Wednesday, April 29, 2009


The ANZPT PLO Rebuy was the one that I have been looking forward to and it didn't disappoint. The rebuy chip was only allowed to be used when you were below your starting stack. After the first hand, we had 5 Rebuys at our table. I chose to use it as a second chance in case I got unlucky. It was valid for 4 levels after which you could get a refund. It could not be used as an Add-on. As I'm trying to contain my investment levels to within my bankroll, playing the tourney for a $275 entry as opposed to $515 meant that I could win more - sort of.

The first thing that I noticed about the structure was no antes. As these contributed to my downfall on Sunday, this was a bonus. With a 5000 starting stack, the 40-minute Levels of 25/25. 25/50, 50/100, 75/150, 100/200, 150/300, 200/400 levels were very generous. This tourney wasn’t going to be won within 12 hours.

Early stages
I played like a rock for the first four levels. 4 or 5 of the others were in every hand though and potting it up. Inevitably these monster stacks tangled and there were casualties. It was easy to spot the bad players (who were very dangerous in the early stages) and in hindsight harder to spot the good ones who were chasing the easy money with marginal hands. Two guys got their egos and trash talk started early and both exited within the first 2 levels. The guy with all of their chips became a massive bully and even when he got back to average stack kept going. He went on to cash, so fair play to him. He was definitely lucky to get through those first couple of orbits though.

I limped or played the big blind when I could and made one pot-sized bet when I flopped trips and everyone folded, a combination of image and board texture. I was happy to take the family pot.

A couple of orbits later, there was a hand that gave me a lot of confidence that it might be my day. BB again, I had QQxx when the board came Q97, two hearts. There was a reasonable amount in the middle, probably 150 x 6 or something. OOP, I checked to see what developed, ready to pop it whenever it got back to me, but everyone checked. I wasn’t too unhappy as I’d decided not to go bust on that board having to make a decision on the Turn. The 3rd heart came on the Turn. I checked again to see what developed. Pot, Re-pot and I was done with the hand. 2nd Nut Flush lost to Nut Flush. My stack would have been gone. I was in no doubts at any stage in the hand that the right move in a cash game was to pot it on the Flop. I pondered the hand multiple times over the next several hours at the table and the more I think about it, the more that I really like my play. It isn’t the aggressive style often advocated, but it suits my personality and remember, my goal here was to cash Harrington style while I read and re-read Gus Hanson’s book.

Next crucial hand came before the first break. I had 10800 in chips, starting stack was 5000. I had my rebuy chip in my pocket which was good until the first break. In the BB, I limp again with 88xx, blinds . Flop 38J. I checked, TAG to my left raises about half the pot, I call. Turn was a T and he fires 3000, again I call to slow him down. River blanked and he fired 5000 into a significant pot. The bet didn’t seem to make sense to me and the more I thought about it, I was sure that he was just mistaking Tight for Weak. It was also just before the break which is notorious for making moves.I called with the luxury of my rebuy chip in my pocket and he mucked. I got to pick up the pot without showing and after the break, this was a regular point of conversation as they tried to work out what hand I was on.

It turns out that right and left of me were two aspiring full-time professionals and I could see that they knew it was a basic mistake for them to let me away with not showing. They certainly regretted missing out on very valuable data. I spotted one of them later in the big 25/50 PLO game where he’d been with Lisandro all week. He was short-stacking that game with $5K when the average was well over $60K (in real money). Anyway, I now went to the first break, well above average with $17K.

Loosening up
Next crucial hand, I have AAxx in early position and limp. I’m using this play more and more and advocate it in a loose game. In fact, I am getting more and more like Adam from the 2+2 Pokercast who advocates a style that rarely if ever raises pre-flop unless it is for a substantial portion of you stack. Anyway, I limp as do several others. Board comes 666, way ahead or way behind. Check and then a 600 bet into an 1800 pot from second position. Call, fold, fold, I call with tight image, fold. Turn doesn’t really matter, unless it’s a 6 which it isn’t.1200 into 3600 pot. I call in case it is the 2nd barrel with KK. River blank and he fires 4500 into the 6000. At this point, I’m done with the hand and show my AA fold. I know I was right but others questioned it. With my tight image, why would he string me along and risk his tourney on the river to a re-pot without the nuts. He also had no reason to think that I could get away from AA which was my obvious hand. We were both well above average and the couple of thousand didn’t dent my stack at all. In retrospect, the call on the flop was a mistake. I should have min-raised and found out where I was at then. I guess I hoped that they’d both shut down but in reality, I’m never going to be sure having shown weakness.

I played my hands and position as the cards dictated for the second and third sessions. Picturing Tiger Woods positioning himself for the final day assault. With the nature of PLO betting, I was very conscious of position as you can get yourself in a lot of trouble quickly OOP. My stack grew steadily right until the dinner break when I was well above the average stack with about 45 players left. Then the hand which was the subject of the last post came up.

