Friday, September 30, 2005

Hand Strength

What’s the first thing that goes through your head when you look down to find pocket aces?

“I should win this hand.”
“I’m going to win this hand.”
“How big a pot will I win?”

(“Great, I’ll get sucked out on again.” – if you’re running bad)

Yours truly used to be guilty as charged.  As Captian Obvious would say, pocket Aces are the strongest starting hand in hold ‘em and should win most of the time.  It’s that thought that leads to feelings of entitlement.  In G-Rob TV-voice: “I’m entitled to win that pot, I’ve just been dealt pocket aces.”

But they don’t always win, do they?

What determines hand strength?  Not STARTING hand strength, but hand strength overall.  Sure, your two hole cards represent part of it, but not all of it.  Those pesky community cards sure account for quite a bit of your FINAL hand strength don’t they?

(Aside:  I seem to be asking a bunch of questions here….)

Whether you’re playing limit or no-limit hold ‘em, the cost of seeing additional cards as the hand progresses gets bigger and bigger.  If your final hand strength is going to rely on those final two cards, the turn and river, then you’re going to have to pay to see them.  And in limit hold ‘em, often times people do.

Those pocket aces you had many times remain just that over the course of the entire hand – a pair of aces.  When the major component of your FINAL hand strength lies in your starting cards, sometimes it’s easy to forget that the board plays an even larger role in everyone else’s final hand strength.

Part of the reason I favor no-limit over limit poker is that you have more control over which components of hand strength people get to use.  After all, your first two cards represent only 29% of the cards potentially available for you to use.


I’ve thought more about playing high pocket pairs recently and determined that I’ve overvalued them.  Especially non-ace pocket pairs, since they are so vulnerable to an overcard on the board.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been able to lay down pocket aces after the flop on two occasions.  I don’t think I could have done that a year ago.  It’s interesting still to see players who can’t lay them down.  And after they see you busted them with 67s, their shattered thoughts of entitlement lead them down a path I’ve worn thin.  Sometimes it’s good to be on the road less traveled.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Well, this certainly doesn't suck

Poker Championship

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

This event is powered by PokerStars.

Registration code: 5887815

A Night at the Tank's

Lately, the decision whether or not to play live poker has come at the last minute.  In a previous post I wrote about how my excitement level for playing has diminished and why I thought that was a good thing.  Last night, the same thing happened.  I’d known about a local G-Vegas $20 tourney for a few days but had not committed to playing.  Forty-five minutes beforehand, I got approval from the Mrs to go and decided to play.

Frank the Tank was our host and this tourney would have G-Vegas legends G-Rob, The Axeman, Otit (not Otis), and The Mark in attendence, so I really had no choice.  We had 12 players, a starting stack of T1550 and a suprisingly decent structure.  I was more enthusiastic about seeing the crew than playing, and again, that turned out to be a good thing.


Initially though, good things were hard to come by.  Playing at a 6-handed table, I was getting next to nothing in the way of cards.  The player to my left had been dealt AA three times in about ten hands and built an early lead when he eliminated another player who had QQ.  Oddly, they both flopped sets.

G-Rob played his A-game early on, taking advantage of other’s weaknesses and was the table chip leader after the first break.  We would condense to one table at 8 players and I was struggling to survive.  I hadn’t been above the starting chip count at any point in the first hour.

Whittled down to T500 and with the blinds at T100/200, I found pocket 5’s UTG and did what everyone with half a poker brain would have done – push.  Much to my surprise, I got called by the second shortest stack.  Further still to my surprise, G-Rob on the BB re-raised the caller all-in.  I figured I was behind.

I was.

The original caller had A7s, but G-Rob had pocket J’s.  The flop came TT9, and with a 3 on the turn, I was reduced to 2 outs.

Rather than tell you what the river was, I’ll let you the reader figure it out.  G-Rob won the side pot.


I brought my T1500 to the final table and was thankful to be at a full table.  As a short stack, I’d get to see more hands per blind and I could hopefully do something, anything, to get some chips.

Get some chips…what a concept.  I did not find a single situation in which I had a shot to do so.  Rather, the table chip leader went on a run.  First, G-Rob bluffed off all of his chips to the chip leader.  I certainly can’t criticize the play, against most players, he would have pulled it off.  The flop was A22 and G-Rob check raised the flop, bet the turn hard, and went all in the river.  He was called down by someone holding A4.

When the chip leader wasn’t calling people down, he was putting them all-in with pocket K’s and pocket A’s.  To this point, the pocket 5’s I had earlier was my best starting hand.

