Saturday, December 11, 2010


Tonight marks the night when #19 rises to the rafters. Just two years after his retirement from the NHL, Markus Naslund, the best player in Vancouver Canucks team history (he owns a ton of team records for his accomplishments as a Canuck), has his number retired by the Canucks. It's the third number retired by the franchise, following Stan Smyl (#12) and Trevor Linden (#16).

It couldn't happen to a more deserving person.

The only thing that could make me happier as a lifelong fan of the team is a Stanley Cup parade.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Two words: no-hitter

Roy Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball.

Even though he's no longer pitching for my team, I still cheer for him.

Now that he's pitching in the playoffs for Philadelphia, casual baseball fans realize just how good Doc is. All he's done for the Phillies this year, his first season playing in the National League, is put up a Cy Young-worthy season which featured a perfect game, and now the second no-hitter in baseball's postseason history (NB. there have been 1,264 postseason baseball games played since 1903 - so this was a truly staggering feat). And this wasn't an easy task - Halladay was facing the highest-scoring team in the league in the Cincinnati Reds - and he made the Reds batters look completely helpless at the plate. No-one even came close to getting a hit; and Halladay only walked one batter during the game.

Five men have thrown two no-hitters in a calendar year or a postseason no-hitter. Halladay just became the first pitcher in baseball history to accomplish both feats.

I look forward to the day Doc gets inducted to the Hall of Fame, and I can see him wearing a Blue Jays cap once again.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Two words: whisky night

The long hot dry summer is over.

A night out with father, brother-in-law, and brother-in-law's father (visiting from Scotland) put paid to the mostly alcohol-free summer. We spent a night out having a good meal followed by the real treat of the evening, sampling a great many expensive offerings of Scotland's finest export in Vancouver's best gastropub - none of your Irish or American or Canadian inferior offerings for this party of four, if you please (the menu had a full page of single malts; there was about seven or eight Irish whiskeys on the back page, and a few North American and Japanese).

My favourite - we sampled about twenty, accompanied by a tasty cheese plate, some sausage and french fries - was a classic offering: a 16 year-old Lagavulin. But if you pressed me, I'd have cast a strong second-place vote for the 15 year-old Bruichladdich. Or my perennial favorite, Caol Ila (a real fire-starter, an 8 year-old with over 64% alcohol content), could have taken pride of place. Or there was this very good recommendation by the bar manager ...

I'm glad we thought ahead and booked a cab for the trip home.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dog days of summer

I will seize on any lame excuse for my lack of blogging. Hot summer weather is a good one.

Despite the summer heat, I've managed to break through a running plateau. Some proper new running shoes and a new venue - which incidentally was a training track for Roger Bannister's 1954 four-minute mile at the Commonwealth Games - have furnished added motivation to my exercise program. I've managed to crack the six-minute barrier (km) for my half-hour runs (total distance just over 5K). I hope by next summer to be doing 10K runs at that pace or better.

Haven't been playing any poker due to lack of inspiration. If I can't play close to my best, there's no point in playing. This means I should be a complete degen in December at the WPBG . . . isn't poker blogger money the best? I'm on track to meet my target weight of 165 lbs, but losing the first 15 was easier than the remaining 15 will be. I wonder if anyone else is going to make their weight?

Nephew is just about 7 months old. A new purchase which has been a big hit is a wading pool.

One of my favourite all-time baseball players entered the Hall of Fame yesterday. Here's a tip of the cap to Andre Dawson. Hopefully his former Expos teammate Tim Raines won't be far behind.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

You Win Some, You Lose Some

It's been a lazy summer so far, and not entirely by choice.

Injured my foot somehow; haven't been able to run for past ten days or so. Disappointing, because I'd broken through a plateau and was chewing up more distance in my 30 minute runs. I hope to be back at it either Wednesday or Friday, though.

My nephew will reach the 6-month mark tomorrow, and as a doting uncle I babysit every chance I get to spoil him shamelessly and leave all the responsibilities to the parents.

Poker hasn't been so fun lately - I used up some of my unused stockpile of FTP points to earn T$, and proceeded to bubble a slew of SNGs for zero profit, but I'm reminded why I like Rush Poker when I play just long enough to hold up in spots like this (having 55% equity in a 3-way AIPF pot is hard to do in Omaha!):

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fitness Goals

As time marches on I figure I should provide a brief update on the weight loss bet that I've really been taking seriously from the get-go. I plan on attending this year's WBG in December after a one-year hiatus, and there's something on the line as I've pledged to reach a target weight of 75 kilos - which is what I tipped the scales at way back in 1992 when I graduated from high school. I'm pleased to report that I'm well on my way there, having weighed in today at 80 kilos. Running three times a week and hitting the gym another couple of times per week since February has done the trick, along with much improved nutrition. When I began my running program it was all I could do to wheeze through ten-minutes stretches at a laughably slow pace; now I'm able to run about 5km in 30 minutes. Not exactly a 4 minute mile pace but pretty respectable by my way of thinking (at least for now). This time next year I hope to be able to run 10K in under 50 minutes.

I plan to hit the ice again for weekly hockey games in the fall; it's been several years since I've played organized hockey and given how I'm feeling I am pretty optimistic that I'll have the cardiovascular fitness to seamlessly pretend I'm an NHL'er. I just hope my hands haven't completely lost their touch; I used to play hockey at a pretty high level back when I was a teenager. Only time will tell if I'm delusional.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Anatomy of a PLO game

Here are some interesting hands from a deep-stacked PLO game I played earlier today. This was at low stakes, obviously, but it was a good opportunity to shake off some rust as I shift attention away from tournament poker back to the cash games. The mixed games are still my bread-and-butter, but today I felt like something fast-paced, which Omaha definitely is!

Hand #1: Backing into two pair

This guy could have had anything. It turned out he had two club blockers and luckboxed his way to a mediocre two pair hand, which I was able to vanquish.

Hand #2: Value-betting a straight

Pretty trivial spot. I love the power of position.

Hand #3: Folding a set

I was probably priced in to call off my stack hoping to boat up. I had one of my outs in my hand and this led me to wuss out and fold (incorrectly I would guess).

Hand #4: Losing the minimum with a premium draw

Villain pretty much has to have me beat on the flop given this action. I was happy to take free cards for the chance to go to valuetown if I made a better hand.

