Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Lost, and Thoughts on Cash Games

Back on another Wednesday, and only two things on my mind this morning: the Mookie, and Lost. Tonight is the season finale of Lost, a two-hour extravaganza, apparently preceded by a rerun of that Mysteries of Lost show they ran last Thursday night, and that should make for one dam fine night of television in Hammer Land. As much fun as this season of Lost has been, in a way this finale is kinda like the end of every NFL season -- although clearly I will miss it, especially since I know it will be snowing outside the next time I see a new episode of the show, at the same time it's almost a relief in a way. I mean, I spend more time than I should every single week thinking about Lost, what happened last week, what's going to happen this week, wtf is really going on there, etc. It's a major time suck. And in a life that is already full of several major time sucks, it will be nice to get that portion of my life back, to have one fewer thing to focus on for the next nine months or so. So be there at the next BBT event, Wednesday night's Mookie tournament at 10pm ET on full tilt (password as always is "vegas1"), but also don't forget to be in front of the big screen or set those dvr's at 9pm ET for the early start to the explosive two-hour season finale of Lost. I've heard about ten thousand rumors of what's going to happen tonight, most of it pretty crazy, involving deaths, destruction, major discoveries, mindfucks, rescues, you name it and I've heard it's going to happen to someone on tonight's show. One thing I am very, very sure of is that Charlie has got to die. It's time. They've gone way too far with that at this point to turn back now. And I'm almost equally sure that Locke is alive. With all the other deaths that have been survived somehow on that show, a simple bullet wound, especially one that did not hit the kidney that would have been there if his father had not stolen it from him earlier in his life, is not going to stop him at this point. Especially not with all the Jacob stuff we got a tiny glimpse of a few weeks back. Anyways I am raring to go to see what they come up with tonight, and I'm already looking forward to this guy's writeup on Thursday. Get that shit up early man!

So last night I played another 100 hands or so of $400 nl 6-max. I stopped shortly after being involved in the biggest pot I saw all night, where I flopped bottom set with 99 on a QJ9 board. I liked the flop because I had open-raised from the cutoff with the 9s, and the button had called my preflop raise which I figured meant he had some high cards of some kind, cards that would likely fit in in some way with this two-high-card flop. I bet out the size of the pot on the flop with my set, and he raised me, which I just smooth called after taking some time to think. Surely I had to be ahead here, and the smooth call might hopefully induce another bet on the turn that I could then raise and take down the pot. The turn brings another Jack for a board of QJ9J, and now I've got a boat so even a straight isn't going to scare me (much the opposite, actually). This time my opponent bet out again for about 2/3 the size of the pot, and I took some time to fake-think, and then raised him about 3 times his bet, up to around $180. I had around $200 left behind after my raise, and my opponent had a little bit less if he were to call my bet here. He let his timer run all the way down to nearly the bottom, before reraising me allin for his last $350 or so.

Now this bet scared me a little bit, and for the first time in the hand I had to consider if I might actually be behind. I'd shown massive strength throughout the hand when you look at it, and yet here he is reraising me allin at the river, and I have a strong hand but not the nuts. Any QQ, JJ, QJ or J9 has me beat by a higher boat or quads. The bottom line is that many players would call behind preflop with QQ or JJ, and many would be likely to do the same with QJ or J9, at least with QJs and J9s. So any of those four hands would justify his play on every street including the river in my book, and to those I'm about to get stizznacked. My question was, are there enough other hands that my opponent also might play this way to justify my moving in the rest of my stack in this situation?

Let's think. The most obvious possibility is trips. My opponent could be holding a Jack in his hand, and not be willing to lay it down because he thinks his trips are ahead. The way I've played this hand, if this guy has any clue what he's doing then he has to at least assume that I might have a Jack as well, so the fact that he is reraising here on the end tells me that, if he does have trip Jacks (not Tripjax), it is most likely AJ, for trips with top kicker. So AJ is a distinct possibility that I could see many players playing just like this, and it's a hand I am ahead of.

