Monday, July 24, 2006


Signal To Noise

I really have to learn to accept the swings. On this trip, I was $1500 down, then $7500 up, and now $4800 up. All in all it's been a successful trip. But I'm pissed off because I'm on a $3000 downswing. Of course I shouldn't be at all.

The real trap is when you're running good and you think "This is the way it should be. This is how it works when I'm not being outdrawn all the time". In reality though you're outdrawing other people, winning 50/50s and most of all having lots of "hidden luck" by not running into big hands at crucial times. Once you (subconsciously) accept this as the norm, you'll be disappointed, to say the least, when the variance kicks in the other direction.

There's also a more subtle form of annoyance that can arise when you haven't logged many hours in a particular game. For about a month I was running really well in the speed tournaments online. I had only started playing these in a particular style and my rate was so good I was thinking "Excellent. Even allowing for running good, I can make $120 an hour on these". Then a bad run kicks in - I've now gone about 30 with just a couple or three minor cashes. Now my rate has been drastically reduced and instead of thinking "I can make $120 an hour on these forever" it's more like $50 or $60. That's $60 an hour of future earnings I've lost forever. Or that's what it feels like !

In truth, your expected rate in the next tournament or cash session is dependent only on how good the game is and how well you play (of course your actual rate in a short session is dependent mostly on luck). Games can become better or worse surprisingly quickly as some players go broke or leave to play another game, new players come in, and some existing players improve or change their style. You can of course improve your own game or lose some edge through complacency or lack of focus. The next session is the one that counts, in some ways the only one that counts. I've said it before, you'll go mad if you concentrate on the noise at the expense of the signal. But it's so hard to avoid.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Egg Head Likes His Booky Wooks

I almost made it though a whole month without going up to anyone and telling them how great they are. But yesterday I saw Action Dan wandering around looking a bit lost so I went up to him and gave him proper respect for his books. The first book in particular made something click for me and it's a fair bet that if it wasn't for HoH1 I'd still be a wage slave, so I'm sure a quick prop was in order.

It reminded me though that I meant to do a book review of the various tomes I brought with me or bought here. First of all Harrington 3, I didn't tell Dan that I was rather disappointed with this. Maybe I just wasn't in the right frame of mind to read it and I should try again when I'm back home, but it's all about getting into like Ivey's head and Negreanu's head and I'm sorry, if I need a book to help me against these guys it's going to be Kill Phil every time.

While that book underachieved for me, Sklansky/Miller's no limit book was a pleasant surprise. I thought it was very good indeed. There's a lot of stuff in there about sizing bets that's very useful. Another sign of a good book for me is that there's stuff in it that I thought of myself but I haven't read anywhere else. Two points in particular, I've been banging on lately about moving in rather than putting in a quarter of your stack and agonising when you are reraised, and it's right there in this book. Secondly, and I was aware of this before I bought it, he has introduced something he calls the "Sklansky-Chubokov ratings" which is exactly the same concept I set out here. When can you move in with a positive expectation even if your opponent knows your hand and will call with a better hand and fold with a worse one. Obviously the terminology is slightly different but basically it's exactly the same idea. Do you think I should sue ? Anyway as the book says, "Tournament pros know that these 'loose' all-in moves are correct ; in fact, this knowledge is the main reason many of them win money at all playing tournaments". Ouch, he nailed me. I'm not particularly happy that this knowledge is now out there but who's going to buy "No Limit Hold-Em Theory And Practice" by Sklansky when they could buy "How I Lucked Into Millions" by some guy who wears his hat backwards just like I do. Hopefully not very many people.

Off the theory, I enjoyed Nolan Dalla's Stu Unger book which didn't pull any punches. I didn't realise how much other bad stuff happened to the guy, such as his "father figure" died on the night after he first won the World Series, and his adopted son committed suicide. It was quite a sad tale in the end but well worth reading. Less controversial was "Swimming With The Devilfish" which I was given as an unusually relevant birthday present but it was all a bit of a hagiography and while it's just about worth the price for a few interesting snippets the guy just didn't want to offend anyone he was writing about, which I can understand, but that's why it falls a bit short for me.

