Poker Words - A Poker Blog

Mostly a recount of my poker exploits along with a bunch of random other stuff just for fun.

Monday, January 31, 2005

On Second Thought...

Upon further review, I do like PokerStars. As I wrote on Friday, I got knocked out first in my first SNG, but since then I have moneyed in four straight. I have heard that the players at PokerStars tend to be better than those found at other sites. The fact that I have been doing so well lately can only mean one of three things

  1. I’m a better player than I thought.

  2. Players at PokerStars are actually worse than at PokerRoom.

  3. Nothing, it’s just a fluke, talk to me after you have a decent sample size.

Let’s look at the likelihood of each of these items.

1. I’m a better player than I though. More accurately this should probably be, “I’m a better player than my previous results at PokerRoom suggests”. I’d like to think that this is somewhat true. I think I’m better than the break even results that I’ve had at PokerRoom. I think the differences are due to the blind structures at the two sites. At both sites players start with 1500 chips. At PokerRoom I think the blinds go up every 10 hands, while at PokerStars they go up every 10 minutes. In the initial stages of the tournament this doesn’t make a big difference. I think you play about 10 hands a minute, so for the first few rounds the blinds move up equally. They start to differ when we start losing players. At PokerRoom, the blinds start going up at a continually increasing rate as more players are knocked out. Less players means fewer moves/decisions per hand thus quicker hands, and faster blind increases. At PokerStars you play for 10 minutes per level, no matter how many hands are played, so in comparison, the blinds move up at a much slower rate.

So how does that affect me? Well on PokerRoom, the blinds can get painfully high when there are as many as five players remaining. This causes players to press with average hands, because they can’t afford not to. Often someone else will be doing the same thing, and this causes one of them to get knocked out. At PokerStars on the other hand, there was never a point when I felt like any hand I played meant I would be all in, as long as my chip count was around average. This allows players to play rather than gamble. When there are five players left you can still enter a pot with the option to get out if things don’t go your way. On PokerRoom, late in the tourney, if you enter a pot, you better be willing to play for all your chips.

What was my point? Oh yeah, I think that often on PokerRoom, I am forced to press more than I would like, and there is often some jerk who calls me. If that happens often enough, sooner or later I end up on the short end of the stick, and get bumped, especially since I’m not always able to choose the optimal hands to press with. On PokerStars, I’m able to wait until I have the best hand, and thus am able to put myself in less risk. I’m also able to bluff without having to risk my whole stack, so when I’m caught, I still have chips left to play with.

2. Players at PokerStars are actually worse than at PokerRoom. I can’t imagine that players at any of the major poker sites are any better or worse than anywhere else, especially at the $10+1 games that I frequent. I think it goes back to the style of play at PokerStars that just seems to suit me more. Late in the game I think players are more apt to fold to your early aggression because they know that they’ll have plenty of other chances to get you back. In PokerRoom on the other hand, they know that the blinds are going to destroy them if they don’t move so they are forced into making calls for all their chips, or all your chips, with marginal hands. As I mentioned above, even you have better odds going into these hands, do it often enough and sooner or later you’ll get beat. So the players on PokerStars may actually seem to be better because they are more selective in their play, however this can be exploited with aggressive betting.

3. Nothing, It’s just a fluke. Honestly, this is probably the most likely of scenarios. If you’ll recall, I moneyed in six of my first ten tracked tournaments at PokerRoom, and then proceeded to suck for about the next 14 attempts. Even the best players go through streaks of bad luck and even the worst players can win a few tourneys in a row if the cards fall their way. You probably need a sample size of a few hundred before you can make any real sort of comparison. At any rate five games is not a very good sampling.

If I’ve learned anything so far from playing at PokerStars, its that my heads up game needs some serious work. I’ve lost the last three heads up battles that I participated in, and that is not going to be acceptable if I plan on maintaining any long term success.

I came up with a few new complaints for PokerStars. First, their time warning buzzer mechanism is way too loud. It scares the crap out me. If anyone knows how to tone that thing down, please let me know. I’d be sitting there two tabling, trying to figure out what to do on the bottom table, after my top pair decent kicker got raised, when from out of nowhere comes this loud painful buzzer from the other table. It almost gave me a heart attack. Is that really necessary? Secondly, I got disconnected two or three times, all when it was my turn to act. It is possible that there was a connection problem on my end, but I haven’t experienced that at any other site, so I would tend to think not.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll get to play any time between now and the Blogger Tournament on Wednesday, so I hope I have gotten enough practice in. Hopefully I’ll last long enough to have a decent tournament report. We’ll see.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Getting Ready for the Blogger Tourney

I made my first deposit at PokerStars tonight. There is a blogger tournament coming up, and I wanted to make sure I was somewhat familiar with the site before then. Check for more details. Its open to poker bloggers and readers of poker blogs, so if you are reading this, you can play.

