Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Thought Of The Week 3/23 - 3/29: Soft Playing

This is a new weekly feature I am staring on The Vegas Experiment blog. I will provide my own commentary on the things I see at the tables, or life in general, that give me pause for concern or just piss me off in some way, shape, or form. This week's thought involves friends soft playing each other at the tables.


This shit would never fly with my friends back home. My buddy B. Litty just the other day informed me of an $800 pot in a local NL hold'em home game that I've been known to frequent when I'm in town. Furthermore, it was against both his and my good buddy Duck. There was no remorse in the tone of his email about the hand. Just told it like it was. He knows someday or another, he will lose in that spot. That's what makes the game such a challenge and so much fun. In fact, everyone I know would take it as a sign of disrespect, not only towards each other, but also towards all other players at the table. I believe in the saying handed down by one of the poker legends (not sure if it was Baldwin or Brunson, or was it someone else?) that goes something along the lines of "I would be willing to break my grandmother for her prescription money if she was sitting at the same table as me." Instead, the same boobs sit around and play the same lousy poker day and day out and when the pot gets heads up between them, they check it down between each other, one of them shows the nuts, and they both have a good laugh. Fuck that! Hell, that is borderline collusion. How do I know they are not working to trap me when I am in a hand that includes both of them? I believe in playing everyone as hard as possible. I mean, if we were all on the basketball court, would they take it easy on each other? Probably not. And why is that? Because they are competing and what good is competing if you don't play as hard as possible? Throw some money into the equation and I guess that principle flies out the window for some people.

I wanted to voice my concerns, but I honestly felt it would do no good. I mean, let's think about the repercussions.

1) I piss off my fishy opponents by calling bullshit. I do not think they are clever enough to collude and work together so accusing them of this would not be smart. Furthermore, they seem like fine gentlemen otherwise and the thought of working together probably never crossed their minds. All I could do is call into question how such play affects the integrity of the game, but my feeling is this ruins the friendly atmosphere that surrounds this game.

2) If I called the floor over, how exactly would I voice my concern? I mean, I know what's going on, but to tell the floor that the guy checking the nuts down to his buddy isn't going to fly. Maybe he was afraid of the flush draw or whatever that the board was showing. You can't make a guy bet his hand, and most times you don't want him to if you're behind and drawing to a probable winner.

So, instead I bite my tongue and grin and bear it. Sometimes I wish other players recognized the spirit of the game and played accordingly. On the other hand, because players do not recognize this, amongst a plethoria of other things surrounding the game, I make long term profits from their bad decisions at the table.

Go ahead and post some feedback on your thoughts on this issue. Have you ever come across this sort of thing in public card rooms or private home games? How did you or would you have handled it?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Why The River And I Do Not Get Along

I didn't sleep well last night. It's hot in our bedroom and we do not have a ceiling fan. I think today we will go out and get a floor fan to keep it comfortable at least until air conditioning season falls upon us. Even though I was tired going into yesterday's session, fatigue was not a factor. Our game got going late (1:40 pm.) Maybe people were watching the morning NCAA tourney games. Not really sure, since the guys at the table didn't seem to have much interest in the games that were on while we were playing. I was happy to see 'Nova got their heads out of their asses and didn't lose to American University. That was about the only bright spot from yesterday. Today is an off day from play for me. Gonna spend the day with wifey. We have two free breakfast buffet comps at the new M Resort so we're leaving for their shortly. Hoping that their pool area is ready today because I'd like to watch some of the tourney games outside by their pool bar and grill. I could use a nice recovery day after getting beaten up yesterday by improbable draws.

Yesterday's session reminded me of the final sessions I played last year before I went broke where not much seemed to go my way.

Hand 1) In the first of my two heartbreaking beats I was in the big blind with 6-40. Limped in many spots and I check the option. Flop comes down 7-3-A. I check and it gets bet in the next position which is exactly what I want. All call and I take a card off knowing that if I flop my gin card of 5 I will be holding the nuts. The 5 does come off and I check. Again it is bet directly to my left, only a couple call, and I check-raise. The guy on my left folds and the small blind on my right calls. Another 5 falls on the river. He checks and I check behind him. I ask him if he has a boat and tables A5o for the runner-runner fives full. The 11-1 redraws and gets there after I hit my own 11-1 on the turn (what's even funnier is that I hit my gutshot twice. we all know how hard it is to hit it once. psychologically it would have been easier to take if it hit a remaining Ace.) I proceed to tilt slightly for about 10 minutes. Taking flops with poor holdings hoping to get lucky but having enough sense to muck after the flop. I could feel the heat spewing out of my track jacket by my neck.

