Monday, October 29, 2007


It's a sad day when your favourite fictional baseball player, the heart of your franchise, suffers a season-ending injury by breaking his foot on the imaginary basepaths.

Get well soon, Eddy.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Lost Cause

Signs that your cause in a satellite tournament is hopeless:

You lose a ton of chips playing raised pots with AK unimproved to J3s and Q7 in blind vs. blind situations;

The one time your AK makes the nut straight (on the turn), you can't get any action from a worse hand that hit the flop hard;

You can't get a one-pair hand to fold to a large check-raise and neither your nut flush draw nor your overcard hits;

All three of your blind steals over the course of three hours are snapped off;

The best player at the table doubles up early.

Ah well. Sooner or later I'll recover from this blasted flu bug and hopefully my decision-making at the tables will likewise improve.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Avoiding Bad Situations in Tournament Play, Part 2

Or, how to blow a golden opportunity to win the first MATH of the BBTwo season. There were 82 runners, a nice increase to the field due to the interest and excitement generated by the new season's prize package.

How I got the chiplead in the early stages of the tournament: I played nearly flawless, patient poker and tripled up to 9100 in chips when I was able to put in the third raise with AA and got both of the initial raisers to call me with JJ and AKs. My hand stood up and I was off to the races.

Then I took over the chiplead when I called a raise and saw a flop with 55, the flop came down ace-high but also with a lovely five, and presto performed its usual magic, stacking someone with AQ. I was now up to 15K in chips and the blinds were only 80/160. Life was good. I reached my highwater mark of 19K in chips when I called a raise in position with A8, saw a 679 rainbow flop, and called a shove by KK. Both of my outdraws hit, for good measure, and I was preparing to coast to the final table as the antes started kicking in and everyone else had to speed up their play to deal with the escalating blinds.

How I lost the chiplead with 30 players remaining:

I played two hands aginst Astin in quick succession ... and made several mistakes which cascaded me into a freefall, crippling my stack. Bluntly put, I made the fundamental error of risking chips in marginal situations that I didn't need to be involved in, something I had carefully avoided so far. My natural instinct with a very big stack is to attack, but when I flat-called Astin's raise of my big blind with 88, I needed to check-fold unimproved rather than bluff a flush when the third spade hit on the turn. He quickly called with pocket jacks and made the flush when the fourth spade came on the river. I double him up and I'm down to 12600 in chips. I'm still comfortably situated at the top of the leaderboard, but with a smaller lead.

About five hands later, Astin raised and I looked down to see AT on the button. I wrongly decided this would be a good time to call in position and try to exact some revenge. Why was this a big mistake, dear reader? Because the flop came down AQT. Astin led out with a bet, I jammed, and he instacalled with bottom set of tens, and I am suddenly crippled down to less than 3K in chips when I can't outdraw with one of the two aces to make a full house. Now, there's no way I am getting away from this hand once I see the flop, and it certainly was a cooler to see the case ten hit the table, but I have no excuse for being in this hand in the first place. I needed to stay patient, wait for a better spot to be the first one in the pot rather than the second, and avoid danger.

The moral of this story: your hand selection and situation selection standards must be maintained at all times. Deviation from those standards can quickly and painfully lead you to disaster.

Soon afterwards, I raised all-in preflop with pocket fives, someone wakes up with pocket queens, and IGHN.

This was a harsh lesson to learn about how to navigate the middle stages of a tournament when you are trying to protect a big chiplead. I trust that I have taken this to heart and won't repeat these mistakes in the future, because I am keen to reach the BBTwo tournament of champions. And I won't be able to do so unless I can eliminate these mistakes from my game.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Embracing the gamble

Sometimes, the False Creek Poker Club truly does live up to its claim as the breeding ground of bad poker players. Unfortunately, I think that it encourages bad habits in me that I need to fight against to improve my overall play. Nevertheless, last night's cash game there, which was as crazy and loose as you'll see anywhere, was an exercise in discipline and patience that ended well for me. And I always have a fun time playing there because it's a great group of guys who are all fun to be around. One crucial factor that dictated my style of play was my decision to sit to the immediate left of the wildest and most aggressive player at the table, which meant that I was going to see relatively few flops, and with only premium hands -- his nickname isn't Crazy D for nothing!

Here are some notes I took on four notable hands that I played during the session. This was a ten-handed .50/1 cash game, but one where $11 open-raises preflop were the norm.

