Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Moving up a Level

Inspired by my FR successes, I decided to actually see if it would translate to a real money buy-in PLO MTT. Alas no, I finished midway in the $11 on Stars, oscillating up and down around my starting stack. Played OK, I think.

Realising that playing for anything more than peanuts is way beyond me at this stage, I decided to grind out the 1c/2c PLO. My 4-tabling netted me a whopping $25. May try that again to see if 1c/2c is my sweet spot.

Still freerollin'

Still having a bit of a sabbatical from serious poker and I must say that my mind is clearer to think about the game. That said, tonight I'm indulging myself with another Hubble Freeroll on Stars, this time PLO with 6066 starters.

At the first break I am 142nd of 1094. I got lucky just then hitting my gutshot for a 6-card straight flush 234567, gotta love PLO.

OK 4 hours later - on another break and I'm 12th of 86 and very happy with my play. Lost most of my chips at one stage in a big hand - can't recall why but I wasn't unhappy with my play. A couple of hero calls where I just couldn't put opp on anything but a missed FD and they were all right. Got respect for my min-raises from the tourney leader 2 seats to my left. Small ball min-raise aggression built my stack right up again. Overall, very pleased even though it is a freeroll with nothing at stake. Update: Finished 31st fo a 2nd ticket.

It struck me that most people are well capable of becoming winning players at some level; its just a case of being realistic at what that level is. For me it seems to be Freerolls for now :-(

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Why I Play Poker

Some time ago, I wrote to Adam at "Rounders the Poker Show" and suggested a topic for discussion - How to use forums more efficiently. I agree with Laff's comment to my last post that it just isn't a productive use of time (a finite resource for those of us with families and work commitments). That said, there is a wealth of valuable knowledge nuggets hidden away there and worth finding.

To address this, I take my hat off to PokerRoad and their Red Pro Strategy forum ... all wheat, no chaff. With only quality posts and discussions it is a phenomenal resource. In my attempt to get a URL to include, I happened upon this recent post on Shoving Mathematics.

As I will never reach this heightened level of understanding of the game (but can absolutely appreciate and respect it), I know that poker can stimulate me academically for a long time to come so long as I keep it fun and serious.

In summary, this is why I play poker!

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Wisdom of Crowds

James Surowiecki argues in his book The Wisdom of Crowds that the aggregation of information in groups, results in better decisions than could have been made by any single member of the group. In terms of poker, it is clear that 2+2 can solve the challenge of optimal poker strategy far more quickly than a dozen or more of the top professionals, experienced experts in their field, ever could. Similarly, the exposition of the UB scandal when the crowd garnered and aggregated tiny components of knowledge was incredible and a testament to "crowd-sourcing".

I've been an advocate of this thinking for a couple of years now in business and am convinced that the discipline of crowd-sourcing, leveraging social media technologies, will be increasingly important. I'm a big fan of Betfair too. Apart from the ability to "play the bookie", at any point in time, it is the most reliable of who is going to win an election, Idol or the FA Cup Final. According to wikipedia, Betfair is the world's biggest prediction exchange, with around $28 billion traded in 2007.

The English Premier League has just finished and I've been involved in a Footy Tipping Comp. I know very, very little about the EPL, but I know how to find out who is favourite to win - Betfair. Last night, Man Utd reserves (title was already won) took on Hull City (fighting for survival) at Hull. How could I possibly evaluate the relative strengths of those two teams from the other side of the world. Don't need to, according to Betfair, Utd were a slight favourite to win as was borne out with their 0-1 victory.

By picking the favourites all year (I never picked one draw, its never the favourite) I just managed to scrape home ahead of 2nd place by one point. He occassionally varied his tips when the home and away teams were both the same odds, he'd pick the draw. Over the season, we both ended up well ahead of the other experts. The buy in was $50 each with 26 entrants and 3 places paid. I think that my 1st spot wins about $700, don't really know. I just know that it is always +EV to follow Betfair as the system is almost unbeatable. Certainly attempts to beat the wisdom of crowds is -EV.

