Wednesday, July 31, 2013

In defense of check / raising the flop

As I continue to wait to get paid from my former Full Tilt account, I'm continuing to play on Seals and doing the live poker thing.  Its possible that when Full Tilt does finally pay out, they could use Ukash to process the payment.  Anything is possible, right?

Mr. Ciaffone is writing about playing cheaper NLHE games in his native Michigan area.  He writes about a fairly standard play, talking about c/ring the turn.

Card Player magazine, July 24, 2013 pg. 46
Bob Ciaffone writes in his column, "Cheap No-Limit Hold'em Cash Games":
"Nearly all these players play their big hands the same way.  If you ware the preflop raiser, they check and call on the flop, then check-raise the turn.  If you ever win a pot with one pair when there is a reasonable amount of money still left to wager after the betting has gone this way, you may get the game's sheriff award, but you need to draw out to win.  Slow playing the nuts will also occur in a lot of other situations.  If the stacks are big, one will sometimes see a player make a seemingly out of the blue large overbet of the pot size, maybe even all-in."

I've been seeing a lot of discussion here talking against c/ring the flop and moving towards the turn c/r.  I've been thinking about it a lot lately - and concluded the following, for different reasons than Bob:
  • In deference to Mr. Ciaffone, c/ring the flop or river instead is "different" from the norm and not as anticipated / expected
  • The turn card could bring a scare card for your opponent which allow him more incentive to fold
  • The flop c/r is a much "easier" call as it will be less of a dollar amount than the turn or river c/r
  • The turn bet after a flop c/r can be much larger relative to the pot, and possibly sets up an all in shove for a lot of 100 BB stacks
  • A flop c/r is much "cheaper" for you whereby a turn c/r is a more costly raise, particularly when executed as a bluff
In defense of the turn c/r:
  • Keep other players in the hand when they're drawing thin, adding value to the pot
  • Conceals your true hand strength
  • Guarantees a bet and charge on the flop (i.e. you're leading instead of looking to c/r)
  • You're putting in a lot more money with stronger equity (i.e. your opponents' equity has been halved in the hand while your equity has doubled with one card to come)
There is merit to both means of c/ring.  The primary reason I opt to c/r the flop rather than the turn is primarily for cost; I can c/r my semi bluffs and made hands much more cheaply, which serves as a balancing effect.  The cost of semi bluffing the turn is much higher given my equity.  If I only c/r the flop with bluffs and c/r the turn with value, that can put me in a position where my opponents can put 2 & 2 together and call more lightly on the flop c/r's.

Friday, July 26, 2013

How to win $500+ without a bet

Thursday at the Chuck.  I've seen a gentleman go through $1.2k within the past two hours.  I've been in the habit of back raising him, since he's wont to raise limpers to $12 and call any 3bets (of reasonable size; my most recent one was $45).  At any rate, my session is effectively over - I just called down the LAG who flopped two pair turned boat (2 3 from UTG) and my stack sits at $120 or thereabout.  Prior to the hand I'm about to describe, I debated topping off, but opted to just run my orbit out & be done with the session.  Anyone who reads my blog and/or comments knows that I NEVER do this; I'm always at $180+ no matter.  On this particular night, though, I was into the game for 2 buy ins + and just wanted to end & be done without fishing out money from my pocket.

Anyway, I'm UTG now - this is literally my last hand.  I look down and see Ah8h and opt to limp.  This is a very loose aggro table - a whipsaw.  Last hand, modest hand.  Well, LAG (immediately on my left) that I paid off earlier raises to $15 with $~600 behind.  This starts a chain reaction and I see 5 callers before it winds its way around to me.  I call (pot odds if I ever heard of them...) with $~105 behind and we see a ~7 way flop (including me) of KhTh3h.  Yahtzee!

$~100 in the pot - I opt to check my nuts and the LAG leads for $50.  It calls 4 ways before coming around to the seat on my right, who pops it to $150.  I sigh & call (obviously), and 3 players call the $150 behind, creating a sidepot.  Turn is a 6s and dude to my right leads for $240 with $380 behind.  LAG shoves all in, 2 folds and dude to my right calls.

River is a brick and I take the main pot of $500+ - though the real winner of the hand was probably the dude to my right with a set of 3's - the side pot was over $1k.  The LAG apparently had QhJx, and another player hit a low flush and folded it (he was deep too).

From a poker standpoint, this was a somewhat boring, standard hand.  From a statistical standpoint, this was such a weird hand.  I did not bet a single round, yet made ~5x my money.  I was just astounded that a set of 3's was able to extract so much value out of the hand...

