Friday, March 31, 2006


Meanwhile In The Real World

I have had a fairly quiet month. I haven't been playing in the evenings after work, and I've usually had at least one day off per (three day) weekend so I haven't really put the hours in. Still managed to clear a smidgeon under $1000, thanks mainly to that tournament 3rd place for, er, a smidgeon over $1000. I was hoping for a blockbuster finish to the month having spent 3 hours working up to 50K in the $10 rebuy on Stars today, but lost it in 30 seconds. This is the life we chose. I can see why the idler cognoscenti favour this tournament though, some shocking players and a lot of chips/time to make it count.

The Turbo Sit and Goes ground to a halt after what was in statistical fact only a brief spell of treading water, but I did find it very frustrating. No wonder that guy who was playing 100 in a day ended up in his sickbed. It sounds like when Homer went to Hell. "So, you like Sit and Goes do you ? Well play all the Sit and Goes in the world ! Bwahahahaha !"

Who's to know what's good or bad though, as the Buddhists say, and on trying some of the 10 minute level games on Stars/Pokerroom and the limit games on Party (when available), these feel a lot better. You have much more scope for punishing the players who only have one gear (whatever it is). Hourly rate can easily be sacrificed if the stress levels are reduced.

The funny thing is that $1000 a month is, or will be, enough, believe it or not. It feels strange to say that after spending an hour reading blogs where people are winning and losing 10 times that in a day, but it really is enough (if marginal), if I'm not too greedy. On reading these tournament reports though I am very tempted, when I read about some of the plays going down. Hmm. Maybe the odd shot when I'm running good ...


Keep 'Em Guessing

There's something I have wanted to talk about for a few days, but while flicking through Fox he expressed it so well I had to share it. He's talking about maintaining a defensive image, that is preventing people from bluffing you :

"Probably the most single important factor associated with improving your defensive image is to never admit turning down a good hand ... Do not ever make an exception to the above rule ... Particularly eschew showing a strong losing hand for emotional reasons. If you have made a great laydown through the use of deduction or card reading, keep it to yourself"

The two recent instances of this I have come across were not, in fact, great laydowns. IMO they were appalling laydowns, and while that's a matter of opinion, I'm sure no one could argue they are "great". First up in the £1500 at the Vic, now I don't normally trawl through forums tracking these but a friend was still in and I was funking for him. According to the report, in a heads up blind v blind pot, someone called a chunk on the turn with two pair (three flush on board), then folded when the river came blank, getting at least 3-1 on the final call. There was plenty of comment on the pass but no one asked why the hell did he show it ?

Maybe it was a case of "I'll show you mine if you show me yours". If so, careful what you wish for - his opponent gleefully showed him a complete bluff [1]. The guy must have felt like crying and going home. Frankly he might as well have done, seeing as he had just painted a big target on his own head for what little remained of his tournament.

The second case you can see here, Ben Grundy's Monte Carlo report [2]. It's well worth reading the whole thing just to pick up an appreciation of the steal/resteal dynamic in these events, but the bit I'm referencing here is Tony Chessa (apparently) putting in 20K with AK and then folding for 30 more all in. Again I think this is a terrible pass, but the worst thing is, why show everyone ? Contrary to popular opinion, big laydowns are not the ticket for big tournaments. If you must, just muck your hand and either say you were bluffing or say nothing at all. As Fox also says, "If your opponents observe that in certain circumstances you will turn down a strong hand, they will start attempting to bluff you. Never doubt it. They will !"

It's like the anecdote in Kill Phil about the two poker players in the jungle (or the veldt or something, whatever) who realise they are being tracked by a hungry lion. One of them takes his running shoes out of his pack and starts putting them on. "What difference does it make," says the other, "you can't outrun a lion". "I don't have to," he replies, "I only have to outrun you". If you're playing these bigger tournaments, there are plenty of good and/or aggressive opponents who are always on the lookout for an easy mark. Showing a big laydown is the very best way of saying "Pick on me ! Me ! Over here !!".

Finally, as Fox also points out, it is different if you want them to bluff - but while I think there is a lot of scope for trapping the over-aggressive in these events, I'm pretty sure that wasn't what either player was thinking when he showed his hand. God knows what they were thinking, but that probably wasn't it.

[1] Showing a bluff is slightly different, in a case like this it can affect your opponent, but there are still far too many fools on the Internet who think "look at me I know how to bluff" is a good enough reason for giving away free info.

[2] On reading this, and a previous report or two, I think Ben's a better player than I have given him credit for in the past. He's certainly a step or two ahead of most of them. And he doesn't make a lot of "big laydowns".