The following three hands had me squaring off with a particular villain. His play led me to believe I should give him action, but he was very transparent with made hands, as we'll see below.

Hand #5: Folding the nut flush

I got too cute here. I should have led right out on the turn with the nuts. Check-folding the river was painful but necessary.

Hand #6: Overplaying a draw

I was still steaming a little from Hand #6 and decided to gamble against what was pretty obviously a set of queens. I didn't get there.

Hand #7: Getting even with trips

Given the last two hands against this villain I absolutely cannot fold here.

Hand #8: Snapping off bare aces

I like to have a little more equity on the flop but I was more than willing to get it in given all the possibilities I had to improve. I probably should have waited until the turn to get it in.

Hand #9: Properly played aces

I'm willing to pay off against the miracle quad fives. Villain is much more likely to have a big pair in the hole.

Hand #10: Letting the new table maniac bet for you

If I had been certain he only had two pair and would pay off a raise, I would have re-popped it. But I chickened out in case he had the straight. If I had felt like pushing the action I could have given more action on the turn with the nut flush draw and an overpair.

Hand #11: My boat is bigger than yours

Given my recent run of cards people were looking me up with inferior values.

Hand #12: Missing my freeroll

The final hand of our session. The Austrian villain was seduced by the quantity of crappy draws he had and avoided a lot of disaster cards by making a nut straight right along with me. This hand more than anything illustrates the beauty of a superior hand structure where you can dominate someone's draws.

I happily booked a +4 buy-in win for the session and will be back for more, once I've fixed a few leaks that have revealed themselves (see in particular Hands 3, 5, and 6) from this session review.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A game of excellence

I never doubted Roy Halladay would be dominant in the NL, but he just exceeded my lofty expectations by throwing the twentieth perfect game in ML baseball history. The number of baseball games in MLB history is a rather large number -- approximately eight hundred thousand -- so it's hard not to marvel at such a rare accomplishment. Which happens once every thirty-seven thousand games, or thereabouts.

We miss you, Doc.

At least you'll go into the Hall of Fame wearing a Blue Jays cap.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A game of luck

There won't be a pirate sighting in the ToC of the BBT5, sadly. As is my usual wont in the Mookie, I built a big stack in Hour 1 (top five), maintained it in Hour 2 (top ten), went completely card dead in Hour 3 and busted out once I was forced to play preflop shove poker with 10BBs despite having way the best of it when the money went in preflop (AK vs. A3).

I thought about channeling Waffles in a rant but I can't be unhappy with how I busted out. Bloggers calling off with inferior ace-x hands is just a way of life and in the long-term I love getting those calls.

Good luck to those with a ToC seat! And thanks to Al and FTP for a pile of free stuff ... something like 35K in prizes with only twenty-one players competing in the final tournament(!).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I like a good freeroll, redux

Al works hard for us, doesn't he?

I have a few more thoughts on some trends I've noticed playing in just a handful of the BBT5 events so far.

Firstly, some very aggressive players have really put a beating on the tournament fields so far in the BBT5. They apply maximum pressure preflop with any two cards and, frankly, avoid playing postflop poker whenever possible -- this is especially true in the later stages of the tournaments, even when stacks are 20+ bbs. I even saw one particular player open-shove a 25 bb stack once an orbit four consecutive times in the middle stages of last night's Mookie! Each time I woke up with a fairly good hand - usually AJ, AQ, AK - on the button and reluctantly folded since I didn't want to blindly gamble it up. I'd have to say this is pretty frustrating for me, coming from a cash game background where the effective stacks are usually much deeper, and I don't have tournament survival as an overriding concern. After all, in a cash game I can simply rebuy and plan to take all of a target's money in a subsequent hand; I can't do that in a tournament. I like to see a flop with significant money behind as it gives me more room to maneuver; their tactics effectively minimize the skill factor in the game and maximize the luck factor. Obviously, this does mean that they get paid off when they have big hands because they are going to generate action when other players have a medium-to-good hand to fight back with; what I don't like about this style of play is when I see the questionable calls preflop with a lot of dominated ace-rag hands in hopes they will get lucky. All that said, if you can adapt to deal with this style, don't fear getting it in with a hand like the mighty jack-ace; they are going to call with many worse aces and you will have the best of it. Above all, I would try not to give them the opportunity to put in the last raise. Either apply pressure yourself, by making them decide to call off their chips. Or best of all, if you do have a premium hand, put out a normal raise and pray that they get frisky. You can even try the ol' limp re-raise or limp-call from early position with a big pair since they won't be able to resist jamming from late position on you a lot of the time. More than anything, plan your hand out in advance once you've adjusted to the presence of a loose aggressive player.

More than anything I regret not being able to amass a 25+ bb stack at the final table of last night's Mookie. That would have given me enough ammunition to play back at the aggressive players, or to force them to play postflop by calling their raises in position in an attempt to maneuver myself into a situation where I think I have an advantage.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

An old-fashioned Mookie + Dookie recap

It's been a really really long time since I've done a bloggament recap. So why not two for the price of one, seeing as how I made the final table in both?

The Dookie was a PLO8 tournament. PLO8 is pretty much my favourite poker variant of them all, and I like to think I am pretty solid with the fundamentals of this game. Many people are not. So I was sailing along in a commanding position, chip-leader with six left, and ultimately decided to put maximum pressure on the villain whom I barely had covered, with a premium hand: Kh Ad 2c 3d. He opted to put 7000 tournament chips in with Ah 2s 3c 2h (!) ... and a measly pair of deuces held up in a pretty sick spot:

Needless to say, I think the villain should never get it in here.

I wasn't too unhappy because I was making a run in the Mookie and was trying to focus on being a short-stack ninja as we reached the final nine and the final table (which was also the cash bubble). In the previous BBT series (2-4) I have managed to win this tournament for a ToC seat, but so far in BBT5 I have only played one Mookie and didn't get anywhere. This time, I swore it would be different.

Things got off to a good start as I got some revenge on JuliusGoat, when he 4-bet jammed with QQ and ran into a bigger pair:

Then I folded, folded, folded, and folded some more. Card death was rampant. I won the occasional pot to stay at around 5K in chips for a very long time.

Then I opened in early position with sevens and folded to a button re-raise by a player whom I know doesn't ever fold to a 4-bet.

The very next hand, I was able to squeeze in the big blind against three opponents with pocket tens. Given my image, I probably would have tried this with any two cards.

