Sunday, April 29, 2007

MATH, Monday 1K and More Cash Games

Right off the bat, it's Monday again, and that means it BBT time again, and that means that tonight is the latest installment of Mondays at the Hoy on full tilt!

Come out and play in the first of the three BBT tournaments on the slate for you this week, as the leaderboard continues to take shape, but where it's easily still early enough in the schedule that anyone winning the MATH tonight will probably climb into the top 10 on the board if you've had any points success at all in the previous events. And there is always knocking me from the top of the list of 2007 MATH money winners, where I have floundered for several weeks despite my last Hoy cash coming late in the Triassic Period. Not to mention the $1200 prize pool all of this month in the Hoy since the move to full tilt and making the tournament buyin a Tier I token or $26 cash. So there are plenty of reasons to come out tonight and donkeysuck me out of the MATH at 10pm ET on full tilt!

Here's another thing for those of you out there who follow the NFL draft. Btw I would never have thought anybody would be interested in the NFL draft who also reads here, but I got a lot of commentary from a lot of people over the past week asking me who I thought my Eagles were going to take, who was going #2, etc. So here's my one lasting thought from the 2007 NFL draft:

Calvin Johnson. Repeat that name out loud once or twice to yourself right now. Now if that ain't the name of a star touchdown-making, showboatin' NFL wide receiver, I don't know what is. Calvin. Johnson. It just sounds like a pro-bowler, doesn't it?

And speaking of the NFL, so as of this weekend we now know one thing for sure about the AFC: The Colts and the Patriots will meet again in the AFC Championship game, and nobody else in the AFC is even worth following. My dumbass New York friends are saying the Jets are for real, I got other guys telling me the Chiefs or the Broncos or San Diego. No. Adding Randy Moss, dickhead though he is, is a disgusting turn of events for the rest of the AFC, for a team whose offense I heard this morning on Mike and Mike was already ranked #7 in the NFL last season. With a few key moves this off-season, the Pats have re-made themselves the Team to Beat in the AFC this year, and no way anyone passes these two teams heading into the 2007-2008 regular season. Pats-Colts baby. Get used to hearing it.

Now on to some poker Let me start for today by saying for the record that I lost it with my post on Saturday. That post was rude and more obnoxious than it ought to be. But man does it phuckin sting losing a full buyin like that, in front of the bloggers no less, when I had been nicely up before that already on the night. But I decided long ago (never to walk in anyone's shawows and) that I was not going to rant with people's specific names and links like that anymore. I mean, I am fine saying I think someone I respect made a bad play in my blog, but to just go and kill somebody in a feature-like piece like my last post, that just makes me a dickhead. There I said it. I debated taking the thing down entirely because it's rude and obnoxious and uncalled-for, but I'm just not in to self-censorship like that. Instead I will just say my peace here today, and hopefully these things will be read in conjunction by people who follow along with what I have to say.

In general this weekend, though, even despite the Friday night stackraping at the hands of Butch Howard, I had my best cash run ever, taking down a total of about 4 to 5 buyins over the weekend in about 10 hours of 1- and 2-tabling 1-2 6max nlh. It was awesome. I got some hands over the span of all those hours, and I pushed them just hard enough to get what I needed to get out of them. My biggest move of the weekend was raising with a lot of draws. I even had situations where 3 limpers checked the flop to me on the button, but rather than take the free card on the cheap round, I still went ahead and put in a smallish raise, getting more money into the pot and representing a strong hand, while also chasing out a few guys who might otherwise have runner runnered me along the way, and also usually buying me a free card on the turn, when things are typically more expensive, rather than on the flop which is typically a cheaper bet to pay for anyways. Of course you don't hit all your primary draws with two cards to come, but I found this weekend then when I did hit my draws after betting them on the flop, that was when a guy with TPTK, two pairs or even the same turned set that killed me on Friday with the bloggers, was likely to pay me off in a big way. Raising with my draws. For whatever reason, I find myself doing this more in cash games than I do in tournaments, I think maybe because my tournament chips are just so much more in short supply since I can't ever replenish, and so far it's been working for more profit when I hit my draws then it's been costing me when I miss 'em.

On the tournament front, things are kinda so-so for me. I think I played 8 FTOPS and other satellites this weekend all told. And in those 8 satellites, I final tabled 7 of them. These have all ranged between 9 and 40 players, and I've been playing very well in all of them, which is good. Throw in the Saturday 1:30pm ET bracelet race that I somehow found myself playing in as well, which I also final tabled out of I think 59 entrants, with just the top place winning the 2k WSOP prize package. So I played great tournament poker this weekend, in a sense. However, of those 8 final tables in two days, I ended up winning the seat or the prize in precisely one of them. I'll get to that one win in a minute, but otherwise, I bubbled out in 5th place in that bracelet race after being in 1st with 8 players remaining when my JJ ran into KK before the flop, and then on the very next hand my A9 could not hold up against 77 and IGH. In my FTOPS satellites, I have even made a small amount of cash in a couple of these final table runs, but othewise I am just the fucking bubble boy this weekend which really killed me. And more than that, all but one of my FTOPS final tables this weekend ended with me losing to an inferior hand when the money got in. That kills me even more. I'm talking about losing an FTOPS ME satellite in 3rd place with the top 2 winning seats when the fonkey in 2nd calls my preflop allin with his A6o against my pocket Kings. Ace on the flop after that recockulous move and I'm done, no seat. No I don't want the $126 cash or whatever it was, thank you very little.

This weekend I also lost in 4th or 5th place in multi-seat awarding satellites with 88 to 66 allin preflop (four-flush, of course), AA to KJs allin preflop (turned straight, you know how it is), and with QQ on a Jack-high flop to a guy who called my allin on the flop with nothing more than unimproved big slick (I don't have to tell you how that one ended up). And oh yeah let's not forget Sunday night's Blogger Bracelet Race, that Al was The Man enough to chip in out of his own pocket to ensure a winner-take-all $1500 buyin prize pool to play in a WSOP event, where I had the misfortune of having a somehow-even-at-8pm ET-tired Gracie at my table, who typed in "I'm tired, I just need to go to bed, gl everyone" or something similar before calling my allin (I had TT and had raised a bunch of limpers allin) preflop with her 33, and promptly nailing a 3 on the flop to do me in. Zoinks. Of course my last crumbs of chips were eliminated on the very next hand when my allin push with QT ran into TFG's Q7, and he promptly flopped a 7 and IGH. Now that right there btw is the best proof I know of that online poker is rigged -- how many times has this happened to you? You get redickulously sucked out on to be totally crippled in a tournament, and then you push allin on the very next hand, you have a big lead preflop but then boom! you're done. I can't count how many times I seem to get redickulously sucked out on to officially finish me in online poker tournaments, immediately following some huge crushing loss that unofficially finishes me first. Rigged I tell you. Anyways, congratulations to blogger brdweb for busting out with the victory and taking down the $1500 winner-take-all first prize (thanks again, Al!), who will be playing in Event #15 in the 2007 WSOP, $1500 nlh on Saturday of the WPBT weekend (I will also be in that event btw). Brdweb also graciously offered to swap out 1% of his action in WSOP Event #15 to all of his other final tablers in last night's event as part of the deal that paid the whole prize pool to first place, so kudos to everyone who scored there and especially to brdweb for taking down the prize and bringing another blogger to the WSOP! And of course kudos to Gracie for ending up in 6th place and getting her 1% of brdweb's WSOP action. Gotta love it -- hopefully that was worth staying up for another couple hours for. It will be when brd takes down 650k for first prize at the WSOP. And I expect at least my Blogger Bracelet Race buyin back from Gracie if that happens.

OK so back to me, the one big satellite win I did come up with this weekend was that I qualified for for the 1k Monday mtt on full tilt for the first time:

Again I played really great in this tournament, and for once of late I was able to hold on after my usual vicious suckout for the victory in what was a 23-player, $100 buyin satellite into the $1000 buyin Monday night event. It was sick because with me in 1st place out of 5 players remaining (top two won 1k seats), I actually got the guy in 2nd place to move allin preflop against me with his QQ against my KK, a move which would have given me a 4 to 1 chip lead over the guy in 2nd place with just 4 players remaining. Naturally with the way things ran for me at final tables this weekend, he turned a Queen and I was knocked back down to 4th place out of 5. Still I perservered, climbing my way back up and eventually winning a big pot to get back into 2nd place of 5 left, behind just the suckerouter, where I held on to take 2nd place and play my way in to the 1k Monday mtt for the first time ever. To be perfectly honest, I have looked at this tournament with jealousy many times over the past several weeks since full tilt starting running it, debating whether I could possibly justify buying in directly for $1060, but of course my answer has always been "Yes! what am I crazy?" and I've chickened out, I think wisely. But just last week I played my first satellite into this event, which at a 1k buyin I never have seen a sat for less than a $75 buyin for the sat, and this is my first win and something that I am really excited about.

