Thursday, May 28, 2015

Last Friday's summary

I took a 5 day weekend culminating in Memorial Day this past Monday.  With no family plans (kids are in school), I decided to go & play in Baltimore on Thursday and Friday.  Unfortunately, I was card dead for the huge majority of the time; I was fighting being in for a buy in until I finally hit a cooler against a kid who considers himself a pro.  As played, I feel I could have gotten away from the hand; it likens back to the hand that played out a few weeks ago against the drunk kid who bet 2 buy ins on the river.

Again, this is against a self-titled pro:

1/3 - Deep stacked $800 effective stacks, I'm dealt AA in mid position, I raise to $20.
Called in 2-3 spots and we see a flop of Ad Kd 3s.
I lead for $25 and "pro" raises to $55.  Note: pro hasn't gotten out of line since I've been at the table, quietly going about his business and not getting aggressive unless he shows down the nuts.
I size up the situation, realizing that he's never folding my next bet, so I raise to $165 - he snap calls.  I put him on a set of 3's.

Turn is 2c - I lead for $300 and he raises all in for $565 remaining - I obviously snap call and he never shows his 3's.

River runs clean and I scoop a huge pot.

Next day, I'm playing during the day with $365 effective - I call a $15 raise with 4 4, as does an annoying woman to my left.

Flop comes K Q 6 and it checks through (I'm ready to check out if there's a bet).

Turn is a 4 putting out 2 spades and annoying woman leads for $45.  I raise to $120 and she insta shoves.  I call and am shown KK.

Nice no 3bet and nice flop check.  I'm outplayed and I'm done for the second session in as many days :-(.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Poker Tells, Part 3 - Quick Calling

I've seen this tell quite frequently - particularly among the lesser experienced players.  If the board is a drawing board, players will act quickly and without thought to call a bet when facing one.  For example, on a board like Ts 6s 2c, if you see your opponent quickly call a bet, it's very likely that they're on a draw - be it spades or the gutshot(s).

Inexperienced players have little to think about when they're drawing; the consideration is never there to get out of line (i.e. raising, etc.), so they'll already know their one move is to call.  Why Hollywood when you're anxious to see the next card off the top?  On the other hand, and examining the hand by contradiction, let's say you have a set or top two on that board; wouldn't you be considering raising?  Wouldn't you at least stop to think about what actions you should take to get the most money in the pot while you think you're ahead?

In other words, the quick call is almost always a drawing hand.  This tell should be cautioned, though, because a player can sometimes show up with a weak top pair, or even second and third pairs hoping to catch up on the turn.

As you become a more experienced player, you should recognize this tell fairly easily, and be aware that you may be doing it yourself.  Try to spend the same amount of time on all decisions, so as to not give away timing tells such as the one described above.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Poker tells, Part 2 - Flipping your hand and looking for a reaction

Continuing with my series on poker tells, the next tell requires a little prompting on your part.  How often have you been a tough situation like the following: you're on the river, action is closed to you, and you're pondering whether to make the call.  You know you're not going to raise, but this guy is either full of crap or has a better hand than you.  This case most likely arises when there's a 3 flush on the board, or you're holding a pair-type hand.  Have you ever thought about getting additional information, rather than just sitting in your seat

When you flip your hand, look at their reaction.  Is their face totally dropped from a moment ago's look of confidence?  When you do something unexpected to your opponent, they don't have time to collect their reactions and stuff them deep down inside.  What you're seeing in that first second of reaction is a truly genuine response.

What I usually see is the face drop, followed by the posture of confidence and head-shaking; i.e. a "sympathizing" with the you that you have such a tough decision to make...  Sometimes, I've seen the nervous tension met with laughter - which, while strange, is another way to break the suspense for your opponent.  However, you need to pay particular attention to that initial gut reaction - it's genuine!

In my opinion, this is a very reliable tell, but you should really minimize its use to once or twice per session (or less).  I've found it to help me out a TON in really tough spots!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Short review of Reading Poker Tells & tells I've noticed at the table

There are hundreds, if not thousands of poker tells, and most likely enough books to cover each tell individually.  I have probably ready 2 or 3 of those books - most recently Zach Elwood's Reading Poker Tells.  FYI - He keeps a great blog, complete with video footage and discounts on his book.  It's a worthy read if you find yourself playing live poker regularly.

