Monday, February 1, 2016

What would you do from the archives

This is a simple spot from a few weeks ago - I captured it because it was interesting at the time:

I'm dealt KQo UTG, and raise to $11.  I can limp or raise in that spot but this time, I opt to raise.  Tightish older black guy calls in UTG+1, as do 5 others.

We see a KK8o flop (BINGO).  I decide to check since there's not much that can call my lead bet and the UTG+1 bets $15.  As expected, it folds around to me and I call.

Turn is an 8, giving me the second nuts to quads.  I check again, and he checks behind.

Here's where the action falls: River is an A and I lead for $45 - hoping to salvage some action out of the top boat.  I do get action - perhaps more than I wanted (side note: careful what you wish for...) and he raises a step above min to $95.

As I see them, the options are: Raise all in (probably around $300 to start the hand), call the $50 raise, or fold.

Thoughts?  Why?



Click to see results



Can I ever fold here with top boat?  (Stupid question; I can fold as I choose; if I want to fold quads here, I can fold quads...)  Realistically, can I fold top boat?  For $50?  What beats me?  2 hands: AK, 88.  It may be wrong to discount a fold here, but I just can't seem to find the fold button.

The argument for re-raising: Is a tightish player raising 8's full?  Probably not.  Is a tightish player raising King's full?  Perhaps.  Is a tightish player flatting AK from early position and raising the river?  Very strong possibility.  Is a tightish player raising quad 8's?  Absolutely.  So what value am I getting by re-raising?  I probably fold out 8's full.  I'm almost never folding out the King's full.  So I'm probably not accomplishing anything by re-raising here; only chops and better hands are calling / re-re-raising.

The argument for calling:  Much of the arguments above should be recycled here; I'm concerned about AK, 88 and that's it.  Is my opponent raising as a bluff or a hand he believes has value given the way the hand played out?  Sometimes he shows up with AA, QQ, etc.  But I think a tightish player is very rarely raising the river - the traditionally most expensive and costly street.

Therefore, given the above, I opt to call and am shown AKo. Oh well... I still scratch my head as to whether I can find the fold for $50...

One quick edit / addition: If you find yourself in this situation with the tables reversed; i.e. you're sitting on the AK, raise *MUCH* larger than a min raise. You may want to consider shoving in this spot since it is rare that people can fold a full house. I think overall, you get a ton of value from worse hands by raising much larger.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

"Thin value" and a What Would You Do?

It's been a few months since I've had multiple posts in the same month...  I guess that's a sign of the times for me: I'm past the honeymoon phase with poker, settling into a marriage that while rocky at times, has given me a competitive outlet where money is the major scoreboard.  On the point of competition though, there hasn't been a ton of challenge because over the years, I've refined my pre- and post- session process to the point where I'll evaluate significant hands and categorize them into a few categories: coolers, poor [and good] play from which I learn, standard play and out-of-the-box thinking hands.  Moreover, I'm getting in around one session per week - approximately 7 hours of play which, because it's live, means that I'm only getting around 210 hands in...  not a very big sample size for anomalous hand histories.

The coolers and learning hands (good or bad) are good experience and discussion, but they're generally filed away mentally and don't make it to this blog.  The standard play hands generally never even makes it to a discussion topic.  However, the out-of-the-box thinking hands come few and far between these days, and are more extensive discussion topics.  Upon discussion, they usually result in differing opinions and more extensive conversation.  I had 2 hands last Sunday afternoon that were out-of-the-box, anomalous hands, both of which I'll share with you:

Hand 1, "Thin Value", 1/3 at the 'Shoe with $150 effective stacks:

I put quotes around the "thin value," because I'm not entirely sure it's thin.  I do recognize, though, that many people would just call in the following spot, which is wrong for many reasons, which I'll discuss below.

I limp A7o in late position against a host of limpers.  I am at a fairly passive table, with one really good player.  It's a mid-day, weekend game, so the table is mixed with older men and younger men - most of whom are watching the Seahawks / Vikings playoff game.  I don't ordinarily limp bad Aces, and if I do, I raise it PF, especially with position.  However, in this case, I felt the table to be really passive, always letting me know when I'm behind with strong "protection" bets, both pre- and post- flop.  Therefore, I'm not all that worried about going to showdown and being outkicked, etc.

We wind up with 5 players seeing an A 5 9 rainbow flop.  There are 2 obvious gutter draws: 5-9 and A-5, but no one looks interested in this flop.  It is checked to me and at this point, I have the optiont o close out the action in my late position (BTN folded PF).  My read is this flop did not connect with anyone.  Something I've been doing lately is checking my Aces in order to let my opponent(s) catch up.  I'm all too often betting in this spot and taking down just the limps - which is nice, but do I really want the minimum win here?  I feel comfortable with my checks on many dry board Aces, which yields a lot heftier pot by the river - the other players simply don't believe you have an Ace.  You frequently see this with a call down of the turn card (or river card) to an overcard board...  players (maybe even I'm one of them) are frequently willing to put money into the pot after only investing 1BB just to avoid the feeling of "folding a winner," or curiosity calling...  Please note, though, that I recognize I am checking to 4 other players rather than thinning the field - not a hugely great idea, but I have $3 at risk here against turning a bigger profit.

As a corollary, I started re-thinking the goals here: yes, checking a pair of Aces is somewhat dangerous; players can turn 2 pair, sets, etc.  You have to be comfortable with folding top pair in order to check the flop...  but is the goal to take down limps when you have the winning hand?  Or is the goal to get others to pay for what they believe to hold the winning hand when in reality the winning hand is yours?  I think it's the latter rather than the former.

