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?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Poetic justice at the 'Shoe

Another bit of justice handed down to a slow roller.  I’ve been at the table for an hour or so during the same session I blogged about here.  This ‘incident’ occurred long before the table got wild and crazy; the drinking was just getting started.  I had been playing with this guy who had been not talking much, but continually looking down at the board, looking at his opponent’s hand, and back, before eventually revealing his better hand to take down the pot.  He had done this around 2 times in the hour and seemed to really enjoy the effect it had on his opponents and the other players watching.  One other “habit” he has is if he’s last to act, he definitely waits for his opponent to show prior to showing.  The dealers are not really enforcing a last aggressor policy, and his opponents are uncomfortably showing, even if this guy knows he has the nuts.

From a slow roller point of view, if I had to guess, it was his time to shine – his 15 minutes of fame on the big screen.  From where I sat, if I were getting led into or raised by this guy, he was an “they always have it here” kinda player… i.e. nuts or damn well close to it.  Obviously the table hasn’t picked up on this player’s tendencies – people are still calling down his bets and by the end of the night (my night, at least), he has a mass of chips in front of him.

The hand I will share with you today starts on the river.  The action was inconsequential until the river, where the board read A x T x T.  The pot is maybe $60.  His opponent just led into him for $50 or $60.  He just called the river bet and his opponent flips over A 7 for top pair.  The slow roller does the routine: looks at his opponent’s cards, looks at the board.  Looks quizzical.  Looks at his hand.  Shakes his head in seeming disappointment.  Then proceeds to flip one card: a Ten.  He pushes the other card, face down, forward.

One of my favorite dealers there at the ‘Shoe [who happened to be dealing cards for the particular down] pauses for a few seconds, waiting for the slow roller to flip the other card which does not happen.  The dealer then proceeds to drag both cards forward and mucks them – one face up and one face down.  He says, “Sorry, that’s a fold.  You must show down 2 cards to win a pot,” and proceeds to reward the remaining face up hand with the pot.  Wow.  That’s cold.  Poetic justice.  Served cold.

P.S.  Turns out this guy is not from the U.S. – he’s Greek.  Not that it’s an excuse for slow rolling, but I know that in France, for example, the slow roll is an art form.  In retrospect, I don't think the player had any clue why he lost the pot - and didn't care to listen to an explanation attempted by a sympathetic player.  Finally, one more note: The only other time I saw a dealer muck the clear winner was in Delaware Park, when I wrote about it here.  Thankfully, it was another instance of poetic justice.

Monday, March 20, 2017

An interesting ruling at the 'Shoe - one card poker, anyone?

Here's a rules question for the folks out there.  I don't typically post non-technical  / non-strategy posts, but the following ruling was such a freak weird occurrence that I'm not sure I'll ever see something like it again.

The setup:
A fairly chatty table, filled with a somewhat inebriated reg, who while acting over the top, is questionably falling on the floor drunk.  In other words, I think he's playing it up a little bit.  His act is working though, as the money is being thrown around quite a bit and raising or calling with 95o is commonplace.  People are getting coolered left and right -- tilt is evident throughout the table.  The subject in question is in for a buy in - perhaps a retired guy - maybe in his mid-60's.  He just won a pot to double him up, and I've been talking about the rule of poker where if you win a big pot, it's mandatory to play the next hand.  The subject is fairly tilted himself, being subject to both poor play and coolers

This guy is on the BTN in this particular hand and it has limped around to him.  He does not look at his cards, but puts out his $3 call and we see a 6 or 7 handed limp flop of A x x.  It checks around to a mid-position bet and folds to the BTN who looks down to check his hole card(s).  It is at this point that he says, “I only have 1 card!”

“Floor!” says the dealer, realizing the situation immediately.  What happens to a player playing only 1 card?  I’ve never seen this situation.  Floor rules that pending “significant action” which constitutes the many calls plus a flop, and action, the hand is dead on arrival.  I’m assuming the ruling is correct… and it aligns with the rule that a player must show down 2 cards to win a pot, so the hand is disqualified.  It seems to me that the ruling is only reasonable ruling in that spot – are there any other ideas of alternates?  I'm personally satisfied with the ruling, and the player in question didn't protest at all (although he had an Ace for top pair), but was curious as to different points of view.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Turning the corner

Recently, I got back into online poker.  I haven't really blogged about it, save for the entry about purchasing a HUD.  For those who don't know, a HUD basically tracks each players action and betting tendencies, so you're left with a basic profile of each opponent.  In other words, the HUD will tell me how often a player puts money in the pot, raises, 3bets, etc.

