Thursday, September 21, 2006

Suckout City

Played an $11 3-Table SNG last night, doing pretty well by finishing in second. Overall I was pretty pleased with my play. I only made one big mistake, and was able to make moves at the right time. The crazy thing about the table was the number of suckouts I was involved in at the late stages of the table. It would have made for great TV:

I was able to start out early with this hand:

#Game No : 5214989185
Seat 1: Hammer69888 ( $644 )
Seat 2: OOAKK ( $1668 )
Seat 3: wallgd ( $1920 )
Seat 4: silverado37 ( $4065 )
Seat 5: KEVINFDNY ( $1900 )
Seat 6: Table_Saw ( $2138 )
Seat 7: EvoAAA ( $1623 )
Seat 8: Swift284 ( $1880 )
Seat 9: holdemjunkys ( $2162 )
Seat 10: mclarich ( $2000 ) (only one who hasn't been involved in a pot yet)
Trny:29005294 Level:1
** Dealing down cards **
Dealt to mclarich [ Ts Th ]
Hammer69888 raises [194].
OOAKK calls [194].
wallgd folds.
silverado37 folds.
Table_Saw calls [194].
EvoAAA folds.
Swift284 folds.
holdemjunkys folds.
mclarich calls [154].

I need the flop to hit me pretty good with this hand, hoping to avoid any face cards.
** Dealing Flop ** [ Td, Jd, 9h ]

Booyah! Can't ask much more for a flop. Even with the straight\flush draw possibilities, I'm sure someone's going to bet this flop, so I position myself for the check-raise. And the hand played out as such:
mclarich checks.
Hammer69888 checks.
OOAKK bets [500].
Table_Saw calls [500].
mclarich is all-In [1806]
Hammer69888 folds.
OOAKK is all-In [974]
Table_Saw folds.
** Dealing Turn ** [ Ad ]
** Dealing River ** [ 7d ]
OOAKK shows [ Ks, Jc ] a pair of jacks.
mclarich shows [ Ts, Th ] three of a kind, tens.
mclarich wins 332 chips from side pot #1 with three of a kind, tens.
mclarich wins 4244 chips from the main pot with three of a kind, tens.
Player OOAKK finished in 29 place

Table_Saw had less of his stack committed, so I came with the reraise to push any diamond draws out. It's very likely he had at least one diamond. This puts me in great position early in the tournament.

Next hand, I limp with KJo from the SB, and a shortstack BB pushes all in for about 10x the BB. I don't put him on much of a hand, not even an A, and call him on his attempt to steal blinds with a marginal hand. I pair my K, and within the first level I've nearly tripled up by knocking out two players.

Nothing really happens for about 20 hands or so. I win a small pot with 63o from the BB, and I get moved to another table where only one person has a bigger stack then I do.

I miss one opportunity where I have KQo UTG and I decide not to limp in. A K hits, and the short stack doubles up with his pair of Ks against some's middle pair. Of course the short stack has KJ. A missed opportunity, but I'm rarely going to beat myself up for not playing KQo in EP.

Win a pot when I bluff 98o from the button. I get the EP limper to call and he folds to my bet on a rainbow flop of KJ4.

5 hands later, the person to my right min-raises to 800. I make it 2500 with AhJh. He calls, flop comes AQ3, two diamonds. He leads out for the min, I push, and take the pot, putting my stack at 8803.

Then this sick hand comes, which I'm just glad I wasn't a part of:

Game No : 5215259734
Seat 1: scottd113 ( $3915 )
Seat 3: Czech70 ( $5286 )
Seat 4: balloonpoker ( $5980 )
Seat 5: mclarich ( $8803 )
Seat 7: teacherof420 ( $559 )
Seat 8: ShChao ( $2984 )
Seat 10: baker100111 ( $401 )
Trny:29005294 Level:5
** Dealing down cards **
Dealt to mclarich [ Qs 6d ]
scottd113 calls [400].
Czech70 folds.
balloonpoker calls [400].
mclarich folds.
teacherof420 folds.
ShChao calls [200].
baker100111 is all-In [1]
scottd113 calls [1].
balloonpoker calls [1].
ShChao calls [1].
** Dealing Flop ** [ 7d, 3c, 2c ]
ShChao bets [900].
scottd113 calls [900].
balloonpoker folds.
** Dealing Turn ** [ 7s ]
ShChao checks.
scottd113 checks.
** Dealing River ** [ 4c ]
ShChao bets [900].
scottd113 calls [900].
ShChao shows [ 7h, Qh ] three of a kind, sevens.
baker100111 shows [ 5c, 6c ] a straight flush, six high.
scottd113 shows [ Jc, 9c ] a flush, jack high.
scottd113 wins 3600 chips from side pot #1 with a flush, jack high.
baker100111 wins 1604 chips from the main pot with a straight flush, six high.