Hand 2) I get dealt AA in first position. I should note here that I hate getting Aces UTG or up front in general. I was playing uber-tight for the hour preceding this hand but it didn't matter. I got called in 6 other spots. The flop comes down all low cards (3-8-5 rainbow.) I bet out and I am called in all but one spot. The turn pairs the board with another 3. I bet out, the guy to my left folds, the button calls, and the big blind raises. I ask for time and think about what he could have. Judging from his play, I didn't think he would call preflop with anything other than a premium hand even though he would have gotten the right odds to callwith any two. I proceed to just call, though in hindsight I think I should have reraised to try to knockout the button and get the pot heads up. The button calls and we see the river card appears to me an inconsiquental T. The big blind bets his final $6 and I know I am priced in to call. I feel the button is weak and I know he will come along anyway because the pot is so big. The big blind flips over pocket TT and rivers tens full. I show the rockets and the button shows J8s for a weak two pair. The big blind got one of his two outs on the river. What I found out later was that the guy to my left had pocket QQ and mucked on the turn. Wow, what a good fold and what terrible flop play. If he reraises me preflop I get to cap on the flop, totally giving away my hand and I may win the pot on the flop or on the turn. Just goes to show the mindset of players at this level. It takes so long to pick up premium pocket pairs and then they don't push people around with them. Instead, they price in the table to take flops with ridiculous holdings.

Oh well, I've been playing these stakes for several years and know exactly what to expect by now. I was playing with $200 lying around the house hoping to grow it before my money arrived. That didn't happen so now I will have to hold off on playing until my funds get here. I think it's for the best. It will give me time to complete the several pages left of my final paper for graduate school and with the rest of my free time brush up on some concepts in my limit hold'em books.

It should also be noted I had a wonderful weekend with my wifey. We hung out and watched the tourney games. Pulling for 'Nova, Xavier, and 'Cuse in the Sweet 16. Wifey's six team parlay lost on her first game. That made me laugh. Maybe some day she'll learn to just pick a game and just play it. The bingo parlor offers better odds than her parlay cards.

Hours Played This Session: 4
Gave: $144
$ Per Hour: -$36

Month to Date: -$123
Year to Date: -$123
Hourly Rate Year to Date: -$7.81
Total Hours Played Year to Date: 15.75
Sessions Played Year to Date: 3
Win/Loss Record by Session: 1/2 33.3%

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Settling Back In

I'm truly exhausted. Don't have it in me tonight to give you the blow by blow for this session. Suffice it to say, it was much like yesterday's. Played my usual style and had a couple big hands not hold up in big pots.

Briefly, flopped top two pair with QJo. The board came with two hearts, so that combined with the flop being coordinated I played the hand fast and rammed it. I got ran down by an ATs in spades. I know what you're thinking and it's much worse than that. He didn't hit his gutshot on me which is approximately 5.5 - 1 to come in by the river, but rather he went runner-runner to the nut flush with is approximately 23 - 1 to come by the river. I blame the way he played it on the flop, but once that second spade hits the board he is getting the right odds to take a card off and see the river. He has great implied odds in that if he misses either his spade or the jacks he can muck quite easily while if he hits any spade or 3 out of 4 jacks his also makes the nuts (the jack of hearts would give him a straight but give me a possible flush.) I had a feeling I was beat when he bet into me on the river. However, I didn't expect him to say "I've got the nuts." I didn't even see the back door flush possibility. Goes to show I'm still a bit rusty but my instincts were still there.

On another hand I am holding the two red kings early position. The UTG limps in and I raise. Another player cold calls, the big blind comes along, and the limper completes. The flop comes down with three spades. Early position player checks, I bet, two folds back to UTG player and he calls. He bet out on the turn when a blank fell and I raised him. He smoothe called me. Now I was really confused. I was ready to muck if he three bet it back to me being that I was drawing dead to a flush at that point. The river brings the king of spades, putting 4 to the flush on the board and giving me top set. UTG checks and I check behind and he tables the 34 of spades to my three kings and takes the pot down with the 4 of spades to complete the flush. I figured out after the hand that when I raised him on the turn, he thought I might have a bigger flush. I kinda felt that he would have check raised me in that spot if he had the goods and thought the leading at the pot was meant to scare me off so I trusted my gut and raised him, just in case he was holding the ace of spades and was betting a draw. I wanted to charge him the maximum price. Turns out he was worried I was doing the same thing and when the king of spades fell on the end it scared him. Looking back I should have made one last stab at the pot because I was pretty sure at this point that would be the only way I could take it down. He check showed weakness and I should have picked up on that. My spidey senses are just starting to come back to me, so again this is a learning moment. In a big pot that I showed a lot of aggression in, I should have made one last play at the pot. I only have to pick it up once in probably 7 or 8 times to show a profit.

