Friday, August 14, 2015

Poker Tells Part 4 - Staring after the bet

I started a series of posts about Poker Tells back in May, and they kind of trailed off.   Although my time constraints haven't loosened, I have a few parts of the series in the queue and wanted to get some out.  Here's part 4 - the stare.

This is a great one!  I love this tell because it's so obviously a strong means weak tell.  In fact, I remember a few years ago I was able to run a play on the sole read that this player was staring me down - I had a mid pocket pair and there was an Ace high board with 2 undercards.  I cbet the flop and he called.  By the turn, if I recall correctly, I checked and he bet big but stared hard at me.  I raised him all in and he eventually called his 2 overcards only to miss the river.  I think I wrote about it, but can't seem to find the post.  EDIT: The post can be found here - "I Terrorized My Table Last Night.Regardless, the above illustrates a common tell that you'll see every couple of sessions: the stare, or the angry stare.

I have seen this tell a lot and it is fairly reliable.  Your opponent will make a point to stare you down as an intimidation tactic after he's made a large bet.  This is the opposite of a hunter / hunted scenario above.  He makes a show and does not hide the fact that he is "mad at you" for defying him and not bending to his will of the bet.  He wants you to fold.  Careful with this tell, though, because some players will just stare after making a bet regardless.  Be sure to baseline his behaviors after all bets to see if there's a change.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Mixed signals from a fish... a nice tell to pick up on...

What I came up with after googling "poker tells."  An interesting picture, but nothing to do with the post
I was playing last week with one of my favorite fish, an older gentleman (and I use "gentleman" loosely; he's a curmudgeonly mean fella).  We were sitting at the 1/3 game over at the 'ole 'Shoe - I had long since folded out of the hand, but was paying particular attention since I had raised $15 (AK in EP) and the BTN had called alongside my fish in the SB or BB (one other player between me and the BTN was in the hand as well I think, but that's inconsequential).  The flop was 4 x x - 2 clubs, and I checked because it was very likely one of the 2 or 3 players hit the flop and was going to call regardless my bet sizing.  As it turns out, the fish checked, I checked and the BTN led out for an amount which escapes me (large enough to not be profitable to float), but the fish came along.  I think the turn was a 6c completing the flush 3flush.  The fish checked once again and the BTN continued to bet; the fish called very quickly...

There's a tell right there - the fast call.  One can interpret the fast call one of two ways, but either way, it means he's non-nuts here -- very likely a drawing hand.  Think about it this way: if he had a nutted or formerly nutted hand, wouldn't he take a bit longer time to make a decision?  If he had the flush, he'd surely stop & thinking about check raising, concerned about a 4flush killing the action or counterfeiting his hand.  If he had a set, he'd surely think about how to charge for the draw to the 4 flush and consider the possibility of his opponent having a flush.  Either way, my fish fast calls because he's anxious to see the river.

The river was a blank non-club leaving 4 6 xxx, 3 flush on the board and my favorite fish bet big, as he usually does (one huge hole in his game is he overvalues the hell our of his hands, but that's just the tip of the iceberg of problems with this particular fish).  After he bet, the BTN went into the tank and the fish took his cards readying them for the muck.

As close as I could come to a graphic of the "fold hold"
There's the other tell - the hold the cards ready for the muck / threatening to fold / daring the opponent to make the call.  This call coincides with strength, or perceived strength in my fish's case - and combined with the turn fast call tell, I read that this player has what he views is a strong hand, but it is a non-nut, likely non-flush hand.  Therefore, I read him for a set or two pair.

The fish's opponent eventually calls and, low and behold, as you may have guessed because I somewhat "led the witness" from the hand telling above, our fish shows 4 6 for the turned 2 pair.  Putting it together in reverse, he fast calls the turn, wanting to see the river as quickly as possible with his "drawing hand."  He's looking for the miracle 4 outter on the river, but somehow decides on the river that his hand is strong enough to go with...  By the reaction of his opponent tanking, he becomes very confident in his hand, going into "threatening to fold" mode.

Moral of the story is two-fold:

  1. Always pay attention after you fold your hands.  You're not there to play on your cell phone or watch TV (note my last post about the tale of two regs).  You're there to get better and make money while doing so.  You should have fun, but remember why you're there!
  2. Put tells together and put them into motion in your play.  When you see someone else doing something obvious, not only make sure that you don't repeat their mistake, but also make sure to take note and take advantage of their tell.  For example, I actually was doing the fold hold for a long time until I realized it's a clear tell and forced myself out of that bad habit.  Now I notice when others do it - it's certainly improved my game.
FWIW, the fold hold tell was pointed out to me in Zach Elwood's book, Reading Poker Tells.  I've mentioned his book before in prior posts.  If you haven't read it yet, do yourself a favor and take a look.  It's well worth it!

