Friday, January 19, 2007

Getting In With the Best of It, and Another Football Weekend

No big poker news to report from last night. I will say that I once again satellited my way in to the 11pm ET 30k guaranteed nlh tournament on full tilt, by playing in that 8:45pm ET turbo sat that I've been having so much success in. I will also point out that less than 10 minutes in to the 30k itself, I took a cheap flop with pocket 3s and out fell 853 rainbow on the flop. I checked my set to my two opponents, the second checked as well, and then the third guy bet the pot. I reraised the guy 3x on the flop, opting to raise my set as I usually do, and the second player folded, leaving me heads-up with the flop bettor who smooth called my 3x raise on the flop. The turn came down an offsuit Ten, for a board of 358T and with me holding the pocket 3s. This time I bet out small (just under 2/3 the pot) to my opponent, hoping this weakish bet would incude him to make another move so I could get all his chips, because that's how I roll as you know if you watch me play. Once again my ploy worked to perfection, with my opponent moving allin on me there on the turn card. I insta-called for the rest of my chips, and donkeyboy flips up pocket Jacks. Dam I'm good.

Jack on the river, IGH in less than 10 minutes. Gotta love it.

That is just the way online poker has been rolling for me of late. After six or seven weeks of my very public hot hot streak, this week has seen things change on a frigging dime for me, mostly in a sick, sick fashion. I still am pleased to say I am not quite yet getting to that point in the losing streak (which I know is coming shortly, don't get me wrong) where I am actually changing my play to start playing awful poker as a reaction to a longtime series of bad beats. I mean, in each of the past three nights, I have been eliminated from at least two multi-table tournaments after getting my chips all in the middle after the flop is out, with me holding at least an 90% favorite hand.

Think about that for a minute -- in each of Tuesday, Wednesday and last night as well, I've been a 90% favorite after the flop, then got in all my chips as a 90%+ favorite, and lost. At least twice per night! So it hasn't been fun for me, to say the least. But clearly, I am playing some of my best poker still, and that is a good, and comforting, thing to know. Not many people can say that they get their chips allin in an mtt after the flop with a 90% favorite hand in at least two tournaments every single night. But I can. So I'm not able to kill myself for my play as of yet. If anything, the fact that I am so attuned to what my opponents are holding lately is borne out by the fact that I have been making a concerted effort to wait until after the flop is out to get my money in, thereby significantly decreasing my chances of being sucked out on. Sure, the suckouts are still happening to me, but as I said I simply can't kill myself over my recent play.

I've written about this before in the blog, in particular when I've been tilty and ranting like I still am today for sure, so here goes another pompous, self-serving statement that I'm sure makes me come off like an arrogant prick: Sometimes, it is really obvious to me that I am a victim of my own poker skill. I don't know what it is about me, but I seem to have a way of just knowing what my opponents have, in a great many cases, certainly in live poker but even when I play online. I have always had that ability, and that is why I've been playing poker in casinos since I was just in my mid teens, and doing so very successfully. I don't know how I got this ability, but I've always been a very empathetic person -- not in that I show compassion for people (I have very little compassion, actually), but rather that I've always been able to get into people's heads and really understand what they're thinking, what they're feeling, and what their motivations are for what they're doing at the poker table. This skill, which as far as I can tell I was just born with, has helped me immeasurably in my career as a lawyer and as a negotiator. Knowing mostly every single time when my adversary is willing to give in on a certain point in a contract negotiation with me -- even if they are on the phone or at the negotiating table claiming verbally that the opposite is true -- is something that I have been blessed with ever since I started negotiating contracts for my clients, and as you might imagine this skill has come in incredibly handy in negotiations ever since, and has carried me far in my career as a result.