Other than those two notable hands I lost, the winning ones I showed down were nothing special. Just playing good cards in good position and value betting them as much as possible. It seemed like a long session today. Not sure why though. I used to be able to play 10 - 12 hour sessions without it phasing me. Hoping that I am just getting back into the swing of things and that my stamnia will improve with time.

Hours Played This Session: 5.75
Take: $54
$ Per Hour: $9.39

Month to Date: $21
Year to Date: $21
Hourly Rate Year to Date: $1.79
Total Hours Played Year to Date: 11.75
Sessions Played Year to Date: 2
Win/Loss Record by Session: 1/1 50.0%

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Day 1 All Over Again

Well, it's been awhile. Some parts of the game felt natural, others didn't. The six hour session got to me. I used to never get up. Today, I made sure to take two breaks so that I could clear my head and stretch my legs. I'm not in poker playing shape. Hell, I'm not in any kind of shape at the moment. To put it mildly, I'm fat. But, I'm very proud of how I played. My cards picked up where they left off last year with two distinct exceptions which I'll get to in due time. First, I want to sum up the session. What sticks in my mind is that I didn't tip a dealer for 4 straight dealer changes. I wasn't keeping track but usually a dealer sits at a table for 20 minutes at minimum. I figure I had a stretch where I folded nearly every hand for 90 minutes. The hands I did play were mucked after the flop. Yet, I was able to persevere and battle through the frustration. Small win usually, big win when you are getting back after a long layoff.

OK, I'm not a fan of bad beat stories. This blog is all about telling it like it is, or at the very least how I perceived the reality of the situation. So, with no further ado, my two tales from this session end with the hero (me) winning the pot (yay!) The first hand was a bit weird. I was in late position with pocket 88. Multiple limpers in front of me, I think about 4 with me in the cut off. The button and blinds come along and it feels like a family affair. Flop comes with me holding an over pair. Well, I only have eights so that means at the very least it is a semi-coordinated board. Actually, I'm holding a gutshot with board showing 7-5-4. I think it came rainbow but no matter because with my position I'm gonna ram it and jam it on the flop. Someone up front bets it and as usual in this game everyone calls because it's a small bet. I bump it up a unit and mostly everyone behind me comes along as well. This gives me pause for concern. I could be looking at two pair, a set, or a well priced in straight draw. A king comes on the turn and it's checked to me. I check along thinking that if it gets bet and I get to close the action I'll take flyer on the gut shot. It wasn't. A jack comes on the river and I know for sure I'm mucking if it's bet. It isn't. I check along and so do the two players behind me. The dealer asks for us to show a winner so I flip first. Being that I made the last aggresive action I abide by etique and show first. Reluctantly some muck and others show their meek holdings such as A4o and A5o. I'm amazed that I get to take down a decent sized pot with not much of a hand. The player to might right comments that I've been very patient and deserved the pot. Patience doesn't deserve dick. Each hand is unique unto itself and I'm pleased to take a nice pot that I thought I might not get.

Fast forward 20 minutes and this time I'm on the button. I look down at KJs. For those of you that know me you know that KJ is my least favorite broadway hand. Two limpers in front of me and I call on the button. The small comes along and the big checks the option. The flop comes down J-J-Q with 2 spades. The first player bets, the second calls and I make it 2 bets. The blind fold and the 2 players with money in the pot call. The case J comes on the turn and I'm sitting on the nuts. The first player bets into me and I'm dumbfounded. To further add to my delight the middle player calls and I smoothe call. The river is a meaningless card (I was hoping for a third spade in case one of them is drawing at the flush) and again the first player bets and the middle player calls. I raise knowing I can't be beat. The first player thinks for about a minute and calls. The middle player mucks and I show the goods. He shows AQo for the best house which isn't close to being good enough. I take down a monster pot and thank the poker gods for my great position and even better turn card. I gave this hand much thought and could not determine how the first player thought his hand was good. I was playing uber-tight and only pushing my hands when they were good. It goes to show that at this level table image means nothing. I'm going to use this as a lesson in that I will remain tight-aggressive and play with position whenever possible. Players at this level fail to get past the first level of thinking which is "what do I have?" Most do not give much thought to what their opponent has. This is fundamental flaw amongst these players, along with playing terrible hands out of position and not raising with good hands preflop to limit the field. Well, admittedly that rarely works at this level but I'd rather get more money in with an edge than just limp with a premium hand and allow my opponents to a chance to see a cheap flop with rags. Pushing any perceivable edge is the key to maximizing poker profits. This is especially true in low limit hold'em where opponents are getting near to the right price to draw many times with meager holdings.

