Sunday, April 30, 2006


Another Tricky Month

Lost about $550 this month, although I shouldn't really complain as it's only the second losing month in ten. Following on from an indifferent March it means I haven't really made anything since I decided to quit work :-/. If it hadn't been for winning $1600 in a 3-minute crapshoot this month would have been pretty bad ... then again if it wasn't for all the bad beats, cold decks and complete inability to win coin flips ... alright I'll shut up.

As tends to happen during a bad spell, I've been trying some different moves, some I like and will incorporate from now, some I'm still not sure about. The real problem this year is that I haven't closed any deals for 1st place, and I don't think I'm playing well 3/4 handed. But I've also found some new games to play : the $50 10-table jobs on Stars are nice, 2 finals in only 3 attempts and overall play is noticeably worse than in the standard $50 comps ; and Full Tilt have a double stack tournament at 7pm every night which is FULL of fish. It's not too hard to make the ante stage in either (about 90 minutes in) and that's where the game gets fun.

Friday, April 28, 2006


Picking Holes In Myself And Others

I noticed something in the post Grand Designs that could use clarification.

"Time and again they grill their opponent for that elusive read, when the pot and stack sizes clearly dictate one play or the other. When they guess on the basis of their "read" alone, half the time they'll get it wrong."

When I say "get it wrong", I don't mean that in the sense that a lot of people would think. Allow me to explain. If you raise with 99, your opponent reraises all in, you're getting 3/1 on the call and his possible hands are AA, KK, QQ and AK then you should call. You're only a 2/1 dog against his range. If you stare at him for five minutes, "decide" that he has an overpair, fold, and he shows you Kings, the fold is still wrong. It's like Greenstein's distinction between the perfect play (what you would do if you could see your opponent's cards) and the right play (what you should do given that you can't). Still, try explaining that one to the Joe Stillmans of this world ...

Speaking of which, I am rapidly losing interest in the WSOP 2005 downloads as we have reached the point where most of it is just people going all in and shouting a lot. All the same we have reached Tiffany Williamson's fifteen minutes in the spotlight. And that was just one hand (boom boom). Add one more to the long list of things not to when playing poker in front of the cameras : don't verbalise your thinking (this is a bad thing to do at any time). Announcing that "I know you don't have Aces" when your opponent's Aces are being broadcast to the whole Western Hemisphere via hole card cameras makes you look a bit stupid. At least if you keep it shut then you might still get credit for making the right decision for the wrong reason [1]. I do think Sheikhan missed a trick on this hand. When Williamson tries to wander off (presumably to phone a friend), he protests, but not too strongly. If he had started foaming at the mouth and demanding that her hand be killed, she might have found a reason to call. Padraig would have done it for sure.

[1] Or the perfect decision, as above. For example, if you fold Kings just because you're a big girl and want to last longer, you'll look like a super stud if the guy does happen to have Aces, provided you keep your trap shut.

While I'm here there's a moderately interesting hand quiz on Ben Grundy's blog which I couldn't resist chipping in to.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Check Terms And Conditions Before Purchase

Watching the main event last year is giving me WSOP fever ! Well kind of. Who's cool and who's not, so far :

Cool : Darden and Juanda, barely lifting an eyebrow between them when Juanda spikes a two-outer on the river in a huge pot. That's how you do it. And Schoenfeld, for having the balls to admit that he's 0 for 24, -$100K in WSOP events. God only knows how many of the rest of them have similar records.

Uncool (not surprisingly a much longer list) : Moneymaker standing on a chair calling out for cards when he's all in ; Varkonyi standing behind his wife for three days straight (maybe it's true love and I'm just cynical) ; some geezer crying when he lost with the second nuts, blubbing "I've player perfect poker for three days and now this" ; and Matusow [on Raymer] "we're friends now and I respect him a lot". Lies make Baby Jesus cry Mike.

Coming soon to a mental hospital near you : Hellmuth.

And finally, would have been taken out the back for a sound kicking in the good old days : Paskin.

