The challenge of my quest may be finding tables.

Tonight, the 30/60 game didn’t run most of the evening and then it was terrible once it did. The 15/30 ran short-handed for a while and then it collapsed. I made a few bucks before it did, but I was forced to play 10/20 for the most part. I’m pretty sure that I’m calling bit a too much now. I posted an exercise on ITH some time ago where I found that calling down was proving profitable even though it made me look dumb sometimes. However, I think I’ve gone a bit overboard. There were a number of hands tonight where I knew full well that I was beat, but I called down anyhow. One that was especially horrific was an Ace high board where I had KK. There was a bet and a call in addition to me on the flop and the same on the turn. Yet, somehow I talked myself into calling down. This is probably the worst play I’ve made since I came back. When they both turned over Aces, I realized that I had gone overboard.

I’ve yet to play with PokerAce or any other HUD, since I’m still playing on the Mac. It is forcing me to make good reads to really think through how my oppponents play and I’m convinced it has made me sharper. As my first month of the Supernova quest winds down, I’m well ahead of pace in terms of money and hands played, although I’m still a bit off my high for the month due to my big down day a few days ago.

I booked a win of about $450 today and my VPP count stands at 14,300. It is possible I could make supernova by summer at this pace. I read on 2+2 that they will have a double VPP promotion again in May, which will help. I’m giving some thought to getting a nice big LCD monitor for comfortable multi-tabling. I’d probably be willing to kill someone for this 30″ baby.


A no-limit interlude

None of the good games were running early last night, so I wandered over to play some full ring NL. I was doing quite well until I ran into this hand:

PokerStars No-Limit Hold’em, $4 BB (9 handed)
Button ($413.40)
SB ($404)
BB ($479)
UTG ($442)
UTG+1 ($80)
MP1 ($414.55)
MP2 ($361.25)
MP3 ($564.85)
Hero ($597.90)

Preflop: Hero is CO with :As  :Qd.
2 folds, MP1 calls $4, 1 fold, MP3 raises to $16, Hero calls $16, Button calls $16, 2 folds, MP1 calls $12.

Flop: ($70) :5s, :Qs, :6d (4 players)
MP1 checks, MP3 bets $40, Hero raises to $104, Button folds, MP1 folds, MP3 raises to $240, Hero ???

I got myself in a predicament here.  My instinct is that most of the players I’ve seen at this level would play AA/KK more slowly here.  They’d probably call the check-raise with a hope to burn me later.  So the three bet doesn’t scare me completely, but it does make me a bit concerned.  I discussed this with some of the ITHers in IRC afterwards and most people’s initial reaction was to call.  In fact, that is what I did but I’m pretty sure that was a bad idea.  The way the hand played out, I think I should have shoved or folded.  Because once I called, he shoved on the turn (a blank) and I folded.   The problem is that I didn’t learn crap.  If he had AK, he was pretty much forced to shove the turn or give up on the hand.  After some discussion (with wack, especially) I thought shoving the flop was probably the best idea.

Today, I feel that the best decision was probably to just flat call the flop.  I’m not that scared of anything, except maybe a King on the turn and I can probably get my hand to showdown for a lot less money.  The check-raise probably folds most AK hands, which might have given me more money if I just called and would probably get stacked if an Ace fell.  I won’t have displayed enough strength to get him to shove (right?) so I think I can get to showdown more often.

The other way to look at it is that he really did have AA or KK and I saved some money this way.  He would have bet $100 or so on the turn, which I call and then I probably call another hundo or so on the river.  I raised to figure out if he had me beat and he told me did.  Of course, the problem is that poker players lie.  All the time.

My general sense is that most of these NL players at this level are fairly tight and timid, with intermittent bluffy moments.  I called an overbet on the river with 22 unimproved and tilted some guy, but I was 99% certain he was bluffing.  He had shown a strong tendency to make small blocking bets on the river with his medium strength hand, so the big overbet was either a bluff or a monster and the monster just didn’t make any sense given his action, so it had to be a bluff.  No one really seemed to bluff at me again at that table.

I wound up actually dropping a small amount at the NL400 tables, but later on the 15/30 was running and I won it back and ended the night with a small profit (I’m not at my PokerTracker machine, but I think it was like $100 or $200).

