Monday, March 30, 2015

Saturday Night Live! A session recap from Baltimore Horeshoe

The Poker Meister family had a nice overnight retreat in the Baltimore area with a group of other families from Friday to Saturday night, so what better way to end family night with a poker session at the Horseshoe.  My family took 2 cars up, knowing that afterwards, my wife would put the kids to bed & I'd try to make a little extra scratch...  Turns out that from where we were, I was about 25 minutes from downtown, the location of the 'Shoe.  I arrived uneventfully, found a parking spot fairly quickly, and was seated immediately.

My initial observation was that the table was tight - I considered asking for a table change, but figured I'd give it a few orbits.  Turns out that there was an ABC player, a grinder or two, two tourists who were scared of their own shadows, and an extra / actor who played a part in season 5 of The Wire, one of my all-time favorite shows (who was not a very good player).  I was up & down most of the night, mostly up about $100 off my initial $300 buy in (1/3 blinds) and only getting involved with hands when I nutted up.

There were 2 hands of note, both involving said actor above:

Multi-way limp, scared player to my left raised to $12 into about 5 players and we all called (I'm holding JTo), seeing a 7 way flop of AdKdQd - mostly BINGO!  This is a way-ahead, way-behind situation (I don't hold a diamond).  I'm not going to wait for scared player to check through the flop, so I take the lead myself by betting $50 into the $72 - the actor dude calls quickly.  Turn is a 5c and he checks to me.  I push out a red stack of $100 which is quickly called as well.  River is the 3s and it's checked to me.  Do I bet here?  Am I missing value by checking through?  On one hand, this guy calls wide - and is generally a strange player.  He stacked off on one of his first hands, has been making questionable plays and seems frequently lost.  On the other hand, he's the type that can check / call down a weak flush, not sure of where he is.  What kinds of hands can call here?  I figure sets (which I doubt he has given the flop texture - A, K, Q.  Two pair hands: Ax, primarily, but I have my doubts whether he'd make it this far without a raise or some other aggressive action (i.e. lead turn, etc.).  After thinking it over, I opted to check through and am shown AxTd by the actor - a straight flush, second nut flush draw.

Second hand involves a button straddle to $10 ('Shoe has Mississippi straddle rules).  Actor to my right calls for $10 after the blinds fold and I look down to see AA.  I raise to $40 and get called by a somewhat competent player with a $400 stack.  I'm sitting on $500 and the actor has around $200.  The actor calls as well and we see a 3 way flop of 2 3 4 rainbow.

There's $130 in the pot and actor checks to me.  Now here's an incident where I acted on impulse rather than really think about the situation...  I have the best overpair, and this board is really scary to me.  I started to carve out $100 and then changed it to $120 prior to pushing it out - in retrospect, what am I fearing here?  There aren't too many cards that can call a PF $40 bet and have me challenged - I'm concerned about 22,33,44 and 55,66 for the straight draws.  I don't want Ax getting there on a turn 5, but that's somewhat remote.  I think I need to check this flop, or better yet, bet around $70-80.  I think bombing $120 just kills the hand for all hands that don't have me crushed, plus I'm basically committing stacks with what would likely turn out to be me drawing to 2 Aces and 4 5's.  My thinking at the time was they may have overpairs with such a low flop, and may think that they're good here.  Combine that with the fishy actor to my right, and my bet was overly optimistic.  Either way, decent player folded AK and actor folded in kind.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The power of the look... Always look to your left!

Since the onset of this blog, I've gravitated away from being solely an online player to being a bit of both online & live.  I love the fact that the players live are so much worse than the players online, and the money live is so much larger than the money online, but live has so many more dimensions added to the game - mainly the live reads, hence the title of the post.

I will tell you this: Over the past week or two, I signed on to a new poker site (affiliate link to the right) and it's like the old days of Stars & Tilt.  I'm regularly logging on and playing 6+ tables of all stakes, from .05/.1 to .5/1 (.001 x BTC).  I have Holdem Manager installed and it's great!  I'm getting readjusted to all my old stats - 3bet, PFR, VPIP, FTSTL (Fold to Steal), etc.!  Over the weekend, I put in around 7k hands - a crazy amount since Seals with Clubs started losing players.  Hopefully, this new site will hold out & I'll be able to keep playing there.  It feels good to crush although I realize the rate that I'm crushing is unsustainable (north of 50BB/100).

Anyway, to the title of the post - always look left - I found myself at a somewhat difficult table to start last Friday's session.  In seat 1 was a player I'd played against before (competent player, good reader, very aggressive), seat 4 had an aggressive player (reg), and, since I was in seat 8, seats 9 & 10 to my left were also regs.  This was a 1/2 game at MDL.

My day started with AK within 2 hands and I raised to $12 as first in.  I got 2 callers to comply and saw a flop of A x x (rainbow).  Cbetting small seemed to be the likely route here, as I want all A x hands coming along for the ride - I lead out for $20-25 and get a fold out of the 1 seat, but seat 4 check / raises to $80.  Now I'm at a decision for my initial buy in stack...  and I opt to shove - dry board and he's check / raising?  He insta-mucks and I pick up a healthy pot.

A quick brief of one of the more important items to reads in live poker: always look to your left.  What does that mean?  When it's your turn to act, or even prior to your turn, always look to the guy to your left and see what he's going to do if he's giving any tells.  If he has chips in his hand, or he's reaching for chips, that could be a tell that he's going to raise.  If he has the "fold hold" on his cards, he's very likely to be folding.  I extend that look left to later streets - to see what the action will be after me.

The hand starts with a multi-way limped pot with an A 7 8 board - I have 8x (can't remember the other card - likely 7 or 9, as this hand was somewhat non-memorable) in late position $7 flop bet and I call along with aggro seat 1.  FWIW, this flop lead seemed weak at the time, and I call with a backdoor and mid pair.  Normally, I'm not happy about calling into an Ace high board, but the price I'm getting to hang around is decent enough...

