Thursday, June 14, 2018

A trip report from Nashua, NH (outside Boston, MA) and 2 hands

It’s been awhile since I’ve taken a business trip.  As my long term readers (are there even any readers anymore?) know, whenever I get the opportunity to go somewhere new, I’ll try to check out the local poker scene if there is one.  This past week, I had meetings outside of Boston, MA – around 20 minutes from Nashua, NH.  Checking around on the typical sites (pokeratlas, 2p2, etc.), I found a card room that was recently fined, and a continuing card room in operation.  Unwilling to go to a place that was potentially shut down, I opted to check out the Boston Billiard Club & Casino (BBCC).

Before I get into the details, I will give a little background on the New Hampshire poker scene, or more broadly, the NH gambling scene.  I’m not sure when NH received the legal precedent to open card rooms and offer casino gaming, but it’s a more recent (within the past few years) turn of events.  As it currently stands, the maximum bet for the casino is $4, meaning you can play blackjack all day at $4 / hand!  That limit is apparently increasing in the near future, to $10.  On that same vein, the poker room is beholden to the max bet rule; the maximum big blind is $4, meaning the biggest hold’em game offered is $2/4 no limit (none of which were running on a Monday night).  FWIW, besides the $1/2 NLHE game I played, the BBCC was spreading a $1/3 Omaha game.
As it turns out, in order to legally offer casino gaming, the casino operator undertook a concession to contribute most of the proceeds to charity.  That said, other than a sign on the door upon arrival, the feature charity (which changes daily) is completely obscured to the player; in other words, I wouldn’t have known that I was playing in a casino for charity vs. a casino for profit without that sign.  Located in what amounts to a strip mall, BBCC took rake the same way I’ve seen most do it, 10% up to $5 – no flop, no drop.  It offered $0.50 / hour in comps.   Waitress service was terrific.  Seats were fairly basic, as was the table itself, featuring no automatic shufflers (all decks were hand shuffled).  Dealers were competent.  They open at 12pm, close at 1am.  In fact, if I had to nitpick one thing, it would be that buy-ins and rebuys were by runner only; one cannot rebuy at the table.  Although the runners are efficient, I can imagine this could be a problem when the poker room is busy (5 tables were running during the night I was visiting).
As is typical of “new-ish” poker rooms introduced to an area, play was atrocious.  Obviously given limited data (I played one session for ~4 hours), I saw obvious bluffs, poor to terrible pre-flop hand selection and otherwise idiotic play.  For example, I saw a guy call a 3bet of $35 that he opened for $6, with $60 behind holding 23cc.  Obviously, he flopped a flush vs. pocket Queens without the Qc, so he’s a poker genius, but LOL.  This same guy would double through with KJ vs. AK AIPF against the same player later on in the night, and pay me off with a small pocket pair vs. my KK AIPF on the immediate following hand, so nice score for me.
Overall, I had a good night with one or two hands that were “questionable,” which I’ll share below:
  • First hand, I hold 35cc in the CO against a $6 raise by the aforementioned feature player from above.  There winds up being 8 of us in the hand; I opt to call with my speculative hand rather than giving any thought to 3bet / squeezing, given that the fish is clearly calling a 3bet with a wide range, which will cause the trickle-down effect of one caller joining multiple other callers.  Granted, I do have position, but I don’t want to inflate the pot without a purpose, and 5 high is not likely to showdown as the winner.  Anyway, we see a flop of Q J 3, two spades.  I check my pair of 3’s and the BTN bets $10 (into a ~$50 pot!).  I call, as does the original raiser.

    Turn is a 5 and I turn two pair.  The original raiser again checks, and I decide to take control of the hand, leading for $40, as I’m 99% sure I’m ahead at this point and want value.  I’m not afraid of the original raiser; I’m not sure what he’s doing or why he’s still in the hand, but I’m happy he’s still with me.  The BTN immediately folds and the original raiser again calls.  I have plans to check through any river that isn’t a 3 or 5, but I still can’t put original raiser on a hand.  I feel as though if he had a hand, he’d have bet the flop given so many players involved in the hand.  Looking at the hand from his position, I wouldn’t want my opponents seeing a turn / river for free, because if I have a hand I want to get value along the way.  I would be cbetting the flop, and continuing the turn, unlike him, who is check / calling and playing passively.

    That notwithstanding, we see a river of a Queen, leading the final board to read Q J 3 5 Q, rainbow.  He instantly leads for $75.  WTF?  Check / call, check / call, then lead with a board pairing Q?  Nuts or bluff – a polarizing bet, clearly, but it seems like such an odd spot for the nuts given the passivity.  I don’t waste much time in calling my 5’s and Queens, and he say’s “nice call” before flipping over K6o (WTF????).  I show my 5’s and the table is pretty astounded (really????  I suppose he could have been bluffing with a pocket pair, but it’s just such a weird spot to bluff there!).
  • Second hand is against a tighter player, who’s pretty passive post flop but will open PF.  At this point in the night, I’m raising a few hands in a row and look down at AJcc on the BTN.  I open to $17 after 4-5 limps, and he’s the only one who calls in early position.  Flop comes AdQd3x and he checks to me.  I lead for $27 and he check / raises me all in for $160 effective.  Thoughts on a passive post flop player who all of a sudden gets aggro after seeing me become aggro PF?