I've had the HUD for a few weeks now - and up until very recently, still find myself fishing around.  I haven't gone busto with my meager bankroll, but I've certainly bottomed out... so much so that at times, I was unable to top off my stack to a full 100BB.  Over the weekend, I decided to put some serious time into understanding my actions and play - the lines I'm taking and the cbetting frequency / bluff frequency.  I quickly came to realize that at the micro stakes, I'm losing money because I'm bluffing far too often.  I'm not showing down nut-worthy hands as a result, and I'm not getting any respect from any of my opponents.  I also came to realize that even though the stats are right in front of my face, I'm not paying close attention to them.

As evidenced:

  • If I'm facing a raise on the BTN or CO, I'm usually folding without checking the steal tendencies of the raiser.
  • If I'm facing a raise from a high VPIP (Voluntary Put Into Pot) and PFR (Preflop Raiser), I'm usually just calling or folding instead of exploiting the raiser by 3betting and squeezing.
  • If I'm stealing myself, I'm folding to 3bets instead of watching closely as a player lightly defends his or her blinds.
Let me tell you something: ego has gotten the better of me.  It's embarrassing not being able to crush .01/.02 poker!  After the weekend, no longer does ego get in the way.  I turned the corner.  I put a stop to the losing and the ego.  I'm starting to pick up all the things that made me a successful online player in the past.  I don't feel like a break even player.  I've turned my game around.  I'm starting to outfox the regulars at the 2NL game.  I'm not paying off in disbelief that my opponent yet again out-flopped me.  I'm charging for thin value when the board has a flush draw or straight draw.

I know it sounds weak to talk about beating the 2NL games, but trust me, they're not exactly a cakewalk.  I'm not saying they're not beatable, because they certainly are, but you just can't sit down at a table and expect to bet bet bet your opponents of their hands.  You need to pick and choose your spots, fold small pots as warranted, stay away from bloating big pots with weaker holdings.  Slant your game towards value and away from bluffs (i.e. go to showdown more often with winners rather than bet people off their hands and force folds).  These players simply don't fold - take advantage of that!

Here are some strategies I'm employing at the 2NL stakes:
  • Cut down on ranges: If entering a pot, look to raise the hand first; do not limp.  Fold earlier position (UTG, UTG+1) hands, but raise those hands in later positions (gaining position for the rest of the hand)
  • When looking to steal, verify fold to steal % stats to validate the steal will be profitable
  • When facing resistance against steals, look for favorable flops to cbet.  Against a tight player who has a high fold to steal %, cbet Ace high / King high boards, but check through lower textured boards.
  • Look to optimize bet sizing.  For example, if a steal is called, there's 7BB in the pot.  Cbet ~4BB instead of 6BB to further limit exposure -- particularly when drawing dead to a caller.  I'm finding that players at this level will fit or fold the same for 4BB as 6BB.  They're also not noting bet sizing tells.
  • Stopping double and triple barrelling with air.  If I have air and I'm running into resistance, shut it down after the first cbet.  Yes, it's exploitable, but at this level, these players don't understand how to capitalize.  Again, it's fit or fold with many players.
Anyway, it's good to be an online winner again.  I look forward to posting a few hand histories as they come up.  I also look forward to moving back into my old stomping grounds: 0.50/1!

For those who are interested, I'm focused solely on 6max games.  I'm back to playing around 9 tables, which moves pretty quickly for this old grinder.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Always look left... always!

Last session, I switched tables more often than any other prior session.  I think I jumped to no less than 4 tables within an 8 hour session.  I wanted to get away from decent regulars, and ensure that my table had a good stock of fish to beat out of their money.  I wound up chasing an arrogant fish around, but I could not catch him regardless my efforts.  He was the type that so long as you strap in and prepare for the variance, you could get your money in as a decent favorite against him.  It was only a matter of time that his mistakes would catch up with him and the best preflop hand would hold.

Anyway, I raise with JJ to $20 after his limp and get a call from an $100 stack across the table, as well as my aggro fish sitting on around $70 effective.  We go to the flop with $80 & $50 stacks effective and see a K T 3 flop.  Decent flop for JJ; obviously not the nuts, but a good flop against my aggro donk.  As expected, aggro fish leads for a shove of $50.  Ordinarily this is a snap call fist pump; if he caught a K, good game sir, but he's going to be showing up with smaller pocket pairs and Tx hands quite frequently.  However, I measure the $80 effective stack from across the table, and he looks as though he is so ready and anxious to snap off a call.  It is at that point that I realize that even though I have my fish crushed, I cannot make the call because the other guy has me beat.  To the title of this post, always look left.

