One month of ITH league events

I’m not sure how to characterize the first month of league play.  I guess I’ve done respectably — I’m 7th in overall points, but I haven’t claimed a seat in the big WSOP freeroll, which is clearly a major goal.

My earn rate is well down compared against limit ring play, but I’ve been having a lot of fun.  I am up on the season and I’ve played a few 2 and 3 table SnGs, since they seem like good practice for the ITH events.  Even at reasonable buy-ins ($55), the play is a tremendous amount worse than the ITH events.  There is a lot of pushing and calling with crap, people going broke with overcards and silly stuff like that.  I’ve been playing more specularive hands and stacking people when they hit.  I’ve had to train myself not to try to resteal and blow tight players off of their hands.  It doesn’t work as well outside of ITH!

I’ve become a lot more confident in my short stack game.  Watching Suited has given me more patience and I’ve made nice recoveries from very short stacks twice in ITH events now.  In todays event, I was down to around 400 chips (and dead last) in the early going and managed to build back up and finish 5th.  When we were down to 5, I foolishly decided to push on Taz who raised UTG.  I thought he could be raising a wide range of poor hands short handed that he would let go to a push and if he called, I’d probably have a coin flip.  It turns out he had QQ and AJ wasn’t a coin flip.  At least he put my chips to good use and won the event.

The ITH games provide some interesting meta-game moments, when people do something because they know that you know that they shouldn’t.  I got caught twice calling an all-in bet pre-flop because I was sure they wouldn’t push a strong hand.  Being wrong the first time was just one of those things, but falling for it twice was stupid.  A lot of people think I’m a maniac, which leads to some interesting situations too.  I get called in spots where other people wouldn’t.  I try to keep track of who thinks what, but it is tricky.   Playing tourneys with the same people over and over makes it a lot more interesting and fun.  I just wish they were worse at it!


Back to semi-respectability

I went deep in the Abosolute league freeroll last night. It is the best freeroll to do well in because there are usually 150 or so runners. I experimented with a number of different playing styles that I would normally never use and they worked really well (until they didn’t!)

Early on, I tried to see more flops than usual since some of the freeroll types were making wild, wild plays in the early going. I managed to nearly double with suited connectors when they made a flush. Playing so many hands against difficult to read players put me in some tricky situations, but I was pleased with my approach to the early levels. I’m pretty sure I laid down the best hand a couple of times and my stack went up and down, but I was never really short until the late stages. The contrast between the foolhardy freerollers and the tight ITHers is really amusing to watch and it is important to make sure you figure out who is who quickly.

I also did a ton more passive calling. I had at least two hands where I called all the way to the river with second pair and I was pretty confident I was best both times. In the past, I would almost always check-raise and drive the person off their hand. This way, I gave them outs to whatever they held, but I extracted a lot more money. I also limped KK twice from EP, which I normally never, ever do. The first time, I got two callers and then the BB came over the top for a nice raise. Since I do that move from the BB myself with a number of hands, I thought he could well have nothing. I pushed all-in anyhow, because he was almost certainly committed with his raise and I was happy enough to pick up the pot if not. He insta-called with QQ and I busted him. In hindsight, he probably would have ended up all-in no matter how I played it, so I’m not sure what I gained. The other hand I limped, there were two callers. One called my half-pot bet on the flop and he folded to a similar bet on the turn. Since I showed a big pair with that trick, I also limped twice with suited connectors and won a nice pot that way too. No one raised any of my limps after I busted the QQ guy. heh.

I caught a huge straight flush from the blind when a short stack moved all-in and got a number of callers. It was a paired board and I managed to get another player with a boat to call me all-in and I almost tripled. He was talking trash about how happy he was with the result on the river as the chips were sliding to me. I guess he missed that it wasn’t just a flush, it was a straight flush. I think RocketPlayer got knocked out on that hand.

