Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Win Some, Lose Some...Lose Some More

I finally cashed in my first Poker Stars game, winning an $11 1-table SNG. I got an early chip lead when I limped at 25-50 UTG with AKo. The person in the BB was a complete donkey, bigger than I, and I saw that he was calling any bets and min-raising preflop any time it was limped to him. I limped with the idea that I was gonna reraise all in. MP threw a cog in my plan when he raised to 150, but BB Donkey called the raise, so I pushed anyways. MP folded what he later said was 66, but BB Donkey made the call (he was somewhat shortstacked but didn't need to make the call) with A8o.

I maintained a decent stack for a while when I ran into TT UTG and I raised to 700. The stack next to me pushed for about 1800 total. It was definitely a questionable call but I figured it was a race. He flips over 88 and fails to suckout. During heads up play my opponent was pretty predictable, and I let him do most of the betting. On the last hand he limped in. I find AQo and reraise to 1400 total, about 1\2 his stack. He calls and the flop comes J44, two spades. When he bets out, I read this to be a steal, so I push him all in. He calls with T8s and fails to make his flush. A questionable play on my part, but I went with my read and it was correct.

I played a couple Omaha games and got severely fucked. I played tight most of the game, and when we got down to 5 players I was 2nd in chips. The player before me was playing very loose, calling down any bet size on nothing but draws. He finally lost a big pot and was down to about 900 in chips when he limps under the gun fot 100. I find AA67 double suited and raise the pot for about 600. He calls and the flop comes 567 rainbow. He pushes and I see that he called the reraise with something like 7443 and flopped the nuts. I can't fill up and lose a decent amount of chips. I almost blew up at his unbelievable call and unbelievable luck, but then I remembered that I'm playing a $5 SNG. He took my chips later when I flop top and bottom pair with KJ and he has the nut straight with a gutshot straight flush.

I lost another Omaha SNG when I limped with JJ62. The flop came 954 and I just check call. The turn is a 3, giving me the second nuts. The player to my right bets 300 and I raise to 950. A loose player in EP check-calls and the original player folds. The river is a 6 and the first player puts me all in. Right as I click the call button I lose my internet connection and end up losing the pot. I'll never know if he has 67 or 78 but as loose as he was I wouldn't doubt it. When I finally get my connection restored I'm down to about 300 in chips and end up finishing 5th, but ahead of the player who took most of my chips on the straight hand.

Finally I played a 2-table SNG last night and finished 12th. I built up a stack early when it was folded to me. I raise from the CO with 44 and the button calls. The flop is a beautiful AA4. I check the flop, hoping to set up the slow play. The turn is even more beautiful..the last 4. I check again and the other guy min bets 30. The pot is so small at this point I don't really think a big raise is going to work, so I try a trick out of Hoy's book and min raise. Granted it's probably not the right circumstance, but I'm really not sure if this guy has an A yet, so I'm trying to make him think I'm weak. He just calls the min raise. The river is meaningless and I check to him hoping he'll make a bigger stab at the pot. He min bets AGAIN. I think he might have an A but I really can't figure out what he's doing. I almost decided to push all in, thinking he'd call to split the pot if he did have an A, but if he doesn't, I want to bet something that he'll call. So I reraise to 195 and he calls....with AJ. HUGE opportunity missed.

I get as high as 4th out of 16 when I lose some pots when I try to steal or fail to connect with overcards. I get down to about 1600 when I find QQ UTG. I raise to 325 and a MP shortstack pushes for about 850. Easy call, but then a big stack on the button calls the all in as well. I have to call 525 for a pot of 2625, so I'm getting about 5-1 on my money. Can this guy really have AA or KK? Wouldn't he reraise to isolate? I put the shortstack on something like AJ, and if that's the case, that makes AA even less likely. I decided to push for 1650 or so and he calls...with AA. I probably fold if the big stack does raise to isolate, so I give him credit for a good play on his part. Just another horrible run of the cards.

Overall nothing too exciting or successful. It felt good to finally cash in a game again.

On a different note...while I was working on my personal budget for 2007, I went through all of my transactions in 2006 so far. Up through September, I had deposited a total of $6600 for poker, but cashed out about $8600. So it's nice to see that I'm a winning player for the year, but if you subract my $2800 cashout for my 2nd place finish in May, then I'm really down about $800 for the year. I don't know if this means that I'm a losing poker player because I can't really account for the wins\losses from playing fucking Party Blackjack. So what does this mean?

1. In my mind, I'm not as good of a poker player as I originally once thought I was.
2. I was definitely trying to play outside of my bankroll too often. Especially after my big tourney win, I started playing out of my limits. I won $3500, but after playing a couple $200 SNGs and playing blackjack at $100 a hand, I was only able to cash out $2850.