I’m also slowly cleaning up my blogroll.  Many of the regulars from a couple of years ago never post anymore and there are a few new blogs in town. My man Fumseck is still at it and I stole the card image code used on these hand histories from him (although I had to tweak it slightly).


Oh yeah, bad days. I forgot about them.

Poker is a funny game. In the long run, the money goes from the bad players to the good players. It is as inevitable as water flowing downhill and casinos making money. The key aspect of that sentence is the “long run” bit. Many of us fail to appreciate just how long the long run can be. I’ve played about 10,000 hands of poker since I got back into it. This would amount to about 250 hours of live poker play or 31 days of full time, 8 hour a day playing. Most of us who understand the math of variance would tell you that this is nowhere near enough play to have any real idea of your true mathematical expectation at the game. To have a good idea of your “true” win rate, you probably need to accumulate more like 100,000 hands of poker. Although I have many more hands than that in total, they span a period of years and my game has evolved a lot over that time, so you probably never really know your true win rate for your current style of play because by the time you get enough data, you probably don’t play the same way any more.

Anyhow, lest you think from my results so far this year that poker is license to print money since I seem to book a win every day, let me dissuade you of that notion. I dropped $1,800 today in a series of brutal tables. The vast majority of that was at 30/60 where everything went wrong tonight. Whenever I raised with a big hand, I won the blinds. Whenever I raised with a moderate hand, I got re-raised. Every flop seemed to miss me completely, every pocket pair flopped overcards. I got KK three times today, won the blinds once and lost the other two to an Ace. AA won the binds once, lost a huge pot with a set of aces to a turned gutshot from a semi-maniac. QQ lost twice. JJ was my best hand tonight, because I chopped with JJ both times I got it. Once was blind vs. blind, so we both actually lost $1.50 due to rake. It was one of those nights.

One of my strengths as a player is that I don’t really tilt. Many otherwise good players go into spirals of very poor play when they are losing that can cause them to give back all their hard-earned winnings in a very short time. The worst thing that I do is mentally expect the Ace to flop whenever I’m holding KK. I do have 13,200 VPPs, so I guess I’m in good shape on my Supernova quest since 8,333 points per month will get me there. It would be nice to finish off the month with a flourish over the next few days, but I don’t know how much I will get to play.

Postscript:  I couldn’t sleep, so I played some NL ring and won $600 back.  I might have won more, but my stupid network stopped responding when I had KK in a big pot and it timed me out and folded me when I know I was good.  It turns out I do tilt.


What does he think I think he thinks I think he has?

I played a mildly interesting hand today against a solid player that I face all the time at 30/60 and 15/30 on stars. I thought it might be interesting to walk through it and what I was thinking at the time. I almost entitled this post “A fine line between genius and donkey”

PokerStars 15/30 Hold’em (8 handed) Poker Stars

Preflop: Hero is MP2 with :Ac, :8c.
3 folds, Hero raises, CO 3-bets, 3 folds, Hero calls.

The blinds were both fairly passive and I liked playing pots with the BB who would call my raises and then check-fold the flop very often. The CO knows this, knows I could be raising fairly light and I think he’s going to 3-bet me here with a very wide range. Not insanely wide and he’ll probably avoid trap hands, but I’d guess 33+/A9+/A5s+/a mix of some medium suited connectors and most suited broadway hands. In other words, there is no certainty he is ahead at this point

Flop: (7.66 SB) :3h, :Ts, :Jh (2 players)
Hero checks, CO bets, Hero raises, CO calls.

This is a fairly terrible flop for me in that I’ve hit exactly nothing and I have a hand that is near the bottom of my raising range pre-flop. However, I think that check-folding here gives up too much value and encourages him to continue to 3 bet me. I will often check-raise any piece of this flop and lead the turn. This will probably fold his weaker hands like small pairs and weak aces. So, I check-raise as a bluff hoping to get him to fold the turn (players at this level will virtually never fold the flop). This is probably a dubious decision, since he is probably just calling down with aces or pairs.

Turn: (5.83 BB) :8s (2 players)
Hero bets, CO raises, Hero calls.

