Cooking with Gas

I actually had a really good day Sunday for the first time in a while.  I was down about $1,000 on the month going into Sunday and I’m now up about the same on Monday.  That makes Sunday about a $2,000 day, which is a very good day indeed.

I’ve been mixing it up a bit, playing some MTTs and some limit cash games and some NL cash games.  My lovely wife has been toiling away at the low buy-in WSOP sats, trying to win some W$ for me to use to win a seat in the Main Event or to buy in to one of the smaller events.   I was thinking about playing the $650 Main Event sat, but didn’t really want to invest that much.  I saw an $80 sat to the Million that was called the “Last Chance” or something similar.  It was a turbo, which was fine with me.  It paid more than a third of the field and featured people who apparently had not the slightest clue of sat strategy.  I won $215 T$ and Suited had collected more than $100 W$, so I used them to buy into the $650.  I had Victor Ramdin at my table, who was quite active throughout the early stages.  I lost a couple of key big pots in marginal situations where I was unwilling to go broke with dubious holdings.  An example was when I raised with JJ from middle position and got three callers.  The flop was Q75 with two hearts.  I made a continuation bet and the big blind check-raised pretty big.  I didn’t want to shove in that spot and I felt like a call really committed me to the pot, so I folded.  Maybe that is a routine play now that I think about it, but it felt really bad at the time.  I drifted down to about $2,500 from the 5k starting stack and wound up shoving from the SB near the second break with A9 over a Button raise.  He called with a weak King and flopped the King to knock me out.  The average stack was nearly 8k by that point, so even doubling to 5k would still have left me pretty short.

After that, I settled in to grind some limit ring games.  The biggest game running full ring was 10/20.  I started up a new table because the wait lists were deep and soon enough had three tables running.  I went on a massive heater at the new 10/20 table and was up $500 by the time it filled up.  The games were mostly full of faces I didn’t recognize, perhaps because I was playing lower than usual or perhaps because they were playing higher than usual.  One of the regulars at the higher tables starting talking up the 15/30 game that he was hoping to get started, so I agreed to help get that game going.  He wasn’t willing to play short, but eventually the game took off with some unknowns playing me three handed, and I smacked them around a bit as well.  I wound up cashing out ahead on all four tables by at least $500 per table and I think up about $1,000 at one of them.  I know that even after my loss at the tourney I was up 2k on the day.

After some ugly variance at short-handed tables last month, it was fun to crush a couple of them Sunday.  There really are very few feelings in poker as much fun as steamrolling a two or three person table.  It seemed like I was either able to bluff people out of pots when I had air and they would take their shots when I had strong hands. Even when they had monsters, I somehow happened to have the sort of hand where I checked behind on the turn and saved myself money.  At least three people sat in at the new 15/30 table with small buy-ins and spewed them over the table before standing up.

JaneG asked an interesting question in the comments to my last post.  Jane is one of my favorite posters at ITH who has done a lot of interesting work with the PokerTracker DB and writing custom SQL to analyze stats.  We’ve had some extremely helpful discussions in the past.  This time, she read about my focus on a particular LAG regular in the Stars game who I have been focusing on lately.  She wanted to know if aggressively targeting him and three betting him mercilessly was -EV in the long run.  I assume that her hypothesis is that while my approach may maximize my earn from him in the short term by taking the biggest edge from his mistakes right now, I am losing money in the long run because he will be forced to adjust and improve his game in the future.  The initial problem that I have with the hypothesis is two-fold:  1) I’m not certain that he will effectively improve his game in response to my aggressive counter-measures.  It may drive him to be even more aggressive in an attempt to prevent me from running him over.  If this is his approach, I believe that it will only increase my edge over him.  2)  If he does tighten up, he may have to retool his play post-flop and this could also increase my edge.  In general, I think you have to take any edge that you can find and let the future sort itself out.  I will call down a bit light in order to build an image that discourages people from bluffing me later in the session, but mostly I try to concentrate on what is the most +EV right now.

I ‘m not sure exactly where I stand on VPPs, but I know I’m ahead of pace.  I think I’m somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,000 this month.


I think I am more motivated to blog on winning days than losing days.