Villain was Terry, someone that I met playing as a pub game regular about 3 years ago. Terry’s sole source of income these days is his poker, so I guess that that makes him a professional. We were seated at the same table and decided to grab a burger together during the dinner break. The conversation was very good and we talked about what may lie ahead in terms of bubbling, final tabling etc. Neither of us were planning anything rash just yet. Certainly it never crossed my mind that we would clash on the table so soon afterward. Soft playing would not be an ethical option for either of us though.

To recap, KK99dd vs AAxx. Unfortunately it was very strong AA67dd and I went from the 42% that I suspected that I might have been to a 35%. As you can imagine, no help from the board and my stack was seriously dented. In some respects I seemed to be effectively crippled. Most important for now was to regather my thoughts and not tilt. It is funny the competitive camaraderie that comes at these times. Two players went out of their way to remind me not to tilt which was appreciated.

Grinding it out
Now to knuckle down and not do anything too serious. Next hand dealt was well above average, but I folded as I wasn’t confident in my ability to think properly so I mucked to avoid anything silly. In hindsight, it was an exceptionally good decision for me and one that I'd recommend considering. If in doubt, muck. It doesn’t cost anything to fold apart from potentially lost opportunity.

Next hand I’m in the BB and get rubbish. Thankfully the 942r flop gave me top 2 pair. Again, not wanting to be rash, I checked to see what would develop and the short stack went AI. Everyone folded back to me and I thought about it and was convinced that he had an overpair to the board. I was right but the runner runner Jacks was gut wrenching. Now I was counterfeited and crippled.

Stayed cool and folded for a few orbits with my stack dwindling from 8000 to just on 5000 now with 600/1200 blinds I think. I really got such rubbish that I couldn’t tangle and my stack was so short I was going to get multiple callers. Then I got AAxx and pushed AI with 2 guys who checked it down. The A on the flop tripled me up – woo hoo!

Patience, patience, patience. Blind structure was so slow, I could wait orbits and pick up blinds to tread water. Then they broke our table and I missed the blinds. We’re down to 30 and I’m hanging in. I actually got a couple of walks which was fun as those around me started feeling bubble-fever too. It’s a bit like being a teenager thinking that the world is looking at you. In truth, everyone was also looking at the big stacks and was a bit afraid to attack me for fear of being re-popped. Somehow, they just dropped like flies around me.

AAxx again UTG, shove, BB said that he didn’t want to double me up and again I was cool with that. The big stacks continued to tangle on the other tables and in one hand they had 4 people AI preflop – way to go. We lost 2 that hand. Before I knew it, it was 22, then 21. I can’t recall playing a hand. When the next one dropped, we redrew and I got Table 23, Seat 1. I stacked my chips slowly and walked slowly only to find the Button at seat 8. Then I realised that 10 and 1 being empty the blinds had just passed – sweet.

I doubled up once more when we were on the bubble and playing hand for hand. Someone tried to steal my blind with random rubbish and I had AAxx in the BB. I thought a long time about folding which no-one could believe. I’m not convinced that it would have been the wrong move as I had enough for 2 orbits. As it was, I had to sweat the potential of 2-pair to the river.

2 hands later, Frank from Crown Casino on the other table lost his short stack and I was in the money, $611. A couple of people then exited quite quickly which I’ve noticed online. I needed to make it to 14th to jump up $200 – highly unlikely.

Final Hand
This for me was the highlight of my tournament. Weird I know. There were 15 left and I looked down to find KKxx in the CO. If I could make it to the final table, the jumps were significant. If I doubled up, and never played a hand, I felt that this may be possible. Time to make my move and steal the blinds. “Pot”. Actually, I slid my stack in and the dealer game me 150 chips in change. Fold, Fold and then insta-call by BB. Bugga, I knew he’d call but this looked like Aces.

Then I heard the commentator announce, we have an AI player on Table 22. The table was still looking at me and my 150 chips. I started looking at the cards and feigning a decision. Could I get away from a 18K pot to hold onto 150 chips preflop in PLO. Ridiculous. Then the announcement came … “we have lost our AI player”.

I then called, it was AA and I was on the rail. Like death and taxes, this had been inevitable since I was crippled with KK99dd, but by delaying my 150 chip call for a minute, I just made $189. After 12 hours of poker, I was very pleased with still being very aware of a lot of what was going on around me.

Having played for 12 hours on Sunday and Tuesday, whilst I enjoyed every moment, I was mentally exhausted. My concentration levels were much greater than for an online session with so much new data to gather and interpret.

I was obviously very pleased with the result. I also exceeded my expectations with the variety of my play. I think the quality was good for me but a million miles below Gus Hanson.

I met a bunch of people that I respected and enjoyed their company. I outlasted Grant Levy by about 11 hours and Kiwi G by about 30 minutes. There were a lot of positives to take away from the experience. I even paid for my two entry fees and made $10/hr on top.

