Thursday, December 31, 2009

A late Christmas present

I'm a first-time uncle. My nephew, named Oliver (seen above in the arms of his maternal grandmother), was nearly two weeks overdue before making a loud appearance into the world the morning of December 30th, and he was a hefty 10 lbs 7 ounces. Both he and her mother (my younger sister) are doing fine after a stressful delivery and a tense couple of days.

I have to admit, this makes me reconsider my stance not to become a parent (let's ignore all the necessary intermediate steps for that to happen! I'm indulging in sentimentality). I'm very proud of everyone involved.

Bonus pic!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Roy Halladay is a Philadelphia Philly

No, really. He is.

Time to don the mourning black as others rejoice.

It's been a long long time since 1993. Sigh.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A WPBT substitute

Sadly, I didn't get to go to the WPBT this year. I had so much fun last year in my first appearance, that I was really gutted that I couldn't make the trip. However, family duties prevented a weekend in Las Vegas.

Oddly enough, I did manage to play some online poker hands and my own personal Ferguson experiment is going well (I've turned $5 into $250 during the past two weeks). I've been steadily crushing the low-stakes mixed games, with some occasional time put in at the micro-stakes PLO tables. Here is an example of the latter, where I actually hit one of many redraws on a nice freeroll opportunity:

In the second hand, I scooped a nice Stud eight-or-better pot (by far my most profitable game in the 7-game mix) and spent five minutes in chat baiting an apoplectic victim who didn't understand why I capped the betting on fourth street vs. multiple opponents ...

Limit Stud H/L

*** 3RD STREET ***
Dealt to Noobitronix [4s]
Dealt to Lefty_Two3 [Ah]
Dealt to DJrabibit [Ad]
Dealt to Brizzy23 [3h]
Dealt to KGB_05 [8d]
Dealt to PirateLawyer [8h 5h] [7d]
Brizzy23 is low with [3h]
Brizzy23 brings in for $0.05
KGB_05 folds
PirateLawyer calls $0.05 - I want to see a flop cheaply with many opponents in the hand
Noobitronix folds
Lefty_Two3 completes it to $0.20
DJrabibit calls $0.20
Brizzy23 folds
PirateLawyer calls $0.15 - I can still see a flop profitably three-handed at this price
*** 4TH STREET ***
Dealt to Lefty_Two3 [Ah] [7c]
Dealt to DJrabibit [Ad] [6c]
Dealt to PirateLawyer [8h 5h 7d] [6h] - boom! time to get busy with a disguised OESD; this is now quite a scooping hand opportunity
Lefty_Two3 bets $0.20
DJrabibit calls $0.20
PirateLawyer raises to $0.40
Lefty_Two3 raises to $0.60
DJrabibit calls $0.40
PirateLawyer raises to $0.80
Lefty_Two3 calls $0.20
DJrabibit calls $0.20
*** 5TH STREET ***
Dealt to Lefty_Two3 [Ah 7c] [Jc]
Dealt to DJrabibit [Ad 6c] [3d]
Dealt to PirateLawyer [8h 5h 7d 6h] [Ks]
Lefty_Two3 checks
DJrabibit checks
PirateLawyer bets $0.40
Lefty_Two3 calls $0.40
DJrabibit calls $0.40
*** 6TH STREET ***
Dealt to Lefty_Two3 [Ah 7c Jc] [As]
Dealt to DJrabibit [Ad 6c 3d] [9s]
Dealt to PirateLawyer [8h 5h 7d 6h Ks] [4h] - Eureka!
Lefty_Two3 bets $0.40
DJrabibit calls $0.40
PirateLawyer raises to $0.80
Lefty_Two3 calls $0.40
DJrabibit calls $0.40
*** 7TH STREET ***
Dealt to PirateLawyer [8h 5h 7d 6h Ks 4h] [Qh] - bonus flush!
Lefty_Two3 checks
DJrabibit checks
PirateLawyer bets $0.40
Lefty_Two3 calls $0.40
DJrabibit has 15 seconds left to act
DJrabibit folds
*** SHOW DOWN ***
PirateLawyer shows [Qh 8h 7d 6h Ks 4h 5h] a flush, Queen high, for high and 8,7,6,5,4, for low
Lefty_Two3 mucks
PirateLawyer wins the high pot ($3.63) with a flush, Queen high
PirateLawyer wins the low pot ($3.62) with 8,7,6,5,4
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $7.63 | Rake $0.38
Seat 1: Lefty_Two3 mucked [Kh Kc Ah 7c Jc As Tc] - HI: two pair, Aces and Kings
Seat 2: DJrabibit folded on 7th St.
Seat 3: Brizzy23 folded on 3rd St.
Seat 4: KGB_05 folded on 3rd St.
Seat 5: PirateLawyer showed [Qh 8h 7d 6h Ks 4h 5h] and won ($7.25) with HI: a flush, Queen high; LO: 8,7,6,5,4
Seat 6: Noobitronix folded on 3rd St.

I'm sure those of you who went to Vegas had a lot more fun than I did, but I had to make lemonade with the lemons I was dealt. I'm anxiously awaiting all the trip reports to hear about all the debauchery I missed out on.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

7-Game Mix Experiment

I guess it's time for my monthly poker post. I certainly hope to revitalize this blog, once I get the time to decide what topics I'd like to focus writing about in this space. For now, a mildly interesting poker hand history will have to suffice in the interim.

I recently began dabbling in microstakes mixed games online, as I haven't had much time recently to hit the local cardrooms for any live play. So far, the results have been very good even though the profits are trifling in magnitude. I've enjoyed experimenting with alternate strategies and practicing hand reading fundamentals against a lot of really bad players.

I decided to get tricky here with a premium hand. Comments? (For all four of you LHE enthusiasts still reading this blog, do you think the line I took here was good exploitive play against an unsophisticated villain (it certainly wasn't optimal!), or was it a fancy play which I should purge from my arsenal?

