Poker Words - A Poker Blog

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

Monday, November 28, 2005

No-Limit Advice Needed.

After taking a beating on the limit tables this weekend I decided to try an SNG or two to see if things might work out better there. Instead I confirmed what I have already begun to suspect. I suck at no-limit tournaments. I end up going broke in situations where I had plenty of chips going into the hand.

This is basically the sequence of events that leads up me busting out of tournaments: Play tight for the first few rounds, winning a few small pots, but generally staying out of trouble. Around the third or fourth level I find myself hovering around the same chip count that I started at. Here’s where I usually blow it. Somewhere around now I get dealt a good starting hand and make a preflop raise. Since we all know min raises make the baby Jesus cry, I usually raise about 2.5 to 3x the BB. Any more than that and I’m afraid that I will chase away everyone, and I would like to win more than just the blinds. Maybe that’s my problem. Anyway, I’ll usually get one or two callers. I’ll either get a piece of the flop, or it will be random enough that I can reasonably assume that no one else got a piece, or if they did they can’t be overly confident in their holding. I’ll make a continuation bet of ½ pot to the size of the pot. And someone will call. At this point I have no idea where I stand in the hand. Had I been raised, maybe I would proceed more cautiously, but at this point they could either be drawing to something, or they could have a weak holding that they can’t give up, or maybe they have a monster and they are going to let me hang myself. On the turn I’ll make another pot sized bet in an effort to win the hand right there. Of course by now the pot is sufficiently large and I’ve invested so many chips that I feel pot committed, and compelled to call when I’m raised all-in by what turns out to be a better hand that I should have picked up on.

I think there are two problems. One is that I need to find a way to keep the pot reasonably small so that I can find out where I am in the hand without having to lose a ton of chips. I just need to learn how to do that while at the same time growing the pot enough so as to maximize my profit when I do in fact have the best hand. No shit you say, isn’t that the general idea? Minimize losses and maximize wins? Well yes, I just need to do a better job of figuring out which side I am on so that I don’t cost myself unnecessarily. Secondly, sometimes I need to slow down when faced with some resistance rather then amping up the aggression. It’s probably better to check, and win a small pot than to over bet and win a large one. I think I interpret a call rather than raise as weakness and try to bet more on the next street to provide some additional incentive for them to fold. The reality is that there are a lot of players that will be content just to call you even when they are likely to have the better hand.

So I busted out in 14/18th and 7/9th in the two tournaments I played. I’m going to replay the hands that I went out on, and what I was thinking in each case. Feel free to point out any and all mistakes that I made because I’m sure there were plenty.

Hand 1:

Blinds are $25/$50. I’m in the Big Blind with $T1280. There are 7 players at my table. The two big stacks have $T2930 and $T4240. The rest of us have $T1300 +- 200.

I’m dealt [Ac Tc] in second position, and raise to $150. Maybe this is a little aggressive here, given my position, I don’t know. I get called by third and fourth position.

Flop is [8h Th 3h] OK, I have top pair, but those hearts are not my friends. So my question here is would you try to win this hand, or look to check fold to get out of it?

I opted to try to win it. I made a pot sized bet of $T525. I was gambling that no one had the flush yet, and that they wouldn’t be willing to chase for such a high price, and if they put me on a steal attempt, and called, I still have TPTK. In hindsight, chances are one of them has a heart, and there’s a pretty good chance that they will call me down with it, especially in the lower buy in tournaments that I am playing.

Back to the hand, I got raised all in. Now, when I made the initial bet, I was planning on folding to a raise, since that would likely mean a flush, or at the very least flush draw, but I talked myself out of folding. I reasoned that his raise meant he didn’t have the flush either. If he did, he could have just called, and gotten me bet for him on the turn. He thought he had me bluffing, and was attempting a re-bluff. So I called. He had [As Kh]. I was kind of right. I did have the better hand, although he had a decent draw. I think in his place I would have folded with no pair and only a draw to the second nut flush, but a semi-bluff re-raise isn’t really an unreasonable move. He ended up hitting a King on the turn to win the hand and knock me out.