Oscillating between T1100 and T1400 for a while, all of a sudden I realized something.

I was in the money.


We were three handed, I had fewer chips than I started the tournament with, and I wasn’t even the short stack.  Crazy.

Otit, who was the short stack, finally pushed with a hand.  The big stack folded and I found pocket 5’s again in the big blind.  I called and won the race against QJ.  It was at this point that I found myself above the starting chip stack for the very first time.  Still, I liked my chances.


Outchipped 9-to-1, there wasn’t much strategy involved.  My opposition really didn’t know how to play a big stack head to head.  Rather than constantly putting me all-in, he’d limp in the small blind and let me see a flop.

Five or six hands later, he was only leading 2-1 and things were looking up.

Unlike the hand with G-Rob earlier, I got all my chips in with the lead.  I had pocket 8’s and the chip leader who limp-reraised with ATo called my over-the-top all-in.

The flop was kind, as was the turn.

Alas, the Ace on the river ended my comeback and I was relegated to 2nd place.  I certainly couldn’t complain however, this was certainly one of the most unusual tourney I’d ever played in.


Oddly, today will be the first Thursday in ages where I won’t either attend or host a home game.  I’m less excited to play, but playing better as a result.  I’m still not sure what that means, eventually I may figure it out.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

If I Were To Win...

Well, our state Lotto jackpot is up over $150 million again.  I’ll purchase some tickets of my own, but the real fantasy would be if our small office pool of numbers wins.

My suggestion was to keep about 2-3 million to the side and give it to the winner of the following contest:

Rather than have the lot of us walk out of our jobs en masse, we’d see who could get fired first.  Getting fired without getting arrested would be quite a challenge.  There are tried and true methods of getting fired, but many of them take time, thus the challenge to be the first.


When I buy my ticket, I’m going to yell to the cashier behind the counter “One time, cashier!!!!  One time!!!”

Sad part is that the cashier will be able to give me whatever numbers I want.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Expect the Unexpected

It was a normal Friday.  Had lunch at Hooters with the Axeman, skipped out on working out because of a late poker session the previous night, and left work before 6pm.  I tooled around the house for a bit, played with the miniBloods and listened to Mrs_Blood recount her day.  Then my cellphone rang.

I didn’t expect any calls, but I soon came to my senses and realized that this weekend was the Bash at the Boathouse.  ‘twas Al.  And he was wasted.  Duh.

I was eager for a dial-a-shot since I couldn’t make it up to Philly this year.  With my trip to Cali for my friend’s wedding, a trip to Florida to visit the ‘rents, and a looming December Vegas trip, I simply had not the funds to support a trip up to the Boathouse.  I was bummed, mainly because so many people made it to Brad-o-ween.  Not going to the Bash was borderline criminal.

Al didn’t call for a dial-a-shot, he called to gamble.  The negotiations began with Al claiming he had enough cash in front of him to fly the entire Blood clan to Philly.  Not only could I not accept that offer due to the inordinate expense, but miniBlood was just getting over a stomach flu that made him stay home from school that day.  Not a good combination – stomach flu and flying.

Al changed his tactics, obviously smarter than he looks.  He asked to speak to Mrs_Blood and asked her if he paid for the flight, would I be able to come?  I told Mrs_Blood that he probably wasn’t bluffing, so if she said yes, be prepared for the inevitability of Al following through with his ludicrous offer.  Mrs_Blood looked me straight in the eye and said yes.


I still didn’t believe him.  I figured flight costs had to be through the roof and since Al was drunk, he’d be easily distracted and forget.  Just for kicks, I logged onto Orbitz and did a search.  Like I suspected, many flights were $800 and above.  Except 1.  There it was, a direct flight for $158.  Ten minutes later, Al called back and said I was booked.  Lord help me.


I’m not a very spontaneous person.  Perhaps it’s my conservative nature, perhaps it’s the fact that I’m something of a control freak.  When someone asks me to do something major (like travelling) on the spur of the moment, my first reaction is to say “Hold on a second, let’s think this through.”

Looking back on my life though, some of the most enjoyable experiences have been those that happened without much forethought or planning.  This past weekend was one of them.


The flight up to Philly was uneventful.  And that means it was perfect.  The iPod had been loaded up with some new CD purchases and I was good to go.

(To the metal faithful:  Devildriver – The Fury of Our Maker’s Hand, The Black Dahlia Murder – Miasma, and Pro-Pain – Prophets of Doom.)

