Saturday, June 28, 2008

Mixed games are fun

And sometimes the best hands hold up. I managed to win the first NL/LHE mixed tournament held at the regular Friday poker club.

I got a lot of chips early when I nut-peddled a flopped ace-high flush vs. this poor unfortunate who flopped a straight with a 1-out straight flush redraw. Action was multiway and I was able to get the betting capped on the turn when the bets got big, which was rather clever of me if I do say so myself. 3 to the river and I got paid off in spades (literally). Then I subsequently took half of his stack in a NL hand with my AA vs. his QQ (he correctly folded to my flop c-bet). Then I cracked his KK with my AK (in the BB) on your standard AAA flop and extracted 3 streets of value-town betting to get him basically crippled.

The other huge limit hand where I got paid off was vs. a shorty and three other players. I capped it preflop with JJ and extracted many additional bets vs. a 2-pr hand and a hitchhiker who liked the ace on the turn. Valuetown, baby!

I busted another player defending my BB with 34s when I check-raised your standard straight flush draw vs. TPTK on the K56 flop and he insta-called and I got there with the nut straight on the turn with a deuce.

It ultimately got down to headsup with me holding a relatively narrow chiplead. My edge in limit really took over. I also caught a big bluff in NL with my (fifth!) AA of the night on a 5757K board (two flush draws didn't get there) and got the pot away from K9 that rivered a pair.

The structure was awesome and I am glad we got a chance to try one used by the WSoP.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Deepstack poker musings, Part 4

Here are some brief observations as I scuffle to find enough spare time to write the follow-up post I promised last time.

Most truly good NLHE players are genuinely strong players because they are able to consistently outplay their opponents postflop. Aggressive preflop play and discipline in situation selection can only take you so far (especially in tournament poker): to excel, especially in a deepstacked NL cash game, you have to master betting on later streets, where the bets are biggest and the decisions are the most important ... and have the greatest impact on your bankroll.

A good way to develop and practice postflop play is to -- don't laugh! -- play a form of poker oft-derided by the post poker-boom breed of poker players who know but one variant of the game. As some of you may have guessed, I'm talking about limit hold'em. The nature of the game simply forces you to play hands all the way through and see every street. You gain valuable experience -- very quickly! -- as you constantly put yourself in situations where you have to analyze situations postflop. These lessons and skills are transferable to no-limit games.

Standard LHE tactics like free card plays (in other words, betting with the worst hand on an earlier street to try to buy a cheap or free card in the future), and thin river value bets (maximizing value is a cornerstone of all poker games, but especially LHE), are important NL tools that can be practiced and refined at a much-reduced risk to your poker bankroll with time spent in limit games.

I hope to edit and expand on this post later tonight, but for now, work beckons.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Deepstack poker musings, Part 3

Core Concepts

It's past time for a brief refresher on the fundamentals. Deepstack NLHE cash game poker (I define that as a game where the effective stacks are 200+ big bets deep) is a game where a skill advantage can really take hold and generate large profits, simply because the lesser-skilled player's mistakes are more costly. How well you execute and perform to achieve these results is a function of time, luck, and discipline. It's much like the practice of law: you can always control how well-prepared you are, and if you have the requisite intelligence and discipline to put yourself in good situations to succeed, the one variable you have to worry about is luck.

Knowledge is the key to poker.

There are two parts to this. Firstly, there is self-knowledge. An awareness of your own table image and how your actions are likely perceived by your opponents. This is very important and this level of advanced thinking is often a stumbling block for young players in their quest to move up in stakes. You have to develop self-awareness as the games get deeper, tougher and are populated by a higher frequency of thinking players. Against weaker players, you still have to account for what they think of you (if anything). Remember, you can't bluff an idiot.

Secondly, there is knowledge of others. There is no substitute for knowing your opponents' tendencies. Poker is easy when you can read your opponent accurately and narrow their likely holdings to a relatively small range of possible hands. If you have more complete information than your opponent does, you have an edge and can exploit it.

For example, if you know that your opponent doesn't properly adjust their hand values to a 200+BB game and is willing to play for stacks with one pair, you have a huge advantage. You can use this information when you flop 2pr +, or aggressively play other drawing combo hands fast with an equity advantage against their vulnerable holding.

Where does the money come from?

