Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A busy two weeks and a Blogging Bad Beat

I've gone through spells in my life where I take up jogging or, when I was younger, running. I really enjoy it and get a lot of benefit from it. Then for some reason, it'll be wet and cold or I'm just tired and I'll miss a couple of days. Before you know it, a couple of weeks go past and each day that you miss seems to matter less. And so it has been with this blog. Hopefully I am back in the saddle though. I have been keeping up to date with my favourite blogs and am pleased to see Adam around again.

I hate to end the year with a bad beat story ... but ... having finally got around to capturing the last 2 weeks in an entry, the Save failed because my wireless had dropped out. Gutted, I couldn't muster the energy to retype it all again. Luckily it is NYE and I am now typing in Notepad, so I don't have an option but to jot down the festive season activities.

Christmas is always busy at home, we close a few things out at work, we have 3 birthdays including my own, the kids are finishing school and it is the middle of summer in Oz. Add to the mix a healthy dose of poker and the blog has taken a back seat for 2 weeks. I won't be able to recreate last night's lost epic entry but I did want to share the two most memorable poker happenings, a sweat session with Laff and a home game.


Thanks to an entry on Laffs blog, I offered to watch his play and see if there was any value that I could add by sweating him. The answer was a resounding 'No'. Laff was kind enough to blame the internet lag but the truth is that I am way off being qualified to comment on someone's style in a short session. It was my first attempt and I'd be interested to learn if anyone can add any real value in such an exercise.

What did appear useful though was firing up 4 tables of my own and talking my way through my logic, similar to a Training Video. Again, I am way under-qualified but the exercise taught me a lot and Laff seemed to learn too. I discovered that my play is very inconsistent. I'm not convinced that that is not such a bad thing as it provides balance. While inconsistent on the surface, it may have underlying reasons behind it that I don't fully understand myself (I hope).

Starting hands are the foundation of hold'em strategy. Refining the ranges for stack sizes and your opponents playing styles is something that must be tailored to your own risk tolerance and post flop play. I've now realised that since reading Harrington on Cash that my objective is to stack off whenever I am confident that I am in front. Playing that style, I find that selective pot-sized bluffs pay off more than 50% of the time and are hence profitable.

Hopefully Laff and I can have another session soon and I may well learn a little more about my own play.

Home Game

Now this section was my epic as I had 12 people around for a Christmas Home Game. It went off very well and I had detailed all of the players and their styles (alas, without Jesse's humour). Format was one that we'd used before - casino rules enforced, 50c/$1 blinds, $100 buy-in, top-ups at any time in $10 increments. Tip: Make up zip lock bags with complete Buy Ins in advance.

The long and short was that we had 2 extras turn up which meant we split into 2 6-max tables which worked well. We didn't lose anyone all night and with rebuys, the bowl became pretty full. It still amazes me the scale of the poker economy. When I first deposited $25, I sweated over 1c/2c. I remember reading someone who couldn't understand someone sweating near the bubble of a $1 tourney. I can say that I still have the discipline to take those situations seriously, while also being able to shove a few hundred dollars in on a single bet, live or online. Anyway, when cashing out $4000+, it all balanced to the $. That's 5 nights out of 5 for perfect accounting.

My own result was a slightly disappointing $200 win. I had the softer table of the two and ran into a few big hands from the same player who had an amazing run of cards. He made $650, we had one other small winner and three losers. The other table was a lot tougher with everyone being a very good tournament player. As you know, cash is different and the cream did come to the top. One young guy (who can use the money the most) played perfect TAG style and took down 2 big pots for a $450 win. On that table we had 1 big loser and the rest pretty much stayed even for the night. Everyone that played has plenty of money, so no-one gets really hurt.

Relative to my online success (or lack thereof), offline reaps the benefits of all the study and experience of playing 100K+ hands. My offline bankroll is mounting up and even though it isn't enough to retire on, it is certainly significantly more than a burger flipping wage. I have had the significant advantage of occassional soft home games and no rake.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

WBCOOP Omaha - no good

Failed at my first attempt at the WBCOOP. I must say that I was confident going into the tournament that my new found PLO skills would see me through a field of 450 to make it into the last 72. Alas, after an hour and into the last 300, my short-stack went out with 17 wrap outs on the flop. But as often happens in a tournament, the last hand isn’t the root problem. To be fair, I could have been out much sooner and feel that I played reasonably well card dead.

