Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My approach to AK in live games

While playing last Friday, two situations came up when I held AK from out of position - once was from the small blind and the other was facing a 3bet against my UTG raise.  I am writing this blog entry to lay out my approach to AK, which has definitely changed over the past year (has it been THAT LONG?!??!) that I've focused solely on live poker.

Never has it been more apparent to me when I sit down at the (1/2) tables that I have such a HUGE advantage over the average player.  Therefore, in my live game, I've taken a much more passive approach with AK than I have over my prior poker career.  Let me explain.

AK is an easy raising hand; 2 hands have you squarely dominated, but all others are roughly a coin flip - and, if the situation is right, a dominating situation (AK vs. Ax, AK vs. Kx).  You are beating all hands in between by at least a 60/40 edge.  Therefore, it's profitable to raise AK.  What happens when you raise and are 3bet, though?  Let's operate under the assumption that 3bets in 1/2 - even 2/5 for that matter - are fairly infrequent.  For the average donk, a 3bet generally consists of 1 of 3 hands (AA, KK, 50% QQ & 50% AK).  Very simple.  Combined, those 4 permutations account for 2.5% of all hands - and if you split the QQ, AK at 50/50 like I propose, you get somewhere around 2% of hands - even easier to define.  In other words, you're not getting 3bet very often at these tables, and when you do, it's a very focused, defined range.  Against this focused range, AK should be an easy fold; you're not going to make money very often against it.  Moreover, the implied odds are simply not there when you're in a coin flip situation or worse (KK, QQ can lay down against an A high flop, and QQ most of the time will not be paying off big enough on a K high flop to be profitable).  So given your average donk, AK is a fairly easy fold against a 3bet against that range.  Therefore, against 3bets from more predictable opponents, I've taken to the practice of folding my AK opens to 3bets.  It should be noted that this practice does not hold true for my more aggressive, wider openers (including short stackers who feel "pressed" to get it in with any two picture cards, etc.).  In other words, AK is not an auto-fold to 3bets; it is situation dependent with most of the dependency coming from the image of the 3bettor.  I don't know that my approach to AK in this situation has varied so far from my online game; I'm generally folding most of my opening range to a 2% 3bettor.  However, my next approach has changed significantly.

Facing a raise from an in-position opponent: a tough situation to be in, indeed.  Ultimately, I've taken to the general approach of not wanting to see a flop when I have AK from out of position.  When I'm OOP, I'm tending to flat more and 3bet less.  I really want to limit my exposure to a bloated pot with little or no control for the rest of the hand.  I am trying to pot control from the earliest onset of the hand, pre-flop.  If I feel as though I can 3bet and take the pot down right away, I may lean on the side of doing so (i.e. eliminating the coin flip situations of pocket pairs <= QQ vs my AK), but for the most part, 3betting AK from OOP does not accomplish a heckuvalot - particularly with stubborn opponents - but against most live opponents who will call any bet with their small pocket pairs planning to check / fold or hit their sets.  On the other hand, a typical raiser will be raising AT+ and calling their suited Ax  and KT+.  Those are precisely the hands I want calling and feeling comfortable.  3betting those hands will only make my opponents fold, reducing the value I get from future streets when their K or A does indeed hit.  In summary, 3bets fold out the hands I dominate and isolate the hands I flip with.  Is that a situation I'm after (rhetorical; of course I don't want to be in that situation, silly!)?  Oh yeah - by the way - I have the play from out of position for the remainder of the hand.  So, again, I have taken the approach of passivity for holding AK OOP.

When I'm in position, it's a whole other beast.  In fact, my 3bet range is FAR wider in position than out.  I can include AJ+, some suited connectors (far less frequently), smaller pocket pairs (88+), etc.  I'm able to read the action and act last in future streets, so I can decide whether the table gets a free card or if I'm charging for it.  However, that's neither here nor there; this entry is about playing AK from OOP.

One last bonus note before I end this entry: when I'm in the blinds and facing a host of limpers, I've taken to raising to an "inappropriate" amount which is unlikely to get callers - and if it does, it will likely be no more than 1 caller.  I've typically opened from the blinds for $20-$30, dependent on the amount of limpers, for example.  Rarely is there someone laying in wait to spring a trap with his monster; a limp / raiser.  I want to get value from my strong hand that will generally flop weakly.  Therefore, I try to take it down immediately without much hassle.  I want to close out the 56, T8, QJ, small pocket pairs, etc., because I'm going to be up Shit's Creek with so many limpers and such a huge range of hands to outflop.  If that means closing out your K5s, so be it, but there are far more hands that have good equity against me when allowed to open limp than hands that I am crushing.

Monday, October 22, 2012

What goes down must come up & never offer to buy a Russian a hot dog

As planned, I hit the tables once again.  I had Friday off and intentions of redeeming myself.  Recall that in my last session, I lasted all of an hour and found myself down 2.5 buy ins.  Whenever I have a stinker of a session like that, I question myself, my abilities, and my instincts.  I also question whether I want to go back to the tables.  I know that the reality is I need to gut check and get back in there to prove that I can continue to crush the donkeys, but it is so disheartening to lose money to absolute idiots.

