Poker Words - A Poker Blog

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

Saturday, March 24, 2007

3rd Annual Birthday Poker Tourney

Today was my third annual birthday poker tournament fiasco extravaganza, and I have to say, this was the best one yet. And I don't base that soley on the fact that I actually cashed in this one. Ok fine, it is pretty much based on that.

Just in case you ever decide to host a poker tourney with a group of family members who have no clue what they are doing nor desire to learn, let me do my annual public service announcement and warn you not to attempt it. You think losing to the clowns on Party Poker who would catch their one out on the river time and time again was bad, you have no idea.

I would think that in the third year of this event, some poker knowledge would have caught on, but alas if anything people's skills are degrading. I might as well make it limit tournament next year, because no one bets more than the minimum anyway. It doesn't matter how many times I say you have to bet at least $x or, you can call or raise, no matter what they are going to bet/call the minimum.

The whole end of a round of betting thing is still a challenge for most of them. It goes: player A bets, B calls, C calls, D calls, ... (notice there are no folds or raises), back to to A, who checks, and then B checks, and then I yell at them and tell them to stop.

On the plus side, by brother was able to make it for the first time. He actually knows what he is doing so there was someone else to experience my pain. Although he mostly just sat back and laughed. At first. Until he was victimized by their schooling fish attack.

Also my wife has graduated to the more or less knows what she is doing level of player. She still needs a cheat sheet to figure out what hand she has and what beats what, but she at least knows when to fold and when to bet/raise. I think she actually raised a few times. Of course her superior skill was actually a detriment to her as she ran into the inevitable bad beat by an opponent who didn't know what hand he had.

So back to the game. Things weren't looking so great for me at first. I foolishly thought that since everyone would only bet and call the minimum that when I played a hand for a raise, and bet after hitting a flop that people would fold. While they would ooh and ahh about the size of my bet, it didn't induce nearly enough folds, and one of them would end up sucking out on me.

I wasn't the only one though. My wife flopped two pair in one hand, and did a good job of betting/raising to the river when her father decided to bet. She puts in a big raise, and after thinking about it he calls. She's proud of her two pair, until he turns over his cards and we see that he picked up a second pair on the river to beat her. He called up until the river with bottom pair. I'm not sure that he knew he had two pair, or if he did if he thought he was ahead. I'm fairly certain that he would have called no matter what the bet was, or what was in his hand. Or maybe that's his game plan. To convince us that he has no clue what he is doing so that he gets paid off with his big hands. Whatever he was doing it worked because my wife wasn't the only victim of his luck. And now she was on tilt.

The two best hands of the tourney came shortly after that. I was short stacked and frustrated, and ready to go out so I could become the dealer to speed the game along. I had A6o, and raised. Everyone called. The flop was AKJ and I lead out for a reasonably large bet, considering no one had bet more than the minimum yet. Nearly everyone called. I think I got a few people to fold. The turn was a rag, and I made an even bigger bet, thinking that the only times I had bet big so far today I showed a monster hand, so maybe they would pick up on that and fold. No luck, as I got four or five callers. I don't recall what was on the river, but I checked, figuring they would all follow suit and I could save some chips for the next hand. It checked around to Uncle Jim, who bet nearly all of his remaining chips. I called knowing I was probably beat, but I figured I wasn't going to win anyway so I might as well put myself out of my misery. There were a few other callers, and we turned over the cards. I had the only ace, and took down a huge pot. Jim had a jack, some one else had a straight draw, and someone else had nothing.

A few hands later I had wired twos, and limped into a family pot. The flop was AJ2, and it was checked to my wife, who bet $T100, which was more than 3x the minimum bet at the time. Aunt Char, and my mom called. I moved all in. My Dad called. My mother in law called. Uncle Jim was already all in in the blinds. My wife also called while amazingly Aunt Char and my mom folded. My mother in law had pocket tens, My wife had Ax, my dad had a straight draw and uncle Jim had a Jack. None of them improved and I knocked out four players in one hand and took a massive chip lead with my set of twos. Even if I hadn't won that hand, it would have been the best hand in the history of my birthday tournaments because it knocked out four players in the third blind level and guaranteed that the pace of the game would pick up.