Honestly, I wasn’t that impressed with what I PokerStars. I know it is one of the most popular sights, so I expected more out of it. I’m used to playing on PokerRoom, so that’s about all I have to compare it to, but PokerStars came up a bit short. Lack of hot keys, less modular chat window, nine vs ten player tables, and having to request stats and hand histories via email are some examples. Not that it’s a horrible site; I just expected a bit more. In all fairness it could also be that I am not all that familiar with the site, so maybe I’m missing things. On the plus side, I do like that you can choose your own avatar. That is something that is certainly lacking from PokerRoom.

So I played a test three table sit and go with play money, nothing exciting. I think I finished 8/27. I don’t remember or really care. I then decided to take the plunge and deposit some cash. I have $100 to play with. Hopefully I can make it last for a while. The first $20+2 immediately went to register for the blogger tourney, and I don’t really have any high expectations for that, so I figure I’m already down to $78. Time to try out my first SNG.

Since they only do 9 player tables, this is going to mess up my stat tracking. I can’t group these in with my PokerToom ten player tables so I decided I’d separate out my stats by site. Since this is only the second site I play at, it shouldn’t be too big of a deal yet. If and when I start playing at a bunch of sites I may need to rethink this strategy.

My first attempt went about as poorly as I could have imagined. I was kind of tired and not really in the mood to play, but I felt like I needed to try it out. The first memorable hand came when I am dealt TT in late position. This is one of my least favorite hands to play because there is almost always on overcard on the board and I can never seam to get the courage to bet into that situation. Well this time the flop was queen high and I bet at it thinking that since I raised preflop maybe I can represent a queen, AQ, KQ or something. I got two callers. Turn is a rag, and I fire again, this time with only one caller. At this point I figure he’s the one with the queen and I’m in trouble. The river brings an ace, and I think, maybe he does have the queen, but maybe that ace can help me scare him off. No such luck as he calls my bet, and I end up significantly short stacked less than ten minutes into tourney.

A couple hands later, I have TT again. There are a series of preflop raises and I go all-in. I get called by AA and KT. There’s a ten on the flop, and I think I just tripled up, but a jack and queen on the turn and river complete a flush for the KT and I’m out. 9th place. What a way to start.

On to tournament number two. Once we got down to six players, it got real tight. All my preflop raises were folded around, and it seemed like the first one to bet post flop would win the pot right there. I inflicted a bad beat on someone when I raised with A9s from the small blind, and the big blind went all in. I called, partially because I was getting tired of playing, and partially because I was thought he was bluffing and he was just tired of me stealing his blinds. He had AQo. The flop and turn were no help to anyone but the river brought me a 9 and put me in the chip lead. We dropped to four soon after that when the two shorter stacks both bet into a straight and lost.

The four of us played for ever. At first I liked the fact that the blinds didn’t go up as fast, on PokerStars (Every 10 minutes vs. Every 10 hands), but I really wish the game hadn’t taken as long. There also wasn’t a lot of betting, usually one bet and everyone else folded, so it seemed to move slower.

Finally, one of the players was down to about $T450 with 100/200 blinds. He was in the small blind, and I was on the button. I had K2 off, and decided to call, hoping he would do the same, and that either I or the big blind could hit something on the flop to knock him out. But he folded. The flop was the perfect for me. A22. We both check. Turn is a 6 and he bets T600. I raise, all in. He thinks about it for a while, then calls with A8. The river is another 6 to give be the boat, and I’m now the chip leader. Short stack gets knocked out right after that, and I made the money. Woo-Hoo.

I think I tend to overvalue my cards once we get down to three players. I’ll raise with just about any face card, and think that any pair on the flop is a winner. This aggression usually allows me to steal a bunch of pots, but it also tends to lead to my downfall.

This time it happened when I get to see a free flop out of the big blind with A3. When the board game 368 I figured I was probably still good, and bet at it. When an Ace came on the turn, and was sure I was ahead. I bet, and got raised all in, and foolishly called. He had wired sixes and left me with only about T1000 in chips. The final blow came when I had QQ and the flop was AA9. We both checked, and I went all in on the turn. He had an ace and I was done. But I got $18 which almost left me at even.