When we got down to about 16 left, I got moved to Tanya Peck’s table and we got into a couple of tussles right away. We both like to control the action when things get short, so I figured we were going to get into it. I tried to steal her BB (maybe SB) with A9 from the CO and she restole. She had me way outchipped, so I was all-in if I called the resteal. I decided she would try that with a wide range of holdings and decided to make my stand. To my great dismay, she was playing QQ and I needed some serious help. Of course, an Ace flopped and I was able to move into a chip lead and start playing very aggressively. Tanya was now too short to cause me too much trouble and I chipped up nicely to enter the final table with a big, big lead.

The first hand of the final table sparked a signal to the freeroll specialists that they were supposed to go all-in and I think four of them wound up all-in with crap hands all around. I had AK and I think someone with a ten hit a one card straight. I was still chip leader, but it was a lot closer. I busted most of the remaining players, but started to lose enthusiasm for the project as it got late and Suited was already in bed. I had a big lead heads-up and continued my trick of letting aggressive players bet into me. It was MxRider, me and a guy I didn’t know. MX was pretty short stacked and I had the other guy almost 2:1. I should have won easily, but I donked it up. First, I flopped a straight and let him bluff a bunch of chips off on the flop and turn. The river filled a runner-runner flush and he made a nice value bet that I had to call. He had the flush. My calling station plan no longer looked so good.

Now I’m slightly outchipped and I defended my blind against the same guy. I flopped top pair and again let him bluff chips off and just called. I turned two pair and did the same, looking to put him all-in on the river. Unfortunately, the river brought a straight on board and he pushed into me. I knew he had it and I knew I should fold, but I decided that two more overall leader board points weren’t worth the hassle. I paid to see his straight and went to bed.

I feel a little bad, because MX and Cript were in a pretty heated back and forth with the guy and his buddy and I felt like I should have played him better, but I just wasn’t into it. If I finally win an ITH league event and it doesn’t give me a seat to the WSOP freeroll, I’m just going to be mad.


Maybe I should stick to ring games…

I’ve been getting pummelled at the ITH leagues lately.  I bounced in 31st in the VIP league today.  I got in pretty good with a pair against AK and Ax, so I had 42% equity pre-flop.  My equity fell somewhat when a King flopped.  Unlike the league last week where Suited won and eased the pain of me busting early, she didn’t fare much better than I did.

Every time I scrambled back into things, I got in trouble.  I dropped a bunch a chips when KK ran into a flopped flush.  TyHunt re-raised me from the BB and I flat called him.  I probably should have pushed.  I took a poke at the pot with my overpair, but shut down when he check-called.  I had the strongest feeling he had the flush when he bet the river and got away from the hand with 2/3rd of my stack intact, but it put me short in the middle stages.  I donked off a few more in a SB/BB battle and ended up in push or fold mode.

I should have known things were going to go badly when I got AKs on the first hand, flopped a flush draw and wound up dropping 1/3rd of my stack.

I’ve also got three (!) coaching clients going at once and I’m having trouble getting through all the material they sent me.  Of course, I’m spending more time than I quoted them, but I think I’m learning a lot.  Its interesting how different even players with similar styles play.  Two of them have very similar general numbers but completely different problems.  It is quite a mental exercise to try to get in their heads and figure out how to help them.


Over-aggression killed the shark

In my brief tourney career, I’ve managed to get away from QQ only once when it was an overpair. In that case, I raised and there was a big re-raise that pot commited the player and a push. I knew both of the players to be quite tight and I was pretty sure I was facing at least one overpair. It turned out to be AA and KK, so I was very, very happy to have escaped.

In the most recent ITH event, I was not as lucky. It was in the very early going and a solid player made a standard raise from EP. Looking at QQ, I made a decent re-raise. I don’t remember the exact amounts, but I think he raised to about 90, I re-raised to about 200 and he pushed it up to 400. I just called that, because I didn’t want to push into AA/KK and I figured I didn’t need to push against AK — he would call anyhow, getting 3:1. I’m pretty sure I would have called if he had pushed there, so I don’t know if the fancy play was required, but it might have been something he needed to do against a better player.

