Wednesday, April 28, 2010
I am BB in a $30, 1-table tourney, non-turbo, blinds 20-40. One player had already been eliminated. Player 1 was 3rd position with 990 in chips. Player 2 was 5th position with 720 in chips. Player 3 was SB with 1520, and I was BB with 1550.
I was dealt A5d. Player 1 raised to 80 (a doubling of the blinds); players 2 and three called. So there was a fair amount of money in the pot already (with blinds, 340). I was getting almost 9:1 to call, so, with apologies to Josie, I called and stayed in with ace rag.
The flop came Ah 8d 5c. I had flopped top and bottom pair. Woo-hoo! Player 1 bet out 200. Player 2 raised to 400. Player 3 folded, and I went all-in with 1550. Maybe I should have been a little calmer; there was no danger of a boat or a flush based on the flop, so I was only vulnerable to AA, 88, 55, or A8. So maybe I could have finessed it right there, but it turns out I didn't need to; players 1 and 2 both snap-called me for all their chips.
Player 1 had A9c, and player 2 had 5s8h. So I had the best of it there but was vulnerable to a 9, which would have given 1 a higher twoper (as we call it around our home table), or an 8, which would have filled 2 up.
But, wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, God took my bankroll by the hand (little Fiddler on the Roof for you there). The turn came 4d, no good to nobody, and the river, just for shits and grins, came 2d, which not only made a winner out of me but also gave me a flush, just for style points.
I knocked out two people in a 9-er, and gave me a chip lead that I would not relinquish. I ended up winning the game and feathering my nest to the tune of $135.
So to all you online players who have given up home on sitting down to a square game, take heart. It happens, it really does!
If you guys like this level of detail on hands, let me know and I'll document more hands like this as they come along.
By the way: the only time I went in with the worst of it was when I had Josie's favorite hand, a suited J10 - against, as it turned out, her least favorite hand, ace-rag. I flopped a 10 and that was that.
I'm looking for a math wonk, specifically a statistics wonk, to confirm a little mental exercize I've been wrestling with this morning. I watched last night's Poker After Dark and watched Erica Scoenberg's KK lose to Karina Jett's AA. Hard luck aside (and of course, to whom HASN'T this happened?), I got to thinking, what are the odds of that happening?
So I'll tell you what I know, and I'll lay out my theory as to what the odds are, and hopefully someone out there can either confirm my numbers or correct them:
- The odds of getting a specific pocket pair (like Aces or Kings) is 226-1.
- So for two people to play, one of whom gets aces, and the other of whom gets kings, the odds would be 226 x 226, or 51,076, to 1.
- Now at a full table, of course, those odds would go down. So any formula that determines the possibility of KK vs AA would have to take in to account the number of people at the table.
So: my formula for determining the odds of AA vs. KK is
51076 / (p-1)
(where p is the number of players at the table)
So heads up, that number stays at 51076 to 1, at a six-person table the odds are 10,215.2 to 1, and at a full nine-person table the odds are 6384.5 to 1 against.
Is this just bullshit mathematics, proffered by an idiot who knows less about statistics than he does about poker, which is damn little to begin with? I'm looking for a math guy. Someone, please help this poor ignorant fool!
Also, got a fair amount of positive feedback regarding my argumentative evil twin, Shmew Boy. Look for him to make other appearances here in this space.
Monday, April 26, 2010
There's a common belief among the medical community that emergency rooms are more busy when it's a full moon. Ask any ER doctor (or better yet, if you want to know the real story about what's going on on the floor, ask an ER nurse) and they'll tell you it's absolutely true.
Except it's not.
Study after study refutes the notion that ER's are busier at a full moon - though there are fluctuations in the business of an ER, the moon has nothing to do with it at all.
The simple facts are these: Firstly, when people want there to be a correlation between a busy night and a full moon, they'll count the day or two before the actual full moon and the day or two after it, which is five days out of a 28-day cycle, or 18% of the entire month. So ER's are busy when there's a full moon A LOT - but one thing didn't affect the other. It's just another example of correlation falsely implying causation.
So when, as I did last night, I had to sweat a two-outer to take a huge chip lead and virtually guarantee a cash, and instead got walloped by the river (a six, if memory serves), my first inclination was to blame Full Tilt for being arbitrarily douchebunty. I mean, Jesus Tap Dancing Christ, it just happens all the time. I have been sucked out on with a magic two-outer or something similar twenty times more than live. The numbers are irrefutable.
"Bullshit," says my argumentative evil twin. "Twenty times more often, you say? Well that's about right, isn't it? Think about it. You've PLAYED twenty times more hands than online, that means twenty times more decisions, and twenty times more bad beats."
