Poker Words - A Poker Blog

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

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Phil "Unabomber" Laak

Can someone tell me what the sudden interest in Phil Laak is? Yesterday I received almost 200 hits on one of the posts on my forum from people searching for Phil Laak? I don’t think I’ve gotten that many hits before on the whole forum combined. Did I miss something? I see that he came in second in the WSOP $2500 Pot Limit event, but I can’t imagine that causing people to suddenly start stalking him online.

The only other thing I can think of is that he is dating Jennifer Tilly who just won the Women’s $1000 Holdem Event. Maybe people are searching for him in hopes that it will lead to some nude pictures of Jennifer Tilly. While I applaud the effort and creativity, I don’t think that approach will be very successful. Maybe I should try it just to make sure.

Do you like how I worked the terms “Phil Unabomber Laak” and “nude pictures of Jennifer Tilly” into this post? That’s sure to increase the hit count.

Speaking of Tilly, was anyone else surprised that she won that event? I must have the wrong impression of her. I always think of her as staring in ditzy roles, and I’m still seeing commercials for that stupid “Bride of Chucky” movie, so I always thought of her as being not that bright. Maybe no else gave her much credit and she was able to use that against them. From what I have heard, she is actually a pretty good player, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen her play. I guess winning a 600 person tournament for a WSOP bracelet takes a decent amount of skill.

Anyway if your search for Phil Laak, or Nude Jennifer Tilly brought you here, you’re out of luck. There’s no useful info on Laak and unfortunately no pictures of Tilly. Try again.


Sunday, June 26, 2005

SNG Slump and Random Stuff.

The first SNG I played this month I managed to win. Since then I’ve only finished in the money three times out of 17 attempts, and those three were all third place finishes. I was on an 0/12 streak before finally taking third this afternoon.

At first I thought that it was because I was playing two or three at a time or doing other things while playing and so my concentration was what it should have been. So I cut down to one table at a time, and eliminated web-surfing/blog reading, but that didn’t help much. I still lost. And lost bad. It wasn’t the “taking a bad beat on the bubble” type of loss, it was more the “Making a dumbass move, and then following it up with more crappy play” types of losses. I was coming in seventh, eight, and ninth a lot more than fourth and fifth.

Then I wanted to blame on Party Poker’s SNG structure, and their small $T800 starting stack size. It seemed like I would see a few flops early, and not connect with anything, and before I know it I’m down to $T500 and the blinds are $50/$100 and I’m at all-in or nothing mode. And the all-ins just haven’t been going my way.

So I switched back to PokerRoom, and their $T1500 starting chips, thinking I’d have some more room to go after some pots and not feel crippled if I didn’t win them all. I promptly finished in eight, and then tenth. Great plays on my part let me tell you. And by great I mean moronic.

Three out of the next five split between Party and PokerRoom earned me third places finishes. Better, but I could really use a win to balance out the month of suck that I’ve shown so far.

So what’s the problem? Well today, I’ve just been making terrible decisions. I’ve been combining a horrific blend of weak/tight play with ill timed stupid aggression, and gotten the results I deserve. I’m giving my opponents way too much credit for hands and folding the best hand, and then I’m also overvaluing my good hands, and not picking up on the fact that my opponent is pretty much jumping up and down in his chair yelling “I have the nuts”. A great example, an aggressive player limps and I check in the big blind with Qx. The flop is AQT rainbow, and I bet at it. I don’t think he has an ace because he’s been raising with any ace. He calls, and the turn is another ace. I’m still pretty sure that I’m good, and I bet again. He raises all in, and I call confident that my queen beats anything he’s holding. He had KJ for the flopped straight, which had I actually though about before betting/calling would have made perfect sense. There was absolutely no reason for me to go broke on that hand.

The most frustrating thing is that I know I can do better, and now I’m determined to stick at it until I can win a few. Of course, focusing on that is probably not helping my overall results. Bah. Maybe I’ll play a few more and see what happens. Who was it that said SNG’s are the crack cocaine of online poker?


