Friday, July 21, 2017

The need for topping off your stack



As I was waiting for a 1/3 seat to open to start my regular Thursday night session, I decided to sit down at an open 2/5 in order to be included with the ongoing hot seat drawing.  I was seated at 6:05, and the drawing is held on the quarter hour.  Unfortunately, I didn’t hit the hot seat, but I bought in for the minimum ($300) and proceeded to win two nice pots during my short stay, walking away +$368.

The game at 2/5 was good.  I actually considered forgoing my 1/3 seat when it became available, but I quickly concluded that the games are far easier at the lower stakes and the money is very similar.  Less risk, similar reward makes the move a more logical choice.  A quick recap of the one hand of note which I was floored:

Straddled to $10, I find myself in the BB with 99 with my initial $300 effective.  There are a host of limps when action gets to me.  I’m definitely raising here and looking to get it in if need be.  With around $60 of dead money in the pot already, this seems like a prime opportunity for an easy pick up.  I raise to $75.  I’m surprised when 2 callers – one very loose player, and another unknown, make the call.  Flop comes 9 2 7.  Easy game.  I check and it checks through.  Turn is a 2.  I decide to try to get some money in, but want to make my bet appear weak and stab-like.  I bet $75 and they both fold.  Boo!  Perhaps if I see the river, maybe they hit top pair or any pair?  Meh.  I still stand by the play; the loose player can have a wide range here.

I get called for the 1/3 game, and pocket the winnings, sitting down to the new table with $313 to start.  It’s a mixed table with 2 regulars who recognize me, and I tread water for the first few hours.
One hand of note: Prior hand plays in, where I raised to $18 with AJo, get 3bet to $60 and fold.  Regs have definitely seen this, know I can lay down to a 3bet, and view me to be reasonably tight / aggressive.  Anyway, I’m sitting on $245 and I raise one limper to $15 with AQcc.  I think there may have been one or two calls between the more aggressive / somewhat creative reg who looks down, thinks and 3bets to $75.  Folds around to me.  I’ve already decided that this is a good squeeze spot for the reg to pick up some dead money – a move he’s capable of doing – so I shove over pretty quickly for the remainder and it folds back to him.  He folds JJ face up.  Nice pickup of a decent pot with no flop.  I start on the road to building my stack to around $620 without many confrontations.  I’m getting a lot of respect and players are folding to my cbets / raises.  I’m not hitting anything mind blowing, just playing my regular game.

Another hand of note:  I limp A5hh from the BTN after 3 other players.  Action closes and we see a beautiful flop of 2 3h 4h.  Checks to me and I bet $6 into $13.  A mid-60’s, somewhat loose middle-Eastern gentlemen calls as does another player.  Turn is a 2, pairing the board.  Checks to me and I bet $15.  Call from the middle-Eastern guy and I’m heads up.  River is an interesting 3.  It’s a smallish pot and I’m not happy with the runout.  He leads for $40.  I make an awfuckit call and he shows 95o for a missed straight draw / chop.  Go me.

Anyway, table drops down to 4 players and I debate packing it in.  A group of guys who’ve never played before sit down, as does an annoying drunk guy.  Drunk guy proceeds to turn his starting stack (no clue what it was) to ~$400 when the following happens:

3 limps and an average 1/3 player raises to $7.  Caller and drunk guy from SB calls after a speech.  I look down at QQ and decide to 3bet to $45.  Folds around to original raiser who calls, as does drunk guy.  We’re playing $328 effective, as the drunk guy is the only noteworthy player.  We see a 3 7 9 hhh flop.  Sucky, as I don’t have a Qh blocker, but certainly workable.  Drunk guy checks to me, and I want to value bet any heart draws.  I carve out $125.  Folds to the drunk guy who fumbles around for a bit and raises to $250.  I think he can have a very wide range here including top pair and redraw hands, so I don’t want to just call.  I shove over and he snaps me off with the mighty A6hh.  Drawing dead, my stack is now down to about $185.

I’ve been pondering this hand, thinking about whether I can truly put him on a flopped flush, and I’m still mixed in my analysis.  To the negative of my thoughts, drunk guy has not been particularly aggressive, he’s somewhat aware of his hand strength.  We also talked about what he was going to do when he raises me, which I think should have been a huge tell.  However, to the positive, we’re talking about a drunk guy who previously bet me $5 that a Porsche 928 was a rear-engine car – a bet I won immediately thanks to a quick Wikipedia lookup (FWIW, the 928 was Porsche’s first front engine car, and the company has since offered the 924 / 944, 968, Cayenne, Macon, Panamera).  I think I discounted his tells on account of his drunkenness.

I was able to get retribution when I top off $100 a few hands after the aforementioned hand (hence the title of the post) and open from the BB [again] to ~$22 with KK.  I get around 3-4 callers including the drunk guy.  I can’t remember the exact details, and they’re not all that important.  Flop comes T T 4dd.  Drunk guy checks to me and I cbet $65.  He’s the only caller.  Turn is a 6 or something.  I shove my remaining $186 and he hems and haws.  He starts talking about how he wants to make the call to give me back my money and that if he hadn’t won such a big pot from me in the prior hands, he’d definitely fold his hand.  He makes the call and shows QQ.  Clean river (noteworthy too, since I haven’t been doing very well over the past few months with KK) and I’m almost back to where I was prior to the QQ hand. 

In summary, quite a rollercoaster, but I eke out a decent profit at the 1/3 game to close out my session.  Had I not topped off, I would have missed out on an additional $100, and the profit for the session would have been 33 big blinds less.  In an eight hour session like the one I played, that $100 top off was worth $12.50 / hour.  These little edges make a world of difference to the hourly rate.  If you’re not topping off, you better have a good reason for not doing so (i.e. tougher competition, consistently getting your money in at high variance spots, etc.).  Otherwise, you’re missing out on additional profit that surely makes a difference to the bottom line.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Surprise! Pocket Kings fails again!

It's funny how one hand - albeit a hand with worse equity when the money goes in - holds up, but a dominating hand when the money goes in never seems to hold'em.  I feel like I'm becoming a bit of a broken record (perhaps even sounding like fellow blogger Rob and the dreaded pocket Kings) posting about crappy beats with KK but it's my blog and I can do what I want, right?