Anyway, that hand broke me even on the session and I would go on to show a decent profit for the night.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Vanessa Selbst's response from Card Player - Information you can extrapolate about an opponent to use for maximum value

I wanted to create a post to capture Vanessa Sebst's poignant response to Card Player Magazine's July 24th issue (page 26) interview about "How to Formulate A Plan and Extrapolating Maximum Intel From Every Hand During Tournament Play."  The quote below applies to cash games as well, and is perhaps something that I don't consciously think about, though it is something I keep in the back of my mind.

The reality is that unless you're playing at an online poker room like Carbon Poker, which allows the use of HUDs and other poker tracking software, you're going to have a tough time getting the scientific and exact reads.  You need to make interpretations for yourself on what you visually see at the table.  The quote:

Craig Tapscott asks: "Please share examples of information that you can extrapolate about an opponent and how you can use it to maximize value or make hero calls?"

Vanessa Selbst answers: "In live poker, we don't have online stats we can use, so it's important to get as much information as possible as quickly as possible.  A great skill to have is to be able to see one hand happen and extrapolate to information from that hand to use other similar (or sometimes completely different) situations.  One example I always give is, let's say someone has three-bet a lot but never shown down, so we don't know what they are three-betting.  But then they get to showdown in a spot where they flat called A-Q preflop.  Well, we can use that information to figure out that if they are not three-betting hands as strong as A-Q all the time, then their three-betting range is probably bluff-heavy (because it is hard to get 10-10 plus and A-K!), and therefore consists of a whole lot of hands that can't stand more pressure, so we should four-bet bluff them with a wide range.  Another good example is if I see someone betting a lot of rivers when checked to, but then I see them missing relatively easy value bets, I'm more likely to hero call them because once again, their frequency is too high to justify the fact that they're unwilling to value bet thin, so their range of monster or bluff means that they're usually just bluffing."

I believe this translates not only to tournament poker, but all poker.  If you pay attention to prior tendencies and follow hands to show down, you gain a TON of information about a player - from what their 3bet ranges are to how often they bluff the river when they're checked to.  In other words, if you see a player 3bet a ton but show down modestly premium hands without 3betting, they're mostly 3bet bluffing their suited connectors, making in-position 3bets, etc.  The counter for that action is the 4bet.  On the contrary, if you see a lot of overpairs checked through on the river, for example, vs. obvious top / top or top / mid hands, you know they're cautiously playing that river - so much so that when they do bet through the river, they're mostly doing it with the 2 pair+ or missed draws; they're not going to bet big on the river with 1 pair hands.  You can also extrapolate their play to different lines they take: call / call / bet when the draw has missed usually indicates missed draw while bet / bet / check usually indicates overpair or 1 pair hands.

I think the point is: watch your players.  Take note when you get to see show down hands.  Record the action of how the show down happened so that you can apply their lines to other similar situations.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Off to Tampa!

Random Musings & Plans

I will be Tampa, Florida for work next week.  I'm hoping to get in quality time at the poker tables, seeing that there won't be a ton of work to do after the day is done.  I've been to Tampa before - I usually get over there at least one time when the Poker Meister family travels to Florida to visit Disney World, Universal Studios, etc.  I'll usually take a night and drive the hour from Orlando to Tampa to get in a 5-6 hour session.

This time, though, I'll be staying 5 minutes from the Seminole Hard Rock / Tampa, and hope to get in a solid 4 straight sessions.  They're currently running various promotions - I'm hoping to cash in on some of it!  As a minimum, I'll get 15 hours in which will qualify me for their drawing of 2 winners for a $5300 entry into the $10M Guarantee tournament that they're running.  If I win entry, I honestly don't know what I'd do; the tournament runs Aug. 22 - Aug. 26...  I guess I'll walk down that road when / if I get there...

In the "spare" time I'll have away from the live room, I hope to hit up a bit of online poker.  As you know, I've been playing on the Seals website.  I've also been researching on for other sites available to me.  For U.S. players, it's been few & far between, but Seals has been enough to eek out a small profit & keep my skills sharp.

As an aside, I tried to book a room at the Hard Rock, but [even with the poker room "discount"] their room prices are astronomical.  I think I'm staying at a nicer hotel, but it would have been far more convenient to stay and play at the Hard Rock instead.  They don't have rooms even close to the established per diem allowance that my company allows for travel to Tampa.

Regardless, there are 2 other rooms in the area: Tampa Bay Downs and Derby Lane Poker Room.  Given time, I'd like to check both of them out as well, though I'm familiar with the Hard Rock and its loose / gambly players.  My plan is to get the 15 hours in at the Hard Rock, and then venture out to these other places.  I don't know anything about the other 2 rooms though - whether they're sketchy, reg fests, etc.  I'd love comments about them if anyone knows anything.

