Monday, July 30, 2007

A Serious Question For Serious Players

(edit: The question I pose is all the way down at the bottom. Feel free to scroll down if you like.)

I'm back in business! I didn't address this last week, but some of you may have noticed that my posts were going up pretty late. For some reason, my workplace's internet filter started blocking access to blogger. First, I wasn't able to sign in nor view comments on blogs. Then, it started blocking some blogs but giving me access to view others. Based on who it blocked, I'm wondering if it was due to how these blogs were rated. Anyways, it made posting and comments very difficult. I tend to write and post at work, so instead, I had to email then post at home. Plus, any comments I would make would post well after the discussion has ended.

But today, everything is back to normal...for now at least.

Otherwise, not much to talk about poker wise. I jumped up a little bit more on the bankroll challenge. I was close to taking down a 2 person SNG for a decent profit, sitting as a big chipleader with 3 to go. I made one mistake and doubled up someone with QQ. Down to about 9xBB, I pushed with ATo. Button limper calls 2\3rds his stack with Q6 soooted. 6 on turn. Hooray! Anyway, I doubt I'll play any more of these these 2-table SNGs. 1st place is about $13 more than a 1 table, but it means 9 more donks to sift through.

I played a couple more games and did something I haven't done in a while - go out on the first hand. KJ sooted was no good against AA on a J high board. GG me. At this point, I felt myself playing like I knew I shouldn't. So, I fired up one more, composed myself, and took down another SNG to make a small profit for the night.

Finally, I wanted to get some thoughts on what kind of programs are available that help track my play. I'm going to take a look at a couple, but I'm more curious to hear about what other bloggers think. I know that some of you donks use these kind of things, but I'm more interested in something that will help track my play on SNGs. Thanks in advance for any comments.

Good luck to those playing the MATH tonight - hope to see you there myself soon!

Friday, July 27, 2007


After yesterday's post, my girlfriend asked me what "runner-runner" meant. I explained to her, using the KK vs 66 hand as an example. Top set loses when the underdog catches the exact turn & river cards he needs to win. Apparently, the poker gods didn't think that a verbal explanation was enough.

Heads up, $5 SNG, blinds are 80-160, I've got a 3200 chiplead, and the other guy minraises to 320. He's been doing this a lot with mediocre hands, and I've reraised him several times. More often than not, he folds. This time, I'm sitting on 25o, a veritable monster, so I elect to call.

Flop is 43A rainbow. The motherfuckin nuts. I check to induce a bet. He overbets the pot for 1100ish. It's an unusual bet - he hasn't bet that strongly before, and with any possible made hands, that's not that scary of a flop. Instead of going for the smooth call, I push. He's got about 2k or so behind him, so he can definitely fold, but I get the impression that he doesn't want to. As expected, he calls.

With Q4o. Much worse than I thought. All in with middle pair with no other draws. This is why I love these stakes.

Turn is an A. River is a 4.

Poker just makes me laugh sometimes.

Today's entry is the last part of my 5-post series, and it's about attitude. To me, one's attitude is the combination of many factors. Confidence. Perception. Expectation. Comfortability. Sensibility. And more. Having the right attitude is essential because the wrong attitude will cause one not play optimally. All these other things I've talked about - Patience, Aggressiveness, Focus, and Dedication, don't work unless you have the right attitude.

No discussion about attitude is complete without talking about being on tilt. For the most part, I stay off tilt. Getting coolered, runner-runnered or just outdrawn, I've played enough hands where I can say that I've suffered every possible bad beat imaginable. The overpair loses to an ace on the river. A flopped straight loses to a flush. Two pair gets counterfeited. Nut flush loses to straight flush. I know this is all part of poker and I've come to accept it.

I have noticed a tendency to go on tilt more recently though, and it's due to a couple of things.

Higher expectations: I concentrate so much on wanting to win that I don't focus on always doing what it takes to get there. What I mean by this is I get so caught up thinking about the victory that, as I get closer to it, I get more excited about it. So, when I suffer a beat that knocks me down, I get more aggravated than I used to, and I start playing with the wrong attitude. This only applies to games where the victory is somewhat meaningful, like in a MTT or a blogger game.

Reduced bankroll: Should I go busto, I probably won't be able to deposit for a couple of months. So any loss is damaging to my bankroll. If I lose a couple, I do one of two things. One, I get upset and start messing with my game, trying to correct what I perceive to be errors in my play without actually analyzing me game. Or two, I increase the stakes and try to go for the quick fix, hoping that I'll cash in a couple and get back on track.

Going into this challenge, I truly believe that I have the right attitude to make this work. I'm not going to fret if I lose a handful of games in a row, and I'm not going to start doing crazy things if I'm not seeing the results that I want. I am absolutely confident that I have the skills to make this thing work, and if I find something that's not working, I'll try my damndest to fix it. There's no timetable on when this thing ends - however long it takes me to get to $2k, it is what it is. I've played enough SNGs in my life, at all of the stakes I plan to play at, that I believe it's absolutely possible for me to continue to build my bankroll at these games.

So that's it. The 5 things I need. Patience. Aggressiveness. Focus. Dedication. Attitude. You might have notice that I didn't include anything specific to poker, like improving my short-handed game, or reading betting sizes & patterns, or resteals. I know that I always have more to learn when it comes to poker theory & strategy, but I do have enough confidence in my skills that I don't really think that my poker skills are the big problem. It's the application of those skills that get me into trouble, and it's the five aforementioned characteristics that I need to work on.

I'll end this post by publicly addressing Alan's comment on my last post. Alan called me out, questioning how serious I was about poker. (Note: Alan, I did not take this negatively by any means, so when I say that "you called me out", I don't mean that as the hostile statement that it sounds like.) I responded that, admittedly, I've never really taken poker seriously. I've gotten by on whatever skills I've picked up through 3 years of practice. Most of the poker literature I've read has been through other people's blogs. I've made adjustments to my game, but I've never compared statistics of any of my hands. I've never even kept records on my bankroll. The main reason I've never been serious about my poker game is because I've never set any kind of goal before. All I've really done to this point is deposit & redeposit when I can, cash out when I'm happy with what I've made, and played poker more or less for recreational purposes. This challenge is also a bit recreational; it takes up a lot of my free time and it's something I particularly enjoy. However, the main purpose of this challenge is not to have fun. It's to do something that I've yet to do in the three years I've considered poker a hobby; to accomplish something meaningful.

So when I say that I'm at a 6 on the seriousness scale, working towards a 7, IMO that's a good thing. As I continue to work on my game and incorporate many of those things that you (and I) have mentioned, I'll move even further up that scale. Mentally, I'm somewhere near a 9, but we know that actions speak louder than words, and until I start doing those extracurriculars, to say that I'm taking poker as seriously as I can would be a lie. But it is also something that I intend to change, starting with this challenge.

I might try to hit the virtual felt something this weekend, but it looks like it's going to be a pretty good weekend in Seattle, weather-wise, so I'm going to try to spend most of my time away from the computer. Good luck to all this weekend, and thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Thanks to Full Tilt, I was able to cash in a couple of SNGs last night. The whole server debacle began just as one player left from each of the SNGs I was playing. Hence, we divyed up his buyin to the tune of $.50 for each of us. That's one more dollar than I started the night with.

In the words of George Costanza, "I'M BACK, BABY!"

So today is Day 4 of my 5 part series. Today, I'll talk about dedication, and why I feel it's one of the most important things I need to be successful at this challenge of mine.

