The Big Blind Trap
I seem to be slowly turning my bad luck around. I managed to win a few online tournaments lately, and I seem to be playing better for the most part. The one thing that seems to be standing between me and fat rolls of cash is the big blind trap. It will be later on in a tournament, and I'll be in the lower half of the chip leaders, trying to grind out a place in the money, or hoping for a monster hand to double up on, when I end up on the big blind. Its not that I mind having to put in chips for what inevitably ends up beeing garbage cards that irritates me, its that I end up playing average cards and getting sucked into a bad play when they hit on the flop.
For example, the last tournament I was in, there were five of us left, and I was the shortest stack, but I still had enough chips to survive a few more rounds of blinds. The guy to my left pretty much raised every hand, and no one had been able to make him pay for it since he was the chip leader by far. The only way I had been able to defend my blinds from him so far was to go all in pre-flop, which would get him to fold. I was just waiting for the time when he actually had cards and busted me. Every once in while he would fold before making his pre-flop raise, and this time, I was in the big blind with [K 4] so I appreciated when he did. Second position called, and the other two players folded, so I got to see a flop for free. The flop was [K 7 8]. I hit top pair so I bet, and the other guy raises. I figure I'm probably out kicked here, but that bet I made leaves me with not much left to work with if I fold, so I risk it and go all in. Maybe he thinks I missed the flop and is trying to bully me.
Wrong. He has pocket rockets, and I don't hit another king of four, so I am done. The worst part about this, is that I probably wouldn't have played the hand had I not been in the big blind, and gotten to see the flop for free. I think one of the worst things to happen is to be in the big blind and hit a medium hand on the flop, because more times than not you end up paying for it. Sometimes I think I should just fold those hands right off the bat. I don't know. I think if I had checked on the flop there, he would have continued to slow play me, there's no way I could have passed up a bet on the turn in that situation, so I was screwed either way.
Rounders Collectors Edition DVD
I picked up the Rounders Collectors Edition
on DVD from Amazon a while ago. I was especially proud of myself for this because I'm usually the sucker that buys the normal version of a movie three days before the special edition comes out, and that usually irritates me. I always feel like I'm getting screwed because I'm missing out on all the bonus features and commentary and what not that comes with the "collectors edition" versions of movies. Its not like I actually ever watch any of the extras, when I do have them, but its nice to know I could if I wanted to.
So I haven't seen the movie since I really started playing poker seriously, and I was amazed at how much extra stuff I picked up on. My wife was watching with me and she made the comment that while she got the general idea, she had no idea what they were talking about half the time. Anyways, its a good movie, and I'd recommend picking it up if you either haven't seen it, or its been a while since the last time you have.
Oh, and have I watched any of the special features that came with this DVD? Of coarse not.
There is a new poker site out there just in case you needed a 752nd place to play. Its affiliated with/promoted by Gus Hansen, who you've probably seen on the World Poker Tour. The site features a 4x4 screen, which allows you to play at up to four tables at once. Other sites allow you to do that, but this one combines four tables into one window. The site is still in its beta period, but it looks like they have a lot of players and they are running a ton of freeroles so it might be worth checking out. They also have some crazy pyramid scheme like affiliate/referral program, so if you sign up and it asks for a player name that referred you, hook me up and put down mjmillr2.Poker Champs
Harrah's Announces 2005 World Series of Poker Schedule
Press release from Harrahs. Apparently the WSOP is going to be more like a touring league this year, kind of like racing or golf (I don't really follow either of those sports so that's just a guess). Anyone with enough cash for the entrance fee can enter any event, but the 100 players with the most points get to play in the Tournament of Champions at the end of the year with a $2,000,000 top prize.
ESPN is going to be airing the events, so they should get new poker shows to air somewhat frequently, rather than just showing the same 20 episodes every day.
I wonder if this will have an effect on any of the other tours/tournaments, such as the World Poker Tour. Maybe people will abandon those just to play in the WSOP full time. Maybe people will start getting burned out.