An A on the turn checks through to me, and I'll happily take a free card here, but as I'm looking to the next street, I see seat 1 instantly grab chips for an automatic river bet.  His decision was squarely predicated on my check through.  As expected, the river comes (not a clue what it was, but maybe it was a 2 or something) and he leads $19 - fold from the original bettor and I snap it off.  He doesn't even wait for me to show but mucks his cards.  For added insurance, I asked the dealer to muck his cards so I didn't have to show.

Easy call in a vacuum?  Probably not - this may be a fold without thought.  But since this is live poker, and we're not dealing with just online reads, we can gather a whole lot more information about current and future streets - look left!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Saturday night at Baltimore's Horseshoe

I went to Baltimore Horseshoe last Saturday to try to sweep up some loose dollars from the players busting out of the WSOP ring events they were holding.  I got there around 10:30 pm and found the place absolutely jammed.  Side note: On my way up, I was debating between Maryland Live! and the 'Shoe, but ultimately opted for the 'Shoe because of the all day tournaments that had been ongoing.  The waitlists were similar, but I figured that many people would be playing all day poker and be wanting a little retribution / blow off steam at the cash tables from their early bust outs on the multi-flight 3 day tournament.  Moreover, I like the 1/3 games over the 1/2 games - it's the same players but for 50% more money on the table.

My buddy Josh was kind enough to put my name on the list (he was playing both the morning, and due to an early bust out, the afternoon flights), as the brush desk was not accepting call ins.  When I got there, I tried to add my cell to my name on the list, but my name was no where to be found.  I'm not sure what happened, and never was able to find out, but apparently my name had never been added.  Finding the floorman that Josh originally asked to add me, he was having a tough time navigating the waitlist system, and just moved my name to the top of the list - BOOM!  I instantly got a seat after talking with him - sitting at around 11:00 in the tournament conference room.

Another side note: I was not aware, but even though they only have 25 permanent tables set up in the regular poker room, the conference room has an additional 125 table capacity.  The room can be used not only for tournament play but cash games as well.  The list was around 100 deep, and the management opened up a bunch of cash tables in the room.  Although we were stuck without comps (no machine reader) and without hand shuffle (no electricity in the floor for the temporary folding poker tables), we were at least in action.

I was seated at a brand new 1/3 table which never really seemed to stay at capacity.  We started with 6-7 players, getting to 10, but wavering around 8 players at any given time.  It was an interesting crowd: 1 very serious player who I did not want to mess with, a drunk, a decently hot girl with a banging body (complete with low cut tshirt and great boobs - it's nice to be young!), and a maniac who was raising every hand to $6 when it limped to him, potting every street and taking it down by the turn.  Everyone's suspicious eye was on the maniac, FWIW.

I had gotten into a hand with maniac early on, when I uncharacteristically open limped A9o, called a $6 raise PF with a host of callers, saw an A high flop, calling a $25 flop bet but folding to a $75 turn bet (what is it they say about insanity - expecting different results while doing the same thing over & over?).  I can't tell you why I called the flop bet or the PF raise in the first place if I wasn't prepared to call off the turn and expected river shove, but I did it.  Stupid me.  I learn from my mistake.

Finally, the hand in question: I have KQo in late position with no limpers.  I raise to $12 as first in.  SB calls and so does Mr. Maniac in the BB.  Flop comes 2c 7c Q.  I have the Kc, FYI.  I bet $25 into $36 pot and the SB folds.  Mr. Maniac check / raises to $75 and I think for a bit - shove, fold or just call.  He's been crazy, but hasn't check / raised yet, although we've been playing ~30 minutes.  He can easily be c/ring the club draw, but I think he has a far wider range that he could do this.  I don't want to let him off the hook by shoving only to have him fold.  Moreover, I think no matter the next card, given the time I've taken to make my decision, he's auto-shoving.  I'm prepared to call off stacks (which is about $130 or so behind), and if a club turns, unless he had me at the get-go (AcQ which I would have thought he would PF 3bet), I have to be good  and I have the backdoor club draw.

The turn comes 9c (puke) and he, as expected, shoves his remaining $130 or so.  I think for a bit, sickened by the club, but begrudgingly call.  He nods his head that I'm good, but for finer measure, a club drops the river and hit my K high flush to his Q8hh.  I've never seen a guy make an exit for the door so fast as this guy...

I started thinking about how he played, and whether it would be profitable in a more selective way.  He raises to $6 which gets everyone & their mothers calling.  The pot is decently large by the flop with these little $6 raises, and potting every street can make some decent money given scared money from the other players.  I think the problem with that strategy is twofold, though: once you showdown a weak hand / bluff, you're never getting credit again, and once you slow down because you think your opponent isn't going away, your opponent should bet you off the hand and you've now opened yourself up for constantly being bluffed off hands.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A live hand history including a live read - what would you do?

I was having a decent session at Maryland Live last Friday - I was up approximately $200 from various incremental wins; no hands of particular note - make the nuts, get paid kinds of hands.  The table had 3 huge fish at my right, a current or retired (not sure) police officer who will be at the center of this post, and 2 other very splashy players.  The police officer and I have been amicable - he's a tourist and is looking to have a good time, as evident from his play.  He's talkative, sharing stories, and the whole table is involved with the ongoing conversations.

The police office (PO henceforth) had built up a sizable stack by continually raising / betting - purely aggressive.  I also had  lost a decent chunk to him in an earlier hand - perhaps $100 or so - on a set over set situation where he limp / called a raise blind (he wound up with JJ vs. my 99), while I overall broke even on the hand when the original opener shoved his AA on the Q J 9 flop.  PO had built his stack up to $400 but was probably in for about $200 of that stack.  Emboldened by his success of bullying the table, he started raising all in on many rivers, making massively oversized bets which were rarely called.  On occasion, he'd take to calling PF raises dark, only looking at his cards when the betting on the flop & turn became significant.  I was watching this unfold until I finally found a hand from UTG+1:

I'm dealt KK with a $400 stack at a 1/2 game from UTG+1, facing an UTG limper.  I opt to raise to $15.  It folds around to PO in the SB, who instantly 3bets to $45.  It should be noted that I hadn't seen him 3bet any prior hands - if nothing else, this was out of character.  UTG folded the action to me, where I began carefully considering my options: I could raise to $75-100, but am I prepared to fold to a 5bet shove for $400?  If I'm playing a 100BB stack, this is simplified - I feel comfortable getting 100BB in PF with KK; if I'm dominated by AA, so be it, but it's a lot less costly than 2 buy ins, and a lot less of a mistake (moreso a cooler than anything else).  200BB becomes less of a cooler and more of a bad play IMO.  My other consideration is if I 4bet to $75-100, he's most likely folding his worse hands and raising AA, QQ.  Perhaps I'm giving him too much credit; he may also be 3betting / raising AK, QQ, JJ and flatting all of his pocket pairs.  But the main thought I had is I don't want him folding his bluffs and I want him to continue with the hand with all weaker cards.  He's been aggro and winning a disproportionate amount of pots due to aggression - I don't want to shut him down before he can get more money in the middle.  Therefore, I opt to flat call his raise to $45.  After calling, he tells me he checks in the dark (WTF???).  The only conclusion I can draw by his check in the dark is that in his simple mind, he's repping AA and doesn't care what the flop is?  I digress.

Anyway, as scripted (why do KK's always get an A on the flop!??!?!), the flop comes A T 8 - 2 clubs.  Outside of that stupid Ace, not a bad flop for a 3bet PF with KK - no Q, J.  If I was crushed before the hand with AA, now it doesn't even matter, but I'm not too happy about the board - I'm trying for pot control.  I decide to check through the flop.

Here's where the hand deviates from the standard:  Going into the turn, PO tells me he hasn't looked at his cards - that he 3bet the PF dark. The turn is dealt - a non-club 2 I think.  He picks up his cards to look at them, and then leads out for $60 into the $90 pot.  I think for a moment, then call given his check in the dark, his talkativeness, etc.  If he looked at his cards, he has to have AK, AA perhaps AQ?  If not, the chances of him holding 2 random cards where one is an Ace is not all that likely given the Ace on the flop.

The river is a beauty - a non-club Ace.  To me, this is an awesome card, because there are now only 2 Aces in the deck - making his story far less credible.  He verbalizes all in - $300 - a quick instant bet.  Now I'm caught, because logic dictates he doesn't have an Ace, but his bet is certainly trying to represent that he has the Ace.  There are two tangential arguments here: If he did look at his cards, he's saying he has quad Aces or AK.  If he didn't look at his cards, he has 2 random cards, and the likelihood of either being an Ace... or either being a flopped set is somewhat outside the realm - particularly given the 2 Aces on the board.  Moreover, this move falls in line with his prior moves; he's been shoving / over shoving a lot of rivers like this, making the other players very uncomfortable with calling those large bets - in fact, no one had called the bets to this point.  I took a while in deciding, and was probably 60/40 in favor of calling, but 60/40 for a 150BB call is not great...

I told the table that I was sorry for taking so long - then I flipped over my hand to show the table why I had such a hard time deciding on my action.  FWIW, I'm pretty sure the fish at the table looked at me like a fish, and the better players understood my predicament.  I told the table I didn't want them thinking I was showboating - but what I was really trying to get was a read on the PO.  I got it - his reaction was almost instant: he first made the real face of horror / shock but quickly turned it around to the sympathetic look of confidence, nodding his head in acknowledgement that my decision was a tough one.  It was all the additional information I needed.  Standing up, I made the call and waited - he flipped 76o for a complete bluff / busted gutshot draw and I scooped.  I think he had $5 in remaining chips which he threw to me as well, saying it was a great call on my part, patting me on the back, etc.  He made an unceremonious exit after that, and I found myself up $600+ for the day :-).  FWIW, I flipped the dealer a red bird of my own and his remaining chips.

Monday, March 2, 2015

In criticism of the straddle rule

TBC, who many of you may be familiar with, was asking about my opinions on the live straddle in the comment section from a prior post.  As I was writing my response, I realized that I've always disliked the straddle rule, but never truly laid out my thoughts as to why I dislike the rule.  Therefore, I figured I capture my thoughts in a post.

There are 2 types of straddles that I'm familiar with: the UTG straddle and the Mississippi straddle.  It serves that I should explain the differences between the two, and how, in fact, a straddle in poker terms, is defined.
  • A straddle is an optional blind bet, where the player, acting as a an additional blind (next to the small blind & big blind), places a bet double or greater than the big blind amount.  It is in effect a blind raise, but action begins with the player immediately to the left of the straddler and closes with the straddler who may check (facing limps around the board), raise, or fold (given a prior raise).
  • The standard straddle rule allows fro the straddler to place a straddle from the UTG position, forcing UTG+1 to act first.  Action will close with the UTG position - the small & big blinds can call the straddle bet or fold prior to action closing with the straddler.
  • The Mississippi straddle allows the straddler to place a straddle from any position, save for the small & big blinds.  Therefore, one could straddle from the UTG position as above, or straddle from the BTN which forces the first action on the small blind.

All things being equal, there is no inherent advantage to a straddle since all positions / players have the same equal opportunity based on the straddle rules - i.e. straddle is open to all players who opt to do it.  The inherent purpose of a straddle is to add action to the game; i.e. it forces any callers to call for >=2x BB, adding money to the pot, in turn making the pot worth more to fight over.