It was probably just a fluke, but I got a disproportionate amount of wired pairs in the two tournaments I played. I had tens three times, there was a stretch where I had KK, 88,99 in consecutive hands, and I had 22 at least twice and nines on at least two other occasions. I’m sure that happens every once in a while, but it definitely felt strange.

Can’t wait for the blogger tournament next week. Hopefully fare a little better.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Poker Movies on Their Way

Hollywood is jumping on the poker bandwagon as some new movies involving poker have recently been announced. Nicolas Cage is going to star in a movie about Amarillo Slim. The film will be an adaptation of his book Amarillo Slim in a World Full of Fat People: The Memoirs of the Greatest Gambler Who Ever Lived. Some details about the film can be found here.

Also planned is movie called Lucky You featuring Drew Barrymore and Eric Bana. This is a Dramady about a struggling singer who meets up with a professional high stakes poker player.

Party Poker Going Public?

PartyGaming formerly iGlobalmedia, owner of PartyPoker is considering becoming a publicly traded company after watching shares of Sportingbet do well when they acquired Paradise Poker. The move would likely immediately place PartyGaming in the FTSE 100.

I wouldn't mind owning a piece of Party Poker. It will be interesting to see if this happens, and how well the stock does. If it does well, and I have no reason to think it wouldn't, then it will also be interesting to see if other online poker rooms and casinos started going public. It could be just like the dot com era only with gambling.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Saturday Tournament Summary

It pretty much snowed all night Friday and all day Saturday. I don't know exactly how much we got, but I think the word that most accurately describes it is crapload. That or shitpile. Either way, we had a lot of snow. We were afraid that people wouldn't want to venture out in that weather for a poker game, and even if they did, we were afraid they wouldn't be able to find parking anywhere.

I don't know if you are familiar with the parking situation in Chicago, or if it works like this in other cities, but its usually pretty hard to find parking anywhere, especially in the more trendy neighborhoods. When it snows, you might as well forget about it. People have to dig their way into or out of their parking spots. Once they've done that, they feel that they shouldn't have to give it up. It makes sense. Why should someone else get to park in the spot that they spent a half hour clearing out? So people leave chairs, or boxes or tables, or any random crap to mark their spot. You can't move their stuff and park there, because there is a good chance that your car might end up missing a headlight or two, or it might acquire a nice key sized scratch all the way down one side. This saving of spots lasts until the snow eventually melts in a month and completely throws off the parking dynamic for the city because you've got hundreds of open parking spots that have been claimed, and cannot be actually parked in. Maybe people have stopped doing that in the past two years, after I moved out to the suburbs, because somehow, we were able to find a spot relatively easily. Or maybe no one had actually bothered to leave their apartment yet to claim their spots.

Enough about the weather and parking situation, on to the poker. We had 15 people for the first game. Not quite the 30 we were hoping for, but all thinks considered, a decent amount. We upped our buy in to $30, from our usual $20, and changed the blind schedule a bit, trying to make the increases more gradual. The first game didn't go so well for me. I misplayed big slick relatively early on, and all but sealed my fate. The blinds were 10/20 and I was dealt AKo under the gun, and raised to 40. I had a few callers. Flop was rags, 9 high. I bet 50, and had one caller. Turn was queen, and again I bet 50. She stared me down, studied the board, and eventually called. The river was another queen. I thought she probably had me beat, but I thought if I bet enough I could scare her away. I bet 100, and after much deliberation, she called. She had a pair of eights. That hand cost me about half my stack, and I didn't get anything going after that. I ended up going out in ninth place.

While the main game was finishing up, we got enough people together for a side game. We had nine people, seven of whom had busted out of the first game, and two stragglers who hadn't made it in time. Those two objected to calling it the losers table, since technically they hadn't lost yet, although I fixed that relatively quickly. It was easy to see why this was the losers table. Maybe I was just playing better because I didn't care as much about the outcome, but I was able to get the table to do what I wanted on just about every hand I played. If I was bluffing they would fold. When I had the best hand, they'd call. I don't think I had to showdown many hands, but of the ones I did I won the vast majority. The only real hand of note was when I had wired nines in the big blind. Incidentally, twice tonight wired nines turned into quads. In my case, I flopped a set, and that was good enough as I took down a huge pot, and never looked back. We only started with about 200 in chips, and were raising the blinds aggressively to finish at about the same time as the main game. When we got down to three players, I was the chip leader, and went all-in on probably ¾ of the hands. Most of the time the other two folded. A couple of times they doubled up, but it wasn't enough to mount any sort of comeback. So, I won $30 which put me at about even for the night.