This is an odd situation. Now the board has two flush possibilities and a Queen picked up a gutshot. If I still had Ace-high, the call on the flop and raise on the turn would scare me. He would likely play a big hand like JJ this way. TT or 33 would probably have gone ahead and three bet the flop. I don’t love third pair here, but there are a lot of cards that might let me bluff at the river and I just don’t think I can be sure he is strong here.

River: (9.83 BB) :2d (2 players)
Hero checks, CO bets, Hero calls.

I really hate to fold getting 11:1, so I have to pull the trigger. This is maybe the most nuanced decision because I have shown enough strength that he should consider me fairly likely to call down. He probably thinks I’m calling with any Ace or pair here, so therefore he must be saying he can beat that, so therefore I should probably fold third pair. In the end, I didn’t.

Final Pot: 11.83 BB
Results in white below:
Hero has Ac 8c (one pair, eights).
CO has Ks Qs (high card, king).
Outcome: Hero wins 11.83 BB.

I’m not sure which one of us was crazier, but I’m pretty sure what he would say. I didn’t play too hands today. I had about an hour session this morning where I got absolutely buried and a good session in the evening. My net was a $170 gain and I’m up to 12,650 VPPs, so only about 400 VPPs today.

I organized a little thank-you to my buds at ITH and bought 11 people (I think!) into the Stars 100k, which is perhaps the most donkastic MTT there is. Two of them made the money and sent me half of their winnings. One other player decided to send me half his winnings even though I didn’t actually buy him in. As a result, I raised $50 for Colombianitos, which is a nice bonus. When the month comes to an end, I’m going to break down my Supernva quest results every which way. I’m doing great in every way so far.


I need to run even better now!

We met with a decorator today to review his plans for the house. Apparently, he wants us to spend about 33% of what we originally spent to purchase the house on various upgrades and renovations. This means that I need to play some really good poker. At one point when he was explaining stuff to my wife, I realized that I had absolutely no idea what the hell he was talking about for the past five minutes. I didn’t even know what most of the words meant. My wife seemed engrossed, so I assume he wasn’t just talking gibberish, but I had no clue.

Fortunately, today was another great day. I started out playing some 50/100 because one of the fish I’ve been tracking had moved up. Unfortunately, he sat out after like 20 hands and I decided to keep my discipline and leave. However, I had scored $744 by that time, so that made it easier to get up. After that, there were no good limit tables going, so I played a bit more No Limit. PokerElmo seemed to think I might be over my head jumping straight to 3/6 NL, so I dropped down to 2/4 NL. It was boring, so I opened 4 tables. That might be a bad idea, but I felt pretty comfortable, because I play a lot tighter at NL. I was actually down a buy-in on a routine set under set hand when I had this beauty:

PokerStars No-Limit Hold’em, $4 BB (9 handed)MP3 ($392.25)
CO ($86.80)
Button ($539.55)
Hero ($925.60)
BB ($760.85)
UTG ($403.50)
UTG+1 ($400)
MP1 ($346.40)
MP2 ($183.45)

Preflop: Hero is SB with Ks, Kc.
2 folds, MP1 raises to $12, 3 folds, Button raises to $35, Hero calls $33, 1 fold, MP1 calls $23.

Flop: ($109) 4s, 9d, 9s (3 players)
Hero checks, MP1 checks, Button bets $85, Hero raises to $180, MP1 folds, Button raises to $504.55, Hero calls $324.55.

Turn: ($1118.10) 5d (2 players)

River: ($1118.10) 5s (2 players)

Final Pot: $1118.1

Button shows TT and I take it down.  w0000tah!  I had previously doubled up with a set, so I had a pretty good stack for 400NL.  I donked off a bit, but ended the NL session up some.  I played in the 100k monthly VIP freeroll and nursed a short stack and bad cards into 594th place for a massive $40 payday.  I notice that boc4life, a guy I’ve played a few hands with at the short-handed tables took down second for 8k, although I presume they probably cut a deal.  I finished the night with an uneven session of 30/60 and 15/30.  I booked a bit of profit there, but I gave a bunch away late with some poorly timed calldowns.  I wasn’t feeling that sharp and I was chatting in IRC and not really concentrating on my game.  It was still a very good day, with a net win of $1,900 on the day.  I’m now up to 12,250 VPPs, so I’m a long way ahead of my planned pace.  Knowing myself as I do, it is probably a good idea to book some extra hands early in my quest.

