Was it really only two and half years ago? It seems like an eternity since I splashed around in a pool of my own hubris. It was as comfortable as the good Vegas beds and as dangerous as putting your money on Big Brown. Poker felt like such a sure thing. Everything made sense. The hours spent were profitable. The handle on the game was like the baseball bat owned since childhood. I remember thinking, "Damn, I could do nothing but this if I really wanted to." Blind arrogance is such a fun place to live. Every decision seems perfect, whether inside the game or out.
I don't live there anymore, for better or worse. Over the past 30 months, I've been forced to confront that I was never as good as I thought. And, even if I was, it doesn't matter. It took me too long to realize that the game changed and I didn't change with it. Like the guy who is still trying to figure out why he can't sell his warehouse full of cassette tapes, I'm forced to sit here and figure out if I can re-tool myself to catch up with two years of online poker's evolution.
Why do I think of it today? Well, a lot of reasons, I guess. But what really forced me to admit it out loud was a guy I made fun of in 2006. His screen name was one of my favorites ever: w00t4d0nks.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Back then, I was still a regular at Party's $10/$20 NL game. I'd done pretty well for myself there for quite a while and, in an act of pure cockiness, called out w00t4d0nks in public. Here in the South we call that "showing your ass." In the post Shortbuy City, I rambled on for an age about one particular guy who bought into my regular game for 25% of the max buy-in. I made assumptions on top of assumptions about the guy's MO and essentially called him a gambling dumbass. I based a lot of what I wrote on fairly limited data and a lot of arrogance. I wrote, in part:
I guess it just surprises me that with all the good poker information out there, some people are still treating poker like a gamble instead of an ATM. What's more, I'm starting to see more and more of these guys in the middle no-limit area. It's both fascinating and disturbing to watch. It's like watching Sammy Farha flip a coin for $25K. Watching gamblers can be fun. Playing poker against them can be more fun.
I'll be honest. The passing years, the end of Party, and my gradual decline into poker loathing had made me completely forget about w00t4d0nks. Over the years, I've noticed a lot more people at all levels of the game playing short-stacks. There are now scads of web sites and training grounds for the short-stack strategy. There are legions of players out there who do nothing but multi-table with short-stacks all day long. They are winning players against... well, against people like me who failed to adjust.
So, imagine my surprise when I ran into w00t4d0nks again--not at the tables, not at a bar, but in a comment on this very poker blog. When I saw the name in the comments, I immediately remembered the guy (who for some reason is etched into my brain in one particular seat at the Party Poker tables).
Here is w00t4d0nks note in its entirety:
Hey Otis. I just got a big chuckle out of one of your old blog entries and thought I'd write you a thanks. At the time of w00ts appearance on the Party 10/20 tables I was pretty well known under a different screen name as one of the big winning super regulars. I developed the short stack strategy after listening to people complain about the guys doing it(who were terrible poker players btw). I figured I'd give it a shot since I always experiment with out of the box strats.
The strategy was ridiculously successful and actually made me more $/hour than full buyin. It was at least $500/hour and I think was at about $1k/hour on nights and weekends towards the end but then party closed(i've still got the PTDB somewhere I think). There were so many regular ABC multi tablers in those days that it was incredibly simple. What noone realized was that I was using Pokertracker with a HUD and customized my push ranges to each player. I was picking up $100 with no showdown like it raining benjamins.
Anyways, I always joke with my friends about being the godfather of shortstacking and not getting credit for it so I thought this blog was a riot =)w00t(I shove)4d0nks
After seeing the comment, I read it twice and tried to decide how I felt. After a few minutes, I knew exactly. It was if I just read, "Hey, Otis. Remember that hot girl you were dating in college? Yeah, really hot, huh? Well, here's the thing. The whole time you were dating, I was pouring it to her behind your back. We ended up getting married. She still talks about how you couldn't get her off."
Yeah, a little more than humbling.
Looking at it much later, I can still say short-stacking is not the most exciting version of poker, nor one that sounds like much fun to play. That admitted, poker is not really about having fun, is it? It's not about mainlining adrenaline and getting your rocks off on the stress. It's about making money. There are some people out there like w00t4d0nks who apparently made it work for them. Woot, if you're still reading, let us know how you're doing now. It might be instructive.
In the meantime, I'm wallowing in a different pool now. A dip in Olympic-sized Self Loathing isn't nearly as much fun, but it's a lot more real than blind ignorance. Time, I've found, is as much a magnifying glass as it is a mirror. Looking back, indeed, I can see a reflection of a very big donkey.
C'est moi.<-- Hide More
An informal poll at European Poker Tour Grand Final revealed nothing surprising. Three of the final eight players were considered to be the best players at the table with the best chance at winning. Luca Pagano was the most consistent--a record nine cashes on the EPT, including three final tables. Antonio Esfandiari was the proven live tournament winner. Isaac Baron was the online tournament king--2007 CardPlayer online player of the year, and, to his credit, a guy who knew how to act like he'd been there before.
None of them won. In fact, none of them placed in the top 3.
Whether a telling statistic about tournament play or merely another anomoly to add to the constant debate about the validity of tournament poker as an indicator of skill, it failed to answer to the question I asked a day earlier. With the chip lead and three tables remaining, was Esfandiari right to limp with a big pair in early position?
The comments in the above-linked post were thoughtful and exactly what I'd hoped to see. For what it's worth, my opinion is below.More in this Poker Blog! -->
If you're just tuning in, see The Big Pair Limp Question for background.
Let me begin by acknowledging, there is no right answer to this question. Lee Jones' initial argument in favor of Esfandiari's move was convincing and sound in its foundation (maybe someday I'll convince him to guest post here and fully explain his reasoning).
It simply comes down to a "What would I do" question. The answer: I wouldn't limp with pocket queens under the gun in that particular situation.
With 20 or so players left, Esfandiari had the chip lead and double the chip average. I don't recall whether he'd played much with Stig Top-Rasmussen, but I know they had just recently been seated at the TV table together. Still, Stig had developed a reputation. He was a wild, celebratory, loose, hyper-aggressive Danish player who occasionally made moves that could politely be described as unconventional. I don't know if Esfandiari was specifically targetting Stig here or anyone who might raise. I do know, however, that Esfandiari was justified in believing in his big pairs. They'd been holding up for two days and played a large role in his chip lead.
Here, The Magcian had a choice. He could raise or limp. Limping wass sure to be suspect and opened him up to the possibility of playing queens against a wide variety of hands. Raising, though, would possibly kill his action. Which is worse?
Proponents of Esfandiari's move suggest that limping could serve to incite more action (as it obviously did), and, in the event everybody limps, Esfandiari could simply play his hand differently than he might otherwise. Again, a fine argument. In the event someone raises, he can re-raise and hopefully take down the pot right there. Thing is, that didn't happen.
So, what happens if he raises pre-flop? He might get a call, he might not. Stig might make the move in the big blind or he might not. There are other possibilities as well, and they are the reasons I think Esfandiari might have been smarter to take a more traditional line. Stig might have made a more conventional re-raise, at which point Esfandiari could've re-raised to announce the true strength of his hand. Or, Stig might have smooth called pre-flop, whiffed the flop, and given Esfandiari a chance to take down the pot then.
Again, none of those things happened. Here we saw a perfect storm of two gamblers' plays meeting over a massive pile of chips. Esfandiari was obviously the smarter of the two, but in the end it didn't matter.
I couldn't help but continuing to delve into the hyopthetical, however. It occurred to me, that Stig also makes that same move with Ace-King. In that case, Esfandiari has forced himself to play the biggest pot of the tournament on a coin flip when there is still a signficiant number of people left in event. Nobody likes to take a coin flip in that situation, but that would've been the result. The counter to that argument is valid as well...that it stood a greater chance of being a hand other than AK, and hence it was the right play.
The greatest argument in favor of Esfandiari's move is that he got his money in as a favorite. He gave him chance to have a gigantic chip lead (read: utility) with 20 players remaining. The fact that the result did not go the right way is irrelevant. Again, it's hard to argue that. We make decisions based the odds. Sometimes they don't go our way.
There is a counter to this arguement however. While the utility of having nearly 3 million chips when everybody else has under 1 million is immense, there is something to be said for having 1.6 million when everbody else has less than a million and the blinds are still at 5,000/10,000/1,000. It's a question of whether you want to risk giving up the only power you have for a chance at obtaining more power.
In the end, there is nothing wrong with Esfandiari's play. It was a gambler's move aimed at giving him a better shot at owning the tournament. It missed and so did he. Critics (I suppose this one included) would say that Esfandiari's attempt to give him a better chance at winning the tournament ended up in severely reducing his chance at winning the tournament. It's one thing to not go out like Broomcorn's uncle. It's another thing to have a chip lead and take a gamble for half your stack.
After I wrote the initial post, there came a time I was able to stand right over Stig's shoulder as his stack slowly dwindled back down to where it started before the hand with Esfandiari. I watched Stig clash with another unconventional line. This time it worked the way it was supposed to.
(From the PokerStars Blog): In one of the biggest pots yet, Henrik Gwinner came in for a raise and PokerStars qualifier Michael Martin called. Stig Top-Rasmussen re-raised from the big blind for an additional 190,000. Again, Martin called. The flop came out J92 and Rasmussen almost immediately pushed in. The only thing faster was Martin's call for his entire stack--516,000 more. Rasmussen shows pocket sevens to Martin's slow-played pocket aces. The board bricks out and Martin wins a massive pot, totalling around 1.5 million.
What's interesting, is that of all the guys involved in these big pots, none of them finished better than fifth place. As for the two involved in the hand in question, Stig finished in tenth place. Esfandiari ended up finishing in eighth.
I think this all goes to show two things. First, one hand does not always make a tournament. Second, I'm probably more conservative than the vast number of tournament players and that's probably why I finish second more than first.<-- Hide More
Live from a fifteen minute break at the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo, a hand that has caused significant debate, specifically between Lee Jones and this humble correspondent. Your opinion--while, like mine, largely insignificant--is valued.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Quick background: Antonio "The Magician" Esfandiari has been running over the tournament for two days. With the chip average just over 600,000, he has 1.6 million or so. He's been moved to the TV table with a rather loose-aggressive Dane named Stig Top-Rasmussen. Rasmussen has about 700,000 chips. Blinds are at 5,000/10,000/1,000. Twenty-one players are still left in the event. First place pays more than €2 million.
The hand (from the PokerStars Blog): Antonio limped UTG to see the button and small blind limp as well. Stig, in the big blind, thought about the situation for a bit and then pushed his 700k chips across the line. Almost without hesitation, Antonio called. The others ran for cover before Antonio turned over QQ. Stig somewhat sheepishly showed his AT. When the smoke cleared, the board read 7 3 4 A J and Stig was stacking about 1.5 million in chips.
You choose: I'm still thinking about the hand, but I have 90% definite opinion. Lee Jones differs. Tell me what you think and why.
A) Antonio, based on his chip position, was wrong to limp with queens
B) Antonio, based on his chip position, was right to limp with queens.
I'd also, just for entertainment value, be interested to hear your opinion on Stig's play.<-- Hide More
The last tournament I played culminated in one of those self-affirming moments. I looked up at the TV screen and there I was, sitting right in the middle of the table with a stack of chips that would eventually lead me to winning 20 times my buy-in. Sure, it wasn't big money, but I'd battled through a minefield of a tournament, made the final table, and put myself in a position to win. The fact that it was Caesarâ€™s closed circuit TV feed didnâ€™t matter. Iâ€™d won and felt good about it.
When it was all over, I sat down in a chair with a beer and reflected by myself for a moment about what it meant. Was I actually good? Did I just get lucky for a day?More in this Poker Blog! -->
A few nights later, I was playing $2/$5. My table was as nitty and boring as it could possibly be. Two tables away, my buddy, The Mark, was sitting in the seven seat with a structure of chips that was starting to make me envious. It had started as $500. It had grown to $1,000. When I looked up an hour later, he was stacking green birds in stacks of 20 and had more than $3,000 in front of him.
All the while, I was watching my stack go up and down by $100 or so at a time and wondering what I was doing wrong. I mean, was Mark just running well or was I playing a bad game? Sure, I finally picked up the night where I nearly quadrupled my $500 buy-in, but that night was the exception and not the rule. Most nights, it was up or down $200 or so--not necessarily the kind of poker that inspires a player to write, much less play. With Mark, not to mention G-Rob, and select number of other good players on the G-Vegas circuit, big stacks and big wins seem more the rule than the exception. Sure, they all have their nights that end in temporary disaster. Still, along the way, I've always wondered what it is that they have that I don't.
And that gives me, if you will, the red ass.
My post-Vegas catch-up session has involved less catching up than I would like. Between house guests and family trips, I've played a grand total of one hour of poker online and no live cards in the past month. It is, without question, the longest I've gone without playing poker since March 2003. As such, I've not been reading as much as I would normally about the game. I've been scanning Bloglines, but that's about it. One day, however, I noticed a long rant from cash game guru Miami Don that said "MTT's are gimmick poker and not many people make money at them."
I sat back and let it sink in.
"Well, damn, Don," I thought. "I've always considered myself a better tournament player than cash player. Does that mean I'm just a gimmicky loser?"
Of course, I knew Don wasn't trying to insult me. After all, if one looks at my online stats for the past year, they show that while I won a good chunk of cash, I wasn't profitable on the one site where I am tracked. Now, I know that I am a lifetime winner in tournaments, but if I'm being honest, it's not really enough to call me a Winner. After all, you don't see me making a living in Vegas, right?
It took me all of five seconds to understand Don's point. Still, I knew he was going to start a conversation that was going to stoke some hot tempers. As a subject that was close to my poker heart, I decided that I would wait and not read anything else on the subject while I considered how I really felt.
Over the course of the next several days, I got word that Don's post did, indeed, get some people all fired up. I made it a point not to read any of it, just to be sure I didn't let friendships sway my opinion. I'll go back and read it all after I finish this up.
While Don never overtly asked the question, it was almost implied, and so I'll ask it here (at the risk of repeating what other better writers and thinkers might have already produced):
Which player has more skill: The cash game pro or the tournament specialist?
What you see below is a stream-of-consciousness formation of my opinion.
Let's look at the G-Vegas circuit. For the purposes of familiarity here, I'm going to refer to five people you might have read about. [Note: These are all just my interpretations and are open to much debate, especially after a few drinks.]
G-Rob--No limit hold'em cash game player who dabbles in tournaments to results that don't satisfy him. Plays cash games much better live than he does online.
The Mark--Great live cash game player who will play any flop game. Shows no success online. Routinely crushes live single table satellites.
BadBlood--Conservative player who balances live and online play as well as balances cash and tournament play. Maintains an equal level of skill in both cash games and tournaments.
Eddie the Dealer--Loose aggressive player who shows great talent live/online and cash/tournament. With the exception of a leak he's aware of that can be detrimental to his bankroll, a solid all-around player.
Otis--Inconsistent player with one-time big success in online tournaments and cash game play. Live results in cash games have been modest to non-existent. Live tournament play has shown mixed results, with most success coming in events with fields from 30-200 players.
To answer the above question about who is the most skillful player--tournament specialist or cash game pro--I asked myself, "Of the five players above, who would I stake with the hopes of getting a decent return on my money." The answer, as you might expect, was not as definitive as most people might have you believe.
I would stake all of them, as long as I got to pick what they were playing.
Say I have $10,000 in my pocket. Frankly, I don't want to give all of it to any of them. I'm going to put G-Rob in a $1/$2 game with a $500 cap at Caesar's. I'm going to put Mark in five $500 live one-table tournaments. I'm going to put Blood and Eddie in a rotation of live and online cash games and tournaments. I'm going to keep $2,500 for myself and I'm going to play exclusively online--mostly in middle-buy-in--tournaments.
But that doesn't answer the question. Sure, it figures out where I have the best expectation, but it doesn't answer which among us is a better poker player. It only points out who is better at what game and where I stand the best chance of making some money on my investment. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and only time will change that.
Of course, I looked back at my history of staking people or buying pieces of people and discovered something. I have never staked anyone in a cash game, but I have put money into ten or more people playing tournaments. In fact, I've got money in action right now despite not playing a hand of poker myself.
Why is that?
The simple fact is, Don's initial statement is basically true when applied to big buy-in live tournaments.
A couple of years ago, I sat in a steakhouse in Dallas with some very good poker thinkers, including someone with a WSOP bracelet and Nolan Dalla. Over a meal of filet mignon and a half dozen other meats, we figured up the minimum amount of money someone should have to comfortably go on the pro tournament circuit for a year. When figuring buy-ins, airfare, hotel, food, and any other companion expenses (airfare, hotel, and food for spouses, nannies, children, etc), we decided that a player would need about $500,000 to survive a year without fear of going broke.
When only the top 10-15% of people are making any money, going for any significant length of time without a final table is going to end up breaking a lot of players--not to mention putting a real hurtin' on their psyche. It is not a sustainable lifestyle unless you are one of the top tournament players around. The time commitment alone is enough to make live tournaments -EV for most players.
However, that changes in a heartbeat when you look at online tournament pros. Gone are the costs of travel. Gone is the week-long commitment to one tournament. If you look at players like JohnnyBax and Rizen, two of the top online tournament pros, you'll see the kind of money that can be made. These guys and hundreds of other players spend their entire days playing nothing but tournaments, thus giving themselves much better chances at final tables and big money. Sure, it's not going to be a million bucks in one shot, but it can be a damned good living. In fact, it can be a much better living than someone playing small to mid-stakes cash games live.
Playing tournaments live or online takes talent. I'm not saying that because I enjoy it or excel at it. I'm saying it because it's true. Sure, there are a lot of crapshoot tournaments out there, but when a tournament is structured correctly, more often than not, the cream will rise. If you only look among this community of poker bloggers, it's not hard to spot who has a chance at being a profitable tournament player and who does not. Look at guys like Absinthe, Hoy, and bayne. Those are guys who prove that 1) MTTs are not a gimmick and 2) It takes a special talent to be profitable in tournaments.
However, it goes without saying, I think, that it takes just as much--and maybe more--talent to excel in cash games. There are so many variables that come into play in cash that don't in tournaments that one could reasonably argue that cash game play takes--if not more--at least a very different kind of poker talent.
If we accept all of the above--that both styles of poker are profitable and require different talents to play each--then I think it logically follows that the best poker player is the one who can be profitable in both games. Sure, there aren't many of those people out there, but they exist. And they are the people I don't want to face at the table.<-- Hide More
I do not write strategy posts. I do not write theory posts. I write stories. I do this because, despite the fun I have playing poker, I'm better at telling stories than explaining how I play or offering helpful advice to people looking to improve their game. With that disclaimer, the past six weeks have been pretty interesting. I've laid down pocket aces three times on the flop. As each of the laydowns have resulted in hours of post-hand analysis, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts. I'm not looking for a pat on the back. I'm just curious.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Location: The Spring Hotel
Game: $1/$/2 NL
I'm under the gun plus one with pocket aces. The Dancer raises to $9 under the gun. I make it $25 to go. The small blind, a pro (yeah, a pro in a $1/$2 game--it's that profitable) drops five red chips in the pot and makes a groan that suggests he's calling with a hand he knows is beat, but is hoping to hit. The Dancer calls. Both players check in the dark. The flop comes J96 with two hearts. I make it $75 and the pro raises to $250. At this point, I'm confident I'm still ahead of him, but our stacks aren't small and I know there's a good chance we'll be playing for all our chips. The pro started the hand with around $800. I had just more than $600. The Dancer had close to $400.
I'm on the verge of making a decision about whether to push when The Dancer announces he's all in. It's now quite clear that I'm no longer ahead and probably way behind. I immediately put The Dancer on a set. Furthermore, I know that, even if I jam, the pro has to call. After a minute or so of thought, I mucked.
Now, looking back, this was the easiest of the three laydowns (and the best). As it turned out, The Dancer had a set of nines. The pro had KT suited in hearts for the second nut flush draw and gutshot straight draw. The result: An ace fell on the turn, giving me top set (had I stayed in the hand). The river was a heart, giving the pro a flush and the pot.