So come rail me tonight at 9pm ET in my first ever Monday 1K on full tilt, where the prize pool usually ends up around 100k with around a hundred players, and where any cash will be a nice addition to my roll on full tilt. And remember, the BBT freeroll Tournament of Champions will award free seats to anyone who has played in at least 20 of the BBT events, so you have every reason to keep coming out and playing in these tournaments, even if you're more dead money than I am in these things. If I can get into the freeroll, I just need to get lucky one time and I can make some nice cash, so that's my plan and it should be yours too. So I'll see you tonight for Mondays at the Hoy!

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Blogger Bracelet Race, and Cash Game Fonkeyrape

Do not forget about this!

That's right, we are sending a bona fide poker blogger to the World Series of Poker this Sunday night! You can email the address listed on the graphic above, or feel free to hit me up on the girly chat or at the tables and I will get you the password to this mega huge private tournament. But we need something over 50 players in order to get the prize package up to the $1500 pricetag on the smaller WSOP events, so get out there early and sign up for the event among the bloggers. I will be there, defying my and Hammer Wife's weekly plans to watch The Sopranos together on Sundays sans full tilt, and blowing off the my Hammer Girls' bed-putting responsibilities to boot. So if I can take on all that heat on the home front for this tournament, then you dam well can come out and make this blogger bracelet race the huge event that it is going to be. See you there muthafuckas!!

While you're here, check out how I got nailed for a $411 pot in a set-over-set confrontation that I think never should have happened. I can only play a hand so perfectly, but sometimes the poker gods rape my anus for a huge pile anyways, no matter how little regard for his money the donkey at the table shows.

I call a pot-raise preflop with pocket 5s. I flop a set, with an Ace on the board to boot. Set mining baybeee! Ching ching ching!

OK so even though I called his pot-raise preflop, and an Ace and a Ten fell on the flop (both overcards to his shitty pair), donkey bets out standard $15 into a $20 pot. He has to figure he's beat here and drawing to just two outs, but I guess he feels compelled to throw out the standard size c-bet anyways. It's pronounced FORM - yew - lay - ik. Well, I've learned from some of the hands I've had up on the blog this week, and all the comments I've received -- Lucko has gotten through to me with all his FPS talk, and this time I'm determined to build this pot right here and now. I'm hoping he must have an Ace to have just wasted $15 on that flop bet. Please let it be AK or AQ:

And the donkey calls, wasting another $20 into the pot. So far he has just thrown away 35 perfectly good dollars, stuff he could have bought his young boy porn with just as good as the credit cards he'll have to use for that instead when he gets stacked for all his money probably 10 minutes into his next session of playing like this. Again, this is exactly the kind of formulaic play I've been talking about at the cash tables. A certain kind of player -- and yes make no mistake, this is one of the ultimate fish qualities that we all love to make money from -- simply cannot handle admitting that he just got caught. They make a dumb bet, you raise them, they obviously know they're beat, but they find themselves clicking the "call" button anyways. What was this clown thinking when he called my raise on that flop? "My pocket 7s are good against the guy who called my preflop raise, two overcards Ten or higher fell to make my pair basically worthless against a preflop raise-caller, and then he raised me big on the flop after I formula c-bet anyways?" Christ it is so clear how it's easy to make money at 1-2 against players like this.

OK so a harmess 7 falls on the turn. What's more, Butch now bets out $50 into the $88 pot:

OK now after he called my flop raise, this bet was enough to give me some pause. Now tell me cash gamers, what am I supposed to do with this bet? Sure he could have a set of Aces or a set of Tens, but I really think he would have been more likely to have reraised me on the flop there than just smooth call, so I have to discount those holdings. Possible for sure, but not as likely as some other holdings which fit the action so far even better. Obviously he doesn't have pocket 7s for the turned set, because only an abject fuckface is going to bet out on the flop and then call my $35 flop raise with just pocket 7s on the AT5 board. So I figured I had to put him on either AK, AQ, or maybe even AT for top two pairs. Was that a bad assumption on my part? Would you cash donks have reraised here, smooth called, or folded your hand? Please tell me I played this hand wrong, because I need to learn why that is, if I did.

I reraised with my clear winner in my opinion at the time:

Yes I made the baby jebus cry with the minraise. I just figured that by betting out, he's obviously going to call my minraise and therefore it's the best way to get it all into the middle. He responded my moving allin for another $61 on top, which I knew I had to call at that point, thinking as much as before that he was most likely to have AK or AT.

Wrong! I forgot the cardinal rule: bloggers really will call a flop raise with pocket 7s on an ATx board against a guy who called their preflop raise. Unbelievable call there IMO. Tell me I'm wrong, cash donkeys!!

$411 pot, raped from me and given to the donkey who not only can't keep himself from betting out with a clear loser on the flop, but he couldn't even fold to my nice raise on the flop. That generous man might as well have been writing me a check when he called that flop raise. Donks who just can't get away from their hands, even when they get caught essentialy bluffing with just two outs. Un. fucking. Believable.

To his credit, I see that Butch Howard has a fun writeup on his blog this morning recounting his play from last night, and basically taking credit for playing like abject donkey in that hand against me, referring to his call of my flop raise as a "WTF call". OK. To his determinent, however, it appears that after not fucking being able to get away from shitty pocket 7s on an AT5 flop against me and sucking out an 11-to-1 shot to stack me, he also could not get away from pocket Aces against a set of Queens for a $520 pot when he rivered a third Ace is another stellar 19-to-1 hit. Still later it appears Butch could not get away from KK on a board with two Aces on it. Notcing a pattern?

I can't stand having to wonder all the time when the phuck I'm going to start being happy for all the donkeys sitting at the table with me. In two years of active online play, I would estimate that I've lost maybe 15,000 dollars or $T more to donkey plays than I have won from them. When the phuck is that going to even out?

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Friday, April 27, 2007

A Little FTOPS Love, Cash Game Discussion, and Another Funny Cash Hand

Finally today I have a little bit of FTOPS love to report. To be honest, I have not been focusing on the FTOPS satellites nearly as much as I should have so far since they started maybe a week and a half ago. Normally I would have been all over qualifying for as many events as I can since the very first day they appeared on full tilt. But, I've had a lot of other things I've been focusing on with my poker play, not the least of which is my cash games (another very profitable night last night, more on that later), more bracelet races and the WSOP main event qualifiers since the large-buyin sats have such favorable payout structures, as well as my nightly 30k sats and other regular activities on the virtual felt. And I've also focused more time than I wish I had on the avatar races and related satellites, which would win me an entry into five FTOPS events at once -- at least one of which I cannot actually play in, mind you -- but where the play in the satellites and even in the avatar race itself has been so goddam awful that at times it's kinda like trying to win the WWdN or something. Painful. As a result, I have not been able to get anywhere significant with the avatar races, and since I've focused so much on those, I probably haven't played more than 5 or 6 individual-event FTOPS satellites, which in the past have been profitable plays for me. In the few that I have played before the last day or two, I've donked hard in a couple when I was actually playing on megatilt, and I've gotten donked by fonkeys on more than one occasion as well. In all, qualifying for the FTOPS in my half-assed way has proven to be highly frustrating for me, not to mention fruitless. I am highly competitive and driven, and my poker play has always been very goal-oriented. I want to play in as many FTOPS events as I can -- and I honestly believe that the entire online poker landscape is likely to be very, very different by the time the next FTOPS comes around, presumably in August, once the regulations under the UIGEA have been promulgated -- and so far, nothing good to report whatsoever.

All that finally changed for me late this week. Either Wednesday or Thursday night (it all blends together for me, especially as I've been sick this week thanks to the Hammer Girls and the wonders of contagious viruses), I took on a $26 buyin mtt sat to the FTOPS HOSE event #5, which ended up being more like an sng as only 9 players entered the event. Now let me say for the record that, despite how effing frustrating razz can be, I am better than most players I bump into out there, in particular most players in the HORSE events generally for sure, and I just find it lame and almost sacreligious to be arbitrarily removing razz from the normal HORSE rotation. I don't really think this hurts my chances so much of performing well in such a multi-game event, but that doesn't mean I think it's right to just take razz out because, well, I don't even know why someone would do that. To me it's lame lame lame. But whatever, so I played in this 1-table mtt, with the winner getting a seat into the FTOPS HOSE event, and 2nd place thru 9th place winning diock. I hate that structure, which is the whole reason I prefer the mtt satellites to the sng satellites, but it was the hand I was dealt this week (pun intended) so I went with it:

This satellite was sick as ballz as we neared the end. I had played very well, getting paid handsomely on a turned boat in holdem and on a spectacular nut flush-nut low in O8, and I was actually up about 10k to 1k to 1k with just three players remaining. It took me overcoming not one, not two but three stoopid suckouts to finally take out the guy in third place, with me once again up around 10k to 2k as heads-up play began. I was extremely card dead (we were just starting the latest O8 round as we got down to heads-up), and with such a large chip lead there was just no reason for me to play any starting hands that were not strong. Eventually he limped in preflop and I checked my option to see a free flop with AQ86. The flop came JT9, making me the second-nut straight with no low possible, and my opponent called my check-raise on the flop, getting most of his chips in in the process. Then when a rag fell on the turn, I bet out, and my opponent called off the rest of his chips, flipping up J9xx and wishing me luck in the FTOPS in the chat while he did so, leaving him dead to just four outs (the remaining two Jacks and two 9s) for me to win the seat. But the hideous 9 on the river suddenly brought him from the very brink of elimination back to basically even with my stack, and with me tilting out of my mind after a fourth or fifth suckout over just the past 10 minutes or so of play and about a 5-to-1 chip advantage at the beginning of heads-up play. After this latest suckout, we went back and forth several times, and with my tilt ever-increasing I was just about ready to kill somebody. Eventualy, luckily about two hands before I literally threw in the towel and just pushed with anything (we were playing stud high at this point), apparently my opponent got to his own towel-throwing point and pushed in his stack (about 70% the size of my stack at the time) progressively allin over 3rd, 4th and 5th streets with nothing more than a split pair of 2s. I had started with KQ(T), and eventually on fifth street just as my opponent moved in the last of his chips, I paired my Ten. I picked up two pair Kings over Tens on 6th, but he also picked up a runner-runner flush draw. With one eye closed and the other squinting tightly, I saw as he missed another big suckout at the river and I took down the winner-take-all satellite. So here is me registered for FTOPS Event #5 (HOSE):

On a related front, I also qualified for FTOPS Event #1 in nlh a night or two ago. This was another mtt satellite that paid the top two seats out of I think a 22- or 24-person field, and by the end I had managed to get into a dominant position, with about a 20k stack vs two sub-10k stacks in my last two opponents, with just two of us getting awarded seats to event #1. I eventually held on to make it in, although for some reason my screenshots from this event did not capture correctly, so all I have for you to see is me registered in FTOPS Event #1 as of now as well:

I guess it looks like I only managed to capture half of the FTOPS #1 window there. Well enjoy it cuz that's all I got for ya. So I am in to FTOPS Events #1 and #5, which will run on Friday night May 11 (#1) and Tuesday night May 15 (#5).

Looking at the other events I would like to play in, there are events #6 through #8, which are also on weekday evenings which is the optimal time for me, and also Event #4 on Monday the 14th is very attractive to me, in that it also has that 9pm ET start time that I like, but it carries a $1000 buyin. Now even though my roll could support me buying in directly to a 1k event, there is precisely zero chance that I would ever do that, especially with the fonkeys I run into regularly in online play. So, I did something on Thursday that I will only do for this particular event, which is play in a super satellite that awards seats to the $216-buyin satellite tournament on Monday, May 14 at 6:30pm ET, a few hours before the actual FTOPS Event #4 is scheduled to go off. Knowing this would require me to leave work early that day, I figured it is nonetheless my only realistic chance to play in the biggest buyin FTOPS event in FTOPS IV (including even the main event which sports a "mere" $535 buyin), since I do not foresee myself playing in the $165-buyin mtt satellite into FTOPS #4 that runs nightly at I think 11:15pm ET. So anyways, on Thursday I played in the mtt super sat to FTOPS Event #4 ($1000 nlh), which again was more like an sng than an mtt with just 8 players starting at one table:

Boooooom! The highlights here were me getting redickulously sucked out on twice at the river in the final 30 minutes, but then me laying one sickass bad beat of my own against one of these suckerouters when my tilt-allin with J7o four-flushed against my opponent's TT allin preflop. He can eat it, and I'll take the victory with the exact same pride as I do any other win I care about. J7o this, muthafucka. So I am now registered for that satellite to FTOPS #4 on Monday, May 14 at 6:30pm ET -- my only chance to play in the $1000 buyin tournament.

So that's it for my progress far on the FTOPS front, although I plan to play in more of these mtt satellites over the next few weeks to try to play my way in to whichever events I am able to get into. I did want to mention briefly here one new satellite full tilt has been running for the FTOPS over the past three days or so. It is called the FTOPS mega super satellite, and it is actually a satellite with a $75 buyin, that pays the winner(s) a $600 prize package consisting of seats into seven separate FTOPS satellites that occur the week of the FTOPS itself. Now, I can't play in this thing personally, because almost all of the FTOPS satellites that are awarded in this thing go off at 6:30pm ET on the day of the FTOPS events themselves, and I simply do not have the ability to play in a 6:30pm ET satellite. But, if you're interested in playing your way cheaply in to seven of the ten FTOPS event satellites that are held the night of the actual FTOPS events, then this thing could be for you. The FTOPS mega super satellite runs every night on full tilt at 10:30pm ET, and also I think around 7:30pm ET as well, and here is the actual schedule of the 7 FTOPS satellite tournaments that you will win your way in to if you take down one of these mega super sats:

OK, enough about the FTOPS for today. Now I wanted to discuss my cash game play of late, and some of the commentary I have received over the past few days about how I'm playing certain hands, because while most of the comments are really very helpful, some of what I'm reading just seems pretty silly. First and foremost, let me say again that I certainly appreciate every single comment I get on my blog about my cash game play. I recognize fully that I'm a cash beginner and that there are guys out there with 1000 times the experience and skill that I have in cash games. But I also want to say that I find it somewhat funny how tied on to their own specific styles of play some people seem to be, and how easy some people seem to find it to critique what I'm doing just because they don't play the game exactly like I do. When I'm out there reading hands, I can fend for myself and I'm doing quite well at it. I may not play exactly like you guys do. I may be on my way to eventually playing cash nlh exactly like you do as I continue to incorporate every tidbit that seems sensible to me that I pick up from your advice and from watching you guys play the game. And I certainly have my down days just like everyone else who plays cash regularly. But let's be honest here. This is the exact same group of guys who just commented in my blog within the past week that nobody good at nlh cash ever steals the blinds, that with no escalation of the blinds there is just no reason to fight hard over a dollar or two. Meanwhile, after maybe 5000 hands of 1-2 nlh 6-max over the past couple of weeks, I can probaby count on one hand -- literally now -- the number of times that the button and the sb have folded around to give a walk to the bb when I've been at the table to see it. The bottom line is that, regardless of the advice I received here a week ago or so, the fact still remains that not just a few guys, and not just some people, and not even most people, but everybody -- and I mean every. single. body. -- steals the blinds in 1-2 6max holdem on full tilt. So the advice for me not to play out of the blinds like that is not advice I can possibly adhere to, and I could not advocate anyone else doing that either. Stealing the blinds isn't just part of the game at 1-2 6max on full tilt -- it is the game.

Now, I'm not at all saying this to suggest that anyone who has commented here doesn't know what they're talking about with cash games. I said it above and I'll say it again here, I am getting better every single day at my cash games as a direct result of the conmentary I receive right here on the blog, and I could not be more thankful and appreciative of everyone's comments. But, what I am saying is that I think everyone can learn a little something about how to play these games from someone else, and that there really isn't any one "right" way to play the game, at least not at any level of specificity. A guy who is better at reading hands can play a little looser early in the hands like Negreanu does and make money. A guy who's better at getting value out of strong hands can play tighter than most like a Dan Harrington and make money. While I do believe there is a right way generally to succeed at poker in a general sense, there are simply a lot of different specific ways of getting there.

I also wanted to note here that in the comments to how I play specific hands in both tournaments and cash games, the most common overall commentary I get is for people to ask how I could not have put someone on a really strong hand, just because they were betting. Apparently a lot of people out there do not realize just how tight they play, and more importantly, just how exploitable that tightness is. If you're going to assume that a guy who steal-raised preflop has hit a board of 579Q hard just because he put in an automatic and meaningless c-bet on the flop and then called my raise of that c-bet, then your game will improve the sooner you realize that you are going to get exploited again and again and again by smart, observant players who see your game for what it is. Now, you can read this and get all pissed and think what a jerk I am if you want, that's completely fine with me of course, but that isn't going to change the truth of what I just wrote up there. If you're someone who puts a stealer on a hand that hits a board of 579Q hard just because he didn't fold to my raise of his automatic, make-it-every-single-time-regardless-of-the-cards c-bet on the flop, then you are exploitable. You're beyond exploitable in fact. Now this is me giving you people some good advice: If your play is so robotic that you automatically assume a preflop raiser hit a raggy board just because he doesn't fold to your flop raise, then good players will eat you alive. They'll kill you. I'll watch you at my table for 15 minutes, and then I'll be stealing pots from you by simply calling your raises and then betting strong on the turn. The single biggest mistake I see people make online -- after overvaluing shitty hands themselves, of course -- is being too timid and always fearing the nuts. A guy putting in an automatic steal-raise and then an automatic c-bet tells you absolutely nothing about what he holds in his hand. If all an opponent does in the entire hand that shows any strength at all is call my flop raise, something for which he will have some decent odds thanks to the money he's already put into the pot with his preflop steal-raise and then his flop c-bet, then IMO you want to get yourself to the point where you're not automatically assuming he has nailed a raggy board of Q975. In fact, to me that conclusion is just plain silly. He's barely shown any strength at all in the hand! Fearing the nuts or near-nuts just because of one raise-call on the flop where there's already decent pot odds to call with some things like draws, 2nd pair decent kickers, etc. is not the optimal way to play the game in my opinion.