I checked out FTP again at a few points today and it was really fairly dead at the limits I play.  There was higher stakes action, but not a lot at my level.  We are hosting a big blowout poker party next weekend, so I probably won’t get to play much tomorrow at all.  Today was actually mostly non-poker too, despite what this blog suggests.


The more I look, the more I like! PokerTracker 3 is going to be great.

I’ve got to spend some more time with it and I’m becoming a big fan.  You can really find some brilliant stuff with the new filters.  Here are a sample of the cool things you can do:

  • Three of a kind on flop — top set
  • Three of a kind on turn — middle set
  • open ended straight draw
  • two overcards on flop, which became top pair on turn, which became middle pair on river.
  • hands where you three bet pre-flop
  • hands where you attempted to steal, but got reraised

You get the point.  If you can’t find leaks in your game with this tool, you aren’t really trying very hard.  It is going to expose a lot of detail about the difference in styles that I think will open some eyes.  I can’t wait until the forum posters like Willem start to do some detailed analysis of their play.  This is a great tool.

I just lost a massive hand that exposed the downside of my love for small and medium pairs out of position.  I got into a pot that exploded pre-flop where I limped with 66.  It was raised by the Button and then when I called that bet, it was 3 bet and capped before it came back around.  There were six  players at 15/30 seeing a capped pot pre-flop.  I just prayed for a six, because nobody was folding anything.  The flop was an awesome 862 and it was off to the races.  The flop was capped three ways (although the damn button who drove this huge pot actually folded the flop for two bets, which gets him a “WTF?” in his Stars notes.  The only bad thing was that the flop was two clubs.  The turn was the third club, which saved me from losing the house because the other guy had 88 for an overset.  It wound up being a 26 big bet pot, which would have changed the tone of my session considerably had it been sliding the right way.  I’ve slogged through a $340 loss today a lot of which was due to running bad, but some of which was due to poor play.  I figure that I left three bets on the table in river situations where I should have value bet teh river and failed to do so, therefore I should only be down $250 if I played better.  I’m somewhere north of 11,500 VPPs this month, so well ahead of pace now.


First look at PokerTracker 3.0

The PokerTracker 3.0 beta test is open to the public now. I downloaded it from their site last night and ran my last month’s data through it. All the key numbers matched the numbers in my old PokerTracker DB, which is good news. It comes with a built-in idiot-proof install of the PostgresSQL database, which is a good thing. It does some weird clustering when it finishes loading in the hands, which is a bit slow, but otherwise the new program looks like a upgrade. As a nerd, I appreciate some of the technical improvements. The original app is clearly built with the PowerBuilder application developmet platform, which is rather dated. The new one looks much more slick. All of the pieces are not yet in place — you cannot run the custom reports and the integrated HUD isn’t in place yet and I had some trouble with the filters. It looks like the MTT section needs some work too.

The advantages are numerous. The windows are dynamically resizable and everything is sortable and customizable. There are cool new graphs and the filters have a ton more options than they used to. I think the new filters are going to help a lot of players to find leaks in their game. The hand detail window can group by starting hand combo (the old way) or it can group by what you ended up with. The session tab is a ton better, because you can see sessions defined the old way or all multiple tables played at the same time combined together. Not only will this help you to look at your results the way you really think of sessions, but it will help me a lot when it comes time to settle up with the tax man. There is a nifty graph of your net results over the course of the session so you can relive it all in graphical form. In general, it is fast and responsive and seems very well thought out. I need to see everything working, but my first impression is a good one.

I would warn people that this is beta-test software in a sense that people who don’t do this for a living don’t often see. You may be used to seeing nearly complete programs when you get a “beta” version. This isn’t like that. This is honest-to-God test code. Pieces are missing (with comments like “this will have …” to explain what you are missing) and some stuff doesn’t work quite right. I still think PokerTracker is going to be the gold standard by which competitors are judged.

