poker player. But aside from a few early wins where I got my original stake, I had so little success in my first several months playing poker online in 2005 that I guess I had all but accepted that I wasn't ever going to be a winning player. All that has changed over the past several months, and I'm so pysched that you guys who read this every day have been along for all or part of the ride. I can't wait to try to meet my new goals in the rest of 2006.

A few other updates. First, congratulations to Scott for taking down DADI VII last night. Very impressive work from Scott, who was majorly short stacked as the final table neared yesterday, definitely in last place with around 1000 chips remaining, and fought his way back with a series of double-ups and solid play through the finish line. I was unable to defend my DADI VI title due to other plans, but I was able to rail the last hour or so and got to watch some mighty fine play. Including my cash game specialist boys JJ and even Waffles making the final table. And no that was not a misprint, Waffles played excellently and made the final table, before going out in 5th on the same hand that SoxLover went out in 4th as Sox continues another very hot streak of his own. And thanks and congratulations to Jordan, TripJax and Gary for hosting another successful event, and for the 66 signups, which was officially more than even the WWdN drew this past Tuesday. Nice showing, guys!

Speaking of Waffles, he and Smokkee have been having a very interesting debate about a hand that occurred in the Mookie tournament the other day, and several people weighed in on the debate during the chat at last night's DADI final table. Basically, Waffles had a flush draw and a straight draw going on the flop, such that he actually had sufficient outs with two cards to come that he was actually the favorite to win the hand when the flop betting occurred. It's rare, but Waffles had a drawing hand that was the favorite over a made hand on the flop. The question is, was Waffles "ahead" on the flop, or was he "behind"? Smokkee has been clear that his made hand was clearly ahead of Waffles' drawing hand on the flop, since Waffles needed a drawout to win. Waffles of course maintains that he was obviously "ahead" since he was the favorite to win at the time. As I recall, CJ weighed in in favor of Smokkee's position. But I am here to say, I really don't understand the distinction being made here. To me, Waffles was "ahead" because Waffles was favored. That's what being ahead means. It doesn't mean you already had the "made" hand. "Ahead" means winning, and to me on that flop Waffles was ahead because he had a 60-something percent chance to win the hand. I just don't understand how you can say that Smokkee was actually "ahead". He had a made hand, but he was behind at that point, not ahead. Despite being pat, he was still behind. I'm not sure what difference this really makes, but I did find the debate to be interesting given the difference of opionions that seem to be out there on the subject.

By the way, if you haven't seen this yet, poker player who blogs Rizen has just made the final table of WSOP Event #3, and is sitting in the chip lead at this time heading into final table play on Friday. Rizen has had an incredibly successful year playing poker online and live, so be sure to keep up with the WSOP coverage to see if the man can bring it all home. And go click over to his blog and show your support.

Last, two administrative items. The Hammer family will be going away this weekend for the 4th of July holiday, and as such, it is unclear just how much I will get to blog over the next few days. I'll definitely be back and better than ever after the holiday as I make my final few days of preparations before leaving for Vegas and the WPBT on next Thursday night, but I just don't know how much or if I'll be able to post between now and then. You can amuse yourself instead while I'm gone by reading some of my archives -- I'm telling you, the older stuff before I started hitting my stride in late January of this year is really funny. Insane ranting, but funny to me too when I read it now.

And lastly, along these same lines, the Mondays at the Hoy tournament has already been set up for Monday night, July 3. I don't know how many people will be able to play, and I don't know for sure if I'll be able to play either, but I've gone ahead and set things up in case anyone or a bunch of guys want to get in there and battle it out for the prize pool full of $20 buyins from all the players. So have at it, it is still Monday night at 10pm ET as always, password is "hammer" as always, and feel free to enjoy. I will join in if I can, but again it is hard to know just now what the likelihood of that is.

For those of you in the U.S., have a fabulous holiday weekend, and I hope everyone gets some time off with family and friends over the next few days. I will be back next week with a fun list of my favorite poker things that happened during the first half of 2006, and more of the same kind of poker content that you all have come to know and subsist on. Until then, have a great weekend and best of luck at the tables, it's been an incredible ride for the first half of this year and I can only imagine how much better the next six months will be.

This Week in Blogger Tournaments

So it's not that I haven't been playing in the regular blogger events this week. I just haven't been blogging about them. Of course I had my regular post detailing my review of my Mondays at the Hoy tournament, weekly on Monday nights at 10pm ET on pokerstars (password: hammer), but since then, I played in my usual WWdN on Tuesday evening, and Wednesday's night regular Mookie tournament as well. Both of these tournaments were a blast as usual. But, I've recently begun reading Antonio Esfandiari's WPT book on winning cash games (don't worry, I'm not quite ready to switch from MTTs to cash, so I won't be horning in on your territory), and one thing The Magician harps on again and again, almost Felicia-style, is to never, ever tell a single bad beat story. Nobody cares, he says, as does Felicia. Can I really be the only person out there who enjoys reading a good bad beat story? I mean, I don't want to sit and listen to someone rattle on for six hours about the last 50 bad beats they have suffered. But I like a good, concise, well-told bad beat story. I enjoy it. What's wrong with that? But anyways, Antonio says never tell a bad beat story. And bad beats is what I've been dealing with again and again and again in the blogger events lately. So, I've tried to stay away from posting about these beats. After last night, I figured why not just do a quick post so everyone knows what I've been up to lately as far as my regular blogger play.

As you may recall from my earlier post about the Hoy tournament this past Monday night, in that one I was victimized (I was going to say sodomized but then that seemed too graphic, albeit basically accurate) when this allin on the flop:

turned into this on the turn and the river:

What a sick, sick way to be knocked out of a tournament. But that was me, and that's how things have been running for me lately on pokerstars, plain and simple. The turn and the river are fucking killing me lately. Same thing happened in the big blogger tournaments last week, and it hasn't stopped yet.