What larks there will be this year, no doubt. If you're going with the intention of playing some warm-up events, check the structures. Have a look at $1000 no rebuys if you're tempted by that one. 1000 chips, 25-25 to start, one hour levels. Hmm. I hate to use the C-word, but let me put it this way - don't whinge about it after you get there or, worse still, after you've been knocked out. Find out what you're buying into, then like it or lump it. Personally if I play any warm-up events myself I am more tempted by the limit Stud or Stud 8. A much better chance of a final or a bracelet, and you're guaranteed a few hours play whatever.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


The Illusion Of Control (Continued)

"I dominated my table today and soon worked my chips up to 50K from the starting 10K".

How often do we read that in various forms ? It depends who's doing the writing. Some bloggers and reporters, fair enough, if it goes tits up they're honest about it. Some others though, always seem to start off with something like the above. This makes me immediately suspicious. Let us return to Greenstein's book where he quotes Jack McClelland as saying "We are selling the idea that [prominent tournament players] are the best players in the world". And they're rarely short of buyers.

There are a lot of reasons why people want to buy into this idea. Outright hero worship for one. A desperate attempt to force the laws of cause, effect and justice onto tournament poker for another (good luck with that). The particular misconception here is that the best players sit down, take control of the table and smoothly accumulate chips with little or no risk. I oughtn't to complain really, this is the myth that makes average club players think they can fold Aces and so forth, but there it is. I don't think it works like that in practice.

I've been watching some of the WSOP Main Event 2005 and you have to be looking for it, but if you do, suddenly you realise how often there's a quick "And Famous McFace will have to wait another year" and that's that. Off the top of my head, Doyle, Negreanu, TJ, Ferguson, Duke, Men and Scotty, Hansen, Phillips, Marcel, Harrington, Harman God I don't know there are probably 50 more. Never got going. Not with a bang - with a whimper. Oh yeah and Hellmuth, speaking of whimpering. Yuk yuk yuk. And that's only the ones we saw. Half an hour later you think where was Greenstein ? Todd Brunson ? Ulliott ? Juanda ? E-Dog ? Esfandiari ? But hey, Ivey and Lederer have chips. Those pros eh, different gravy.

You know when you play a Sit and Go where you get down to 5 or 6 players, you start ducking and diving, nipping and stealing, no one plays back, you take the lead, press them around the bubble, have a 2-1 chip lead heads up and close it out ? You think "ha, I was in the zone there". Next time, everything goes wrong, you get knocked off 2 or 3 pots and then lose your all in, and you can't help thinking you must have played it badly, or at least not so well. It ain't necessarily so. The control you felt you had the first time was simply an illusion caused by the happenstance that nobody else found a good enough hand when you were in the pot. Then the next time, they did.

This happens in MTTs as well, I'm sure of it. These people who are pressing all the time, it's only ever going to last until someone finds a good hand and has the guts to slow-play it at least a bit. When that happens they're back to square one. When it happens two or three times that's your lot. Even in the tournaments they feel went well enough to write for them, there's often a slant of "I worked it up to 50K and then I had this really unlucky hand". A bit late, but I suddenly thought of a great analogy. They're playing Russian Roulette. That generally goes very well until the end.

Of course they'll have their share of empty chambers all the way through, and get some results, and maybe make some money with a bit of luck (quite a lot of luck unless someone else is picking up the exes). But if you believe this story that good players can cut a swathe through the field by will-power and skill alone, you're not going to realise how much they do in fact have to gamble, never mind how much we have to gamble.

The last point to mention for now is to remind you that good intentions do not help you all that much in poker tournaments. You can summon up all the determination and will-power at your command and it's only going to help a bit. If the cards don't drop your way it's still not going to happen. If you win that satellite, don't kid yourself that because you're going to try twice as hard as normal you're sure to do well. The real point is, why are you only trying half as hard the rest of the time. Every time you play, stay calm, level headed, make the best decisions you can and see what happens. On the day it's mostly out of your hands. Over the years, it's consistent good decision making, perserverance on an even keel as Steve Badger says, that earns you money.

Friday, April 14, 2006


Grand Designs

Over the last week or two I have been thinking quite a lot about how I'm going to proceed with the poker once I've burned my bridges and played the boss's head like a bongo on the way out. What I have settled on after a lot of to and fro-ing is the following. Play 5 or 6 turbo sit and goes every day, usually in the morning. I know I'm making $10-$12 a time here at the $50 level, and with a little more concentration that is improvable. There's $50-70 a day. One day a week off for good behaviour and that's $1200-$1500 a month. Which, as I have said before, is enough. It covers the nut with enough to spare to keep myself entertained.