You generate profits in three ways:

1) You get involved in a situation where you run a very strong hand into a strong but second-best hand (for example, a straight vs. two pair). This is a function of luck and patience.

2) You extract value from a marginal situation with an objectively weak hand (for example, a top pair, top kicker hand or a bluff vs. a lower pair, a busted draw, or a weak made hand that can't stand up to pressure). This is a function of skill and patience.

3) You fold. Yes, it's that simple. Yes, I will have a lot more to say about this.

The beauty of deepstack play is that the stack sizes are large enough to support three full streets of pot-sized bets and a raise. In my next post, I'll explore some common situations that arise in deepstack play with an eye back to the fundamentals I've briefly discussed above.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Deepstack poker musings, Part 2

This follow-up post is a long-delayed one, but I hope it generates some good discussion. I have a couple of pure theory posts upcoming, but I thought a workbook-style post was in order first.

I am going to walk through a live cash game hand I played earlier this week in detail.

The primary issue it raises for consideration is one of balancing expected value at a key decision point when you are dealing with two opponents with wildly varying stack sizes.

The situation

A private full ring cash game (no rake, yay!)

Hero (300+ BBs; has consistently been showing down the goods; only bought in for 70 BBs to begin the session. Table image: solid, aggressive postflop.)

Villain #1 (Very, very loose aggressive opponent to Hero's immediate left; stack size of ~ 90 BBs. Table image: wild.)

Villain #2 (Predictable TAG two to Hero's left; stack size of 200 BBs. Table image: a rock.)

Hero is in the big blind with 6c6h.

Villain #1 open-raises from under the gun to 3 BBs (this could literally be any two cards).

Villain #2 re-raises to 8 BBs (this is a straightforward play and narrows the range of hands to big pocket pairs or big aces).

Two intervening players call; Hero calls; Villain #1 calls.

Pot size: 40 BBs.

FLOP: 8c6s4s

Okay, we have middle set on a draw-heavy board.

Hero, in first position to act, checks in hopes someone else will drive the betting. I don't want to scare away customers!

Sure enough, Villain #1 bets right out for 7 BBs. Villain #2 raises to 18 BBs. Hero calls. Villain #1 calls.

Pot size: 100 BBs

TURN: 7s

Hero checks (and grimaces inwardly as the flush gets there and the inside straight fills in). Villain #1 shoves for 65 BBs. Vilain #2 tanks for three minutes and reluctantly calls. [NB. At this point I am nearly 100% certain in my read that I have Villain #2 crushed and drawing to 2 outs for a higher set]

Hero calls.

Main pot: 295 BBs.


Hero checks, Villain #2 checks. Hero wins main pot with a full house, sixes over fours; Villain #1 had a flush and straight draw that didn't get there); Villain #2 had an overpair.

Now as you can see this hand features several key decision points on multiple streets ... and there are many different options you can take here to try to maximize value. To my mind, the crucial decision is on the turn when the opportunity exists to potentially build a side pot with a check-raise of Villain #2 once Villain #1 has shoved.

Item 1: If Villain #1 has made his draw I have ten outs for a redraw.

Item 2: Even if I need a redraw to win the main pot, I want to build a side pot to try and generate some value. But is a check-raise on 4th street the best way to go about this? Can I get a crying call here, or will all one-pair hands dump, even though I am laying better than 4:1 (villain would have to put his last 110 BBs in to win over 400 BBs)? Will they bluff on the river unimproved? Will they call an obvious value bet on the river unimproved?

Comments are welcome.

A must-read on the NBA gambling scandal

If you're familiar with PokerRoad Radio ... this is a must-read interview of a very successful sports bettor who happens to also be a good poker player and host.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

And sometimes, poker is cruel

A very nasty hand from tonight's Mookie.

A simple question: does anyone not go broke here? I feel that I overplayed things badly on the river, but I don't think I can ever fold there.

