Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Needless to say, a lot has happened in the past couple days here in Hammer Land.

Of course, I gave my notice at work. Once I am gone maybe I'll spend some more time writing about it, but suffice it to say that the past year or so in this job has been some of the most tumultuous and really just the craziest times I have had in my professional life of more than ten years as a corporate lawyer. My company has basically gone from the best-performing company (stock market wise) over the past fifteen years in a very high-flying sector of the marketplace, to the biggest decliner in the group with suddenly significant doubts about its ability to survive very much longer at all. How exactly this happened remains a mystery to us all as employees as much as it is to investors and anyone but I imagine the extremely in-the-know within this company. But living it has been, in a word, horrible.

Yes, I have had well-documented issues with my boss with regards to my own individual situation at work. But in the end, all that stuff became trivial basically as soon as 2008 began, when our stock really began declining, and the rumors started swirling that the company might actually be in some trouble. Ever since then it's been like a downward spiral. Truly, I am one of the lucky ones getting out now as it seems more and more likely every day that we will become insolvent, get bought, or undergo some other major corporate transaction. The thought of the great, great people I've worked with all having the ongoing existence of their jobs threatened literally makes me sick to my stomach. I have to try not to think about it several times every day. But it just makes it all the more clear why I have to leave.

And no, I'm not planning to be a professional gambler.

It's funny to me, really. Would any of you out there doubt that I am among the most pompous assiest people who ever lived? Certainly I'm not arguing it. But the funny thing is, even I don't think I could make it as a professional gambler. And you know I think I'm better than you at poker, make no mistake about it. But even I don't actually entertain actual thoughts of actually playing poker for a living. Never. I mean, I used to. When I first started playing regularly online a few years back, that was like my ultimate dream. F the Man, quit my job and just play online poker and be rich, of course that's what I wanted.

But then I got realistic. I got a whole lot of poker experience, probably a million hands in my first year or so (edit: ok fine, that number is far too high, what's the diff though?), hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of tournaments under my belt, and I realized how utterly foolish those plans were, for me. I literally would not be able to make nearly enough money to live the way I want my family to live if all I did was play poker. There is no limit in any game in cash, and no buyin level of poker tournament, where I could make anything approaching the money from my day job, nor anywhere near enough to live on. Not even a very poor existence, I couldn't even support that. My ROI in tournaments just on full tilt this year is what, about 10%? That means I would have to play $300,000 worth of tournaments a year just to make 30 large? I could not come close to playing 300k of tournaments, nor could I come close to living on 30k a year at this point in my life.

And don't get me wrong. It is patently obvious that there are a good number of people out there who can make it in life playing professionally. Some people can live a whole lot cheaper than I am looking to live right now. And that's great, if it helps you to be able to make all your money just from poker, then I think that's the coolest fuckin thing in the world. Other people are a hundred times better than me at the kinds of poker that can make them the most consistent money. High stakes cash players who are good, for example, can make sickass money from just regular good-player win rates at the high levels. I blow at high stakes cash. Similarly, the truly greatest online poker players have big big ROIs and can easily win hundreds of thousands a year in online mtt profits.

But that is just not me. I'm not good enough. I'm not devoted enough. I'm not patient enough. I'm not even-keeled enough. I always play at my best when I'm having fun, and poker as a fun hobby on which I don't rely in the least for personal income has been the only way the game has ever worked out for me. If I had to play to make money to support myself and my family, I just know I couldn't do it. I'm just not cut out to be a professional poker player. For all my pomposity, I know I don't have the mentality or the game for it.

I get a lil' bit of a kick whenever a blogger leaves their current job for whatever reason, and suddenly everyone is all "go pro! go pro!" on their asses. I appreciate greatly the support, but being a poker pro is just not for me. And unlike almost every lawyer I know, I absolutely love my day job. I mean, I really love what I do. And I'm going to move on to another company to keep doing my thing. Like I said, once I am gone from this place perhaps I will write more about my experiences after what I truly believe has been a noteworthy experience that an actual good writer could probably put out an awesome book about, about working in this industry, and in particular at my company, for the past year since the onset of the crippling credit crunch that has gripped our country. But starting now I guess I will have a whole new company -- my new employer -- to protect and to not reveal the identity of here on the blog.

More to come. Looking forward to the Mookie tonight, the only blonkament I am really in to these days to tell the truth. 10pm ET on full tilt, password as always is "vegas1".

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Monday, July 28, 2008


I noticed it from the moment I woke up this morning. As usual my own personal alarm clock for the past nearly five years straight has been my daughter M. Literally my wife and I haven't set an alarm clock even once that I can recall since I think the very day she was born. Anyways, from the second that I first opened my eyes on Monday morning, from the very moment I first reached that tipping point between the fog of sleep and the dawn of recognition, I could tell something was different.

I think I first noticed the visual signs sometime during my morning shower. It's hard to pinpoint the exact difference, but I think it was mostly along the edges of random objects. A little shine on the corner here, a glint on an edge there, that sort of thing. When I saw myself in the mirror for the first time after I stepped out of the shower, I thought I looked a little different too. It's like I was seeing clearer or something, more in focus than I had before. Definitely something like that.

The symptoms only grew as the morning wore on. On the subway, my balance was impeccable, like I was sharing a purpose with the train or something. When people spoke, I was hearing nuances to the sounds that I had never noticed before, hidden intonations I never knew were there underneath. As I walked towards my office building in midtown Manhattan, the normal city smells of coffee, cigarettes and the occasional garbage truck wafted through me at levels of intensity I could not recall. Approaching my building entrance, I remember remarking to myself that I could barely feel my legs moving or even touching the ground at all. I floated from street to street, intersection to intersection, as much a part of the rat race as ever, and yet somehow feeling for the first time in a long time apart from it. Above it even.

As I boarded the elevator up to my office, I thought to myself that this is one of those mornings that is kinda like the Matrix: you really can't describe it, you just have to experience it for yourself. Words cannot describe the feeling on a day like this, all the little ways that things look, smell and just seem different thanks to the richness of a new perspective.

Ten minutes ago, I left my boss's office after giving him my notice that I will be leaving his employ.

My boss is so cute. He sincerely believes management is going to come up with a bunch of cash and promises sufficient to get me to stay. Sadly, my company is more likely to need money from me these days than it is to have any money to give me.

So in the immortal words of George Kostanza, "I'm out, baby!!!"

And it feels sooooo good.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Thoughts of Running Bad

I've got nothing fresh or original about poker swirling around my head today to be quite honest. The truth of the truth is that this past week has been one of my least enjoyable weeks of poker in a looooong time. The thing with being me is that when I run bad, I will take 15-20 bad beats a night. It is sick. I've learned to handle a ton of bad beats, and really I can't remember the last time I even close to tilted from any particular beat. But as mostly a tournament player, these bad beats never seem to come at a good time or in an unimportant pot, and lately they have been ending some nice runs I've been building up over several hours, most often just short of the bubble in the nightly majors.

Consider just the most painful ones from just Thursday night. I lost a ragingly monstrous stack in the Riverchasers when I got it in with my AA against KK allin preflop, and I still couldn't find a way to win the hand. When I caught someone bluffing with their 74o allin reraise vs. my pocket Queens late in the 32k, the guy rivers the straight. And in the $150 satellite to the $1060 buyin FTOPS #10, first my JJ loses to 99 allin preflop to rape half my stack, but through my greatness I managed to rebuild and was back in the top third of the field with about half of the entrants eliminated, and then my AA loses allin preflop to QTs when the guy flops a migga fligging flush on me. I mean WTF.

Anyways even I have to admit some digghead ranting about the bad beats he took last night is no kind of good blog reading. It doesn't even feel good to write it, believe me. Suffice it to say that I when I run bad, I take a lot more bad beats than most people could deal with, and it can really sap away my enthusiasm pretty quick if it continues for long. So today after yet another night of spankage, I got nothing fresh.

So be it.

Let me change things up then by asking a few questions of the readers today.

First, Esquire80 left me this comment to yesterday's Bet or Check the River post:

"I've got to agree w/ shrike, your optimal play is to bet out right into him. In this particular case he would have most likely folded but he could have called, folded or you would have induced a bluff which you were prepared to snap off.

Based on your read you are assigning him something like a 10% chance of a flush?

Overall, you are losing value here unless your plan is to check raise the river with your strong holding in an attempt to squeeze more out of him. In this case he didn't have anything to squeeze but if he had someting like Krag w/ 2 pair or got a cooler w/ a set you could felted him.

Frankley, to be results oriented I don't think you could have got any more value out of that hand given his holding but the value bet on the river is the superior play in the long run."
(emphasis added)

This is a very black-and-white-ly stated position, and in my experience in poker such matter-of-fact strategies generally prove not to be nearly so cut and dried. So I get it, my presumed fellow lawyer guy, you say that betting is better than checking in this spot. But not once do you say why that is correct. And the why is at least as important as the what. So do tell, I am all ears.

