Poker Words - A Poker Blog

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

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Memorial Day Wrap Up

Memorial Day Wrap Up

For the last six years or so, Memorial Day weekend is when my high school friends, and I, and our wives have gotten together for a reunion.  This year it was my turn to host which was both good and bad.  It was good because I didn’t have to travel, but I had to make my house stay worthy, which was no small task.  The other problem, and the reason I haven’t hosted yet, is that I still live in the Chicago land area where we grew up.   So when my friends who live halfway across the country come to visit, their family thinks they deserve some attention as well.  Silly families.  Until now we’ve avoided the Chicago reunions so we didn’t have to deal with trying to make time for both.

It worked out ok though.  People came and went as family plans dictated, and in the mean time the rest of us did other things.  I’m pretty sure a good time was had by all.  

I must be getting old, though because I’m exhausted.  Its two days since everyone left and I’m still tired.  We didn’t even stay out as late, or drink as much as we used to and I’m still trying to recover.  How pathetic.

I won’t bore you with the rest of the details.

OK fine, there are one or two things that I left out that I know at least one person would want documented.  And its even poker related.  

The wives aren’t too into to poker, but they did give us a little bit of time play one evening.  We played some four handed dealer call it drunken poker.  It was mostly holdem, omaha, and pineapple with a few other random games thrown in.  I did get a round of Discard Jones in.  John kept calling a two card guts game which after a while I started playing blind every single hand in protest.  Maybe next year I’ll call heads or tails as my game.   I also tried calling razz and 2-7 triple draw, but its hard to explain games I don’t play when I’m intoxicated.  So I gave up.

Omaha killed me. I have a hard enough time playing Omaha sober.  After staying up getting everything ready the night before, getting up early that morning to go to the airport, and drinking heavily that evening, I was in no shape to play intelligent poker that required the use of more than two hole cards.  Yeah I should expand my skill set but somehow I don’t think that was the appropriate setting.  

At one point in the evening Derek mentioned that he wanted to play in my next Birthday poker spectacular.  The previous two are written up here and here.  Let me warn all of you.  Under no circumstances do you ever want to participate, much less organize a poker game where 95% of the other players have absolutely no idea what they are doing.  It sounds like fun in theory, but even if you do manage to make it out with your bankroll in tact, you’ll still regret it.  Don’t underestimate the frustration of trying to teach people that don’t really care if they get it or not the concepts of pot odds, the use of position, or actually betting when you have a hand, or any other semi advanced poker strategy.  It’s funny after the fact, but it’s painful during the event.  Trust me.

Just because I’m sure it’s his lifelong dream to get mentioned on the interweb and this site in particular, I will note that if we were keeping score, Derek would have won that evenings match, as he finished with the most chips while I had to rebuy more than once. Although my desire to beat him was sufficient motivation to not play like a donkey, I would also point out that my three buy ins cost the exact same as Derek’s one so at best he can claim a moral victory.  So way to hustle Derek.  We’re all proud of you.  

Next year there’s talk of going to some exotic location.  No matter what, I bet there’s a card game or too, and entirely too much alcohol for anyone’s good.  Good times.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Book Review The Professor the Banker and the Suicide King

Book Review:  The Professor, the Banker and the Suicide King.  Inside the Richest Poker Game of all Time. By Michael Craig

Ok, I admit that I’m a little late in reviewing this book, as its been out for quite a while, and anyone who might be inclined to read has probably already done so. I finally got around to reading it, so I’m going to do a review anyway.  

On the slim chance that you don’t already know the premise, the Professor, the Banker and the Suicide King is the story of billionaire Andy Beal and how he challenged a group of the worlds best poker players in increasingly high stakes poker matches over the course of a few years.

The game first happened when Andy Beal discovered that he enjoyed challenge of poker, but found full ring games boring, as he would often have to sit there folding hand after hand.  Heads up play was to be much more exciting since he was in every hand, and he started challenging some of the high stakes players to heads up matches.  The problem was that there were a number of big time players around that saw him and his unlimited bankroll as an easy score, so everyone wanted to play with him, making heads up games nearly impossible.  (For some reason the poker room refused to set up a heads up table, which would have eliminated the possibility of other players jumping in.  I didn’t quite follow the reason for that).  

So Beal and Doyle Brunson came up with a way to guarantee that their heads up matches would be uninterrupted.  Any player that they felt might sit down at a table in which Andy was playing was offered the chance to pool their money and play against him as a team.  This would ensure that everyone that wanted a piece of Andy got his chance, and also gave Andy the chance to only play heads up, which he preferred.

So why would such a smart guy make such a huge –EV play?  Andy isn’t the kind of guy to back away from a challenge.  The money wasn’t significant to him, and most importantly, he felt he could negate the poker pro’s advantage by forcing them to play at stakes that were over their comfort zone.