Hand #1: Crazy D puts on the straddle to $2. My initial $100 buyin has shrunk to about $75, but I look down at pocket deuces and decide to call, with the intention of calling a raise by the straddle. Sure enough, Crazy D does put in a raise to $15 or so and I call, which leaves us headsup to see a flop of AK3. I read my opponent for absolutely nothing, so I call his bets on every street as the board picks up an 8 and another 3. Sure enough, my opponent winces when I call the $25 river bet and announces Jack-high. He mucks when I flip over my deuces and start stacking the chips and mumbles a few times "I can't believe you made that call." I double up to nearly $140.

Hand #2: After folding for what seems like two hours (Crazy D was in full force!) I see a flop with AJ (I'd finally gotten a chance to raise preflop). The flop comes down KT7 with two hearts, so I have a gutterball plus backdoor nut flush draw. Peter, the player to my left, raises my flop bet to $25. I pause and trash talk him for a few moments, claiming that I have the best hand. Inwardly I'm just posing and deciding if the implied odds are there to take one off, and I decide they are, as I can fully double up if I draw out on him. Sure enough, the turn is a lovely Q, and I now have the nut Broadway straight. I lead out for $25, Peter obliges by shoving all-in, and sees with dismay that his two pair (kings and tens) is drawing thin. My hand holds up and I double up to nearly $250 in chips.

Hand #3: This hand set a record as the largest pot in FCPC cash game history, I believe. Unlike most of the table, I attempted to raise only to a modest $3 or $4 with my good hands as the initial preflop raiser, so this is what I did from early position with ATs in hearts. Sure enough I got several callers, then was raised to $10 by the very erratic Brad G, who has been known to dramatically overplay hands. Crazy D called the two raises cold in the BB. I ponder for a minute and decide to play this fast and 3-bet to $25. Although there is one intervening call by the big stacked Eman, Brad fires away with an all-in raise for another $132! Crazy D, who really could be playing any two cards, calls! I sit back in disbelief and run some numbers in my head. I really do not want to fold as it's a huge pot with a lot of dead money in it already. My AT hand can make straights and flushs and it's distinctly possible that both of my cards are live. I hem and haw and calculate that if I call, I'll still have my intial $100 stake. That, plus the fact that I'm nearly getting 4:1 on my money without the specter of future betting, leads me to make the gambling call. Emmanuel ponders for a bit behind me and folds an AQ of spades behind me.

Total pot size was nearly $500.

So what did my opponents have? Brad jammed with AJo, which sadly has me outkicked by one. Crazy D called with 96o (!). The board came down KJx, the turn blanked, but the river was a magical Q giving me some gutter love and I took down my biggest live cash pot in quite some time.

(Note that if Brad hadn't played this so aggressively preflop, he would have taken down a nice pot with a strong flop bet. I can't call off my stack on the flop with only two cards to come hoping for a queen to come.)

For the rest of the night with my monster stack I was actually able to see more flops and play more of my usual style after busting out Crazy D one more time when he jammed preflop with his last $50 in chips and I re-raised to isolate with KK. A lot of patience, 3 hours of folding, and some tight and aggressive play let me pick my spots and book a very profitable session up $500.

The one thing that detracts from my enjoyment of these positive results is the fact that I lucked into it. I really had no business overplaying my AT hand in that massive re-raised hand, even if I was against two wild players who were making the same mistake.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Dodging Bullets

If there's one thing that has recently stalled much of my online cash game play, it's definitely been running pocket kings into pocket aces. No fewer than seven times in this past week alone have I dropped a full buy-in to this vicious nightmare for any poker player. That, gentlemen and ladies, is a classic case of running bad. Apparently there are some people who never have this happen to them. I am not one of them!

So, here I am playing at my usual low limit stakes, a .50/1 full-ring NLHE game and I look down at KK in middle position. I perk up and make a standard 3x BB raise and get called by the button and the big blind. My danger sense starts going off for some reason when the button just flat calls my raise. (More on this later!)

The flop comes down with a rather unplesant rainbow thud of T87. Instantly I decide that a continuation bet is most definitely not called for, as I have no idea where I am at ... and juicing the pot will not solve anything. If someone has aces, I'm drawing thin. Tens, eights, and sevens have all outflopped me with sets and nines have flopped an open-ended straight draw. Pocket jacks and pocket fives, two other likely holdings for these set-mining opponents, have inside straight draws against me and are not going anywhere. I could even be facing a flopped straight if someone opted to call with the ever popular J9.

So, as expected the big blind checks the flop and I immediately check behind. The button, though, bets out with a 3/4ths pot-sized bet. The first villain folds and I reluctantly call.

The turn card is a jack! Any nine now makes a straight. I check, intending to call just one more modest-sized bet, but the button smoothly checks right behind me! This confused me to no end as I'm well behind his possible range. The only hand he could have that I can realistically beat is pocket queens. I'm behind AA, JJ, TT, 99, 88 and 77 as well as any number of two pair hands.