I got to the Chuck an hour before noon and am able to sit instantly - tables are churning, but they don't have a waitlist.  They probably had 10 1/2 games going in addition to a handful of 2/5 and 1 5/10 game.  I sat down to a young hot shot who had a nice chip stack - in the range of $900 or so.  He just kept on hitting hands and stacking his opponents, who, invariably never believed him.  They were all willing to play big pot poker, unbelieving he had a better Ace to their Ace-rag.  They were not ready to accept that their second pair was no good to a Q high board.  I quickly determined that he was frequently raising pre-flop not because he wanted to take down blinds but wanted to get value out of his tremendous run of good hands; AQ, AK, QQ, KQ, etc. - a seemingly endless run of premiums and semi-premiums, all which seemed to hit.  I knew the way to play this dude was to sit back and let him fall into a second-best trap of his own.

However, I would have to face problems of my own, first.  In addition to combating the complete lack of cards, I ran my AQ into QJ - a familiar situation from last week which sent me of the edge - on a Ks Ts x board (all in on the flop where I cbet my PF raise and a short stack shoved his remaining $50 into my $30 cbet.  4-way flop x $15 = $60 + $30 + $50 = $140 gives me great odds to call $20 to win $140 with my gutter and an over).  Dude refuses to flip and I tell him I think I just took the pot as the Js hits the turn.  Well, the 3s on the river has me doubting that win when he flips over QJo with the Qs.  Once again, QJ > AQ to a 7-outter and I'm down $100 40 minutes into the session.  I fished out a $100 chip from my pocket (I buy in for 2x buy ins and keep one in my pocket to allow for topping off my stack so that I not only don't interrupt the game to change cash, but don't make it obvious that I'm topping off).  Joy - I'm now down 3 full buy ins within a sum total 2 hours of poker.  Within 5 hands, though, I find myself all in on a PF raised pot with a set of 3's on a board of 3 7d Qd; young hot shot had bumped the PF to $12 and got a host of callers.  Cbets $25 and old man who can mix it up raises to $100.  Looking at my stack, I can't see ever flatting here and offering the young hot shot decent odds at calling so I shove my remaining ~$190.  Young hot shot thinks and folds, and old man snaps.  I believe he had AQ, and I take down a decent pot.  Finally, I'm in the black!

While I'm patiently waiting for my next payoff, I'm watching the young hot shot mix it up with a Russian / former Soviet bloc dude (you know the type - Adidas zipper track suit, neck as thick as his accent, pitbull-like forehead, etc.) who is completely tilted by the fact that he can't win a hand...  "Is bullsheet," is his accented response.  After being stacked 2 times, he gets up and storms off.  He was very vocal about his tilt, and the young hot shot really knew what to say to keep him going.  I would chip up, though, hitting a wheel and getting modestly paid, followed by back-to-back KK and, though not doubling through, chipping up nicely.  In fact, I never was able to mix it up with the young hot shot, as he declared himself scared of me.  He would call raises from me (which I would predictably do in position, though I don't know if he picked up on that) and either check / fold the flop or check / fold the turn.  He claims to have folded a low flush to me, but I have my doubts about that. I couldn't 100% tell whether he was a lucky fish or somewhat knew what he was doing.

Regardless, at some point, the young hot shot upped and left with his mountains of chips (by this point he left with well over $1500), and in comes the Russian again.  I was watching him on-and-off through the corner of my eye.  He sat down to the slot machines and hit a $260 jackpot on a $1, which sent him back to the tables.  Evidently, he did not need the win / money because he bought in for another $200 cash and kept the $260 check in front of him.  It became immediately apparent that his tilt had not subsided during his time away, and his jackpot win only emboldened him to become more aggressive.  Though I was an active participant in relieving him of the contents of his wallet, watching this mess was awesome.  I nicknamed him "Boris." Well, Boris got so amped up that he started bitching about the cost of drinks (rail drinks I believe are free at the Chuck, but if you want premium product, I think it's around $8 per.  Hot dogs are $3.50 per)  This was not satisfactory to Boris.  He lose his money and they not pay for food or drink.  Is bullsheet.  The waitress was the unwitting victim of his tirade, but he did tip her and leave her alone.

At this point, I had lifted $~600 from him, and, upon hearing his complaints, I told him, "though I don't encourage drinking, I'd like to buy him a hot dog," a genuine and noble gesture.  I wanted to accomplish two things: I wanted to absolutely keep his Soviet ass at the table and playing cards, and I wanted him to not get fall-down drunk.  I suspected he was the type who would hold his liquor, but I knew he had been going since [at least] the early hours of the morning (he was at the table and liquored up when I got there earlier) and didn't want him falling asleep or getting too tired.  This offering was apparently an insult to him, and he let it be known.  Boris started ranting and raving - how I think I'm so smart; how he can't win a hand; how awful players we all are; and "is sheet" to offer to buy hot dog.  "Is insult to buy hot dog for Boris."  Needless, I did not buy him a hot dog.  Turns out, a hot dog is a phallus and this particular Russian is insulted by me insinuating that he eat my phallus(?!?!?!?!)  We all (the table) figured that out after he stormed off yet again after getting stacked.  He came back, bought in for the last $100 in his pocket (don't know where the $260 check went), and I decided I'd had enough.  My wife and I had agreed on a time and it was fast approaching, I was up 5 buy ins, and the Russian was out of money.  Book a nice session win and comeback from the stinker last week.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Poker Fridays...

