Friday, April 28, 2006

Running Hot Like Water


It's been a while since I've posted, you'll have to forgive me. Life has been crazy, and the focus has been elsewhere. This post is intended as much to update the blog, as it is to provide any new, real information.

I have been playing online a bit, mostly when I should be sleeping. I've come to the conclusion that I have been getting no cards, I mean NO CARDS, for about a year now, or I'm getting sickeningly good cards for the last few weeks. The truth is, I'm sure its more of the latter, but I'd like to see the stats for the year. Unfortunately I can't.

I start using Poker Track recently. Yes, finally. I like it. It is good. I need to learn the full functionality a bit better, and the documentation is thin. I also need a frame of reference for my stats. Where can I find that?

How many hands should I be taking to showdown? What should my aggression factor be? How frequently should I be raising pre-flop from what position?

I'm winning, so I guess that's a start.

Also, I want to say a special thanks to ChicagoJoe who has been marketing us, "the club", if you will, all over the place. I've seen hits from 2+2, RGP, Meetup.com, and more. After a little research, I realize that it's all thanks to Joe!

While you're here, don't forget to check out our forum (the link is to the right). There's lots of good conversations going on there.

Good Luck And Good Flop.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Analysis of a Hand - Any Two Cards

This is continued from my previous post. This hand took place at the game described in Analysis of an Evening...

The Hand
Well into the evening, maybe just past midnight, I played the hand that remains clearest in my mind. I was in the big blind with Jh 4h. One player limped and the button, an opponent that I've played with two or three times previously, raised about 3.5 times the big blind, or to $7.

I knew the button was capable of raising with any two cards, as long as he has position. I also felt he sensed weakness from the mid-position limper, a small-ball player. I also don't think he fears me protecting my blinds so much, but he clearly wanted one caller, not merely the $5 that was already in the pot.

Planning to make a move post-flop, I called from the big blind. With $17 in the pot, and $5 for the limper to play, he was "priced in". He called.

The flop came 9-9-3 with two hearts. This was great news for me and my silly holding. I did not expect that this helped either player much. Certainly one of them could have a 9, but I was just unlucky if they did. I decided that I would represent a 9, or a pair of 7s, 8s, or 10s. I was confident that any of those hands was ahead at this point. I checked the flopped, continuing to keep my hand a mystery. At this table, I think I would check any of those holdings. In truth, I might bet out the set, by my opponents didn't know that. I never flop a set!

The limper checked, and our pre-flop raiser bet the pot, $22. I smooth called with almost no hesitation, and the limper folded. Excellent. If the limper came over the top, I'd have to run fast, and berate myself for the risky call.

The button's $22 bet screamed of semi-bluff (with hearts), or A-3 (top two pair), or maybe just a stone cold bluff. The button understands pot odds as well as anyone at the table did, and knows that I'm well-versed as well. Unless he was playing serious mind games, he would have played a 9 differently, he would have taken away my odds to draw at a flush, or to stick around with a less intelligent holding, but he would have given me the opportunity to call with the incorrect odds. With the 9, I'd expect to see about a $12-16 bet. He definitely wanted to take it down right here.

When I smooth called, he didn't know where he stood. He feared a strong holding, but I don't think he put me on the 9 either. Maybe a medium-large-pair. Perfect.

Now there was $66 in the pot, though with all the small denomination chips, I think it looked like more than that. The turn came the 4c, pairing my 4. I checked instantly. He knew that I either had a strong hand, or was making a move. He needed to figure out where he stood in the hand, and decided that he wasn't giving up. He bet $101.

This was clearly an overbet, but at the time didn't feel like a big one. Again, if he was playing mind games, then he might have had the 9 and expected to get paid off with the disproportionate bet. I didn't think he was. At this point I figured him for a mid-pair, smaller than the 9s, or maybe two hearts.

I needed to make a decision. If I was right on the middle pair, my two pair were beat, but I had 5 outs (three Jacks and two fours) to improve to a bigger two pair or a full house. I also had 8.5 outs to my flush (the ninth heart could have tripped his mid-pair, giving him a boat over my full house). In this situation, I was almost a 2.5-1 underdog. Alternately, but less likely, he could have two hearts. Now, there were only 7 remaining, but which one of us would make the bigger flush? In this case, I thought I was way ahead, as I had two pair, and he was playing the board if his flush didn't come (about a 15% chance). If it did come, there was a fair chance that I had the bigger heart.