That said, it was my first glimpse of life as a poker pro and it wasn’t particularly attractive. The utility of the emotional positives are insignificant compared with the lows that you are subjected to with gut wrenching bad beats. The exhaustion levels would be compounded had I to play today and tomorrow again. The people you meet would have lives surrounded by poker, etc.

As for my WSOP ambitions, they’re stronger than ever and I’d like to prove the concept of +EV a lot further in these relatively small buy-in situations before possibly having a crack at cashing in the Aussie Millions. I know that I'm getting way ahead of myself, but we can all dream can't we? And heck, I'm feeling pretty good right now. Here's looking forward to a good night's sleep tonight. Aah, the simple pleasures of life.

ANZPT PLO Crucial Hand

Full report to follow, for now, a big decision ...

ANZPT Sydney : PLO Tourney $275 + $240 Rebuy option (not used)
114 Runners : 18 places paid : 1st gets $16,000 thru 18th for $611
42 players remaining - Blinds 300/600,
Average stack 25K, Hero 40K, Villain 22K
UTG calls 600 : UTG+1 (Hero) pots with Kh9hKc9c to 5200, fold, Villain re-pots it All In for 22K, fold, fold, fold - back to me.
Note : Just had dinner with villain and was able to put him on an exact holding of very strong AAxx before making my decision.

What would you do?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bubbled the Bubble

When I read this Post in years to come I know that I'll be able to look back on it as an achievement, but for now I must confess that I am disappointed to have effectively bubbled. Yesterday's ANZPT $330 Deep Stack Tourney at Star City featured 320 runners, with 30 getting paid. I went into the first break having entered only 3 pots, stolen 3 blinds and had tripled my starting sstack to almost $30,000 after 2 hours of fold, fold, fold. This was my strategy and it worked. Some thanks must go to the Poker Edge and its advice on selectively re-popping the overly loose blind stealers. You can fairly safely pick up 4 x BB with very minimal risk, preserve your tight image and reinforce your aggressive image. The two pots that got to showdown feature KK and AKs.

After the first break, I had a solid hand where I repopped one of these guys from the blinds and got called with AK. Flop came K, rag, rag, I c-bet, got raised and pushed AI for not much more. With his effective stack, he was pot committed to calling which he duly did after thinking, with KQ. No Q and I was feeling good. A few hands later, I had QQ. Raised it up to 2200. Turn came AJ7r, I C-bet 4400 and was called. The Turn was a Q thankfully so I could confidently fire again for 8200 but he folded TT. Happy days, up toward $53K well above average. In this spot, I was looking good as I had two loose players to my right that I could re-pop.

Now, I must share with you a learning experience. We had a couple of people taking exceptionally long over decisions. One had already had time called on them and then the second took forever over what didn't really seem to be a very hard decision. We all knew he'd fold, it seemed more like Hollywooding. Anyway, I was starting to assert my presence with strong betting, and had moved on from my ultra tight image when the antes had kicked in and I called Time. This started quite a fracas with the player taking exception, snap folding and giving me heaps which the dealer warned him about. One other player stood up and said that he was just about to call time, whilst two others confirmed to the Tournament Director that it had been excessive. Anyway, looking back, there was no upside really to me having got involved and I wish I'd stayed out of it. Not that I'm afraid of the conflict, it just confused my thinking slightly after that and I also had the guy for a bit of tilt on my left which isn't a good spot for a tilter.

Two orbits later a hand came up. I was the small blind with A9s, with blinds of 1000/2000/100 ante, when the button limped for 2000. I called and we had $7000 in the middle when the BB raised AI to $16000. Button folded and I had to make a decision for $14000 to win $21000. PokerStove tells me today that if his range is 88+,ATs+,KQs,AKo (5.6%), I am a 33% chance against TT+,AKs,AKo, I am surprisingly still a 30% chance. So the odds seem to be approximately right. Question is, do I need to get involved. No, but a win would build a lot of momentum. What would a fold say, well I have potentially created a tilter that thinks that he can run over me with an AI. In the end, I called, he had KK and there was no A to help me. I did hit the 9 on the Turn. Far from crippled but a lot of food for thought and my reasoning said that calling time had made me factor in a wider range than what was probably reality in hindsight. He continued to play well, untilted for another couple of hours and we actually got on really well after that. In fact, as an aside, with deepstack tourneys, you really do build up relationships with the other players when you spend 6+ hours together in close competitive situations. So that was my first mistake.

The rest of that session is a little bit of a blur, up a little with steals and down a little with blinds. Its funny, overly compnsating for tilt by playing overly conservative is also tilt when the antes are in play. As with money under your mattress that isn't earning interest, with the effect of inflation you are actually going backwards. And so it was with my slide backwards over the next couple of hours with a static chipstack.