Monday, March 27, 2006


Payback Time

There's a lot of free info on this blog. More than one person has asked me not to blab all the secrets, but I said no, information wants to be free !

Well nearly free. If you're playing seriously online, you have to have some kind of rakeback deal. If you're eligible (usually in that you don't already have an account with whichever cardroom you're signing up to), check out the new rakeback link now in the banner above. If you sign up through the link on this site and use the referral code "SECRETS" in an email to the rakeback site, then some of the juice should find its way back to me.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


Off And Running

I was relieved (probably too relieved) to finish 3rd on Stars this morning for $1000. I can never quite seem to close the deal on Stars. Still, I've thought that elsewhere, and it has always come in the end.

I don't have an actual date when I'm leaving work yet, I'll probably find out tomorrow. Could be anything from a week to two months, although hopefully I'll be out by Easter. Until then I'm laying the groundwork and thinking about the game selection. Variety is very important. I don't think online cash, or heads up, games are for me, so it will be a mix of tournaments and sit and goes. PLO8 is a good MTT game (better than in the STT form I think), and Party have some limit Sit and Goes that make a nice change (especially the split games). One thing I have to try to stop doing generally is "drawing a line" and saying, right, I'm going to track how I do in this game starting now. It's a great way to convince myself that I'm losing. Obviously it will be hard not to do this when I quit work ! I will have to pretend that I started in the New Year, and so am $6000 up. I also have to work around the mindset of maximising hourly rate ; $10 an hour extra is no good if it's so stressful that I can only play half the hours. That means cutting down on the Turbo Sit and Goes, and probably 3-tabling instead of 4 at least for a while.

Live action is almost certain to be cash rather than tournament. The freedom to come and go and the challenge of learning a new game are big plus points. I'm unlikely to be following this path at Gutshot though ; 5% rake capped at £10 in a £50 max buyin game and the dealer's working for tips - you do the math as they say in the US.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Cash Game Madness

I popped into the Vic today just to feel some cards and chips in my hands. After bleh-ing out of the tournament quite early I was on the point of sloping off when I saw a seat in the £50 PL with "the needy and the greedy" as The Camel says, and I thought why not give it a spin for £100. So I did. Here are some interesting hands which I am just going to report as factually as I can. All comments welcome on my play and that of my opponents. £1-2 blinds, players have around £100 in front of them unless otherwise stated.

1) S makes it £5 UTG, 1 caller, I make it £25 with QQ. Both call. The caller and I both have around £60 left. Flop 982 with 2 diamonds. S bets £75, we both call, there's a small sidepot. Turn diamond, River diamond. I spy the Qd in my hand and turn it over hopefully. "Nice hand" says S sarcastically and shows his unlucky 82. The other poor sod flopped a set of nines. Just to recap, he called a £20 reraise pre-flop with 82 when both opponents had only £60 more in front of them.

2) Aye aye, I find the boots (AA) and make it £10. One caller. Flop A55 kerching ! Check check. Turn 4 I make a small bet, he calls. River irrelevant. He bets £50 which is a little more than the pot. Natch, I put him all in for his remaining £30. He passes and shows me 56.

3) Several limpers and I limp, with about £300 in front of me now, with AQs on the button. Flop Q67, one of my suit. S (playing about £200) bets £5. I make it £25. He makes it £50. Hmm. Comments on this play are welcome as I elect to make it £125 (consensus in the bar was it was either that or fold). He shows me Q6 two pair and passes, saying I must have a set. 56 boy suggests AQ and is met with derision.

4) Now I have £350 and find KK. I make it £10 and there are 4 callers, a couple of whom are also deep stacked. At this point I think "If this doesn't come a K or an A I have no fucking clue what I'm going to do". Fortunately for me it comes an Ace and I pass the flop. S wins it with 23s that makes a flush. Having hit I decide to run for a £256 profit.

I think I am a fish, but today I'm a lucky fish.

Friday, March 10, 2006


You're Not Going To Like This One

I'm not even sure about it myself. But that's why I'm posting it, to see if informed comment helps me decide on it.

The principle underlying a great deal of my pre-flop strategy is that I don't want to create a situation where all better hands than mine will play and all worse hands will fold. I am happy to invite action from worse hands in a lot of spots where most players would try to knock everyone else out, failing to realise that 1) anyone who has them beaten isn't going anywhere and 2) knocking an opponent out who is 50/50 is a very small gain.