Secondly, let me ask a more general question here. Am I the guy everyone is talking about who uses too many commas and uses them too liberally? I mean, I like to think I'm pretty self-aware, and it's not like I don't know that I seem to write more and longer posts than most people. But when people are out there commenting on how people use commas all wrong, have they actually been talking about me this time for real? That would be fucked up.

Here's another good one: Who the fuck would ever be betting on an NBA game right now? Go read that link. I have to credit our man for the inside scoop on the betting lines in Las Vegas Miami Don for that link. But dayummm, who on earth is betting basketball these days? Think the NBA might have to revise its stance that this was an isolated referee, acting alone, all along? Christ, that shit just gets worse and worse.

Oh and before I go, for those who don't know, Bayne and Waffles have a $100 staight-up bet going where Waffles bets that he can climb to the top of the year's Mookie leaderboard within I think two more months or so. When the bet was made earlier this week, I think Waffles was in 7th place or something, and was basically $260 or something behind the current leaders, LJ and Surflexus. Well, already Waffles busted out with a third-place finish in this week's Mookie tournament, climbing a bit on the board and narrowing the amount he has to recover in the next several tournaments. So today I am going to establish some odds on this bet, which I will plan to track the rest of the way through the challenge.

When Waffles agreed to bet $100 straight-up that he could climb Donk Mountain enough times to overtake the leaderboard top spot in just a couple of months in the Mookie of all tournament, in my own head I set Waffles' chances at about 3% of winning that bet. Now, however, after this week's performance alone, I'm going to kick those odds up to about 12%. That is a big jump right there, but think of it this way: what kind of odds would I be willing to offer someone who wanted to bet me, say, $50 that Waffles would win. So I get to keep his $50 if Waffles does not take the Mookie lead, but if he does take the lead at any time in the next two months, would I be willing to pay $500 in exchange for the $50 now? I would not, not quite. I'm setting that line at around 8 to 1 odds, like I would take the $50 now if I knew I would have to pay out $400 if Waffles wins the bet. So 8 to 1 is where I'm setting "the Waffles line" for now. 8 to 1 everyone, place your bets, 8 to 1.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Check or Bet the River -- Part II

Wow. Those were some solid comments to yesterday's post about whether to check or bet the river in my heads-up 2-4 no-limit holdem cash game. I can actually say that a good half of the comments are things I never even really thought of as I faced the decision myself, which is exciting and will always be one of the great things about blogging as a medium for hand analysis.

When we left off, I had limped preflop with 74o, and pokerstarsingly flopped the nut straight. I bet out the full pot and got called on the flop, and then I checked the turn, where my opponent took the lead and bet about 75% of the pot, which I just called. This left roughly $60 in the pot, and both of us still quite deep with both having several multiples of the current pot size behind heading into the river card. The river made no higher straight possible and did not pair the board, but it did make the last three cards to hit the board all hearts, creating a backdoor flush possibility. I asked whether you all would check or bet in this situation.

First off, the flush possibility. I should start off by saying that I simply was not going to assume this guy had a flush just because it fell here. He had called on the flop, when only one heart was on the board, so two hearts is not a likely holding given the flop action. His bet on the turn is also not so fitting with the flush possibility to me, given that many people who pick up a backdoor flush draw on the turn might be tempted to check behind in that spot, take the free card and hope to hit the big hidden flush on the river and then make some cashish. So yes a third heart did hit the river, and before seeing any further action from my opponent here, I was not about to put him on a flush at this point in time.

The second issue I debated all in the span of what, 15 seconds or so, was whether or not this player was likely to bet out if I did check. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, we had been playing an aggressive game of heads-up deep-stacked poker over the preceding ten minutes or so, and I thought there was a good chance given his previous play alone that he would bet out on the river regardless of his holding in that spot. That said, Raveen made the very good point in his comment that, in a heads-up situation, it is often far more valuable to lead out with a strong hand rather than to check and hope for someone else to do the betting for you. With this I completely agree, as there is just so much less chance of at least one opponent having a hand worth betting with than there is when you are in there with four or five other players. Multiway pots are spots where I love to check strong hands on the later streets, because there is such a better chance of me being able to get in a checkraise since it's so likely that somebody's got something worth betting. But when heads-up, it is not quite as likely that your opponent will bet, so in general it's probably better strategy to bet most of your own hands rather than check and hope for a bet from your opponent on the river.

That said, in this case I have to say that in my mind, I was just sure this guy was going to bet out if I checked, so that's just what I did:

and that's just what he did:

My reasoning was that I just felt in the end that the line I opted to go for with this hand -- bet the flop and then check-call the turn -- lends itself more to me checking again on the river and causing an aggressive player to bet. I mean, I deliberately played this hand like I was weak, opting to represent the steal-bet on the flop and then giving off the meek check vibe on the turn. I've basically gone out of my way to encourage this guy to bet his hand on the assumption that I have nothing in my own hand. Given that that's the way I have opted to play my own flopped monster, and not receiving any information from this guy to make me think otherwise, I generally like to follow through with the story I start to tell in a hand like this and do the action on the river that is most consistent with that story. In this case, that meant check it again. I figured he would bet given the act I had put on here, and in this case it worked.

Most of the time I find myself not checking the river just to induce a bluff. That may just be isolated to me, I don't know, but I find the check on the river to induce a bluff to be a rare move for me. There is just too great of a chance that my opponent will not bet, and I will miss an important opportunity for a nice value bet. In a tournament, that is one thing. But in a cash game, to miss a value bet even of a relatively small size like in this hand, to me is a much bigger deal. I find that my results only really show solidly positive in cash if I am basically squeezing every ounce of value out of more or less every situation I can, so in general to risk my opponent checking behind my check when I am sure I am ahead is something I rarely do. But the times that I do find myself checking to induce a bluff at the end tend to focus on those situations where I have picked one of the weakest betting lines I can. And among the weakest is this bet-the-flop-like-it's-a-steal-but-then-check-like-a-pussy afterwards. So since I was about 80% of the way there already, and I knew I was playing an aggressive opponent, I decided to go for the river check here.

Having the luck I have had over time against flushes -- in my cash play in particular -- I ended up going for the pussy move of just smooth calling his bet here. I did not want to get stacked for $400 by the idiot making the runner runner 5-high heart flush. This was a weak move no doubt, but in the end it would have made no difference, as I do not think he would have called a raise of even the minimum size here with this hand:

So for him it was the busted double gutshot straight draw that got him to bet on the end in a spot where he could not possibly think his 9-high was ahead. I do like his bet size though -- $50 into a $60 pot -- in that it seems big, but not over-big like he wants me to fold, and not so small that it feels like a suck bet. In this case it would not have mattered because I am calling just about any size bet from him here, unless maybe if he is emptying his stack and putting me to the test for a large sum of money with no hearts at all in my hand.

Hope this one was fun. More to come I'm sure. Riverchasers tonight, 9pm ET on full tilt, password as always is "riverchasers", see you then!

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Check or Bet the River?

So here was an interesting cash game hand I played within the past week or so, and I was wondering what you guys think about me betting or checking on the river. The game was $2-$4 no-limit holdem, and it was just myself and one other player sitting at a shorthanded table. I was up a little bit over the past ten minutes or so that our heads-up battle had been going on, and I had been playing a fairly aggressive style of nlh that I think is required in any heads-up situation. I looked down to see 74o, with which I completed the big blind and we saw a cheap flop of 356 rainbow. Bingo!! Gotta love those flopped straights, unless you're this guy.

I decided to bet out the full size of the pot ($8) into this coordinated board, which I had done several times during our heads-up session already, and he quickly called my bet. Then when a harmless-looking King♥ fell on the turn, I followed the pattern I had used previously when I was just c-betting with air, and I checked to my opponent to see if he would bet for me:

Which he did:

Here I opted to just call, again figuring this guy had me on a c-bet on the flop and basically on air once I checked the turn after he called my flop c-bet. If you read here you know I use this move all the time, and checking the turn when I am actually strong after having my c-bet called on the flop is a crucial piece of my overall poker strategy because it helps to balance out all those other c-bets I make where I really do have air and have to give it up with a check-fold on the turn. I can't let any opponent believe that every time I check the turn after betting the flop, I am automatically weak. But if I'm going to c-bet as actively as I like to do, then I need to check the turn sometimes when I'm actually strong after those c-bets to keep all of my opponents honest.

So I smooth called here with the flopped straight, and then the river fell a somewhat annoying Queen♥. Not that I was all that afraid of the runner runner scenario, but the river did bring a third heart and did make the flush possible in a spot where otherwise I had flopped the stone joint and had had the nuts all the way through the hand up to that point. Naturally this is the risk I take when I do opt to check-call the turn instead of raising this mofo out of the pot when I have the chance without seeing the river card, so I can't complain too much when it does happen.

So my question for you is: Do you bet out here? Big or small? Or do you check, and hope he checks behind? Or do you check, with the intent of check-raising? What's the best line here to maximize your profit and minimize your losses? Is he even likely to bet the river if you do check?