--- Opinion ---

Generally, I believe that the standard straddle is a waste - you're buying closing action for 2xBB (or more, which is a greater waste) for the PF round.  Thereafter, you're going to have to work from presumably terrible position as the UTG - save for the exception of if all positions fold and the blinds are the only callers.  That said, since the pots are double where they would normally be sized, I think the person employing the straddle should be raising with increased regularity (greater range) over the non-straddled hands - and in my myopic data points, the straddlers usually do.  There are a few thoughts that I have with regard to increasing the raising frequency from the straddle's position:
  • The raise should be sized much larger than a normal raise; after all the pots are double as larger, perhaps a double-sized raise is in order.  For example, in a 1/2 game with a $4 straddle, if there are 4 limpers, the pot is ~$16-20, where it would normally be $8-10 without the straddle.  Therefore, a straddler's raise should be in the range of $25-30, whereby the non-straddle's raise sizing should be in the range of $12-15.  That's a healthy difference, as most players know that set mining becomes less and less profitable the more north of 10% full stacks they go (i.e. given a full $200 stack, $25-30 is about 15% effective stacks).
  • Again, given my myopic data points, I've seen a ton of raising out of the straddle positions, and given a large enough raise, the straddler usually folds out the action and scoops a decent pot.  In other words, players at low stakes live poker tend to overestimate the value of limping a straddle pot, and tend to fold to the "unexpected" resistance / raise.  A 2BB mistake for each player adds up to a lot of money for the straddler to use to his advantage when he scoops.
  • Following on the point above, if a known straddler regularly raises, then the non-straddling players should consider limping their big hands with the expectation to limp / raise.  They could do this with bluffs as well, since the straddler is unlikely to be strong given his past history.
That said, I believe standard straddles have their time & place to wield as a tool to your advantage. For example, if you find yourself at a table full of tight / passive players, a straddle could serve to open up the game.  Players get frustrated throwing in a straddle limp only to get raised off their limped hands.  Frustration generally leads to poor play.

Personally, I tend to approach straddle hands with a sharper eye.  I tighten my range, realizing that the limping range should be smaller and be able to withstand a healthy raise.  I should have a purpose for calling with the expectation that not only the straddler may raise, but also any other position may raise.  Therefore, I tend to drop the "dominated hands" out of my range (KT, QT, etc.) for fear of the pending raise.

FWIW, only once have I tried the limp / re-raise move - it did indeed work - but it definitely got my heart rate up (I had KQ if I recall correctly, and I'm not sure whether it wound up with me shoving a blank flop as a bluff).  It's definitely outside of my comfort zone, but I would try it again when an opportunity presents itself, i.e. a habitual straddler always raising on the closing action.

Another point about straddles, it doubles the stakes of the table. Essentially, it makes the BB 2x or more. Therefore, if there's a straddle, each player must "limp" the new BB size (or raise in increments of the new BB size) - reducing full stacks (originally 100 BB) to 50 BB. Realizing that fact, you're not playing nearly as deep as you were prior to the straddle - and it makes the table a lot more costly to play. I believe a professional's advantage lies the deeper the stacks are - the straddle shifts the advantage more in favor of the worse players. Look, it comes down to this: I sit down at a 1/2 or 1/3 table and want to play those stakes. If it's going up to a 1 / 3 / 6 table, then I may as well switch over to 2/5.

Most of the above applies to the standard straddle, but can be applied to the Mississippi straddle.  However, it should be pointed out that for the Mississippi straddle, the clear advantage is straddling the BTN and other late positions.  As a smart player, you need to do the same to even the advantage out.  In other words, a BTN straddle takes away the PF advantage of blinds acting last, forcing them to put dead money in the pot and act immediately to complete the dead money or fold with terrible position from that point forward.  If you're losing your BB ability to act last, then you need to gain that ability back by straddling the BTN yourself.

FWIW, when the Mississippi straddle is allowed where I'm playing, unless others are opting for it, I generally try to avoid the topic altogether.  I feel like if I start doing it (something I'd like to do - straddle the BTN & CO), then I'm encouraging others to do it.  All of a sudden, the price of poker just went up and I'm playing a 1 / 3 / 6 or 1 / 2 / 4 game with 50BB stacks when I should just play 2/5.  I don't think I've ever standard straddled - I don't think I've ever played in a game that tight where I feel it warranted - and if I were in that kind of game, I'd get up & change tables!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Meh-interesting hand and Baltimore Horseshoe recap

Image grabbed from Caesar's website:
As the Poker Barrister, Pete P. Peters, talked about on his blog, he & I met up for the first time [ever] to play a little poker.  It turns out that he lives less than 5 miles from me, but it's only taken about 4 years and ~40 miles from our respective houses to meet up and introduce ourselves in person.  Pete (PPP henceforth) convinced me to put the additional ~10 miles in to go up to Baltimore to play instead of stopping at Maryland Live! - a decision which I was very happy about in retrospect.

I arrived at the 'shoe on Friday at 10pm - ahead of PPP who was finishing up his supper at a fancy restaurant (because he's, you know, a very fancy man).  I put my and PPP's names down on the list (it was around 5 deep but the poker room was packed) and got my lay of the land.  The place is very bright in comparison to MDL - lots of bright decor, tons of overhead lighting, and overall glitzy.  I was surprised at how big the place is - right next to the M&T Stadium (where the NFL Ravens play) and down the street from Camden Yards (where the MLB Orioles play).  Parking was a snap - I parked on the 3rd floor in the parking garage and walked literally right into the casino.  With the additional 10 miles of driving, it was probably exactly equal in time spent door to door as compared with MDL.

Anyway, the big difference at Horseshoe is the table stakes - it's a 1/3 spread instead of 1/2 - with a Mississippi straddle (which is a straddle open to all positions).  I both love & hate the Mississippi straddle - I hate when it's done to me, but love when I can impose it on others.  I've always found the standard UTG straddle to be mox nix; simply an action creation tool.  However, the button / cutoff straddle is somewhat of a game changer; acting last for each street really allows the user to impose a world of hurt to all those who call out of position.

Both PPP & I were called for open seats with 10 minutes (different tables), and before I even sat down to play my first hand, I witnessed a tattooed middle-aged "tough guy" (i.e. muscular, crew cut hair, tshirt, etc.) get it all in on the flop with K2 vs. 86 against a camouflaged country guy on a K 8 8 board only to suckout with a K on the river and scoop a $600 pot.  Wow!  Good table!  I sat down (didn't need to post) and was dealt AJo in late position.  I open raised to $15 (no limpers) and got 2 callers, an older foreign man on the BTN (had an accent but was wearing a Delaware Park sweatshirt, so a local) and the BB.  Flop came down 2 2 8 or some such uncoordinated blank board.  A cbet of $30 took it down and I was +$30 to start the night.

