Friday, May 1, 2015

No play at the 'Shoe (thanks, Baltimore rioters) leads to funky play at MD Live! - and a poker rules question

I got in a decent session at Maryland Live! last night.  My records show that the last time I played there was exactly 1 month ago.  Of note, I've moved my preferred poker room from MDL to the Baltimore Horseshoe due to the 1/3 game, Mississippi straddles, looser / easier action, etc.  It's interesting; I talked with the wifey, negotiating working in a poker session during a busy family weekend - full well knowing that I wouldn't have time to play Saturday or Sunday.

After watching the hooligans on TV, I saw that the 'Shoe was closing their poker room at 9PM in order to comply with the city-wide curfew - for those who don't know or watch the news, there's been significant protests and rioting in the city leading to a 10PM curfew shutting down the ENTIRE city.  Since I had "late" meetings - reference to Pete P. Peter's crazy work schedule that "late" is a relative term, I knew I wouldn't have much time to play and started thinking I would just bag the session altogether.  Then, I remembered that the DC area has a choice of poker rooms and I could go to Live! instead.  Good call, Poker Meister (pat on the back for my own stupidity and not thinking out of the box).

Before I get into the hands, which were kinda unmemorable from a strategy / challenge perspective, there was an interesting rule / issue that happened while I was there:

New dealer sits down and begins to deal (as dealers are expected to do).  As he's dealing, he asks if anyone received a cracked card - he explains that he felt something funny as he dealt the cards, as if it were a cracked card (the cards are plastic - but I've never seen a cracked card, only bent cards).  No one owns up; to be honest, I don't think anyone really heard him / processed the request.  About 20 minutes later, a player to my left sends in the card saying it's a fouled card - 5 of spades - an otherwise meaningless card.  Action continues with the hand, the guy to his left raised to $12 and picked up 2 callers.  I had limped my 45hh and refused to act until they expose the card.  The dealer explained that the card should not be exposed until after the hand because it doesn't affect the play.  I argued that it definitely does affect the play; other players potentially know the card since it is marked - no different than playing with a fouled deck / marked card.  Floor is called, the situation is explained and she says that the MDL policy is to replace the card after the hand.  I disagree with the policy verbally, explaining why the card needs to be exposed and she complies, flipping the 5s.  FWIW, I fold my 45hh and we move on.

So here's the question: with a marked deck that had been in play for AT LEAST 2-3 hands, shouldn't play be voided?  Some players are playing with potentially biased knowledge of the deck - I doubt that anyone knew about the marked card, but it opens up the hand to unfair play.  Play could have been influenced based on the knowledge the 5s was dealt; it in fact would have modified my decision had I known (I would show the card ASAP, like the guy turning in the card, rather than cheat / angle shoot).  However, is this a standard rule?  Don't show the card and replace it after the hand?  What is the rule here?

Anyway, so there I found myself, sitting at the 1/2 Maryland Live! tables, seeing a bunch of the regulars at the 'Shoe who also had the same thoughts.  No sooner than 2nd hand in, I flop a set of 4's turned King's full, only to get it in against a flopped set of Q's turned King's full as well.  Puke!  Easy $200 gone.

8th hand in, I flop KQ top two vs. AA all in on the flop which held - WTF???  HOW DID THAT HAPPEN???  And I find myself +140 with $550 in front of me.

A little later, I make an egregious mistake with AK, calling a 4bet, flopping A XX, turning a K and getting it all in for $300+ and I find myself down $200 once again with $200 in front of me. 

I later get into the mix with who turns out to be the huge whale at the table, flopping Aces up with A7hh on an Ad7d3d board after 5 callers call a $7 raise from UTG.  I lead $25, got the fish (BB) caller, lead a 7x turn for $50,  and raise the fish's $25 lead on a Jd river (i.e. 4 flush board).  Looking down, I see a $100 chip on top of some greens and move the stack into bet position.  Realizing my mistake, I put out a total bet of $225 - oops!  I thought the stack was ~$150.  Well, the fish hems & haws, complaining about how he has a really good flush and that he can't lay it down - I thought I was sunk here and he was auto-folding only to have him shove over for my remaining $17.  I obviously snap it off an show the 7's full for a really nice double through.