Let me know your thoughts and I'll be back tomorrow with what I did.

And don't forget the Mookie tonight at 10pm ET on full tilt. Sure most of the blonkaments are suffering from the summer doldrums as usual these days, but the Mook is still the shizz every Wednesday night. So be there or be squizzare and I will see you then.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I was thinking a lot about the hand ranges post from yesterday. One of most fun, and sometimes most difficult parts of putting people on hand ranges involves factoring in image. Image in poker is everything. I talked expressly about it in yesterday's post. If you know someone is a stealy player, then the hand range you put them on when they open-raise from the button is going to be quite a bit wider than if the guy who never ever steals except from the button suddenly open-raises from the hijack or the cutoff. While it is entirely possible to start putting people on ranges of hands right from the very first time you sit down at the table, the bottom line is that what you're really doing in that situation is working from a starting model, one of, say, the "average" player. So if I first sit down to a poker table and in the very first hand, a player I've never seen before sitting under the gun open-raises 3x the big blind, I don't know him from Adam but I'm going to assume he has a big Ace or big pair. Why? Because that's how most people play, and until I learn anything otherwise, I can only assume he is "average".

But all that changes once I've seen him get taken to the river, and say he shows down in the hand above something like pocket 3s. Now I know quite a bit about his starting hand range, and I can immediately think of him as likely more aggressive then the average player before the flop. Or say he shows down A8s after open-raising utg before the flop. That tells me quite a bit as well. I don't play that hand in that spot, not in cash and not in tournaments except when late or short for the most part, so the fact that he does can also reinforce that aggressive, loose image. Now once I've seen that hand, if the very next time he is utg he raises it up again, now am I just putting him on a big Ace or a big pocket pair? Of course not. Now it's any pocket pair (if I just saw him raise utg with 33), or many big and medium Aces (if he showed down the A8s). That kind of information is absolutely key if you're going to be using hand ranges to evaluate where your opponents are at in every hand you play. Which as a reminder is the only way you should ever be playing this game.

The above should be pretty obvious stuff for most of the people who read here regularly. But one of the most interesting aspects of the whole image thing in hand range analysis to me is how, if you're playing in a game with strong players, or say maybe very late in a big mtt where most of your opponents are cognizant, solid aggro types, your own image in the minds of the other players at your table impacts the hand ranges you can put your opponents on after they take a given action. I find this to be a big issue for me in every blonkament I play in, as I have profiled so many hands and so many tournament runs at this point that basically everybody and their mother in every private blogger event I've ever played in believes me to be a stealy, aggressive player. This is how I get impacted by this aspect of putting people on hand ranges, including how I have to adjust my own play as a result:

So let's say there are 10 players left in the Riverchasers, and I am near the top in chips (yes, I decided to go with something that happens quite frequently, so what of it?) Now the action folds around to me in the cutoff, and I look down to find pocket Jacks. I raise, and only the button (say, with half my stack size) calls me. The flop comes down 753 rainbow, I have the solid overpair to the board. Now I bet out, and the button raises me allin. In this scenario, if I am an unknown player and I have just sat down in, say, the 50-50 or whatever it is at a table full of players who don't know me, I am definitely going to consider folding here. In most cases under such circumstances in fact, I do fold this hand. I only have pocket Jacks, and my opponent could have any two pair, any set, the flopped straight or even just a higher overpair, all of which will beat me and potentially eliminate me from the tournament. I don't like busting out early in a tournament with just one pair on the flop (the only fourth-highest overpair at that), and normally I am not calling off anything resembling a large stack in this spot.

However, getting back to my Riverchasers example, all this analysis changes if I am a thinking player and if I accord a similar thinking nature to most of my opponents at the table. If I think the player on the button who called my preflop raise views my image as someone who loves to steal and raise and bet aggressively with nothing, then the hand range he puts me on when I open raise before the flop is much wider than my actual holding of pocket Jacks. What's more though, is that since he puts me on a wider range of holdings to be open-raising with late in the Riverchasers, then the range of hands I put him on to be calling that preflop raise from me also needs to be widened, in some cases significantly depending on who the exact player involved is. That's the part that tends to get me into trouble in the blonkaments, perhaps more than any other single facet of my blonkament game.

Take the pocket Jacks on a 753 rainbow flop scenario again. In the 50-50, if I bet out with my Jacks on that flop and get raised allin, I am likely to fold. I understand that this unknown player who does not know me puts me on a decent hand but is raising, indicating that he probably has a measly pair of Jacks beaten at this point. But in a blonkament, where I know my opponent thinks I am a stealer who open-raises with bullshit cards, for him to call my preflop raise could be with almost any two cards, and to raise me allin on that flop can be just as much being done with air simply based on the expectation that I am a stealer and therefore I can fold. Similarly, I often fold a medium overpair like pocket Jacks on a raggy flop when I believe my opponent in a large public mtt might have a higher overpair given that he raised or called my raise before the flop and then raised my bet on the flop. But again in a blonkament, when I know my opponents have that stealy, aggro image of me and the way I play in these things, it is just so much more likely that they are in there with just top pair, an overpair but a lower overpair than my Jacks, or even many kinds of draws with overcards, that I often feel compelled to call in such a situation. Ironically, it is my own aggro image that causes me to make such a call in the blonkament situation, because I know my image is perceived by my opponent, and therefore I know he or she is widening his own range of hands to play against my perceived weaker range.

The more in touch we all are with our own images at the poker table, the better our results will be, plain and simple. I try to remind myself of this every time I get caught calling off and getting stacked in a blonkament because I know the way I am perceived by the other players around me. I continue to see players in these things who do not seem to have a clue about the actual image they have actually amassed over countless tournaments playing together with the group, and these people seem to be the most consistently easy to outplay because they refuse to accept the way that others are factually thinking about their holdings given their actions in a given hand. Like many parts of life, image in poker is everything.

Oh, and congratulations to que31dawg for taking down this week's MATH tournament in addition to the full $240 prize pool for winning the latest Shootout tournament. I got silly coolered early on when I rivered an inside straight only to lose to the higher rivered inside straight, and I shut it down from there so I don't have any of the details.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Hand Ranges (Part II)

So, back to Thursday's Hand Ranges question, here was the scenario:

So a stealy guy with a big stack open-raises from late position early in the Mookie. I don't put him on much there necessarily, but probably a top-half hand or so. Then I smooth call from the cutoff. Obie can't put me on a whole lot there either, although as I said, I would put myself on a top-third hand or so, as it is unlikely I just call there with a pile of shizz like 92o or something similar. Now, when Obie reraises to 450, what does that say about his hand?

First, the fact of the raise itself. He is raising a preflop open-raiser and a caller of that raise. That generally speaking is a fairly strong move. Not saying it's the strongest of preflop moves, but it is generally an aggressive move made with a solid holding to reraise not just a preflop raiser but someone who called that raise. So in my mind this narrows Obie's hand range down quite a bit. Before he raised, Obie was the big blind, so you knew absolutely nothing about his hand. With just his one reraise, he narrowed his hand range in my book from every hand in the deck down to only the strong holdings. I don't see him reraising both PL and myself there with a hand like 88 or a lower pair, nor do I see him doing that with KQ, AJ or lower. Not even sooooted. Arguably he might do this with AQs, but even that to me would be a questionable play. In general, I'm thinking his range to reraise the two of us there is probably only AK or AQs among the Aces, and otherwise probably only TT-AA among the pairs. That's it.

But there's one other aspect of Obie's raise that interested me, and that was the size of the raise. Take a look up at the screenshot -- it's a small raise. The bet at the time was already 150 chips, and the pot had 375 chips in it. To me, if I'm raising here, I would normally be aiming for something at least 3 times the current bet. With the raiser and a caller in there, I would probably go for closer to 4 times the current bet or so. But Obie bumps it up not even 3x, giving each of PL and me express odds to call of 250 into 775 or basically 33%. Given PL's raise and my call, I would suggest that it is likely that at least one of us, if not both, will call, and since I thikn Obie recently won a Mookie tournament, he is obviously a great player and therefore I have to assume he understands this bet is not likely to win him the pot right now. If I have a hand like TT or JJ in Obie's spot and I decide to raise (I might fold, call or raise, personally, depending on various other factors), that raise is going to want to be big enough to chase players out, not to entice calls from hands like AQ and KQs that have overcards to my pocket pair. Obie's raise was clearly not one designed to chase us out, so for me that eliminates as well the TT and JJ from the bottom of the range I had put him on. So to me, that one reraise from him to 400 chips tells me he probably has QQ-AA, or AK.