Within the next 15 hands, a player busted in spectacular fashion (there were 2 all ins within the 5-6 hands - again, good table!) and I texted PPP to come join me, throwing my card as a marker to lock up the newly vacated seat.  No sooner than PPP sits down, I'm dealt QTo in the SB.  I complete my option with 4 other players and the flop comes Q 7 2 (monotone).  Over the years, QT has been my bane of existence in the live poker setting, always being bested; every time I put money in with QT (either with a PF raise, or hitting top pair), I inevitably get slaughtered by the river.  However, with this hand and this table from what I've seen so far, I'm definitely betting my top pair.  Undoubtedly someone will come along with a random 6 or 2, and I want to get value.  I open for $15 and get called in 2 spots; ~$60 pot (immediately to my left middle aged guy & tough guy on my immediate right, the BTN).

Turn is 5 (putting 2 clubs on the board) and I lead for $45.  Middle aged guy to my left (who turns out to be a competent player) snap folds and tough guy raises to $100 in a very confident manner.  I stop & think for awhile...  given my prior 15(!!!!!) hands that I have on him, I've worked up an image of him in my mind that he's loose / aggressive, and doesn't seem all that intelligent.  He clearly doesn't value hands properly - TP is good enough to go all in, and more importantly he's PF raised a few of the 15 hands (an off-normal amount of times to be believable).  He's not exhibiting any classic signs of a monster tell (i.e. labored breathing) but he's put on an air of confidence.

My thoughts at this point are the following:
  • He didn't raise PF; not that I can exclude AQ / KQ / QJ / 77 / 22 / 55 but it's somewhat less likely because he didn't raise PF.  He could show up with a wonky 2 pair hand like 2 suited cards (what really had me stuck was a Q 5, but given that I had a Q, and the Q was not a club, that leaves only 1 precise combo of Q 5 possible - which is still not out of the realm of possibilities).
  • I'm probably ahead here, and if I am indeed ahead, I'm ahead by a lot - if he has a second or third pair, then I'm in a 88/12 situation, and if he shows up with a worse Q, I'm in a 94/6 situation.
  • Is there a point in raising all-in?  If I raise all-in, it'll close out all of his bluffs, and though he's likely to call with worse Q's, he could have better Q's (2 pair combos).  In other words, I feel like there's many better hands he calls with but far less is he calling with worse hands.
Given the above, I opt to just flat his raise with the plan of check / calling all rivers.

My patience is somewhat rewarded with the Tc, putting a Q 7c 2 5c Tc backdoor flush possibility, giving me far more confidence in my hand, but completing 1 original draw (89).  Executing to plan, I check and he puts out $200 which I snap (I had $17 behind from the prior first win, but kinda lost my head and forgot about it).  I wait patiently for him to show and he tells me it was just a bluff... he tells me he thought since I was new to the table he could bluff me... I still waited for him to show and he shows Ks3s for complete air.  I show my Queens up and scoop a nice ~double up for my first 20 minutes at the table.

Our showdown set the table up in arms for a bit - he had apparently been doing this type of thing all night and had been getting the better of everyone (as I had seen in the hand when I first joined the table).  They couldn't believe that he bluffed off 3 stacks, they couldn't believe that I called him down with Q's as a new player, and they were just astounded at the whole run of the hand.  I chuckled a bit inside, owing it all to the player who lost the trips to the suckout Kings full.  I feel like the old Budweiser Real Men of Genius commercials - Thanks camo guy, this one's for you!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

When they give away their hand...

As I was playing yesterday I had an interesting hand happen - well you not might find it interesting but I found interesting myself:

I had been playing for about four hours when I found myself looking down at JJ and facing a raise of $15 from a very tight player. I contemplated three betting but after thinking about it I decided to flat in position on the cut off. 2 factors are at play here: he rarely raises and therefore I'm likely to be behind his range, or I'm 50/50 with an AK / AQ. Otherwise, I'm ahead of him and don't want him folding. In other words I don't want to put a ton of money in where I don't know whether I'm at in the hand. One other player came along - a fairly loose bad player.

The flop came all under blanks; 2 5 8 rainbow. It checks to the original raiser who immediately lead for $30. This is a fairly safe board; he's leading 2/3 pot... somewhat reasonable, but if he has AA, he's probably wanting value on a board that connected with very few hands of the 2 remaining players. KK / QQ, I understand - but this feels like an automatic c-bet. Therefore, I think for a moment and decide to flat once again.

The bad player surprisingly decided to check raise all in for $76 total. This has the original player in the tank. After much contemplation tight player flat calls & here is the title of the story - he gave his hand away - no aa kk qq - he's got a marginal overpaid that he doesn't want to fold. A tight player who's confident in his hand is always shoving / snap calling / whatever but a tell like thinking for a while and just flatting - that's a good indicator of weakness. Add to his data points the fact that I just flatted his c-bet - it just wreaks of weakness.

He has $120 or so behind and I opt to shove which puts him into the tank once again. Eventually, he calls and shows TT. The check raiser mucks and I win a decent pot with JJ!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A little playtime yesterday...

I decided to degen it up yesterday by taking the day off and go play a little poker.  My wife is away until Tuesday, so I have to get the kids off to school and back again - I have about 4-5 hours in between to get some time in.  The table was surprisingly loose for a 10am table - these were mostly regs, but some of the regs were pretty woeful to say the least.  I'm not going to get into the regs and surprising play, but there were many many profitable spots including calling down 2nd and 3rd pairs a ton for crazy prices...

There were 2 hands in question that I'll share today:

2nd or 3rd hand against a brand new player, I'm dealt TT in position and raise $15 against 2 limpers.  Get called in both spots.

Flop comes QQ5 rainbow - it checks to me.  I check through thinking that only a Q is going to call in this spot, so why bet.  Turn is an 8 and new player leads for $35.  I flat and the other player folds.

River is a blank.  He insta-shoves on me (~$125 effective).  I have showdown value here - what to do, what to do?  Knowing nothing about this player, I fold.

Thoughts?  Unknown player?  Checks flop out of position, leads turn and shoves river?