Hopefully, I'll meet up with a fellow blogger who has more-or-less stopped blogging altogether.  Word is that Cmitch just cashed in the WSOP Even #53 and will be flush with cash to fling around the table...  Perhaps I can grab some of it off of him :-).

The Meat & Potatoes of the Post

At the beginning of each year that passes, it is my ambition to not only exceed the prior year's dollar per hour average at the tables, but also exceed my hours / sessions at the tables.  Last year, through July, I put in 40 sessions for a total 157.5 hours.  For the same time, during 2013, I've put in 24 sessions for a total 108.5 hours.  I have a lot of time to put in if I hope to exceed or at least match last year's output.

For dollars / hour average, I'm far ahead of my average last year - so far ahead that I have a lot more gross earnings in 50 hours less time.  Pace-wise, I have a lot of catching up to do!  If I can indeed get my 20 hours in for the week - and I'm targeting 25 hours as my goal - I can probably at least catch my gross hours for 2012.  Equaling or exceeding the session count will be the toughest part, though.  Perhaps with the opening of Maryland Live! towards the end of the summer (August 28, according to CBS), play will be more conducive to me adding hours because my wife can be convinced to go shopping while I go play... what I call a symbiotic relationship!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Back to Basics: Playing Broadway cards

Cleaning out the posts I have in "Draft" form, I came across this post from July, 2011.  It applies to online poker, but you certainly can make the leap to live poker.  You need to translate the VPIP / PFR to live raising tendencies.

In continuing my series on Back to Basics, this latest installment deals with how to play broadway cards.  Broadway cards are generally defined as two cards that are Ten or better.  Examples are AT, KQ, QT, KJ, etc.  I consider this to be a follow-on to the section on Back to Basics: Suited connectors.

The more I play, the more I find that players (more live than online, but certainly both are guilty) have no understanding of broadway cards and how to play them.  Broadway cards are perhaps the most difficult to play, and the easiest to lose money with by virtue of the fact that if the board pairs your hand, your flopped top pair may or may not be the best hand.  Not only could your top pair hand be dominated by a better kicker, but a top pair hand is more difficult to fold than a suited connector hand.  In comparison, regular suited connectors, most of the time, are not going to flop top pair - and when you do, you know it is a very vulnerable top pair.  Regardless, people play all broadway cards, despite getting proper odds or understanding the reasons behind it.  In a nutshell, they think: "KT!  Two paint cards!  That's a good hand!  I can call this raise and be good on a King high flop or a Ten high flop," when the reality is that there are many hands that have KT crushed... namely AK, KQ, KJ, AT, AA, KK, etc., and proceed to stack off their top pair hand to any of the listed hands.

There is a defined pecking order of broadway hands, where clearly, some hands are better than others.  At the root is the idea of expected value (EV).  Fundamentally , The very best non-paired hand is AKs, AKo. AQs, AQo, AJs, are in the second tier, followed closely by AJo, ATs, KQs, KJs, etc.  I have given you a loose definition of the Hold'em Heat Map - a chart which you should study and be comfortable with.  There are many such examples of actions to take based on cards and position, available on the web; google "holdem starting hand chart groupings" and you'll get there.

The exact groupings of the starting hands are up to you; it defines you as a player, and delineates your VPIP / PFR.  If you are a loose PF player, your premium hands may include AK and AQ.  If you decide to be a tight PF player, you may only include AKs.  However, the lower you go down the starting hand chart, the higher the possibility that your starting hand may be dominated, as discussed in the prior paragraph.  AK clearly dominates all Ax hands - if an Ace hits the flop, unless your opponent has flopped two pairs, your AK is crushing all other Ace X holdings.  The same can be said for a King high flop holding AK.  You have what's known as TPTK, or top pair, top kicker, a very strong flop holding.

With the understanding of relative strength of 2 high cards, an interesting concept I want to introduce is the idea of raisable, limpable and callable hands.  I will likely write about position in a later post, but for now, believe that position is one of the most critical elements to poker.  Having the ability to act after your opponents gives you the power to see your opponent's actions prior to making a decision on your own.  In short, you have more information.  This principle applies for all streets of Texas Hold'em; the BTN is the strongest position at the table, in order on down to the SB being the weakest.  In order to call a raise from either of the blinds, or raise the bet based on your hand strength, you must have solid holdings.