Friday, July 21, 2006


How To Value Reraise With J6

An interesting hand played out in a single table yesterday, and it goes to demonstrate how there are a few more characters around now who know the score.

I'm on the big blind with 900 after posting, blinds are 50-100. The button has been aggressive but seems to know what he's doing. I've made one all-in that was uncalled, and that's all I've done. I figure that if it's passed round to the button and he makes a raise that I can knock him off, I'll just reraise him with any two. And so it comes to pass, he raises to 300. I have a look just for show and push. He's now getting 2/1 on this call. He calls very quickly, I say "oops" and show J6 off. He shows 87 and I win.

Even the dealer said "wow", and most of the other players had their jaws on the table. I ran into the guy later and we had a laugh about it, we both knew what the other player was doing. For a while I was wondering, if he was so sure I was going to steal reraise, why make the play with 87 in the first place. But basically he wasn't. He raised, knowing that I might be aware of the steal reraise play. When I did reraise, there were two possibilities. 1) I have the steal reraise play in my locker and 2) I don't. If it's 1) then clearly I can have any two cards. If it's 2) then I have a real hand, at most 10% of my possible holdings. If it's 50/50 that I know the steal reraise play, then by Bayes theorem I will be on the steal 5 out of 6 times !

Working this out offline, 5 times out of 6 I have any two and he is 44% to win the hand with 87 [1]. 1 time out of 6 I have let's say A7/KQ/44 or better and he's 33%. Even if my range is as narrow as AT/77 (and surely even a total rock would reraise with at least these) he's 30%. The weighted average of his chance is 42%, massive compared to the 2/1 pot odds. Basically if there's any chance I'm steal reraising here he has to call, because he has a borderline call even against the "real" range of A7/KQ/44.

All in all it's a clever play. He hasn't gone all in because the small blind has him covered and if 300 won't chase the small blind off then it's not very likely that any more will. And even if, unbeknownst to him, I will always reraise then he's 44% to win 2100 which is a return of 850, only a 50 chip loss. I shall have to look for opportunities to make this play myself in future, I'm sure I have missed a few so far. Sure if it's just me and him he's better off setting me all in, but the presence of the small blind makes the normal raise/call the best option.

[1] Yes, 87 offsuit is 44% against any two cards. More than you thought, isn't it ?

Thursday, July 20, 2006


The Bloggers' Curse

The bloggers' curse is, of course, whenever you blog about how well a particular game is going, everything starts going wrong instead. I've now played 7 or 8 single tables without a cash. Most of this is, of course, attributable to variance ; a little to "winner's tilt" in the first couple where I just felt invincible and slipped into plays like "I'll reraise this, even if he calls I'll probably outdraw him". That didn't last long of course, and for the last couple of days I've been nose to the grindstone but I still find a different way to bust out every time, I'll spare you the details.

On top of that though, I think the single tables have tightened up quite a bit since the first couple of weeks. I bumped into Rob on my way back and he said the same thing, if your ROI was 80-100% in these things in the first couple of weeks, it's now more like 40-50%. The real fish who couldn't wait to play the WSOP ASAP have done their money and gone home. People still aren't playing particularly well, mostly, and 50% at $225 is more than $100 an hour but it's not quite the money tree it was at the start.

So my forecast of a couple of weeks ago was rather optimistic. I'm now $5300 up on the trip, which is good and I can't complain (as much as I'd like to). Expenses over four weeks though add up to a fair whack. There'll be time enough for counting when the dealing's done, but I think the total nut is going to be around $6K counting spending money so covering for a free holiday would do right now. We'll see. On Sunday I'm moving to the Strip for the last four days and we'll try some MTTs there.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Single Table Article

I have written an article on Single Table strategy for Stan James, you can see it here. I'm pretty sure I wrote it, it sounds like me. Anyway I've been paid for it that's the main thing :-)

I haven't played much for a couple of days, I wandered over to the Rio this afternoon just to sell a couple of chips, expecting it to be heaving, and instead there were three dealers in the satellite area flicking their plums with no one waiting to play. I did play a $125 just for fun, and had Aces cracked by AK. Which was fun. I didn't mind really, when he saw the matchup the guy said "I need something pretty sick". On demand, two Kings on the flop. Fucking poker gods, where were they yesterday ?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Argh ! My Image !!