And while I'm on a roll here, lets talk for a minute about some other funny stuff I've been reading and hearing people say. First of all, if you are someone who believes that "calling an allin with just one pair in cash game is donkey", then you as a matter of practical fact are too rigid to be great in your poker game. I don't care what you think of me, but when you're done thinking it, you're still not good. Period. Start facing it now. Or don't, actually. Cuz I've been stealing pots from people like you all night long over the past month. And you know what? I do occasionally get burned by people who hit 2 pairs or slow played a monster against me. So do people who don't call big bets with just one pair. You shouldn't need me to tell you this. The fact remains that I am probably up about 5 or 6 to 1 in chips in the times I've called with one pair and won, minus the chips I've lost when I've called with one pair. It's called hand reading, and for almost everyone reading this out there who thinks what I'm saying is wrong, I'm better at reading hands than you. If you read hands well and are willing to get away from one pair when you think you're behind, then being willing to go to the showdown with one pair where you objectively and honestly believe you're ahead can be quite profitable, at least at the donkey limits. I'm quite sure that calling big bets with one pair at 3-6 is not at all a winning strategy. But at 1-2, if used sparingly and appropriately, it can work. And at $.10-$.25 like the blogger cash game that I played in for a few hours on Thursday night at full tilt, it can be a very profitable strategy if done correctly against the caliber of players, and the caliber of bluffers, you will run into at that level.

This leads into my second point about the cash games (and this is just as true for tournaments as well btw) -- and this is an argument that's been hashed and rehashed on blogs and in poker rooms for as long as poker has been played, so it's not like I'm saying anything new here. But if you are someone who is going to try to run a huge bluff on the river in a hand where you have nothing, your opponent has played the hand strong since before the flop, and you've played like you've got nothing all the way through the hand as well, then the other guy -- factually speaking -- is not the donkey when you make the painfully obvious, everyone-at-the-table-knows-you-aint-got-shit allin bluff at the end, and he calls to stack your ass. You didn't even think about this bluff until the second you clicked "allin". And as a result, your bluff is more obvious than the baldness of that guy with the horrble combover. I don't care if the other guy calls you down with frigging Jack-high and beats you. If you don't lay the groundwork for your bluffs earlier in the hands such that a person with good hand reading skills can't be THAT sure that you're bluffing when you suddenly out of nowhere commit the rest of your stack to a hand where you've shown nothing but abject weakness from the moment the starting cards came out, then no matter what you may think, no matter what you may say, and no matter what the other abject donkeys at the table might tell you, you are the donkey. Again, start facing it now, because these my friends are facts. If you think the other guy has to automatically lay his hand down if it's only one pair, so you can run the dumbest looking bluff I've seen since I played 5-card-draw with Aces, Deuces and One-Eyed Jacks as wildcards for m&ms with my friends in 4th grade, then you are an abject donator. And I love having ya around my table, don't get me wrong. But just because some other blonkey supports you that the other guy shouldn't have called your blatantly obvious bluff, do yourself a favor and don't let that make you fail to question how you could make such a horrifically bad play. As many great poker bloggers have quite correctly observed, if you aren't willing to constantly analyze your own play and try to figure out why you got stacked 5 or 6 times in front of your blogger friends at that cash game table the other night, then you are absolutely doomed to repeat your suckiness. And I'll be there to call you again and again and again with Ace-high, one pair, or my monster and continually relieve you of your chips. Because I'm in your head. Accept it. I'm in there. I'm there right now as you read this. Keep telling yourself that the other guy is the donkey for calling your recockulously out-of-nowhere bluffs at the river. Keep letting the other jassack poker bloggers at the table tell you how horrible of a call the other guy made to stack you with his just one pair hand against your allin bluff with your Ten high. Just keep making those bluffs at me please.

I think that's enough of that mini-rant for today. I'm sure the better players out there disagree with a lot of what I've said above. I welcome that disagreement, and I can only assume this is because you guys play at a higher level than I do and a higher level than I am referring to here, because at those levels I'm sure a lot of how I've been playing over the past several weeks will not work. Well, I'm not playing at your levels. I'm playing at 1-2 or below, and this shit is working. Some days I get stacked. Some days I make ridiculous, horrible laughable allin calls with not-very-strong hands and lose a couple hundy to a guy with a monster. It's true. I bet it even happens to you on occasion, no matter what level you play at. But I can't argue with the fact that my roll is growing pretty consistently at 1-2, which I'm doing by taking stabs at lots of small pots, stealing the blinds when it makes sense, and sticking with my reads when I think I'm ahead. It actually sounds a lot like how I play in tournaments, to an extent. And at the donkey limits, this is working. I fully believe my higher-level-playing friends that this stuff won't work at all up there. If I ever move up, something which I'm not planning to do anytime soon right now, I look forward to having to re-learn how to beat that level. But for now, there are donkeys all the phuck over the place at 1-2 and below, and I'm beating them. Consistently. And I'm not doing it by assuming they have the nuts every time they call a raise of mine. The guy who plays that way, he's the guy whose money I'm taking consistently at the cash tables in fact. I love players like that.

OK so today I will just leave you with a sweet hand from last night at the 1-2 cash tables, where I recorded another solidly profitable session over maybe 2 or 3 hours of play. And this is a hand where I am going to specifically thank Fuel55 and Lucko for educating me that it is ok to play low connectors in a multiway pot at a cash game for a small bet.

And to Dr Zen from yesterday's comments, this one's for you! Ha ha.

So I'm in the big blind with 64o. A totally shite hand by any possible standards. But when middle position just min-raises my $2 big blind to $4, and then the small blind calls the raise as well, I'm looking at seeing a flop in a $12 pot for just $2. This is a hand which I would have insta-folded just a few weeks ago. But I specifically remembered as I played this hand both Lucko and Fuel making calls like this (not saying either of you would have necessarily made this specific call, just calls like this with low suited or connecting junk) at cash tables I was at, and then seeing them get lucky, hit a big flop and suddenly they're stacking someone else at the table. So I looked at those pot odds, and I made the call:

The flop comes down:

Not bad. Bottom two, it's not a great flop but obviously I hit it pretty good here, and since I called a preflop raise, nobody is really going to put me on this hand. I check it, because I know the guy up top, Mr. Formulaic, is gonna c-bet on this raggy flop. He obliges with a $7 bet into the $11.40 pot. Then the guy after him raises before the action even gets back to me:

Now I know here this was a bit of a tough decision. I think if I had put the guy up top on any kind of a hand at all with his c-bet, then I might have been a lot more tempted to fold. But to me, the guy up top I know for absolute certain fact is c-betting here with any two cards. Any. Two. Cards. That's just the way he plays, and I am 100% positive of that fact. So all I'm really looking at here is a guy raising on the flop, a raise that could easily mean just top pair decent kicker. In fact I'm putting him on something like JT, since he called the preflop raise with just one other player in the pot at the time, so I'm guessing he's on a Jack and a decently high card. Yes he could be on a set, but there is just no reason for me to believe he's on a set yet. I debated reraising to find out now if he does have me beat, but the bet was so big already that I decided to just call it and see what this player does on the turn with the information that I called his big raise on the flop. I'm guessing not everyone will agree with this move, but I think it was ok given my hand at the time:

The guy up top folded. And this was when another shining, beautiful 4 fell on the turn, giving me a delicious boat. What's more, the guy on the right, whom I still had on top pair of some kind, liked the 4 as I probably would in his shoes, but liked it enough to push in the rest of his stack:

This I think was a horrendous play by him, given that I had just called a bet and a nice-sized raise on the flop. In particular when you see what he had in his hand, since I insta-called his bet of course:

Top pair, shit kicker. Another great example of why you don't want to be the guy always putting players on the nuts or near-nuts just because of one modestly aggressive action on the flop against a guy who is perceived to be auto-cbetting without any need to have actually hit anything on this hand. The J3 guy played this hand about as badly as humanly possible, but I would have never been there to take down this $280 pot:

if not for Fuel and Lucko. I should send you guys each $2.80, one percent of this pot for each of you, for being the impetus behind me winning this guy's money. Again, I'm not trying to say that either one of these guys would have played this hand at all, or played it exactly like I played it on every street, or anything like that at all (I bet they would not have played it exactly like me, in fact, given both of their massively more cash game experience than I). But it's a great example of the kind of thing I'm constantly looking to add to my game from watching and learning from other better, more experienced players out there. I specifically remember thinking "donkey!" the first time I saw Fuel call a raise and 3 callers of that raise preflop with 64s. Then when he stacked me with the hand, I kinda did a double-take. Then a few days later I watched Lucko call a few preflop callers with 76o and do the same thing. I questioned, and I got answers from each of them explaining the rationale of calling a small preflop bet with junky connectors, soooted or otherwise, to try to nail a cheap flop against multiple players and get to stack somebody good. And slowly but surely, this stuff is finding its way into my game. I may put my own spin on things, but I'm always looking to get better, and the best way in the world to do that is to learn from observing and picking the brains of others who are better than you. That's what I hope some people can get out of the 347 posts I've put up here over the past couple of years. Well, maybe not Dr. Zen, who obviously has emotional problems after busting his bankroll for the umpteenth time this year. But the rest of you.