Side note: I was talking with the dealer very quietly during the hand; we were whispering back & forth speculating on the fish's hand.  The dealer was absolutely convinced that the fish had the A high flush, while I was saying that he has a hand that he thinks is strong, but it is definitely non-flushing.  We both saw the same exact tells, but the dealer took the tells for extreme strength - fast call on the turn, fold hold, etc., while I saw it as a mix of the two.  Make sure that you put the tells together correctly rather than in isolation - and also make sure you read the tells for what they are... i.e. fast calls usually mean drawing hands, fold holds usually mean extreme strength.  And since I've always wanted to say this, but it's finally apropos to the discussion, "I've upped my game, so up yours!"  But seriously, I hope you take something away from this post - learn something about your opponent's game, but more importantly, learn something about your game.

Final note:  Mr. Elwood has a whole series of poker tells online.  Take a look at his examination of the immediate call:

If you haven't already, do yourself a favor and watch his whole series.  It will take about an hour but your game will be enriched to a greater degree.

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Tale of Two Regs

Do you fancy yourself a pro?
As I alluded to in last week's post, I was tracking an apparent reg at the table - a Russian chick - while playing a session at the Belagio.  Word on the street (at least from the dealers' perspective) is that she sits there, doesn't say a word, and grinds away.  She's not unpleasant to work with - but I wouldn't describe her as pleasant, either.  The whole time I was there, she was checking her phone, disinterested in anything ongoing at the table.  In fact, when she was checked out of a hand, she was literally checked out - head down, looking at her phone.

In contrast, earlier in the session was a bald younger to middle aged gentleman (thick accent; maybe somewhere former Soviet bloc I'd imagine as well) who was [as it turned out later] waiting on a 5/10 seat to open.  It's not often that I see the 5/10 players showing up at the 1/3 games, but it was an interesting experience.  This guy was totally in tune with the game.  Although he was hyper aggressive and unpleasant [as an opponent] to have in the game, he gave me an opportunity to learn a few tricks.  He made me more alert of my game and what I was doing, and also made me more carefully examine each move that I was making.  He made me and the entire table realize that the money means a whole lot less to him than it does to the rest of the table, and as such, everyone walked on egg shells around him...  The table wasn't sure what his range was (it was very wide as he would open most pots and limp / call almost everything else).  He would frequently float and call cbets, and make large pot-sized cbets himself if he was opening the pot first (most of the time, he'd take down the pot, but if not, he'd barrel again on the turn).  He would carefully and deliberately make decisions rather than snap call or snap fold.  In other words, he was prepared to fight for every pot, no matter size nor action.

All of this glowing review of the 5/10 player is not meant to glorify him; he certainly had his flaws - spots where I would easily fold without a second thought (old guy shoves over with full stacks on a Q Q x board and he called with Q2 to be shown KQ and suckout for the chop), or 3betting me all in for $40 with A4 after I opened for $15 with A7o from the BTN immediately after the Q2 loss.  However, the takeaway for me is selective, hard aggression.  Barrelling twice is significant.  As I alluded to in my last post, floating flops is significant.  When opponents check the turn after taking initiative on the flop, it's usually a sign that they're giving up / pot controlling.  Stealing from the BTN makes sense.

All of the disdain I hold for the Russian chick is absolutely meant to chastise her.  If you fancy yourself a pro, stop screwing around on the phone.  Stop being distracted.  Stop being unfriendly at the table.  Use the tools you have to your advantage.  You're missing out on valuable information by not paying attention: how people play, their tendencies, why they play, what they're saying.  Identifying what motivates your opponent goes a long way to beating your opponent.  Does he play to win money?  Is she uncomfortable with the amount of money on the table?  Does he want the social aspect of the game?

Look, you consider yourself a pro.  If you work at a professional job, do you drink on the job?  Then why are you drinking at the table?  If you work at a professional job, do you play on your cell phone in between answering emails of phone calls?  Then why are you playing on your phone at the table?  If you work at a professional job, do you neglect your customers?  Then why are you ignoring your customers at the table?

Just some thoughts I wanted to put down...