Amazingly, the river card is a nine, putting a five-card straight on board! Now I lose to QQ (also the unlikely KQ) but chop with everything else my opponent could reasonably have as we both play the board. I opt to check (I could have made a big bet to represent queens myself, but opt against it, just wanting to get to showdown), and my opponent checks behind me.

What did my opponent actually have? As you might have guessed by the title of this post, he had pocket aces and I managed to dodge a bullet.

This was quite the valuable experience in hand-reading. Some quick thinking on my part and an awareness of significant danger helped me to realize that my pocket kings were nearly worthless in this situation, and consequently I was able to use that discipline for my part to control the pot size. I was prepared to lose the minimum to my opponent's range and was fortunate enough to get away with a chopped pot when the lucky nine hit on the river.

A Hoy of a time was had by all

It's Monday, so that means it's time for another crack at the Hoy! 27 runners make it out this time; top 3 places pay. I'm gearing up for the exciting BBTwo season (for details see the announcement by Al.)

I always like a deepstack tournament. It gives me the oppportunity to be patient, room to make some moves and try to make some monster draws to drag down some monster pots if the stars align properly.

Unfortunately, aside from irritating the host with some jack-eight magic where I outdrew Hoy's 86 by turning top pair on a 632 flop and having the chutzpah to value-bet the river and weathering some good-natured abuse from the table who couldn't believe I played garbage hands early in a tournament, I found myself short-stacked, sitting with just half a starting stack, relatively early on when I ran second-best hands into pocket aces twice in short succession.

Other early highlights included:

running AQ into AQ on an AK5 flop and chopping the pot;

sniffing out a Hammer play and spanking it into oblivion;

drawing my own AA and getting no action on a 3x BB preflop raise;

drawing Presto and pocket eights and likewise gettting no action.

Then I get moved to a new table where my paltry stack is sandwiched between two large stacks. Still, I remind myself that I have a lot of room to play when compared to the blinds, so I hunker down and wait for spots to gamble. The tournament chipleader reaches an absurd 30K in chips as he felts several players in short order. I cower in fear. I start squeezing and re-stealing like mad to chip up as best I can.

I draw KK and, on cue, get no action.

I manage to eliminate a shorty when surflexus jams with a bare queen-high flush draw and I'm priced in to call with AQ.

This gives me some breathing room and I start to gain some momentum, playing careful small pot poker and mixing in some well-timed bluffs that work flawlessly.

We reach the final table and I'm still short-stacked but have a fighting chance to reach the top 3. I win a key race with a small pocket pair of fours against KQ and reach a high-water mark of nearly 10K in chips.

Sadly, I bust out in sixth place when I make a move with 67 of spades on a J74 flop with two of my suit against the chipleader by coming over the top of his c-bet. He insta-calls with TPTK, which holds up. IGHN.

All in all, I'm pleased with two consecutive final tables in the blogger tourneysphere. Hopefully a cash is right around the corner.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Blogger Championship!

Online Poker

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

This Online Poker Tournament is a No Limit Texas Holdem event exclusive to Bloggers.

Registration code: 2261304

An Admirable Failure at a Final Table

I secured 8th place in the Mookie last night, amongst 59 runners. Which was the final place before the cash payouts began. Me = bubble boy.

I can't complain too much, however, as I made a strong, +EV play at the final table against the chipleader with a preflop jam on the button with AJ -- he had open-raised to 4500 from middle position. He ended up calling off nearly 90% of his total stack with only 15% invested prior to my re-raise, and long-term I think this was a good play on my part for several reasons:

1) My tight jamming range (55+, ATo+, AJs+, and a few bluffs thrown in) is ahead of 99 half of the time or more;

2) I have some pretty significant fold equity (truth be told, not so very much in a blogger donkament, but still ...) against non-premium hands, including pairs 22 - TT;

3) We're on the bubble, so the environment is conducive for this calculated aggression to pay dividends;

4) I am playing to win the tournament, not to cautiously fold my way to a 5th or 6th place finish.

It just so happened this time around that my opponent couldn't find a fold and I didn't win a key race with 50% pot equity. C'est la vie.

Small Poker Steps

I remain strictly a low-limit grinder at present, but it's heartening to report that I have more than doubled my initial stake on FTP and have reached a four figure balance for my bankroll. If I continue on this upward path and reach the 2K mark, I will be able to increase the limits I play at. I've been one or two-tabling the .50/1 pot-limit full ring games for the most part; I'm also thinking of playing some $11 SnGs.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


I'm quite pleased that some of my initial work as a student will be doing legal research for a couple of very interesting appeal cases that my principal is bringing to the provincial Court of Appeal.

