Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hold On ....

I just couldn't ... not when it mattered.

I didn't think games this consistently beatable existed anymore, but in my third live LHE session (3 hours in length) of the month I booked a +38BB win vs. a table full of Crasians of various ages (Vancouver does have a relatively high Asian population; and we all know they are predisposed to gamble it up).

I kept some good notes on this session and the telltale sign that it was an excellent game was that I ran poorly despite winning that much.

In sequence, here are five notable hands that took place during the session. Two of them I won, and three of them I lost.

Hand #1: As was often customary, seven players each paid two small bets to see the flop. I was on the button with 5h6h. The flop came down 7-high with two diamonds giving me a gutshot. Someone bet and *everyone* called. The turn was another diamond and not a picture card. Surprisingly, it got checked around. The river was another rag and everyone checked to me, so ... I bet. Everyone folded. Since I was a solid winner at this point I opted, somewhat uncharacteristically, to show the bluff, to more than a few murmurs of amazement and some laughter. My motive for doing so was to induce more action the next time I got a premium hand.

Hand #2: On the very next deal, I get AA in the cut-off. You can't script this any better, I thought to myself. Sure enough, I raised it up and I got three callers, including an extremely loose payoff wizard three to my left who would regularly call with absolutely anything and wanted to see every flop. On the river, his 9h2h had improved to bottom two pair and he check-calls me and I get the bad news. I flash the AA and he acts all surprised as he collects the pot (5-outer).

Hand #3: I raise a bunch of limpers with AcJc on the button and get a bunch of callers. The flop comes down J-high and the BB (old grizzled Crasian) leads out, I pop him, he 3-bets. He leads out on the turn and the river and spikes two pair on the end with KJ. I run goot (3-outer).

Hand #4: I lose the big one. The kill was on and a young Crasian wearing an old KVOS baseball cap had the kill button UTG. I see a spot to create a ton of dead money so I re-raise from the cut-off with a small pair (44). Six players cap it preflop with the UTG kill player ramming and jamming with me. The flop comes down KQ4 rainbow. If there's one thing I believe in, it is playing small sets fast. Three of us cap the flop and we force the other three out of the pot. The turn is a deuce and both players check to me; I bet thnking there is absolutely no way I'm beat here ... and they both call. The river is a nine (JT got there) and it gets checked to me, I bet again, UTG calls and the MP player folds. UTG player announces "I have a set". My heart sinking, I say "So do I" and table my fours. He flips over ... 99. Goodbye, 48BB pot. (2-outer that really stung)

My 14 BB profit for the session evaporated in one fell swoop and I'm back down to my starting stack.

Undeterred, I battled back and win some pots (97ss was a very good hand for me several times), and I was able to play AK on the button vs. the villain from #4 for maximum value with a AJT flop, forcing him to fold QQ to a river raise after he'd taken the lead with a preflop 3-bet and I had just kept calling his bets on the first two streets. Then I get some revenge in Hand #5, another kill pot where again I had good table position. I held the mighty 5c7c and take down a juicy 28BB pot when I flopped a double-gutter on an Ad3s4d board, got there on the turn when an off-suit 6 fell, and was able to milk some extra big bets from two aces-up hands.

All in all, my wallet continues to grow fatter and the 5/5 PLO game inches ever closer. I may have to rethink my plans though ... I don't know that I can reliably beat that game for $100/hr with anywhere near the consistency I've shown so far in the LHE, and the variance issue is important when comparing fixed-bet to big-bet games. Even with losing a huge pot to a 22:1 shot I came out well ahead overall; in PLO I would lose my whole stack and have to rebuy. As long as I can book the wins at this rate, I'll stick with the LHE.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Old School, redux

Played a short second session at local casino. Same juicy soft 4/8 LHE w/ full kill. I scouted 5/5 PLO game again as I waited for my seat. Game looked promising, same as last time. Majority of players seemed to buy in for the full 200BB maximum. I witnessed the one shorty maneuver majority of his stack in preflop (holding the obvious AAxx) vs. a single LAGtard playing a poor rundown hand -- AA was cracked. Saw several other fundamental mistakes made as I skulked in the corner.

The LHE session featured a fun migration pattern where I started in the 5s and was able, over time, to progressively slide down to the 8s to get a better view of the table. Each time I slid down, I would have more and more racks of chips to move with me. Other players would then request a seat change to my old seat in hopes of getting lucky.