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Getting more comfortable with bluffs and picking spots - a Vegas recap

A critical part of your game should be adjusting to the type of game you're playing.  If you're playing in a tight game, play loose.  If you're playing in a loose game, play tight.  That's the adage at least - and I'm sticking to it!  As with the prior posts, I'm experimenting with expanding my game in the correct situations, and was able to pull off a few more bluffs this week.  Skip to the end if you don't care about the blah blah blah Vegas vacation recap.

The games in Vegas are an interesting breed - unlike that of the DC area.  Here in DC, people tend to not give up very easily, floating cbets and looking for spots to re-bluff.  Perhaps it's simply a factor of Vegas bringing in a more international flavor with a varied range of wealth types, versus the super competitive dog-eat-dog area that is known as the nation's capital, but the Vegas games seem extremely passive.

I got a decent amount of seat time in, all at odd hours (12am - 4am, 2pm - 7pm, 12am - 2am, etc.) but all told, I got to play 18+ hours throughout my Friday to Tuesday trip (while not playing a single hour neither Friday nor Tuesday).  My wife & I stayed compliments of Caesars Corporation at the Linq hotel & casino  (formerly the Imperial Palace).  The hotel room was decent enough - it was on the scale of a Hampton Inn or similar.   Everything was fresh & new, and the bed was comfortable.  We stayed in a room overlooking the Harrah's pool (which, BTW, is shared with the Linq for the under 21 crowd to use; the Linq has a 21 and older pool only).

Nice butt from the Linq

Decent looking chick at the Linq

Unfortunately, the Linq doesn't have a poker room, so I was forced to go elsewhere for my play.  Across the street from the Linq is the flagship casino, Caesar's Palace, where I got in 3 sessions of 1/2 poker.  Not only was it the most convenient - a mere 5 minute walk, but also I could receive Total Rewards credits for my play, as I attempt to achieve Diamond status (I should be there within 3 months).  The 3 sessions I played there were laughable - the tables were very loose passive, arguably the most desirable type of game: raise and they fold, or they call and fold the flop cbet, or they call and fold the turn / river overcard.  Easy peasy, even though the game selection wasn't that great; it was 1/2 poker but only had 4-5 games going on a given night.  Some interesting things I saw were a guy open shoving a 3 flush river on a double paired board (T T 7 5 5 I think), and his opponent folding face up with Q T, not realizing that he rivered the boat as well.  I saw another guy call down Ten high for no other apparent reason (and actually won the pot).  One other notable was where I freerolled a flush on a 4straight board (I shoved on a turned 2 heart board and my opponent called for the chop only to river the 3rd heart for the flush for me).  I'm sure there were a host of other egregious errors, but I can't remember any at this time.

I played a session during the day at the Wynn while my wife was buying at the ASD wholesale show with her parents.  This setting was a bit more of a challenge than Caesar's - there were some Vegas grinders - 3, in fact.  I was able to take advantage of one of the regs, which is detailed below in the hand history section.  It was during this session that I was able to play with the [in]famous Tony Big Charles.  He and I mixed it up for one footnote of a hand: I limped J9o and he limped AJo (questionable to limp MP with that hand, but what do I know...) and we gutted a turned straight (8 T K -- Q) to get it all in for $80 (I led $25 into the 2 flush board and he raised to $50 or something; I shoved and he called for his remaining dollars).  I don't think I'm ever folding the second nuts for $55 more...  Anyway, despite my play with Tony, I walked away a winner.

EDIT: According to Tony's post, this was a "big pot."  I don't know what his thought was, but he was certainly questioning me on the hand afterwards, wondering what hand I put him on that he would raise the turn - ummm...  sets, 2 pair, AK, any host of hands, but I digress.  A note on Tony for future reference: he does not like to slow play, seemingly ever (the hand above happened fairly early on) - even when it's a blank, draw-free board.  He'll only raise a very small range, and bet the shit out of it when he knows he's ahead.  An example is flopping top set with KK - he pots the flop where he should have checked to let others catch an Ace or a backdoor draw.  Instead, he pots $45 on a board where rarely anyone can have a solid hand.  Tony, if you're reading the post, please take the comments as advice, not as criticism.  Learn from it if you choose to.  Also, it was fun playing with Tony - I don't think I've ever played against him at a table though I've met him 3 times now.