Eva and Otis picked me up and we were off to the boathouse for some early afternoon drinking and poker.  I won’t get too much into the poker, but it was a blast playing outside in perfect weather with the perfect company:  Otis, Bobby Bracelet, Helixx, Joaquin and his two buddies Mike and John, Steve (Daddy), Steve (StB), Pauly, Derek, Jason and his lovely wife Rachel, F-Train, Carter, Landow, and everyone else who I hopefully haven’t forgotten.


I think there was some drinking.  And boobies.  But don’t quote me.  I do remember the metal band rocking the house at the end.  Did Otis fall?  Second hand stories tell me he cheated and used a bar stool to keep himself steady whenever he walked anywhere.


On Sunday morning, I found out that Mrs_Blood had a home game without me.  At my table.  With my chips!  She had 9 people show up.  That’s more than I can gather.  Not surprisingly, people like her better.  And not surprisingly, she owes G-Rob $50.


Al gets his fair share of press, without a doubt.  But I want to take a moment and give some props to his good friend Big Mike.  I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone so bighearted.  His capacity for drinking is only matched by his capacity for generosity.

Big Mike made sure everyone was covered on their drink bill at the Bash.  I don’t want to get into too many details, but Big Mike is the one that made my trip happen.  And for that, I am truly indebted.

Al had told us how impossible it is to actually pay for anything whenever Big Mike is around.  It is so very true.  I had to employ stealth technology in order to pay for breakfast on Sunday morning.  It was the least I could do.

I also contributed when I could to the worthy cause that drives the Bash at the Boathouse each year.  Since drinks were paid for, I felt that I could at least tip the bartenders liberally.  So that’s what I did.


And last but not least, a big heartly thank you to the force that drives the CantHang Experience, Evanne.  She made sure Otis and I had rides to and from the airport and made sure our stuff got to the right hotel room.  A finer hostess cannot be had.

****Thanks to everyone who I saw, it was a terrific weekend made only better by the terrific company.  Next year, I’ll book early.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

River Dragon Redux

I caught this from Pauly’s blog this morning:

1:05am... G-Vegas celebrities "The Mark" and his lovely wife "The River Queen" just arrived at the Borgata to play some poker.

4:14am... Gavin Smith sat down at the same table as the River Queen and the Mark. It's a $1/2 NL table but it's late and Gavin had been drinking. Anyway, the River Queen sucked out on Gavin! She spiked a flush on the river.

Somehow, Otis and I feel just a little better about life.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Solitary Solitude

The Dates:

Wednesday – October 19th
Thursday – October 20th

The Place:

The Palms Casino Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada

The Reason:

I have to go to a friend’s wedding in San Jose on Friday/Saturday 21st/22nd.  The marginal cost of an additional two days in Vegas was only $150.

Book it.

Stuff to do:


Prep WorkDon’t lose bankroll in next 4 weeks.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

65th out of 67

Ah yes, classic WPBT tournament for me.  I can sum it up in three basic hands.

Called a short stack’s all-in with pocket 5’s.  He shows 67s and turns a 6.
Called the same short stack’s all-in with AJo.  He shows the suited hammer.  Rivers a 7.
And then, in an unraised pot holding KQ, I see a KKx flop.  I think I’m good, but by the river, I end up all-in against a slow-played AK.  D’oh!

And that’s all she wrote.  Man I suck at these things.  Off to the cash games!

More Positive Feedback

As is my policy, time to spread the word about more positive customer service experiences.

My first set of plastic cards arrived last Christmas; they were paisley patterned KEM cards and I really liked them.  Earlier this past year, I bought some Copag cards as well and found them to be just as nice.  After playing with plastic cards, you can never go back.

Whenever I find a decent deal on either KEM’s or Copag’s, I’ll snap them up.  I found a set of the arrow-patterned KEM cards at my local mall at Mori Luggage and began using them frequently.  In fact, some of you may have played with them at Otis’ Bradoween tournament.

Two weeks ago, Tommy the Axeman noticed that the 4 of hearts was crimped in the corner.  I was a bit disappointed as they hadn’t lasted that long.  I went online in search of a card replacement policy and couldn’t find one.  KEM had been bought out by the US Playing Card company and their website only showed a guarantee for Bee’s, Bicycle’s and other cards they manufactured.  Nothing for KEM’s.

Since I had nothing to lose, I followed the instructions anyway and sent off the crimped card and the Ace of Spades from the damaged deck to the address at the US Playing card website.  I didn’t expect much.

I’m one to always have low expectations, that way, I’m rarely disappointed.  Consider my reaction when yesterday, a package arrived in the mail containing a BRAND spanking new set of arrow-patterned KEM cards.

Rock on baby.  FREE!