Things did not go well right at the beginning, however. After I posted and folded my first set of blinds I woke up to red aces on the button. Six players (almost all Crasians of various ages) capped preflop and I ended up folding to a double check-raise on the Qh9h3s flop. I make a reluctant fold and watch in disbelief as a mere top pair hand (Q6off or some such trash) held up vs. a bare eight-high flush draw.

Fortunately I shake it off and play my best for the next 2.5 hours and book a 40BB profit. I extracted maximum value from various hands, including a flopped trips hand (ye olde BB special, the T2off) where I was able to get in three bets on the flop and two more streets of value vs. queens up, a flopped Broadway straight vs. flopped two pair, a nice river bluff with KQ unimproved set up by a preflop 3-bet vs. a weak-tight player, and one nice big juicy kill pot where I turned trips and was able to check-raise the one young 25 year-old Crasian woman (the only player who regularly straddled) who exhibited aggro postflop play with ace-high. The betting line was pretty hilarious. I was in early position with Ah2h and several players paid 3 bets to see a flop of 8c6s2c. I led out and got two callers. Turn was a 2s. I led out and Crasian raised. Headsup to the river, which was a king. I check, she bets, I raise, she grumbles and pays off with top pair.

Some of the conversations I had with players sitting near me were hysterical. There was one very nice, but clearly clueless fiftyish Caucasian man in the 10s who gave off innumerable tells. (Needless to say, he went broke several times and I tried to play as many pots as possible against him with some isolation plays when I had positional advantage.) By the time I moved over to the 8s we had chatted pleasantly about various topics. I had already observed him make many horrible postflop calls as he chased any possible draw. He would raise non-nut flushes and fold to heavy action despite getting over 12:1 on a final river call heads up. Perhaps my favourite kernel of information that I gleaned from him was in a three-way pot on the flop where he defended his big blind to my button raise with presto. Flop came down A34. It was checked around to me and I saw him clearly get four chips ready for a call. I was mildly concerned with the third player, who seemed to be semi-competent Crasian who actually played decently postflop. So I checked behind. On the turn target led out and was called, so I threw away my hand. Afterwards, I casually pumped him for information by saying that I thought about betting the flop and had noticed he was all ready to call. He replied in all seriousness: "Well, I had a gutshot straight draw, so I wasn't folding." (Note: the pot contained only seven small bets.)

Find these players whenever you can and play against them as much as you can. Several players at my table rebought at a furious rate; I was happily raking in their chips at a fast pace. They are contributing heavily to my PLO fund. So far I have a ridiculous 9BB/hr winrate.

Friday, May 22, 2009

PL08 Exercise

[Edit re: Hand #1 -- ran equity calculations and found that I was money favourite on the flop. And have enough equity preflop to continue vs. most AAxx hands in villain's range. Just didn't work out this time.]

This was a very interesting PLO8 hand, by my way of thinking. (Sure, the result may have sucked, but did I make +EV decisions on every street?)

The question becomes, does the hand play itself postflop?

Am I mistaken in my decision-making preflop?

Addendum (bad beat story):

sometimes you flop nut/2nd nut and get scooped. Blargh.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A dream of a thousand cats

Today a fixture in my life vanished. Our family cat of twenty-one years had to be put to sleep. Picking up the telephone at lunch-time and listening to your distraught mother break the news that a beloved pet whose antics and unconditional love you've enjoyed since you were a teenager is gone ... what can I say, it was not a fun experience, to say the least. Was this unexpected news? No, I can't say that it was. Was this news sudden and painful? Yes.

I used to say that she behaved, as all good cats do, as if we were her humans. It was her world and we were a part of it.

Today the sun is shining in Vancouver and it's a picture perfect day. I wasn't working, which meant that I had some freedom to process this event however I saw fit. So I went for a walk on the beach, shed some tears, smiled at some young children playing as the tide rolled in. I went to my favourite coffee shop, bought a fancy cup o' joe, and made a silent toast.

Did I say my cat vanished today? I was wrong.