That's basically separate, it looks after itself and the bankroll I need to sustain that is minimal. To avoid burnout and boredom, I don't play any more Sit and Goes than that. Apart from that, I can do whatever I like. I still have a separate tournament bankroll for online and live play, and I can play as and when I like within that bankroll. Hopefully I can keep growing that, whacking it on the offset mortgage where it's still available.

This leaves plenty of scope for taking shots at live tournaments, around the $300-$500 level. The more tournament reports I read, the more people who are playing these tell me, the more I want to play them. Because I'm picking up the distinct impression that the standard of play is worse than ever. What I find most interesting are the trip reports of the less experienced players. They make life so hard for themselves. They can't bear to just make a good chip decision and repeat ; they have to distract themselves with all sorts of artificial goals and targets. They seem totally oblivious to the impact of stack size on play. Time and again they grill their opponent for that elusive read, when the pot and stack sizes clearly dictate one play or the other. When they guess on the basis of their "read" alone, half the time they'll get it wrong.

I think there's a lot of scope for a different approach to the one that's prevalent. Everyone seems to be trying to impose themselves on the table, win lots of pots and accumulate chips steadily. I'm thinking about a counter-style whereby I don't win so many pots but when I do, they'll be bigger. Instead of accumulating steadily I'll be looking to double up irregularly. You have to be yourself to an extent. It's not in my personality to impose myself on a group of people ; at the poker table I'd rather stay fairly inconspicous and let the aggressive players throw their weight around until suddenly they commit when they shouldn't, to crash and burn and think "how did that happen ?".

I don't mean I'm just going to play like a rock all the time ; but when the stacks are large, there's no rush and no need to "take control" of the table. When someone's playing a lot of hands and making large bets, many people think this is "control". In fact it's anything but against a patient opponent who is prepared to let the small pots go in order to make the pots he wins bigger. A lot bigger. I'm really looking forward to my Vegas trip now, and if it's going well I'll be looking to extend it. One can never be too confident, poker being such a bitch goddess, but quietly confident is the attitude I'll be taking with me.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Nyum Nyum Nyum

From an article I read today. The author's actually quite good and talks a lot of sense, but check this :

"Someone in early position raised to 600 with 100/200 blinds, and this left him with 2600 left in his stack after the raise. A huge stack called in middle position and my friend was on the button with 9800 and his hand was 6c 6d . . . I wouldn't be worried about the big stack in the middle because he will almost always fold to [an allin reraise] and his range of hands in that spot is probably pretty wide, and there's almost no way he can call that big of an all in bet based on the action."

As Homer would say, Arrrglglglglglhglhgllhglhglhlg.

And there's more : What a day. How about this pearl of wisdom :

"For example, if you treble up in the first hand of a tournament, say from 2,000 to 6,000 chips, then every one of your chips has lost some of their equivalent cash game value. The vast majority of tournaments pay less than half of the prize pool to the winner. Because of this, your treble up in the tournament is only worth about half of what it would be worth to you in a cash game. "

People get paid to write this stuff. I know, I'm scared too.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

If I haven't made it clear elsewhere, I have booked a flight to Vegas June 30th-July 13th. Happily this follows almost immediately from my last day at work which is scheduled for the 22nd. Even more happily, The Orleans Open, which I thought was going to go the same way as its parent city, has been announced running from July 1st-16th !

I played in this in 2001. Was it really 5 years ago ? Despite not knowing my arse from my elbow compared to what I know now, I trousered $4500 in a Stud Hi-Lo comp [1] and finished 9th in a 400 runner NL rebuy event. I absolutely guarantee that these tournaments will be better value than anything you'll find in the Rio, even the $500 second chance jobs. Also to their credit, they're happy to spread Limit Holdem, Omaha 8, Stud and Stud 8 events, 8 in total out of 15 day events (the evening second chance events cater exclusively for the NL junkies).

I'm inclined to support this, mainly by staying at the Orleans. It has a free shuttle to the Gold Coast (next to the Rio) and the Barbary Coast (next to the strip). If you're going to be out there at this time, consider playing a few events here, if only as a break. As I say, the buyins are small but I think these will be really soft.

[1] There was a deal in this one. A very favourable one because, if I remember correctly, I was the low stack, and I could have won more as we were "playing for the rest".

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