For the second big game, we had 16 people. The starting tables ended up almost the same as the previous game. I was doing OK, winning a few pots here and there, and gradually increasing my stack. I then made, possibly the dumbest play I have ever made. I was dealt A♠ 5♠ and limped in hoping for flush. I think five of us saw the flop. The flop was J&diams 2&hearts 3&diams, and it checked around. I thought about bluffing at it, but there were too many people in for that not to have hit anyone, and playing online so much as made me less inclined to bluff because some always calls when they shouldn't and beats you. Anyway, the turn was the 4&hearts, and it checks around again. I would have bluffed at it this time, but now I'm afraid someone just made their heart flush. The flop is Q&hearts. I look at the board and figure that there is no way I can bet now since some has to have a heart for the flush, and even if I represent a flush, I think they'll call. I then realize that I'm a moron and hit my wheel straight on the turn. Now I'm pissed because this should have been my pot, and I let someone draw to a flush with four hearts on the board. It checks around to the button, and he bets 1xBB. I think about it but then fold because I am convinced that someone has a flush. When three people turn over a pair of queens and nothing better I comment that I can't believe no one had the flush, and that I folded my straight. My friend then points out that there were only three hearts on the board as J&diams doesn't count. Its not the end of the world because I don't think I would have won a lot of chips there, but it was just stupid.

The game continues, and I'm still doing OK. I haven't made any huge jumps in chips, I've just been grinding away winning a few random pots. When we condense down to one table of eight, there are three real short stacks, three real big stacks, and myself and another guy with medium sized stacks. The short stacks don't last long, and soon we are down to 5. Top four pays. The blinds are starting to hurt, and I'm struggling to stay alive long enough for the other short stack to go out. He then goes all in a few times and doubles up in both. I go all in a few times, and steal some blinds, which is almost, but not quite as good as doubling up. Meanwhile two of the three other players have given most of their chips to the now decisive chip leader. I've got 740 in chips and the blinds are 150/300 and I'm dealt ATo. I decide I'm going all in with them no matter what. I can't survive more than one more orbit so its now or never. Before I get a chance to act, the guy in front of me goes all in. He had only 710, and so I have him covered. I have to decide if I want to fold, and hope he gets knocked out, or go all in myself, like I planned on, and hope that either I win, or some else beats us both, so I finish in 4th and get my money back. I decide to call. Big stack also calls. The guy to my right turns over AQo and the big stack has 9To. The only important card on the board was queen, and I'm down to 60. I then get wired 4s and make my final stand. The small blind folds, which is funny because he contributed almost three times as much to the pot as I did, and the big blind obviously calls. He has 2&diams,3&diams. One of my fours is a diamond. It's looking good for a minute. Then two diamonds fall on the flop, and a third on the river to knock me out on the bubble. I felt bad for the two guys I had driven in with because they had been knocked out well over an hour ago, and had to wait around for me to not win any money. Oh well they finished in first and third in the first game. Jerks.

Final result of the evening is that I'm down $35. Could have been worse. If you factor in a $10 SNG on PokerRoom earlier in the day then I'm up $4 overall on the day. Speaking of PokerRoom, they droped the price for their $5 SNGs from $1 to $0.50 and they are also offering five player $10+$1s with a payout for the top two at $35/$15.


Friday, January 21, 2005

Tilt vs. Basketball

Sorry for the lack of updates this week, but I haven’t really had much time for poker. There was an office game tentatively for last night, but we couldn’t get enough players so we had to cancel. People really need to get their priorities straight.

Thursday night is the night that my wife has fiddle (yes fiddle) lessons, so she doesn’t get home until late. Usually this means, I get to play online for a few hours, but I didn’t get any games in last night. I didn’t get home until later than usual because it was snowing, and for some reason no one knows how to drive when there’s any form of precipitation, let alone that scary white stuff. Plus once I got home, the Illini game was on, followed by Tilt, so I just parked on my couch for an evening full of sports.

ESPN needs to rethink its scheduling for Thursday nights. They have this big new show that they been relentlessly promoting, and yet for the past two weeks that show has started late, due to the basketball games going long. The first week it wasn’t so bad, because it only went about five minutes over, except that I had to watch Duke play. Last night, the game went into overtime, and lasted until 8:30. I didn’t mind this time, because it was the Illini game, so I didn’t have to miss either the game or, the show, but I have to think that there are a ton of people that wanted to watch Tilt that didn’t care about the game. It’s even worse for people that planned on watching the second showing of Tilt at 9:00. They would have tuned in to see the second half of the episode that started at 8:30, not knowing when it started, or when it would be over so that they could start at the beginning of the 9:00 showing. I don’t know why ESPN doesn’t just put a SportsCenter, on after the game, and then just show Tilt at 9:00. It seems like that way they could ensure that Tilt always starts on time, and we won’t have to listen to Brent Musburger make uncomfortable poker references for half an hour.