So where did I go wrong in that hand? Betting into a likely flush with only a pair is probably not too wise of a maneuver, but is there anything else that I should have done differently? How do I play this hand and not go broke on it? Was the pot sized bet on the flop too much?

Hand 2:

Ok, that last hand I think I gambled more that I should have. In this one I wasn’t as upset with my play, but more curious as to how I could have handled it better.

Blinds are $30/$60. I’m on the button with $T1735. There are seven players remaining

I’m dealt [ Qh As ]

The villain raises to $T180 and I call. I was tempted to raise there, but I wanted to try to keep the pot size small, and didn’t want to allow him to try to reraise all-in if he had a big pocket pair.

The two of us see a flop of [Ad 4c Jh]. Villain bets $T250. I want to know if he has AK or AA. His bet there could just be a continuation, bet, or he could have KK, or QQ and he is probing to see if I have an ace. So I raise to $T500 and he calls.

Turn is [6c]. He checks, and I figure the pot is plenty large already that I’d like to just win it now. I go all in. He calls with [Ac Jc]. I don’t improve on the river and I’m done. So should I have checked behind on turn? If so, what happens when he bets on the river? What if he had KQ and I give him the chance to pick up the ten on the river by just checking? Is there a way that I could have intelligently played this hand without loosing all my chips?

Feel free to tell me how much I suck, but more importantly why? Or maybe I’m letting the results influence my opinion of the decision? Is it possible that I actually played those hands well and things just didn’t work out?

I really need to finish Harrington’s books.


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Not a Good Day

I had the worst day of my poker career yesterday, in terms of net loss and almost in terms of BB/hand. It was especially frustrating, because I’m trying to move up in limits, and I really could have done without my bankroll taking such a big hit. One of the problems with moving up in limits is that your net winnings and loses for any given day can increase dramatically, which can be troubling if you concentrate on any specific session. A year ago I would sit down with $25 and in a particularly bad session it would still last an hour or two. Yesterday there were a few times when I lost that much in a single hand. Hopefully one day I’ll be playing in games where that represents a single bet, but I’m no where near there yet.

I want to blame my poor showing yesterday on a combination of bad luck and bad cards, but I seem to do that whenever I’m running bad, and I can’t keep using that as a crutch. True, I could be playing perfect poker, and still end up down, but somehow I doubt that I played perfectly. I mean, I’m good and all, but I don’t know if I’m quite ready to label myself as a perfect player. I think slightly above average is probably more accurate.

One of my problems is using position to my advantage. Theoretically you should be playing more hands in later position than earlier position because you have the advantage of acting after other players. Over the long term, I have played just about the same amount of hands from each position. Yesterday I seemed to be playing more from early position than later. I think part of the reason this happens is that I generally have one list of hands that I consider playable. If I’m in early position I might opt to fold some of the lesser hands on that list, but probably not as often as I should. The other problem is that the number of hands that I will play after someone has raised is considerably smaller. In later position, the chances of someone raising ahead of me is greater, so I tend to fold more often; dropping hands that I would have played if I had acted sooner. I need to pay more attention in earlier position to how likely I am to be raised after limping in, and consider that more when opting to play some of the lower tier hands. I also need to add some hands to my list to play in later position, especially in unraised pots. The obvious advantage there is that even when I don’t hit there’s often a reasonable chance that no one else hit, and I can win the pot on the flop. Or I can get out cheaply if needed.

My other problem was that I wasn’t reading players very well. I think a number of bad beats put me on a lack of confidence induced tilt, but whatever it was it was bad for me. My reads were generally off in two ways. First I kept giving my opponent credit for better hands than they had, which caused me to play too passively, either folding hands I should have won, or not winning as much as I could. I guess it’s a good thing that I’m recognizing potential hands that could beat me, but I need to put my opponent on a range of hands rather than the specific hand that I don’t want him to have. That became a self defeating cycle because I wouldn’t play hands as fast as I should, which many times allowed them to catch up, and administer the very same bad beat caused me to play timidly in the first place. The other side of that was when they actually did have good hands, and I assumed their aggression was fishlike idiocy rather than decent poker play. Sometimes I can just get a groove where I can pretty accurately tell when an opponent has a hand and how strong it is, and I can adjust my play accordingly. Yesterday, I seemed to be doing the opposite. Maybe there is a switch I can toggle to apply inverse reads to what I am currently thinking.