Unbelievable that the shortstack gets the only club that can help him. Any 4 would have been fine, but that particular 4 makes it pretty sweet. This hand demonstates how the rest of the night went. Side note: Why ShChao didn't bet the turn, I don't know.

We get to the final table and the chip counts are:

Seat 1: scottd113 ( $4514 )
Seat 3: Czech70 ( $3486 )
Seat 4: balloonpoker ( $5175 )
Seat 5: mclarich ( $9203 )
Seat 10: baker100111 ( $5550 )
Seat 2: DeadwoodJack ( $7356 )
Seat 6: Black_Francis ( $1754 )
Seat 7: Auto_Air ( $16544 )
Seat 8: KEVINFDNY ( $5420 )
Seat 9: wallgd ( $998 )

Lose a pot when I raise from MP with A8o. I pair my A on the river but we just check it down - winner has AQ.

Win another pot when I limp UTG with AJo. Board comes KK7Q6, I call a turn bet and win a decent pot (other guy had JTo)

Raise from MP w\A4o, steal the blinds.

Raise again from MP w\A6o, more blinds.

10 hands later, everyone folds to the SB. He limps, I check with 10-5. Flop comes 10 9 5. He leads out with 1500, I reraise to 5000. I think reraising is the right play here, but maybe a smaller amount would have given off a steal-vibe. Either way, I'm happy with the pot and the fact that I'm not going to lose this pot to a suckout. This puts me in second with 13400.

Then, my mistake for the night:

#Game No : 5215453383
Seat 1: scottd113 ( $8396 )
Seat 3: Czech70 ( $12747 )
Seat 5: mclarich ( $12953 )
Seat 6: Black_Francis ( $6294 )
Seat 8: KEVINFDNY ( $19610 )
Trny:29005294 Level:7
scottd113 posts ante [25].
Czech70 posts ante [25].
mclarich posts ante [25].
Black_Francis posts ante [25].
KEVINFDNY posts ante [25].
** Dealing down cards **
Dealt to mclarich [ 4h 5c ]
Czech70 folds.
mclarich raises [2000].
Black_Francis folds.
scottd113 calls [1200].

I'm just trying to steal the blinds again and I get a caller in the BB. Not too happy about it.

** Dealing Flop ** [ 4d, Jh, 3d ]
scottd113 bets [1100].
mclarich calls [1100].

He leads out with barely over a 1\4 of the pot. I think about putting in a reraise here but I elect to call and decide to maybe make a move on the turn.

** Dealing Turn ** [ Kd ]
scottd113 bets [941].
mclarich calls [941].

He now bets about 15% of the pot, and I'm sensing weakness. If I'm going to make a move, I should do it here. But for some stupid reason I don't.

** Dealing River ** [ 2d ]
scottd113 bets [2368].
mclarich folds.
scottd113 does not show cards.
scottd113 wins 10975 chips

Ugh, a 4th Diamond. He now leads out for more than half his stack and I'm positive I'm beat. I played this hand horribly - is it obvious I haven't read Double A's book yet?

About 4 hands later I try to make a move with K3o. WTF? And I do it in EP! Why am I donking it up all of a sudden? The SB raises it to 3200 - not even a min raise. This seems fishy, and I decide to cut my losses and fold. I had no business being in that hand. Ugh. I'm now a shortstack by over 3000 chips.

Raise UTG with 44, everyone folds.

2 hands later, UTG min raises. I have A4h in the SB, I push. I know he has to call and I'm just hoping he has something like KQ. He has something even better - 54d. I pair my A on the turn and move to second in chips.

Blinds move me down to 8600, I push with A2 in the SB, BB folds.

Down to 3 players, I raise with J8o, steal blinds.