Anyways, I was doing pretty well in the WWdN event this past Tuesday as well. I had my ups (knocked out 2 of the first 5 players eliminated, and was well in first place during most of the first half hour of the event), and my downs, but in the end I was looking at this on the flop with all my chips in the middle:

However, this time once again the effing river had something to say about me winning in this way, and voila, here was your final board:

and IGH in 35th place out of 58 entrants. Again another sick, sick way to go, and something which I really tried not to blog about because it really frustrates me just to think about the succession of tournament exits like this of late. I mean what am I supposed to do, flop two pairs, know this guy will call me with his higher Ace, but then not bet it, just in case? Come on. I had to do it, and I took another one in the chin in the WWdN. And I would mention who won the WWdN or who did well in it, but for the first time in forever, I really didn't know most of the final tablers in the event, and am definitely not familiar with the winner who I believe was someone named AAjoshmanAA or something similar to that. If I recall correctly (I've tried to block most of it out, to be honest), SoxLover maybe came in 8th place despite getting not many strong starting hands, as detailed on Sox's blog, and I believe Hacker59 made another final table appearance as well, maybe taking down 6th place or something close to there. The rest of the finalists were more or less a mystery to me, and after 100 straight bad beats at the hands of fellow bloggers, I'm sorry if I'm not super interested in people I don't recognize taking down the event this week.

I would love to tell you that the Mookie, but in this case I just got F'd in a different way, but just as nastily. Long story short, I was playing my usual great game early. I watched a tilty Waffles bust out first again. Dam Waffles is going through some tough times lately. He posted in his blog last night about how he was actually ahead in the hand on the flop when Smokkee called Waffles' allin bet, but Waffles still needed to hit either a straight or a flush card to win, so I don't see how Waffles can really call that a "bad beat" that he suffered. But I can sympathize with his feeling frustrated about the call. Smokkee made a very questionable call on that hand, and arguably deserved to lose (was behind when he made the call). But as I explained to Waffles last night on the girly chat, that's the way Smokkee plays. He's aggressive and if he gets some hands or gets some luck early, he amasses a huge stack. And I also pointed out to Waffles that he maybe needs to at least consider the fact that a guy like Smokkee does not like to leave his chips out there without defending them once he's moved at a pot, before going and moving in on someone with just what is essentially a drawing hand (even a favored drawing hand at the time). Anyways, I can sympathize with Waffles falling victim to a dubious move by Smokkee yesterday, because a short while later, that's exactly what happened to me.

So, you want some more evidence that pokerstars hates me lately? How about this hand, my first chance to win a big hand during the Mookie tournament on Wednesday night. I limp from the SB with QTo, and then I nail top two pairs on the flop of QT8 rainbow. I bet out, and cc, who won the Hoy tourney a week and a half ago, calls me:

I don't know what he has, but of course I'm almost certainly ahead here. Long story short, I bet and got twice after the flop came out, and I bet and got called on the river, and here's what happened in the end to my beautiful top two pairs on the flop:

Disgusting. And I can't stand seeing smart players get rewarded for making poor-odds calls like this oesd call by cc on the flop. But what are ya gonna do. I was able to chip up significantly later in the Mookie tournament last night with some more solid, deceptive play, and then eventually this hand happened, again with cc, my new nemesis of the hour among the bloggers. Three late position limpers, and I have 77 in the BB, so I do a typical move, raising it up large since I almost surely have the best hand here, and would love to win the blinds but am also ok if I get called here since I'm basically sure from the preflop action that I have the best hand:

And CC almost beats me into the pot with an allin reraise:

Now I haven't played with CC much, but I have never before seen him act so quickly like that. And I just knew it wasn't accidental. This wasn't a guy holding AA. If it was Aces or Kings, cc would have taken his time, not wanting to betray the true strength of his hand. It was very clear to me right away that this was an attempt to appear very strong when in fact he was not. In fact, I was positive that I was ahead, and I figured cc probably didn't even have AK or AQ, or he still would have tried to add a little deception here. In my head this was a guy who was on a pure ballz move here, and I knew I had the best hand. So I called, and he flipped:

Wow what a poor read by cc. In fact, while I'm busy feeling embarrassed for him for his move here, this flop hits:

bailing him out for a second time against me in this tournament, and in fact eliminating me entirely from the event in 47th place out of 55 entrants. Against an allin reraise with KJs, from a guy who clearly read me to just be putting another move on before the flop. Ugly, ugly stuff.

So in all, another week of frustration in the blogger tournaments. I feel like I'm playing well, and certainly I am getting in with the best of it for the most part in these events, but the flops, turns and rivers are just consistently doing me in. I know it can't continue, but that doesn't make it any easier to swallow when it happens at the time.

Which reminds me, unfortunately I will not be able to defend my DADI VI title in the DADI VII event tonight, as much as I would love to play. Hammer Wife reminded me yesterday of some plans I had already agreed to for this evening, so I will be out and about in New York City instead of playing awesomely and getting sucked out on on the river somewhere against you blogger types. I will for sure log in and see the action live whenever I get back in, but I don't know when that will be. I already told Waffles on the girly chat thing last night, since he was the creator of our 3-way last-longer team with Dugglebogey, and he seemed pissed (like me) but understood just fine. But I am bummed to say that I won't be able to make it tonight after all. So best of luck to everyone -- if you haven't figured out yet to play in these DADI events, you are probably hopeless, truly -- and please cheer on Waffles and Duggle in my absence. I hope they are able to find a suitable replacement in time so that my late scratch from the tournament doesn't impact them too negatively. I expect to play some tonight, but probably not until later in the evening, so maybe I'll see you there.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Hot Hand #5 (Updated With Results as of Thursday)

Hot Hand #5 is a hand that happened last week in a large mtt, I believe the $3 Rebuy Madness on pokerstars. I had a couple of blogger railbirds as well at the time, and I had been playing a good, solid game thus far, so it was all good heading into this hand.

I am dealt 99 in middle position. It's folded around to me.

Question #1: What's your play? Just limp with the 9s, add a little deception to when you limp from MP later in the game with AK? Raise it up? How much?

In this case, I decided to experiment with just a 2x raise from MP, in the hopes that someone in late position would put me on a weak steal attempt and reraise me preflop, so that I could then re-reraise them allin and push them off their hand. I like this move because it makes something offensive out of a little play like how to play a decent pocket pair in middle position when it's folded around to you. I am always trying to get my opponents' entire stacks, so making moves that could lead to a nice steal-reraise being put in against me when I actually have a top 10 Holdem hand is something I'm always looking to do.