Interesting thread on Slashdot
about whether programmers make better poker players since they tend to have better than average analytical and math skills. I think the simple answer is that yes anyone with those skills would make a better player than someone without those skills but it takes a lot more than that. You need to be able to read opponents, adjust your play based on position, or the size of the blinds etc. link
The Poker Gods are Mocking Me
I've been on a bit of a losing streak lately. It's not that bad, I expect some minor fluctuations in my performance over time, but I seriously like someone is messing with now. I decided to play a $5 sit and go today, because I was bored, and not confident enough to risk a lot of money.
First hand of the tournament, I'm in the big blind and get dealt good ole' 7-2. Its not that big of a deal. I'd prefer to get something playable when I'm in the blind, but I'm not going to complain. The blind is only $20 at this point. I fully expect to fold, but then something odd happens. Everyone calls to me, so I just check. I probably would have been better off just folding there but no one's going to fold when they can see free cards. The flop comes 2-8-7. I've flopped two pair. I have the worst starting hand in poker, but its looking pretty good now. I bet $50, I get one caller, and the guy on the button raises to $100. I put him on a pocket pair, or maybe two overcards, so I call. The flop is a queen. He bets $200, and I call. The turn is an Ace. I check, and he checks. Turns out he flopped two pair also, but his eights and sevens beat my sevens and twos. I think that's the closest I came to winning a pot that tournament.
So I try again. After a while, I get dealt AQ suited, and raise pre-flop. I get a few callers. The flop is Q-4-8 so I bet. I get one caller. The turn is another four, and the river a third heart. When I get raised on the river I figure he has a flush, but I call anyway. He actually had K-4, and made trips on the turn. I guess I should have bet more heavily to get him to fold, but with top pair and top kicker, I was reasonably confident that I didn't want anyone to fold.
The next hand I get dealt Q-7 suited, and contemplate going all in, but convince myself that I am on tilt and that I should fold. Now, I maintain that that was the correct play, however, the flop was 10-K-A and the turn was a Jack. Had I played the hand though, I'm pretty sure that Jack would have been a three or something. That's pretty much how the hands I didn't play went all night. I would get 6-4, and the flop would be 4-7-6 or I would have 2-3 and the flop would be 2-3-4. It was ridiculous.
Congratulations Red Sox
I'm a die hard Cubs fan so I feel like I can sympathize with the Red Sox and their fans. I also hate the Yankees, so I am almost always rooting for whoever is playing them. I was really worried that I might have to choose between the Yankees and either the Cardinals or the Astros, but fortunately, Boston pulled it out. Of coarse, this doesn't mean the curse is over. If I was a betting man, and now that I think of it, I am, I would bet that the ex Red Sox Roger Clemens manages to beat them in game 7 of the World Series in front of a continually disappointed Boston crowd. We'll see. As we Cubs fans always say, wait til next year.
At least I have the Bears to get me through the winter. :( UGH. Its going to be a long long winter for sports fans in these parts.
Maybe I'm not so good at poker
So the big tournament was last night, and it turns out, maybe I'm not as good of a poker player as I thought. On Friday we were told that there were 19 confirmed players, with possibly as many as 26. The most we got for any of the games was 16, but that's not too bad. I've learned there is never as many people as there is supposed to be. I ended up playing in four games, and it wasn't pretty.
Game 1. 15 Person Two Table Tournament
Things were going ok in this one. I everyone was staying pretty much even. I know I was hovering around the starting chip count for a while. We reached the third level of blinds and I get a pair of threes in the big blind. I check and three or four people see the flop. The flop comes [J Q J] I don't recall the suits. I check, a couple others check, and the dealer bets. I call. I figure only a pocket pair, or Jack or Queen beats me now, and since bettor didn't bet that high, I don't think he has it. I think he was bluffing since everyone else showed weakness. The turn is another Jack, leaving [J Q J J] on the board. So now I have a full house. I'm feeling pretty good, and bet 3x the big blind. Everyone folds except the dealer, who thinks about it for a while, then calls. The river is Queen. So now we have [J Q J J Q] on the board. My full house just got wiped out in favor of the cards on the board. Now the only thing that beats me is a pocket Jack or Queen, or wired Kings or Aces. I'm pretty sure he has none of those, based on how he was betting so I go all in. My thought was, worst case he calls and we split the pot, best case he folds and I get it flat out. Well he thought for a long time, then called. He was afraid I had the last Jack, because he had an extra queen to give him Queens over Jacks. So I'm the first one out and have a few hours to wait for the next game to start. Yay.