Edit: Bonus material

Hand #2 (pure brag):

I wish this hand had been at higher stakes! It's nice to get paid off on the proper side of a cooler for a change.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A golden opportunity missed

I came within five seconds of scoring four tickets to the premiere event of the Olympics, the gold medal men's hockey game. Sadly, a five-second delay as my computer froze was just enough time for the window of opportunity to close on the #$!% online lottery and I had to settle for the consolation prize, the bronze medal game.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A fiasco in the offing

I haven't blogged about the Olympics much, and that is going to change significantly as Vancouver is gearing up for the mayhem that is going to ensue.

Be it resolved that: the upcoming Winter Olympics will, inevitably, be a fiscal disaster of monumental proportions for the city of Vancouver.

The city has already lost a big lawsuit to displaced businesses who were harmed by three years of bad planning, dishonesty, and awful decisions relating to a major construction project which tore up a main artery of the city. Many businesses relocated or failed because of the delays ... and the courts quite properly found the city to be at fault. As you might have guessed, the decision is under appeal, but the defendants have had to pay interim damages.

And don't get me started at what the province chose to do in upgrading the Sea to Sky highway. A much more progressive, efficient, and greener option was ignored: build a traditional rail line to Whistler which goes right to downtown Vancouver. As an avid skier, I can swear that the convenience offered by this option would have been embraced by many during the winter months, reduce traffic on the picturesque but dangerous highway in adverse driving conditions, and would not have been more expensive than the final bill for the highway upgrades that BC taxpayers will be responsible for.

All this being said, I'm honest enough to admit that had I won tickets to the men's gold medal hockey game, I would probably feel the pain of future tax bills a little less keenly.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Some New Shadows Over Innsmouth

I'm sure that the author whose gothic novel inspired this webcomic would have been taken aback by this pastiche. After all, in 1931 even H.P. Lovecraft's zany imagination didn't conceive of stories featuring a protagonist who was a troubled young mother with supernatural powers who bore a child out of wedlock and who worked as an auto mechanic. But he would have recognized a lot of the other elements populating this homage.

If you're a fan of the Cthulhu Mythos, this comic is a must-read. And if you're not, you should still check it out.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Back to basics: minimizing your losses

I didn't manage that today. I could try to come up with original content, but why bother when someone else has already summarized what happens when you can't win a pot at a good LHE table? Like him, I won precisely one pot at showdown in approximately five hours, even though I flopped some very big made hands and draws. I made a couple of crying river calls, but I don't believe I made any significant errors all night.

Best decision of the night? Quitting when I hit my stop-loss (for only the second time in my poker career), rather than reach into my wallet (even though the game was still excellent). Rules are rules and I needed to get out of there and fight another day. The game will still be there tomorrow.

Piaf said it best: Non, je ne regrette rien!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Back to basics: maximizing your wins

I've been working on incorporating thinner value bets on the river in my game during the past month or so in my regular LHE play at my local cardroom with the stated goal of maximizing my true winrate -- although, this increases your variance, which is a consequence one must learn to cope with. This guy's last couple of blog posts gave me a prod in posting a few thoughts about this concept, since optimal play on the big-bet streets in LHE is every bit as important as it is in PLO or NLHE. Delving into these psychological issues is, I think, a key improvement to make once you have reached a certain plateau and are looking for ways to grow one's poker game to a new, higher level. If your "A-Game" can become even better, and you master ways to play your best game more often, you should see better results in the long run.

Here is a recent example from my regular game where I think I clearly wussed out and missed out on significant value. After I raked in the pot, I forced myself to sit out for an orbit as I mulled over the mistakes I had made and refocussed for the remainder of my session.

I found myself on the button with AcKc. Naturally, I put in a re-raise to three bets when given the opportunity, as a player in late position had put in a raise over a couple of limpers. The small blind, a middle-aged Asian woman who was lighting money on fire that night, although she is probably a small long-term winner in the game from what I've seen, called three bets cold and five players saw the flop (with about 8 big bets already in the middle). The beauty of this situation is that I had well over my fair share of pot equity; with a lot of dead money involved, I was in a good spot with position and a premium hand.

The flop came down KQJ with two hearts (and one club, for a backdoor nut flush draw). It was checked to me, I bet, the small blind check-raised and the original preflop raiser called two bets cold. I overcalled. The three of us saw the turn, which was an offsuit jack. She led out, the other player called, and I overcalled, even though I strongly suspected (due to past experience with these players and some fairly reliable tells) that I had the best hand. Consequently, it follows that I missed a raise for value against the range of hands my two opponents were playing, and I failed to charge all the drawing hands and worse made hands to outdraw me. This was a major error, to my mind. If I had been re-raised, I could safely throw AK away (I don't think either of the two players I was tussling with was capable of 3-betting a worse hand than mine); if I trusted my read at the time, I should follow through and attempt to maximize my equity whilst making a strong play with the benefit of position.

The river blanked and it was checked around. Again, I arguably missed a value bet, even though the board was scary. Why should I expect these players to check better hands than mine in this situation? Answer: I shouldn't, so I should bet for value and strongly consider bet-folding if I were check-raised on the end.

As it turned out, the small blind showed KhTh for missed straight and flush draws and the other player mucked, claiming to have held KTo. I played the river horribly, I think - nearly as badly as I misplayed the turn. Heck, you could even argue that I should have 3bet the flop (although the small blind would have been justified in capping it against me).

Comments on the larger issues are welcome, as well as duly-earned criticisms on how I butchered this hand.

As an aside, happily my local cardroom is regularly getting a 10-20 LHE game going Fri-Sun. I should be regularly playing in this game very soon and hopefully will be able to report back with some interesting hands during the next few months. The 5/5 PLO game still goes regularly and is good but I don't feel the time is right to take shots at that game, mostly due to expected variance issues given the fact that I am not properly rolled for it yet and would prefer not to have to rebuild my BR if I went on a string of losing five buyins.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

March of the Queens

It's been a long time since I posted an interesting poker hand for discussion. I was involved in such a hand a week ago that might generate some good arguments ... not that many of you play live limit hold'em cash games, but here goes ...

Last Saturday night, I found myself at my regular live 4/8 LHE kill game -- in fact, this hand took place during the session I mentioned in my previous post. I am up for the session and have consistently shown down winners. I have noticed that some of the players have begun to realize that when I raise preflop, I usually have a premium hand. The table is the usual mix of loose players who will play any two cards preflop. Postflop the play becomes a bit more aggressive, but not significantly so.