Shortly after this I was dealt three good hands in succession, and lost 1K in chips since I don't like to overplay AK or AQ unimproved ... this put me back down to 4K in chips, and I was struggling to maintain an average chip stack. I refused to panic, however, since I still had plenty in relation to the blinds.

Using my tight image, I played some positional poker to get a fold from what was likely a better hand than mine:

The very next hand I was dealt tens again and 3-bet to bring my stack up 6K without a showdown. I like it when my raises get respect.

I went back to folding for multiple orbits.

As the antes kicked in, I won the blinds a couple of times with AK.

I was able to win a bigger pot, without having to go to showdown, with the reliable jack-ace:

I 3-bet light on the button and folded to a 4-bet, tumbling back down to 4500 in chips.

I had my one big suckout of the tourney right here as a blind steal went wrong. With 1000 out there and a stack just over 4000 behind I open-shoved A2 on the button to pick up the pot. Of course, I got out of jail against a big pair:

As the blinds and antes increased, I was able to take them down uncontested again with AK two more times, and then my pocket jacks held vs. a short-stacked opponent's eights. I looked up and all of a sudden I had over 15K in chips. I felt like I was Astin for a while.

I folded down to 12.5K and snapped off cmitch's open-shove with the mighty ace-ten (easy call because his range here is really really wide):

Then I was able to win another hand against a short-stack when my eights held up against his early position shove with KJ to climb to 23K in chips as we neared the final table bubble. Sadly, I would climb no higher than this and was forced to fold my way up the ladder for a while.

I ran up against MemphisMojo right on the final table bubble when we were playing five-handed and was forced to lay down a hand when I just didn't think I could get him to fold once he'd led out on a scary flop, since he was representing exactly what I was supposed to have:

Once we reached the final table a player quickly busted out so we were down to eight. I was somehow dealt AK back-to-back and prayed for action on the second hand, but no dice. (Seriously, I must have been dealt AK about six times, and always won the blinds without any action. If I had ever had some other quality hands that I could have opened to appear more active, I'm sure I would have gotten some action. I really felt like I was Astin in disguise.)

Unfortunately, I then had to fold a parade of junk hands for multiple orbits and my tournament came to an abrupt end as I exited in 7th place as I open-shoved 13 bbs from the small blind right into the big blind's pocket jacks. FPT decided to taunt me by giving me eleven outs on the turn, but I didn't get there.

Only three more BBT5 tournaments to go! I hope to give myself at least one more good shot at a ToC seat. Best of luck to everyone in their pursuit of this same goal.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Running to stand still, and yet more scooping

Today was not a fun day, but it did end on a good note. The morning was spent in very fine weather doing a charity 5K run. Of course, I failed my orientation skill check and proceeded to run about 7K since the route was not well marked in two crucial spots. So needless to say I was able to ignore my posted time of finish and grumpily proceeded to stuff my face with refreshments once I finally arrived at the finish line.

The afternoon brought some fussy work as I struggled to proofread a manuscript for a project I've left way behind schedule. I was distracted and still need to do a lot of work on it before it sees the light of day, and the deadline is looming.

I then proceeded to donk off my chips in the BBT5 freeroll, getting away from several second-best hands with a minimum of damage. I was never able to get my stack back above its starting amount, and I foolishly dusted off my respectably-sized stack when I made the mistake of trying to get a blogger - in this case, the estimable Numb to fold top pair. Needless to say this is just not a good idea.

And then I proceeded to get stomped when I played some cash games afterwards. Some Rush NLHE, no good. Some Rush PLO, which had been recommended to me by several trustworthy sources? No good. +2 buy-ins to begin with but soon enough I would lose some monster hands where I made the correct decisions but just couldn't hold up despite having the best of it. Five buy-ins later and I was stuck three overall.

Then I found the reliable cure: a mixed game, this time a juicy HORSE table. How juicy? Yet another example of a scoop as I played two rotations for a nice +2 buy-ins to end the night with the BR stabilized back to an acceptable level. My hourly rate in this game was fairly impressive!

We pick up the action on 4th street in - what else? - a stud hi/lo hand. The pot was inflated on 3rd as four of us got here after capping the action for four bets each. (I got a bit out of line but I knew V1 was a complete maniac)

Dealt to V1 [5c] [4h]
Dealt to V2 [9c] [6c]
Dealt to Hero [8c Ad 6h] [7s]
Dealt to V3 [Jh] [Qd]

Each person put in one more bet.

On 5th:

Dealt to V1 [5c 4h] [Jd]
Dealt to V2 [9c 6c] [Kh]
Dealt to Hero [8c Ad 6h 7s] [5d]
Dealt to V3 [Jh Qd] [Th]

I bet with a made low and an OESD, everyone called.

On 6th:

Dealt to V1 [5c 4h Jd] [4s]
Dealt to V2 [9c 6c Kh] [6d]
Dealt to Hero [8c Ad 6h 7s 5d] [4c]
Dealt to V3 [Jh Qd Th] [Jc]

V3 bets out, the other two call, I raise with my straight and made low, they all call. I'm showing four to a straight and a made low and they are all determined to see 7th! I'm sure you all see what's happening here, besides noticing that I am very lucky to have made a two-way hand here. Again, everyone else is playing for half.

On 7th, the following took place:

V1 bet. V2 called. Our hero raised. V3 folded. V1 3-bet all-in. V2 called. I 4-bet. V2 called.

At showdown, I tabled my eight-high straight and 76 low for a scoop.

V2 mucked [As Ac 9c 6c Kh 6d Ts] - HI: two pair, Aces and Sixes
V1 mucked [Ah 8s 5c 4h Jd 4s 3h] - HI: a pair of Fours; LO: 8,5,4,3,A

We can clearly see that V2 has some fundamental flaws to correct in his game. V1 got taken for a ride and stubbornly lost some extra bets that he didn't have to on the later streets, much to my benefit. Yours truly continues to get lucky with some marginal hands in just the right situations to play them.

The same lessons apply that I mentioned in my previous post.

Hopefully my next 5K run at the end of the month is on a course I can't get lost in.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A game of scooping

It's a truism in split pot poker games that playing to win the whole pot is a fundamental component of a winning strategy. This is doubly true when you are involved in a hand against multiple opponents. Today I played a hand that illustrates this principle very well, and it's worth examining the play of this hand in detail.

