Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My next car

I can dream, can't I? I might face competition from this guy.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Getting back up

Sometimes the biggest losses happen in the best games.

Maybe I should have quit once I had recouped nearly all of my losses.

These are poker cliches, and today I'm the poker player voicing them.

I recently put some money back on FTP, to end my rather lengthy hiatus from online poker. Unlike some other poker bloggers, I don't have a big tournament score to report. I like to play cash games, and I'd been told by reliable sources that Rush PLO (6max) was a goldmine. Sure, I thought, I can grind out a profit there. I have 30 buyins for this game, I'm properly rolled if I remain disciplined, and I've got a bonus to clear to boot.

A couple of thousand hands later, I'm down eight buyins.

How did this happen? The usual litany of suckouts, one or two coolers, and a mammoth pot shipped to a fishy villain when the stacks were ultra-deep. I need to go over this particular hand in some detail because I really would like a sanity check from other Omaholics regarding situations like this.

So to set the stage, here is what happened. I'd lost four buyins earlier in the day. I lost four more but had developed some very good notes and had learnt the tendencies of most of other players in the relatively small player pool rotating through the Rush PLO10 game. I proceeded to get paid off and win four buyins back and was consequently sitting with 450+BBs in my stack. Several other players were nearly as deep, and I was eager to see if I could take all their money. (I should have listened to that little voice in my head that said to use proper BR management and quit since I had an overly large amount of my BR at one table.)

I opened with a fantastic speculative hand in early position, the A778 ds (nut hearts and clubs). Two weak players (each sitting with less than 100BBs) call. The button, my main target whom I've observed closely and whose play is transparent -- most importantly of all, he overplays his hands and can be taken to value-town -- makes a pot-sweetening raise. I call, as do the other two players. The button still has 370BBs in his stack, and I cover.

The flop comes out a dreamy AA8, giving me the stone cold nuts.

I bet pot, since I figure the button will get stubborn and pay me off. Sure enough, the button calls as the other two players get out of the way.

The turn is the safest of cards, a seven of spades. I bet pot again. The button calls. The pot is now 420BBs and the button has less than half a pot-sized bet left (about 170).

The river is a king. I throw up in my mouth, since I figured the villain's range is heavily tilted to AKQJ hands (in other words, an ace with some Broadway sidecards), but I also know I am going to call if he shoves the river. So I do the betting for him and sure enough, he shows up with the nuts. In retrospect, as Bayne pointed out in the comments, this is probably a mistake. The longterm +EV play is probably to check-call (or even check-raise for value when he bluffs AQxx) in a spot like this where I might have been drawn out on since the board is so dry. This requires a lot of poise and ruthless composure to pull off, and I wasn't cold-blooded enough to do so here. On the other hand, the villain might pay off with trips on the river but not bet if checked to, so I'd lose a ton of value. It's hard to know which
line is best.

And thus I lost the biggest pot of my poker career (over 750 BBs) in terms of bets wagered. Did I do anything wrong? What arguments, if any, are there to play more conservatively? I'd welcome feedback on this.

So the next day I sucked it up, and played some lower-stakes NLHE. And won some money. The comeback begins - again.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The day after

I'm never going to forget February 28, 2010.

Apparently a few Americans watched the men's hockey gold medal game along with me and the other 18 thousand or so live spectators at Canada Hockey Place.

Of course, on a per-capita basis this event shattered all domestic records: on average, nearly half the Candian population watched the entire game (just under 17 million people), and 80% of the population watched part of the game. Eighty percent!

Some of my American friends have congratulated me on the result -- for which I am quite appreciative (I should take the time here to compliment the American team; they have nothing to be ashamed of and they should hold their heads high after having such a phenomenal tournament in Canada's home rink, and what's more their team plays a very Canadian style with all of the attributes we prize so highly in our own players). A couple have followed up by saying "Hey, go ahead and celebrate, this is your Super Bowl". I suppose that's a reasonable statement from their point of view, but it doesn't really come close to approximating just how important this game was to me and the rest of Canada. This New York Times piece does a fair job of describing hockey's place in Canada's psyche; I'm one of those who strapped on a pair of skates when I was 3 years old and began playing hockey before I turned five.

The Cold War is over; this game might not have the geo-political dimensions of the '72 Summit Series but I can say I was fifty feet away from the action when Sidney Crosby scored the most important goal of my lifetime. Crosby has had an amazing eight months: he's won the Stanley Cup and an Olympic gold medal all before his 23rd birthday.

After the game - I really didn't want to leave the building, but officials cleared it away promptly as they wanted to get people over to the closing ceremonies on time - I walked with my dad through downtown to reach his office's underground parking lot. Neither of us could stop smiling. We waved at the people screaming from balconies above us. We high-fived complete strangers singing O Canada. The scene was pure bedlam - I hope to upload a few pictures we took of the crowds - and in fact at one point I feared for public safety as we got separated in the crush at Granville and Robson as the crowd grew a bit unruly.

To wrap up I'll use a crude analogy: let's say you were a Chicago Cubs fan and your team finally won the World Series, and they did so at Wrigley Field against the hated New York Yankees. Then imagine that your national identity was contained within the state of Illinois and you and your fellow citizens only cared about baseball and nothing else.

Hockey is Canada's religion.

I'm never going to forget February 28, 2010.