In the first three days of this challenge, my dedication is already being tested. My bankroll has already dropped by 30%. I'm back down to double digits, and what I knew was going to be a difficult challenge is looking to be more impossible than it is difficult. Whether it's the pressure I'm putting on myself to do well or just horrible timing to be on a losing streak, it's easy for me to start questioning the whole thing.

The truth is that, in about 3 years of playing online poker, I haven't really accomplished much. A couple of big scores don't override the fact that my statistics would show that I'm a mediocre poker player at best. Recently, I've been doing well at the stakes that I'm playing, but to say that makes me a successful poker player is like calling a player who is hitting over .300 on a single A minor league baseball team a "successful baseball player". It's successful at that level, but it's nowhere equal to doing the same thing at a higher level.

Also, during these 3 years of playing, I've never seriously taken the time to look at my game from an analytical standpoint. I really haven't made any effort to improve any leaks in my game. My game has definitely improved over the years, but it's been an improvement of the trial & error kind. Anyone can play for 3 years and expect some improvement in their game. I feel like I understand basic & intermediate poker strategy, but my play is not always consistent with those strategies. At any given time, I can sit down at a game and compete with players much better than I and be competitive, but if I want to expect any kind of consistent success, I need to put forth the effort to improve my game.

I say that the success of this challenge requires dedication because it's a success based on long-term, consistent success, which is something that I've never really had before. Not only do I need to be dedicated to the challenge overall, but I need to show more dedication to improving my game. Despite the adversity I've encountered this week, I'm nowhere near the point of giving up. I have no timetable or benchmark that says I'll quit if I haven't reached a certain goal. The only times I'll say this challenge is over is if I go completely busto or reach the $2k mark.

I do believe that I lack certain skills that others naturally have that makes me less successful at poker. All that means is that I have to work harder than some to get past my shortcomings and become a successful poker player. Without that dedication, I'll end up stuck at the micro levels, slugging it out for the chance at winning a measly $17. That's just not worth it to me anymore.

I'll wrap things up tomorrow with the last chapter in this series: attitude.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


The bankroll challenge got a little more difficult last night. Blew through about 7 games with only one cash, a 2nd place finish. Just an awful night altogether, nothing more telling when I pushed with AK and got called with....J5o, which of course turns into a straight on the turn. I rarely got the cards I needed to bust these donkeys, but when I did, it didn't matter either, like when I got KK vs 66 and flopped top set, only to see runner-runner straight. Frustrating as it was, I'm sure there were a handful of mistakes on my part too. So my bankroll takes a decent hit, but it's nothing that I can't overcome.

Today's post is a continuation of my little 5-part series on the attributes I feel I'll need to make this challenge a success. The topic today: Focus. An appropriate topic for today, as I'm on about 4 hours of sleep and have been dealing with a pretty bad headache all day.

Sometimes, I feel that my lack of focus is my biggest problem in poker. Most of my big mistakes occur from not taking the time to think about the situation and make the right play. As a result, I'll make crying calls when the chances are pretty high that I'm beat. Or, I'll c-bet a hand and get check-raised off the pot when I could check for a free card instead. Or, I'll size my bets improperly and leave chips on the table when, if I had been paying closer attention, I could have squeezed more chips out of my opponent.

Part of this problem comes from boredom at the $5 games. I do feel like that, every time I play one of these games, I am the best player at the table. Most of the donkeys at these levels have little understanding of basic poker strategy, so playing these games doesn't really feel like a challenge. I can honestly say that I get relatively little satisfaction when I cash or take down one of these games. I appreciate the cash and I'm excited to add to my bankroll, but otherwise, there's no glory in a victory.

Another problem related to focus is a tendency to stray from how I normally play poker. Doing things like calling OOP with weak hands. Check-calling with weak draws. Things like this usually happen when I'm on a losing streak, attribute the losing streak to how I've been playing, and adjust my game without actually identifying what about my game may be broken. Instead of focusing on making the right decisions, I focus on the outcomes. The end result is something like limping under the gun with QQ, then pushing on a reraise against a flopped two pair. Staying focused and playing my game will improve my results; that's just something I need to remember.

Although I have a tendency to lose focus on occasion, I feel that this is easily corrected. One, if I'm going to take this bankroll seriously, then I need to take the $5 games seriously as well. Yes, they may be full of donks who think that ATo is gold, but I'll be more successful if I pay better attention to how they're playing. When things are going wrong, I need to examine my play and continue to focus on making the best decision, and let the outcome happen however it may. Just because I lost KK to 66 on a runner-runner doesn't mean I need to start getting tricky with KK. I feel that these are holes in my game that are easy to fix as long as I apply myself.

On tomorrow's agenda: dedication.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Yesterday was the official start of my bankroll challenge, and it was an uninspiring start to say the least. I got off to a horrible start, losing 3 SNGs in a row. Horrible stuff. A7 vs QT all in preflop (I was a shortstack), T on the river. KK all in vs AK, ace on the flop. Bad plays + bad beats = losing streak. I stuck with it though, and pulled out a 3rd place cash in the next one, then took down the final SNG for the night. 4 hours of play, $4 profit.

Slowly but surely.

So today is the 2nd part of my 5-part series of posts this week. Each post is about something that I believe will be important for me to have to be successful at my bankroll challenge (or just poker in general). Today, I'll talk about aggressiveness.

Aggressiveness isn't part of my nature. Not that I'm some passive pansy-ass bitch (although some would argue otherwise), but I consider myself to be too laid back to be aggressive person. I haven't been in a fist fight in years. I tend to argue with logic rather than the forcefulness of my speech. I'm willing to make sacrifices against my wishes when I feel that circumstances are relatively inconsequential. What some see as passiveness I consider to be a calmer approach to life. I know what's really important to me in life, and when those particular things are threatened, you see the aggressive side of me come out.

But this is about aggressiveness & poker. And it's on the poker table where I'm not always as aggressive as I should be. I'm not necessarily a donk when it comes to aggressiveness. I've got some moves. I don't always check my sets. I will, from time to time, reraise you with anything from middle pair with a flush draw to the absolute nuts. I've been known to float with absolute air if I have a strong read that I can take the pot away on the turn.

But note the one thing that's common between all of those examples. It's all post flop play. Where I do think I can improve on my aggressiveness is pre-flop. Using a big stack to my advantage. Working the bubble. Countering steals with resteals. Opening my shove range when I'm a shortstack and it folds to me. I think that my post a couple of weeks ago about a QQ hand I folded preflop perfectly shows that I have room to improve. Right now, I can get away with how I play preflop at these levels because the $5 games are filled with calling stations and donks who are willing to call pushes with crap. Just some examples from last night:

- Fold to bigstack who minraises a low stack BB from 100 to 200. Low stack, who has played very few hands, shoves for 1400. Bigstack at 3700 calls with A3o. Lowstack shows JJ and it miraculously holds. Bigstack says "I thought you were bluffing."
- Folds to me on the CO and I raise 3xBB to 240 with A9d. Loose SB calls. Flop comes 982, rainbow. I go for the OBFV and shove 1700+ into a 500 something pot. SB calls 85% of his stack with QTh - just some overs with a gutshot and a backdoor flush draw.

Nevertheless, I'm fairly confident in my ability to be aggressive, but I often times find myself lacking the stones to execute an aggressive play (the checkdown with T9 in my last MTT is a perfect example). When this happens, it's usually for one of two reasons.