This afternoon I found myself playing in a low-stakes 7-Game mixed game. The rotation had made its way to stud hi/lo, which is undoubtedly one of my best games, and perhaps even more importantly, often the worst game in the rotation for most of my opponents. Needless to say, I was primed and ready to find any profitable situation that I could and start pounding away.

I was dealt the [8s 4s] 6h and was the bring-in.
Villain #1 had the Ah showing and completed.
Villain #2 had the Th showing and called.

I don't love my hand here, since I have a pretty ragged 3-card low to an 8, but given this price I really should see 4th street. If I catch good I can likely proceed further with the hand; otherwise I can get away cheaply. More importantly it's distinctly possible that both my opponents have high-only hands and I'd be drawing very live for the low half with a chance at making a low straight or flush to scoop the entire pot 3-handed, which is a very profitable opportunity. Also, Villain #2 is extremely likely to show up here with split tens. If for some reason he's got rolled up tens, action could be fast and furious on later streets, which again would be to my benefit if I can make a medium straight.

On 4th, I do catch good: [8s 4s] 6h 7h
Villain #1 Ah 4h
Villain #2 Th 9d

Villain #1 bet right out, and Villain #2 called. I have to be wary that Villain #1 is drawing to a better low than I am (since I've got two hearts showing I can discount the possibility that he's also drawing to a flush), but with a gutshot straight draw which would also give me a qualifying low, this is a trivial call closing out the action. The turning point of the hand will be, as it so often is, 5th street when the bets double in size.

On 5th, I catch my gin card: [8s 4s] 6h 7h 5h

Dealt to Villain #2 [Th 9d] [Qs]
Dealt to Villain #1 [Ah 4h] [5d]

Somewhat to my surprise, Villain #2 leads out; I raise and Villain #1 makes it three bets! Villain #2 calls two bets cold and I have an easy cap since I have a made hand in both directions and can represent a flush if I catch another heart on 6th. Note, however, the potential vulnerability of my hand: I can end up with the second-best hand in both directions if Villain #1 makes a better low and Villain #2 can show up with a higher straight or a full house for the high half.

On 6th, the betting is capped again in the exact same pattern as on 5th:

Dealt to Villain #2 [Th 9d Qs] [5c]
Dealt to Hero [8s 4s 6h 7h 5h] [Kc]
Dealt to Villain #1 [Ah 4h 5d] [6d]

At this point I am definitely worried that Villain #1 had a board-lock for the low half, but I am equally determined to carve up Villain #2 for the high since he was clearly playing only for half. Finding small edges is crucial in a situation like this! And a remote possibility remains that I am currently in a position to scoop the entire pot if Villain #1 had started with split aces and a 4, 5 or 6 he'd paired up for aces up.

7th street came and I caught an immaterial card.

Villain #2 bet, Villain #1 called, and I called with the eight-high straight. To my amazement, I ended up scooping the entire pot (this led me to second-guess myself for not raising here)!

Here is what my opponents showed up with:

Seat 1: Villain #1 showed [As Kh Ah 4h 5d 6d 4d] and lost with HI: two pair, Aces and Fours
Seat 5: Villain #2 showed [Jd Ts Th 9d Qs 5c Td] and lost with HI: three of a kind, Tens
Seat 6: Hero showed [8s 6c 6h 7h 5h Kc 4s] and won with HI: a straight, Eight high; LO: 8,7,6,5,4

Let's look at what happened here on the later streets. Villain #1's play on 5th and 6th streets is hilarious in that he made it 3 bets with aces up and a live low draw against all the action in front of him, which means he is taking the worst of it; he presumably has to catch one of eight or ten outs to take down the low half, or one of 3-4 outs for an improbable full house for the high half. Villain #2 shoveled a lot of money into the pot from 5th street onwards in a horrible situation hoping to lock up the high half, as he was being forced to put in a ton of money whilst frozen out of half of the pot. And I was the benefactor as my two opponents didn't manage to improve.

The lesson here? Play for the whole pot.

Another lesson: mixed games are fun and profitable.

NB. If anyone knows of a good stud re-player, let me know!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A game of sadness

The Canucks achieved the dubious achievement of losing all three of their home games in this disappointing series which never lived up to its potential. Speaking purely as a hockey fan who loves a classic playoff contest between two very good teams, this series failed to deliver any classic games; all were strangely uncompetitive, ugly contests. The Canucks' decimated blueline crippled their chances of extending the series to a seventh game and the Canucks' best players up front - the Sedins - simply didn't show up when the team needed a stalwart effort to stay alive.

More than anything I will remember what might have been: what if Sami Salo hadn't been hurt? and Alexander Edler (early in game six)? what if the bounces of the puck had been evenly distributed? what if the Canucks had not taken so many bad penalties? and so on.

For the second consecutive year I am forced to pay off after betting on my team. I don't like it one bit.

Finally, I hate Dustin Byfuglien. He exhibited real class in trash-talking Roberto Luongo after scoring a meaningless goal to make it 5-1 halfway through the 3rd period. It was so egregious both the referee Bill McCreary and his own coach Joel Quenneville told him to shut up. You know you're a complete moron when you can manage that feat. If the NHL had an award for most unsportsmanlike player, Byfuglien would be the runaway winner.

The Canucks could well meet Chicago again next year ... they will have an opportunity to rebuild their shattered defense corps in the off-season and their group of forwards should if anything improve even more with the expected addition of Cory Hodgson, a highly touted prospect who will add yet more scoring talent to the lineup, and the continued growth of Michael Grabner and Jannik Hansen. Those three will more than make up for the expected departure of Pavol Demitra.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A game of desire

Canucks wanted it more. Luongo played very well. Salo was hurt on a scary play. Canucks gutted out a 4-1 win and again proved they are the better team at even strength.

I was also able to play in the Mother's Day edition of the BBT5 invitational. Had good chips well into the second hour but went completely card dead as we got down to twenty players. The evil Goat pulled off not one but two check-raises where I had to find a laydown.

I managed a timely double with ATsooted vs. a chipleader's KJ, but my nemesis 2BA -- unquestionably a superior player I was avoiding at all costs -- put me to the test. Given my chipstack I clearly had to go with AdKd and sadly he won the race in the cruelest way possible: he rivered a set of nines after I flopped top pair. I was even getting 3:1 on my money as the CL made the overcall with a small pair!