Therefore, I check the flop and the turn reveals an off suit 4, completing a rainbow board.  Once again, it checks to me, and I lead for $10.  The SB folds and the BB, an ABC, straightforward player, decides to check / raise to $21.  It folds back around to me and I start thinking...  Odd play...  Basically a min raise.  An ABC player with flopped 2 pair or set is probably leading the turn after it had checked through the flop.  Is a turned straight (2 3) check /raising here and killing the action?  I run through the hands in my head and decide that semi bluffs are unlikely for this ABC player (i.e. 3 4), but vulnerable turned 2 pairs are very possible: 4 5, A 5, A 4, funky 9 5 or 9 4...  though I discount the Ace combos.  There's always the possibility of a set: 44, 55, even 99 (since he was in the BB) which is very bad for me, but I just can't fold a min raise.  For $11 and position, I opt to call the check/raise.  It should be noted that if he bombs the river, I have to fold - I have to fold all bets greater than ~$20 assuming my hand doesn't improve.

River is a big, beautiful 7.  Our villain leads for $35, clearly confident in his hand.  I'm 95% certain he has 2 pair by the river (and in all likelihood, by the turn).  With my rivered 2 pair, there are a TON of hands that I beat, against one hand that I don't.  But here's the point of the commentary: I think far too many people are just snap calling here, relieved that they spiked 2 pair on the river with a potential showdown worthy hand.  Instead of snap calling, stop & think about what you're doing!  Is a raise in order?  If you're ahead of almost all of his range in this spot, can you get value from a raise?  How much can you raise and get away with?  He has 2 pair, so he's likely calling reasonable raises, since he's an ABC player.  I decide to raise $55 on top, which seemed to be the perfect amount - a min raise and he'll snap call without a thought.  I need to make him more than snap call, though - I want him to think but call regardless.  He tanked for what seemed like forever, before finally making the call and mucking 45o.

Adding to the point of the commentary, I call the turn knowing that in all likelihood I'm behind.  If I catch up by the river, I need to show a profit for that turn call in order to make it a profitable one.  I had 8 outs (2 Aces, 3 7's and 3 9's), roughly 16%.  I need to make at least $60 in implied odds to show a profit on my 8 outter...

Note: My math is a bit dicey here, so perhaps someone mathier than I can help me out / verify, but: $11 * 5.375 = $59  (100%-16% = 86; 86 / 16 = 5.375 to 1)  From wikipedia: To convert any percentage or fraction to the equivalent odds, we subtract the numerator from the denominator and then divide this difference by the numerator. For example, to convert 25%, or 1/4, we subtract 1 from 4 to get 3 (or 25 from 100 to get 75) and then divide 3 by 1 (or 75 by 25), giving us 3, or 3:1.

I think I followed the instructions, though during the live hand, I figured I needed to show at least a 7x profit (between 9x and 4x the bet since a 5 outter = 10%, or 9:1 and 10 outter = 20%, or 4:1).

Hand 2, Zeebo Theorem, 1/3 at the 'Shoe, $430 deep effective:

Again, the theme of the day is think. Don't make impulsive decisions... just think about what you're doing and piece together the hand.  I'm dealt 64o in the BB and just call with around 5 players.  Flop comes 7 4 9d rainbow with 5-6 players.

I check and it checks through the flop.  Turn is a 6d, putting a 2 flush out there and giving me bottom 2 pair.  Having no idea of the range of anyone's hands, and one card to go, there's straight and flush draw possibilities so I lead for $10.  It folds around to the best player at the table, a thinking, late-20's Asian guy who drops out $25 for a $15 raise.  I could see him doing this with a flush draw, combo straight draw (98, 45, as well as 2 pair 97, 96, 76, and straights T8, 85) but again, this is such a light raise I opt to call and see a river (I see him raising larger with sets... or even leading the flop with a set since there were ~5 to the flop, so I discount sets).

River is a 4d, putting the 3 flush out.  I check my low boat, intending to check / raise the river.  He puts out $60 and I think about the hand.  If he has a flush, I can get paid here nicely.  He could also have a straight turned flush which will pay out.  I check/raise to $200 straight and he insta-shoves $400 which sends me into the tank.  This was not per plan.  He should not be raising all in.  He is not the type of player who raises non-nut hands, and he is good enough to know that a straight (and even a flush) are far from the nuts now...

Here's what's dancing through my head - and I start to talk through it aloud.  I can't fold for $200 more - I'm confident he has a boat, and I have the nut low boat.  I tell him that top set is good - does he have top set?  I see genuine cringing on his face as if this was a terrible question to ask - he did not expect me to ask about boats and better boats.  I finally talk myself into calling after receiving that reaction and he flips 64s for the chop...  Wow - close call!  He later told me he was freaked out by my question: he thought he read me wrong that I had a mid-set or a boat as well (which was true) and he made a huge mistake...  he otherwise had me on a flush or straight which had me beat.

I'm still on the fence as to whether this is a good call or not - I was so close to folding my rivered boat...

Monday, January 4, 2016

Trip report: bestbet / Jacksonville, FL


Merry Christmas / Happy Hanukkah / Happy Kwanzaa / Happy New Year!

I hope I did not alienate any of my readers [if there are any remaining].  For the remainder of 2015 and on through the weekend of 2016, the Meister family, as has been tradition, vacationed on a cruise with another family.  This year, we left out of Port Canaveral, Florida, in the northern part of the state.  The weather was wonderfully warm - 80 degrees consistently.  There was no rain to speak of, the ocean was calm, and the food was great.  I was able to catch up on my sleep and spend quality time with my family.  I also had the opportunity to visit a local poker room, as we stayed overnight in Jacksonville prior to our cruise departure.

It turns out that bestbet Jacksonville was less than 15 minutes from our hotel, and after getting the kids situated in bed, my wife agreed to me "checking out" the local poker scene.  Off I went - around 9 pm on Christmas Friday after verifying that it was open, which it was indeed.  It was evident the place was a poker room first; there were no slots nor other obvious table gaming and non-poker play, though I was told they do indeed offer a variety of table games: Two-card poker, Three-card poker, Ultimate Texas Hold Em, Casino War, and Pai Gow.  However, the non-poker gaming was not direct and in-your-face, it was more subtle and off to the side.  I was able to walk right in from the huge parking lot and get my bearings immediately; poker room in the big area immediately to my left.