I more or less knew the plotline going into the book and to be honest, if it hadn’t been so well reviewed I probably wouldn’t have bothered reading it.  Despite that, I really enjoyed it.  It was a very fast read, and written in such a way that you don’t want to put it down even though your probably already know what’s going to happen.

The most interesting parts of the book aren’t even the heads up matches themselves.  Throughout the book, Craig gives you the history of each of the participants and how they came to find themselves at the biggest cash game in country.  It’s the stories of those players and how they became the best players in the world that was most intriguing.  

In addition to the stories of the pros we all know, and the highest stakes cash game ever, is the story of the poker boom itself.  When Andy Beal first found himself at a table with these top players, Poker was just about ready to explode.  This was before Moneymaker won his bracelet and before the World Poker Tour and during the time when online poker was still in its infancy.  Craig takes you back as these “degenerate gamblers” turn into celebrities over the course of a few short years.

And plus, the book is about poker.  How bad could it be?  I definitely recommend it.  If you haven’t read it yet, pick up a copy.  Trust me, you’ll enjoy it.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

PokerStars Blogger Tournament

Its that time of year again. I think PokerStars is the site that first had the idea of freeroll blogger tournaments as an good advertising move, and their tournaments are still the best. Hopefully this year they will do something about the large number of no shows, or at least put more at my table so I can get some free chips.

If you have a blog, go sign up. It doesn't even have to be poker related.

Online Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!

This Online Poker Tournament is a No Limit Texas Holdem event exclusive to Bloggers.

Registration code: 7330476


Sunday, May 21, 2006

WPBT Gemini

WPBT Gemini.

The WPBT POY Gemini event was tonight.  The format was rather unique.  It was a multi-table tournament.  Rather than the usual $20 tournament, each player entered two $10 tournaments with points going to the players with the highest average finish.  I thought it was good idea, and 42 other players liked it enough to give it a try.

One unfortunate thing about the event is that everyone was at the same table in both tourneys.  I thought they would have randomized it more, but I guess not.

I wish I had better results to report, but alas, tonight was not my not.  On one table I got off to great start, winning a big pot with aces, and a few other little pots here and there.  On the other table I never really had anything.

In both cases, after the first level or two, it was basically an exercise in me folding, as I didn’t get very many playable hands, and the hands that were somewhat playable always saw large raises before my turn to act.

My downfall in the first tournament came pretty rapidly.   I had a nice healthy stack, and called a short stack’s pre-flop all in with my AQ.  He had moved in a number of times already, and I thought he could be pushing with any ace.  Maybe he was, he just happened to have an ace with a king this time.   That left me with plenty of chips to work with, but put me in the bottom third of players remaining.

A few hands later I won the blinds with a AQ and a pre-flop raise.  The very next hand I was dealt kings, and raised again.  I figured I would get action this time since people are more likely to put you on a steal when you raise pre-flop two hands in a row.  Sure enough, S.T.B. came over the top of me from the small blind, and I pushed all in.  He had AJs.  Everything was working just as I had planned, right up until the turn brought him an ace.  

Kings have definitely not been holding up for me lately.  It seems like every time I get them, there is an ace on the board.  And the one time there wasn’t, the other four cards for the bicycle straight showed up.  

Anyways, enough bitching, shortly after I busted I watched someone else’s kings get cracked, this time by pocket tens when a third ten came on the turn.  So it’s not just me.  

On the second table, as I said, I never really got going.  Ultimately I was forced into all-in or nothing mode, and finally got called by SirFWalgman, his A7 vs my A6.  The flop, 33J,  gave me hope since any card over a seven would give us a split pot.  It was close as a seven hit, giving him the better two pair and knocking me out.  

So I finished 24th and 30th out of 43 in the two events.  Not so good.  I’m starting to think that I’m not going to be POY award winner this time.  


Thursday, May 18, 2006


Well I made it to silverstar VIP status on PokerStars today. You're all impressed I know. Maybe if you ask nicely I'll sign autographs later.

I can already tell that being a VIP is going to pay off, as they actually allowed me to walk away from not one but two tables this evening with significantly more money than I sat down with. In fact I did so well that I almost made back the money I lost yesterday when I was some lowly non-VIP. Almost. I think I have to be a gold VIP for that. I will say that poker is a lot easier and more enjoyable when all your flush and straight draws come in.


Monday, May 15, 2006


Remember how the other day I commented that playing more than two tables at once has a distinctly negative effect on my EV?  Well, I decided to test out that theory tonight.  Yeah I was right.   I got destroyed.   The funny thing is I don’t necessarily think I played any different than normal, although adding another table to my routine did seem to amplify a couple of leaks in my game.     Here are three of the leaks that I think are killing my game.  I’d be interested to hear if anyone has any advice for overcoming them, other than “stop doing that moron”.  Although that may very well be the best advice.