Say you're sitting on M6 and you find TT in early position. Or AQs. Putting in a third of your stack leaves you in a nasty spot if someone just calls you. Moving in will lead to the situation described above. No one's going to pass anything better [1] and you're unlikely to get any action off anything you dominate. So I just limp [2]. If there's one raiser, I can put the rest in or "stop and go" [3] by calling and auto-betting the flop. If no one bites I can take my chances if I flop top pair or an overpair. If there's heavy raise/reraise action I can even pass.

If I do this with the TT, I might get it all in against a smaller pair. Getting it in against AJ which would have folded is by no means the disaster that everyone will tell you it is (after you lose the race). M6-7 is the most awkward stack to play and I'm happy to flip a coin to double up here. With AQ I might get it all in against a smaller Ace, or race against a pair. It's all good.

[1] Except Teddy Tuil

[2] The conditions have to be just right for this. No antes. No one else in the pot yet. Not short-handed or in late position. Stack between M5-M8. This play comes in when you have a hand in a position where a raise will only get action from a better hand. With M5 or less, the blinds are big enough to win unchallenged ; with M8 or more, you can get away if someone reraises you.

[3] To be honest I'm not a massive fan of the stop and go, too often your opponent will be able to make the right decision on the flop, which costs you chips when you're winning and makes no difference when you aren't.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


Back In The Groove

Back on the MTTs, partly for a change and partly because my laptop is crashing too often to play the quicker Sit and Goes. The crashes seem to be modem-related and I'm going to be changing the modem soon so we'll see if that works before doing anything drastic.

After a bad start to the year in MTTs I'm now doing better just firing 4 up, playing solid for the first hour and seeing where that takes me. Before I was trying too hard in the early levels I think. We'll see. Last two days I managed 4th in a PLO8 comp on Party (I really should play more of those) for $450, and two near misses of 12th and 15th, each of which might have been a big score with a little more luck [1]. I'm getting myself into position, that's the main thing.

I wanted to expand on a play I have mentioned on here before. When you find a big pair, in position, against a single raiser, and you both have enough chips so that he's not committed pre-flop, call. In the last two nights I can think of at least 4 examples of this which I'll run through quickly :

1) Crypto, 150-300 w/ 25 ante, I have about 9K. Mid position makes it 900 and I call on the button with KK. Flop Jxx. He bets 1700, I move in, he calls instantly with QJ.

2) Eurobet, 50-100, I have about 3K. Early position makes it 300, I call in mid position with KK. Flop 678 rainbow. He bets 700, I move in, he calls with AK.

3) Pokerstars, 300-600 pot limit, I have about 8K. Early position makes it 1800. I call in mid position with KK (repetitive isn't it). Small blind launches pot size reraise. Initial raiser passes, I move in, SB is committed and calls with AT.

4) Same PL comp on Pokerstars. 300-600, I have about 10K (this hand takes place before hand 3). I find JJ in EP and make it 1800. Next seat, who has me covered, reraises pot. Everyone else passes. I pass and he shows me QQ. Thanks for letting me know I made a good pass !

There you have the 3 ways this play can double you up, and one more where I escaped because my opponent did not use this play. 2) and 4) are the most interesting cases. In case 2, think about how we're both playing these hands. Short of a freak flop like AAK or QJT, there are only two outcomes for me. I lose 300, or I get 3000 in the middle as a big favourite, in this case 85%. I'm seeing more and more people online who won't put AK down when they miss the flop heads-up. For any action. Against someone like this, is the call not better than launching it all in and being 70-30 to win or lose the lot ?

In case 4, if my opponent flat calls then I reckon there is about a 10% chance of me instantly doubling through him (with a J high flop), and a 40% chance of him instantly doubling through me (with no flop card higher than a T). For sure, the other 50% of the time we'll have to play poker and sometimes QQ might fold the winning hand. All the same I'd rather be him, in position with the better hand that will win a checkdown. When he reraises with QQ though, look how easy he's made it for me. With a bigger pair, I move in. With a smaller pair, AQ or worse, I fold. With AK I probably move in, no more positional disadvantage and I get to see 5 cards. Either that or I fold, which is no big loss.

If you're not making this play online, at least try it. The bottom line here is that it's perfectly acceptable to win fewer pots if this means that the pots you win are bigger and/or the pots you lose are smaller. That's what so many players, old and new, are missing with their reraises and auto continuation bets. And finally you might be thinking, big deal, you know to slow-play a big pair, but on the rare occasions someone does this to me it really makes me start. Hardly anyone does it. They all reraise. Make the pots small when you lose, and big when you win. This hugely compensates for the odd small pot you are bluffed off.

[1] Both times I lost a very big all-in pre-flop. One from in front, one from behind. So it goes !

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