Now I have a back up deck in case any of those cards gets crimped.  I am pleased, very pleased with this response.

Friday, September 16, 2005


In 1984, I applied for a job at a local supermarket.  Bagging groceries wasn’t the best job a sophomore in high school could get, but some of the cashiers working there were pretty smoking.  One of my classmates already worked there and said he’d get my application to his boss.  I was a pretty dorky 16-year old and had no idea what the implications were when I wrote down “comic book collecting” as one of my hobbies on the application form.

After a couple of weeks without hearing anything, I asked my friend what the hold up might be.  He told me that after reading through the details of my submission, most everyone had a good laugh at my expense.  Comic book collecting indeed.


Perhaps that’s why last night’s home game put me on the biggest tilt I’ve ever been on.  It wasn’t the bad beats; we’ve all had them.  But since we’re here, let just review them real quick.  A poker blog without a bad beat story is like getting a 10-piece McNugget value meal without the hot mustard sauce.

AA vs. Q9 – straight on the river – REBUY!!!
KK vs. J9 – straight on the river – CRIPPLED
JJ vs. 74 – straight on the flop – REBUY!!!

All within the first hour of play, I’d had 3 premium hands busted and was out $120.  But that’s not what put me on tilt.

It was the laughing.


With all my strength, I kept quiet.  I was in a no-win situation.  The culprit was none other than Mrs_Blood.  On the last two of the bad beats, she had been sweating The Mark’s cards and got no small level of enjoyment seeing his questionable calls and plays pay off.

I don’t mind losing to The Mark; I have before and I will again.  But the combination of losing (in rapid fire succession) and the wife’s seeming enjoyment of the goings on led me straight into unknown territory.  Even though there were 4 more hours of poker to be played, I was done.


Deep down, I know she wasn’t laughing at me losing.  She said so and I believe her.  She was laughing at how The Mark was hitting flops with his hands.  She didn’t realize how I would perceive her reaction, but that’s not important.

The important lesson for me was realizing there is still uncharted territory out there for me in tilt control.  Last night, I was non-recoverable.


G-Rob IM’d me after all was said and done, alerting me to the blogger table on Stars.  I logged on and watched for a few minutes, but my mood was too sour to even make my presence known in the chat box.  How dare anyone have a good time on my watch.  I steamed for another hour in bed before I finally crashed.


I keep certain life experiences filed away for later use.  Even the negative ones can be turned into a positive.  The comic book collecting incident has fueled many workouts, you’d be surprised how useful inner rage is when you’re under a few hundred pounds.

Last night’s incident will be filed away for future use and eventually, just maybe, I’ll turn it into a positive.  It will obviously take some time because even as I end this post, the tilt from last night still smolders deep below the surface.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Real Slim Doodles - Please Stand Up

While the saga of Doodles had a happy ending, there was still some unfinished business to which I needed to attend.  Determining what happened to the original Doodles was an important task; it would help reduce the chance of a repeat occurrence.

Clues were tough to come by.  A seemingly innocuous comment in the original post left a tiny trail.  Someone with the Bill Reynolds pseudonym made a threat to the safety of the original Doodles and attempted to extract a ransom from me.  Not being one to negotiate, I ignored the message.  But could there be some truth behind the comment?  Prudence would dictate I investigate further.

I traced the IP address of that commenter back to an ISP in Indiana.  As is the norm, ISP’s simply don’t give out customer information to the general public.  I needed to do a bit of social engineering to find out who was behind the dastardly deed.  I have operatives in many states across the country, the Bloodclan is tight.

Within a few hours, I had a name.  A chill rode the length of my spine as some of my suspicions were confirmed.  The party in question was someone I didn’t want to mess with.

Desperate times called for desperate measures.  I was going to have to get this “SnailTrax” person $10,000.  I had roughly $2000 worth of working capital and needed to quintuple it up soon to avoid having any harm come to the original Doodles.  I thought about buying lottery tickets, but then I realized I’m not a scratch-ticket blogger.

I took my two grand to the NL tables at Party.  Unlike Mike McD from Rounders, I knew that putting my entire bankroll on the line at once was risky business.

The first thirty minutes were uneventful, but I did manage to chip up to nearly $2500, still far short of my $10,000 goal.  Another big stack at the table had over $4000, but from what I could tell, he was catching some cards and wasn’t necessarily a player to fear.  Thankfully, when I flopped the nut straight, the big stack pushed with his flush draw and didn’t hit.  I was up to over $5000 - I just needed to double up again.