In this particular hand, the UTG player limps in. He is an older player who is the epitome of the table. LAG preflop, TAG postflop, calling station when on the draw: very exploitable; I will always know where I stand. He pays off more than most with second best hands because he hates to be bluffed. I paid him off earlier with AA when he flopped a small set; I got my revenge soon afterwards by extracting maximum value in a kill pot with TPTK (where I held AQo in the big blind *with the kill* but I didn't re-raise preflop; the flop came queen-high with a flush draw and he called my turn check-raise and river value bet with worse). Four other players limp in and I look down at my cards and see QQ.

Because of my table image and innate dislike for being out of position, I check my option (there are sound arguments for raising here with a preflop equity edge, to be sure).

The flop comes down with a rainbow board of J98. The pot contains five small bets.

I check, looking for clues on how to proceed from the actions of my opponents. Depending what happens behind me, I was definitely planning to check-raise. Somewhat to my surprise given this dynamic flop, it is checked around. Before seeing the turn, I quickly formulate a plan of leading out almost 100% of the time.

The flop brings a very interesting card, a queen (no backdoor flush draws have materialized). So I've improved to top set in a very small pot, and it's reasonable to suppose that one of my four opponents might very well have improved to a straight. I decide to execute my plan and lead out, but this is a close decision. The UTG player immediately raises. I decide that if it's folded around to me I should reluctantly fold the river unimproved, because I think my opponent is never bluffing here (given my read of the situation, this is a fairly easy laydown but I'm not in the habit of regularly folding top set before seeing all five board cards). However, a third player calls two bets cold, throwing a new wrinkle into this situation, and I opt to close the action with a trivially easy call. The pot is now 8.5 big bets.

The river is a jack, giving me the overfull. I lead out hoping that I will get raised by my left-hand opponent, but the UTG player pauses for a few seconds and only calls, the third player folds, and I drag the 10.5 BB pot.

Comments on how this hand was played on every street are welcome. What, since folding is not a palatable decision at any point, would you do differently to maximize your positive expectation in this situation and others like it?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Misadventures in babysitting

On Saturday night, I decided to withdraw some funds from my other bank account -- the 4/8 LHE with full kill game that runs at a local casino downtown. Seeing as how I'm on hiatus from online play, I've been trying to play at least a few hours per week when I can stand to be indoors during the summer. My results have been very good overall -- the game plays like 8/16, and I'm putting up a nice 7BB/hr winrate for 2009, and averaging 8 or 9 winning sessions for every ten I play -- and I'm sure I'll put in even more hours when the summer weather turns to the typical Vancouver autumn rain.

My planned withdrawal went as planned -- I cashed out with four more racks than I started with, which is good work for a relatively short session of about four hours -- but I also witnessed some entertaining shenanigans during the course of the evening which were definitely worthy of a blog post.

As I've mentioned before, this casino happens to spread the biggest public game in the city, a full-ring 5/5 PLO with a max 200 BB buyin. I have kept a close eye on this game throughout the summer with the goal of taking a shot or two or four when the time is ripe.

So as I'm waiting near the door for my seat to come open at my regular game, I wander over to see how the PLO game is doing. Who should I happen to spot in the one seat but a minor Canadian poker celebrity. He didn't have a million dollars in front of him, unlike here, and he wasn't facing Phil Ivey, but it seemed as if he was in the midst of booking a solid winning session against a lineup that wasn't exactly a murderer's row of poker talent.

Soon afterwards I got called to my game, which I was thankful for as the list behind me had swelled to 30+ names deep due to a large 105K bad beat jackpot. This was a causal factor which would lead to quite the fiasco later on. Little did I know that something unusual was about to occur...

Now, it just so happens that the 4/8 kill game I play is located at the front of this rather dingy poker room. Once you walk up a couple of steps into a small foyer, you immediately take a 90-degree turn into the poker room. On your left is a railing and a small elevated area containing four or five tables for the "big game", the 5/5 PLO, and a few 2/5 NL games. Immediately in front of you and to your right is the 4/8 kill game I was seated at, and rows of 1/2 NL and some additional 4/8 LHE tables towards the back, with the cage located at the back right corner of the room. I happened to be seated in the five seat, which gave me a direct view of the entrance.

Poker players being the degenerates that they are, often congregate outside the front entrance to smoke while they are waiting to play. And this night, there were a lot of impatient and desperate gamblers looking for a shot at the big jackpot. So, about three hours later two seats opened up at my table, including the seat to my immediate right. As I am listening to the floor call two fresh names to come sit down at my table, my expectation is that these seats will be filled promptly and the game will proceed with a full complement of ATMs (oops! I mean to say respected fellow players).

Then I see something bizarre out of the corner of my eye.

Now, I wouldn't be exaggerating much if I claimed to be legally blind. I am quite near-sighted and have had to wear glasses since the sixth grade. So it was a near-miracle that I spotted a twenty-something dark-skinned guy peer through the front glass doors of the room, identify the empty seat on my right, and execute a mad sprinting dash over to sit down in it, pulling out about half a rack of chips from his coat pocket as he sat down. It took him about five seconds to pull off this stunt, and as I began to gape at him I realized he'd just done a fair impersonation of a shifty running back scuttling and bobbing and weaving away from would-be tacklers on a football field. Which is not something you expect to see in a poker room.

Of course, the proverbial fecal matter hit the fan about two minutes later once the players who had been called found their way over and discovered one of their rightful seats had been usurped. By a rude sprinter who refused to vacate "his" seat and began haranguing the dealer about the "dumb" rules of the poker room.

Our resident NFL running back exhibited a fine command of invective and strongly reeked of liquor as the promptly summoned floorman stood over him, quite properly directed the dealer not to deal him any cards, and told him in no uncertain terms that he'd have to get up and wait for his proper turn in line for one of the seats in the regular 4/8 LHE game. Since, as it turned out, he wasn't even on the list for the kill game. This guy clearly wasn't playing with a full deck, and I was almost sorry to see him go.

Once he was out of sight, however, he soon went clean out of my mind as I turned my attention back to enlarging my withdrawal. However, not 30 minutes later the climax of this little drama came to pass. This incident, you see, was merely the prologue.