So I'm riding along nicely - a few hours into my session when the table breaks as it reaches 4 people.  I get switched over to the table I'd been eyeing all night - a table of non-regs.  I haven't been following the table closely as it's across the room, but I'm playing in Baltimore, don't recognize the players, and figure it's a tourist table.  I was correct in my assumptions.

I sit down and watch an immediate all-in and call with weakish holdings, a 3bet with KJs (noted) and a short stack shove repeatedly.  Oh yeah, straddles galore - $6, $10, $15 - all by various players.  Hmmmm...  I'm probably going to like this table...

Meanwhile, my stack gets dribbled down to roughly a starting stack, as I can't hit a hand.  I'm covering the involved parties when the following happens:

There's a $10 straddle on when UTG open ships $86 all in.  A guy in MP re-ships for $97.  I look down at KK and debate.  I know I'm facing two short stacks, so do I want to close the pot out by re-shipping the $300?  I decide on pushing rather than flatting and praying that someone else deeper just calls too.  Turns out we're 3 way and action is closed.  Flop is a glorious K 8 J.  Turn is a 3 putting a two flush and the river is a rainbow T.  I proudly flip my top set and wait until I get semi slow rollled by AQ.  GG sir.  Puke in the mouth.  Why the hell wont my Kings hold up anymore?!?!?!

Anyway, I get retribution a few hands later from the MP above.  For some reason, I don't rebuy which definitely is a factor in the hand.  I'm sitting on $215 and look down at JJ from late position -- probably hijack - after 3 limps.  I [only] get called in 5 spots and we see a flop of 5 8 T -- two clubs.  A very loose short stack open ships $125, the MP above re-pushed $300+ (which covers me) and the action is on me.  Is this go time or am I crushed?  I feel like I'm the hour or so I've been playing, the short stacker can push with any equity, but the MP would just call with a draw.  So is he closing out action against other draws?  Or does he have a set / two pair?  I eventually come to the conclusion that I'm getting too good of a price to fold and call for my remaining stack.  It folds around and I'm once again 3 way to see a turn/ river.

Well the foreshadowing above should already have indicated to you that I held; turns out I'm up against Q8hh and K4cc.  I wind up fading the K,Q,8 and clubs FTW.  A far worse equity hand for a far bigger pot.

Poker is such a strange beast...

Some final notes:

Congratulations to Memphis MOJO for his final table at the WSOP seniors event!  It's truly spectacular to see the blogger world represented proudly!

Happy Fourth of July to all of my [United States of] American readers!


I won't be posting for a few weeks (not that anyone will notice) since I won't be able to play.  I'm on a tour internationally for the next two weeks.  In fact, I'm posting this blog entry 35,000 feet up!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Just a simple complaint about overpairs...

If you don't like complaining / bad beat stories, move along.  This post is a gripe post about the umpteen times I've had a solid winner (i.e. KK, AA, QQ, JJ), gotten it all in WAY good, only to be on the losing end by the showdown.

Most recent in my memory banks:
Last week, I 3bet JJ to $45 and got no less than 3 callers.  The game was wild.  I get it.  Flop comes 9 4 2 two spades and I cbet $120.  Everyone folds except the luckbox to my right.  We have $175 effective and I auto ship the turn 8.  He snaps me off with 82o FTW.  LOL WUT?

This week, I open $25 from the SB with KK after a host of limpers.  I get a very loose call out of mid position.  Flop comes J T 2.  I cbet $65 and he jams for $150.  I snap it off and am shown QTcc for second pair, no redraw.  Turn?  Ten of course.

It seems that ever since the beginning of the year, this kind of pattern has been happening.  Get it in good -- real good -- and get sucked out on.  Rinse.  Repeat.  In the past few months, it's probably happened once every other session, which leads to a significant loss of EV.

The results finally affected my play last night.  Fortunately, I recognized the bad play, and will work to make adjustments and get value rather than shutting out value to take down the pot:

I raised to $25 with JJ in the BB and the same guy from above with the QT vs. my KK calls.  Flop comes 2 2 2.  I cbet $45 and he snap folds.  Bad cbet.  I need to size my bet more like $30-35 to get him thinking about my cbet rather than snap folding.  I maybe need to consider checking but I want to charge for an overcard.  Small mistakes cost money, and the above potentially cost me since it's against a guy who does not fold a pair.

Mental note: don't let results get in the way of maximizing value.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Decent night, interesting hands...

Last night was an interesting night; I'm not running great, but I'm definitely playing better and feel like I'm more in tune with the game.  I felt like helping my last night's results was the fact that my table had more fish than usual.  I'd say 7 out of the 10 players were fairly fishy, with a constant 1 or 2 being extremely fishy.  I ended up stacking one poor guy around 4 times... he kept donking away despite the actions / game flow.

First hand is from said guy from above.  He sits down and is aggro from the start...  I'm like - "look out; strap in and get ready!"  He starts out by raising his first 3 hands, one of which was a 3bet, taking all down without a flop.  He's opening with exploitative raise sizes, consistently ($20 opens, $30 opens, etc. and bombing all 3 streets)  I actually think I saw him go to showdown with very weak holdings - 84 or something - prior to the first hand where I get into it.

I limp QJo from UTG and as scheduled, he raises to $18.  All fold to me and I call.  Flop is Q 8 3.  He leads for $40 and I call.  Turn is a 7 or something; I check / he leads for $65.  I call again.  River is a blank and he shoves all in for $150 or close to.  I snap and he shows QTcc; I scoop and he's mystified, not understanding how my kicker played for my scoop.

Next hand, I raise ATo for $23 from the BTN into 6 limpers, including the aforementioned guy.  He calls along side a loose player who's getting extremely lucky; we'll get into that loose player in a moment.  Anyway, flop comes A J 9 and it checks to me.  I lead for $40 and get calls from both spots.  Turn is a K and it checks to me again.  I put out $75 which the fish snaps off, but the loose player folds (what he later claimed to be A5o).  River is a blank and I'm sure this fish is calling any bet, so I ship which may have been around $120 effective.  He snaps it off and I flip my pair of Aces; he auto mucks (I assume he didn't even have an Ace).