One, I find myself becoming less aggressive after a tilt-inducing bad beat. Many people, when they go on tilt, they just start shoving chips in with ATC out of pure frustration. On the other hand, I tend to tighten up to a degree, waiting for a playable hand. Sometimes, those big hands don't come, so I open my range up a bit and start raising with hands like T9. However, if they don't connect, the combination of a smaller stack & not thinking clearly put me in a position where I don't make the optimal play. I don't c-bet when it's the only chance I have at taking down the pot, fearing that I'll get caught and my stack will dwindle more. Or, I c-bet on a three-overcard flop, hoping to represent a strong hand, but have to fold to a check-raise. I try to pride myself on not getting tilted very often, but it still happens from time to time, and usually when it does, I lose the aggression that got me a stack in the first place.

The second reason I lack aggressiveness is usually more common - fear of losing money. This happens in a number of ways. One way that's not as common, because I've been pretty good about staying within my bankroll, is when I become less aggressive because I'm too focused on trying not to lose my buyin. Back in the Party Poker days, when I was playing $22 & $33 SNGs, I'd find myself playing different when I tried to jump up to the $55 and $109 games. I'd win from time to time, but not nearly as consistently as before. The main reason was that I was playing scared, fearful that I'd make the wrong play and fail to cash. So instead of playing aggressively, I'd sit back and wait for cards and either get lucky or fold myself out of the game. Today, I don't jump out of my bankroll, but there's been a couple of times where I've played a $22 game, even sometimes a $11 game, and I get so concerned about the money involved that I don't play my game successfully.

Another way my fear of losing money manifests itself happens pretty frequently in MTTs. In the early stages of a MTT, I don't necessarily mind going out if I happen to run into better cards (KK vs KJ, well that's another story. Yes, I'm still bitter). Sometimes, I just can't get things going, and I'm out within the first hour. Once the money hits, I'm not too discouraged when I go out. I do prefer to stick around and win some more cash, but with my frugal bankroll, I'm happy for any cash right now. But it's the in-between levels, and not just necessarily on the bubble, that I hate to go out. Because of this, I find myself being one of those who tries to hang on and not go out near the bubble, and more often than night, I'll squeeze my way into the cash. However, if I want to become successful, I need to instead use aggression to my advantage, to chip up and put myself in position for a bigger score. Sometimes, aggression will backfire, and I'll go out when maybe I could have folded my way into the bottom payout spots. But I need to focus on the long term results and realize that, more often than not, aggression during these times is going to be more productive than folding into the money.

Coming up next: Focus.

Monday, July 23, 2007


So last Friday, I techinically started my climb towards a $2k bankroll. A slow, steep climb. I basically broke even, with a cash in one SNG and a bad showing in the other. My girlfriend came through for me though, playing a couple SNGs while I went to see Transformers, taking 1st place in both.

I have no problem admitting my girlfriend made more money in online poker this weekend than I did.

Anyways, although I considered Friday to be the unofficial start of my bankroll challenge, I'm considering today as the official start. To kick things off, this week, I'm going to do a series of posts on the 5 things I believe I need to have to make this bankroll challenge a success. Today's post: Patience.

In a SNG, patience isn't necessarily a virtue. The blinds escalate pretty quickly, and as the table gets short-handed, waiting for a premium hand is almost certain death. There is value in being patient early on, as it's possible to sit out through the first 2-3 levels before you need to play a hand. But when I say that patience is something that I need, I don't necessarily mean it refers to poker strategy.

When I say that I need patience, I'm talking about it in a bigger sense. I'm very aware that one problem to this challenge will be that itch to move up in stakes faster than I've outlined. Or, not sticking to my plan should I have to drop down in stakes, and instead trying to play at a level my bankroll can't afford anymore.

Trying to work up to $2k is most likely going to be a long & slow process, especially starting out. Even if were to take 1st in every SNG I play, I would still need to win 24 SNGs at the $5.50 level to move up in my plan, stakes-wise. As good of a run as I've been recently, I doubt I'll see that much success. Considering I'm only playing a couple of hours a week, it's very much possible that I won't crack the $500 barrier by the end of August. So, if this challenge is gong to be successful, I need to have the patience to stick to the plan the entire way through. I need to avoid the urges to move up to soon, or to cash out when it seems like things are going bad.

I do need to have patience in the actual games as well, but honestly, I feel like my ability to be patient is one of my stronger suits, and I do believe it gives me an advantage in these games, especially heads up. At these limits, heads up play can be pretty weak, but I've learned that patience will go a long way, and I can outplay most of them headsup. So, while having something like A4 or K6 may have someone dominated heads up, I'll fold hands like these if our stacks are close in size and either continue to chip away at their stacks or pick a better spot to put my chips in.

I think it will be easy for to be to stay patient because I'm generally a very patient person in all aspects of life. Of course, there will be times when I get impatient and lose sight of the main goal, and that's where this blog comes in. I'l post my results and update my progress towards my goal pretty regularly on here. When it starts to look like I'm becoming impatient and trying to force the progress, I'm sure I'll hear about it from many of you, reminding me to stay patient. Hopefully, though, it won't be very often.

Tomorrow, I'll talk about aggressiveness.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Solving The Dilemma

A couple of days ago, I put up a post about one of my biggest dilemmas as it relates to poker. I won't rehash it all again, you can go here to read it if you like. As I was finishing up the post, I had already begun thinking of ways to solve the problem. Taking consideration the comments that were made, as well as a conversation with my girlfriend, I've figured out a way to resolve this.

I'm quitting online poker.

No, just kidding. Quite the opposite, in fact.

(note to readers: this will be another long post.)

In regards to my financial situation, the truth is that it's going to take quite some time to get myself where I need to be. Essentially, I'm in a quite a bit of debt. I'm still maintaining good relationships with my creditors, but my number one goal right now is to work on reducing the number of obligations I have with creditors, as well as reducing the amount obligated to them. Quite frankly, I would have to win several donkfests if I were to rely on poker earnings to resolve the situation. There are many things that I can do to help the situation, and truth be told, whatever money I have online right now wouldn't even come close to making a dent.

So that solves the first problem; yes, I am keeping my online bankroll instead of cashing it out. I think we all saw that coming.

The second question is in regards to how I will maintain my bankroll. Waffles made a great suggestion about staggering my withdrawals so that I leave a decent bankroll online, yet still be able to put my poker earnings to good use. I really like this suggestion, and as you'll see soon, I will be implementing a variation of this.

I also chatted with Alan about the situation last night (well, it was mostly me watching him type away, but that's OK) and he made a suggestion about withdrawing a certain percentage of his weekly earnings (which was made easier when Neteller was still in operations) as well as a percentage at the end of the month. I think this is a great idea also, but it's not quite in line with what I want my bankroll to be.

Also within the discussion, Alan emphasized that he strongly believes in setting goals. I've set goals before, but I've never met them because they've been too process oriented. You'd think that, when it comes to poker, that would be a good thing, but in fact it wasn't. What I mean by this is that my goals were of the "I'll play X hours or X games during Y time period". It wasn't about achieving a milestone, and therefore, it didn't feel like an achievement.

One thing I mentioned to Alan was about my so-called "glory days" on Party Poker. To summarize, when I started playing SNGs, I was playing the $33 games on Party, and doing very well. Although the online poker landscape has changed, I still believe that I can do well consistently at those stakes, provided I have a bankroll that can maintain the swings at that level. A bankroll of $1650 would give me 50 buyins, which should be adequate to maintain those stakes if I'm successful.