In other news, I went to the wedding of a former coworker this weekend. It was weird because there were only a few other coworkers there, yet I knew a large percentage of the attendees. The groom is the guy who usually organizes our poker get-togethers, so I knew most everyone from playing cards with them. Since the groom has spent a good deal of his time prepping for a wedding, we haven’t had our monthly game in a while. He needs to get his priorities straight.

Just about everyone there commented that we needed to get a game going, and soon. It could be because I only know them through card games so that was all we had to talk about, or it could be that everyone is just itching to get a game going again. I’m going with the latter.

I could really use some live poker. In the last three gatherings that we have had, we have played a total of seven tournaments with anywhere from nine to twenty some people. I’ve won four of them. I obviously can’t expect to continue that kind of success, but I’d like to think I will at least come out ahead on the evening, and I could sure use some extra cash.


Speaking of the wedding, just in case anyone is wondering, having to wear a suit in 90-100 degree weather with high humidity in an unconditioned church is not exactly fun.

The last three weekends have gone from obscenely hot and humid to pleasant to obscenely hot and humid. The first weekend I spent in my attic laying conduit and pulling wires so that I can run more than one air conditioner upstairs without blowing a fuse. I think I lost a good 20-30 pounds that day. The next weekend, we just relaxed at home and at our parents houses, and then last weekend, I had to put on twelve layers of clothing and sit in an unconditioned church. I think mother nature and I are not quit on the same page. She’s going to have to work on that if we are going to remain on speaking terms.


I don’t know how this happened, but somehow the Cubs managed to win 2/3 from the best team in baseball this weekend. Maybe the Sox let them win out of pity, who knows, but I’ll certainly take it. I think I personally know every single Sox fan in the country. All 30 of them. My wife and her family, my best friend, my brother and most of my coworkers are all Sox fans, and if the Cubs had lost like they were supposed to this weekend, I would have had to listen to them rub it in for the next four months. Right up until the Sox choked in the playoffs.

I put the over-under on Mark Prior’s return to the disabled list at three weeks from today.


Thursday, June 23, 2005

More $1/$2

My wife has a pottery class on Wednesdays, so that means I can usually get in a fair amount of poker. I almost didn’t play yesterday. I was in a real pissy mood, the kind where you almost want to take some brutal beats just to justify the shit mood you were in. It had “lose your whole bankroll due to some complete dumbass move” written all over it. I had my yearly review early in the day, and it did not go quite as I had hoped. Rumor had it that we were getting a certain raise, and mine ended up being slightly less. I still ended up with a pretty big raise but it didn’t nearly make up for the fact that I had gotten some pretty crappy raises for the past few years. And to top it off they more or less admitted that I had been underpaid for the last few years, but offered nothing other than “that’s unfortunate”. Given the fact that about a third of our company quit in the past six months I was expecting them to do more to try to keep their remaining employees. (We’re a small company, so a third of the people quitting equates to 5 people) Anyway, without getting into too many specifics, there’s a good chance I’ll be looking for a new job soon, so if anyone in the Chicagoland area is looking to hire a programmer/database application developer/poker enthusiast, let me know.

Despite my mood, I decided to play. I’ve been pretty busy lately and didn’t know how soon it would be until I got another chance. I opted to try a little more $1/$2, and I’m happy to report that I was able to post another winning session at that level. I’m definitely feeling more confident about my decision to try moving up. I think I tended to gamble and chase more than appropriate at the lower levels, and it was hurting my overall results. Not that I don’t make stupid plays at $1/$2, I’m just a little more careful. The players so far have been sufficiently bad to overshadow the mistakes that I have made. They also seem to be tighter which means less players per flop and far less suckouts, which is the real key. Not that I really have sufficient table time to make any sort of valid scientific comparison between $1/2 and $0.5/$1.