I checked in at the front desk and found open seating for the $2/2 game (yes, the big blind is equal to the small blind) - $200 max buy in.  After taking my seat, the floor took my money and brought me chips, and I settled down to what would be a shortish 3 hour session.  The table and the room was more of an older crowd, around 55 years of age was the norm - and they seemed to all know each other.  The dealers were mostly experienced, quick and friendly.  No posting is necessary, UTG straddles are the only straddles allowed.  Rake was kinda steep if I recall correctly - 10% up to $5, but rake taken on no flops, $1 at $5 pot, $2 at $10 pots and so forth [I'm not 100% sure of the rake structure, but it did strike me as expensive].  Chopping was allowed and in this case, made particular sense since the players involved would avoid the almost immediate rake.  The seats were decent, the tables were 10 person tables, and though they did not have cup holders built in, the tables were large enough that one could spread out fairly comfortably.

Finally, the play was fairly poor.  I saw a lot of limping premium hands, and in some cases (twice in my 3 hours, if that's any indication), overcalling with premium hands.  For example, I raised QQ and got flatted by KK, and raised 88 and got flatted by KK (on the BTN).  This was play I was not used to, but I saw numerous players not getting good value (and in some instances, any value) for their hands.  Flopped trips with a rainbow board had a pot of maybe $40 total by showdown (due to lack of competent betting).  These players were willing to call of stacks but never bet stacks.

Overall, I had a really good session, and would love to come back to play more.  The Jacksonville poker scene was consistent with my observations of the other places I've played in Florida (i.e. Tampa, St. Petersburg, etc.); weak, loose play with players backing into the best hand (by runner runner or otherwise) and being surprised at showdown to be the winner.  I give bestbet Jacksonville two thumbs up!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Something I hold onto - Maryland Live! terrible runs

I generally never forget bad memories or confrontations.  I can forgive, but never forget.  I tend to dwell on these things - keep constant reminders, which keeps the fire going inside of me for self-contained rage.

Typically, when I sit down to the poker table, I bring out my iPhone, open up my built-in Notes app, and register the date and time along with how many chips I purchased.  This way, I can have a tally of what I started with and then when the night ends, the time and count of what I ended with.  I also keep any notes from the session in there.  I've been holding a particular note since January of this year and wanted to get it out on the virtual ink for all to see and feel sorry for.  Well, maybe you don't need to read it, and definitely don't feel sorry - it is indeed a multitude of bat beat stories by the same guy, but perhaps writing them out will help me get over what is now going on a year's past memory.

So I'm sitting at 1/2 Live! all the way back in January.  I'm continually abused by the deck there, and I'm finally starting to get cards during my session.  A guy sitting across from me - mid 50's - has been somewhat aggro, opening a bunch of pots, looking pretty smarmy.  As he's been doing, he opens to $7.  One caller and it folds to me.  I'm sitting with $225 and look down at AA. I act / move to fold my hand and then "pretend realize" that dude opened for $7.  I pull back my cards and "think" for awhile.  I carve out some chips and put out $40 - yes, from $7 to $40 3bet.  The act that I was trying to perform was looking at him, seeing who is doing the raising, then trying to bluff 3bet him off his supposed better hand...  He takes the bait and calls the $40 out of position.  Flop comes a perfect JJ8cc and he leads for $30.  Happily, I raise to $100 and he shoves.  I snap call and am shown JTo.  H even has the nerve to say to me "What did you think I had!??!?!??!"  Seriously?  I. hate. this. guy.

Probably 15 hands later, he raises to $9, and Iopt to just call with 9h7h from the BTN - 4 others do as well.  Flop comes A 9 7r and a mid position player open shoves for $52.  He snap calls the $52 and action is to me.  I reshove for $121 more and he again snaps that off.  I'm shown AK vs. A8 vs my 2 pair.  Do I need to tell you that K on the turn seals the deal for me?  Of course!  Like clockwork!  I. now. hate. this. place. and. hate. him.

I keep these two hand histories in my notes as a reminder of three things:
1.  I am not owed anything from poker.  Just because I get my money in (or in the first case, my implied money) as a strong favorite (I also think of Josie's session last week with Tony where she 3bet to $80 with AA and Tony called with 45s whose play angers me by proxy) doesn't mean that I'm the winner.  In fact, if that statement were the case, the fish would not play the game anymore.
2.  Remember the good times and the times when my hands held.  Statistically, those hands occur far more often, but they're far more difficult to remember.  Let those bad beat hands simmer within me and drive me to continue to never be on the opposite end; i.e. be the shark and not the fish.
3.  Don't feel bad when I am on the opposite end; when I'm the one doing performing the suck out.  Sometimes, I'm going to get my money in bad.  When I do, I typically feel dirty about it - as if it's acceptable for everyone else, but not for me.  Get over that feeling - one simply cannot play perfect poker and always get the money in ahead.  So long as it's the exception and not the rule, keep playing.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Odds & ends - nothing much to write about

In no order of importance, only items that I'm remembering:

  • Had my biggest session ever last night - a session on the shorter side, but very profitable!
  • Went through a streak of 9 winning sessions in a row (longest streak ever) from around my trip to Vegas through mid-August.
  • Lost 1 or 2 sessions after that streak, and then had a streak of 7 winning sessions.
  • It's pretty cool that seemingly no matter what happens with poker, there's always regression to the mean:
    • 62% of my sessions are winning sessions - 2 plus 2 reports ~60% of sessions should be winners.
    • My hourly rate at 1/2 is ~$19/hr, my hourly rate at 1/3 is ~$33/hr - 2 plus 2 reports ~10x BB / hr is handily beating the game.
    • The hourly rates for 1/2 include a terrible run at Maryland Live! where I average a measly $1.49 / hr.
  • I've put in more hours this year than any other year, with less sessions than the prior years' maximums.  In other words, I'm averaging more hours per session.  If I keep to the pace I'm on right now, I should end the year with the most sessions eve
  • It's pretty cool (or pathetic depending on which side of the coin you're on) that we play and win at a game that requires no formal degree nor education, no resume nor any job interview, yet we can make more per hour than a skilled laborer or degree'd career job.
    • It's a nice fallback plan that if the economy goes to the dumper, there's always gambling and poker!
  • I've been thinking about moving back into the 2/5 games, yet the 1/3 games are so juicy it's tough to justify an additional $200 on the table.
  • I met a few regs that I've seen around the room since I've been playing at the 'Shoe, yet never sat down at the same table with them.  Nice folks!
  • I think I got labeled a 1/3 donk because I called 3 streets + checked a river against an aggro 2/5 player who: PF raised $25 (called with 99), bet $35 on a Ts 7s 2 board (I called), bet $75 on a 5 turn (call) and checked the J river - I was shown AQo.  I was checking for value the whole way and debated betting the river, figuring she could potentially call A high as a bluff catcher against my missed spade draw, but in the end, couldn't find the fortitude to bet it (it would have been for naught since she claimed she would have folded any bet there).
Finally, 3 hand histories for thought:
  •  This one is from last night and deals with a mega aggro (maniac) at 1/3:

    He's at my table for around 14 hands and has straddled at every chance.  He's on my left, so that's nice so far as straddles are concerned, but he's totally unpredictable, and within the 8 hands, he's shown QQ and KK as well as a ton of bluffs and non-value hands.  Outside of me, he's running the table over with his $300 buy in because he's forcing folds out of discomfort from the rest of them - his stack is up to around $360.  I don't remember the details, but I took a pot off him by raising one of his straddles and cbetting which nets him back down to $320 to start the hand (I have him easily covered as this is my all time winningest session).

    He's straddling the BTN for $8 and I'm in the hijack with KQo.  Not normally a hand I'd limp a straddle (that's a raise IMO, particularly from late position like that), but I suspect he'll raise on queue with 3 other limpers and perceived dead money.  Well, this Yogi may be smarter than the average bear since he checks through the option - perhaps thinking one of the limpers is laying in wait to limp / raise him.

    Well, all that said, we see a flop of K 8 2 - rainbow.  All check to the aggro who leads for $20 into the $40 pot.  He gets 2 calls and action is to me - $100 in the middle now.  I'm debating thinning the herd:
    1.  I don't know what kinds of hands the callers have, so I'm not going to be happy with any turn card - particularly a non-King board pairing.
    2.  I think Mr. Aggro will take my move as an indicator that I'm trying to "make a move on him."  He's somewhat scared of me - if nothing else he respects me, and wouldn't expect me to check / raise such a dry board.  After all, "what am I scared of?"
    3.  I don't want to raise too much here; I want action because I'm likely way ahead here - Mr. Aggro and the rest of the field are drawing to 25% hands most likely, since there aren't any draws and very few backdoors (mainly T9s).  I want value out of at least one person so Mr. Aggro is my target.

    $100 is too much to check / raise, from a limped pot - as I think it's too dissuasive for seeing another card if I'm looking for my 2 pair / 3 of a kind outs...  Min raise ($40) is a snap call from all parties, so that's too little.  Therefore, I decide on between $60-70 - I check / raise to $65.  Mr. Aggro snaps it off and lets me know that he "hopes I have better than just 1 pair, because I'm gonna need it!"  Turn is an off suit 4 completing the rainbow.

    I debate going for a check / raise once again, but just go with the most direct route: I lead for $100 and he folds, showing 2 5 and lecturing me that the 4 missed him by a 'pip and how lucky I was...  Critical thought to the hand: Should I be trying for a c/r again, or should I have bet less?  More?  Thought at the time was he can call a c/r to $65 and the pot now has close to $200 - half pot on the turn should be a snap call, no?  Guess not...
  • A few nights ago, again 1/3:

    I'm dealt 88h as my first hand, facing a $15 raise from an early position raiser.  No data on the guy except he's in his late 30's / early 40's.  I call along with one full time player who's always at the 'Shoe.

    Flop comes As 4h 5h - EP cbets $20.  It seems like such a weak cbet - to the tune of nuts or air.  $20 into $45?  Weak sauce.  I call to take one off and take it away on the turn, and the reg to my left folds.

    Turn is an 8s.  EP now checks to me.  It's annoying to hit a nut card on the turn and now "value bet" instead of bluff take it away as planned.  $85 in the pot and I know he's not calling any bet unless he turned a flush draw / flopped a flush draw.  Unless he's extremely tricky (unlikely for 1/3), he's signaled the classic "give up" on the turn by checking the A high board.  How do you get value out of a board that you planned to bluff but now want value?  I felt compelled to bet here, but I don't know if I did the right thing; perhaps checking nets a small value bet on the river - but I bet $40 and he snap folded.
  • Last night, 1/3 - pressing up against my session maximums (winningest session ever):

    Not entirely happy with this hand, though I don't know if I'm going to take a lesson learned.  I'm effectively running the table over by combinations of value and bluffs.  $11 cbets on limped pots (non- Ace high, in position) seem to continually take it down.  These dogs won't hunt without top pair minimum.  Good for me.  Limp more often, bet more often.

    I'm dealt 66 from mid position with a 50's woman (weak / tight) who limped to my right.  I raise to $16 and get a 2-3 callers.  Moves around to a short stack who shoves for $43.  Lady to my right thinks for a while and just calls.