The flop was all undercards and he checked to me. I pushed and he insta-called with AA. I was thinking that I didn’t want to let AK get a free shot at the turn. I only had about 500 chips and the pot was already around 850, so I couldn’t really make a smaller bet that would do any good.

I’m still not sure how to handle this differently. In hindsight, I see that his small re-raise pre-flop just screams strength. Should I just lay down QQ getting 3:1 to his re-re-raise? I don’t think I can do that, although I guess that was where I should have known I was in big trouble. Should I check behind on the flop and refuse to invest any more without hitting a set? I’m going to hate myself if I let him hit his AK.

If we had 10,000 chips and the blinds were low, I could get away. With 1,000 chips I’m clearly not good enough to do it. I think I’ll post it on ITH and get the tourney peeps to tell me what I should have done.

I’m still in relatively fine shipe in that I’m still in the top 10 in the overall count, but I had a chance to be among the leaders in the Tuesday night league and I’ve pretty much blown that up. I’ve noticed I tend to go deep or bust early. The method used to score the ITH leagues punishes me for that, since two finishes of 40/100 are worth more than a 2/100 and a 97/100. A lot of the really tight players seem to make mid-field every time. My ROI is still good and I’m still having some fun. A buddy of mine has offered to sweat me on the phone and give me some pointers in a future tourney. He’s a ton better than I am, so I think it will be very instructive.

geek stuff poker

In praise of Akismet and more thoughts on my blow-up Sunday

First of all, Akismet is the coolest thing ever. It is a comment spam eating plug-in for WordPress and it is absolutely phenominal. So far, not one spam has made it through to my blog and not one real comment has been flagged as spam. I think it has eaten 97 spam messages so far. If you have WordPress, you absolutely have to get Akismet. It is the coolest thing since beer (because sliced bread ain’t that great). It uses a hive mind approach where once one user tags a specific post as spam, it knows that post is spam every time it sees it. It also apparantly has the usual array of filters, because it does an awesome job. If you use WordPress, get it. Now.

On the 53o bluff hand that I talked about last time, I think I learned some useful stuff. The other player posted his thoughts on ITH and he said that my betting confused him — it didn’t tell a story that he could make good sense of, so he called it. I knew that my bet would seem odd, but I would have guessed that when bets were confusing that people would tend to fold. He pointed out to me that when bets are confusing they chance that they are a bluff goes up and people tend to call. I think I should be able to use that information in the future, if only to avoid donking off all my chips next time. A better bluff where the read of what you hold is clear and perhaps weird bets with monster hands might be a better way to go.

I shouldn’t bother with the freeroll tonight, but it is like crack to me now. I’m going to play.


Another deep run in an ITH event.

The VIP league held on Sundays has the most points up for grabs of any of the events, so it is a particularly valuable one to do well in. I made some really good plays early today and caught some cards, but I think I blew up at the final table to some degree. I got caught in a blind steal with KTs when a short stack found JJ. I had to call because he couldn’t raise very much, but it didn’t end well. I then basically donked off my remaining chips, betting hands that couldn’t stand up to raises. I decided to call a raise when we were four handed with the mighty 53o, with a plan to check-raise the flop. The initial raiser had been getting a bit frisky and I really thought he would lay down anything but a monster. The flop came AT9r and he bet nearly the pot. I was hoping for a smaller bet, but I still stuck to my plan. I pushed, but the size of his flop bet meant that he was still getting better than 4:1 to call. I still thought I had pretty much fold equity, but I misjudged because he called with KT. I think I would have been better off to make the standard pre-flop re-raise instead or to just push the flop before he already dropped a pot size bet into the mix. I honestly never thought he would call with middle pair, so I clearly misplayed the hand.

I guess I could also have just let it go and waited for a better spot. That would also have been smart. If I fold, I’m the short stack, but I still have enough chips to make a difference. I have to stop coming up with these clever plans that are too cute for their own good.

All in all, it was still a great result. I cashed for $46.40, bringing my total take to $109.03 on $50 in entrance fees and a $59 profit.. Considering I have yet to win one and the competition is mostly better at tourneys than I am, I’m pleased with that result. I’ve also jumped up to 5th on the overall leader board, while Suited also moved up to 9th.