Leak #1.  Bonus Chasing

Trying to earn a bonus is definitely not good for my overall bottom line.  You would think that whatever money I lose trying to catch a bonus would be recovered by that bonus but I’m sad to say it is not the case.  

The problem is I’m more concerned with quantity over quality and I tend to play too long at too many tables, more often than I should, and when I’m not in the best state of mind to adequately concentrate on what I’m doing.  I also have the tendency to continually check my points/bonus/raked hands/whatever status at the expense of focusing on the tables at which I’m currently playing.  Its kind of hard to get a read on someone when you’re checking how many raked hands you played in the last hour instead of watching them.

The best solution to that is obviously to stop trying to chase bonuses, but it seems like such a waste to pass on the chance for free money.

Leak #2  Failed Blind Stealing

I hate it when I have crappy cards on the button, or in the small blind, and the action gets folded to me.  I honestly root for a raise so I can fold my rags and wait until the next hand.  When it’s folded to me in those positions, I feel like I’m obligated to try to steal the pot.  

The problem is when I get raised during those steal attempts.  I automatically assume that the big blind sees an obvious blind stealing situation and thinks he can catch me in a bluff.  Since I want to show that I really wasn’t just trying to take advantage of my position, I actually have a hand, in hopes that I can win on the flop, I re-raise.

Now I’m stuck.  I have no idea where I am in the hand.  He could be putting me on a steal, as I would be in his position, or he could actually have a hand.  And I have to try to keep up the charade on the flop, in hopes that his bet was just a feeler to see if the flop missed me, or if I really do have something. I just can’t shake the feeling that one more raise might convince him to fold. Usually I give up on the turn, but I’ll have bled quite a lot of chips by then.  

These situations are quite costly.

My question here is, in general, when do you start to back off when your steal attempts are met with resistance?  I’m hesitant to automatically fold because then I fear I’ve shown an exploitable weakness and I become afraid to try it again, because I’m worried about getting raised.  I think folding is probably appropriate in some situations, as is calling and hoping to hit a flop.  After that its probably wisest to just let it go, and hope that next time I really do have a hand in that situation because he’ll probably pay me off.  

Oh, I should note that these are low stakes limit games, although I do occasionally have the same issues in the no-limit tournaments I play.

Leak #3 Preflop raise puts me out of position.

The third leak that I really noticed today is when I have a reasonable, but not definite raising hand in earlyish position.  If its folded to me,  I’ll raise, and usually end up with a caller or three.  The problem now is that I’m out of position because everyone before me folded, and a few players after called.   When the flop misses me I feel like I need to make some sort of continuation bet to see if perhaps it missed them as well.  Of course I’m pretty limited in the amount I can bet, and it isn’t enough to reliably give me any information on where I stand in the hand.  Anything they could have called with preflop they can probably call with on the flop, even if it missed them.

Often I get called by one or more players and then repeat the exercise on the turn.  Where I’ll get raised.  I guess I have trouble knowing when I should move out of aggressive mode, and into check/fold or check/call mode in these situations.  

One option that I rarely use is the check raise on the flop in hopes of getting the free card on the turn.  I burned myself many times attempting this trick at the micro limits, so I’m hesitant to try it.  Fancy play doesn’t get rewarded all that often at my chosen limits.  Maybe that’s the problem.  Maybe I’m worrying too much about who has control of the hand, and if continuation bets are appropriate or not.  Maybe I should simplify my game a bit and remove any form of bluffing.  Or maybe I should try it every once in a while.


Saturday, May 13, 2006

Another 180 SNG final table.

Another Day, Another 180 SNG final table.

So far this year I have made the final table in half of the 20 table SNG’s that I’ve played at Stars. Of course I’ve only played in six, but so what?

I only finished 9th this time which is somewhat disappointing, but I can’t complain too much. I came to the final table severely short stacked and pushed with JQs. I met a pair of tens and he flopped a set.

Acknowledging the fact that I have a small sample size and variance will probably see to it that I don’t cash in another tournament for decades, I have to say that these tournaments are very beatable. Most of the players hand selection in these things is questionable at best. It seems like anytime I’m in an all-in situation, I find myself amazed at the crappy hands they are risking all their chips with. Sure I push with mediocre hands on occasion, but only when I’m desperate or I think I can steal a pot. I don’t think most other players at this level realize that. So many players go broke on hands they should have never gotten involved with in the first place.

If anything, I’m too tight, allowing other players to push me out of pots with inferior hands, but a lot of that is because I know if I wait long enough someone will be more than willing to donate his chips to my cause.