Anyway, his book details (around a page or so per) the different tells he's seen throughout his career.  It's quite useful - a nice update to the other useful book I've read which is quite dated at this point, Mike Caro's Book of Poker Tells.  Mr. Elwood goes through the tell, reasons behind the tell, reliability, things to look out for, etc.  I took notes on the book awhile back, because there were some key takeaways in there.

  • Acting ready to muck

    I used to do this myself, having resigned to see my opponents ready to fold.  It's true, though: when I knew I held the winning hand, I would signal mucking my cards prior to my opponent's completing action when facing my bet.  The way I looked at my action was as a challenge or a dare for my opponent to call me.  That's exactly what it is, unfortunately.  It's strength on a dare.  I've since stopped using this tell for my own actions, but I definitely watch out for in when my opponents do it.  Quite honestly, though, I rarely see it done by my opponents.
  • Aversions to lying

    Mr. Elwood points out that people have an aversion to lying.  Unless you're a pathological and actually enjoy lying, you try to tell the truth.  After all, it's easier to tell the truth than to make up a lie.  Therefore, most players will tell the truth when announcing their hands - specifically when they're announcing a precise hand.  An example succinctly shows this point:

    The other night I saw a guy announce to another player that he flopped a set of Kings – after the action had been 3bet by his opponent PF.  His opponent, in disbelief, went ahead and open shoved all in on the flop only to be shown a set of Kings (it was a semi-interesting hand, but that’s outside of the scope of this post).  Although I’m very familiar with this tell, it serves to be pointed out as a prudent tell for other players who are unfamiliar.  When a player precisely declares his hand, he usually is telling the truth.

    Mr. Elwood goes on to point out the example of particularly reckless or aggressive players who play a lot of hands.  On occasion, they’ll declare their hands (i.e. a flop of 7 7 2 and they tell their opponents that they have 7 2, or if they suddenly declare they have AA after raising all day and night on prior hands).  It is usually true when they declare these things; the declaration is so far from the truth that they’re proud to announce and believe they’re tricking their opponent into making a bad decision.
I've also seen some commonly repeated, highly reliable tells on my own.  I wanted to catalog them and share with my readers.  Therefore, I'm going to start a segment (trying to make it weekly) on poker tells; one tell per post.  Of note, these are the tells I've noticed at the low stakes 1/2, 1/3 games - so not necessarily reliable at higher stakes (because of purposeful miscues as players become more intelligent and aware of their actions).  I'll leave you with the most common and useful of all the tells I've ever noticed:

Heavy / deep breathing or high heart rate

This is such a reliable tell for all players.  Most players cannot contain the excitement when they've just smacked the board.  If they're betting, look out!  Take a second and look at your opponent.  Can you see his chest moving up & down with each breath?  Are the veins in his neck pulsing like crazy?  Sweating?  He almost always has a monster here and can't contain the adrenaline rush that he received from knowing that he has the nuts (or close to it).  I've used this time & time again to fold my better hands that can sustain heat, after realizing that these guys have top set or better.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Another good session, but a really tough deep-stacked decision - WARNING, LONG POST!

I had the opportunity to play Saturday night, so I jumped on it.  Lately, I've been able to get in no less than one session a week, and sometimes 2 sessions during the week.  Things are rolling along at the 'Shoe - the players are back, but the room was not full.  Baltimore Horseshoe's poker room has approx. 25 permanent tables, and they probably filled around 15 of them, including the remnants of a $350 buy in / $20K guarantee (which they had enough players to cover the guarantee).  My buddy Josh was up there playing during the day, while we had family things in the Poker Meister household - soccer for one of my daughters, a weightlifting event for one of our family friends, etc.

By the time I was free to drive up to Baltimore, Josh was on his way home.  We were discussing his session and he started talking about some of the players; one particular player was a fish and dumping money by the fist full.  He told me the table to look for, and wouldn't you know it - there was immediate seating at the very table.  Moreover, it turns out there I sat in his very seat.  Armed with information on the key players, I knew this would be a huge jump start to my session - and I wasted no time in getting to work.