Tomorrow, I will go and avenge my record session of last.  I will have from 10am - 4pm to get things in gear and move them along.  I've found in the past that when I have a "major" down session, it's usually followed by an even greater up session.  Here's to hoping fora  major up session.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Crash... and I'm still not sure what happened

I went to play a rare Sunday night session and was violently reminded as to why I hate weekends at the Chuck (credit given to The Poker Barrister, who came up with the name for the Charles Town WV casino).  I sat down at around 8:50 pm to what would soon be my shortest, losing-est session ever.  As to the title, I'm still collecting my thoughts and I'm still not sure what happened.  A few hands in, I've decided to take an aggressive table posture and get in raising and pushing people off the pots with cbets.  I realize that there are a few terrible players at my table and a few older gentlemen who think they're good but have as many holes in their games as the Swiss do their cheese.  I'm humming along nicely, up $50 or so and then I start getting played back by the table en mass.  I miss my flops and have to fold to heavy action, dropping my stack down to around $160 when the following takes place:  the loose older Asian man to my right raises to $6 from the CO.  I'm sitting on AJs on the button and bump it to $20 to go.  Folds around and loose Asian calls.  Flop is K T x and he checks to me.  I lead for $30 and he min-raises me to $30.  Here's where I'm pondering my play: should I be shoving here with around $80 behind in total?  WTF?  Based on my read, I'm fairly certain he didn't hit here, but I think my mistake is not shoving right here & now.  I have a gutter and an over, but I'm really afraid of a flopped set of Tens at the time.  I should have taken an extra moment and pushed here, but I call.  The turn is an Ace, so I have a gutter and now a pair.  He leads for $40 and I top it off with the $40 remaining.  He shows QJ for the turned 7 outter which just drives me insane.  Calling a 3bet OOP with $140 behind, check raising his draw and then jamming the nuts... facepalm...  First buy in, gone within 30 minutes.

Rebuy.  Limpers galore - and and older 50's gentlemen who already "took note" of my aggro play, as so noted to his buddy to his right.  He's across the table from me and I look down at AQo.  I pop the bet to $15 from the CO and it folds to 50's mediocre player who limp / raises it to $60.  I have a fresh $200 stack and my decision right here in my mind is shove / fold.  I opt for the more aggressive line, telling myself that he's been waiting for this kind of move with any two - but he snaps me off with QQ.  I sweat the flop of all diamonds (I have the Ad) and don't suckout.  Second buy in gone within 35 minutes.

I take a walk.  Try to relax myself.  I resolve to play my normal, tight, wait-on-the-nuts game.  I'm wound up and didn't drive 50 minutes to turn around within a half hour.  This is absurd.  I sit back down at another table, miss my draw and lose $60.  The new table is full of regs (all of whom I recognize and recognize me) and I want nothing to do with it.  I switch over to another table where I am dealt AA in my first hand (I just bought the button so I'm in the BB now).  I'm facing a $7 raise with 3 callers so I raise to $27 and all fold.  That's more like it; I'd like to see a flop, but not 4-way, and I hate being out of position.  3 hands later, I'm dealt AKo and facing a $7 raise and one caller.  I bump it to $25 and the SB shoves.  I've played with him before, and he knows what he's doing for the most part.  His shove was $80, so I call figuring that I can't be all that bad unless he shows KK or AA.  He shows JJ and we're set for a flip.  J on the flop, J on the turn and I'm to the rail again with AK vs. quad Jacks.  I'm done.

1 hour and 2.75 buy ins.  Quickest session ever.  Still not sure whether I suck or I'm coolered.  I think the first hand set me off to tilt land - a rarity for me; I'm the guy who sits patiently and waits for huge favorite spots.  I'm still reeling from this session.  I'm so rattled right now that I'm debating going back to my "regular" off Friday day session this week.  I'm still not really really sure what happened...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

My first Full Tilt correspondence in a LONG time!!!

I suppose we're getting closer to getting our money back!  See below:

Dear XXX,

As a player on Full Tilt Poker, you may be aware of the recent settlement reached with the U.S. Department of Justice (the "DOJ").

Full Tilt Poker will not offer real money online poker in the U.S. until it is permissible to do so under relevant law

In relation to your account balance, you will have the opportunity to file petition with the DOJ through a remission process which will be administrated by the DOJ.

In light of the above, only play chip games will be available to Full Tilt Poker players in the U.S. following re-launch, in the first week of November, 2012. Your Full Tilt Points balance will remain intact in your account.

Please note that we are unable to answer queries in relation to your funds - all such questions should be directed to the DOJ in accordance with the procedure to be defined by them.

Please retain this email for your records.


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