    Click to see results

    I couldn’t put him on AA, QQ, AQ or AK, as he would have raised PF without a doubt. I absolutely can put him on 33 here – that’s an easy limp / call hand from EP.  I can also put him on a ton of diamond draws. The check / raise seems so out of character for him, though. If he’s going for value, wouldn’t he either lead or c/r to $75-80 and shove the turn? Why bomb a check / raise all in? I eventually wind up calling him and he shows QTo.
Again, as I said, idiotic play…  Idiotic players…  Just weird spots for bluffs that make no sense.

Monday, May 14, 2018

The case of the overplayed Aces?

Let me preface this retelling of last week's session by saying I *NEVER* run good at MGM National Harbor.  Since it opened around a year and a half ago, I've run like dog poop.  I have no problem frequently getting my money in good, but my hands simply don't seem to hold.  Ultimately, this bout of poor like leads to my strong preference to play at Baltimore's Horseshoe.  There, in addition to having less variance, the games seem easier and I can often get my money in with my opponent drawing stone dead, in effect cutting out variance altogether.  Enough of the sob story at MGM, let's get to the meat!

I decided to hit up MGM because my buddy Josh was in town on business for the week.  We decided to play a session together, go for dinner, and generally catch up a bit.  He was working in Tyson's Corner, and I work out of Sterling -- both in Virginia; therefore, it made the most sense to forge through the traffic and venture out 30 miles to MGM rather than travel the ~60-70 miles to Live! or Horseshoe.  Although we didn't wind up at the same table, it was good catching up with him in the car sitting through traffic, and eating dinner.  We're finally sitting at separate $1/$3 tables and about 3 hours in, the following hand comes up:

I have about $1000, and the villain in the hand has around $900, so we're VERY deep.  I'm in the SB and the villain, from MP, raises to $18 after a limp or two.  I'd been watching the villain for awhile; he seems competent, and more ABC.  Never once in the three hours did I see him get out of line, nor he me.  Most of my money came from the 2 aggro Asian guys to my right who were trying to out-piss one another.  At this point, there was only one of those guys remaining, and he was on his 5th or 6th $200 buy in (trips to the ATM EVERY TIME!!!!).  Anyway, as I was saying, MP raises to $18, gets called in 4 spots and action is to me in the SB.  I look down at two Aces (no idea the color).  Interesting; $100 in the pot and action is open.  I think a raise is 100% in order here, no?  How much?  A mid-pot sized raise seems good - I 3bet / squeeze to $100.  Given my deep opponent, I think he can technically call a wide range because he's getting decent implied odds, but reality-wise, he's going to manage losses and fold a wide range including small pocket pairs and smaller than AQ-.  I realize I'm out of position here, and I don't want him to fold THAT wide of a range, but I also don't want him in there with any two cards because that will prompt everyone else [and their brothers and sisters] to call along side.  I'm looking to isolate here and narrow ranges of my opponents in the hand.  Ultimately, it folds back to him; he thinks for a bit and calls.  The remaining Asian dude shoves his remaining $157 and action is back to me.  I pause for awhile, but I've already done the math - I can't reopen the pot.  I look at the dealer and say, "raise," with a smile on my face, knowing full well that the dealer will decline the request.  He shakes his head "no," and repeat more firmly, "raise!"  He verbally says, "no, you can't do that," and I chuckle a bit, making the call, as does the table at large (including the villain).  The villain makes the call and we see a flop with $368 in the middle.

Jc 9c 5 flop.  I'm not worried about a club draw - again I don't remember the particular suits of my Aces, but I have an unimproved hand that's going with its preflop valuation.  I want to continue betting here, as I want all the money in the middle.  I'm a bit concerned about him holding a pair of Jacks and less so 9's or 5's, but that's a very small portion of his overall range and should not stop me from trying to get all in.  I also don't want him to fold the flop, so I opt to bet $205, little more than half pot.  He thinks & calls.  I pretty clearly know what he has at this point: QQ (less likely) or KK (more likely).  We see a turn in a wildly unmanageable pot or $778 with $595 effective behind.

Turn is let's call it a deuce.  Not sure the color, but it wasn't a club.  I rip in the last ~$700 and he reluctantly calls.  This would be the worst slow roll in history if he has a set.

Thoughts?  Overplayed Aces or make your read and go with it?

I wait for the blank river and flip over my Aces for the scoop, one of the bigger pots I've won in recent years.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Craziness during WSOP at the 'Shoe and a hand history

Life gets in the way of poker constantly.  Whether it's my children, my wife, my parents or friends, life takes priority to a game.  Therefore, I've been trying to shoehorn my poker playing into smaller and smaller time slices.  Over the past 2-3 months, I think I've played maybe 3 sessions, and although online poker is more readily accessible, it's kinda been the same thing for my online game.

Anyway, I was able to play last week -- while the WSOP circuit tour was in town.  For a Thursday night, the action was great and the money was free-flowing.  There were a few easy marks, but overall, my table was nothing to be feared.  So long as one could isolate a little "roller coaster-ing," one could profit heavily.  In other words, embrace variance and the profitable results will shine.

I've been considering the hand I'm about to share - from a 1/3 game at Baltimore's Horseshoe.  It was a sizable pot, and I always tend to evaluate those with greater scrutiny:

I'm in the UTG+1 or 2 (can't remember) and limp A4hh (~$1500) along with 3 others in position.  It gets around to the BB (~$500) who raises to $20.