When I saw pocket Kings, my heart may have skipped a beat.  The big stack had more than doubled up again and had me outchipped by a few hundred dollars.  Big stack was UTG and raised big.  Folded around to me, I re-raised.  Big stack pushed and I called.  When I saw his hole cards, I was heartbroken.  Pocket Aces.

But wait, I’d cracked Aces before with Kings, just ask April.  Sadly, the flop was rainbow undercards and hope for any kind of runner-runner flush suckout was dashed.  The odds of finding the original Doodles was becoming more and more slim with each new card hitting the board.

Paint on the river!  False alarm, it was a Queen.

What’s this?  The pot is heading my direction?  Confused, I re-read the board.  4J9TQ – I had caught runner-runner straight!  I immediately clicked sit-out and couldn’t believe my eyes, my avatar was sitting with $10,368 in front of it.  Doodles had a chance.


My operative in Indiana assured me that “Bill Reynolds” was indeed a dangerous man.  With no small bit of hesitation and uncertainty, I completed the transfer to the Party Poker account “SnailTrax.”  I could only hope that my gesture of goodwill would ensure the safety of the original Doodles.


Epilogue based in reality:  Mrs_Blood found the original Doodles yesterday in the dryer.  Apparently, Doodles got caught up in a pile of clothes and was washed and dried inadvertantly.  We debated pulling another switcheroo, but ms.Mini was more than aware how clean Doodles had become.  “Mommy, whoever washed Doodles cleaned it better than you!  Feel how soft she is.”

We put the original Doodles into ms.Mini’s keepsake box along with her baptism gown and other memories chronicling her early years.  We’ll tell her the truth when she gets older and we’ll hopefully all have a laugh.  But inside that keepsake box, there’s an old, worn, stuffed pink frog smiling.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Misc. Notes

- I think I fixed the formatting of the template that was causing the unecessarily long scrolling to either get to the first post or get to the next series of posts. I be dumb.

- Thanks for all the kind words about Doodles. ms.Mini bought the story all the way. We recommended she keep an eye on her favorite toys and perhaps leave them in the safety of our house in the future.

- Vegas. I have a wedding to go to in October. It's in San Francisco, but I may get 1 day in Vegas out of the deal. My tentative plans are to arrive Thursday, October 20th around lunch, maybe a little earlier, then leave on Friday the 21st in the early evening. Anyone in town that day, drop me a line. I think it's some type of crime to fly over Nevada and not stop for at least a little while.

- My intarweb service has sucked lately, so I apologize to all the seemingly ignored chat room invites. I hadn't signed up for any Katrina tourneys because I've got bubkus at Pokerstars. I've recently made a withdrawal from Noble, so that should soon change.

Monday, September 12, 2005


MiniBlood gets his fair share of press around here.  Rarely does ms.Mini play poker, even a Chip Challenge™, so she doesn’t always get any focus on a poker blog.  This entry is no different, as it’s not about poker.

Doodles is a stuffed frog.  It just happens to be ms.Mini’s favorite little stuffed animal.  It’s pink and as with many 7 year old girls, pink is her favorite color.  When Sunday night rolled around and it was time for bed, nobody could find Doodles.

Backtracking through the day, we realized that the last time Doodles had been seen was Sunday morning – msMini had taken her to church.  A frantic search through the miniVan confirmed our worst fears, Doodles was more than likely lost for good.

The tears came and they weren’t easy to quell.  Mrs_Blood and I told ms.Mini that we’d look all over for her and that she should try to go to sleep.  The first search and rescue attempt failed, Mrs_Blood went back to the church at about 8pm to check the Lost and Found.  Sadly Doodles wasn’t there.  Mrs_Blood felt like it was a scene out of Toy Story when Woody and Buzz disappeared.


Kids grow up way too quickly.  It had only been two weeks ago when ms.Mini told us she didn’t need to sleep with any of her “friends” anymore.  We asked her who told her that, because quite frankly, a seven-year old deserves to be a seven-year old and sleep with as many stuffed animals as she sees fit.  She didn’t say, but we thought it may have been someone at school or some dumb TV show.

I told her the next night that Doodles had told me she was lonely.  Soon enough, there was one stuffed animal who got the privledge of sharing ms.Mini’s sleep space.  Doodles.


It was with that thought that I drove back to the place we had breakfast on Sunday morning.  It was 10pm, and I figured there would be no way a stuffed animal would be left in the parking lot over the course of the day.  Mrs_Blood had hypothesized that Doodles may have fallen out of the minivan as the kids got out to go eat.

Alas, the second search and rescue mission failed too.