All this is to say, I have a real skill for getting into people's heads, moreso I think than anyone else that I personally know. I mean, I see some of the reads that Daniel Negreanu, Erick Lindgren and even Phil Hellmuth lay on other players at the poker table, and it's obvious to me that I am way, way out of these guys' league in terms of this skill. But of the people I personally know or personally play poker with with any regularity, I'm right up near the top as far as the ability to get into poker opponents' heads. And when things are running bad for me, this skill I have is exactly what gets me into the most trouble. Here's how:

When I have the small pocket pair and flop trips, I have a knack for being able to tell from my opponent's betting patterns, the amount of time it takes him to make his bets, etc., whether he is sitting on a big hand himself. For example in the 30k last night -- make no mistake, I knew he had a hand. I'm not going to sit here and tell you I knew he was holding the Jack of clubs and the Jack of hearts. But I did know just from watching him and getting that "feel" that he had something playable. At least TPTK if not two pairs, or a big overpair. I just knew it. So, because I knew this, I was able to manipulate the guy into getting all his chips into the middle, by subtly acting like my hand was just a bit weaker than his, and convincing him that he could double up.

Most of my other regular poker buddies would never have ended up in the situation I was in last night, to suffer that recockulous river suckout when the Jack fell at the end to eliminate me. Almost every other guy I play with would have bet bigger early on in that hand, and probably chased this guy off of his medium-strong overpair once they flopped their set. Maybe the guy would have called their allin bet with the overpair Jacks on the flop anyways, I don't know. But in many cases he wouldn't have. And so they would still be in the tournament for more than 8 minutes, albeit having only won maybe 300 chips on that hand to add to their 3000 starting stack, but they'd still be alive, and would not have experienced that sickass beat. But not me. Me, I'm not content with the 300 chips, and when I get that feel going of knowing when someone else is ready to play with me, I'm going to go out and fuck with them. It's just how I roll. So instead, I'm out there on the turn card with all 6000 chips in the middle and a 95% favorite to come my way, and then Boooooom, suddenly the Jack hits the river and IGH early, dazed and done. And then I'm here, writing yet another bad beat story.

The same thing happened to me in the turbo 8:45pm ET satellite to Wednesday night's 30k guaranteed tournament. In that one, I had AJo in the small blind, and I just limped even after it was folded around to me, because of the way I roll, I just knew I could act weak and probably dupe someone for all their chips if the right flop falls. Only the big blind calls, and together we see a flop of A94 rainbow. Bingo! I've hit my top pair, and I've done so in a way where I have acted weak, and this guy will never be able to put me on an Ace here. So, just to complete the misinformation in my opponent's head, I check the flop. He bets the pot back to me. I love it. What do I do here? I can tell from this guy's pot-sized bet, and the short-but-not-too-short time he spent before betting out on that flop, that he's got something. But I also know it's not as good as my top pair Aces with Jack kicker. Maybe he's hit a weak Ace. More likely, my gut is telling me he's got a decent second pair or something like that. So he bets out the pot at me on the A94 rainbow flop, and I purposely take several seconds before just smooth calling.

Now, do you see what I've done here? By just smooth calling from the button preflop, then checking the flop, and now long-pausing before smooth calling his flop bet, I've made this guy think I've got nothing. Maybe just a draw. Maybe a shitty piece of the flop, third pair or something. More likely than that even, I've purposely acted as if I maybe only have two overs, and just don't put him on anything at all, and want to see a turn card to see if I can make something there.

And see, this is where the problem with my reading skills comes in. Most of the guys I play with -- heck, most of you bloggers even, which I know from playing with many of you on a regular basis, are going to bet out at this flop, and probably take it down there. If your opponent calls, your potbet on the turn is going to take the pot down. But that's just not how I roll. I've got a read on this guy, and I know that he thinks he's fairly strong here, and doesn't think I have anything. So rather than disabuse him of that notion here on the flop, I know I can get a lot more of his chips with a little luck on the turn and/or the river. So I'm going for it. I've faked the guy out, I've gotten him to bet the pot at me on the flop, and I've flat called that bet in a situation where I basically know I'm well ahead, and I know my opponent thinks he's well ahead.

So, the turn comes a raggy 2, for a board of A942 rainbow, and now I basically know my AJ is still well ahead. I can just "feel" it. This time, of course, being who I am, I just check the turn, indicating to my opponent that I really am weak, his read of me was correct (the read I purposely put into this guy's head, that is). And he bets the pot again, which at this point is getting to be a fairly large pot. And now, rolling the way I do, this is where I go for the insta-minraise move. I try to do it as quickly as possible, which to many players out there is the move of choice when you're just trying to bluff someone out of a pot even though you don't really have anything good yourself. I know this guy is going to fall for my insta-mninraise move here, again I can just feel it. I know he's going to push his entire stack in on me immediately, I know it before I even make the minraise there. I just know it. And of course he obliges, and of course I insta-call, and I flip up my AJ for top pair Jack kicker. What does he show?