Where am I going with this?  Well, it's interesting that, for example, while you may raise an unopened pot with QJ from the BTN or CO, you should likely fold QJ from the UTG position or MP1.  Taking this example a step further, a consideration in your mind should always be, "What happens if someone 3bets me (re-raises my original raise)?  Is my hand strong enough to either call a 3bet or 4bet?"  Moreover, a consideration should be, "What happens if someone raises my limped QJ?"  Although there is no clear answer, QJ in most cases cannot stand a 3bet...  particularly from a tight opponent, but others as well.  Assuming you call a 3bet, automatically, you're committing [what in most cases would be] about 10BBs, or 10% of your stack, PF with cards that may already be drawing very thin.  Referring back to prior paragraphs, you may already be in a 70/30 situation up against an AQ, AJ, AK type hand.  Needless to say, in a 3bet situation, you may be up against AA, KK, QQ, JJ as well...  all dominated situations, too.  Are you really looking to invest 10% of your stack on those kind of odds?  I don't mean to paint such a glum picture, so you certainly could be up against lower pocket pairs as well (depending on how loose of a 3better you have), where you have 50% equity.  Following the Back to Basics post on hand ranges and equity, if you called the 3bet, you're not giving yourself much of a chance; you're not going to hit your non-dominated card's 3-of-a-kind or a straight often enough to justify those poor odds AND PLUS, you'll need your opponent to stack off to you in those situations where you do hit the nuts like that - not always a likely scenario, in order to pay for all of the situations where you miss and have to fold your hand on the flop.

So why do I say that QJ is fold-able from UTG, yet raise-able from late position?  Control and position.  If you limp and/or raise QJ from an earlier position, there are many opponents who will likely have a hand ahead of you - who will be raising their hands or at least calling you.  What happens when you get that Q T high 2-tone flop you were looking for, cbet and are flatted by your opponent?  Does he have KQ, AQ?  Does he have a flush draw?  Does he have a straight draw?  You can't positively believe that you are good here a large portion of the time (I know you can never believe you are good without holding the actual nuts, i.e. a set, etc.).  What happens if he is on the flush draw holding AKs?  He's actually ahead of your equity without holding a made hand - he has the inside straight draw to a Jack (making your would-be hand much harder to get away from, holding top two pair), he holds 2 overcards to the board and any card of his suit...  3 + 9 + 6 = 18 outs or >50% equity.  By the turn and or river, he expects to have the best hand; should you keep betting and building a pot for him to take away from you?  You've potentially put yourself in a terrible situation by playing out of position with weak relative holdings.

Are you looking to throw money away or put yourself to tough decisions with every hand?  Just fold it and wait for a better opportunity with less players to raise / call... i.e. from the later positions.  As a fact, the later positions have as few as 2 or 3 players to react to your move.  From the BTN, all you need worry about is the SB and BB.  Chances are, with 2 players, you have the best hand here.  If so, you will likely win the blinds - a 1.5BB addition to your stack for very little risk.  Additionally, with future action, you will always act last and have the advantage of seeing what your opponents are doing / how they're betting.  More often than not, a loose player in the blinds will fold to a cbet (continuation bet) on a non- Ace high flop.

Therefore, for beginners, I suggest following an algorithm based on the one defined on wikipedia; Hold'em Heat Map, where the Mason and Malmuth hand grouping is:

Tier Hands
A AA, AKs, KK, QQ,
B AK, AQs, JJ, AJs, KQs, TT
C AQ, ATs, KJs, QJs, JTs, 99
D AJ, KQ, KTs, QTs, J9s, T9s, 98s, 88
E A9s...A2s, KJ, QJ, JT, Q9s, T8s, 97s, 87s, 77, 76s, 66
F AT, KT, QT, J8s, 86s, 75s, 65s, 55, 54s
G K9s...K2s, Q8s, J9, T9, T7s, 98, 64s, 53s, 44, 43s, 33, 22
H A9, K9, Q9, J8, J7s, T8, 96s, 87, 85s, 76, 74s, 65, 54, 42s, 32s
Hand grouping chart

Action Early Position
Middle Position
Late Position
Raise A A, [40% of the time] B A, B, C, D +
all pocket pairs
Call 3Bet JJ, B JJ, B, 99,C TT, [60% of the time] B,
[20% of the time]D
4Bet / all-in [without JJ] A [without JJ] A A
Actions when facing limpers / folds to your action

Action vs. Early Open vs. Middle Open vs. Late Open
3Bet / Raise A A, sometimes TT A, TT
Call 22+ 22+,
[60% of the time] B
22+, B, C
Actions when facing a first time raised pot

As you become comfortable with this starting hand range and associated actions, you can deviate away from the initial algorithm, expanding one tier and shrinking another, or vice-versa.  For example, I tend to raise all pocket pairs from all positions, raise 25% of my suited connectors and limp (with others in the pot) or fold 75%.  I play 25% of AJo from EP, yet raise from MP+.  I raise a full range of hands from CO or BTN.  However, I caution you before you start messing with the algorithm: if you're a beginner and/or not profitable at poker, become the nit described above.  You may not optimize on all of your hands, but you should be profitable and will become more comfortable with starting hand strengths and positions.