Ms.Mini seemed over her tears in the morning when I drove her and miniBlood to school.  Surely it was a good sign, but like I said, kids grow up way too quickly.  It was about 11am this morning when a lull during work sparked an idea.

I took a short drive to GSP International Airport.  I recalled where Doodles was originally purchased and I figured a quick drive there to see if she had any twin sisters was worth a shot.  Luckily, there were other pink frogs on the shelf of the gift shop all looking for a home.  What better home could they hope to find?

I brought the newly purchased Doodles back to the house and put it on the kitchen table.  Since msMini can read quite well, I wrote a note that said:
“Dear Morgan, I missed you last night.  Luckily someone found me and gave me a bath to clean me up.  I told them where you lived and they brought me back.”

Love Doodles

Friday, September 09, 2005

Poker and Friends

I know some poker players who I consider friends.  I also have some friends who play poker.  Although on the surface, these two types of people may seem similar, in reality they are quite different.

The friends that I have who play poker mainly participate for the social aspect of the game.  Getting together with the guys, busting their balls and throwing back a few cold ones (and perhaps dial-a-shots) is the main focus.  Whatever poker goes on in the meantime is purely the vehicle for the gathering of friends.  Even as the stakes in the game rise, the focus is still social.

Then there are the poker players I know who also happen to be friends as well.  While the social aspect is most definitely present, it’s not the main focus.  When these players get together, the game is different.  It’s more intense, more challenging and potentially more fulfilling if you’re the type of player who takes the game seriously.

Mixing the two types of players together doesn’t always work.

Local G-Vegas players who read this blog are probably going to wonder which group they fall in.  I’m not slagging either type, just acknowledging the difference.  My goal is to find the happy medium.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Curb Your Enthusiasm

The news of the day is that the growth of online poker is finally beginning to show signs of slowing.  While we can debate the truthfulness of that statement with statistics and numbers that claim to confirm or deny it, all I can do is offer my own impression.  ‘Cause, ya know, that’s what I do.

I’ve been at this online game for over two years now.  It has been without a doubt the longest and most intense vocation I have chosen, surpassing all the others quite easily.

But today, I sit here, and think that the newness and excitement I once felt may be on its way out.  I used to not be able to wait to get home from work some nights and log-on to the virtual felt and play the night away.  Especially with the camaraderie of the rest of you guys only a millisecond away, playing online poker was often times the highlight to a humdrum day.

Things have changed.

For the better.

Surprised?  Me too.  I can’t quite put these thoughts into words, but because I’m not so “excited” to play anymore, I feel my game has turned a corner and improved.  Perhaps I’ve managed to manage myself and my emotions more effectively, achieving a calmer, more even state of mind.

There were times when looking forward to a session has destroyed my game.  I remember heading to Otis’ one night, excited that he was hosting a home game after finally returning home from Vegas, getting obliterated, and losing 3+ buy-ins.  Not very good poker right there.

The past couple of weeks, however, it’s almost as if my indifference to playing has allowed me to play better.  I’ve mentioned that financial indifference was important in this game, but now I think that indifference to the very act of playing may be important as well.  Granted, I’m not indifferent to the point where I no longer enjoy playing or refuse a game if it’s offered to me; I just don’t get overly jacked up over it.

Without such an emotional investment into the game, the bad beats are shrugged off more easily – even the big wins are less exciting.  But what I do feel is that I’m able to make better decisions more easily without a haze of excitement clouding my mind.

Or maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about.  That’s a very real possibility.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Reverse Engineering

Reverse Engineering

Black boxes.  They are, at their core, the basis for modelling any unknown system.  These boxes take inputs and produce outputs.  Being able to figure out what’s inside without being able to open one up is the goal of reverse engineering.  Poker players are black boxes.  They get inputs (cards, the board, other players bets) and produce outputs (actions: call, raise, fold).  It’s your job to model each player and predict how they’ll respond to various stimuli.


I was invited to a tournament this past Labor Day by G-Vegas action junkie, The Mark.  He’s quite a player and frequently plays in games above my live game bankroll limits.  But last night’s tournament was a small buy-in, only $60.  With approval from the Mrs in check, I was off to unknown territory.

Normal G-Vegas home games are populated by working professionals, guys you’d commonly find with families and steady jobs.  My first judgement upon walking into this new game was that things were a bit, shall we say, “different.”  The crowd was a bit rougher, less polished.  The cash game going on was above my limits and big pots were being taken down with a bit of aggressive banter.  I wasn’t 100% sure what I was getting into.  This night would surely be a test of both my confidence in myself and my ability (or lack thereof.)