So, all things considered, my new online poker goal is this: to consistently maintain a bankroll of $2k. This bankroll would allow me to play at the stakes that I would like to, but also allow me some flexibility to focus on other games, like MTTs or maybe a shot at the cash games on occasion. I will only withdraw from my bankroll when I reach a certain amount. I will also only increase the stakes when I am at an amount equivalent to 50 buyins at those stakes. For those interested, here is my detailed plan based on my bankroll amount:

$0 to $300 - $5.50 SNGs only (single & multi table)
$300 to $500 - $5.50 SNGs and token SNGs
$500 to $1000 - $11 SNGs and token SNGs
$1200 - cash out $200
$1000 to $1650 - $22 SNGs and token SNGs
$1650 to $2400 - $33 SNGs and token SNGs
$2400 and up - cash out any balance above $2k

As far as the cash outs are concerned, I'm not going to cash out each time I hit $1200 or $2400. I won't cash out unless I get below 80% of the post-cash out balance. In other words, if I hit $1200 and cash out $200, I won't cash out at $1200 again unless I get below $800 (80% of $1k).

Also, I will drop down in stakes if my bankroll gets below $80 of the requirement for those stakes. Once I hit $500, I'll stay at $11 stakes until I get to either $1k or drop below $400.

Finally, you won't see me at any bloggers games unless my bankroll is on par with the buyin. So you won't see me at the Mookie unless I'm up to $500. Likewise, you won't see me at the MATH anymore unless I'm sitting on $1k (although I may use a token from time to time). And the Big Game...well, that's another story. I'll probably have to token into that, but I'd have to be above $1k as well to buyin for those token games.

So that is my goal. It's everything a goal should be: measurable, reasonably attainable yet challenging, and satisfying. I don't need more than $2k to play where I want to right now, and anything over $2k is better suited elsewhere. I can cash out enough that I can benefit from my success, but at the same time, I'm not rewarding myself so often that it's meaningless.

I'm excited about this. I've never really set a goal like this before. Additionally, I've got the full support of my girlfriend too. We had a great conversation about this yesterday, and she's fully on board with this. Of course, this doesn't mean that I'm going to be increasing the amount that I play by much, as I still have other facets of my life to pay attention to, but we've both communicated our thoughts about this really well, and I think we see eye to eye on my online poker habit.

Again, if you've made it this far, I appreciate it. Stay tuned for next week - I'm gonna try to get up a 5-part series of posts that should be pretty interesting.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The King Of Studs

In 34 hands, I went from this:

to this:

It's not much, but it's a victory, and furthermore, it puts my bankroll back in triple digits.

Thanks to those that commented on my last post. I'll address the issue again soon, as well as the comments.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

My Constant Poker Dilemma

This post is going to be a bit personal. And quite long. My apologies in advance.

So yesterday, I briefly had a post up about how I was going on hiatus. I doubt that many of you saw it because it was only up for 2 hours before I changed my mind. Here's the story behind that:

As I've mentioned before, I'm playing on a limited bankroll right now. I'm not embarrassed to say how much: $70. That's it. Granted, it was as high as $140 recently, but I plowed through that on token SNGs and a downswing at micro cash games and $10 SNGs. I was all the way down to about $13 when I took down a $10 SNG, and I'm working my way back up. My bankroll would be somewhere around $400-$450 right now if I didn't cash out my prior winnings. I haven't deposited in several months now; I'm constantly working my bankroll up and then cashing out money when I need it.

Yesterday, I encountered a financial crisis that I thought would require every last dime that I had, including my bankroll. You see, I am not a rich man. All things considered, some would argue that I shouldn't even be playing online poker. My money is better served paying off enormous debts that I have or freeing up some cash to do things with my girlfriend or friends. I rationalize my online poker playing with the fact that I haven't had to deposit in a long time, and I'm showing more fiscal responsibility than I have in the past.

About a year ago, I was risking money that would have been used for credit cards and other bills. If I lost, I somehow had to find a way to recoup that money. Sometimes that meant selling personal property, like old CDs or DVDs, sometimes that meant taking out a loan against my $401k, sometimes that meant borrowing money that a friend left for me to watch while he was locked up. Honestly speaking, there were bigger financial problems at hand than just irresponsibly using my money for playing poker, but it would be a lie to deny that it, at least, compounded the problem.

I've learned from my mistakes; as much as it kills me, I'm stuck playing $5 SNGs and the occasional blogger game\MTT, and if I go busto, I make sure my bills are taken care of before I deposit again. I could be sitting on a decent bankroll and increasing my stakes, but the money I won was better served in my bank account than on FTP.

Yesterday, when I realized I was in a desperate need for money, I was prepared to withdraw my money from FTP even though I knew it meant I probably wouldn't be able to play for at least a month, maybe more. I'm in a tight spot financially, and I couldn't rationalize using money for poker when there were more important things at hand. I was able to do some budget adjusting and take care of the immediate problem, allowing me to keep my funds online.

The question that I'm asking myself today is: what should my focus be in regards to online poker? Say, for example, I'm able to run my bankroll up to $500. What is a small amount to many of you is a significant amount to me. $500 represents a credit card that could be paid off, a couple of car payments to be made. Do I cash part of that out and start back over, or do I keep it online and work on progressing my game at higher stakes? If the answer is the former, then what is the cutoff? Should I even have that $60 in there to begin with?

Despite my current financial situation, I do intend to continue playing poker and trying to build my bankroll. The financial crisis that occurred yesterday was resolved and shouldn't be a recurring thing. In addition, it's not like I'm losing and redepositing constantly; I haven't deposited in a couple months now, and I haven't gone busto in a long time. I'm not continually playing with new funds, I've basically been playing with a $50 deposit since March. If I cash out my $70 bankroll now, it won't accomplish much, and honestly, I do think it's better spent playing poker, where I A) have an opportunity to turn it into something more useful and B) I can use it doing something that I truly love.

But I wonder if anyone else will buy that justification? As supportive as my girlfriend has been, I know that she thinks I play too much, despite my best efforts to limit my poker playing to times that she is off doing something else. My friends know about my poker playing obsession and have questioned before whether I am playing irresponsibly.

Another factor in my decision about continuing to play is that I've started to get to know some really cool bloggers. I haven't really conversed with that many bloggers outside of their own blog. I've chatted with Alan a couple of times, and he really is as genuinely nice as he appears in his blog. I've kept up with a couple neighbors to the north - Fuel & Schaubs. One day I'll make the drive up there and donk it up in person. I've had some other regular commentors too - TripJax, Jordan, & Mookie, and they all seem like great guys. Playing poker gives me a reason to continue this blog, and therefore, continue to meet other cool poker bloggers, both via the intertubes and perhaps one day in person.

Finally, I still have that dream of playing in a WSOP event. Not just playing, but competing. To do that, I need to keep playing and keep whatever poker skills I have fresh. It's amazing the dropoff I have when I don't play poker for a while. I need to be able to stay sharp and keep adapting to different poker styles. I can't do that if I'm not playing.

This is a problem that I ask myself from time to time, and I'm posting it here for two reasons. One, writing it out helps organize my thoughts better, and two, if there's anyone who's had a similar situation, I'm open to comments. I know this turned out to be a pretty long winded post, so if you've made it this far, I appreciate it. A lot of this is just stream-of-consciousness, just piecing together thoughts I've had and talking things out, so to speak.