Pocket 7s. So he's got a pair of 7s on a board of A942, and I've got top pair Aces. Here I am again, making my own luck, now a 95% favorite to double up again, with a shitty hand like AJo, in a situation where all the other guys I play with regularly would have just taken down a small pot on the flop, and they'd all be alive to live another day in the tournament. But noooo, not me. I'm never satisfied with a few hundred chips if I feel from my read that I can take a guy's entire stack with the proper manipulation. Not if I have a real read on the guy and I'm confident in that read and my ability to double through him. So instead, I've got all my chips in now, a 95% favorite, and Boooooom! A 7 on the river, and IGH to his rivered set.

It's disgusting, but do you see what happened there? Because of my reading ability, because of the way I play, I am constantly getting myself into situations where I've got all my chips at risk and am a significant favorite to win the hand, even in the very earlygoing in big mtts. My friends report that they are typically allin maybe once or twice during their typical mtt runs, at least until well ITM when the blinds are huge and the Ms get progressively lower. Well, not me. I am probably allin with a strong favorite hand maybe 15 or 20 times in every mtt I play. And I'm barely ever behind. But I'm a victim of my own poker skills and reading skills when things are running bad for me, because suddenly in all of my 75% favorite hands and my 85% favorite hands and my 95% favorite hands, in all of them combined, I'm winning 20% of them. And I can't possibly survive late into mtts when I am constantly getting in to pots for all my chips, even as an 80% favorite. Think about it -- if I'm getting all my chips in 10 times as an 80% favorite each time in the first 90 minutes of an mtt, then the law of averages says I'm going to lose 2 of those confrontations, even as an 80% favorite. And that is just no way to play an mtt.

But I really don't know how to stop doing what I do at the poker tables. Am I really supposed to stop duping people into betting all their chips into me as an 80% or 90% favorite? Is that really something I'm supposed to avoid? And keep in mind, I am most definitely not talking about me being a 51% favorite in a race, which clearly must be avoided as a general statement early in big mtts. And I'm not talking about getting in as a 57% favorite either -- like where I have A5 in the big blind and the small blind has just open-pushed with what I'm sure from my read is two big cards but no Ace. I'm talking about getting it all in as an 80% favorite or more, which generally means I have to be in there as a big favorite once the flop has already come down. Am I really, truly not supposed to continue duping the guy into betting me all his chips after the flop when I'm an 80, 85, 90% favorite or more? That is hard for me to swallow. But when I'm not winning those 80%+ favorite hands after the flop, like is certainly the case this week, you can imagine how quickly I'm getting donked out of my mtts, generally in despicable, disgusting fashion.

OK that's enough poker for today, this was actually just supposed to be a football post. So I went 2 for 3 in my NFL spread picks in the playoffs last weekend, and today I'm going to give some more picks for this weekend's games.

First, at 3pm ET on Sunday you've got the New Orleans Saints travelling to freezing cold Chicago to play the Bears at the new Soldier Field. The Bears, the #1 seed as it is in the NFC, are favored by what looks like 2.5 points, always a tough line when the oddsmakers are cutting it to under a field goal for the spread. This also indicates how torn Vegas is about predicting the winner of this game. And the over-under for the game is set at 43.5, a low-ish line but not all that out of the ordinary where the Bears are concerned, considering how great their defense has been over the 16-game season.

But that's just the thing. As Don was quick to point out to me last week, the Bears defense was great over the 16 game season, but it has been downright porous over the past 5 or 6 weeks. Even last week the Bears let a not-very-good Seattle team stay in the game, score a lot of points on them, and eventually the Bears found themselves just one or two big plays away from losing a sudden-death game in overtime to the Seahawks in Chicago last week after giving up 3 touchdowns to the team despite their quarterback having a torn labrum (whatever that is) in his non-throwing shoulder. And, after watching the Saints offense move the ball well -- in particular, Deuce McAllister and Reggie "fumbleboy" Bush -- last week again in Philly, I think they are likely to score the ball a little bit on the Bears D. And, I think the Bears should be able to score the ball a little bit as well against the Saints' defense that really is not any good.