The big stack starts to push around, min raising from the button. I push for about 12000 with JsTs, he folds.

**Suckout Alert**
Button min raises to 2400, I push him all in with 99. He calls with A7:

** Dealing Flop ** [ 6d, 5h, 4c ]
** Dealing Turn ** [ Qc ]
** Dealing River ** [ 3c ]
Czech70 shows [ Ac, 7d ] a straight, three to seven.
mclarich shows [ 9h, 9s ] a pair of nines.
mclarich wins 3791 chips from side pot #1 with a pair of nines.
Czech70 wins 19766 chips from the main pot with a straight, three to seven.

Ugh. I'd rather that he just flops an A and gets it over with.

Next hand I push with 58o. BB calls. We split the pot - he has 58o as well.

Next button, I push with 53o, no callers. Back up to 6000.

**Suckout Alert**

Dealt to mclarich [ Ts Ad ]
scottd113 raises [2400].
Czech70 calls [1800].
mclarich is all-In [4816]
scottd113 folds.
Czech70 calls [3616].
** Dealing Flop ** [ 2c, 8s, 3s ]
** Dealing Turn ** [ 2s ]
** Dealing River ** [ Ks ]
Czech70 shows [ Tc, Ah ] a pair of twos.
mclarich shows [ Ts, Ad ] a flush, king high.
mclarich wins 14582 chips from the main pot with a flush, king high.
mclarich: haha revenge

3 hands later I waste all my chips:

Dealt to mclarich [ Kh Td ]
scottd113 folds.
Czech70 raises [2800].
mclarich calls [2200].
** Dealing Flop ** [ 6s, Kc, 7d ]
Czech70 bets [5000].
mclarich is all-In [12382]
Czech70 is all-In [5475]
** Dealing Turn ** [ 4d ]
** Dealing River ** [ 9h ]
Czech70 shows [ Qc, Ks ] a pair of kings.
mclarich shows [ Kh, Td ] a pair of kings.
mclarich wins 1907 chips from side pot #1 with a pair of kings.
Czech70 wins 27900 chips from the main pot with a pair of kings with queen kicker.

Another suckout - I push next hand with 67o. They both call, big stack flops a pair of 2 and bets it. I hit a 6 on the turn and somehow I'm still alive.

Push from the button next hand with As8s, both fold.

**Suckout Alert**

Dealt to mclarich [ Qh 7h ]
scottd113 folds.
Czech70 raises [3000].
mclarich is all-In [5546]
Czech70 calls [3546].
** Dealing Flop ** [ Tc, 3s, 5h ]
** Dealing Turn ** [ Ah ]
** Dealing River ** [ 2h ]
Czech70 shows [ Kd, 9d ] high card ace.
mclarich shows [ Qh, 7h ] a flush, ace high.
mclarich wins 15317 chips from the main pot with a flush, ace high.

It gets heads up a couple of hands later when the middle stack reraised all in preflop with 22. The big stack calls almost 12k more (more than half his stack) with Qc6c. Maybe I was an inspiration, who knows, but he turned a Q and takes the pot. Big stacks let you do that stuff I guess.

Heads up play lasts one hand:

Seat 1: scottd113 ( $45833 )
Seat 5: mclarich ( $14167 )
Dealt to mclarich [ 2h Ad ]
scottd113 raises [3000].
mclarich is all-In [12092]
scottd113 calls [10092].
** Dealing Flop ** [ 8d, 9s, Jc ]
** Dealing Turn ** [ Tc ]
** Dealing River ** [ 2c ]
scottd113 shows [ 8h, 8c ] three of a kind, eights.
mclarich shows [ 2h, Ad ] a pair of twos.
scottd113 wins 28334 chips from the main pot with three of a kind, eights.
Player mclarich finished in 2 place and received $75
Player scottd113 finished in 1 place and received $90

Overall I felt like I played well. I made a couple of bad decisions once I got a big stack, but I was able to get away from those hands before it cost me too much. The cards were in my favor tonight, but I won pots with weak hands either because I was priced to call (or it was checked to me), or because I had to push so often late in the game. I missed out on a couple of big hands by not limping in a couple times, but in doing so, I probably showed that I wasn't playing loose (then again, who knows how many players are paying attention to table image at an $11 SNG). I raised from MP with some weak aces more than I wanted to, but I played them purely with the intent of stealing the blinds. I don't have any regrets about how I played the game.