I decided that I was either ahead, or I'd represent it. If he thought he was behind, he'd definitely count up the pot and calculate his perceived odds, so I needed to make a big bet. I had $270 left, which would allow me to call his $101 and raise an additional $169. It would cost him $170 for a chance at $436. The pot was laying him about 2.5 to 1, not enough to call if he had less than 14 or 15 outs. If he thought I had a 9 or the unlikely overpair (given my prior plays), he perceived 9 outs to a flush (that's the only holding that would require calculating if he believed me to have a 9). He could add 3 outs with an overcard and the flush draw, if he perceived me to have two pair. Two heart over cards would be the only real hand he could call with if I was ahead and he didn't believe I had a 9. I had the Jack of hearts, so it was fairly unlikely overall.

I counted my stack. I counted it again. I looked at the pot, then at him. I said, "make it $270, all in." He asked if it was $270 total, and I said "yes, $169 on top." Then I turned into an absolute statue.

He thought about it for a minute or two, counting in his head. He spread out the pot to count up the chips, and started counting to himself. His lips were moving. Inside my head, I smiled a big smile. I gave myself credit for reading him correctly and making the right move. Call or fold, I felt good about my bet. The fact that he was calculating meant that he believed there was a decent chance he was behind.

After about 4 or 5 minutes, he said "good bet. Nice hand", and mucked his cards. I raked in the pot. I said, did you have two hearts? He reached into the pot and turned over the 10-8 of hearts. Had it come, I would have had the higher flush! He was counting 8 or 9 outs that he didn't have. He made the correct lay down, to be sure. For a laugh, he rabbit-hunted the would-be river. The 10 of clubs. He would have made a higher two pair and taken down the monster pot. My bet got him out of the hand just in time, and that pot made my night.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Analysis of an Evening, Analysis of a Hand

The Evening
I played in a local game one weeknight last week. What I had expected to be a four-hour session turned into a 7 1/2 to 8 hour one. We played from 7pm until about 3am.

The game started out very tough. It was a No Limit Hold' em cash game, $1/$2 blinds, and we had a full table - 10 players. Most of the players were talented amateurs, and collectively they have played in the world's top tournaments - the WSOP, the U.S. Poker Open, Aussie Millions, and several others to be sure.

There was a lot of aggression at the table, raises of 4 to 8.5 times the big blind pre-flop, and some occasional re-raising before we saw those first three cards. Post-flop people were challenging for the cash. I don't recall a hand being checked to the river in the first few hours, and seldom was a flop or fourth street checked. To survive the game, you need to play solid hands in the face of pressure, or be willing to push back with less than optimal holdings. Pots started reasonably sized early, but as the night wore on, and more money made its way to the table, there were several pots over the $1000 mark - big stakes in my poker world.

After a few hours, some of the players, successful and otherwise, started to head for the exits and for bed. These guys have real jobs to go to in the morning. I do too, but it didn’t stop me. Around 11, a friend of one of the players arrived – drunk, loud, and ready to play. Within 30 minutes, he had turned his $150 buy-in into about $1100, mostly from the player to my immediate right, and mostly by getting very lucky after his chips were in. He was getting drunker, he was already loose aggressive, I knew he was going to give that money back to the table.

The Hand
Well into the evening, maybe just passed midnight, I played the hand that remains clearest in my mind. I was in the big blind with Jh 4h. One player limped and the button raised about 3.5 times the big blind, or to $7.

To be continued…

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Poker: The Great Escape

Why do we play poker? Sure it's competitive drive, there's some of that. Outplaying friends, or better, complete strangers, just plain feels good. There's a rush that you get from outplaying, out-thinking, and out-competing others.

But why do we enjoy competition? What makes us so competitive?

Never mind, I'll tell you.

It's a great opportunity to forget about all that ails you in this world and focus on a game that consumes every part of you - your mental wheels, your physical composure, and best of all, your emotional roller coaster. When you're at the poker table (or on the basketball court, or the golf course) you can leave all of your other distractions behind, and focus on the game at hand. It's you, the cards, and your opponents. There are players to best, and there's money to win; everthing else can wait until later.

What's better than slow-playing a monster hand, and getting paid off? How about making a huge bluff and taking down a monster pot? What winds you up for hours more than getting killed on a bad, bad beat?

Nothing. That's why we love poker.

Well, I'm back after my three week hiatus, and I'm ready to play. Look out overdue bills and unpaid parking tickets! Excuse me full-time job. Pardon my absence brand-new-wife, I'm going to play poker.