There weren’t any exciting hands worth writing about as I was pretty card dead for most of the session. The fact that I was able to post a profit without getting great cards is encouraging because I think normally I would have gotten impatient and starting pushing with crap hands. I did take one tough beat late in the session where I had AQ and flopped top pair top kicker, and had someone with QT river a straight. I was afraid that would trigger a chain reaction of bad plays/beats that would dry up my bank roll pretty quickly, but I was able to recover, which is also a good sign. Hopefully I’ll get to play some more soon.


In an unrelated note, PokerRoom is actually letting you do something useful with your player points now. You can turn in 500 points for a $10 bonus. I think you then need 5x raked hands to claim the bonus. Anyway, at least it’s something. I don’t know what else their points are good for.


Sunday, June 19, 2005

Folding QQ pre-flop.

I had an interesting experience the other night in a tournament. Let me set it up for you and see what you would have done.

It’s a $5 MTT with 375ish people. The blinds are up to $T50/$T100. I have $T2530 which is a little over average and there are about 200 people left.. To my right is the chip leader with over 10K. To his right is someone with 5K. I’m in the small blind and I’m dealt a pair of queens.

Third to act goes all in for $T835. I’m thinking that this is great. No one else is likely to call that bet, and I’ll probably be able to pickup and extra $T900 in chips. Then a strange thing happens. Both players I mentioned above call, and the action is on me.

I have three choices. I can fold, I can call and hope for a flop with under cards or I can reraise and try to get them to fold.

Now as you can probably guess, I ended up folding, and here’s why. If I play this hand, I don’t think I can get away from it without having to bet all my chips. I don’t have a read on the guy with 5K, but I’ve seen the chip leader call all ins at this table just about every other hand. I don’t think I’ll be able to get them to fold. Now, if I play, what are the chances of me winning? Well I don’t know the exact odds, but I have to think that at least one of them has an ace or king, or both in which case I’m racing for all my chips. I don’t know if it’s a valid comparison, but it was like I was playing against and Omaha hand. They had four cards of which they got to pick two to use to bust me out of the tournament. If only one of them had called, I probably would have played the hand, but I didn’t like my chances enough with both of them in. If I was the big stack, then I would have raised them both all in. As the short stack of the three, I didn’t want to get risk getting knocked out. I figured there would be plenty of other chances to double up later on, it wasn’t worth the risk at this point. So I folded.

A king came on the flop and an ace on the river but they ended up checking it down. The guy with 5K had wired fours, and the chip leader had AQo. The short stack that had gone all in had JQo.

I’m surprised the guy called with fours, but maybe he wasn’t expecting action behind him. He should have reraised to try to isolate the short stack, and he’s lucky the chip leader didn’t bet.

So what would you have done there? Did I make the right choice? It obviously worked out in my favor that time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was a good choice.


Saturday, June 18, 2005

Testing the $1/$2 Waters.

Since I suck at $0.50/$1 so much I figured maybe it was time to move up in limits. The fact that I average one winning session out of four at the lower level is obviously due the crappieness of my opponents and has nothing to do with my mad poker skills.

My wife was going out with some of her friends this evening, so my plan was try out a $1/$2 ring game for an hour or so, and then see if there were any multi table tournaments that looked interesting.

Unfortunately the Cubs were playing the Yankees, so I opted to watch a few innings of the game first to make sure I was good and tilty before I started playing poker. There were a couple $5 MTTs starting up on PokerRoom within 20 or 30 minutes of one another, so I decided that I would try those, and if I did well/lasted a while, then that would be it for the night, if I busted out early then I’d give $1/$2 a try.

A little over an hour later and I’m pulling up my first $1/$2 table in quite a while. I had dabbled once or twice before when trying to clear a bonus, but this was the first time that I was really going to play at this level.

I limited my play to about an hour. I just wanted to test it out to see how comfortable I was at these stakes. By limiting the time I was going to play I could make sure that if things went badly I would have a stop loss, and if they went well, I wouldn’t get over confident and bleed my profits away as I’m sometimes prone to do.