3rd hand against him, I limp / call 34cc along side 3 others against his $18 raise.  I call for a host of reasons, though mainly, he's spewing and I want to be in as many pots as I can against him.  Clearly the other cold callers feel the same way, and since I close the action with my call, I am getting a nice price to see a flop.  Flop comes all rags: 3 2 7 rainbow.  He leads for $40 and I'm 85% certain I have the best hand so I call.  Turn is a 7, completing the rainbow board, and like a clock, he ticks away to $65 on the turn.  My certainty of the best hand has now improved to 95% in my mind, but I don't want to raise him off his bluffs, so I call again.  River is a 3 improving me to bottom boat (3's full of 7's) and now I have a snap call situation if he opts to bluff his third street.  Without fail, he does - $120 or so - and I snap; he shows 95dd for a missed(?) pair draw(?).  He cannot comprehend how I call the flop and turn with a pair of 3's.  I cannot comprehend how he can't comprehend my play...

4th and final hand is a bit dirty, I have to admit.  I think I'm making a so-so call, but I'll present the evidence first:  I again raise to $25 from the BTN with ATo.  I'm facing 6 limpers - and the fish is one of 'em!  I get called in around 3 spots; we see a flop of J 9 3ss.  I hold the Ace of spades.  It checks to me and I cbet $65.  The fish is in EP and he thinks for awhile before shoving $160 effective.  It folds back to me; $325 in the pot facing a $100 call.  It's close; I have 2 backdoor draws - the straight draw + flush draw, in addition to very possibly having the best hand against this particular player.  He's spewy and dumping chips right & left - to me in particular!  He wants to get me.  After it's all said and done, it's $100 to win $325, so I make the call.  Board runs 8 7 rainbow and I'm shown J 8 for the turned 2 pair.  I flip the ATo straight and he's through the roof.  He immediately exits the table in disgust.

Long post, sorry.  However, here's the hand of the night; a "what would you do moment."  I look down at KK UTG and open to $15.  2 callers; a tight straight forward player and the aforementioned loose player (both in the blinds).  This loose player calls a wide range PF, but tightens up a bit post flop; he's not a maniac and generally knows where is in the hand after post flop play. Still, he calls wide with poor odds, but he's been rewarded quite frequently, stacking with hands like 97o against $20+ PF raises, etc.  Anyway, the flop comes 3 6 9 dd and it checks to me.  I lead for $30, the tight player calls for less ($28) and the loose player calls.  He has me covered, playing $250 effectively.  The turn is a 7 and he checks again.  I lead for $60, putting him on a flush draw, but he check/raises me to $150.  What would you do?  Shove or fold?  Thoughts? 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Double play at the MGM

I had a rare opportunity to play two sessions in a week!  Checking in with my wife, I found our schedule to be open over the weekend.  We spent Friday night together, but I decided to go play some poker after dinner on Saturday.  Each of the kids had an activity planned, and my wife was exhausted, so I figured I'd head on over to the MGM to see if I could continue my streak.

The wait list on a Saturday night was around 30-40 deep for a 1/3 table, but ultimately, I was seated within 30 minutes.  I made my way over to the table and found it to be fairly loose / passive.  The common raise seemed to be around $6, with someone getting "out of line" coming in for $10.  There weren't frequent raises, so if a raise did occur, it meant a player had a hand.  FWIW, I did not follow that trend; if I had a hand, I raised at least $15, but my larger raises did not get the table's attention.  If there were limps, those limpers were absolutely seeing a flop -- regardless the cost.  On the other hand, if I was facing a raise to $6, I generally saw a flop, regardless my holdings, hoping to cooler the AA / KK / QQ / AK / etc.

Midway through, I found myself down about 2/3 of a 100BB stack on the following hands (the third hand kept me from putting additional money on the table, fortunately):

  1. KQo, I raise to $18 after 2 limps; one of the limps, a weak / loose player calls, and the other limp folds.  This guy is in every hand, and by the river has the best of it.  He's getting lucky as hell, not playing well.  Anyway, the flop is K 2 4cc.  I cbet for $25 and he calls; he can show up very often with clubs here and I want to get value.  Best case, he has a worse K, but either way, he likes his hand.

    Turn is an off suit 8.  No reason to slow down; I lead for $55 and he calls once again.

    River is an off suit 9.  My thought is a fairly straight-forward line: if he's on clubs, he's always folding to a bet, but there's a chance of a bluff.  I don't feel like there's too many Kings that call for $18 but beat KQ, and if he slow played a set, good on him, I think I'll have to pay him off if he bets.  I just don't see a huge gain in leading for a 3rd barrel with a 1 pair hand.  Finally, I feel like his body language signaled that the 9 helped him.  I'm watching him while the community cards are dealt, and he definitely sat up straighter in his chair.  Out of concern / pot control / inducement, I check.  He stacks $50 and puts it out.  Perhaps I need to think about calling more in the future rather than just snap calling like I did, because he shows me K9 for the rivered 3 outter top two pair.  Yuck.
  2. I tread water for a bit and am dealt Ks7c in the BB.  I check my option into around 7 players.  The flop comes K Qs 7s - Kings up!  I lead for $15 and get called in two spots; another weak passive player and a new player who I read for tight.

    Turn is the Ts.  I check / call the $30 turn bet from the weak passive player, as does the new player.

    River is the 8s.  I check once again; the passive player checks to the new player who leads for $50.  I think for a bit, with my Ks backdoor flush and finally make the call.  The passive player folds AJo face up, and the new player shows As4s for the nut flush.  Another yuck.  This night is turning out not to be my night.
  3. I'm dealt 78ss on the CO.  I've been experimenting with widening my opening range from late position, so I open to $12 from the BTN with no limpers.  I get both blinds to call, the SB is a mouth breather, and the BB is the guy from the first hand above.

    We see a flop of 2h 5d 6d.  They check to me and I cbet $25.  Only the SB mouth breather calls.  No specific reads; he can have anything here - he's limped KK, etc. the whole night & when he opens, it's to around $6.  I can't really assign him a range at this point, but if I were to guess, it'd be an overpair -- 88+, but 6x is in the range as well.