"Well, maybe," I say meekly (I am a little intimidated by my argumentative evil twin, have been all my life). "But shouldn't that mean that I have twenty times more triumphs, twenty times more often that my odds hold up, twenty times more times when I pull a magic two-outer on my opponent?"
At this, my argumentative evil twin (Let's call him "Shmew Boy") exhales slowly, and pinches the bridge of his nose in exasperation.
"You have them," he says, with a tone of smug condescention. "You just don't remember them with nearly the same permanence as you remember a bad beat."
"Oh, come now," I fire back. "It can't be that simple, can it? I just remember them better?"
Shmew Boy leans back in his chair, confident that this battle of wits will soon be his.
"You don't remember every time you use a lighter, do you? But you certainly remember when you get burned. Am I right?" He smiles at me in just that way: he's won the argument and he knows it. "Well? Am I?"
I resort to the last club left in my bag.
"Fuck you, Shmew Boy," I retort. Game, Set, and Match.
Friday, April 23, 2010
He's a fellow poker blogger, and the only name by which I know him is lightning38, or lightning36, or somewhere around there. The only things I know about him are these: He's polite, he's articulate, he likes my blog and Josie's, and he's got a son who's been diagnosed with cancer.
He's travelled from wherever it is he and his family live their lives to the Mayo Clinic, in Minnesota, so that his son can get the best treatment that modern medicine can provide. Of course it comes at great cost, and I'm not talking monetary. His life is on hold, his son is likely exhausted from being poked and prodded, and over everything is a paralyzing, consuming fear of the future, and what it portends.
Because lightning36, being a poker player, knows all about odds. And he knows, like we all know, that even though your pocket aces are a 93-6 favorite over A2, there will come a time when those odds just won't hold up, and you'll end up sending all your chips across the table.
And even should things go the way they're currently talking about, and the play stays with the odds, there's a hard road ahead of them, with all the stuff that cancer brings to a family: treatment that is almost as bad as the illness, a constant vigil over a recurrence of the cancer, and a fundamental shift in the way time is measured. Instead of the mile markers of life being events, like graduation, marriage, children, and the like, life will now be measured in terms of five-year survival rate, ten-year survival rate, etc. Cancer is the gift that keeps on kneecapping you.
Despite the enormity of what he and his family is up against, he's writing about it over at his blog, Lightning Strikes. To me that is a stunning act of bravery, of faith in the face of everything, and of an optimism about the future that brings a lump in my throat, despite me not even knowing this guy's name.
You should go to his site and read all about it. And for the love of God, put him and his family in your thoughts. If ever there was a guy who deserved some good karma, it's him.
Whatever his name is.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
I cannot tell you just how important to my tournament game it is to steal blinds. Without your blinds I don't have enough chips to do my thing. Continuation bets need to have some teeth behind them; I need to be able to make a 3/4-pot-sized bet without blinking, and your chips are key to that.
But despite what has been written about me in certain blogs which I won't mention but whose name rhymes with "Shmerry Shmosie," I never go in with garbage. I just don't do it. If I'm going to go in bluffing to take your blind, you can rest assured that I have at least something to hang my hat on. I can be something weak like 33 - more often it's something like J10, QJ, Q10, etc. - but it's SOMETHING. Unless I'm up against someone whom I've identified as a complete donkey idiot, I stick with that philosophy.
Not only that but I know just how I feel when someone moves in with shit and gets called. If you're at my table and you turn over 2-8 because you're trying to run a number on me, you have earned my contempt, and any respect that I may have had for you as a player is likely gone. I would hate to be thought of like that but that's another post, I suppose.
But in this second game, after around the second round of blinds, I just went completely card-dead. I mean I got nothing, and got it in abundance, to quote an old movie (any guesses as to which one? A shout-out for the correct guesser). And I blinded myself out of the game, like Broomcorn's Uncle.
I couldn't bring myself to try to steal blinds with the drek that I was being dealt. I would rather get completely blinded out of the game than take a shot at being a 70-30 dog on some donkey's K-5 call.
Is that hubris? Did my desire to APPEAR to be a good poker player prevent me from making a decision that a good poker player would do? I'm really asking you guys; I'd be interested in your opinion.
On another subject, I wanted to pass along a tidbit that I've been mulling over in my head, about exactly how much of a pussy move calling the big blind really is. Look, if you call a big blind and fold to a re-raise of 3-4x, your hand has NO BUSINESS BEING IN PLAY. If you trust it for one bet but would throw it away for three, throw the hand in the muck and move on. That shit is how people bleed their stacks away. Plus, if I'm playing aganst a bunch of mooks that call the BB, a raise of 3x starts looking big to them, and it helps me steal blinds.