So, I'm predicting another game similar to the games that both of these teams won last week -- something like the 27-24 scores that both teams came out on the winning end of. So, this means that I like the Over 43.5 in the Saints-Bears game, something which I feel pretty good about, as long as the weather isn't going to be horrible in Chicago or anything. The current forecast is for some snow on Sunday in the Windy City, but it's not supposed to snow much before or after Sunday, so I'm doubting we'll have a serious storm there. I think these teams will score some points and just slightly break the Over 43.5 points.

And as for the Bears by 2.5 line on this game, I think that's a very tricky line. Here's the thing -- even though the referees clearly saw to it that the Saints beat my Eagles last weekend, I have a lot of respect for the Saints' team, especially on offense. And I don't have too much respect for the Bears team, especially their defense of late. So all things being equal, on a neutral field and under neutral conditions, I would probably be likely to pick the Saints to win this game. But, having to play in front of the Chicago fans, and in particular having to come up to freezing, snowy Solider field, I just don't think this bodes well for the Saints. Drew Brees is a San Diego guy. Reggie Bush comes from USC. Deuce McAllister has played his entire college and pro career in the Deep South. The team not only comes from the Gulf Coast, but they play their home games in a domed stadium. There is likely to be a lot of climate shock among the Saints on Sunday in my view, and for that reason I'm going to take the Bears minus the 2.5 points. I don't think they'll win by much, but I think a field goal or more ought to squeak by.

In the other game, probably the sexy matchup of the weekend, it's the 3-time-superbowl-champion-this-decade New England Patriots going to the Indianapolis Colts, in a game that will not be affected by the weather as it will occur in a dome in Indy. This is one where the Colts are favored by 3 points, as they are the home team and have won the last couple of regular-season games against the Pats, with an Over/Under for the matchup of 47.5 points. On this one, I'm going to go against what I assume is the more popular bet, and take the Colts. The Pats have had their way with the Colts in the playoffs during Peyton Manning's career in Indy, but to me this year's Pats team is a far, far cry from those dominating teams of recent years. I know they went 12-4 this year, but the Pats scored 20, 14, 7 and 0 points in their four regular season losses this year, one of which was to the Patriots at home in New England, so they have had a little bit of a habit this year of not stepping up on offense in some key games.

The Pats are solid, don't get me wrong, but the team just seems a half a step worse than those superbowl teams of their recent run, and just look at how close they were to losing last week against the Chargers, needing an utterly recockulous, lucky river 1-outer suckout type of play on that interception-fumble, to have any chance of staying alive in the playoffs. And I expect the loss of Mr. Clutch Adam Vinatieri to loom large for both teams in this game, as not only did the Pats let him get away in the offseason before this year, but he got away to the Colts, who will now get the benefit of his bigtime foot in a bigtime spot in this game. I actually think this is likely to be roughly a 3-point game, so I would not be likely to bet this game normally, but for the sake of taking a stand, I'm going to take the Colts, minus the 3 points, because I think they're going to win this game. And I'm going to learn from my mistake last week with the Colts -- I know the Pats' offense has had a bit of trouble scoring in some key games this year, and the Colts' defense has really stepped it up here in the playoffs so far as well. And, the Colts' offense looked pretty shitty as well in their game in Baltimore last week. So I'm taking the Colts, and I'm going Under the 47.5 points as well.

OK so overall my spread picks are:

Bears -2.5
Over 43.5 points in the Bears/Saints game
Colts -3
Under 47.5 points

Everybody enjoy the games this weekend, and best of luck at the virtual tables. I'm hoping to qualify for the Saturday night Winner's Choice and the Sunday night HORSE tournament sometime tonight or tomorrow, so I may be in those as well if anyone is around and cool enough to be playing online poker on a Saturday or Sunday night.


Blogger Fuel55 said...

Hoy – I read (and reread) your post today and it illustrates the risk of playing small ball poker. When you feign weakness and “let them catch up” you always risk that they pass you (usually on the river …).

Happens to me all the time because, like you, I am a post flop player. I don’t like pushfests, I don’t like gambling – I wanna get my money in when I am way way ahead and I KNOW THAT I AM AHEAD.