I'm slightly annoyed with myself for making a few mistakes in recent single tables. Check this one out. With about 1500, blinds 100-200, middle position, I moved in with 76s. This is a perfectly legitimate play provided the big blind isn't committed. When the next player said "talk about protection", I realised that the big blind did indeed have half his chips in the pot. He called me blind, turned over Queens, and I made a straight :-). This was rank careless play on my part because you should always check whether either blind is committed before launching a steal.

Now, the problem here isn't just the fact that I have no fold equity in this pot, with a hand that's better than most against a real holding but below average against any two. That's bad enough, but an additional effect is that my image is blown. Normally, if I'm caught with my fingers in the till, then I'm either busted, crippled, or I suck out and double up. Whatever happens, I'm not in the steal zone any more and my busted image isn't going to hurt so much. If I double up I usually have a level to calm down before I start pushing again, so I can rebuild a tighter image. And if I push with a bigger stack, I'm going to have the goods, and my new loose image might buy me a call that I want.

In the event, "the truth was out" as another player commented. Everyone thinks they're Vince Van fucking Patten, can't you just shut up and play ? On the next level I made an auto-push in the small blind, and the big called me with K2. There's no way he would have called me without seeing that 76s. Small mistakes, even when you win the hand where you made the mistake, often have larger knock-on effects.

Friday, July 14, 2006



A day off again today ; 4 days on before 1 off is probably the maximum I should push it, however I'm running. One or two well-known European players look spectacularly rough and I'd rather not burn out to that extent ! I'm still running good though. So good that I bought two pairs of shoes in the mall yesterday. Two ! The life of me. Just call me Imelda Marcos. Or was it Ivana Trump ? Anyway, some more single table thoughts below.


When the seats are drawn for a single table, there's one person I don't want to see on my immediate right [1]. Not the WPT kid in baseball cap and sunglasses. Not the grizzled veteran in the cowboy hat. It's the 50-something woman. They are the most awkward pains in the arse to play against.

Not, of course, because of any strategic wiles that they possess. Not even because they continually slow the game down through being totally unable to play and talk at the same time, and doing far too much of the latter. It's more that so many of them have a particular style of play, as follows. They'll win a couple of pots from behind, or with a monster. Then about half way through they'll lose one with the best hand, get the raging hump and start raising with the needle every other hand. This, of course, is much more difficult for me to play against than anyone who thinks they're playing "properly". As I said a couple of weeks ago, in a different context but it probably applies here even more, the people who think they're playing well are much easier to handle than the random goons. Funny old game isn't it ?


As far as I can see, nobody plays like I do in the single tables. Nobody. A few people play like me at one stage or another, but no one all the way through. There was one guy yesterday, I've seen him around US tournaments before, he carries himself like a player, and he didn't play a hand for the first 20 minutes so I was thinking "maybe this guy gets it". Then he put 1/4 of his stack in with Jacks and another quarter on an Ace high flop before folding to the check-raise. So in the end he didn't get it at all. I just don't put a quarter of my stack in pre-flop at any stage. It's perfectly sound, it's clearly set out in the new Sklansky NL book. Instead of raising an amount that gives you a problem when reraised, either raise smaller (or limp in the single tables) or move in. People chirp about my all in bets that are larger than the norm, but 90% of the time this is clearly a better play than making a "standard" raise. The other 10% it's either close or unclear enough to make no difference. While we're on percents, at least 80% of players would do better playing "Kill Phil" or a similar rule-based pre-flop all in strategy. I'm not saying it's optimal, just that the vast majority would find it an improvement. Fortunately they all want to "play poker" instead. Which is fine by me, because that means they're in the wrong game.

[1] You heard me, the key positions are immediately to my right. I couldn't care less who's on my left because once I start playing, I've either folded or moved in by the time they act. So what can they do ? Although I suppose tight players who don't understand how to drop their calling requirements against a late position all in are a bonus on my left, but that's most of them anyway.