A lot of this is also just frustration; frustration from having to stick with micro games, frustration from being on a downswing right now, frustration from seeing my skills as a poker player level off, and frustration from being financially handcuffed. When I'm in a situation where I'm living paycheck to paycheck, a situation where a big financial problem could severely cripple me, a situation where I'm looking at several years passing before I'm anywhere near being free from debt, it's tough to rationalize using any money on poker. It's easier to rationalize with such a small bankroll right now, but I just wonder if I'm missing the point by using that as a consideration at all.

In other news, my workplace has decided to block most access to Blogger. I can view blogs, but I can't access my own or leave comments. Talk about yesterday's post title as some forshadowing!

This Internet Page Has Been Blocked

I can't access PokerNews from work so I can't follow the ME Final Table very well. The best I can do is running updates from Andrew Feldman's blog on ESPN.

And I couldn't be happier.

Seriously, there might not be anything funnier than the comments on the blog debating the merits of Jerry Yang's call of Lee Watkinson's all in or his subsequent push into Lee Childs with J fucking 8.

Apparently, J8 is the nuts this year.

(P.S. - for those of you that caught my earlier post about a hiatus, I took it down for a reason, but I'll address that later.)

Monday, July 16, 2007

This Post Pretty Much Sucks

Not a whole lot of poker this weekend. Despite a limited bankroll, I decided to step up the stakes and play at the $10 SNG level. I don't notice a whole lot of difference in play between $5 and $10. I couldn't get things going though and proceeded to lose 6 straight games. Keep in mind, I haven't lost 6 straight in months. I just kept running into bigger hands or suckouts. 55 into 99. AQ into AK. JJ into 99 on a 9 high board. But I stuck with my plan, even though my bankroll was down to two buyins at this level, and finally sucked out a victory in my last game before bedtime. My bankroll still needs some more work, so I should jump back down to the $5 games, but it's hard knowing that I can play higher stakes but just can't afford too.

Just some thoughts about the Main Event. Pauly has a great story up abot Scotty Nguyen, and it makes me wish even more that he made the final table. Love him or hate him, you have to respect A) with four bracelets, the brotha has skill and B) it would've made the final table fun to watch again, unlike last year's.

When I'm watching a sporting event that I don't have any personal stake in, I tend to root for the underdog. There's just something more compelling about someone or some team overcoming the adversity of being picked to lose that I find interesting. But in poker, it's completely the opposite. I want the favorites to win. I root for the pros over the hotshot online pros or lucky internet qualifiers. This year, I want to see Lee Watkinson take this thing down.

I've seen him on TV a couple of times, and to most observers, he's probably boring. I'm sure ESPN would prefer someone like Matusow or Negreanu, but I like watching Watkinson play. He's quite, unassuming, but he has mad poker skills, and there's something about watching him stacking his chips, taking out player after player, without saying hardly a word.

Plus, I'm really hoping a pro takes it down. I was rooting for Allen Cunningham last year, and Watkinson this year. I think it adds some additional legitimacy to this game when a pro can take down a tournament like this. I'm sure everyone at that table has sucked out many times during the tournament, but I think it's a more compelling story that someone who makes a living playing poker wins the ME. I think there's a couple more professionals at the final table who don't have the history of success that Watkinson does, maybe some online pros or cash game players. But IMO, the ME needs a big name pro to win to help restore some prestige that's been lost from players like Gold, Moneymaker, and Varkonyi winning the title.

My focus this week is going to be on building my bankroll back up, via $5 SNGs, maybe a couple of $10 ones. I'll probably stay away from MTTs and blogger games for this week. GL to everyone this week.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Tournaments Suck Balls

That seems to be the refrain lately, unless you're one of these donkeys. But, I'm not a cash game expert, so I continue to fight these donkeys in the $28k. Took a stab again last night. Same story, same results, just a different fashion.

Started off at a table that featured the maniac of all maniacs. You know, the kind of guy who constantly overbets the pot, sometimes as badly as betting 1k into a 90 pot. His flop bets usually meant nothing, and I took a couple pots off him with JJ and again with 54 when I flopped an OESD that got there on the river.

Chipped up early when I got AQ in vs AT and AK vs AJ. Love it when people overplay their medium aces. Was running near the top 20 just before the 1st break, ended up somewhere in the late 30s.

Chipped up again when I flopped trips with 66 on an A high board. He played back at me on when the turn came a T. I really hoped he had AT, and with straight & flush possibilities, I decided not to slow play and repopped him. He asks if I have AA and folds it. Next hand, I raise it up, he calls again and folds to my flop bet. I show him AA. I know this is fucking with him and I'm hoping I can turn this into getting his whole stack, but I get moved to another table.

The new table has one of the big stacks so far, but I'm really not too far behind him. I'm not wary of anyone else, and I get quite a bit of AK-AJ to take down some pots. Chip up to a high point of 8200, good for somewhere in the 20-35 range at this stage of the game.

This is where things get aggravating.

Raise to 600 from CO+1 with JT, CO calls, button goes all in for 400 more. We both make the call. Flop comes T high with 2 clubs and I expect to check it down. CO bets 1k and I tank it for a bit. Did he flop a set? AT or KT? With no clubs, I'm easily beat, so I make what I think it a good lay down.

CO shows 55. There's no 5 on the board. WTF? What's worse, the all in shows 66. I lose a 3700 pot because of the redonkulous play of the button. Seriously, what was the purpose of that bet?

Chip up again to 7500, get TT in the BB. Folds to button, the bigstack, who limps, and SB raises 5x. He's about half my stack. I reraise to 2000, thinking that he can lay down a weak ace, or if I'm up against two overs or a pocket pair I'm ahead. Not really afraid of AA-JJ here. He tanks it and goes all in for 600 more. He shows AK. The A high flop seals the deal. I'm down to about 4k.

Between the JT hand and the TT hand, I start going on tilt. Not to the point where I start spewing chips, but I don't play very focused, and I make what was my only mistake of the game.

I play tight for a while until it folds to me in MP with T9o. When I play this, I'm really only trying to steal. Button calls and we go heads up.

Flop is K high, two clubs. I have no clubs. My hand is dead, and the only way I win this pot is on a bluff. I slide the betting scale over, primed to c-bet and take the pot down, when, from out of nowhere, my inner wussness takes over, and I check it. We check it down and the buttons A9h is good. A c-bet takes this down, and I knew it, but I second guessed myself and decided not to put any more of my lowstack in, even though a c-bet is the right play here.

Down to about 2600, I get the lovely JackAce sooted a couple hands later and raise to 1000. One of the buttons call. Flop is J high. The rest is automatic. He calls my push and shows AK. Nice! I flop a 3 outer and take a dominating lead.

Turn is a pointless Ace.

River is a K.

Fucking gross.

I start shaking with anger. The final stomach punch. I go out in I don't even fucking know or care.

For the past two MTTs, I've been very pleased with my play. I've only made 1-2 costly mistakes per MTT, and when I say costly, I mean costly to a point - I'm not busting out on mistakes. The mistakes have been damaging but not crippling.

I was really surprised when I realized how much those two hands bothered me. I didn't even realize it until it was afterwards. I let the "what ifs" get to me. What if my TT holds up? What if the JT hand gets checked down like it should have been! That puts me at about 16-18k and in great position. I had a decent read on the table, knowing who to play back at and who to be cautious with. But the cards weren't there tonight, and I just couldn't recover.