    Turn comes a 9h and the SB checks to me.  See the nuts, be the nuts.  2 flush draws out there & I have an interested caller.  Continue to build that pot!  I put out $55 and without much hesitation, SB calls.  I think he's solidly on an overpair.

    The river completes backdoor hearts with the Ah and the SB checks again.  Unless he hit a backdoor heart draw with something like 6x hh, 3x hh, 4x hh looking for a gutter to fill in, I have the bona fide nuts.  I'm 99.99% confident here - how much value?  $180 in the pot, and I want him to have a thoughtful call, not too hard, but not too easy.  I settle on $125, which seems to be right in the middle.  He hems and haws for a seemingly minutes, mumbling about that terrible Ace on the river.  He asks me if I'll show if he folds, and I say absolutely not.  Only way I'm showing is if he calls.  I start to get the sense that he is moving towards a fold, so I start to talk with him.  I tell him, "the Ace 100% did not help me - I swear on my children!"  This puzzles him even further.  I consider showing him one card to reinforce confidence in his call, but I feel like I'd give too much of my hand away by exposing.  I also feel like he & the table would start re-thinking my raises if I show them a 7 or 8 that I raised with, although in retrospect, they could put me on pocket 7's or 8's.  On the other hand, what is my goal in showing a card?  To get him to call.  Does willfully showing him a 7 or 8 induce him to call me, given my aggressive action on all 3 streets with a straight out there?  He can certainly discount a rivered flush, but I feel like showing a 7 or 8 pretty clearly points to A7 / A8, 77, 88, or 78, with a healthy slant towards 78.  Therefore, I decide not show.  Unfortunately, he eventually mucks and we move on to the next hand.
I continue to balance delicately, wondering whether I'll ever pick up a hand instead of a constant stream of second bests...  Close to the end of my session, I look down at 6 6 in the SB and complete to 6 limpers; the BB checks and we see a bingo flop of Kd 6d K [finally!].  I have no doubt at least one of the 7 players in the hand (excluding me) has a King, or, at minimum, drawing dead to a diamond flush.  I want to flush both parties out; see who's betting & who's calling.  Then I can get a grasp for my target audience.  Therefore, I check my flopped boat to a mid position player who leads for $10 into the $20+ pot.  It gets called by the weak / loose player described in hand #1 above; all else fold.  Now, I read one of these guys for a K, and one for a diamond draw...  I think with 2 players in, this is a good spot to check / raise the nuts for the following reasons:
  • I'm getting additional money in with both players drawing semi dead, coupled with a high likelihood that they'll be paying me off.
  • It would be a disaster for the diamond draw to miss by the river, shutting out value, without setting up for stacks by the river.
  • With 20/20 hindsight, if the original bettor is bluffing / feeling out the table and does not have a King, he will likely shut down by the turn, fearing a King by one or both of his flop calling opponents.
  • Raising and getting more money in the pot will push my agenda.
Therefore, with action facing me, I want to put out a bet that's not too much, but not too light.  Somewhere between $30-40 should do the trick; I raise to $40 with about $40 in the pot (excluding my raise).  Unfortunately, the original raiser folds but the weak passive player thinks for a minute before making the call.  Booyah!  He's on the diamond draw... come on diamond diamond diamond.  Come on diamond diamond diamond!
I get my wish when the 8d drops on the turn.  I feign annoyance and check; the weak passive player becomes aggressive, but not over the top.  He leads for $25 into the $90 pot...  Too little for me!  Gotta keep to my agenda.  I again check raise; this time to $75.  Without hesitation, he calls.

We see the Tc on the river and I have a decision: do I go for big value on the river by leading out, or do I try to go for the ego trifecta badge (in the days gone by of online poker, the online tracking website pokertableratings.com would give players a trifecta badge for an online player check/raising 3 streets) by check raising 3 streets?  I'm so tempted to try for the live trifecta (in fact, I've only seen in once in live poker), but in the end, I can't bring myself to do it.  Seeing a nutted hand go to showdown without a river bet would be so terrible, and I can't count on my opponent to bet river after he's been check / raised every time.  Therefore, I count out what I intended to be $175, but someone ended up being $225 with about $60 behind (he has me covered) -- not quite stacks, but not too far away.  Honestly, I did not realize I made a close to pot sized bet on the river; I wanted him to be able to snap it off without much thought.  After much hemming and hawing, and verbalizing that he has a flush, he decides he cannot fold and tosses in the $225.  It was funny to watch his reaction; I could see the light bulb go off - as if he said, "of course, a full house!"

In retrospect, playing perfect poker, if I had raised to $100 on the turn, I could have gotten stacks in by the river.  Also in retrospect, though, I was worried that if I was wrong about his diamond draw and my opponent had trip Kings instead of a turned flush, he'd be very fearful of that I instead turned the flush and he would consider a fold right then & there.  Therefore, I don't know if there was any way in getting the last $60 to double up...

Final hand of note was within my last few orbits of play:
A competent player opens to [if memory serves] $17 from the SB with one limper.  I look down at QQ and 3bet to $55.  Limper folds and SB 4 bets to $120.  At this point, I flat; we're about $800 deep and I don't want to get it in, therefore I flat the $65 raise.  I think I'm set mining here but not entirely sure - but I'm like 80% behind when facing a 4bet.

Flop comes K J 4 ss and he checks to me.  He's not getting another dollar outta me unless I hit my set on the turn... and even then, I'm not sure I'm going to pay him off.  I happily check behind.  Turn is a blank and he leads for $80.  I snap fold.  I can't envision any hand he holds that doesn't have me beat after 4betting PF.  AA, AK (not so much), KK and remotely JJ.  Thoughts?  I probably should fold to the 4bet?  I spoke with him afterwards to discuss the hand...