On a completely different note, rumor has it that there might be as many as 30 people showing up for our game on Saturday. I’ll be surprised if we get more than 20, but it’s nice to hope. It’s supposed to snow and we all know how scary that can be. Wouldn’t want to leave the house under those conditions or anything. Regardless, of how many people actually show up, it should be fun, and I’ll have a report on Sunday.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Progress Report: 3rd Set

Today was a bad day for poker. Pretty much everything I did went wrong, which especially sucked because I did a lot of it today.

I started with a SNG. We were getting to the point where people needed to start making moves. I was medium/low stacked and had AJ. Flop was AQJ all clubs. The pot was already pretty big, so I went all in because I figured someone would have a club or a king or a ten, and I couldn’t afford to let anyone draw to a straight or flush. Well someone had the king of clubs, and he called. I bet you can’t guess where this ends can you? The turn is a rag, and the river brings a ten, to knock me out. I don’t know that there is much I could have done in that hand that would have resulted in a favorable outcome. I flopped two pair, and there’s no way I was getting out of that hand, so I tried to force everyone else out. Didn’t work. This pattern would repeat itself often throughout the day.

My wife had gone out on some errands, and I was waiting for her to get back, so I figured I’d kill some time multi-tabling the micro limits. I don’t think I could have lost money any faster if I tried. Nothing seemed to go my way. I would hit top pair top kicker on the flop, only to find someone stayed in with garbage and picked up two pair. I would get pocket queens and cap the betting pre-flop only to see a king and ace on the flop. What are the chances that none of the eight callers I have and ace? Yeah. I would hit my straight on the turn only to have someone else catch their flush on the river. It was unbelievable. It was like I had gotten way more than my fair share of lucky breaks recently, and the poker gods decided to even everything out in one session.

So I stopped for a while to lick my wounds, and watch some Illini Basketball and playoff football. My confidence starts to return and I think my luck has to turn around eventually; I’ll try to multi-table some SNG’s and see what happens. Maybe the practice I’ve had at the micro limits will help.

The good news is, I think I am getting better at multi-tabling. I wasn’t nearly as flustered playing two tournaments at once as I was the last time. The bad news is that I still placed in the bottom half of both tournaments. I think playing the micro limits may be hurting my tournament performance as I’m still way over betting when I make my hand. I’m afraid that I’ll get outdrawn so I make sure I win the pot without going to the river. As a result, I’m winning some pots, but they aren’t big enough to sustain a high enough tournament position.

Anyway, the three SNGs that I played today finished off my third set of ten. So, how am I doing? Better than last time, but not nearly as good as I would like. Here’s the breakdown.

Games 21-30:

Total invested $100+$10 Fees ($110 total)
Total winnings $110
Net -$0
Finished in the Money 3/10 times

1st Place 1
2nd Place 2
3rd Place 0
4th Place 1
5th Place 0
6th Place 3
7th Place 3
8th Place 0
9th Place 0
10th Place 0

Average 5.8

Total :
Total invested $300+$30 Fees ($330 total)
Total winnings $320
Net -$10
Finished in the Money 10/30 times

1st Place 3
2nd Place 3
3rd Place 4
4th Place 4
5th Place 3
6th Place 6
7th Place 5
8th Place 0
9th Place 1
10th Place 1

Average 4.7

So after 30 tournaments, I’m down ten bucks. The number of sixth and seventh place finishes that I have are disturbing. At least in this last set, I don’t have any 8th or worse, but I definitely need to improve on my average finish and number of top three finishes.

I think I may stop playing tournaments for a little while, and move back to ring games. I’m getting a little burnt out on tournaments, and I’ve really been enjoying the ring games, not counting today.
There should be some live games to report on next week. There is a big tournament on Saturday, and we may have a warm-up office game sometime in the middle of this week. I’ll let you know how those turn out.

Finally, I think the next blogger tournament is going to be at Poker Stars, so I think I’m going to sign up there. If anyone has a referral code they want me to use, let me know. Otherwise I’ll use Iggy’s.