In retrospect, I'm happy with how this turned out. Had the players not checked in the dark and one of them had bet, I could've driven the draw out of the pot. In that case, I still would've been behind, but justified in the suck-out I would've laid on the Dancer.
Location: The Gaelic Game
Game: $1/$2 NL (but playing with no max and more like a $2/$5 game)
I was in the middle of a bad night. The game was drunk (I was not), the waitresses were drunk and had spilled two drinks on me, and I was stuck. The max on the game had been lifted a few weeks before and the stacks on the table ranged between $400 and $2,500. I'd been card dead most of the night and the victim of a couple bad suckouts. The table was rowdy. UPS/Dan Heimiller look-alike had just dropped a $2,000 pot to Rhodes after bluffing into Rhodes' pocket aces on a scary board.
I'm under the gun plus one with pocket aces. Rhodes, still high from scooping the pot, makes it $12 to go. I pop it to $35. The big blind, a nit, called. Rhodes called. The flop came down KQx rainbow. Both players checked to me and I made it $80 to play. The nit folded and Rhodes quicky raised to $200. The check-raise was frustrating and a little scary. Four hands seemed likely: KK, QQ, KQ, or AK. The only one I could beat was AK.
Here's where I fucked this one up: I should've folded or jammed there. It's one or the other and after thinking about it for a while, I recognize that. I was into the hand for a little more than $100. Rhodes had me easily covered (I had about $800 to his $2000). Instead--and damned if typing this doesn't make me feel more like an idiot--I min-raised. At the time, the logic went like this: Represent the set, put him to a decision. Looking back, there are so many holes in that logic that I'm ashamed to even be writing this post. Of course, Rhodes started monologuing. "You're so tight. What is it? A set? What a cold deck." After three full minutes, Rhodes announced, "I'm all in."
My cards hit the muck before he finished his sentence.
I thought about this hand more than any of the other three. I made a lot of mistakes in the hand, the min-raise being the most damning of them.
At the time, Rhodes said to me, "You were beat." I didn't know whether to believe him at the time. Later, and for reasons I can't specify here, I developed intelligence that strongly suggests Rhodes held KQ and that I was drawing slim had I stayed in the hand.
Location: The Golden Moon
Game: $2/$5 NL
I'd been playing a good game for a little more than four hours. It was a holiday weekend and the game was loose. I'd put together a decent profit playing a mixture of tight-aggressive and loose-aggressive poker. I'd made only one mistake the entire afternoon and it only cost me $50. I was with relatives who were ready to leave. As they racked up, I decided I'd play...one...last...hand. By the time the cards were dealt, my brother-in-law was standing over my shoulder. I peeked at the first card. Ace of diamonds. "Okay, I thought. Unless the next card is an ace or a king, I'm getting up." Sure enough, ace of spades.
There's one limper in front of me and I make it $25 to play. The small blind (a sweating, limping, wreck of a man who had already been to the ATM to re-load and had since quadrupled his stack with some very aggressive play) called and the limper called. The flop came down 993 rainbow. I wasn't worried about the limper (a lady who never bluffed, called a lot of raises, and folded to almost any bet). The small blind, though, worried me. I watched him as the flop came down and he flinched. It was barely noticable, but it was there. Both players checked to me and I bet $60.
Before my chips hit the felt, the small blind was grabbing for his stacks. He pushed out $260 and put his chin on his chest. The limper folded and I went in the tank. The bet smelled like a bluff. The overbet was fishy. I knew I still had around $700 left to play with. A re-raise would commit me. Just calling would leave me blind. Based on what I'd seen, the guy's range here was very wide. Putting him on a hand was nearly impossible. I could only narrow it down to TT, JJ, 33, or any hand with a nine it.
Then I did something I rarely do. I tried to get the guy to talk. I asked if he had the nine. No response. No movement. I looked for a tell that G-Rob and BadBlood use all the time. It was absent. I wanted to hear the guy's voice, so I asked him how much he had left. I already knew he had around $900 sitting in front of him. He mumbled something and a local at the table announced it was around $900 (I shot the dude a dirty look, but he didn't care that he was getting in my hand).
After another minute of thought, I mucked face-up and told the guy to have a good weekend. The guy pushed his cards into the muck and dragged his pot.
In retrospect, I don't like this laydown as much as I did when I first made it. I think I was happy with my profit for the day and didn't want to lose a $1,600 pot in front of my in-laws. I think there was a 50/50 chance I was behind. Given the chance to re-play the hand, I think I should've kept playing the hand. I think if I had called, I might have been able to pick up something on the turn. Or maybe not. Maybe I should've jammed. I don't know. I've only been thinking about this hand for five days, so maybe I'll find some enlightenment after some more thought.
So, there are three hands that I either played well or badly. You tell me.<-- Hide More
The bar was just about to get loud. The G-Spot is one of those places that is a comfortable watering hole until the band starts up. Then it gets loud and it's hard to hear each other talk. I was with BadBlood and my buddy, T. We were talking marriage and family. For the 30-40 married man, it's one of the most important discussions to have with your like-minded friends.
It was during this discussion that I had an odd poker epiphany.
I think I get stuck on purpose.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I'm not fully in tune with this topic yet. I'm not even sure where I'm going with it. I can only sum up the general premise. Then, perhaps at a later date, I'll be able to fully explain what I mean.
Of course, I don't want to get stuck. I don't want to have to play from behind. I don't ever want to lose.
However, in dealing with my wife, I often start off by acting badly. Whether I am being selfish, lazy, or otherwise manish, I tend to not act in a way I know my wife wants. After doing this for a given amount of time, I realize I'm not acting in a winning manner and starting acting--in earnest--the way I know I should behave around my wife. It usually takes twice as long to make nice-nice as it takes to make her mad. Had I just acted right in the beginning, life would've been better all around.
The same, it seems, goes with poker. I begin many sessions by playing loose, aggressive poker. I may not be playing badly, per se, but I am not playing my usual game. When we play a game that is not our "A" game, we aren't playing optimally. As such, I begin many (if not most) sessions by getting stuck a little, or, more recently, a lot. Then, I spend the rest of the session getting even. Since it is possible for me to get even and sometimes actually recover enough to make a profit, I have to assume that I have the ability to play the game at that level. It's just a matter of convincing myself to play the right way.
So, I'm not getting stuck on purpose in either case. In reality, I think there is a selfish gambler in me that wants to see how much I can get by with. Can I play poker six nights a week with setting off the bad marriage-o-meter? Can I check-raise with second pair and get my opponent to fold? In most cases, the answer is no on both counts. And yet, I try.
There is a reason why good people can get divorced. There is a reason why good players can lose. I am fortunate that my marriage is solid and I am always improving my married man behavior. I'm learning that it's better to give up some of the selfish things I enjoy for the relative tranquliity of not having to dig out of a hole.
Now, I need to teach myself to do the same in poker.
That is, the game starts when I sit down. Not when I'm stuck.<-- Hide More
How many times have you been asked that question? How many times have you seen it asked at the table? And how many times have you asked that yourself?
Here's the outrage:More in this Poker Blog! -->
I've put out a strong raise pre-flop, made a strong continuation bet after the flop and pushed all in on the turn. I must have a pretty good hand, right? Well, I don't. I was bluffing. At best, I have a draw. But you can't know that, right? And when you click call and flip over top pair, top kicker, it's time for me to ask the question.
I think I'm getting tired of hearing it. Isn't it just a little bit possible that I've developed a betting pattern that easy to spot. Isn't it possible that that particular opponent knows that I play my strong hands soft and my weak hands strong?
I'm seeing a growing trend of people who are personally offended when their opponent reads them correctly. It doesn't matter if your opponent was ahead when all the money went into the pot, it's that there's NO WAY he could honestly believe he was ahead, so it must have been a bad call on his part.
Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but one of the first things I had to do to grow as a player was to stop assuming my opponent held monsters every time they bet like they did. Just as they're reading you, you have to read them, and trust those reads. Sometimes they'll be wrong and sometimes you'll be wrong.
Bottom line: I have a hard time believing it's ever a bad call if the person making the call is ahead when the money goes into the pot. Just because you're representing more than you have doesn't mean I have to believe it.<-- Hide More
Poker is not a Pollyanna game. I know, because I am an idealist.
We are having a server issue with our comments, please bear with us. Fixed.]
When I have planned an outdoor party down to the last drop of booze, I look at the thunderstorm forecast and say, "Well, the weather people usually get it wrong. Party on."
And when it rains, I get sad. And I get mad. And somehow I find a way to blame the weatherman. That is, because he is usually wrong, I shouldn't have felt to compelled to believe him.
See, idealism is the worst trait a poker player can have.
The grand masters of poker have long offered one of the greatest pieces of poker wisdom: Good players fall to suckouts far more often than they suck out. Why? Because good players do not usually put themselves in position to suck out and bad players do.
This is true, in large part. One thing it fails to address, however, is a growing breed of players who cling so tightly to the Suckout Maxim that they cannot accept that what should be not always is..
To wit: Pocket kings are so pretty at a shorthanded final table that my opponent's only fear is that he won't get action with them. So, he limps in from the small blind. Getting short on chips, I find A6s and jam. My opponent calls in an instant and falls into an apopleptic fit when the flop drops an ace and the turn comes as a six.
"Incredible," he said. "What a trap."
As I went on to chop the tournament with two other opponents, I couldn't help but tap the glass once: "I would've folded to a raise."
My opponent had deluded himself into seeing only that pocket kings should beat any random hand in the big blind. Then he compounded his problem by making a sick mistake that helped me win a lot of money and forced him to accept a lesser payday. In short, in poker, it's not about what should be. It is about what is.
That example doesn't fully illustrate what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about the guy who holds pocket aces, raises pre-flop, gets one caller, and then sees a flop of KTT. He bets out and his opponent min-raises. So, the guy pops him back. Now, the opponent pushes in the rest of his sizable stack and our anti-hero calls with his aces -- only to lose to KT.
Anyone who read the above paragaph knew that the opponent had at least a ten in his hand. Mr. Pocket Aces probably even suspected it. However, he was so caught up in how his aces should win, that he was willing to get bounced from the tournament because he refused to accept what was actually happening. What's more, Mr. Pocket Aces will later tell his friends how some donkey played KT to a raise and how a bad beat knocked him out of the tournament. True, a donkey played KT to a raise. And true, Mr. Pocket Aces suffered a semi-bad beat on the flop. That said, it was not a bad beat that knocked him out of the tournament. The bad beat happened--in poker time--a long time before he exited the tournament. This guy is on the rail because he was caught up in the should and ignoring the is.
The telling of bad beat stories is a sickness and the burgeoning poker world is full hypochondriacs. As a poker writer of sorts, I hear more than my fair share. And, I'll admit that I even tell a few from time to time (let me tell you about my pocket aces versus Q9 for a whole helluva lot of money...). That said, the greatest service you as a poker player can do for the poker community is to never tell a bad beat story again.
Last year, I offered my poker tilt definitions. It received a good response and it got me thinking about how loosely people define bad beats. See, that's part of the real sickness. People disguise their bad beat stories in hopes that you won't recognize what you're hearing. Often times, it's not a bad beat they are describing. It's bad play. Still, they expect your sympathy.
First, let's embrace the definition of "bad beat" boiled down to its marrow by the venerable Toby Bochan of About.com:
Bad Beat: When a very strong hand that is a statistical favorite to win loses to a much weaker hand that hits a lucky draw, itâ€™s called a â€œbad beat.â€
We all know that, but we need to embrace it before we move on to the kinds of bad beat stories we hear every day. Ready?
The "Pity Me" Bad Beat Story-- Told by people who get no greater pressure in life than having people pay attention to them for the wrong reasons. Outside of poker, these people are prone to hypochondria, Munchausen by Proxy, and general whining about how rough their life is. Pocket kings cracked by deuces? Come on, how bad is my life?
The "Tell Me I'm Good" Bad Bad Story -- Told by people who are so insecure with their own play that they can't be sure it was a bad beat until four people have told them so, thus validating the story-tellers skill and making him feel better about himself. Outside of poker, these people generally have small penises or suffer from premature ejacualtion issues.
The Disguised Bad Bad Story-- Told by people who want to appear smarter than they think they are, the Disguised Bad Beat Story is often hidden under a cheesecloth of hand analysis. It begins, "Tell me what you think of this hand. See, I raised pre-flop..." and generally ends, "What do you think of my play there?" Outside of poker, these people are middle managers in mid-sized companies. They ended up in management without a great deal of fomal education and as such need people to think they are smart and keen on poker hand analysis.
The "Not Actually a" Bad Bad Story-- Told by people who tend to make mountains out of molehills. "You see that? I get pocket queens and they get cracked by big slick. Then I get big slick and lose to pocket fives. I NEVER win a race!" outside of poker, these people believe they always end up on the wrong line at the grocery store, always hit red lights intead of green, and believe they always pick up the milk that is on the verge of expiration.
The "By Way of Explanation" Bad Beat Story-- Told by people spotted no longer sitting in tournament who feel the need to explain why they are no longer in action. "You get knocked out, Jimmy?" "Oh, man, you shoulda seen this donkey I was up against..." Outside of poker, these people are the ones who use "creative differences" for the reason they are unemployed.
The "I should admit I blew it, but I'm not going to" Bad Beat Story-- Told by people who limp with big pairs, call off all their chips in level 1 with AKo, or call an all-in with the ass-end of a straight (with a flush on board) and end up losing their stacks. Outside of poker, these are the people who cheat on their wives and get pissed when they get caught, speed and can't believe they got a ticket, and don't understand what it means to look BOTH ways before crossing the street.
The "Re-Suck" Bad Beat Story--Told by people who suck out on the flop and then are amazed that it's possible the original better hand can re-suck on the turn or river. Outside of poker, these people are the people who get promotions using lies an deceit, are eventually discovered to be worthless human beings, and end up getting fired for thier worthlessness.
You can do yourself and the rest of us a favor. After losing a stack or getting knocked out of a tourrnament, don't say anything at all. If someone asks you what happened, use either two words or three words to finish the conversation:
Two word explanation-- "Bad beat."
Three word explanation-- "I'm an idiot."
Everything else is just wasted breath. Furthermore, choosing between the two-word explanation and three word explanation will actually help you decide who was actually at fault for your exit. Was it really a bad beat. Or are you an idiot?
I just scratched the surface here. Feel free to add your definitions in the comments section.<-- Hide More
You've just been offered $129,000 for a silver case with a big number on the outside and an amount of money ranging from a penny to a million dollars on the inside.
$129,000 is more than you've ever made in your life. It will solve every money problem you currently have. The bills will all be paid. The car will be yours. You can travel, you can treat your friends and family and you can gamble worry-free.
And you say, "No."More in this Poker Blog! -->
It's a game show that better demonstrates the human nature of greed even more than the short-lived game show named after the deadly sin. Of course, that old game show featured our own Joe Speaker, but I digress. And this time, we have a shiny-domed Howie Mandell instead of Hall of Fame host Chuck Woolery. Yet again, I digress.
In case you haven't seen, Deal or No Deal features 26 cases with amounts ranging from a penny to a million dollars. You select a single case which is yours if you keep it until the end. Then you begin opening the rest of the cases which eliminates the possibilities of those amounts being in your case.
Periodically, the "banker" tries to buy your case from you based on what's probably a rather simple formula that factors in the dollar amounts still in play. In other words, pick a bunch of cases with small amounts and there's a better chance your case has a big amount and, thus, you'll get a higher offer from the banker.
When the game gets down to about a half-dozen cases or so, the game gets really interesting. I sit on my couch and think, "How could they turn down more than $100,000?" But then I realize it's a lot easier to say that when I'm not the one staring at the possibility of five or ten times that amount.
And maybe that's the mindset we face at the poker table on a regular basis. How many times have you looked down at the nut flush draw, faced an all-in that gave you the wrong odds, and yet you called anyway? How many times have you faced an all-in reraise while holding pocket Q's and had to decided to risk it all on a hunch?
Humans are greedy by nature. Americans are greedier than most. Poker players are the greediest of all. We see that flush draw and imagine the possibilities. We see that big pocket pair and think it can hold up. We're often thinking less about the cards and more about the pot. It's in our nature.
The best poker players fight this urge. Greed is a powerful force. And in many cases it pays off. But then you have to ask yourself: Do I lose more the times it doesn't pay off than I make the times it does?
It may not have the ring of "Deal... or No Deal?" But it's a question that may save you a little money at the tables.<-- Hide More
A few days ago, I asked, "Who the f#$% is Aaron Brown?" Well, Mr. Brown has responded. As i expected, his quote may have been taken somewhat out of context. Or, more to the point, it's impossible for him to explain what he means in just the sentence the writer of the article allowed.
So, since I bet more people will read me than that New York Times rag, I'm going to reprint Mr. Brown's comment from my previous post below. I still don't entirely agree with the premise (and I may respond at some point), but at least it's explained more fully. Enjoy!More in this Poker Blog! -->
Sorry, I've been out of the country with limited Internet access or I would have replied before this.
The quote is not from my book, I spoke with the author, Tim O'Brien, for about an hour. Newspaper quotes are virtually always out of context, after all the article was about poker, not about me. That doesn't mean it's misleading, one of the skills of a good journalist is to take things out of context without being misleading. By the way, Tim O'Brien wrote a great book, Bad Bet, a few years ago.
I am not anti-tournament poker, nor do I think tournament winners are bad players. I do think that an essential part of poker is the goal of making money. Played without meaningful stakes, poker isn't poker. I think most people will stay with me that far.
A tournament is an in-between case. The stakes can be meaningful, but the goal is to be the last survivor, that is to bankrupt everyone else; rather than to make money hand-by-hand. True, you get paid to bankrupt everyone else, so you could say it's about the money, but in my opinion it's a fundamental change to the game to get paid for other people going broke as opposed to earning your money pot by pot. This is not a minor thing, I consider bet accounting to be a defining part of poker (and historically it's one of the key innovations that distinguishes poker).
Anything can be forced into a competitive sport. I used the singing/American Idol example with Tim, but you could substitute hunting versus target shooting or writing novels versus spelling bees or lots of other things. It takes similar skills to do the real activity and to win the simulated competition, but one is real and one is organized for entertainment of spectators. Some people are good at both, some at one, some at neither.
I don't disguise the fact that I think the real activity, at least with poker and music and other things I love, is better than the simulated one; but I don't argue the point. If you like tournaments better, enjoy them. Tournaments give a clear winner, we can know who is the best tournament poker player (at least for one game and limit structure on one day). I like that transparency, anyone can claim to be a great cash game player, tournament players have to prove it. But what I consider to be real poker requires additional skills: finding good games, collecting winnings, managing your play and your life.
A tournament winner can sneer that a successful cash game player is just good at finding rich bad players and keeping them happy, a successful cash game player can sneer at tournaments. I don't support either one. Both activities take similar skills, with some differences. There are enough people who do both well to make it clear that there's more overlap than divergence. Anyone who claims to be a good poker player should demonstrate that talent with top cash game players and with top tournament pros. Doing only one and sneering at the other is not attractive.
There's a separate question about whether tournaments reward good poker. At high enough blinds and antes in the late stages, it's more about the luck of the cards than poker ability. In the early going, it's more about maximizing winnings with weak other players than holding your own with good players, personally I think winners should be chosen by testing them against other good players. In between, it's about careful attention to tournament considerations, stack sizes and remaining players, as much as poker. I think it's possible to design a good poker tournament, but most tournaments are not well-designed in the sense of having a good chance of ranking the players according to poker ability.
Therefore I would not have chosen to be quoted exactly the way I was, it makes me seem anti-tournament. Also, the juxtoposition of the Steve Lipscomb quote makes it seems as if I am mad about my low World Poker Tour ranking. For the record, I have no beef with the World Poker Tour.--Aaron Brown
[Afterhought: I appreciate the fact that Aaron's response wasn't something like, "Well, I'm the guy who published a book on poker. Who the f$#% is the Luckbox!?!?"]<-- Hide More
I played like crap on Wendesday. Blood and I have been hitting this underground game with a fairly competent dealer and a good atmosphere. In the previous two trips there I'd won about a buyin and broken EXACTLY even. This time I was in no mood to play, and it showed. I've been playing pretty bad poker the last few times and, as he drove me home, I tried to figure it out with Mr. Blood.More in this Poker Blog! -->
It isn't smart to have a poker "style". There are two reasons really. First, if I know a player's "style" it makes it far easier to predict his holding based on his actions and his future actions based on his likely holdings. In this regard, players with a "style" are like computers. They lack imagination.