Poker thought of the day ... whilst it is essential to mix up your play, don't ever succomb to Fancy Play Syndrome because it is always -EV.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Bootstrapping my Stars account

I've taken a massive downswong on my online roll of late and now need to go back to microstakes to build it up. So bad that I just entered the Hubble FR on Stars with 9000 entrants. If I get in the top 72 I win a place in another $2000 FR.

A number of the successful online pros take shots way beyond their rolls, knowing that if they don't make it that they can always go back to grinding it. I'm not so sure. It's really tough bringing anything close to your A-game to these micro stakes. I'll let you know how I go. Right now, I'm 28th out of 5523 runners left.

Positional updates 58/4633; 98/4037; 141/3509; 203/2632; 704/1409; 636/1150; 153/815; 118/750; 91/650; (hurt badly blind vs blind bluff) 268/537; 223/493; 81/443; 97/410; 107/364 at 2nd break.

In parallel, I've been playing a $4.40 Limit O/8 with 153 runners, paying 36 places. The flat structures certainly keep the money in the pond generating rake. I'm not complaining at this stage as I try to get back to winning ways. I'm currently 24th of76. Fingers crossed.

Back to the Hubble FR 120/340; 125/290; got lucky with QQ hitting trips 25/266; chipleader just donked off half his stack with triple barrel on 27499r, I had A7 and the barrels were getting very big, now 4/206; 7/179; 9/163; 14/154; avg stack 90K, I have $190K; 20/135 closing in ... need to stay away from big stacks and steal where I can; ... another break 29/123; 24/109; 27/100; 36/94 (did I clam up too soon?); AA dbl up to 6/92; 8/86 almost home ...; 19/78 one of those spots where you can fold AA preflop ...; woo hoo made it in 19th position. Looks like Stars play on! 24/48; Finished 41st and won my ticket into another FR. Oh for a BR.

And back to PLO/8 20/66; 23/61; 26/57; Limit goes so slowly in comparison; 29/53; 30/51; 12/48; another break 19/42; 12/39; (pf raise with A245) 4/31; 5/27; 5/21; 6/19; 6/14; single tabling and concentrating now 9/13; bugga that was a mistake - finished 12th flopping middle flush and 35 Lo in BB. 2nd best twice hurts in this game.

2 out of 2 cashes for $5 profit!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Why play poker?

At one point, my daughter had wanted to do Family Law as a career. "Why would you want to surround yourself with that much heartache?" was the obvious parental response. Thankfully, she is now planning a different career path.

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? It is time consuming and as I am in a full-time job, that encroaches on family and exercise time. Presumably then, it must provide us with benefits too (or as rational creatures we wouldn’t do it).

Personally, 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. It is also a healthy outlet for exercising what modicum of intellect I have in a competitive arena.

What value do you derive from your poker journey?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

World Press Photo 09

It's easy to forget that there is a big world out there.

World Press Photo '09 is currently exhibiting at the NSW State Library and is well worth a visit. I've checked out the online equivalents and they don't translate, for example, this shot was simply amazing in person.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Poker Cruise 2

I had a very enjoyable poker cruise on Friday but the result feels like a bit of a non-event; reinforcing the concept of the utility of money and the fact that wins don't bring nearly as much joy as losses bring lows.

Surprisingly on this trip, most people ended up winning, probably 6 winners and 4 losers. Usually, we have a couple of people gather most of the chips by the end of the night (symptom of alcohol, triple-barrelling and a propensity to call massive overbets). For some reason though, the money seemed to circulate more on Friday.

Our land-based host has been having a bad run and on Friday he just seemed to be playing in the moment and played extremely well all night to be a $400 winner. He picked his spots and seemed to be right every time he had to make a marginal decision.

One notable loser on the night was our only "internet kid" who had been looking forward to his first poker cruise and a crack at the rich oldies. No-one was happy at the fact that he was the one that could least afford to lose the money. In reality though, he didn't adjust well to the crazy and often unpredictable nature of our home game. A valuable investment as a lesson learned early in his career. No doubt, he’ll be back.