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Bad Beat Builds Confidence

Back off the wagon...again.

I've been playing a bit of poker lately, but this time it's been some NL cash games, most .25-.50. Unbelievably easy. I was able to turn $70 into almost $200 in about 2 hours.

Anyways, I had been itching to play again, and I had some free time on Sunday, so I started up a number of different games. I actually was the first to bounce in a 2-table SNG when I hit 2 pair on the turn, only to run into a well disguised flopped straight. Well played, sir. Looking back, I had plenty of reasons to fold, and I failed to think about what my opponent had, too quickly calling his all in bet when I was behind with 4 outs tops. But this was good, as I used this to focus more, and I was determined to play better.

I played some more cash games and a couple 7-card stud SNGs, winning one, losing one.

I decided to play a 5-table SNG, feeling that I was starting to play better than I was earlier.

I start off with AQs in the UTG, and raise it up to 130 (blind still at 20\40) get two callers. The flop comes Kxx without my suit, so I check fold.

Blinds are 30\60, and I have AQs again in EP. UTG raises to 195 and I call. Flop comes A98 rainbow. He bets 175 I call. Turn is another A. He bets 216 - I think he's weak. I could flat call again but I elect to raise to 600. He folds. I could have smooth called again but I don't think I'm getting any more money from him unless the flop hits him, and most likely if it his him, I'm probably losing to a suckout.

I get AKs in the BB and 3 players limp. I could go for a min raise here - I doubt a bigger raise will keep anyone around, and I don't want to commit chips to a pot when I'm surely going to get callers, only to end up with a lame flop. So instead I check. Flop come A69 rainbow. I check-raise a 1\2 pot bet and he folds.

Next hand I'm in SB and 2 people limp. I call with KQs and the flop is beautiful - KK6. MP leads out and I just smooth call. Turn is even better - another 6. We both check the turn. The river is a 7, I lead for about 1\2 the pot, and he can't lay down his A6.

I limp UTG+1 with JTs. 4 players to the flop and it's a money flop for me KQ9, two hearts. Sadly it checks all around. Flop is a 4 and I bet out for the pot. I'm hoping someone has two pair here but it folds all around. Ugh.

I call a 3x raise from the BB with 66. Flop misses me and I check fold. Chip count is 2900, a little bit above average for the table.

I get my big break 2 hands later. 2 players limp and I have 108s on the button. Flop is a beautiful K42 - all spades. BB acts first and bets 250 (pot is 450). I could play this slow, but I feel like that will make it obvious that I've got a flush. I'm hoping this guy has maybe a pair with the As redraw or maybe something like KQ. It's unlikely that I've even flopped a flush, so I reraise - to 800. He calls. Turn is a 7c. He checks, I bet 800, he calls. River is an 8d. He checks, I bet 800, he calls, and turns out he flopped 2 pair. Can't really fault him for that, and I'm very happy another 4 doesn't hit because I would not have put him on that hand. This pot puts me at 5600 - the current chip leader.

2 hands later, the UTG raises it 3xBB. One more calls, and I call in MP with AKo. The CO calls, and it's a 4-way flop. Flop comes A78, two spades. UTG bets out 1500, I put him all in, and my AK holds up against his AQ. I'm now well ahead of everyone at about T9000.

I drop down to 8600 when this brutal hand happens. I'm in the BB with AKo (gotta love these big aces I'm getting). The button raises 3x to 600 and it looks like a steal. I reraise to 1600 and he goes all in for about 3800. I called a little bit too quickly but I did call and I had him dominated - he had ATs. Board comes 6Q55...T and he hits his 3 outer. This knocks me down to about T5000.

I get QQ the very next hand and everyone folds.

Raise with A2o the next hand and everyone folds again. Probably a good thing. I may be tilting a little bit.

Fast forward a bit...we get down to 17 players and I'm at 4500 - only 2 people at my have stacks shorter than mine. Button min-raises to 800 and I have JJ in the BB. I reraise to 2000, he calls. Flop comes K86, 2 diamonds. I bet half the pot and he folds. Now up to 7100.