Second, having a style makes it hard to adjust my own game to my surroundings. When I sit down at a new table I can, and sometimes do, run all over it. I'm an aggressive bastard and people who don't know what to expect can be intimidated. Unfortunately, there are games where that style is just plain dumb and two of the biggest games in G-Vegas certainly fit that mold.
From the day I started playing, my stlye matched my personality. I'm aggressive as hell. I find weakness in other players and try to exploit it. I try to represent great strength even when I have none. Drizz once said I play the "LAG Role" to perfection. I think I'm typecast.
In the underground game and the famed "G-Vegas BIG GAME" the players aren't aggressive, quite the opposite in fact, they'll call damn near anything. In fact, there are several players at each who DO NOT FOLD... EVER! It's a pretty damn ridiculous way to play poker... and pretty damn profitable for everyone else... but it certainly negates my "stlye."
I've been playing when I'm tired... or hungry... or bored. I know better. I've written whole posts about it and won't do so again. Playing when not in the proper state of mind is foolish... for obvious reasons.
I think the solution is to remember WHY I play. I'm not in it for the money. I mean, we keep score with money so I want as much as possible. But I'm not a poker pro... and I don't use the income for my everyday life. Really, the poker bankroll is just that. I use my poker winnings to play poker. That way I don't have to use the family's actual money to play... and I can keep playing bigger games.
Still, the money is NOT a motivation.
Instead, I'm playing because I love the game. In this way the gambling aspect is somewhat irrelevant. It's part of the game, but no different that a squeeze bunt is part of baseball. I want to get better at poker and need to keep that as close as the motivation itself.
I think I lose sight of that at times.
FINALLY: AN UPDATE
A big thank you to all the readers who wished me well. My dad is back home and feeling OK. He had a pretty massive stroke but he's still alive and still... himself. That's good.
My wife will get more test results from yet another specialist next month. I'm quite sick of that crap... I hope this is the end of that.
I'm in negotiations right now for a new contract at work. If all goes well, there may finally be some stability. And I can go back to worrying about the turn and river.<-- Hide More
I remember one morning in Tunica when the Showered People invaded our table full of sleepless stinkers. All night long, I'd watched drunks, gamblers, and neophytes sit down at the game and buy-in for $100 at a time. I'd bought in for a grand. Now, the Showered People were buying in for $3000-$4000. I remember the thought like I had it two minutes ago.
"The smart money just sat down. Time to go."More in this Poker Blog! -->
But this isn't a post about the smart money. One shouldn't always believe that if people are buying in big that they are good. Chances are, they are smarter, but that is a matter of debate as well. Instead, this is a post about denizens of Shortbuy City.
I am a firm believer in the concept of buying in at the max in a no-limit game. If I can't afford the max-buy, I don't need to be in the game If there is no maximum buy-in, I buy in for a minimum of 100 times the big blind. A smarter bet in a game with no max-buy is 200 times the big blind. There is a pretty common tack for most no-limit players.
Any no-limit player loves to see someone sit down and buy-in for the minimum. It smacks of scared money. It is a fashing billboard that says, "I can't afford to lose a whole buy-in."
Now, to be fair, I know some very smart people who are occasional short-buyers. Whether they have a limited bankroll or have a very low stop-loss, they choose to short-buy. Also, to be fair, I think there is a strategy one can employ to maximize one's game on a short-stack. Frankly, I'm not as worried about them as I am a very interesting sub-set of short-buyers.
I call them The Lost Donks.
Somewhere along the way The Lost Donks learned to play a shortstack in a tournament. They learned about the "M" and they learned about how to accept a coinflip when your stack and M get too small. They learned that when you are in a tournament there is no way you can win unless you double up a few times.
But somewhere along the way, these guys got lost and ended up in a cash game. And they forget to turn off their tournament mind.
There's a guy I'd like you to meet. His name is W00t4donks. I'm not afraid to use his screen name here, because he is becoming more and more well known in an online $10/$20 NL game. W00t4donks buys into the game for $500. W00t4donks waits until he thinks he is either ahead or has a decent coinflip and then pushes in every one of his chips.
When I first ran into this guy, I was pretty sure he wouldn't be around for long. I figured he had run up a $1/$2 stack and decided to take a shot at a bigger game. But as it turns out, this guy seems to have a bankroll. Every time he loses his stack, he buys back in for $500. Over the course of 400 hands with him, I'm not surprised to learn I've won 16 hands against him and he has won 16 hands against me. After all, we're playing coin flips moost of the time. I'm also not surpised to learn that of the $2200 in the 32 pots, $1400 of it has come home to me. Why? Because if I have a reasonable belief I am ahead, I don't mind calling off $500. More often than not, he's pushing with the hope he is ahead and I am calling with the knowledge that I am ahead.
The W00tster gets a lot of grief at the tables. Some people rag him because they want to have a chance to make more than $500 per pot with him. Others rag him because he is willing to put his entire stack in the middle with pocket eights pre-flop, or on just about any 35% draw post-flop. Thankfully, the tapping on the glass doesn't seem to scare him away.
I don't write this to make Woot4donks feel bad. He obviously has a strategy and maybe it is over my head. However, over 400 hands I've played with him, he is down more than one of his buy-ins. Given, 400 hands is not a great sample size, but I think it's clear his strategy is taking him nowhere. He pays his rake, he plays coinflips, and he hopes to win. He's not winning and I don't think he will. What's more, if he does start winning, he's not going to win much. The money I win in that game, the big triple or quadruple up nights, obviously comes from nights that my big hands get paid off. When it comes time for Woot to get paid off, he's not going to profit more than $500, which still puts him at only 50% of the game's max-buy. And, I don't think I have to tell you, 50% of the max-buy is not much harder to call than 25% when you are sure you are ahead. W00t has no bluffing ability, no fold equity, and rarely is he getting his money in with any more than a coinflip.
I should be clear. It is no secret, I am no great no-limit theorist. I'm a much better limit player. However, over my time in the $10/$20 NL game, I am a winner, and not a small one. But regardless of how big or small the game is, I think it is dangerous to head into a game with 25% of the bullets and none of the protection (bluff ability, etc) your opponents hold.
Why bother writing about it? I dunno. It's not any new theory, or anything. I guess it just surprises me that with all the good poker information out there, some people are still treating poker like a gamble instead of an ATM. What's more, I'm starting to see more and more of these guys in the middle no-limit area. It's both fascinating and disturbing to watch. It's like watching Sammy Farha flip a coin for $25K. Watching gamblers can be fun. Playing poker against them can be more fun.
Still, it seems a shame. Like a lot of you, I'm playing cards to learn how to play smart. While winning money is nice, playing for coin flips just isn't very educational.
Guess, I should stop whining, huh? I could be wrong. Am I?<-- Hide More
I've virtually given up on ring games, except in a live setting. Online ring games just don't hold any appeal to me. I can win money there if I'm committed, but, for some reason, I don't seem to have the consistent focus needed to succeed like Otis.
And so I play tournaments. Occasionally, I'll mix in a single-table SNG, but for the most part, I'm playing the MTT's with guaranteed prize pools. Pacific has nightly 15K and 10K tourneys. Full Tilt Poker has a nightly 10.5K, 16K and 8K (if i remember correctly). And at PokerStars, the 180 SNG's have a first prize of $1080. On the weekends, you can find guarantees ranging from 50K to 750K.
Over that time, I've developed a few rules for myself, and I call them the Ten Commandments of Tournament Poker.More in this Poker Blog! -->
X. Thou shalt not be scared money. Don't buy an entry into a tournament in which the buy-in is a significant part of your bankroll. You can't be afraid to lose money in a tournament setting (or a cash game, for that matter). Once you pay for that buy-in, that money is gone! Focus on winning, not on getting your buy-in back.
IX. Thou shalt have time to play. Why even bother with a tourney if you've got somewhere to go or if it's past your bed time? Just because you want it to go faster doesn't mean everyone else does. You'll end up taking chances you wouldn't otherwise.
VIII. Thou shalt concentrate. I know, this one sounds obvious, but is it? Today I played a big tourney while mutli-tabling two others, watching a couple of friends in the big one, chatting with a few people on IM and monitoring the IRC chat room. At the same time, I was watching the Olympics. I'd like to say it didn't affect my play, but it wasn't ideal either. It's something I need to be careful of.
VII. Thou shalt be prepared to lose. Face it, cashing in big MTT's is tough. If you can't handle losing consistently, then tournament play is not for you. This is not a grind! This is a string of losses highlighted by occasional wins and rare big cashes. Every now and then, you might hit a rush that will make you think it's easy. And every now and then, I guarantee, you'll hit a run that makes you think you'll never win again.
VI. Thou shalt try to win the pot with (almost) every bet. Unless you are holding an absolute monster, every bet you make should be designed to win the pot in front of you. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but, in general, if you make a bet you hope gets called, you merely invite someone to take the pot from you. If you're holding the nuts, or close to it, feel free to get tricky, but beware, if the board starts to get dangerous, bet to win.
V. Thou shalt continuation bet. Again, this should be another obvious rule, but it is absolutely essential to playing well in tourneys. When you raise before the flop, you give the impression of strength. There is NO reason to give the other players any other impression until it becomes too expensive for you. Take a stab at the pot, if you get re-raised, let it go, but take the stab nonetheless. Those stack building bets will help keep your head above water until the big hands come.
IV. Play big hands for all they are worth! Sometimes you're going to go bust with a big hand. Here's two examples from today: At Pacific, I flopped the nut straight but lost to a full house on the river. It's a hand I want to get a lot of money into the pot. At PokerStars, I held Pocket Rockets and lost to a flopped set of 5s (K65 rainbow flop). In both cases, I was more than happy to get my money in. In both cases, I lost. It happens.
III. Thou shalt not get blinded out. When you get shortstacked (and it will happen), you can NOT be afraid to die. That is actually a time when you can get more aggressive. Start pushing with enough chips that it's worth it for people to fold. If you get too short, the big stacks will call you with anything. Winning blinds and antes is important when you're short stacked.
II. Thou shalt be aware of the bubble. There are three situations you'll be in when the bubble approaches. First, you'll be a short stack on the brink of elimination. If you can, try to fold your way to the cash. If you can't, pick your best hand in your best shot and push. Second, you'll be around average, just ahead of the bubble. If that's the case, be selectively aggressive. It's no time to get crazy, because one bad pot, and you'll see your bubble bursting. But there will be plenty of scared stacks to go after. Third, you'll be a big stack. This is a great place to be near the bubble because most players will be afraid to fight with you.
I. Thou shalt play to win. There's nothing like winning a big tourney. Go into every tourney with a plan to win. My plan is to chip up early, winning small pots but avoiding big confrontations unless I'm very confident in my hand. I want to stay at or above average as long as I can. Hopefully, I'll hit a rush to make me a big stack. If not, staying around average will guarantee me a cash. After I make the money, it's all about climbing the ladder. Let players bust and pick my spots. When I get near the final table, I turn up the aggression. When I make the final table, I dial it back down. That's my plan. Yours may be different, but always have a plan to win.<-- Hide More
Mrs. Otis sat on the couch and looked back and forth between the computer screen and my face. The images on the screen represented her bi-weekly paycheck being eaten by the dog then subsequently thrown up on the kid. The look on my face was not unfamiliar. It's a slight flush in the neck, followed by a sigh leaking from my mouth, followed by the words, "Oh, well."
Then she spoke. "So, is that what you people call variance?"More in this Poker Blog! -->
This scene actually played itself out in my living room a couple of weeks ago as I began what I have affectionately come to call the "November Slide." It wasn't until last night that I remembered that every November for the past three years, my game has gone in the crapper. As they say, bad players always remember their wins but forget their losses. I'd chosen to forget, for whatever reason, that November is always a bad month for my game.
As I sat to write out the reasons behind the "November Slide" (by the way, not at all related to the Electric Slide, other than they are two completely irrational and ugly things you'll hear idiots talk about), I decided to read about G-Rob's Card Dead Tilt (CDT). It's little secret that I enjoy reading about G-Rob's failures. I figure if he can make jokes about my hairline, I can take a minute amount of pleasure in his losing a few hundred bucks when he's playing badly.
As usual, G-Rob provided us with a good, introspective reflection on a bad night. Though I like to poke fun, G-Rob is not alone. Of course, we all like to say we are un-tiltable. I've said it more times than I can count. I also used to say, "I like to wait." It took me five years to admit I was lying to myself. I don't like to wait. And, though I am not easily tilted, I am tiltable.
As the "November Slide" continues unabated and my bankroll begins to consult with domestic violence counselors, I thought it might be a good time to expand on G-Rob's seedling of an idea. With that I offer...
The Nearly Comprehensive (but likely quite incomplete) Glossary of Tilt
(1) n. A altered state of mind that adversely affects a poker player's game
(2) v. The act of altering an opponent's mind so that his game is adversely affected
(3) n. A reprehensible and disgusting ESPN drama that was likely written in consult with Russ Georgiev
Bad Beat Tilt--Perhaps the most common form of tilt, Bad Beat Tilt often appears in concert with one's opponent sucking a two-outer. Bad Beat Tilt is often exacerbated by said opponent using the phrase, "I felt it."
Card Dead Tilt--See G-Rob's lengthy definition here.
Stuck Tilt--This tilt appears after having played a lengthy session only to find one's stack is smaller--usually significantly smaller--than it began. Stuck Tilt manifests itself in a common symptom of unfortunate poker play: "Getting Even." (See "Taking a Shot Tilt")
Taking a Shot Tilt--When Stuck Tilt lasts for more than a few sessions (as seen in such recent tales as "November Slide", which is not at all like the song "November Rain" unless you count the screaming that occurs in both), Taking A Shot Tilt walks hand in hand with Stuck Tilt. When under the influence of this kind of tilt, a player decides to play above his normal limit in an effort to win back his losses at a faster rate. Of course, this often results in more losses (
see the unwritten and never to be published "Experiment with $50/$100")
Big Blind Defense Tilt--As the masters have taught, big blind defense is an art. When Big Blind Defense Tilt affects a player, one begins to believe an opponent is indiscriminately attacking his or her big blind with trash. A choice is made to defend the big blind, which (being out of posisiton with 73 offsuit), even with a suitable amount of aggression results in ultimate failure and the loss of three more big bets than one would've lost otherwise.
Happy Tilt--Another common form of tilt, Happy Tilt appears in the middle of a profitable or otherwise fun session. Whether a player is winning or simply having fun with his buddies at the table, Happy Tilt can prove to be an unhealthy leak that causes players to "gamboooooool" indiscriminately. Happy Tilt is often made worse by mass consumption of alcohol (See also Whiplash Tilt)
Whiplash Tilt--A form of Hapy Tilt brought on by Whiplash the Dog-Riding Money. This form of tilt first raised its happy head during the 2004 WPBT Holiday Classic.
Fake Tilt--A stategic play aimed at making one's opponent believe one is on tilt, when, in fact, he/she is in complete control on one's faculties. Some scholars warn that Fake Tilt can mysteriously morph into full-blown Real Tilt without warning or explanation.
Red Ass Tilt--A form of tilt that has no explanation. The Missouri Crew co-opted the phrase from the 1985 movie "Moving Violations." It's one of these not-quite-tangible moods. If you accuse a person of having it, they have it by default. They can't deny it. Denying it only makes it a worse case of the Red Ass.
Cackling Wife Tilt--A form of tilt brought on by one's wife laughing heartlessly at your failures and bad luck. For futher information on this topic, see this scholar.
Tommy Tilt--G-Vegas-specific form of tilt, identified by a solid/rockish player finally deciding make a play at a pot and having G-Rob (not in the pot) call his hand and announce it to said rockish player's opponent, inducing a call and a subsequent loss by said rockish/solid player. Tilt is exacerbated by G-Rob's assertion that he really thought he was helping said rockish/solid player.
Alright, I've run out of steam for the moment. Do me a favor an help us out here. If you have a favorite form of tilt, serious or not, leave it in the comments. If we like it, we'll include it--wth credit, of course--in the main body of the post.<-- Hide More
Let's get the manditory truth out of the way up front, I am a horrible poker player. If poker skill were playa moves, I'd be some middle-aged dimwit slouched on a couch with a laptop for a lap.
Somehow, I think I just proved chicks dig great poker players. Which is silly. I have MUCH better TV hair.
How about this?
If you could stack all the stupid at every poker table... it would be about 6 foot 5.
6'10" with the hair.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I wrote about the bigger games, I played them, and baby, I liked it. I've finally moved up in limits online. It's like starting over with a clean slate. In some sense, I start the bigger games with a break-even record. It won't be hard to dig out of the hole.
Not long ago, Iggy wrote about that attitude on a hand-for-hand basis. No matter what happened on the last hand or the one before, play each new deal like the first hand of the day. You have new information, he says, but the success of the previous hand is irrelevant. We should already know that, of course, but I actually found myself repeating his exact words after a tough beat the other night. It's like meditation for the tilting mind.
Still, like many of you, I was a loser at first. Even in the smallest limits I'd lose seveal buyins. I'm not ashamed to say I made several deposits from my bank account to several online sites. I'd win for a while, then give it all back. Some people became bonus whores by moving their bankroll around, I was a bonus whore because I was totally out of money. It took a year to recover.
Somehow this is different. I feel like a blank slate with a brand new bankroll, buck naked at square one. That's how I approach it anyway. When I wrote about playing the bigger home game, I was writing as a first time player and it's visible in my game. I've changed my style. I've learned some moves. I've started a new game.
The change in stlye is both simple and signifigant. For some time, my entire live strategy was based on the other players, but not quite enough to be consistent. My best move was a slight ability to read the strength of my opponents hand and take advantage. I'll play almost anything if I'm fairly sure you're weak. I'll only play a monster if I know you like your cards. That paid off fairly well. It allowed me to show down wins with very weak cards which, just like a good hammer play, would lead to bigger payoffs later. But there was a major hole in the game.
Not long after I got a good grip on that style, the faux loose-aggressive, I ran into people who would blow it to shreds. How? By remaining IN the hand, calling bets with hands that we both knew were lousy. I'd detect weakness, but have someone call me down with second pair. One of our locals, SHEP, would kill me that way. I'd build a stack, then give it to him.
The key, of course, is a second read. It's not only important to understand the strength of our opponent, but also their willingness to lay it down. Some players play more hands. I had a big problem adjusting to the STYLE of my opponent. GOD that seems obvious. Good players are laughing at my obvious revelation, but it took me a long time to work it out.
So once we understand BOTH the style AND the strength of the opponent it's time to adjust our own game.
To be short, at last, blind devotion to ANYTHING is foolish, including our own particular "style". Good players will figure it out and take advantage. The best style, is no rigid style at all.
So, when I first played $200NL here, I changed my game. I saw almost every player limp to almost every pot. Better still, the average late position, post-limp raise would get at least a few callers... no matter what. So what stlye does that entail?
Suddenly, I'm tight... and paid off. No sense judging the strength of their hands, at least before the flop. You can't steal blinds. You need a different game. I still bluff at that game, by the way, but I can't worry about a bluff until later in the hand. I think DOUBLE As calls it the "pressure points". He, rightly, notes the timing of pressure varies depending on the player. Looser players feel pressure LATER in the hand.
Joaquin Ochoa says to, "Hunker down, brother. That's all I can say".
He's exactly right. There's more thinking involved.
I've been playing those MTTs at bigger buyins, too. Otis (you have no idea how much it pains me to credit him but he's finally found something about which he knows far more than me) has always told me about the rationale for the more expensive tourneys. It goes something like this:
If we're fairly confident we can make the money, just make the money, in a large MTT... then a small buy in is a waste of time. At least 60th place in a $30 Party tournament pays money worth having. How many times have you bought into a big $5 MTT, played for 2 or 3 hours, and "won" a net gain of about $2. Whoooopeee. Even my TV job pays better than that.