The BB is aggressive and wonky; he's somewhat on tilt from a prior hand where he got it all in with K2s against AA for $130 on the flop with a gin Q22 which runner-runnered Queens for the AA scoop.  He's been quietly containing his emotions for about 2 hours, but his aggression is way ramped up.  He's in his late 50's / mid 60's and appears to be kinda dumb.  His image of me is early 40's, tight, aggressive, sitting on a big stack by only showing down big holdings, which is why I'm sitting on my $1500 stack.  Ultimately, with my call, the 3 others call rather quickly.  ~$100 in the middle.

We see a flop: A 3 6 rainbow (I think there was one heart, so straight and flush backdoor draws are available).  He checks and I, with my backdoor(s) and top pair, decide to lead for $45.  At the time, it seemed like a mandatory bet.  I don't want to see it get checked through, and I want to see how the other 3 players respond.  I'd love to take down the pot with a middling Ace, but I also want to thin the herd going into the turn.  The plan is that if I run into resistance from any of the other players, I can be somewhat certain I'm behind, and I'll plan to check the turn to give up control / pot control with significant action and/or bricks.  FWIW, I realize the other players can be holding 3x or 6x types of hands and a $45 bet into a $100 pot is purposely not a very imposing bet.  I want those 3x and 6x hands to stay involved.

I get folds around to the BB who just calls: ~$190 in the middle.  I initially put him on an under pair (KK, QQ, JJ specifically) who is just stubborn.  He also could have Ax (all combos of Ax for his raising range from the BB beat me), but I discount this thought since I think he charges the flop instead of check / calls.  As a factor, I don't think he raises 24/ 23/ 56 / 45 / etc. combos out of the BB (nor any position for that matter, but not to the degree of certainty as out of the BB), as I simply haven't seen that from him in the 4 hours I've been sitting with him.  At this point in the hand, given his play, I'm pretty sure I'm ahead.  I plan to check all turn cards and bet river, as I think if he does indeed have a QQ, KK type hand, he can't pay off back to back streets, but will more likely pay off a flop bet / turn check / river "smallish" $75-$100 bet.

Turn is an off suit 7, completing the rainbow, but this time he takes control of the hand and leads for $75.  I reconsider my options and reconsider his range - I'm surprised at this line.  I still weight him heavily towards KK, QQ hands, but I guess I need to weight his Ax hands a bit heavier.  I'm still fairly certain I'm ahead, but I'm not loving his bet and my resultant options.  Call, raise and fold are all on deck for options:
  • Raising will effectively fold out his bluffs and under pairs -- I only get called by better hands (i.e. all better Aces).
  • Folding leaves a lot of money on the table against his "bluffs" which I mentally still include KK, QQ, JJ, TT.
  • Again, I'm not as confident, but I think calling makes the most sense; the 7 gives me 4 of my backdoor outs, plus the two pair outs of hitting a 4.  Therefore, I have 7 outs going to the river -- 14% in the worst case that I'm currently behind.  Therefore, I call: $340 in the middle, with ~$350 effective behind... $75 to win $265 against $350 additional implied; ~3 to 1 immediate with ~8 to 1 total implied odds which is cutting it close for the percieved clean outs.  Against his range, though, I think I'm getting the correct mathematical odds, factoring in that I'm ahead some percentage of the time.
River is a big, beautiful 5, making the final run out: A 3 6 7 5.  He snap shoves ~$340.  I think for a brief couple of seconds, but I can't see any way I'm behind given the run out.  Obviously, 89 and 84 are the only hands that beat me which make no sense given the way the hand played.  It's just that the shove makes no sense and my issue with the whole hand.  Over the years, I've definitely learned to take my time when making calls for stacks, and which is why I take a couple of seconds here, worried that I'm missing some glaring error.  River shoves when the nuts are present on the board -- especially 4 card effective nut hands, hidden as they may be - is a rarity at 1/3.  I make the call and he [proudly] flips over A9o.  I show my filled gutter for the scoop and continue to stew over the hand which is why I'm reproducing it here.

Now clearly, he either had one helluva read on me on the flop / turn, or he way way way overplayed his hand (the latter more than the former).  What I'm questioning is: Where did the hand go wrong?  Did I misplay it?  It's obviously easy to win when you river the effective nuts, but do I check through the flop?  Fold the turn?  Did I discredit his premium Ace / nutted hands too much?  Granted, A9o is hardly a "premium" hand -- certainly not a 3 street ~$500 hand -- but I guess what I'm also conflicted by is the whole thought that my A4 hand is a bluff catcher on the river that would not have caught his "bluff."

I therefore argue that his river shove turns his hand into a bluff not a value bet, but if I call the turn, shouldn't I call any blank river?  Or should I be calling turn and folding a river shove?  There aren't too many bricks, save for an A, 3, or 6 but let's count bricks also as 10's and 9's -- hands that don't help his perceived range and don't help me.  For mental reference, I'm purposely staying away from calling a Q or a K a "brick," because it completes many sets given his range, and also gives him 2 pair given his would-be revised [turn betting] range.  Also, consider that he's shoving any river - with both bluffs and values.  If I second-guess my flop bet, his sizing by the river is not a shove, and more readily called (i.e. checks through flop, turn bets $50-70 and now there's $190-$210 with ~$380 behind by the river; an awkward overbet).  Am I overthinking / over-analyzing this hand?

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

This video angers me to no end...

It's been awhile since my last post.  Nothing much to report; life goes on and poker continues.  Anyway, I came across this video from Jalopnik the other day.

Every time I see it, I just want to scream at the driver of the white car...

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

An interesting ruling at the 'Shoe - What would you do?

I got murdered during my session last week.  All in on the turn with the flop nut straight?  Rivered flush.  All in on the flop?  Turned flush.  All in on the turn with bottom two pair?  Rivered trips.  Wah wah wah.