I have countless memories to treasure. They mostly revolve around a lot of cuddling, a lot of purring, a lot of sunbathing, and a lot of grooming, mixed in with yowls demanding attention and some spectacular leaps and sprints in younger days when she would take no prisoners to seize catnip or any fascinating object she wanted to capture. She was adorable. She was the runt of her litter, and was rescued from the local SPCA to live a long and happy life. I'll never forget how all four of us (my parents, my younger sister and me) all instantly bonded to this poor neglected kitten who was shunted aside and couldn't get enough milk from her mother. After we adopted her, she would constantly nuzzle and suck on your finger in persistent pleas for more milk. This inevitably led to someone going to the fridge to give her "just a little more" milk as we spoilt her shamelessly.

These memories will never die.

Carpe diem.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Old School: Limit Hold'Em

It's not only on the Las Vegas strip that you'll find soft full-ring limit hold'em games. I hadn't played live poker since my first-ever blogger winter gathering last December, and I was hankering for some live play. Recent online shenanigans meant that I needed to get back on the horse and if that meant enduring the slower pace and other inconveniences of a second-rate public cardroom, so be it. So I found myself at Vancouver's downtown casino, not more than ten minutes' drive from my humble abode, and patiently waited for a seat in the biggest LHE game in the room - a 4/8 kill game. As soon as I sat down (in seat 3), I recognized this game was a gold mine. Tons of weak passive play, not many preflop raises, transparent opponents who would pay off TPGK on three streets ... this game had it all.

Unfortunately, I lost the first four pots (including two kill pots) I played so after three hours I was sitting with less than half my starting stack.

Then I was finally able to get some positive momentum. I actually got some cards (AA in a five-handed kill pot is a recipe to recoup some losses) and flopped some hands. When you can get in for one bet with suited connectors in late position, eventually you will rake in some monster pots. And that is what happened.

The first big pot featured crubs, which always get there. I called a raise in the big blind with the mighty 47cc getting about 8:1 on my money. The flop came down Kc8c5s. I checked, the player to my left bet, and two players called. I decided to check-raise with my flush draw + gutter. The original bettor called, and then the villain in seat 7 three-bet. But before I could put in my call, the dealer precipitously acted and dealt out the 6c on the turn! The floor was called, I inwardly winced as the card was set aside, the two of us put in our calls ... and I was rewarded as the Tc rolled off. Was there any doubt? So I check-called the turn, then finally donk-bet the river and was paid off by 9c7s and K5o. Crubs: good for what ails you.

The second one featured spades, which is assuredly the boss suit. Again, limped in with A8ss in late position. The flop came down 933 with two spades. The small blind led out and there were a couple of calls. The turn was a spade. Small blind led out again, I smooth called, and a loud drunk overcalled. The river blanked, the small blind led out yet again, I raised, the drunk called two bets cold, and the small blind reluctantly called. My hand was good as the drunk cheerfully flashed the KQss at the table.

Then the rush came as I capped off the night a solid winner with three more racks than I started with. At one point I kept the kill button and won five consecutive pots, the last three as the game was kicked up to 8/16. The first of the five was an amusing one. A Crasian sitting two to my left had built up from a paltry $80 to about $250 and proceeded to donate a bunch of it in my direction. My 89 of spades flopped an open-ended straight draw, got there on the turn with a spade flush redraw, and he went to war with a flopped bottom two pair -- raising me on the turn, and paying off my check-raise on the river even though a heart flush completed. And the next four hands, I just kept flopping something as the rest of the table missed, and got paid off twice by the young Asian kid sitting two to my right in seat one, who literally played 85% of his hands. He just didn't believe me or wanted to fulfill his role as the table payoff wizard as I showed him two pair and a straight to crush his meager holdings.

As the night came to a close, though, it was readily apparent to me that it was time to book the win. For one thing, I was inwardly harping at myself as fatigue caused me to miss about three clear value bets where I left money on the table. For another, another 4/8 LHE table broke and we got three new players. A nails-on-the-chalkboard late middle-aged woman with a thick Eastern European accent kept talking off my left ear and I couldn't successfully tune out her inane babble. Add the fact that the loud drunk to her left kept getting louder and more obnoxious, and my concentration began to waver even more. He kept asking the dealer how much he could bet on every street, and his comedy act wasn't getting any laughs from anyone. And as two of the table donators racked up, I followed suit, since I knew I was no longer playing my "A" game.