You see, our desperate drunken football player had eventually been called to a seat in the regular 4/8 game. And wouldn't you know it but he soon went off on a full-blown tirade, demanding to be awarded a pot he had no right to at the top of his voice. Some chips were flung, a full baker's dozen floor people materialized at the scene, and in short order he was ejected from the casino cursing all the while as the staff attempted to babysit him until a taxi arrived. And on his way out, he assaulted the shift supervisor (who had called him a cab and had tried to defuse the situation as best he could) with a few sharp elbows to the chest worthy of a professional NHL pest looking to instigate a fight. I went to a poker room and a hockey game broke out ...

All I can say is, he's lucky criminal charges weren't pressed. I certainly wouldn't have offered my services to defend him in court.

With all the excitement over with, I got back to my profitable endeavour of making money from the less vocal, but no less desperate, LHE players who were looking for a share of the large jackpot for a little while longer before I called it a night. Please, keep chasing your inside straights against my made hands. It's a good idea ...

As I walked out the doors of the casino into the fresh night air, I smiled to myself. There's always something new to see at a poker table. For a while there, I thought I might have been about to see my first arrest, but that will have to wait its turn for a future poker session.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Poker bloggers know baseball? I didn't think so

Some Philly-centric bloggers were quick to pillory J.P. Ricciardi, the Blue Jays GM, for the simple fact that he didn't give away Roy Halladay to the Phillies. (Of course, they didn't say Mark Shapiro of the Cleveland Indians should be fired for trading them Cliff Lee for a song, either. Hmmm!) Subsequently, the Blue Jays allowed Alex Rios to be claimed on waivers by the Chicago White Sox and dealt away the aging-but-still-good Scott Rolen for prospects, which were moves that were met with derision by some demoralized Jays' fans and a lot of criticism by the media. I take a contrarian view: these were necessary moves that were mandated by corporate ownership to reduce payroll -- the Jays are still stuck with one albatross contract, the vastly ovepaid Vernon Wells -- and give them the potential means to keep Roy Halladay as a Blue Jay for life -- this would be a very good thing.

(Okay, maybe I'm being too hard on Riggs. He might not actually be on record as saying Ricciardi should be let go.)

This quote sums up the perfectly rational executive Ricciardi happens to be, and I subscribe whole-heartedly to his philosophy of building a competitive team in the tough AL East division, given the financial limitations he's forced to operate with (now if only Vernon Wells were to be claimed on waivers ...).

Q: How do you view your team after all of this dust has cleared?

A: We like our team, we really do. We like the nucleus we have in place. We think Hill and Lind are going to be stars and are on their way. We think Snider is going to be a very good player. We like our team. We have a very good catcher in Arencibia coming. We like our arms on the mound. There’s a lot of really good things happening here. What I think we’ve realized is the reality of the division. We know it, but we’ve come to realize it even more so. This is not a division you can be good in, you have to be great in it to make the playoffs [my emphasis]. We’ve been good the last three years. The ownership has been great to us. They’ve allowed us to spend some money over the last three years, and the last three years we were high 80’s in wins. We’re not good enough to win the division.

What we have to do is take a step back and start looking at ways that we can start building to get great. I think with the Cecils and the Romeros and all the young arms we have, along with the Hills and the Linds and the players we have coming we have a really good foundation and nucleus to get there. But I think we have to be smart about the fact that right now we’re not great and you have to be great to win this division.

I think it’s extremely important. You have to realize that we’re a club that had a $20 million cut in payroll this year. So with that savings going into next year, along with the Rolen savings along with the players we acquired for Rolen, we were able to hopefully utilize that money to address some of our needs. I’ll only be able to answer the question over the next five years how that money works in our favor.

Going forward, Ricciardi can either trade Halladay if he a) isn't able to sign Halladay to an extension or b) gets an offer he thinks is fair market value for the most reliably excellent pitcher in baseball. And because the Blue Jays' team strength is young pitching, they can afford to make a decision from a position of strength, not weakness.

It's nice when others do your planning for you

In this case, CK & BamBam have lined up the details for WBG golf in early December. It's time to hit the range.

Bonus: pinball conveniently nearby. I promised myself I would go back, since I had such a good experience the first time I went there with fellow bloggers, including one who posted an amazing recap of the adventure.

Now if only I can persuade my father to make the trip ... I know he'd enjoy both activities.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Motivation? A prop bet is in order

Resolution: turn back the clock and regain youthful fitness.

Additional motivation: seeing a friend and fellow blogger blow a fuse about excess weight.

Solution: a prop bet.

Objective: Shed flab;

Terms: Weigh-in either at next Winter Gathering (if both parties attend) or January 1st, 2010 (with results verified by acceptable third party);

Targets: PL needs to weigh in at 160 lbs; Riggs 220 lbs;

Stakes: If either party fails to make their target weight, they will give the other party a bottle of single malt Scotch of the other's choosing (price limit TBD).

If anyone else wants to participate, please drop me a line in the comments and I'll add you to the bet.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

No Doc in the House?

Rumours are swirling that Roy Halladay will soon be an ex-Jay. Rogers executives have made Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi's life a living hell by publicly stating that they want to control costs on the baseball operations budget, and as Philly-area blogger Riggs has mentioned, it looks as if his Phillies have gone in another direction (towards acquiring the Tribe's fine starter, Cliff Lee).

What does this mean? The unthinkable might happen: Roy Halladay might be traded to Boston.

I predict that if this happens, the Red Sox will become, by far, the favourite to win the World Series. And the Phillies will be left wondering what might have been because they wouldn't pay the freight for the best starting pitcher on the market.

Edit: Phillies did in fact trade for Lee. Notably they did not give up any of their three highest-rated prospects, but did give up four of their top ten. I do in fact think this was a good deal for both Philly & Cleveland. Only time will tell if the Phillies succeed in playoffs ... in their situation they absolutely had to trade for a veteran starter, and they got one.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Who needs agility?

Life keeps throwing curveballs; or

I took a duck to the face at two hundred and fifty knots.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Always something new

I saw something last week during a live 4/8 LHE session that I've never seen before. I'm curious if any of my vast readership has witnessed something similar ...