So I raise it up 2x from MP with 99. Both the SB and the BB call, and everyone else folds. So my little 2x move did not work, but it could be worse. The only two callers of my 2x raise are the two blinds, who each already had something invested in the hand and who each just flat called preflop. So neither of them is likely to have anything strong. With the substantial pot odds to each of them of calling my small 2x raise, they could have almost anything but the lowest of cards, one-gappers, two-gappers, etc.

The flop comes T97, with two spades. So I've flopped trips, which is great. But, with already a straight possible (two straights, actually), as well as a spade draw out there now on the board, I can't exactly love this flop. But I do like it. And both blinds check it around to me.

Question 2: How do I play this good but potentially dangerous flop? Do I move hard with my trips to price out any of the draws, and just hope someone has TPTK or an overpair, or is just a fishcaller? Do I check the trips on the flop to further create an air of weakness, and see if a bad card comes on the turn? How would you play this scenario?

In the end, I elected to go with a half-pot bet, wanting to look like a standard Harrington continuation bet. This way someone might raise me with a draw, in which case I could again move in on them and feel fairly sure that I had the nuts at the time. And even if someone had flopped a straight or something on the flop (but who really calls a preflop raise with 68 or J8?), I was still drawing to at least 7 outs to make a boat on the turn, and 10 more outs to a boat on the river if the turn card did not fill me up:

After my half-pot bet, the SB actually check-raised me to 500 chips, almost 3.5x my flop bet, and the BB quickly folded:

Question 3: Now what? Do I straight-up move allin here with my trip 9s, assuming I'm not up against trip 10s or a flopped straight? Do I just call this check-raise move, and give myself a chance to draw at my boat or maybe have the best hand already? Do I even have the best hand right now? What do you think?

In this case, I thought the amount of this raise from the SB was a bit worrisome. I had no real solid read on SooperDuck, other than that he seemed to be playing solidly at the table for the previous 45 minutes or so that I had been there. But his raise to 500 from my 150 bet seemed a little like what Harrington calls a "suck bet", one that is designed just to suck some more money into the pot in a situation where the person making the bet believes they are comfortably ahead. Now, I still think my 9s are the actual best hand here, but I read his raise to 500 as indicative of something good, better than just a draw. I figured the most likely holdings at that time were TPTK (Ace-Ten) or a pocket overpair like JJ or QQ (he did call my 2x MP raise, after all, but did not raise it up preflop like I might expect from him with KK or AA or probably even AK), or maybe a nut flush draw with two overcards, or maybe the A8 both of spades which would give him both a flush draw and a straight draw. So, taking all of this into account, and the fact that I was ahead of most of these hands but not all of them, and since with two cards to come he could have a lot of outs to outdraw me on the turn or the river, I elected to just call here. I could have raised, but having a read that this guy actually had something worth playing here, I did not think it made sense to get more than the 1000 chips that were already going into the pot on this round. When the turn card did not help the straight or the flush, I figured I could make my move then and get this guy off his hand.

Then came the turn card: Another Ten, this one offsuit, making the board TT97 and with me holding 99 in my hand. I had made my boat on the turn, which now meant that I was ahead of any straights or flushes being chased here. Of course, my opponent had check-raised me on a Ten-high flop, so the odds could be fairly good that he had just made trip 10s here. But without holding T7 (unlikely to have called my preflop raise and to have check-raised the flop) or T9 (very unlikely since I held the other two 9s in my hand already), I would still be ahead there. To further complicate things, SooperDuck quickly bet out 1000 chips at me, approximately half the pot:

Question #4: What's the best play here? Can I possibly put this guy on a higher boat than mine? Do I call this 1000 chip bet, or raise it up right here while he still might call me if he is on some kind of big draw heading into the river card? How do I get the most money from this guy, assuming my boat is ahead right now?

In the end, I could not get myself to believe that I was not leading at this point. I stayed in preflop with 9s, hoping to flop a 9 and I did. Then I called a 3.5x checkraise on the flop with trip 9s, hoping to fill up on the turn, and I did. Now I'm still going to fear that I'm still behind? No way, that's just not my style. So, I figured, this guy has over 2200 chips left, and he obviously has something that he is willing to bet with. The fact that he led out for the first time in the hand when the second 10 fell made me think maybe he had just made trip 10s, and was playing TPTK or TPSK on the flop. Either way, I was thinking less than he was on a draw at this point given his 1000-chip flop bet, so I ended up just calling him, and hoping that he would give me the rest of his stack after the river card brought whatever it brought.

And the river card came the King of Spades. Although this meant any straight draws had missed, this card did fill the possible flush draw out there, which was a very good thing since I was holding a boat. My opponent thinks for a few seconds, and then pushes in on me:

Question 5: I have to call this, right? I'm getting better than 3 to 1 to make this call, and in the end, the only hands I lose to are KK, TT, KT, T9 and T7. Most of those hands are unlikely to be left playing at this point, aren't they?

And more importantly, what is this guy holding? Did I win this hand or what??

I'll be back to update this post with the answers later on.

Before I forget, I will definitely be at the Mookie tonight, and so should you! It is at 10pm ET every Wednesday evening, it's a $10 buyin nlh tournament on pokerstars, and the password is "vegas1". As I say week in and week out, this event is already one of the most fun and widespread blogger events every single week, and you are really missing out if you don't play in it regularly. Come watch me play tight as a nail tonight and take the whole thing down!


First, thank you all for your very thoughtful comments on Hot Hand #5. I appreciate everyone's input, and I agree with much but not quite all of what was said by the commenters. But without further adieu, let me show the result of the hand.

As a recap, you will recall this guy called my 2x preflop raise from the SB, and then he check-raised me on the flop after I flopped trip 9s with my two 9s in the hole. I flat called the check-raise, and then he led out and bet the pot again on the turn, which I also called after making a full house. Then he moved me allin on the river.

As all of you intuited, I definitely felt I had to call here, so I made the call. My opponent flipped:

So there you go. He had made his straight on the flop. In this case, it didn't really matter how I played this out, because if I had moved in on the flop, he would have almost certainly have called with his flopped straight. If I had moved in with my full house on the turn, he would have called that bet too most likely. And he ended up moving me allin on the river. So one way or another, this guy was destined to slide over his entire stack to me on this hand. Now, on to the analysis.