Interestingly though : Matt Matros knows the score, as follows, from a $1000 single table :

"Second error. It folds to me on the button and I have 11.5 big blinds in my stack. I've come to realize in recent months that this is pretty clearly a jam-or-fold situation. Instead, I convince myself that the two players in the blinds are so tight that I'd be better off opening for 3x and then folding to a jam with my QJo.

So I open for 3x, the small blind jams, and I fold getting 1.88-1. I hate doing that. From now on, no attempts at exploitive play when I'm a short stack. Just move or muck, for Pete's sake."

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Taking Stock

Now I've moved to the Gold Coast, it seems like a good time to take stock. So far I've put $4600 into 26 single tables for a total return of $9070, and $1325 into 6 MTTs total return $955. Total total $5925 in, $10025 out, $4100 profit. Cool !

My flight back is now on the 27th, which gives me 15 days, give or take. The first target is simply one of volume ; I should put at least $10K into action over the rest of the trip. It's like a main event of my own :-). As for performance targets, the way the single tables are playing I'd be disappointed to lose anything on the rest of the trip. $3000 profit would be OK, $6000 good, $9000 very good and $12000 or more excellent.

I think I have probably run a bit hot on the single tables so far ; I can certainly think of many more occasions when I've outdrawn someone than vice versa, even allowing for the fact that I'm in with the worst of it more often than not [1]. However, by now I also have some better ideas of how to play them, how to handle the chopping and which games are best to play in. We shall see how it goes. I might still play a $500 MTT or two but the bottom line is that these single tables should provide twice the hourly rate I could possibly expect anywhere else in the world at any time of the year, and as such I should fill my boots as much as possible. You never know, some bean counter might decide to make satellite chips non-transferable next year. Worse things have happened (although I can't think of many off the top of my head).

[1] Seriously, check this post for the explanation why.

Saturday, July 08, 2006


Who Asked You ?

That was the caption on the only cool T-shirt I have seen anyone else wearing. It's so good I've stolen it and put it on my T-shirt site. All property is theft anyway. Especially intellectual property. I really wish I had a shirt with that written on it.

I have never had to deal with so many comments about my play. Even at the very start, when I was a total egg, I was a super-tight egg so I didn't show bad hands or do too much that was worthy of derision. Out here, in a single table, the over-under of how long it takes for someone to make a "this guy only has one move" kind of comment is 36-38 minutes. When the blinds double to 50-100 (after 30 minutes), you can easily switch from rock to maniac at the bleep of a timer. The first couple of allins won't be called unless someone has a monster. Then the comments start. Once I've moved in three times more, they start getting antsy and telling me not to move in on their blind any more. It's annoying when, like today, some rock finds Aces and tells you "that was one allin too many" as they rake in your chips. What can you do though. Options are ignore it, laugh it off or give them some back. I can usually just about manage some combination of the first two, though it's difficult not to snap at people sometimes. They'll be alright. They have lots of inventive extra moves that I don't ; the problem is they are all different ways of wanking off chips [1] trying to take a moderate hand through the best hand out of the other 9 at the table. Some people do need a slap though. Phil Hellmuth has a lot to answer for.

As for me, I'm digging in an upward direction, just $500 short of breaking the surface and tasting the clean air of "up for the trip". I'm becoming more accustomed to the "get heads up and chop" mindset ; there is a lot to be said for it as long as you're not giving away chip EV. I'm also better off chopping compared to, say, saving a chip, because I have a tendency to switch off after the save even when we're still playing for say $600 which is bad. I figure I can pop along to the Rio three days out of four, put $700-800 in action however I do it, and it should sort itself out. I should try the odd $525, especially now I have a few tournament chips I can use for that purpose. Bushy apparently cashed in 12 consecutive $525s [2] and it's believable the way people play.

[1] Wanking off chips or wanking chips off ? I can't decide. One for the grammarians there.