Two players were dealt pocket aces at my table. They get into a raising war preflop, obviously, and somewhat to my surprise they didn't pick up any hitchikers desperate to gamble it up to see a flop to crack a big pair. One of the live players then asked if the betting is capped at four bets now that everyone else has folded and the pot is now headsup. Dealer announces no, the betting is uncapped. The floor is consulted and verifies that the dealer is correct.

A few raises latter -- about 9 or 10 -- and one of the players involved tells the other that he's willing to go all-in (for about $400). The other player acquiesces, having about the same amount behind. They both push their chips over the line. So we now have your standard $830-ish pot at a 4/8 table with all the betting complete before the flop has been dealt. Each flips over AA.

Sadly, the flop was an anticlimax, featuring three different suits, which put the kibosh on what would have been a jaw-dropping four-flush scenario if someone got lucky.

I just sat back in amazement, laughing my guts out. I just wish we could have had a sweat for the turn and river.

Poker. Always something new under the sun.

Get Your Ace Here, redux

Today's gem pitched by Roy Halladay speaks for itself as proof why the Jays should either A) keep their ace starter; B) ask for a mint of young talent in return from any team with aspirations to win the World Series this year or next.

Just your standard complete game six-hitter in a 3-1 victory over the best team in the American League.

I had to nod my head in agreement when the Red Sox manager was quoted as saying he wanted to see Halladay traded a few days ago, and to the National League. If I were the Red Sox, I surely would want to see that happen (unless I was able to trade for him myself and build a juggernaut for the increased probability of winning the title).

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Oops, this wasn't the unbeatable jackace!

This hand caught my eye on Poker News as I followed the Main Event coverage yesterday. I didn't realize it was such a donkament at this stage, as 28 players were still playing at this stage of the tournament ...

Buchman Opens-Ships Three Million
Eric Buchman decided not to make one of his more normal raises, but instead open-shoved slightly over three million into the middle. Jonathan Tamayo asked for a count and when he found out, made the call.

Tamayo tabled JsJh and then the dealer turned over Buchman's hand -- AhTh. The crowd sprung to their feet to watch the action as Tamayo's rail cheered.

The flop was gin for Buchman when it came 9h7h2h. Buchman is rarely emotional, but again slapped his hands together and yelled, "Yes!"

The turn was the 6s which officially ended things. The river completed the board with the 6c and Tamayo sent the chips over.

Reasons why open-shoving a 30 big blind stack like this was a horrible play:

1) There were at least five players with fewer chips at this point;

2) When they lose one more player they will stop the tourney for the night;

3) There is a 100K pay jump once they lose one more player;

4) Making it to Day 8 of the ME will earn you more TV time and sponsorship dollars;

5) You are putting your tournament life at risk if someone wakes up with a better hand.

Can anyone come up with an argument for why this was a good play? Was this the wrong move at the right time, and was Tamayo a spiritual descendant of the Cincinnati Kid up against Buchman's Lancey Howard?

NB. Buchman is currently the chip leader with 14 players remaining.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Get Your Ace Here

And not just any ace: the consensus within major league baseball is that Roy Halladay is the best pitcher in the big leagues. Yes, Johan Santana has won more Cy Young awards. Yes, Tim Lincecum is a superb young starter. Yes, Zack Greinke is putting up a phenomenal season for the sad-sack Kansas City Royals.

That being said, "Doc" has an unmatched pedigree of effectiveness, stamina, and character. Not only that, he is signed through the end of the 2010 season at a below-market salary of 15.75MM. (Essentially, he's so good he's actually underpaid, which just goes to show you that the average ML player is overpaid.)

And this week, the general manager of the Blue Jays, J.P. Ricciardi, spoke to the media and said that he'd listen to trade offers if teams enquired about Halladay. (Halladay has a full no-trade clause in his contract that he'd have to waive before any deal could be finalized.) And this caused a predictable furor around baseball, even though this isn't anything new. Ricciardi didn't say he was looking to move his best player; he clearly stated that he'd have to be overwhelmed by any trade offer before he'd seriously consider approaching Halladay and asking him to waive his no-trade clause.

So, why should the Jays trade their most popular and irreplaceable player? There are a few reasons why it might be a good idea.

1) Halladay would fetch a mint in young blue-chip prospects. The brain trusts of would-be contenders are fully aware that Halladay is a sure thing; incremental improvements for would-be playoff teams are hard to come by and extremely valuable in financial terms (increased playoff revenue, etc.). As cited above, marginal wins are easily worth 5MM per win; Roy Halladay has an established performance level of 6-7 wins a year, highest in baseball amongst starting pitchers, so he's roughly worth 40-50 MM of prospects before the Jays would give him up. (An early rumour from a source within the St. Louis Cardinals: "Halladay? We'd give (Ricciardi) our minor league system and ask him to circle five names."

NB. If Roy Halladay didn't sign a contract extension with his new team, he would be a Type A free agent and the team that lost him would receive two first round compensation picks: a nice insurance policy softening the cost of trading for him, and they'd still get 1.5 seasons of superlative performance from him in the meantime.

2) The Jays have budget problems in the near future. They currently have two outfielders signed to albtross contracts, which severely hampers their ability to construct their team.

3) The Jays are in the toughest division in baseball. Essentially, unless they can construct one of the two or three best teams in the majors, they have no chance of making the playoffs. This is a huge challenge that cannot be overstated. The Yankees spend so much money on their roster that they are always in contention for the playoffs. The Red Sox are the same. The Rays have built a juggernaut after ten years of top-five draft picks, and even the Orioles have begun to field a very competitive team after many years of mediocrity. The strength of schedule in the AL East is ridiculously high. So, they might have to take a step back (they have been stuck in the 6-10 range recently, which has meant they've only been finishing third or fourth in the division) in order to take two steps forward.

4) The Jays' chief organizational strength is young pitching. If they can continue to churn out young pitchers who can do a credible job, transforming Halladay into some blue-chip hitting prospects (especially a shortstop, a huge organizational weakness), has its appeal. They can't replace Halladay, but they still might be better off from a team-building standpoint without him.

My head can come up with some logical reasons why the Jays should strongly consider trading Roy Halladay if the price is right.