It seems like the majority of the commenters thought I played this hand a little slow. It's funny, I don't think what I did can be called slow-playing, as I called all of his bets. It's not like I was checking to him and then smooth calling. He was leading at me almost the whole way. On the flop, he checked his flopstraight to me, and I bet half the pot. Maybe that bet was a little light. But I really didn't want to lose him if I had two shots of making a boat and he was drawing, and I had put so little money into the pot that it wasn't the end of the world if I had to give it up for some reason. I guess in retrospect, I would have probably made a pot-sized bet there. Knowing his cards, we know he would have called that larger bet anyways. But, I like my smooth call when he check-raised me after my half-pot flop bet. With a very possible straight draw as well as a flush draw out there, I don't think moving in against his reraise on the flop was the right move. That is two chances for me to lose to a spiked straight, and two chances for me to lose to a spiked flush, still to come in the hand. So why move in right now with my trips on this scary kind of flop? Why take the chance of losing it all with a bad card on the turn or river, when so many bad cards could be out there to beat me (or in this case, when he could already be ahead of me on the flop itself with one of two possible made straights)? I think just calling the check-raise should be enough here, with a likely 17 outs left through two cards for me to fill up and make a hand that can beat his straight or flush. So I don't quite agree with pushing after his checkraise on the flop. Even though I would have won the hand in the end since I boated up on the turn card, the fact remains that had I pushed on the flop, he surely would have called with his made straight, and I would have been behind at that time. So I don't buy that I was right to push there. I think a bit of caution, deception, and a cheap draw or two to a full house was the better approach there.

After the flop when the second Ten came, again most of the comments seem to suggest that I was "slow playing" in some way. I don't think so. He led out with a large 1000-chip bet, about the size of the pot again on the turn. With the top card pairing on the turn, and it being a card like a Ten that many people like to play preflop, I think it was a reasonable assumption at that time that he had tripped up with the turn card. I do agree with the one or two commenters that noted that T7 and T9 (and eventually KT) would be played more or less the way he had played the hand through that point (if you assume he would have called my 2x preflop raise with cripe like T7, although most of you seem to think he would call that raise with almost anything), and again without knowing exactly where I was at, and with a possible oesd and a possible flush draw out there, I was still facing a better than 1-in-3 chance of facing one of those scare cards coming on the river. I like the move of just calling the 1000 turn bet.

I don't think reraising, or pushing allin in fact, is a bad idea either in this situation, having just made my boat, but remember this is no-limit holdem, I was doing well in the tournament so far, and if the guy does happen to have T9 or T7, I'm already way behind. I figured I was probably still ahead, but that there was no reason I couldn't wait one more card, hopefully let him make a draw if he was playing one, and then try to get all of his chips then. Reraising was a good option too that I could have used, and again knowing what his cards actually were, he would probably have called that bet from me on the turn. A super astute player might not call, seeing the top pair on the board pair up on the turn after I had raised preflop and then just called his check-raise on the flop, and if I had lost him there with an allin bet then I would not have made nearly the money I ended up making on that flop. But I think it's fairly likely he would not have been able to get away from the flopped straight, even the ass end of it, so in this case pushing on the turn would have gotten me where I needed to be.

One last point: many of the commenters suggested that the 2x raise was a pussy move preflop, and that they would call or reraise just about anything that was just 2x reraised preflop from MP, and how weak it was, etc. Comments like that more or less prove my point of why I made the move here. If you read my original analysis from the original post, I didn't raise it up 2x to try to chase anyone out of the pot. I knew it wouldn't work. I just decided to try to play some offense with a great hand preflop but one that I don't really look forward to playing for a flop and beyond. I was counting on these people being suspicious but basically calling with anything from the blinds when I only raised it up 2x. As I stated yesterday, I was actually hoping my opponent would react just like many of the commenters, perceive my 2x raise as a weakass move, and reraise me right there preflop, for which I would most likely have moved in as a re-reraise to take down some nice chippage preflop, or go into the flop for a lot of chips with a leading hand. So don't think I use this 2x preflop raise move as a regular weapon in my repertoire, but I like to throw in some variation cheap whenever possible, and it's always good to try out new moves at the poker table, to see what works and what doesn't work going forward.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Donning the Green Jacket at the Hoy

My god. Did I just post that ghey ghey title? I am so embarrassed.

But you know who isn't embarrassed this morning? Miami Don and 23skidoo, who each agreed to an even chop with nearly identical stacks of what was a $396 prize pool for the top two spots last night in the weekly Mondays at the Hoy tournament at 10pm ET on pokerstars. How could mere bloggers be playing for stakes so large, you ask? Well, because we play a $20 buyin at the Hoy on Monday evenings, and last night we had a huge upswing in attendance, with the final roll reaching 31 players after last week's previous high of 22. And at $20 a pop, that made for a prize pool of $620, paying the top five positions and including payouts of $248 and $148 for the top two finishers. I don't know about you, but to me that is some serious coinage for some bloggers to be fussing over. So anyways, Skidoo and Don agreed to an even chop with a $50 transfer from the winner to the loser, and then Don went on to take down the event, which I will get to shortly.

One thing I love to do lately is post who the first donkey out of these blogger tournaments was. I feel permitted to do that because lately it's been me going out early, and I've been all over my own donkishness more than anything. Well, last night's first-out watch did not disappoint. Any guesses who went out first? I'll give you a was a he, and he went out holding T2s. I bet I could give you 30 guesses and you might not get this one right. But I would. Because I'm onto this guy, as I posted after last week's MATH event.

That's right, Mr. Used To Be Tight himself was the first one out last night, and I heard he was holding T2 when it happened. Apparently he made top pair on the flop and couldn't get away. Now does that sound tight to you? Din't think so. Stop thinking it, stop saying it, and stop playing it. Gary, you're turning more and more into Waffles every day. Imagine what you'll be like a year from now!

Anyways, my starting table was tough as is always the case in Mondays at the Hoy. I managed to chip up little by little early by stealing pots from Mowenumdown and Hoff. Then i got my first elimination, when I hoy-reraised Mow with pocket 3s when I was fairly sure he had just two high cards. He called my hoyage with a questionable KQo holding, and the hand ended up almost as planned:

Nice to see KJ back in play with the bloggers, and we hope to see you again next week.

