Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Last Time...I Mean It

I took a stab at playing some more games last night. I ended up blowing through my $66 in a variety of games, only finishing in the money once, taking 2nd in PL Omaha Hi-Lo. I think I played well in some games, not so well in others. Again, I'm posting this at work when I should be working, and I don't have a hand history to go by, but some things I did well were:

  • called 96off from the small blind, flopped top pair, and called to the end thinking my pair was probably good (rightly so; the opponent flopped bottom pair with a flush draw. Nevermind that, even though there was no raise preflop, he played 10-3 suited out of position. Yes, this was on Party Poker)
  • managed my shortstack well despite being extremely card dead throughout the evening (in two games of NL, I picked up KK, QQ, and AK exactly once. No other hands worth noting). I made through over half the field in a 5-table SnG playing as well as I could given the table, losing when AK flopped a pair against my 8s.
  • played much tighter during Omaha Hi-Lo, throwing away any medium pocket pairs if I didn't have flush or Lo possibilities. I only threw away chips once when I thought I had the Lo, thinking that the other two players in the hand were chasing the Hi hand. I should have thrown it away on the turn, especially since it wasn't even the nut Lo. I think there may have been some nut possibilities on the turn, I'll have to check the hand, but without a made hand, I should have folded. Otherwise, I played well, losing the other game when I was down to about 40% of my chips and made a stand with KK25 (2s5s), only to have my opponent call with K299 with 2nd nut flush possibilities.

That last Omaha hand really pissed me off because anyone who has any idea how to play Omaha should know that such as hand is a hand you should probably lay down if someone makes a pot-size bet from the BB. Granted, my hand wasn't the strongest, but it definitely was the hand I need to take a stand with: I had a solid pair, with Lo, straight, and flush possibilities. Calling with K299, you are really only looking to flop a set of 9s (which he did, leaving me drawing to the case K). 2nd nut flush possibility isn't bad if you're going heads up against someone (definitely not recommended in a multiway pot, which this guy was going to do had I not raised the flop). I shouldn't be pissed, and I should instead remember this kind of play and try to take advantage of it (or at least be more aware of it).

I honestly don't remember much more from the evening. I played at least one 7-Card Stud game, maybe two, and donked off my chips, calling hands with shitty 2-pairs (even though I knew I was ahead when I hit the 2-pair, I should have folded early on instead of chasing, hitting, and then having my opponents suck out).

I also remember making a couple of key laydowns, including laying QQ down when a K hit the flop. I remember the hand played out as so:

EP calls BB of 60. I raise to 160 with QQ. EP calls 100. Pot is 410. (I raised to 160 because, although I have a strong hand, this is PP, and I can expect pretty much this guy to call my raise unlesss I severely overbet the flop, and even then he may still call. I'm only afraid of an A or a K on the flop; with no preflop raise I'm putting this guy on anything from KT to Ax. He has the odds to call, and I want a call, and I want a flop that I like).

Flop comes K63. He checks. I have a decision to make: do I want to represent that the K helps my hand do I want to check and see what the turn brings. I have a feeling that this guy has a K with a mediocre kicker. With no flush or straight draws, I figure a bet of 300 would represent a made hand, but I feel that this guy would call that if he had a K with a bad kicker, so I check as well.

The turn comes another low card, he bets out 250, and I fold. At this point, I have no problem folding: I still have plenty of chips, it's early in the game, I can wait. The bet doesn't seem like a bluff either; it's possible he called with a small pocket pair and hit his set.

I realize that I showed immense weakness in this hand. I could have raised more preflop, but this early on I'm not looking to steal blinds; I'm looking to build the pot with a solid hand. My bet did the job in that it stopped anyone else from limping in with hands like connectors and Ax. I could have bet the flop, but I didn't, and I think that this is from making continuation bets in situations where I could be a huge underdog and getting called or reraised. In retrospect, I think I should have bet the flop; if he calls, I'm done with the hand. Checking the flop tells me nothing about his hand, it makes me look weak and opens him up to take control of the hand.

Overall I'm not feeling that great about my poker game. If or when I do pick up poker again, I think I might play elsewhere. I feel like Party Poker is damaging my game. It seems almost impossible to put anyone on a hand and even more impossible to play my best game. It feels like I have to wait for AA or KK to play a hand. If people are calling preflop with T3h and hoping to hit 2 pair or the 5th-nut flush, how do I adjust my play then? I know I'm a better player than this, but lately, it seems like I can't play unless I'm somewhere close to the nuts.