Raise UTG+1 with AJo, get some blinds back.

SB min-raises me. I'm defenseless with T6o and fold.

I steal the next guy's blind with 64s. Holding steady at 7500.

2 hands later, UTG min raises. I push from the CO with 99 and he folds. Up to 9600.

Raise in EP with AQo. BB calls and I check-fold to his bet on a Jxx flop.

Next hand, limp UTG with AJo. Only the BB stays in the hand. Flop comes AQ6, two spades. BB min bets, I call. Turn a 3h. He checks, I bet about 1\2 the pot, he folds. We're down to 12 players now.

6 hands later I call a min raise from the BB with ATo. I think about pushing here - I've barely got him covered. Flop comes 9 high and I check-fold to his weak ass 1\3 pot bet. I think I could have pushed him off this hand. Maybe a missed opportunity. He probably has something like KQ or A8. It really doesn't matter though because of the next hand.

Table is 5 handed at this point, I'm in the SB for 300. The guy who sucked out on me with AT is on the button and it folds to him. He pushes for 5700. I'm in the SB with QQ and there's no way I'm folding this hand. I push as well and the BB calls I have him covered by 37 chips. Furthermore, the BB INSTACALLS - I'm almost positive he saw his hand and just clicked the Call or Bet Pot button. The hands:

Suckout - 6h5h (wtf?)
Me - QQ

The flop comes KKA and I'm left with 37 in chips (well below the average stack) heading to the final table. Sadly, it didn't get any more exciting for me.

Now, I'm hardly the best poker player, but I'm good enough to recognize that AK can be laid down preflop (I've even been able to laydown KK preflop, and correctly so), so while I could criticize the BB for calling two all-ins with AK when I wouldn't in his position, I've come to expect it's part of the game. As for Mr 65h - yeah, they're suited connectors, but you've got almost 10BB at this point and another orbit, the blinds just increased, and you're on the verge of the final table. Is this really a place where you want to push with a hand like this? I think he could have waited, I think the BB could have folded, but this is Party Poker, where anything goes.

Regardless of how these two played their hands, I was still able to find satisfaction in this hand. After it happened, I was completely unfazed. I didn't tilt at all, I didn't even find myself upset about it. Considering I could have really used that $300 1st place prize, and that hand would have put me at the final table with about 20% of the chips in play, I was content with the fact that I played the entire tourney very well, and there was nothing I could have done with that hand. There's no way I put the button on AA or KK there, and his stack wasn't big enough to make me fold QQ preflop at that point.

Anyways, I'm done with poker for a while (let's count how many times I've said that). I ended the day at $140 - still a loss for the day but still double my initial $70. And with two trips coming up in back to back weekends, I could definitely utilize that money elsewhere. But it's nice to know that I'm able to get myself back to playing better, and more importantly, playing with more confidence. I'm making the right decisions at the poker table, and as long as I continue to do that, I'll be OK.

Monday, September 11, 2006

A Little Bit Of Political Action

A letter I sent to Maria Cantwell (D), US Senator for the State of Washington:

Ms. Cantwell,

As an opponent of civil liberty infringement, I am appalled at the recent passage of HR 4411 in July. Although I am gracious that the representative of my district, Mr. McDermott, stood with me in opposition of this ludicrous bill, it saddens me to see a bill as hypocritical as this one receive so much support. It is my understanding that this bill will soon be presented to you, and as a soon-to-be registered voter in the state of Washington, I strongly encourage you to see past the number of outrageous lies and right-wing propaganda disguised as "support" for this bill and cast a vote in opposition of this bill.

As an online poker player, I cringe at the thought that I live in a state that views my previous hobby as a crime equivalent to sexual misconduct with a child. Unforunately, I moved to Washington as the bill here was already in the late stages of becoming passed, so I did not have much of a chance to fight it. Although the bill passed by the House rightfully does not treat my actions of playing poker on the internet as harshly as my local government does, it nevertheless carries the same message; the action of playing poker online is wrong. This statement is completely hypocritcal, considering those that support this statement fail to recognize online horse racing and online gambling via state-supported lotteries as an equally damaging form of gambling, if not even more damaging (assuming that we even determine gambling to be "damaging"). Perhaps the real force behind this issue is that the ones that are truly benefiting from the massive support of online gambling reside in countries outside the U.S. Whether the argument is made from a moral standpoint or from a financial standpoint, I urge you to examine this bill for what it really is; a misguided and hypocritical attempt to unjustly infringe on every American's civil liberty while protecting the interests of already established online gambling institutions.