I correctly fold and see the other guy flip over AKhh for the winner versus the fish's QT.  AK holds - easy game.  Unfortunately, I lost $20 in the hand, but saved myself another $80.

At this point, I mutter "nice fold," not realizing I said it loud enough for the fish to hear.  He starts giving me crap about my comments and I say that I was talking to myself about my hand - and apologize.  He starts to get irate - tells me he had me beat and that I can never beat him.  He's always going to have the winning hand against me.  Wow.  Tough talk.  He proceeds to get up from my table and move to another table, rebuying in the process.

I follow him over to the new table and we get into another hand: I raise in EP with AQo to $15 and he calls along with one or two other players.  He has $35 effective after the call.  Flop comes K Q T ss.  Checks to me, and I lead for $35 -- folds to the fish who snaps me off with what else but J 9 for the bottom end of the straight.  Easy game sir.  Now the fish really jaws it up, emboldened by his masterful play.  Ug.  I never get the chance to catch him, but talking to the dealers, apparently he's been a regular over the past 2 or 3 weeks - yippee!  Hopefully, I'll catch him next week.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Easy game... when you quad up...

Fun little hand for your Monday morning:

1/3 at the Horseshoe on a Thursday night.  I look down in mid position and see JJ.  It's a loose table that will call wide raises, so I open to $15.  I get maybe 3 callers.

We see a flop of Jh9hJd.  Nice flop.  What do I do, though?  2 of the callers in the hand are active players, and will lead any flops, particularly flops where they have good draws.  Therefore, I check, both in shock of flopping the stone nuts (flopping quads sometimes freezes me, since I'm largely unprepared how to play them - LOL), and afraid of scaring anyone off their respective draws and hands.  I check and the donk to my left leads for $15.  A caller follows from across the table - a guy who loves to see flops and play passive unless he hits a hand - and it comes back to me.  I think for a moment and call.

Turn is a an offsuit Ace.  I check again and guy to my left bets out for $25 into $105.  Passive player does what he does best and calls.  I'm pretty certain the Ace hit one of them - on an Ace high flush draw (i.e. Ahxh).  I need to get money in the pot without folding them out -- and pray for a heart.  I opt to raise on the small side to $65.  I feel like this is a completely transparent to most players -- check / raising small is a pretty big tell for strength -- but with these guys, they just snapped it off to see what peels the river.  They don't have a second thought.

Well, the river is the golden card - another offsuit Ace.  One of these guys just boated on a backdoor!  The guy to my left is sitting on around $325 effective, and Mr. Passive has around $200.  I'm pretty sure on my left is the boat, and Mr. Passive is folding any bet.  I also think no matter what, my left is always betting when checked, but I'm not sure whether he's raising in that spot.  I also want to potentially capture Mr. Passive's money if he decides to call again, but doubt he's ever calling a bet / raise all in.  Therefore, I decide to check the river intending to raise all in when it gets around to me.  I check and my left bets $125.  Mr. Passive [unfortunately] folds and I raise all in.  My left calls and flips over AhQh for the boat, but my quads hold :-).  Easy game.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Simply confused... a huge pot with top two

Dateline: Thursday.  Just a normal night for poker.  I had a meeting around my house mid-day, so I decided to take the rest of the day off of work.  GolfPro invited me for a quick lunch / dinner at Maryland Live!, so I took him up on it.  I arrived at around 2, enjoyed the free lunch (thanks again, GolfPro), and grinded the remainder of the high hand promotions Live! had running (essentially, the top 4 high hands for the given hour receive $525 each).  I played for about an hour, cashing out to the positive.  Mental note: I really dislike playing 1/2.  Live! isn't so bad anymore; the games were less "grindy" and more "touristy;" though perhaps that's just the table I was playing.  The place is still dimly lit, and more of a grinder room than a nice poker room.  They're running a promotion for February where you play 50 hours during specific times and you'll get $500 for that week.  Not a bad deal.

No real hands of note at Live!, but I did see a particularly bad player get minimum value on what should have been a cooler.  Doesn't matter how it got to this point, but by the river, there's a lead from a tighter player for $20 on a K K 2 2 8 board.  The bad player raises to [just] $40 to go.  The tighter player [just] calls and is shown K 8 for the top boat.  The tight player shows KT and mucks.  Now, the bad player has around $160 effective.  He spikes a 3 outter and gets $20 additional for his effort?  LOL.