Anyway, an interesting hand occurred midway through the first orbit of my miserable session.  Here's the recount:

Pre flop cards are dealt.
As the dealer completes the deal, the dealer somehow knocks over the top two cards, one of which flips over face up -- a 4 of spades.  The dealer is unsure which card is the top card (i.e. the burn card) and which should be on the flop, and the players were not closely observing the dealer to know which is which.  At this point, action has completed in 2-3 spots (UTG called, 2 others folded).  Therefore, I think "significant" action has occurred and a misdeal cannot be called.

What do you do in this situation?  To sum up, 1 of 3 pre flop cards have potentially been exposed, or potentially the burn card has been exposed.  A normal rule for prematurely exposed board cards is to deal out and preserve the natural order of the deck (i.e. if the turn is prematurely shown, deal the river as the turn and and then reshuffle the deck).  In this situation, the partial flop is prematurely exposed.

Floor is called and rules to take other 2 cards off top of deck (the natural 2 remaining flop cards).  Floor rules to shuffle them into the 2 "exposed" cards on the table, meaning the pending action has the advantage of knowing that 3 out of 4 times (75%), there will be a 4 on the flop, whereby the prior action was not able to take advantage.

Personally, I think this is the worst response, but in the heat of the moment, the floor had to make a snap decision to continue the game.  No shame on the floor; he's caught in a tough spot with a situation that likely has never occurred before.

In thinking about it more critically, and talking with the table, there are quite a few solutions:

  1. If you just shuffle the 2 "exposed" cards, you at least lower the odds to 1 out of 2 times (50%), lowering the remaining players' advantage, while preserving the natural 2 out of 3 flop cards.  This solution makes it more "fair" to the players that have already acted, albeit still giving the players to act a huge advantage.
  2. Reshuffle the entire deck to a new flop.
  3. My optimal opinion to the solution: deal out the 2 flop cards, the burn & turn, and burn & river to preserve the natural order of the turn / river, and then reshuffle the entire deck with the two "exposed" flop cards.  Burn the top card of the newly shuffled deck and flop the unexposed top card.  You've preserved every card but the first flop card.
I'm not sure what the proper procedure is here as I've never seen this type of thing happen.  I'm sure most of you have seen more hands than me and seen this before; what was the ruling in your room?  Can you think of another solution?  Thoughts?

FWIW, I raised my AQo, got a host of callers and check / folded the flop with the 4 3 4 flop when an opponent with 88 led all streets -- 5 hit the turn, 7 hit the river and the 88 got stacked by 66.

Monday, December 18, 2017

If a gift horse hits you in the mouth...

Quick post because although it's been a month or two since my last post, I don't have much to report on the poker front.  Things are moving along both online and live, with no major hand histories or review-worthy items.  However, I had an odd occurrence happen to me last Saturday, when I had one of my more rare opportunities to get some time in at the tables:

I'm moving along, my stack is roughly $1000, but I'm into the game for about $500.  It's my standard $1/$3 game at the Horseshoe.  I've had one rough decision thus far, where I opened to $15 with T9s, flopped two pair on a Q T 9 board and got all in against KJ for a flopped straight for about $220 between the flop / turn / river.  That's most of the $500 I'm in for.  Maybe I can delve into that hand a little as a segue because it was mildly interesting:

We see a flop 4-way, with the SB & BB having called and the lone limper calling.  It checks to me and I cbet $30 - the BB calls.

The turn is an Ace and the BB checks; I throw out a second barrel of $45 and get check / raised to $95 (he has $~90 behind).  Decision time: I'm behind all two pair hands better than mine, plus the obvious straight.  He could have flop slow played AK, but he could also have called AT / AJ / AQ / QT.  This guy is fairly passive overall.  I'm not sure if he semi bluffs a hand like AJ or just flats looking to get to a cheap showdown or what.  I guess if he is fairly passive, he's rarely semi bluffing, but he could believe that his Ax just sucked out and is now the nuts -- again, AK is a possibility.  Also factoring into the decision is if I call the turn raise, I have to call the river barring an obvious change to the board (4 straight Ten or Queen, namely).  In retrospect, I'm not sure I like my decision in calling here, but I do make the call --- and call the blank 3 on the river.  I'm shown KJ for the nuts, as I described earlier.  I think there's room for improvement on that hand sequence.  I think there's too much information telling me to fold on the turn when I:
  1. Get check raised by a more passive player and
  2. Don't even hold close to the nuttiest 2 pair hand.
Anyway, enough with the segue; onto the hand of the night which is fairly unexciting.  The overall table is fairly passive, habitually limping, calling reasonably outsized bets and check / folding flops.  I've been taking down a lot of missed opened pots with cbets by taking advantage of the passivity to this point.  I look down at AA in mid position after 3 limps.  I raise to $25, $15 + 3 limps x $3 per limp.  It folds around to the original limper who decides to limp / raise to $50.  I've been playing against this guy for the past 2 sessions, around 12 hours of time, so I'm fairly familiar with his game.  I know that he's only raising the top 5-10% of hands, and I've *NEVER* seen him limp / raise before.  I think it's fair to estimate he has a good hand.  It folds back to me and I have a decision of flat vs. 4 bet -- and how much to 4 bet.  Let's throw some percentages out and say it's 5% bluff and 95% premium hand.  Therefore, I decide on the 4 bet rather than a flat.