[2] After losing the next two he told Keith he had "run into a brick wall". Bushy's the greatest :-)

Thursday, July 06, 2006


One Hell Of A Laydown

Another thing I wasn't going to do in this blog is take the piss out of how badly people play. But you have to hear this one. Middle stages of a second chance tournament, blinds are 200-400 with a 50 ante. Geezer puts in 3000 leaving himself 2500 behind. I have him covered, find AQ and move in. Now he goes into the tank ! Just as I'm coming to terms with this he announces that he has Queens and he doesn't know what to do. By this point it's all I can do not to laugh in his face. "Aces, Kings, Aces, Kings, which is it ?" he burbles, "if you have Aces will you show me ?". They love all the moody stuff over here. I give him the steely glare and say "I never show cards". Finally he throws it away. But wait, there's more !

He keeps chuntering on and asking me whether I had Aces or Kings. I knock him back just for kicks. I move tables and I can still hear him going on. Eventually there's a break and he comes up to me again. "You can tell me, what difference does it make, I'm just curious". I just want him to fuck off [1] but I'm damned if I'm going to tell him. Finally he starts getting baity and says "just tell me if Queens was a good laydown". "No, it wasn't" I reply (hidden subtext : so stop bugging me dammit). He looks me right in the eye, says "then you made a bad play" and stomps off.

Awesome. After I had stopped laughing I made the final with above average chips, but you know me, I crashed out 6th trying to win it :-). Never mind, $750 profit and a good time had by all. It's amazing how sometimes you start a tournament dog tired (I nearly didn't play), but once you're caked up the adrenaline kicks in and I'm still wide awake now. Hopefully I will catch some zs tonight, I will need my energy for Pearl Jam tomorrow !

[1] I found out tonight that because the Orleans don't follow TDA rules, you can say "fuck" without penalty. Yes ! Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck !!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


The Best Way Out Of A Shooting Slump ...

... is to keep shooting. Just ask Frank Lampard. No, wait.

$1500 in the hole is not where I wanted to be after 3 days, but what can you do. I've talked before about drawing a line and starting again all the time, it's bound to stress you. But it's almost impossible to think of it any other way when you've upped sticks half way round the world just to play poker. In the normal course of events a $1500 downswing means nothing, even less considering I'm playing twice as high as I usually do. I'm still $8500 up for the year.

I'll just have to grit my teeth and get on with it. I couldn't be more certain that the games I'm playing are both +EV (considerably so) and within bankroll (ditto). It just feels bad because I don't have many bad beats to hang my hat on, it's been more of a case of cold decks, especially in the single tables. What's the difference though, Queens v Queens and the guy makes a flush [1] or moving in with 53s, being called by AQ and losing. They were both the right play at the time, and in hindsight, and they didn't work out. The rest is noise.

I shall have a day off tomorrow. From tournaments anyway, I'll play some limit online and live if there's a decent game. I can kick back, watch the football and have a massage-no-not-that-kind-of-massage, the games will still be there the day after. I know I should keep shooting, and I will, but that was the plan from the start : 3 or 4 days on, one day off, or I won't want to look at another card after 10 days.

[1] This bad beat story is included strictly for the purpose of making a point. Although it does feel better to write it down.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


Can't Complain About The Structure ...

... or can you ? Today's tournament at the Orleans started you off with 50 big blinds and an hour clock. With a noon start, the antes didn't kick in until 9-15 pm. Play goes through till 3 am if necessary and starts again at 3pm tomorrow.

Not for me though, as I found no hands and few situations. Down to half my starting chips, I ended up all in with A7 v KK in a blind-on-blind coup. In fact he played it in the single way that gave me a chance to escape (limp-min reraise) but I wasn't quite sharp enough to take it. At least it didn't take all day which, with 450+ runners, it will for many.

There is such a thing as a structure that's too slow in my opinion, and this may have been it. 16-18 hours of play for a $200 tournament ? It's not going to add up to much of an hourly rate. I wonder if they were responding to "player pressure". You can't please everybody - within five minutes one woman complained "you only get 1000 chips" and "we have to play till 3 am ?". Which goes to show there are some people you can't please any of the time :-).

At least there's a good old crapshoot tonight. 20 minute levels that's the ticket. I think I should have at least as good an expectation in that, and it only takes a third as long. In fact, the antes start in the 7 pm tournament before they do in the 12 noon ! Should suit me better. All yin !

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