Anyway, after the aforementioned high hand promotion ends, I decide to cash out and check in on my old buddies at the Horseshoe.  I am happy to report that the games are super good there.  I think they're better than Live!, and definitely better than MGM, though MGM pulls far more players.  When I arrived, there were 2 2/5 and 5-6 1/3 games going.  I got immediate seating on a 1/3 table and proceeded to chip up.  As the table I sat at got worse (i.e. there were 4 players all-ins pre-flop on my final hand, and the winner scooped ~$500 and hit-and-ran), I switched tables to bum hunt one of my favorite ATMs, of whom I've written in the past (see the link).  She's always happy, and after a bit of banter, I'm chatting it up with her and her boyfriend.

I did manage to mix it up with her boyfriend for a $200 pot with top pair, good kicker against his flopped set, but outside of that hand, there was really nothing of note.  That hand left me from having a good session to basically break-even.  The following hands, though, I was right back around where I was prior to that misstep when the following hand of note happened:

I look tilty at this point, but half the table knows me to be a solid, aggressive player.  I look down at KQo in the cutoff.  I raise 2 limpers to $17 and get 3 callers: the BB, a seemingly more passive player, tighter, thinking player, the early position caller (bad player) and probably the aforementioned ATM, but I can't recall for sure.  Anyway, $~70 in the pot, and the flop comes down Kc Tc 8.  The BB leads out for $20 and gets a call from the EP.  It folds to me with TPGK on a draw heavy board.  All aboard the value train!  I think for a bit, debating a raise to $100 or $80 and decide to pump it to $85.  I get calls in both spots (weird).

Turn is a T, pairing the board.  It checks to me, and I think for a moment: I don't think either of these guys are showing up having called the flop raise with second pair, nor just called top two, and I can mostly rule out a set of 8's.  Therefore, I have got to be good here.  There's a huge pot and I'm interested in getting value on this street, since there's a ton of money already in the middle.  I lead for $175, little more than half pot.  The BB again calls, but the EP fades away.

River is where it gets interesting, but I guess not really.  The BB has shown himself to be on a draw - probably a massive draw - QJcc if I had to guess.  Possibly AQcc, AJcc, but more than likely QJ IMO.  Well, the river shows a Q, making the final board read K T 8 T Q.  BB checks once again to me and I think.  I have $247 behind (he has me covered), and just rivered top two.  I could be mistaken; he could have a terribly played AK, a KJ, or Kx hand as well.  I'm ahead of all of his Kx holdings at this point, save for KT.  If he has AQ, QJ, he may get real sticky on the river since the pot is so large already ($675).  On the other hand, he could show up with J9cc, but less likely since he's tight-ish.  There's so much I'm ahead of here, and to this point, so much that he's calling down.  He's seen me blow off the $200 in the prior hands, I have a tilty image, and he's also seen me not go to showdown in the ensuing hands.  All of this leads up to my decision to shove the remaining $247.  He goes into the tank.  I was surprised that he was tanking so hard.  It felt like 2 minutes and he's thinking.  Looking at the board.  Looking at me.  I'm really not sure where he's at; I'm 90% sure I want a call here, but if he calls the $175 turn with a made hand, he's got to snap off the river, right?  He has to think that the board hasn't drastically changed with the Q.  I guess from his perspective, maybe he's afraid of AJ?  Well, after what seems like hours, he counts out the chips and grudgingly makes the call.  I show KQ and scoop a huge pot.

I have to say, I felt a little reckless on this hand.  I thought my image played into the whole dynamics, but I'm not one to put in ~2 buy-ins without the nuts or something close.  I got max value for the hand, granted, but was it optimal or dangerous?  Should I be checking that river?  I think I overvalued my hand, which is not something I ordinarily do, but was it "felt" correct at that moment.  My opponent was a passive player, and that plays into my thinking as well -- perhaps with his passivity, he does not 3bet AK.  Perhaps he just calls bottom set, fearing a set over set.  It definitely had me questioning myself.  Thoughts?

One other thought: how would the hand have played out if I had AA instead of KQ?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Playing online a bit...

I'm trying to grind up a small stake on one of the online sites.  I FINALLY broke down and bought a stat tracker, so I'm not able to make more optimal decisions.  Here's the first interesting hand where the HUD gave me an advantage:

hub2325(UTG) $3.20      -  VP:44 PFR:6 AF:9.0 W:29|50 STL:0|67 3B:10| CB:100|0 N:0.47 Hands:18
hagmar7(MP) $2.04       -  VP:17 PFR:9 AF:5.0 W:11|100 STL:33|100 3B:0| CB:80|100 N:0.04 Hands:89
Ethan Hawley(CO) $2.04  -  VP:18 PFR:0 AF:1.0 W:14|67 STL:0|100 3B:0| CB:|57 N:-0.83 Hands:98
PC_2(BTN) $2.03         -  VP:59 PFR:36 AF:2.3 W:14|60 STL:74|33 3B:5|67 CB:83|33 N:0.78 Hands:74
Vezen7(SB) $2.04        -  VP:16 PFR:11 AF:Inf. W:0| STL:33|86 3B:0| CB:100|100 N:0.02 Hands:38
Me(BB) $3.49            -  VP:33 PFR:16 AF:2.3 W:19|80 STL:18|50 3B:9|0 CB:88|50 N:1.77 Hands:98