I know that poker is all about making the right decisions, and I feel like that I'm doing that about 65% of the time. I do feel that my game has weakened now that I've cut back my playing a lot. I find myself becoming less patient, losing focus, and either playing hands I normally wouldn't or playing hands I normally would but playing them differently. For example, I have A9s next to the button, no limpers behind me. I raise, button calls, SB and BB fold. Flop comes all low cards with 2 clubs. I bet the flop, he calls. Turn completes a possible flush, I check-fold. Should I have raised with A9s preflop? Should I have continuation-betted the flop? I have confidence in my skills as a poker player, but right now...I don't have the confidence that I'm playing at my top skill level.

It's definitely time to take a break for a while....

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Birthday Poker Revisited

When I decided to start maintaining a pokerblog, my main purpose was to give me a forum for analzying my own hands, which up until this point, I really had never done. Furthermore, doing so on such a public forum like the Internet gives me the opportunity to get feedback from others as well. Of course, no one really knows me or my blog yet, so I'll have to wait to see if I get feedback from others, but I can definitely say I've benefited from my first two blogs already. Here's what I've learned so far:

$6 MTT

I don't question my preflop raise with KhTh, especially in position. But I threw my chips away when I played too fast. I was trying to steal the pot on the flop and the turn with my aggressive betting, and I played right into the hands of the UTG limper. Just because I wouldn't have limped QQ in that position doesn't mean others don't, and considering this was the first hand of the new table, this was a time to be conservative instead of trying to run my hand through everyone else.

Furthermore, the way the UTG played the hand he very well could have hit middle or bottom set (which if he did, he played perfectly) and for no real reason I decided to ignore this as a possibility.

$33 Omaha Hi-Lo

I still am no expert at Omaha Hi-Lo, and I thought I understood the structure of the game well enough, but I have finshed last to nearly last in the last 2 or 3 tables I've played (or this could just be variance catching up to me, after I finished 1st or 2nd in about 4 of the past 6 tables I plated). I think the biggest problems here are 1) I haven't shown restraint preflop and should be folding to preflop raises (especially early in the game, when there really isn't much reason to raise) and 2) I've been playing hands that leave me virtually no Lo option. I'm not as concerned about the leaks in my Omaha game right now.

$33 NL SnG

Looking back on the A3 hand, I had $1600+ in chips and was facing $300 in blinds on the next to hands. I think I panicked a little bit, fearing that $1300 after the blinds wouldn't have been enough to come back from. And granted, 6.5 BB isn't favorable, but considering some of the stacks, an all-in bet could have represented anywhere from 1\3 to 1\2 of someone's stack. And as I mentioned before, I played the hand like I wanted action when really I would have just been happy stealing the blinds to hold me over. Although I still would have been out when AK calls, a preflop push would have been a better chance to cause my desired outcome: folds all around. My rationale for the 3xBB raise may have come from the number of times I've seen mid-short stacks push UTG with absolutely nothing, and I was trying to create the image that I had a hand where I didn't mind seeing a flop even being UTG. But the biggest lesson is that I should have waited and if I get down to 6.5BB, that's fine: I still have about 5-6 hands before the BB hit me again, and I should have enough confidence in my game to build my shortstack.

Overall, I feel that sometimes I lack the patience to wait for hands or pick my spots. My patience is even shorter when I haven't been playing for a long time, and I try to make things happen instead of playing my best game. I haven't analyzed the $22 2-Table SnG that I played, where I finished second, but I think that I made some good moves in that tournament (more so than my bad ones), and I feel like that I still have enough poker skill to complete consistently. But there's always room for improvement, and especially since I won't be playing very often for a while, I need to capitalize on the times that I do play and fix the leaks in my game.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Birthday Poker

Last night I got the OK from my girlfriend to play some poker. It's not that I need her permission, but more so the reassurance that it's not going to bother her (especially considering it was only the week before that I promised to abstain from poker as I was having a hard time showing restraint). I told her that this was "my birthday present to myself." She game me her support and I sat down to play some poker.

And boy did I represent the title of this blog well. Overall I played in the following events:

$22 NL 2-Table SnG
$33 PL Omaha Hi-Lo 1-Table SnG
$33 NL 1-Table SnG
$22 NL 1-Table SnG

I really didn't play well in any of these except for the 2-Table SnG. I'll probably post some hand information later (it's not like anyone is reading this, but it will be good for me view at a later time), but here's a quick synopsis of how the play went down.

$6 MTT

I played this because it was a cheap buyin and I wanted to see how I would fare in another large tournament. The problem is that I decided to play the 2-table SnG at the same time, and I should know that I lose concentration when I work more than one table. I really didn't get anything to work with early on except AKo which I reraised preflop with 2 limpers and flopped a K. In fact, I think that was the only pot I took down. My undoing was when I was in position with blinds at $30\$60 still (UTG limped) and I raised with Kh10h. Two callers, and a rainbow flop comes Jh and two rags. It was checked to me and I made somewhere between a half pot\pot sized bet. I get 2 callers. Since both players limped and both cold called, I'm thinking that I can either push them off the pot if the flop doesn't appear to help anyone. I feel like that my play is representing a big hand, and I think that if I'm against a set or an overpair, that I would have been reraised.