Thankfully, they split the table and I could make a fresh start. It's actually quite stimulating to quickly work out what the new table is like. First thing is to look at everyone and assign the stereotypes based on age, gender and dress code. Stack piling is a reliable tell. I even find that my own stack changes with my mood. Messy = loose, Neat = Tight, Anal = Ultra Tight. Table talk is also more data. Within 2 hands the seats beside me were talking about how our end of the table was quiet and the other side was getting all the hands. Sure enough they were stealing away without anyone pushing back. As the new arrival, I wasn't about to start clipping wings. I had 2 big stacks to my left so lay low while I worked out the table. Nothing memorable here, as the blind structure was so big I was eeking away at what I could. By now we were up to $3000/ $6000 with $500 antes, a big whack of my $50K. Still, I managed to steal enough to keep at that level. Once I raised UTG with 99 and got re-raised AI 2 seats later. Reasoning that I was ahead of nothing and coin flipping against AK, I folded preflop. My reasoning was right - he had AK. Still no real need to coinflip but in retrospect it may have been a better option and something I would definitely have done online where cashing means less to me at the stakes that I play.

Down from 39 through to 32 people left (top 10%), the blinds were 5000/10000/500 and I had 42K. We were 7 handed and the blinds were whizzing around. I was conscious that there were 2 stacks that were slighty shorter than me. I looked down and the same A9s from before was looking up at me. I'd been very tight so I wouldn't expect a caller if I pushed now when I could still hurt those on around $100K or less (which was almost the entire table). I made my stand and pushed AI. There was a guy to my left and we'd never warred with each other who would definitely have folded had he not found the same KK (different table) as before that hurt me. Would history repeat, alas, yes. He called and I needed the Ace which never arrived. Had it come, I'd have been on an average stack. As it was, I was going home slightly disappointed. I never threatened the $26K for 1st prize, but should really have limped into 30th spot if I didn't make that move at that time. Regrets, No. It's just poker and better for this to happen here as opposed to next years WSOP. Mulling it over on the drive home was a lot shorter than being tired and alone on a 747 from LA.

Stepping back, my goal was to cash and I bubbled. Over time, I've learned online to attack the bubble. I didn't and whilst I maintaned my chip count, the increasing blinds every 40 minutes left me with fewer and fewer options while I relied on a war of attrition that I wasn't in control of. In the end, I was very aware that I was taking a chance and on this occassion it didn't pay off. A9 vs KK twice. A look at the clock showed another coincidence, 12:30am. Exactly 12 hours from the first hand was dealt. I'm sure that the next few days will bring some clarity about the positives to be extracted as I outlasted 288 other players including a number of pros. There were no 'pub' soft spots at any of my tables. On the contrary, almost everyone that I played against was a Star City regular or very competent online player. The quality made it all the more enjoyable and has left me more confident for the future. I didn't adjust well to the high ante structure at the end and watched as others picked up blind after blind. Something I need to think about and then act upon in future tournies.

I unwound for 30 minutes watching Jeff Lisandro playing Omaha. These guys are at such a different level. It was $25/$25 5-handed. The big stack was a youngish guy from Montenegro (now living in Perth) with over $100K on the table. Lisandro was average with over $50K. There weren't any particular hands that stood out, just the routine way that they casually tossed in $500 chips that looked like humbugs.

Ah well, enough self-ruminating. I look forward to stumbling across this post again when I am old and at one with life ...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Gus Hansen and the ANZPT (Star City, Sydney)

So there I was ready to study PLO8 when I realised that I have a couple of live events coming up this weekend in the ANZPT (passouts permitting). Given the significant investment and the fact that the micro PLO8 games will still be there in a week, a month and a year, I decided to get back into live MTT mode. I've previously read Harrington and in fact built my style around it since it suits my older Gen-X grinder personality. I've recently listened to the ESPN Poker Edge series which was very superficial but passes the time between Avalon and North Sydney each day.

Then I asked a friend if I could borrow his Gus Hansen's 'Every Hand Revealed' book. I picked it up 2 days ago and am not even through Day 1 yet. I'm blown away. If you've read the book you'll know why. I just find myself consantly asking "you bet how much with what? wow". It is another level and way beyond me. I get it after the event, but the courage and wherewithall to execute with a Tai Chi-like combination of self-awareness / calm / aggression / control is incredible to me. That said, it is proving to be extremely enlightening. Live cash, I see multiple players play a similar aggressive style. 30% of them win a lot and 2/3 off them don't lose more than a couple of BIs max. That means that in aggregate, they are +EV as a group. I meanwhile consistently eek out a happy existence most sessions that equates to a burger flipping wage - but I rarely lose. As the amounts involved are relatively insignificant "why bother?" is a reasonable question.