So anyway, I played for about an hour, which made for a total of 55 hands, and I finished up 21BB. Not too bad. I found that the difference between this level and the $0.50/$1 level was that here, I would hit hands, and there was always someone there to pay me off, where as in the lower level, I would hit hands and there was always someone there to suck out on me.

Seriously though, I got some pretty damn good cards. Out of the 55 hands that I played I had [AK] three times and [KK] three times. I didn’t get much action on my kings but at least they didn’t get cracked. AK only held up once, but I was able to get away from the hand relatively cheaply the other two times, and didn’t get married to my hand. One of the benefits of moving up a level is that I know it is going to be expensive to get to showdown, so end up playing more tightly and staying out of trouble. When someone obviously flopped trips against my big slick, I was able to get out rather than stubbornly calling his raises all the way to the river. It was funny because someone did stubbornly chase a hand where they runner runnered a straight to beat the other guys trip 8s.

In addition to being dealt great cards, I got a lot help from the board. My medium pocket pairs flopped trips a few times, and my top pair nut flush/straight draws hit more often than not. It also helped that my opponents were just morons. I had guys with bottom pair calling me all the way to the river after I had raised pre-flop, bet on every street and the board showed scare cards and a possible straight. I was shocked and relived to win those hands because I had put them on two pair, or trips, or maybe a made straight, only to see them turn over bottom pair. Unless they thought I was completely bluffing all the time, I don’t know what they were doing.

To make up for my much better than expected session, I’m sure that I won’t see a card higher than an 8 for the next few months, but so far, with this admittedly small sample size, I’d have to rate the experiment as a success.

We’ll see if I can keep it up.


Thursday, June 16, 2005

Party Poker IPO Again.

More stories about Party Poker’s (PartyGaming) IPO




Some interesting highlights from the articles.

Party Poker brings in $100,000/Hour.

PartyGaming made over $222 Million in the first quarter of this year, up 93% from last year.

This will make the biggest floatation in London since July 2000 and will place PartyGaming in Britain's leading FTSE 100 share index.

The expected valuation is about $11 Billion.

The U.S. accounts for 87% of PartyGaming’s Revenue.

The share prices were lowered in what some think is concern over the legality of online poker in the U.S.

The four founders will make a fortune from the floatation, but will have to worry about prosecution, fines and potential jail time in the U.S. Their prospectus issued on Wednesday stated that their activity may be considered illegal in the US and "There is a significant risk that criminal or civil judgments may be sought against the group of directors."

Anyway. Check out the articles for more info.


Sunday, June 12, 2005

Stupid Hindsight

I decided to give PokerRoom another chance today, and played in a $5 MTT. 325 people played and the top 40 make the money.

I was in 25th place with about $T6900, the blinds were $T300/$T600 and I was on the button when it was folded around to me. I have [Ah 4h]. There are 51 players remaining. I don’t have any reads on anyone at the table because I’ve changed tables about every 10 hands this tournament. So what would you do in this case? I’ll give you a minute to think about it…

Well, I’ll tell you what I did, and why. I went all in. I really just wanted to just raise them, but I thought that there would be no way I could put any more money in the pot if either of them called or re-raised. And if that happened, I’d be in danger of getting blinded away. I didn’t want to fold, because I thought there was still a good chance that I was ahead and even if I wasn’t I could induce a fold based on how close we were to making the money. I felt like if I wasn’t going to play that hand then I might as well check the auto-fold option and walk away. I was pretty sure they would fold and the $T900 in the pot would have made me a lot more comfortable in regards to being able to make the money.

Now, hindsight being what it is, I realize that probably any hand that they would call with would be way ahead of me, and that if I had just raised, and been prepared to fold to any aggression on their part I might still be in the tournament.

As you have probably guessed, the big blind did call, and he had a pair of queens. My hand improved, but queens still beat fours so I went from a position where I likely would have made the money, to one where I was eliminated 11 spots away.

