The most common fallacy about Internet poker

“No one on the Internet pays any attention to how you play or what cards you play.”  I’ve seen variations of this advice a thousand times.  It often comes from people I know to be very smart about poker, yet I am convinced that it is completely wrong.  Even my buddy Matthew Hilger has written about it.  However, my observation and experience are almost completely opposite.  I find that most everyone uses PokerTracker and a significant number of them use some kind of real-time statistics display like PokerAce.

When I’ve told other people that I believe that your image is actually more important on the Internet than it is live, they usually disagree with me.  The most frequent claim I get is that it may be true at the limits I play, but that it isn’t so at lower limits.  I recently played some small stakes holdem for a project I’m working on and I now believe that it is simply untrue at virtually every level today.

I think you can usually safely assume that the guy who is playing every single hand probably isn’t a model of thoughtfulness, but (sadly) this guy is no longer a common sight at every poker table.  I do believe that most people are paying some attention and many are paying a lot of attention.  As an example, consider the $0.50/$1.00 table I was playing for over 300 hands.  I found the table to be somewhat tight, so I was raising liberally.  I raised 37 hands pre-flop and won the blinds 6 times or about 17% of the time.  The other 31 times, an average of 3.7 people saw the flop with me.  There were three rocky players with PFR averages of less than 5% of the time.  They collectively raised 29 times and won the blinds 16 times or 55% of the time.  The other 13 times, the an average of 2.3 people saw the flop.  It was abundantly clear to me that the table recognized a difference between me and the ultra-tight players and adjusted their play accordingly.

I will freely admit that the adjustments that they made were sometimes terrible, but they were adjusting.  There were a number of players whose obvious strategy was to call my raise pre-flop and fold the flop if they didn’t improve.  This is a horrific strategy, but quite common.  This means that they are going to pay 2 SBs for the privilege of folding the flop 67% of the time (more or less) and they are going to get in trouble with second best hands when they do hit.  Of course, they are very easy to read and get themselves in big trouble with this.

At one low limit table I played at, there was a total maniac who raised virtually every hand.  When he left the table, there was a spirited discussion of just exactly what his VP$IP and PFR was for the run.  I counted five people who talked about it.

At this point, it is my belief that internet poker is tougher in every way than live poker.  The players generally have a better understanding of the basics of poker strategy, they have better tools to observe and track your play and they make fewer stupid mistakes.  There are exceptions, of course.  Most players have mastered the essentials of pre-flop play but still make countless major post-flop mistakes.  It is still a very profitable game, but the idea that no one is paying attention to you is an idea that should be banished from your thinking.   You should focus on how to use your image to your advantage.  More on that later.


Why winning is dangerous to the poker player

We all know that many poker players get in trouble when they are on a losing streak. They can go on tilt, raising maniacally to recoup their losses. Sometimes they get ultra-timid, because the voice in their head sees monsters under every bed and they play scared. The better players are aware of their tendencies to make mistakes when running bad and they watch their hand histories very closely for signs of tilt or bad play. There is a strong incentive to study when you are running bad, because you want to stop losing. This prevents the better players from losing too much due to tilt, because they are alert to the risk.

What many poker players do not realize is that winning can be equally dangerous. Many players will call down much more loosely when they are running hot (this is my personal vice) and they will tend to throw chips around pre-flop more than usual. For some players who play too tight and predictable in general, they might actually play better when they are on a rush. Most players don’t play better. They become calling stations with any pair or bluff much too aggressively. They may never figure out why they don’t win enough money, because they don’t scrutinze their winning sessions very closely.

Here is a specific example to illustrate the point. If the perfect player would have booked sessions of +$1,000, +$800, +$400, -$500 and -$1,200 for a net result of $500 in winnings, the tilting loser might book sessions of +$1,000, +$800, +$400, -$700, -$1,400 for a net result of $100 in winnings and the tilting winner might book sessions of +$700, +$500, +$400, -$500 and -$1,200 for a net result of -$100. The worst thing is that the tilting loser has a better chance of finding his mistakes, because he will concentrate on his big down sessions to find leaks. The tilting winner is not likely to study his “big wins” closely, because he will think that that the -$1,200 session must have been his problem, even though he played that one perfectly.