For what it's worth, the flopped boat hand was the one hand I needed to push me into the black for the session, to end my ~6 hour session with a come-from-behind win.  One hand can be the make or break for the entire day.  Funny how that works.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Back in Black

It's been awhile since I played MGM.  When MGM opened, I played there for about 2 months straight, moving away from Baltimore Horseshoe.  I figured the benefits of moving my play are twofold: the drive is about an hour shorter, and they give $2 / hour in comps.  The downside is: I give up about $50 in free bets and the players are far weaker in Baltimore.  I wasn't interested in sitting in traffic, and so for the first time in about 2 months, I decided to try out MGM again.

My prior experiences there were the play was very gambly, leading to a higher variance game.  As a result, coming into the session, I found my graph to be a marginal loser; close to break even but still on the losing end.  Just one good session and I'll be in the black... easier said than done, of course; you can't plan winning sessions, unfortunately.

A few consistent observations I've noticed at MGM, which is not necessarily true at the 'Shoe:
  • There's usually at least one "good" player at the table
  • Play is far more aggressive
  • On the aggressive play, there seems to be an unusually high number of floats and preflop raises.
  • The players don't give up on hands as easily as other places.
  • 3bets are not necessarily respected; players will pay incorrect PF odds to see flops.
On a Thursday early evening / late afternoon, there's usually immediate seating.  Last night was no different; I parked, plugged my car into the free car charger (I have a Nissan Leaf EV), found my way into the poker room and within 30 seconds, was dealt into a hand.  It was immediately apparent that there were 2 good players and the rest were just "there" (read: passive, generally fishy players).  Early on, I realized one player opening very wide from all positions.  The first showdown, I saw him river 2 pair with 76o from an UTG $15 raise.  The second time, an orbit or two later, he shows down 89o from a mid position $15 raise.  Now I have the confirmation I need; it's a pattern (obviously 2 times is not necessarily a truth, but it's a going theory as a minimum).  Next opportunity I get, I'm going to bump his raise and take down the easy moneys :-).

I get my opportunity when he opens from UTG and gets no less than 2 callers.  I look down at KQo, a great candidate for 3betting.  I bump it to $55 and take down the $~45.  Easy game.  A bit later, one of the better players (sitting immediately to my right) who'd been raising fairly often, but not showing down, raises to $15.  I look down at AA and 3bet to $45.  Only he calls.  Flop comes 5 6 8, two spades and he checks to me.  Not wanting to slow play, I lead for $60.  He calls again.  The turn is a 5 or 6 and he checks once again.  I look down at my stack remaining: $137, with $210 in the pot.  One move: all in.  He thinks for a bit and folds.  I'm finally in the black for the session.

A few orbits later, the UTG player, one of the weaker players, opens to $7.  Mind you this is a 1/3 table, so this open is basically a non-event for a live game.  Needless, there are 7 or so players who call, including me with 75o.  We see a 7 5 8 ss flop and he leads for $25.  It folds to me and I raise to $55 (accidentally; I meant to raise to $65 but counted out 2 red chips too few).  It folds around to him and he thinks before calling.  The turn is a beautiful 7 and he leads for $90, which makes no sense to me.  I raise to $225 ($65-70 behind), wanting to make sure we get most of it in while/if he's drawing to the flush and he opts to just call.  The river is an off suit 2.  He checks and I put out the rest of my stack.  He snap calls and is mystified that I have 75o.  That's what you get for signalling a strong hand with a weak PF raise!  I'm left assuming he had KK or AA.

A few more hands transpired that I have forgotten about by now, and I end the session up nicely.  Finally in the black at MGM!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Montreal Playground Poker Club trip report: just when I think I’ve seen it all, I realize that I haven’t seen anything

My wife and I took the kids up to Montreal, Canada for an extended weekend so that my wife could see her Canadian cousins. It had been a while since we’d been up there, so I took a few days off of work and we all drove the 10 hours from our house. It was nice; we got to see all of my wife’s family, and met the newest member of our family, a 3 month old baby boy. The weather was nice for the most part, so we were able to spend time outside, walking around and checking out Montreal’s sites. My kids have never experienced poutine, so we definitely had a serving to share. We broke up the trip on the trek home, making a stopover in New Jersey to visit my cousins. My cousin’s kids are close in age to my kids, so it was a welcomed relief from the all-too-long car ride.

To cut to the poker content, throughout the 15 years my wife and I have been married, I can’t recall a single time where I’ve been able to get away and check out the Montreal poker scene. For years, I knew about the Casino de Montréal, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually played poker there – I’ve read the games are bad, the poker room is tiny, and it’s generally expensive. However, I googled Montreal poker and found a place I’ve been reading about over the past few years, the Playground Poker Club. The poker club is a strictly poker room located on the Native American [Indian] Mohawk reservation. Saturday night, I was able to get away for a few hours and check it out. It happened to be around 25 minutes driving from the place we were staying.

My initial impression of the poker room was that it was imposingly big. 78 tables big. Seemingly just a warehouse of poker tables surrounded by TVs. Getting on a table was fairly easy; I needed to first get a Playground card to get on the waitlist. After doing that, I had a short 5 minute wait to get on a table. The place maybe had 30-40 tables running at 10:00 on a Saturday night. I went and got chips; using U.S. dollars, they changed my $200 into $256 CAD. The $1/2 tables were $200 max, so I pocketed my extra $56 and put the $200 on the table when I got called.

Some observations:
  •  The room is very strict and rule-oriented; non-players are not allowed to congregate around the table; they must stay behind the rail at all times.
  • Rake is 10% up to $8 + $1 for the bad beat drop!  Ouch.
  • You don’t have to post when entering the game though you can buy the button if you’d like.
  • The chairs and table are very comfortable.  They have 9 player tables, so there’s lots of room as well.
  • All food and drinks are free.  They have an extensive menu of food selections and it appears that they have a fully stocked bar.  The food looked very good; order as much as you’d like and your only cost is the tip for the server.
  • The food and drink service seemed very quick.  There’s seemingly always a server around.
  • The Montreal players seem to like to bet their draws.
  • The play was very poor.