Tilt Comments

Tilt aired a few days ago, and I meant to have a review of it up already, but I really didn’t have much to say. It was basically what I expected, and I enjoyed it. I can’t really comment on its authenticity since I’ve only ever played online and in some friendly home games and office tournaments. I did check RecPoker just to see what other people were thought and it was almost a unanimous thumbs down. People were saying it was a horrible show that puts poker in a bad light and will ultimately lead to the demise of poker and everything that is good in life. Or something to that effect. I don’t know what they were expecting. Of coarse it was overly sensationalized. It’s TV. That’s what happens. If it was completely realistic then it wouldn’t have been all that interesting to watch.


I got an email from Pokerchamps yesterday, as I think everyone who plays there did. Basically it said if you played last week then you have extra money in your account from their rake back deally, yadda yadda yadda. I got like 2 cents woo hoo. The interesting part was that they mentioned that they were adding bounties on Gus Hansen’s head for all the tournaments he plays in, and that he will be playing all sorts of ring games, even as low as $0.05/$0.10. Now I wonder how Gus feels about playing at such low limits. He’s used to playing in super high stakes games and tournaments where the payouts are in hundreds of thousands, or even millions, and now he’s going to be sitting in a five cent ten cent game? I thought the same thing when I was playing on FullTilt right after it went live, and all the pros were playing. I guess if my name was associated with the site, I would be more willing to play with the every day players, and promote the sight, but I gotta think he’s wishing he could tack on some zeros to those chips. Or maybe enjoys socializing with the players, who knows.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


Tilt is debuts on ESPN tomorrow. I haven’t really heard too much about it aside from the gagillion promo commercials on ESPN, but I’m still looking forward to it. I can almost guarantee that the show will be a hit regardless of how good it actually is. I think a pretty easy formula for success is throw in some poker, and some hot women and some conflict with potential for violence, and you have a hit show. Its pretty much the same formula for Vegas on NBC. That show had some pretty crappy acting and horrendous scripts, but people, myself included, watched it because, after all, it was about Vegas. The hot women didn’t hurt either. They definitely trumped lame plotlines anyway.

I watched Vegas for a while, up until the security guy beat up two ninja assassins. That was a bit too much, and put the show over the edge for the amount of crap I will watch. That and I got finally got cable so I had more than two choices of shows to watch. Now maybe I don’t know much about ninjas because all I learned about them I got from (hilarious site by the way) but I’m pretty sure that two of them could easily dispatch with a lowly security guard with whatever training he had. The point is that people still watch the show and they’re going to watch Tilt also. Unless the entire world gets burnt out on poker, which, has to happen eventually, I think this show will be in your face just about every time you turn in the TV.

I’m still looking forward to it though.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

More Pokerchamps

I’ve been playing a lot of $0.02/$0.04 at Pokerchamps lately. I’ve been pretty successful, but I’m not sure how much of a good thing that is. I’ve been playing there mostly because I’m lazy and because by the time I get home from work, and have dinner and do whatever, and actually sit down to play, I’m usually pretty tired, and I don’t have the confidence to play for any sort of real money when I’m not completely mentally prepared. That goes back to the whole, “I make plenty of mistakes when I’m at my best, no need to throw in more challenges” theory that I have.

So I get my poker fix by playing super micro limits at Pokerchamps. The games generally move slower there, so I’m also working on multi-tabling. I generally play one NL and one limit game just to practice each style.

I hate to sound arrogant, but playing there is like taking candy from a baby. The players there are so bad that anytime you hit a hand, you are going to make a fortune. Ok fortune might be a bit of an exaggeration since there’s about $20 total at the table, but comparatively speaking you make a ton. Granted, the limits are $0.02/$0.04 so I don’t expect the caliber of play to be that high, but you can almost be guaranteed of someone calling any bet on the river with their Ace high.

Since someone will call just about any bet you make, you are going to take your fair share of bad beats, but I think the times that your hand pays off more than outweigh the bad beats you’ll take.

One of the bad habits that I’ve noticed myself getting into is that I way overvalue my top pair, top kicker, or two pair to the point where I get myself into trouble. Since it seems that everyone else treats bottom pair as a monster, when I hit top pair I often feel like I have the nuts. I don’t pay attention to other bets because I don’t think they know what they are doing. It’s almost impossible to put someone on a hand, so I don’t even try. I just look at what I have and bet accordingly. Because of this, I have completely missed the fact that there’s a straight or flush possibility on the board. Usually the two gapper straights get me. For example last night in a NL game I limped w/99 and saw a flop of 89Q. I bet and got raised. I figured there was no way anyone had trip queens so I went all in. Hmm. Maybe that TJ that he turned over was a possibility. Doh.