My next big hand occurred about 30 minutes later, when I was dealt pocket Aces in MP and raised it up 4x, getting calls from both GScott, a typical final tabler in these blogger tournaments, and Surf, who is the typical winner of late in these events. When the flop came a raggy and pairy 6-6-3, I decided to bet the pot with my overpair Aces in a situation where I had to figure I was ahead given my preflop raise (who calls a 4x preflop raise holding a 6 or a 3?), and GScott folded, but Surf concerningly smooth called. Could he have a 6? Sure he could have called my preflop raise with 66, or potentially 33, but it seemed more likely to me that he was playing a medium pair, ideally one that is an overpair to this very low board. This especially seemed more likely given that there are so many more pocket pairs Surf could have than just 66 or 33, so I felt from my read as well as from the math that Surf was more than likely on a pocket pair higher than the board, but lower than my well-hidden pocket Aces (I play all my hands this same way so it is not possible to put me on Aces at this point in the hand). It occurred to me that if I tread lightly, I could get most of Surf's stack, depending on just how high his pocket pair is. Normally I would disregard any possibility of a high pocket pair because he did not reraise my 4x raise preflop, but then this is Surf. The same guy who busted me last week from a blogger event with QQ that he limped with from MP. So I wasn't putting anything past him. The turn came an offsuit 2, another rag, and a great card for me I figured since I had put Surf on a pocket overpair. And that was where the real deception came in, with one of my favorite moves.

Usually when I have a strong hand, I will lead at the flop. Not every time, no, but most of the time I will move at the flop. This is good because I have a strong hand, but it also helps disguise my many steal attempts as well, where I also make it a point to move at the pot on the flop for roughly the same sized bet in relation to the size of the pot. Here that's exactly what I did, and I got one call from Surf on the flop. Putting him on a hand that I was actually ahead of, when the turn card came another rag, I decided to play like the bluffer who had gotten his bluff smooth called on the flop, and now just wanted to check it down with what was probably just two high cards, a low pocket pair, etc. This is Level 3 thinking. What does Surf think I have? So far, I raised 4x preflop, and I bet the pot on the flop. Now I'm checking on a raggy turn card after Surf smooth called my bet. The way I've played this, he has got to be thinking I have nothing good. So with what I think is still an overpair to the board, I am hoping Surf will now be like the aggressive guy that he is, and move at the pot that he has to think he is leading right now. This play works all the time in online play, and can work even against the best players who are always looking to catch the guy who bluff-bets at the flop but then refuses to put in any more money after he gets called there, unless he nails the turn or river card hard, and it works especially well against aggressive players who are always trying to take a pot away whenever they sense weakness in their opponent. Flash one of these guys a little weakness, and they like to go for it. Surf did not disappoint:

and when I paused for effect, and then reraised him allin (Surf had cleverly bet 888 chips such that I could not hoy-raise him), Surf was obliged to call due to the pot odds, and to what he held in his hand, which he had to believe was the best hand at the time:

and I had knocked Surf out. Surf, I officially forgive you (kind of) for the suckout of my Queens last week, and I would like to commend you for being the first player to fashion a betting strategy that successfully defends against the hoy. Bet one more than half your chips remaining, and you cannot be hoyed. It is of course best to crack that move out when your opponent is not holding Aces, but in the end Surf lost with KK to AA and it's hard to blame anyone for that situation.

Also at my table about an hour into the MATH tournament was the lovely Carmen, who has begun her new job at the MGM in Las Vegas and seems to be enjoying it (at least more than her last job!). Unfortunately, my time with Carmen was cut short when Mungo nearly busted her with his Kings:

Before I was able to put the finishing touches on Carmen myself, your friend and mine Waffles moved in on the flop with just an open end straight draw (in case you're wondering, that is typically a donkey type of move), and his 3-to-1 shot did not hit:

All the while, once again lingering with a growing stack was GScott. This is a guy who to my knowledge still does not have a blog, and yet the guy seems every week to be sitting at the final table in the cash positions, and uusally with a big stack to boot. Yesterday was no exception, and GScott helped amass his huge pile early by eliminating Hacker59 when his flopped top two pairs bested Hacker's lower two pairs:

Here was another pot I liked. Guin, who spent much of yesterday asking me how he can know which opponents to re-steal from with large bets, then goes and does this to me yesterday:

That's how, Guin. So glad you learned that from me.

Around the middle of the second hour of play, I started to behave like ShadowTwin's personal ATM, a trend that would persist even despite my best efforts to combat it. First, I called this bet:

Anybody know why? If so, please email me at pokerpinhead at donkeys got com.

About 20 minutes later, I did it again when I called an allin bet from Shadow with this hand on the flop:

Anyone? Anyone?

While I was donating to the Shadowtwin foundation, drraz busted Smokkee when he got the better half of a race against the Smokey one:

while SoxLover started building a big stack of his own by first eliminating the Suckout Artist by making a keen call with A9 against l'artiste's A8:

and then following that up 3 hands later by eliminating Guin with KK over Guin's QQ:

in a hand where Guin could not realistically have gotten away from the hand given the way it played out.

Shortly before the second break, I managed to get a bit of revenge against Shadowtwin, when I flopped hidden trips (5s), and then got him to call this bet on after the turn card made a club flush possible:

Since he just called but did not reraise me, I felt fairly sure that Shadow was on a draw, most likely an Ace-high club flush draw. I have not seen Shadaw check the made flush in this situation, and did not think this was the first time I would see that. So, acting on my intuition, I hoyed him on the river:

and Shadow wisely folded. This time, Shadow, I had it. Next time, who knows?

Still short stacked, I did manage to double up against Sox when I got him to call this bet:

with this hand:

Not a bad call on his part, given our relative chip stacks, and this at least bought me a few more minutes of existence as we neared the final table.