Over the weekend, I dropped around $1,000 between tourneys, NL and limit. Mostly, I played good and had bad results, but I am running out of ways to say that. I will elaborate on the specific situation I’m in at the moment and how I’m dealing with it. But first, I wanted to post an amusing LOLCAT, poker style:

poker LOLCAT

I find this quite amusing. I’m usually only lukewarm on the whole LOLCAT phenomenon, but once in a while I see one that I find particularly pleasing. Since my wife makes up about a third of my readership and she loves the damn things, I’ll add one more just for her:

Civil Disobedience LOLCAT

This is much easier than thinking of clever poker sayings. My absolute least favorite style of the LOLCATs is the “Invisible XXX” ones, but I actually like this one:

Invisible Chess LOLCAT


I have concentrated a great deal on three betting. In the 30/60 and 15/30 games, there is a great deal of raising. There are a number of regulars who raise as much as 17% of their hands. A ton of people raise in the 11-12% range. For the most part, people who raise in the teens are raising damn near everything first-in from MP3 to the Button. For sure they are raising pretty much any two face cards, any pair, any Ace. I’ve been trying to focus on one or two of the LAGgy regulars at a time and define the way they handle getting three bet. I’m concentrating on the following stats OOP:

1) How often do they CAP? Sometimes the answer seems to be almost never. I’m pretty much one of those guys.
2) How often do they check-fold, check-call and check-raise the flop? What do the check-raises mean? This is a particularly rich area. Not too many players at this level check-fold the flop after a raise, but you can often find patterns when they do. For instance, many players will check-fold only Ace high flops or monotone flops. A lot of players will check-raise medium strength hands like second or third pair or a pocket pair. Most of them will wait until the turn to raise really big hands like sets or two pair, but many will raise something like TT on a raggy board. Some will check-raise draws. It is very instructive to filter all hands where the flop was heads-up and a player was three-bet.
3) Do they ever check-raise bluff the turn? Do they often check-call the flop and check-fold the turn? Many players never check-raise the turn in a 3 bet situation (this makes sense, because they have to fear that the 3 better has an overpair, so a check-raise on the turn usually means a very strong hand). You also see a shocking number of players who check-call the flop and check-fold the turn a whole lot. This is a very exploitable pattern and a major leak, IMO.
4) Are they very showdown bound? Will they check-call small pairs and the like all the way down? When do they donk the river? For some reason, you don’t see a lot of donk bets heads-up except on the river.

There is one player that I consider especially exploitable. His pre-flop raising rate is right about 17%. He raises pairs from MP1 onwards first in down to 22. By Mp3, he raises about 25% of his hands first in. On the Cut-off, he raises about 33% of his hands first in. He is tenacious post-flop, usually calling down with Ace high or any pair. He virtually never folds the flop. He will check-raise any raggy flop where he has a pocket pair, but waits to check-raise the turn with any set. He’ll check-raise the flop with any pair if he was unpaired pre-flop and he check-calls with pretty much everything else. He check folds the turn pretty often with what I think is mostly weaker overcards like QJ or maybe unpaired weak aces on bad board textures. He is pretty aware of board textures and will check-raise the turn with pairs on paired boards that seem pretty nonthreatening. He plays normal draws pretty passively, but will go ballistic with a pair + draw. His main leaks (besides terrible starting hand selection) are that he check-folds the turn way too often relative to the number of flops he calls (the problem may well be that he calls the flop too often, but he plays so many hands he can’t give up too often on the flop either) and he donks the river way too often with way too little. I may be curing him of the river donk bet, because I have raising him relentlessly on the river. I do it light enough that he feels obligated to call, but I am getting a lot of value out of it. In the past few days his river donk frequency has gone way down both even against other players.

To analyze how to exploit people who raise too much, it is important to determine what the numbers mean about their range. First of all, I know that he raises about 18% of his hands from MP2 first in. I also know that he will raise any pair from that spot. Since pairs are 6% of the dealt hands, I know that he has a pair 33% of the time that he raises. Other useful numbers to keep in mind are that all aces are about 15% of hands. Someone who raises all aces and all pairs is up to 20% of their hands. Add in all two broadway hands and you get to 27% (broadway hands are about 12% of deal hands). If you throw suited connectors into the mix, you get up to 30% of hands. By the time he is on the cutoff, he raises 33% of his hands, so that means all pairs, all aces, all broadway, all suited connectors and probably K5s+ and 75s+ or so. That is a metric ton of hands. I’m trying very hard to sit to his left and 3 bet him ruthlessly. I’m pretty sure that I’m driving him crazy, since yesterday I three bet every raise he made from the time I sat down for seven straight hands. I won 5 of the 7 hands, including two very bad beats I put on him. After the last hand, where I turned a set to take down his Kings, he promptly sat out and didn’t come back for about 15 minutes. He was raising much tighter the rest of the night.