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Team Poker

No, not those online colluders that you always hear about, an actual team poker league. has just released poker teams and team tournaments. I'm not real sure how it works yet, but it looks interesting. I can see the blogger "Team Hammer", doing quite well in this.

Check out the details yourself at

Oh, and there is a 20% reload bonus valid through December 1 with code BUSTING


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

What to do...


Here it is. 4:00 the day before Thankgiving.

Only 6 people made it into the office today, and of those six, five of us have resigned in the past month.

I really don't have any work to do.

I've pretty much been to every page on the internet so far today.

I'd go home, but I have volleyball later tonight and its in the opposite direction.

I think I'll play some poker.


Monday, November 21, 2005

Home Field Advantage?

Twelve weeks ago, had you told me that at this point in the season not only would the Bears have their division all but locked up, they would be worrying about potential first round playoff byes and home field advantage, I would have a asked for a shot of whatever it was you were drinking.

When I set the line at 6 ½ wins for the Bears this season, and my friend chose the under in our annual Bears bet, I immediately regretted my choice. I considered the money for that bet gone.

But now here we are. The Bears have at least a two game lead in their division, and they are tied for the best record in the conference. Their offence could still use some help, but they aren’t going to be going against a top five defense every week, so hopefully they’ll be able to start scoring some more. And as long as they don’t throw five interceptions, their defense should always keep them in games.

Is it too early to start thinking about the superbowl for Da Bears?


Thursday, November 17, 2005


Indoor volleyball season is underway and our team still sucks. Last night we played another team that we should have crushed, and still found a way lose. I don’t know what our problem is. I take that back, I do know what our problem is. We can’t handle serves. On either side. It seems like half the time, on our serve, we hit it into the net. Tough to score points that way. And then at least once a game we go through a period where we can’t return a server for four or five or twelve points in a row. I don’t know why, we just suck.


After a prolonged fall by Chicago standards, winter showed up yesterday. I almost forgot how much I hate winter. It’s cold, its dry, its dark, and for some reason the sight of snow decreases most people’s ability to drive by about 80%. We didn’t even have any accumulation last night, just flurries and still people drove like morons. You would think after living in the Midwest for a while you would learn how to drive in wintry conditions, but apparently not. It’s just snow people. You’ve all seen it before. Please go about your regularly scheduled business.


Speaking of driving, I have one other thing to bitch about. Normally I’m a pretty calm driver and note too prone to road rage. One of the exceptions to that is people driving slow, especially below the speed limit in the passing lane. This isn’t a difficult concept people. There are three lanes in an expressway. The rightmost lane is for semis, slow drivers, and people exiting soon. The center lane is for faster moving traffic, and the left lane is the fast lane or passing lane. If you are in the left lane and people to your right keep passing you, then you are in the wrong lane. Get out. If you are in the left lane, and someone comes up behind you at a significantly faster speed than you are driving, and then maybe starts tailgating you, you are in the wrong lane. Get out of the way. Some people have places to go, and they would like to get there before next Thursday. If you are not in a hurry, there are two other lanes for provided for your driving convenience. Please use them.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Take This Job...

I’m in a pretty good mood today. I’m pretty sure it has something to do with the fact that I have a new job and turned in my resignation to my current employer this morning.

Honestly, what my current company has become is a bit depressing. I’ve been here since I graduated college six years ago. At the time we were a small company just getting started. I think at most we had 20 employees and three owners. Most of the employees were the same age give or take a year, and most of us had come from U of I, and the camaraderie was something that I don’t think you’ll see at most companies. As people have been leaving they’ve repeatedly said the hardest thing about leaving was the people they were leaving behind. If it wasn’t for that I think the company would have dissolved years ago. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

As the dot com bubble burst and the economy went south we were still hanging on. As the larger consulting companies were going closing up shop we were still around. We had outlasted most of the big players, but unfortunately not by much. Management saw the state of the economy as something they could use to their advantage in hiring and caring for their employees. They hired couple of really smart guys right out of school and paid them about half what they were worth. There wasn’t much the new guys could do at the time because the job market was so tough. I think when management saw how cheaply they could get new employees the stopped worrying about keeping the old ones happy. Unfortunately for them the market has since turned around, and their compensation packages are no where near competitive.