Back to the ANZPT, even the few pages that I have read have me feeling better prepared for this weekends tournies. $275 Opening NLHE tomorrow, $330 Deepstack Sunday and then the $275 2nd Chance PLO on Tuesday. I will not be playing anything like Gus, grinding away Harrington style and hoping to Cash. Online I've matured from wanting to cash, to focussing on Final Tabling and more recently, hoping to win. This is a maturation that I am yet to go through live. If I can cash in 1 of the 3 Tournies I will be very happy. The chances of me doing so if all players are equal is less than 3 to 1. If I'm in the middle of the top 1/3 of each field, I'm even money to cash once. So that is sufficiently ambitious for me for now. Obviously if I run good, I may re-evaluate. Any nuggets of live MTT advice welcomed, especially PLO in the early stages. As always, my measure of success will be how well I played, how aware I was, how I maintained levels of concentration, how I changed gears, how I bothered to calculate and not switch off to just playing the cards as dealt.

If I go missing for a week, I'm either depressed or winning.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

PLO8 - Time to get serious

I'm not sure that there is any shortcut to winning poker. I've often read that it is an iterative process requiring a lot of table time. My PLO8 journey started well and then a little bit of variance and a big bit of bad play has jolted me back to the study. Well, given that I jumped straight in at $100 buy-ins and no study, more accurate to say start my study.

In my library, I came across a Split Poker book by Ray Zee. He starts by saying that poor PLO8 players can go a long time before realising that they are losing players. Given that when the book was written 30 hands per hour of live poker was the norm, at its most generous, I've certainly survived a month or so of casual play. Still not very long, sigh!

This was the wake up hand ...

... it isn't the $100 that was the jolt, just my bad play on the low side that left me so exposed. I should have known when my steal was met with a min re-raise. Position, position, position.

I never regret being outplayed, just look to learn from it. When I read Ray's book further, the chapter focuses on playing tighter and tighter. It turns out that Edward Hutchison was right and I was wrong after all - surprise, surprise.

So here I am back to the drawing board. Without the 500 hands I played, the chapters would be boring and I wouldn't have picked much up. I'm already finding that I had intuitively discovered a lot more than I gave myself credit for. Looking forward to further study and hopefully not being the fish for too much longer.

PS I actually nipped into becoming a very small winning player up $5 immediately prior to the hand above. PokerEV tells me that I was running very hot though. In Sklansky Bucks, I should be down $200.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Why choose stress?

At one point, my daughter had wanted to do Family Law as a career. Thankfully, she is now planning on a different career path. As a parent, my immediate reaction was, why would you want to surround yourself with that much stress and heartache?

And so it is with poker variance. Why do we choose a pastime that in the short term is inherently stressful and highly likely in the bad times to affect our general persona through a variety of internal feelings? Presumably it must provide us with other benefits.

For me, I benefit from a heightened ability to make risk-based decisions at work. I feel more confident making significant decisions in a timely manner with incomplete information. I'd love to receive comments on what value you derive from your poker journey.

First ever session of PLO8

Inspired by a recent PokerRoad Cash Plays with Andy Bloch discussing Stud 8-or-better, I got to thinking that it is a much more complex game than I had imagined. The more I discover about other games, the more that I realise that NLH is over-rated. When Doyle and the boys were on the road, there is no doubt that it justifiably earned the reputation as the Cadillac of Poker. Since then, it makes for good lowest common denominator TV viewing. Online, it is falling into the category of HU poker, academically solved. Hence it is difficult to exploit the young kids with far more time on their hands than us oldies to perfect the game.

Omaha is a great gamble game. I still feel so naive compared to some of my opponents but I'm holding my own reasonably well. With a bit of study, I may even get to be a winning player. Tonight, I moved on again, this time to PLO/8. Adam from the 2+2 PokerCast often talks about it and the importance of scooping the pot in split games.

A2xx is a great starting hand if it makes a qualifying low, but you can lose money with the nuts when you get quartered. Also, if an A or a 2 comes you need to be careful that the low you make with your kicker is deceptive in how it can be beaten. Strong PLO hands with no low value, if you can limp in, can scoop if there is no qualifying low. Aces are gold, playing high and low. Beyond that I don't really have much of a clue.

I'm hardly bankrolled for PLO100 so jumping in to 2-tabling PLO8 at 100 was crazy to say the least. I guess I reconciled it in my own mind that I would get to experience it the way that it was meant to be played. Interestingly, after my small sample size of almost 400 hands, I have the impression that the variance may be a lot lower than PLO. In PLO8, you know when you are beat for sure. You know when you are putting a lot of money in HU with the prospect of getting half. Lots of opportunities to get away from hands on the flop. Similarly, you know when you have the nuts.

One of the many skills that I haven't mastered yet which is deciding whether you want to bring callers along for the ride or close hands out with a pot-sized raise. This isn't as obvious as it might sound. Anyway, after my first session, I lost just over $25, to be expected I guess, first time up. My PTO Stats showed heaps of leaks.