The very first hand, I looked down and saw 89o and decided to limp from mid position, along with a host of 3-4 players (including the fish described above - from the BB).  Flop comes 3 T J.  Looking around the table, it appears there's little interest in the flop, so I lead for $10 into $15.  The fish calls as does one other caller.  Turn pairs the board with a J and I lead for $30 - I get a fold and the fish calls.  River is a 3 and the fish is doing the "fold hold" as I start to carve out chips - I bet $55 and he flashes AK for the missed gutter and mucks.

A.  Nice no-raise from the BB.
B.  Nice no-bet from the flopped gutter + 2 overs.
C.  Nice showing your cards.

According to Josh, this player calls any and all raises - you can value bet the crap outta him.  I saw him make all sorts of weird plays - raising Q8s from the BB, throwing in $8-11 raises with 5 limpers, etc.  Just comical mistakes that leave me shaking my head.  I almost busted him when I 3bet his JJ open to $12 with my KK to $55.  He called a Q 3 3 $65 flop bet but folded my $155 turn bet after about 5 minutes of hesitation :-(.

I built up a significant stack throughout the night, busting a different fish when the table started to die down and become a rock garden.  I was close to packing it up when a drunk guy (or who I perceived to be drunk) came to the table with $500.  I'm sitting on around $800 at the time, FYI.  Before even hitting the chair, he threw out 3 red chips to Mississippi straddle to $15 (the rule in the 'Shoe is you can straddle between 2x the BB and 5x the BB).  So there he is, first hand, throwing in a straddle for max, and I'm to his right as last to act.  I think he had 2 or 3 callers and bumps it to an unreasonable amount - $85 or something.  They quickly fold and he scoops up $30 - 45 first hand!

He continues to do this with differing amounts throughout the night, probably raising about 80% of the hands to unreasonable sizing - and words his $500 up to around $700 without going to showdown.  The bets would get heavier on the flop and turn, FWIW.  I had tried adjusting by limping my premiums and laying in wait for his raises - he disappointed me when I had KK, limped for $3 and he overlimped.  Another fish, though, failed to let it go and raised to $18 with his whateverhehad...  I trapped one caller in there and pulled the 'ole limp / re raise to $75 (I think if memory serves me...).  The drunk realized what happened, and chastised me for laying in wait for him and quickly folds, while the original raiser just calls and the mid caller folds.  Of note, this particular fish and I have lots of history.  He knows that I'm a value bettor - I value the shit out of my hands, and he's found out the hard way quite a few times in prior sessions as well as this current session.  Also of note is the fact that he considers himself "life up" on poker since he's won and been involved in numerous bad beat jackpots - I was a few tables away from him the last time he hit the losing end of one a few weeks back at the 'Shoe for a $~4K payout.  Anyway, this guy plays like he doesn't care about the money - he gets off on bluffing pots and stealing, and would rather call a bet and be wrong than fold a pot and be bluffed.  All of that said, the flop comes 2 2 5 or some such garbage and he checks to me.  I carve out $100 and he raises me all in for $120 more (or something like that).  I obviously insta call and flip my KK - the board runs out clean (I don't know what "clean" is in this case, but there were no Aces) and I scoop, bringing my stack up to over $1K.

Meanwhile, my drunk friend to my left is continually aggro'ing it up - and the players are all in fear (including me) with his unreasonable bet sizing.  The final hand I'll share is the title of the post, which is where I couldn't pull the trigger:

I'm in the BB with his UTG straddle to $12 - I complete (as did the SB) and the drunk raises to "this much," which is 5 red - $37 total.  SB drops and I call with KcQc.  Flop is an awesome 8c9dJc and I check.  He leads for $30 and I snap, not wanting him to get wind that I caught a monster draw.  I feel if I hit the any of my draws I can get paid.  Turn is a 3d putting 2 flush draws out and keeping my gutter.  He leads for $66 and I call again.  The river is a Ks. giving me top pair with QT being the flopped nuts.

