Monday, February 28, 2005


I Have Only Ever Been Wrong Once ...

... what happened was, I thought I was wrong, but it turned out I was right after all. For the last 6 weeks or so, most of my online play has consisted of MTTs. Having previously stated that they weren't worth playing online, I changed my mind and had a spin, trying out a few different plays.

While I was definitely playing better, my results didn't show it as I returned a loss of $930 over 36 tournaments. This was slightly offset by a $250 profit in Pokerstars super-satellites (the $36 ones), but nevertheless obviously disappointing. What happened was I only managed one decent finish, 2nd place in just about the smallest tournament I played during that time. I would still expect to win long-term, but the long term in tournaments is loooooong, and that's the problem.

A comment Aksu made over on Big Dave D's blog struck a chord. He basically said that MTTs aren't really suited to on-line play because they have a defined beginning and end. Deciding to play MTTs online is taking away the great advantage of Internet poker - you can start and end any time you like 24/7 (apologies if I have paraphrased the comment inaccurately, but that was what I took from it). Cash games you can log in and out as you please, even Sit and Goes you can certainly start any time, even if you half to wait half an hour to finish sometimes.

So I think I will ration my on-line tournament play to money-added events. Do shop around to find these if you are a tournament player, but I'm not going to go as far as telling you where they are. The one forum post that makes me say "Shut up shut up SHUT UP" is "wow look at these extra money tournaments here's where you can find them". Just shop around ok :-)

As for my $700 online, I'm not complaining. They helped me work out a better tournament strategy overall that has pulled in about $4000 live in the same time. But if I'm playing online, I'll stick with the Sit and Goes, or learn the limit cash games, and maybe the odd WSOP/WPT type satellite if I think it's value.

Saturday, February 19, 2005


Can't Win 'Em All

Finished 13th in the £100 Round of Each last night, out of about 45. Fairly quiet early on, doubled up with AAxx v AJJx in Omaha, won a comedy Hold-em hand with JT against 99 with a final board of 4KKQQ, nicked a few up to 14K and was in reasonable shape with 18 players left. Unfortunately the wheels came off at that point, I raised and missed twice, with AQ and 88, to lose 7K - 5K of which was unavoidable, but 2K was a possibly ill-advised stab at the pot on the turn. With 4400 UTG and blinds 600-1200, I went for it with 74s, the BB called with 66 and I lost. At least I'm back to being knocked out with filth :-). A few random thoughts :

It never ceases to amaze me how people don't make the slightest attempt to prepare. "I didn't know it was a round of omaha" moaned one guy in that 'it's not my fault' tone that irks me so much, "is it High-Low ?". I really should have said yes but I just don't have that much devil inside me :-). Meanwhile I had to love the guys who said "Is it Omaha ? Fuck, I hate this game" on every change, and proceeded to play 3/4 of the hands in the game they hate so much.

After giving credit to the guy who beat me last week, he murdered his chips early on yesterday in an embarrassing fashion. Hold-em, on a turn board of AKQJ, he bet 500, to be raised to 2000, and then a third party flat called the 2000 for good measure. Not only did the hero call with AJ, he called the last 1000 on the end. The other two players might as well have pasted their 10s on their foreheads like in Indian Poker.

Even though half the "new generation of poker" didn't show up, the standard of Omaha play was predictably awful. JJ74 was a reraising hand, for example, and that was from a guy who has won tournaments all over Europe. On further thought, there's no need to be coy here, it was Lallie Khajuria with his bobbies. He'll be alright. Unfortunately it wasn't easy to benefit because there was a lot of raising pre-flop, which is not at all what you want against bad players with largish blinds. C'est la vie.

When we had completed the first round of Hold-em, the self-dealt table broke. "Excellent, Omaha" announced a new arrival (who was one of the better players as it happened), "we've just finished our Omaha round". They had played two rounds in the same time it took us to play one. I never complain about being on a self-deal table - you don't have to play 10-handed and you deal at least 50% more hands per hour, which is all good news for the man with an edge.

Monday, February 14, 2005


Shot Down

Here's that short tournament report I promised you, from tonight's £50 Shootout in Luton. After some ups and downs, I had 2600 playing 200-400. Found Aces on the button, moved all in. SB called in an instant. BB dwelt up and called. AA v AK v KQ. KQ made a flush with a card to spare. As he was raking the chips in he said "I know I was behind but what can you do".