The first and most obvious one is true for any beginner, I've seen significantly more flops than anyone else - 46.88%. Average for the table was 25%. An interesting stat was WtSD, all those with >40% were winners, those below were losers. Makes sense really, winners decide on the flop if they're ahead or not. A bit like Limit poker ... I'll see you at the river. Another interesting observation, winning players seem to never fold their blinds to a steal. Maybe there aren't many steals, hence 0%.

To see whether I had been lucky/unlucky, I fired up PokerEV. If you haven't used this program before, it's pretty cool in that it works out your Sklansky bucks and tells you if you are running above or below expectation relative to when the money went in for hands that get to showdown. How did I fare? Actually, I ran pretty hot, so at least now I know that my almost breakeven flattered my performance.

Then, I remembered that I have my Hutchison system Prefloper application. I fired it up and played a lot more sensibly. I made a comeback from that point. I did ignore it quite a few times, almost always to my detriment, again I reasoned with myself that it was experimentation but in reality we all know that it is the desire to see more flops and get lucky. As PokerEV confirms, I did get lucky. If only I had the discipline of BCG and the Blindman, I reckon that I would turn a healthy profit at this game. Maybe next week :-).

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Trip down memory lane

"A year in the Life" is an entertaining blogs by a guy in London with an equal mix of poker and life stories. The ex-Snowman's latest post has him reminisce on leaving his hometown which reminded me of a similar experience back home recently. If you don't know me you may wish to move to the next post now, even if you do, you still might.

For what it's worth, I grew up in a town called Downpatrick in Northern Ireland, population 9,000. Then "The Troubles" started and almost overnight the town grew to a population of 17,000 as people were moved out of their homes in Belfast to satellite towns like ours. It changed the culture of our wee town overnight. No longer did we know everyone. Those that we didn't know were displaced and often to be feared. Over the years, it has all become fully integrated, but our wee town has never quite been the same.

I had the chance to take my 17yo daughter around last month for pretty much the first time. We parked tha car at the house where I was born and starting walking. My mum and dad moved there only weeks before I appeared. Back then it was all families and fun; now it is all broken glass and many would find it intimidating. I wanted to show my daughter the back lanes that we played in but they have been all bricked up, presumably to stop sniper movement at one point. Doesn't look nice at all with angry barking dogs everywhere.

From there we walked up the back to my old school which has hardly changed. I naively thought that as an ex-pupil from the other side of the world that I'd be able to stroll about the school but I felt like rip van winkle. Ireland has caught up with the rest of the UK with its pervasive and over-zealous regulatory compliance that conspires to take the fun out of life. Having signed a Child Protection document, I was allowed around the corner to see my year photo. I'd forgotten a lot of my classmates but with the photo the memories all flooded back. From there we walked through the grounds which now sported a very high perimeter fence coated in Anti Climb Security Paint. I'd never heard of such a thing, seems like a pretty cool product, check it out.

Passed my house in "Cornflake Hill" (GBP3,900 in 1970, I really do need to find the pound symbol), so named because everyone else ate toast for breakfast. Then walked Aunt Sally's. She always had an open door policy and kept all of us cousins, neighbours and friends fed between our adventures. From there on to Samson's stone (Samson threw it from the Mournes years ago (folklore) / Glacial movement (science)). The Council have tried to make tourist spots with nice stone walls and paths. The alcoholics, druggies and glue sniffers seem to find them quite homely. Then on to the local hospital where my Aunt was being looked after by my cousin with another cousin in the neighbouring room. It was around about now that it was really sinking in what you give up when you leave a small town to the other side of the world with no extended family.

From here I visited Brother Justin, an aging Christian Brother who inspired many of us with his love of mathematics. He's losing his memory and spent most of the time trying to recall me. He did remember that Stevie Stockdale was a one-footed footballer though and I very much enjoyed his company. He was always a relatively gentle man unless you didn't hold the corner of the paper exactly 1.5 inches each side when he was stapling for the class. That was one of my earliest introductions to real pressure with a task where there is really no excuse for getting it wrong. We all loved the tension of queuing up and on average there were about 1.7 clips around the ear per queue.

Scotch Street was also the home of Allie M where we had our first big regular poker school. We would have been 9 or 10 at the time and played for all of our spare coppers. Allie was no good at maths or poker (great soccer player) and always done his dough. The pub next door was always full of old guys playing darts and Allie was great at darts. The same routine played out over the years. Allie lose his money, I'd lend him some, he'd go next door and win heaps playing darts with the old guys (in retrospect they may have let him win) and he'd return with more money for the game which he'd duly lose. Needless to say, this is where I built my first illicit bankroll that I hid in the base of my Seiko watch. The role of notes eventually bacame so fat that it wouldn't fit. That was about when I turned 14 or so at which point we all proceeded to spend it on alcohol. It's funny, even then I never used any of the profits, the winnings was always just a scoreboard. Another +EV regular is now a doctor. He was a top chess player so we never gambled at that. What we did do though was teach ourselves backgammon solely for the purposes of heads up gambling - earliest introduction to extreme variance with our loose doubling gambles.