Given that he has about $800 to start the hand, I think flatting is a poor option since I'm looking to play a large pot and no matter the flop, even if he himself has Aces or Kings, it's going to be hard to get all the money in the middle because he'll be in constant fear of a set (unless, of course, he himself flops a set) or an overpair on the flop.  I take my time, debating between a smaller raise ($125), or a larger raise ($200).  Given the action, I think he's never folding any hand here -- if he is, then his limp / raise was a simple bluff, which again, I've never seen him do and it wouldn't fit his profile.  Since I'm pretty sure he's never folding, I opt to raise big and go with the $200 option, not settling in the middle or anything.  I'm going for broke, quite literally.

He processes my 4bet and announces "all in."  Hmmm...  Damn...  Does he also have AA?  I think a fairly standard play here (for most of these players) is to just call the $200 with KK and hope to get away from the hand on the flop.  When I'm seeing a push for almost 3 buy ins, I feel like I have to be up against the other two Aces.  However, I waste no time in calling and he shows KK.  I show him the bad news [for him] and he is totally bummed out.  The board runs clean and I scoop one of the bigger pots I've scooped this year for +$800.

In considering the hand, a couple of thoughts come to mind:
  1. If you can get more money into the pot with the nuts, don't hesitate and shovel whatever you can into it while you know you're on top.
  2. Coolers will happen and KK will run into AA from time to time.  It's hard to fold KK pre flop, and when you're sitting on 100BB, it's even harder.  However, when you're sitting on almost 300BB, shoveling it all in with KK after you've been 4bet is a HUGE error against a reasonable player (which fits my image).
  3. It's probably an error to just call 66BB with 200BB behind after getting 4bet with KK, and although it's a tough fold if your opponent is threatening stacks on the flop / turn, you can probably comfortably save ~100BB by folding at some point or simply taking a flop and folding to an Ace high board.
  4. Don't shove ~300BB into a 4bet against a reasonable player when you yourself have been a very tight player -- especially at these stakes.  It accomplishes nothing because you can only be called by hands that beat you and fold out the hands that you crush.
Note that I keep using the word "reasonable."  The rule set above changes quite dramatically when you have an unpredictable opponent or if you yourself are "unpredictable."  Raising and calling ranges change quite a bit when you or your opponent are casually 3- and 4- betting.  To be more clear, if you figure your opponent could 4bet you with QQ, JJ, straight bluffs, etc., which is much more of a rarity at these stakes, then it may very well be correct to shove KK and get a call from a lesser hand.  However, that 4bet that I put in pretty clearly defines me to have only the very very top of my range: AA, KK.  Calling a shove keeps me in the same range, but skewed way more towards AA.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Is live poker rigged?

Two hands to share - both interesting in their own way.  I'm back to playing at the Horseshoe, at least for the time being, so all hands are from the $1/$3 table:

  1. I'm on the BTN, facing a $6 open from an UTG tighter player while looking down at K4o.  I think the opener's range is very limited, but $6 is just too tempting of a price to open fold after 6 callers are already in, coupled with position.  Therefore, I make the call as do the SB & BB.

    We see an ~8 way flop of A K 4 dd.  Checks to the original raiser who leads for $20 into $50; there are 2 callers and it folds to me.  I think for a while, fully considering the possibility that I may be up against AK.  I think a raise is in order with the SB & BB getting an excellent price to draw, as well as the two callers who may or may not be drawing.  I want to raise to see how my opponents react -- I'm going to call this a semi-bluff, since I'm not sure what my bottom two are worth and I'm over $500 deep.  I don't want to get to the river having just called down 3 streets; I'd rather define the hand right up front.  I think for a bit and raise to $80.  The SB shoves her $125 stack and UTG fairly quickly re-shoves $325.  One of the players folds, but the other re-re-shoves $650.  Action's on me to close out the hand - what do I do?

    I think this is a fairly trivial fold; UTG has to at least have AK, if not AA or KK.  I have no idea about the big stack nor the short stack, but I'm pretty certain the big stack isn't drawing since he's smart enough to know he wants players in the pot for additional money rather than forcing them to fold out of the hand.  I conclude that as a minimum, UTG or the big stack have me beat and I fold.  I'm shown J6dd by the short stack, AK by the original raiser and 44 by the big stack.  Of course, since poker is rigged, J6 wins with a diamond on the turn and the big stack picks up a few extra dollars.

    AK v K4 v 44 v dd on an AK4dd board?  Poker is rigged!
  2. Different session, same place.  I've been at my table for a few hours and there's a guy on my left just dumping money onto the table.  Every chance he gets, he bluffs.  Every chance he gets, he's in the hand - I think his VPIP was something like 100%.  He's losing a lot of money -- at this point, he's down close to $1500!  I can't get any piece of him since I'm utterly card dead.  On my literal other hand (my right side), there's a guy who can't miss.  He's the recipient of most of the money the guy on my left has dumped.  He's sitting on around $1300.  He's a character in and of himself; he'll open to $40 with any and all pairs, but open to $11 with marginal 2nd and 3rd tier type hands like suited Aces and broadways.

    Anyway, my right side opens to $11.  I look down at A2dd and flat, as does my left side.  I think we get one caller in between, but take a flop of A Kd 7.  The guy on my right leads for $25, which is called by both me and the guy to my left.  I'm pretty happy with the flop, I'm not loving that my right is leading.  I want to give my left a chance to bluff a few chips and stab away at the pot.