Granted, the payout RELATIVE to buyin is roughly the same. But, again, if we're relatively sure we'll usually finish IN THE MONEY, then why not make money you can actually use. I spend more than $2 on Diet Pepsi almsot every day.
Tighter, more timely, aggressive play has helped me feel fairly sure I can MAKE THE MONEY in most, or at least a high percentage, of those HUGE MTTs.
ONE MORE THING
Speaking of Shep... I played with him again last Thursday. As we both stepped onto BadBlood's porch for a break, I told him his game is MUCH stronger these days. I'd say he's improved as much as, or more than, almost anyone I know. He's come a long way.
He told me he owes it all to poker blogs. This site, fox example, which does make typing it a slightly -EV position. Still, in this one post, I've had to reference a half dozen of my blogger friends. Just like Shep, I owe a great deal to the wisdom of others.
And if you ever want to join me in a game...remember
I'm GRobman at PokerStars.<-- Hide More
I love the mountain drive, especially from Asheville to Nashville. It's an interstate, but it winds along the plateau and snakes past some of the most breathtaking valleys in the world. CJ once totalled a car there when the rain slicked roads made the sharp turns impossible. But on this one trip, this one 6 hour drive to a farm near Nashville, I couldn't see the mountains for the music.
My wife sat next to me fingering through a ream of paper she'd printed from the "official" Bonnaroo website... a list of performers, schedules for each state, and all the other camp goings-on. We made a schedule of our own. By the time we met our friends in a hotel, just 60 miles from the big music show, we had every action, ever breath, planned to the minute.
You should ALWAYS be prepared.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I've been working on this new poker idea. I wonder if there is a stage of our development in which the best strategy is to do precisely what you shouldn't. There are a lot of ALWAYS rules, not including the Sklansky stuff which does reduce our decisions to an either/or decision tree, that we ALWAYS abide. But how much can we expect to win if we play by the rules? Nobody gets to be a CEO through honesty and hard work.
Clearly, the rules have value. But really, didn't we make that jump from beginner to intermediate with breakneck speed? CJ just posted about the rate at which his homegame foes were gaining on him. I've noticed the same thing here. The truth is any idiot can consume enough of the basics to become an average player without much time at the table. The intermediate player can still win, by dutiful adherance to the "Theory of Poker", but there's a plateau, and we've all been there.
The road less traveled
The hotel was horror. Everyone there was already weary, some had driven far longer than us. But once our full compliment assembled the desperation of our plight became clear. Word was the intestate was plugged ahead, no traffic moving at all. By some accounts people had been stranded there for a full day. Apparently, this cow pasture with a single off ramp, wasn't prepared for 115,000 hippies.
The consensus among our crowd was that was should forego the good night's rest, and get on the road that night. It was the most obvious option. Everyone else had already done the same. You could actually see the lights of the mini buses crammed full with clean shaven pseudo hippies wedged between brand new SUVs, all parking in the fast lane. Our four car caravan loaded up, then stopped.
We had a much better idea.
IT TAKES TIME
Two days ago, I intentionally folded A-A preflop. It's something you NEVER do. But I did it and it was exactly the right move. I was in a very large multi-table tournament and had made the final table. Unfotunately, I was not only short stacked, I was crippled. I got the aces in the big blind and was shocked when 3 other players ended up all in, and a fourth player called. Now, by this point, the blinds were so high that even pushing in and quintupling up wouldn't give me enough chips for another 2 orbits. So I mucked.
I ALWAYS play to win. But in this case the prospect of making another $200 by folding was too much to pass up. Sure enough, we had A-K, 8-8, J-J, and A-Q. My ace had no outs for improvement, and the kid with the Jacks caught a set. Two players bowed out, and a third was crippled. I finished 7th. I would've been 10th had I called.
Not long ago, that's an insta-call. But the chances of one of these 4 players catching SOMETHING, as they're already all-in, were too high for me to risk the money here. I did something I never do, and won money. I've been able to do that more and more.
When we pulled out of the parking lot the entire caravan went at full throttle, in the wrong direction. We drove 40 miles East when the festival was West. Then took a 40 mile drive South. Then Back to the west on a two lane road that went right through a small town. It spit us out 40 feet from the festival entrance.
On the second day of the festival we met up with a few more friends. They were just arriving. They'd been sitting on the interstate for 16 hours. We won by doing exactly what everyone else WASN'T.
Take the road less traveled my friends.
I'm sure you already knew this strategy at the table. If the table is tight, it's time to loosen up. If the table is loose-aggressive, you've got to play good cards. It's amazing how much that small adjustment pays. Again, you knew that already.
What I'd suggest is sometimes you should ignore pot odds, check raise a draw, or yes, LIMP into a pot. Sometimes a min raise is OK. The most important thing you can do, is exactly what the other guy won't.
Now that's not to say you should go back to playing crap hands and calling with garbage. But there are SOME situations where you SHOULD do exactly that. But what do I know?
I suck at poker.<-- Hide More
How many times have you thought that in the past week? Month? Year?
When I first started playing poker, I never thought that. I was the guy on the other end. I was playing Q3 because it was suited. I was calling that gutshot straight draw on a hunch. That was ME.
I had a girly-thingy IM conversation with Heather the other night and I was whining about the fact that I was in a Wednesday night poker slump. She asked me the most important question, "Was I playing poorly?"
You see, when I started playing Pool Table Poker down here is Leezy-anna, I was surrounded by about a half-dozen people who were dreadful players, a few players who were bad and a few who had seen enough World Poker Tour to get by.
Things have changed.More in this Poker Blog! -->
It's really fascinating to see the evolution of their play. It just really sucks that their evolution is costing me money. They're getting better faster than I am. My evolution is reaching a plateau. Their's is climbing exponentially.
It's like learning when you're a child. When you first begin to acquire knowledge it comes very quickly. You are learning everything you'll ever need to know. They can't teach you fast enough. Then you get older... and high school rolls around and you're just hoping to absorb enough to get by. Then college comes... and you're happy to learn they're not really teaching you anything except how to live away from home, and that's not a hard lesson.
While I'm on the metaphor kick, let's say it's kinda like being a sponge. Those guys were dry when we started. I had been sitting out in the rain. They can't get enough water. I've only got so much more room.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying I'm some kind of a pro. I'm far from it. But I also know I'm the best player at the table ever time I sit down with these guys. And yet I've lost the last 6 games. I suppose I could blame the structure (it's a shootout at best), or my luck (I generally get my money in the pot with the best hand), or even variance (ain't she a bitch), but that's not the point.
I've got to play better. There's lots for me to learn. If I spent the time doing it. And soon, I'm going to start doing it. After all, I have a trip to the Caribbean to win in a few weeks!<-- Hide More
I get all kinds of great questions here at "UpForPoker". People need to know things. Lets answer a few :
Yes, this IS my real hair.
No, Otis is not a made up name.
Yes, I'm really THAT bad a poker.
But sometimes I get a question so good it deserves a post of its own. Such is the case with this gem from our G-Vegas buddy Otit:
I know you guys have talked about what personality types are more conducive to successful poker playing. From the other direction, what personality type stands to learn the most from playing the game? Poker is a game of selective aggression. A person who is aggressive will probably be more successful in business and life than a passive or indecisive person, but I would think learning to control that aggression and use it selectively would make them even more succesful. On the other hand, can a person who is natural non-aggressive and indecisive actually use poker to develop aggression and decisiveness in normal life? Also, will it even be POSSIBLE for a passive person to develop a consistently aggressive style at the table, i.e. ramp up and be aggressive and maintain that under pressure? If so, for which type is it easier to make an effective transition? I would think full-time aggressive to selectively aggressive would be much easier because you are toning down a desirable behavior instead of correcting an undesirable one.More in this Poker Blog! -->
There are some wonderfully deep psychological questions here, but Otis will insist I put them on another blog. Until we unveil Up For Headshrinking, I'll have to let them rest. But it its safe to say that just as discipline in any endeavor would bleed into other parts of our life, working on our aggression in poker might impact us in other ways.
I think Daniel-san was probably good at waxing and painting as a result of his karate training.
A similar article in "Cardplayer" magazine wondered, "is an introvert or extrovert better suited for poker." The answer is really the same.
First we should clarify our terms. "Aggression" as it applies to poker isn't really arression per se. Instead aggression at the table is a willingness to make the right plays in favorable situations. Think of it like a high school bully. The sitcom episodes where the kid finally stands up to the bully and the bully backs off are probably based in fact. Blossom has a point.
A tough kid in high school gains that reputaion by picking on the weak, the people who are likely to either put up a weak defense or none at all.
In poker we look for players who are either so tight that they'll only play back at us with monster hands, which we can then abandon, or so weak that we can exploit our good hands for maximum payoff. Aggression against someone who is tight but not weak is a different skill.
Eventually our bully gets such a "tough guy" reputation that he rarely fights anyone at all. He is only confronted by people who are CERTAIN of victory, and even a dumb bully can see that coming.
I think a better way to consider "aggression" is as "confidence." It's been said a million times, sucess in poker is the ability to exploit the tiny advantages to our maximum advantage. A person with high confidence in his reads, when he thinks he has that advantage, will press it. That's AGRESSION.
If I think you're on a draw, I'll make you PAY BIG to catch it.
If I think your hand is weak, and you don't like it, I'll bet big with garbage to make you fold. (NOTE: This strategy does not work well against BadBlood.)
But aggression without knowing your position, your opponent's status, and the relative strenght of your own hand is just foolish.
Even better, once we've been able to show aggression against weaker opponents, it makes them more likely to use unbridled aggression against us.
It's fair to say, the only reason a hack player like me makes ANY money is through people playing back at my early aggression.
So does THAT make us more aggressive in life. I can't imagine it doesn't.
For example, some of what I've learned about poker tells has helped my during interviews at work.
The idea that we are able to locate our advantage and have the CONFIDENCE to exploit it is often the formula for greater success in anything we do. It makes sense that a good Tight-aggressive poker player would be more CONFIDENT in business as well.
And, that said, I still suck at poker.
Hope that helps OTIT.<-- Hide More
It's a nice, and fairly soft, SNG tournrey. You're about average stack, and you're in a raised pot after the flop. You're only in with one other donkey, and he's shown a tendancy to raise big slick to the river. He's almost never willing to fold a hand that he loved pre-flop. You have top pair and a flush draw so you toss out a bet, and now the maniac comes over the top.
For two seconds, the words "OVERPAIR" flash across your brian.
Now, I ask you, is that a good read? Or would making any well-thought read be exactly the worst thing you can do?More in this Poker Blog! -->
I read a good book, which I'm actually prone to do at times, by Malcolm Gladwell. He's one of these New Yorker guys, with an idea that may confound our poker play.
Here's a bit from the introduction :
"We live in a society dedicated to the idea that we're always better off gathering as much information and spending as much time as possible in deliberation. As children, this lesson is drummed into us again and again: haste makes waste, look before you leap, stop and think. But I don't think this is true. There are lots of situations--particularly at times of high pressure and stress--when haste does not make waste, when our snap judgments and first impressions offer a much better means of making sense of the world."
He makes a compelling case.
In study after study, a part of our unconscious mind made connections and assumptions that our awareness hadn't made. We started avoiding "wrong" decisions without knowing why. Again, those same studies showed, the more time actual experts spend combing over data, the more likely they are to reach the WRONG conclusion. Instead, the snap judgement was correct.
So what about our SNG? Does the manic have an overpair?
I spent a bit of my "time bank" on this one. I'd watched a dozen orbits with this guy, and the range of hands he MIGHT have held certainly included an overpair. It was also bigger than Greg Raymer himself. I did the reverse read, thinking it WAS me who raised pre-flop, and he, who simply called. I thought he might have unpaired overcards, that seemed the most likely really. It was also quite possible he'd just called with a medium underpair, but that would mean he'd made two SMART moves in a row.
I had a good chance to add chips to my stack and be able to run all over this tournament if I called and won. But I didn't call. He showed his overpair. My "blink" was dead on.
The most impressive part of this phenomenon, is that the EXPERT players would have known the right play in seconds. The newcomer would have done all the right THINKING and may have made the wrong play.
There is a catch in Gladwell's book. It's the same catch you'll run into at the table. Here's another example from Gladwell:
"One of the stories I tell in "Blink" is about the Emergency Room doctors at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. That's the big public hospital in Chicago, and a few years ago they changed the way they diagnosed heart attacks. They instructed their doctors to gather less information on their patients: they encouraged them to zero in on just a few critical pieces of information about patients suffering from chest pain--like blood pressure and the ECG--while ignoring everything else, like the patient's age and weight and medical history. And what happened? Cook County is now one of the best places in the United States at diagnosing chest pain."
There are more:
Like the art EXPERTS who knew a statue was a fake without supporting knowledge. They were proven correct.
The tennis EXPERT who could tell when a player was about to double fault, even though he couldn't find out what was tipping him off after reviewing hours of tape.
A behavioral EXPERT who could watch very small snippets of conversation between a married couple, and predict divorce with 90% accuracy.
Now what do all our BLINKERS have in common?
That's the catch folks.
STUDY AND STOP
The 4 billion hands we've all palyed on the internet provide one hell of an education. Some of it we learned without much thought. Is it possible that our unconscious mind is making connections that we aren't aware of?
I think a novice player is well served by going through all the levels of thinking, especially on a difficult hand. But for people who have been there, grinding away for years, wouldn't it be better if we made our decisions FASTER and with LESS thought?
It's particularly true in the example I'm using here because, God knows, we've all had that mental flash. Do you trust yours?
I've been trying that idea, of trusting myself online, for a few weeks now. More than anything I've used it in cheaP SNGs. My success rate is significantly up!
Worth a thought.
Or lack thereof.<-- Hide More
As a young left handed pitcher, my favorite pro was a crafty verteran with what I assumed was a similar delivery. I actually chose Steve Carlton as my baseball idol before I saw him play, I just admired the statistics on the back of his card. I'd happily swap any of the big rookies, and their more valuable debut cards, to my equally nerdy friends just for a late career action photo of a man who played the way I wanted to.
Rickey Henderson was different. I've never been fast and I'd only bat leadoff if the previous inning ended with our 6th man. We'd have those long debates up in my room about who was the better base stealer, and I'd take anyone over the arrogant swagger of the longtime Oakland A. The better the numbers on the back of Rickey's card, the more I wanted them out of my hands as if each base hit was another burning degree.More in this Poker Blog! -->
When Rickey played his last big league game in 2003, he had the best stats of any leadoff hitter EVER. Baseball loves statistics and in more than 100 years of record keeping history, Rickey is one of the best. Just look :
MOST STOLEN BASES --- CAREER
MOST WALKS------------- CAREER
MOST RUNS SCORED --- CAREER
CAREER HITS - 3055
CAREER HR ---- 297
For those of you who aren't big baseball dorks, those numbers have very special signifigance. Rickey Henderson is one of the greatest players off all time and is a certain first ballot hall of famer.
We've discussed this before. I'm am an absolutely horrible poker player. At Bradoween last weekend there was only one thing EVERYONE could agree on. "G-Rob is the worst player here."
That said, it seems unlikely that I'd find much in common with the best leadoff hitter of all time. But I think Rickey B. Rickey is the best hero a poker novice can have. You want to play poker? Are you a Pro? If not, Rickey is the man for you.
BACK TO THE MINORS
Here's something I found interesting on the BLOG "Nickel and Dimes":
My particular struggle is "where I am at?" as I've stated quite a few times recently. Should I be looking for higher stakes games despite a bankroll that's been stagnant for several months now? I win a little, then lose a little, win a stack or two, then lose it the next night. I feel like I'm chasing my own tail despite learning more about the game...
I think we've all been there. It seems like with all we've studied and learned we should be moving farther, faster than we are. I've read a few books and played more than a few hands of poker, both virtual and virtually illegal. My game has certainly improved and I've taken a few stabs at bigger limits. but I'm not playing for substantially more than I was a long time ago. Why go on?
NOT FOR TV
Like I said, Rickey left the BIG LEAGUES in 2003. But he still plays baseball. I found this quote from some TV station website...
Rickey Henderson, on playing baseball for the Newark Bears at age 45: "God gave me this body, this gift, these skills to play this sport. Until He says, 'Enough,' this is what I'm supoosed to be doing."
That's when he played minor league ball...in Newark. Not many players with the careers...or the money...he has would ever consider such a demeaning downgrade. Perhaps its because he knew another move was coming....San Diego.
IS THIS A JOPKE?
CJ was right. This dope is the commenter of the year :
"U POKER BLOGGERS ARE THE BIGGEST DOUCHE BAG LOSERS. POKER IS A WASTE OF TIME AND NOT COOL ANYMORE. ITS NOT COOL B/C DOUCHE BAGS LIKE YOU TAKE IT SO SERIOSLY. U ALL SHOULD HAVE STUCK TO MAGIC CARDS AND DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS. U ARE ALL GOING TO WAKE UP OUT OF THE FOG OF POKER AND REALIZE U WERE JUST WASTING YOUR LIFE MEANINGLESS UNFULLFILLING LIFE AWAY.
Two things: Firsat, he left this comment on my post, and on Al's. Of all the bloggers in all the world, WE take it too seriously? Wow! Odd Choice. Second, he went on to call AL a fat turd. I'm way fatter than Al. Get your facts straight bub!
It is odd to be criticized for taking a game so seriously. We've all heard it in one form or another.
There are those who consider it "gambling" and despise it as such.
There are those who see it as nothing but a card game, and thus, not worth ANY investment of time.
There are those who think going the extra mile, to write a free blog on the subject, is particularly lame.
They're absolutly right. It's almost as stupid as extending Little League baseball into a full time job.
This year Rickey Henderson is batting .267 as the leadoff hitter in San Diego. He's not eligible for the baseball Hall of Fame until 5 years after he retires, but he refuses to do so. It's true, he still has skills, but more importantly he LOVES to play the game. That's why he's a SURF DAWG.
The Surf Dawgs are in the Golden Baseball League. It's not even Single A minor league ball. It's totally independant of the major league clubs, and there's vitrtually NO chance of any player in the entire league EVER making any impact on the Big Leagues. So why in God's name would Rickey play? This is from the LA Times :
"I don't need anything," said Henderson, before the first of a three-game series against the Long Beach Armada at Blair Field. "Everything I need, I've been blessed to have. The love and the passion has to be there for me to still play the game way down here."
<-- Hide More
Rickey has no hope of moving up in limits. He's not looking for more fame. The MAXIMUM salary in this league is $3000/month. Rickey used to buff Otis' forehead with $3000, but he loves baseball and he takes it very seriously. Got a problem with that?
NOTE : BE SURE TO READ OTIS' INVITE POSTED BELOW
We'd just finished our shoot and were standing on the Main Street bridge. The broadest gurgle of the Reedy River was over my left shoulder and the blazing sun on the right. I knew Sunday that this would be my Monday beat. We'd led the newscast for 2 days with warnings of the "HEAT ADVISORY" for the entire veiwing area. Usually when local news "experts" tell you the weather is too hot, cold, wet, windy or dry to venture outside....that's exactly where I end up.
After 2 hours of interviewing roofers and following the friendly staff at "Party Time Ice", we'd come to the part that features me. I stood with my face to the camera and my hand on the mike and prepared to record a tease. Veiwers always need a warning about what's "coming up!" We had a monster story about how regular Joe's were coping with the heat.
"I think its great that you're willing to go on camera like that," Mark smiled.
I looked down at my TV LOGO shirt, and found it so drenched in sweat my giant man nipples were naked against the polyester. Until then, I thought I looked pretty damn good. I thought I had kept my cool.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Beauty in the Eye...
HBO has this docu-garbage about life in the cathouse, the life and times of the average working whore. I hope they all make a good living. Few of them look like they've been living good. Most have a few extra pounds, which draws the eye from the spartan teeth and peroxide hair. Right now there may well be a website devoted to stretch marks and lingerie, but it ain't my bag baby.
I always wonder what happens above the bustier. What does a Vegas whore imagine as her own self-image. The answer we get from mirrors is like that of a tired co-worker who is always "fine" when you ask. You almost always see just what you expect.