A real quick inconsequential hand history relating to the title of the post:

I’m sitting for maybe an hour – there’s a lady across from me who I’ve pegged as absolutely atrocious. She’s hitting hands right & left; only bets when she has top pair or better (top pair - she’s never folding regardless the action). Anyway, I’ve seen her runner a boat, straight, two pair, etc. Usually, she has no idea that she has the winner, but somehow gets there. Anyway, I’m in the BB in seat 8; she’s in the 2 seat across from me as the second to act. As she’s lifting her cards, she accidentally flashes me the Deuce of diamonds, but also accidentally flips over the Ten of clubs for the entire table to see. She looks at the dealer and asks for a replacement card, but he relents; it’s her fault for flipping the Ten. The whole conversation is taking place in French; I don’t think she speaks any English. Therefore, I’m embellishing a little bit; she may have said to the dealer, “Beautiful weather in Montreal this weekend; what are you doing on Sunday?” while he replied, “Very fine weather – I’m planning a nice Easter brunch,” but what do I know? Body language -wise, it looked like she wanted a new card and was trying to blame the dealer for her folly. Anyway, despite showing the table 50% of her hand and me the other 50%, she decides to limp her powerhouse, throwing in the $2.

So, it’s not unexpected that she limped T2o (I've seen her play 93o to a raise; she's calling nearly every hand she sees), but I don’t get continuing to play your hand when you’ve played half of it face up! This is not a hand that should be too hard to fold! WTF? Have you ever seen that before?  Unfortunately, I looked down from the BB to see T3o, so I had her dominated, but we both totally missed the flop and one of the other 4 or 5 limps took it down :-(.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Delaying a cbet

I've been trying to get away from an auto cbet regardless my hand, when I'm the preflop aggressor.  Last session, I tried experimenting with not "cbetting to take down the pot" when I have the best hand and have little to no chance of getting value on further streets without allowing my opponent to catch up a bit.  The problem, though, is that it seems that every time I try this experiment, it ends up burning me somehow...

I'm dealt AcAx in mid position and raise to $15 in my weekly visit to the Horseshoe.  I get a call from an older guy who has been very quiet up to the hand in question.

The flop comes Kx8c2c.  I feel like I have no hope, heads up, of getting any value by cbetting here.  I think there are very few hands he can have that can call a bet: Kings and club draws.  Since he's been so quiet, I think he'll often show up with a pocket pair -- 22 - TT, maybe JJ, in this spot.  Maybe he'll have a K: KJ, KQ, and maybe he'll have a club draw: KQ, KJ, QJ, QT, JT.  Since I hold the Ac, there aren't too many club draws he can have, though, given his tight image.  So, keeping to the title of the post, I check through.

Turn is Kc, and I haven't defined his hand yet.  However, he leads into me for $10.  Since I hold the Ac, and I'm a bit uncomfortable with the way the hand has played out (as this is an off-norm hand for me), I opt to call, ruling out folding and deciding against raising; I don't know where I am at this point.  Paired board, 3 clubs...

River is a blank and he now leads for $25.  I call and am shown QJcc.  My mistake is in calling here, because what am I beating except for a bluff catcher?  How often is my quiet opponent bluffing on a paired 3 club board?  $25 into a $50 pot - I need to be right 33% of the time in order to break even; I don't think I'm anywhere near right enough to pay that price, but yet I did it anyway.  Why?  I'm married to AA and feel like I'm paying a cheap price to showdown.  Correct; I am paying a "cheap" price to showdown, since I haven't fully represented my hand strength at any point.  If I'm really taking a critical view, I suppose that's why I make the river call - I've underepped my hand the whole way.  However, my opponent isn't really thinking about that; he's trying to get value from an opponent he views as trying to get to showdown cheaply.  In retrospect, I should prefer to check rainbow boards more often to allow my opponent to pick up a draw on the turn, and bet two-tone boards more often to "charge for the draw." 

Ironically, I think I lose less money on this hand played out the way above, vice the way I would "normally" play it: cbet the flop for $25, check through the turn and call a likely larger river bet since the pot is bigger by the river.  However, I probably fold the river so maybe it costs me marginally less?  I don't know; I'll continue to look for spots where I can underrep in theoretical way ahead / way behind situations.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Hitting the bad beat!

Well, maybe that's a bit of a misnomer.  I hit the table share of the bad beat last night.  It was a largely uninteresting hand, but nevertheless, it was fun since the table share was $500 each, the winner of the hand received $2100 & the winner received $5000.  Still, $500 is $500 more than I had to start the night.

The hand was largely uninteresting, but timely.  Starting in April, they're moving to a progressive jackpot type of bad beat from a flat format.  If we had hit the bad beat 2 days later, we would have received $0 for the effort because the poker room is apparently not seeding the jackpot.  Anyway, here's the hand retelling:

I look down at 9 9 after a limper to my right & raise to $12.  I get called in 4 spots and we take a 5-way flop of 8h5h2s.  Pretty good flop for pocket 9's, right?  I lead for $35 and get called in every spot except for the guy to my right who thinks for a good minute or so before raising to $85 or $90.  Hmmm....  Not so good for pocket 9's anymore.  I fold.  Guy to my left thinks for a bit and jams his $~125 remaining.  It folds back to the check raiser to calls off the remaining amount.

Both parties reveal without ado...  Not both of the hands I'd expect, but I made the correct laydown.  Guy to my right has 55 for a flopped mid set and guy to my left has 34ss (????).  He's a bit drunk, so I give him that.  I honesetly expected a set vs. 67hh or something like that, but good for him!

Turn is a 5s and he starts cheering for the backdoor flush, not realizing his opponent just hit quad 5's and he's drawing semi-dead.  He also doesn't realize that he should be cheering for a straight flush, as he now has 2 outs to win the hand.  Well, fate smiled upon him on this dreary night, because an Ace of spades arrived on the river-- Barry Greenstein'ed!  He doesn't even realize that he has a steel wheel.  In fact, it took me a moment to realize that we had a bad beat - quad 5's beaten by a straight flush!  No one at the table realized it until I started cheering that we hit the bad beat!

Unfortunately, I was only able to snap off one shot of the bad beat...  You can zoom in and see the hand, but there it is: quads vs. a steel wheel.  Nice hand, Mr. drunk guy!  This one's to you!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

What would you do... at the 'Shoe?