And in the background, the law society is processing my paperwork and I'm choosing a set of dates to take the PLTCs.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Another Beginning

I just spoke with my principal mentor who will be guiding me through my articling year, and after a week of false starts, I get to go in for my first full day of work at the office.

I'm excited to get down to work and re-learn some things I've forgotten and learn some new things about the law in the real world.

Transitions are fun. They present a challenge to meet.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Avoiding Costly Mistakes

It's a truism amongst serious-minded poker players -- in other words, those players who share a constant desire to learn and improve -- that avoiding just one costly mistake per session will dramatically increase one's win rate and profits at the end of the day. After all, as many poker authors have written, a bet saved is the same as a bet won.

Well, I re-learned this bitter lesson this morning as I lost focus towards the end of my cash game session before heading over to the parents for an enjoyable Thanksgiving dinner. (I'd like to think I didn't let it spoil my good mood at the family gathering, which was especially fun because it was the first major holiday with my sister in attendance since her move back from Scotland. Much food and drink was consumed, jokes were made, a lot of great music was listened to and enjoyed.)

In no particular order, I made the following serious mistakes:

I paid off a short stack to the tune of 30 BBs by calling his shove with only an inside straight draw and bottom pair;

I paid off an opponent who had telegraphed his overpair (pocket aces) for an additional 30 BBs when I shoved over the top on 4th street with top pair and a double belly buster draw and didn't improve;

I paid off an opponent's value bet on the river for an additional 20 BBs with a top pair hand with a second-best kicker.

That's 80 BB's worth of mistakes that should still be in my bankroll.

Combine that with a setup hand where my pocket pair of kings lost to a flopped straight to the tune of a full buy-in, and all my hard work came to naught, leaving me right where I started at the beginning of my session. Going up two buy-ins is great. Giving back nearly all of it is not so great.

Poker is a hard game to win at -- even if you have an advantage over many of your opponents when you sit down at the table. Eliminating some of these careless mistakes would ensure that I would consistently bank profits in the games I'm playing -- games where I do enjoy a significant edge -- instead of suffering through high-variance swings that destroy hard-earned progress towards growing my bankroll in the blink of an eye.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Avoiding Bad Situations in Tournament Play, Part 1

Slowly but surely I've been growing my online bankroll at FTP. Consequently, I like to fool around with the regular blogger tournaments on weeknights as my schedule permits. Monday night, I participated in the MATH, which is hosted by the inestimable Hoy. A few early hands didn't go my way so I found myself at a little under 1800 tournament chips, about half the size of my opponent's stack in this particular hand (3642).

Here's how it went down (names have been changed to protect the innocent and guilty alike):

I'm in the SB with QhTd. It's folded around to me and I complete. Villain in the BB raises up to 140, and I put him on a simple blind steal with a likely holding of Ax. I'm not prepared to surrender my blind so easily, so I call an additional 90.

*** FLOP *** [Ts 3s 8d]

This is about as good a flop as I could hope for. I'm positive I've outflopped my opponent with top pair and a good kicker, so it's time to extract some value from this situation. I opt to go for the check-raise. Villain obliges by firing out a 250-sized bet, which is just under the pot size of 280. I execute my plan by raising to a suspicious 888, juicing up the pot and leaving me with only 757 chips behind. Any thinking opponent should have alarm bells going off in their head, as I'm not about to give up this hand. I've announced I'm committed to playing this pot for all my chips. The villain calls!

*** TURN *** [Ts 3s 8d] [4s]

This completes a possible flush draw, but there's no way all my chips aren't going into the middle. I figure to be a prohibitive favourite and frankly I'm begging for a call from a backdoor flush draw and/or an unimproved ace. I would prefer a fold, obviously, as then I'd take down a very nice pot without having to reach showdown.

Hero bets 757, and is all in
Villain calls 757
Hero shows [Qh Td]
Villain shows [Js Ah]

Incredible! Villain played this hand about as poorly as possible. He had no business calling my C/R on the flop with an unimproved jackace, much less putting in half of his stack at risk with such a marginal holding. All he can beat on the flop is a naked bluff. He has to hit one of his overcards or go runner-runner for a flush or straight. Even then, he might be drawing thin to a flopped set.

*** RIVER *** [Ts 3s 8d 4s] [5s]
Hero shows a pair of Tens
Villain shows a flush, Jack high
Villain wins the pot (3,570) with a flush, Jack high
Hero stands up

Thank you FTP for the suckout!

Strategy lesson: conserve your tournament chips! In the early stages of a tournament, do not voluntarily get involved in marginal situations.
The villain in this hand played this about as poorly as possible, but got away with it in this instance.