I'm feeling good about my MTT play and I know that I'm going to find success sometime, hopefully soon. However, my bankroll isn't where I'd like it to be. I'm gonna focus on some SNGs later today, then give poker a break for the weekend. I need to get some rest and refocus, then work on my shortcomings.

A HUGE shout out to Alan for railing me during this thing. It was a lot of fun chatting it up - if only you could have pointed out my need to c-bet that shit sooner! It's all good - I gotta get past mental lapses like that. Thanks again, brotha.

If you made it this far, thanks and have a good weekend!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

He Had A Read On My Play

Getting closer to that elusive final table. Here's how I went out in the $28k tonight:

Full Tilt Poker Game #2912142515: $28,000 Guarantee (21695655), Table 93 - 300/600 Ante 75 - No Limit Hold'em - 0:37:46 ET - 2007/07/11
Seat 1: hothand01 (24,355)
Seat 2: josephclymer (10,800)
Seat 3: ZeroKool74 (12,410)
Seat 4: chenti (9,437)
Seat 5: PowerMaster (2,105)
Seat 6: Skillzmatix (9,885)
Seat 7: th1 (10,325)
Seat 8: mclarich (14,920)
Seat 9: Gameboy55112 (10,555)
th1 posts the small blind of 300
mclarich posts the big blind of 600
The button is in seat #6
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to mclarich [5d Ac]
Gameboy55112 folds
hothand01 folds
josephclymer folds
ZeroKool74 folds
chenti folds
PowerMaster folds
Skillzmatix has 15 seconds left to act
Skillzmatix raises to 2,222
th1 folds
mclarich raises to 14,845, and is all in
Skillzmatix calls 7,588, and is all in
mclarich shows [5d Ac]
Skillzmatix shows [As 8c]
Uncalled bet of 5,035 returned to mclarich
*** FLOP *** [Qh Jd 2s]
*** TURN *** [Qh Jd 2s] [5c]
*** RIVER *** [Qh Jd 2s 5c] [8d]
mclarich shows a pair of Fives
Skillzmatix shows a pair of Eights
Skillzmatix wins the pot (20,595) with a pair of Eights

He had raised from the button a couple of times, so I put him on a button steal and figured I could get him to fold. Apparently, calling with A8 is pretty much like calling with AA. And not just calling. Instacalling. Nice little suck-resuck to top things off.

I still had a small stack and picked up a pair on the very next hand. Notice the chat in this hand:

Full Tilt Poker Game #2912149293: $28,000 Guarantee (21695655), Table 93 - 300/600 Ante 75 - No Limit Hold'em - 0:38:30 ET - 2007/07/11
Seat 1: hothand01 (24,280)
Seat 2: josephclymer (10,725)
Seat 3: ZeroKool74 (12,335)
Seat 4: chenti (9,362)
Seat 5: PowerMaster (2,030)
Seat 6: Skillzmatix (20,595)
Seat 7: th1 (9,950)
Seat 8: mclarich (5,035)
Seat 9: Gameboy55112 (10,480)
mclarich posts the small blind of 300
Gameboy55112 posts the big blind of 600
The button is in seat #7
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to mclarich [Ts Th]
hothand01 folds
josephclymer folds
ZeroKool74 raises to 1,200
mclarich: lol quick call for all your chips
chenti folds
PowerMaster folds
Skillzmatix: my button
Skillzmatix has 15 seconds left to act
Skillzmatix folds
th1 folds
mclarich raises to 4,960, and is all in
Gameboy55112 folds
ZeroKool74 calls 3,760
mclarich shows [Ts Th]
ZeroKool74 shows [4s 4h]
*** FLOP *** [Ac Jd 4d]
Skillzmatix: plus i hada read on your play
*** TURN *** [Ac Jd 4d] [2h]
*** RIVER *** [Ac Jd 4d 2h] [Ks]
mclarich shows a pair of Tens
ZeroKool74 shows three of a kind, Fours
ZeroKool74 wins the pot (11,195) with three of a kind, Fours
mclarich stands up

He had a read on my play? Seriously? The ONLY hands I showed down at the table while he was there were Q7d and AJh. Q7d I tried to steal from the CO and a shorty (less than 3xBB) called from the button with A4, I hit a Q on the river. The AJ hand I pushed 7x a min-raise from the same guy who took me out on the last hand. He instacalls with 55 but I flop an A to double up. Everyone folded to any of my other preflop raises.

So, based on those two hands, he thinks he's got a read on me and risks his life with A8. To his credit, if he put me on A7 or worse, then all the credit goes to him for making an excellent, outstanding, and skillful read.

But seriously? Calling all in with A8? Un-fucking-real. I should have been at 35k and in the top 20. Instead, I go home in back to back hands.

Nevertheles, this was probably my best played tournament to date. Played selectively aggressive, and got the cards I needed to survive. Went the whole tournament with no pair bigger than JJ, AK 2x, and AQ once (sooted, hit the nuts on the turn). I really only made one mistake. I thought I could push someone off of a hand, so I reraised preflop with J-high and c-bet a 942, two club flop. Apparently, that flop hit him somehow and he reraises me. That takes me from 11k to 6500 just before the break. You know the rest of the story.

I should be fighting for the final table right now. But I'm not discouraged. I'm completely happy with my play. Argue the A5 push if you will, but I had a read and went with it. I'll argue until I'm blue in the face that his A8 call was much, much worse than my A5 push.

I'll try this again on Thursday. Let's hope it gets better.

Monday, July 09, 2007

A Thinly Veiled Plea To The Poker Gods (Or, How I'm Becoming the 2nd Best Poker Player In My Household)

I get a call at work Friday afternoon from the girlfriend. She's home early, and I'm stuck at work until 6pm. She wants to pass the time by playing a game of poker.

My girlfriend is getting into online poker. I love this.

I come home to find my girlfriend at the computer, legs up on the desk, clicking away at the mouse. Nothing could be sexier.

"How are you doing, babe?"

I look at the screen and she's down to three players (it was a $2.25 SNG). She's at 10k. The other stacks are at 2k & 1k.

She even played the hammer and turned a boat. My girlfriend is turning into a poker juggernaut.

She asked to play again on Saturday, together. A $2.25 Turbo. We get down to five players with the chip lead.

Then we run JJ into a stealer's KK.

Then we fold KQs after two all-ins, only to see we would've flopped top pair w\ a flush draw, turned two pair, and rivered a boat (the all in's were KTo and AJo).

We steal some more, but the blinds are rising fast.

We chip down to a shortstack when I convice my girlfriend that we need to call an all-in with 22 despite the fact that calling puts us all in. My reasoning is that we fold and we're less than 2 BBs. I'd rather call with a pair then push with J6.

The raiser has 77 and we go home on the bubble.

The girlfriend says next time, she's rather take her chances with J6. Who am I to argue?

Not much else poker wise this weekend. Took down a $11 SNG to help pad the bankroll. Lost a $6.50 Turbo when I couldn't win a race for the life of me. AJ loses to QT when he rivers a straight. Q9 loses to 73o. I get shortstacked and have to push with 43 into an equal stack's BB and he calls for almost all his chips with T7 sooted. He wins with Ten fucking high. Bastard.