Now let's look at PirateLawyer. Seeing this action ahead of him from Obie, he puts in the re-reraise to a number large enough to commit him and Obie here. First things first -- this is now the third raise in the hand, and in the experience of myself and many others, the third raise usually means Aces, and pretty much always means Aces or Kings. If PL re-reraises here with AK, he is just itching to race or be dominated. Now in my experience, PL is a fairly aggro player, so I cannot take AK out of his range in this spot. But that's it. PL's re-reraise in this spot tells me he either has AA, KK or AK. That's it. He's not folding here with Aces or Kings for sure, and I like to think he would lay down AK or at least just smooth call and try to hit the flop. It's really Aces and Kings, with a slight chance of AK, probably soooted. I just don't see any other way it can go. Not when a guy small-raised a preflop raiser and a caller. If PL is playing his hand right and analyzing hand ranges himself properly, then he cannot be re-reraising this amount here without Aces or Kings.

In the end, I think this was a pretty easy case where just a few actions from two players before the flop can make it fairly easy to narrow their holdings down to one of just a very few possible hands. One of these days I will post some more hand situations like this one, where I think it is a little less subtle as to how exactly to narrow someone's possible holdings based on their actions in the hand.

Don't forget Mondays at the Hoy tonight at 10pm ET on full tilt! Once again it is a $26 buyin, and the game will once again be a shorthanded no-limit shootout. See you then!

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Hand Ranges -- Intro

Hand Ranges. So much of a successful holdem player's game depends on his or her ability to accurately assign ranges of hands to his or her opponents. Probably just as important is the corresponding ability to understand the range of hands that your opponents are putting you on given your own set of actions so far in any given hand.

I've been planning a series of posts about hand ranges for some time, and I probably have a hundred different hands and scenarios saved up already over the past few months since I've been thinking about this topic. I like these questions for posts because they require a very small amount of up-front information, and it can be really fun to use what can seem to a novice to be very little information and clues, to come up with a fairly narrow range of hands for certain players, even before the flop even comes out on the board.

Today Ima start with an easy one. This particular screenshot comes from the Mookie this week, which means that there are specific players involved with specific images that have been cultivated over months and months of play together with the bloggers. Image has a huge impact on putting a player on a range of hands (including yourself!), so in this case since the two players happen to be guys you may have played with before, you should most definitely use your perceived image of the players involved in whatever way you see fit. The question is, if you have to put the players in this pot on a hand or a range of hands, what range do you think they are likely holding, given their actions below?

Here's the setup. We are early in the Mookie, at the 25-50 level so we're talking somewhere in the first what, half hour or so of play. The action before the flop folds around to PirateLawyer in the hijack, who has been very active so far on the day and who raises it up 3x to 150 chips. I smooth called from the cutoff. The button and the small blind fold, but then Obie315 in the big blind repops the 150-chip bet up to 400 chips. PirateLawyer is next to act, and he re-reraises to 1375 chips. I think for two seconds and then I fold.

First question, before I show the screenshot, is what is my most likely hand range in this spot? I smooth called an LP raise from a stealer, and then I folded to a reraise and a re-reraise behind me. Get your ideas together, and I will skip some room before I show the screenshot of the hand in question below.

OK here it is:

So there I am with pocket 3s. With almost any pocket pair I am likely to call PirateLawyer in this spot for one raise before the flop. Especially with him sitting on a big stack, the set-mining (and implied tilt) odds are just too great to pass up. And a small pair is also consistent with my fold to the reraise and re-reraise behind me. So a small to medium pocket pair is a great hand range for me in this spot, but given the way that I play, reasonably speaking my range has got to be somewhat wider than this as well. All things equal, I might straight-up float PL with almost any two cards if I thought he was stealing, so it may be a little difficult to put me on specifically a small to medium pocket pair here.

But the better question is, what hand ranges do you assign Obie and PirateLawyer to here? Obie reraised less than the size of the pot from the big blind after a late-position raise and a call of that raise, both from fairly aggro opponents early in a blonkament. And then PL, who put in the original raise in the hand to begin with, re-reraises what looks like the size of the pot here, with me still to act behind him. What ranges of hands do you put these two guys on here?

I will give my comments later but am interesting in hearing everyone's thoughts in the comments. This sort of hand range assigning exercise is commonplace for the way I play every single hand I am involved in or even witness to at any poker table where I'm at, and it's something that I know basically all successful poker players do as well. So what do you think, what do these guys have in this spot?

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

F Poker (Part XLIV), and Micro League Baseball

Tuesday night sucked balls when it comes to poker. Yes I did win a couple of FTOPS satellites early in the evening, one of which I just took the $T from while I guess I will just stay registered for FTOPS #1 which is coming up in a few weeks. But other than that, it was just rediuckubeat after redickubeat. I don't even want to talk about it. I mean, I got two-outered on the second hand of the stars 5050 when my my A7 got called allin by 97 on a board of A97. One second all the chips go in, the next second the 9 falls on the turn, and IGH on hand #2. Seven minutes into Skillz razz on Tuesday, I was dealt 777. Too pissed to even put up the screenshot, but that's just how it was for me -- rolled up just seven minutes in to blogger razz.

In the full tilt 5050, I fared a little better than the stars version, where I lasted 34 whole minutes until my AK lost to QQ. Yeah yeah I know that's nothing to complain about, right? Well, how about the fact that the money went in on the flop, when I made top pair of Kings and my donkponent couldn't lay down the pocket Queens, huh? Feelin' a little worse about it now, are we? So ghey. That two-outer was of course was on the river. I also busted out of two super turbo satellites, which of course are mostly luckfests anyways, but in these I ran QQ into KK early -- uber ghey in super turbo land of course -- and then topped that off by losing TT to 88 allin preflop on the rivered straight. We've all been there, you know what these filthy nights are like.

Oh and I should not forget -- I even ran in the donkfield known as the nightly 28k on full tilt, and in this rare appearance I managed to not only run AK into KK in the first hour, but we of course did not get the money in until the Ace-high flop, my bet and my opponent's inability to fold his Kings when clearly beat. Then the predestined King on the turn gave me the unfoldable top two pairs, and once again IGH frigging pizzed off. By the time I ended the night with my A9 losing to AA on an A8549 board to knock me out in the middle of the pack in the 10:45pm ET $109 satellite into the 1 million guaranteed tournament this weekend on full tilt, my night had been so magically delicious that I knew, I just knew, it was time to hang 'em up for the night.

Believe me, I don't want to talk about it.

You know what I do want to talk about though? Micro League Baseball. There's no way I'm the only who was reminded by the All-Star Game pre-game on Tuesday of playing Micro League Baseball on the early pc's all the time. I was such a mathy dork even then, I remember running an entire 162-game series between the AL All-Time Greats and the NL All-Time Greats, and keeping stats on average, home runs and RBIs for every player on both teams. As I recall, Hank Aaron and I think Stan Musial might have hit the most home runs over the 162 games, but back when this was (early 80s I guess?), the full-season numbers were kinda silly ridiculous as I recall -- people hitting 75 home runs in a season and such other silliness. It's amazing how much a generation of performance-enhancing drug use can change things, isn't it?

Can I possibly be the only person out there who used to play and love Micro League Baseball?

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

MATH Recap, MTT Bender, the Main Event, and Cheating NBA

17 runners came out for Mondays at the Hoy this week, creating a $408 prize pool for our second-ever MATH Shootout. 17 entrants got us three starting tables of 6, 6 and 5 players each, a nice round starting setup with almost all full shorthanded tables to begin with. Unfortunately the full tilt shootout payout continued to pay only the top two finishers, even though we had three starting tables and therefore three starting table winners to come to the final table. I played one of my best MATH's in quite a while, but got sucked out on four times, lost a race and eventually lost when my full stack was called allin by A4o preflop to corron10 who eventually eliminated jeciimd to win my starting table. The three table winners on the night were corron10, scottc25 and ElSnarfGrande with scottc25 winning$265.20 for first, and corron10 finishing second for $142.80. Once again the shootout format seemed to work out very well, and a good time was had by all. Thanks to everyone who came out, in addition to at least one first-timer and potentially yet another blogger playing on a second account on full tilt. Good times.

So, I thought I would take stock here of my mtt bender last week in retrospect. First things first -- profits. In the end, I made about $4500 over the six days of my bachelority, an awesome week by any standards I have set here over the past few years, and of course at the end of the day, my longtime readers know that following the cashish is the only real way to keep score in this game. Although I won a number of small sngs, finished second in a 90-person knockout sng, and cashed multiple times in multiple tournaments during the week, the bulk of the $4500 net over the week of course comes from my 4th place finish in the 5050 last Sunday night, followed by my 5th place finish in "the" 32k on Tuesday night, both on full tilt. Both of these scores are in my top 10 cashes for the year so far in tournament poker, and in that sense busting out with two of those in three nights of poker was definitely a great time. I really do wish I could isolate what it is about my poker play when I am home alone as compared to when I'm home with the rest of my family asleep nearby. It's not like I had any loud outside stimulus going last week that I don't usually have, and it's not like I got more hammered than usual or anything -- it would not be possible for me to more hammered than I usually am, at least for the big blonkaments every week -- and there's really nothing else tangible I can think of. But obviously something must be different, as now over two 5-day periods during the week after July 4 in two consecutive years, I have won around 5k in tournaments in two separate scores in both of those weeks. Now I'm no mathematician, but that has got to be statistically significant.