    I eventually do get my chance to let my left side hand himself when the turn is a K.  My right side checks, I check and my left leads for $35 or so.  The right calls, and I think for a bit, worried that I'm beat by my right side, but eventually make the call.  Adding to my confidence on the right side player is the fact that whenever he believes he has the nuts (and he's flopped 4 or 5 sets on the night), he's shoving his stack independent of the pot size.  This kind of aggression has single-handedly killed the guy on my left, a large part of the reason he's down so much money.  Anyway, my right side has gone from being aggressive to shy, so I'm more comfortable with my play.

    The river is a Ten and we both check to my donkish left sided friend.  Without fail, he bets $75, a large-ish bet.  The guy on my right folds and I snap it off.  I'm shown Q6dd for a total bluff and take down a decent pot.  Guy on my right claims he had AT but thought the bluffer had a King and "had to fold."  I still don't understand his action, especially given that he'd been taking the guy's money all night.  Whatever; nice pot for me!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Flipping your cards when you close out action strikes again

Long story short: My wife's relatives from Florida are staying with us for the foreseeable future, attempting to ride out the hurricane.  They live in Miami, 4 blocks from the beach, in a place that at this point is likely now consider "beach front" - if not "in the ocean" - property.  The last time they stayed with us was over 7 years ago, where I wrote about him in a post from a home game that I held.  In the 7 years since he's been to our house, Maryland has legalized poker & gambling, and 3 ensuing casinos have opened within a 45 minute trip from my home.  Saturday night, I took him to go check out the MGM Grand in National Harbor.

I was card dead for most of the night.  I ran a bad bluff where the short of it is that my opponent looked me up with KTo on a King high board, but I basically walked away break-even for the session.  Close to the end of the session, I get moved to my wife's cousin's table because my table broke.  The open seat is on his left, good spot because I know he's pretty recklessly aggressive.  True to form, he's betting and raising.  Mixing it up pretty good, and definitely hitting his cards.  I'm seeing a bunch of questionable plays, but he seems to be scooping pretty consistently.

DISCLAIMER: I'm not particularly proud of the following, because there's some questionable activities below by me, mainly violating the "one player per hand" rule.  Still, it's worthy of writing a blog post despite my violation of the rule.

I've been playing at the new table for around an hour when an early position (EP) player raises to $12 (1/3 game).  It gets called in 2 spots and my wife's cousin (WC) 3bets to $30.  I haven't seen him 3bet, but I've seen him raise somewhat often.  Regardless, it's a small raise compared to the pot size of $36 + $12 = $48 before the $18 raise.  All players call and I fold 56o.

Flop comes 3 4 T and I think original raiser leads for $~40(????).  I wasn't paying very close attention until the river, unfortunately.  The cbet clears out the cold callers who fold, and WC just calls.  Turn is a 2 which would have been my nut card(!!!!!).  I think it checks through.  River is a 7 which would have given me up & down, but original raiser leads for all in (approximately $240).  His bet is an overbet; not huge, but the bet feels enormous given the action.  WC looks at me and whispers, "What should I do?" as he shows me pocket Queens.  My first reaction is to shrug and mime "no clue."  Then, as WC starts to tank, I whisper to him: "flip your cards up and see what happens."  I know full well that the casino rule is to disallow overturned cards, but nothing will happen except a warning and a "stern talking-to," and not to do it again "or else!"  He listens to my advice and flips up the Queens, much to the chagrin of the dealer who scolds him not to do that.  However, the damage is done - the cat's out of the bag - the horse has left the barn - whatever other cliches you can think of.  The reaction on his opponent's face is priceless; it's all in the eyes... his reaction is almost as audible as a groan, but this is a 100% genuine reaction.  His eyes flutter and look up in disbelief, signaling that he knows he's in trouble.

WC calls pretty quickly after turning his cards back over such that they're no longer exposed.  After 10 seconds, WC throws in chips for the call and flips up his QQ for the win.  The dealer starts pooling the bet into the main pot and his opponent starts getting loud.  He contests the pot, saying that the rules were broken, and WC should forfeit his hand since his cards were exposed before action was closed.  He's holding onto any thread of hope that the pot can be returned to him, but to no avail.  Floor comes over, instructs the dealer to ship the pot to WC and a 10 minute discussion by floor and the opponent continues about how what's the point of a rule if it's not enforced, etc.  However, pot is awarded and we rack up to leave at 3 a.m.

To be honest, it is a pretty dumb rule; if I want to flip my hand over at any point throughout, why can't I?  Obviously, one could argue that I gain an unfair information advantage by getting the reaction, but one could argue the opposite: if I incorrectly [or even correctly] fold, my opponent now knows that he/she can push me off of hands of that particular strength in the future.  More to the point, if this hand flipping rule is in effect, what is the actual penalty?  Is there a difference between accidentally exposed cards vs. purposely?  Because the penalty should be the same regardless, just like an accidental string bet that seems to be very strictly enforced as a string bet, or acting out of turn accidentally. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Playin' with the cow pokes at the WinStar in Oklahoma

The outside of the WinStar in Thackerville, OK
Unless I write down a hand of particular significance, I usually go off memory when retelling the hand histories for this blog.  Therefore, I may get some details confused or cards mislabeled, but the overall essence of the hand retelling is, for the most part, accurate.  That said, earlier this week, I had business travel to Ft. Worth, Texas.  I arrived in Texas in the early evening, without enough time to go check in at work, but too much time to go to the hotel and call it a night.  Already knowing the time I was scheduled to arrive, I figured I would cross the border to OK to get a feel for the "local" poker scene.  The reason I put local in quotes is because the WinStar is about 1 hour from Fort Worth and 1 and a half hours from Dallas.  I digress.