The chip leader took his lead with no cards though; he was showing all sorts of aggressive bluffs including one that he took to the river with TTxx on an AQJ9Qr board. To his credit, he must have decided that no-one had a straight. That was a big pot and even then he’d never put his stack on the line doubling early. I do admire those that can read the board really well, I’m still playing my own cards a lot and bluffing with air early in cash games to take it down or find out where I’m at and fold to the raise. Obviously when I am strong, I get paid off handsomely.

I got away from all sorts of hands this morning post flop that others would have exited from. I managed to raise my chip count to $2640, when I was dealt 7c7s8dTh in the BB with a tight image. Average chip stack was $4500 and the blinds were now 50/100. MP limped and then CO made it 200 (which was a standard raise from him about 30% of unraised hands in position). I called hoping to hit a flop and stack off or just let the hand go. MP called. (3 runners, Pot $625)

Flop came 4c8c2s which was OK for me because I can just let it go. Check, Check, Check. Turn came 7d which completes a 56 straight, but otherwise is a good card for me with my trips. I decide to lead out for $350 and to my surprise get raised by MP to $950. CO folds and this is now a very interesting spot …

Would I have bet out with a straight (so what can he put me on)? Would MP have raised me with a straight? Is he pot committed or can he be pushed off with a shove. What can he realistically hold? If I put him on 56 for a straight, am I getting the odds to complete my FH with 9 outs? Is he just isolating me with a lot of outs on a wrap and a FD? Bugga … the joys of Omaha. I am not feeling in good shape and am now pretty much going for my 9 outs, if I call or shove. With $2140, I can still double up close to average stack if I fold, but I’ve been pushed off one or two marginal hands that I would have shoved with in a cash game. Can I call in this spot and hope to check down the River? He has been playing very strong Omaha, why would he risk his tournament life with a marginal hand as we have similar sized stacks. Could he be protecting trips? If so, would he not have done that on the flop?

Bugga … Thoughts?

Monday, December 15, 2008

A lesson at PLO100

Thankfully, I am not as results oriented as I once was because I took a hit Saturday and it has hardly affected me.

I was on the wrong side of a couple of PLO100 coinflips early and found myself down 2 BIs and onto my 3rd. I was also being outplayed, but learning. A more disciplined approach would have been to stand up but I made a conscious decision to battle through for the education of overcoming a tough game.

A mix of good cards and aggression seen me win back the BIs to the big stack at the table, on $340. Then came along "postmand" from Denmark (I googled him to find significant WCOOP cashes). He stood out with his exceptional selectively aggressive style. He won almost every hand at showdown. His stack grew rapidly to $290, none of it at my expense.

My focus was good as my stack was always under threat OOP. I felt like I was playing my A game and breaking even at a tough table with the big stack. A seat became vacant to postmand's left and I quickly moved into position. Several orbits later he left and I still had my stack intact.

Now for the bad news, the table got extremely fishy and I chased easy $$$s. The deck cooled and after a period of overly loose and surprisingly passive play for me (I knew I was narginal at best against calling stations), I found my stack whittled away to zero. In retrospect, this is perhaps where I should have left as I was playing far from optimally.

There is no doubt that the $300 retrospective educational budget would have been better spent on CardRunners, but I am convinced that my PLO game has gone to a new level as I had an awareness for the game that I have never experienced before.

As Stars is a new site for me, I must now work out how to retrieve and review the key hands more objectively with hindsight.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Pocket Pairs in Small Stakes Hold'em

Optimal maths poker isn't natural or intuitive for many and the math is only one aspect of poker. The requisite to fold for equity rather than chase for excitement is also unnatural psychologically.