The tourney was a $55+5 freezeout with 12 players.  I’ll admit to being a little hesitant about paying juice at a home game.  As the new guy, I just kept those thoughts to myself.  There were 12 players and top 3 would pay from the $660 prize pool.

The Mark and I agreed to exchange 25% of each other’s action.  He had won the previous two times he played here, so I thought that was a reasonable deal.  It was actually more than reasonable.  Any G-Vegas veteran would jump at the chance to share action with the reigning BadBlood Superstars Invitational winner.


My card protector featuring my online handle got a few looks.  After I told the guys at my first table that I played online (for PLAY MONEY) they asked which sites I played on.  I rattled off a list of about 15 and then shut up.  I wasn’t sure how they were going to use that information, but I quickly found out.


I’d played only one hand in the first level, AKo.  I flopped a K and took down the pot with a pot-sized continuation bet.  Nothing major.  Soon into level 2, I found AA on the button.  The pot was raised from the BB of 40 to 140 and called once before action got to me.  I said “raise.”  I matched the 140 and made it another 600 to go.  Folded back around to the first raiser, he paused and looked at me.  He was doing his own bit of reverse engineering and wondering what internal workings of my black box would produce such a bet.  He would later tell me that he thought I was on a steal because that’s what all those “internet players” do.

I heard the magical words.  “All-in.”  Folded back to me, I insta-called and showed my rockets.  His TT did not improve and he was crippled.  Reverse engineering is a not an easy task.


After doubling up, The Mark came in from the other table and told me the sad news that he was the first to bust out.  Wonderful.  Now it’s my job to cash instead of riding his coattails.  Who’da thunk?


We condensed to one table and I tightened up a bit.  I got aggressive with AQs; my 4xBB raise was called by a short stack.  The flop was J-high and my continuation bet put him all-in.  He called with pocket T’s, but I caught an A on the turn and a Q on the river for good measure.  I eliminated another short-stack when my A4s beat his KJo.  I was probably 2nd in chips at this point with 6 players left.


During the time when I was folding, I had to pay extra attention to all the players in order for my reverse engineering to be effective in any way.  I did pick up a very reliable tell on the chip leader.  It was actually quite amazing.  Whenever he would raise and verbalize his raise, he had a hand.  When his raises were silent, he was bluffing.  This wasn’t a 50-60% effective tell, it was a 100% effective tell.  Mike Caro would be proud.


Still 2nd in chips, I found AKo UTG.  My 4xBB wass raised all-in by the shortstack to my left.  Unfortunately for me, the chip leader said “raise.”  The raise was about ¼ of my remaining stack.  It’s for sure a squeeze play, but my read on him was that he had a high pair.  I paused for a bit and went over my options.  If he has AA or KK and I hit my flop, I’m in trouble.  If I miss the flop, I’m in trouble; especially if I consider that the shortstack has one of my outs.  In the end, I just didn’t want to play a big pot with the chip leader at this time.  I folded.  In hindsight it was the correct move.  The shortstack had KQ and the chip leader had TT.  The TT would have held up against me.  I’ll probably analyze that hand further, because it was very situational considering the stack sizes.  In the end, I still had plenty of chips.


We finally got down to three players, but I was shortstacked.  Here’s where a little knowledge can go a long way.  Enter Mr. Dan Harrington’s fine work.  Knowing your M-ratio and the other players ratios is powerful ammunition.  There were so many bad plays by shortstacks earlier (simply calling the BB for 1/3rd of their chips and folding post flop), I can guarantee you that nobody at that table has ever broken the binding of Harrington on Hold ‘em.


In one of the last key hands of the tourney, I was in the SB with pocket A’s.  The button folded and I made the command decision that this hand would either make me or break me.  I wasn’t going all-in preflop and simply winning the BB.  I wanted value for my hand, and if I slow played it into a loser so be it.  I’m playing for first.

I limped and the chip leader with the tell checked.  The flop was K-high.  I checked again.  Chip-leader checked too.  The turn was another K.  I checked.  The chip-leader silently pushed in 1500 chips.  Silently.  Very qwietly….as if he’s hunting wabbits.  I pushed all-in and as expected, the chip-leader folded.  I was willing to give a free card on the turn, but not the river.  The extra 1500 in chips put me at near average with three left.


In the end, with the blinds 500/1000 and 100 antes, we agreed to a chop.  The chip-leader negotiated $240 for him and $210 for myself and the other player (a nicely shaped female who could play - but that’s neither here nor there.)  It was past midnight and the action turned into a push-fest.  I was extremely content to chop since I was the shortest stack although not by much.