Game 2. 6 Person Single Table Tournament - Losers Game
Once they consolidated down to one table, a few of us that had been eliminated started up a side game at the other table. We started with half the chips because we wanted it to go quickly and end at about the same time as the main tournament. Again, I was hovering around the starting chip count, when tragedy struck. I was the dealer, and dealt myself a pair of Jacks. I made a big pre-flop raise. I'm not quite comfortable playing Jacks. It seems like an Ace, King or Queen always comes up on the flop and scares me away. I bet big to narrow down the field, and it worked. I only had one caller. The flop was [A 10 A] and he goes all in. I don't know what I was thinking here, because I called. I was perfectly reasonable to think that he had any of the following hands that would have beaten me: a pair of Kings, or Queens, any Ace, or a pair of Tens. I guess I was hoping that he just had two high cards, or a low pair, or a single Ten, and was bluffing at the pot. Turns out he did have a lower pocket pair than I did. Unfortunately, it was a pair of Tens, which gave him the boat. So far I've come in last, and second to last. At this rate, only about 10 more games before I'm in the money.
Game 3. 16 Person Two Table Tournament
Things went a little better in this one. Five or Six people went out before me. Again though, I couldn't win that big pot that would allow me to start playing more aggressively. I was getting horrible cards, and when I got decent cards, I would miss the flop completely, and not have the balls to try to bluff at it. I'm in the big blind for $100. Position one calls, and position two goes all in for $70 more. I've got about $250 left, and [A 7] in my hand. For $70 more, I think its worth a shot, but, I don't want to go up against the guy in the first position, so I go all in over the top, hoping he'll fold. He doesn't. Player one has [K J], player two has [A J], and I'm not looking so good with [A 7] . On the plus side, if an Ace hits, I probably end up about even, since I lose some to the small stack, but win the side pot. I pair my Seven on the flop, but player one, pairs his King, and the turn and river bring no help, so player one knocks us both out. I'm not too upset with my play there. I think I made the right play, it just didn't work out so well.
Game 4. 9 Person Single Table Tournament
Its only a quarter after eleven when the third game ends, so I decide to play another game. There's only 9 of us left so we play at one big table. Its looking like more of the same in this one. I can't hit a flop to save my life, and my chip count is dwindling. Just when I think all is lost, I look down at my hand, and see a pair of Aces looking back. I'm not quite sure how to play this. People have been calling some big preflop raises, but usually people always seem to fold when I raise. I bet $75 on a 15/30 blind, and get three callers, which concerns me. The flop is [Q 10 7] two suited, and the player in first position bets $100. Second player calls, third folds. At this point I'm convinced that one of them made a set because that's how my day has been going. I go all in over the top, and they both call. The turn brings a Two, and so does the river, and they check it down. Now I figure with my luck one of them had a Two, and picked up a set on the river. Fortunately, my aces stood up, and I more than triple up. Woo hoo. About time.
Things are going pretty well and we are down to four people. Top three get paid. Chip counts keep fluctuating as people keep going all in, and either not getting called, or the shorter stack wins the faceoff. I try to stay out of it as much as possible, hoping one of them will just finally lose. As a side note, at this point one of the guys that was eliminated, decides to order some porn from the host's cable company which really pisses off the host and puts him on tilt. He was the chip leader, but shortly becomes short stacked, as he stops concentrating to yell at his friend. It was quite comical. My final hand of the night comes when I get [A Q] suited. I go all in. I get one caller, and he turns over [A 2]. He says he figured I had an Ace, but the wheel had been good to him so he had to call. Plus he was in the big blind. He hits a two on the flop, and none of the other queens come out to play, so I manage to finish just out of the money.
Stupid poker. Why do I play this game again? The worst part is that I'm pretty sure I know the biggest flaw in my game, I just can't seem to do anything about it when the chips are on the table. Whenever I get a good but not great hand, and someone goes over the top of me, I think they are bluffing, and can't possibly have a better hand than me. I really need to learn that often they have me beat and if I fold, I can live to play another hand. That mistake cost me those first two games. I'd say lesson learned, but I'll have to wait until next game to see if I really learned it.