Changing topics a bit, at some point on Monday I finally looked into the WSOP Main Event. Sadly, I am not familiar in the least with anyone who made the final table. It's sad, but I guess it is not really at all surprising, given that we're looking at what, 6800-some-odd donks who entered this thing? The odds of anyone in the final 9 out of 6000-some will be anyone I know -- especially given how few poker players I really know in my life -- have got to be quite astronomically low, and yet perhaps I've been spoiled by guys like Alan Cunningham last year, Dan Harrington a few years back and a few others. But it sucks, I won't give two craps about who actually wins the Main Event, and I don't care how long they delay playing out that final table. I just don't know these guys and I won't be buying in to any of the hype that will doubtless just be building day after day, week after week over the next four months. To think that it will be cold and quite possibly snowing outside here in New York City when they finally get together to decide on the 2008 WSOP ME winner, it is just so surreal to me.

And wow, Tiffany Michelle! Final two tables. That is sweet. I don't know her, I've never met her and have no real interest in her, but I have watched her doing the interviews for pokernews in the past and thought she did a fine job. More than that, she seemed like a good person from the very brief exposure I had to her from those videos. So great for her. Tiffany goes down as the last person in the field of 6800+ that I actually "knew", in that I recognized her and am familiar with her as a personality. Woulda been an awesome story if a fairly hot chick like her could last all the way to the final table and be part of the recockulous money-driven cycle of greed that will be the next four months while the Main Event final table is delayed. God how I am not looking forward to that.

Oh right, before I go here is one story I absolutely loved from the sports world. The Tim Donaghy story just won't go away, will it? For some reason that I will never understand, the NBA continues to roll on with seemingly no real hit to its popularity following what to me is the megascandal in the world of sports of my generation, that there was actually an actual NBA ref who was actually fixing games vs. the point spreads over a year or so of NBA action. How sick. Well today's story essentially is that it turns out Donaghy called one particular NBA referee over the 2006-2007 season more than 100 times according to phone records, a span during which he only called his bookie more times, and during which he called no other referee more than a handful of times. Wonder what ole' Timmy Boy and this other ref were talking about, huh? Just unreal. But don't worry, the NBA has repeatedly stated, and reiterated this position again this week after the Donaghy phone records were made public, that Donaghy acted alone in fixing these games. Uh huh. Wtg NBA. These guys cheat worse than I do at the blonkaments!

And yet somehow people continue to go to the games and participate in the whole NBA marketing machine. Some of the very same people bitching endlessly about how anyone could ever play or keep any money at Ultimate Bet or Absolute Poker with all the cheating scandals going on there, will then turn around and continue to place bets on NBA games, which is just about the silliest hypocrisy you will find out there. My approach is that I won't be paying any real attention to the NBA again for a long, long time. How can I? Might as well be watching the WWF on a Saturday morning. Or is it called the WWE nowadays?

OK that's all for today. Skillz is tonight at 9:30pm ET on full tilt, password as always is "skillz". And the game tonight for the Skillz Series is...limit razz. Grrrrroooooooaaaaaannnnnn.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Math Shootout Take II, and All Good Things Come to an End

Yes, I'm sure most of you are already well aware of this but everyone's favorite poker dwarf Iggy did bust from the World Series of Poker Main Event, I guess it was late on Friday, several hours in to Day Four of the world's largest poker tournament. As the title says, all good things must come to an end, and I guess in that sense I am getting over it after a few days to relax. In the spirit of vengeance against the WSOP gods for not spiking Iggy his two-outer or whatever he needed on the river once he was forced to push his last 100k in more or less blind under the gun, I did not take one look at any WSOP updates over the weekend after Iggy busted. Not one. I don't know who busted, I don't know who's alive, I don't know who made the final table or if there even is a final table yet. I don't even know if Hellmuth busted and went crazy on everyone yet. I imagine I will check in for all the updates sometime today, but for now I am mired in the bliss of WSOP ignorance following the elimination of Iggy somewhere just north of 400th place, a finish in the top 7th percentile or so of one of the greatest minefields in the history of tournament poker.

So don't forget, Mondays at the Hoy is back tonight on full tilt, and this will be the second MATH tournament that will feature full tilt's new Shootout format. We're once again going to be playing shorthanded tables to keep the action going and the energy high, and we will for the second straight week play down to winners at each of the full shorthanded tables, and then those winners will meet up at the final table for a balls-out battle royale to see who can be the back-to-back winner that it will take down this week's Hoy title. We had a very respectable 23 runners come out for the first Shootout event last Monday, and I would say that the tournament went over very well and seems to have been quite well received as the shootout structure really seemed to spice things up a bit for all the players. Hopefully this means we can get a nice turnout going again tonight, as a shootout really works better with the more people involved, at least at the relatively low levels of participation that we tend to see outside of the BBT-enabled events. So come on out and play -- you know how much we love first-timers at Mondays at the Hoy as well, so even if you've never played with the group before -- the tournament goes off tonight at 10pm ET on full tilt, the buyin remains at $26, and the password as always is "hammer".

OK I can't take the suspense....I'm going to go and read up on the rest of this weekend' WSOP Main Event action now. See you tonight for Mondays at the Hoy on full tilt!

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Friday, July 11, 2008

The Magical Run Continues

Blahblahblahblah. Blahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblah. Blahblahblahblahblahblahblahblah. Blahblahblahblahblahblahblahblah.

That's what the past three and a half years of drivel I've posted seems like to me right now compared to this. Our beloved little man Iggy is still alive heading into Day Four of the WSOP Main Event!!!! As of Friday's action, there are 474 people left out of a field of 6844 entrants. Per Pokernews, Iggy ended Thursday's action with 160k in chips. By very rough estimate, Iggy looks to be about 92 spots from the bottom, or 376th out of 474 remaining.

Play ended on Thursday night apparently just before 1:30am Vegas time. Wow. That means they played 13 1/2 straight hours of what is -- believe me -- high-pressure, high-tension no-limit holdem. I've gone for that length of time a few times before, but never with anywhere near the stakes or the pressure that every single player in that room understands right now. I remember just playing twelve hours down through that horrible bubble period -- an extended one of which Iggy also had to endure at this year's Main Event last night -- in my WSOP cash a year ago, and my back and my head were killing me after just six hours in that stuffy room, in those uncomfortable chairs, and with all that tension going on. To play for three straight days like this, mega-session after mega-session, with the pressure only increasing with every increase in the blinds and antes, I am just beside myself with excitement for the little guy.

If my calculations are correct, 20k starting chips times 6844 starting stacks, divided by 474 remainng stacks means the average chipstack is around 288k. So Iggy is sitting with about 55% of the average stack, which ain't bad considering that he's already made it to the money positions in the WSOP ME this year.

The first player to be eliminated on Friday, which will be 474th place, will get $27,020 for his or her efforts. That is awesome, considering that Iggy could bust right out of the gate on Friday and still win nearly 30k for what was just a few hundred dollar investment as I recall before Iggy won his ME seat in the large multi-seat ME guarantee on pokerstars I think it was. Quite a return on investment.

The next jump in the money payouts is to $28,950, but that won't happen until the player who finishes in 414th place. So it's gonna be $27,020 for the next several eliminations, and believe me when I say, having played deep in many large mtt's in my life (admittedly nothing like the WSOP ME), the elims are likely to come fast and furious in the early action on Friday as the short stacks will really be feeling the pressure at this point to get moving due to the large blinds and antes. I believe Iggy is sitting on an M of around 14 if I recall correctly, so he's not in desperation mode yet per se, but there are a good 100 players or so left who have Ms of less than 15, so believe me when I say the action will be hot and heavy right from the getgo among the short stacks today.

Wondering when the big money starts rolling for these 2008 WSOP ME finishers? Well, what's "big money" to you? 50k? 99th place will receive $51,466. Or is big money 100k? That is 63rd place, which pays $115,800. The 27th player left to be eliminated will be the first to cross the quarter-million mark ($257,334), 12th place is where the half-mil boundary is crossed ($591,869), and unlike last year, not the entire final table will win a million from the prizepool. 9th place this year will pay a paltry $900,670, with the rest of the final table each winning more than a million dollars for their efforts, topping out of course with the first prize of more than $9 million, the second-largest payout for any poker tournament, ever.

Here is the final table and the payouts:

1 $ 9,119,517 -
2 $ 5,790,024 -
3 $ 4,503,352 -
4 $ 3,763,515 -
5 $ 3,088,012 -
6 $ 2,412,510 -
7 $ 1,769,174 -
8 $ 1,286,672 -
9 $ 900,670

So dear old Iggy outlasted 1307 runners on Day 3 of this year's Main Event. Someone named Jeremy Joseph is the current chip leader, entering Day 4 on Friday with 1,470,000 in chips. Several big-name pros were eliminated on Day 3 to go along with the masses who had already been among the 5500 or so knockouts in the first couple days of play, with names like Gus Hansen, Phil Hellmuth and Johnny Chan still lurking among the 474 players remaining, and of course our little dwarf.