I exited in 12th place of the freeroll; many thanks to Al for giving me the chance to play.

I really hope Salo's injury proves less serious than it appears and that the Canucks aren't short-handed going into a pivotal game six at home as they do their utmost to extend the series to a deciding game seven back in Chicago.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A game of bounces

This series is over.

How I saw this game:

Byfuglien is 270 pounds and apparently the Canucks can deck him like a rag doll and the refs will let him draw penalties at will. This is beyond absurd. If the Canucks aren't allowed to check him, how are they supposed to defend their goalie? Sami Salo makes brilliant defensive play at end of 1st period and is called for a ridiculous penalty. Naturallly, Hawks score on PP to start 2nd period off a ridiculous bounce. This was the turning point of the game.

Canucks' PK having same problems as they were early in series vs. Kings. The Hawks are a superior team so it is very tough for Canucks to come back against this.

The Canucks began to lose their composure as they were very frustrated by the juxtaposition of bad luck and questionable officiating. This was a perfect situation for Hawks to exploit the situation and bury the Canucks, because they are a bigger, grittier team who are able to defend a lead well if Vancouver isn't able to employ their puck possession game and generate scoring chances with speed and passing.

Multiple 5-3 man advantages sealed the game. Apparently one of the Sedins can lean on Seabrook and he'll topple like a bowling pin. Can only dream that a ref would recognize a dive when they see one.

Canucks are done for second consecutive year.

Incredibly frustrating turn of events. Every bounce of the puck and nearly every decision by the referees went their way, a trend that began in the second period of game two. I turned the game off early in the 3rd period after yet another perfect bounce led to a back-breaking Hawks goal. Hawks won 6-4 and lead series 3-1. The Canucks tried to address how the Hawks were able to dominate Canucks' crease in game three and they were hammered by the refs for it. Inevitably I am going to come across as a sore loser but I honestly believe the Canucks deserved better treatment from the officials. And it would be nice for the puck's bounces to even out.

I give the Canucks demerits for not showing more poise. And the Sedins didn't fight through adversity when it counted most.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A game of speed

Game three, Canucks vs. Hawks.

We're going to see if the Canucks can retain home ice advantage.

We're going to see a jazzed-up home crowd - it won't be as ridiculously loud as the Olympic gold-medal game, but it will be close enough - and an amazing rendition of the Canadian national anthem. Trust me.

I'll see if I can manage to live blog the game. I'll potentially have to contend with boisterous fans slinging beers and such, so we'll see how much I can safely text some live updates.

Good luck to those of you trying to win a BBT5 ToC seat tonight in the tournament formerly known as the Mookie!

7:05 PM: Hawks lead 1-0. No one in crowd can believe Canucks haven't scored yet. They are trying to score the perfect goal; they need to shoot more.

7:10 PM: Canucks somehow fail to score again. Hawks goalie is standing on his head.

7:15 PM: Kesler takes bad penalty with 1st period nearly over. Mason Raymond is best player on the ice so far.

7:18 PM: Hawks inevitably score on PP. Daniel Sedin gets cheap-shotted by Boland while on PP and drops the gloves; both are sent off. Nothing going right for Canucks right now.

7:25 PM: 2-0 Hawks end of 1st with a PP starting the 2nd period. Canucks really need to break through with the next goal to get back in this game. The score flatters the Hawks but that is irrelevant.

7:48 PM: This game is a really chippy affair. Both teams taking liberties after the whistle. Canucks still unable to capitalize on their chances.

7:53 PM: 2-1 Hawks. Canucks own the puck for 2+ minutes with a vintage Sedin puck possession shift and finally score. If the Canucks can simply manage better special teams play they should win the series since they are the better team five-on-five.

7:55 PM: Refs have missed two blatant penalties against the Hawks. I'm all about letting the players play but they are getting away with murder.

8:02 PM Burrows takes a bad penalty after refs miss 3 obvious calls on the Hawks. Of course they score on the PP as they keep getting all the breaks and bounces. 3-1 Hawks and the crowd is livid.

8:07 PM Canucks kill off a penalty. Henrik Sedin draws an interference penalty in plain view of both refs ... who fail to call it. The officiating tonight is absurd!

8:14 PM Burrows redeems himself with a goal on a four-on-two rush in final minute of second period. Hawks just can't cope with Canucks' speed as they try all sorts of defensive interference that the refs are letting them get away with. 3-2 Hawks at second intermission.

8:39 PM Apparently the Sedins never draw a penalty. I'm incensed at the referees.

8:41 PM The refs finally send off Byfuglien. He's been a force tonight but he's lucky he's only taken two penalties. He could easily have served four minor penalties.

8:48 PM Hawks score a goal after some harmless possession in the Canucks zone. Lucky bounce right to Hossa and it's 4-2. Huge goal.

8:53 PM I just don't see the Hawks relinquishing the lead with ten minutes left. Keith and Seabrook are a real shutdown defensive pair and are playing huge minutes. But if the Canucks can get their PP untracked who knows what might happen. They deserve better than a 4-2 deficit.

9:00 PM Byfuglien with the hat-trick. Hawks get away with goaltender interference as two of them push Luongo into the net. Totally pathetic. Upon further review ... hey, the puck went in off a Canuck skate. No kidding! Why not review the play for a penalty while you are at it?!

Hawks take a 2-1 series lead and reclaim home ice advantage. I'm going home spitting mad.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A game of mistakes

The Canucks lost game two in disappointing fashion. They nearly had the Hawks buried in the opening minutes, going up 2-0 but failing to put the game out of reach despite several glorious chances to blitz the home team into oblivion; Chicago was lucky not to be blown out of their own building for the second straight contest. Chicago slowly rallied and showed a lot more speed and grit once they shook off their bout of nerves, and the Canucks suffered a few bad bounces and compounded their bad luck by making several sloppy errors leading to three unanswered goals for the resurgent Hawks giving them a 3-2 lead late in the 3rd period. The go-ahead goal was particularly agonizing as it came with less than 3 minutes left in regulation time. An empty-net goal completed the final score of 4-2. I still remain confident that Vancouver has the requisite talent and experience to win the series, but a 1-1 split coming home feels like a golden opportunity lost by the Canucks to take full control of the series given the balance of play in the first two games.