    Action to me:

    Lady has flat called twice now and betting is re-opened.  I want to capture dead money and get heads up with the all in.  I think the lady is always raising QQ+, most of the time JJ+.  I can mostly exclude that from her range.  The part I'm not thinking about is that she's super frustrated with taking a beating the whole night.  I want her to fold, so I put $100 on top for $143 to go which folds out everyone except for the woman (and the all-in).  She thinks for a very long time before sighing and finally shoves her remaining $170 total.  I snap call and am shown 88 (lady) vs. J9.  88 holds to scoop a nice sized pot.  I gave her too much credit that she could fold her hand - she had showed a prior fold for $20 on the turn with a flopped trip Aces, deuce kicker against another player (with $50 in front of her), she had continually folded out of fear of kicker problems, etc.

    Again, don't know if there's a lesson learned here.  Flatting $3, then $43?  Perhaps I need to expand her range even though her range was exactly what I suspected it would be...?
Alright - too long of a post after not posting for about a month...  Hope you enjoy :-)

Monday, September 14, 2015

A hand history from last week - Leaving room for a 4bet

Here's an interesting hand that came up the other day at the $1/3 game at the 'Shoe:  I'm in mid position with TT facing a raise to $10 from a short stack who has around $45 total to start the hand.  I look over and he seems antsy to leave so I figure him for opening pretty wide (new trend at B'more seems to be dump chips when you're ready to leave).  Anyway, I opt to 3bet to a modest amount fully figuring my anxious friend to 4bet shove on me.  The trick here, I figure, is to 3bet large enough to get dead money to call the 3bet but keep it light enough where I can 5bet or reopen.  I raise the open to $25 and there are no less that 4 callers.  As planned, my friend 4bets all in for $45 to go.  Action to me with $125 of dead money and I consider:  I pop it to $125 and [still] pick up one caller!!! I couldn't believe that this guy flatted 5 bets....

Anyway, flop comes 236cc and I lead for $125 - he shoves over for around $73 more which I snap off and he tells me I'm good but he can't lay down his hand...  I'm not so sure about whether I'm good at this point; he probably puts me on qq+...  Tc on the turn and I figure that could go either way and the blank on the river - he shows 99 and I scoop an $800+ pot.

Keys to the hand are:
  • Consider opening bet sizing.  Are you leaving room in your 3bet to reopen the pot? Will your opener shove?  Can you pick up dead money before it gets back to your opener?
  • What is the impact of showing the TT hand on the table?  Keep in mind that the more observant players at the table have you marked as overvaluing your hands.  They're not going to trust your 3bets for the remainder of the session, and perhaps beyond.
  • What is your goal for this situation?  My goal was to get encourage callers on my 3bet and then sweep up the dead money with my expected 5 bet.  If I didn't get the 4bet shove from my anxious victim, I need to re-evaluate the hand ranges of 3bet callers for a "modest" raise of $25...  their ranges are far more narrow than limping, but they're still somewhat wide open to suited connectors and Ax suited hands as well as pocket pairs.
After the hand, one of the observant players I talk about above told me he laid down JJ to my 5bet.  Interesting and noted, sir!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Poker Tells Part 4 - Staring after the bet

I started a series of posts about Poker Tells back in May, and they kind of trailed off.   Although my time constraints haven't loosened, I have a few parts of the series in the queue and wanted to get some out.  Here's part 4 - the stare.

This is a great one!  I love this tell because it's so obviously a strong means weak tell.  In fact, I remember a few years ago I was able to run a play on the sole read that this player was staring me down - I had a mid pocket pair and there was an Ace high board with 2 undercards.  I cbet the flop and he called.  By the turn, if I recall correctly, I checked and he bet big but stared hard at me.  I raised him all in and he eventually called his 2 overcards only to miss the river.  I think I wrote about it, but can't seem to find the post.  EDIT: The post can be found here - "I Terrorized My Table Last Night.Regardless, the above illustrates a common tell that you'll see every couple of sessions: the stare, or the angry stare.

I have seen this tell a lot and it is fairly reliable.  Your opponent will make a point to stare you down as an intimidation tactic after he's made a large bet.  This is the opposite of a hunter / hunted scenario above.  He makes a show and does not hide the fact that he is "mad at you" for defying him and not bending to his will of the bet.  He wants you to fold.  Careful with this tell, though, because some players will just stare after making a bet regardless.  Be sure to baseline his behaviors after all bets to see if there's a change.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Mixed signals from a fish... a nice tell to pick up on...

What I came up with after googling "poker tells."  An interesting picture, but nothing to do with the post
I was playing last week with one of my favorite fish, an older gentleman (and I use "gentleman" loosely; he's a curmudgeonly mean fella).  We were sitting at the 1/3 game over at the 'ole 'Shoe - I had long since folded out of the hand, but was paying particular attention since I had raised $15 (AK in EP) and the BTN had called alongside my fish in the SB or BB (one other player between me and the BTN was in the hand as well I think, but that's inconsequential).  The flop was 4 x x - 2 clubs, and I checked because it was very likely one of the 2 or 3 players hit the flop and was going to call regardless my bet sizing.  As it turns out, the fish checked, I checked and the BTN led out for an amount which escapes me (large enough to not be profitable to float), but the fish came along.  I think the turn was a 6c completing the flush 3flush.  The fish checked once again and the BTN continued to bet; the fish called very quickly...

There's a tell right there - the fast call.  One can interpret the fast call one of two ways, but either way, it means he's non-nuts here -- very likely a drawing hand.  Think about it this way: if he had a nutted or formerly nutted hand, wouldn't he take a bit longer time to make a decision?  If he had the flush, he'd surely stop & thinking about check raising, concerned about a 4flush killing the action or counterfeiting his hand.  If he had a set, he'd surely think about how to charge for the draw to the 4 flush and consider the possibility of his opponent having a flush.  Either way, my fish fast calls because he's anxious to see the river.