I even played some ring games (and dwarfed my profit in tourneys in about 2 hours) and got in an arb on the Pro Bowl and a college basketball game. It was a pretty good weekend of gambling, all in all. I’m sitting by a fire staring at my wife over the laptop screen. Life is good.


Reflections on a week of ITH tourney play

I’ve been spending way too much time playing the new ITH league events. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is an entry to the WSOP main event or an entry to a minor event. I suspect that there are much easier paths to that entry, but I’m not always that bright. Facing the decision of whether or not to play in these events has taught me a few things about why I play poker and what I value.

From a financial perspective, the tourneys don’t make that much sense. I’ve given up probably 12 hours of ring game play with an expected earn of $1,500 at 30/60 to chase a $1,500 prize that will require many more weeks of play. It would clearly make a lot more sense to play more ring games and just pay my way in. I have been a net winner at the ITH events, by some miracle, but it amounts to a $22.63 profit. I’ve paid $40 in entry fees and won $62.63 in prize money. That’s a solid $2 an hour win rate, or less than I’d earn playing $0.50/$1.00 limit. Heh.

The thing is that I’m having a really good time. Part of it is the interesting differences in mentality between tourneys and ring games and part of it is the sense of community and fun that seems to thrive at these events. I made fun of Bull for about an hour last night and it made the time go by much faster. I’m not sure what else I’m looking for in poker. Many people talk about “proving” yourself by winning at the highest limits, but I think that is mostlly silly. At the higher limits, you have fewer and fewer fish and although many of the high limit players still have leaks in their game, they tend to be smaller leaks and the level of aggression and trickery gets higher. It becomes a game of very small advantages with associated bigger swings. If I jump to 50/100 or 100/200, I could imagine downswings of $10,000 or $20,000 coming very, very fast. I think very solid emotional control is one of the biggest strengths of my game, but I’m not sure I would handle losing that much as smoothly as I’ve handled previous bad runs. Even worse would be one of those fabled 300 BB downswings. If I dropped $60,000 at 100/200, I’d have to kill someone. I might take some shots at 50/100 when it looks juicy, but I’m not particularly eager to get to 100/200. I’m seriously considering devoting myself to MTT play from now until Summer.

I’ve yet to win a seat into the Main Event WSOP freeroll, but I’m getting closer. I was in a good position to win a seat in last night’s event, but I took a couple of beats with the best hand and got bounced in 4th or 5th. I felt really happy with my play in the event and I think I had some moments where I was really in good control. I’m starting to get a pretty good read on a number of the ITHers as we play the same people week in and week out. I’ll probably keep playing, but I suspect I’ll drop out of the freerolls. That just seems too silly to me, to invest a couple of hours for 100 points at most. I’m holding onto 16th place in the overall standings, despite missing a few events and being among the first one or two out of a few others. I’m clearly more willing to gamble it up in the early stages than most ITHers. I’ve taken coin flips for all my chips four times in the early going and lost all four! Perhaps I should learn from that and stop taking them, but instead I just figure it will all even out in the long run. Interestingly, in one of those, I battled back from a short stack in Level 2 and came in 3rd.

I also have been less into sports betting now that football is done, but some of my longshot schemes have started to pay off and I’m getting more interested. I’ve won enough to buy my way into a couple of WSOP events now, so my enthusiasm for sports betting is climbing back up.


ITH VIP tourney

I was right that going deep in the VIP event would catapult me up the rankings. Unfortunately, I didn’t do that. Suited, on the other hand, followed my plan to a T. She finished 6th and is not 6th in the overall rankings. She plays a very solid, tight game that does well in ITH events. She got short-stacked in the middle, but doubled up twice and was back in the thick of things very quickly.