In the last few sessions I think I’ve bet into a straight four times when I hit top pair or better. That has put a serious damper on my winnings and I really hope that doesn’t continue into the games that I take more seriously. I’m starting to worry that while I’m winning at these low limits, I’m developing habits that are going to be problematic when I play better competition.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that if I am doing significantly better at one of the two tables that I am playing, I will often ignore the other table. Unless I have an absolute monster hand, the table that isn’t doing as well tends to get folded without a second thought so I can get back to the more profitable table. This may or may not make sense, I haven’t decided. On the one hand I’m if one table is more profitable than another focusing on that table may be a good idea so that I can maximize my winnings, but on the other hand, maybe I am prematurely passing up on some winning scenarios by ignoring the other table. I don’t know.

I’m tempted to go back to $0.25/$0.50 except that I promised I would never do that again. Maybe I’ll try the $25 NL tables for a change.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Woo Hoo

The SNG drought has finally ended. I played in one tournament tonight and managed to finally finish in the money. And it was a first place finish. Woo Hoo. About Damn time. I won't bore you with hand histories because there wasn't anything too exciteing that happened. I played pretty tight and didn't get into too many big confrontations. I think I'll quit while I'm ahead and try again tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Book Review: Bringing Down the House

Bringing Down the House Cover

Bringing Down the House: The Story of Siz M.I.T. Students who took Vegas for Millions By Ben Mezrich.

I thought I’d deviate from my usual posts where I just bitch about how poorly I’ve been playing lately and post a book review. This book is a few years old, and I actually read it before I really got into poker. Ever since then it’s been on loan to just about everyone I know. I finally got it back yesterday and decided to write it up.

Technically, this book isn’t about poker, it’s about blackjack, but it does involve Vegas and Atlantic City, and all sorts of other casinos and gambling and shenanigans that I figure most poker players will enjoy.

The book focuses on a group of M.I.T. students, and how they were able to take casinos for millions of dollars by working as a team to count cards. As some background, blackjack is the only game played against the house where past events can affect future results. In roulette for example, if red comes up 10 times in a row, the odds for red to come up on the 11th spin are the same as if black had come up the previous 10 times. The fact that red has been coming up has no impact on the next spin. In blackjack, if you get blackjack 10 hands in a row, the chances are significantly less that you will get a blackjack on the next hand than if you had gotten all low cards for the previous hands. Since the deck is not reshuffled after each round, once you use up the Aces and face cards, the advantage swings towards the house. When you use up the low cards, the percentage of Aces and face cards left in the deck increases, moving the advantage more to the player. There are hundreds of books and websites devoted to this principle. Basically, you keep a running count. You add one for every low card you see, and subtract one for every high card. Middle cards get zero points. The higher the number gets, the better your odds are, and the more you should bet. (Please don’t use this strategy without consulting an actual expert. I claim zero responsibility for any blackjack losses resulting from my most likely incorrect advice.)

The kids in Bringing Down the House take this strategy one step further. They would go to a casino as a group of six players. Five of them would sit down at different tables and start counting. When the odds got to be overwhelmingly positive, they would signal the sixth player, who would sit down, and bet a ton. Once the odds swung back in the house’s favor, he would get up and look for another team member’s table to join.

In the book you follow one of the team members who played the VIP/big spender on the team. He first joins the team after a few of his friends take him to Atlantic City, and show him what they can do. You then follow him through his training, and early stages of team play. You go on his first trip to Vegas, and his scouting missions. Eventually he becomes a VIP under different names at several casinos all across the country. He gets the full whale treatment from just about any place he visits, and for a while, no one catches on that he and his team are making a fortune off of them. Slowly their luck starts to change, as they start getting recognized and banned from various casinos, and you follow them as they try the less sophisticated riverboat casinos, and anywhere else they haven’t been. It becomes a race to hit as many places as hard as they can before they are universally recognized, and no longer able to play.

The book makes for a very fast paced and adrenaline filled read. It also leaves you with an insatiable desire to go to Vegas. I think every one that I have leant this book to has asked me when we are going to start our card counting team and go to Vegas as they are returning it. My only complaint with the book is that every few chapters or so, the author will throw in an interview with some personality that is somewhat related to the story; a security expert, a stripper, one of the minor players on the team. These offered no real value to the story, and I found myself just skimming those chapters, anxious to get back to the exiting part. It was almost like he finished the book and said “oh shit, I need 50 more pages. Better throw in some crap”. That being said, I would still very highly recommend this book. If you haven’t already read it, you need to.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Bad Poker Continues

Well, my string of bad SNG's is continuing as I have managed to play two more tonight without placing in the money. For those of you counting at home, that makes eight in a row and 11 out of the last 12 where I have not moneyed. And that one exception was a third place finish.