As for me, things started well on the very first hand with quad Kings almost tripling up. The games are wild and I was relatively card dead for the next couple of hours. I can recall a number of good lay-downs on the flop with 2nd pair, and TPGK etc. With an average of 5 to the flop, it plays like a Limit game with your stack always at risk, where you really do need the best hand at showdown. Massive over-bets get called, so its very difficult to knock people out. Somehow, I managed to play sufficiently tight/weak to slowly leak away my stack over a barren period lasting several hours.

My second buy-in fared better and grew steadily until a critical hand when I managed to limp in with 99 in early position. Flop of Q74r was checked around and then the 9 came on the turn, I led out with a modest $5 bet into $7 or so in the middle, MP raiser made it $50 (which is just the kind of game that it is). I was genuinely afraid of the QQ because the raiser knows that I play fairly tight into multi-way pots, although he did seem tilty on the night. Being a cash game, the AI shove for another $70 was relatively straightforward and if I'm behind, I'm behind. He had Q7 and had let me get there on the Turn which was a costly mistake. My trips held up and I was in a very healthy position to safely pick my spots again. When we docked at 2am, I had booked an uneventful $150 win, enjoyed gourmet sandwiches courtesy of one of the players and laughed all night.

The banter was great as usual, which is what real poker is all about. Roll on the next home game which looks like 3 weeks away.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

First ever PLO8 Final Table

I can't recall cashing in PLO8 before, but I seem to be getting the hang of the game a little more. Tonight I was wary of bubbling and when I got in the money I realised that I was still losing - $4.40 to enter, 99 runners and 27th paid $3.96. At the second break I was 8/23, needing a top 18 to turn a pofit of 55c.

Soon after break flop FH to put me in 4th of 23. Limits going up 600/1200 and I'm 6/20 with only 8000 in chips, card dead. Couple of good hands picked up the blinds and I find myself the shortest stack at the final table. 30mins later, bugga, another break and still hanging about with only 2.5BB left. Shoulda gone AI and got to sleep - chip and a chair tho'. Still 9 of us at Final Table. Not any more ... profit $3.52 and a lot of fun.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pub Poker - Strategy Question

$15 + $10 rebuy - 32 Starters, paying 3 spots.
Payout structure is $75, $150 and $250.

Blinds are 5K/10K and we're down to the last 4:
- UTG 8K
short-stack for some time, doubled thru blinds twice
- Button 41K
was short stack but just tripled up
- SB $80K
has only been playing a few weeks and playing a wide range preflop
- BB (Hero) 41K
has tightened up a little on the bubble with high blind structure

UTG folds, Button min-raises to 20K, SB folds. I look down and find AQo in the BB. What should I do, and why?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Jesse Takes a Shot

Rangers 1 - Celtic 0 - Now that's a bad beat!

Just wanted to point you toward a blog that I follow Jesse Taking a Shot. Jesse had a career at Oracle that he has swapped for a crack at professional poker. Not the glamorous TV Tourney stuff, but the more traditional live Californian Card Room limit games. It's a series of very interesting stories and thoughtful perspectives like Jesse's most recent post on 'Poker is like Golf'.

I've also taking the liberty of transcribing one of his Bay 101 conversations into a movie by XtraNormal.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Importance of Poker Buddies.

... or Sky City gets the better of me once again, this time with superior poker skills.

It's amazing when you hear stories from the professionals, how the met playing backgammon in New York or even Tennis in Scandanavia. Either, they're all leveraging the same connections to become famous or, as the results would indicate, their results are for the most part superior to the rest of us and they've learned quicker as a group. My recent experiences at the ANZPT and Sky City Auckland have reinforced this concept in my mind.

Recapping the ANZPT, I felt a sense of anticipation in the lead up and I wanted to do well, as reflected a few posts ago. I met or exceeded my expectations in terms of results and was suitably chuffed (you'll be pleased to know that my cockiness has been well and truly been knocked out of me coming back to earth at the felt which is a great leveller). Anyway, at the Sunday Deep Stack Event, it struck me that my anticipation was nothing to the excitement that a quarter of the field were enjoying having brought their partners along to share the experience. There was another quarter that it was just another day at the office. For me, I was in the middle which isn't a bad place to be because it means that you're still appreciating it. From a results and expectation perspective though, I have a long way to go yet and it's unlikely that I'd get there on my own.