Now this is a great tip for any golfers out there. Next time you want to gamble on the game, introduce the concept of the doubling cube on each hole. Starting at only $1 per hole, you'll be amazed at how many $64 putts you'll need to sink. Give it a go, you'll love it!

On to the St. Patrick Centre which tells the story of Patrick who is buried in Downpatrick. Was very interesting except for leaving out the part about where they decided to bury him. Not sure if this is folklore or I made it up, but my story goes that when he died, they couldn't agree where to bury him, so they put him on a donkey and where the donkey stopped that was it. Unfortunately for the poor donkey, each time he slowed down the neighbouring villagers would come and create a commotion to keep him moving toward their town. Eventually the poor donkey died in Downpatrick with Patrick still on his back. As an aside, buried with Patrick are St Brigid and St Colmcille. From there, we went up to see his grave which is covered by a stone that I'm told my great grandfather helped transport. Again be wary of Irish folklore.

Walking down the hill, we popped into Denvirs a traditional pub/hotel where I would play chess representing our town as a schoolkid against the adults. I always played Black in seat 3 or 4, and always tucked myself in for the night with the Kings Indian opening. I was aware back then of table image and took forever pretending to think about my moves (40 moves in 90 minutes timed, with an additional 15 to finish the game if required). I'd complicate the middle of the board and offer a draw around move 30 which was surprisingly accepted way more often than it should have been. I was a grinder back then inching my rating up, 1 draw at a time.

Then back to pick up my car. As it was getting dark, I was pleased that it was an old Toyota that my sister had lent me for the week.

No place for this kind of post in a poker blog I know, but one day I'll be even older than I am now and may stumble it myself. Thanks to the ex-Snowman for the inspiration and apologies to anyone who made it this far. Almost as boring as folding 84% of hands, I'm sure. Back to poker next time where I ran really good last night 4-tabling Omaha with a PLH Tourney on the side.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Freerolling on Pittwater

This was the venue for our latest Home Game on Nathan's boat in Pittwater. We pushed off at 4:30pm and landed again at 4:30am. Picking up on the Blindman's comment on the Durrr stalemate, if we'd been at the casino, the rake would have had us all broke. As it was, I ended up $170 after losing a few pots late on, including a rare significant river bluff with air that didn't come off. Good news is that The Serpent was the recipient and he looks after me. That said, I'd loaned him $50 to get back into the game a couple of hours earlier. He proceeded to turn that into $700, nice score.

Anyway, given the surroundings we were all freerolling and as always, no-one got hurt.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Durrr Challenge update

Just listened to the 2+2 Pokercast where they mentioned an interesting point. With all of the variance inherent in HU PLO and after $33M invested (including blinds), Durrr and Patrik were within $15K. Pretty amazing really. Just checked and since then my man has pulled away again, including this cool hand exemplifying playing your big PLO draws fast ...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

UK Trip Report

After a couple of weeks in cold but sunny Ireland, I have just arrived back in Australia to find that winter approacheth with the end of daylight savings. It's funny that even though the weather here never gets too bad, most people tend to still hibernate a little for winter with fewer barbies etc. This period of indooredness augers well for us poker nuts and explains why the Scandanavians kick our butts online.

My trip home was eventful to say the least and there was a lot to do. It wasn't particularly hectic, but mentally challenging all the same. I played some online poker toward the end of my trip and experienced a significant downswing. This was totally due to bad play on my part and I'm not sure if any of that can be blamed on my state of mind. Either way, I am hoping that the next chapter is much more positive and that my confidence returns. I did get the opportunity to read a few magazines and read a few 2+2 posts which provided me with a few more insights. There isn't actually a lot written about PLO yet, so my table time is allowing me to differentiate the quality of what little is out there.

One great find though is a little utility called PokerEV. PokerEV automates the analysis of the Sklansky Bucks concept on your hand histories - HE or Omaha. I fired it up and was amazed to find that I was running away ahead of expectation. The truth is that my first 10K hands I didn't actually play that well probably - I just ran good. The last 5K hands have seen that situation reverse and normal variance is catching up on me and bringing me back to earth. Like a golfer that deconstructs and rebuilds their swing, I am hoping that I can go through a period of analysis and work on my PLO theory and refine a consistent winning style that doesn't rely on running good. As I'm holding my own at 6-max PLO100 already, I'm very optimistic for the future if I can knuckle down and do the study. TAGgier style here I come.