Have a nice weekend, everyone. I should be online intermittently in the evenings so you can come and berate me for the content of this post. God I love being a blogger. Now go and qualify for the FTOPS!

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Profiting From Formulaic Cash Play, and Lost

No time today for a typical long post as it is "Bring Your Children to Work" Day and I've packing all the Hammer girls into the car and driving 'em down to my office to get a taste of what Daddy does during his allegedly "real" job, the one I do when it's actually light out, when I actually wear something other than boxers, the one where I actually get paid regardless of how I perform or how any luck factors in day in and day out.

Instead today I will show you a couple of new cash hands from last night's play, which I think show how comforable I'm getting in my $200 nl 6-max play (despite losing about 1 1/2 buyins overall last night on two horrible moves by me). Both of these plays are examples of what I would say is the single biggest weakness among the 1-2 players that has led to the vast majority of my profits at this game -- a formulaic style of play that I would estimate more than 75% of the players use which sees them always open-raising the pot in position preflop, and then almost always continuation-betting the flop regardless of what three cards happen to fall, or their connection to the players' starting hands. In my experience you really can make money by just coming into these games, folding your weak hands, and otherwise playing a very robotic, reactive game. You'll be put to the test with a tough kind of decision once or twice an hour, and how you fare in those hands will determine whether you're down $20, up $60 or up $150 for the session. But otherwise you can just come in, play good starting cards, raise and reraise aggressively when you believe you're ahead, and otherwise let the robots do their robotic moves, and take advantage of those moves in a very robotic way yourself.

First, this is me getting a little bit floaty on a preflop raiser whom I just didn't think hit whatever he was raising with preflop, because of the position he robotically raised from every single time he was in that situation. He pot-raised before the flop from middle position, and I called with A2s. Not my strongest move, but I had seen this guy raise enough to know that he was basically raising the pot with any Ace, any two high cards as well as some other unknown hands as well. When the flop came 9-high, he c-bet a little less than the pot, following the exact formula that I find the majority of 1-2 6max cash players play, and I just did not think that the 9-high flop was likely to have connected with his hand. So I smooth called:

fully planning on taking this pot away on a later street. I had also made third pair on the flop, but I wasn't really giving much value to that pair unless a third two happened to fall on the turn or river here. So, the turn brings an offsuit Jack, which I also did not necessarily see hitting this player's hand, and I figured now is the time to take this raggy-boarded pot down, knowing from having watched this player that he was going to check behind if I checked here on the turn. So I bet out, again a little under the size of the pot:

and he folded:

winning me a small pot in the process. Now as I review the screenshots, to any experienced cash player this is just about the most boring hand in the world. But to those of you who wonder who I play at the cash tables or who don't play at the 200 nl stakes, this might have some interest for you, in that this is how the majorty of the pots I win tend to go. The biggest pots I win have me holding a stronger hand that fourth pair top kicker as I did in this case -- although I'm fairly sure I was ahead here as well -- but it's the large number of little pots like this that help me to build slowly but surely almost every time I sit down to the 1-2 tables.

Following is another fun example of sticking with my read and putting my money where my mouth is, and it's another move that I do with some regularity to much success at the 1-2 6-max tables.

Cutoff+1 raises the pot preflop, a spot I had observed him and noted him raising from with trash such as medium offsuit connectors and Ax before in this session, so I opt to call heads-up out of the big blind with JTs. Again not necessarily my strongest starting hand, but I'm confident enough that I can get away from this hand if I don't hit the flop that I'm willing to take a shot with a hand that can make a lot of top pair decent kickers, straights and flushes:

I make top pair on the flop, which I have every reason to believe is ahead right now. But, I act first here, and I also have every reason to believe that my opponent will once again follow the highly formulaic, pot-raise-then-c-bet strategy that the majority of 200nl 6-max players seem to play these days. So I'm going to check it and let him come to me a bit. I check it:

and he bets $12 into the $15 pot. How perfectly formulaic so far. This time since I actually have top pair and good reason to believe I'm ahead, I'm going to take this thing down right now before an overcard falls and takes away my pot:

My opponent smooth calls my raise, which is strange at first blush. But the thing is, part of the formula that most of these players seem to play is to occasionally call this kind of raise, putting me on a steal attempt in reaction to his formulaic play. I am heartened by the fact that he did not reraise me there on the flop, which discounts greatly in my mind the chance that he holds an overpair or a higher Ten. When the turn comes a raggy offsuit 5, this time I'm checking to see what my opponent has to say:

When he checks behind, now I am fairly sure I'm ahead. Maybe he has a middle pocket pair, or maybe a small piece of the board, but I don't think he has top pair decent kicker. So when the river is an evern raggier 3, I make a bet that I actually don't mind if he calls. And, more than that, it's designed to elicit a fold because I know he's going to know that this bet wants a call because it's a little under half the pot. Since I think I'm ahead but am not 100% sure, I'd like to see him fold here, so my smallish bet accomplishes both keeping the pot small with just one pair, and also giving the appearance that I want him to fold:

He folds, sensing he is in fact behind:

and I take down a 3/8 of a buyin pot. All once again attributable really to my opponent's formulaic play on all streets. Reacting to this sort of formulaic strategy in my opponents, one which I'm sure is not present at the higher levels, has single-handedly helped me to be a profitable cash game player over the past month while I continue to learn the ropes of basic cash play.

OK before I sign off for the day, I wanted to chat briefly about Lost from last night. Let me just say this -- the episode as a whole was somewhat boring to me. It is an interesting surprise that Mikhail is alive and well once again -- I'm sure there is a good story to that but I don't know what it is, probably related somehow to the regenerative properties that the island apparently has. Nonetheless, the big kicker to Wednesday night's episode was the Portuguese girl at the end telling Hurley that their flight crashed, the authorities had found the plane and the all the bodies and that there had been no survivors. That was definitely not something I was expecting, and I think it only leaves a couple of realitic explanations (assuming she is telling the truth, which admittedly is no guarantee on this show):

First, as Goat suggested to me this morning, the Others (or someone else entirely, for that matter) could have staged the entire other airplane fuselage that was found, and staged all the dead bodies, in fact staged the entire crash, just to move the Losties' bodies over to this island in a situation where no one would possibly come looking for them since they thought they'd found the plane and all its passengers' bodies already. This seems a little farfetched, but first of all, saying that about just about anything on Lost seems kinda silly if you think about it. And, it certainly does match up with the way everyone woke up in the very first episode of the series, how they were outside of the plane, lying down, in Jack's case off in the woods even, and all pretty much not injured at all. In some cases (Locke), even healthier than they were before the crash. So, I think this is a possbility, and an interesting one though I think that kinda takes the show in a different direction from where they've been heading, since they specifically showed the Others watching in surprise as the Losties' plane crashed 90 show-days ago.

The second option, one which I do not really like in terms of the story but which I had basically already discussed last week in a post, is that the Losties are somehow in another dimension, or maybe even an alternative universe of some kind. As I said I don't personally love them to be taking the show in this direction either, but something just tells me that their plane maybe really did crash and burn, and they really were all found, dead, in the "real" universe. The one we live in now, in our own time. However, Desmond's failing to push the button in the hatch, the event that caused the plane to crash in the first place, could have somehow opened up a "hole" or whatever to transport from the universe we all live in to this alternative dimension, where the plane did crash, but some of the passengers lived, maybe due to the regenerative properties of the island. I don't know the specifics, but something just tells me that this is where the producers are taking the show as we head into the last few episodes of the third season. What this means will happen in the future is beyond me, and frankly I admit that I hope I'm wrong about this plot line because I'm not entirely in to it to be honest, but that was the first thing that jumped into my head when the chica told Hurley they had found the plane and all the passengers' bodies had been ID'd as fatalities. Interesting stuff.

Just don't let it be that the Losties are really just dead and in purgatory or something here, as has been suggested by some of the more religious types from the very beginning of this show. That would be such a disgustingly stoopid outcome to me that I'm really hoping that's not it.

Tell me something though, can anybody even wait until next week's episode now? Dam those writers are good.