The action on Day 4 will start Friday at 1pm local time, an hour later than the usual noon starting time since the action ran so late into the evening yesterday as the bubble bursting took longer than anticipated. I don't know about you, but I'm having trouble thinking about almost anything else while I know Iggy is alive and kicking in this thing, so I will be following Iggy's specific chipcount on Pokernews' chipcounts pages all this afternoon and evening. Hopefully he can get some big hands early and double up to give him the wiggle room he's going to need to survive another 12 hours of this shit today. Lord knows I will be pulling for the little tyke.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Iggy = My Hero

So I was going to do another post like yesterday's and just write all about my trials and tribulations last night in the week-long mtt bender to top all mtt benders. But you know what, the simple fact is how could you guys care about the pointless pokerings of a bozo like me when Iggy has lasted to Day 3 of the WSOP Main Event! For those of you who have never had the pleasure of meeting him, Iggy is one of those genuinely good guys that no one in their right mind could not like. Especially for an A-Lister! And one of the many secrets about Iggy that you might not know is that he is actually a very solid poker player, and even in tournaments the little man can hold his own. Anyone who's played in the various BBT series with him if nothing else will know how easily Iggy can kick it up into high gear, and yet he also understands the importance of playing tight early. For this reason I had picked Iggy and Lucko to last the furthest of the four bloggers in our group in the ME, and with Loretta busting on Day Two, this leaves just Iggy as the last blogger standing. I'm lovin it.

Anything else I would have to say today just pales in comparison to Iggy lasting to Day Three of the Main Event. The Main Fucking Event!! Iggy!!! Just. Awesome.

Also awesome was Weak Player, another great guy I have met a few times out in Vegas, reraising me allin on the flop with just a nut flush draw in the Mookie, me calling allin from ahead and then the river suckout to eliminate me I think about halfway through Hour 2. But then I keep reminding myself of how many suckouts I have come up with in big spots over the past few days that have helped me to make a lot of cold hard cashish this week, and it's all good. Plus at least Weak had the good sense to raise with his hand instead of calling off with it like most bloggers seem to enjoy. In any event, that's how my night ended early in the Mook, what else is new.

Similarly, in the Dookie PLO Omaha event, eventually won by Mr. Aussie Millions jeciimd, I was quickly reminded of why I had stayed away from playing this tournament over the past few weeks: the suckouts. I am not sure that I've ever been eliminated from the Dookie in other than a suckout, almost always by hands that had no business even being in the pot at the time of the turn of the key card. Last night was no exception, I got in ahead and lost. $10 PLO with blonkeys though, in a way I've come to see that buyin as me paying for the suckouts and the comraderie, not to have the best hand hold up. I'm cool with that.
JJ < TT ai pf 2 hours in to stars 5050. cashed ftp 5050 but went out right after bubble burst.

Ahh, why not just mention the rest. So beat by the river flush draw filling in the Mookie. Suckout-eliminated by not one but two bad beats laid by the same player in the Dookie. JJ < TT allin preflop to eliminate me from the pokerstars 50-50 when the man flopped a boat of T44, in a spot where I would have had my first nice stack of the night about two hours deep. And I played the full tilt 5050 as well, cashing once again as my luck in that tournament just continues to persist. Funny enough, I ended up busting on the bubble in this thing in my attempt to use the bubble for a quick jump when I pushed allin against a guy I read as being weak. I was right about him being weak, but of course he could not lay down the Jackace and it held up to knock me out (natch). But, some other shitheads had busted on that same hand as well, and since I had more chips heading into the hand, I ended in 152nd place when 153 spots paid out of 1070 or so in the field. So another nice run there, but otherwise Wednesday was a night of bad beatage for me. After the performances I've had this week though, like I said, it doesn't faze me.

That's all I got for now. Lots of fun hands to post about, but Iggy has stolen the show and stolen my heart for the day by lasting to Day Three. How can you not love that shit?

Riverchasers tonight, 9pm ET on full tilt. Password as always is "riverchasers". I should be good n liquored up by that time as my mtt bender heads into the home stretch here tonight. I'm also hoping to hit up the nightly 35k, the 32k, maybe the 65k again, and both 50-50s if I am able tonight in addition to another deep run at the Riverchasers. See you then!

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Terrific Tuesday, and Another Solid Mtt Score

Tuesday was just one of those nights at the virtual poker tables. You know, those nights. Those rare times when you just seem not to be able to do much wrong. And when you run like I normally do, believe you me, these times are quite few and quite far between. But Tuesday was one of those nights. And as an mtt guy, one of those nights has an especially fun significance, meaning that I was up late once again making several deep runs in mtts I was focusing on. I've written about this many times, but you simply cannot mimic the incredible excitement and euphoria of running deep in an mtt in any way via playing sitngos or even by playing cash. Sure I've had those phenomenal "up 5 buyins" nights at the cash tables, and of course those are fun as fuck too. But it's just not the same. Nothing is quite the equal of the thrill and excitement and anticipation and tension involved in making a good deep run in one of the biggies. Something with hundreds if not thousands of runners vying for the top spot and trying to knock your ass out of the tournament. For an mtt guy such as myself, it's a feeling that just cannot be topped anywhere else in the poker universe.

Things started earlyish for me poker-wise on Tuesday, with me managing to get home and logged in at just before 8pm which features the start of a couple of large nightly mtt's on full tilt, but ones that I barely ever play either due to timing, buyin, or both. But there was the 32k, which is sort of like the 8pm ET version of the nightly 28k at 10pm -- a $26 buyin, way over a thousand donkeys every night, nlh fonkfest -- and then there is the 65k, which sports a loftier $165 buyin, and which features many of the known online poker pros on a nightly basis. Normally I am just home from work, but I am either in the middle of the maelstrom known as Putting My Kids To Bed, or I am just completed with that mountainous task and am looking to take a relaxation break before I figure out what else the night has in store. But with Hammer Wife and the Hammer Girls still away at the beach, remember this is my week to go nuts with the mtts. I've detailed my I would say very successful progress so far this week in what has truly been one of the great mtt benders of my entire onine playing career, one which has included several first-time or rarely-played tournaments, in addition to already one nice score of over $3400 from a 4th place finsh in the 50-50 tournament on this past Sunday night. So I was home early, ready to play and flush with cash in the roll. What to do?

So, having logged on just before 8pm ET, I ended up registering for both the 32k and the 65k, using some of my newfound winnings to buy in direct to both and take a shot at the 65k which I have only ever played two other times in my life. The 65k, the smaller of the tournaments given the $165 buyin, had 683 runners and would pay the top 63 players. Meanwhile, the 32k was gargantuan, with 1511 flonkeys suiting up and throwing in their $26 penance for a shot at the big time and over 7k in cash to first place. Of course I also registered for the Skills tournament, which was scheduled for HOSE at 9:30pm ET on full tilt. Bring 'em on. In fact I was so sure of myself heading into the night of poker that I also registered for the 50-50 tournaments on both full tilt and pokerstars. This is significant for me in that it would require me having five windows open and active starting at 9:30pm ET if I was still alive 90 minutes in to both THE 32k and THE 65k on full tilt. But, I figured odds were I would be out of something by then and so I could play just my normal maximum of four windows on my tiny little laptop screen.

Little did I know I would be playing five windows for over two hours before all was said and done.

In the 65k, there was not a whole lot interesting to report early on, as my big hands were basically all steals either preflop, on the flop or on the turn. I guess I thought this hand was interesting and wanted to get your thoughts, in particular about what to do at the end. This was early in the tournament -- the 15-30 blind round -- and I open-raised from middle position with AJs. Just the small blind called. When the flop came QJ9, giving me 2nd pair top kicker and no reason to believe I was behind, I c-bet it:

which my opponent smooth called. The call scared me a bit for sure. So much so that when a harmless offsuit 4 fell on the turn, I decided to check and see what he does before I make my decision:

He surprised me by checking behind here. Then the river brought an Ace, giving me top and 3rd pair, and once again my opponent checked to me:

Now here I figured was a good spot for a value bet. Now I've got him on some kind of middling to high Queen, and not much more. He called me on the flop so if I bet small enough I bet he'll call me here as well:

480 into 630. There it is. But then:

So we're very early on in the 65k, and this guy calls my preflop raise, then check-calls me on the flop, and check-check on the turn. Then suddenly on the Ace river, the check-raise out of nowhere, when I am actually holding a fairly strong hand. What gives? What do you think he has? Do you call him here, holding first and third pair early in a big nlh tournament?

For those of you interested, I simply could not piece this story together and so I called. I could easily buy the river checkraise as part of a concerted strategy or line on this hand that is designed to get the most chips from me with a monster like a flopped set. But that simply was not how he played it. The preflop call with any pocket pair is believable, as is the check-call which is most peoples' first reaction when they flop a set. Check it, and then just smooth call. It's standard flopset stuff. But then on the turn, why would he check, and then check again on the river even after missing his chance to checkraise on the turn? No, I think he would have to bet at least one if not both of those streets. I hadn't been playing particularly aggro or anything in this -- if anything, perhaps a bit tighter than usual due to poor starting cards -- and I just could not see how he went for the checkraise on the turn but I did not bite, so then when ostensibly a scary Ace comes out on the river, he is going to check it again and risk missing another checkraise opportunity? I just couldn't see it, so I called. Think that one over, and then you can click here to see what he held once you've made your guesses.