Aunt Char and my Mom were the next to fall, victims of raising blinds and playing too many hands. Three handed, my brother started building up a nice stack after being almost all-in from the blinds, when the amazing luck of my father in law kicked in again. He was short-stacked and against the ropes, but we couldn't knock him out. Whenever we would get him all-in he would hit some miracle card on the river to stay alive. Ultimately my brother was taken down as my father in law hit hand after hand. He stayed around to see the heads up battle despite the start of the Memphis/Ohio State game because he couldn't believe the luck of my father in law and he thought it was funny as my massive chip lead slowly bled away.

Heads up, I had about a 10-1 chip lead, yet still lost. Without getting into too many bad beat stories, lets just say getting all in with three of a kind on the flop is great right up until he hits a runner runner flush. Fun. We agreed to chop, with whoever had the chip lead taking first after half an hour. He had almost knocked me out by then. I was starting to make a comeback, but it still didn't look good. Still a second place finish in that minefield is pretty good. Maybe next year I'll think twice about hosting the fourth annual birthday poker tourney.

Originally posted at


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

2007 NCAA Picks

Ok, I didn't have time to run my various random picker tests, so this is the best I have. Picks.

I have a few subtle variations on that bracket for the various pools that I am in, but that is more or less what I'm going with.

My biggest chance to win money in one of these pools is with our company blind pool. This also goes to show that everything is more fun when there's money on the line. Either that or it just shows that there are few things that I won't put money on. For those of you who have never been in one, it works as follows.
  • Each entry gets a team assigned at random.
  • If your team is the favorite, and covers the spread, you move on.
  • If your team is the underdog and wins, you move on.
  • If your team is the underdog and loses by less than the spread, you take over the winning team, and move on.
  • Otherwise, you are out.
Its tough to know what makes a good team for this format. Your number one seeds are such high favorites in the early rounds, that they can easily fail to cover the spread. Plus there are more than enough straight up upsets in the central pairings, that you probably want to have a decent team that is likely to be the dog in each match up.

Originally posted at


Monday, March 12, 2007

Basketball Tax

People say that state lotteries are just a tax on people that can't do math. Well then the NCAA tournament must be a tax on people that don't know anything about basketball. I'm pretty sure that the odds of me winning the Mega Millions are just about the same as me winning an NCAA tournament pool with as few as 8 other participants.

Never the less, every year I pay my taxes and watch in dismay as three of my final four teams are eliminated by the end of the first weekend. I have a bad tendency to let my feelings towards certain schools or conferences affect my judgement in these things. Take this year for instance. I have to pick Illinois to win at least one game. And after that they have SIU. There's no way I can pick the Illini to lose to the lowly Salukis. Who cares if they got a four seed and Illinois barely made the tourney. And then I have to pick them to win the next game because they're playing Kansas and fuck Kansas.

At that point I come to my senses and realize that no matter how much I hate Kansas, and how much Kansas has choked in the Bill Self era, the Illini are still probably no match for the Jayhawks. So I pick Villanova to upset Kansas in round two so the Illini don't have to face them. And that's why I won't ever win a college tourney pool. That and I know almost nothing about college basketball outside of this state. Or in this state for that matter.

If I have time, I think I'm going to do an experiment this year. I'm going to do my normal bracket. Then I'm going to try to do one where I objectively pick the winners. Then I'm going to do one based soley on coin flips, with the exception of the obvious games such as the 16-1, 15-2 match ups. Finally, I'm going to do some other random picker where the odds are weighted based on seeding. Not sure how I'll do that one, but I'll think of something. My guess is that the random weighted bracket will win. You would think that's the one I would choose to put money on, but you would be wrong. Maybe the tournament really is a stupid tax.

I'll try to have my picks done and posted here by the start of the games on Thursday. Feel free to mock them once they are up.

Originally posted at

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Chip Counts

I'm still tilting about Saturday's tournament.