The johns aren't much help of course. The fawn over their 3 bill bonk like an Otis in a river of Rogaine. They've contracted a service and are determined to get their money's worth. I'm still waiting for the episode when a client hands over his cash with a death row smile and says "you look like grandma...but let's see if the wrinkles are fun."
Poker players have the same problem. Its easy to believe your game is going tight and the sags are will hidden by a visor and an I-Pod. The other players at the table certainly aren't going to point out the flaws they've found. I often delude myself, through weeks of modest winnings, into believing I've turned a corner in my play. At least I get paid, and there's little time for introspection.
But when I play with certain players, the better ones of course, they're aware of every deceit. I sat to TightRandy's left last Thursday and he read me like a book. Normally I avoid most pots with him because his willingness to play is itself a tell. But after most hands he was able to smell my aggressive bluff. Usually it was the betting pattern that tipped him off. Betting that I thought was pretty damn smooth.
Headsup with BadBlood I ran into it again. I taunted him beforehand, just because that's how I play. I won most of the minor pots. But somehow he knew when my bluff at the turned ace was exactly that. Somehow he knew when I was betting the second pair. I had tells all over my face and he spotted them in seconds. Why was I so unaware?
As much I harp about observing other players, its just as important to watch ourselves. Win rates can lie and you're opponets lips are sealed. On the bridge downtown I only knew how bad I looked because my teammate took note. In a solitary game there's no backcourt assist. To find the flaws in another's game is simple, compared to real INsight...vision into ourselves.
I've played with dozens of players who felt that last tournament win...that one big take at home....that killer night online...put them on top of their game. It's easy to be fooled. Lately I think I've whored myself. I'm blind to my mirror tells.<-- Hide More
I killed time at work tonight with some UFP archives. That Otis can write up a storm, and its been fun trying to remember the homegames-gone-by. In one I found something that was hurting his game, a lesson he learned the hard way, and found again how the inverse has kept me flush with imaginary cash.
Otis is an excellent poker player and would like to be recognized as such. It's well deserved.
I've become a very profitable player, but have spent years cultivating a very poor poker reputation. Pride is a seductive lover who will always leave you poor. Better lucky than good.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I'm just dumb and lucky.
Back when we started playing at the BadBlood homegame Otis had an unusually poor night. He said this in the post-game writeup...
"I hadn't played at this game before, I wanted to look good. I wanted people to see me as I see myself: A solid poker player."
To be fair, he immediatley learned his mistake. The last thing you ever want is a table full of people who are sure you're a solid player. Otis can't shake that now. Every hack card player for 50 miles has heard about his fantastic new career. They EXPECT him to dominate the game and it makes it very hard to cash in on monster hands. Plus, its like flying low with a bullseye on your belly.
These days I've noticed BadBlood has a similar problem. He's the first with a self-depricating remark, the first to denegrate his own ability, but he's an excellent player. Unfortunately, everyone's figured that out.
That leads to a problem that's really two-fold.
First, when you're playing with less-than-stellar players, there's no room for tricky moves. We do play with several solid players, in fact I'd say at least half are quite good, but we also play with a good many calling stations...maniacs..and newbies. There's a point in every hand where you realize they're NEVER going to fold and there's no point making a play. Some players don't recognize a check raise and they won't calculate pot odds. Without that BadBlood loses ammo. He can only see the turn with hands that are likely winners.
But, because BadBlood is recognized as a good player, many of the good players, who would recognize a move, are hesitant to call down his premium hands. Again, the EV is crippled. Somehow he usually turns a profit anyway, which is testament to just how much better he is. I still haven't figured out how to beat him, and I have no clue how he earns big wins.
I, on the other hand, have the opposite image. Take last Friday for example. After winning the tournament at "the Mark" all I could say to BadBlood on the way home was, "They all think I suck!!". More than anything, I was able to tell when the flop missed my opponent. The guy across from me, for example, actually SIGHED OUT LOUD...sometimes he's even mutter a curse underhis breath EVERY TIME the flop missed. Then he'd check. At first I was wary of a deceptive play, but it wasn't. He'd fold and I'd show the bluff. The whole table called me stupid.
After the tournament, we played a cash game, and a couple of the players talked about me like I wasn't even there.
"This is where players like him get crushed," said one.
"I hope he tries those idiotic plays on me," said another.
I doubled my buy-in, showing the bluff every time.
When CJ and I played at the Luxor on the last day of our Vegas trip I had another pair of players with similar opinions of me. They sat in the 8 and 9 seats with me down in the one. I found K9 of hearts in the big blind and called their 8 dollar raise. 3 players to the flop.
The flop was j,9,A with 2 spades.
I checked and 8 seat bet another $10 with a 9 seat call. I called.
The turn was a 7. I checked and the 8 bet another $10 with another call from 9.
The river was the third spade...AND BOTH PLAYERS THREW UP THEIR ARMS AND CURSED. Not only did they see the flush on the board, but they made It clear that they didn't have it. Both players checked, and both folded to my $50 bet. I showed my pair of 9s and they insulted me for 30 minutes.
BUT I'VE ALWAYS BEEN STUPID..
Thank God for that. On our regular Thursday dealer's choice game, I've been the biggest winner for 5 of the past 7 sessions, but somehow its all chalked up to luck. I'm happy to be that stupid. I've talked to BadBlood about that and he says its quite a blessing. I totally agree.
I remember, on our first blogger meeting last December, Pauly wrote about the various cover stories he used with the Las Vegas fish. He'd NEVER admit to being skilled. I didn't know then what a good strategy that was.
It only works in live games by the way, you can't do this online. Everyone's anonymous there. Otis KILLS the online game and I usually struggle with the grind. But in person, stupid is a blessing. Ignorance is bliss. Insults will buy your groceries.<-- Hide More
...if I knew it was a mistake before I did it? Freud would have a field day with this one, some sort of self-sabotage mumbo jumbo BS. But the devil in the NL game is the split second of mental weakness. Umpteen hours of wise and patient grinding will unravel in one ill-fated and unwise second. The itchy mouse finger of G-Rob triggers a Kent State massacre on my bankroll, which is only moments away from a real folk classic.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Just for you dear reader,
I've been struggling for metaphors, something to make the literati proud. BG would know how to describe this funk. Nobody makes me laugh at shame like he does. Otis has a fine touch with the shameful shortcomings too, but really, do we want to talk about Otis TOUCHING his "shortcomings"? (So concludes today's unprovoked shot at Otis. The streak continues. He has, for the record, warned me that I'm about 2 shots shy of a retaliatory blast.)
I thought it would be clever to compare my game to Gen. George McClelllan. Yes, I can have be lynched in South Carolina, but what the hell. To Kakalakky credit, he was an historic ass. At the time, say 1861, there was no one anywhere who possesed a sharper sense of the military game. He was the consensus no-brainer for command. But he was also a political aspiriant with no will to play.
So chipped up with a massive stack and a tendancy to catch a lucky draw the brilliant General began 1861 with a massive pre-flop lead. Its also fair to say that few people were SMARTER at post flop play. So let's consider the abstract. McClellan could.
Our friend Doubleas (he's linked on the left) is one of my favorite strategic posters. He's the master of the suspenseful read. And when, in the middle of a post he's set the stage and asked for our help, I'm usually a champ at reading the board. If Doubleas wants to know, "What does my opponent have here?", I most likely, have a very good idea. Strategy I can handle.
But at Bull Run McClellan was weak, his deployment too slow. He waited too long for the perfect hand and by the time he caught the cards, his oppnent was 3 steps ahead. He was smart enough to make the play but lacked any agression. If war was just a game of strategy he would have been great, but its not, and McClellan wasn't. I've got that in common at least. But one thing I don't lack is a sense of aggression.
How 'bout the other side of the coin? And, folks, I swear I'm going somewhere with this. How 'bout someone with no lack of aggression who may have lacked McClellan's superior knowledge? How 'bout Confederate General John Bell Hood? Now there's a real hooter. He came to Altanta (gee, wanna guess how this turns out?) in 1864 after another General had successfully ground Sherman to a halt. Jefferson Davis was a big fan of Hood, he was, in fact known to sing, "we can feel GOOD...GOOD...GOOD about Hood.", which everyone thought was Harry at best.
Within 48 hours of his appointment to the command in Atlanta, Hood took the offensive and went right after Sherman. That was on July 20th. You have to love the aggression. On September 1st, Atlanta was evacuated and Hood was a failure. You don't HAVE to love that.
Fair to say we've met this type a million times. Perhaps half the players on PARTY POKER are related to General Hood. As Iggy (Guiness and Poker...again on the left) would say, if you're not playing against General Hood you're retarded!
I'm guilty of that style. The misapplication of unbridled aggrssion.
I went out 13th in the last blogger satellite. I felt good about the play up to that point. But here that hand that killed ol' G-Hood :
I'm on the button with A-Qo. Folds around to me. I raise 3x.
TheFatSherman (www.thefatguy.com is NOT linked but will be soon) is in the SB.
Now I've stolen blinds a few times and I saw his moderate re-raise as a pure defense. The BB folds.
I come back over the top of Gen. FAT and assume he'll fold. He doesn't. I'm out after losing a race.
At the time, I was roughly T7500 which was in fine shape against the blinds. But I felt some kind of artificial pressure. I saw the rise of the leader's stacks. I could have waited for a better hand but I didn't. I am partially Gen. Hood, but there's much much more.
This next one will seem like good news. I assure you it is not. My biggest weakness is my likeness to General Robert E. Lee, who conveniently we can abbreviate as G-Rob Lee. Let me clear, I'm not a Duke boy, and I'm not a blind loyalist to General Lee. But its fair to say the Southern Commander was a master of both strategy AND aggression. He held a weaker hand against McClellan at Bull Run. Lee sliced him to pieces. But Lee still lost the war.
I had a nice chat with BadBlood (you may have guessed, he's linked on the left) about my play the last few days. It was this play that spawned my precious post. He's been where I am. Granted, he's a FAR superior poker player but he knows my problem from experience. For a very good read on the topic check out his post "What game are you playing?". Very well written and right on target with the whole G-Lee thing.
It seems that once Lee ran up against his nemesis Grant, the strategy didn't matter. Grant was famous for brilliance and aggression, just like Lee, but he had something Lee never did. A massive chip stack, and a million General Hoods. (By the way, since I'm pimping today..check out General Al Can't-Grant on the left. It was rumored that Grant directed the battle of Shiloh in such a drunken state he could hardly stand. The battle still didn't slow the General's advance. If anyone could win a battle and drink 52 shots of SoCo..it was Al...err..Grant)
Near the end of the war Grant was still making all the right moves, the right bluffs, the right retreats, the right aggression at all the right times. But if the enemy is far better supplied and far greater in number great strategy is irrelevant. Imagine you've won pot after pot and only shown down with winners, a universe of a million Hoods (Party) will eventually suck out. If the enemy is oblivious to your bluffs then the bluffs cannot work. If your enemy doesn't know you're representing the flush then you're wasting your time.
(This caveat, Grant did recognize most of these moves but didn't care. He knew he had superior forces..etc..etc. but lets stick to the moral shall we?)
The problem is, even the greatest aggressive strategist cannot win unless his opponent recognizes his strength. Weak-Tight McClellan was almost always ahead but Lee had an advantage there. Loose-Agreesive Grant, with unlimited reinforcements HAD to grind him down.
SO HERE'S THE POINT!
I did promise I'd have a point to all this, and if you've read this far, congratulations.
I know where I'm going wrong. I can make the moves of General Lee and grind down my opponent. I can spend hours building my bankroll and bank what would be a winning session, just like Lee was ahead for more than 2 years. But just when I reach a real breakthough some putz leads Pickett's charge. I have a single moment where making the right moves and grinding out the ABCs of success gets BORING. I make a move when I KNOW I'm behind and then I get crushed. My big outing is crippled.
The Exit in the satellite is a case of just that. It happens far too often. I feel like I've got the upper hand and I'll try to get cute. Then, I wipe out a whole session of winning in a single second of hubris and rage.
For that reason, I can't ever really succeed. I can't ever break through. And, because its foolish to distinguish one lousy player from another, at least in terms of general success, I am THE WORST POSSIBLE POKER PLAYER.
I will always lose the war.
No matter how much strategy I study, no matter how aggressive or tight, I will have that moment of poor timing, poor planning or poor execution that suck the wind out of my war.
I'm not giving up. But I need to circle the troops and learn to play like I know how. I need to figure out how to play smart without SMART becoming DULL. No wonder the call it GRINDING....winning is hard work.
ONE MORE THING
This is an infinitely greater problem online. For some reason, I don't turn into an idiot LIVE. I suspect there are just more Hoods and Grants online.
Oh, one more....one more thing, I truly regret that this post makes it sound like I identify with the "lost cause" of the Confederates. Its for literary purposes. I'm retroactivly pulling for the boys in blue.<-- Hide More
There are a million variations of the same two options, and I've heard them all from everyone. Let's review :
a) I play better online than I do in Live Action. (see Otis)
b) I play better Live than I do online. (see JMC Automatic)
I'm sure one of the two applies to you. It's NL texas Hold-em and the RULES don't change. So why does the venue matter so much?More in this Poker Blog! -->
ESPN's beleagured pro Jackpot Jay says he thinks online games are far superior. He likes the speed and the good ole peace and quiet. I also suspect Jay ain't the social type.
BadBlood prefers the Live action games. Probably because he BUILT the damn table. For some reason, he actually IS better at live games. I feel like I'm pretty dang hard to put on a hand. I mix it up fairly well. BadBlood reads me clean about 90% on the time. I plan to get him drunk and find out how he does it.
Now, clearly, the two venues are very different. We see far more hands online. You could argue that this benefits a less patient player because, while we're still seeing the same percentage of playable hands, there is less time between them.
You could make the case that online play involves fewer "tells". True, there is less visible information, but I suspect the vast majority of players who prefer one style over the other aren't really using this added information anyway. I aslo suspect most players aren't playing at live games where their opponents are gathering much either.
Perhaps the level of concentration is a factor. There are fewer distractions online. At least, there are fewer distractions if you're unmarried and without children..but I digress.
Outside of bloggers, who always drink too much, the online player is more likely to be sober. Live players often will have a few "social" drinks which will often cloud their judgement. But many of the players I know who say they play better LIVE are also LIVE drinkers. Do they play better with muddled minds? If so the famous COSTANZA THEORUM applies.
Is it because the opponents are better/worse in one venue? I doubt that's true. From my experience there are about the same percentage of fish and solid players in a well-selected game...no matter where you play it.
There really should be no difference. But there is? Why? I scratch my dandruff, and think.
I used to be one of those who always said I'm better LIVE. I think that's because I played live less often and had a shoddier method of tracking my wins and losses.
I TOOK $700.00 - Cigarettes - tokes - tips + wins - losses - dinner + money
drunk silly Otis dropped on the floor - money drunk silly G-Rob lost at
blackjack = whatever?
Now I'm not so sure. I've been profitable at both, though my win rate is slightly higher live right now. I wonder though, which game most people would say they prefer. And why?<-- Hide More
As many of you know, my last WPBT tournament experience ended when my flopped set of 5's lost to the eventual champions flopped set of 8's.
I had worked my stack up early to close to 4000T and I was among the top 20. But something happened. I started playing marginal hands and catching 2nd, 3rd and 4th best hands. That's a recipe for disaster.
I decided to tighten up and wait for the right opportunity to double up. It's my natural style after all. It was Presto... Speed Limit... whatever you'd like to call pocket 5's. I limped from early position and 5 of us saw a flop of J-8-5 rainbow.
I said to myself, "I hope someone caught something so I can double up." I lead out and get raised by Gamecock. I put in a significan re-raise and he moves me all in. I call, happily. He flips 88 (set vs. set, grumble, grumble, grumble). I'm out in 74032nd place, or whatever.
Should I have played this hand differently? You can't be unhappy about getting all your money in the pot with a set, right?
So I've taken a few days to think about it, and I've had an epiphany. There is a way to play this hand. Here now is my indispensible advice for playing bottom set...More in this Poker Blog! -->
And if you don't fold, plan to lose all your money.
See, I've got this game figured out!<-- Hide More
They are hands that break up the monotony of fold, fold, fold, fold and fold. You're four-tabling online and just waiting for a hand to flash before your eyes or you're at a B&M and just waiting for that first playable hand.
That's when you see it. The danger hand. The hand you shouldn't be playing, but the hand you can't help but play. All it does is cost you money, but you keep telling yourself, "It's the best hand I've seen in hours."More in this Poker Blog! -->
So you call. You can't justify a raise with Ace-rag in early position, so you limp. Then a player in late position raises to 3xBB. Now you're in the pot and can't help but call. The flop comes A-x-x and it's your turn to act. What you already know, but can't bear to tell yourself is that you're already beaten. The guy that raised is holding a real premium hand and you're dominated. Unless that magic 7 comes, you're dead. And even if it does, you still might be beat. You're throwing money away and can't help it.
Well, first of all, the odds of seeing an Ace on that flop are about 22%. And the chances of an overcard falling when you're holding QJ is about 4 in 10. So there's a pretty good chance you'll see a scare card off the top.
But let's say you catch top pair. You're in pretty good shape, right? Top pair, good kicker. That's a betting hand. Of course, it might also be second best. Now you're gonna have to bet for information, and you may not like the information you get.
Remember, the odds of flopping a set are about 11%. In a full 10-person game, you'll need to consider what kind of odds you're getting when playing this hand. In a short-handed game, these kinds of hands become much more valuable.Let's take the 9's, for example. There's only a 20% chance you'll see only undercards on your flop. That means you'll like the flop about a third of the time. Once that flop comes, you'll have to be careful how you play your medium pair. Don't fall in love with the hand!
Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to tell you to stop playing your Aces or you KQ's or you pocket 10's. I'm just trying to tell you to make sure these danger hands don't cost you more money than they should. Too often we see a marginally good hand and we just can't get away from it. We think it's got to be a winner despite information to the contrary.
Continue to play these hands, but play them from positions of strength and fold them when you've gotten enough information to know you're beaten.<-- Hide More
It was just back on January 8th where I read a post by BadBlood about his home game. He bemoaned the fact that he completely disregarded an obvious read.
Iâ€™ve spoken with DoubleR several times about playing pocket Aâ€™s in early position. Limp, re-raise. Itâ€™s fairly well documented in Brunsonâ€™s Super System and is a common play. I looked over across the table and KNEW DoubleR was holding them. With 100% certainty. So what did I do? I pushed.
Fast forward to yesterday... I'm playing in an Empire tourney with the top 7 entrants getting a spot in Sunday night's $50,000 guarantee. With about 40 players left, I'm the big stack in the tourney, relatively pleased with my play. That's about when Bad Blood stopped by to sweat me.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I tried a few plays that cost me some chips. One time, with pocket 7's, I called a good sized bet on a flop with two overcards. I thought he might be bluffing, hoping I'd fold. I planned on making a play on the turn. The turn was another overcard, and the guy led out even bigger. I folded. It cost me a chunk of my stack.
By the time we got down to about 20, I was sitting with the average stack, about 6000T. I wasn't nowhere close to panic mode and figured I'd wait for some good hands to make my moves.
I get dealth AQo on the button. Hardly a premium hand (as T.J. would tell you), but a strong hand with 7 at the table. There are two limpers in front of me so I raise my standard 3xBB (blinds were 150/300).
That's when the UTG who limped from early position decides to re-raise me another 1500 to 2400T. The first thing that flashes through my mind is Cowboys. It's a classic move. Limp from early position and make a big re-raise if it's raised behind you so you can isolate an opponent but still build a pot.
That left me three choices. Fold wasn't an option, right? I had position on the guy, I had 900T in a pot that was now 4150T. I would be calling another 1500T leaving me with about 3600T. Since my mind said Cowboys, calling to see if I caught an ace on the flop might have been the best choice.
Naturally, I clicked all-in.
I still don't know why I did it. Perhaps, in my mind, I was forcing him to make a decision and hoping he didn't have a hand. At worse, he was holding big slick and I was dominated. What hands would he possibly have? If it's rockets, cowboys, Hiltons or slick, I'm way behind. If it's J's or T's, it's a coin flip.
