Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Stopped And Gone

A commenter below asked whether I had changed my tune regarding the Stop and Go, and if so why. Which is fair enough, without checking I think I did advocate the play at one point because I made it work once. Keith (The Camel) asked me about this too in reference to the post below where I say it's over-rated.

I now think that it is over-rated and probably over-used. The conditions I need to be in place to do this are quite strict. Basically I have to be calling a short stack in a situation where my hand is strong enough so that I would have called if he had moved in, and his stack isn't big enough for him to pass to a reraise. If there's any chance he will pass to a reraise, then that's what I'll do, if I play.

The problem is that if I have this kind of hand (like an Ace, a couple of big cards or maybe a small pair), there's a big danger that I'll make it easy for my opponent on the flop. If I auto-bet, anyone with half a brain (ok that's not everyone) will call if they started with a pair or catch a piece of the flop, because they know I'm Stop-and-Going. On the other hand, if they don't catch any of the flop, a lot of the time I will actually want a call. Suppose, for example, I have a better Ace but we both miss the flop. He'll have 3 outs with 2 cards left, and unless his remaining stack is ridiculously small I would want him to call. I no longer think there's any extra benefit to winning a smaller pot more often, because now I just make chip EV plays almost all the time.

That's not to say I never flat call in the blind when a short stack raises ; if some egg wants to make a minimum raise out of a short stack then I will often call in the big blind. In fact if there are antes, I'll always call. If I miss the flop, I'll make a decision whether to bluff or let it go. If I hit, I'll check. Every time. Few opponents can resist putting the rest in here. But that's not a Stop and Go (IIRC), because the Stop and Go is always betting out on the flop. The Stop and Go is a play that has become redundant through over-use in my opinion.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Book Report

I picked up a couple of books in Vegas prior to flying to Tunica, knowing as I did that the latter is not exactly the entertainment capital of the world. I wasn't expecting them to be very good, and they weren't, but they seemed the best on offer at the time.

David Apostolico's "Secrets of the Pro Poker Tour" suffers from much the same problem as his previous book, which was based on Sun Tzu's Art Of War. Simply, like so many others, he over-values survival in tournaments. Now this is bad enough at the best of times, but it's exacerbated here because he is talking about playing in a tough field. It just doesn't add up. One minute he's gushing over how brilliant Baxter, Brunson & co. are, the next he's folding a pair and a flush draw on the flop to a single raise. Did Sun Tzu himself not say "When on desperate ground, fight" ? Yes, he did. If you find yourself surrounded by better players, then the first thing you say to yourself is "what's wrong with my game selection". I can excuse that one because Apostolico blagged some kind of exemption and was freerolling. The second is "right, let's gamble". What are you waiting for in this spot. To outplay them ? You just said they were legends of the game. To find Aces ? Why, are you better at finding Aces than anyone else ?

I also picked up a book by John Vorhaus which was so good I can't remember the title. It might have been Killer Poker Online 2 or something. This wasn't up to much even by Vorhaus' standards (he's normally entertaining but light on useful content). For example, an entire Sit and Go chapter contained half a page on playing 4-handed, which basically said "don't pass Jacks". This is more correct than Harrington 3's position, but even so, thanks for that. Fischman's book has the best SNG advice that I have seen in print to date, along with the half page or so in MOP. However, as I have said before, if you pick up one point from a book and use it at the right time it can pay off many times over. Vorhaus' heads up section wasn't too bad, and I used his principle of "build the pot then take it" to win a pot for about 10% of the chips in play heads up in the one I won. Without that pot, the final hand wouldn't have ended it and he would still have had a small chance of a comeback. Even if that was worth $1000 in EV (and that's a conservative estimate), that's not bad for $19.95+tax.

When I returned I sent off for Matt Lessinger's Book Of Bluffs, after my brief Email exchange with him while in Vegas. This was much better and I recommend it. Lessinger is the first author I have read who notes the possibility of flat calling a raise with a big pair to take advantage of over-aggressive squeezers, and the full text is similarly thoughtful. A thumbs up for that one.

Finally I was so bored towards the end of my trip that I read a couple of CardPlayers and I must say that Matt Matros' articles in there are far, far too good. I had a sore neck from agreeing him in both cases, and generally they served to highlight the total paucity of the rest of the publication.


Back To Work

I had a day to recover on Sunday, thinking that Tunica was nice but now it was behind me and it was time to get back to work. After playing a few $200 SNGs last week, I didn't fancy them so much, because it felt like my play was out of synch after a spell of MTTs. The differences in play can be so subtle that it's very easy to play in the wrong "mode" and only realise afterwards. I think the best thing to do is stick to one or the other for a month or two, basically until you need a break and then you switch back.

So I fire up a few, bust out of most of them incompetently, but stick around in the Mansion $100K, catch a few cards, and long story short finish second for $15,000. When you're hot :-). The added money is huge here. Obviously I won a few coin flips and knocked AA off with KK all in pre-flop in the final, but the point is I had to win significantly fewer hands than you would normally need to to win 150x your buyin.

There was one moderately interesting hand. Shortly after the KK v AA coup I was chip leader 6-handed, blinds 4K-8K/400. I made it 24K UTG with AQ, and the button called. Now, the button was by far the most active player at this point. Three tables out I had seen him reraise allin with 53, get called by AQ and win. So my kind of player :-). Flop came Axx, I bet 35K he called. The turn was a J, he had about 220K left and I had him covered by 100 or so. This is the key decision point in the hand.