Representatives in the House that supported the bill have cited this bill as necessary to protect families and households from the evils of online poker. They mention how easy it is for an underage gambler to obtain a credit card, sign up to play online poker, and lose potentially thousands of dollars. They mention how millons of dollars are being sent to overseas accounts, putting Americans at risk of bank account fraud. They mention how the instant access aspect of online poker puts millions of Americans at risk of becoming addicted to gambling. What they fail to mention is that this bill does nothing to protect Americans from falling victim to these same scenarios at the online gambling establishments that would remain legal after passage of this bill. This bill does nothing to prevent a 16 year old from becoming addicted to online horse betting, or from losing thousands of dollars to online lotteries. And it is definitely not out of the realm of possibility to assume that some other form of money transfer will emerge if the current methods are deemed illegal, which would still keep the risk of account fraud a possibility.

Ask any online poker player, any of the roughly 27 million of us in the United States, and you will hear one singular response: regulation. Regulation is the solution to all of these problems. Imagine the additional revenue our government stands to make from even the smallest amount of online gambling taxation. Imagine how much better protection American citzens will have if the institutions they visit are being governed by the laws of United States instead of the laws of Antigua.

The risks and pitfalls of gambling will exist whether or not it is facilitated by the internet. Online gamblers will either move to the next online opportunity or simply take their business to any number of local casinos. What bill is in place to prevent American citizens from falling victim to these same evils at a casino? This bill does nothing to prevent gambling addiction, it does nothing to reinstill "proper" family values, it does nothing to prevent bank account fraud, and it does nothing but overstep the boundaries of the United States Government.

I hope you are able to see this bill for what it really is and I encourage you to continue your support for civil liberties by casting a vote in opposition of this bill.

Matt Clarich

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

One Win Does Not A Poker Player Make...

But it feels good to win at least something. And not just win, but totally dominate. I started off playing an $11 1-table 7 card stud game and took first. It helps when you get hands like this:

Seat 1: GdBdUgly ( $950 )
Seat 2: martin286 ( $730 )
Seat 3: gtech73 ( $3560 )
Seat 4: theseamonkey ( $2110 )
Seat 6: onil8 ( $2755 )
Seat 7: Randone1 ( $2625 )
Seat 8: mclarich ( $3270 )
GdBdUgly posts ante [25].
martin286 posts ante [25].
gtech73 posts ante [25].
theseamonkey posts ante [25].
onil8 posts ante [25].
Randone1 posts ante [25].
mclarich posts ante [25].
** Dealing **
Dealt to mclarich [ 6c Ac Ad ]
martin286 opens.
martin286 bring-ins [50].
gtech73 calls [50].
theseamonkey folds.
onil8 completes [150].
Randone1 folds.
mclarich raises [300].
GdBdUgly folds.
martin286 folds.
gtech73 calls [250].
onil8 calls [150].
** Dealing Fourth street **
Dealt to mclarich [ Qd ]
mclarich bets [150].
gtech73 calls [150].
onil8 calls [150].
** Dealing Fifth street **
Dealt to mclarich [ 7h ]
gtech73 checks.
onil8 checks.
mclarich checks.
** Dealing Sixth street **
Dealt to mclarich [ 6s ]
gtech73 checks.
onil8 bets [300].
mclarich calls [300].
gtech73 calls [300].
** Dealing River **
Dealt to mclarich [ Ah ]
gtech73 checks.
onil8 bets [300].
mclarich raises [600].
gtech73 calls [600].
onil8 raises [600].
mclarich raises [600].
gtech73 folds.
onil8 calls [300].
mclarich shows [ 6c, Ac, Ad, Qd, 7h, 6s, Ah ] a full house, Aces full of sixes.
onil8 doesn't show [ Jc, 8s, 8d, 3c, 4s, Jd, 8h ] a full house, Eights full of jacks.
mclarich wins 5475 chips from the main pot with a full house, Aces full of sixes.