The only other hand I feel I should metion comes with me in the big blind. I check my option to raise holding A6o. The flop comes down with A-8-6 with 2 spades. I check in first position, a middle player bets and another middle position player calls. I check raise forcing out the two early position players who checked. The other 2 players with money in the pot call. The turn brings a T of spades and I check. The next player bets and the other player drops out. Heads up we go the river. Another T falls and now I'm in a shitty spot. My thinking goes as follows: 1) I didn't fill up, 2) the villain may have a flush, & 3) if the villain has an A, then his 2 pair trumps mine (I have As and Ts with a 6, he has As and Ts with a better kicker. I check and fold to his river bet. I muck my A6 face up hoping to get a read on whether I was beat. He doesn't give anything away when I do so but I think the fact that he doesn't show me a bluff or a lesser hand confirms that he was good. He seemed like the kind of player that plays more for the thrill of the hunt than the satisfaction of the kill. In other words, if he got me off a better hand he would have shown it to me. I'm pretty sure I would have called a river bet if my hand had not been counterfeited. Maybe the T on the end saved me $8, maybe it cost me one last big bet. I'm almost certain he had the flush which leaves me drawing to 4 outs (2 As and 2 6s.) If I fill up I think I can gain an extra big bet on the river, so I felt I was paying $8 on the turn to make $16 on the river. That taken with the size of the pot gave me the proper implied odds to take a card off in that spot.

All in all I felt I played a great session. Most low limit players would have gotten bored or frustrated by folding pre-flop so many times and would have started playing poor hands due to lack of discipline. I believe that it's all one long session. The next hand has no memory of the hands that came before it. If I fold 50 times in a row, it has no bearing on the next hand. If I go on a rush and take down 5 pots in a row I am no more likely to take down the next one. Hand value in relation to position and other players' actions are the key to making money at this game. Today refenforced that even though I left the table a small loser. In all honesty, I felt like a winner today. Can't wait to play tomorrow.

I'm starting from scratch on my figures for this new run, leaving out the career earnings. I feel they are meaningless. I don't need to prove to you that I am a winning player throughout my lifetime. Those of you that know me know that I've posted profits from my play over the last several years. Rather, the purpose of this blog is to keep records of how I am doing in the present. If any of you have feedback on figures that I can provide that will give more perspective on my play please let me know and I will include them here. This blog is both for your entertainment and my professional progression. Let's make it a win-win.

Hours Played This Session: 6.0
Gave: $33
$ Per Hour: -$5.50

Month to Date: -$33
Year to Date: -$33
Hourly Rate Year to Date: -$5.50

Act I, Scene II: A Second Attempt

Last year I went on a really bad run and never published the results. I put the card playing career on hold. In a fit, I trashed my Stat King records so I can't even go back and update the blog with the results of that run. If memory serves me correctly, I think I gave away about $600 in a five day span. I wasn't properly funded at the time and have since worked some odd jobs in the fitness industry over the past 8 months. Recently, I've come into some money. I won't get too deep into how that came about other than my grandfather passed unexpectedly and he was generous enough in death to provide me with a better life. I would give back every penny if I could in return for just one more day or one last conversation. I wish I had been able to make him a little more proud of me. I don't feel like I accomplished enough while he was here. Now I need to honor him with how I live my life from here on out. I'm not sure he would approve of playing cards for a living, but it's a dream of mine to do so and that's what I will pursue for now. Being adequately bankrolled for the first time in my life, I believe that will be the key to being successful. I will be able to make the plays that I believe are correct and not worry about going broke. That confidence will be huge. If I happen to dig up my lost records I will be sure to post them for all to see. I really wish I had kept them because I would like to review them. I'm pretty sure it was a case of variance, which I know works both ways. You're never as good as you think you are when you're running well and you're never as bad or as unlucky as you believe you are when things are falling apart around you. I'm going to try to keep that in mind as I attack this game for a second time. One other note, I will be able to play as many hours as I like this time around. In the beginning, I was taking Rebecca to and from work and that cut into my table time. Being that we both have our own transportation now, there are no excuses for not logging a ton of hours. I plan on playing a nice long session today and we'll see what comes of it. I'll post again later tonight when I get back with all the juicy tidbits of the session while they are still fresh in my mind.

It's good to be back. Wish me luck even though I don't believe in it.

PS - below I was able to dig up a draft of a post I was working on when I went bust. I've published it below. It is very rough but I wanted to keep it that way since updating it now would take some of the angst out of it being that I've been removed from that feeling for quite awhile.