I made a few interesting (and probably bad) decisions with JJ. Early on chrisjp limped in EP, I raised, another player called and chris pushed. I was in a bad position and had to fold. In hindsight, I know that Chris knew I was in a bad position and would have a hard time calling and I really didn’t think Chris was the kind of guy to limp-raise a big pair in that situation. I should have played that hand for all his chips there. Much later in the event, I re-raised an early raiser with JJ. He had been a bit aggressive with pre-flop raises and I thought I had a good chance to push him off the pot. Instead, he pushed with KK. I knew I was in trouble, but the push wasn’t that many more chips and I had to call, in case he had AK. I never really recovered from that hand and busted out near the middle of the field.

We had a great weekend. I took Suited for little getaway to an amazing Inn and restaurant. We had a 20 year old Sancerre with our first few courses. To be honest, I never imagined you could hold a Sancerre for 20 years, but it held up surprisingly well.  It didn’t last quite like a classic white Burgundy would have, but it had a complexity you wouldn’t associate with Sancerre.  We also had a stunning half bottle of Châteauneuf du Pape from the amazing 1998 vintage.  One course that was particularly memorable was a diver’s scallop that was encrusted in bits of black truffle and was so good you wanted to cry.  We staggered up the stairs to our room and crashed into a food and wine induced coma.  It was a splurge, but well worth it.

I’ve been playing very few cash games since the ITH schedule started.  I’m not sure this is a good thing, since I’m probably not even in the top echelon of ITH tourney players, but I’m a regular winner in cash games.  Somehow, I’m really enjoying tourney poker lately, but it seems like I’m giving away some serious EV.  Especially since Suited is kicking my butt.


I’m an ITH tourney donkey

I’ve been thinking so hard about how to handle the very different play that I saw at the WPT that I think I adjusted in unhelpful ways whilst playing the ITH events. Calling 150 chips raises with 87s when you have 10,000 chips is a reasonable approach. Calling 150 chip raises when you have 1,000 chips is not. I know that, but I still did it twice. I wound up short-stacked early on and had to gamble it up with predictable results.

I railbirded SuitedPair, who made an impressive comeback from a very short stack. She got back into the thick of things, but wound up busting out with KK to an Ace. Its good for me to talk about poker situations with her, because she thinks about the game in a lot of different ways than I do and she often pokes gaping holes in my theories that seem obvious to me once she points them out.

It is her birthday today, so I’m trying to be extra-nice. We’re going out of town to celebrate tomorrow for an elaborate dinner. I hope to have some really excellent wines to report on when we return.

Speaking of wine, we’ve been drinking the Villa Maria Cellar Selection Savignon Blanc quite a lot recently, which is a wonderful, reasonably priced Savignon Blanc from New Zealand, which is very fruit-forward in style but still quite crisp and delicious. We can’t seem to keep it in the wine cooler. Now we’ve discovered their even more affordable Reisling, which is just the right amount of sweet to work with hot and spicy Asian food. I’ve got to get to New Zealand and visit some wineries and goof off.

It looks like a high finish in the ITH VIP League on Sundays is going to be very important to the overall standings, since the results there get multiplied by 20. Suited and I will be back in town in time for that. I’ll try to revert back to my “normal” play.


I’ve been slacking on the blog since Borgata.

Work has become a bit more intense and I’ve been dealing with a lot of little things.  I played in a $500 satellite where I lost with AQ against AK on an Ace-high board, but I didn’t have enough chips to wait for a better spot.  I decided that buying directly into the main event wasn’t something I was willing to do, so I watched Matthew for a while.

I had pretty good success at the cash games, although not enough to cover my losses in the tourney.  I played some 10/20 and some 20/40.  In my opinion both games were very beatable, but I only made fairly small wins.  I did play at the Taj on two different nights at Wade’s suggestion and found the games there to be somewhat softer than the Borgata, but filled with more people who knew each other well.  This is both good and bad.

I experimented with a looser, play lots of hands style in the ITH freeroll with predictably terrible results.  I’m going to play my usual game in the ITH league tonight and hopefully I won’t play so badly.

I’ve totally ignored sports betting for two weeks, but intend to have my money in action on SuperBowl props if nothing else.