I'm going to take this information and devise a plan to improve my skills while staying within my bankroll. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Same Horse, New Saddle

Last night, I finally made the jump to Poker Stars. I had an account with them for a while but never used it. I haven't played poker for almost two months. Mostly I couldn't afford to, and having a broken computer made sure I didn't play. But I finally got my computer working, and with such a stressful day at work, I needed something to relax. I was excited to be able to play poker, and although I couldn't really afford to play, I knew that it would be worth the $50 deposit to get rid of that itch to play again.

I started off with $11 SNGs and proceeded to finish 6th in EVERY single one. I lost the first one when I had AA vs KJ. The chips went all in on a KQT board, he made the straight on the turn, and just extra fun, trips on the river.

Not all of the losses were due to bad beats. In some cases I was just card dead. I only had two big pairs the whole night - AA and TT. Twice I had AQ or AJ, and of those 4 times I only paired the board once. Any time I had a small pocket pair I was either in early position and\or missed the flop.

Furthermore, anytime I had a big hand I couldn't get any action. I flopped the 2nd nut flush, but it was just a battle of the blinds against a shortstack who didn't hit the flop. I floated a gutshot straight which I made on the turn but only took down a small pot. Most of the pots I won were just the blinds.

When I would make a hand, I played it soft and ended up losing to a suckout. On one hand, 5 players limped in to me on the BB and I check with K2o. The flop is a wonderful 822. We check it to the turn, a 7. No flush draws and only a straight draw, it checks to the button who min bets. I call, and we see the river, a J. I didn't really think about the straight at this point, so when he bets 250, I reraise to 600. At best I put him on two pair. Instead he hit made his OES. The reraise was a bad idea, as the outcome shows, but I'm not sure if it I could have played this hand differently. Should I have reraised the turn? I dunno.

Another suckout occurred when it was checked to me in the SB with A7o. I competed the blind, and the flop comes 2JA. I check the flop, as does everyone else. The turn comes a beautiful 7. I probably should have bet here, but instead I check, and it goes to the river. The river is another 2. I bet and it folds to the button, who min raises. Could he be playing the hammer? If you're gonna play the hammer, why limp in from the button with it? He could have A2, but for 100 more, I'm not going to fold. He shows 23o. Who limps from the button with 23o? Apparently, people who like to suckout on me.

One thing that really surprised me, and I don't know if this is the case with Poker Stars players, but a lot of players played their big pairs really soft. On at least two occasions, maybe three, I saw players limping in with AA. KK and QQ were only min raised preflop, regardless of position. TT was limped in as well.

All in all, last night's failure was equal parts bad luck and bad play. It was obvious that I was A) pretty rusty from the layoff and B) was playing too passive and loose, which is a recipe for disaster. But last night wasn't really about finding success again as it was more about getting back into the flow. I'll probably play once more before the year ends, then I'll figure out a game plan for 2007.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

All Work & No Poker Makes Homer.....

Go crazy?
Don't mind if I do!

Seriously, I haven't played poker in almost a month. I've even hardly watched poker. This has been the biggest amount of time that poker has been out of my life in over 2 years. I came close the other night, as I was going to head to a local casino to play a $35 tournament, but I realized the money was better spent elsewhere at this point. It's looking like I'll probably be poker-less for at least the rest of the year. For now, I'll just have to live vicariously through the poker blogs that keep me EXTREMELY unproductive at work every day.

However, this doesn't mean that I'm still not looking to improve my game, although I'm skeptical what improvement I can have if I'm not practicing. Not to dwell on past mistakes, but since I'm looking to improve my live game, I'll focus on the last live tournament I played in, which I mentioned in my last post.

The tournament was structured with starting stacks of 1500, blinds starting at 25\50, 25 minute levels. The tournament also awarded regulars with bonus stacks of up to 3000, so unless you has a bonus stack, you were in the hole pretty quickly. Luckily for me, they also awarded first timers with a 2000 bonus stack, so I wasn't far off.

Mistake No. 1: Position is key

I only played a couple of hands, so there's not really much to go on. However, one hand I played was KQo from UTG+1 I think. The player next to me raised to 150, and I called along with 3 limpers. I hated this call later because (although I did flop top pair) I was out of position for the entire hand. But I did call and paired my Q. I figured I was good at that time, but I checked it since I was out of position, hoping someone would take a stab at it. But we all check, and I check-fold when the A hits because I know the guy left of me just paired his A (he raised UTG+2 with A8o). I played this board like a pansie when I could taken down a small pot on the flop.