Then this hand went down, with just 11 players remaining in this week's Hoy tournament. I'm dealt pocket bitches, and I decided after just Sox limping in ahead of me that I would reverse hoy Grupper, more for the heck of it than anything else:

Only Shadow, my nemesis for the night, called my hoy raise, and when the flop came another raggy and pairy 262, he led out for 1000 chips. I can't possibly put him on a Two or a Six after he called my fairly large preflop raise with already one limper in ahead of me, and if I know Shadow, he would have reraised preflop with AA or KK, not just called my preflop raise. So I have to think I'm ahead here. With substantial pot odds already in place for Shadow to more or less have to call me, I push-raised with what I was sure was the best hand at the time:

Shadow called, and flipped up the highly questionable:

Even though I was way ahead (about an 85-15% favorite, if my mental calculations are not far off), something just hit me as very wrong all of a sudden. I honestly felt like I have already lived through this exact situation on pokerstars many times before. In my head, I knew I was going to lose. I didn't know how, but I knew it was coming in this hand. Two overcards, one of them will hit in the last two cards. Always does. Only this time it didn't. Here was the final board:

And Shadow rides off into the distance with my sizeable stack thanks to my old friend Runnerrunnerrunnerrunner. What a fucking asshole that guy is. So IGH in 11th place overall, far before my time just like last week in this event, as I continue to search for my first cash yet in my own tournament. Sick.

Here is your final table from the latest MATH event:

First to go was my brother Aqua, who fishcalled an allin reraise from Shadow with a very dubious hand that I have written about many times on the blog and was left with a pittance of a stack:

Aqua, and all you others out there in blogland, never forget my mantra that applies to most typical nlh situations: Only a fish calls an allin with AJ or AT. Only a fish.

The action moved quickly, and within a short while we were down to the final 5, all 5 of which received nice payouts in this, the largest Mondays at the Hoy tournament yet:

Congratulations to SoxLover, Don, 23skidoo, the ever-present GScott and drraz for cashing in this week's event, including drraz making his third cash in the last three weeks. And take a look at Miami Don way down at the bottom there, with less than a quarter the stack of 4th place, and more like an eighth of the stack of the other three players. Remember that shot.

First, Don manages to stay alive with this straight against Sox's trips when the turn card made them both a hand they liked:

4 hands later, Don rides a dominating hand to victory over drraz who got a little too happy with A9:

Drraz got much of that chippage back with this double of his own off of Ski when both players got it allin preflop:

and Don doubled up again with another preflop domination, this time over Ski as well:

Sox continued to stake his claim to the $248 top prize in this event by eliminating GScott once and for all on this hand, when GScott moved in his short stack on the flop with a flush draw that never filled, and he happened to run into TPSK (top pair second kicker) for Sox, who made the obligatory call:

Two hands later, drraz made a tremendous fishcall against Ski that ended up costing drraz the rest of his chips as well:

And then there were three.

The very next hand turned out to be the Hoy Hand of the Tournament. It wasn't long, it wasn't pretty, and there wasn't a whole lot of strategy involved. Don saw a cheap flop with 76s, and managed to nail two pairs on the flop, at the same time as Sox made once again TPSK.

They got it allin on the flop, and Don took down the pot of the tournament, giving him a massive stack, all the way back from the guy with 1/8 of the three chip leaders' piles just 15 minutes earlier, and leaving Sox basically crippled as a result. Sox hung on valiantly, but in the end Ski busted him when he called Sox's allin flop bet with just Ski's Ace, and ended up being ahead of Sox's King-high:

It was at this point that Don suggested the chop of the remaining prize pool, to which Ski readily agreed. With the decision made that each player would receive a spiffy $198 from the prize pool, it became all about the glory and not the cashish at the end, and the two combatants fought it out like champions. Despite the lack of money at stake after the chop agreement, heads-up probably lasted a good 15 minutes, with both players briefly having leads and with several lead changes as the players started off very close to even when heads-up play began. Eventually, Ski and his flopped 2 pairs ran smack into Don's flopped flush, and that was all she wrote:

Again, thank you to all the players, and congratulations specifically to our five cash winners, and to 23Skidoo and Miami Don for each winning $200 on the night. I look forward to next week's Mondays at the Hoy with baited breath, this group's last chance to amass reads and notes on each other's play before the live Summer Classic tournament on Saturday morning, July 8.

See you all tonight at the WWdN! Pokerstars, 8:30pm ET, password as always is "monkey". I'm sure I'll also be in the 9pm ET Bracelet Race on full tilt, so if you're around, stop by and say hello to me there as well. Or better yet, play and try to outlast me!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Weekend UberRecap

Ahhh Mondays. You gotta love 'em. Sure, we trudge back to the office, re-joining the pathetic rat race for one more week while we desperately try to Win The Big One that will let us get out of that crappy place once and for all. Yes, it does double blow when that alarm goes off first thing Monday morning (or in my case, when the older Hammer Girl decides it's time for the entire house to be woken up by her wake up screamcall).

But Mondays are also good for two key reasons. Reason Number One: On Mondays, I have often saved up enough good content from a weekend of pokery goodness to make an homage to the Blogfather with an attempt at an uberpost myself, which this will almost certainly be.

And Reason Number Two:

WHAT: Mondays at the Hoy
WHEN: Every Monday, 10pm ET.
WHERE: Pokerstars, "Private" Tab
BUYIN: $20 + $2
PASSWORD: hammer

The time to WPBT Vegas is drawing nigh, so we all need to hone our skills and play against each other as much as possible before the big live event on Saturday, July 8. So be there tonight, or I scoff at you.

OK so let's much pokering to talk about this fine Monday morning. First off, as many of my regular readers know, I have largely been playing like a donkey for the past two weeks or so. Yes (I know this is going to sound stoopid) I did win a $2000 prize package and buyin to the WSOP in the middle there, and yes I did win a satellite to a seat in last week's Winner's Choice event on full tilt along with Smokkee (I went out of the actual event around 2/3 of the way through the field, including a pretty sick river beat to send me to an early exit), but otherwise, I've been largely donkish. I don't mind, it happens to everyone, and I enjoy being open on the blog about when I know I am playing like a fool. I just try to limit my losses during those times (I'm actually way up thanks to the big Bracelet Race win and some other sng profits), and play my way through. That's my mantra when dealing with a donkey streak: Play Your Way Through. A lot of other people recommend taking some time off from the game, re-reading some poker books (I've just started a whole new batch btw), dropping down limits, switching games, etc. I recommend you play it out. Sometimes, it's not just your play, it's the cards you're getting, the cards your opponents are getting, or some combination of the above. Variance is going to vary you until it is done varying you, and I have just found no effect on my game after getting away from my normal thing for a while. So I don't do that. I Play My Way Through. In this case, the only thing I am actually concerned about with my poker play is that I don't go into the World Series in two weekends still on a bad streak. That is definitely not the way I need to go into my first entry ever into the WSOP. I have no fantasies about me actually winning this kind of major event (unlike some people), but there is no way I'm dropping $2500 on a tournament when I'm busy playing like I do when I hear the Hammer Baby crying and I know I have to get up to take care of her in the middle of an MTT.