I had put the above 2 charts detailing actions to hand groups awhile ago; I would like to include the notes that I had in there when I came up with the algorithms at the time:

"Obviously, depending on the table, you can adjust your ranges up or down (if a LAG has a VPIP +30 & PFR +20, then you can widen your RR / calling ranges.  However, this should provide you a good idea of what you should be playing / doing.  Additionally, it serves to say if you run into significant resistance (3 and 4 bets prior to your turn, you really need to narrow your ranges even further.
Finally, there is no leak if you simply fold a hand because you are unsure.  Certainly, there is the cost of lost opportunity, which does cost winnings.  However, you can't lose if you fold.  By sticking to the above charts, you should be able to handle at least 2 tables at once, and keep yourself from making difficult, marginal decisions.  In other words, you will usually have the best of it unless there is a slow played PP or set or something like that (less likely at our micro stakes).

Finally, you can semi-adjust your play to make certain assumptions about players when you see their VPIP over a longer hand history.  You can clearly see the top 20% of hands.  If you see a VPIP of around 20, you have a pretty good feel of what they're limping / raising with as well, based on the hand grouping chart.  If you see a VPIP of 30, you can surmise that they are adding in the AT / QT / KT / etc. type hands as well as Axs.  Upwards of 30 shows they are playing suited gappers (i.e. 97s, etc.), or even random suited / connectors (i.e. J3s / 87o / 86o).  Those VPIP >30 players are the ones you want to hammer on constantly when you're in position, in my opinion.  Punish them for limping when you have a hand.  Get them heads up and c-bet good flops which likely missed them.  Make them pay for their junky-pair-type hands that you have the best.  Put them to difficult decisions, constantly.  Keeping to this chart gives you a good feel for where you are, as you have no direct read on the opponents you face other than the information you have collected prior.  The idea is to laugh in your opponent's face and say 'my range is better than yours.' "

Tying it together (I have suited connectors and broadway):
Full Tilt Poker $0.25/$0.50 No Limit Hold'em - 9 players
The Official Hand History Converter

BTN: $57.70
SB: $30.80
Hero (BB): $87.45
UTG: $71.40
UTG+1: $88.20
UTG+2: $94.00
MP1: $34.25
MP2: $110.80
CO: $42.75

Pre Flop: ($0.75) Hero is BB with Tc Qc
5 folds, CO raises to $1.50, 1 fold, SB calls $1.25, Hero calls $1
In a multi-way pot, I have both a suited one-gapper and 2 broadway cards, which may, in & of themselves, be able to stand on their own as a single top pair-type hand.  However, I treat this hand with as much power as a normal suited connector; I'm not going broke with a top pair hand.  I love seeing a multi-way pot with this hand.

Flop: ($4.50) 3c 6h 2c (3 players)
SB checks, Hero checks, CO bets $2, SB calls $2, Hero raises to $8, CO folds, SB folds
This flop is likely to have missed my opponents, yet I want to give the CO a chance to bluff at it.  My check / raise is a semi-bluff; I have 2 overcards (25% equity), but I also have a flush draw (32% equity) to go along with it.  I am fairly certain that no one else is on the flush draw, so I can feel safe that *AT WORST* I have 32% equity.  However, let's assume that I have a "dominated" Queen or "dominated" Ten - i.e. someone else has AQ, KQ or AT, KT, then I can safely give myself at least 3 outs to the best top pair, assuming no one else has an overpair (which I think my raise will establish very quickly.  So, I give myself another 3 outs to the 9 flush outs, a 44% equity hand at worst... plus the check / raise that I put in is a pretty strong move - increasing the likelihood that the hand won't even continue past the flop. 

Final Pot: $10.50
Hero wins $10.00
(Rake: $0.50)

This would probably be a bad call:

Full Tilt Poker $0.25/$0.50 No Limit Hold'em - 9 players
The Official Hand History Converter

CO: $93.50
BTN: $75.30
SB: $18.25
BB: $79.05
UTG: $52.50
UTG+1: $144.90
UTG+2: $14.85 - 15 VPIP / 9 PFR
MP1: $18.75
Hero (MP2): $79.70

Pre Flop: ($0.75) Hero is MP2 with Kc Qc
2 folds, UTG+2 raises to $1.50, 6 folds
Note that I will not be calling anything against this player's open (without JJ+ in which case I'm 3-betting him).  There are no implied odds here to warrant a call... in most situations... EVER!  Note multiple things here:
  • He is a 15/9 which is a pretty tight range to open pots.
  • He is opening the pot from early position, which increases the likelihood that he has a legitimate hand.
  • We are playing for effective stack sizes of $15.
There are no implied odds here to warrant a call - in fact, this is considered a "reverse implied odds" situation.