3 posts in a week!  Lots of material to get out!  FWIW, this will be the last post from the same session, blogged about here and here.  I wanted to map out some of my thought process, the 'goods' and the 'bads.'  The table wasn't a wild and crazy party the whole night.  It had to slowly work its way into that aura.  Early on, I was determined to start noting each hand, similar to what Rob does over at Rob Vegas Poker.  It only lasted an hour or so, but I do think I have some 'gold to mine' so to speak.

The night started out with immediate aggression: I sit down to a $6 BTN straddle (I'm in late position) and one of my favorite fish has already limped in.  FWIW, I sought out this table because I know the player very well and he's sitting on a $~600 stack.  I know him to call far too often, both out of and in position, when facing a raise.  He gets downright stubborn, and you can begin to see a mental separation between his rational self and his ego.  It's almost as if he says, "oh...  you raise?  On my limp?  Well let's see how you can handle this!  I call!"  All I'm thinking about when he does this is, "come at me bro!"  As an aside, he also has a ton of tells including defensive chip grabs (when threatened with a raise, he'll grab his chips to act like he's going to call in order to dissuade his opponent from betting) and betting tells (small bets mean draws / weakness, larger bets are more value oriented).

Therefore, against him, I always make my value raises on the larger side, and my speculative raises on the weaker side.  I know full well that I will make a huge amount of money PF with value hands where he'll check / fold, so my real chance to pump him is PF.  On a straddle pot ($6), I look down at AJo after his limp [and perhaps one other] and raise to $35 (more value-oriented; a larger percentage of the time, my hand is ahead, if not way ahead of his range).  He calls as the only caller and we see a heads up A 8 3 rainbow flop and he checks to me.

Top pair, good kicker is way ahead of him.  I don't think there's much merit to betting here, because I'll fold out all his non-Ace hands.  I think for a second or two and check behind, also hoping that he'll hit the turn, because his bluffing frequency is far too high IMO.  He somewhat disappoints on the 6s turn (setting up a 2 flush board a potential straight draw) by leading for [only] $10.  Here's where I considered calling or raising.  If he has an Ace, I'm better than most of his Aces and he's rarely folding to a raise.  If he turned a spade draw, he's absolutely calling to see a river.  If he's bluffing, he's folding and maybe not betting a river regardless, because if he bluffs, he tends to bluff one street.  He knows his $10 bluff was a weak bet into a $70+ pot.  I think my options are pretty clear, and the optimal choice is to raise since I get value from draws and fold out the rare chance his bluffs continue to bet the river.  I raise to $65.  He folds.  Optimal, but I folded out 55 as it turns out.

A few hands later I look down at AQo.  I raise to $15 after a limper; both blinds call along with the limper.  The flop comes 3 3 5dd (I don't hold a diamond).  I cbet $35 to take it down.  Love the paired low flop.  Unless someone is getting sticky with a small pocket pair, I'm always taking it down here, regardless my raise, and I don't want to dodge potentially 6 cards on the turn.  Realize that a low paired flop like that on a PF raised hand is particularly hard to hit: 34, 23, 35, 45, 56, 57, 33+.  Not too many combos to provide resistance save for a diamond draw which, since I have position, I'm not too afraid of a caller and can pot control later streets if need be.

Within the 30 minutes (now I'm playing for around an hour) I look down at 78hh, facing an $11 raise from the aforementioned fish above.  I consider a 3bet, but I'm the first in and 78hh plays very well in a multi-way pot, so I actually want more players in.  I get my wish, as 5 others make the call.  $66 to go in the pot.

The fish cbets $30 into a 7 3 2 rainbow flop.  I'm first to call with my top pair -- and as it turns out, the only player to do so.  At this point, I'm trying to define the fish's hand; he'll lead out very often here, without consideration to the players in the hand, but only looking at the relative strength of his hand.  I think he can have overcards as the PF aggressor, as well as pocket pairs in his range, including smaller pocket pairs (i.e. 55, 66, 44, etc.).  The pattern with him in these kinds of spots is to cbet most of his range, but check the turn if he thinks he's behind.

The turn brings the 8c, putting a backdoor club and straight draw on the board and giving me top two pair.  He bets $65 this time, and now I've defined his range: TT+ -- more likely JJ+.  Sticking with his aforementioned pattern, he believes he's good here almost all the time.  I can also mix in 33, 22 to his hand mix, but I don't know how likely that is because I don't think he raises small pairs in such early position.  On the other hand, he did PF raise very small for the 1/3 stakes.  I think he's nervous about the backdoor draws and the only obvious straight draw (45, A4, based on my flat on the flop).  At this point, I'm ready to play for stacks, I have a very masked hand, and we have $385 effective on the turn.  How do we play for stacks?  Raise, obviously!  I think for a bit, look at him and consider a large or small bet.  I opt to look bluffy, making a "large" raise to $175, which is meh big compared to the pot size of $256 - a $110 raise, about half pot.  He snaps it off without even thinking about it.  Oh..... he's on autopilot now - get to showdown with his overpair.

The point of interest in the hand is a little prior to the dealer flipping over the river card, he blind shoves his remaining $210 effective (he has me covered by $~200) as his river bet.  From my perspective, I think he has a made hand, doesn't care what the river is, and makes my decision oh so much easier.  I think this is a100% call regardless his river action, but the blind shove discounts a rivered set or backdoored flush (the dealer shows the Tc after his shove).  I hesitate for a second or two before making the call and he shows JJ.  I scoop with my two pair, and my night is off to a very good start.

Further hand: I limp 56o in late position with a $10 straddle as do 2 other players.  We see a 4 way flop of K Q J.  Complete whiff.  Checks through. Turn is a blank.  Check please.  River is a 9 and it checks to me.  $40 in the pot.  I try to steal it with a $22 bet, representing a Ten and it folds around to the guy on my right who snaps it off with 99.  Hand meet cookie jar; some people just won't lay down their sets :-).

After that, my notes get really wonky because the table became very gregarious.  The drinking started.  The crazy play started.  95o was suddenly a raising hand.  An $8 raise at some point later in the night with J5o would flop 5 5 J and stack some poor unwitting soul (i.e. the fish above who walked away VERY pissed off)...