I'm not pissed that I got my aces cracked. That happens. I'm pissed that I went out first, and that I knew almost without a doubt what he had and called anyway. The one time I'm able to make an accurate read, and I go against it.

My other complaint is the starting chip counts. I don't know what to about this one though. I was going over the hand with someone today, and he commented that he was doing the math trying to put us on hands at the time, and that he knew I was making about half pot sized bets.

We were in the third level of blinds by making a half pot sized bet on the flop and turn,and had practically commit ed all my chips. I wasn't a short stack at the time.
We start with only 600 chips and that isn't enough to be able to make appropriately sized bets early on and still be able to get out a hand without being crippled. After years of tuning our tournament structure, we have everything just about how I like it, except for the starting chip counts. I'd like to double it. The only problem with that is our tourneys take about 3-4 hours to complete, so doubling the amount of chips we have make each game take too long and we wouldn't get two in. To counter that we could raise the blinds faster, or start higher, but then we have the same problem, just at higher stakes.

So I guess I need to stop messing around in the early goings and go back to my proven tourney strategy. Play super tight early on. If I get a decent hand that so much the better, but stop gambling trying to pick up small pots with garbage. Once the blinds start getting up there, steal them with some all-in moves, preferably with hands that have a reasonably good shot at winning if called. Chip up by stealing blinds or winning all-ins. Be content to let other players eliminate themselves. If I have a top two or three chip stack, attack the remaining player aggressively until they successfully defend. That may not be the most exciting way to play, but it has had better monetary results for me over the past few years than trying to play a lot of hands and getting involved in more pots. Hopefully I'll remember that plan in four months when we have our next monthly game.

Originally posted at


Saturday, March 03, 2007

March Tournament Summary

I fully intended to get a few practice Sit-n-Goes in online this past week in preparation for our March tournament, but somehow I managed not to. In hindsight, perhaps that wasn't the best move, as if tonight's results are any indication I certainly could have used the practice.

Game 1

Game 1 had 24 participants, eight people at three tables. I tried to see a lot of cheap flops in the early rounds because I often feel like I play to tight at the beginning and never have a decent stack towards the middle stages. That plan didn't work out so well, as I continually missed the flop completely, and had any attempts at stealing a pot called three ways, or raised.

We were only a few blind levels deep and I was already frustrated by my lack of cards when I got wired sevens on the button. It folded to me and I raised 3xBB. Surprisingly Aaron called out of the small blind. He's been known to call by bets just out of principle, but more often that not I think he looks to stay out of my way unless he has a premium hand. The flop was 5 8 J, nothing that I would imagine helped him, so when he check called my half pot bet I figured he had pocket pair, of some sort. I was debating about whether I should push on the turn in hopes of pushing him off his hand, but his bet made up my mind for me and I folded. He told me later he had pocket tens.

That left me as one of the low stacks, but not in absolutely horrible shape. I really wish we started these tournaments with more chips so that I could afford to lose a few hands early on without feeling crippled, but the games probably take long enough as it is, so there isn't much I can do.

A few more orbits of card deadedness (yes that's a word) and look down at KT under the gun. I don't want to play the hand, but if I don't the blinds are going to claim a third of my remaining chips in the next two hands, and I won't be able to push any one off a hand after that. So I go all-in, hoping I still have enough to scare any decent hands off. Jason almost folds, then calls with AJo. I don't improve, and I'm done for that tourney.

Side Game

One of the good things about getting knocked out early in the first game is that you are able to get into the side game. Unfortunately things didn't go much better for me there.

Six of us played, and the table was fairly passive. A lot of family pots and limping preflop, which was ok with me because my cards weren't great and I was able to win some hands that I would have folded to a preflop raise.

When we got down to four players I started going on a run. I had strong aces three or four hands in a row, and my raises won me the blinds each time. They were fairly high at that point so I was more than happy to keep winning them. Then I got cowboys under the gun and raise again. The guy to my left pushes all in. He has me covered by a little. The small blind calls. I put the guy to my left on aces, and the small blind could honestly have anything based on his style of play. I was hoping they both had Ax and I called. The guy to my left did have aces, and the other guy had tens. Of coarse he picked up a third ten on the flop and I was out of that game too. Not that it mattered since the guy with aces would have beaten me anyways.