In hindsight you often wish you’d pushed harder and not taken your hand to showdown but over the long term small ball is the correct game, especially in deep stack tournament or cash game play. You know it, you believe it and you’ll stick to it. The occasional river dance is just part of that equation.


1:01 AM  
Blogger John G. Hartness said...

My 4-team parlay for this weekend goes like this.

Saints at +2 - I think they kill the Bears.

As such, I took the Over. If the Saints win, it's gonna be a decent scoring game.

Colts at -3, I agree that the Colts take this one, and by more than a FG.

But for them to win, it's gonna have to be a shootout, so I took the OVER. If it's a low-scoring game, Peyton's watching the big game. AGAIN.

1:06 AM  
Blogger Julius_Goat said...

Hoy, I just posted a bit on this last week, and I feel very strongly that you're not the victim of your ability.

Quite to the contrary: Your ability is putting you in the position to get sucked out upon.

In other words, statistically, in a large field MTT, you WILL lose when you're ahead 90% . . . but only if you're good enough.

Bad players WILL lose when they are behind 90%.

Good (by which I mean 'good luck of the good variety') luck is your big lead holding up, not 9 out of 10 times, but all 10 out of 10 times. 'Good' luck is accomplished only through good play.

'Bad' luck (by which I mean 'good luck of the bad variety') is a suckout, and it is achieved only through bad play or a bad read.

Statistically speaking, a good player such as yourself will eventually fall victim to a bad player's 'bad' luck every time if the field is good enough.

Keep on playing your game. And 'good' luck to you.

1:17 AM  
Blogger manik79 said...

I'll just go aheead and say it now...

Saints by 9 on Saturday and Patriots by 12 on Sunday.


1:18 AM  
Blogger lucko said...

I think you have that AJ vs 77 hand screwed up. You said you limped from the button, but you are acting first on the flop and turn. Were you in the SB?

1:25 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Lucko, good catch. I reviewed the screen shots and I was in fact in the small blind in that hand. I've corrected the post, thank you.

Also, to Fuel -- this is my problem with the "wish I'd pushed harder and not taken my hand to showdown" thingy. As I mentioned in my post, if I had pushed harder up front, I could have won 120 chips. If you give me the choice of a 99% chance of winning 120 chips on the 10th hand of a large mtt, or a 95% chance of doubling up and winning 3000 chips on that hand, I feel like I have to take the latter choice. Don't I? Purely mathematically speaking even, I think I need to take the latter choice, because my expected value is so laughably higher with that choice than with the first one.

So you see, that's my real problem here. My gut and my brain tells me that, if I have a feel that I can take this guy's entire stack on a 95% favorite heading into the river, I absolutely positively have to go for it. And when I'm running well, winning when I'm ahead, this works out very well, and I've had some great tournament successes doing this. But when I'm running bad like this week, it can get ugly in a hurry.

Thanks for the comments, very cogent thoughts as always.

3:36 AM  
Blogger MHG said...

Seeing how the Colts play in a dome, I doubt weather is going to play a big role in the game :)

It didn't sound like you thought the weather would impact one team more than another, but I thought I would point out the dome-ness, just in case.

4:22 AM  
Blogger Fuel55 said...

For me it depends on the tourney buy-in. I will avoid showdowns and win smaller pots to attenuate variance in the big tourneys that I dont get to play very often. Sub $100 tourneys are a dime a dozen and I risk going broke to put my money in as an overwhelming favorite.

5:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice play on the set of threes although I would have waited til the turn to check-raise.

Slow-playing is lost art IMO and I like taking the risk that opponents hands will improve but not catch up. Give me 95% going to the river to get ALL of some donkeys chips instead of scaring them out early because they might catch up.

I like the Bears and the Under in Pats-Indy.

10:43 PM  
Blogger Iakaris aka I.A.K. said...

Ab-so-fucking-lutely LOVED that last post.

You bastard. The ONLY reason I reloaded on Stars was because of you and your recent score, and the fact that MATH and WWdN played there.

PLEASE tell me this means MATH is moving at long bloody last.

That rant deserves to be listed in your epic posts section.

5:15 AM  

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