Now, I don't like passing big hands in pots like these so I figured I was in for the duration. Once I've made this decision, check-calling is clearly the way forward. If I'm winning, I'm miles in front, and if I'm losing, I'm fucked. I might as well extract the maximum from a bluffer, with the added bonus that check-calling might save me some chips if I'm beat. On top of that, betting the flop and checking the turn looks so like a standard "one continutation bet then give up" that it almost has to extract at least one more bet from a bluffer. So I check, he bet 60K and I called. River K, a good card because I was already losing to AK anyway. I checked, he bet 100 leaving himself 60 and I called. He showed J9 and I scooped it.

Many people are so obsessed with "protecting their hand" that they wouldn't even consider playing it this way. Look at the actual situation - he needed runner-runner on the flop and had 5 outs on the turn. "Protecting" yourself against the remote possibility of being outdrawn is nowhere near as important as losing the minimum if you're beat and winning the maximum if you're ahead, and both these goals are expedited by check-calling.

So that coup gave me enough chips to survive running into AA, AA and QQ in quick succession, although following those coups and with everyone else flinging their chips at one other player, I was outchipped 3-1 heads up. It all went in and he won with AQ v KJ, fair enough. All I have to do now is cash out ; can you believe they need photo ID for me to cash out back to Neteller ? And then I have to push it through Neteller itself ! Oh well, good job there's no rush ...

Friday, February 02, 2007


Pseud's Corner

Watch out for players who appear to fit into one of the categories below, but actually don't. There are plenty of pseudo-circuit pros around. I didn't happen to run into any at the table in Tunica but they're around, believe it. I could name names, and I am very happy to do so privately, but I'm not going to here :-). These guys talk the talk, some of them well enough to attract sponsorship, at least for a while. One of the killer giveaways here is if a player pops up with a different sponsor every year. But basically they aren't good enough. If they know this, they're a little more dangerous, but those who believe their own press invariably suffer from chronic FPS (Fancy Play Syndrome). Another good indicator is if they try to over-play with a short stack when they should just be whacking it all in. The really dangerous players can make all sorts of moves with a big stack, but they know the math with a short stack too. If you can lead the pseudo-pros into making an incorrect read early in the hand, they are liable to follow it through to the death rather than admit they were wrong. Unlike the real pros, these guys will commit all their chips on the big bluff when it's not all that likely to work. I shouldn't be too hard because a lot of these guys are likeable, and some are quite sadly delusional about their own ability. Let them outplay themselves. Oh, and don't lend them any money.

The Internet has also produced quite a few pseudo guys-like-me. Similarly to the pseudo-pros, they think they are the real deal but in fact it's a case of not knowing how much they don't know. I read something, can't remember where, which said that moderately competent to incompetent people in the workplace are often far more confident about their own ability than the genuinely competent, who are more aware of their limitations. I ran into a classic specimen in one of the second chance tournaments here. He tried a Stop and Go (a play which I believe is seriously over-rated) which didn't work because the raiser flopped bottom pair. He then berated his opponent, explained patronisingly what a stop and go was and, when the raiser asked how much he wanted to play him heads up for, announced that he "had won two big tournaments online". Finally he called all his chips AQ v AK with a flourish, saying "what the hell, it's only a five hundred tournament". We were so impressed. Once he had gone his opponent offered the table 1-4 that he was a virgin (provided hookers don't count), with no takers. I'll offer about the same he'll be broke within two years. If you hear an internet-looking guy explaining his play, patronising or criticising his opponents and generally talking self-aggrandising bollocks, it's a fair bet he's a fake. Not a certainty, but a fair bet. As ever in life, it's the quiet ones you have to watch. If you do something "out of the book" against one of these guys, like flat calling a raise with a big pair, you can stack him no problem with the right flop. He says "fucking donkeys" and stomps off, you smile and count the chips. These guys are also particularly prone to tilt, although to be fair some of them play reasonably well with a big stack.

Pseudo-eggs are rare birds indeed. You have to swallow your ego right down to deliberately pretend to be a bad player, and how many poker players can do that ? One, that I can think of - Gus Hansen. Maybe Layne Flack. Now, there are a lot of circuit pros who play many hands and try to project a loose image, but you only have to listen to them for two minutes to realise that they think they're God's gift and they want you to know it. Even worse are the ones who project a sort of fake humility, humility being, as Blofeld said, the worst form of conceit. It's also harder to attract sponsorship if you're trying to make everyone think you're an egg, and sponsorship is something that these guys cannot do without. Almost as much for the status as the money. I know Hansen is part of Full Tilt, but that's basically it as far as he goes. Even Gus isn't really a great example here, but I just can't think of any others. You might occasionally see someone who plays goofy hands but actually knows what he's doing, but unless you have clear evidence to the contrary, if it looks like an egg and quacks like an egg then it is an egg. Clear evidence would consist of a decent period of time seeing someone show a lot of strange hands in small pots, but always the goods in big ones.

As for pseudo-rocks, I've probably covered that in part in the local rocks section, with the guys who play tight early on but open up when the blinds rise. And this isn't a bad way to play if you're less experienced or confident about mixing it early on. It's reasonably difficult to exploit but of course you miss out on exploiting the eggs.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


Just When You Think You've Seen It All

So I'm playing this added money fest on Mansion, and it's passed to me on the button with K7s. I move in (obv). The small blind moves in (doh) and then so does the big blind (doh d-d-doh doh). They both have Aces. Now that's timing.

Who won the hand ? Come on, was it ever in doubt ??

PS I will delete any hand stories posted below that aren't as good as that, so watch out.

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