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Donking in the Wheaties, and a Bunch of Hands to Review

First off, if you happened to enjoy my post yesterday on taking notes on different players, then you should really like Lucko's note-taking post yesterday, which takes things maybe even a bit further than mine into some specifics of his strategies around what he makes sure to note of his competitors' actions. It's great to hear from a cash and tournament game specialist like him on the same topic at the same time that I'm posting about it (thanks again to windbreak247 for the idea), and most of the commenters seem to have gotten a lot out of reading both posts in conjunction with one another. As you hopefully can understand, neither Lucko nor I feel that we're in a position to give away too many details of exactly how and what we take note of among our opposition at the virtual poker tables, but I think between the two of us we have provided a pretty solid and hopefully helpful look into why we focus on the things we focus on, and somewhat of a snapshot into the specific types of notes we take. Go check both posts out if you haven't already, and just remember all I ask that is that you don't use any of these strategies to take notes on either Lucko ("donks out of blonkaments even faster than hoy") or myself ("loses to any two overcards and then goes on massive donkey tilt") since that just wouldn't be right to use our own stuff against us.

So very briefly, and this isn't something I'm necessarily proud of given my recent comments on the level of skill involved in these tournaments, but I did final table and cash in both the WWdN and the WWdN2 last night. I was asked in the chat after I made the cash in Wil's second chance tournament (limit O8 btw, who woulda thunk it) if this means that my streak of blonkament frustration has finally come to an end. In a word? No. There is one simple reason why I did so well in the Wheatie after weeks of futility across all the major blogger tournaments:

I got great fucking cards. All night long.

I'm serious. No doubt I played them well and got the most out of my hands. But nonetheless, I was dealt quality starting hands on several occasions, and more than that, I was hitting flops. I mean, smacking 'em up good. I'd see a free flop out of the big blind with Q6o? Q86 on the flop. Call a raise and three raise-callers from the small blind with 8s? A85 rainbow. I think I flopped a set at least twice if not three times during the WWdN, which is about 2 or 3 times more than that's happened all year so far in all the other blonkaments put together. I made some dqb on the river once. And I consistently got it in before the flop against shorter stacks with pocket pairs when I happened to be holding higher pocket pairs. I know I've said this several times before, but it's amazing how easy this game can seem when you're getting cards. And I'm not above admitting it, last night in the Wheatie I hit a ton of flops, and I believe I busted 9 of the 47 players in the event on my way to the final table. Now granted, I busted in 7th or 8th place at the final table when I raised with a medium Ace (sooooted of course) from middle position, got reraised allin, and when I realized that a fold -- clearly the correct move in this spot -- would leave me with just 3000 chips and well in last place, it took me...oh...about 1.2 seconds to determine that I just didn't feel like playing from that position. So I called, took my loss to AK like a man, and got outta there a happy donkey.

As I mentioned, the WWdN2 last night was limit O8, and this one had 17 runners gunning for the top 3 cash spots. Once again, I was dealt a fair amount of good starting hands, and I hit a lot of flops and a lot of boards with just what I needed to get it done. I played very well, and I even have a little admission for all you donkeys who could not stop cutting on my O8 play in last February's FTOPS when I posted after bubbling in the 580-some person event after missing 8 consecutive low hands with A2xx in my starting hand. This time around, I barely ever raised preflop, with A2 or otherwise. And it worked very well. I've just been reading another of the Cloutier-McEvoy books, the one just on Omaha, and they make the point again and again that in Omaha tournaments, almost no hand is worth open-raising with before the flop. There are several arguments for this, but the general thinking is that it's one thing to reraise from late position with a very strong hand in O8, which is often a perfectly wise and profitable move, but to open-raise even with AA23 double suited, or any AAxx or A2xx hand for that matter, just doesn't make a whole lot of sense because you're giving away more information about your hand than whatever gain you're getting from putting in this extra bet so early in the hand in a game like Omaha where basically everything ends up riding on which cards come out on the flop and beyond. So, I barely raised preflop at all in the WWdN2 last night, and the end result was people never really seemed to put me on the nuts when I had them, and I was able to get paid off consistently on what again were very good cards overall on the night. It didn't hurt to nail some big river draws as well, including this one, my personal favorite on the night:

Blammo! DQB baybeeee! This was originally referred to as a one-outer by the victim at the table, but note that in reality I had 10 outs, not one, to make a winning boat (or better) in this hand. Nonetheless, I'll take it, and the DQB makes it look a whole lot better than the 20% shot that it was heading into the river.

Of course I hit my river suckout King in a phucking $5 donkfest and not a 400k guaranteed tournament. My suckout King comes of course in more like a $100 guaranteed than a $400,000 guaranteed. Not even, actually. An $85 guaranteed tournament. Phuckers.

Anyways, much as in the original WWdN, my great cards and consistent pounding the board kinda left me shortly after making the cash positions, in the top 3 in the O8 event, as I busted out on this gem of a hand:

As you can see, I flopped not only the nut low draw but also a made nut flush. Then it was just a question of getting my opponent to give me as much of his chips as possible. That involved me checking the flop, betting the turn and then getting it allin on the river, only to see this gorgeous runner-runner bullshiat:

Lovely, huh? Runner-runner 4-A to make a boat for my opponent, and at the same time counterfeit my low draw on those same two runner-runner cards. You have got to love the way O8 goes sometimes. Especially on pokerstars, still the suckoutiest riverbullshitiest site I've ever played at. Ever. Anyways that hand staked o-hole-ne to about a 13-10 chip lead heading into heads-up play, but I was outta there at that point and didn't even stick around to see who won. But it was fun not embarrasing myself in front of the bloggers, for literally the first time in as long as I can remember. I mean, I ended 11th in last week's Riverchasers tournament, but to me that was highly embarrassing as I truly folded and limped my way into the BBT points, literally blushing from shame in front of my computer screen as I open-folded on the button repeatedly, I declined to open-raise with A9 in the cutoff+1, etc. Weak weak weak play is not something I'm proud of anyone else to see coming from me. But last night in both WWdN tournaments I played strong and the cards cooperated in a big way. Don't expect that to repeat anytime soon, I almost never get cards like that, and even in my big tournament wins I am usually seeing less than 10% of flops and winning far more based on bully tactics and bluffs than on the strength of my actual cards.

The even better news from last night as far as I'm concerned was in my cash game play. I have been winning with much consistency at the 1-2 6-max nlh tables, so much so that I'm even considering moving up levels and seeing what 2-4 is all about. I haven't moved up yet because what I'm not doing at 1-2 is winning 2 buyins a night or anything. What I am doing, though, is winning consistently in the vast majority of my sessions. Probably an average of around half a buyin over a 90-minute session. I don't know what that equates to in big bets per hour, but let's just say that all of my 6-max play in the 30k and the related satellites has left me feeling very comfortable with 6-max nlh generally, and I typically have a very good feel for when my starting cards are likely to be best. And combine that with good hand-reading and player-reading ability at the tables, and I am basically almost always coming out ahead in these sessions. It's been great, and there was no doubt whatsoever that even just a month or maybe two ago, I was a cash game donkey. I'm definitely not anymore. My strength is definitely in 6-max cash as opposed to ring games, and I seem to really excel in situations where everyone tries to steal the blinds every opportunity they get with a pot-sized raise like occurs at every table I sit at in 6-max $200 nl. That kind of thing isn't happening nearly so much at a full ring, and I have to say a good portion of my winnings are occuring in those situations where I call someone's steal-raise with a fairly good hand from my big blind, flop something good, and then let them make one or even two big bets at me before I scare them away. It's been very profitable lately, and has helped to easily absorb my lack of significant tournament victories over the past week or so, other than my normal satellite wins that have themselves not led to any significant cashes. I did win my way in to the nightly avatar race for the second time last night, and let me tell you, at $216 a pop, you might be tempted to think the quality of play in these things is good. Wrongo buster, wrongo. Check out my bustout hand from last night as a great example (and I tell you, this is par for the course with the players in this thing, despite the attendance list also including some of the biggest-name guys around in the online mtt space):

I'm just under the starting stack about 40 minutes in to the event, and a guy I've only seen raise one pot so far before the flop puts in a good-sized (3.5x) raise from early position. I've got two Queens, so figuring him for a decent-sized pair I move it all in:

What does this guy do? He calls for 2/3 of his existing stack, when he only had 210 in there to begin with and could have easily folded, with Ace-fucking-Six:

That is just laughable. Normally this is where I would suggest that this guy ought to get a blog right away with the way he played this hand. But shit, even the blonkeys out there don't make this call with A6. You clowns like to save this type of move for AT or AJ or AQ. A6, that is just plain old dumb stuff. Unbelievable. This is a perfect example for Smokkee's note of "soooted donk" that he mentioned in the comments to Lucko's notes post yesterday. And this:

is another shining example of full tilt's fucking random number generator rewarding a soooted donk for his oh-so-fine play. On the river of course. I've been thinking, I really should get one of those t-shirts that say "F*cking River!" on them. That's becoming my mantra lately. Who sells that shit anyways? I've definitely seen it advertised on somebody's blog or somewhere that I read on the Internets. So anyways that was me busting out of the avatar race last night less than an hour into the event. But don't kid yourselves -- the play in this thing is mediocre at best, and as long as you can avoid the big names -- the THAY3R's, the PearlJammed's, the Hoyazo's, you should be just fine. Heh heh.