My poker results were quite ordinary. I had some very bad hands in the middle and was down $1,100 at one point. I rallied nicely at the end to book a tiny $90 win over 380 hands and another 500 VPPs in a two hour, two table session. I’m now at 11,000 VPPs, well ahead of pace.

I had a few interesting hands in this session. The one that sticks in my mind is one where I three-bet with JJ from the cut-off against a solid TAG from MP2. He’s a good, thinking player whose range is fairly wide there. The flop was Q75r and he check-called. He also check-called a duece on the turn. The river brought an Ace and he checked to me. My instinctive reaction was “He probably just caught his Ace and is trying to check-raise me.” Later on, I realized this is unlikely. He knows that the Ace is a scare card and that I might well check behind, so if he was chasing AK/AJ that passively, he would donk the river to prevent me from taking the free showdown. He had to hold some medium or small pair or flopped a pair with a suited connector type hand. I checked behind on the river, which I think was a pretty poor play. I was certain to be good and although he wouldn’t call with a lot of hands if I three-barreled there, he would call some of them.

I was unhappy with my play there and in a few other spots where I paid off even though I simply knew I was beat. Limit poker can fool you into mistakes because it is often correct to call when you are almost certainly behind, because if you are ahead just one time in ten, you will profit. Some players take that too far and I’m guilty of that sometimes. When you are simply certain that you are beat, you don’t have to pay that last big bet to see the proof.


Pandora’s Box

So, I got PokerTracker running on the macbook using Parallels and I’ve loaded all my hands and I have much better precision on my results.  As I suspected, I’m losing at 5/10 trying to play four or more simultaneous tables.  I’m also getting killed heads-up.  It turns out I’m getting waxed at pretty much every limit I’ve played heads-up, so it is pretty obvious that I’m not adequately skilled in proper heads-up play to do that at my usual limits.  To my surprise, I am doing quite well at the 10/20 6-max game.  Maybe I will make that my back-up game when the regular games aren’t going.

There is a lot of very cool new software out there since I last played a lot.  There is a beta of a new PokerTracker and an apparent serious competitor and several graphing tools.  One tool in particular, PokerEV, really has some awesome features.   It can look at the share of the pot you were mathematically expected to win and compare it to your actual winnings.  This will let you know when your results are above or below your expectation.  I thought I was running a bit hot, but according to their calculations I’m actually getting a bit unlucky and winning less that I am mathematically expected to have won.  It had a number of other filters and graphs, some of which showed me results I didn’t expect.  I’ve spent some time playing with it and I’m still not sure exactly what all it is telling me.  I need to think more about it.

I had another solid night.  I only played a couple of hours and I booked another small win.  I had a great pot at 10/20 where the big blind hit a flush at the same time I hit the nut flush and another guy had an overpair.  Fireworks ensued and I mostly laid in the weeds and let the other two guys do the raising.  It was a monster pot.  I’m now at 10,500 VPPs for January.  I feel like I should bank a few extra points for some future stretch when I’m really not into playing poker that much.  I also experimented with playing some NL.  I’m pretty sure that when I feel like I’m not that sharp it would be easier to multi-table NL.  In NL, I don’t play nearly as many hands and I think I could play robotically a bit better.  So if I get desperate to work off some extra points, I could probably do it fairly well with 4 tables of 2/4NL or 3/6NL and lose less that I seem to at 5/10 limit trying to play four tables.


I’m back (more or less)

After a hiatus from all things poker (except ITH, which seems to be an addiction) I find myself back in the poker playing groove with the new year. I know exactly what started it. I read somewhere that PokerStars now has a native Mac client. Since I have pretty much forsaken the Windows-based machines permanently, that sounded like a good thing to check out. I installed it on my favorite Mac laptop and fired up the client to test it out. I only had about $3,000 of my own money left on Stars, which should limit my play to 5/10 if I was following prudent bankroll management. However, I actually have more money available that is either on other sites or in the bank from my last run at poker, so I decided to ignore that prudent bankroll management stuff. I found a full ring game of 15/30 (location of my biggest success money-wise in poker, back in the old Party glory days). In a few hours, I was up nicely and felt that the other players were making more than a few exploitable mistakes. One thing led to another and I played a few more hours here and there, just like the old days. It was crummy weather, so we were in the house one snowy weekend day and I played most all day. In two weeks, it became obvious to me that I was still able to win at poker and that I had some of my old enthusiasm for the game back. I also discovered that I was easily able to get to the PokerStars “GoldStar” level, which is like a frequent flier club level for poker players. When I achieved that without much effort, I realized that “PlatinumStar” was also well within my reach. Of course, once you get to “PlatinumStar”, it is a short ride to “SuperNova” status, which is an annual reward. Platinum requires 10,000 points per month and SuperNova requires 100,000 in a year.