Hot streaks and cold streaks happen to every poker player. When a game has the element of chance, this is inevitable. The difference between the expert and the novice is (as always) the degree of both. The expert will win more and lose less. This is the source of your edge in poker. When an opponent misses bets against you with his monster that you would have extracted from him, you win. You might lose money in that hand or that session, but in the long run that is really poker, you won that money as sure as if you had taken it home that night. When you extract that extra value bet with a marginal hand that your opponent would not have captured, your long-term advantage over him grows.

I’m running ridiculously hot at 30/60 and having a blast doing it. I’ve hit the zone where I feel extremely confident in listening to my instincts and playing my natural game. That voice in my head that tells me when I should bluff or call down or fold is coming in loud and clear. Sometimes I just can’t find the frequency to tune that voice in. I think I’m still a good player when I don’t hear it, I just rely on math and book-learning and make the “correct” play and I think I am still a small winner when I do it that way. When I have that sixth sense engaged, I’m a much better player. I find the right spots to take pots down that I don’t deserve and I get the right decisions in the ten thousand marginal situations that rule limit poker much more often than I do when I’m just playing by the numbers. I never hear the voice when I multi-table and I don’t like to play a bunch of tables as well as a result.

The above paragraph illustrates the final danger of winning. It feels really good and tends to inflate your ego. You are winning because you are a genius and you deserve to win. The other guys are chumps, so it is not shocking that they should lose. An overwhelming sense of happiness is just as bad for your game as the self-doubt that accompanies losing. Don’t fall into the trap — search your game for leaks just as hard when you win as when you lose. This is the path to excellence.


Who is really the fish?

I see people go into rant mode about fishy play all the time.  Sometimes they are at the table, wearing their “table coach” hat and bemoaning the bad play of the other players.  Sometimes they are posting commentary on the forums belittling the unconventional, but not really terrible, play of another guy in the hands.  I think the tendency to classify everyone into either “solid” or “fishy” is one of the biggest mistakes that the average player makes.

First, I should mention my patented theory of table coaches.  I have become nearly certain of the truth of this hypothesis by long observation:  The table coach is almost always the second or third worst player at the table.  Keep this in mind when confronted by one. If his advice was any good, he wouldn’t be dispensing it so freely.  Don’t pay any attention to his rantings.

I believe that my greatest strength at the poker table is an ability to get inside the mind of the other players at the table and to understand how they think about the game.  Some players think that overcards are almost always worth a call on the flop, but will drop them on the turn, some players won’t fold a flush draw no matter what the pot size on the turn, some players just can’t let go a hand with any pair without a ton of scary action, some players are scared to death of every flush board and so on.  By and large, these players aren’t dumb, they just have various faulty mental constructs that govern their decisions.  On some level, they call your bets because they think they might have a better hand or they are convinced they will improve to a better hand often enough to make it worthwhile.  Get into their mindset and figure out how to exploit it.  Do they always wait and check-raise the turn with a big hand?  If so, that tells you the most effective way to bluff them.  Have they never folded on the flop since  Bush, Sr was the President?  Then why are you trying to check-raise bluff them on the flop?

I played a hand at 30/60 two nights ago with a player who might have been a bit drunk or he just overestimated the value of his premium starting hands.  He had shown a willingness to three-bet with an unimproved AK on the flop and to put in multiple big bets with big pairs on very, very scary boards.  He was very well-disciplined pre-flop, but he was a mess post-flop.  He thought that the huge edge his premium hands held pre-flop remained, no matter how bad the flop missed his hand.  Otherwise, he was a pretty decent, book-smart kind of player.  I got into a big hand with him where I limped from EP with A3s and he raised it up.  I flopped bottom pair, which seemed quite likely to be good against his raising range, but I didn’t want to raise the flop becuse he had demonstrated that he would go a long way with overcards and I would have no idea where I stood.  On the turn, I picked up the nut flush draw, a weak gutshot straight draw to the wheel with my Ace and I still had outs to Aces-up and trips.  I figured this was a good time to pop him with a check-raise, because he might let go of AK at that point.  Unfortunately he three bet, which meant that he had an overpair for certain.  The river was the King of diamonds, giving me the nuts with runner-runner flush.  I should have led at the pot, but I decided to get cute and check-raise the nuts.  He three bet me anyhow with a set of Kings and I capped with the nut flush.  He unleashed a torrent of abuse at me for what seemed to him to be amazingly fishy play.  He would never have limped pre-flop wuth A3s from EP, he would never have called the flop with bottom pair, he would never have check-raised the turn with such a speculative hand and he was convinced I was a complete idiot.  Needless to say, from my perspective, I think I played the hand fine.