After that demoralizing loss, I proceeded to fire up the virtual poker tables and promptly lost a half-dozen buy-ins. I would feel much more disheartened but for the fact I got the money in good in all three large pots that I played; of course I lost all three since AA < QQ (AIPF), KK < A8 (all the money went in on a rainbow 847 flop), and so on. So I lost despite not making any big mistakes, it seems.

Bad news comes in threes, they say. I'm waiting for the unholy trinity to strike at any moment.

Edit: I spoke too soon. I was making a small modest comeback and then this happened. I know to listen when the poker gods are telling me to quit. It's pretty soul-destroying to consistently run so far below expectation ... I suspect it would hurt less if I didn't have concerns about running my bankroll down to the red zone because of all this variance. I'm almost at the point where I just want to take my last hundred that I currently have on FTP and play some tournaments in an attempt to make a big score and not care so much if I take a really bad beat or two, since those are more common (and somewhat less painful methinks) in the shallower-stacked play found in tournament poker.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A game of heart

Canucks win game one of what promises to be an epic playoff series, 5-1, in Chicago.

The Vancouver Canucks are an extremely potent offensive hockey team. They have a dozen skilled forwards who combine blazing speed with otherworldly puck possession (I think there was a two-plus minute stretch tonight where the Sedins seemed to have the puck on a string) and a relentless transition game (Ryan Kesler is a Selke Trophy-nominee), several outstanding offensive-minded defensemen who can contribute from the back end (Sami Salo might have the hardest shot in hockey--so long as his stick doesn't break!), and an outstanding goaltender in Roberto Luongo who has unfinished business with the Chicago Blackhawks after last year's playoff series. If Luongo keeps playing at this level I wouldn't be surprised if the Canucks make it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals ... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

I was frankly very surprised by two things: Chicago's lack of speed and their unwillingness to initiate contact against the Canucks.

I was not surprised at Chicago's poor goaltending. The Hawks rely on the All-Star defensive pairing of Keith and Seabrook to limit the quality scoring chances their netminder has to face, and neither of them had a good game tonight.

My bet with lightning36 looks good so far, but it's going to be a long series. I expect the Hawks to respond by ratcheting up their intensity and trying to combat the Canucks' puck possession game with a much more persistent forecheck on the Canucks' defense. It's no secret that the Canucks' Achilles heel is a lack of depth on their defense corps so grinding them down is the Hawks' surest path to a series victory.

I can't wait for Monday night and game two.

A game of edges

Poker is a cruel game. You can manipulate and outmaneuver your opponents such that you get all the chips in the middle with a big advantage. But there's always a chance that your patience and cleverness will go unrewarded. In the grand scheme of things, however, this is actually a necessary evil.

The non-zero frequency that the deck bails out bad players is a feature of the game that keeps poker alive, since without the suckouts and bad beats the bad players would go broke without a chance to keep their bankrolls intact enough to keep donating to better players in the long-term.

I just wish it didn't hurt so much in the short-term when I keep losing after getting myself in situations where I play four or five big pots as a 9:1, 4:1, etc. favourite and lose every single one of them. That's just plain old variance at its cruelest, but I have to keep a proper perspective: if you keep putting yourself in good situations, you are going to take more than your share of bad beats.

Consequently, the lesson here is to keep playing this particular game because the players are so transparent in their play: but only after I've rebuilt my bankroll enough to withstand the variance. Taking shots at juicy games at higher stakes is one thing, but I still need to keep ten or fifteen buy-ins saved for this particular game.

Here's an example of what's been going wrong for me lately. This was a hand where the effective stack sizes were over 200BBs, and the preflop action let me find out just what sort of hand my opponent likely had whilst I had sufficient implied odds to see a flop. And it just so happened that I flopped well enough to play for a 400+BB pot (since postflop I am well ahead of two of the three possible hands he could have, as my opponent's range was polarized to QQ+). Sadly, this did not have a good ending for our hero. (NB. I would fold preflop if the stacks were shallower but I had very good implied odds, enough to see a flop with in my opinion when I was able to invest less than 10% of my stack preflop with a chance to win more than ten times my initial investment.)

I might have lost two buy-ins here with 4d5d, but I can take solace in all of the Galfond bucks I earned in this hand. My opponent's call here with aces was extremely unprofitable if you estimate the equity a pair of aces has against the range of hands I have for making this big check raise: sets, two pair, KK+, and drawing hands with 14+ outs. My strategy on this flop was to try to make myself appear like a shove-monkey making a play for the pot; and I induced a big mistake by my opponent who got stubborn with an overpair and couldn't lay it down.

Unfortunately for me, Galfond bucks can't buy anything in the real world.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tournament Strategy Musings, and a Query

For the first time in many moons I found myself playing in the Mookie, as the lure of the BBT5 proved too strong to resist. This was the first NLHE tournament I have played in a long, long time. I was excited to play with a lot of familiar screen names and to fire up BDR.

I got an ideal start, as not ten hands into the tournament I opened for a small 2.5 BB raise with two black tens from the cutoff. The big blind called and the flop came down a beautiful Td 3s 6s. The big blind checked, I bet half-pot, he check-raised to 330, and then I time-banked and shoved for 3100 hoping my 3-bet looked like an overplayed AK of spades or an overpair. Sure enough my opponent snap-called with a set of threes, and I held up for the early double-up.

For the rest of the early and middle stages of the tournament -- I think the Mookie had just under 90 players last night -- I slowly bled chips as I went completely card dead and lost every pot I played. Towards the end of the second hour I found myself back down to a starting stack of 3K after my AdKd got tangled up in a blind vs. blind situation where I didn't improve on the flop and I had to lay it down after a big flop raise of my continuation bet.

However, I managed to improbably triple up once the antes kicked in as I came over the top with KQ and another short-stack overcalled me, along with the original raiser. Two ace-high hands couldn't withstand a queen on the turn as I made top pair to vault up to a top-ten stack of 8500 entering the second break.

With one-third of the original field left, we entered the phase of the tournament that I have often used proficiently to position myself for a deep run into the final table in the past at the Mookie, as two of my past Mookie wins during BBTs can attest. Tonight it was not meant to be, however, as I uncharacteristically put my tournament life at risk preflop hoping for some fold equity (but not getting the desired result).