This school of thought also helps me fold hands like Ace-rag (yes, yes, thanks AGAIN, Josie, I will always be grateful for your perspective), because I ask myself: would I call a raise with this? If the answer is no, then I move on. As a rule, btw, Ace-rag means A7 or lower. A8 is pick 'em, and A9 is a raising hand preflop.
Finally, I would like to do link exchanges with those of you who also are part of the poker blogging community. Leave a comment with your blog's url and I'll publish it gladly.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
First of all I think they penalize the quality hold em player. I'm of the opinion that the less you put your whole stack, or a great big by-god chunk of it, at risk, the better off you are. If you are in a knockout tournament, you could be convinced otherwise for what is, upon reflection, a ridiculously small amount of money. This is why I think that a knockout tournament favors the hyper-aggressive player, and turns knockout tourneys into all-in fests, an area wherein I am least comfortable.
I was cruising along nicely, having chipped up to a little above average stack at around 2.5x my starting point. I was picking my spots well, punishing group limpers, leading out only when I had the goods or had identified a weak player. But the spectre of old man Knockout reared its ugly head and made me make a decision I very likely would not have made.
I had 33 pre-flop with about 7000 in chips (it was a doublestack tournament, which I love, and might be the subject of another post). The player to my immediate right, who only had about 3000 chips moved in, and I sniffed a bit of weakness. I call and sure enough he turns over 46 off.
Now, of course this guy is a pork chop for moving in without even a whisper of a hand, but I think that without the potential to knock his ass out and grab $4 from him, I wouldn't have called with 33. Do I even need to tell you how this story ends? He catches a 6 on the flop and a 4 on the turn and cripples me.
My death knell was sounded about 10 hands later, when, as BB, I was moved in on by the SB. I had AK off, and snap called. I was elated to find myself yet another pork chop who moved in with 28d! What kind of ass-munch goes in with 2-8? When I'm stealing and bluffing I always have at least SOMETHING - a suited connector or two-gapper, a couple of big cards, a dry ace, something. But this chowderhead went in on me with deuce-son-of-a-bitching-eight.
Do I even need to tell you how THIS story ends? He flops his deuce and I take my bow, with my opponents chiding the winner and commiserating with me. My 28th-place finish did nothing for my bottom line, or my already incredibly bruised ego.
So I'm going to enter another similar tournament, having earned the buy-in with the easiest $20 heads-up match I ever played (I won easily whilst chatting on the phone with someone). Except this time, no god damned knockouts.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
And I'm embarrassed to say that it's evident in me. I fancy myself an above-average poker player; the bottom line on my on-line account is growing, not shrinking, so there's some empirical evidence to support that boast. But I just cannot get the hand that crippled me, and just how awfully bad I played it, out of my mind.
To recap, I was about average stacked, against mostly soft competition, and was the table captain, and looser pre-flop than usual. I was dealt 7-10d. Try as I might I can't remember the situation pre-flop - it might have been a big blind special or I might have raised the pot, which would have been glaring ridiculous horrible mistake #1. The flop came 789 rainbow. And this is the part of the picture where I turn my head, unable to watch what comes next.
I shoved and lost almost all my chips. There was no good reason for it, none whatsoever. I put myself in a significant position of risk, way more risk than the reward warranted. My best move there would have been no move whatsoever - call the hand down and fold to any big bet. My best move would have been to fold that stinker of a hand pre-flop. My best move would have been ANY FUCKING MOVE AT ALL THAT DID NOT INVOLVE PUTTING ALL MY CHIPS AT RISK. I sit here hours later, stunned at my own glaring mistake, shocked at the breathtaking speed with which I went from contender - favorite, even - to railbird, and ruminating on illusory superiority.
Or, to quote Marcellus Wallace to Butch the boxer, "that's just yo pride, fuckin' witcha."
I let my pride and my ego fuck with me. And really, if you allow a stupid idea like "shove with garbage to prove that you're the best poker player here" to get out of committee, cross the corpus callosum, hit the brain stem, and actually be acted upon, you cannot with any sincerity call yourself a good poker player.
I learned a bitter lesson today; if I do not learn from it, I'm not only a bad poker player, I'm fucking stupid as well.
The first part of the day went reasonably well. I was doing my thing, stealing blinds when I had the benefit of position and decent cards, and shoving when the deck suited me.
In this way I had doubled my stack and got three scratchers in my pocket, and made it to the final table. And, more delicious than the trifle that Josie served me yesterday at our home game, she was already out of the game, having been bounced unceremoniously (read all about it at her blog). At the final table I had 9400 in chips where the blinds were 200-400.