Game 2

We had three tables of seven players to start the second tourney. My table consisted of 5 people at what used to be our weekly game when we first started playing years ago. When three of those people are at the same table, I'd consider it a tough table. Not what I was looking for.

This one was short and sweet. And by sweet I mean brutally pain full. Like someone just walked up to you out of nowhere and kicks you as hard as they can right in the balls, then walks away. Not that I'm still tilting or anything.

There was one important hand as far as I'm concerned, and this was it. We're at blind level 3 T$15/T$30. I'm in the BB. We started with $T600. I have about that much left, maybe a little more. I haven't been involved in many big pots to this point. I'll go through the hand once, just with the facts, then I'll review with my thoughts at the time. I'm curious you think you could have made it out of this hand with chips.

I have bullets. UTG+1 raises to 60. It folds to me and I call. Flop is king high rainbow. I think it was KJ7. I bet 90, he calls. Turn is a 8. I bet 200. He pushes all in. He has be barely covered. I call. He has pocket kings. The river doesn't help and I'm the first one eliminated from game 2.

Now lets replay that with my thoughts, and let me know what you would do differently.

Preflop: I only call because I didn't want to scare him off. I don't like reraising out of the blinds and out of position. Had someone else called then I would have raised to try to knock one of them out or even take the pot right there.

Flop: When he calls my bet I put him on either AK or KK. I'm trying to convince myself that he has AK and he's going to pay me off, but I have this sick feeling that he has the kings.

Turn: When he pushes all in I'm 95% sure he has Kings. There is also a straight possibility, but there's no way he raises preflop with 9T and then calls my bet on a gutshot. I could see him pushing with AK, but I could also see him getting scared and slowing down when I keep betting. I call knowing full well that I'm beat, but on the off chance that he was overvaluing his top pair, and it cost me.

So do you get away from that hand at all? There are a number of places where I could have done things differently. Preflop I could have raised. I don't think that would have changed the outcome thought because there's I don't see him folding there. Maybe it would have gone further to convincing me he had Kings which would have allowed me to fold on the flop, but I doubt it. I was pretty sure he had kings and called his all in anyway.

Once he flops top set there is no way I can push him off the hand, so can I get away from it? I probably should have folded after he pushed all in. I made the right read, I just bet against what it was telling me. I think the difference between a good player and someone who gets knocked out first in that situation is the ability to make a tough laydown even when they started with the best possible hand.

I don't know. I'm not usually great at making reads but tonight I made two great (if perhaps obvious) reads, one in the side game when I predicted aces and one in game 2 when I predicted kings, and in both cases I went against the reads and busted because of it. Frustrating.

The Aftermath
If I wasn't in a poor enough mood after my craptacular performance tonight the following happens:

I had left my poker chips at our host's house last time since I got knocked out and didn't feel like staying until the end. Since we weren't using my chips tonight, I got to take them home. As I get inside my house and turn to lock the door, the lock on the nice wooden chip case that I have, breaks open spilling 500 chips all over my stairway and shattering the handle of the top tray for the case. Let's just say I might have taken that a little better if I hadn't just finished playing some of my worst poker ever.


Originally posted at

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Actual Poker

I haven't played any real poker online or live in almost two months. But that is about to change. I can almost guarantee that I will will play in three tournaments this month.

First, tonight, the monthly poker poker game is happening for the first time in almost four months. We added up the winnings from last year, and I was in second place overall. Had I finished one spot higher in either of the tournaments on the last day I would have been the overall standings champion, which of course is worth nothing other than bragging rights. Not that bragging rights aren't fun to have.

Secondly, is my now annual birthday poker tournament fiasco extravaganza which is scheduled for some time later this month. That's the game where people who have played poker three times in their live will inflict a horrific bad beat on you and to make it worse, opponent will call you down thinking they have Ace high when in fact he has the nut flush. Can't wait.

Originally posted at