So, on that front I am happy to report that this weekend, I played some good poker. I didn't win a ton of money -- as I mentioned, when I am heehawing around, I focus on playing through it, and limiting my losses while I do, so I played a lot of $5 and $10 events this weekend instead of the $20-$30 mtts. As I've always said here on the blog, first and foremost I play to play poker, not to make money, so I am more than happy at those levels even though I have had more consistent success at the next tier up or so from there. But, I managed to make a nice profit for the weekend, and more importantly I enter the new week feeling like I might have finally emerged from my recent donkery. Winning a couple hundred bucks is nice, but quitting playing like a donkey is very very nice, and worth a lot more than a hundy here or a hundy there over the long term.

But before I get to my personal poker exploits, I saw some interesting things in general on the virtual tables this weekend for sure that I thought I would share with you.

First, this past Sunday evening was the latest wpbt event, hosted as always by Byron, which this week was not just razz, but Deep Stacks razz so that the players could pull their hair out for twice as long for the same exact price. After struggling with the desire to defend my 10th place standing on the POY list before this weekend, in the end I resisted a last-minute push from Change100 and opted to stay out of the event, mostly because I tend to get dealt so unbelievably many pocket pairs in Razz that I never seem to get dealt to me when playing the same setup for Stud High. Anyways, although I did not participate this week, congratulations go to Lucko for taking down yet another of these blogger events. And take a look at the updated WPBT POY standings on Byron's blog, which includes the results of last night's Razz event. You will note, I am still in 11th place on the overall wpbt points list, even without playing Razz last night, and on the second list, which is wpbt points per event, I would also come in in 11th place as soon as I have played in one more event to make the required 8 total events played thus far. Two other quick points to note are (1) Check out Lucko's assault and takeover of the top spot in wpbt points per event, wresting that title (but not the overall points title, btw) away from StB who has dominated the field thus far this year, and (2) check out this screenshot for a view of who went out first in last night's Razz event:

Oh dear Waffles, I thought you had overcome your own personal donkery after winning the WWdN Not last Thursday, but apparently you are still working out some of the kinks in your game. Please get that done before Thursday's latest DADI event so we can win the last longer bet. Please.

One other quick point about razz on full tilt. I have mentioned several times in the blog about how I seem to get dealt tons of pocket pairs every time I play Razz online. I don't want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, and I no longer believe that online poker is rigged (although 9 months ago I certainly did believe it in some circumstances), but I submit the following screenshots for you as anecdotal evidence only of a HORSE mtt that I did play in over this past weekend. I played I think 10 hands of razz total in this event (and unfortunately I did not make it to the second round of razz), and here were shots of four choice hands out of those ten that I played:

Four effings out of ten razz hands? You tell me if that is statistically significant.

In other poker things I saw of note this weekend, here is a truly horrendous bad beat. I think in this case the picture tells all the story that needs to be told. How furious would you be?

And here was another fun one I saw, where a guy flopped a huge boat and simply could not possibly have gotten away from the hand at that point. No effing way.

Here was another of my favorites from this weekend. I played in probably 8 Katie Holmes token sng's, winning I think 6 tokens in 8 attempts. This was not one of them. I made a kick-ballz call on a guy who made a super-quick allin reraise on me, for the first time in an hour of playing that he had acted so quickly like that, and that immediately set off my spidey sense, so I called with ATs, and he confirms my suspicions, flipping over mf'ing Q8o. Here was the flop:

Un. Fuggin. Real.

Oh congratulations go out as well to jeciimd, a player in the weekly Mondays at the Hoy event and a friend of a friend of mine from growing up, for his very strong finish in this weekend's 200k guaranteed tournament on full tilt:

That's a nice $736 payout for jeciimd, who I'm sure will earmark those funds to pay for the buyins to his next 36 MATH Monday night tournaments. Kudos, jec!

I also thought you might be interested in seeing exactly how I went out early in the 19k guaranteed tourney on full tilt last night at 10pm ET.

First, we're about 15 minutes into the event, and I manage to call a guy's allin with pocket Jacks in my hand and a dominating 4 to 1 lead in the hand:

but then I got slammed with this board:

Then, just two hands later, I moved in and got a call from a single opponent after the flop was already out, when I had a significant overpair to the board, and my opponent again had a lower pocket pair, this time giving me about a 9-to-1 advantage with just two cards to come:

and here was the final board on that one:

and just like that, I'm out. You've gotta love when something like this happens to you in a poker tournament. I mean, the one 80% favorite losing was apparently not a sufficient sacrifice for the poker gods as I attempted to end my donkeystreak this weekend. They had to also have me lose a 90% hand on top of that. Doing some quick math, the odds of variance causing me to lose both of these hands like this are approximately 1 in 36, or less than 3%. Allegedly it should all even out and I should suck out some 3% victories at the same rate as they occur to me, so theoretically I should be okay with this happening, but so many of those assumptions sound dubious that it is difficult to really be comfortable with this occurring. Suffice it to say, in some parallel universe I was supposed to have a monster stack early in the 19k thanks to a couple of well-played overpairs and pocket pairs, but on this planet it just didn't work out for me on Sunday. Blech.