This was my night, repeated over & over.  Good news is I got AA a few times (one time against the fish, he rivered a backdoor 4 straight which was just a stupid stupid hand - 6 9 with the flopped pair and backdoor straight & I shoved river for ~$150 after around $225 in the pot), spiked a K on the river against the same fish after 3betting from the SB with KK to $45 ($100 behind) from a $10 3-way pot, having him call with AQ only to flop an A and see me shove into him (don't care about the board; I'm always shoving a 3 bet pot - he has 2-1 implied with his call; whatever...).

In the end, I wind up with a decent winning session - a relief - but I wasn't too happy about the roller coaster that I had to experience to get there.  I guess we'll all have days like that...

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Frustration... or a hand that I'm happy about and a hand that I'm not so sure about...

The last 4-5 sessions at the 'Shoe have been mostly sideways - I'm probably net losing, but not much more than a buy in or so.  It's been a really rough run - my AK misses, I haven't seen AA,KK in those sessions, and the one time I saw QQ (the first time in the 4 sessions - this last session) I lost vs. A6s (i.e. raise $15 PF, cbet $23 on turn of an A high flop and check through river).  The decisions are not difficult, but it's a death by a thousand knives scenario - raise my good PF hands that miss, call / raise my draws but miss, fold my too expensive draws that wind up hitting, etc.  Not that it's difficult to keep motivated, because it isn't given the awful play I'm continually seeing, but it's frustrating to sit for hours waiting on anything only to see nothing - no draws complete, just complete card deadness.

Crap like spiking trip Kings with KJ vs KT all in on the turn only to have the board pair again and lead to a chop.  Puke!

Crap like flopping A6 boat of Aces full of 6's and know my opponent never folds trip Aces, get most of the money in on the flop and turn and see the river pair the 6 on the board, leading to a chop.  Puke!

Crap like rivering the straight flush with Ax9d on a 2 8d Td Jd Qd board on a limped pot, getting lead into for $15, hoping / praying dude has the Ad, raising to $100 only to see him fold the Kd.  Puke!

Anyway, to the point of the title, I'll share 2 hands that occurred last Saturday.

Hand 1:  I'm in early position and limp 99.  Short stack ($30 total) limps behind and ABC player raises to $12.  Gets called in no less than 5 spots (including me) and shorty decides to jam $18 on top.  Original raiser [shockingly] folds as does the rest of the table to a newer guy to the table wearing a cabbie cap, cargoes and a somewhat open shirt revealing a huge chest tattoo - kinda punkish looking but super quiet.  Seeing the action that just took place (i.e. this guy just called not once but twice), I figure my 99 is ahead and decide to pull the 'ole limp / raise to $130 (I have $250 behind).  To be honest,  I was shocked that not one person called the $18 raise with so much already in the middle - prior to the shorty shove, there's $72 in the middle.  After the shorty shove, he's looking at putting in $18 to win $102.  Anyway, without missing a beat, my tattooed friend calls - probably took him all of 5 seconds to throw in the extra $100 with a look of "meh... whatever..."

Flop comes Q 7 3 rainbow.  He fiddles with his chips, looking like he's going to bet, but decides to check.  Here's where I'm not too happy with my play; I check behind.  What am I expected to do here?  Anything I bet other than a shove is pot committing regardless - so is this an auto shove?  Again, there's $338 in the main and side pots, and I have $250 behind...  I feel like he hit this flop though - based on my read that he wants to bet.  Again... is this an auto ship the flop regardless the texture?  Rarely do I feel like a deer in the headlights at a poker table, but this was one of those rare moments.

So we see a turn As, putting 2 spades out.  Again he checks - and my check is a lot easier now; I'm just looking to get to showdown cheaply - any AK, AQ is certainly there; I don't know this guy and how he plays.  The river is a non-spade 4 and he checks a 3rd time.  I happily check through and he shows me the gutted nuts: 56ss.  The guy who was all in PF has A6cc which would have taken the main pot anyway...