Although the results worked out the best for me, I'm wondering if my play from 4th-6th street was the best way to play this hand:

4th St: I led out with a continuation bet: I have to do this if I've raised the completion bet before 4th.

5th St: I'm still only on AA; I could be up against 2 pair or a set perhaps, so I decide to check just in case, to avoid a possible reraise. I'm happy with the checks all around.

6th St: My hand improves; although I can't beat trips or straights\flushes, I'm not laying this hand down yet.

7th St: There's no doubt I've got the best hand right now, and luckily onil8 thinks his full house is good enough to reraise me at the end, allowing me to cap the betting and maximizing this hand.

I feel like a decent stud player, but I know that I'm still a little weak on strategy. However, I feel that I played this game relatively as well as I could. I played a NL tourney later, and during that, I checked my stats for the day using PartyPoker's quick stat menu. At the time, it said that I had won 93% of hands that saw 4th street. I looked back on the hand history and I calculated only winning 75%, but either way, I didn't realize that I dominated the game like that. My reads were sharp during that game, and I was even able to get in TWO, not one, but TWO river bluffs. Both times I knew that the other guy was just chasing, and I capitalized by taking the pots with only A high and K high because I played the hands aggressively.

I also played two 2-table $22 NL SnGs, finishing 4th in one of them. I busted out of the first one on this hand:

Seat 2: worldsports ( $8076 )
Seat 3: mclarich ( $3520 )
Seat 5: DrCigar111 ( $4031 )
Seat 6: TI_BUCK ( $2545 )
Seat 8: tupumpchump ( $4220 )
Seat 1: Too777Kool ( $4110 )
Seat 4: Zerberus999 ( $700 )
Seat 7: Toledolurch ( $2097 )
Seat 9: JD0101JD ( $8471 )
Seat 10: tw69ig2 ( $2230 )
Trny:28341765 Level:4
** Dealing down cards **
Dealt to mclarich [ Ah Qs ]
tw69ig2 folds.
Too777Kool calls [200].
worldsports raises [1000].
mclarich is all-In [3520]
Zerberus999 folds.
DrCigar111 folds.
TI_BUCK folds.
Toledolurch folds.
tupumpchump folds.
JD0101JD folds.
Too777Kool folds.
worldsports calls [2520].
** Dealing Flop ** [ 6c, 8h, Jh ]
** Dealing Turn ** [ 4c ]
** Dealing River ** [ 4d ]
worldsports shows [ Kd, Jd ] two pairs, jacks and fours.
mclarich shows [ Ah, Qs ] a pair of fours.
worldsports wins 7540 chips from the main pot with two pairs, jacks and fours.
Player mclarich finished in 10 place.

Normally, I'm not going to come over the top this early, with a medium stack comparatively, but I had a feeling that I had the better hand and was willing to gamble. I put him on a A with a weaker kicker or a small pair. I felt that with a small pair he would be willing to fold and that he would call with an A with a weaker kicker. Up until this point, this is what I saw he had done:

-Holding a set of 8s, he was min raised on the river and only called, especially considering the guy showed weakness
-Overbet the pot by going all in preflop for 6900 on a pot of 700, then showing his AA when everyone folded
-Calling a 5x preflop reraise in middle position then folding to an all in, only to say he folded what would have been the best hand on a 6s4h6dAc7h board (what was he holding that would have been the best hand but only good enough to call a EP preflop raise?)

Given all that, I made the move thinking at the best, I had him dominated, at the worst it was a coinflip. More often than not I'm going to fold this hand in this position given the circumstances, but considering the opponent, I felt I had the best hand. I'm content with the fact that my suspicion that I had the better hand was correct, but I know that I could have layed the hand down and waited to make a move later (I still had over 17BB at that point).

All in all I felt like my play was much better than some of my previous efforts. I played with confidence, which I wasn't really doing before. And although I made some -EV moves, they were either calculated moves that paid off beautifully (like raising preflop with 5c8c and flopping a boat) or were moves where I at least had the best hand going in, which is more than I can say for some of my other recent games.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Progress Dissection

Did I spell dissection right? I dunno. I guess I could spellcheck it. I'm gonna just go with it; it looks good.

