Poker Words - A Poker Blog

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

Monday, January 26, 2009

Whirly Ball and One Hand of Poker

One of the regulars in our poker group is getting married in a few days and his bachelor party was this weekend. While I'm not a liberty to discuss most of what happened, I would like to comment on a few things.

First of all, if you have a Whirly Ball facility near you, and you've never played you need to try it as soon as humanly possible. It is entirely too much fun.

What is Whirly Ball? Its kind of like hockey, except instead of a stick you use a Hi Li scoop racket thing, and instead of net there's a basketball backboard with a basketball sized hole in the center. And instead of skates, you use bumper cars. Oh, and its a barlike atmosphere. Here's a video.

We also played some poker, during which I lasted a full hand. I had wired nines, and raised 3x BB preflop, two callers. The flop was JJ2 and I lead out, chasing one guy out of the pot. The turn was a third jack, giving be a full house and a lead on almost anything he has. I make a large bet and he comes over the top all-in. Now, unless he has me on a complete bluff, and is pretty ballzy I don't think there many hands that he would do that with that I can beat. I was hoping he had a two. He had the case jack and I went home. Well not home, but away from cards. Good times.

Originally posted at

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Small Blind Call and Bet

While my SNG poker game has been nothing to brag about lately, there is one particular move that I've been using with much success. Its nothing new or mind blowingly clever, but it works well.

The situation is this. I'm in the small blind and it has been folded to me. I hate being in this spot. I feel obligated to raise, yet anytime someone raises in this situation it looks like a steal, and it seems like I get called/raised way more than I should. And I never get a good feel for where I am in the hand because I can't tell if my opponent has a hand or is just putting me on a steal attempt. And yet I can't fold. I'm getting 3:1 on my money by calling and he's not going to even challenge me with most hands.

So if you haven't guessed, I've started just calling and then min-betting no matter what on the flop. The min bet actually ends up being a half-pot sized bet. Sometimes I'll make it a full pot sized bet, but usually not.

I've found that my opponents are more likely to fold in this scenario than if I were to raise pre-flop.

Since I only call pre-flop, they are most likely just happy to see a free flop. If I raise they see it as a steal attempt and try to defend, but by calling they see more cards with no risk. Sure sometimes I get raised in this case, but then I've only lost a half bet, and if that happens five times I've still lost the same amount as if I had raised to 3x blinds and got reraised. So I get to see a cheap flop and they get to see a free one.

The automatic bet on the flop is just hoping that they didn't hit anything. Even if they suspect a steal here, they are less likely to try to call my bluff if they've missed the flop as well. And since I just called they have no idea what I have. If the flop is garbage, its possible I called with garbage and hit. If the flop has scare cards, and they don't, then maybe I was setting them up. Either way I've found that more often than not they fold. And if they do call, or raise, and I have nothing, I've risked very little chips and I can get out relatively cheaply.

Nothing too fancy, but I find that it helps me win more than my fair share of blind battles, in a situation where I'm normally not very confident in my hand.

Originally posted at

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

PokerStars Double or Nothing SNGs

PokerStars has these new Double or Nothing SNG's. I say new but that may not be accurate since I haven't played there with any regularity in over a year, and its possible I just didn't notice them before. Now its almost impossible not to notice them as you have to sift through a billion double or nothing SNGs just to find a normal one.

They were annoying me to the point of curiosity, so I tried a few. The concept is simple. Its a 10 player SNG where the top 5 double their buy in, and the other five get nothing. The entrance fee is about 20% less than the standard entrance fee.

Given that I've been playing pretty poorly lately I figure that I would try these since I should be able to finish in the top half more than half the time, so it should be easy money.

But its not quite the same as finishing in the top 5 of a normal SNG. There is a very different dynamic that occurs. Once you are down to six or seven players, there is almost no incentive to put yourself at risk. It doesn't matter if you have one chip or a million, when five players are left the game is over. Why try and steal a pot when there's a good chance that if you just fold you'll make it to the money?

I only played four so far, but the strategy seems to be fold unless you have a monster, and if you're the short stack wait until you think you can double up. In both times I cashed there were times when the short stack could barely make a full raise pre-flop, but battled back to cash.

It ends up with everyone, but maybe the chip leader playing not to lose rather than playing to win. I really haven't played enough to decide if I like them or not, or if I think they are money winners long term, but you definitely lose some of the excitement factor when all you're doing is folding and hoping the blinds increase to force that last person out. It is worth a try though, as the chance of losing your money is only 50%.

Originally posted at

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Poker for 2009

Its the beginning of a new year, so it seems like a good time to set some goals that I will ignore for the rest of the year.

Before I go there though, lets take a look back at last year.

On second thought, lets not. I played very very little poker last year, and when I did it was bad. I don't think I played with any regularity until the end of the year, and then I didn't play very well.

So what are my goals for this year? I'll start with a very generic, play more poker. I don't know why I stopped playing. I've been somewhat busy, but not so much that I couldn't have made time for a sit'n go every now and then. I still enjoy playing so I don't why I don't do it.

Playing more poker is a pretty lame goal. Its hard to measure except that its any amount is more than last year.

Move up in stakes. I've been playing some $20 SNG's during the past month or so, but I've had a hard time focusing, and that has lead to some pretty poor play. I'll start a tournament and then start watching TV and surfing the web at the same time, so I never get a good read on my opponents, or the flow of the game. I think that the $20 level has lost its excitement for me. I might as well be playing with play money. Its probably not the best reason to move up in stakes, but getting out of my comfort level will force me to concentrate more.

Play smarter. I admit that this is tough to measure, but I think I'll know it if I achieve it. I haven't been playing smart recently. At some point I loosened up my starting hand requirements significantly. I decided that I'm better than most of my opponents, so if I take a chance on some less than optimal hands, and hit, the implied odds justify a little gamble. And if I miss I can get out cheaply. The problem is I don't get out when I miss. I'll miss and so will everyone else so I'll bluff at the pot and get beat by bottom pair. Or I'll hit an ace and have no kicker and not be able to let it go. Or I'll bet the flop and then check fold the turn when I get called. I'm throwing away tons of chips on speculative hands when I need to be waiting for better opportunities and let my opponents get themselves into trouble. This may go back to not having high enough stakes and getting bored during the tourney.

Play more multi-table tournaments. I have difficulty starting these types of tournaments, because they tend to start later than I would like and I'm never sure that I'll have the time to finish them. I think I do better in bigger tourneys and finding time to play them will be +EV overall. Even if its just multi-table SNGs I think I'll do better.

Play some NL ring games. I'm scared of NL ring games. On the rare occasion that I play a ring game I play limit because I'm afraid of losing my bankroll in one bad/unlucky hand of NL. The problem is I'm not very good at limit poker. I play way to many speculative hands and chase way too often. A NL ring game now and then will be good for me.

Stop playing poker in front of the TV. A lot of the time, when I play these days its because I'm half watching something on TV and I'm a little bored, so I add a poker game into the mix. As I mentioned earlier this halves my concentration on the game and results in me losing a lot. I need to either play poker, or watch TV, but not both.

Start tracking my results. I haven't been recording my results in my bankroll spreadsheet recently and I just simply need to do that. Its hard to gauge your results if you don't measure them.

So that's my goals for the next year. Nothing real exciting or mind blowing, but hopefully it will get me on the right track.
Originally posted at

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