A bunch of hands later, I see him betting & raising a TON of hands.  He's getting away with it on small pots, where he's raising unreasonably large on mostly blank flops, but his raises seem out of whack; it appears that he's trying to win the pots outright and buy people off hands rather than get value for anything.  He's clearly fishy, and I'm thinking I made a bad lay down there...  I think I have to lay down there though given the strength he's shown and the lack of knowledge.

I get retribution from him (and then some) when the following hand arises:
I limp QJo in the HJ position (he's to my right so I continually have position on him).  It limps to a 4 way flop:

Q 6 2 (2 diamonds).  BB leads for $8, folds around to fish and he raises to $20.  I think for a minute and raise to $40.  BB folds and fish calls.

Turn is a blank and fish checks.  I think about how to maximize value here - I bet $75 and he insta-calls.

River is another blank and he checks again.  I think I can eek out some value here - perhaps $50 or so, but my thought is that he's calling better hands and folding draws, so why bet here?  I guess I shouldn't think when I'm dealing with a fish, and only act strong.  However, I [perhaps weakly] check through and wait for him to show.  He shows K6o, and I win a sizable pot for a pair of Queens, J kicker.  There were many eye rolls and dropped jaws when he showed mid pair after calling $115!  This guy would go on to bust through his starting stack, but he's apparently well known to do this kind of bad play.  QJ is such a check / call get-to-showdown-cheaply type of hand 99% of the time, but I got nice value for it on this go-around against this kind of player...

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Friday night play time!

This is becoming a regular thing: posting after each session...  Based on the volume of posts, it shows how little I get to play these days.  However, I was able to get in a Friday night session, given the holidays & how tired my wife was after all the Thanksgiving events.  She went to bed early, I got to stay out until 3am - sounds like an equitable trade!  Anyway, what started out as a not-so-nice session turned into a decent win for the night:

I was card dead for most of the session, save for my JJ (non-clubs) in the SB.  After about 6 limpers, I bump it to $17 to go - and get called by 2 players - the only good player at the table (yuck) and a terribad player.  Flop comes all clubs: 5 6 8, and I put in $35.  The good player bumps it to $85 and I sit & think.  The pattern at this table was to limp premiums by the bad players (i.e. I saw AA v KK on a limped pot) but this player was a good player...  There isn't much he could be limp / calling with that includes all clubs other than suited connectors, but I doubt he's first in with SC's.  For some reason, I kept on thinking about him showing TT with the Tc, but in retrospect, I didn't consider all the factors above.  The other consideration that came to my mind was a set, but I felt that he would just call to see what happens on the turn - a point I shouldn't discount as heavily as I did.  Regardless, I made the call to see 5 5 for a flopped bottom set, and found myself down a buy in about 2 hours into my session.

I rebought, and slowly bled down another $100 to find myself down $300 for the session before things started to turn around:

I was able to get value twice for a turned two pair - once with A2 on a Q T 2 board.  Limped pot and I'm in the BB, I call a flop bet of $10 as does another player.  Turn is an A, I check and see the original bettor put out $15 on the turn - called by the other player.  I think about blowing up the pot and opt to check / raise on the smaller side to keep them both interested, plus given the concern about earlier limping of big hands, AQ crosses my mind.  I check / raise to $45 and original bettor snaps while the other player folds.  Turn is a blank and I bet $80 or so and he tanks before eventually calling.  He tells me he had two pair as well.

I can't remember the other turned 2 pair hand, but I started with mid pair and made 2 pair on the turn, value betting around $90 by the river and getting paid off.

I do recall one hand that I made a particularly good play: Limped pot and I'm in the BB with T9o.  Flop comes 6 9 T - 2 diamonds.  I lead for $15 into the ~$15 pot, called by the bad player to my left, folds around to the Asian dude wearing a beanie and headphones...  dude could care less about anything but taking money from everyone at the table - showed no interest in any conversation or anything else.  He pops it to $85 and I think & muck.  My thought is that he's been very very very quiet and very very very tight, he's got to show up with a set or flopped straight.  Bad player to my left just calls once again.  At this point, I leave my seat to go talk about the hand with the good player outlined above - we had been fairly chatty since I sat down, and I respected his play.  I whispered what the action was and asked what he would do in my spot...  As I returned to my seat, I told him, "I so want to see this hand go to showdown!"  Turn is a blank and it gets checked to Mr. Cool.  He bombs for $120 with $20 effective behind and bad player again calls.  Before calling though, bad player to my left says - "I'm calling since you want to see this hand to showdown."  River is a J and Mr. Cool bets - and gets snapped for his remaining stack by the guy to my left.  Mr. Cool shows 7 8 for the flopped nuts, and guy to my left shows Qd8d, a gutted straight on the river.  This drives Mr. Cool insane - what a terrible call, that I shouldn't be talking in the hand, etc. etc.  Now, he was right in the fact that I should not have said anything in the hand, but I do not believe my talking influenced any action.  Point made, sir, though.  He didn't let it drop though, so I started needling him quite a bit throughout the rest of the night - pointing out numerous times that the whole table was having a grand 'ole time while he's sitting there with his headphones and couldn't care less about pandering to his "customers."  (I actually didn't say anything like that, but certainly alluded to the fact that everyone except ONE person was having a great time at an epic table.

Anyway, over time, given enough needling, he responded to my jabs by calling me a 5 year old, a bully, and a little bitch.  Me being me, I wouldn't let those comments drop either, and the rest of the table let him hear it too.  As luck would have it, we got into a heads up conflict where I got the better of him:

8d6d in the SB on a limped pot - about 5 ways.  We see a flop of 6xQdTd.  I lead for $15 with my multi-way draw and he flats.  Turn is the Ad and I check my flush, knowing that he's going to look to extract his "revenge."  Without fail, he bets $45 and "I want him to think that I am pondering a call, but all I'm really thinkin' about is Vegas and the fuckin' Mirage."  So I call after my preponderance...  River is a blank and I check once again, full on expecting that sweet sweet revenge bet to come - and it does, without fail, but disappointingly to the amount of $45 again.  I snap raise him as quick as I can to $100 but that stops him dead in his track.  He's too good to call a c/r river, and I'd imagine he was bluffing the turn and river regardless.  So he folds with a very unhappy look on his face, and I put on my shit-eating grin.  Getting the better of a dude like this is fun!  It makes the whole session worthwhile.