The turn is the 9h. This gives me the Qh for a straight flush, any heart for the second nut flush, any Q for the straight, and maybe any K for top pair. It is checked to me AGAIN, so I push for about $1500 approximately, and I get one caller. He has QQ for an overpair, eliminating 2 of my calculated outs, and the river does not help me.

Looking back on this play, I feel like the person with QQ UTG really misplayed his hand, but he got my chips so I can't really criticize him too much. Even UTG, I hate to limp myself with QQ since it allows others with hands like suited connectors to see flops cheaply. And, he checked it to me with a J high flop and didn't play back. Granted, his play worked perfectly for him, but I can't see that person doing well in the long run (especially considering the blinds were so small in comparison to the stacks, as there were were at least 3 stacks with nearly 25BB). I think that you have to at least come in for a raise there and eliminate some limpers. If you get one or two callers and an A or K comes on the flop, it's a relatively easy fold.

In regards to my play, I think I got too aggressive and it cost me dearly. I felt like I was representing strength with my play, but I just as easily could have checked the flop. When the 9h comes, based on the way QQ played his hand to this point, he's either going to do one of two things if he bets:

  1. Make a small bet to build the pot (he's got two of the Q, so he really should only be afraid of a flush)
  2. Make a huge overbet to force out the flush draws.

If he makes a small bet, I can call with my draws and fold if I don't hit the river. If he makes a huge bet, I'm probably not getting odds to call and all I lose is my initial preflop raise.

I feel like this is one of the holes in my game. I felt like I was representing strength preflop and made the continuation bet to take down the pot when it was checked to me. The tough part was that both players cold-called, and I didn't put them on a strong hand. But could I really? It was checked to me twice: a J high flop and a turn with straight and flush possibilities. I feel like it was poor of them to check to me twice if either of them had a hand, and I tried to use my aggression to get them to fold. I was trying to win the pot on agression when maybe I should have conceded the pot and checked the turn for a free card.

I'm trying to do this all from memory; I'll have to revise when I can see the hand history later.

$33 Omaha Hi-Lo

Nothing special here. I just basically donked off all my chips when I couldn't lay certain hands down (ie. medium pocket pairs with nut flush possibilities) despite reraises on the flop and not having any Lo options. I was screwed from the start when I chased another straight flush draw when the board was Jc7s8s and I was holding the 5s6s with QQ. I lost when my opponent made two pair, but was also holding the Js10s, so the 9s was a poison card for me. Lost half my stack on that hand and couldn't rebuild.

$22 1-table SnG

I honestly don't even remember how this table played.

$33 1-table SnG

I wasn't getting any hands early on this table, which I feel is necessary to play these the way Party structures them. Granted, the structure is better than previously, where the blinds went up every 10 hands, but I still feel that if you can't pick up any pots early, then you're just hoping for cards. I was down to about $1500 with blinds of $50\$100 when I pick up 10's UTG. I limp in with the expectation that I'm going to push any raise. The button raises to $300, the SB and BB call, and I push. Everyone folds and I'm finally above the starting stack, but the blinds are going up again.

Two more rounds and I'm in a similar spot: about $1350, and I'm UTG with A3o. Not my ideal hand, blinds are still $50\$100, but when they hit me next hand it will be $100\$200. Decision time: do I want to take a stand with A3o or do I want to wait and try to build my stack when I'll be at only 5xBB? The table has been pretty tight, so I make a standard raise to $300. The button calls, SB and BB fold. The call is curious; it seems obvious to me that any reraise is going to pot commit me (it doesn't make sense for me to fold to a reraise when I'm down to 5xBB and could potentially lose 30% of my stack on the upcoming blinds). Unless he's trying to trap with AA, I can't see him having a strong hand, maybe some connectors.

The flop comes 2dKd and some rag. I don't put him on a K (maybe he called with something like KQ-K10, but he didn't have any chips committed and he didn't seem like he called those hands). I employ the stop and go tactic, and it backfires horribly as he had AK and I'm down to runner-runner miracle, which doesn't come.

The biggest decision was playing the hand preflop. I probably would have been better off waiting and risking the blinds and pushing with cards that had better straight or flush possibilities (unless I actually picked up a hand). I look back on this hand and hate the way that I played it. The 3xBB raise isn't going to force any of the stacks off a mediocre hand; I may as well pushed in preflop. Did I really want action if I'm holding A3o? I'm not upset with the push on the flop; if I'm beat I was beat preflop anyways. I should have just waited for a better hand.