The first game tonight, I don't think was my fault. I just couldn't get any cards, and folded my way to nothingness. In the second, I let the fact that I finally had some good hole cards get in the way of the fact that I was probably beaten, and got knocked out because of it. The only decent hand I've had so far was TT, but I had to fold it when an Ace came on the flop, only to see another ten come on the turn. In this hand, had big slick on the button. This is the best hand I've had all day, by a long shot. here are seven players left including me. I have T1300 in chips and the blinds are 25/50. Three players limp ahead of me and I raise to T200. The small blind and one other player calls. Flop is TK6, two clubs. I actually made a hand. SB bets 50, other guy calls, and I raise to T200 again. Both call. Turn is Jd. SB checks and the other guy bets T300. At this point, alarms should have been going off in my head, but instead, I put him on a bluff, or maybe two pair, but probably not. He was trying to steal the only good hand I've had all day. What a bastard. I'll show him and reraise all in. SB calls. Uh-Oh. The other guy reraises the small blind all in. Uh-Oh again. SB turns over A4 both clubs and watches as he misses his flush draw. Other guy shows his Q9 for the straight. At least I can take comfort in the fact that the the SB made an even worse play than I did. I think. Calling me put him just about all in, and he did so on a draw. I don't understand that play. Its not like he was even short stacked and needed to make move or blinded out.


Sunday, January 02, 2005

Progress Report: 2nd Set

My second set of ten sit and goes did not go well at all. The best I did was finishing in 3rd, and I only managed that once. I also managed three 4th place finishes and a 10th place finish. I don’t know what the problem is. Hopefully its just luck swinging in the other direction from my first set, and it will swing back for the next. It seems like I can’t get any playable cards, and when I have something that’s borderline, either someone will make a huge raise preflop, or the flop will miss me completely. I’m also playing in a perpetual state of fear that I’m getting out kicked, or that someone else paired their kicker or will pair their kicker on the turn or river. I’ll end up betting too much when I hit my top pair which causes everyone to fold. At least I’m winning the hand, but I could probably do better if I let them stick around for a few more cards.

I’m making such poor choices that I got called stupid and a dumbass in two consecutive tournaments, as I made what turned out to be some bad reads, and ended up inflicting some bad beats on people. In one case I had Q2 in the BB and one guy limped. The flop was KQx and I checked. He bet, and I raised him all in, thinking that he was trying to steal it. He turned over AA and I almost quit the program right there. A two came on the river to all but knock him out. It took me about 30 seconds to figure out how I had not lost that hand. The other play was when I was on the button and raised preflop with A8, trying to steal the blinds from the short stack. He called. The flop was 55J and he checked. I bet 300 (3x BB) he raised all in for 415 more. I figured he thought I was trying to steal it, which I was, and that didn’t have anything either. I called. He had JK. The turn and river were Aces of coarse and he went crying home, typing obscenities in the process. As I’ve commented before, I don’t know what those people’s problems are. They went all in with the best hand, and got called. What more could they want. Sure it sucks to lose those, but nine times out of ten, they are going to win. If they didn’t want to get called, they shouldn’t have made the bet. Didn’t matter anyway because in both cases I managed to blow it and lose those chips along with my own.

So here’s my stats so far.

Games 11-20:

Total invested $100+$10 Fees ($110 total)
Total winnings $20
Net -$90
Finished in the Money 1/10 times

1st Place 0
2nd Place 0
3rd Place 1
4th Place 3
5th Place 2
6th Place 2
7th Place 0
8th Place 0
9th Place 1
10th Place 1

Total :
Total invested $200+$20 Fees ($220 total)
Total winnings $210
Net -$10
Finished in the Money 7/20 times

1st Place 2
2nd Place 1
3rd Place 4
4th Place 3
5th Place 3
6th Place 3
7th Place 2
8th Place 0
9th Place 1
10th Place 1

I figured that after my first set, it would take at least two sub par sets to end up back in the red. I didn’t think I could suck quite this bad. I’m especially disappointed with the 10th and 4th place finishes. I think I’m good enough that I should almost never get eliminated first. That’s just ridiculous. I also need to start playing smarter when I’m on the bubble. There’s not much worse than playing poker for an hour and then making a few stupid mistakes to knock yourself out, leaving you with nothing to show for your efforts.