Pay more attention to the “fish” at your table.  If they are indeed making mistakes, just calling them fish is not helpful.  Why are they fish?   What kind of mistakes are they making and how can you exploit them?  If you focus on more detailed and accurate assesments of the weaknesses of the other players, I promise you that your earn rate will improve.


Miscellaneous Vegas Tidbits

I have a few observations that I made whilst gambooling it up in Vegas that I forgot to put in anywhere else. To wit:

  • I must be getting old. The first time I walked by the beer girls standing in the main intersection, I thought to myself “Nice shorts, hot girls.” I then looked sideways to see if my lovely bride saw me checking them out. Two or three trips later, I was oblivious to their charms. A few trips later, I was actually thinking to myself “They should get their airhead asses out of the middle of the busiest intersection in the place!” My Vegas is not the coke and hookers Vegas of 2+2.
  • I saw T.J. Cloutier playing craps not once, not twice, but three times. He has long been rumored to have a problem with the game and it appeared to be the case. He looked profoundly unhappy each time I saw him. It diminishes my ability to imagine him as one of the greatest poker players of our time, even though I guess he is.
  • I assume that there is a level of poker where you don’t find donks playing, but I haven’t got there yet. $3,000 buy-in tourneys had plenty. 50/100 limit had plenty.
  • Developing a good relationship with bartenders and sushi chefs is +EV. There is a great sushi place near us that opened recently and through some relationship management and excess tipping, we now get asked to tree free samples of new rolls or appetizers that he is working on and get little “special” cuts he was “saving for us.”
  • If you have followed the kerfluffle at 2+2 surrounding Ed Miller’s wife Elaine that led to her departure and then his departure, I think I have an explanation for some of the venom that gets directed her way. Elaine had a habit of tilting at the windmills of misogyny and purile humor that are often a focus of OOT. I found her willingness to engage in obviously hopeless debate amusing, but it really offended some of those who were the target of her scorn. I suspect that they hated her so much because it reminded them of the poor reaction they often get from real women. Maybe Ed will hang out at ITH again. ;)  (I had to unlink the original posts, because 2+2 moved them to the mod forum.  I have them in my cache, but I don’t know if I want to post it if they want it deleted)
  • Can you imagine Las Vegas in any country in the world but ours? It is such a monument to excess and redefines garish. I love it.

Las Vegas Trip Report Part 2

After we finished playing casino poker and went back to the room, I was still wired and spend an hour or two analyzing “correct” betting strategy for the game. Our approach of betting any pair or any Ace was costing me some EV. An underpair to the board is usually not good enough to bet and some Aces should not be bet. Additionally, there were situations when King or even Queen high was good for a bet (paired boards, mostly). Not only did I pick up some good insight into the casino game, I think I learned some important lessons about actual heads-up play as well. There are a remarkable number of situations in heads-up play where you are close to 50/50. Good results at the casino game require you to increase your wager on those 51% situations and stand pat on the 49% situations.

After some internal examination and some discussions with Suited, I decided to play the $3,000 limit even the next day. I don’t know if she thought I was +EV, wanted some time to hit the spa or just didn’t want to hear me whine, but I’m glad I played it. I felt extremely comfortable at the table the entire time in a way that I am not at NL events. I have a good grasp of NL MTT play, but I just understand Limit on a much deeper level. The problem with Limit is that your edge is relatively small against other decent players and although many players in the field were making mistakes, they tended to be the miss a bet here and there kind of mistakes that kill you in the long run as a ring game grinder, but probably donâ??t alter your MTT expectation that much.