Years ago some of the senior employees started voicing concern. It wasn’t just salaries; it was other things involved in running and growing a successful business that weren’t being done. One of the biggest problems is that we operated under and prided ourselves in being a no-frills and low overhead company. That meant cheaper rates for our clients and theoretically more money for us. There are a few problems with that. I think our cheapness gave the impression that we were also low quality, and the partners did nothing to convince anyone otherwise. Frugality is nice and all, but sometimes spending some money without any immediate return is a smart move.

More and more people started speaking up and pointing out areas that our company would need to improve to be successful moving forward. A few years ago the employees started scheduling company wide meetings to discuss our frustrations and concerns. Management attended the meetings, and made promises to improve, yet did nothing.

Then a few people quit, and then a few more. And they did nothing.

We had some more meetings, where they tried to paint a rosy picture of the future, but they didn’t act on anything discussed.

They were warned that the remaining employees were not happy and were beginning to seek employment elsewhere, and they did nothing.

And then someone else left. And they still did nothing.

And a few weeks later two more people gave notice. One of them was their first employee and the guy that has more knowledge about all of the remaining projects than probably the rest of the company combined. This time they sent out an optimistic email about how we have a great future, and even though we lost some key employees, our future is good because we have a bigger potential workload to employee ratio than ever. (The astute reader will realize that this is not due to an increase in work, but a decrease in employees, not the way to run a successful business.)

I gave my notice this morning. There are currently seven employees remaining and three of us have given notice. I think at least two others will be leaving soon. I still don’t think they plan on doing anything.

It’s really sad. We had some really smart people working here who could have done some amazing things, but somewhere along the way people stopped caring. They were content to keep doing what they had always done because it was making them money, and they figured that everyone else would feel the same way.

The good news is I’m moving on and as far as I can tell my new company is everything that my old one could and should have been.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Rethinking the $6 Satellites

You know those $6+$0.60 SNG’s on FullTilt that I mentioned before? The ones that I thought would be a great way to earn entries to the larger tournaments? Yeah, after further review, I don’t like them.

It’s not that they aren’t winnable, they most certainly are, it’s just that they take for ever to finish. The stupid $26 token isn’t any where close to being worth the amount of time required to win it. From now on I’m just going to pay the $26 up front.

The first time I tried one of these SNG’s I was surprised at how long it took to eliminate the final two players once we got down to the bubble. I figured it was as anomaly and that I just ended up with a bunch of real conservative players.

Well, I tried again last night, and we were down to six before the first break. I was hoping everyone would just hit the “I’m ready” button to skip the break since I figured the tournament would be over in a few minutes. The blinds were getting up there and there were two real short stacks who I didn’t think could hold on much longer.

What happened next was the most ridiculous refusal of the stupid short stacks to lose an all-in battle that I have ever seen. They just would not go away. Very few hands were actually played out. Most times a pre-flop raise or bet on the flop would win the hand. Often the big blind would win by default. And in all-in confrontations the shorter stack was like 97-0.

Towards the end I could tell everyone was getting frustrated. Two of the players were openly complaining when the short stacks would stay alive. I think I was just a little more patient than everyone else because they started pushing with more readily and calling all-ins with less than optimal hands trying to bust someone. Finally 88 ran into 99 and it was over.

So I played pretty damn good poker for almost two hours and to show for it I have a token to another tourney in which I will probably lose. I’m going to have to rethink that plan.


Saturday, November 12, 2005

Miscellaneous Stuff

I have a lot of stuff floating around in my head, but I don’t think any of it justifies a whole post on its own, so I combined a whole bunch of crap ideas into one for your reading pleasure.  Enjoy.


