I am the ITH People’s Co-Champion!

After abdicating my role as organizer of the ITH People’s Championship, I finally put in a good showing at the actual event. On the very first hand of the tourney, I found KK and raised it up. Yankees 3 bet from the BB with AK. I went ahead and shoved, which was actually probably donkish, but I figured he might call with QQ or AK and I was going broke to AA anyhow. He called with AK, which was perfect until the flop came down AQJ. However, I hit my miracle one out King on the turn and knocked him out on the very first hand. This was great news for me, because he is a very strong player and I do far better with a big stack.

The very next hand I raise with 97s and get re-raised by Clabbers. The flop comes down Q97 and I raise his flop bet. He calls that and a pot sized bet on the turn. I checked behind on the river when I should have bet again, but he wouldn’t have called anyhow. I was up to 7,640 from 3,000 in the first two hands. I donked off a few chips to thew who knocked out Clabbers and we were down to five in short order. I still had a substantial chip lead.

I flopped middle pair on a Q92 board that was all diamonds. I didn’t have a diamond. Nutjob shoved and I very nearly called, but couldn’t pull the trigger. I felt very strongly that he was bluffing, though. That knocked me down to 7,225. Elmo was making a lot of small raises, so I started floating him and was planning to three bet more. As soon as I decide that, thew three bets Elmo in back-to-back hands. The second time he has KK against Elmo’s 96o. He gives Elmo such a nice price that Elmo sees the flop and hits trips. It all gets in on the flop and Elmo knocks thew out and takes over as chip leader. I’m not crazy about this because Elmo is also a PITA with a stack.

As I expected, Elmo proceeds to abuse me. He went runner-runner straight when I let him get there, but I was still at 7,220 because of some small pots in between. I took two pots from Nut to move back into the chip lead after he beat Elmo out of a pot. Once I flopped the flush draw from the BB and took it down with a flop check-raise. The other time JT turned two pair, but I couldn’t get Nut to stack off. I was at 8,400 at this point. Then I sucked out on Elmo when he raised pre-flop with AQ. Since he was raising a ton, I didn’t respect his raise short-handed and caled with T9. The flop came down A95 and I floated his c-bet. He checked the turn and I checked behind. When I rivered two pair, he called a pot sized bet and I was up to 10,785, which resulted in pokerelmo saying, “lol – the costs of trying to control the pot size”

Then I found AA and Jane chose the wrong spot to three bet me. She had AQ and I knocked her out to move to almost 15k chips. That was about 67% of the chips in play, so I should have been in great shape. I raised A4o three handed and was priced in to call a shove from Nutjob. 66 couldn’t fade the river Ace and I was heads-up with Elmo with a 16k to 5k chip lead. Should have been easy to win from there right? Not so much.

I started off by giving away 2,500 chips when we both flopped Kings. I had him outkicked but he paired his kicker on the river. I then doubled him up when I caught top pair on the turn. Unfortunately, he had a flopped set and I even drove the action for him. This turned the whole match around, since I was now at a 3:1 chip disadvantage. I won a few small pots to cut his edge to 2:1 when I raised pre-flop with total crap (83s). He came over the top, but I flopped a pair. I floated his flop bet and shoved when he checked the turn. He hemmed and hawed and folded what he said was AT. We were now fairly close in chips, with him holding a 11.2k to 9.7k edge. He actually took down a few more small pots when I talked him into a deal.

Yankees and I had discussed chopping when we got heads-up since we would both be in Vegas anyhow. Elmo was in the same boat (he is using Stars points to get into Event 2 as well), so when I proposed it, he accepted fairly readily. At the time we chopped he actually held a 12k to 9k chip lead, so I owe him a free meal or some beer at least.

I think that the chop is good for the backers who get to spread their equity over two of us and good for us since we both get a highly subsidized buy-in. I haven’t run the actual numbers, but I think I’m getting $1,250 towards a $1,500 buy-in in exchange for giving up about a 20% stake.


Once again, I’m way off the pace….

Again this month, real life events have superseded my poker playing and I have fallen way behind on points for my SuperNova quest.  So far, I have only accumulated about 1,500 FPPs, which is obviously way behind the 10,000 I would need to remain Platinum.  I think I’m going to concentrate more on NL cash games, as per Toro’s suggestion.  The biggest problem I have is that I usually bulk up on points on weekends, and I’ve either played tourneys or had something else to do every weekend this month.  I have a trip to NYC, I’m installing new electrical circuits and I’m heading out to the WSOP on the three remaining weekends, so it doesn’t look good for this month.

Luckily, I’m sitting at 46,600 points for the year at this time and I obviously only need to hit 5,000 by the end of next month to be on pace, so I’m not too stressed out.  I might even officially decide that I’m not getting 10k hands in this month and save myself the stress.  I want to get at least 5,000 so I stay Gold, since that brings a better VPP earn rate.

I’m really getting myself in the mood to play some tourney poker.  Hopefully this will be the year I make a big score.