I had nothing but time, against a field who did not particularly frighten me.
But I had two major problems: It was ninety fucking degrees in that room, and the smoke was so thick I think I'm once again addicted to nicotine. Being a private club, anyone could smoke anything they wanted to, and brother they did. It was literally hazy in there, with thick, acrid blue smoke. I was sweating out of places I personally have not seen since I was twelve. And I...
sorry, bra commercial on TV
anyway, I grew impatient. Did I think that it would clear the smoke? Did I think it would cool the room? No. But I wasn't thinking. So I started in on my best Tom Dwan impersonation, raising every flop. And since I was adhering to my "3X BB" rule, it was an expensive course of action. I won some, I lost some, but I was, in truth, playing poorly.
Based on comments of my tablemates, I had the reputation of "raising with everything." What I should have done was tighten down. What I should have done was show a little bit of patience and let some of the fishies still in the game weed themselves out of the game.
What I did instead was, with a board of 7-8-9 go all in with 7-10. And really, how often does that end well?
When I bluff, I almost never do it out of the blue, with absolutely nothing. Actually this board and my hand was a perfect opportunity to bluff - bottom pair and an open-ended straight draw. I figured on ten outs, so I wasn't anything less than 60:40 against. So like Buckaroo Bonzai I shove, and was insta-called by the guy that Josie calls "Cancer Al." Cancer Al is a great guy but his poker skills are nothing over pedestrian. He calls a lot pre-flop and can easily be bullied off a hand. I figured on a quick fold, but it was not to be. He snap-called with pocket sevens. Damn, there went two of my outs. So all I had was eight outs; 60:40 turned into 70:30 with a quickness.
Sure enough, I lost, and though I had more than he did, what I was left with was: 100 chips. One white chip. Literally, a chip and a chair. I put it in and quadded up - a few hands later I put my 400 in and quinted up. Now I had 2000 in chips: still shortstacked but not on life support.
The next hand I was UTG so I looked at each card as I got it. The first card was a six. My inner monologue was PRAYING for the other card to be anything but another six. Because at that stage of the game, I was desperate to fold.
But of course, I hit my six for pocket sixes. And I couldn't fold, not with five big blinds left. In it went.
I got called with JQ, and of course there was a queen right in the door - signalling my demise.
However, someone was smiling upon me, and I "earned" my buy-in back with two scratchy winners - a $50 and a $10. I lost the extra tenner at Josie's house, playing heads-up with her, so I was out only some gasoline, three quarts of sweat, and however much it's going to take to clean the smoke out of my clothes.
One goddamn hand was the difference between success and failure. Listen, do me a favor: the next time that I want to shove with bottom pair and a draw, slap me hard across the face. Not you, Josie.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Tonight did not start off well. On the very first hand I was dealt AQ offsuit. After a raise and a re-raise the pot was already healthy when the flop gifted me a queen. I had no desire to play it cute; these guys are all too good for me to run a line of nonsense at them, especially at hand 1. I bet at it hard, and would have been just as happy with a fold there as anything else, but I got called. The turn paired the board, 4's if memory serves, which did me no favors but seemed to perk up my opponent, who bet with gusto. In hindsight my call was ill-advised there; I should have either folded or jammed it. But I called, only to be moved in upon on the river.
Belatedly I came to the obvious conclusion that top pair top kicker was not going to take this pot down. Had I become acquainted with this fundamental truth 30 seconds earlier I'd have saved many chips and I would not right now be a bitter, crotchety bastard who just yelled at his cats for being so goddamned frisky. I folded, my opponent volunteering that AQ was no good, with only 600-odd chips remaining from my stack of 3000.
I mounted a comeback as best I could, but it was difficult given the quality of my opponents and the shortness of my stack. The coup de grace came from Very Josie her Very Self; after I went in with - you guessed it - AQ, she snap-called me with A10. In theory, as an 81-19 favorite, I had at least a fighting chance. But no, of course she found a 10 on the flop, and all over this great land of ours, fat ladies suddenly and unexpectedly burst into song.
Did I deduce that I was not meant to play poker this evening? Did I realize, based on a cool-headed analysis of how the cards fell, that my best course of action was to curl into a fetal position, wrap myself in my Zoo Towel, and watch Police Academy 7?
Of fucking course not.
I signed up for a $33 sit-and-go tourney, was dealt QQ on hand 1. Raise-reraise-reraise-all in, and lo and behold I found myself against JJ for all my chips. Did my opponent catch a Jack for a miracle set? No. He caught TWO MIRACLE GOD DAMNED JACKS FOR QUADS. I will say this: when the poker gods wish to make a point, they do so with enthusiasm and creativity.