Similarly, he could have flopped some kind of a straight. That could be either T8 or KT, although again the T8 is somewhat unlikely because he called my preflop raise (though many players on these tables, myself included under the right circumstances, might make that preflop call with T8s and hope to hit a big flop just like this one). But KT was a distinct possibility, also the kind of hand that people tend to call with before the flop, especially if it's sooooted, and that gives him a flopped straight that he must think is best but in reality is far behind me and not something that is going to improve to beat me.

Also, I thought there was an outside chance that he could be moving here with a hand like AQ, for top pair top kicker. It's not a good play by him, but believe me when I say I've played enough 400nl 6-max on full tilt to know this at least has to be considered. Similarly, an overpair is always possible here, maybe even moreso that the AQ hand just discussed, and of course a hand like QT or T9 is also a possibility for two pairs and a lot of optimism on this guy's part.

In the end, I struggled and thought there was maybe a good 35 or 40% chance I was beat, but I decided he probably had a hand like AJ, for second trips and high kicker, and figured this was best or at least worth going to the mat with to see what happened. So I made the call, typing into the chat that I was not happy about his river bet but I just can't find a reason to lay the hand down. I flipped over my pocket 9s for 9s full of Jacks. He flipped up....

KQ. Offsoooot. Top pair second kicker on a board with commonly-held straight possibilities, a pair on the board, and all high cards to boot, against a guy who raised it up preflop. $845 sliding my way. You gotta love it, even at this level. I didn't take it too much longer after that big win, pleased with my performance on the night and feeling very tired after several late nights of late in my recent FTOPS run. Obviously this player is a cash game donkey, but I take a lot of the credit for stacking him here based on the way I played this hand out, and in particular my decision just to smooth call his flop raise. Think about it -- he raised the flop because he had top pair second kicker, and he wanted to find out if I was really strong or not. So he raised my bet on the flop, and by my smooth call instead of a reraise, this guy basically put me on a not-great hand, a read that he could never get away from as this hand progressed further. In many ways I find nlh to be all about manipulating your opponents and thinking one level higher than they are, creating opportunities for yourself through plays like this where you can get inside your opponent's head, know just what he is thinking, and then use that knowledge to force him to believe exactly what you want him to believe.

In general, I know I've been saying this more and more lately, but the bottom line is that building a bankroll is way, way easier through cash games than it will ever, ever be through mtt's. The big tournament scores of course are and always will be the greatest thing ever, blowing away any kind of cash game performance that is reasonably attainable by any of us, but for day-to-day grinding out of a bankroll, it's not even close. The dry spells are just too long and too frequent when you're an mtt guy, and over time only the very, very best will be able to consistently profit every month or so from purely tournament play. But in the cash games, it's not unreasonable if you play enough -- say, two-tabling for the exact same number of hours a night that you would have otherwise spent in a few large mtts -- to leave mostly every week with a tidy profit of, say, a grand or more, much more even depending on the levels you're playing at. No mtt guy I know personally would ever make that kind of claim, that you could add a grand a week to your bankroll just by playing mtts. But in the cash games it really is doable in my view. I'm not even necessarily trying to say that I could do it consistently in cash games. But I'm saying that one could do it. A solid player who never tilts and always plays his smart, solid, aggressive game, could be a consistent weekly or monthly winner at the cash tables. I've made more money at cash in the past month than I make in all but my biggest mtt scores, and those are few and far between. It's amazing to me as I sit here now that I played online poker for two years and never really made the effort to focus on the cash games. And even more amazing to me is that people say these games got a whole lot tougher since the UIGEA last year. To think that there were more fish then than there are now, that is really a shocker and something I can't believe I missed out on all that time.

I thought I would leave you today with an interesting and I think spot-on observation made by David Sklansky in his recently-published no-limit holdem book. In his "Concepts" section on page 244 of the version I have in my hands, Sklansky gives the very sage advice of "Don't give action to tight and trapping players. Know who to play big pots against." That right there is half the battle in nlh cash in my view.