Otherwise, there really were not any huge hands to report on from the 65k. I managed to win a nice pot early, and then I basically coasted from there, surviving purely on steals and resteals, until near the bubble at 63 players remaining out of the 683 who had started. At the time I remember feeling frustrated basically all the way throughout this particular tournament, because I never really had much to work with in the way of starting cards. I also remember once again sucking out when allin at least once on the way to the money, but eventually after a longer-than-comfortable bubble, somebody was ridden out and we had made the cash. I still failed to get anything great to play with, but I managed to survive a little while longer and watch about another third or so of the field bust before losing a race and ending my run in the final 50:

Yes, the money sucks, don't I know it. But I'll still take it. For my third time ever in this tournament and now my second cash. I wish I had run deeper, but it was a jolly good time nonetheless and I even got to suck out a bit on my way there. Considering that I was always in constant scraping-by mode from just about the beginning of the second hour on in this thing, this was a solid result and I am pleased with the way I played it.

Meanwhile, of course, the blogger HOSE game had started up at 9:30, just 90 minutes in to the 65k and 32k, and I was playing that on my fifth window for a good long while until I managed to bust from both 5050s short of the money positions for the second straight night. I was paying attention, but truth be told the Skillz was probably the last thing on my mind especially early on when I had those four other games going in four other windows for so long. And my game showed it, as I fold fold folded my way through most of the first hour, only pausing to win a big pot near the end with a hidden boat in Stud. But of course, folding and playing tightass poker early is the single greatest key to winning any HORSE-themed or really any limit poker tournament anyways, so this strategy actually served me well. As the blogger HOSE tournament wore on, my stack grew as my focus on so many other tournament tables in increasingly key spots left me exactly capable of the kind of tight play that really works in these limit events, and which I am usually so spectacularly unable of keeping going. Well last night my friends, in the quiet solitude of the Hammer house, I was able to do just that, and it paid off:

In general as I mentioned I played the perfect tighter-than-my-usual game for a HOSE event through the first couple hours of this thing, and then from there as my other games ended that coincided nicely with the HOSE final table, so I was able to focus a little more and open things up a bit as the table grew shorter and shorter. By the end, out of 16 entrants, I literally must have gotten 7 or 8 elimination bounties. I knocked everybody out of this thing, and the amazing thing especially for a limit event is that I don't think I recall sucking out in this one in particular more than maybe one time all the way through. So different from my usual Skills Series performance. Heads-up with MattyMoves was fun, as we each had a roughly 3 to 1 chip deficit and came back at least one time apiece, and then finaly I took advantage of a number of big hands in a row to punish Matty and take the insurmountable lead. A late race win effectively sealed it, and I had taken down my second Skillz event of the year. You all remember the first one I won I'm sure, it was during the BBT3, remember? Fun times.

So along with the nice run in the 65k and winning the Skills Series HOSE tournament, I also ran in that $26 buyin 32k guaranteed tournament that also started way back at 8pm ET. This thing was always there going on in the background, but it did not get much attention from me for the first couple hours or so because, frankly, I got nothing going early. I think I got my first double-up way near the end of the second hour, and even by that time I wasn't all that high up on the leaderboard as compared to where I would have liked to be. In fact, it wasn't until the end of the third hour, when we were already down into the money positions (162 would pay out of 1511 runners), that I had my first huge hand of the tournament, where I nearly tripled up against an overaggro jackmonkey with a medium stack and a huge stack who could not lay down pocket Tens to my pocket Jacks. This hand left me completely flush with chips, suddenly a top 10 stack with about 100 players remaining, and from there I did my thing, stole around a bit and bullied some people off some large pots to keep it going and keep it growing. Eventually about five hours in we reached the final table:

Yep, that's me with the final table chip lead, which I had just recently retaken from the big stack guy across the table from me. I was able to use my stack effectively early on at the final table, focusing most on retaining my pile of chips while the shorties pushed their perceived edges and eventually started dropping off. Unlike some of the larger-buyin tournaments, with these $26 buyin jobs, even at 1500+ entrants like this one, the real big payouts (like, well into four digits for example) really don't start until the top half of the final table, in this case with the top 6 players each receiving more than $1600. So I made sure not to do anything rash until we reached that point, which took only maybe 20 minutes or so of final table time to get us down to the final 5. At that point the following hand came up.

I was dealt A6s in the big blind, and the aggressive utg player had bumped it up 3x:

I decided with the sooted Ace working and given this player's aggression, a call was in order. Of course I was hoping to flop a flush draw more than anything else, given my poor kicker to go along with my Ace. I got my wish with the flush draw, which I figured I would check and see if my opponent wanted to c-bet, rather than donk bet into his preflop raise without a very strong hand:

He put in a curiously small c-bet:

And, maybe moved by that smallness of his bet on the flop, I opted to go for the big raise right there and try to buy the pot or at least buy a free card to get two shots to draw to my flush and potential overcard:

Unfortunately, my read that he would fold was off, and he put me allin on the flop reraise here:

Now at this point, what would you do? This was my dilemma. I figure I've got the nine solid flush outs, and I figured my overcard Ace was probably worth another out or two since he might not have an Ace, having simply raised before the flop in this shorthanded pot. So I'm thinking I have about 10-11 outs, and at this point in the hand, I have to call off my last 546k in chips into a pot that was then worth 1.7 million chips. It's way better than 3 to 1 in a situation where I'm expecting I have something like 40% odds of winning. If I could take the whole hand back I might like to not put in that raise on the flop to begin with, but given where I was at this point, I thought this one over and tried my hardest to find a reason to fold and preserve some chips for a deeper final table run, but after agonizing I simply could not find a fold given the pot odds involved at the time. Knowing especially that I would be in last place of the five remaining stacks if I did fold out here, I eventually made the crying call, just hoping my 10 outs were live. They actually were:

In fact, I actually had 12 outs twice here, nine for the flush and three more aces for the overpair, making me about what, a 42 or 43% dog, but again I think really justifying -- in fact, requiring -- my call of that last raise on the flop.

Unfortunately, I missed my underdog hand:

and IGH in 5th place overall:

Obviously, this is not the way I want to go out at a final table when I had been 2nd in chips with 5 runners left. I can't stand going out on a draw at the final table of a big mtt where the payouts increase so much with every additional person who busts, and at least in general, with every additional hand you can survive. It's not like me to push a draw like this, but I had to go with my read and I figured the guy would fold in this spot given his betting action. Little did I know I was facing a monster like KK in a shorthanded pot at the final table of a large tournament. But again, I cannot complain too much after having sucked out myself a good three or four times when allin along the way in this thing. So, it was another big mtt final table on Tuesday and another $2175 and change to go along with the $3400+ I won from the 5050 on Sunday night, my nice run in the 65k on Tuesday as well as winning the blogger Skills series HOSE tournament.

Man, I should send me wife and kids away more often, huh?

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

MATH Recap, and Multitabling MTTs

We had a strong showing for Mondays at the Hoy this week on full tilt, as 23 runners came out to play in the first Shootout-format blogger tournament that I can ever recall. And I have to say, I think it worked out really well. I went with a shorthanded 6-max format for the shootout, anticipating not the huge fields that we generally see when the BBT is in da house, and this worked out nicely as we were left with four starting tables of 6, 6, 6 and 5, with each playing down to their one winner before the four table winners sat down at the final table to battle it out for the cash.

The only downer that I saw was that all four of the starting table winners did not get paid, since 23 runners only translates to the top 3 finishers receiving payouts. Thus, Jordan from HighOnPoker, who utterly dominated his first table and basically crushed his entire starting field within just 30 minutes or so, still ended up not cashing when he busted first in 4th place of the four final tablers on the day. I regret that, as I think it would be much nicer for Jordan to have shared in the payouts since he won his first table in the shootout, but it's not like that is my decision since that is instead decided solely by full tilt, but as I said I still think the Shootout format worked very well overall. I could see extending the format to full ring Shootout tables if the fields were consistently going to be larger, but with a usual turnout in the 20-30 range, I think shorthanded tables works out much better and makes for a much better final table of original table winners as well.

In the end, as I mentioned, Jordan bubbled the cash despite crushing his original starting table and just generally continuing his lawyerly dominance in the Hoy so far this year. The final three players remaining after Jordan busted were left making the cash, and here is how it all broke out by the time the smoke had cleared on the final table:

1. Bayne $276
2. lucyfred $165.60
3. VinNay $110.40

So one lawyer on the bubble this week, one lawyer-hater at the bottom of the cash list, and an unknown player in lucyfred whose name I think I recognize from a few other blonkaments in the recent past. Lucyfred, please let me know in the comments if you have a blog and I will link your shit up.