FullTilt has these new tiered SNGs.  At least partially new.  I think.  You can start with a $4+$0.40 single table tourney where the winner gets a $26 token and runner up gets $10.  Or you can join in a $6+$0.60 two table tourney where the top four get a $26 token and fifth gets $4.  There’s also an $11+$1 that gets a $75 token for the winner and $24 for second place.  

The $26 token or a $24+$2 buy in gets you into a two table tournament where the top 5 get a $75 token and sixth gets $57.

Finally, there is a $69+6 or $75 token single table tourney paying out $310, $186, and $124 to the top three spots.

You can also use the tokens for any of the other mutli-table tournaments.

Confused?  I would post a diagram, but I can’t seem to find it on their site, and I’m too lazy to put any more effort into searching.

Anyway, I’ve been wanting to play in some of the $24 +2 daily guaranteed tournaments, so I thought I would try to win a token rather than buying in directly.  Coming in the top 4 out of 18 didn’t seem that hard so I tried the $6+$0.60.

I had an interesting table.  It started out being an all-in push fest with players going all-in early and often.   Once they had gotten that out of there system, it turned into the tightest table I’ve ever seen.  When we were down to six players it was just folded around to the big blind probably four out of every six hands.  That worked out well for me because I was the short stack when we got to six, and after four or five orbits I had stolen my way to the chip lead.  

I got lucky and knocked out the fifth place finisher’s KK when my AKo made a flush on the river.  That saved the uber short stack who had survived being all-in in the big blind two hands earlier.

I’ve tried a couple more since and haven’t been able to get the token.  In fact I just got busted in 7th place when I made two pair with KQo in the BB.  I tried to bet just enough to get a call which turned out to by my undoing as a ten on the turn gave him an ace high straight.  Oh well.


I tried  $2/$4 again this afternoon and my results were considerably better this time.  It was a bit of struggle early on in the session, but I managed to hang around and then finally started getting some cards.  I think I’m about even now.  

I think one of the biggest leaks in my game might be maximizing my profit when I win a hand.  I’m always afraid that some moron is going to suck out on me so I’m content to check down the river rather than risk a check raise.


I realized something this week. It’s a lot easier to be a winning poker player when you just flop the nuts.  There are few things better than having your connectors in the big blind give you the nut straight on a rainbow board.  I really need to work on doing that more often.  


I’m a big fan of PokerStar’s new 180 player SNG’s.  When they first came out I was confused.  What’s the point of a 180 player SNG?  Why not just have a regular tournament?  Then I realized that unlike PokerRoom, and FullTilt where I usually play tournaments, there aren’t too many tourneys on Stars that have less than 300 players.  Or even 500 for that matter.  I love playing on Stars and all, but I don’t have the time for that.  I would think 180 players is just about right.  Of coarse I have only played in one so far, and didn’t do very well, but I’m still a fan.


I swear a disproportionate number of times that I get KK, I am in the blinds.  And then I can never get them to hold up because there’s already 14 people in the pot and one of them inevitably hits something better than my pair.  It’s like the random generator and his pals are messing with me.  “Hey you know what will be funny?  Lets keep giving Mike KK, but in situations where he isn’t a favorite to win the hand vs the rest of the table. It will be great.  Then we can give him aces in the big blind and just have everyone fold before it gets to him.  Hee hee”  


Well, my $26 token just earned me 247th place out of 643 in the $14,000 guaranteed.   I raised with AKs and then pushed when I was re-raised.  I was hoping he had a smaller ace.  He had wired eights, and I didn’t improve.  I probably could have played that better.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

First $2/$4 Attempt

Yesterday I made my first attempt at playing $2/$4, and unfortunately it didn’t go quite as well as my first $1/$2 attempt. I only played for an hour, so I don’t want to read too much into the results, but lets just say if I see frequent results like that I’m going to have to find a new hobby.

I was struck with an unfortunate combination of poor cards, and poorly timed bluffs. Whenever I did actually have cards, I couldn’t get any action, and when I tried to represent that I had cards, I got raised.

Then there was the one big hand where my pocket Kings got taken down on the river. I don’t want to turn this into a bad beat post, but I would like to know if I could have played the hand any better. First off, what do you do when you have KK in the big blind and a bunch of players limp in? Raising seems like the obvious choice, but you probably aren’t going to get anyone to fold by doing so, and it just gives them better odds for chasing their draws later on. Is raising really the best move here?