If anyone knows what you can do other than call when two players are all in for 80% of your chips and you know you're behind, write it on a 6x4 card and send to T. Myland, A Cardboard Box, The Gutter. It'll be waiting for him when he moves in.

Alright, that was a bad beat story :-). But I said I would report each tournament and if I didn't say what happened you might think I was the fish ! And ok it's a bad call but not the worst I've ever seen. It's just the things they say.

I'm happy that happened tonight instead of on Friday. Unfortunately tonight's comp wasn't as good as the previous one I played. They had cut the levels to 20 minutes and removed the 150-300 level. It's still playable but two weeks ago we had two hours play before the blinds reached 200-400, tonight only one. And it's still much better than a standard £20 rebuy-fest, but if I had known I wouldn't have come out on a school night. No harm done though, and it might even have been worth £50 to watch a woman forfeit two hands to walk around and see what was happening on the other tables. Finally, could the low turnout (24 compared to 50 last week) have been because it was Valentine's Day ? More people should follow the example of Mark Banin, who turned up with his wife in tow. That's the spirit !

Sunday, February 13, 2005


How much ?

How much ? The great edge you have playing No-Limit, at this level, is not that you can vary the size of your bets to your advantage. It's that other people, who don't know what they're doing, vary the size of their bets to their disadvantage.

If you want to make an unusually large (or small) bet in NL Hold-em, then you'd better have a good reason for it. And most people don't. The classic on-line profile of minimum raise pre-flop, all in on the flop is a road to the poorhouse. People don't play quite that badly live - or do they ?

Luton's resident cash-game captain may be coining it in at 6-card Omaha (or he may not - anyone who chases fish out of the game with as many rub-downs as this guy does is missing at least part of the plot), but his tournament play leaves much to be desired. Last Friday, he bet 7000 into a 700 pot when the river came a third flush card. His opponent, an aggressive but thinking, aware player, dwelt up and passed, later claiming two pair (and that sounds about right). All in boy shows him the nut flush. Very next hand, I make it 300 with ATs. Bang, all in for 8K (about the same as what I have). Of course I pass. Shows me Aces. Way to go.

Needless to say the analysis was forthcoming - apparently this worked in a cash game when he flopped quads. You'll be alright. If we had been playing Pot-Limit, and he had been forced to bet a sensible amount, he would have had his flush paid off and ok I would still have passed my AT, but I would have been given a big problem with AK/QQ/JJ and the like. Using his sledgehammer approach, he's only going to get paid by the second nuts, and even if his opponent is that strong he has every chance of winning most, if not all, of the chips anyway by betting reasonably and inducing a raise.

Just because you can go all-in in No Limit, doesn't mean you have to. It's the biggest myth in the game - overbetting all in is a strong move. In truth it's usually a weak "I don't want to make any more decisions / I don't want to be outdrawn" cop-out.


Money In The Bank

As I mentioned in my diary, I grabbed a tasty slice of cake on Friday in Luton's £100 No-Limit Freezeout. I do mean to at least mention the result of every live tournament I play - soon enough there'll be a post that says "No hands. Found AK. Lost to JJ. The end". But not today !

My initial table was good - for about ten minutes. At that point three loose players had already departed. From then on it was a bit grim. But I hung in there and 2 hours in, still had 4000 chips. Then I went on what you might call a rush. AA beat QQ, up to 8K. Nicked a few, up to 12K. KK beat A9, up to 20K. AA beat JJ and AK, up to 40K. Ching ching ! Nicked a few more, took a short stack out and when the crunch time came I was in a great position to push on, chip leader on a tight table, with 50K and 14 players left.

Poker being what it is though, soon enough I was down to 3 big blinds. I lost a chunk calling Charlie's SB all-in with A9 in the BB - his K5 took it down. Then I misjudged the player on my left - I had him pegged as a total rock so raised his BB with nothing, only to find he had obviously decided enough was enough and "gave me a spin" with QTs which was a mile in front and held up. I stole a couple, then went for it again with A2. The BB had a bit of a dwell and then made a "what the hell" looking call - with QQ. Ace on the turn, instant karma baby, see you next week (I had a few more chips before the hand). I was about to slate the guy for needling me but it is (just) possible he was actually considering passing, the way some people play. Really ! I hope anyone who reads this doesn't [play like that], but some people do. If he was needling me (and I've never done anything to him), he has his own permanent reward of having to live inside his own head. Only he knows.