As the new guy at the table, I had to do a bunch of player profiling.  Some of it was effective (chip leader and his tell), some of it was not.  I did get my hand caught in the cookie jar when I mis-read someone horribly wrong.  But that happens.

Reverse engineering the other players is extremely important, but don’t forget that the other players are going to be trying to reverse engineer your little poker playing decision-making engine.  Not everyone’s black box has the same capacity.  Some people can only fit one playing style inside.  Some people have multiple systems working to confuse anyone trying to decipher them.  That’s why changing gears and mixing up your play is paramount to success.  What’s in your black box?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Noble MTT and Live Game Hands

The power-bloggers out there had been describing how soft the MTT's were at Noble for the past couple of weeks. A bit frustrated with my tournament play of late, I decided to throw my hat into the ring at Noble and see what happened.


I'm playing in a Friday Nite at the Mark's tournament. I'm in MP and an early position player raises the blinds 5x to 250. I look down and see a couple of black jacks. Rather than re-raise, I choose to call. G-Rob, in the SB, does in fact take the opportunity to re-raise, 500 more. Both EP and I call to see a Kxx flop.

G-Rob comes out firing for 1200. EP folds and I go into the tank a bit. His re-raising hands are most likely AA,KK,QQ and AK. From my perspective, he doesn't bet out that much with AA or KK. If I assign TT to the range above (JJ is too unlikely given my holding) then I have a shot to take the pot away if the K on the flop is a scare card.

So I push for about 2500 more.

Now G-Rob goes in the tank. His reaction pretty much eliminates AA, KK, or AK which would be insta-called. So I'm down to either QQ or TT.

Unfortunately for me G-Rob knows I can make a play like that and after some more thought calls. His QQ holds up and I'm basically out of the tournament.

Bastage! :)


I'm always looking for the ever-elusive overlay -a guaranteed prize pool that's greater than the overal tournament buy-in. You won't find them on any of the major sites due to their player base, but occasionally on the smaller sites, you will.

Enter Saturday night's $1500 guarantee tournament on Noble, a $20+2 entry. Only 60 players signed up, so there was a nice overlay.

My tournament play began in a familiar fashion where I chipped up early and was feeling pretty good. Then disaster strikes. I'm dealt KK in the BB and there are 5 limpers for 20 chips. I bump it to 200 to get out the chaff. Of course, there is one caller and out comes the classic A-high flop. Undeterred, I bet 250 into it and am promptly raised to 500. I fold with some disgust and see my chip stack cut in a third.


It's the last hand of the night on Friday. We've been playing a dealer's choice ring game - PHORSE. No limit pineapple 8 or better, no limit hold 'em, no limit Omaha8, and then 2/4 Razz, Stud and Eight or better.

We're in the hold 'em game and I'm dealt AQo in the BB. It's limped all around for the $2 BB but I raise to $7. The Mark calls UTG and G-Rob goes all-in for $43 more.

Otis folds.

G-Rob could have about 45 different holdings at this point, as he'd tell me later. I feel my hand is good, so I call. The Mark folds.

G-Rob flips up KJs.

What follows is a crazy up-and-down-and-up-and-down hand.

Pre-flop, I'm ahead.

Flop is KT4. G-Rob's ahead. (catches 6-outer)

Turn is a J. I have the broadway straight, I'm ahead. (catches 6-outer)

River is a K. G-Rob wins. (catches 4-outer)



After losing with KK, I get a dry run of cards and my M-ratio is plummetting. With about 600 left and the blinds 50/100, I finally get dealt a hand to push with. Pocket 9's. I triple up on a 9-high flop.

A few hands later, JJ shows up and I double up again.

Because my table image is a push maniac at this point, I actually push with AA when it shows up not soon after. I figure at least one NobleDonk will call. One does and before you know it, I'm well above average stack by the break.


G-Rob gets home from work and tries to sweat me as I make the final table. He has much trouble finding the tournament listed.

BB: I'm in the $20 freezeout, it started at 23:00
G-Rob: Dude, I can't find it.
BB: It's under the scheduled tab.
G-Rob: ....because I'm on FullTilt.


I finally met my match and went out in 4th. I went out with guns blazing, my KK fell to AA when we were both in pre-flop. I'm not sure how my tourney game really is, but I will certainly take this result as a positive. I guess I just gotta avoid tournaments with G-Rob in them and then I'm set.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Small Part

I have no idea how many people read this, but I'd be remiss in not spreading the word about the Pokerstars charity tournaments scheduled to raise money for the Katrina relief efforts.

More information can be found here:

PokerStars to host Hurricane Katrina relief tournaments