My Co-Workers Are Lame
How hard is it to get six people together for a poker game? Apparently its pretty hard because the best we could do four people today, so we cancelled it. We even got a returning player who refused to play with us because he thought we were too good and he was too unlucky, but no one else wanted to play. Even a few of the regulars backed out. People need to reevaluate their priorities.
I had to settle for a $5 sit and go at PokerRoom.com
. That worked out ok be because I managed to win it, but it had to be the longest single table tournament I've played online. I won't bore you with hand histories, because I don't really remember anything too exciting happening. I flopped a straight early on and some guy kept betting into me, so I was up most of the event. By playing single table sit and goes, I've almost recovered from my stupid low-limit losses. If I ever get up enough, maybe I'll try no-limit ring games.
I am going to be able to make the big tournament in the city on Saturday after all. We're going to see the movie tomorrow instead. I'll let you know how that turns out. Should be fun.
Finally Beat Doom III
Well, I finally beat Doom III last night. This should please the regular readers of my blog, or reader (hi John), since the game was seriously cutting into my online poker playing time, thus not giving me much to write about. At least the live games have been occurring somewhat more regularly. There's going to be an office game tomorrow if we can get enough people, and a multi-table tournament in Chicago this weekend. This time it actually will be multi-table, not that crap last week. Although if I couldn't beat 10 people, I don't know why I think I would have done better against 15-20.
I've run into somewhat of a dilemma with this weekend game. See, my wife's brother worked on the Team America: World Police
movie, and she wants to go out with a big group of people to see it on Saturday. I just realized that the two things are on the same day. Now, this might be the first time that I have ever managed to book something with my friends, before she makes plans for us. My friends and I are last minute planners, and she plans stuff way in advance, which means I'm usually already busy when someone decides they want a weekend poker game. So I think I should be allowed to go to the game, and she should not be upset, but I also fear I'm going to get the "Its family and we need to support him, and you play too much poker" spiel. Its not that I don't want to see the movie, it looks pretty good, its just that I've been looking forward to this tournament for a long time. I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow. Hopefully we can see the movie on Friday, and I can play poker on Saturday, and win her lots of money to spend on antiques on Sunday. Then everyone wins.
One last thing. For Yahoo! users, you can add a feed of this site to your My Y! page, by clicking on the Y!+ link on the right. Pretty cool huh?
The Saturation Point of Poker
I new season of Celebrity Poker Showdown
started on Sunday, and I missed it. They went and changed days on me. I think this is by far the best poker show on TV as far as entertainment value. Phil Gordon and Dave Foley are the best commentators around, and guests are always entertaining. Anyways, I missed it, and I'm disappointed, but that's not the point.
The point is that I was watching Monday Night Football, this evening, just minding my own business, flipping channels during commercials, and I stumble upon the Poker Superstars Invitational on Fox Sports Net. At this point I realize that Poker is on at least four nights a week, and probably more. ESPN keeps replaying the World Series on Tuesdays, there's the celebrity show on Sundays, Poker Superstars on Monday, and Travel Channel's World Poker tour, on Wednesday I think. Not that I really mind, because I'll sit and watch poker just about anytime that it's on, but at what point does it become too much? Sooner or later the general public will get sick of seeing poker at every turn, and will stop watching, which means the networks will stop showing it. It is possible that we've already reached that point. So what is the next big trend, and when is it going to kick in" Or maybe we have the fifth big sport. Baseball, Football, Basketball, Hockey(I guess) and Poker.
I guess I should be happy that more and more people are being exposed to poker, because it will bring more players to the game and theoretically I should be able to take money from most of them. I guess I'll just have to wait and see how that turns out.
The Other Perils of Winning at Poker
Another peril of winning at poker is that you let people talk you into a game where the stakes are a little higher than you prefer, and you end up playing like crap an losing a lot of money.