We'd just collapsed down to three tables with blinds at 200/400/50. A short-stack jammed his last 3 BBs into the middle, and an aggressive player with a 10K stack min-raised from the button to 2000 straight (20% of their stack). I'm in the small blind with AdKs and decide that I need to go with this hand. I hesitate between a shove and a scary-looking min-raise to 4200 or so (thus signaling I am committed to the hand), and opt for the former (this was only the second time in the tournament that I put in all my chips before the flop, but this player hadn't played with me during this tournament and would not be aware of this fact).

The player snap-called with a pair of fives. The short-stack made an improbable straight with 8s9h, the pair of fives rivered a set, and I ended up with the third-best hand with ace-high and exited the Mookie in 27th place.

Now, I'm a big fan of presto; this has been well-documented on this blog. I also know that many poker bloggers don't like to fold. But surely under these circumstances folding a small pair is prudent? The player can fold and still be in the top half of the remaining field in chips and avoids a situation where they can only hope they are in a weighted coinflip instead of being crushed by an overpair ...

Lastly, the structure of the BBT rewards winning a tournament to secure a seat at the ToC. How do these considerations factor in to a decision to stick it in with a small pair here? (Let us ignore the fact that this is a $10 tournament for the sake of discussion.)

So, did I misplay the AK? Would you have folded the pair of fives in that situation? Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Slowplay to Oblivion, episode two

This hand more or less demonstrates -- to a large degree -- why I never seem to be able to get an online bankroll into a healthy state. I should be able to find a fold at the end because the villain is supposed to have aces or queens. I will admit that I cursed when I saw what he actually beat me with.

In happier news, I will donk it up in the Mookie tonight and I have a pristine hardcover copy of Guy Gavriel Kay's new novel on my bedside table. The finer things in life more than make up for having a big pocket pair cracked on the virtual felt.

I believe in presto

Sadly, it can be hard to get action with flopped quads, especially when you have 4-bet preflop in position.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Slowplay to Oblivion

I lost a big pot here, but I still think my raise at the end is correct, because my opponent could have quite a few flushes and Ax hands in his range that I beat, and he's priced in to call with all of them. I'd be interested to hear what others have to think about how I played this hand.

Having most of my session's profit wiped away like that stings but so long as I feel I am making correct decisions I will not be too disappointed with the results of any one hand.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Presto is gold, exhibit 43798

Only because he's actually blogging again will I extol the virtues of presto.

I guess this also is an example of why jacks suck.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Canucks vs. Hawks, redux

Looks like it's time for another bet. Revenge for last year would be sweet.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Honing the overbet

After the better part of a year not playing much at all online I have been shaking off some rust playing some cash games. I've had a lot of success with NL10 Rush Poker as a BR builder. Nut-peddling seems to be by far the path to victory; however, I have noticed that my bet-sizing needs work. Let's take this hand for example.

As you can see, I was dealt black aces in first position and I made a standard 3x open (the ol' limp re-raise play can sometimes work, but I'm not a big fan of it because you get so many dominated hands to fold that you want action from). A MP sooted ace donk then proceeded to call off his stack after flopping top pair. At these levels I have found that it is best to just bet your monster hands right out and hope your opponent has a piece because if they are at all stubborn, you will get maximum value, and if they don't have anything they will just fold, so you can mix in some continuation bets with big aces that don't improve as well to balance your own range.

What I don't like, after reviewing the hand, is the bet-sizing I used. I bet two-thirds pot when I really should have bet full pot or even a bit over full pot to set up the hand properly. I had to overbet the pot on multiple streets to get my opponent's entire stack in. I need to improve on this going forward by making a bigger bet on the flop to properly manipulate the pot size so I can play for stacks in a less suspicious manner by the end. In this particular instance I was saved by the fact that my opponent just didn't believe me and thought top pair was gold.

It's easy to nit-pick on the best way to play very strong hands but it's important to set up lines that work well for other hands in your range too.

What do you think?

[Edit] Here is another example of an overbet for value where I get a top pair hand to call off their stack after I've turned a flush:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

FTP doomswitch is "off"

I guess FTP is trying to make up for some of the bad kharma. It's been quite a while since I've been involved in a hand like this.

This time I will adhere to proper bankroll management and quit my Rush poker bonanza with a 600 BB stack intact.

[Edit] As for hand analysis, the original raiser's range is polarized and narrow; I put him squarely on one of two hands: QQ or KK. The MP who shoved could show up with 66+ or 7x, so again I had no hesitation in overcalling because I am crushing a large amount of his range.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I like a good freeroll

I made this one.

The amusing thing about this hand? The villain in this spot had the screenname "Don'tGetFelted".

Too bad he didn't take his own advice.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A reminder that a good PLO8 game is solid gold

Somehow my hand held up to scoop. Finding these games is definitely a good opportunity for profit.

Now if only the stakes were higher or I could find a live game of this spread locally.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Victimized by an overbet for value

Apparently even small-time fish know how to maximize their good fortune.

I'd be curious to know who could find a fold here to a 2x pot-sized bet. How large does the bluffing frequency have to be for a fold to be correct? (If the stack sizes were 300BBs deep to start the hand, does that change your answer? If not, how deep do the stacks have to be before you can find a fold?) I couldn't find one, and it cost me two full buy-ins. I would have felt better if villain had shown up with jacks, obviously. I was pretty darn sure I was good on the flop, so the turn card didn't scare me. And I was proven wrong.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A belated New Year's Resolution

I've recently begun an exercise program because I was very unhappy with how much I'd let my fitness level deteriorate over the past four or five years. As I get older I've also realized that it takes more work to stay fit (duh!), so I've been complaining and grousing about this to my running partners as we train for a 10K run in May. Once I reach that goal, though, I know I need to set another one for later in the year. (Also I'm getting back on the ice and can't stand how much my hockey skills have atrophied. They say one's hands are the first thing to go but for me it's all cardiovascular weakness.)

I figure this means I should take another go at a weight loss target for year-end. I tried this in the summer of '09 but unfortunately I wasn't able to make it to Vegas in December to resolve the bet. History is not going to repeat itself -- I'll be making the trip this time around -- so I'll offer the same bet for any poker blogger who also wants extra motivation to shed some flab.

I currently weigh 83 kilos. My target is 75 kilos, which means I need to lose 1 kilo per month to reach 75 in time for the Winter Gathering.