Now, before I leave today I'd like to post my biggest pot in a cash hand of the night, and find out from you cash game donks and otherwise if you think I played this hand well or poorly, and how or why. Because I was very surprised with the way this hand shook out. And you tightydonks who say I should always fold to any pressure with only one pair can be my taint-hounds for the night (that one is for you, big fella, I'm doin' my part!)

So I'm UTG+1 with pocket Aces, and the UTG player has pot-raised it up. I feel like I've got a good handle on him either having a high Ace or a high pocket pair to be raising the pot from UTG like that, so I go ahead and just call with my Aces. I figure (correctly) that no one else is gonna stay in the pot anyways after this early action, so I'll get to heads-up before the flop which is where I want to be anyhow, while at the same time getting a lot of deception in against a guy I am clearly dominating in a big way:

The flop comes 346 with two hearts. I don't have the Ace♥, but I don't see how I can really be concerned here, right? That's just about the raggiest flop possible, and my Aces have got to be good here against a guy who pot-raised it from UTG. When he bets out $13 into the $17 pot, I again elect to go with the smooth call, thinking this guy has an overpair and I can get a bit more from him on the turn if I play my cards just right (pun intended). There's now $42.75 in the pot heading into the turn:

The turn is the 2 of clubs, putting 2346 on the board and making a possible straight with any 5. My opponent leads again at the pot, this time for $37:

Now what am I supposed to do here (again, tightydonks need not reply, we all know what you would do)? Fold my Aces because I fear that he's got a 5 in his hand that he pot-raised with UTG before the flop? Come on. Am I supposed to put him on two pairs here, pot-raising UTG preflop with a hand like 43 or 64? Please. I am aware that he could technically be on a set, but he did pot-raise it preflop from under the gun, which I wouldn't even do with a hand like 66, 44, 33 or 22. Nope, that is still just not as likely as my original read on the guy -- I've still got him on an overpair, which I believe is far and away the most likely holding given the action so far. So I put him to the test:

I'm actually hoping that he calls me here, because I don't see how he can put me on holding a 5 either, since I called his pot-raise from UTG+1 preflop. I have the guy on an overpair, so actually nothing would make me happier than to see him stay in with his QQ or KK or whatever he's got. I'm sure my Aces are good here.

My opponent responds by moving allin for an additional $85 more on top of my big raise. Now at this point I am trying to figure out how I just lost the hand. I mean, I guess it's trips? He really open-raised UTG with a shitty pair like that? That sucks. In the end, it was $85 more to me into a $350 pot, and I decided I had to call it, since I had put the guy on a big pair all along and I figured it was at least 1-in-4.5 likely that he did indeed have something like KK or QQ. Of course I bascally knew I was beat already when he re-reraised me allin, but for those odds I felt I had to make the call.

Who wants to guess what he's holding? Take your guesses, I'll give you some space so you don't ruin the big surprise.

So there you have it. Open-raising the size of the pot UTG with 75s. Gee, wonder why I couldn't put him on this hand on the miracle 346 flop. Tell me, is this fixed or is this for real? Cheesus christopher. But that's what it takes for me to lose big pots nowadays in the cash games, where even despite this recockuhuge pot on Tuesday night I still ended the day up nearly a full buyin through several tables and several hours of $200nl 6-max play.

I would really love to get everyone's opinions as to how you think I played this hand, where you think I went wrong and what if anything you think I should have done differently. I have had a great run in the cash over the past month but at the same time I recognize that I have a lot of room for improvement, and any and all input is welcome. All I ask is that you try to put yourself in the position of actually being in the hand at the time, instead of just being the guy reading about it the next morning and assuming the worst, etc.

OK that's all for today. Don't forget the last BBT event of the week -- the Mookie -- is tonight at 10pm ET on full tilt, with the password of "vegas1" as always. I don't need to give the usual spiel about how this is always the biggest and the most fun blonkament of the week, because you all know that by now. And you don't need even a Tier I ($26) token to play, as the Mook is always a mere $10 buyin for the pleasure of playing with and getting to learn from some of the best poker players in the world. Ok, I surely did not mean that, but it's fun as hell and you should definitely check it out for that reason alone, not to mention all those awesome cash and other prizes available to the top BBT players of the year as we near the end of the first month of the three-month BBT tournament schedule. And don't forget about Lost tonight either -- it's up to you to figure out how to balance the Mookie and Lost both starting at the exact same time on Wednesday nights -- where we will get to find out the scoop on this chica who fell from the sky out of her helicopter at the end of last week's show, who I swear was sent by Desmond's sexay ex-woman. Can't wait for that, and then I'll see you at the virtual tables sometime after as well.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

MATH Recap, and Taking Notes on Players

We had another impressive turnout for Mondays at the Hoy last night, with 52 runners taking on the MATH, tying the previous record from two weeks ago as the dumbest and donkiest best and brightest of the poker blogging world came out for the battle of the $26 buyins on full tilt. This would also be the latest in the series of Battle of the Blogger Tournaments events, which has really helped to create some buzz about the blogger tournaments in a way that doesn't seem to me to have been present for a little bit, so that's all good as well.

First, my performance. I abandoned my ubertight approach that got me my best BBT finish yet in last Thursday's Riverchasers tournament, and it showed. My stack was all over the place, mostly down, but I think it got as high as around 4000 chips about a third of the way through the 52-person field. But then a spate of second-best hands -- and I didn't stick around to verify that they were second-best, mind you -- caused me to fold to preflop reraises after I had put in standard raises with hands like 77 and AJ from middle position. This got my stack back down to around 2300 chips as we crossed the 30-players-left plateau. Eventually I found AQs, the best starting hand I'd seen in some time, and open-raised the 200 big blind up to 600 from early position. Miami Don overraised me allin for 4300 or so, I put him on a lower pair which I clearly had pot odds to call with only 1700 left behind. Folding here, even though I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was behind (unlike some people, Don won't allin-reraise preflop with AJ, KQ, etc....), would leave me in second-to-last place of the remaining players in the tournament, and I didn't like the sound of that, plus I clearly had the pot odds to make the call against any hand other than QQ, KK, AA or AK. I call for the rest of my chips, knowing I need to hit something, and Don shows AKs. Owch. IGH in 29th place just short of the BBT points. To me, this is a case where I made a bad play, but given the circumstances, it's one of the rare plays that I think was the "right" one even though it was me calling allin when I knew I was behind. Hard to put the man on exactly one of those four hands, although surely in retrospect I wish I had. Well done to Don for getting me to commit there, and that's one more BBT event with no points to speak of for me. I'm a blonkament donkey, what can I say. The tournament rolled on with several other players who were playing well, with me watching silently from the sidelines while I killed the $200 nlh 6-max cash tables once again.

Not sure how this guy went from 4th place to out in 26th place over the span of 10 minutes just after I went out, but I'm sure there's a good story there.

The Hoy payout spots (top 6 finishers) this week went to a group of almost all new names for the 2007 Hoy leaderboard as more and more players continue to flex their muscles and show their mettle in this, arguably the toughest field of bloggers in any of the regular weekly private tournaments. In the end, only IslandBum1 in 6th place made a repeat appearance on the 2007 Hoy moneyboard, with the complete lst of cashers in this week's MATH tournament including:

IslandBum1 in 6th place for $74.88
Recess Rampage in 5th place for $99.84
DDionysus in 4th place for $137.28
Astin in 3rd place for 187.20
Blinders in 2nd place for 274.56
scots_chris in 1st place for 474.24, in his first ever MATH tournament (wow!)