By the end of the night, I found myself up $300 instead of in the hole $300, a swing of $600, or 3 buy ins.  The takeaway from the night is this: when you're at a bad table and find yourself in the hole for some money, keep your head up.  Your skill will win out over their poor play - just get the hours in and the rest will take care of itself.  Also, have a point to getting under people's skin.  I was just biding my time for when I could take advantage of the dude's hatred for me...  and I was able to successfully pull it off without forcing anything.  I guess the key is distilled down to one word: patience.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Poker Sunday!

This past Sunday, I had the rare occasion to get some hours in at the Maryland Live! tables...  I never get the chance to play because my wife has so many things scheduled for our family to do on the weekend.  However, by the course of the family business we own, I had deliveries to make on the way up to the poker room, and later in the day, had pick ups to make in the reverse order.  It didn't make sense for me to drop off & come home - and rinse & repeat - so I stayed out there.  Besides, who am I to complain about free time to play some live poker!?!?!?

Anyway, the tables were super soft - filled with guys who believe they know what they're doing, but are just acting like aggromaniacs.  I was surprised at some of the play - my general rule on 65+ male poker players is that they're going to be tight / passive.  I saw one such guy 3-bet KQo and get it in on the turn on a Q high board against a flopped 2 pair.  I saw another guy get it in two different times PF with 44 and AK...  not the kind of play I would expect...

Regardless, I think the tables are consistently easier during the weekend as opposed to the weekdays.  I didn't hit many hands, but those hands that I did hit, I hit hard:

AJo I raise $12 first in.  I get about 4 callers and we see a J high flop with 2 hearts.  I lead for $30 and get a terribad caller - he's been so transparent; i.e. calls when behind, bets when he has top pair.  I immediately put him on a draw.  Turn is a non-heart Q.  I bet $65 and he snaps it like he owns the place.  River is a non-heart blank and I opt to check here...  He has about $80 (effective) behind, and I've seen him try to bluff rivers where it doesn't make sense (he's a bet when he thinks he's ahead, check when he's drawing kinda guy).  He's always going to bet his air and his value on the river, but he's never calling his air on the river, so why not try for a check here when I'm going to be good so often?  I check and as hoped, he fires his last $80 into the pot, which I snap off.  He shows 9h2h for the busted draw.

AJo again, I raise into 3 limpers to $15.  I get calls in 3 spots, $60 to the flop.  J 2 5 rainbow; BB leads for $30, I call as does a terribad player.  Turn is a blank, BB leads for $60.  I call, same terribad player calls.  River is another blank and it's checked to me.  There's a ton of money in the pot already - $320 - and I have ~$200 (effective) behind - bet or not to bet?  I think I miss value here but I check and it checks through.  BB doesn't show and terribad player has JT.  Nicely sized pot but I perhaps missed value on the river with my TPTK.  I think too many players are gun shy betting into the river with a single pair hand, but I felt that I'm against 2 other players with a lot of money in the pot already...  It's probably 25% bet, 75% check situation with expectation to call whatever terribad player bets on the river (he's been prone to turn hands into bluffs when checked to on the river).

JsJx, I call an EP raise from a tight player - $15 - as do 3 other players.  $75 in the pot and the flop is 3s 4s 9.  It's checked to me and I lead for $45, only the original raiser calls after contemplating for a LOOONG time.  At this point, I feel like I'm way behind...  I'm 99% certain he's not on any sort of draw; he has QQ+, TT is very unlikely.  Turn is 2s and we check through. I turn a backdoor spade draw, though I'm not sure my Js is good here.  The river definitely bails me out though when the Jc shows it's beautiful face.  It's checked to me once again (BTW, we're playing about $400 deep to start the hand - he has $800+), and I think about how much value I can get out of my top set now that I know I'm ahead of his QQ+.  The check on the turn is what will definitely get him to call a sizable river bet, but I don't want him thinking I checked for deception on my turned spade draw.  The bet has to be awkward - so I settle on $90, which is sizable but not over-the-top.  $90 into $165 is doable.  He thinks for a good long while before finally making the call - he doesn't show but 15 hands later tells me he had KK.

Last hand of note, 7 hands later, 55 in middle position - fairly standard flopped set action.  I limp in and see an A 8s 5s board.  I lead for $15 and get a caller from a semi-solid player in the BB.  Turn is 2 and I lead for $45.  Call.  River is another 2 & I push out $100 (he has $130 total behind but I felt like a $130 bet was too large to call for a limped pot).  He somewhat quickly calls and is shown the bad news.

Monday, October 27, 2014

I got a chance to play!

Been a LOOOONNNNNGGGGG time since my last post!  I decided to take last Friday off & head up to Maryland Live! for a bit of the pokers.  I was pleased with the result, although it felt like an up & down session for the majority of the day.  In my last hour, I was able to pick off a bluff with an overpair for most of my profit:

Raise $15 from the BTN after 3-4 limpers with T T.  One caller and we see a pretty blank flop:

8 6 2 - 2 clubs.  I cbet $20 and the seemingly noob flats.  I had seen him bet and bet big to get people off their hands in the past (including me - K high board & I have AA, K turn and he open shoves $200 which I fold).  Turn is another 2.  I'm never putting him on a 2x here, but he leads for $60 and I think and flat.  River is a complete blank and he shoves $160 remaining.  I sit & contemplate... eventually talking myself into calling.  He shows AK & I scoop.  Whhheeeee!!!!  Easy game.

Anyway, I've been busy with school, work, family, etc.  There's been little to no time for poker in my life right now.  Oh well...  I did get a new baby:

It's a Porsche Boxster S!  I've always wanted a Boxster ever since they came out in 1997 - and finally found the one I wanted!  I had been looking for around 6 months prior to finding this one...  This car just completes my eccentric driveway of cars; I now have a:
Toyota Sienna (for the kiddies to be comfortable)
Nissan Leaf (for the commute back & forth to work)
Porsche Boxster (for the weekends)


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sometimes you gotta give 'em enough rope...