I should have just folded, and waited for a better hand to try to make a move. If one never came along, there still would have been a good chance for me to finish in the money. Stupid hindsight, I hate you and you’re know it all attitude. Where were you when I was making this horrible play?


2005 WSOP Odds

In case you haven’t heard, the 2005 WSOP is going on now, and we are more than a week into the various events.

If you want to see the results as they happen check out these sites.

Looking at the results for event number 2, I see that Scott Fischman came in second place which brings to mind the following question. How many times is ESPN going to mention “The Crew” in the WSOP coverage? They got more than their fair share of coverage last year, and this year they have a more established pro in Fischman.

According to their website, ESPN will be broadcasting for 2 hours a night, on Tuesdays between August 32rd and November 15, which by my count is 26 shows. Plus they have nine shows scheduled for the WSOP Circuit Championship from Juy 19th to August 16th. (See schedule here.)

Anyway, assuming they have 35 shows, I think “The Crew” will be mentioned at least 200 times. I also think they will do at least two of the mini feature segments on them (they called it “the nuts” last year, who knows what they’ll do this year). I would think they can find some more interesting things to do features on but I wouldn’t bet on it. Or maybe they can actually show some poker. Now there’s an idea.

Continuing in the feature segment category, I would predict at least two more with Chris Ferguson throwing cards through things. I wouldn’t be surprised if they even recycle last year’s footage. Last year he had three, two with him throwing cards and one with him demonstrating his card counting ability.

There is also going to be at least one feature on Phil Hellmuth. How can they resist? Nothing says good TV like a whiny arrogant poker player berating his opponents for beating him. I almost wish they wouldn’t film him during his tantrums kind of like how major league baseball doesn’t show the drunken fans that run out onto the field. They’re just looking for attention, stop giving them what they want and maybe they’ll stop acting like idiots.

So the official PokerWords over/under for various events in ESPN’s WSOP television coverage is as follows.

Number of Times The Crew is Mentioned: 200 (By the way I call “not it” on actually having to count the number of crew references.)

Number of segments featuring The Crew: 2.5 (The segment needs to be mostly about the crew, not just have them appear in the segment. For example showing Dutch Boyd’s chip trick skills doesn’t count.)

Number of segments featuring Chris Ferguson: 3.5 (The segment needs to be mostly about him, not just have him appear in the segment.)

Number of segments featuring Chris Ferguson throwing cards at things: 2.5

Number of segments featuring Phil Hellmuth: 1.5 (The segment needs to be mostly about him, not just have him appear in the segment.)

Number of times the term Poker Brat is used to describe Hellmuth: 37

Number of times Hellmuth is shown bitching about his opponents play after losing a hand: 22

Number of segments featuring the Women of Poker: 1.5 (The segment must be about the Women of Poker, not just contain a woman in the segment.

Number of times the phrase “xxxx player only paid $Y” or “xxxx player qualified for this tournament by playing a $Y online satellite” to get into this tournament, or something similar where xxxx is some previously unknown player and $Y is less than 100: 34

Number of times the phrase “This is player xxxx’s first time playing in a live tournament” or something similar is mentioned: 15

Number of Times I want to yell at Norman Chad for his commentary: 284

Anyone else have anything they want to add?

(Note: I reserve the right to change the above odds based on the results of upcoming events, and changes to ESPN’s scheduled coverage.)

(Also Note: I have pulled most of these number straight out of my ass, and they are for entertainment purposes only. I accept zero responsibility for any losses incurred by using these numbers for any sort of wagering type purposes)

(Also Also Note: If you were actually planning on using the above to place a wager that you might have a gambling problem and you should probably seek professional help.)

I wanted to try to put odds on who will win the main event, but with an expected 6000+ fields, and only moderate knowledge of the pros in it, that’s kind of hard. I tried grouping the players, to make is somewhat more manageable. Here’s the list I came up with in order of the likelihood of them winning.