OK enough of the bad beat littanies (and no I don't pay anyone any dollars when I tell bad beat stories. I just tell the best of 'em, and you like 'em. Especially you). Back to my own play this weekend, as I mentioned I did very well in a number of token sngs on ftp, which continues to allow me to buy in cheaply to the regular mtts that ftp has to offer, including for example the right to get junk-kicked like I did last night in the 19k as described above. I also played one of my favorite types of online mtts, and something which I don't typically get to play because these events tend to start somewhat early in the evenings and before my family is in bed -- the 6-handed max tournaments. I have played in this event twice before on pokerstars -- they seem to have some form of it every night that I can tell -- and both times have cashed. This one was a $22 buyin, more than I was looking to spend given my recent donkery, but I was home on baby duty while Hammer Wife was out at the ballet, so I figured what the hey. I have had consistent success in these 6-max nlh tournaments, and as I bet most of our 6-max cash game brethren could confirm, 6-handed no limit holdem comes down to one thing. You know how they say Virginia Is For Lovers? Well, 6-Max Is For Stealing (and Re-Stealing). Especially in tournament format, with the constant short tables in addition to increasing blinds, etc, this is a real action game, and people must steal actively, from all positions at the table, in order to really excel. Steal, Re-Steal or Die. It really is that simple in this game.

And steal I did. More than that, I re-stole. Every single time the hand was folded around preflop to someone in late position, and they raised, I considered re-raising them with absolute disregard for my hole cards. I figure, most of you out there know how to steal a pot in the blinds, but much fewer online players seem to have incorporated this re-steal maneuver into their standard repertoire. So following are some examples of exactly what I mean by restealing. First here is me bluff-reraising with the Hammer, where I was fairly sure the original LP raiser was actually weak:

He folded:

In fact, each of the following six screenshots will show times that I restole with more or less nothing in my hand, playing just my opponent and his or her tendency to put in steal-raises with nothing from late position. In each case, my opponent folded to the reraise.

A few quick notes on these bluff-reraises above: First, the most key element is that I don't get any read of strength from the way the target raises it up in steal position. Of course, one of these times they're going to pick up a hand in LP, and I will lose some chippage doing this if I'm not careful. So if I get even the slightest hint of strength from them when they raise preflop -- even sometimes if I've re-stolen the last 2 or 3 pots in a row from them in this position, so I know they know I'm going to do it again unless they have a hand -- then I will tend to fold here instead of resteal.

Second, along those same lines, if I do get played with here with a re-reraise from
the target after my resteal attempt, I have to prepared to lay down my hand. In that case, the target is indicating that they do in fact have a very strong hand, and I can't be betting so much on the resteal that I become pot committed, or else it becomes a recipe for disaster since I am doing this with no regard whatsoever for the quality of my starting cards. Yes, it is always possible that a great poker player will recognize my penchant for re-stealing and will therefore just put in a re-reraise against me once in a while to keep me on my feet and get me to lay down against a poor hand for them. But in reality, the percentage of players online who are capable of making this move is about 0.0000001. Percent. So I just don't worry about that.

Anyways, mostly by stealing and restealing, I managed to go into the first break of this 6-handed event in 23rd place out of 123 remaining players (351 players originally began this $20 buyin event). And I made a huge chip-up about 10 minutes into Round 2, when one guy semi-donked by calling my allin reraise with 88, and the other player uberdonked by calling both allins preflop with JTs, and I held a very strong hand that managed to hold up for my first huge pot of the tournament:

Which was followed up about 15 minutes later with my second big pot, as I won a race from the favored side and hit trips on the end to boot:

Thanks to these big pots and relentless pressure from me on the stealing and restealing fronts, I went into the second break in 5th place out of 35 remaining players (top 30 paid out in this event out of 351 original players -- don't ask me why this one pays less than 10%).

About 30 minutes into Round 3, I was in 13th out of 21 players remaining, well into the money for my first nice cash since winning the WSOP Bracelet Race early last week. Unfortunately, my luck started to run out when I lost a race to a fish who called my allin with KQo, the ultimate in fishdonkey moves given my likely holdings at the time:

And after close to three hours, I restole one time too many here, which is truly the only way to really excel in these 6-max tournaments:

This time my "victim" flipped over a monster that he had sneakily limped with, knowing my restealing tendencies:

I did not improve, and IGH in 10th place overall out of 351 players:

for a nice profit of close to $170. Again, in this case, it's the performance that counts, not the actual dollars and cents won.

Without belaboring this post any more than is already is, I also made a very strong run in a $5 mtt on pokerstars on Sunday evening. Without getting into too many boring details, I got no cards but stole and bluffed my way through the first two rounds of this event, which had 1776 players originally for a prize pool of nearly $7500, resulting in me being firmly ensconced below average as of the second break, but already into the money in this 20% payout schedule tournament (blech!):

Shortly into Round 3, I got dealt my first big hand of the night, and a guy pushed allin ahead of me (god I love that!):

Here I also continued to hone my restealing skills, which I believe more and more has to be a part of my game if I expect to consistently cash in these large multi-table tournament fields. Here are two bluff-reraises that did the job and elicited folds from my opponent in both cases as we neared the final 100 players in that event:

We entered the final 100 with me in much better shape than at the previous break, as the Aces hand and several steals left me in 30th place out of 99 remaining, and at the third break, I was still going strong and in position to make a serious run:

As the number of players remaining continued to dwindle with the blinds ever increasing, my luck took a turn for the worse when this bozo called my allin preflop with the all-powerful 92s, and well you know what happened:

I still had plenty of chips left here, but you could just feel the air going out of my sail at that point in the tournament, with about 50 players left overall.

And it continued, as I lost a huge pot after I moved my single opponent allin on a Queen-high flop with me holding the AQ in my hand. No way I was getting away from this, not on this flop:

And it ended mercifully near the end of Round 4, as I lost yet another allin preflop race with me once again on the favored side of the equation:

The final standings looked like this:

with me ending in 33rd place out of 1776 players. This was good for another $48 in my bankroll, which is all good, but again the most important aspect here, much as with my 6-max event from earlier in the weekend, is not how much money I made, but the fact that I once again appear to have emerged from the doldrums of donkery and back into my normal hard-playing, spot-on reading self. That's the key for me right now, as I must head out to the WSOP in 12 days feeling calm, cool and confident in my play.

I look forward to taking my newly rediscovered confidence with me to Mondays at the Hoy tonight, where I will try to let someone else at least have maybe 1/5 of my stack or so when we get to heads-up at the final table. See you then!