The river was a blank non-club leaving 4 6 xxx, 3 flush on the board and my favorite fish bet big, as he usually does (one huge hole in his game is he overvalues the hell our of his hands, but that's just the tip of the iceberg of problems with this particular fish).  After he bet, the BTN went into the tank and the fish took his cards readying them for the muck.

As close as I could come to a graphic of the "fold hold"
There's the other tell - the hold the cards ready for the muck / threatening to fold / daring the opponent to make the call.  This call coincides with strength, or perceived strength in my fish's case - and combined with the turn fast call tell, I read that this player has what he views is a strong hand, but it is a non-nut, likely non-flush hand.  Therefore, I read him for a set or two pair.

The fish's opponent eventually calls and, low and behold, as you may have guessed because I somewhat "led the witness" from the hand telling above, our fish shows 4 6 for the turned 2 pair.  Putting it together in reverse, he fast calls the turn, wanting to see the river as quickly as possible with his "drawing hand."  He's looking for the miracle 4 outter on the river, but somehow decides on the river that his hand is strong enough to go with...  By the reaction of his opponent tanking, he becomes very confident in his hand, going into "threatening to fold" mode.

Moral of the story is two-fold:

  1. Always pay attention after you fold your hands.  You're not there to play on your cell phone or watch TV (note my last post about the tale of two regs).  You're there to get better and make money while doing so.  You should have fun, but remember why you're there!
  2. Put tells together and put them into motion in your play.  When you see someone else doing something obvious, not only make sure that you don't repeat their mistake, but also make sure to take note and take advantage of their tell.  For example, I actually was doing the fold hold for a long time until I realized it's a clear tell and forced myself out of that bad habit.  Now I notice when others do it - it's certainly improved my game.
FWIW, the fold hold tell was pointed out to me in Zach Elwood's book, Reading Poker Tells.  I've mentioned his book before in prior posts.  If you haven't read it yet, do yourself a favor and take a look.  It's well worth it!

Side note: I was talking with the dealer very quietly during the hand; we were whispering back & forth speculating on the fish's hand.  The dealer was absolutely convinced that the fish had the A high flush, while I was saying that he has a hand that he thinks is strong, but it is definitely non-flushing.  We both saw the same exact tells, but the dealer took the tells for extreme strength - fast call on the turn, fold hold, etc., while I saw it as a mix of the two.  Make sure that you put the tells together correctly rather than in isolation - and also make sure you read the tells for what they are... i.e. fast calls usually mean drawing hands, fold holds usually mean extreme strength.  And since I've always wanted to say this, but it's finally apropos to the discussion, "I've upped my game, so up yours!"  But seriously, I hope you take something away from this post - learn something about your opponent's game, but more importantly, learn something about your game.

Final note:  Mr. Elwood has a whole series of poker tells online.  Take a look at his examination of the immediate call:


If you haven't already, do yourself a favor and watch his whole series.  It will take about an hour but your game will be enriched to a greater degree.

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Tale of Two Regs

Do you fancy yourself a pro?
As I alluded to in last week's post, I was tracking an apparent reg at the table - a Russian chick - while playing a session at the Belagio.  Word on the street (at least from the dealers' perspective) is that she sits there, doesn't say a word, and grinds away.  She's not unpleasant to work with - but I wouldn't describe her as pleasant, either.  The whole time I was there, she was checking her phone, disinterested in anything ongoing at the table.  In fact, when she was checked out of a hand, she was literally checked out - head down, looking at her phone.

In contrast, earlier in the session was a bald younger to middle aged gentleman (thick accent; maybe somewhere former Soviet bloc I'd imagine as well) who was [as it turned out later] waiting on a 5/10 seat to open.  It's not often that I see the 5/10 players showing up at the 1/3 games, but it was an interesting experience.  This guy was totally in tune with the game.  Although he was hyper aggressive and unpleasant [as an opponent] to have in the game, he gave me an opportunity to learn a few tricks.  He made me more alert of my game and what I was doing, and also made me more carefully examine each move that I was making.  He made me and the entire table realize that the money means a whole lot less to him than it does to the rest of the table, and as such, everyone walked on egg shells around him...  The table wasn't sure what his range was (it was very wide as he would open most pots and limp / call almost everything else).  He would frequently float and call cbets, and make large pot-sized cbets himself if he was opening the pot first (most of the time, he'd take down the pot, but if not, he'd barrel again on the turn).  He would carefully and deliberately make decisions rather than snap call or snap fold.  In other words, he was prepared to fight for every pot, no matter size nor action.

All of this glowing review of the 5/10 player is not meant to glorify him; he certainly had his flaws - spots where I would easily fold without a second thought (old guy shoves over with full stacks on a Q Q x board and he called with Q2 to be shown KQ and suckout for the chop), or 3betting me all in for $40 with A4 after I opened for $15 with A7o from the BTN immediately after the Q2 loss.  However, the takeaway for me is selective, hard aggression.  Barrelling twice is significant.  As I alluded to in my last post, floating flops is significant.  When opponents check the turn after taking initiative on the flop, it's usually a sign that they're giving up / pot controlling.  Stealing from the BTN makes sense.

All of the disdain I hold for the Russian chick is absolutely meant to chastise her.  If you fancy yourself a pro, stop screwing around on the phone.  Stop being distracted.  Stop being unfriendly at the table.  Use the tools you have to your advantage.  You're missing out on valuable information by not paying attention: how people play, their tendencies, why they play, what they're saying.  Identifying what motivates your opponent goes a long way to beating your opponent.  Does he play to win money?  Is she uncomfortable with the amount of money on the table?  Does he want the social aspect of the game?

Look, you consider yourself a pro.  If you work at a professional job, do you drink on the job?  Then why are you drinking at the table?  If you work at a professional job, do you play on your cell phone in between answering emails of phone calls?  Then why are you playing on your phone at the table?  If you work at a professional job, do you neglect your customers?  Then why are you ignoring your customers at the table?