I've been thinking about the last couple of games I've played. I haven't played my "A" game for a long time, and I'm trying to figure out why that is. I felt for a while that my play was constantly improving, and it was showing in my results. I concentrated on $33 1 table SnGs for a while and found myself at least cashing half the time, and probably winning at least 25% of the cashes. Sometimes I would vary the buy in's, even getting crazy and going for the $215 buy ins. I didn't do as well, not cashing\winning nearly as often as the $33. I think that a lot of this was getting a case of bubble-itis; I do remember tightening up sometimes as the money got closer. I didn't have the bankroll to constantly play those.

Backtracking for a bit...I first started playing at some of the low buy-in NL tables. I started doing this because I was basically retarded and didn't know what a SnG was, and didn't want to play tournaments, so I was playing NL cash games. I somehow actually did pretty well to start with, taking my initial buy-in up to $200, but I remember I was playing the game like a tournament and soon that money was gone. I found the SnGs very soon after and began playing those.

Moving forward, as I was playing the SnGs, I would venture into MTTs every so often, usually playing speed tables because I didn't have the time to play a full tourney. This was pointless as I usually busted early. I continued to focus on mostly 1 table SnGs, sometimes doing the 2 or 3 tables. I've never kept track of my win\loss amounts, but up until a couple months ago I believe I have been a profitable poker player. I started by donking off $1500, then cashing out several hundred dollars multiple times. Combine that with my two big tournament scores (total of two final tables = approx $5500), and I feel that, at the very worst, I've at least broken even over my lifetime.

Over the past couple of months, I have really felt my game deteriorate. I don't feel myself playing with the same level of confidence as I used to. I think there have been a couple of reasons for this, that I've been able to identify so far:

1. I just haven't been playing as much over the past couple of months. Mostly this is due to having a girlfriend in my life now. I don't mean this to say that I blame her for this; I definitely prefer being with her than I do playing poker. But before (and in the early stages of our relationship) I was spending all my free time playing poker, and because of that, I was staying much sharper than I am now.

2. I am in the worst financial situation that I have been in since I started playing poker. As a result, losing affects me much more than just losing money; when I lose now, I lose money I could have used for other things. I haven't been able to play a game and say, win or lose I'll be ok, for a while now. So I'm playing with that in the back of my mind and therefore play much differently than I normally would.

3. I've strayed from the games that I excel at. I've realize this recently by reading other poker blogs and understanding that even players better than me have limits, and they find themselves not doing as well when playing outside their comfort level. I was doing this before by trying to jump into some bigger games, and I couldn't handle the variance. I don't think the skill level was drastically better (in fact, I KNOW this just based on some of the plays I saw at other levels), but I didn't feel as comfortable, and while a bad streak at the $33 level wouldn't faze me, a bad streak at the $109 level would.

I've stayed within my limits, but lately I feel like I've ventured out of my zone by playing in too many different games, namely 7-Card Stud and PLO Hi-Lo. I enjoy these games, and I have been mildly successful at these games as well, but I think playing these games have taken me away from concentraing on my NL game at a time when I should have been focusing solely on that (because of how infrequently I play).

Overall, in the 2.5 years that I've been playing poker, I know that my games has improved tremendously. Although I'm not ready to quit my day job and start becoming a pro, I do feel that I've been mildly successful when I've applied myself. But I do feel like I've hit a plateau in terms of my skill level. There is room to improve my game, but the question is will I have the opportunity to do this?

In the short term, no. I am not on solid financial ground, and I am still in the early stages of a wonderful relationship that I need to keep developing. I know my girlfriend does not prefer that I play poker, and in the short run I definitely agree with her. But overall, I think she feels that it takes away from time we could spend doing things together. She knows that I intend to pick up poker again at some point, so the key there will be trying to find time to play while still being able to spend time with her. I do not intend to play as often as I was before (at least 4 hours a day about 6 days a week, on average), so I think I will be able to find some agreeable compromise.

In the long term, I feel like I will be able to continue improving my game as long as I understand what I am playing for. I am not looking at poker as a potential career or even as a source of supplemental income. Poker is a hobby for me, a hobby of which every aspect I find fascinating. And I think the biggest way to improve my game is to keep this in mind. It's not the most important thing in my life, and I need to be able to step away from it and keep it in perspective, instead of allowing it to consume my time, energy, and resources. Regardless of whether I win or lose, I need to get back to just having fun playing poker.