Final Pot: $1.25
UTG+2 wins $1.25

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Critical thinking about hands

Through the years, this blog has been a great outlet for me.  When I was playing regularly online, this blog served as a way to expose my frustrations as well as solicit thoughts on alternate ways of playing the same hand.  I think this blog helped me a ton back then - particularly when I was just starting out - but as I became more comfortable in whatever stakes I was playing, the imperative to push out hand histories waned.

Unfortunately, those days of online grinding have come & gone - thanks to the U.S. government (see Black Friday).  The blog took on a new role, though - allowing me to solicit advice from a field of players with a wealth of experience in the live arena.  The live arena, as near as a year and a half ago, was a new frontier for me.  In a lot of ways, it continues to be a new frontier.  While the improvements to my game are much less scientifically measurable, like playing at the live felt, I must rely on my own intuition to discern whether I am indeed improving my game.

It's very easy to say "Look at the results; is your $/hr rate improving?  Yes?  Then you're getting better as a player!"  Looking at the results tells me nothing.  I could be running really hot, I could be sucking out... any number of factors.  The reality is that I need to look at myself and give myself a non-biased, thorough evaluation.  What am I doing differently?  Is what I'm doing differently working for me?  Where am I losing money?  Why am I losing money in those spots?

One continual source of contention where I think I'm improving is the live reads / paying attention.  I feel as though I go through periods where I play poker by rote - effectively auto-piloting through sessions.  Although it ebbs & flows, I'm actively working on thinking about each hand rather than taking a linear approach.  I'm actively asking myself the what-if tree of variability, going beyond what the villain holds.  What cards are good for me on the turn?  What cards are bad for me?  What cards would be seemingly bad but are actually not (i.e. turn Ace)?  What does my opponent think about my action?

Another point of improvement with a ton of room is sitting through a 5-8 hour session and keeping myself 95% attentive.  When I fold, it's very easy to be distracted.  For example, there were 2-3 hands last night where players built up a big pot and I had no idea how the action had gone down so that each player had their stack in the middle.  Hands like those are critical attention grabbers; I need to watch for tells which I can verify at showdown because hands like those actually go to showdown and can be verified.  I've been pretty good with folding and watching, but there's still a ton of room for improvement.

I guess ultimately, here's the original goal of this post: thank you.  Thank you for the comments I've received in the past, thank you for the comments I will [hopefully] receive in the future.  The comments, private emails, etc. are what keeps me enthusiastic about the game.  Although I acknowledge I don't always take traditional lines (i.e. my c/r flop leaving me scratching my head on the turn & river), the comments give me a much wider view of what other players are thinking and doing in a similar situation.  They also spur me to think about what I'm doing to evaluate my game play.  Again, thanks for the comments!

I'm going to drop this post with 2 hand histories from last night which aren't all that interesting per se, but just kinda stuck with me, showing how bad some of the play is at the Chuck / showing how I luckboxed:

Hand 1:
KJo in CO - $250, facing a host of limpers.  I raise to $15 and get 4(!!!) callers.

Jc 7c 2d (if memory serves me, but a board similar to that) flop
Short stack open shoves for $65.
Another short stack calls for $40 (all in).
Another short stack calls for precisely $65 (all in).
I think for a few seconds.  I have to be beat here.  I can't imagine winning this sucker with KJ.  The pot is FAR too large to fold so I call my $65.
Dude to my left, another short stack, calls for $45 (all in).

Turn is a T, river a K.  By the turn and definitely river, I'm sure I'm dead.
Nope!  I scoop: Kc4c vs. Ac6c vs. Tc8d vs. ??? vs. my KJ (two pair).

It's amazing how no one ever thinks about another player being on a better flush draw... and how they can call $15 with $65 behind with hands like K4s, T8o, A6s (though in fairness, once K4s calls and ??? calls, A6s is priced and T8o is priced).  I just ran the numbers - I'm 50% to the field with A6s behind me with 37% equity.  I figured I would be further behind than that!

Hand 2:
QJ in SB - $450+, straddled for $5.  4 limpers, I complete the $5 straddle, BB folds and UTG checks his option.

6 way pot of Q J T
I check, UTG checks and UTG+1 leads for $20 (40 behind).  Folds to me and I c/r to $60.  UTG folds.
UTG+1 thinks and thinks and thinks.