I opted to raise hoping to narrow down the field a little, but everyone else came along for the ride. The flop was [2s3c8c], and I lead out, getting two callers. A queen on the turn made it two clubs and two spades on the board. I bet and was immediately raised from a guy in middle position. I was worried he had just picked up a set of queens, but felt like I couldn’t back down now. I reraised, and he called along with the button who was stuck in between us. The river brought the 9 of spades which gave middle position two pair, and the button a flush. Ouch. That’s going to leave a mark.

So they both tried to limp preflop with low suited connectors (89 and 45). One hit top pair, and the other a straight draw on the flop. The turn gave the button a flush draw to go along with his straight draw, and I’m thinking middle position was bluffing trying to see if anyone had the queen. Had I not raised pre-flop and then gone for a check raise on the flop maybe I could have chased them out. But maybe not. I was probably just destined to lose a lot of chips on that hand. I also contend that raising preflop was the correct play even though it didn't work out well this time. There is the potential of driving out some players, and it should make everyone cautious on later streets, giving me the upper hand. If there were fewer players involoved I would be more inclined to check preflop to set a trap for the turn and river.

Anyway. I’m licking my wounds at $1/$2 for again. I’ll probably try to take another stab at $2/$4 soon.


Friday, November 04, 2005


I’m supposed to be in New Orleans right now. The Bears are playing the Saints this weekend, and I friend of mine and our wives were going to go down there to get our drink on and watch a real live football game.

I don’t know if you heard but there was this hurricane that kind of put a stop to those plans. It was in news. You should really get out more. The game got moved to Baton Rouge and we were still considering going, but they automatically cancelled everyone’s tickets to the game, and the rest of New Orleans isn’t exactly a prime vacation destination at the moment. Am I an asshole if the first thing I thought of when I heard about Katrina was if it was going to affect my ability to attend a sporting event? On second thought don’t answer that.

You can answer this though. Am I wrong to think that Delta Airlines should refund my flight to New Orleans? I understand that I purchased a non-refundable ticket, but I would think the nice customer service thing to do would be to acknowledge that this is a special circumstance and let me cancel my flight. It’s not like I just changed my mind and decided I didn’t want to go, my destination of choice got its ass kicked and isn’t really a destination anymore. If I can help it I will fly Delta once and only once more in my lifetime, and that is when I redeem cancellation voucher that I have from this trip.

Since we had already requested the time off, and neither one of us is exactly enthusiastic about our jobs at the moment, we decided to just take the extended weekend anyway and relax and maybe do some home improvementy type things. So far I have to admit; not going to work this morning is way better than going to work would have been. I could get used to this.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Addicted to Suited Aces

I’m addicted to suited aces. Could I be any more of a fish? I can fold any other suited combination without a second thought, but if one of those cards is an ace, I’m going to take a stab at it just about every time. Honestly, doesn’t the thought of hitting the nut flush and busting some moron with K5s just bring a smile to your face? The problem is I end up being the moron when an ace hits and I have to get away from the hand anyway because I’m worried about being out kicked. Or even worse I don’t get away from it and lose a bunch of chips. I still just can’t seem to stop playing this hand.

I think part of the problem is that it can be a profitable play in limit ring games where you can usually minimize the damage when you don’t hit. I’ve gotten used to playing them at least for a cheap flop just to see if I can get lucky.

Yeah, that’s not necessarily the best plan in a no-limit tournament. Sure the payout for hitting could be a lot higher, but it also costs a lot more to be wrong. Early position A9 suited looks pretty, but it’s just asking for trouble. I raise, a guy with half my stack (I’m around average) goes all-in over the top. Well crap. Now what? Is he in “push with anything” mode? Is he trying to steal some extra chips? Does he actually have a hand? Maybe if I’d been paying more attention I’d have a better read on him, but still, I don’t know if I’d be able to put him on a range of hands. I have no business in the this hand. I end up calling, like the genius I am, and sure enough he had ATo. Bye-bye half my chips. Way to ruin a perfectly good tournament.