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5 Billion Hands

In case you haven’t heard, PokerStars is approaching its 5 billionth hand, and has a few promotions running to celebrate.  They marked off a few other milestone hands and participants in those hands get some nice bonuses.  They are also doubling their FPP and VIP points for the next week, which is what got my attention.

I haven’t played a lot at Stars since they rolled out their VIP program at the beginning of the year.  I haven’t played much anywhere for that matter, but I didn’t try to achieve any sort of VIP status at Stars because I didn’t think I played enough, or at high enough limits to earn enough points to make it worth it.  Since they are doubling their points for a while I figured it would be a good time to try.

I think Silver status is something I should be able to attain without too much work, although Gold is probably out of reach.  At least for now.


Sometimes it amazes me how I can be simultaneously running really well and really poorly.  I usually play two tables at once.  Any less and I get bored/distracted and any more and I start to get flustered when I am involved in hands at more than one table. I really don’t know how you people do it.  

Anyway, it seems that I am always even for any given time period.  If I’m up big on one table, I’m getting killed on the other and vice versa.  There’s no sessions where I lose my buy in or double up on both tables.  


There is nothing more satisfying that starting out with a good hand, getting way out flopped and then winning the hand on the river because your opponent decided he would be sneaky and slowplay his monster.  I thought I was the only one who got screwed by slowplaying, and it’s good to see that isn’t always the case.  

So while that kept happening on the one table and I kept winning huge pots, I got destroyed on the other.  I would have a high pocket pair, or flop top pair/good kicker, only to find myself check raised on the turn.  If there is one thing I hate it is being check raised on the turn.  Mostly because I will almost always call that bet, and the one on the river, knowing full well that I am beat.  And also because whenever I try to do it I run into the nuts.

So if I’m always doing well at one table and crappy at another, why don’t I just close the bad table?  Good question.  Today I closed both because was starting to tilt after I got sucked out on the good table.  I figured I should quit while I was ahead. Usually though I figure my luck has to turn so I stick it out.  And I’m too stubborn  and lazy to try to switch tables.  Stubborn and lazy.  Those are traits of a good poker player.  Right?


Sunday, May 07, 2006

Playing again.

I’ve finally started playing poker again with some sort of regularity, not that I have anything great to show for it. I played a 20 table SNG on Stars and the 17K Guaranteed on FullTilt this weekend, but busted out just before the first break in both. In the sit-n-go I just didn’t get any cards. I saw very few flops, and when I did, there was nothing I could do with them. I don’t think I played poorly I was just one of those things that you can’t really do much about. The 17K started shortly thereafter, and I didn’t have much luck there either. I crippled myself when I flopped top two pair with KQ out of the big blind. I checked, trying to slow play. The guy behind be checked and the dealer bet the pot. I called, the guy behind me raised and the other guy called. I pushed all in figuring that I was probably ahead and I could get at least one of them to come along. I also wouldn’t have minded if they folded since I figured at least one had AK or AQ or AA and I didn’t need them picking up a second pair to counterfeit my hand. I should probably point out that the other card on the flop was a 9 and that when I was aware that they could have JT for the straight. For some reason I convinced myself that they didn’t and I was wrong. Not a good play on my part. After that I was severely short stacked, although I was able to stay alive for quite awhile with the push or fold strategy.

Other that I played a bunch of ring games. I decided to try moving completely up to $2/$4 for a while. I do OK I’ll stay there in hopes of moving to $3/$6 in a few months, and if not I can drop back down.

Saturday did not do a lot for my confidence at those stakes. I kept flopping top pair top kicker, or pretty good kicker, and running it into slow played aces. And then to top it off, my aces would get cracked even though I did everything in my power to represent aces, and the guy that beat me only had K6 and no help on the flop.

OK that was sort of a lie, I did get my aces cracked when he runner runnered two pair, but I did get them a few more times later in the evening and they held up for some substantial pots.

Even though I haven’t moneyed in them yet, I think the guaranteed tournaments on FullTilt are very much +EV. You get 800+ people in these things and after an hour there is between 300 and 400 left. That’s a lot of dead money. I think if you are patient in the first hour, hit a big hand, you will get paid off, and set up in pretty good shape for the rest of the tourney.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Football season?

Football season?

Is it time for football season yet? I’m pretty sure that baseball is already over. Seriously, any time the Cubs want to score a run would be fine by me. They’ve scored a grand total of three runs in the last five games. I understand that losing Derek Lee took a bit out of their offense, but he wasn’t all of it, was he? At this point getting Kerry Wood and/or Mark Prior back isn’t going to make much of a difference, unless they learned how to hold their opponents to -1 runs during their minor league rehab.

Speaking of suck, any time Carlos Zambrano wants to win a game would be great as far as I’m concerned. And would it be too much to ask for him, or any other pitcher on my fantasy team to make it through a game without giving up more than six runs?

So yeah, when does Bears training camp start?