So the $50 game that I mentioned yesterday that was supposed to have 12 to 20 people, ended up having only 10. Three of the other guys were from my office game, and a few others I had played with before. My plan was to play tight until I could get some chips, and then loosen up, but I could never get going. The only hand I won in the first tourny was when I was dealt pocket queens in the big blind. Blinds were $50/$100 at that point (We started with about $2500), and there were three limpers. I raised $200 and everyone folded. Maybe I was too aggressive, but from what I had seen so far that night, I thought I would have been called. I ended up going out on a bluff inside straight draw when the other guy had pocket kings. The only good thing about the game was that the guys from the office took first and third. Even though I really didn't do well, I didn't mind so much because I don't think I made any huge mistakes. I was probably a little tighter than I should have been so I learned a lesson there.
The second game is the one that really frustrated me. I stuck around for it because I knew I could beat these guys. I just had to play a little looser. This game only had eight players. A few guys left, and we picked up one more. This game was a little crazier than the last. Some people had been drinking and were letting it affect their play, which led to some big pots early. For example, the first hand, this guy who has been half sleeping in a drunken stupor raises an obscene amount pre-flop. He gets raised by the guy hosting the tournament for almost all his chips. I've played with the host before, and he tends bet like this at times. I've seen him go out on the first hand before so it doesn't really surprise me. So the flop came, and the drunk guy goes all in, and gets called. He had big slick, and the host had wired nines. An ace comes on the turn, and drunk guy doubles up. I don't mind that because in the previous game, he played similarly and built up a large stack early only to be knocked out first due to his over aggressive play. I figure if I can get it down to us two, I can win easy.
Shortly there after, one of my friends from work, who won the first tournament, goes all in against the drunk guy. They both had two pairs on the turn. My friend had Aces and Threes. Drunk guy had fours and fives. The river brought another four giving drunk guy a full boat and we're down to six players.
I finally start getting some cards, and I soon realize that the new guy is possibly the worst poker player I have ever played with. He calls just about any bet for just about any amount. I won three or four of the next six or seven hands, and took him out when I had Ace Nine and paired my Ace on the flop and Nine on the turn. He checked on both the flop and turn, and I bet a couple hundred which he of course called. On the river he be $500, and I reraised him all in. He called and showed that the river had paired his Jack. So now I'm feeling good. I start bluffing at flops that I missed and getting people to fold, and I am pretty much in the driver's seat, since the drunk guy, looks like he's taking a nap with his enormous chip lead.
Blinds are $25/$50, and I'm dealt Big Slick in the big blind. I raise to $200, and get three callers out of the other four remaining players, drunk guy included. Flop is rags, but with two spades. I bet $200, and two guys fold, and drunk guy calls. Turn is another spade. My king is a spade, so I have a possible flush draw, and I have no idea what drunk guy has. He has more chips than the rest of the table combined, and I can't tell if he knows what he is doing or just playing like a maniac because he has so many chips that nothing we can be will make a dent in his lead. He checks, and I bet $200 again, hoping he'll just fold, but he raises to $400. I thought about pushing all in, but I probably should have folded there. I ended up just calling. The river is an Ace, and he checks. I put him on maybe a pair so I bet $200 and he goes all in. I didn't think he had the flush, but I knew I should fold. This had bad news written all over it. The thought of doubling up and being able to steamroll the rest of the table was just sitting in the back o my mind. Of course I called and of course he had the flush, and of course I'm still pissed off about it.
The toughest thing about no-limit tournaments is that one bad mistake can end your tournament, and despite the fact that I thought I was playing great, I made one stupid mistake against the one guy who could knock me out, and as a result, I went home with empty pockets.
There's a game in Chicago next weekend. Maybe my luck down there will continue. I just have to keep from making that one stupid mistake.
The Perils of Winning At Poker
The last time I played poker with the guys in Chicago, I ended up doing quite well. It was by our standards a big tournament. By big I mean 11 people, which is probably about twice the average we get at our office games. So anyway, I ended up winning the first tournament, and coming in second for the second one. I would have played in a third, but my ride, and the other guy that rode with us, hadn't done so well, and they weren't interested in trying again. Oh well, next time I'll drive myself I guess. All in all, I was up about $200.