Anyhoo, QQ v 88 went my way this week (Q first off this time !) and I had my 50K back. The player on my left confirmed my read of him as a total rock (when he hadn't given up) by passing 99 to my button raise and the final table convened 8-handed, 2K-4K for a round, and just over an hour to finish the job !

I picked up a few decent hands, AK, AJ, TT, enough to knock out three shorter stacks, and I was in decent shape. I thought Lady Miros was going to harvest all the chips, especially when she flopped quad 3s against someone foolish enough to call her all in with JJ pre-flop, but a couple of ill-timed bluffs saw her once-towering stack all in the hands of a very quiet old guy who I'd seen a few times before but didn't know. We were 3-handed with Xuyen "Bad Girl" who was the short stack, she asked for a saver (no fool that one), I didn't mind as I only had about 25% of the chips, and the chip leader agreed - he must have had his reasons but I wouldn't have done it. Not only was he giving up immediate EV, he was taking the pressure off both of us and we could now gamble. Which Xuyen did, and lost, so we were heads up.

All that happened remarkably quickly so we had about half an hour to play heads up, with a chip count after that if necessary. Which basically meant we were now playing a heads up cash game with a fixed end point. I took the lead with AK v A3 all in pre-flop, and then set him all in with AsJs on a K high flop with 2 spades. When he called and showed 7s2s I thought I was a mile ahead - but the other card on the flop was a 7, so it was smack on 50/50. I missed. After that either he was incredibly lucky or he was playing much better than me - every time I had a hand (including a flush and 2 pair) he escaped, every time I bluffed he nailed me. Or so it seems now ! I could have won about 25% of the chips with AK v K3 with the ref looking at his watch, but it wasn't to be. I'm going to give the guy the benefit of the doubt, I think he played better than me post-flop, so well done.

I'm not complaining about £1700 one little bit though ! It's important to remember though I did have quite a bit of luck at times. I mean even with the AA/KK/AA premium hands, as an accumulator I'm odds against (6/4) to win all three. I'll have to bear that in mind when the rush ends, but for now I can enjoy the biggest thrill in poker. Raking in a big pot ? Running a successful bluff ? Explaining my play at the table like a champion analyst while some poor sod has to sit there and take the rubdown ? Zinging Steve Templeman about his shirt ? No, not even the last one - taking the money to the bank.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


Fishy call - or was it ?

Excerpt from a comment below by The Camel : "I just do not understand how anyone (and you're far from alone, believe me) can put someone on a hand from a single raise." . Careful there - now you're actually encouraging me to coach :-). The fact of the matter is, unless your opponent is doing stupid things like looking at one card at a time, you can't. And nor can anyone else. Instead of trying to "put your opponent on a hand", or in non-pokerspeak guess what he has, you need to figure his range of hands and where you stand against that range. As follows (which I was going to post anyway).

As I mentioned below, a hand arose on Friday just after I had been moved to a new table. If I remember correctly, the blinds were 200-400. With my stack around 7K, I made it 1100 to go with 22 in middle position. The button reraised the pot which must have been a raise of let's see 6+11+11 = 2800, leaving him 500 in hand. 22 against a reraise - a reasonably tight, aware player like myself must have passed, right ? Wrong. I put the rest in. He turned over AK. The dealer turned over 6543T and I took it down with a straight. Am I a fish ?

No, I'm not. So why did I make that call ? Did I make a read on my opponent ? Nope. Unfortunately I can't tell the difference between an opponent holding AK and another hand of similar strength like JJ. More to the point, if you think you can, then I'll lay 20-1 you actually can't, that you're fooling yourself by selectively remembering the times you "put him on AK" and he happened to have it. It is the most common reraising hand after all.

So why did I make it ? I had pot odds. How can I have pot odds when I don't know what he's holding ? That's the easy bit. I knew what range of hands he might be holding. An averagely loose all-in reraiser in Luton would have AQ/99 or better. A tight all-in reraiser would have AK/QQ or better. I have done my homework off-line so that I know the approximate odds for various hands against these ranges. Fortunately with a small pair, the odds are almost the same against each range (for obvious reasons if you think about it). And those odds are sufficient to make that call (small reraise in this case, same thing in practice).