My advice to those of you who are serious players who are reading this is this: Take pokerstove and play around with the ranges. If you know someone raises 20% first in from a particular seat, figure out what that means in terms of his range. Check out what he shows down, pay particular attention to signal cards like 22-44, low aces (suited and unsuited) and medium connectors and one gappers. Then use the information you find on their range to estimate your position on various flop textures. When someone raises first in 25% of the time, they probably are playing any pair, any broadway, A2s+, A5+, J9s, 87s+ or so. Some people play all the aces and no suited connectors. Some people play lots of suited connectors and no weak aces or low pairs. The differences can be important. Anyhow, given that range you choose to 3 bet with A7s. This is -EV in a vacuum since his range is 53/47 against your hand, but maybe you think with position and momentum you can beat him.

The problem with this strategy is that I have to invest a lot of money in hands I play with him and I have to be prepared to go to showdown a lot. Over the weekend, there were two players between us at the 30/60 table and my approach didn’t work as well because I was in the blind when he is at his most spewy and he plays much better in position (don’t we all?) Last night, I was immediately to his left on one table and two to his left on the other and I just brutalized him. I got lucky when I was behind and used my understanding of his approach to maximize value when I was ahead so that I had really good results. I had a great night last night, winning over $1,000 at $15/$30 in a short time, but my results for the month are still flat. I’ve notched about 2,000 VPPs, so I’m track in terms of my hands played.

SuperNova Quest

February Wrap-up

On Feb 29th, PokerStars ran a promotion where you earned twice as many points as usual for your play. I heard about it late in the day, but realized that it would be a great opportunity to boost the old point total. In response, I played one table for about 20 minutes. I doubt there are many grinders who can beat that. There are just so many different things pulling me in so many different directions that I had no time for poker.

It was not my best month. I had up and down results for most of the month and there were definitely stretches where I wasn’t playing my best. On the upside, I think I have put in the effort I needed to study my game and identify some of the flaws. In the latter part of the month I am pretty sure I was playing much better than I was at the outset. Once all was said and done, I ended the month with a net loss of $77.90 overall. Technically, I was actually up a little bit, but that includes my brief experiment at Cake, which doesn’t count because PokerTracker won’t import it. If you include that, I’m actually up about $200. They say a picture tells a thousand words, so here is mine for February:

As you can see, there were a couple of fairly ugly stretches in that graph. It is a long way from the beautiful upward diagonal of the January graph.

Let’s review some of the numbers in detail. We’ll start with the key performance metrics from my original goals.


I’m pleased to see that I am well ahead of pace in terms of my hands played and points earned. Given how many hands I’ve played, I think I’m actually earning less than predicted, but under the circumstances I’m happy to just focus on the bottom line. 82% of the hands I played this month were limit hands and 18% were no limit. I won $164.60 playing no limit and lost $242.50 playing limit. Here are the results broken down by game type:

Limit Amount Won
$50/$100 $190.00
$30/$60 $1,163.50
$15/$30 ($650.00)
$10/$20 ($681.00)
$600 NL $673.65
$5/$10 ($265.00)
$400 NL ($509.05)

Once again, I have better results at higher limits. I think there are multiple factors affecting that. One is that my table selection is better at higher limits. I don’t feel that my edge is that large at $30/$60 and I’m even less sure at $50/$100, so I sometimes pass on games that run at those limits. I usually play the $30/$60 no matter who is sitting, but I will not always do so. I only play $50/$100 when I like the line-up. So table selection is one factor in the results. Another is the degree to which I multi-table. I almost always play 4 tables at 10/20 and below and I usually play 2 tables at 15/30 and up. This allows me to concentrate more and make better decisions. Finally, I tend to avoid short-handed games at the higher levels and I’m still erratic at short-handed tables.

Full ring $550.00
short handed ($793)
NL $165

After last month, I avoided playing heads-up. I actually did have 5 hands of heads-up, but I included it in short-handed. All in all, it wasn’t such a hot month, but I’m continuing to get plenty of hands in, which will be good when I have more distractions later. I also am actually pretty happy with my game right now. Let’s hope March works out better!