Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Vacation Through Poker

I made my journey back to the homeland (AZ) for a much needed departure from the reality of my current life and, more importantly, a chance to visit with all my good friends back home. Being the wuss that I am, I find myself getting choked up more often than anticipated when I reminisce about my life back in AZ (specifically, the period between high-school graduation and college graduation), and I couldn't wait to get back and spend 10 full days with the people that I miss.

Of course I failed to account for the fact that, with the exception of my friend who bartends at Applebee's, I would be the ONLY one available to hang out in the middle of the day. So, with nothing to do in the daytime until my girlfriend arrived 5 days later, I did the only thing that made sense - I fired up Party Poker.

Although at the end of the day I finished down about $70, which I loss in a manner that I will not discuss (blackjack), I felt very good about my play. I focused mainly on 2 or 3-table SNGs, and for the most part I was killing them - up to a point. I finished in the money in nearly all of them, and in at least 3 of them (I think I played 5 or 6 total), I had over half the chips in play by the time we hit the money. Of course a lot of this was cards (including my pocket Ks beating a fucking 94c when I out-boated his flopped flush, and the other end of a spectrum when my 74c flopped a flush against a set of As - but that's his fault for not raising with AA in the BB), but I also played extremely well, to the point where I was executing bluffs with A3o on a KJ6 board for all my chips because I knew he was going to lay it down. But alas, the cards caught up with me and I could never finish higher than 3rd. It's hard to maintain a chip lead with hands like these:

AT vs a shortstack's A6 - river is a 6
J7 vs a shortstack's T8 - both in the blind, we both flop a pair so the chips go in, he turns a third T
KJc - raise from the button 3 handed, medium stack in the SB pushes, I have to call based on the odds and the fact that I still have 16k if I lose - of course, he has AA
AK vs AQ for all my chips - he flops and rivers a Q
AT vs KQh - he turns a flush
overaggressive SB puts me all in - I call with AT, he happens to have AQ, and I don't improve.
Mr. any-Ace pushes with A6, I call with AQ - flop comes AK5, turn and river pair the board, giving us identical boats.

Those are just the hands I remember. It was sickening the number hands I went in as a big favorite only to get sucked out on. I can't be upset though because I played the hands well - I guess I was due after catching cards early on.

I also played an $11 MTT - 490 runners - I finished in 195th place. My first mistake was playing this to begin with because it started so late, and there was no way I was going to be able to play all the way through if needed - I was already tired to begin with and it showed. I built up a fairly decent stack early, only to call a huge raise preflop with only JJ - I talked myself into thinking he had AK. I called his push on a Q high flop only to find out I was half right - he had KK.

I built my stack a little bit more until I was nearly falling asleep at the computer. I raised 3xBB with A8d. Next to me, the table chipleader raises less 600 more to 1500. 3 people call this and I call purely for the odds. Flop comes 8-high, and I'm so tired I figure "it's it's meant to be, it's meant to be", so I push, he calls with KK and turns another K to make it official. I could have played better if I was more awake, but at that point, sleep was worth much more than staying up another two hours for the chance to just make my money back

Finally, I decided to play a live tournament at a local casino with my brother on Tuesday afternoon. My brother is the (self-proclaimed) greatest poker player in the family, which isn't saying much because he's only competing with me. Of course, I have the credentials to back up my claim (sorry Bob, but making the final tables of a Poker Pub tournament doesn't count), and furthermore, I've cashed in two of the three home games he's hosted, taking down one of them. But that's neither here nor there. The tournament had a pretty horrible structure - only 1200 chips to start with, with decent levels of 25 mins. After the hour break, you could add on another 1000 chips for $20. What made the structure especially horrid was the varying chip stacks to start; the casino rewarded you for hours played with add-ons, so some the the regulars were starting with stacks of 4200. Luckily for me, they also give 2000 additional to first timers, so I started with 3200.

I played a total of 5 hands, only 3 that I remember. I limped UTG with KQ off (blinds were at 25\50 the entire time I played), and the person next to me makes it 150. 3 people, including myself call, and the flop comes Q high. We all check to the bettor, and unless he has a monster, I figure I've got him dominated except for 3 hands. Unfortunately, he takes a free card as well, which happens to be an A. I check\fold to his bet, and he shows A8 suited.

The big hand of the tournament - everyone folds to the button who makes it 150. With AKh, I reraise to 450. He calls, flop comes K64, two clubs. I bet 500, he thinks for a minute and he calls. Turn comes another club. I check and he leads out for 1000. I think for about 5 seconds and call. River is a blank - we both check and he shows a set of 6s.

The last hand, I'm UTG+1 with blinds about to increase, and I push with A6s for 750. The guy next to me calls with AQ and IGH.

Obviously, the AK hand was my major undoing and it was a total donk call on my part. I bet 500 incase the guy was on a flush draw. When the turn hits, I should have been done with the hand, but I somehow talked myself into thinking that I still beat the guy. Did he have AK also? Maybe KQ? The guy played the hand well and caught the card he needed at the same time I caught the card I thought I needed. I fold that hand on the turn and I'm still sitting at 1750 by the time that A6 hand rolls around, and it's a completely different game. Nevertheless, I had fun playing and definitely learned something about my live game - it needs MUCH improvement.

So with that, combined with the uncertainty of the anti-gaming legislation, I'm deciding to focus mostly on live play. I plan to play at least one live tourney a month, and depending on the result of the new legislation, maybe 1 or 2 other tournaments elsewhere. If my goal is to play the WSOP, and if it's my live game that needs work, then I don't think I should be spending the majority of my time playing poker on the computer. I'm feeling confident in my abilities again, and it's time to start developing a strategy and putting it to work.