PokerStars Qualifiers. I think they will be sending 10-15% of the entrants, and they have won the last two. If I was a betting man I would put my money here. Wait a second. I am a betting man. Let me try that again. If I was to bet on the WSOP winner, and this option was available, I would take it.

Other Online Qualifier. This represents a huge portion of the field, so you have to give them a decent shot of winning, just based on the number of players alone.

FullTilt Pros. They have about 30 of poker pro’s on their roster, so you would almost have to give them a decent shot at winning it.

Dan Harrington. The guy has made the final table at the last two WSOP. If had to pick any one person, it would be him.

Someone named Nguyen. No final table is complete without one.

Gus Hansen. Seems like no final table is complete without him either.

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Monday, June 06, 2005

How to Play Jacks

So I don’t post for a few days, and I have one friend complaining and another checking up to make sure I’m not dead. It’s a good thing I only have two readers or I’d never be able to stand the pressure. I had planned on posting once or twice this weekend, but I didn’t really have much to write about. And I’m lazy.

Party Poker has another reload bonus. BONUSJUN gets you a 25% bonus. You have to play 7x raked hands in I think a week to obtain the bonus, and blah blah blah.

It’s a good thing they keep offering these bonuses, because without them I’m pretty sure I’d have run out of poker funds by now. My limit game continues to a less than profitable situation for me. Unless you count the bonuses, then I’m a little ahead.

On the plus side, I actually had my pocket queens hold up both times I had them last night. Unfortunately neither pot was very big, and to make up for it I got my aces cracked twice. Losing with aces was probably the difference between a winning a loosing session yesterday, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. In the first case the guy flopped a set of threes, and in the second someone flopped top pair, and picked up his second pair on the turn. I don’t think there was much I could have done to get either of them to fold.

So now the point of this post. In any given night there always seems to be one hand that occurs way more often than any other. Usually it’s something crappy like 53o, but sometimes it’s a decent hand. Last night it was wired jacks. While most people would probably consider this to be a pretty good starting hand, right now I’m not a big fan of it. I really don’t know how to play it correctly. In limit play, specifically low-limit, I’m not sure that it’s all that much more valuable than medium and low pocket pairs, especially when you get it in late position.

I think that in a no-limit game I can raise enough pre-flop to scare away people holding ace-rag, king-rag and queen-rag, so I don’t find myself going up against as many opponents, and it’s easier to bluff on a scary looking flop. But, as I said before I’m playing low-limit and usually best I can do preflop is raise one small bet. That usually isn’t enough to scare away many players. Because of that I’d actually rather have jacks in early position than late. The reason being in early position I have a better chance of being first in the pot, and then my raise might convince some people to fold their marginal hands. In late position, raising does no good since four or five people have already limped in, and they aren’t going to fold to my miniscule raise. A late position raise isn’t going to scare any of them away and only gives them a bigger pot to chase their draws with later in the hand.

So here’s the problem. Jacks seem like they should be a premium hand. I feel like I should be raising every chance I get with them because odds are I have the best hand at that point. I end up with jacks in late position, raise after five people limp, and then have both blinds call. The flop will inevitably contain at least one queen, king or ace, and I know that at least one person has me beat. From there, I’m drawing to two outs, because there is no amount of raising that is going to get them to lay down their top pair. They might go into check-call mode, but unless a third jack comes up I’m toast.

So I think the obvious thing to do is stop raising after so many people limp ahead of me. I’m not limiting the field, and I seem to be costing myself more bets overall. I think I also need to start treating them as I would a medium pair. Try to see a cheap flop, and then get out unless I pick up a set or maybe an open ended straight draw, or the board contains all under cards. If I’m first or second in the pot, then maybe I can raise and try to limit the number of other players that I’m going against, but even that will depend on the tightness of the table.

I haven’t really read a limit book since I actually started playing limit poker with any sort of regularity. I should probably go back and do that. In the mean time, does anyone have any advice on how I should be playing this hand, because it is real kicking my ass. I should go back to SNG's.