Tenative Vegas schedule

I was looking at some of the poker events and trying to decide how to arrange my poker playing schedule for the first week of the WSOP.  Here is my initial game plan:

Sat, 5/30>  Play sit-n-gos and sats, claim Stars merchandise for Event 2, rail Matthew, Paul and Chris

Sun 6/1>  Day 1b of WSOP Event 2 (1.5K NLHE)

Mon 6/2>  Day 2 of WSOP Event 2 or Caesar’s $540 NLHE 1 day event

Tue 6/3>  SNGs, sats

Wed 6/4>  Day 1 of WSOP Event 7 (2K NLHE)

Thu 6/5>  Day 2 of WSOP Event 7 or Limit cash games

Fri 6/6>  Day 1 of WSOP Event 12 (1.5K Limit)

Sat 6/7>  Day 2 of WSOP Event 12 or fly home.

I’m not going to offer stakes on ITH this year, since I’m playing well within my roll, but if you are masochistic enough to read my blog and you want a piece, send me an email or PM me on ITH.  I’ve taken a little money from two people, so I guess I can’t say that I’m not doing it, but I’m not going to advertise.


My favorite poker quote ever

This pretty much sums up my feelings about poker in general and my struggles in particular:

“I’ve worked very, very hard at being less of an idiot more of the time”  Andy Black

The context was him saying that when he is on his game, he is a very good player.  He accumulates chips very well and finds himself playing on a very high level until something terrible happens and he makes a very bad decision and donks off his stack.  I feel much the same way about my tourney play.  I can play very good poker from time to time.  I have a great intuitive grasp of people’s range and the merits of specific situations, which often allows me to amass chips.  However, I have a tendency to make one or two spectacular blunders which erase all of that in a flash.  This is the terrible beauty of no-limit, you always have that chance to implode.  I often take it.

I think part of it is psychology.  In limit, I am a collector of information.  I get lots of information on the other player and I accumulate a plan on how to play against him.  I make thin calldowns because of the added value of seeing his cards and placing another puzzle piece in the grid.  Over time, I tend to do better and better against players that I have seen a lot, because I figure out what they like to do and what they handle poorly and I give them more of one and less of the other.  This collection and synthesis of information is my greatest strength.  Accumulating this information in no limit is much more difficult.  Hands don’t show down nearly as often and when someone makes an odd play, you are especially unlikely to see the cards.  Combine this with the fact that there are two excellent results you can have when facing a big bet in no limit.  You can correctly make the call with a weak hand and be rewarded with a huge pot and a feeling of complete satisfaction and mastery when you sniff out the bluff and rake the chips or you can fold correctly to a big overbet from a strong hand.  The problem is that the calldown provides complete satisfaction and a pile of chips.  The fold offers no consolation.  You have fewer chips than when you started the hand and you have some seed of doubt, no matter how likely you think it was that the other guy had the goods, you never really know.  You now have to adjust to playing a smaller stack and you have some confidence sapped by self-doubt.  The poker forums are full of posts asking “Good fold?” because even days later, you still wonder if the other guy “put a move” on you.  The immense satisfaction associated with the great call and the nagging doubts associated with the laydown really push you into calls in the marginal situations and I know that is the source of my most spectacular blowups.

The other problem is that the profile of the guy who makes the big bluff is varied.  Poor players make big bluffs because they are poor players.  They do not accurately assess ranges and relative hand strengths and they figure their only chance to win the pot is to make the big bet and winning pots is the key to poker, so bombs away.  Watch any freeroll and you will see this concept in action time and time again.  People stack off with no pair no draw all day long.  Unfortunately, if this was the only time you saw these moves, it would be much easier.  Unfortunately good players also make big bluffs.  In their case, they are looking at your range, your betting pattern and the board and trying to take pots away where they feel that you can rarely call.  This is the situation where I get in trouble most often.  I know that I have presented the other guy with a good reason to believe that I am weak and now I’m convinced that he would bet anything because I invited it.  If I think it would be a good spot for a bluff, I usually can convince myself that he must be on the bluff.  Unfortunately, a good spot to bluff is also a good spot to have the nuts and it is much less pleasant to call the latter.

I had a small piece of two great tourney players yesterday and I spent some of the evening on the rail watching them play and chatting in IRC with them.  There are a few people that when I talk poker to them I just feel like we are on the same wavelength a lot of the time.  Yankees31 is one of those guys.  I have a tiny piece of his FTOPS action and I was watching the first event he played.  He had a pretty good table where he was raising and stealing like a madman pre-flop.  He wound up showing a really weak blind steal and from then on he was facing a lot of three bets preflop.  This wasn’t really cramping his style too much and we were talking about what he had set-up perfectly.  His loose image was resulting in a ton of over-the-top moves from the guys on his left and we were just waiting for him to catch a big hand where he could double through.  He had been in the money for some time and was about triple his buy-in at that point.  A double was likely to take him into the big money.  Soon enough, the set-up paid off perfectly.  He raised from the Cut-off with Queens or Jacks and the Button came over him with Ace rag.  The three bet left the Button stuck to the pot and he had to call Yankee’s shove.  The carefully designed set-up played out perfectly and the 70% favorite became a 84% favorite by the turn.  Of course, the Ace fell on the river and Yankees was out and my dreams of a bazillion dollar payday were deferred a day or two.