At one point, deviating away from my customary hand selection, I decide to call an $15 raise on the BTN from the fish above with 53o.  It so happens that we're heads up to a flop of K T T cc.  He leads for $15 and I sense weakness so I call the bet, planning to take him off the hand at a later point.

The turn brings an offsuit 3 and he leads for $25.  Another weak bet...  he's drawing.  I start to count out a raise and he immediately goes into his defensive chip grab tell, "ready to call whatever I bet."  I choose to raise to $75 and he instantly calls.  I raise here not for value but to set up a river story no matter  the card, so that I can credibly represent trip Tens or Kx (more likely skewed toward Tx).

The river is an offsuit (redundant; yes I know it's impossible for it to be suited) K making the final board K T T 3 K.  This is a great card and a bad card.  My hand is devalued to at best a chop, but most likely his two cards are higher than my 2 pair (KKTT) / 5 kicker.

Here's the problems with the King river:
  • With my turn raise, I can't change my story and all of a sudden represent Kings full.  It's a hard sell without a little showmanship.  Remember, I value raised a blank turn card, giving me a pretty tight range consisting heavily of Tx and very very few Kx hands.  I'm usually not value raising Kx, but he's weak bet me twice, so I guess a Kx raise is perhaps in my range according to his view?  According to his view, I should be fearful of him holding a Kx type hand since he was the preflop aggressor.
  • The King obviously counterfeits my lower 2 pair giving me no showdown value.
Here's the great things about the King river:
  • It counterfeits all of his 99- pocket pairs.  In fact, it gives those small pocket pairs no showdown value.  He's smart enough to know that 2 pair, Ace high will take down this pot vs. his 2 pair 9-2.
  • Time to talk ranges: Enough of the small pocket pairs, because we know they can't call.  Let's assume he was on a straight draw (gutter or more likely open ended QJ).  Without the AQ/AJ gutter draws calling 2 pair Q kicker is a pretty hard call.  I don't think he's capable of hero calling Q high, and he's probably not smart enough to hero call A high either.  The same can be said for a tight-ish raising range of flush draws.  JJ, QQ, AA have a huge crying call but I think he bets more strongly on the flop / turn with any of those hands... particularly with AA as an overpair.  I think I weight him very heavily towards QJo.

He checks to me and I think about it for a good while.  I have represented trip Tens on the turn.  He almost 95% never has a King or he's betting the river fearing that I'll check through with my bottom boat, because I can certainly do that if I perceive I'm beat.  The way the hand has played, I feel like he's never having a Ten either; he's at least considering 3betting on the turn instead of snap calling with the defensive chip grab move.

I start to count out chips and he goes into defensive chip grab mode once again, making me feel far more comfortable in my value bluff.  (FYI:  Please don't think that "he snap called you on the turn, why wouldn't you think he'll do the same on the river?"  My understanding on defensive chip grab tell means he's trying to dissuade me from betting, not always that he's going to fold.  Furthermore, at worst, he's just calling my river bet.  He's never raising which is a pretty reliable tell that he hold neither a King nor a Ten.  That helps me skew his weighting towards missed draws and counterfeited small pairs.)

$230 in the pot, and I want to make such a sizable bet that only the very very top of his range can make the call, all the while realizing that this is a near impossible call for anything in his hand except RARELY two pair Ace high as a total bluff catcher.  He smart enough to know that even if he has a small pocket pair, it's only worth the kicker at this point since the 2 pair on the board by the river counterfeits his flop and turn 2 pair.  He also knows I've owned him the whole night... perhaps he even knows I've owned him his whole life, and that plays into the psyche here.  I'm sure he's thinking, "a bet means The Poker Meister has to have here it every single time."  I'm sure he's also thinking, "I'm not going to pay off that SOB twice in one night for a good chunk of the stack that I worked so hard to earn back!"

The showmanship part of the equation?  I have to act like I'm carefully considering the hand and the way it went down / played out.  I need to act through figuring out if he checked his Kings full to me, trying to trap me and my supposed Tx hand.  Remember, on the turn I've mostly represented trip Tens.  We're effectively on $~400 to the river, so I need to make my bet sizing such that he can't come over the top of me as a bluff, because I've seen him get a glint of creativity at times.  I need to make my bet sizing feel to him like I'm committed to the pot.  That's why I make a nearly impossible-to-call-without-the-nuts (either K or T, or crying AA, QQ, JJ) $200 2 red stacks, nearly full pot bet.  I definitely take my time with figuring out my bet sizing in order to walk him through my thought process without saying a word nor making eye contact with him.  I want to talk with my body language rather than my mouth.  With all of his showboating with the defensive chip grab, he instantly mucks and we breath a silent sigh of relief, in the process scooping a decent pot that we had no business scooping.



What would you do?

Given the table dynamic, the almost the whole gregarious table (well, maybe 5 players) limps to my SB and I look down at QQ.  I'm not wasting any time slow playing out of position with what should shape up to be the best hand preflop.  I decide to raise to $25, getting folds from everyone save for a decent hyper aggressive player in mid position and the aforementioned fish.  We take a 3 way flop of 6 6 2r with about $85 in the middle.  This is a perfect flop - only 2 possible draws (both gutters 45, 34), but otherwise totally dry.

I'm out of position for the hand, which sucks, but in this case, I want to get stacks in on such a dry flop.  How do we get stacks in?  We raise / bet!  I lead for $50 and the decent player pauses for a second before shipping his whole $320 stack.  The fish folds and we're faced with a $270 decision (I have around $800 total at the time).

Perhaps this is more difficult than I'm making it, and it's a fail as a WWYD.  He is indeed capable of showing up with a 6 in this spot; he's been tilted since aggressively donking off his $800 stack to other bad players around the table.  That said, he's also capable of just about any other hand in this spot.

FWIW, I think it's a pretty clear "if he got there, he got there with 6x or 22, if he slow played KK, AA, good game" call.  I think the table is too loose and this player is too aggressive to fold to a bully non-value raise.  Constructing a range?  34, 45, 6x, 22-99, oddly played TT, JJ, KK, AA, and a healthy smattering of bluffs.  I think overcards are less likely given his aggressive play preflop (i.e. he rarely has shown to limp in).

What would you do?

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