Josh and I discussed this hand afterwards - and he suggests that I bet an "anchoring bet;" i.e. $5-$15 so if he raises here, it's in increments of whatever i bet.  I think that's a great suggestion for future hands - but in the hand I checked once again to him.

He tells me he's all in for $559.  [GULP].  I hadn't seen him *EVER* do this, especially against a player that has him covered.  W....T.....F....??!??!?!?!?!?!?

Let's review: I have top pair / good kicker on a draw heavy board with a crazy / erratic player on my left.  He's not folding, only betting, and at this point I'm not sure he's truly drunk though he is drinking.  Now, I've made hero calls like this before - but not for such a large amount of money.... sure, 1 buy in, 1.5 buy in... at 1/2 - and more times than not, I'm good in those spots.  But this is 2 buy ins, more than 2x the pot, and it's at 1/3 for close to $600!!!!

GAWD I WANT TO CALL AND WIN A $1500 POT!!!!  So, I started talking with him.  Since you can't flip your cards over at the 'Shoe, I verbally told him what I had (mistake on my part, but measured mistake - now he knows he can push me off future hands because the dollar amounts are so big I won't call my top pairs).  On the contrary, though, I got the reaction I was looking for.  His face completely dropped and then went to a light, confident air.  Now, the problem with my read is that he's drunk, and exacerbating the situation, he's gay (I think).  His mannerisms are sloppy to begin with, but adding in the effeminate affects confuses me and compounds his "drunk vibe."  Tough to describe - but I have to deduct points from the confidence in my read since I'm not sure how drunk he is and what is baseline behavior for a drunk - if he is indeed drunk - or baseline behavior for a gay man with a potential flair for the dramatic.  In other words, my read says 100% yes - call - based on body language - and I almost called immediately.  Then the other shoe dropped, so to speak...  my logical brain kicks in and says "HOLD ON A SECOND POKER MEISTER!!!!  WHAT THE F*** ARE YOU DOING???  I KNOW YOU'RE THE ONLY REASON YOU'RE STILL HERE AT THE TABLES AT 1AM ON A SATURDAY IS TO BUST THIS FISH.  [Caps off, because 1, I don't refer to myself in third person when thinking, 2, I don't call myself Poker Meister, and 3, I don't think in terms of caps lock] - You're going to call of for DDDDDEEEEEEPPPPPP stacks with a pair of Kings, second best kicker.  No 2 pair, no set, no straight, no made hand.  There are so many hands that his wild player can show up with which have you beat.  What are you doing?  Are you seriously going to call here for $600 when you have $130 committed?  Aren't there better spots?  Yeah - there'll be better spots to get your money in when you're WAY good!  Wait for those spots!"  After about 5 minutes of thought, I fold - and he flips up 62dd for a turned busted flush draw.  I throw up a bit in my mouth.

I couldn't get anything to stick within the next hour, and compounding that misery, the fish bled off all $800 of his stack to the table.  Some dumb lady who sat down with $100 in seat 1 lucked her way into a double, then another double, and a final double for $800 from this guy.  It killed me to see that - and it killed me to see that I should have been done at 1am after busting the fish for $600!

If there's any light at the end of my friggin Rob-sized post, 'Shoe is giving me a promotional $25 single bet chip each week.  I had a nice shiny yellow chip burning a hole in my pocket and I threw it down on Blackjack - one hand - one $25 free bet.  No clue what I'm doing.  I didn't even know where to put the bet - I had to be helped by a cute chick to my right!  I don't think I've played Blackjack since I was 22 which is close to 20 years ago!  Anyway, I was dealt AKcc and hit a Blackjack straight away!  Got paid $37.50 - tipped the gal the $2.50 pink and walked away with an additional $35.  I think that was more exciting getting free money like that than actually winning during the poker session!

K - that's it for this post.  It's ridiculously long (that's what she said)!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Inelastic hand ranges and 2 interesting hands at the 'Shoe

Ever had a read so strong that you can't possibly get away from that read regardless what logic dictates?  I was having a good session at my first session back at 'Shoe since they've listed the curfew in Baltimore - all the hooliganism has settled down - and the players were as fishy as always.