Just Johnny 'n me!
After the Wynn, my in-laws took my wife and I to Bazaar Meat in the SLS casino.  Great eats - just like Jaleo, but classier and more expensive.  The two restaurants share similar dishes, but the Bazaar Meat is centered around steak and different cuts of meat like Wagyu beef and whole suckling pig.  The vegetables dishes are excellent (brussel sprouts, croquettes, asparagus, peppers, mashed 'taters, etc.), the 2 1/2 lb. ribeye was cooked perfectly, and the desserts were out of this world!  We got a bit of a special treatment, since my brother in-law's brother-in law is the head chef over at the Bethesda Jaleo.  For me, though, the coolest part about the whole visit was the fact that we ate at the table behind Johnny Chan (yes, that Johnny F*CKING Chan!!!) and Minh Ly.  Ho hum... rubbing elbows with celebrities and pros are what I do everyday...  I bothered Mr. Orient Express for a picture, and he obliged, as you can see.  It was kinda cool - and I guess I shouldn't be awe-struck, but he's on the phone with someone, ordering something and he's like "yes...  my name is John Chan..."  Who the hell is he talking to?  Shouldn't he be like "yes, it's me - you should know who this voice is!  I'm the man!"  Regardless, Mr. Chan is indeed the man, and he was very gracious to allow a pic with me!  Mr. Ly is pretty cool himself - he seemed like a fun guy as well.

The back of Doyle Brunson's head, wearing a red shirt and tan baseball cap
Scott Seiver in blue, seated
Final session of note was played at the Belagio 1/3 tables where Doyle and the gang were playing 1/2 mix...  oh - I mean 1 THOUSAND / 2 THOUSAND mix.  There was probably $1m + on the table.  I wasn't able to get a good pic of anything, but Scott Seiver was there, as was Jon "Pearljammer" Turner (I think it was him), Patrik Antonius, and a few other players I didn't recognize.  Anyway, my table at the Belagio had an international flair, as described below.  I found the general feel of Belagio to be similar to that of the Wynn, but the room was far more accommodating to grinders.  First, they serve Fiji water, which I think is more expensive than the standard fare.  All alcohol is free, and they'll bring you whatever you want.  The servers and dealers are super professional.  The only other items worth mentioning are that new players must post and new players can post behind the small blind, in between the small blind and the BTN.  That rule is totally weird, FYI - you wind up effectively with 3 blinds: BB, SB and the new player blind.  IMO, stupid rule, but again, what do I know...

Final item before we go into hand histories: it seems universal to Vegas that the they have a modified Mississippi straddle where only the UTG & BTN may straddle.  If the BTN straddles, there are a few rules: first to act is always the UTG, if the pot goes unraised prior to action to the natural BTN position, action jumps to the SB, then the BB, and finally the BTN.  If the pot is raised prior to the natural BTN, the BTN acts and then SB, BB.  Strange rules, but once again, what do I know...

The Hand Histories

Wynn 1/3:

Aggro has a newly doubled stack of $160 raises to $15 and I call with QJo along with 2 others.

Flop comes K K 6 dd.  Checks to aggro who leads for $20.  One caller in between and I raise to (I think - no notes) $50.  Instamucks all around and I scoop.

Belagio 1/3:

I'm sitting at a truly international table; 3 Italians (the Italian to my right is a poker coach and professional Stars grinder on Stars Italy), a girl from China, a Brazilian, a guy from Denmark and a Russian who I'm pretty sure fancies herself a pro (I'm going to write a post devoted solely to this chick later in the week / next week).

I call AQo out of the BB to a $15 raise from the Russian who's been playing fairly tight / aggressive.  Notably, she's frustrated because lately, every time she opens, she's getting 3bet and shut out of pots.  This time, we see a 3 way flop (I think the Danish guy calls): 3 5 6 rainbow.

Russian cbets $25 into the $45 pot and I just call to see what materializes on the turn.  Turn is a 4 completing the rainbow.  I lead for $45, repping 77 and after a long time, she opts to flat.

River is an 8.  I pause for a bit, thinking about bet sizing and put out $125  (I wanted to say - "if you're calling $45 on the turn with a bit of hesitation, I put you on a solid overpair and want you to call, but I don't want to make it an easy call for you.  Therefore I put out a roughly 3/4 pot bet.", while I'm thinking, "I've seen you fold hands, and I know you can fold this hand.  I'll make it easier for you by betting more than a stack of red.")  This stops her dead in her tracks - she tanks for about 5 minutes before finally opting to fold.

Belagio 1/3:

Same table as above, $6 raise from UTG+1, called in 5 spots ($30 in the pot) and I'm in the BB with KQo.  I look, think, and 3bet to $38.  Folds all around and I scoop a decent pot.

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