Side note: The UTG, UTG+1, UTG+2 end of the table was the "gambling section."  They tied themselves up in numerous hands prior where just stupid hands would wind up winning huge pots; UTG (straddler) was sitting on $1.2k, UTG+1 was steaming from being down to $30 to up to $500 to down to $60 to start the hand, and UTG+2 was sitting on $6-700.  Regardless, UTG+1 is thinking about calling a $40 all in raise and finally mucks, face up.  He folded T9o.  WTF?  $40 to call to win $110?

Granted, much different hand from the QJ hand the other day, where I was advised against a c/r from a few of the comments, but still...  In retrospect, I'm happy for the fold; I think he's getting pretty close to proper odds to make the call (65/35), but he's just shown how willing he is to gamble it up for $400+ on prior hands that he's folding for $40?  WTF?  Sometimes, I just don't get it...

Monday, July 15, 2013

What Would You Do #245 - A difference of opinion

1/2 at Charles Town.  I'm starting to come out of the funk that I've experienced over the last 2 months where I've been running poorly and playing (not as) poorly.  Effective stacks are $200 when the following happens:

I call my option in the SB with QJo and the BB checks.  We see a limped 5-way pot of Q J 6, rainbow.

I opt to check my top two to the BB who leads for $10 into the $10 pot.  A 30ish Asian dude calls (been pretty by-the-book, though I sense he's frustrated with me because I've check / raised him a bit in the past few hands) and action folds back to me.  I feel very much that he's drawing, so I c/r the pot to $45.  BB folds and Asian dude thinks for a bit - before finally calling.

$110 in the pot and we see a offsuit K turn.  T9, the obvious draw, just got there.  Damn!  I check.  My opponent, again thinking for a bit, opts to check behind.

River is an Ace, completing the rainbow.

I consider a small bet for value - partial blocking, partial value.  My thought here is this: villain called a largish flop check / raise but checked through the turn.  There aren't many hands that he limps and calls a c/r on the flop that have an Ace in them.  I think my river bet is more of a catch up from the turn check.  The river card is "scary" to all non-Ten hands, so I want to make a small bet that can be called with a Qx.  Therefore, I lead for $25.

Again, he thinks for a bit before finally raising to $75.

What would you do?  What would you do differently?

Click to see results

I feel like the turn is such a bad card for me (it completes KQ, T9, a few AT).  The river makes it even worse, and much harder for him to raise without a T.  Therefore, I fold.  Believe me, the frustration I thought he was having with me factored in all the more for me wanting to call the $50 on top.  In the end, this has to be a sick bluff for him to make - particularly with him calling the $35 c/r on the flop.  By showdown, the two hands in my head that made sense here are AQ and T9, with a strong weighting towards T9.

In talking afterwards (I had shown my cards to two "respected" table mates which caused quite a discussion), we asked him.  He said he had T9 and made his hand on the turn - I'm still not 100% sure that's the truth. He said that he hoped I would bet the river (like I did) when he checked the turn, feeling that I would fold the turn if he bet.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Last week's session summary - When is not a hand a hand?

I think it was Caro or someone of the like that said that an observant / vigilant player should see free cards every so often.  This could come in the form of hole cards, burn cards, etc.  However, in my readings, the behavior of seeking out free looks at cards is not only condoned, but also encouraged.  As a habit, I try not to go out of my way to see others' cards - encouraged or not.  I think it's a blurry line when you start to seek other people's cards on purpose.  I'm a believer that it's not my place to notify people that they're showing their cards - it's their job to protect the cards.  However, I'm also a believer of the idea that what is seen cannot be unseen.  Therefore, I'm not going to try to look away when another player is giving me a show, just the same as I'm not going to crane my neck to get a peek.

I sat down to play a session last week.  As has been typical these days (past 2 months), my session was mostly sideways to losing slightly.  I had just ran my flopped set into a donkey who snap called my open shove with an OES + bottom pair and turned his straight (details unimportant, but it was truly donkish of the other player).  I re-filled my stack back up to $200 when the following happens:

New player (I've played with him before and he can be difficult to play against; usually knows where he is, gives me respect and I give him respect) posts & checks his option to me on the button.  I don't remember the hand I had, but I limped as well (3-4 other limpers before) and we see a 2 diamond 7 high flop.  New player lifts up his cards lazily and flashes paint.  I believe his paint was a black King.  He weak leads the flop and I determine that any overcards / diamonds on the turn will allow me to take the pot away on the turn / river.  So long as there's no King, I'm likely good here as a bluff.  I call and the table folds.  Turn is a diamond (Q?).  He leads for $25.  Executing my plan, I raise.  He mulls it over and calls, which surprises me with TP at best here.  River is a blank and he checks to me now.  Sensing my opportunity, I charge largish for $65 and he pauses for a second before calling.  Utter shock on my face that he could make such a call in this spot with such a weak second (or even third at this point - don't really remember) pair.  I'm mystified and wondering what the heck I did wrong - that's one hell of a read on his part.  So much so that I want to peel away from the table with a player who just completely owned me with his mid pair on a scary board.  He waits for me to show, as I expect him to do - I show my bluff pair of 2's (I think that's what my hand amounted to at this point) and he flips Kd8d for the second nuts.