I was initially quite pleased with my starting table. It was located at the very back of the room and along the main center aisle, so my legions of fans would be able to watch from two sides. I also didn’t recognize anyone at the table, which is probably a good thing too. Unfortunately, Johnny “World” Hennigan soon sat down two to my right and Alan Geohring sat to his right. Admittedly, I thought he was actually Darrell Dicken (a/k/a Gigabet), but I knew he was trouble. It was nice to have position on them, but it was very quickly apparent that they intended to get involved in a lot of pots and I was determined to make them understand that my blinds were not theirs for the taking. On the second orbit, there were two limpers and Hennigan raised from the button. I called with 86s. The flop came Q86 and I check-raised the flop. Ordinarily, I like to lead at a flop like this in a ring game and I reserve the check-raise for weaker hands and bluffs. But I was planning to need to check-raise with nothing later on, so I wanted to establish in Hennigan’s mind that my flop check-raise meant a big hand. He had shown a tendency to look people up, especially the first hand he played with them. I filled up by the river and he just called me there and on the turn. I announced my boat and flipped the cards over. He tapped the table and quietly mucked. I was planning to check-raise him with air the next time he tried to blind steal.

However, the complexion of the table changed and I never got in another pure blind defense situation. There was a player to Geohring’s right who was getting involved in a ton of pots and seemed willing to call down with marginal hands. Some of them were good, but a number got there by miracle on the river and I had pegged him as someone that would pay off a lot of bets. He rarely folded. He took to raising pretty often and very soon thereafter, Alan was three-betting him pretty light. On one hand, he showed down 42o that he had three bet to isolate. At that point, Hennigan started making it four bets and preventing Geohring’s isolation plays from working. For most of the first few rounds, one of the three of us 3 bet behind the loose player a majority of the hands. I hit some hands, missed some big draws and executed a nice turn check-raise bluff to take down a decent pot. I was up marginally in the first couple of levels and I felt very confident and comfortable. Hennigan and Geohring were very active, but I felt like I had a decent understanding of what they were trying to do and how I wanted to counter them. I did have one moment of self-doubt. They played a number of hands against each other, since they were the most active players at the table and three times Hennigan showed his hand to Geohring after a fold. He did not show his cards to the rest of the table. I know that I could demand to see them by rule, but I elected not to. I didn’t do it for two reasons. One was that I didn’t really want to annoy them and have them try to target me for aggressive action later on and the other was that Geohring twice made a little nod when he was shown the cards and the third time he grimaced slightly. I decided that was enough information for me, although I suspect I would have made the dealer show the hand if they were two unknowns.

The dealer was pretty bad. He miscalled the board, even pulling the wrong cards up, identifying a players hand as a straight when it was a flush. I made a sarcastic remark like “its a flush too” and Geohring grinned at me from behind his shades, so I knew that he noticed that I could read the damn board and paid attention to stuff that didn’t involve me. He tried to push a pot to the wrong player and several players corrected him. Later, he miscalled another hand, but it didn’t affect the outcome, so I didn’t say anything, but I noticed Alan watching me and grinning again.

I took the first pink $500 chip of the table from Geohring, but he made a few bucks back on two suckouts against me. Once I held AQ on a Queen high board and another time he spiked an Ace on the river to beat TT. I’m pretty sure I took more chips off either of them than they took from me, so I’d call it a victory. I left that table in good shape when it broke and I got moved to table full of unknowns. The very next table was Ivey, Sebok and two or three other name pros, so I got a bit lucky. The unfortunate aspect was that I had an uber-calling station to my left, so I couldn’t steal at all. I had to hit hands. I felt in pretty good command of the situation and I managed to stay above average, despite having little in the way of playable hands. I did flop two pair with KJ when the calling station paired an Ace and got paid off nicely, but mostly I just had to wait and try to catch some cards. After the KJ hand put me way above average, I missed a straight flush draw and fell back to just slightly above average stack. He had a funny habit of raising flops and then checking down even with very strong holdings, so he really encouraged people to suckout on him.