Upon arrival, I tried to take a few pictures (as evidenced above), but was largely unsuccessful, as I was anxious to get seated & get in what would likely be my only time to play until next week.  Therefore, I tried a panoramic shot to get the true feel for the casino's varied architecture.  I was impressed that the architects went with a Vegas feel for the outside; if you can't see the picture, the architecture varies from London (Big Ben / Parliament) to Saxony (nondescript castle) to Roman colonnades and amphitheater, all the way over to Japanese pagoda(?).  Although the inside of the building was not nearly as meaningful of a presence as the outside, at least they're trying in the middle of nowhere in Thackerville!

Inside the poker room
I got myself situated and wait listed myself for the 2/5 & 1/3 games.  After briefly discussing the game layouts with a few dealers just starting their shift, I decided to stick with the 1/3, as they reported that the 1/3 games were very loose, but the 2/5 games were more on the "pro" "tight" side.  I'm always up for a loose game.  Of note, the casino spreads a 1/2 game as well, which did not seem particularly interesting.

The games definitely felt like 1/3 at the 'Shoe in Baltimore; very loose pre-flop calls somewhat home game, followed by check / folds and/or folds on the turn.  People were continually paying for draws and bottom pairs hoping to suck out.

There was one particularly memorable player - a late 70's farmer type - who would call any and every "reasonable" raise PF, only to fold on the flop as described above.  (I use quotes around reasonable because although he wouldn't call a $50 open, he had no problem throwing in $30 or $35).  If he hit his top pair, he'd either bet or raise, making him very easy to play against.  A few uninteresting hands with him are detailed as follows:
I open with KQ after a limper to $15.  He calls as do 3-4 others.  Flop comes K 5 2.  He ships $58.  I call as the only player and he flips over K9.  I hold and scoop.  He rebuys $200.
I open $35 (to try isolate him) with QQ from the BB after a ton of limps and he's the only caller.  Flop comes 6 2 3.  He checks and I bet $35 - he ships for $60 and I call; he hits a J on the turn for 2 pair (J6o) and scoops.  GG sir.
I isolate AQo for $35 and take down a blank flop with a cbet.  FWIW that happened numerous times, so I don't remember all the particulars.  On and on...

The two hands of the night were as follows:
  • I open to $17 after a limper with AJo.  Two callers - Mr. Farmer and a loose Asian guy with about $400 in front of him.  Flop comes A 9 5cc.  I cbet $45 with my TP OK kicker.  Mr. Farmer folds and Asian dude just calls.  Turn is an offsuit 2 and he checks over to me; I lead for $75 and he flats again.  River is an offsuit Q.  He checks again.  In retrospect, I think I can make a small value bet on the river here: $50-75, but I weigh that against the issue that too often if I bet 3 streets, my opponent is only calling when they have me beat.  The logic I'm balancing though is if they're calling $75 on the turn, they're calling a $75 or less bet on the river if they hold a worse Ace.  I don't know; I could go either way, but I need to think about it more closely when I'm in that situation since in this case, I pretty quickly checked through.  Perhaps I'm being results-oriented, but he shows ATo and I win a sizable pot.
  • The other hand of note was against another older guy who, to my knowledge, had not raised or been aggressive all night.  He sat down with $500+, coming from a 2/5 game, and was slowly bleeding away until this hand came up with him sitting on maybe $350.  It limps to me in the SB and I look down at QQ again.  Mr. Farmer is in the hand, so I again try what didn't work last time by raising to $35 - trying to isolate him.  This time, the other older guy wakes up and limp / raises to $100 flat by tossing in a $100 chip on an announced raise.  It folds back to me and I tank.  Does an old guy limp raise with anything but AA / KK?  Is it reasonable?  AK?  I eventually wind up folding after he tells me he'd show, but he only shows me an Ace.  Claims he had AK.  Not sure whether I believe him, but AA / KK / AK is a coin flip for a call (i.e. equal number of combos for AK as for AA & KK combined).  Oh well; tough spot for $35.
I wind up with an okay session, but I'm happy to report that the games are super easy there!  If you find yourself in the DFW area, definitely make WinStar a stop on your tour!

Post-script: A few short notes on quirky rules at the WinStar.
  1. When transferring from one game to another of the same stakes, you have an option of taking chips off the table.
  2. When facing a bet and another player announces all in, that all in bet must be double the bet being called in order for action to be reopened.  For example, if I raise to $10 in a 1/3 game, my raise is $7.  If another player goes all in for $18 total, betting is not reopened to me since the all in player's raise is not $20 or more, double the bet being faced.
  3. Betting lines are observed; moreover if you cross the betting line with a stack of chips, all of those chips are the bet.  In other words, you cannot take a stack of chips across the line and only bet a portion of them; the entire stack that you take across the line is the standing bet.
I didn't have an issue with any of those rules, but throughout the night, there were situations where they became important.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The ongoing saga of pocket Kings, or "Is it wrong to set mine?" -- oh yeah, and an angle shoot (sorta)!

I am still befuddled that my Kings never hold up.  Over the past 8-10 months, it seems as though every time I am dealt KK, I have no problem getting my money in WAY good, only to have my opponent win the pot once all cards are dealt.  I don't get it; whether I'm a 90% favorite or "as little" as a 75% favorite, my Kings simply do not hold'em.  During my most recent session, instead of getting all in only to be sucked out on, I paid off -- and paid off size-ably.