I had a healthy stack and decided to risk my tournament with AQo. Of course, he flipped K's and I never found help, going out in 21st.
Beware the early limp followed by the re-raise. It's a common move that normally represents strength. Take some time to think about how often your opponent has made that play before. If he always raises with premium hands but decided to limp this time, chance are, you're facing a monster.<-- Hide More
Thanksgiving is the time of year to take a look back at what you're thankful for. So in looking back at my time at the tables, I've decided that I'm thankful for...
...the bad beat jackpot. There's nothing like losing a hand and walking away with $1600.
...playing poker with Dad. Last time I was home, my Dad ran a little tourney at his favorite watering hole (he's like Norm there... really!). I finished up for the night and so did he. I think I impressed him. This also gives me a chance to remind you of the best post ever on Up For Poker where Otis talks about his Dad.More in this Poker Blog! -->
...playing poker with my brother. I think most people grow up to realize that their siblings are some of their closest friends, even if they fought every day growing up. Anyone who is a twin knows that bond can be even tighter. My brother and I sling chips any chance we get. This also gives me a chance to point out some of the funniest posts ever written for Up For Poker.
...playing poker with my sister and brother-in-law. My parents apparently did a good job of raising a bunch of gambling degenerates. And my sister has even gotten my brother-in-law in on the action. In just a few months I'll be an uncle and I'll work on turning my nephew J.P. into the next great poker champ!
...playing poker with Mom. See, everyone in the family is ready to throw down. Of course, with Mom involved, we're only supposed to play for pride. The money games wait until she's in bed!
...my Greenville poker buddies. Everytime I return to G-Vegas, I can count on some good poker. First there was Bradoween then there was the Garage Poker. And if I make it there for New Year's Eve... I have a feeling there will be a little poker then, too!
...poker bloggers. What an amazing little community we've built. We have had several online tourneys and soon, our first live event (if there's a miracle, I'll be there). And now we have a logo and T-shirts. Look out WPT, the WPBT is coming!
...fish. Does that need any explanation?
...flopping a flush.
...filling a boat on the river.
...Up For Poker readers. I'd probably write even if no one was reading, but hundreds of you stop by every day to see what Otis and I are up to. I'm really thankful for Otis, because his writing making this web site what it is. And it's you readers who make us keep doing it!<-- Hide More
According to Poker Tracker, in my limited 1000 hand sample, my most profitable hand is... (drum roll please)... the HAMMER.
Sounds improbable, right? Sure, Rockets, Big Slick, and the Hilton Sisters have made me some good money as well, but nothing, so far, tops 7-2 offsuit.
How could that be?
It's actually rather simple.More in this Poker Blog! -->
How many times do you actually end up showing down with American Airlines? As much as we'd like to carry this hand out to the showdown for maximum profit, more often than not, we force the other players to get out of the hand (unless we're cracked, but that's a whole other story).
I've decided to start playing the HAMMER like it's the nuts every time. I do my standard pre-flop raise, then I ram the hell out of the pot. I've held the hand 12 times and won it six. Sometimes, someone else bets out big in front of me, or comes back over the top. That's a pretty good sign I won't be able to bet them out, so I get out. I've never shown the HAMMER as a loser.
So what's my point?
I've never been an effective bluffer. I tend to rely on semi-bluffs that often just lose me money. But sometimes it pays to do a stone-cold bluff with a guaranteed loser. Even if you get caught, you're helping establish your table image, and it could mean someone chases you when you really have the nuts.
And every time I scare people out with the HAMMER, I show it (with the appropriate chat). It proves to people that I don't play just premium hands. And that's a good thing.<-- Hide More
I've taken to using the trite old phrase, "It's not a sprint. It's a marathon." While I'm loathe to pick up hackneyed turns-of-phrase and use them into submission, I find myself using this one more and more when tutoring friends who are beginning to love the game.
Another phrase I like to use--after hearing someone say the same thing over and over again--is, "Who are you trying to convince?"
That is, if I hear someone protesting and protesting, and methinks they doth protest too much, perhaps they are trying to convince themselves and not me.
So, Otis, who are you trying to convince?More in this Poker Blog! -->
In short, I'm an undisciplined idiot, who, when on the cusp of greatness, always seems to find a way to impede my progress.
So, this afternoon, I'm a MWO ISO the following:
1) Discipline--After a very profitable weekend of play (up about 100 BB), I decided it was time to start pulling a little bit off the top for life, fun, and whatnot. I made a decision to play at my leisure, and cash out any amount over a predetermined mark in my bankroll. Sunday night I pulled about 25BB out of my Empire account and smiled. There. Now, that cash is safe.
All day Monday I planned for the Monday night attack. While I paid little mind to the fabled "cash out curse," it did hang out in the back of my noodle.
I sat down around 9pm last night and within a couple hours had worked my way up about 20BB. I thought for a moment about stopping for the night, but figured I'd play for another hour or so. Within that hour, I ended up at a loosey-goosey table or two and lost my mind. Within an hour, I was down 40BB. Part of me said, just quit. You know you're running bad, so quit. But I didn't. And within an hour and 15 minutes I was back up to even.
So, quit, right?
No, not this undisciplined Otis. I wanted to get back up by 20BB and make my nut for the night. I almost got there, before self-destructing and ending up back down 40BB.
What bothers me is that I recognized all of this as it was happening. It was not the cashout curse. It was undisciplined, goal-oriented, fatigued play. The six-hour session was demoralizing, at worst. At best, it was another in a series of wakeup calls that I am a good player if I just play my game. I allowed myself to get sucked into tables with impossibly loose players. What's worse, I allowed myself to loosen up with them in attempts to take advantage of their play.
If I remain my disciplined self, I honestly believe I can continue the success I've had this year.
Still, I think I may need some advice from some of my fellow bloggers who play the middle-high limits. Shorthanded tables with one or two ATC players. Whatta you do? Do you try to take advantage of them or do you play it safe?
2) More home games-- Just this past weekend, I threw my name in the hat for another home game. Just today I got a call about a game. It just happens to fall on the one night this month than I'm working a night shift. Talk about wanting to quit one's job.
3) Any way to get to Vegas-- There appears to be a burgeoning Blogger Con happening around my birthday. I missed my annual Vegas trip this year in lieu of L'il Otis' arrival. Now, there appears to be one hell of a trip forming in a couple months. It seems the only thing standing in my way is my job. Again, talk about wanting to quit.
In all honesty, I think I'm ISO several other things, but I'll save those for another day.
This feels like enough un-fun mental information for a guy who prefers just to tell little stories.
Sorry about that.<-- Hide More
We stepped out of Emilo the SDV and into the autumn night. We were four in number Friday night, meeting the crew at The Mark for an evening of freedom and poker play.
"Something's burning," I said, grabbing the 12-pack of schwag beer from the floor board. I didn't stop to think about the days five years ago when I steadfastly refused to drink a beer at a poker game. Then, I kept my vices seperate. Now, though, as parenthood creeps into my poker and drinking time, I find myself mixing the two more and more.
"Smells like the deck is on fire," I said. I could see little flickers of orange between the wooden slats of the back porch decking.
Then came the soft voice out of the orange light.
"Do you know my daddy?"
The red-headed little girl poked her head out.
"Did you come to see my daddy?"
"We did," I said. 'What's on fire?"
She pointed. The chiminea on the corner of the deck burned bright.
'We're toasting marshamallows," she said.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Normally, I don't drink alone (or drink with God, as we used to say in college), but this particular night I was in need of a drink or ten. Or twelve. And it didn't matter that most everybody else at the table was drinking water, soda, or sweet tea. I kicked it up a notch or two.
Back in the day, you would've known me by the two Diet Mountain Dews and two packs of Sweet Tarts (or Spree) that I brought to every game. Now, if I walk in without at least a sixpack, you should be surprised.
And so, the game begins, the toasted marshmallows on the outside, and the toasted Otis on the inside.
The tournament-format game opened wildly, with two players all-in preflop. One held the Hilton Sisters, the other Big Slick. Slick won the hand. I finished another beer.
I'd recount what happened for the rest of the game, but it's a bit blurry. Suffice it to say, I lost because of my inability to deal with a Cold Caller. He was new to the game and, perhaps, didn't recognize how good his hands were. Or, perhaps, he was paying me too much respect. Regardless, when he had position on me, he consistently failed to raise or re-raise with the best hand. By the time I figured this out, I was short-stacked and half-crocked.
There was a part of me that knew I should beg for someone, anyone, to save me from myself. But I didn't. Anytime someone went to the fridge, I ordered another drink.
Okay, here's a silly thing to say: I don't play that much worse when I'm drinking. In fact, I may play slightly better. I discovered this last year in Vegas.
Then, I'd been playing tight all day long. I'd had nothing to drink but Diet Cokes and nothing to eat at all. My stack had barely moved. By late afternoon, the fatigue and the caffeine were getting to me. My hands kept shaking when I'd try to squeeze my cards.
So, I ordered a beer to calm me down (and a Bloody Mary, so I could eat the olives--don't think I hadn't read my Tilt Boy lore before I went).
The olives and beer sustained me for a 13 hour-session in which I won more than any other session on the trip.
By the time I busted out of the first game (pushing in my shortstack with 73o, to the amusement of everybody there), I was lit up. And alone in my insobriety.
Then, perhaps in an act of mercy, The Host's Wife walked in to play in the second game, and thusly announced she, too, was drunk.
Perhaps it was being able to commiserate in our inebriation, or perhaps it was just my good senses coming back, but I started to play better.
The second tournament of the night sat eleven. I found myself between The Host and Brother Rick (his brother, not mine). We chatted throughout the night, when I heard Rick say the magic words.
"I'm just here for practice."
My spidey sense perked up. Those words were code for, "I play in a bigger game and I'm just here to tighten up my bolts."
Here's the thing: I've been dying to find the big games in town for about six months now. There's a lawyer's game here hosted by a guy who made a final table at the WSOP. There's the fabled "downtown" game. And now The Host and Brother Rick are talking about The Warehouse.
Actually, this is the thing: If I were ever able to work my way into one of these games, I would play sober. Yet, I tend to want to play in them more (that is, I have the balls) when I'm a little tipsy.
Is that gambler's irony or drinker's irony?
Eventually, Brother Rick busted out and went in search of greener pastures. The field of eleven worked its way down to four: The Host, Otis, the host's Wife, and G-Rob.
I was still smarting from doubling up The Host. He'd called my AQ all-in with his shorter stack A-rag. His rag hit, he doubled up, then played his stack masterfully to a sizable chip lead.
In the meantime, he and his wife were making last-longer bets for sexual favors.
I tried not to listen...sort of.
As the hour drew toward 2am, The Host leaned over to me and said quietly, "You sort of wind down as the night goes on, dont you?"
It is an embarassing possiblity in the Drinking Life of Otis. While not, I repeat, not an inevitability, there is always the chance Blow Dart will happen.
Okay, imagine a guy sitting at a poker table, hooping and hollering with his boys, all of them drinking themselves silly.
Now, imagine a tribal native popping up from behind the hedges with a blow dart gun and shooting a tranqulizer right in Otis' throat.
One second Otis is gregarious and silly, the next he's silent and immobile.
In my defense, I hadn't eaten dinner. I'd began preparing Ramen Noodles right before the game, but I used a new, slick pot holder to take them out of the microwave, and dropped the bowl all over the floor. The next day I was still finding dried noodles on the kitchen floor.
And so it was that I busted out on the bubble, again letting The Host's Wife best me and letting G-Rob outlast me. The Host eventually won the whole thing, whereupon I went home to explain to my wife that there is a method to my madness.
Fortunately, since I'm not exactly sure what that method is, Mrs. Otis was asleep.<-- Hide More
I was giggling a little. The word "tricky" seemed a silly little word, and its alliterative symbiosis with the word "trail" had worked its way into my internal dialog. And since I was unable to keep my noodle's monologue inside my head, I kept muttering the word "tricky" and trying not to fall.
"Tricky," I said one more time, hoping the person behind me might take heed, take warning of the absolute trickiness of it all.
"Stands to reason that it's tricky, Otis," came the voice from behind me (or perhaps it was ahead of me). "This is, in fact, the Tricky Trail."
Indeed, it was.More in this Poker Blog! -->
The Tricky Trail is a winding, tree-root-ridden ascent from the shore of tiny Lake Eden to the side of a small mountain. On two weekends every year, a small clearing on the side of the mountain becomes a Lord of the Flies-ish beehive of bonfires, native drumming, and hippy-dance hoo-haw. It is, in short, a drum circle that passes the time between the close of the music festival festivities at Midnight and sun-up the the following day.
Getting there is a hike and half for those like me who camp at Lakeside. For days leading up to the festival, campers begin going on the record.
"This year," they'll say with all confidence, "I'm going to the drum circle." Then, after a moment of thought, and with no small amount of hubris, they'll add, "Both nights."
However, it often comes to pass that, after a day of general silliness, a night of music, and way too much booze throughout, many of the campers slip away into tents, hoping their absence won't be noted. From their tents, however, they'll hear the quiet chiding.
"He said 'both nights' didn't he? I think he said he was going both nights."
In short, there is no shame in not making it to the drum circle. It's a long and sometimes treacherous hike at one in the morning. Then there's the matter of getting back down the mountain and to your tent.
There is, however, shame in saying you're going to make the hike, then retiring early under the fatigue of 15 hours of straight partying.
On this particular night, I was making good on an arrogant moment earlier in the day when I said I was going. Definitely. By 11pm, I knew I was in no condition to make the hike safely. I should've just gone to bed.
Instead, I was giggling my way up the trail, keeping it between the little candles that line the 1.5 foot-wide path. I muttered "tricky" every few steps.
By the hand of something divine (or at least, the hands of Manos), I made it. Within a few minutes, I was surrounded in a musky, tribal swarm of unadulterated bacchanalia.
To be fair, the concept of the drum circle is greater than the drum circle itself. It is never a letdown, but at the same time, it is something that once done needn't be done again unless you just NEED an extra couple hours of release at the end of the day.
In fact, I've come to believe over five or six years of making the semi-annual climb, the purpose of the drum circle is, in fact, purpose. It is a goal to be achieved for the purpose of achievement.
Again, on this particular night, I needed only to be somewhere safe, if not in bed, at least safely tucked around the campfire where I could hurt no one, least of all myself. But for the purpose of achievement, and making good on my word that I'd go, I went.
After a couple of hours came the particularly trying task of making it back down Tricky Trail, which, in all fairness, is much more tricky on the way down than the way up.
"Tricky," I said to no one in particular.
Again, the hands of Manos took over and led me down the trail, around the lake, and back to Tent City where many of our crew had already bedded down for the night. I had a camping chair in sight where I would plop until I was sufficiently coherent to join Mrs. Otis in the tent. Only five feet separated me from my destination.
That's when, after a couple miles of walking the trickiest trail in all of Black Mountain, I tripped over a container full of pots and pans and spilled into a pile full of campling supplies. The noise woke most everybody up. From a tent, one quiet, mocking voice could be heard.
"Sounds like Otis made it back."
And, so, in the many months since that night, I've found myself deeply embroiled in the game of poker.
Those who know me know that when I started playing regularly, it was all for fun. If I was playing $3/$6, I felt like a high-roller, like I was riding the lightning, like a guy on the edge.
Then something happened. In real life, I work in an industry where people either "get it" or they don't. Sometime around last February, something clicked in my poker game. In short, "I got it."
My bankroll grew and I made the decision to start playing for real.
I bought Poker Tracker, I studied, and I won.
Then I went and did what I shouldn't do. I set a goal. I wanted to build my bankroll to the exact dollar amount at which, if I should so desire, I could buy directly into a fairly well-known poker championship.
And I've been really, really close.
Each time I come within a couple hundred dollars of my goal, I trip over my camping supplies, and land just short of where I want to be.
In all fairness to myself, my goal is an arbitrary one. It means nothing other than I reached a goal. In setting it, I have established a great white whale for myself.
Like my drum circle, getting to the goal is more the achievement than actually hitting the goal itself.
And here's the thing: I'm stuck. I don't know what to do with my game. At present, I'm about 90% of the way to my goal. I get close, I fall back, I get close, I fall back. I never lose much. I never win much.
After meeting my 300x BB bankroll requirement for limit play, I started dabbling in shorthanded play. I've been successful, but vulnerable to the inevitable variance.
I don't believe I'm dealing with a logistical poker issue. The strength of my game is as good as it has ever been (which still needs work, but that's a different topic). I'm dealing with something very ethereal, very mental, and sometimes bordering on emotional.
I need to turn some sort of mental corner. I need to understand myself and my motivation for playing. I sense that I have committed--at least internally--to playing for real (not professionally, mind, but for real....there's a difference, I think, that may need some further explanation in a future post). As such, like committing to making the hike up Tricky Trail, I feel committed to making good on my personal commitment to playing.
I just don't know what I'm going to do or how I'm going to go about it.
In less than two weeks, I'll be back up on the mountain, listening to Acoustic Syndicate, Billy Joe Shaver, and maybe Donna the Buffalo. I've decided that I will make no commitment to hiking Tricky Trail. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, you'll find me warmly nestled next to Mrs. Otis, listening to the drumbeats from the comfort of my sleeping bag.
Nevertheless, this semi-annual trip always does my mind well. I can think.
I have a lot to think about, both professionally, as well as what I'm going to do with my poker game.
So, if you need me, you'll find me at lakeside.
Chances are, I'll be the guy muttering "tricky" every few minutes and when asked if I'm going to the drum circle, declaring, "Definitely. Both nights."
That's just the sick kind of Otis I am.<-- Hide More
No one who has ever played No-Limit Hold'em at a level that could threaten their poker playing career will deny it takes conjones--big, rock-solid, kind you'd find at the base of Mt. Rushmore cojones--to play the game. To play at a level where you push your paycheck across the felt takes having the fortitude to keep the cojones from pulling up and away from the cold, bitch-slapping world that is No-Limit poker. It takes keeping them from seeking solitude in the gradual trek from their own boxer-shorts home, though your insides, and into your throat.
So, when Crying Mike Matusow looked across the felt into the hologrammed eyes of Greg Raymer and declared he, Matusow, had "Big cojones," it seemed a little more than redundant. It seemed a little more than friendly coffee-housing.
It seemed, in short, to be a giant middle finger in the face of capital "K" Karma.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Perhaps, it was selective editing on the part of ESPN's World Series of Poker producers. Perhaps, Matusow is an affable fellow with whom I'd like to share a beer or eight. From my sideline seat at the table, I've decided I can't judge a man based on one clip from television. What's more, judge not lest ye open yourself up to a giant beatdown from Karma central.
Still, as I've discussed ad nasuem in past Up For Poker posts, I'm loathe to defend people who use trash talk as the sharpest arrow in their quiver. I despise myself when I let something slip.
For instance, two nights ago I was on a bit of a run at a $200PL table on Empire. A loose player took about half my stack early on in my sit when I slowed-played top two pair and let him catch a set on the river with his 37offsuit. I re-bought to the maximum and lay in wait. I vowed privately not to leave until I took back all of my chips and then all of his. I didn't indicate this in the chat bar. I just waited. Sure enough, two hours later he played his pair of queens too slow on the flop and let me catch my straight on the turn. I doubled up.
After I took the hand, he steamed quietly for an orbit, then offered a "nh" to me. I accepted and we commiserated about our two slow-plays and how they had killed us. It was gut-wrenching, bankroll-threatening poker. But it was good.
The hand began a bit of a rush in which I sextupled up. I felt cockiness seeping into my psyche, but did all I could to remain humble. Then I caught aces in the small blind. I played the hand well, drawing the BB into a nice-sized pot. I made my set on the flop, and put in a smallish bet, hoping he'd read it as a post oak bluff. He bought it and pushed in with his 77. The board paired on the river giving me the boat and all of 77's chips.
Before I knew what I was doing, I typed, "Perhaps a bit of overkill on my part, eh?"
Sure, I didn't accuse the guy of having "small cojones" or anything, but it was an unnecessary jab at a guy who had just lost his entire buy-in.
Another player at the table suggested I shouldn't get too cocky or my luck would turn. It was then I realized that I should've just kept quiet. I wanted to apologize to the guy, but he'd already left the table.