This post is getting long; I'll post the thoughts from my only success of the night, the 2-table SnG, later on.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Just Another Poker Blog

Consider this jumping on the bandwagon. It's my first entry on my poker-related blog. I decided to create this blog for a number of reasons:

1. To provide a historical documentation of my progress towards my newest poker goal (more on that in a second)
2. Perhaps gain some information from other poker bloggers (not expected, but who knows)
3. A place where I can transfer my poker energy instead of playing online (wha?)

So my goal is to play in at least one, maybe two events in the 2010 WSOP. I'm focusing on playing one of the lower buy-in NLHE events and either the lowest buy in Hi-Lo Stud or Hi-Lo Omaha events. I decided to set this as a goal because I think it would be a fantastic experience to play in an actual WSOP event or two. Over the next couple of years, as I look to improve my game, I'll begin to set my goal higher than just entering one of the tournaments (which reallly makes my goal, as it stands right now, more money-savings oriented than it is poker oriented). By the time 2010 rools around, I should feel confident enough in my skills that setting a goal of winning a bracelet shouldn't sound completely crazy.

A little bit of background on me: like 85.5% of the literate public, I play poker online. I started about 2 years ago just dabbling in cash games on Party Poker, where I have played exclusively (perhaps I am just another Party Poker donkey, although I like to think that the fact that I am aware of the donkeyness of Party Poker makes me less of a donkey). I moved from cash games to MTTs then finally settled on SnGs of various levels, uslally 1-table $33 SnGs, where I started become (in my mind) successful. I moved up and down and around to various games, and hit a pinnacle where I finished 3rd in a 360 player $33 NLHE MTT (My JJ lost to the chip leader's AA when I came over the top of the 4th place shortstack's 44 and the leader rightfully called), scoring me a payday of $1400 (which I ran up to $2k before cashing out). I continued to play regularly, allowing me enough supplemental income to buy things like 3 DVDs at a time instead of 1, and random vacations to places like CA and, of course, Vegas. My most recent accomplishment was 2nd in a 400-something $77 MTT, which I was dominating until my opponent's KK crippled my OE straight flush draw, and I couldn't recover later when my A4 ran into his A5. Since then I have been on a severe drought, not just card wise, but because I have been playing over my head for a couple months now. Allow me to explain.

The 2nd place finsh netted me approx $3500, but I only cashed out $2800, as I blew about $700 on various tables, but mostly at the Party Poker blackjack table (horrible, I know). Add to this that I have NO bankroll whatsoever, and very well could have used the money to pay off bills, fund a vacation (NOT to Vegas, even though I wanted too) it wasn't the smartest of decisions. All in all, after I finally took a hiatus from playing, I only cashed out about half of my winnings.

After that I had made a promise to my girlfriend that I would stop playing online poker for the rest of the year (which was also an easy decision, thanks to the dipshits in the State of Washington gov't. Seriously, what politican can logically argue why playing poker online should be punished the same way sexual misconduct with a child should be? It's asinine.). However, my "love" (read: addiction) for poker kept me playing while she was gone, and I didn't do well, getting to the point where I was playing on borrowed money (not like I had a backer; I was borrowing money that I was holding for a friend while he was out of town) and losing money that was better used for bills that would otherwise go past due. It was around the same time that I finally, once again, decided that I need to stop playing online poker that I decided "I want to work towards playing in the WSOP". I know, I know, it doesn't make sense.

So, as it stands, I am a broke, bankless, poker afficionado who isn't playing poker actively, but looking to improve my game so that I am at least competitive in a WSOP event. Here's how I intend to do this:

1. I am asbstaining from online poker because it's THE LAW in WA (wink, wink), but more importantly, I am abstaining from online poker until I am more financially secure. I will probably revisit the world of online poker (somewhere else other than Party Poker as well) once I am able to.

2. I do intend to play some random live tournaments here at some local casinos from time to time. The area of my game that probably needs the most work is live action; things like working on tells (I think I'm almost over the "nervous shaking hands" tell), reading other players, and just growing comfortable in that environment.

3. READ, READ, READ. Not just books, but blogs, magazines, chats, etc....there's so much information out there that, IMO, anyone could become a competitive player (at least online) their first time playing if all they've ever done is read about the game. I only started reading poker blogs about a month ago, and already I feel like my game and my understanding have improved immensely.

With that said, I'm going to call it a day for my first blog. If anyone else has gotten this far in the blog..thanks for reading. This is really more for personal use, but I appreciate any comments or criticism. I'll post more as ideas pop up.