Some background, first.  I got in a rare Friday night session.  I've been vacationing recently, 2 and a half weeks in Israel with my wife's extended family (15 of us in total) traveling throughout the countryside.  Then, we had a week of work before last week journeying off to Playa del Carmen along the Mayan Riviera off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.  Although there have been some problems with a few resorts using spiked alcohol, the resort we stayed in only offers top shelf alcohol and very high end food.  If any of my readers are interested in a 5 star vacation, I highly recommend El Dorado Royale, where we stayed (it was our 3rd or 4th time staying at the series of properties).  I digress; we got back late Thursday night and I was set for a Friday session.

I was seated fairly quickly; there was a "long-ish" waitlist for both the 1/3 and 2/5 games, but I saw a few empty spots sprinkled throughout the room on the 1/3 tables.  The floor was being fairly inefficient in announcing the open seating, so I asked for permission to find a seat and sit down.  The floor granted me the privilege and I found a decent looking 1/3 table, letting them know to take me off the list.  At my table were a list of characters: a 60 -ish gentleman who I nicknamed "nuts," because he was only showing down the nuts and only raising PF with the nuts.  His bet sizing was terrible, so I felt it was only a matter of time before his AA or KK gets cracked by draws or otherwise.  There was another competent player, who I'll nickname "angle" for reasons evident later in this post.  Another player, "red" was a red-headed guy who was fairly competent, and then there was a pretender who thought he was a pro but I thought was suspect because I caught him numerous times limping where he should have thrown in a standard raise, and played far too timidly to appear to turn a regular profit.

I quickly opened my range, realizing that the table was on the tight side; they were mostly the type who would limp in and try to see flops for cheap.  If I raised (my standard raise is typically $15 + ~$3 per limper), the players would fold and I'd see and instant profit for no sweat.  In a more rare case where someone was emboldened to call, I'd simply cbet a K high flop with my missed AQ, or cbet a 2 8 6 board with my pocket 5's to take down a decent pot.  These players started the night playing tight.

Red started establishing himself as a bit of a station; he seemed to commit that if he limped, he was calling a reasonable raise to see a flop.  That reasonable raise consisted of some logical amount between $15 and $25.  At the time of this hand, I'm sitting on around $500 and he has me covered.  I look down at KK and after one limper, I raise to $17.  It folds around to Red who calls, and everyone else folds.  Heads up, we see a 2 9 Qhhh flop.  I do not hold the Kh.  Out of position, I cbet $35 which he flats.  The turn is an offsuit 5 or something, and I lead for $75.  He flats once again.  The river is an offsuit Ace, which I'm very unhappy about.  I check to him, and he thinks for a bit before betting $100.  Given the odds I'm getting here, $100 into a $220+ pot, I begrudgingly call... especially when he seemed to size up and think about why I would check an Ace river before deciding to bet and potentially represent an Ah flush draw.  I think I gave away my hand on the river by not making a blocking bet, but I think my blocking bet is going to be around $75-100, the same it costs to call his bet.  Anyway, I call and am shown T2hh for a flopped ten high flush.  Good game for a first in call of $17.

I reload $100 and wait.  I'm playing from behind most of the rest of the night when I limp my Q9 in late position after a host of limpers.  The flop comes 7 8 T, rainbow.  Decent flop, with a draw and redraw to the nuttiest of nuts.  Angle is out of position to me and bets $15 -- I'm one of 2-3 callers for my open ender.  Turn fills me in with a 6 and he bets large this time: $65 or so.  A heart draw is also put out there as the 6 and 8(?) are now hearts).  I'm left as the only caller.  I consider a raise, but figure it's very obvious with the 4 straight.  The river is a 2 (can't remember whether it was a heart) and he stacks chips ($105 to be exact) in his hand and starts to move them forward and over the line.  He holds them there for a second without releasing and I toss in a chip for the call after believing he has bet (forward motion and over the line).  He sees my somewhat snap call and then starts claiming he did not bet.  The dealer, who is a competent dealer, tells me the rule at MGM: forward motion with a carve out is considered a bet.  He did not release, therefore it is not a bet.  I did not get all upset, did not throw my drink, did not start yelling or causing a ruckus.  I was visibly unhappy, and definitely had a few unpleasant words to the tune of, "whatever, you have to look at yourself in the mirror every day.  If you're comfortable, good for you."  That was the end of it; he had an obnoxious comment back, but a few hands later racked up and left.  Ho hum; lesson learned.  I'm going to have to be more obnoxious in the future when calling with the 2nd nuts and truly wait patiently, and ask "is that a bet?" before making a call.  Again, lesson learned.

The final hand of the night involves Red.  He's got rolled up Aces.  He raises to $10.  Mid position re-re-raises to $25, reopening the betting.  Player to my right calls, I call with 88, player to my left calls.  Back to Red.  I 4bets to $135.  I have $500 effective.  Original 3bettor ships for $129.  Player to my right calls.  I think for a bit, but I believe this to be an unprofitable call, as I'm folding all non-8 boards.  Player to my left thinks for a long time before calling.  Flop comes 8 6 2hh and I'm not too happy.  Red bets $125 and gets 1 caller.  He checks the non heart turn and bets $125 on the river to get a fold.  He shows (obviously, given the action) AA and scoops a nice pot.  It shoulda been me...  I should have gotten revenge for his earlier T2hh bullshit.

Despite the crap above, I turn a decent profit.  It should have been a bigger night, but I'll take what I got.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The need for topping off your stack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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