Many players are, or seem to be, of the opinion that pot odds don't count in tournaments because "if you lose you're out". Well yes. If you lose, your equity is zero. That's included in the calculation. It's true that in some situations, doubling your chips does not quite double your equity. But these are situations where you have lots of chips (lots and lots) and/or you're close to the money. Neither applied in this case. It's also true that the better player might prefer to save his chips for a better spot. Again though, most players put too much stock in this. The clock is ticking, the blinds are going up, and you can't pass up many +EV situations and hope to win tournaments.

On top of all that though, I had another reason to make the call. If you can make a play that looks strange, the fishier the better, for valid, specific reasons which are not known to [most of] your opponents, it can throw them right off. Fox discusses this (of course - is there anything to do with poker that's not in that wonderful book !). I guarantee you that after I won that hand, half the table thought I was a big juicy fish. Calling a reraise with 22 ! Now how many of them are going to reraise me with moderate hands in situations which are different - situations in which I'm never going to call them with 22. In the event it's a shame he didn't have a big pair because I'd still have won with that flop and then the play would have looked really fishy - even though it's the same play. Both AK and say KK are in the range of hands he can have.

And that's why I made this fishy-looking but actually break-even call. It may have played a big part in the player on my left murdering his chips to me with A6 almost immediately afterwards. And it may be a reason why some of these aggressive non-believers as DY calls them win their share of tournaments. The calls they make after they have raised aren't nearly as bad as you might think when they're being laid 2-1 by the pot. Whether they realise it or not !

Saturday, February 05, 2005


Hitting The Bar

Yesterday I almost achieved my short-term goal of winning a £100 tournament in Luton. Just one more hand won could have done it - then again it's always just one more hand !

Not much value in my initial table draw which saw Steve Templeman, Lord Miros and Steve Vladar lined up on my immediate left, a little harsh in a field containing very few "faces". Steve T, one of the two players who always makes me laugh at a poker table (Paul Alterman being the other) kept us entertained at least. I soon doubled up with the first of three gifts I received (very gratefully) on the night, enticing QQ to make the fourth raise against my (what should have been very obvious) AA. After that though it was not the most value-packed table and I expect we were all glad when it broke.

On to a new table and I felt that it was time to get / it was time to get / it was time to get funky as the song goes. I won one with 22 against AK (I will talk about this hand in isolation later as it demonstrates an important principle). Shortly afterwards gift #2 came my way, I raised with A8s in middle position and was called by the player on my immediate left. I wasn't too keen on this until the flop came 852 no suits. So I made a small bet and was promptly raised all in. Would have been a tough one on a 952 flop but in this case I have odds to call the reraise even if he shows me an overpair and there's always a chance he's screwing around with something like - A6 ? Apparently so.

Another table break and I was struggling to find good situations when I raised UTG with AK and the BB (who wasn't short stacked or under pressure) wanted to put the rest in with AT for some reason known only to himself. Gift #3, all in a matching style - people simply overplay their hands. Then it all went wrong for a while, I raised with QJs and Miros reraised, I passed, next hand I made the same raise with KK and no one bit. TTB, them's the breaks. Into the dead zone of 1-30 am with 15 players left and I had a paltry 11K.

Call it timing or luck (in poker the two usually mean the same thing) but I worked it up to 35K at the final table, without showing a hand. This is how you want to do it ; I had some kind of hand every time I raised, as I had to because I had the Daddy of all calling stations on my immediate left, but fortunately he could sniff the final and stopped calling everyone with K9 (just for half an hour mind you).

Lovejoy exited the final early and at this point I liked the line-up, I just needed some chips as we started at 2K-4K, soon to go 3K-6K. I found QQ and ran straight into AA, fortunately he was the low stack so it didn't cost too much. Then disaster ! The small blind raised and I wasn't having it in the BB with KJ, and reraised him. He called in a nanosecond and flipped up KK. I didn't even see the flop in my despair, but I heard someone say "straight draw" and as I looked up I turned the straight. The game's bent, as Steve T would say. Soon enough we were three-handed.