Full Tilt Poker, NL Hold'em Tournament, 25/50 Blinds, 9 Players

UTG+1: 3,010
UTG+2: 3,065
MP1: 425
MP2: 4,920
Hero (CO): 4,900
BTN: 2,975
SB: 2,350
BB: 5,870
UTG: 3,010

Pre-Flop: (75) Q A dealt to Hero (CO)
4 folds, MP2 raises to 150, Hero raises to 450, 3 folds, MP2 calls 300

Flop: (975) A 3 Q (2 Players)
MP2 checks, Hero bets 450, MP2 calls 450

Turn: (1,875) 6 (2 Players)
MP2 checks, Hero bets 850, MP2 calls 850

River: (3,575) K (2 Players)
MP2 bets 1,500, Hero raises to 3,150 and is All-In, MP2 calls 1,650

Results: 9,875 Pot
MP2 showed A A (three of a kind, Aces) and WON 9,875 (+4,975 NET)
Hero showed Q A (two pair, Aces and Queens) and LOST (-4,900 NET)

Sometimes, poker is easy

... especially when you flop four sets in four hours and get paid all four times. Net profit: 7.5 buy-ins.

Now if only appellate judges were as charitable as the poker gods ...

Sunday, June 8, 2008

TOC follow-up report

I began the ToC with a clear plan.

First, play very disciplined and tight poker in the early stages. Be sure to get chips in the middle with the best hand. Play smallball poker against aggressive players and try to control the pot size carefully.

I found myself slowly but surely chipping up in modest increments in the early going. Then I gave some chips back with an unimproved AK facing a pot-sized bet from Astin when all I had was a gutterball with one card to come. That got me back to a starting stack. Then I found AK again and was faced with a squeeze by a short-stacked Hoy. I didn't put him on a big hand, and there was some dead money in the pot. So I re-raised to isolate and sadly couldn't win a big early race:

Full Tilt Poker, NL Hold'em Tournament, 40/80 Blinds, 8 Players

Hero (UTG+1): 2,480
MP1: 2,940
MP2: 4,770
CO: 2,755
BTN: 2,605
SB: 4,865
BB: 1,825
UTG: 2,810

Pre-Flop: (120) A K dealt to Hero (UTG+1)
UTG folds, Hero raises to 240, MP1 folds, MP2 calls 240, 3 folds, BB raises to 1,825 and is All-In, Hero raises to 2,480 and is All-In, MP2 folds

Flop: (3,930) 4 7 2 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

Turn: (3,930) 2 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

River: (3,930) A (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

Results: 3,930 Pot
Hero showed A K (two pair, Aces and Twos) and LOST (-1,825 NET)
BB showed 4 4 (a full house, Fours full of Twos) and WON 3,930 (+2,105 NET)

That crippled me down to a paltry 655 chips and the blinds were 40/80. I had a long climb ahead of me. But I just found a good spot to take a gamble getting better than 3:1 on my money and got there when I needed it most:

And the added bonus was that I was able to crack AA at the same time as I tripled up to nearly 1700 as we neared the first break! I was still below average but had breathing room to actually play compared to the blinds.

I continue my comeback by locking down a race with a flopped set of jacks, eliminating a short-stacked non-blogger as an additional bonus as I climbed back to just over 3K:

I continued to build towards a top-5 stack when Astin decided to overplay an overpair when I flopped top set. I opened with nines for 3BBs, he smooth called from the small blind and led out for a full pot-sized bet on what seemed to him an unthreatening board. I tanked, using some of my timebank before coming over the top with top set of nines and he snap-called with the overpair:

This got me to a full 6K in chips and I was suddenly in the catbird seat, comfortably in a strong chip position.

I missed a golden opportunity to chip up when I got no action with my first and only AA of the tourney, only winning the blinds.

Then I made a poorly-timed c-bet with an AK vs. JD Schellnut that missed the flop to spew some chips, a definite mistake that I regret.

Full Tilt Poker, NL Hold'em Tournament, 80/160 Blinds, 8 Players

Hero (CO): 6,030
BTN: 1,955
SB: 4,670
BB: 4,420
UTG: 2,180
UTG+1: 11,925
MP1: 3,245
MP2: 2,540

Pre-Flop: (240) A K dealt to Hero (CO)
4 folds, Hero raises to 400, 2 folds, BB calls 240

Flop: (880) 5 2 Q (2 Players)
BB checks, Hero bets 560, BB raises to 1,120, Hero folds

Results: 2,000 Pot
BB mucked and WON 2,000 (+1,040 NET)

Then we reach my Waterloo. Because I had been playing so very tight, a locked-down style where I was seeing only 10% of the flops, I decided to open for 4x the BB in first position with pocket tens. JD decides to re-raise me, perhaps a bit frisky after winning that pot against me a couple of orbits ago.