Now what really struck me was that over the week where I played only 2 days, albeit 12 hours plus both times, you do get talking to a lot of other players. And by the Main Event where I turned up briefly to spectate, I was involved in conversations with a lot of the top Aussie Pros. People know people and just by being there, you get right in the middle of all sorts of hand analysis, comments on tells that were spotted, partnerships being formed for the upcoming teams event, media reporting, playing styles of specific individuals, who to watch out for and who to take advantage of, various home games that go on, etc. etc. It was really harder to avoid being in the middle of it all. How then can you not succeed?

And so to Sky City Auckland where I played all night. With the time difference, I can either leave in the afternoon to get a flight, or first thing the next morning. My preference is to do the latter, which means setting the alarm very early. If you stay out to midnight, it's hardly worth going to bed. And as someone who has been known to sleep under telephone booths in Euston Station, beaches in Greece etc, the thought of a hotel room lying essentially unoccupied seems like a waste. Extrapolating this line of thinking, I play to the poker room closes, get a cab to the airport in time for the opening of the Qantas Club at 5am. A couple of hours snooze there and then a 3 hour flight to Sydney where I manage to sleep the whole way - sweet.

Anyway, last night when I sat down, there were no recreational players, NONE! Hardly a +EV spot with a load of grinders. But you know what, the best players aren't grinders either, their gamblers at heart and that's who turned up for the most part. There were the long faces grinding out their $200 / night on the $60-$100 BI NLHE tables, where I started. But then a tournament started with $100 entry, 3000 starting stack and 20 minute blinds. Almost every one of the 50 competitors had been to Sydney and the ANZPT. I now understood all of their stories and could join in. I got respect at the table and actually started well, thanks to good cards. I didn't cash though and that wasn't the point of the story anyway. The point was, I was being accepted into this group and hearing stuff that I only get access to on PokerCasts. But this time it was current. The hand analysis was refining thinking that I'd only just experienced and drawn my own conclusions too. But these guys were noticing things that I hadn't really thought about.

For example, I had AA one time, with about 6000 in chips, blinds were 100/200. EP raiser made it 600 and MP limped. I was on the button, happy days. I thought about my betsize, and I was sure that 1500 would have got two aggressive callers. I made it 1850 to draw some attention to the bet. I nearly got the desired single caller but both folded which I wasn't too unhappy with as my stack was growing just nicely. But then a player not involved in the hand said "Nice squeeze play". I know that he was probably just fishing for confirmation, but it struck me that this was a squeeze play. I'd never really thought of it like that before the bet, but subconsciously that is what I was doing. And I hadn't even formalised it in my head after the action, but it was a genuine squeeze play. Just by drawing it to my attention, I thought about it more and it did crystalise my thinking on the move for similar situations in the future. A small example of how being in the community helps you improve.

I'm just not getting that to nearly the same extent online, on 2+2 or even to be truthful this blog. If this was a business, I'd have to say that the ROI just isn't there. That said, it isn't a business today, its a (sometimes very) challenging hobby that I really enjoy. In that regard, following the half dozen or so blogs that I do really does cheer me up, so it has got to be +EV. I just wish the LSG was back blogging again though. Those were the days.

So I was $100 after busting out and still a few hours to go before my flight (I didn't want to go busto on my kiwi dollars). I went to look at sitting at a table and there was a $1/$2 PLO game going. These were the very experienced online and live PLO specialists. Their home games also include Omaha/8. I was way out of my depth but if I bought in short stacked and played really tight preflop and picked my spots post flop, I should be able to do OK with not too much risk. Nice theory until I got it all in with a Turned A high Flush only to get sucked out on with a straight flush on the river. Ah well, there goes the first $100 chip. I took another out of my pocket and am pleased to report that this lasted me until the poker room closed. The education that I received though was second to none.