But my heart doesn't care. I hope they can find other solutions to their problems and keep the best pitcher in franchise history right where he belongs.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I won't be defending this pirate ...

No, I'd find myself hauled up on charges if I ever found the thief who stole my bike yesterday.

I'm not a happy camper, to say the least, and this is going to stick in my craw for a while.

(Ironically, it was stolen from a bike rack in front of the Law Society. Walking outside to discover the shredded lock lying on the ground all by its lonesome, ruined self was not a fun moment.)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Omaha is often a synonym for pain, redux

First of all, congrats to CK who managed to cash in the World Series in the OE/SE 2.5K event! It sounds as if she got unlucky in a couple of big hands or she could have gone even further. I look forward to reading her tournament recap.

Myself, I have been suffering through an 8 -- hah, make that sixteen! -- buy-in downswing in my online PLO experiment. I'm going to do a session review and see if I can spot some leaks, or merely have to attribute the poor results mostly to variance. I certainly know I was mostly getting the money in ahead when I was playing for stacks, so I suspect the latter.


it's the latter. See this as a typical example where I get it in as a 70% favourite and lose:

I'm glad I didn't have any bets on the Cup Finals. I would have bet on Detroit but the Penguins managed to beat the Red Wings at Joe Louis in game seven.

If the weather holds this weekend I'll be spending nearly all of it outside playing disc golf, riding the trails, or at the beach. Enjoying summer activities outdoors takes precedence over pokering, to be sure!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Omaha is often a synonym for pain

Discuss villain's play here. Was his line sensible vs. the range of hands I could reasonably have?

Needless to say, I was ruefully pleased he didn't have a full stack to start the hand. It dulled the pain ... somewhat.

I actually turned a profit during this session, but this subtracted hugely from my bottom line. I have found that PLO8 is one of the most reliable, low-variance ways to build the ol' BR ... this example of a sick beat notwithstanding, because I love this sort of action and I do hold up my fair share of the time.

Summer musings

June has been a strange month so far.

The good:

Vancouver weather has been great and I've been playing a lot of disc golf.

An old friend has moved back to town, escaping from a bad job in the rural wilds of Alberta.

My sister and her husband just purchased a new condo and I had some fun pouring over all the documents as a refresher in solicitor's work in a real property transaction.

I hear this local blogger has actually done some wheeling and dealing for a change. Who knows if he'll blog again any time soon though.

The bad:

My fourth live session of LHE went south in a hurry. -40BBs as I lost all five big pots I played with sets and overpairs that got run down. (On the plus side, the game was fantastic and it was variance that did me in, not my decision-making.)

I got my car towed by parking oh, five meters from an intersection near my place yesterday (the law says park 6+ meters away). Of the 15k illegally-parked vehicles in my neighbourhood, I got picked on. A fun $112.90 siphoned out of my pocket.

The "meh":

Still no concrete developments as I am looking to change jobs. Don't want to defend pirates - I mean, criminals - any longer so that means I am kicking the tires elsewhere and waiting to hear back on some leads. But I should have this sorted out by the end of the summer.

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.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Canucks vs. Hawks, Game One

There's nothing like playoff hockey. Nothing. It is by far the most entertaining team sport when the intensity reaches a fever pitch and every game is a war. Basketball, football, baseball ... they all pale in comparison. And when my hometown Vancouver Canucks are marching along with a real chance at the Stanley Cup, which also just happens to be the most beautiful trophy of any major sports league in the world, you can be sure I live and die with my team.

I've got a blogger bet going on this series with lightning, a long-suffering Chicago Blackhawks fan, which only adds to the fun as the two teams meet in the second round of the NHL playoffs. So, as per usual, I got together with my dad for our playoff hockey routine of screaming at the TV screen as our Canucks were full value for a 3-0 lead after two periods over a young Hawks team that showed its lack of experience and was dominated, in large part due to their own undisciplined play which had them in the penalty box for long stretches. If you make mistakes like that, the Sedins et al. will make you pay.

However, I got more than a little nervous as the Hawks turned the tables in the third period to storm back to a 3-3 tie and it was looking as if the Canucks would improbably be stuck going into overtime in a game they had no business losing. But with under two minutes to go the Hawks comitted a costly turnover at the Canucks blueline and gave up a 4-1 outnumbered rush and Sami Salo made no mistake on the rebound to snap home the game-winner. An empty net goal quickly followed and the home team won 5-3.

Lightning has to hope that the talented young captain of the Hawks, Jonathan Toews, gets healthy and is able to perform up to his usual standard of play. He was noticeably invisible, except for taking a double minor penalty for high-sticking in the first period, and only played four shifts in the third period. The Hawks as a team are really going to have to improve their competitiveness over a full 60 minutes as the Canucks are only going to play better as they shake off the rust from a long nine-day layoff. I would bet a lot of money that the Canucks won't blow another three-goal lead in this series.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Overfull no good?

Sometimes Omaha sets you up and there is nothing you can do about it. CK is a fan of nines; this is a data point in her favour.

Jackace no good?

I got out and about last night and got to see some friends and we ended up playing a 6-handed NLHE freezeout. Was a lot of fun since I have had no opportunities to play live poker since December's trip to Las Vegas. Early on with 60BB effective stacks, I found myself in an interesting spot in the big blind with the suited jackace in diamonds in the big blind. The short-stacked player on my left (who had lost the early big pot to the player in the small blind with top pair versus a rivered straight) raised to 3x the blinds and the small blind called. I called.

The flop came down 7d2d4s. It was checked around to the raiser, who bet 12 BBs and was clearly committed to playing for his stack with only about 18 BBs behind. The small blind called. The pot was large and I read the small blind as weak with any two cards, and the other villain with an overpair to the board, probably nines or tens. So I opted to check-raise for my stack hoping to get a loose call from the small blind, expecting to have more than 33% pot equity, and if I forced her out I'd have approximately 15 outs twice with some dead money in the pot going headsup against the shorty. Sure enough, she snap-called and we all flipped our hands over.

The small blind had 8d4d for a pair and a baby flush draw.
The big blind had 9s9d for the overpair to the board.
I had the AdJd for the nut flush draw and two overcards.