I'm not making a judgement on this guy's calling off $100 extra PF with 56s, but seriously?  I blame myself for "letting him get there," but this hand could have been WAY worse - I could have bet the $250 behind at any point, definitely he's calling off the turn with a gutter + flush draw.  I also waffle as to whether I bet anything on the flop he's auto calling his gutter; after all, if he's willing to take a $130 gamble with 56s without seeing a flop, of course he's going to pay now that he has a draw!  But, as a poker player, I'm not supposed to take the turn and river cards into account when I'm playing out the hand post-mortem.  Is the right move to shove the flop?  What kinds of hands do you have him on that cold call 3 raises?  To me, I have him on JJ+, AQ, AK - which, by the river, all have me beat.  Then again, I guess I'm WAY wrong!  And my read on the flop about him wanting to bet is wrong - or perhaps it isn't.  Maybe he thought better of betting his gutter on the flop, but he's calling off.  I don't know.  The hand is definitely in my head, though - that's for sure!  The best part about this all is that he took a $130 bet and won nothing additional - he effectively played 56s vs. my 99 vs. shorty's A6o for $130 to win $200 in PF money.

Hand 2: Same joker who originally raised above raises to $8.  I call (98o) with I think 2 other people see a flop of 2 6 7 rainbow.  I contemplate leading here, but opt to check - he leads for $20 and I'm the only caller in the growing pot.  Turn is a Qd putting 2 diamonds on the board.  I check once again and he leads for $28.  I check raise to $100 and he considers carefully before folding.

I don't' make big bluffs very often but given the way things are going, I think I may need to start bluffing bigger more often.  Perhaps I'm doing it wrong, but I give up on my bluffs way too easily and/or don't make large enough bluff raises  / bets.  I come from a mindset which may be changing: poker players who are bad players are not sitting there to fold their top pair no matter how bad their kicker or no matter how bad evidence tells them they're beat.  Bad players won't fold their bad Aces, so no point in putting in a ton of money trying to bluff them off the best hand.  Best wait to value bet them to death when I'm ahead and they won't fold.  Perhaps that mindset needs to change...

Monday, April 13, 2015

Mama said they'll be days like this, they'll be days like this my mama said!

WARNING: Some whining & bad beats

I had the rare occasion to play back-to-back days at the 'Shoe last night!  Woot woot!  You ever have one of those sessions where you do everything perfect, but still lose for the night?  Yeah...  I'm sure we can all agree that we've had nights like that - this was one of those nights.  I'm still sick, though I'm getting incrementally better - my head is still cloudy and my ears are still clogged, but when does that stop me from playing a little live poker???  My family went to dinner at a friend's house in Baltimore and my lovely wife agreed to take two cars so we could part ways afterwards.  Happy wife, happy life!

This is now my 7th or 8th session at the Horseshoe, and I can firmly say I like playing here.  I like the Mississippi straddle - regardless whether I take advantage or not.  I like the 1/3 instead of 1/2.  I like the convenience.  Finally, the players are much easier.  I've become familiar with the floor people, and they with me, which is a nicety that I don't believe I was afforded at Live - perhaps too many tables, but I knew some of the dealers and that was where it ended.

As evidenced, there was a problem with a dealer last night - he burned and turned a card prior to action closure and didn't call floor.  As a result of his hesitation, a player folded his cards because he believed the turn card to be the actual turn.  I was not in the hand, but got involved (probably shouldn't have, but dealers need to learn this) - I told him to call floor.  The floor ruled the correct procedure - declared the folder's hand dead - took the turned card out of the deck, burned and turned the would-be river card as the turn card, played out the street and finally shuffled the dead turn into the deck to re-deal the new river.  It was a learning moment for the dealer, but the floor was immediately on it, ruling properly.

Anyway, the night started with a fairly loose passive table, where I rivered 2 pair to a gut shot straight and paid him off - Rebuy!  Note:  This was the first time in all my sessions at the 'Shoe where I've ever had to fish additional money out of my pocket after my first buy in.  I consider myself fortunate that I've run that long and that well where this situation has never occurred, but it did occur for the first time last night, and I took note!  The villain on the particular hand was a drunk who was becoming more cocksure with every sip.  The hand ended quite miserably with him slow rolling me when I made the call on the river.  Whatever - there was a lot of slow rolling and literally slow playing last night.