Sometimes I miss my Limit Hold'em and as I learn other games I find that I struggle to win at it now. I used to win at $5/$10 consistently (when the games were much softer) and have played up to $20/$40 occassionally. But Adam's suspended blog got me thinking when I watched his hands play out. It reminded me how frustrating the game can be if you don't have the confidence in your own actions and focus on getting it in good.

Today, there appears not to be much wrong with Adam's play. He has recently posted about a new LAG approach though which inherently incurs more variance and attracts action so you will take more bad beats. That aside, I read a snippet last night in "Small Stakes Hold'em" by Ed Miller (I recommend it). The maths seemed so wrong that I was going to check it out. Turns out (no surprise with Sklansky and Malmuth at the helm) that it was spot on.

Using PokerStove Monte Carlo simulation(www.pokerstove.com), with 5 opponents willing to take a flop with 40% of their hands {44+,A2s+,K2s+,Q5s+,J7s+,T7s+,97s+}, which doesn't seem to be unreasonable looking at what reaches showdown with Adam.

The book states that with AA you should be jamming on a dry board with almost 50% equity, but with TT in this spot you should be calling because your equity is closer to 21%. I was amazed! I extended the simulation to see the spectrum. The inter-pair gap gets greater with higher pairs, for the record -

AA thru 22 is 42.3%, 33.2%, 27.5%, 23.6%, 20.4%, 18%, 16.5%, 15.3%, 15.7%, 14.9%, 14.2%, 13.9%.

My interpretation is something that I've experienced and posted about before. When playing against 5 loose opponents willing to get to showdown with marginal hands and draws:
- QQ thru 99 are really middle pairs; (Adam inspired this insight)
- 88 is the cut-off where you are becoming a dog.
- 77 thru 22 are set mining hands with implied odds - flop or stop.

BRAINTEASER : I've run the simulator a few times ... why does it always deliver the pre-flop equity for 77 to be 15.3% while 66 is 15.7%, at first glance an anomaly?

TRUST IN MATHS? Even if you "knew" all the other players starting range was 40% (and the maths above), would you ever prefer 66 preflop over 77?

New Year resolutions?

I've finally come up with my goal for December. Come up with proper goals for January. I've realised that I'm not a goal oriented person. Partly because I've been fortunate in life not to need them and partly because targets can be restrictive and have an unnecessary adverse psychological effect if you're not trying to get anywhere in particular.

In my businesses, I've never had a business plan. I've known roughly where I've wanted to get to. It is often ambitious by other people's measures. Then I just try to get the important things right and avoid the big mistakes. Every so often when I arrive somewhere, I pause look around and 9 times out of 10 I'm happy with where I have arrived and set out again. A big downside is that employees often need targets and I sometimes feel like I fail them in that regards. Other times I think that I demonstrate not to get hung up on the result but concentrate on the decision making.

And so to poker. Dan Harrington wrote something along the lines of "NLH is the perfect game as it simulates life in a compressed way". Actually it was probably nothing like that but that is the impression that he left me with and the more I play the more I know it to be true.

The BCG shared with me how he would approach Badugi and there is no doubt that the blindman's rational man would agree 100% with that approach. Also, LaffyChappy wrote about his Flying Scot inspiration (I now need to watch the movie as I virtually know someone with first hand experience). But the good thing about meaningful goals is that they need to be personal.

I will learn Badugi, I'm sure. I'll probably not stick with it as it seems flawed but it will be a sound introduction to draw games. Winning a HORSE bracelet would be for me the pinnacle of success. I've been playing with O/8 as a split game and then I just need to master the stud variations and go for it in retirement.

Last night at PLO, which was a disaster for me this time last year, I sat on Stars at two PLO25 tables and stood up with $130 and $112 dollars. I got lucky cards, but I folded way more than usual with no regrets and got it all in the middle holding the nuts or close to it a few times. More right moves and less mistakes.

So as we near year end, it is time to pause and have a look around:
- I am a competent online player which is far from easy these days.
- Amongst my network of local friends I have an edge, but only one or two of them take poker anyway seriously.
- I have a healthy hobby that stimulates the brain and doesn't cost me anything other than my time.
- All my life I've been an above average all-rounder and this is showing through in my poker.