At this point I was up against two young players, one of them looked vaguely familiar and I finally placed him as the eventual winner of the shoot-out a few days previously. The chip leader then said "I read your blog by the way" and introduced himself as Robert. Now you see why I have to keep a few things back from now on :-)

I had about 55K chips (out of 340K) but felt I had a good shot if I made sure to be the most aggressive of the three players. Which I was, just about, but no one was giving anything up, and it was clear that sooner or later two people would find hands and it would all go in. I had worked up to about 90K when that hand came up, QQ for me, 88 for Robert, no one was going anywhere and the first card off was an 8. Doh. Well I can't really complain after that KJ coup !

Close ! But no cigar. I was happy with the way it went. I have been playing like such a tosser for at least two years, and I'm only now sorting it out. On a closing note, it's interesting to watch the younger players and it doesn't take long to see who has a chance. Keep your eye on the ones who take their time, but only when necessary, conduct themselves with respect but stand their ground against old-school bullies (again when necessary) and don't talk non-stop crap. That cuts the field down a long way. Fortunately. I don't want too many players as good as these two, and no doubt as fast-improving, cutting into my game !

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


Go For Your Gun

I played the £50 Shootout in Luton last night. It was very good, the structure worked really well. When you compare to a standard £20 Rebuy comp, it's just amazing how you can have the same number of players putting in about the same amount of money and taking about the same time, and yet you have 20 times more play !

I've been sceptical in the past about how much difference having "more play" makes. In this case, I was wrong. When you have small blinds and are playing 5-handed or less most of the time, weaknesses will be exposed more painfully and more often. Even though there was only one player at our starting table who was £10 beginner tournament weak, there were still plenty of mistakes to exploit. This one player lost all his chips to me, which was nice ! First off I flopped the nut straight and he was unfortunate enough to make the low straight on the turn, and foolish enough to overplay his hand on the river. Then I made up the small blind with Kxs and four of us took the flop. The flop was QQ9, checked around, the turn gave me a flush draw, checked again, and I backdoored the flush on the river. I bet out and our hero raised all in with Q-rag. It's hard to say which was the bigger mistake, checking the turn against three players with a possible straight and flush draw out, or raising on the end when he's only going to be called if he's behind.

We played 4-handed for a while before Rita cracked up and blew the lot with K2s. It was quite funny how it happened, the small blind said "Raise" but before he could draw breath to say how much, Rita barked "All in", slammed her chips in, picked up her bag and stood up. The SB made a good call with KQ. I think Rita's behaviour constitutes a tell :-)

The same guy wasn't a bad player but he was overplaying Ace-small short-handed and paid me off all in with A6 against my AJ. Heads up I had a 3-2 chip lead, and after some to and fro, exploited his tendency to overbet the pot when I found QQ. In the key hand, I bet every street with A7 on a board of AKJQ7, and he called on every street, throwing away on the end with "I was hoping for a split pot". I finished him off next hand and as everyone was waiting for us, it was time for the final.

So we started off 5-handed, 15K chips, 100-200 blinds, 5th through 2nd win £150 and the winner £1150. I admit I didn't play the final as well as I should have done. I was up to 19K after a couple of moderate pots, but I lost 5K in a blind v blind confrontation after correctly putting my opponent on an Ace but not realising he had hit his Ten kicker on the turn. After being caught with my fingers in the till here, I tried to run at least one more bluff too many, probably two. Looking back I went from 14K down to 7K almost entirely in hands where I was the Big Blind and saw a free flop. In this situation I have been pushing too hard lately. It's better to take the free flop and value bet if you hit something half-decent, most of the time. Anyway, with blinds at 400-800 I reraised Carmy's button raise with ATs, he called with 66, and I lost the race. So it goes.

All in all it was a great game to play in. I played for 4 hours and I never had less than 20 small blinds in my stack. The first time I was all-in I lost. Every table was winner-take-all, which is how it should be. If you're a good player, you have so much more scope to set people up and take advantage of their mistakes. If you're not (and we can all improve), you can really pick up some bad habits playing rinky-dink rebuy tournaments, and this would be a good place to learn how to play properly. I would love to see a few more of the £10 tournament experts in this game ! It's on every Monday this month, check it out.

Meanwhile I will be posting tournament reports for any live tournament I play where something interesting happens. Seeing as I managed an entire article out of one hand, that should be most of them. I find it extremely helpful to write it down and analyze it myself. It was only when I sat down to write this I realised I was doing too many chips in free flop hands. I encourage anyone to chip in with comments or questions, especially if you disagree with anything - that's when we learn the most !

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