I then ran into the crucial hand of the event for me. I was against a good player whose only weakness was a tendency to get too aggressive if he thought he could bully. He probably thought about the same of me. I held ATs and flopped middle pair and a flush draw. I turned Aces up with the flush draw and blanked the river. Multiple bets went in on ever street and he had a better two pair than me. If I won that hand, I would be among the chip leaders. Since I lost the hand, I was below average and looking to find a spot to make a move when I returned from the dinner break. The structure of a limit event like this is such that you can’t afford to lose two pots in a row or you will go broke. It is odd, there are some periods where everyone seems to be short-stacked and dropping like flies and some periods where there is some breathing room again. This was an action window. I got extremely lucky to double up with A5s twice, but lost a pot in between and wound up getting bounced in 249th. I felt happy with my play once again, but was dissapointed to fall short. I really think if I could have accumulated the dominant stack at that table, I would have rolled over them.

After I recovered from my brief gloomy reaction, Suited and I walked around the casino and played “spot the hooker” for a while. It is harder than you might think. She seemed exhausted from the long day of spectating and arranging meals and playing poker and wound up crashing around midnight. On the other hand, I was so wired from the intensity of playing that I couldn’t sleep. I wandered down to the casino and goofed around playing Pai Gow poker and casino hold’em for hours. I actually booked a $150 profit by the time I went to bed.

The next day was a bit slower-paced. Matthew invited the ITH gang for a cookout at his place and we didn’t get up and about until nearly noon. I had a good excuse, since I didn’t get to sleep until 5:00. I coached Suited for an hour or two on what I had learned about optimal strategy for casino hold’em and we decided to try our luck one last time at the game. We absolutely crushed it. I think I cashed about $1,300 in profit on a $200 stake and Suited cashed another $600 or so in profit. We were playing better, we were catching better and the dealer would have posted in the Vent, Rant and Rave section if they were an ITHer. I flopped a straight with 53o and jammed the whole way down. I knew it would be good when it was dealt. I think we attracted the attention of the eye in the sky, because they did a setup change on us in the middle of the game. Winning is a lot of fun.

The cookout at Matthew’s was a great time. We explained our new casino hold’em strategies, talked about stupid things casinos do, played with Matthew’s son and ate steaks the size of Texas. It was a really nice time and it was cool of Matthew to host it. His wife was as charming as ever and it was great to see the ITHers outside of the casino.

When we got back to the casino, we planned to try out our new casino hold’em knowledge, but the tables were packed to the rafters. Niin taught me how to play 3 card poker and I immediately hit a straight flush and got paid a bunch of money. He only pointed out that he would have been dealt that hand if I hadn’t sat in three or four times. At one point, the dealer was talking to us and dealing and Niin forgot to put down his standard bet. He had bet the same way on every single hand and asked if he could put his bet out (the usual rule would be that you have to bet before the dealer starts to lay out cards). The dealer called for the pit boss, but by the time he got over there, we had all looked at our cards and the boss refused to let him play that hand. Despite a reasonable argument from Niin about what good customer service would dictate, the boss wouldn’t budge. Niin was annoyed and decided to cash out, so we cashed in too to show our solidarity. For a ten dollar bet, it really was a dumb decision by the pit boss.

I played a bit more and won another few hundred, but was facing a flight that left at 6:30 the next morning. I got back to the room well after midnight and had to pack everything up. I wound up falling asleep at 2:30 and was powerfully unhappy when the alarm rousted me at 4:45. I somehow managed to gas up the rental car and check in at the airport. It was a bit ugly when they denied having a reservation for me, but we eventually determined that we were connecting in Philly instead of Charlotte. I took full advantage of the extra room up front and slept for hours on the plane. Philly was the usual summer thunderstorm disaster and we sat on the runway for 90 minutes there, but eventually made it home safe and sound and only a little poorer. Unlike my usual tale, we lost big at poker (thanks to a $5,000 loss on MTTs) and won at the casino. This is actually my first net loss trip to a casino ever. 🙁