Full Tilt Poker, NL Hold'em Tournament, 80/160 Blinds, 8 Players

Hero (UTG): 4,830
UTG+1: 1,955
MP1: 3,580
MP2: 5,860
CO: 1,940
BTN: 12,935
SB: 3,325
BB: 2,540

Pre-Flop: (240) T T dealt to Hero (UTG)
Hero raises to 560, 2 folds, MP2 raises to 1,920, 4 folds, Hero raises to 4,830 and is All-In, MP2 calls 2,910

Flop: (9,900) 5 A Q (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

Turn: (9,900) 7 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

River: (9,900) K (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

Results: 9,900 Pot
Hero showed T T (a pair of Tens) and LOST (-4,830 NET)
MP2 showed K K (three of a kind, Kings) and WON 9,900 (+5,070 NET)

And just like that I go home now. Obviously I had several key decisions to make preflop here, and I opted to take the aggressive course of 3-bet shoving in hopes of getting every non-paired hand to fold, and perhaps get a laydown from JJ or QQ. Or, I could have folded. Or, I could have flat-called and pulled a stop'n'go on the flop and jamming almost any flop. As it turns out I just might have been able to get a laydown from KK when both an A and a Q hit on this flop (obviously my UTG range tilts heavily towards QQ, AQ+), but as it stands I can't say as I regret getting it all in here with the opportunity to build a massive stack even though it turned out I was a 4:1 dog.

I'm a bit miffed that I didn't play flawless poker -- I made two notable mistakes with c-bets, and slowplayed AK preflop one other time that got me in trouble -- nor did I get to the final table, but I still very much enjoyed the ToC and I think I came into the tourney with the proper approach.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Prelim ToC report

Busted out in 30th.

I raised from first position with pocket tens but ran into pocket kings. I didn't suckout after I put in the last raise and my opponent obviously called.

Was generally pleased with my play (I saw only 10% of flops; tight is right in a high-stakes tournament like this) but made two significant errors to spew some chips -- both of them were ill-advised c-bets with big aces that missed the flop. Was nearly down to the felt but made a big comeback to 6th overall with 35 players remaining after the first break.

Another BBT, Another ToC

Well, it's ToC-Day.

I'd like to claim that I have a foolproof, thoroughly Machiavellian plan in place to take this down, but I don't.

I'll just have to play my best and hope that I have enough good luck and enough skill to triumph.

It should be fun, either way, and many thanks are due to Al et al. for providing us with this opportunity.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Will I be staying in town on the July long weekend?

Mark Knopfler

Jul 03, 2008, 7:30pm: Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver, BC

That pretty much says it all right there.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Shave and a Haircut, Two Bits

Here is a belated goodbye to one of the most influential musicians of the twentieth century:

In later years he starred in the famous "Bo Knows" series of Nike ads with Bo Jackson, but I'll remember him best for his superlative rhythm guitar prowess which he used to cross over from blues to rock 'n' roll. He put the rhythm in R&B. He was an innovator who developed the early electric guitar.

I can still hear him vicariously any time I listen to the Rolling Stones, U2 or Bruce Springsteen, just to name three popular musical acts still playing today.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Big Game report

Brief synopsis:

I chipped up nicely early. I was able to flop the nuts in this hand and nearly got my opponent to call my river shove here:

Preflop, my opponent limped UTG and I popped it up to 200. He called.
On the flop, he led out with nearly a pot-sized bet (350) and I raised it up to 800, hoping he would 3-bet. Instead, he called. I checked behind on the turn when I picked up the nut flush draw, hoping he'd bet any river card and then I could jam for roughly a bit less than a full pot-sized raise, so long as the board didn't pair up. Sure enough, the river blanked out and my victim led out for 1000 and I shipped my final 2090 over the top. Sadly, he folded a set of tens after tanking for a while. That was a disciplined fold by JDS. At this point, I had fully doubled up to over 6K in chips.

I also took several pots at lucko's expense, which was a nice change of pace considering the abuse I suffered at his hands last week in the Riverchasers. My TT held up vs. his 88; my AQ outflopped his QQ, and my 45s got there vs. his slowplayed-into-oblivion AK.