I couldn’t play tourneys for a living.  You play great, you set everything up just right and the best you can hope for is an 80% favorite.  Plenty of time you are a 70% or even a 60% favorite.  Although it is great to get your money in good like that, the fact is that you are going to lose some of those.  If you get it in with one of each of those great situations, you will bust 64% of the time on one of them.  Even three pair over pairs are just a coinflip to win three of them.  Every really big win I’ve ever watched has had several big suckouts.  When Taz won the million, he won like three pair under pair battles.  When Matthew won the FTP 750k, he won a massive pot that should have knocked him out with T8 all-in preflop against AA.  Now both of those guys made their own luck and they played well in a million spots besides the suckouts, but they also needed a suckout or three to get it done.

I’m gearing up mentally to head out to Vegas and do some suckouts of my own.  WSOP Event #2 is 19 days away and my mind is filled with thoughts of tourney poker.


Tiny Tip #2

When it folds to you in the small blind, complete. If the flop misses you or you flop a draw, bet the flop. If the flop hits you, check-raise. This will cover 90% of your hands in this situation.

The other situations that come up are:

  1. You hit the flop and he fails to bet when you check. In that case you can either bet the turn or if he is the type who can’t check twice, go ahead and try for another check-raise. I find the latter amusing.
  2. He three bets from the BB. Against most players, you have to respect this move. I’d usually check-raise the flop if I catch and check-fold if I don’t. You can use my “check raising the flop for fun and profit” for more details on that.

Tiny tip #1

I thought of posting this one last night.  In general, when someone limps in the small blind to your big blind, you should raise.  I find that about 70% of the time they will fold pre-flop or on the flop, making the move profitable with any two cards.  If someone routinely folds pre-flop when you do this, you probably should tread lightly when they check-raise the flop.  They probably really caught a piece.  If a generally aggressive opponent completes and then reraises when you raise, he usually has a big hand.

SuperNova Quest

April wrap-up

April was a bit of a struggle, because I played almost no poker for half the month and had to scramble to get in enough hands by the end of the month. I definitely played badly for several stretches as a result, sometimes making poor table selection decisions and sometimes just missing obvious opportunities. I played virtually no short-handed poker and absolutely no NL poker this month. I fell short of my profit goal for the month (again!), but given the various mistakes I made at different times, I feel happy to book a win at all. Hopefully I will be in a good frame of mind when Stars announces the double VPP promotion, because I’m going to try to push myself to play a lot more hands than usual during that promo. I might go for shortstacking some NL, since I’ve been playing around a bit with the math and I think I could come up with a fairly credible strategy that would at least break even and would let me crank out a ton of hands.

Here is the picture of the month as a graph (click to enlarge):

Somehow, the graph looks bogus, because I had a 20 minute session on the last day that seems to be eaten by the chart.  I’m going to show you a graph of that last session, not so much to “prove” my numbers as to illustrate the variability inherent in playing poker.  This session was just 32 hands long and accounted for a quick spike of almost $900.  Given that my whole month was nearly 8,000 hands, the fact that one can win (or lose!) that much in 32 hands illustrates the risk of looking at short-term results.  To put it in perspective, if I continue to play at this pace for the entire year, I will have played 100,000 hands of poker this year and many people would argue that a winning player could possibly have a downswing over 100,000 hands of play.  I’m not sure I agree with that, but it is absolutely the case that short-term results are somewhat unpredictable.  Here’s the short play while I waited for Suited to finish doing something or another (again, click to see in full-size glory):

Anyhow, I guess I’m happy enough with how the month turned out in the end.  For those of you who work better with numbers than pictures, here is the high level summary in text form:


I’m well ahead of my hands played and FPP goals and just ever so slightly ahead of my profit goal.  As I said last week, I think that the profit goal is going to be difficult to meet, because I expected to play about 50% 30/60 and 50% 15/30, but it isn’t turning out that way at all.  I know I am getting by far the most hands at 15/30 and I’m also playing a fairly high number of 10/20 and 5/10 tables because they are often my only choice when I play.  I probably screwed up this month because the tables were pretty juicy early on with people chasing the bonus who weren’t really regular players, but I couldn’t play that much.  Here is the breakdown by limit:


As I said earlier, I didn’t play No Limit at all and I also took no shots at 50/100 this month.  It is a bit unusual that 15/30 was actually a money-loser for me, since that is usually my bread-and-butter limit.  I don’t think there is any particularly significant reason for that, except that I had one session where I was four tabling 3 15/30 tables and a 10/20 and I played particularly badly that night.  I think I dropped about $1,500 in that session and most of it was bad play.

For the sake of completeness, here is the breakdown of full ring versus short-handed.  Again, I didn’t really intentionally seek out any short-handed tables, just some of my full ring games went short.  The heads-up action was exactly 36 hands, so it wasn’t significant either.