Just some thoughts I wanted to put down...

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Getting more comfortable with bluffs and picking spots - a Vegas recap

A critical part of your game should be adjusting to the type of game you're playing.  If you're playing in a tight game, play loose.  If you're playing in a loose game, play tight.  That's the adage at least - and I'm sticking to it!  As with the prior posts, I'm experimenting with expanding my game in the correct situations, and was able to pull off a few more bluffs this week.  Skip to the end if you don't care about the blah blah blah Vegas vacation recap.

The games in Vegas are an interesting breed - unlike that of the DC area.  Here in DC, people tend to not give up very easily, floating cbets and looking for spots to re-bluff.  Perhaps it's simply a factor of Vegas bringing in a more international flavor with a varied range of wealth types, versus the super competitive dog-eat-dog area that is known as the nation's capital, but the Vegas games seem extremely passive.

I got a decent amount of seat time in, all at odd hours (12am - 4am, 2pm - 7pm, 12am - 2am, etc.) but all told, I got to play 18+ hours throughout my Friday to Tuesday trip (while not playing a single hour neither Friday nor Tuesday).  My wife & I stayed compliments of Caesars Corporation at the Linq hotel & casino  (formerly the Imperial Palace).  The hotel room was decent enough - it was on the scale of a Hampton Inn or similar.   Everything was fresh & new, and the bed was comfortable.  We stayed in a room overlooking the Harrah's pool (which, BTW, is shared with the Linq for the under 21 crowd to use; the Linq has a 21 and older pool only).

Nice butt from the Linq

Decent looking chick at the Linq

Unfortunately, the Linq doesn't have a poker room, so I was forced to go elsewhere for my play.  Across the street from the Linq is the flagship casino, Caesar's Palace, where I got in 3 sessions of 1/2 poker.  Not only was it the most convenient - a mere 5 minute walk, but also I could receive Total Rewards credits for my play, as I attempt to achieve Diamond status (I should be there within 3 months).  The 3 sessions I played there were laughable - the tables were very loose passive, arguably the most desirable type of game: raise and they fold, or they call and fold the flop cbet, or they call and fold the turn / river overcard.  Easy peasy, even though the game selection wasn't that great; it was 1/2 poker but only had 4-5 games going on a given night.  Some interesting things I saw were a guy open shoving a 3 flush river on a double paired board (T T 7 5 5 I think), and his opponent folding face up with Q T, not realizing that he rivered the boat as well.  I saw another guy call down Ten high for no other apparent reason (and actually won the pot).  One other notable was where I freerolled a flush on a 4straight board (I shoved on a turned 2 heart board and my opponent called for the chop only to river the 3rd heart for the flush for me).  I'm sure there were a host of other egregious errors, but I can't remember any at this time.

I played a session during the day at the Wynn while my wife was buying at the ASD wholesale show with her parents.  This setting was a bit more of a challenge than Caesar's - there were some Vegas grinders - 3, in fact.  I was able to take advantage of one of the regs, which is detailed below in the hand history section.  It was during this session that I was able to play with the [in]famous Tony Big Charles.  He and I mixed it up for one footnote of a hand: I limped J9o and he limped AJo (questionable to limp MP with that hand, but what do I know...) and we gutted a turned straight (8 T K -- Q) to get it all in for $80 (I led $25 into the 2 flush board and he raised to $50 or something; I shoved and he called for his remaining dollars).  I don't think I'm ever folding the second nuts for $55 more...  Anyway, despite my play with Tony, I walked away a winner.

EDIT: According to Tony's post, this was a "big pot."  I don't know what his thought was, but he was certainly questioning me on the hand afterwards, wondering what hand I put him on that he would raise the turn - ummm...  sets, 2 pair, AK, any host of hands, but I digress.  A note on Tony for future reference: he does not like to slow play, seemingly ever (the hand above happened fairly early on) - even when it's a blank, draw-free board.  He'll only raise a very small range, and bet the shit out of it when he knows he's ahead.  An example is flopping top set with KK - he pots the flop where he should have checked to let others catch an Ace or a backdoor draw.  Instead, he pots $45 on a board where rarely anyone can have a solid hand.  Tony, if you're reading the post, please take the comments as advice, not as criticism.  Learn from it if you choose to.  Also, it was fun playing with Tony - I don't think I've ever played against him at a table though I've met him 3 times now.

Just Johnny 'n me!
After the Wynn, my in-laws took my wife and I to Bazaar Meat in the SLS casino.  Great eats - just like Jaleo, but classier and more expensive.  The two restaurants share similar dishes, but the Bazaar Meat is centered around steak and different cuts of meat like Wagyu beef and whole suckling pig.  The vegetables dishes are excellent (brussel sprouts, croquettes, asparagus, peppers, mashed 'taters, etc.), the 2 1/2 lb. ribeye was cooked perfectly, and the desserts were out of this world!  We got a bit of a special treatment, since my brother in-law's brother-in law is the head chef over at the Bethesda Jaleo.  For me, though, the coolest part about the whole visit was the fact that we ate at the table behind Johnny Chan (yes, that Johnny F*CKING Chan!!!) and Minh Ly.  Ho hum... rubbing elbows with celebrities and pros are what I do everyday...  I bothered Mr. Orient Express for a picture, and he obliged, as you can see.  It was kinda cool - and I guess I shouldn't be awe-struck, but he's on the phone with someone, ordering something and he's like "yes...  my name is John Chan..."  Who the hell is he talking to?  Shouldn't he be like "yes, it's me - you should know who this voice is!  I'm the man!"  Regardless, Mr. Chan is indeed the man, and he was very gracious to allow a pic with me!  Mr. Ly is pretty cool himself - he seemed like a fun guy as well.