Anyway, I'm in for a buy in and sitting on around $230 when I'm able to extract revenge against the same player with my AKo all in vs. his A7dd.  The board ran blanks and I double up to get to near starting.

A few hands later, I limp KJo (thought was that drunk was sobering, but started back up again and was becoming more loose / raising more often and I don't want to facing a 3bet with KJ so I'd rather limp / call and somewhat contain the pot prior to the flop) from EP and aggro drunk from before raises his BB to $18.  Calls around and the flop comes KcTc7d.  He bets $30 and it folds 3 spots to me who calls.  My thought is that he's been barreling with blanks and I don't want to discourage him to continue to do so.  I'm not sure, but I may have even hesitated a few moments prior to calling, acting "unsure" what to do next.

Turn is a 2s and he leads for $35 - I again hesitate / call.  River is another non-club blank and he bets out $50.  I just call, feeling that a raise at this point is worthless and he shows 83o for complete air - as I had expected.  I think I played this hand perfectly, FWIW.  Any raise / hint of aggression and he likely folds.  Showing the unsure / cautious approach allows him to continue to bluff.

At this point, I'm up to $700 (up $100 off my original 2 buy ins) late into the night / early morning.  I'm feeling pretty confident that my winning session streak at the 'Shoe will continue in tact.  Note: since I started playing at the 'Shoe, I have yet to experience a losing session.  Alas, all was not well with the poker Gods last night...  I must've pissed someone with influence off, because within an hour, the ugly bitch named variance reared her ugly head:

Hand 1: KJo again, mid position against a MP $7 raise, different drunk on the SB calls along with 2 other players.  This particular drunk is a regular, LOVES to gamboool and is an overall terrible player.  In the time he was at my table, I saw him make numerous errors, relying on hands like a backdoored straight (J2) calling a flop with just the backdoor (no overcard, no nothing) to make his money.  He was getting lucky and he knew it...  Anyway, we see a flop of Kd Qd 7  and the drunk leads for $20 into the $35 pot.  It's called by the original raiser (competent player, and would raise with protective hands) so I pop it to $60.  Drunk calls and original raiser folds.

$175 in the pot and the turn is a 6o.  Drunk pushes all his chips in fro about $135.  I obviously snap call and wait for him to flip.  He waits - and we see a 5 river.  He flips over Q5o for the rivered 2 pair and I'm licking my wounds.  From +100 to -100 in the blink of an eye.  I throw up a little in my mouth.

Hand 2: Probably 10 minutes later, I look down to see 2 red Aces.  Button [drunk] straddled to $6 and new player in the BB calls along with the competent player.  I raise to $30 and drunk folds.  New player just calls (he has $170 behind) and competent player folds.  Flop comes Qc 4c 4d.  I think I make the mistake of leading here with Aces far too much - what can my opponent possibly have with this flop?  I am so way far ahead of him on the flop that betting will only cause him to fold, killing my action, so I check through.

$~70 in the pot and the turn is a Kd.  This raises the new player's eyebrows and he leads for $25.  I raise to $75 and he just calls after thinking for a little while.  He's got $100 behind.  Thinking back to the flop delayed cbet, I'm happy I didn't bet the flop - and I'm hoping that he has KQ.  I'm actually not believing KQ since I think we'd get it in on the turn here if he had top two, but KJ, KT, etc. are possible.  Again, this is a new player who hadn't really given me much information in prior hands.

River is a 3d, which, in all honesty, I didn't even look at.  To me, it didn't matter what the river was - if he ships, I call, if he checks, I shove.  So, he ships and I call my AdAh, only to be shown 2d5d for the backdoor low flush.  Facepalm....

So, there's the story of how my first losing session at the 'Shoe went down.  Spectacular, I know...

Friday, April 10, 2015

Thursday night session at the 'Shoe

I had the opportunity to play yesterday, as we returned home from our trip to Williamsburg, VA a little earlier than originally expected.  Both the wife & I were feeling a little under the weather, so we decided to make a game-time decision Wednesday to make the 2 1/2 hour drive back home rather than stay the additional night and return on Thursday.  After a mostly restful sleep and plenty of R&R during the day - and 2 DayQuils later, I found myself in the car driving up 95 on my way to play.