Sadly, I bricked out and 99 held for the main pot and I transferred the remainder of my chips to the small blind.

When I got home, I ran an equity calculation and verified that 99 was about 38% to win, I was about 45% to win, and the 48dd was about 17% to win.

I was not all that happy with how I played the hand, though. I could have re-raised preflop. On the flop, I made a risky play and even though I had the best of it with a nice overlay to make my hand I put my stack at risk.

This was just another data point in the ongoing struggle to balance risk management and expected value in the early stages of a poker tournament. For comparison's sake, if I was playing an online poker tournament, I probably play this more aggressively preflop and I'd have much more hope that jackace would end up being the mortal nuts.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A proverb best sums up my thoughts

It's always darkest before the dawn.

The last two weeks have been traumatic, but I like where I've arrived. I just received some very welcome good news, and I hope this is just the beginning of something great.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Can't Cry Anymore

The last half of this Sheryl Crow song sums up my state of mind. (Ironically as real life is hammering me into the ground, poker is actually treating me well. I'd gladly go busto again online if it would help fix other problems in some kharmic way.)

Wouldn't it be good if
we could hop a flight to anywhere
So long to this life
So much for pretending
Bad luck's never-ending
It's never ending!

It could be worse
I could've missed my calling
Sometimes it hurts
But when you read the writing on the wall
Can't cry anymore

Wouldn't it be good if
we could hop a flight to anywhere
So long to this life
So much for pretending
Bad luck's never-ending
And too much time I've been spending
With my heart in my hands
waiting for time to come and mend it

I can't cry anymore
I can't cry anymore

Maybe the Canucks can win the Stanley Cup. That would be a nice distraction and something I could celebrate.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

More proof that presto is gold

It's not gold merely for this mostly silent blogger.

I wasn't in love with this hand on the flop, so I opted to call the half-pot lead in position since my opponent was able to bet here with high wraps (KJTx, JT8x, etc), aces, as well as middle set of nines (I could discount top set since I was holding a queen) and I wanted to re-evaluate on the turn and potentially run a bluff if he checked to me. Needless to say all the money went in on the turn as my opponent led out again and wasn't able to get away from middle set, to my great glee and profit.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

An Easter Egg, s'il vous plait?

Sadly, the 5 of clubs didn't appear on 7th street to let me scoop this pot. An unworthy rival showed up with it. Sniff. Half of the pot was pretty profitable, though. I was happy to fill up at the end as a consolation for missing my steel wheel.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

BBM: I can do this!

I couldn't resist Goat's offer to burn off some bankroll (especially after a 10 buyin downswing at the cash game tables).

Instead, my love of deepstack cash games -- oh wait, this is a tournament? -- led me to some fun times.


1) I was unable to fold flopped top two pair vs. Bayne. Spiked a four-outer vs. bottom set of fours for an early suckout & resulting double. I played this one very badly. As soon as Bayne 4-bet shoved the T64 two spade flop I tried to figure out if he could have anything but bottom set. I made a mental shrug and made a bad call praying he had an overpair. Instead I get rewarded for my bad decision with some good luck from the RNG.

2) I cracked another blogger's aces and they coldn't get away postflop.

I open for 2.5 bbs in EP, I get re-raised to 8 bbs. Effective stacks are nearly 100 bbs deep. I flop trips, pocket aces decide to check-raise the turn ... one pair is no good. No doubt many will just scratch their heads at this one and call me unflattering names. My short answer is: I have position, implied odds with deep stacks and a pretty good idea of what my opponent has. Investing 5 more bbs is easy enough to do there when I have my opponent safely covered and I'll know where I stand postflop.

At various points all the way down to three-handed once the cash bubble bursts I have half the chips in play. This lets me play big-stack poker and I run like sucko.

3) I crack Jo's aces with queens (all-in preflop). Must resist feeling guilty because she has a BBT4 ToC seat and I don't.

4) My aces hold up vs. sevens that flop a open-ended straight draw. I dodge ten outs twice.

5) We get down to headsup and I am slightly ahead of Buddy in chips after he felts Hoy. He flops a straight vs. my flush + gutter and I don't get there. I grind back for a while and then run a 4bet bluff with the suited hammer vs. TT and go home in 2nd place.

Fun times. The three-handed play was pretty darn fun and I enjoyed it. I wish I didn't spew so badly once Buddy knocked Hoy out since the HU portion of the tournament was much shorter than it could have been, and I thought I had a good handle on how to grind out a win.

Friday, March 27, 2009

My busted draw beats your busted draw

7-high was good. I felt sick on the river and checked behind, giving up in utter disbelief ... crubs didn't get there. As a staunch believer, I was stunned; I had put four bets in on the turn. Then the pot was pushed to me and I was incredulous ...

Yes, the small blind 3-bet preflop with 2d5d. Standard donkery in a 1/2 mixed cash game.

My range beats your range

I figured this was a good example of a simple yet powerful post Gnome recently put up.

This 6-max HA table was ridiculously loose and aggressive so I opted to make a small re-raise out of the blinds rather than a full re-pot, because I didn't want to scare off my customer. I made a smaller-than-normal continuation bet on a fairly unthreatening flop and decided I was willing to felt here against my opponent's wide range. So when the board paired on the turn (a very good card for me) I opted to make another weak-looking turn bet (complete with pause to let my 15-second warning go off) hoping to induce a bluff-raise. Sure enough, villain took the bait and raised, and I have a trivially easy call to make. His bluff doesn't tell a coherent story: I can't put him on a trey or bottom set; he would have 4-bet with AA, so ... he either has me crushed with the overfull, he's drawing to a flush, he's got TPTK or he has complete air. I think he has the second-best hand way more often than not, so I happily call and discover that he's drawing to three outs. Fortunately for me, an ace didn't spike on the river.

Another possible scenario here would have been my opponent flat-calling the turn. If he then spiked a queen on the end, I'm fairly confident that my opponent would have called off his stack, too, because he would have persuaded himself that I only had a ten or a busted flush draw.