At this point I finally understood that playing any further this evening and I'd be wearing a barrel with suspenders before too long, and I don't have the legs to pull off that particular ensemble. I decided to do something pleasant, like getting yelled at by the wife.
A few shout-outs are in order: GoBurn for crippling me, VeryJosie for killing me, and Lightning, Coop, Waffles, Mojo, Floppy -- and Cricket, who turns 29 tomorrow.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Saturday, April 10, 2010
I was thinking recently why Hold 'Em is such a difficult game to master - and I always come back to this: There are damn few hard and fast rules. What hands to play, and how? How much to bet, and when? These seemingly simple questions just don't have one easy answer. Everything is dependent on position, stack size, table makeup, position relative to money list - there are more variables than answers.
But there are some hard and fast rules, at least. Not many, but a few. And I'd like to hear yours. My pal Josie is going to tell you this one: Never play Ace-rag, never never never ever never. It's a good rule, one that she taught me over my initial ridicule, and she's proven that she's right. Think about how tough that was to admit!
Here's mine: For real games (not my weekly home game, that's just for fun), when I open the pot, I open for 3x BB. Every time. Not 3.5x, not 4x, and NEVER just call unless I'm heads up and there's a national emergency or something.
If I don't adhere to this rule, I'll find myself telegraphing the strength of my hand with the size of my opening raise. It's tempting to play with the open to manipulate the action - you know, min-raising or even calling to encourage action - but if you stick with 3x BB in all circumstances nobody is going to have any idea what you have based solely on your open. And when you're playing on line, where that's the only pre-flop tell you can throw, sticking with 3x BB is even more critical.
Well, that's mine. What's yours?
Bullshit, says I. Granted, calling is not a viable option 100% of the time, but the same could be said for raising, calling, and folding as well. No, calling has its place at the table, and an honored one as well. To articulate every scenario would be as boring as listening to Josie's incessant self-aggrandizing, but forthwith two important cases where calling is by far the best option.
SCENARIO ONE: DRAWS
Having four of a suit after the flop is a seductive temptress; you're 2:1 against and unless this is your first time at the tables you know it. Yet you just can't help yourself, can you? You want to see the turn, or even better, that glorious heart on the river, where you do everything you can possibly do not to blow your load right there and ruin a nice felt table (suggested term: pokergasm). So: you do what you can to keep the pot small, for the moment, to reduce your risk. In short, you call. If you hit you can bet it out or wait for your opponent to do so, so when you turn over your flush you can rake a nice one in.
Many people would semi-bluff right there and take a shot at the pot but I'm usually not one of them. If you semi-bluff on the flop you could take it down right there, sure. But you are taking a risk for what is at that point a small pot, and playing hands when you're a 2:1 dog only pays off when you can claim a big pot when you hit. Plus god forbid you're up against a real hand, or an aggressive asshole, and you get re-popped. Now you're surrendering a big pot and you look like a fishcake.
The downside to this strategy is that it LOOKS like you're playing a four-flush, so if you bluff on the end, a smart player will pick you off right there, so I would counsel not trying. But calling the flop and the turn there keeps things nice and calm, while building the pot for when you do hit.
SCENARIO 2: COUNTERACTING THE CONTINUATION BET
Don't get me wrong; I love the continuation bet. Even if you whiff the flop completely, betting out right there tells a strong story, and lesser men fold immediately. It's a powerful way to steal pots, which you simply have to do to win a tournament. But next time you suspect someone missed the flop and is betting anyway, try this: CALL the bet. BET OUT the turn, say, 3/4ths of the pot. That's going to make bluff boy shut right down. Strength with strength, that's my motto. And the humble call is the key to it all. Hey, that rhymed.
So to sum up: Come up with a poker strategy that rhymes.
I stopped writing this blog some little while ago - mostly because I was enraptured with the grand potential of social networking sites like Facebook and I preferred a conversation to a monologue. Well shit - I won't be making that mistake again.
In the meantime my dear friend Josie has started a poker blog, and due to her skill at poker, her engaging and breezy writing style, and her ability to paint a line of bullshit down the highway that's a thousand miles long, it's become quite popular in a short amount of time. I have become a minor player in this blog, most often known as "Jew Boy," due to my being Jewish and Josie being unimaginative.
So I have decided to rechristen (or whatever the Jew Boy equivalent of a christening) this site as a poker blog, a means by which I can recount my own successes and failures at the table, and to act from time to time as a companion site to Josie's (read: glom on to her success).
It's gonna be funny, it's gonna be informative, and the insults are gonna fly all around. Keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times.
It's good to be back.