The first decision I faced was whether to opt for Baltimore, where the players are far worse, the action is a lot better, and the games play larger (1/3 - $300 buy ins) vs. stopping at Live! (1/2 - $300 buy in), where it's about 10 miles closer, the room is more player friendly and the bad beat jackpot is a lot larger.  I opted for what I felt was the logical choice: Baltimore.  The driving distance is mostly nominal anyway - door to door, I imagine the distance is roughly the same since you can park on the same level as the poker room in Baltimore whereas it's a bit of a walk from the parking lot to the Live! poker room.

There's just something about playing 1/3 that is just so enticing as a segue from 1/2 to 2/5.  At this point, I've very comfortable with the 50% money jump from 1/2 to 1/3 - the raises are larger, the pots are larger, and the players are not adjusting properly.  My biggest issue with moving up to 2/5 is the money - $500 is simply a lot more money than $200.  Percentage-wise, though, the step from $300 to $500 is less than $200 to $300.  Therefore, I'm hoping to spend a few hours this year cementing myself in at the 1/3 games and then solidly make the jump to 2/5 - with a full 100BB buy-in.

As I start to evaluate myself, part of my problem with prior runs at 2/5 in the past was that I was a "little pregnant" - I'd play a $200 stack at 2/5 rather than buy in full.  That kind of risk aversion is just like playing short stacked tournament poker - and I hate doing that.  Being so short-stacked severely limits play, and I felt very much limited at the 2/5 games by playing 40% stacks...  therefore, I hope I can build up enough of a bankroll to support a 2/5 game at full stacks - I figure around $8-10k will do the trick, as around $3-4k has done the trick for the 1/2, 1/3 games thus far.

Anyway, after a bit of a wait - no more than 10 minutes - I was seated at a fairly easy 1/3 table.  It started off as a slow, somewhat tight table, but then the table started really loosening up.  I chipped up nicely throughout and found myself sitting on around $800 when I got into the mix with a somewhat wild player who wasn't really raising frequently, but was very aggressive and swingy:

I look down at Ad2d and call a $12 raise from the somewhat wild player (sitting on ~$300), along with 4 other players - $60 in the center and a flop of 3d 4c Jd.  Checks around to original raiser who leads for $25.  Player to his left thinks for a while and just calls and I sit & debate the next move.  I feel like I'm going to be paid on my 5 or diamond if / when it hits, but if I raise, I'm reducing the likelihood that either will pay off, so I opt to flat call the $25.  All other drop out.

$135 in the center - the turn is a 5s, completing my wheel.  I once again check and the wild player puts in $70.  To my surprise, the player to his left shoves all in for around $170.  With my wheel and the diamond re-draw, what do I do here?  I have the wild / original raiser covered - he has $200 remaining after the last bet, so I announce all in and he literally takes his time before calling and then asks for a diamond on the river.

River is a 6c and he flips 76o for the higher straight on the turn and scoops a nice pot.

I've been looking at the points of play which I could have done better, but I'm debating the only spot in which I could have changed - the flop.  I don't know whether it would have made a difference, but I think I like check/ raising the flop there to around $125 instead of just calling.  I'm happy to take down the pot without showing down, and if I get a call, it's an auto shove on the turn.  I also think I mark the hand up to a cooler - he had a somewhat oddball hand not really in his range that hit a gutter on me which also made my hand.  Thoughts?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Finally!!! 4 years in the making I finally get paid by Full Tilt!!!!

Yay!  Go me!  It only took 4 years to get it, but I finally got it!  Windfall!  Who's up for hookers & booze?!?!?!

Don't ask why it took so long to finally get the deposit, but I got it today!  Confirmed!  Booyah!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Saturday Night Live! A session recap from Baltimore Horeshoe

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 9, 2015

Saturday night at Baltimore's Horseshoe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 5, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 2, 2015

In criticism of the straddle rule

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

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

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

--- Opinion ---

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 23, 2015

Meh-interesting hand and Baltimore Horseshoe recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

When they give away their hand...

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

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

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

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

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