Good players, like Josh Arieh, know this is a moral leak that all poker players have to control. In a recent Card Player article, Arieh lamented that he he's been trying to control this part of his personality for a while and during one hand of the WSOP, he let it get the best of him. After making quite a move and winning, he slapped his cards on the table and chided his opponent, "Whatta ya think this is? Tiddly winks?"
He hated that he said it, and sure enough, ESPN has played the clip at least twice in its coverage.
Many writers and bloggers have talked about the different personalities of poker players. I tend to view modern players like a high school classroom:
The Athlete--This is the player who plays the game with hard-knock aggression and believes attitude and unrelating powerplay will ultimately succeed. This player tends to make him/herself stand out in a room and tends to garner the most attention of fans and television cameras. They win big, they lose big and it's always a show.
The Math-Geek-- This is the player who is painfully boring for television producers and believes that--in the end--the averages and probabilities will prevail. Often tight-playing and soft-spoken, these players win quietly and lose quietly. They tend to be winners over time, but rarely make monumental splashes in the game of celebrity-era poker.
The Artist-- This player holds no small amount of disdain for the flashiness of the athlete and the attention he craves, but is also terminally bored with the Math-Geek. This player tends to play the probabilities but loves how subtle the real game can be. This player makes moves based on the feel of the flow, the literary nuance of the game. While this kind of player rarely grabs the attenton of the athlete or the probabilty wins of the Math-Geek, he makes poker an artform and writes poetry when he pushes in his chips.
Matusow is The Athlete through and through. He points, he pokes, he jukes, he slams. What's more, he almost prides himself on what people have termed the "Mike Matusow Blow Up." (Note: I have a little defense mechanism I call the Otis Choke, so I guess I'm not one to talk).
His lack of discipline made for a good storyline on ESPN. Under the soft television lights, he lamented his lack of discipline after becoming a millionaire. He blew it all gambling, partying, buying strippers, etc. But as he made it to the top level of the 2004 WSOP final event, he declared he was "back." Presumably, that meant he had regained his discipline and was a contender again.
Which brings us to the feature hand against Raymer, in which Matusow called an all-in bet with second pair, little kicker, and a flush draw on the board. One could argue he made a good read, because he was ahead on the flop. However, one could also question what he was doing in the hand in the first place and whether hubris (and moreover, a lack of discipline) was the primary factor in making a call that eventually sent him down the road to his destruction.
One could read this screed as a the exact kind of behavior I preach against, namely, kicking a man when he is down. However, in this case, I think Matusow begs for this kind of dialogue. He wants it. He wants to be known as the guy who walks a fine line between recklessness and genius.
On his final hand of the tournament, Matusow went all-in with big slick. He was covered by a player who called with Mrs. Slick (AQ). Matusow stood, beseeching the table, "One time! Let me get lucky one time!"
It almost seemed fitting that the queen fell on the river and sent Matusow crying (seemingly, literally) to the rail. Capital "K" Karma doesn't hold much affection for people who flout moral sensibilities then ask for help from the poker gods.
Earlier in the tournament, Matusow had spent an inordinate amount of time berating future champion Greg Raymer. "Don't mess with me, buddy. I'll bust you. I have big cojones. You have small cojones."
Matusow then offered an after-thought apology, a lot like saying "You're mother's a whore....no offense or anything." Raymer, at the time, refused to shake his hand.
Later, Matusow apologized again, and Raymer conceded a handshake. Classy eventually equalled champion.
If I should ever be so fortunate as to find myself across the felt from Matusow or anyone who aspires to be like him, I hope they offer me the same cojones talk, then offer to shake my hand.
I'll shake it and say, "I'm Otis. Who are you again?"<-- Hide More
For some people, poker is a way of life. It's all they do, it's all they think about.
For the rest of us, poker is just a diversion. It takes us away from the "real" world, if only for a time.
For all poker players, lessons learned at the table (or virtual table) can be applied to everything we do. Here's just a few:More in this Poker Blog! -->
The Four-Way Stop Sign
You and another car hit the stop at the same time. Who goes first? The law says you defer to the car to your right, but we know that no one really knows the law, so choas often rules.
A poker player will approach the stop, wait for any sign of weakness from the other driver, and make their move. A poker player is trained to sense hesitation and act on it.
I'm sure studies will prove that poker players spend less time at a four-way stop than other drivers.
The Contract Negotiation
You could always be paid more. That's just the way it is in life. Whoever signs your check has the money to give you a raise, but how are you going to get it?
It depends. What kind of hand are you holding?
Are you the hard-working, essential-to-the-office kind of employee? If that's the case, it's time to ram and jam. You have no reason to fold. You're holding the nuts, and your boss knows it.
Are you the play-computer-games, poker-blog-at-work, wait-until-the-last-second-to-get-anything-done kind of employee? If so, you've got one choice. Bluff. What's the worse that could happen? Well, except for busting out...
The Singles Bar
This is where pot odds clearly come into play. How big is the pot (i.e. how attractive is the target)? How much will it cost you to win that pot? And if you spend the money on that pot, how confident are you that another opponent won't be going home with the pot instead?
It's a difficult world, and poker players should have an advantage, as long as they get away from their keyboard every now and then!<-- Hide More
Despite the fact that the WPBT's next tourney is a little more than a week away, I am about to tell all of you about a pretty big hole in my game. It's up to you to decide whether I'm only doing this to set you up or not.
I think I play pretty solid poker. I generally make money when I play, and that's a good thing. If I lost as often as I played, I'd be broke right now. That would make me a compulsive gambler, and I'm hoping to avoid that label for as long as possible.
But I digress...
I have a problem. I could make more money if I figured out a way to eliminate a huge hole in which my money manages to disappear.More in this Poker Blog! -->
It's what Gary Carson would call "Fancy Play Syndrome" (FPS) in his great book about low and mid limit poker.
There's a few things that fall under the FPS category. I manage to avoid most of them. I don't bluff too often. Bluffing is only effective when done sparingly. The check-raise is an important weapon in any good player's arsenal, but if you do it too often, you run out of bullets. I don't check-raise too often.
And then there's slow-playing. That's when you flop what you think are the nuts, only to allow players to draw into hands that are better. I'd like to say I know when to slow-play and when not to, but I can't.
I can't help myself. I check the BB with 74 offsuit only to catch a flop of A-7-7. Jackpot! I check, it's bet, a few callers and I simply call. The turn is a blank. Looks like this pot is all mine! I check, it's bet, there's one caller, and I raise a little, finding two callers. The river... and Ace. What the hell was I doing? I check, there's a big bet and I make a crying call. I'm an idiot.
This happens again and again and again. In the above example, it's possible he may have called me no matter what, figuring I didn't have the 7. The point, however, is that I never forced him to make a tough decision.
Poker is a game of decisions. The player who makes the fewest tough decisions is usually the winner. Making easy decisions is, well... easy.
I like easy decisions. Like my first hand tonight in the BB when I check with 52 of hearts. The flop? How 'bout A-3-4 of hearts. Does it get any better than that? The only problem is that no one caught anything resembling a hand and I only made a few bucks. In that case, slow-playing was the only way to go. I had the nuts, and only the worst luck imaginable could beat me.
I've got to learn when to force my players into a tough decision, and when to allow them to set the pace. Winning at poker isn't about how many hands you win, it's about how big the pots are. But if you slow-play every time, you'll throw a lot of money away.<-- Hide More
Aside from chip-shuffling, nothing makes you appear like a poker pro in a room full of amatuers like the use of solid poker lingo. Since mentioning pocket 9's and it's lack of a good nickname, I've had a few searches for "poker hand names" funnel people to Up For Poker.
With that in mind, let's see how much we can help people out:
Pocket 2's: Ducks
Not sure exactly how it got this nickname, but Paul Magriel loved saying "Quack, Quack" during his appearance on the World Poker Tour. I think that had more to do with his betting then with pocket two's, but maybe there's a connection.
Pocket 3's: Crabs
I'm assuming this nickname comes from the shape of a 3. I suppose you could say it looks like a crab. I thought you might use sports to jazz up this nickname. The number 33 is pretty famous in NBA history thanks to Larry Bird and others.
Pocket 4's: ???
I'm not sure this one has a nickname yet. I'd like to call it Syracuse. "44" is the most storied jersey number in Syracuse University sports history. It was first made famous by Jim Brown (the greatest pro running back and greatest college lacrosse player in history), and later worn by college basketball standouts Derrick Coleman and John Wallace.
Pocket 5's: Speed Limit and Presto
It's named speed limit for obvious reasons, but I prefer Presto. Here's the explanation I found for the nickname Presto: "Comes from what one says when revealing a pair of fives as one's holecards. The term was coined at the Big August Rec.Gambling Excursion and evolved from what a blackjack player says when turning over a blackjack."
Pocket 6's: ???
Any suggestions. When thinking of 6-6, Route 66 comes to mind. It's known as the Mother Road, but I'm not sure that makes a great nickname. There's also Phillips 66, so maybe the nickname "Phillips"? I need some inspiration here...
Pocket 7's: Hockey Sticks
That's the only nickname I could find, and I don't think I like it. Dave Foley on "Celebrity Poker Showdown" wanted to call them "walking sticks," but I think we can all agree that anything related to CPS is a bad idea. I think I'll start pushing "Sunset Strip" for the short-lived but hugely popular "77 Sunset Strip" TV series from the late 50's to early 60's.
Pocket 8's: Snowmen
I think Vince Van Patten once called this hand "octopus," but I'm not sure that ever caught on (and two of them would be octopi, right?). I've also seen it called "Little Oldsmobile," but I'm not a fan of that (Oldsmobile would be 8-9, both based on Oldsmoble car models).
Pocket 9's: Get Smart
This hand was named by fellow poker blogger Lord Geznikor after I asked for some suggestions. Get Smart comes from show-stopper Agent 99. It's one of my favorite hands, and I was concerned no one had given it a nickname yet. If anyone has anyother suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments.
Pocket 10's: ???
I was shocked to discover there were no accepted nicknames for pocket 10's. I suppose you could call them "Dimes" for obvious reasons. I think I might go with "Long Distance" after all of those 10-10-### commercials.
Pocket Jacks: Hooks or Fishooks
Again, it's the shape of the "J" that gave this hand its nickname. Poker players aren't always the most creative bunch of people. I prefer to call this hand "Hookers." It's just more fun.
Pocket Queens: The Hilton Sisters
As far as I can tell, this is a poker bloggers creation. Pauly has made this nickname more popular through his little contest. This hand has also been more traditionally called "Ladies." And until the recent tiger mauling, it was known as "Sigfried and Roy." I think Paris and Niki will hold this title for at least a little while.
Pocket Kings: Cowboys
I've actually seen this hand have the alternate nickname of "Kong," "King Kong" or "Gorillas." I don't think any of those have the charm of "Cowboys" especially considering the game we're playing is Texas Hold 'Em.
Pocket Aces: Rockets or American Airlines
The latter is my personal favorite, but the former is certainly more well-known and very appropriate. I've also seen this hand called "Bullets" and "Eyes of Texas." I'm not too sure of that last one.
And, of course, the last hand lingo that any good poker player must know is "THE HAMMER." That's the best hand in poker: 72 offsuit.<-- Hide More
Editor's note: This is an incomplete post. I was just getting into the meat of it when I decided it was too much of a ripoff of another poker blogger. Nonetheless, since I started this, I'm going to post it. That's the way I feel about blogging. It turns my game and my mind into a fishbowl. Sunshine makes us all better. If you know I was on the way to a blatant rip-off, maybe I won't do it again. --Otis
In the cutoff, I looked down and saw it. Deuce-Deuce. Damned ducks never do anything but quack. If they had a little appeal, like that crazy, wacky Aflack duck, then maybe I'd get excited. Instead, I call, only to be raised by the SB.
I should fold deuces every time. A two-outer with not much of anywhere to go.
But I called. Then, as I was preparing for a quick hour of self-flaggelation (not to mention a little deprecation and loathing), the flop made my set, beating out the SB's bigger pair for a sizeable pot.
In the chatbar I offered, "The double douche. Damned that hurts, don't it?"
The SB didn't respond. I waited for anyone to pick up the reference. No one did. These folks don't know Wade Garrett. And if they don't know Wade Garrett, they likely don't know Dalton.
Before you laugh (alright, as you laugh), you should know, the movie "Road House" serves as a late 80s oracle to the poker playing community.
Please, step inside The Double Deuce.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Before we begin, I should point out this post is a blatant (if not fully intentional) ripoff of a series of posts written by poker blogger, Hdouble over at The Cards Speak. His oracle is The Dude from "The Big Lebowski." Admittedly, The Dude has a lot to offer. Admittedly, "The Big Lebowski" is a better film. But for pure, unintentionally funny dialogue, "Road House" takes the cake. full disclosure>
The film begins as Dalton, uber-Cooler, makes his way into a Kansas City-area juke joint known as the Double Deuce. He's the calm guy with a dark past that can turn a sleazy, violence-ridden den of inequity into a happenin' place. He hates violence, but will use it when necessary. He's into eastern philosophy and lakeside tai chi. Or Chai Tea. Or something.
His transformation of the dive into a happy bar would just add to his resume if it weren't for his falling in love with the town doctor and battling the evil land baron, Brad Wesley.
Complete with bar brawls, sexy sex, and monster trucks, "Road House" has a lot to offer the late 80s movie watcher.
And if not that, at least it's got some great quotes that can be applied to 21st century poker (here's where I really start ripping off HDouble).
As Dalton starts to take over the bar's security staff, he instructs them on how to react to an angry customer.
Dalton: If somebody gets in your face and calls you a cocksucker, I want you to be nice. Ask him to walk. Be nice. If he won't walk, walk him. But be nice. If you can't walk him, one of the others will help you, and you'll both be nice. I want you to remember that it's a job. It's nothing personal.
So, you've just laid a massive beat on a player across the table. You're watching the chat bar and there it is. A vitriolic stream of profanity and insults that wouldn't only make a sailor blush, it'd make him abandon ship.
You have a few choices.
*Spew forth in like fashion. Give it right back to him.
*Instruct him on why you played the hand correctly, or how he could've played the hand better.
*Say thank you (aka, be nice).
Spewing forth only take you to the level of the bar brawlers who may get off a good punch or two, but inevitably end up writhing, drunk on the floor. Plus, it takes time away from the next hand. That's where you're focus should be. As you soon as you focus on one player, you start ignoring the other eight. They're the players who will jack you when you're trying to lay a profanity-laden beat down on the guy in the one seat.
Instructing him on how to fight you better is little more than, as others have put it, "tapping on the glass." Don't teach your opponent how to fight. This is my biggest problem. If I'm betting a middle pair and a guy gives me a free card on the turn, allowing me to make my set on the river, I'm prone to say, "if you'd bet the turn, I would've folded." I shouldn't tell him that. Because next time he will and the pot will be his.
Instead, we should just be nice. Say, "Thank you," rake your pot, post your blind and keep playing.
As Dalton's instruction continues, an incredulous employee speaks up.
Steve: Being called a cocksucker isn't personal?
Dalton: No. It's two nouns combined to elicit a prescribed response.
Steve: What if somebody callas my mama a whore?
Dalton: Is she?
So, say you just said, "thank you" to the guy who is still spewing vitriol and he keeps going. Perhaps he says, "I can't believe you f'n called three bets with 77. That's the worst call I've ever seen. You f'n suck."
In short, he just called your mama a whore. You need to ask yourself, "is she?"
You probably shouldn't have called three bets with 77, just like I shouldn't have called a raise from the small blind while I was only holding 22.
Bad calls that result in big wins can hurt our game as much or more than playing good cards and losing. More often than not, I'm not going to make my set with 22. A good player knows that. However, even when a moderately good player rakes a major pot with a moderate hand, he might be more encouraged to play it again next time the same way. In the long run, it's not going to pay off and you'll find yourself thinking, "maybe my mama really is a whore."
Editor's note: Before I decided to prematurely end this piece, I had a few more quotes lined up. I leave them here for you to translate...or better yet, for Hdouble to translate when he gets back from Vegas.
1) Dalton: People who really want to have a good time won't come to a slaughterhouse. And we've got entirely too many troublemakers here. Too many 40-year-old adolescents, felons, power drinkers and trustees of modern chemistry.
2) Dalton: Take the biggest guy in the world, shatter his knee and he'll drop like a stone.
3) Doc: Do you always carry your medical record around with you?
Dalton: Saves time.
I'm crazy. Hear that, pops? I'm a damned loon. Watch these cards I'm about to play. I'm wacked. My noodle is cramped. I'm a three year-old with a temper and a handful of reds. I'm a smart player's worst nightmare. I'll river you before the flop hits the felt.
Fish, you say?
How could a fish carry all these chips, sir?
See, I'm crazy. Crazy like a fish. A clown fish, see. Now scoot your fish-eating butt over and deal the cards.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I've developed a problem that's been profitable in the short term. In the long run, if I had entered and won Jeremy's Poker Tracker give-away, I'm sure I'd see the expectation turn way negative.
I play the first and last hand of every session, at least to the turn.
Why? Well, of course, because I'm a damned idiot. Two-six off? Cap it, I say.
Actually, it began when I started to realize I was playing with many of the same players I saw every night. After a few weeks, they had good notes on me, and people had stopped paying me off. I hate not getting paid off.
My bank-roll that I built to $939 from $20 was stagnant.
One night a week and a half ago I posted my first hand on the button. Three-eight spades. It was raised twice before it got to me. I called the raises, flopped a flush draw, made it on the turn, and capped the river bets for a big ol' pot against high pairs.
I'm crazy, see.
The calls of a "river rat" scrolled across the chat bar. I checked all my notes to see who they were talking about before realizing they were talking about me.
Indeed, players, I'm a river rat.
This is no new strategy. The big guys change gears and play ultra-loose all the time. It's not me, though. I like my bets and raises to be respected. Still, I like to get paid off.
I'm such a "cake and eat it, too" chump.
Eventually, my opponents realized that their notes were right about me. I play premium hands aggressively. When in doubt, on a draw, etc....fold.
Which is why I started finishing every session with the same play. I drew four cards to a 2-6o to make a gutshot straight on the river with my 6. 'Night, folks. See you tomorrow.
While this has been a little fun, it's also been a little embarassing. And frankly, my bankroll is still stagnant. I'm still in the low $900s since my last report.
I fear I'm afflicted with the boredom of discipline. I fear I'm on the cusp of disaster. I'm in no position to move up to a $5-$10 game, but that's what my inner child wants. Baby wants big pots, baby.
Until then, I'll be the disciplined player, bookended with craziness on the first and last hands.<-- Hide More
Bluffing is overrated.
Perhaps thats overstating it a bit. When the limits are low, bluffing is often useless. The higher the limits, the more essential bluffing becomes for a winning session.
The 2003 World Series of Poker featured one of the best stone-cold bluffs of all-time. And it helped Chris Moneymaker become a millionaire.More in this Poker Blog! -->
There's no question that Moneymaker was extremely lucky in his run to the title. After all, you have to get lucky to win. Robert Varkonyi had a tremendous run of luck the year before.
Two hands really demonstrate how lucky Moneymaker really was. First, post-flop all-in with a pair of 8's against a pair of aces. The 8 came on the turn and Moneymaker won the hand. Second, post-turn all-in with three Q's against a full house. The ace on the river filled Moneymaker's boat knocking out Phil Ivey.
However, when it came to heads up play, it wasn't luck, but skill, that made the difference.
Moneymaker is dealt 4-7, both spades. Sam Farha gets K-9. The flop comes 2-9-6, with the 6 being a spade. Moneymaker's got nothing while Farha has top pair. Farha bets and Moneymaker calls.
The turn is the 8 of spades. That gives Moneymaker a flush draw and an open ended straight draw. Farha bets and Moneymaker makes a huge raise. Farha calls.
The river is a harmless 3 of hearts. Moneymaker's got nothing. Farha checks and Moneymaker goes all-in.
That's a stone-cold bluff. I'm not talking about buying a pot. Any of us can do that. I'm talking about putting everything on the line when you absolutely, positively know that you can not win the hand.