So, who else is interested? Once we have a group of people signed up (please include personal goals when you sign up in the comments) we can decide on the stakes and figure out the weight-in. I'm sure someone will volunteer to adjudicate this bet and laugh at those who fail.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

An interesting hand from the Mookie

It's been a long time since I have played a blogger tourney, but I found myself playing the Mookie for the first time in many months last night. I got tangled up with the mean man from Philly himself, Riggstad, in a couple of large pots and he came out on top in both of them to eliminate me from the tournament. Our first hand is somewhat interesting so I thought I'd throw it up here to ask how others would have played it.

Here's the situation for. It's early in the tournament, level three with 30/60 blinds, and I've chipped up to nearly 4K in chips from the starting 3K since I won a nice pot with crubs vs. their biggest fan. I am in the big blind and am dealt a premium hand, AhKs.

The UTG player, who has me comfortably covered, opens to 180. My notes say he is extremely active from that position and could have a wide range of hands here. Two other players, Katitude (who also has me covered) and Riggstad (short-stacked with just over 1700 in chips) also call. I think it is quite likely that I currently have the best hand, but there's a chance the UTG raiser actually has a hand from the top of his range and I'd have to fold if he puts in a 4bet. Having that prospect firmly in mind, and cognizant of the virtues of controlling the pot size and slow-playing a hand that no-one will put me on, I opt to smooth call and see a flop.

The flop comes down 3d 7h Kd. This is obviously a pretty good one for my hand, so I decide to go with my original plan and I check, waiting to see what will happen. It gets checked around to Riggs, who jams his remaining 1500 chips into a pot of 750 in the middle and I snap-shove to isolate, figuring that he's much more likely to make this move with a flush draw than a made hand that already has me beat. Sure enough he flips over QdJd; I'm momentarily pleased that my reasoning was spot-on, but then I'm saddened when the draw manages to get there on the turn, sending the very nice pot of 3,840 over to Riggs. I'm left with about 2200 chips and the tournament continues on.

Comments on how I played the hand are welcome. I'm particularly interested to hear opinions about the preflop decision-making process. Which of you would rank the optimal decision tree as Raise > Call > Fold? As played, would you lead out on the flop, and if so, why? Would you play for all your chips if one of the big stacks raised on the flop?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My next car

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

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Getting back up

Sometimes the biggest losses happen in the best games.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 1, 2010

The day after

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hockey is Canada's religion.

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

Friday, February 26, 2010


I have a ticket to the gold medal game. That is all.

I might just have the best parents in the world. What a stealth birthday present.

NB. I'll take action on the game (prop bets, drinks, whatever) to be paid up at next Vegas blogger gathering I attend. Post a comment if you want in.

Monday, February 15, 2010

I felt a rush

I now see the appeal. About thirty hands into my first foray at FTP's Rush Poker, single-tabling a low stakes NL table, this happened:

Later I won another buy-in off someone who felt like gambling with AQo vs. my QQ.

And then another when someone shoved into me with a crappy ace, like so:

Sometimes, poker is easy.

Then, a lucky villain escaped a cooler situation with half of the pot:

NB: don't engage in fancy traps like I did here:

But do punish overpairs like this:

Finally I sucked out pretty nicely when I decided to gamble it up with AKs preflop against a couple of short stacks. I didn't figure on being in such bad shape, but I got there:

Overall, my initial impressions of Rush Poker are very positive; a common theme should be apparent from the hand histories above which is that nitting it up and taking good gambles when you have the proper overlay is very +EV. Once I built a big stack I consistently tried to play big pots only when I felt it was correct; I often employed small flop re-raises as a defensive tactic and I would often fold trouble hands (eg. top pair, third kicker) to real heat. I shall be sure to try some PLO tables next. I hear from reliable sources that they are as equally profitable as the NL tables I was playing tonight.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Post-birthday "gift"

This is not a disguised bad beat post. Rather, it's an example of how much +EV you can find in a good PLO8 cash game.

PLO8 really can be a low variance bankroll builder. The poker gods just decided I had to suck up a loss this time, but I'll take this gamble every day. Let's look at the equities here:

Omaha Hi/Lo Simulation

board: Tc Th 2h
Hand Pot equity
3c 3d 7h 6h 8.81%
As Kh 2s 2c 68.94%
Ah 5h Qh 9h 3.31%
8s Ac Ad 4h 18.94%

This is just a fantastic value for money in a spot like this. Look at the money odds I was getting to hold up with my underfull! Much of the time I will scoop and nearly all of the time I will take half of the pot 4-ways for a phenomenal expected profit.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A very small early birthday gift

I promised myself a birthday present: some time spent playing Omaha.

Of course, with the Olympics starting today all I could manage was some low-stakes online play--the 7-game mix--at lunchtime because the city is turning into a veritable zoo.

And here's FTP rewarding me with a small gift as I actually managed to win a big pot playing relatively deep. Ordinarily I don't like overplaying a hand like this but I had enough time spent with this villain to recognize the action being given was with a really wide range of hands, most of which I beat.

I ran the equity calculation afterward and was mildly surprised that I was only a 65/35 favourite. I got partially fooled by the fact that my opponent actually had 11 wins. As badly as I played this hand (my bet-sizing on the turn was awful and was supremely exploitable), my opponent butchered it even worse: putting that much money in the pot drawing to a 4-high flush and a bare wheel on a paired board is a recipe for a world of hurt against my range. He's just lucky that he was up against the bottom of my range to actually have any equity at all (since a lot of the time he'd be drawing dead).

The 7-game mix can surely be a profitable one to play. I might have to try Rush poker soon.

[Edit] Bonus hand, which goes a fair way to demonstrating my observation regarding the 7-game. Scandis will give you all the action you could want, and with complete trash:

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A quiet January

I haven't blogged at all this month.

So, here are a few observations from what has been a very busy month:

the Olympics are going to feature a lot of genuine excitement, but at a very high cost to the BC taxpayer;

the city's inhabitants (read: not visitors) will probably riot if Canada's men's hockey team doesn't win the gold medal (after all, that's what happened when the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup in '94);

my nephew Oliver is a real handful and if he grows up to the size I expect, the Canucks will draft him in 2028 (I'l be reponsible for teaching him to skate in a couple of years);

I'll probably treat myself to a session of live PLO for my birthday in a couple of weeks (but the Olympic traffic jams will certainly make it difficult).

NB. The Canucks are really, really good this year. We might well get a change to avenge last year's loss to the Blackhawks in the playoffs. Which means I'll likely have some bets on the series and try to get even myself!