I was also able to play a huge drawing hand aggressively OOP and 3-bet the turn with 15+ outs and got a fold. I defended my BB with A9 and earned a fair amount of chips when I CRAI a 99J flop and got called. I led out when a K fell on the turn and took it down. My high-water mark in chips was over 8K, which was a top-5 stack after the first hour.

Sadly, I then got a bit unlucky and made a pretty significant error which led to my implosion.

I busted out midway through Hour 2 because of two hands:

1) My AK with a flush draw was outflopped by AJ and I raised with a semibluff on the flop, checked behind on the turn, and bluffed on the river when I missed. I really should have fired the second shell on the turn, but top pair is gold to almost any blogger, so I don't know if I truly had any fold equity. Still, my opponent didn't hold a club and my range is well ahead of TPTK ...

I flubbed by checking behind on the turn and taking a free card. I should have bet to give myself two ways to take down this pot against another big stack by putting a lot of pressure on him.

Full Tilt Poker, NL Hold'em Tournament, 50/100 Blinds, 9 Players

UTG+2: 8,575
MP1: 3,545
MP2: 3,430
Hero (CO): 8,195
BTN: 2,520
SB: 8,707
BB: 3,715
UTG: 4,015
UTG+1: 1,662

Pre-Flop: (150) A K dealt to Hero (CO)
5 folds, Hero raises to 330, BTN folds, SB calls 280, BB folds

Flop: (760) J 6 9 (2 Players)
SB bets 300, Hero raises to 900, SB calls 600

Turn: (2,560) 7 (2 Players)
SB checks, Hero checks

River: (2,560) 5 (2 Players)
SB checks, Hero bets 1,600, SB calls 1,600

Results: 5,760 Pot
Hero showed A K (Ace King high) and LOST (-2,830 NET)
SB showed J A (a pair of Jacks) and WON 5,760 (+2,930 NET)

Of course, the villain in this hand went on to win the final ToC seat ... I guess playing AJs out of position and flopping a very vulnerable top pair hand is good discipline when you play a large pot without much equity against my range.

In case you think this is just sour grapes on my part, just look what this guy did in the very next hand to lucko:

Full Tilt Poker, NL Hold'em Tournament, 50/100 Blinds, 9 Players

UTG+1: 8,575
UTG+2: 3,545
MP1: 3,430
Hero (MP2): 5,365
CO: 2,520
BTN: 11,637
SB: 3,615
BB: 4,015
UTG: 1,662

Pre-Flop: (150) 4 2 dealt to Hero (MP2)
BTN raises to 300, BB raises to 950, BTN calls 650

Flop: (1,950) 4 5 8 (2 Players)
BB checks, BTN checks

Turn: (1,950) J (2 Players)
BB bets 1,100, BTN raises to 3,700, BB calls 1,965 and is All-In

River: (8,080) A (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

Results: 8,080 Pot
BTN showed Q K (a flush, Ace high) and WON 8,080 (+4,065 NET)
BB showed 8 8 (three of a kind, Eights) and LOST (-4,015 NET)

2) My QTs flopped two pair on a QT6 board when I made my first light 3-bet of the whole tournament (I was playing very tight, only seeing 16% of flops). I raised 4x the BB over one EP limper (the other 3 times I 3-bet preflop I had had shown down TT+) and got everyone to fold but the original limper. I overbet for value by shoving this draw-heavy flop thinking I definitely had the best hand unless my opponent had flopped bottom set. Of course, my opponent check-called off his whole stack with a straight flush draw (Jd9d). Off-suit K on the river and he gets there and I'm crippled.

So ... I begin to wonder if I should have checked behind and jammed any non-scare card to crush the hopes of the straight and flush draws my opponent was playing. I expect he would have led out with a donk bet on the turn and I wonder if he would have had the discipline to lay it down when I jam ... comments?

I get my last 500 chips in getting nearly 4:1 when Don and Dionysus go to war with AK vs 99 vs my 67s and I can't hit a gutterball. IGHN.

Brief stats summary:

Statistics for 114 Hands
Street Saw Saw/Total
Flop 18 16%
Turn 14 12%
River 10 9%
Showdown 8 7%

Street Won Won/Saw Won/Total
Pre-flop 8 7% 7%
Flop 2 11% 2%
Turn 3 21% 3%
River 1 10% 1%
Showdown 4 50% 4%