Thanks again to the comments on my last post. Just for the record, once again, I am not one to advocate folding QQ preflop very often, especially on a $5 MT SNG. The intent for my post was to gauge how often people make laydowns like that based on instinct or gut feeling. I agree with all comments that I should've pushed, despite the fact that I would have ended up busting out. Considering I finished well short of the money, the results would've been the same either way.

One of the holes in my game is a lack of concentration or focus at all times. The QQ hand was an example of that. Contrary to Waffles' suggestion, I didn't fold out of fear that I would lose, I folded because I let this idea that I was going to lose override common poker sense. It's the same problem that lead me to misplaying a hand in the Mookie so badly that it tilted me. It's the same problem that leads me to unsuccessfully trying to be tricky in a blogger game in the wrong circumstances.

I feel like there's only one solution to this problem: a significant MTT victory. Whether it be a blogger game, something like the $26k, or even a live MTT victory, I need something to give me that extra boost of confidence. This clarity problem, IMO, is directly tied to confidence. I'm able to do well in the micro SNGs because I know the style of play very well, and I'm confident that each time I "sit down" at the table, I am the best player there, and I play as such.

When I play the MTTs and the blogger games, I don't have the same confidence. I get too caught up in wanting to play well that I end up not playing well anyways. I make big laydowns when I should be pushing, and I make too many crying calls when I just need to fold. I limp when I should raise and I bet when I should be checking a free card. It's really quite amazing how my poker playing changes between a $5 SNG and a blogger game.

I do feel like my game has improved over the last year or so, even despite the fact that I'm playing at least 50% less than I used to. But I really haven't had any tangible achievements, and without that, all this improvement means nothing. I really do believe that, on my best day, I can compete against players better than me. But without proof of that, I'm just the little donk that could.

I have to skip the MATH this week. I'll try to token or satellite into a couple of tournaments on Tues & Thurs. Might try to play the Mookie too, if my plans this Wednesday fall through. 3 nights of MTT might be a little too much for the girlfriend. Then again, as much as she's enjoying poker lately, it might not be enough!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Trying This Again

Thanks for the comments to my last post, everyone. All ZERO of you. Eh, I guess it would help if I actually had regular readers, or interesting posts. Oh well, no hard feelings.

Seriously though, if you are reading this, I do have a much more serious poker question. This hand came up last night as I was playing a 90-player SNG. Here's the scenario.

Table is down to 8 players, about midway through the tournament. Your Hero is in the BB with about 2600, just under the starting stack. Biggest stack at the table is about 6500, sitting in MP. Blinds are at 50\100 so you still have time before you need to get desperate.

You pick up QQ in the big blind. UTG, who is the shortest stack at about 1700, raises it up to 350. Background on UTG player: was shortstacked to about 800 a couple of hands ago, doubled when he open pushed with JJ and got called by AT. Was open pushing nearly every UTG hand when his stack was 800.

Folds to bigstack in MP who repops to 1200. Folds to you in the BB. What do you do?

Here's the bigger question. Well, first, let me tell you what I did.

I folded.

The question I have is about my reasoning. First, I knew that UTG was going all in, and most likely had some kind of pair. Second, I knew that MP would call both my all in and UTGs all in. Third, I was about 98% sure that MP had AK. His bet sized seemed designed to force out any other callers, so it seemed unlikely he had anything lower than JJ. I put his range on AA-JJ, AK & AQ. Specifically though, what little I had seen from this player, he definitely seemed like the kind you see at these $5 tables; the kind that loves AK. It's the nuts to them.

I folded because, even though I felt I was a clear favorite (albeit a slight one) with a chance to nearly triple up, that I didn't want to risk my tournament life on a coin flip in a multiway pot, and additionally, there was something in my gut that told me I was going to lose. So I folded and waited for a better spot.

Would you do the same? The question isn't about folding QQ preflop to a bet and a raise. My question is more about: are there times when you would fold this hand, even though you're a clear favorite, because you want to wait for a better spot? Obviously, there's times where bubble play may dictate that even folding AA makes sense, but this wasn't anywhere near the bubble. This was fold made almost purely on instinct, and the fact that I didn't want to play this against two all ins. What's funny is that if the UTG hadn't raised, I probably would have pushed when it folded to me. So my opponents actions dictated that I was going to fold the hand, but only to the point that I knew I was getting callers if I pushed. If I could've taken the hand heads up, I would have made a different decision.

Perhaps I'm being too results based here as well, because here's what happened:

Flop: JhTd9d (AK was suited-diamonds)
Turn: Qh
River: 2c

I push that hand and I go home. I didn't expect that AK would have turned the nuts, but I had the feeling that AK was going to improve. In most cases, that's a bad way to play poker. Ideally, you want to get your chips all in with the best hand, but when you just have that feeling that it's not going to work out, how many of you would fold a premium hand like this just based on a gut feeling?

All feedback is welcome and appreciated.

Monday, July 02, 2007

MATH Is Hard

Played the MATH again last night. Fared a little bit better than the last time, but never got my stack past $4k. I'm not completely happy with my play - based on the hands I got tonight, I feel like I should've been able to chip up a little bit more. So, I'm going to post some hands for review; any and all feedback is welcome.

Hand #1
This first hand was the second one I played, after picking up KK and reraising fluxer's EP raise.

Seat 1: mclarich (3,090)
Seat 2: bayne_s (2,455)
Seat 3: IslandBum1 (2,635)
Seat 4: hoyazo (3,150)
Seat 5: DDionysus (3,245)
Seat 6: columbo (2,700)
Seat 7: fluxer (3,710)
Seat 8: a104l9 (3,015)
fluxer posts the small blind of 20
a104l9 posts the big blind of 40
The button is in seat #6
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to mclarich [Ts Td]
mclarich raises to 125
bayne_s folds
IslandBum1 calls 125
hoyazo folds
DDionysus folds
columbo folds
fluxer folds
a104l9 folds
*** FLOP *** [5d 8s 5c]
mclarich bets 200
IslandBum1 raises to 520
mclarich calls 320

This figures to be a good flop for me. When IslandBum1 reraises me, I narrow his range down to 66-QQ and maybe 67. I don't see him holding a 5, and AA\KK seem unlikely given the flat call preflop. The possibilty of a flopped boat crosses my mind. Would anyone lay this down at this point?

*** TURN *** [5d 8s 5c] [Qh]
mclarich checks
IslandBum1 checks

IMO, his check on the turn is consistent with the range I've assigned him. I beat 4 of those hands, only an underdog to 88, JJ, & QQ, although those do seem to be more likely.

*** RIVER *** [5d 8s 5c Qh] [2c]
mclarich checks
IslandBum1 bets 400
mclarich calls 400
*** SHOW DOWN ***
IslandBum1 shows [8h 8d] a full house, Eights full of Fives
mclarich mucks

A more disciplined player makes that laydown, but if I'm sticking to the assigned range, the 400 is an easy call. But the fact that he's making a river bet should have signaled that 88 or QQ is a bigger possibility than any of the hands I can beat. Does anyone else lay this down on the river?

I get moved to another table with Lucko, Mookie, & Astin, among others. Only Mookie would know who I'm am at this table. I'm somewhat familiar with Mookie's style, I know to beware of Lucko, and according to others, Astin is a card rack. So with what information I have, a fresh image and new faces, I gather myself together and get back to my game.

Hand #2
Very 1st hand at the new table, I pick up another pair: 44.