So what's the problem? Well the problem is the next weekend my wife was going to some all night antique festival flea-markety type thing with one of her friends. She needed some cash in case she found something she wanted to buy and they wouldn't take a check or credit card. Apparently when I had told her about my winnings previously, she wasn't really paying attention, because she was quite pleasantly surprised when I pulled out the left over winnings. In her defense I got home pretty late, and she was probably half sleeping when I told her, but you'd think she would remember $200.
Now when I gave her the money, I distinctly remember telling her that she was to be careful with spending it because it was my poker winnings, and not for her girly adventures. Somehow she has taken that to mean "When I win at poker, she gets free money for shopping sprees" because I think she pretty much spent all of my winnings at the flea market, and this morning she asked me if I had any more poker nights soon because she was going antiquing again next weekend and needed some more cash.
Now on the plus side, I think most men would love to have a wife who actually encouraged them to play cards, and she's only spending money that we wouldn't have if I didn't play. I just hope she doesn't expect me to win every time, and that she doesn't plan on spending my winnings before I get them.
Oh, and as luck would have it, I heard about a game right near where I work tomorrow night. At $50 a person, it is a bit steeper than I am comfortable with, but maybe I'll play. There's supposed to be two or three tables, so while that makes my chances of winning that much less, but it would be a sweet payday. My boss played with these guys this summer, and said that doesn't think they are very good so maybe I'll play. I need some practice for the tourny in Chicago next weekend.
Tournament Of Champions
****Warning**** Possible Spoilers
I finally saw the World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions on ESPN. I'm glad that Annie Duke won, although I think I would have been pleased if anyone other than Phil Helmuth won. I can't believe that is actually that arrogant. It has to be some sort of made for TV act.
I don't understand why Annie was so upset when her Sixes beat Howard's Sevens. That's poker that's what happens. Although I guess I've never screwed my brother out of a shot at two million bucks so maybe I shouldn't talk.
Can you imagine how much Phil would have bitched if someone had beaten his pair of Kings with a pair of Tens like he did to Johnny Chan?
I was hoping Greg Raymer would do better. It would have been interesting to see how the pros reacted to his playing style when there were fewer people left. He was doing well at first, but against really good players, I think his loose aggressive style is bound to catch up with him, and it did.
Giving Up on Limit Poker
So, I've decided to give up on limit poker. For a while anyway. I can't seem to beat it. I don't know if I'm playing poorly, or running into bad luck, or what, but I've been on a huge losing streak. Maybe its the poker gods trying to get me to quit poker all together, by draining my bankrole, or maybe they only want me to play no-limit tournaments but they certainly don't want me playing limit poker.
I should specify that I am playing low limit, like $.50/$1 and maybe $1/$2, and that could have something to do with my results. I think the low limit game is too loose for me, but I don't have the confidence or the cash to be playing higher limits just yet. I've read Lee Jones' book, Winning Low-Limit Hold'em
, but it hasn't helped much. I think I need to read it again, which is unfortunate because I lent it to a friend.
The hand that finally put me over the edge came a few nights ago. I got dealt pocket Kings for the third time in about an hour. The previous two I had had to fold when Aces came up on the flop, and there were still a ton of people in the hand and betting. This time, I got the cowboys in late position, and raised back and forth with one guy a positions ahead of me, until we capped the betting. The flop came [10c Kd 4c] which was one of the best flops I could have asked for. The other guy and I cap the betting again. So far I have the nuts, so I'm happy that I might finally make up for those previous hands. The turn comes [9c] which makes me want to cry. The other guy bets, and I only call because with my recent luck, I am 100% sure he has two more clubs in his hand. I don't remember what the river was, but it didn't matter because he had [Ac Kc] and his flush beat my poor little trip Kings. The worst part is that he had hit top pair with an Ace kicker on the flop, and if anything other than clubs, or two aces had fallen, I would have taken him for a ton.
So as I was saying, I'm going to stick to no-limit sit and gos for a while. I'm more comfortable and apparently better at those anyways. That's pretty much what I got into poker playing, and I think I'll stick to it. I'd love to play more multi table tournaments, but I don't often have three or four hours free for poker, so we'll have to see what happens.