Breaking down the math, I realized that 100,000 points requires about 67,000 hands at my usual limits. If I can win 2 bb/100 (which I have been able to do in the past), I should be able to cash in around $40,000 this year if I play that many hands. If I run hotter, play more hands or play more 30/60 than 15/30, I might even be able to do better than that. If I use my points wisely, I should clear an additional $4,000 or so in bonus money (maybe more if they offer reload bonuses or the like). If I mostly play two tables at a time (more on this later), this will require me to play about 10 hours per week of poker. I’m pretty sure I can get that many hours just during times when I can’t sleep.

I’ve dabbled around with a lot of different forms of poker this month, just to get a sense of who is playing what and how good or bad the games are. I’ve played a bunch of 15/30 and 30/60 full ring. I’ve also played a fair amount of 10/20 6 max and 5/10 full ring. I’ve started up a number of tables trying to find full ring players who don’t know how to play short-handed. That has led to a few heads-up sessions at stakes up to 15/30. I’m pretty sure that most of my wins are being booked at 15/30 and 30/60 and I think I may have lost money at every other discipline. I know I’ve lost money heads-up, although I really think that was mostly due to running badly. One of my opponents was super-LAG (as is proper in HU poker, although he probably took the idea too far) and I got hammered in two massive pots with him at 15/30 HU. In one pot, I flopped top two pair on a 873 board. He held A2 and we capped it on the flop. The turn brought a 2 and we capped it again. When the river brought an Ace, I just called and lost a huge pot. About four hands later, I flopped the nut straight with J9 and he went runner-runner flush with no pair/no draw on the flop. Again capped on three streets, although this time I also paid him three bets after he caught me on the river. Those two hands would have made me a big winner in our HU match, but instead I lost a bunch. As the table filled up, he sat out so I assume I will be seeing him again. I have tried to four table 5/10 FR, thinking that the play would be worse and I could comfortably auto-pilot the game. The problem is that I don’t play that well four tables at a time and I’m pretty sure I got my hat handed to me trying to do so. I don’t actually think that the play is much worse at that level and I also think I didn’t adjust that well. At the time I played it, the other players were mostly multi-tabling maniacs and I think I failed to make the right adjustments to them.

The other problem (and the reason for my lack of precision in these discussions) is that PokerTracker and PokerAce don’t yet run on the Mac. They are working on a mac version that should already be in beta release, but it isn’t out yet. The lack of these tools makes me a better player on one or two tables (I have to be more observant and rely less on the tools) but really cripples me on four tables. It may be that when I get my head on straight, I should be able to play four tables without much drop off in my game, but I don’t know. If I am going to play four or more tables, I will need to play a tighter game that doesn’t need to rely on reading the other player so much. The other bad thing about being without pokertracker is that I really don’t even know what forms of poker have made me the most profit and what forms have been losers. I need to copy my hand histories over to a Windows box and get them imported.

My plan is to post periodic updates to the site with my progress report in terms of earn rate and hands played. I am a little nervous that it will come off like bragging, but the primary purpose is to keep myself motivated to get the hands in. I am currently at 10,070 FPPs, which earns me the platinum star for the first time ever and puts me ahead of schedule to make SuperNova (which would require 8,333 points per month). I’m currently up about $6,000 which is well above the $3,333 I should have at this point. At the end of the month, I’ll post a more complete update showing which forms of poker have earned me the most points and which have earned me the most money.

I might even talk about some hands that were interesting to me one of these fine days.