Las Vegas Trip Report Part 1

On the flight over, we were in first class because that is the way I roll. I’m the king of the frequent flier groove. Before we took off, the pilot was standing at the front of the bus (it was a 757, so people entered through the middle door) chatting with us. USAir converted their 757s so that there are only 8 seats in the front, so there is always a lot of arm wrestling and complaining about the difficulty in getting upgraded. The woman who was supposed to sit behind me wanted to sit in the back with her friend because she couldn’t get her companion upgraded. They gave another seat to a blind guy who wouldn’t have qualified otherwise, which seemed like a class move in my opinion. Except at the last minute another agent tried to eject the blind guy and move him back into coach to clear someone else for the front. The pilot refused to get involved, but the FAs clearly thought this was a very lame move. In the end, they left the blind guy and forced the woman to take her seat and move out of coach. I couldn’t figure that one out. As soon as we were airborne, she just walked back and offered to trade seats with the guy in the seat she wanted. He probably just about broke his leg sprinting up front. The funny thing is that the pilot was chatting with us waiting for all this crap to get sorted and he noticed my ITH hat. I advised him that I was headed out to play in the World Series of Poker and he apologized for not recognizing me from TV. I assume he figured if I was a poker player who rode first class, I must be a big shot. Unfortunately, before I could chastise him in Hellmuthian fashion for not knowing who I am, SuitedPair laughed and said I was a nobody. Thanks, babe.

As soon as we landed, I fired up the cell phone and found out that Matthew was still alive in the pot limit event with the field down to a few dozen. We carried our bags on, so we were in a rental car and speeding to the Rio in record time. Just as I walked in the poker room, I got the call that he had just busted. We caught up on the gory details from Chris and PokerElmo and watched Matthew collect his bundle of cash from the cage. Afterwards, we met up with Tanya and had a drink or three in the main Rio bar. Jetlag, time zones and alcohol conspired to send us to bed around midnight.

The next day was a warm up day before we played in the big event. We decided to ignore poker for the most part and did some tourist stuff. We checked out the Star Trek thing at the Hilton (Suited is a big Trekkie), got some massages and generally goofed off. I did call Elmo at some point and was happily chatting away with him about some tourney he was playing for like 10 minutes before he pointed out that he was actually playing at that very moment and it would be helpful if I hung up the damn phone. Oops.

I met up with Niin and Angelfish and made the casino game discovery of the trip. They were playing a casino table game version of hold’em which is played as a head up game between the player and the dealer. The dealer plays their cards blind and the player has the option to double his ante or fold once he sees his hole cards and has the option of matching his ante after he sees the flop and turn. We surmised that the correct strategy was to play every hand and to jam every pair or Ace high to the river. This turned out to be wrong, but interesting nonetheless. This game would be a staple of the trip and we got better and better as it went along. I actually won a few hundred with my seriously flawed strategy the first day.

Niin, Angel, Suited, Elmo and I all had dinner together at the Rio and then headed over to the Venetian for some donkified NL. Everyone else got on a 1/2 NL list and I was going to play some high dollar limit action. They suggested that it would be more fun if we all played NL together, so I dropped $200 on the table and started donking it up. I won a few pots here and there, got called down by Niin with Queen high (which happened to be good) and was having some fun. In one early hand, Suited came over the top of me all-in on the flop. I had a piece of the board, but she looked pretty strong to me (as if I ever have a clue what she is thinking). She asked me “Do you want me to count it down, buttercup?” which caused the dealer to dissolve into fits of laughter. He then referred to me as buttercup for the rest of his down. No tips for him. Despite the fact that some of us (Niin and I especially) were playing a bit LAGish, it probably wasn’t a great table for the usual 1/2 NL crowd who were mixed in with us. Elmo went out of his way to explain the situation to the people near him and the people at the other end were mostly trying to nut peddle, so they didn’t mind us at all. I did stack a poor player when I caught a rough two pair and a straight, but he was going to go broke no matter what I did. There was a quite aggressive Asian guy two to my left, who tangled with me repeatedly. He seemed pretty good to me, often applying pressure that caused me to bail on a few pots where I suspected I might be good if I called him. He had just about doubled and had me covered when we tussled on the big pot of the night. I check-raised him on a flop of QQT holding AT and pushed the turn King. The board did have a flush draw and a straight draw, but I think I had to look like a Queen. It was the biggest pot played on the table (we were probably the two biggest stacks) and he thought forever before calling me. I assumed that a call meant I was drawing dead or maybe needed a Ten. I figured he must have JJ/KT/JT/Kx or maybe AK. The river was a blank and I sheepishly tabled my pair of tens. He looked really disgusted and mucked. We never did decide what he held there, but I assume it must have been the nut flush draw. He probably figures the jacks, aces and flush cards give him the pot. If so, it was a bad call I think, but I probably looked wild to him. I really thought he would fold to the turn bet without a big, big hand. Suited wound up busting out, probably to Angelfish or PokerElmo, who were quietly amassing a mound of chips. I covered her losses plus a bit, Angelfish and Niin had to be a nice winner collectively, although I think Niin may have dropped a few dollars and Elmo was certainly up. All in all, it was fun and profitable.