It's one thing to see other players' cards...  it's a whole other thing to see them and read them correctly!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Bumping fuzzies?

All too infrequently do I see women sitting at the tables here in EBF, I mean Charles Town, WV.  See, you players out in Vegas have it good; you have eye candy in the waitresses and apparently, according to this guy, the players are lookers too!  Out here in the sticks, which is all of 60 minutes from DC, there's nothing but cowpoke and bumpkins.  It's a rarity if there's a girl in the poker room who would raise an eye.

The other night, you see, was indeed a rarity.  I not only had one attractive girl at my table, but two!  Sitting next to each other.  Sitting to my left.  2 cute blondes.  It was their first time playing live casino poker.  Very friendly.  Very smiley.  Very drinky.  Very talky.

Procedurally, they both were in tune, able to post their blinds without needing to be reminded, understood and followed the action, and weren't playing like total noobs.  We started chatting it up - the 3 of us - and I was quick to find out that she never got to play [errr... poker] because her "ex-girlfriend" didn't like to gamble.  My slow, dimwitted mind processed that statement as - her "ex-friend who was a girl" didn't like to gamble, which made little to no sense to me: why would a friend exert such control over this chick?  Damned if I'll allow a friend to tell me what to do!  Hell, my wife is the only person with real influence over my my daily life plans...  wait a second....  Moreover, I've never referred to a friend as an "ex-friend."  It's not like on facebook where you unfriend someone and call them your "ex-friend."  You simply don't refer to said person anymore.  Well, the wheels started a'churnin' and I process it to mean that she's advertising that she's a pink player.  High five!

Now how often is it that you meet a girl and find out she's from the island of lesbos - that she's a card-carrying member of the lesbian community?  Moreover, how often do you find that she's a cute lesbian - and her girlfriend is a cute lesbian?  Perhaps I'm skating on thin ice by saying this, but I can count on 1 finger the amount of times I've seen a cute chick with another cute chick in the Biblical sense (is it Biblical if they're engaged in lesbianism?).  Nothing against your typical run-of-the-mill lesbian, but in my experience, they're just not generally cute; sometimes one is somewhat cute and the other is the more masculine type - just like with homosexual guys (all in a stereotypical sense - of course they're are cute gay couples out there, but again, GENERALLY the pairing is cute / dainty with more gruff).  Also, it should be noted that I'm not talking about that lesbian BS they put into porn that they CALL lesbianism, where the girls aren't real lesbos and they're inevitably having a guy join in because they crave the [WHERE AM I GOING WITH THIS!?!?!?]... I'm talking about real, honest-to-goodness gay chicks.  Moreover, they're sitting at the poker table, next to me, chatting it up!

Now, those that read my blog on a regular basis (well - "regular" is a loose term because I don't post all that frequently anymore) know that I'm a married, devoted husband and father of 3 children.  I honestly would not be interested in these girls other than for the flirtation of the chance to watch the two of them make out with each other while I eat popcorn, enjoy the show and not join in but wish I could *.  At any rate, I busted one of the two out of her original buy in ($100), and the other guys at the table were working hard NOT to bust the remaining chick (she would wind up running a failed bluff into a guy who called her down the whole way trying to not let her bust herself moreso than value betting / value calling).  There was no conversation of interest to me that is worth mentioning on the blog - they didn't start making out at the table, nor did they escape to the bathroom for a quickie, much to the chagrin of me and my fellow straight table mates.

After the girls left, the table got a little chatty Kathy about the whole thing.  Fill-ins began to trickle into the table including an older gentleman and a younger 30's -aged guy.  They listened about the legacy whose seats they were filling.  Clearly, they were not suitable substitutes.  The older guy, not having said a word nearly the entire 30 minutes he was there, started rolling on the floor when the mid-30's guy heard our story and determined that these girls were indeed "Bumping fuzzies."  Watching him process the whole "fuzzy bumper" metaphor was a comedy act unto itself; within about 20 seconds, he was tearing at the eyes.

Anyway, thought I'd share this little tale with you all.  It's not often that I write about non-poker poker stories, but I found this one amusing and I hope that you will too.

* If my wife is reading this, EWWW!  Another chick?  Gross me out!  I wouldn't ever want to look at or see another chick, much less touch one!  I said the above for effect for my readers, lest they think worse of me than they already do!

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