OK so here is the updated 2007 Hoy money leaderboard as of this week's tournament:

1. Hoyazo $580
2. scots_chris $474.24
3. Fuel55 $458
4. Iggy $447
5. Bayne_s $410
6. Chad $379
7. IslandBum1 $357
8. Zeem $330
9. Miami Don $312
9. cmitch $312
9. oossuuu754 $312
12. VinNay $310
13. Wigginx $288
14. ScottMc $282
14. Pirate Wes $282
16. Blinders $275
17. Manik79 $252
18. Byron $234
19. Omega_man_99 $210
20. Columbo $204
21. NewinNov $190
22. Astin $187
23. Waffles $180
24. bartonfa $180
25. Tripjax $176
26. Santa Clauss $170
27. Iakaris $162
27. Smokkee $162
29. l.e.s.ter000 $147
30. DDionysus $137
31. lightning36 $137
32. InstantTragedy $129
33. Ganton516 $114
34. RecessRampage $100
35. Scurvydog $94
36. Shag0103 $84
37. PhinCity $80
37. jeciimd $80
39. dbirider $71
40. Easycure $67
41. Julius Goat $60

So here as we near the end of April, now 41 different players have cashed at least once in the weekly Mondays at the Hoy tournament. Big movers on the moneyboard this week include five first-timers as I mentioned above, plus IslandBum1 inching up to #7 on the 2007 leaderboard despite only playing in 3 or 4 MATH tournaments to my knowledge, and of course scots_chris, who took the day off from work in Australia to play in his first-ever Hoy this week, busting onto the chart at #2 overall, eclipsing longtime runner-up Fuel55 and easily getting into position for a run at the top spot next week. But you know what that means, right? That's right, I'm still in first, I'm still in first. I only keep doing this because I know it can't last. In the smaller format for the MATH before the BBT came along, let's face it -- I was dominatory. I could not and would not have been stopped. But you add in all you donkeys out there week in and week out, and a sound player like me stands almost no chance. So to me I'm like Tony Soprano after Junior shot him last year -- every day is a gift where I'm still at the top of the leaderboard in this thing. And I'm going to get all my gloating in while I still can. So you hear that, donkeys? I may have no chance of ever cashing in the MATH ever again. But I'm still your effing leader, and don't you forget it. King of the MATH, signing off.

But seriously, before I go today some actual substantive poker content. Last week, Windbreak247 asked me to do a post about taking notes on players. Now, as you can probably imagine, this is an area where I consider myself to have a significant competitive advantage over most other online players out there, and I can't exactly give away all of my little secrets here just like that. But in the spirit of using this blog for what I have always intended it -- thought-provoking analysis, and maybe even a little bit of helping others if anyone ever actually got helped by anything they've read here -- I figured today I would give it a shot to describe my general theory of note-taking, and the kinds of things I'm looking for when I take notes on players at the virtual tables.

First and foremost, I use the note-taking feature as much as humanly possible. I view it as sort of like poker tracker for tournaments. Only better, because I can make note of exactly what I want to know, and not be bothered with a bunch of indecipherable numbers that I won't ever use. I've often said this, but I'll just say it again here for good measure -- if you play online with any regularity, and you do not take notes on other players, then you are significantly disadvantaging yourself. If you think I'm wrong and don't have an open mind to changing your non-note-taking ways, then you're a donkey. These are facts. Yes, I mean you, and and even you who I also noticed do not take notes. How could you not take notes on people? It takes five fucking seconds to make a note, and that very note can be the thing that causes you to make the big call to make the final table of some tournament two weeks (or two months, or two years) from now. I use my notes all the time -- not so much in the blonkaments, as I play with you guys enough already to basically know how you all play, and plus how much use is just writing down "fonkey" for everyone really to me anyways? -- but in my other mtts. In particular as I tend to play many of the same tournaments again and again -- the 30k, the mtt satellites to the 30k, the FTOPS and related satellites, the bracelet races and related satellites, the winner's choice and related satellites, and the weekly HORSE tournament and related satellites. Although it's not at all like I'm playing at tables where I know everyone else's play intimately every time I sit down to an mtt, I do almost always have notes on two or three other players at my table, and if I sit there for an hour, I'll probably have notes on all of them. All this is a long way of saying, I consider note-taking to be one of my most important obligations at the table -- whether I'm in a given hand or not -- and I am constantly noting anything I see that fits my criteria for keeping note of.

So what kinds of things do I take note of? Well let me tell you my general phillosophy first on what to note and what not to bother noting. Generally speaking, I want to make notes about characteristics I actually observe that have both of the following qualities: they have to be repeatable, and they have to be useful. Typically these two qualities go pretty much hand-in-hand, but my overall point is, there is no benefit to me of noting, for example, that a guy called an allin with the nut boat and lost to quads. #1 that information is not very repeatable, in that how likely is it that I will be at a table with this guy and be in a hand with him where I've got quads and I suspect he's on a boat. And #2, this information is not very useful either. I mean, who isn't going to call at the river with the nut boat? So in my head, I'm getting very little information that I can do anything with when I observe this nut boat call at the river, so I won't bother making a note of it. Why waste my time noting something that will do me no good to know in the future?

Similarly, if player X is facing a raise preflop, he re-raises, and then he gets re-reraised allin, and then player X goes on to call that re-reraise before the flop and flips up pocket Kings, only to lose to pocket Aces, I'm not noting him. Again, #1 this is such a rare occurrence that it's highly unlikely I will ever see this again at the same table as this player, even if I play with him most nights. And more than that, basically everyone we know is going to call any number of raises with pocket Kings preflop (I know, I know, this guy and this guy excluded), so again what am I really getting out of making note of this here? That this guy plays pocket Kings exactly like I and everyone else in the world minus two people would play them? So, I'm always thinking while I'm at the table when I see a move, is that likely to be repeated at some point in the future, and will I be able to make use out of knowing that tendency in this particular player's game.

So, now you have my general strategy on taking notes. Let me give you a few examples of things I have been known to note about other players, just to give you a flavor of the kinds of things I do find to be useful and repeatable. While I'm not going to list every single type of thing I make note of -- that would be giving away too much information even for me -- I am going to pay particular attention to particular aspects I have noted that have actually won me pots in the past.

1. Blind stealers. I play a lot of mtts, as you all know. Both in blonkaments and otherwise, many people tend to steal the blinds from the same positions, with more or less the same size raises (relative to the size of the big blind). I have built up a tremendous database of notes on players who, say, tend to steal the blinds from the cutoff with 3.5x open-raises. To me this is a useful thing to note. It is repeatable, in that I am constantly in situations where I see them put in a raise in late position and might wonder if they are actually strong or not. And, this can be tremendously useful to me as well, in that if I look down to find a hand like KQo, for example, in the small blind, and it is folded around to the cutoff who raises 3.5x. If I click and see a note that this player steals from the cutoff with a 3.5x raise, then I am much more likely to see a flop here, or even better, to resteal with another large raise. No doubt, once in a while I get burned when this guy actually finds a hand in the cutoff, but that's just the cost of doing business as a restealy kind of guy, and I was going to get burned there whether I had this note or not. So blind stealers, to me, is a great example of something I take note of with some regularity and which has proven very useful to me over time in my mtts.

2. Slow players. If a guy slow-plays me, I will often just make a quick note that he slow-played, which street it was on, and how exactly he did the slow-play (i.e., did he check on the flop and again on the turn, did he check-call on the flop and then lead at the turn, or did he checkraise me right on the flop, etc.). This is not always completely useful information, but I always like to have as much information as possible when making decisions on individual hands, and if it ever comes up again it is useful to know that player X likes to slowplay by checkraising a set on the flop, etc.

3. Can't get away from big pairs. This is one of my favorite, most repeatable and most exploitable note-taking opportunities. Guys who cannot get away from big pairs. When someone raises preflop with what turns out to be Aces, the flop comes KQJ and they end up calling an allin reraise only to lose to two pairs or trips, I make note of it. I want to know every guy who can't lay down a big pair in nlh, because those are the most beatable donks around.

4. Weak limpers. This is another general kind of note I like to make about people who are always looking to see cheap flops. If I have KQ on the button, and one of these guys limps in from early-middle position, I like to see a note like this, so I know I can put in a substantial reraise and likely take down the pot right there. Some people (you know who you are) can't fold to any preflop raise once they've voluntarily committed to the pot, but the guys who will constantly limp in light and then fold to reraises, I want to know about that as I can make repeated use of this information to my advantage in tournaments and cash game play.

These are just a small sample of the kinds of repeatable and useful information I tend to take notes on while I'm at the virtual tables. I do so equally in my cash game play, with many of the same categories being applicable for note-taking in cash games as well as in tournaments. I try to boil things down to only the qualities that I know will arise again and again, and that I know I can do something useful with when they do arise again in the future, and I take copius, detailed notes on those things as often as I can. And I'm always taking notes, whether I'm in a hand with someone, not in the hand anymore, or even sometimes when I'm just railbirding other players and not involved in the table at all. If I see something noteworthy, I write it down. It's not like live play where you can attach a face with a particular quality of play if you have that kind of memory. When it's just a bunch of nondescript icons and avatars, you really need to make note of who you see and how they play if you expect to be able to take advtange of their tendencies in more specific ways than anything pokertracker or related software can tell you.

Hopefully this is helpful to some of you out there, or at least interesting to the rest of you. And Windbreak247, hopefully this answers your question in a way that is useful to you in the future. All I ask is that you don't use any notes against me, because that just wouldn't be right since I provided all this information in the first place.

WWdN tonight at 8:30pm ET on pokerstars. Password is "monkey" as always. I don't know that I'll play in this given how frustrating the blonkaments have been for me of late, but we'll see.

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