The next day was the WSOP event six NL 2k event. I had a fine table with no names and Matthew was sitting at the table next to mine. The rest of the ITH crew were scattered about. The structure made it hard to do much post-flop. I decided I was going to splash around in the first two levels and establish a loose image and try to get paid off when I hit something. Playing tight and waiting for a good hand in level three or four would also be a valid strategy, but I didn’t feel like playing boring poker. I ranged from 3k to 1k, but felt like I had excellent reads and showed down a couple of rough hands that ensured I was going to get some action. During the first round, Matthew tapped me on the shoulder and told me he was out. I was suprised but not shocked. We’ve talked about our approach to these events enough that I know that he was looking to get involved early too and all it takes is one bad hand to get stacked. He said “I got caught with my hand in the cookie jar” and wandered off. I also saw Chris walking the rail during the second level, so I knew he was out too, although we didn’t get to talk about it. I finished the first two levels about even and felt good about my chances to get some big hands paid. I got my wish when I flopped middle set with JJ on an AJT board. I wind up getting the other guy all-in with AQ on the turn and he is drawing to four outs. Of course, he hits one of them and I’m now precariously short. If my set held up, I would have been in good shape with about 5,500 chips. As it was, I was down to less than 1,000. I pushed first in on the CO with trash a few hands later, but the BB woke up with AK and called me. I had two live cards, but couldn’t hit.

In short order, the whole ITH crew was in the “loser’s lounge” at the Starbucks and we bemoaned our fate for a while. We had worked out a chop where we would all share if one of us cashed, but none of us even made the dinner break. I was a bit surprised by this, but it mostly reflects the lottery nature of the structure.

We all completely took over the casino hold’em table and had a blast trying to work out the optimal strategy and openly sharing our hole cards with each other. Despite knowing all the dead cards, Suited and I still managed to drop more than I won in my first session. The dealer was catching two pair and straight and sets like mad. It was annoying. The pit boss told us it was OK to share cards, although later on we were told that this was strictly forbidden. I think it is sort of like PaiGow poker — they don’t want you to do it systematically, but they don’t really bother with doing it once in a while. We had a great time teasing Matthew about losing money when he is an author on the probabilities involved in HoldEm. We made better tactical decisions with our collective poker wisdom focused on the game, but were still making errors. When I got home that night, I fired up PokerStove and developed a greatly improved strategy. I thought that proper strategy combined with knowning dead cards would make this a +EV game, but later math shows me that it probably is still -EV, but better than any game in the casino. I think it is very close to breakeven if you know eight cards and figure out the correct strategy for when to bet the flop and turn. It isn’t as obvious as you might think.

We all wound up at an Indian place in the Rio for dinner and had a great time. Afterwards, Niin, Angelfish, Suited and I all went back to the WSOP room. They played sats and I played ring games. Suited and Angelfish were in the same game, which Angel wound up winning. I was in a juicy limit game, but wound up only cashing out $50 or so.

Part 2 will cover my run at the 3K Limit event and the rest of the trip.


im out

149th. 99 lost on an AK flop and then KJ when really short. More later.


got my double

4k after blinds


easy come, easy go

I’m getting back from dinner to face a short stack of 2100 chips. I
stacked a shorty to get as high as 6600 last level and then lost with
JJ on an AKx flop that I had to let go and with AK unimproved. I was
at aroun 4500 when I lost my key hand thus far. I flopped second pair
woth ATs on a board of KT3 with two of my suits. There were multiple
bets on the flop, on the turn of Ace and then just one on the river.
He had AK and left me very short.
With blinds at 200/400, I’m going to have to play for my stack in the
next 12 hands or so. I’m UTG+1 when we return. I won’t probably get
anyone to fold at this point.
I’m trying not to dwell on what would have happened if I was good on
the ATs hand.


end of level

4200 at end after a straight flush draw misses.