Otherwise, just to recap on my last few days, I have played an incredible amount of tournament poker since returning to my bachelor pad without my family for the week late on Saturday night. From midnight to midnight on Sunday, for example, I managed to rack up over 1600 FTP points, and unlike some of you cash gamers to whom that number is probably not so stratospheric, those 1600+ frequent player points were amassed using 100% sitngos and mtts only. And it's not like I'm buying in to the Monday 1k or some shit where it's easy to rack this kind of points up. I played basically every large mtt that ran on Sunday, in addition to a ton of satellites into those and other larger tournaments. I did regular speed, turbo and even a number of those delicious super turbo sngs, where I am standardizing to the $45 and $75 level as my preferred donkathons of choice.

I mentioned yesterday that I also ran the turbo fiddy and the turbo hundo for the first time very late on Saturday, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Maybe it's just me, but I really love me some turbo mtt action. Not just a turbo sng like are constantly running on one or two tables on full tilt, but a straight-out multi-table tournament. The $3 turbos n shit I just find too donkorific even for my tastes as such a low buyin tends to really make people just push n pray with any two right from the getgo, but this week's MATH winner bayne said it best in the girly over the weekend when he told me that the turbo fiddy and turbo hundo both play like a super turbo sng after the first 30 minutes. And I have to agree, that pretty much sums it up, although there is still a bit more tournament skill, use of position, and deception involved in the large mtts than in a similar one-table event any day of the week. Give me a regular nightly turbo mtt at a reasonable hour on the East Coast, with a buyin of between $26 and $50, and I am there. Every night.

I've actually even toyed with changing the MATH to a straight-up turbo event for a month and seeing how that goes. As I was discussing with some of the players in the chat box in this week's MATH tournament, I find it usually takes a good 3 or 4 weeks to really identify the problems, weakness or just differences with a particular tournament format that are not otherwise readily apparent or intuitively obvious. So I've taken to trying new structures and new formats for about a month before making a decision, as I did with the change to and then change back from payouts based on the big Sunday guarantees, which in the end I felt after four weeks to see it play out that people were mostly just changing it over to $T anyways and not playing on Sunday, so why bother. But it took a month of Hoy tournaments like that in order to ascertain that it wasn't really acting to spice things up. With the BBT away for a bit I am definitely looking to keep things interesting with the MATH -- because when I know that my own interest in playing has been sapped after a long trek like the BBT3, I can only assume this feeling is even more noticeable among you all out there who play or might play in the private blogger tournaments. So I am trying some new formats out to see if anything works best, like for example I absolutely love the double-stack Mookie's on Wednesdays as compared to the old 1500-chip style format. So right now we're checking out the Shootout, and so far so good I would say after last night. But I do long sometimes for a month of turbo MATHs, I won't deny it.

Anyways, I also took 4th place in Sunday night's 50-50, to the tune of $3400 and change. As I mentioned briefly yesterday, it is ironic because my first ever final table at the 50-50 occurred one year ago almost to the fricking day, during this exact same week right after July 4 when my wife and kids were again spending the extra week at the beach while I came home to work for the week before heading back to the beach the next weekend. So I final tabled that biatch again in my first full day home alone this time around, which was another fun ride and which I have a million screenshots of, but I can't be getting into the habit of doing a full tournament recap every time I run to frigging 4th place in an mtt. Suffice it to say, this was one of the gheyest, suckoutiest tournaments I've ever run deep in (excluding blogger tournaments, of course), one where I got highlariously lucky when I was allin and behind I think four separate times during the tournament. That's ok, though, because I know I stopped counting the times I was sucked out against when I reached eight suckouts against me, and that wasn't even all that close to the end. But it's hard for me to feel too too good about the big cash when I was allin behind a bunch of times and managed to win those key 35-40% shots a few times in addition to one nice flopped set with an underpair when allin before the flop. Still, what a ride, and what a nice re-introduction to the world of mtts. As I have played so few mtts over the past few months, the big 5050 cash gets me back into the black for even just the past 3 or 4 months worth of action, which when combined with profits at the cash tables, blogger tournaments and in sngs, is making out for easily my best year yet as an online poker player. I may actually have to really work to drum up some losses this time around just to keep myself from having to write a big fat check to good ol' Uncle Sam early in 2009 for all of this year's poker donkery, who woulda thought it. I guess in the overall scheme of things that is a good problem to have, and one I look forward to hopefully making even worse for myself here as I still have another several nights of home-alone-ness and I feel like I have another score inside me, just waiting to come bursting out.

OK don't forget the Skills game is back, now hosted by cemfredmd. That should be tonight again at 9:30pm ET I believe on full tilt. Same password as always of "skillz". I'm not sure what the game today is but I plan to be there to donk it up and then complain about it tomorrow. You know how I roll.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Monday Quickie and Nice MTT Score

This is gonna have to be a quick one since I am technically still on vacation until the end of Monday. Well, technically I am back to work today, but I've got some shit going on for most of the day that will keep me otherwise occupied and away from the pc where I spin my clever little yarns for you all on a daily basis.

So here goes:

First, tonight is once again Mondays at the Hoy on full tilt, and tonight we're going to start for the first time with the Shootout format for the tournament. Same time of 10pm ET as always, same buyin of $24 + $2, and the same password of "hammer", but the game this week will be a shorthanded shootout structure as we explore how shootouts work for our private blogger tournaments for the first time. So come on out and be among the first to play a blogger shootout and experience all the fun and excitement for yourself. There has already been a rare Tripjax sighting on the early registration list for this week's Hoy, and of course first-timers are always welcome, encouraged and lucky as ballz in this thing. See you then!

I should also make brief mention of a few other items around the world of the other poker blogs and bloggers out there that I have taken note of over the past week or so but have not been able yet to blog about. PLO expert and overall good guy Bayne recently busted out with yet another big score which can be read about over at his blog. Of course everyone knows about Lucko and LJ's recent online tournament successes, but Bayne has quietly watched his tournament game improve, pretty much right in line with an increased focus on tight, smart poker. It's always a thrill for me to watch anyone in our group evolving their tournament game and seeing the results they are looking for, and Bayne is no exception here so if you haven't been keeping up with that, head over to Bayne's blog and catch yourself up.

And speaking of some great blog posts, I have been remiss in not mentioning until now the spate of great strategy posts that once again have been regularly populating the space over at Emptyman's blog. Empty is a somewhat recent blogger and an excellent player in all the poker games, and he has had a whole host of great posts over the past year or so detailing various strategy points relating to holdem and most of the HORSE variants. Take it from me, if you are looking to improve your HORSE game, do yourself a personal favor and read through the recent archives as well as the older stuff at Emptyman's blog and you will not be disappointed.

And speaking of Lucko and LJ btw, it appears that both sides of the happy couple are busto from the World Series of Poker Main Event, both on Day One during the second round of the tournament. Loretta did make it through to Day Two, to be played later this week, and is sitting on a stack of around 35k after starting with 20k in chips. And the big story has got to be everyone's favorite poker dwarf Iggy himself, who has also survived through to Day Two with a stack of just under 38,000 chips. With the incredibly slow structure of the WSOP ME, lasting to the second day having nearly doubled the starting chip stack is a great outcome in my book, and I continue to think that Iggy has just the kind of patient, smart game to make a real run in a tournamemt like this. I'm sure you can keep up with all the Vegas happenings for these guys on their own blogs and of course on Pauly and the other media outlets covering the WSOP this year.

Well this is really all the time I have for today. Let me just reiterate that if I have any say in it, this week is going to be perhaps the biggest mtt bender of my entire life, an effort that I got off to a great start with over the weekend upon my late night Saturday return to New York City sans Hammer Girls and sans Hammer Wife, who again remain at the beach for one more week until I head down to pick them up next weekend. I played a bunch of tournaments for the first time ever over the weekend, including the donkorific phenomena known as the Turbo Fiddy and the Turbo Hundo, including a 14th place cash in the Hundo after losing a race that would have left me atop the leaderboard with a little luck. I also played my first ever Sunday Brawl as well as the 750k this week, neither of which worked out as I had been hoping although I made a decent run in each.

One thing that did work out on Sunday night / Monday morning was this:

A 4th place finish is nothing to go nuts about, but it's the first big score I've had since getting sick as I have pretty much stayed away from the mtt scene for a few months, so in that sense this felt great. I had been in 2nd place of four left before pushing into the chip leader when his top pair had mine beat, but in the end I'll take the cash and try to duplicate it again in my bender that has started off about as good as could reasonably be hoped. The most interesting aspect of this thing I think is that here I am final-tabling the 5050 again right here during the exact same week-after-July-4th when I first final-tabled it on back to back nights last year. As I mentioned last week, something about being free to play all night without disturbing anyone or anyone else being around is very liberating to me and has historically led to good results for my game. Here's hoping that this can continue tonight and into the rest of the week with my own mtt play.

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

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