Late in the session, I look down in my BB (I think) and see A2o.  I knuckle letting the dealer know I check my option and he deals a flop of 2 4c 6c to the ~6 limpers.

Looking around the table, I see no interest in this flop - so I lead for $20, 75% sure my 2's are good.  It folds around to a girl who had been having a break even night, who looked continually disappointed and bored (a look I've seen on my face a lot lately...) who immediately calls - no thought, just throws in her $20 instantly when the action turned to her.  The SB also comes along and I realize that maybe my initial read isn't good; I need help.

Turn is the Ad, and now I'm certain I'm good with my Ace's up.  Checks to me and I lead for $50 into the $75 pot - again, girl insta calls and SB thinks, then calls.  Of note, the girl has $75 remaining.

River is the Jc - $~220-230 in the pot.  A club or a 5 is the worst card to see IMO.  The girl based on her no-thought snap call on the flop has me ABSOLUTELY convinced she's drawing to the flush which just got there.  It checks to me and I check to the girl who instantly shoves her $75.  After much thought, SB folds and I think for a bit before mucking.  I'm getting 3 or 4-1 on the call here; I was [and still am] sick to my stomach having to lay that down.

I think the takeaway here is twofold: don't 100% stick to your read; consider other hands that are reasonable that could have the same action, but also, when you're beat on the river, you're BEAT ON THE RIVER.  Paying off $75 when you're beat is only exacerbating the problem.  Given the action, the snap call on the flop and turn (when players are making plays without any hesitation, they're almost always on draws), she's on a flush draw.  Fold whether it's $75 or $50.  $25, I can be convinced to call and "donate."

Second hand (which involves a little revenge later on):

Before I get into this hand, I believe I've come up with a new stereotype for a player: the guy who's sitting in a 1/2 or (in this case) 1/3 game waiting for a 2/5 spot to open.  His thought process is usually, "I'm too good for this table; I'm going to sit down & bet all these fish off their hands and take their money while I wait for the 'challenging game' at 2/5."  This player was one of those kinds of guys - Asian guy with spiked hair, late 20's, knew the dealers by name, etc.  He sits down and starts making larger raises, had 3 bet at least once, and indeed started dominating the table.  It's hard; you have to adjust to a player like this really quickly or he'll be out of there before you finally catch on to what he's doing.  I am basing my play and read on all of perhaps 15 hands here...  like I said, need to adjust quickly.  In this hand, I unfortunately did not adjust quickly and made an incorrect move, which cost me implied earnings plus immediate earnings...

I raise $15 with AQ, Asian guy flats and we're heads up to an Q 6 7 rainbow flop.  Not seeing ways to make money on this pot without giving him rope, I check and he throws out a large $35 bet.  I call and we see a turn of 8s, putting out a 2 flush.  $95 in the pot and he leads for $120.  What do you do?

I was not happy in this spot for many many reasons, mainly my hand strength is FAR underrepped.  That isn't a mistake; that was my intent on the approach to this guy.  However, this guy is either far overrepping his hand, bluffing, or wants to value pwn me.  The bet sizing just completely throws me off; overbetting $120 into $95?  I wound up folding my top / top and he shows me an 8 - tells me he was open ended + pair.  Goodbye, $55.

A few hands later, I raise AQdd yet again, and this time, emboldened from our prior dance, he 3 bets me to $40.  We're about $400 effective deep (he's up $100 from a mix of hands prior).  Odd small 3bet.  Undettered,  I 4 bet him to $120 and he [surprisingly] flats.  6 6 2 dd come out - I'm drawing to the nut flush + potential overs.  I lead for $175 and he auto folds.  My thought with this hand, now that I've seen him get all sorts of aggro and overvaluing hands, is that he wants to treat me as a fish, then I'm going to play my hand face up - like a fish.  What would AA / KK do in this situation?  4bet!  So I 4bet!  What would AA / KK do on a flop like this?  Lead!  So I lead!  Sometimes you gotta play fishy to win...  So he may have drawn first blood for $55, but I took back $65 additional.

Friday, May 1, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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