I think there was another time where I folded in LP with a speculative hand, something like 67, and I would have made the nut straight on the turn and it would have been cheap to see. I don't fault myself for folding 67, but this is a hand where I could have played position like I had a huge hand and scooped up a pot. I knew I was playing tight, everyone else probably knew it too, and I probably lost an opportunity by playing the cards and nothing else.

Mistake No. 2: The "big" hand

I thought about this hand for quite some time afterwards. There's no other way to describe this play other than "complete donkey". Everyone folded to the button who raised it to 150. SB folds, and I reraise from the BB with AKo. This is the right move: if he's trying to steal, I can take the pot down here. But I don't think I raised him enough, only raising it to 450. He has to call 300 for a pot of 925. With 66 in position, I'd say it's a pretty easy call for him, and I don't fault him for it. Perhaps I should have raised it to 750? My reraise wasn't much better than a min raise, and it doesn't really accomplish anything. Of course, I was completely fucked the entire hand when he flopped his set the same time I flop a K. A stronger reraise may have pushed him off the hand. I pick up a small pot instead of losing a bigger one. This may be all second guessing, i.e. "what could I have done to NOT lose this hand?" As soon as we saw the flop, I was bound to lose some chips, and there's really no way I'm gonna put him on 6s preflop. But generally speaking, I think my reraise was not enough - I should have reraised him to 600 at least.

So we see the flop, and it's Kc 6c 4d. Alas, I'm fucked, but I don't know it. I'm sitting on 2250, he's got more than that, and I lead out with 500. He thinks it over and calls. Like a donkey, I fail to consider what this means or what his hand is. Did he hit top pair also? Does he have a set? Is he chasing the draw? He calls, and I'm still thinking TPTK is good, like a good donkey does.

The turn is another club. If he is chasing a flush, I'm drawing dead. The hands that beat me are:
KK (unlikely, considering his pre\post flop play)
K6 or K4 (unlikely, especially considering his postflop play)
66 or 44 (possible)
AXc (also possible)
and hell, maybe even something like QJc or JTc. I don't have enough information on this person to know how hard he would chase a flush draw.
So, of the hands that beat me 14 hands that beat me (counting AXc 7 times), I'd say 9 of them are realistic: 66, 44, and AXc, and all of those hands have me drawing dead. The hands that I can beat are: KQ-KT. Of a possible 12 hands, I have 3 of them dominated, and 9 of them leave me drawing dead.

I check, and he bets out 1000. Unless he has something like KQ-KT, and thinks that I was just C-betting the flop with a lower pair, this bet is screaming strength (or a very ballsy bluff). Perhaps he did have something like QJc or JTc, and he hit his flush but is afraid of the nut flush redraw (in his position, I wouldn't put me on a flush draw also, based on my betting to this point). Either way, the fact is I'm dead to 75% of possible hands (about 81% if you include other suited hands at this point), my opponent is betting just a little less than half of his stack but definitely more than half of my stack, meaning if I call I'm essentially committed to the river when the river can only hurt my cause, but somehow, someway, I convice myself to call. I don't even remember what the river was, but I mercifully check, and my opponent is gracious enough to check it as well, and his trips take down the pot.

Even just the slightest bit of thinking over this hand and I could have found a way to lay it down. Instead, I hardly think any of this and just assume that TPTK is gold. I hindsight, I check fold the turn, leave myself with 1800 in chips and live to fight another day.

Mistake No. 3: The exit

I ended the tournament when I pushed my final 750 with A6 and the guy left to me calls with AQ. Yeah, I was suited, but I basically surrendered by pushing with this hand. My thought at the time was "Hey, I've got an A, it's suited, and the blinds are going to go up pretty soon, probably when it comes around to me. I should probably take a stand here." That's not too bad. But, another way to think about this is "I have A6 off, but for 750, the only hands that are gonna call me are gonna leave me completely dominated, either by outkicking me or by giving me only one over card. I know it's gonna leave me shortstacked if I fold this, but if I can make it past the blinds, I'll still have 6BB, and 6BB in position is probably better than 15BB out of position". Yes, this mistake is about position, but it's not so much about position in terms of putting pressure, but about position in terms of evaluating what I'm up against. 6BB is not going to be enough to push someone off a hand, but I'll at least have a better chance to figure out if I'm dominated or if we're playing live cards. And, there's always the chance that I'll get a bunch of limpers who will call, building me a good pot. If I lose, I lose, but if I win the pot, I'm back in the game.

What's funny to me is that, all these things I've discussed, I knew when I sat down at the table. It's not like I'm presenting any new concepts that I just learned a week ago. But, for some reason, when I sat at that table, everything just went out the window. Perhaps it's because it was my first live game in over a year. I wasn't nervous, but I definitely wasn't thinking clearly. The next step is to take this information and pound it into my head, so when I do get to a live game again, I'll be able to see some progress.