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.