The massive downside is that it takes me away from my family and has consumed too many thinking cycles. I am less up to date with current affairs, get less exercise and have a skewed perception on the value of money in these turbulent economic times.

So, I will ponder goal setting for the New Year, I've never had resolutions. And hopefully they will have more to do with Laffs fitness regime and life balance that winning x dollars. As always, thanks to all of you who happen by this neck of the internet woods.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I love Badugi, Jitterbug Badugi

Well, not quite. The game is every bit as frustrating as everyone says. I haven't found the fun aspect as yet, but I haven't given up looking either.

For those that don't know Badugi, it is a bit of a fad amongst the gamblers. It is far from solved and very little known about strategy. That aspect has appeal to me, a bit like my PLO learning days (which will continue for a lifetime).

Badugi is a case of getting the lowest hands of different suits. A234r is the nuts. A 4-card Badugi (different suits) beats a 3-card Badugi. It is triple draw and the frustrating part is that your draw rarely completes whereas your opponents show down A235r etc all the time. Must be doing something wrong!

Anyway, I joined Pokerstars for the WBCOOP and found myself distracted as often happens. A couple of hours of Badugi later, I was almost break-even. If you want to give it a go, try this link first - http://www.badugipro.com/strategy.html.

Blindman reckons that the games may be softish elsewhere on Stars so I may go back to basics over the weekend. I was turned off by the interface. Does anyone know a way of customising it for multi-tabling so bets, pot size, bet pot etc is simpler? I found the interface to take up too much unnecessary real estate, with the all important maths data unintuitive.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pokerstars WCOOB

Online Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!

The WBCOOP is an online Poker tournament open to all Bloggers.

Registration code: 214460

Pending Pokerstars approval ... I'm in!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Late night cash game and deep stack live tourney

I really enjoyed yesterday's poker. It started with a phone call from a friend on my way home from work pulling together a home game. I turned up 1 hour later than everyone else and only missed two pots, both AI. The structure was cash $.5/1 with a $30 buy in. You can rebuy as often as you like.

I've played a few times before and as the field is soft, if you can get a stack early you are pretty set. Unfortunately, I lost a couple of buy ins early on coin flips, limp steal attempts from the BB, and trips over trips. Over $100 down, I had my first break and doubled up. Won another big hand to more than double again. Up about $20 with a decent stack and getting late, I waited for cheap chances to double up. It didn't come and I ended up $20 down. All in all, I think I played OK. It's my first loss in that company and I'm well up overall.

Late to bed and then off to the other side of Sydney for a long tournament. It's the best structure I've played with 30 min blinds. I promised myself tight early and I would have been out for sure if I hadn't. Only took two smallish pots with JJ and QQ and folded everything else pretty much. 2.5 hrs later I am level with my starting stack at the break.

Not long after the restart I've made the worst blunder for some time. 9Ts in early position, I limped with blinds of $200/$400 and had one raiser, the SB for $1200. I called with a stack of $10000. Flop came 983r, the SB led out for $3500 and without much hesitation, I raised AI. The SB thought for quite a while but he was never folding, just checking his logic (which I should have done). He called with JJ and almost crippled me. I'm very unhappy with my play, but to tell you the truth, I'm not sure what the right move was. That's the biggest problem - I'd like to be able to perform a structured hand analysis and be confident it was right.

I did gather myself up again which I was pleased with and then as the blinds rose, they were $5000/$10000 when I got KK UTG with $80000 in front. I pushed AI and was called by TT. Q89r wasn't what I wanted to see and definitely not the J on the river.

All in all, a realistic step up from the local pub games to the bigger gigs and I was found wanting but I'll be better prepared next time for the experience. More than 12 hours live has helped.

I spotted a great tell at a crucial point that I was proud of. I had the J on a board of 6789T. The river put a 3rd club on the board. I value bet and was raised AI. Did he have the flush or not? I couldn't get a read even though I tried until his friend walked past and they started a conversation. I'd read in Caro that its very difficult to have a natural conversation when under pressure. I reasoned that he was very comfortable and folded, showing the J. He showed the flush and congratulated me on the lay down. A by-product was a bit more respect at the table.