At the table was a German guy (I think) called Andy who could have come across as arrrogant to plenty and was commentating incessantly. He was by far the best LAG there. But he also analysed every hand after the pot. He'd also call (pretty accurately) the hands that people had, which I actualy think is easier in PLO as there is less bluffing and the range is narrowed by the flop betting a lot. He clashed with another guy who was a gambling NLHE LAG but very little clue about PLO. In the pursuit of all of his chips, he lost several BIs, but by cash out time, he'd way more than recovered them; nice work.

In the early hours, we got shorthanded, down to 6 but the banter continued and I got a whole new persective on how to play PLO. Spots where Andy would explain to the table that if you fire there he just can't call. I think that with a few more sessions like this, my game would come on in leaps and bounds, but I write this post back home and all alone in the absence of live poker buddies to discuss strategy with. I always have you guys though.

I'll leave it there, but without the opportunity to live amongst living, breathing poker players on a regular basis, I'm convinced that I'll never win a bracelet. Truth is that even if I did do it all day every day, it just isn't in me to be that bracelet winner anyway probably. Highest percentage of Cashing will do me just fine. If I could acquire a modicom of the BCG's discipline, I reckon that I can get that to 50%.

Well that is today's rant, but I'd certainly be interested to hear of anyone that has similar or contrary, thoughts and experiences.

PS The next Poker Cruise will be on Pittwater on May 15th if anyone can make it to Sydney for then, there are still 2 spots available.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Enjoying Live Poker in Wellington

Wellington is the capital of New Zealand, situated at the southwestern tip of the North Island with a population of 400,000. Unlike other kiwi cities it doesn't have a casino, so it was a pub poker night in JJ Murphy's.

There was an interesting twist that I hadn't encountered before. Basically, you get unlimited chip stamps for every beer purchased. Like beer pong, there would be an optimal strategy based on coherence. An interesting twist indeed.

Andrew and I were in town with work and needed a meal anyway, so we killed 3 birds with one stone. I started in the BB and checked my option with Qc4c. When folp came Tc6c3c it looked like it might be my night. SB bet, I raised and got 2 callers, including the SB. Turn came 7c and the SB overbets the pot for more than half of his stack. I thought about it and my read if anything told me that it was probably a rash bluff. Discretion being the better part of valour, and trying to practice ICM eventhough I hadn't as yet had a full explanation, I folded fearing the Ac or Kc. He never showed, so we'll never know. But I was still alive.

Two hands later, I'm on the button with AJ and it is limped around to me who just calls. Flop comes JT4r and it is limped around to me who also bets the pot and gets 2 callers. Turn is a K, first to act checks and then villain bets half his stack which was again a massive overbet to the table. I thought about it once more and decided that I didn't need to bust out this early with not even TPTK anymore. Evening not looking so hot.

From there I was in shortstack mode which is really quite a simple equation. AI or fold. Several limpers when I had KK preflop, All in, one caller with AK. I triple up. AI with 99 to mutliple limpers and everyone folded. Long story short, I built up my stack to about 3rd or 4th in chips. Blinds were doubling every 15 mins, so the games are over very quickly in Wellington. With 12 players left on 2 tables and 3 places paid, I was UTG with AT, pushed AI (7BB) and was called by BB who had AJ and that was me eliminated from the tourney. The food was great, company was good and Tui Beer is actually a very nice drop.

Andrew had an opposite strategy playing tight and doubling up with premium hands. He made it onto the final table relatively easily but was short stacked most of the evening (without losing a hand) and by this stage was effectively crippled. Got it in with K6s and when the board failed to improve he too was on the rail and we were back in work mode preparing for the next day's presentation.

Pleased to report that the presentation on Enterprise 2.0 went well and I'm off to the airport once more. Farewell Wellington! Auckland next and the crasian gamblefest that is Sky City.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


Thanks to a separate comment by Laff, I'm very aware that I don't even understand the implications of Independent Chip Modeling or Stack to Pot Ratios, so at least there is lots of room for improvement.

If anyone out there (read, either of you) know of any good links for in depth explanations of the implications of these concepts, please feel free to leave the links as comments for me and anyone else that may be bored enough to stumble across this post in the future. Maybe my kids, eh?