The back of Doyle Brunson's head, wearing a red shirt and tan baseball cap
Scott Seiver in blue, seated
Final session of note was played at the Belagio 1/3 tables where Doyle and the gang were playing 1/2 mix...  oh - I mean 1 THOUSAND / 2 THOUSAND mix.  There was probably $1m + on the table.  I wasn't able to get a good pic of anything, but Scott Seiver was there, as was Jon "Pearljammer" Turner (I think it was him), Patrik Antonius, and a few other players I didn't recognize.  Anyway, my table at the Belagio had an international flair, as described below.  I found the general feel of Belagio to be similar to that of the Wynn, but the room was far more accommodating to grinders.  First, they serve Fiji water, which I think is more expensive than the standard fare.  All alcohol is free, and they'll bring you whatever you want.  The servers and dealers are super professional.  The only other items worth mentioning are that new players must post and new players can post behind the small blind, in between the small blind and the BTN.  That rule is totally weird, FYI - you wind up effectively with 3 blinds: BB, SB and the new player blind.  IMO, stupid rule, but again, what do I know...

Final item before we go into hand histories: it seems universal to Vegas that the they have a modified Mississippi straddle where only the UTG & BTN may straddle.  If the BTN straddles, there are a few rules: first to act is always the UTG, if the pot goes unraised prior to action to the natural BTN position, action jumps to the SB, then the BB, and finally the BTN.  If the pot is raised prior to the natural BTN, the BTN acts and then SB, BB.  Strange rules, but once again, what do I know...

The Hand Histories

Wynn 1/3:

Aggro has a newly doubled stack of $160 raises to $15 and I call with QJo along with 2 others.

Flop comes K K 6 dd.  Checks to aggro who leads for $20.  One caller in between and I raise to (I think - no notes) $50.  Instamucks all around and I scoop.

Belagio 1/3:

I'm sitting at a truly international table; 3 Italians (the Italian to my right is a poker coach and professional Stars grinder on Stars Italy), a girl from China, a Brazilian, a guy from Denmark and a Russian who I'm pretty sure fancies herself a pro (I'm going to write a post devoted solely to this chick later in the week / next week).

I call AQo out of the BB to a $15 raise from the Russian who's been playing fairly tight / aggressive.  Notably, she's frustrated because lately, every time she opens, she's getting 3bet and shut out of pots.  This time, we see a 3 way flop (I think the Danish guy calls): 3 5 6 rainbow.

Russian cbets $25 into the $45 pot and I just call to see what materializes on the turn.  Turn is a 4 completing the rainbow.  I lead for $45, repping 77 and after a long time, she opts to flat.

River is an 8.  I pause for a bit, thinking about bet sizing and put out $125  (I wanted to say - "if you're calling $45 on the turn with a bit of hesitation, I put you on a solid overpair and want you to call, but I don't want to make it an easy call for you.  Therefore I put out a roughly 3/4 pot bet.", while I'm thinking, "I've seen you fold hands, and I know you can fold this hand.  I'll make it easier for you by betting more than a stack of red.")  This stops her dead in her tracks - she tanks for about 5 minutes before finally opting to fold.

Belagio 1/3:

Same table as above, $6 raise from UTG+1, called in 5 spots ($30 in the pot) and I'm in the BB with KQo.  I look, think, and 3bet to $38.  Folds all around and I scoop a decent pot.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Again... trying new things at the table

I've been posting some oddities / things I'm doing off-norm to experiment with live play and see where it takes me.  Last week, I posted a hand where I decided to flop / squeeze a wet board with blanks, into what seemed like a weak cbet, scared of flopped trips...  It backfired in my face :-).  However, I did get a cool comment out of it: I have "balls of steel."  Nice!

Anyway, your hero joins the fracas this week with a hand from last night:
Straddled to $8 from UTG, who is a Iranian guy - crazy, hot headed who just loves to get loud and grouse about anything and everything.  He also is in love with the raise; he's got a wide range from all positions and is not afraid to "ship it" with weak holdings.  So far, he's made correct reads and worked his stack up from $300 to $500.  I'm on the BTN and I overlimp 3 players to my right with QJhh when it gets to UTG who pops it to $25 on top.  Folds around to the player immediately to my right (weakish player, plays hands face up, etc. - generally non-thinking) who thinks for a bit then calls the $25.

Action to me and I pump it up to $100, having had the plan all along.  Thought is that I can see a flop cheap for $8 with suited connectors / premiums if it checks through or I can squeeze the UTG if / when his bet comes as somewhat expected.  There's a ton of dead money (around $35 plus the UTG $25 + the guy on my right's $25) and UTG is rarely ever showing up with a hand.

Thoughts?  Thoughts on bet sizing?  What about the overall execution?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Vegas, baby!

I'm headed out to Vegas on Friday morning...  plans are for a 5 day trip.  I'm looking to perhaps mix it up with a few tournaments since I'll have the time to put in.  Here are the "major" guaranteed tourneys going on while I'm there:
  • Venetian 8/1 12pm $300 $15k guaranteed - 12k chips, 30 minute levels
  • Wynn 8/1 12pm $225 $25k guaranteed - 10k chips, 40 minute levels
  • Venetian 8/4 12pm $150 $10k guaranteed - 12k chips, 30 minute levels
So, having never played a wide field tournament, how long do these events last?  If it starts at 12, will I be playing into the dinner hour?   Are they one-day events?  Would any of the above be considered "good value?"  Do the weekly guaranteed at these places carry an overlay (which would be nice)? 

Likely, I'll play the Wynn 8/1 and the Venetian 8/4 from the look of it.  The rest of the days and time that I have will be filled with 1/3 cash games.  Best I can tell, the places for cash games are the Venetian, Belagio, ARIA and Wynn - and based on Rob's latest details with Orel Hershiser, I'll probably go with the ARIA primarily.

Thoughts?

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