Part of me thinks I should start playing in the juicy 5/5 PLO game (max 1K buyin) that regularly runs here (they also sometimes get a 1/2 game going). At first, I might just experiment with short-stacking the game, but the play looked so bad (players were regularly calling pot-sized bets with bare eight-out draws, and entering pots for a raise preflop with hands like JJJT) from what I saw I should probably just man up and get ten buyins together for that game. I typically haven't put most of my live bankroll at risk for any one game, but the opportunity might just be too great to miss out on. I could easily envisage nights where I could buy in for $500 and walk out the door with 3K.

Opinions on this last issue are welcome.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A medley of PLO shenanigans, and some career musings

I decided to play a chunk of pot-limit Omaha hands. I proceeded to lose. A lot. Variance can be unfriendly at times. A few examples below just to document how cruel poker can be.

I can take solace from the fact that I recently passed my bar exams (I got the good news right around the same time CK received similar good news about passing hers in Nevada). I have decided not to continue with criminal law and am in the job market. I hope to join a new firm in the near future. This puts this recent bad run of cards in perspective -- it's trivial compared with the importance of the interviews I'm lining up. Shifting away from litigation to solicitor's work is going to be a challenge, but it's something I really want to do after a lot of soul-searching.

The good: getting all-in with AAxx preflop and holding up

The bad: incorrectly folding a live draw when priced in

The ugly: not holding up with the overfull

Unfortunately for my online bankroll, the bad and ugly hands have vastly outnumbered the good ones. I didn't have the heart to post the hand where I got it in with nut straight and bottom two pair vs. lower straight and top two pair. Miracle 3-outer later and I lost yet another stack. PLO is wicked that way; when you're running bad the lost buyins can really accumulate quickly ... one has to ride it out and know when to quit.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Canucks vs. Hawks, Games Five and Six


That best describes how I feel after watching the Canucks lose a series they should have won. But every mistake they made seemingly led to a puck in their own net.

Roberto Luongo has a lot of soul-searching to do.

As time expired I was grimly transferring FTP funds to lightning36. Now we'll see an Original Six matchup in the Western Conference finals.

I'm willing to go double-or-nothing and take the Wings ...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Canucks vs. Hawks, Game Four

Heartbreaking loss. Canucks were in control of the game and nursed a 1-0 lead for the last half of the game, stifling the Hawks and giving up no scoring chances.

With three minutes left one bad bounce + opportunistic Hawks forward in the slot = tie game.

Overtime: Canucks get glorious chance to win, fail to convert, and then another odd bounce led to a Hawks goal off a screen.

Series is now tied at two games apiece. Canucks need to generate more offense and keep bottling up the Hawks with their strong defence. It's a formula that should lead them to a series victory, but they can't afford to give up this many goals in relation to the number of quality chances the Hawks are getting. Luongo needs to make a herculean save here and there when the Hawks actually get those chances. He hasn't quite been on his game and it has snuck up and bit the Canucks at times in this series.

Cruelty, thy name is Omaha

The turn and river were not kind to me. I hate losing a 500 BB pot with the second nuts in a 6-handed PLO game when only three players see the flop, but it would have been criminal not to get my stack in here with the second nuts (quads are impossible for the villain here, and I'm holding a ten). Oh well. Sometimes you lose when they miraculously show up with the improbable mortal nuts.

I wonder if re-shoving on the end is +EV. I thought so at the time because only three players saw the flop and villain having the last two tens in the deck is very gruesome compared to all the 33, 77, 97 combos he can show up with here. Opinions?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Canucks vs. Hawks, Game Three

Canucks were full value for a 3-1 win in this game to reclaim home-ice advantage. Tremendous puck control (seriously, they turned the puck over maybe 3 times all game, which is just amazing!) + a flat Hawks team = a relatively low-risk victory. Luongo made key saves in 3rd period when he had to.

On to game four - Canucks have golden opportunity to lay the hammer down if they can repeat this performance.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Canucks vs. Hawks, Game Two

Canucks storm out to 2-0 lead. Suffer an injury to a top-four blueliner, which messed up their defense pairings.

Canucks proceed to get hammered, giving up five consecutive goals to the resurgent Hawks (some of which were partially caused by some horrible officiating which led to numerous undeserved penalties).

Canucks end up losing 6-3.

It's a whole new series. The Canucks had better step it up and play a more consistent game. Luongo needs to step it up and steal a game.