Pre Flop: Me(BB) with [2h,3c]
hub2325(UTG) calls 0.02, hagmar7(MP) folds, Ethan Hawley(CO) folds, PC_2(BTN) folds, Vezen7(SB) calls 0.01, Me(BB) checks

Flop: (6d,2d,Tc) (3 players)
Vezen7(SB) checks, Me(BB) bets 0.06, hub2325(LP) calls 0.06, Vezen7(SB) folds

Turn: Qs (2 players)
Me(BB) checks, hub2325(LP) bets 0.06, Me(BB) calls 0.06

River: 5s (2 players)
Me(BB) checks, hub2325(LP) bets 0.19, Me(BB) calls 0.19

hub2325(UTG) shows [Ks,Ac]
Me(BB) shows [2h,3c]
Me(BB) wins 0.65

TL; DR: Limped pot in the BB with 23o.  I lead a decent flop for nut low pair and get called.  I check turn which is another over to my pair.  LP bets tiny into a decent pot and I call.  River I check a blank and LP again bets smallish.  I snap because the story makes no sense and am shown an AK high bluff.  Only reason I'm calling is LP player has an off-the-charts agression factor (infinite at the time we're playing this hand.  

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Thing's I'm doing lately... an update

Things are meh at live poker.  I can’t seem to get my hands to hold up; last session I had KK, raised to $20.  Got shoved over by a short stack to $36.  Got 5 callers!!!  Couldn’t re-open so just called.  Beautiful flop of T 4 3.  I bet $125 and everyone folds.  Heads up with the short stacker who holds A T.  A on the turn and I lose the pot.  Another hand: I open to $25 with JJ against 2 limpers; I get one of the loose callers who snaps off my raise.  K x x.  Checks to me, I cbet $30.  He calls.  C/c turn & river and he flips Kh4h.  WTF?

I did make one really nice call with AK against my opponent’s AQ on a 3 spade Ace high board where I read his read of me (i.e. leveled him).  Action went something like I raise PF (~$15).  He calls.  A x x ss flop.  I lead for like $30.  He calls.  Turn is a spade.  I check, not sure whether he hit his spade flush & he leads for $70 and I call.  To me, that bet is very suspicious; a “go away” bet if you will.  I feel like if he wants value against me, he knows he has to bet around $40-50.  However, he’s almost potting it.  My thinking is on the river, I have to call all non-spade bets here (it would be a 4flush board on the river if there’s a spade river); if I don’t believe him for a flush or 2 pair on the turn, the hand will have not changed textures by the river.  River is thankfully a blank and I check again.  As somewhat expected, he shoves for $153 effective.  I think for a few and eventually call – he shows AQ and I scoop.  He says after the hand exactly what I thought during the hand: he put me on AK and thought he could get me to fold it.

Anyway, I’ve been occupying some of my time with online play.  A couple of buddies of mine have been slowly increasing their online play, which started me hankering for a bit more poker than my once-a-week routine.  So, I started back up a few days ago with around $10 in my account, and have been fishing around at the very lowest levels ($0.01 / $0.02).  I’m playing without a HUD, but I’m playing almost solely 6max, so there’s not as many players to track.  It’s a fun game; I’m finding that without a HUD, I’m not playing fully optimal (i.e. not picking up on loose stealers and 3betting them, and not picking up on wide 3betters against my steals), but I’m paying much closer attention to game flow and player types.  Granted the players at these stakes are absolutely terrible, but it’s fun to play with no pressure of “serious money.”  I’m handling up to 6 tables comfortably.  My goal is to run my bankroll up enough so I can play the $0.25/$0.50 games.  That level seems to be the sweet spot for the site I’m playing (betonline.ag).  At any rate, it’s good to be back in the mix online.

Although online blogging has slowed down over the past few years, I’m only writing when I have stuff to write about.  I’d imagine with the re-boot of the online poker, I’ll start to have more content / “what would you do’s”.  It’s nice to be writing semi-regularly, as it exercises my poker brain.
I think that’s it for now; I’m not promising anything, but I think I’ll have more frequent content updates coming.  Strap in for a little super low, low stakes hold’em!

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