Sorry this post isn't a bit more structured or coherent but its been a long weekend of poker. Pleased to see that my fellow bloggers are all posting better results, long may it continue.

I'll register for Pokerstars when I read advice on a good RB deal (or similar) and have a go at the Blogger events hopefully (haven't checked out the timezone). Anyone interested in a last longer side bet?

9-table chart rivaling BCG's linearity

You all know that I am envious of BCG's chart. Finally, I found one of mine that resembles it, but it is only for 2hrs of play. It was for 1000 hands though, which equates to about 30 hours of casino play.

I was a beneficiary of positive variance with quads 3 times last night in 500 hands. All up it only added to $14 in winnings, one player and 2 short-stackers. Can't recall any badbeats, but I don't even get to learn the result of a lot of hands. I just get prompted for actions, others folding just moves quickly to the next hand before I realise.

It's a different way of playing poker. I'll try for another session tonight. Next post will be regarding 12+ hours of live play yesterday.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

9-tabling on my new laptop - woo hoo!

Just off to bed after my first 9-tabling session. Quite liked it and I think I got lucky - not sure - a bit of a blur. Played for 90 mins and now I have to get to sleep with my head buzzin'.

I love this new laptop with its big screen. I was playing the <10c NL tables and sat down with a total of $65 and stood up with $121.90. The best thing is that there was no temptation to play KQo from MP. If anything, 72o with a couple of QQ, JJ hands on the go is a relief. I think I'll give it another go again soon.

Win a trip to the WSOP

A couple of days without poker which I will put right at the weekend when I have a passout to play in the deepstack tournament that I won a ticket to 2 weeks ago.

That and the final table of the WSOP got me thinking ... Anyone interested in getting together and running a mini tournament series over the next 4 or 5 months with the winner going to the WSOP? We wouldn't need to play the main event as there are a lot of smaller buy-in tourneys? Also, Ivan Demidov only had 20% of himself I believe when he came 2nd, we'd have a similar arrangement.

Obviously, there'd be a lot of trust involved but the concept would be that all winnings from the WSOP would be distributed equally amongst the group. I think I have a few friends that would be happy to participate. The winner would have the experience but the downside is that they'd need the time off work. By running a series of tournaments online, we'd be assured of sending our best horse. With the supposed dead money there is (we'd just escape that category) it is probably a +ev situation.

Not sure of the logistics and as my wee blog has only attracted a couple of visitors the cost per person may be prohibitive. That said, as we are all hobby players, perhaps it will be something poker-related to do with our bankrolls. Just an idea that I hope has legs. Leave me a comment if you're interested.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Pub Poker

Australia is very lucky in that it has pub poker, a +EV situation all around as it caters for those that like to take their poker a little more seriously and also those that take their drinking a little more seriously.

Last night, I had my second tilt at our local RSL trying to retain my crown from 2 weeks ago. It looked good when I overbet KK with blinds of 200/400 to 2000 and got 2 callers just after the break (when the add-on and drinks voucher get you 5000 extra chips). Flop of 44K just made it a case of winning all the money which wasn't too hard. Check, Check, 1000, call, call. Check, Check, 2000, call, call. Check, 1000, AI, call, call. Pocket 77s and AK chipped me up to 23,000.

Soon after I called down with TPTK (AQ) for 1/2 of my stack against JJ flopping trips. When a loose player min-raised UTG with blinds of 500/1000, 5 handed. UTG+1 called the 2000 and I had 12000 on the button with 99. I pushed AI looking (but not feeling) tilty and was called by AJ. The other player folded showing his 99, bugga.

I went out but replayed the situation a number of times and am not sure that I could get away from the TPTK in a pub environment where the play is so loose and the 99 shove was fine with me too as the blinds go up every 15 mins. On the flip side, I couldn't stack 2 relatively deep players in the casino with my KKK44 flop.

I enjoy the company of about a dozen mates there and hope to be a regular with what is a guaranteed +EV situation as long as I don't take it too seriouly or get bored.