It's been a few months since my last post - I haven't had much of an update to bring you, so I've been radio silent.  I'm presently fully engaged with my new gig, working an absurd amount of hours just to keep my head above water.  The new role has been very challenging, and I’m very happy I pursued it – if nothing else, from a career perspective, I’ll come out far ahead because I’ve moved from a front line management position to a mid-level management of managers.  I’ve had to work with personnel problems and issues, hiring, interviewing and coordinating new employees, maneuvering with upper management including corporate oversight, all the while ensuring program success.  It’s been fun, without a doubt, but it leaves me with little time to play poker even though by all rites, I should have more free time available than when I’m back in DC with my family.

I’ve been typically playing on the weekends while here – putting in a Saturday or Sunday session good for about 6-8 hours, which is nice.  I’ve always had a hunch that weekend sessions would be far more profitable than weekdays / after work sessions, but never had a chance to really prove that theorem out with hard data.  Given the time I’ve had to play since being out here, I can say with some authority that yes, indeed, weekends are far more profitable than weekdays (though it’s not a true apples to apples comparison since I’m playing weekends out in Blackhawk as compared to weekdays / after work sessions in Charles Town, WV or Maryland Live! Casino.  Regardless, I digress; the crux of this post is to not regale you with tales of what is a good day to play, or how to spend your free time – I wanted to write about a hand that I played this past Tuesday night (first weekday session up at Blackhawk).  It has to deal with checking the river to induce, and the fact that I’ve noticed more bet bet bet than bet bet check – I feel as though in the right situation, a check call is warranted when you feel your opponent is on a draw rather than going for 3 straight streets of value.  See below:

I had been around for a few orbits and was showing myself as a fairly reasonable player.  The old man to my left was joking with me that I played like an old man; a “rock” was his exact wording…  Fine – believe as you may though I am rarely rocking it up by just calling in a hand; I’m usually raising / folding or betting and am the general aggressor at the table, but I’m not going to try to disprove his image of me.  So we’re set up that I’m in the SB and look down at Ac2c; an appetizing hand to limp but not generally a raising hand.  After seeing the kid to my left limp his button (my prior comment to the aforementioned old man to my left was “Chop?” before seeing the button limp) – I opted to raise as a punishment.  I chose $16 to really hammer it home that in my mind, it’s bullshit that this kid is limping his button to block our chop.  Old man folds his cards, as old men are wont to do when facing a decent raise – and kid gets sticky and calls.

As an aside, I never understood the whole limp / call a large raise idea…  Unless you feel like I’m blowing smoke up your bunghole, you have to drop that hand – particularly as it works its way around to heads up.  There’s simply no real value to your hand unless you slow played (and continue to slow play) a monster PF hand.  This kid is the type to be coming in for a raise on the BTN with AJ+ and most pairs, so he’s clearly weak – and calling $16 further solidifies my read of weakness.

Anyway, the flop comes 2s7sJs – mostly an airball to all hands not holding 2 spades.  It’s fairly unlikely he’s limp / calling 2 spades – particularly premium spades here – so I’m not all that concerned by a flopped flush, and I’m semi-concerned for a Jx hand –JT, QJ, but that’s no reason to not continuation bet – there are tons of blank spades that will call along to try to get a 4 flush board.  I’m fairly certain that my bottom pair deuces is the best hand here at this point, and I want a spade draw to pay.  I bet $20 on the flop and he quickly calls – another dead giveaway…  He can flop the flush here and just flat, but a monster non-flush hand has to raise here, in addition to his quick call almost always pointing to a draw (when a player quickly calls, that’s a common tell to a drawing hand).

$75 in the pot going into the turn 9x.  I’m pretty sure that misses his hand; at this point he’s on a definitive As, Ks – type hand, and more likely a KsTx or KsQx hand.  He can show KsJx and Ks9, but his AsJx is out of the question (he limped PF) and As9x would have likely folded to my raise.  He’s now halved his equity  at this point in the hand, and I’m very confident my deuces are good – I bet $40 into the $75 pot – again, snap call.  This solidifies my drawing assumption – most made flushes are raising the turn here given that I’ve put a bunch of money in the pot already and $40 is a “sizeable” turn bet – notwithstanding pot size.
Anyway, $155 in the pot and the river is the 5x, making a board of 2s7sJs9x5x.  At this point, I’m getting no more value by betting the hand.  I’m only getting called by better and only folding out worse hands – and I do have showdown value.  Besides, my hand has showdown value.  From my out of position SB, why not just check and see what he does?  I can opt to call or fold to a potential river bet, allowing him to hang himself (see title line) based on how I read the situation.  Moreover, my bet sizing is questionable on the river; I have to bet pretty big to keep in line with my pattern, or make a small “suck me” bet of like $20 – both feel like throwing money away regardless.  Therefore, I opt to check – and true to form, he bets $50 – a shockingly small bet for the pot size and the action I’ve given.  One additional thought is that he’s called 2 streets and now all of a sudden wants to take control?  What can he possibly be betting here for value and not checking through for safety?  I snap him off and wait for him to show: busted flush draw with KsQx.  I show my Ac2c and he’s mystified.  Bad enough I called his bluff, but I called with the lowest pair.  It was a nice pot for A2.

In retrospect, as I’m writing this post, I’ve been doing this type of move more and more often – both online and live.  I’ve found that I’m getting around a 50% success rate in this kind of check / call out of position rivers – which is awesome because it’s pure profit; these are mostly hands that are folding to a bet, but feel they have a chance to fold out the best hand on the river and therefore take a chance on the river.  Think about the above the next time you find yourself out of position, against a guy clearly on a draw, where you’re never getting any more money committed to the pot unless he’s betting it.  Obviously, use the reverse when you’re the one with no showdown value but have bet two streets – sometimes you need to force the issue rather than let the stupid pairing 3’s on the river counterfeit your Ace high hand…

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