Seat 2: lucko21 (3,440)
Seat 4: mookie99 (3,210)
Seat 5: Maudie (2,815)
Seat 6: GCox25 (3,045)
Seat 7: Astin (5,725)
Seat 8: jeciimd (2,780)
Seat 9: mclarich (2,045)
Maudie posts the small blind of 20
GCox25 posts the big blind of 40
The button is in seat #4
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to mclarich [4s 4h]
Astin folds
jeciimd folds
mclarich raises to 120
lucko21 folds
mookie99 folds
Maudie folds
GCox25 calls 80
*** FLOP *** [8s 6d 7h]
GCox25 checks
mclarich bets 160
GCox25 calls 160

Of course, the flop comes all overs, but IMO this isn't a scary flop. I should be able to figure out where I stand fairly easy. GCox25's call tells me that I should be wary.

*** TURN *** [8s 6d 7h] [Ah]
GCox25 checks
mclarich checks

I'll take a free card, sure.

*** RIVER *** [8s 6d 7h Ah] [5c]
GCox25 checks
mclarich bets 240
GCox25 calls 240
*** SHOW DOWN ***
mclarich shows [4s 4h] a straight, Eight high
GCox25 mucks
mclarich wins the pot (1,060) with a straight, Eight high
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 1,060 | Rake 0
Board: [8s 6d 7h Ah 5c]
Seat 6: GCox25 (big blind) mucked [Ad Kd] - a pair of Aces
Seat 9: mclarich showed [4s 4h] and won (1,060) with a straight, Eight high

The question I have here is my river bet. I should figure my straight is good, but being on the ass end of it, I'm not going to get too crazy with the betting. I bet 240 into a 600 pot - is that too big, or am I leaving chips on the table?

Hand #3
A little bit later, I pick up everyone's favorite: JJ

Seat 2: lucko21 (3,560)
Seat 4: mookie99 (3,170)
Seat 5: Maudie (2,965)
Seat 6: GCox25 (2,445)
Seat 7: Astin (5,675)
Seat 8: jeciimd (2,720)
Seat 9: mclarich (2,525)
mookie99 posts the small blind of 20
Maudie posts the big blind of 40
The button is in seat #2
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to mclarich [Jd Jh]
GCox25 folds
Astin folds
jeciimd raises to 140
mclarich calls 140
lucko21 folds
mookie99 calls 120
Maudie calls 100
*** FLOP *** [3h Th Qd]
mookie99 checks
Maudie checks
jeciimd bets 300
mclarich folds
mookie99 folds
Maudie folds
Uncalled bet of 300 returned to jeciimd
jeciimd mucks
jeciimd wins the pot (560)

With an EP raise and two people to act after me, this is a clear fold IMO. Anyone disagree? Any thoughts of a reraise to gauge where we're at? Jeciimd's is 300 into a 560 pot - based on his bet and our position, I don't see how I can call.

Hand #4
A couple hands later, I pick up my second KK of the night:

Seat 2: lucko21 (3,660)
Seat 4: mookie99 (2,955)
Seat 5: Maudie (2,805)
Seat 6: GCox25 (2,335)
Seat 7: Astin (5,650)
Seat 8: jeciimd (3,195)
Seat 9: mclarich (2,460)
GCox25 posts the small blind of 25
Astin posts the big blind of 50
The button is in seat #5
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to mclarich [Kd Kh]
jeciimd folds
mclarich raises to 175
lucko21 folds
mookie99 folds
Maudie folds
GCox25 raises to 575
Astin folds
mclarich has 15 seconds left to act
mclarich raises to 1,850
GCox25 folds
Uncalled bet of 1,275 returned to mclarich
mclarich mucks
mclarich wins the pot (1,200)

From what I can recall, this is the first time I've played GCox; based the way he played the AK hand, and from what I've read on other's blogs, he's got a reputation for being tight. Knowing this, in hindsight it may have been better to see a flop, but at the time, I didn't want to play KK out of position, especially in the event of an A high flop. Nevertheless, my question is: was my reraise too big? I reraise about 3.5x his reraise, and leave about 400 or so behind me. How many people would smooth call and see the flop?

Hand #5
Later, I get another favorite hand of a certain blogger:

Seat 2: lucko21 (6,325)
Seat 4: mookie99 (3,305)
Seat 6: GCox25 (1,955)
Seat 7: Astin (5,790)
Seat 8: jeciimd (2,655)
Seat 9: mclarich (3,030)
lucko21 posts the small blind of 40
mookie99 posts the big blind of 80
The button is in seat #9
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to mclarich [Th 8h]
GCox25 raises to 160
Astin folds
jeciimd folds
mclarich calls 160
lucko21 calls 120
mookie99 calls 80

In position with suited connectors and just a minraise. Easy call.

*** FLOP *** [Jh 8c 5h]
lucko21 checks
mookie99 checks
GCox25 checks
mclarich bets 480
lucko21 folds
mookie99 folds
GCox25 calls 480

I'm not worried about top pair with everyone checking, so I lead out with a bet. I'm happy to take down the pot here; instead, I get a call from GCox again.

*** TURN *** [Jh 8c 5h] [Qs]
GCox25 checks
mclarich has 15 seconds left to act
mclarich bets 1,040
GCox25 folds
Uncalled bet of 1,040 returned to mclarich
mclarich mucks
mclarich wins the pot (1,600)

I pick up straight draw outs with the Q on the turn. Combine that with GCox's check, and a bet seems like the right move. Again, the question is: Is my bet too big? 1040 into 1600 is just about 2\3rds. Am I committing myself too much with that bet - would a smaller bet do the trick there?

Hand #6
This is a hand that I was fairly proud of:

Seat 1: BuddyDank (2,240)
Seat 2: lucko21 (6,860)
Seat 3: Rake Feeder (5,100)
Seat 4: mookie99 (2,345)
Seat 5: TripJax (3,805)
Seat 7: Astin (7,300)
Seat 8: jeciimd (1,995)
Seat 9: mclarich (2,820)
BuddyDank posts the small blind of 80
lucko21 posts the big blind of 160
The button is in seat #9
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to mclarich [8c 6c]
Rake Feeder folds
mookie99 folds
TripJax raises to 400
Astin folds
jeciimd folds
mclarich calls 400
BuddyDank folds
lucko21 folds

Suited connectors, in position, easy call.

*** FLOP *** [2d 9d 5s]
TripJax checks
mclarich checks

Not a good flop for me at all - with just a gutshot, it's an easy check.

*** TURN *** [2d 9d 5s] [3c]
TripJax bets 600
mclarich raises to 1,600
TripJax folds
Uncalled bet of 1,000 returned to mclarich
mclarich mucks
mclarich wins the pot (2,240)

When TripJax bets 600 into a pot of 1040 after checking the flop, it seems weak to me. Plus, the 3 gives me two chances at a gutshot, so I take a chance and try to push him off the pot.

Unfortunately, that was the last brilliant move of the night. The wheels came off shortly thereafter. Called a raise with JJ only to fold to a CO push. Threw away 500 more chips with a steal attempt with K9 that I have to fold to BuddyDank's button push. Doubled up jeciimd with J7 when I thought my middle pair might have been good; I was way off. Topped it off when I pushed T7 into a shorty's blind, only to get called by KK and QQ.

I know I've got some leaks in my game, especially when it comes to bet sizing. It seems like in most recent MTTs I struggle to build a big stack. I'm not getting paid off on my big hands, and I wonder if I'm just pushing people off the pot too much. Once again, I appreciate any and all comments & criticism.