The other line I could have taken is to bet closer to full pot on the flop, and check the turn hoping to induce a bet from worse hands.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mookie final table recap, redux

6th place finish this time, still no ToC seat. More close but no cigar shenanigans. I lost several consecutive confrontations late, and folded a lot later on as I went completely dry on good hands, and was forced to play short-stacked at the final table, as my top-3 stack with 3 tables left slowly dwindled to 7/9. I misplayed my bustout hand in a blind-on-blind battle when I had a clear 3bet shove; instead I got fancy and decided to play JdTd in position to a flop. Unfortunately, villain's Qs4s outflopped me and we got all the money in on the turn on a JQ5K board, and I bricked.

#1 - The river min-raise for value

#2 - Trapping a dangerous opponent without overplaying TPTK

#3 - Getting lucky; also missed a value bet

Then some hands vs. the Doc ...

#4 - Turning the second nuts

#5 - Pot Control; Doc said he had a ten here

#6 - Four-flushing again, but this time I was best the whole way

#7 - Filling up in a 3-way spot

Villain #3 had 85.

#8 - Flopping the nuts in a re-raised pot; I was praying opponent had a big pair they couldn't get away from

Sadly from here on out I was completely card dead and my top-3 stack dwindled and dwindled. I then lost a big race vs. deuces, of all things,

#9 - 22 holds

and then faced this donktastic overshove with no fold equity (same opponent again). JTo held ... villain's perceptiveness of hand ranges was sorely lacking, but I don't expect many players to note how tightly I was playing preflop ...

#10 - J-high is gold preflop

Finally I make a mistake in a blind vs. blind battle and bust out in sixth.

#11 - Why didn't I shove preflop? Raise or fold!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Live by the sword, die by the sword

Tonight's Skills Game was going smoothly. I was in the top ten most of the evening.


But then two things happened: I made a big flush and lost the maximum when the board paired.

And then I played this hand. 85ss was betrayed. I'm sure NB is in shock (and laughing his guts out).

This brilliantly-played hand brought to you by yours truly and Heffmike. I guess he figured he could "represent" an overpair and bluff me, when I was having none of it. Most sane players would fold an underpair on the flop when I make a 4-bet. But hey, sometimes you can chase down an 86/13 favourite. It's only limit hold'em, right?

The joke was on me, indeed. I shall pretend villain had a masterfully-played overpair to the board.

NB. A good case can be made for me to take an alternate line: I can call the flop bet and raise any turn card. This might get a lot of hands to fold even if, as here, opponent is sticky with bluff-catchers.

The power of snowmen

Is magnified when you are holding the mighty 83ss. QueensUp knows. Numb knows, since I've also crippled him with 85ss (also spades). Spades are the boss suit even more than clubs. Too bad NB was seduced by his clearly inferior holding and decided to go to the felt against the mighty snowman taterlegs.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Seeing the Virtual Light, part one

First in a long-overdue series.

The Education of a Poker Blogger

Stubbornness is a character trait that has held me back at the virtual felt of the poker world. Like most amateur poker players of a certain age, I began playing the game before it gained popularity on television, and soon realized that the online poker experience demands a new set of habits and skills. Slowly but surely, through painful trial and error, I have learned some lessons about how to cope with the pitfalls of online poker. I hope this primer will help fellow amateur poker players of the non-genius variety avoid similar mistakes and improve the state of their bankrolls. In Part One, I’ll discuss some basic tools to help you in online play; in Part Two I’ll introduce the concepts of self-control and poker study; in Part Three I’ll discuss experimenting with all of the major variants of poker at low stakes, and do a paired walkthrough of a successful tournament satellite and main event final table run; and finally in Part Four I’ll introduce some advanced concepts for consideration – reciprocity and the skill of quitting, as well as the need to start balancing your own game against tougher opponents as you move up in stakes (optimal versus exploitive play).

Incomplete Information
Never bring a sword to a gunfight – Indiana Jones

A good working definition of poker is that it is a game where players wager on outcomes with incomplete information. The more skilled poker player develops an advantage by gathering more information than his or her opponents do, and leverages that advantage by making better, more informed decisions during the game. In live play, you simply make a mental note to yourself as you size up a player. Online play requires considerably more effort, because you usually won’t be playing against a relatively small number of regular opponents. I like taking a lot of notes on players. This means that you need to develop a system to organize your notes and label them for future use. Thankfully, FTP has a useful colour-coding system wedded to its note-taking feature, which is even visible in the lobby area now as a guide for game selection purposes. Developing your own personal system of note-taking on your opponents is a must; this is exactly what you would do in a traditional live game and you must find methods to learn and record information about your online opponents and gain valuable information to select good games to play in. For example, you can colour the toughest players in red; you’ll want to avoid them if at all possible. Weak calling stations can be coded a soft blue; truly clueless players can be bright pink; aggressive yet flawed players can be dark purple, and so on. Refine and develop your own system and you will soon reap the rewards.

FTP also permits the use of third-party software programs which can help supplement your own notes on players with statistical data (I strongly suggest looking at the EULA for the list of permitted programs), and examine your own play for flaws. PokerTracker & Hold’Em Manager are the two most well-known poker databases, which can be used to track your own play and look over trends and tendencies. Sample size issues apply, however; don’t overreact by drawing firm conclusions over a sample of just 500 hands. As any baseball fan can tell you, a major league baseball player can do just about anything in 100 at-bats. A similar variance applies to the world of poker. To evaluate the true talent level or predict the expected future performance of a player requires much more data. It is invaluable when you are at the table with someone to be able to know about how often they make continuation bets, how often they will check-raise you on the flop, and so forth. Playing without this level of information is a significant handicap, and there is no good reason to be unarmed in the battle of wits.

Other People’s Money

Any poker player worth their salt should want rakeback and bonuses for playing at an online poker site -- I happen to play the majority of my online poker at FullTilt. This is a direct and tangible contribution to the health of your bankroll which will significantly help your bankroll. Don’t pass it up. Simply put, before you set up an account at an online poker site you should do some research to find an affiliate who will typically offer you somewhere in the neighbourhood of 25% of the rake you pay for all the hands you play online. This is your money and there is no reason not to get it back. You can also get a sign-up bonus (typically 20% of your initial deposit, to a maximum of $100) for opening a new account which will usually be paid out as you play out a certain number of hands.

Coming soon, part two.