Live action has been a more positive experience for me. I had 3 sessions when I was home, one in Banbridge and two in London. The Banbridge Bridge Club was an all nighter which worked out well because my Dad said that the country roads are dangerous at night. There was a Tourney running with 22 runners where I was chip leader with 4 left only to fall away and take 3rd position. We then started SnGs with ever diminishing numbers of players until 6 of us watched the sunrise. I managed three 1sts and a 2nd of which I was very pleased. They play deep stacked with slow blinds, so it was relatively straightforward to play a Harrington style and avoid marginal decisions for my stack. I also got an edge by claiming in the early hours that Hold'em wouldn't keep me awake so we played a PLO SnG and a mixed NLHE/PLO SnG where I had a big edge in the PLO games.

London I managed to make it to the Vic Casino which lived up to its reputation IMHO. The staff were both knowledgeable and friendly and the tables were well laid out and the area was very spacious. It was an afternoon visit and it was very quiet with the regulars grinding it away on a 5/5 NLHE table. I got on the first 1/2 NLHE table to open (which is actually a $2-$5 table in Oz). The dealers were on the ball and incident free. You are allowed to buy in deep, from memory 400GBP which seems ridiculous. I bought in for 200GBP and was a medium stack. I could only play for 2 hours so I had another 200 in my pocket. I was dealt a few half decent / speculative preflop hands in position and limped, missing my trips etc. Stack dwindled slightly but insignificantly when I found QJs in one of the blinds. The board came T95r and the preflop raiser c-bet to which I called again and found myself in a decent 3-way pot. The K was a dream card for me and I checked OOP expecting a raise but it was checked again. River blanked and a surprising thing happened - the old regular to my left couldn't wait to get his chips in, 40 of them. I hadn't acted yet and they were in already. The dealer directed the play to me and I thought about it. I checked hoping that the 3rd player would come in too (I had the nuts). He folded and now I had the option of raising which I did AI. I was insta-called (presumably trips) and tabled my straight for a healthy double up. The only downside was that the preflop raiser told me that he slowed down on the Turn because he could see that I was very happy with the K. I know that he was telling the truth so I need to work on that. Anyway, my first trip to the Vic resulted in a 186 profit or in Aussie terms almost $500.

I then met up with Stevie, Kate and Indi for dinner near Leicester Square at Browns, I highly recommend it if you are in the area. We have been friends for years and had a good old laugh mixed in with a healthy smattering of opinion and philosophy etc. The wine was flowing but I was abstaining as I planned to stay up late at the Empire. With a flight to Sydney the next morning, I like to pull an all nighter and then sleep throughout the journey. Also, hangovers on a long haul flight are no fun at all. So off we toddled about 10pm and got a table almost immediately. I was the only one playing and sat at a table of dour grinder pros which wasn't at all what I was looking for. Where are the drunk tourists? Anyway, I played a couple of orbits before exercising my table selection right and headed to the bar with my friends to people watch the casino floor. It never ceases to amaze me the amounts that people routinely gamble on -EV table games. As it neared midnight, I returned and found a much better table. Alas, I was relatively card dead and tread water for most of the session. The table broke around 4am when it goes to self-dealt (rake free), sweet. I offered to deal for everyone but the game dwindled to myself and a German online/live grinder. He wanted to play heads up but that was a boring losing proposition for me. He agreed to PLO and we played back and forward with no big pots when the table started to build up again and revert back to NLHE. Throughout all of this, I doubt if my stack went outside of the 100-300 range. Around 7am my patience paid off (I would have been broke otherwise as I really had unbelievably bad cards all night) when I was dealt KK UTG. I limped as it was pretty loose at this stage. Next player who had been ultra aggressive (partly drunk) raised to $10 and got 3 speculative callers. With $200 in front of me, I made it $50 which wasn't even a pot-sized bet. Drunk makes it $200 to go, presumably to isolate but I'm not sure that he thought that far ahead and everyone folded. His hand range was so wide, I reckon that AA was about 10% of his range and I called AI. He showed 88 and I was just trying to avoid a suckout, which I did. From there, I was able to loosen up my starting range as I was deeper stacked and I enjoyed the last hour before heading to the airport.

All up, my live play netted me over $1000 in Aussie money playing what could be considered the lowest available stakes in Europe. The joys of living in Australia. In the context of my immature loose PLO downswing, this was a big positive and a timely reminder that nitty is a hard game for others to exploit. What to do with my offline bankroll is my next challenge. The ANZPT is coming to Sydney this month and there are a number of tournamenets that I'd like to take a crack at. The Main Event is outside my bankroll and the others are probably -EV as I don't think that I'm good enough yet to place unless I run above average. That said, I've had quite a bit of casino table time and online tournies so it is probably time to combine the two and see how I go. Anyone else interested in travelling to Sydney for the smaller buy in events? It would be good to meet up. Maybe we can even pool bankrolls and winnings to reduce variance. This time next year, I hope that there will be a queue of people trying to buy a piece of my action, maybe even Stars themselves. Until then, as always, all advice and support welcome.