Taking the second type of player listed first, when someone traps me or another player at the cash table hard, that shiat is getting noted instantly by me. You definitely want to know who the trappers are at any cash nlh table you're playing at, and always keep an eye out for those guys. There are enough non-trappers who you don't really ever need to fear making a move on you, that you can actually afford to take note and try to avoid the trappers unless you've got a big big hand. Other than the inevitable suckouts, there is just about nothing worse than betting big into a guy you're sure is weak, and getting called for all your chips by that flopped boat, that turned straight, etc. that blows you out and stacks your ass.

And on Sklansky's first point, you also want to know who the tightydonks are at your table. You have to know. Because you can steal their blinds more or less with abandon, and you do not want to be involved in pots where they are making or calling large bets unless you are very strong yourself. Sklansky goes on to make a great, great point that I think all of us, certainly myself included, have fallen victim to on more than one occasion at the nlh tables -- Sklansky advises us that, when we use aggression to continually bet that tight player out of pot after pot, that we must not imagine that our ability to tilt our opponents is so great that this tight player is thinking "Wow that punk plays all sorts of trash. I think I'll play Ace-Jack against him for all my chips." The tightydonk never thinks like that. Ever. He's a tightydonk. He's not planning to play you for all his chips with the JackAce, Sklansky is totally right. Sklanksy observes, very astutely I believe, that the tightydonk is instead thinking, "I can't wait until I pick up Aces so I can bust this maniac." That's exactly what's going through his head. So, when you find yourself tempted to push allin with that AQ heads-up on a preflop re-reraise against a true tightydonk, think again. As Sklanksy goes on to say, "When all the money goes in, he'll still have pocket Aces or a set, just like he always does. Don't try to outthink these players. Steal all the small pots and refuse to play big pots against them, and you'll be fine." That right there is some of the best stuff in Sklansky's entire nlh book, and IMO it is mighty fine advice for anyone thinking about a foray into the cash nlh tables.

OK that's all for today. Now go get ready for the Mookie, and start looking forward to the finale of the best series on television of the last fifteen years tonight, at its earlier start time of 9pm ET on Fox.

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Blogger Blinders said...

Nice to see you coming around to the realization that cash games are where the money is at. You are off to a great start as well, so try not to get too discouraged when things go south. The toughest thing about cash games is that you can drop much more in one night than you could playing MTTs, and that can be hard to deal with for most people. Keep it up, and as your cash game gets better, you will find that your MTT game rather than getting rusty is getting better as well.

11:50 PM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

I agree, I already see my mtt game improving somewhat as a result of all the cash nlh play. It is interesting and I think the subject of a future post or five to think of the subtle differences in the way I play certain hands in tournaments vs in cash games.

I have had a couple of bad nights playing the cash tables, but no doubt I still haven't had that one really bad washout night that I know is coming as surely as the sun coming up tomorrow. That is not gonna be fun when it hits, not at 2-4 anyways.

12:47 AM  
Blogger Gnome said...

Of course cash is king! Keep up the good work, and I look forward to hearing more about the differences between how you would play hands in a cash game vs. tourney.

5:39 AM  
Blogger jremotigue said...

dude, lost last night. wtf!

you think it was ben, michael, or locke who had the funeral?

8:11 PM  
Blogger Eric a.k.a. Bone Daddy said...

Great points on Sklansky, I typically search each player at the table to see who the nut peddlers are by how many tables they are playing, and make an instant note on it, 5-tabler, 10 tables. You know these guys only play big pairs and play them like robots, so if you can get into a flop cheap, i.e. for 3.4-4 xs the bb, its worth seeing the flop with gappers, cause they live for 1 hand per 100 to push all in. I'm drooling just at the though.

good post.

11:30 PM  
Blogger Pseudo_Doctor said...

I think the coffin was locke's but dam was it a good episode...nice run in cash keep it up you tourney donkey !!

4:58 AM  

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