Sam Farha knew in his gut that Moneymaker was bluffing. He even said something like, "Missed your flush, huh?" However, Farha's head overruled his gut and that was the turning point of the championship.
Farha folded and Moneymaker collected about $3 million after the next showdown.
Could I push that many chips into the middle of the table knowing I have a loser? I'm not sure I could.
Moneymaker got ripped by all the poker (wanabee) experts for all of his terrible plays. I give him a little more credit. He's got the bracelet, and the cajones to make the stone-cold bluff.<-- Hide More
I've already posted my New Year's resolutions over at Up For Anything, and I figure I should come up with a few poker resolutions. Anything to help increase the stack, right?More in this Poker Blog! -->
I guess that's about it for now. I'm sure there is plenty more for me to do so that I become a better player, but this is a start.<-- Hide More
As some of you may or may not know my twin brother runs and is the major contributor to this site. It was CJ that inspired and sparked my interest-- no, no... check that, my obsession with No Limit Texas Hold-em. It started innocently...More in this Poker Blog! -->
...with a simple website titled UltimateBet.com and has since gotten completely out of control, just ask my two cats Big Blind and Flop, formerly known to the world as Lottie and Brodie. (I still haven't informed my fiancee of the change.)
I bellied up to the virtual poker table underwater with a $1000 stake, all of which, to my surprise, was NOT real money. From there, I worked my way upto $1.5 million in 3 days. Amazing, huh?!? Even more amazing was the fact that it only took 3 days to convince my brother to lend me $1.5 million dollars after I blew my initial thousand in 12 minutes. (You didn't think I won the money.)
Things only got worse when I recently went home for the Holidays and spent time amongst 4 self-proclaimed "Greatest Poker Players of All-Time". I, of course, was the 5th.
York, PA was the setting of my first real money tournament, a $5 sit-and-go with 4 players. I came in second, thus breaking even, but eagerly entered the second $5 sit-and-go where I finished first. By the end of my East Coast tour, work thought I went on vacation for Christmas and charged me 7 paid days off claiming they were unaware of my semi-professional poker playing status, I had won $15. $15 dollars over 2 days is $7.50 a day. Over a year, my gross income would be $2,737.50... in other words, I just gave work notice.
Don't get me wrong, that's not a whole heck of a lot of dough, but it wasn't just the money that convinced me of my calling. As I sat and watched a poker marathon on the Travel Channel, I noticed that all the top players had cool nicknames: The Professor, Treetop, The Brat. I realized that it was necessary to earn one for myself.
When that failed, I just gave myself one!
It dawned on me, as I sat at the table with a pair of Aces on the turn, watching CJ go all in, that I had him wrapped around my finger. So it was no suprise when we showed our hands that he had two pair, Aces and 5's. Was I nervous? Uhhhh.... yes, but when the dealer flipped the river card, it all became clear. You see, I had A/Q and got K/5/8 on the flop. When CJ checked, I felt good about my hand, so when the A came on the turn, I had him! CJ went all in after I raised and then showed his A/5, 2 pair. Things looked very bleak until the 2nd King came on the flop. I won. A's and K's with the Queen kicker.
My nickname was born: Tom Sawyer. Confused?? I wasn't, but everyone else was, so I calmly explained about how Tom spent all that time on his raft.
"That was Huck Finn, you idiot," my brother calmly explained.
"Huck Finn", cuz I live on the river.
So with $15 in my pocket and a home made nick-name, I enter the small community of brilliant poker players. Let's just hope they don't notice and kick me out.
Until then... you can catch me on the river...<-- Hide More
A few of the lessons I've learned during my five or so costly years of poker apprenticeship, some from those far wiser than myself, others which dawned on me as I watched my chips being pushed far away from me. Enjoy.More in this Poker Blog! -->
A cursory look through the poker literature will reveal words to the effect that poker isn't a sprint, it's a marathon. They will often mention that there's really no such thing as sessions, but rather that poker is just "one long game," with the idea being that even if you get smacked around on any given night it doesn't really matter, since if you play the game well the percentages will eventually even out, and you'll end up a winner where it really counts, over the long run.
Of course, just like X and 1/X are respectively infinitely large and small, sometimes it feels like poker is both one long game played over the course of a lifetime as well as millions of small games counted by sessions, hours, hands, and even streets. It's hard to remember that "one long game" stuff when we've all had sessions where we'd broken even and felt like the biggest loser in the world, as well as breaking even and feeling like a WSOP winner. Last night at the Borgata, I had one green chip left on the table, one hand to play, when a miracle happened and I went on an incredible rush...to finish even.More in this Poker Blog! -->
A little background: I was playing $6/$12 with some good guys, a few crazy friends with the unfortunate habit of talking to each other in a foreign language during hands, one semi-prick who would go on for hours about perceived misplays, even when he wasn't in the hand, and a guy downing scotch who almost instigated a fistfight. In short, a fun table.
I spent a few hours running bad, but managed to take advantage of a few of the newer players to eventually get a stack above water. Our table broke after a while (the Borgata â€” wrongly, I feel â€” doesn't have a "must-move" system), so I cashed in half my chips and took an open seat in one of the other $6/$12 games. I figured I'd play for a little while longer, as I was having such a good time.
Well, that good time didn't last too long. Kings cracked twice, opponents hitting their lower kickers, and an assortment of excuse-less poor play wiped me out like a hole in the gas tank. It was a rare hand that wasn't raised or three/four-bet preflop, so even the unmemorable hands were costing me. Into the wallet for some more of those previously cashed-in chips, then into the wallet again, and then one final time.
So I've just gotten crushed once more in late position, when that third spade did, in fact, give my opponent the flush. One missed flop later and I'm looking at one final green chip, $25. I'm asking myself why I didn't just leave when the table broke, all those losing hours ago. I could have had a fine meal, headed over for a look at the ocean...so many opportunities, and all I had to do was leave. I decided that I'd give myself this final go around the table to see if I could pick up pocket aces or something, and if not, I'd take that lonely green chip and get myself some dinner. I threw away pocket 2's in middle position only to see a deuce fall on the turn. I threw away a bunch of crap. And then I was under the gun.
This was it: if I didn't find something right now then I definitely wasn't going to waste my money on the blinds. I mean, $25 is still $25, and I was hungry. So I looked down to find...the 9 & 5 of hearts. Ugh. But...well...it's my last hand, so why not try limping in and hope I get lucky? $19 is $19, too. So I limp, only to watch in horror as it's raised and reraised behind me. Figuring that my hand isn't really in danger against the premium hands I call the bet, and it's, of course, capped by the original raiser. And folks, one lonely white chip is not even $1.
The first thing I notice about the flop: at least there's one heart. The next: hey, I have an open-ended straight draw! Then..waitaminnit...I have two open-ended straight draws which means...I have a straight! Yep, the flop was 678. I throw in that last white chip and watch as the board pairs the six and then the seven...but no worries, I win the hand (pocket queens takes the side pot) and quintuple up.
I decide to play another round and immediately get pocket Kings in the big blind. It's capped again, but this time there's nobody playing crap straights and I take down another monster. In two hands I've gone from looking for my coat to almost $300, and it doesn't stop there. Not long after I pick up pocket tens and decide to only smooth-call the raise. I don't hit trips on the flop...I hit quads. It's checked around, and on the turn a King falls. The other two players each hit their King and the original raiser (who hit his King) bumps it up before me and ends up paying off for a raise on the river. It was beautiful.
With that and another small win or two, I realized I had won back everything that I had lost during those nightmare hours, and even a few measly chips more â€” enough for breakfast, at least. And while I've had bigger wins than the $10 I eventually finished ahead, I can't think of too many better ones.<-- Hide More
Still running pretty well, winning more than I'm losing, though one spectacularly awful trip down to Atlantic City (spread out between the Taj and the Trop) wiped out the gains from four straight up sessions. Even with that nightmare (and is there any drive longer than that trip up the Parkway after a crushing?), I'm still feeling pretty positive.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Made my way to Foxwoods with a non-poker-playing friend Saturday night. Went to check out the World Poker Finals action, thinking I might play a small-limit game for a half-hour so my friend could watch... well, it's probably a combination of the tourney and Mohegan Sun closing their room, but I've never seen a room so packed in my life. We're talking lists of upwards of 30 people for the low-limit games...sheer insanity. I talked to somebody later who busted out of the 10:00 a.m. tourney at around 11:15, and then had to wait four hours to get into a live game. I did see Men "The Master" Nguyen, though.
Anyway, no great lessons to be learned, so I thought I'd run through a few amusing notes from my recent play.
I have a new tool for the tables, something I put together recently that I hope will help me more than some random good-luck charm or card protector. It's a white disk, about the size of an air-hockey puck or dealer's button, with "THINK" printed on it in big red letters.
It's a bit silly and I've already gotten a few comments, but I'm hoping it'll buy me those extra seconds that can mean saving or not missing a bet, seconds that remind me that poker is a game of the eyes and the brain, not the hands and heart.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Two quick examples:
In middle position with King-Jack suited, take the flop five-handed. The flop comes KT5 rainbow, checked around to me, I bet. There's a fold and then the rock on the button raises. It's folded around to me and I immediately call the bet.
Had I taken five seconds to think about the situation I would have thought: this guy is a rock's rock, one that makes other rocks change tables, the kind of guy who last tried a bluff during the Carter administration, it didn't work out, and hasn't tried since. What did I think he was in the hand with, forget throwing in a raise? K9? K8? About the only worse King I could even imagine him having is KT, giving him two-pair. The only conceivable draw would be QJ, and if that, why raise? If he had AA, AK, or KK he would have raised preflop, so the most likely hand is...KQ, which I proceeded to pay two large bets in order to see after the river.
Now, I suppose even knowing all this I might have still called his raise (even though the odds weren't really there) to see the turn, but the point is that I was on poker-autopilot and none of this entered my mind until I reverse-engineered it on the showdown. My failure to take five seconds to think cost me at least two big bets.
Here's a happier example. I raise pre-flop in early position with two red aces, get two dangerous loose-aggressive callers who have been part of about 90% of the hands, plus the big blind. The flop comes down AT9 with two clubs, great but still dangerous -- one of these guys could easily have two clubs, QJ...hell, they could have 87. I bet out only to see it raised and then, after a quick look, reraised! What the? The big blind folds and then with my best Olivier pained expression I call, as does the middle player.
There's a lot of cards I don't want to see, but the turn is a beautiful, board-pairing ten. Checked to the three-better; bet, call, call. The river is a complete non-flush, non-straight blank (unfortunately), the four of diamonds. I figure that drama class is over and I don't want to risk losing a bet through a check-raise attempt, so I bet out. The middle guy, obviously drawing, folds, leaving my heads-up opponent to raise me. I immediately reraise him, but before the words have left my mouth he has his own reraise on the felt.
Now, what I should have done right there is stopped for a second. Maybe two. Thought about the situation.
Instead, I panicked, while the alarm in my head started screaming QUADS! QUADS! QUADS! Instead of assessing the situation I threw in my call, said "I can't beat quads" and turned over my hand (which he, as the aggressor, should have done first, had I given him the opportunity). He did not have the quads (he mucked his hand, but said that he had T9), and I both missed at least one big bet and instantly erased the strong image I had been trying to build.
Now, had I taken five seconds at the right moment, I would have asked the following: if he had pocket tens, would he have three-bet pre-flop to thin the field, as he had been doing all night with big, and even not-so-big hands? Probably. If he hit his set on the flop, would he have three-bet, possibly knocking my, say, AJ out? Probably not. Then, if he miraculously hit quads on the turn, would he have bet, indicating at least trip tens and possibly scaring away the flush/straight draw? Again, probably not. So given all of this, did he have quads...almost certainly not
All of this only came to me midway through the next hand, though, since I let my hands and mouth take over my play, not giving my brain a chance to work. It's easy to get caught up in a big hand, with a mixture of excitement, anxiety, fear, and adrenaline fogging even the most analytical brain. It's too easy to forget that most important word at the table: THINK.<-- Hide More
Right now I am running good. Great even.
Now, for every report or article about somebody on a rush, you'll probably see a hundred from somebody running bad. For every story you hear about a great hand, you'll probably get 200 bad-beat stories. And there's no surprise why this is so: nobody wants to hear somebody brag, misery loves company, bad-beat stories are more fun to tell, etc. Maybe the biggest one is that people are afraid of jinxing themselves.
But what's poker about if not risking fate a little, hmmm?More in this Poker Blog! -->
Now that we're on the subject, one of the interesting things I've noticed is how rarely my worst sessions seem to correspond with my worst bad beats. When you imagine a terrible night at the tables the hands that spring to mind are usually opponents hitting their longshot kickers or gutshot draws on the river.
But during my Summer of Doom Losing Streak (as it was known to the folks who handle my bank account and credit card cash advances) it was more like the waves slowly washing away the sand rather than a tsunami crashing down and destroying the village. Basically I'd sit down at a table and raise some big-ace hands only to see them miss the flop, fold some middle pocket pairs when overcards fell, hit my top-pair on the flop only to get out-kicked or fold when overcards came on the turn and river...basically the kinds of hands that you can barely remember playing 20 minutes later, except that you look down at your stack and find it about 15 big bets short after less than an hour.
And in the same sort of way, I've had big nights at the table without ever getting a hand higher than two pair. Just a nice steady diet of big-pair big-kicker or aces up to keep that stack building, while that guy who flopped two nut flushes in about five minutes ended up reaching for his wallet within 90. That's kind of what's been happening to me over the last few weeks: just steady session after steady session, playing smart, not forcing the draws, and picking up steady win after win, five straight sessions.
And then came last night.
Folks, I was only playing last night because they had a big screen to watch the Yanks/Sox game; by the time I found out that it was a rainout, I was already there, looking at several tables of $10-$20 players I knew I could beat. I didn't win a hand for the first half-hour...and then I didn't lose one. I don't know how Wilt felt the night he scored 100 or Don Larsen when he pitched his perfect game, but it couldn't have been much different.
Some choice highlights:
There was no lime. Only tequila and salt. I was reaching the point to where I didn't care anymore. A series of drinking contests--primarily consisting of hardcore games of rock-paper-scissors and euchre--was nearing its end. I was losing, despite my deep belief I was a proven winner.
As I licked the salt off the soft part of my hand and gulped the double shot of tequila down, I probably began to forget there was more to winning than winning in the past.
Variance lies in drinking contests as well, my friends.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Friday night should've been a warning to me that bad times were on the horizon. The night of drinking ended badly. I began to re-evalulate the concept of drinking contests at what is becoming an advanced age for me.
It was during this drunken circus that I began to publicly speak for the first time about my success at online poker. Hundred upon hundred of dollars, I gurgled through my tenth beer. It's just too easy, I spat through the bar's smoke.
It was there in the middle of that basement bar that I broke my first rule of superstition: Never talk about it when it's going good.
There are days that define us. There are days that teach us what kind of intestinal fortitude we have. There are days that teach us, we are much weaker than we ever thought we were.
Yesterday (two days after the drinking binge) was one of those days.
I'd take the casual reader through the evening hand-by-hand, but I'm not one to tell bad beat stories too often. Suffice it to say, it was a seven-hour series of getting sucked out on like I was lint in a Hoover Vaccuum factory. The bankroll took a major hit. I'm still way up in online poker winnings, but not nearly as up as I was this time yesterday.
How does this happen? How does a man who has won consistently for the past several months finally hit an evening where he might as well have started burning dollar bills?
I've narrowed it down to two things:
1) I talked about it. Never, ever talk about it. If you're winning money, don't talk about it. If you're losing weight, don't talk about it. Just yesterday, Adam Vinatieri was on the verge of kicking his 34th straight under-40-yard field goal. A lower-screen graphic acknowledged this fact. He shanked it. And shanked the next one as well. The automatic kicker fell apart, because somebody talked about it.
2) Variance. I had never appreciated the high level of variance in online poker. Now I do. I just wish I'd realized it earlier in the evening.
By the end of the night, the hemmoraging slowed and I started to get back on track. Still, the loss hurt me to the point of near unconciousness. If I weren't already playing with other people's money, I'd quit playing all together.
I need to read up on variance. It may be the weakest link in my poker knowledge vault. In one of the ubiquitous poker TV news stories that have hit the air recently, I heard Jennifer Harmon talk about the first time she lost $100K in one night. She said she cried (or wanted to cry). On a much smaller level, I think I know what she means now.
So, a challenge for the poker players out there:
Tell me how to get through this without putting my poker chips in the closet, turning off the computer, canceling any future trips to Vegas, and regressing to Euchre games for shots of tequila.<-- Hide More
With all due respect to CJ, with the preponderance of poker books, articles, and TV shows, knowing some of those terms might mean nothing more than you have cable. To really sound like a true degenerate, you have to be prepared to throw in a few of the following.More in this Poker Blog! -->
But They Were Suited!: Cold-call a pre-flop raise with some absolute trash like Q5c, then hit your kicker on the river to get two pair against pocket kings? It's time for "But They Were Suited!" Sometimes, even when they weren't.
Deuces Never Looses!: Yes, I know how to spell, but that's the pronunciation. And I know that deuces often do lose, but it is true that they are almost never shown when they lose. I've shown pocket queens many time only for them to lose, but I can't recall ever showing a pair or trips of 2's...which gives you a fine opportunity to belt out the line.
Flop Lag: You raise with your AQs only to see the flop come 678 of hearts. The next hand the flop is AAQ or all clubs, giving you the perfect chance to complain of "Flop Lag" to your neighbor.
Pot Odds: This term actually has a real meaning, but for standard lower-limit table play you only need to know that if there's a lot of chips in the pot, you can pretty much justify any lousy draw, at least after you win.
You Play That Shit?: The river comes down, you bet, he calls. You turn over your AJ for top pair good kicker. There's a pause before he turns over...AJ! Everybody chuckles, and as the dealer divides the pot it is absolutely mandatory for you to say "You Play That Shit?" to him.<-- Hide More
Someone stopped by today looking for "how to sound like you know poker." Well, Up For Poker aims to please.
When it comes to sounding like you've been to a final table at the World Series of Poker, it's all about the slang.
Here's just a small Poker dictionary you should overuse at the Hold 'Em poker table if you want to sound like a pro (feel free to add more in the comments):More in this Poker Blog! -->
All-In: Putting all of your remaining chips in the pot. Ex. Randy regretted going all-in when CJ held the nuts.
Back Door: This describes a hand in which the final two cads (the turn and the river) fill either a straight or a flush. Ex. We both went all-in with a pair of jacks, but when the third and fourth heart hit the board, it filled his backdoor flush and I went home crying.
Bad Beat: This describes a hand in which a statistically superior hand loses to an inferior hand. Ex. It was a bad beat when my pocket aces lost to 7-2 offsuit. I went home crying.
Big Slick: Having an Ace and a King as your hole cards. Ex. When I looked down at Big Slick in my pocket, I had to go all-in.
Bottom Pair: When one of you hole cards matches the lowest card on the board. Ex. I don't usually bet the bottom pair, but the other guy had bluffed a lot.
Bullets: A pair of Aces in the hole. See also: Rockets
Button: The seat directly to the right of the dealer. This player will act last in each betting round after the first. Ex. I would not have played a pair of 4's except that I was sitting on the button.
Catch: Often goes along with "bad beat" when a player with only a few outs catches one of those cards to win the hand. When a player tells you, "Nice catch," what they really want to say is, "You lucky bastard."
Cowboys: A pair of Kings in the hole. Ex. My Cowboys were gold when another King came on the flop.
Fish: A bad player. Remember, if you're not sure which player at the table is the fish, you may be it.
Flop: The first three cards that come on to the table in Hold 'Em. Ex. When three hearts came on the flop, I was worried my Cowboys wouldn't hold up.
Gutshot: An inside straight draw, when a player can only fill their straight with one card. Ex. If I lose to another gutshot, I'm taking my chips and going home.
Hole: Your first two cards in Hold 'Em. Ex. I love getting Big Slick in the hole.
Kicker: The highest unpaired card in your hand. Ex. We both had a pair of Aces, but my King kicker won me the pot.
Muck: Throwing your hand into the pile without showing them. Ex. When I showed the nut flush, he just mucked his cards knowing he had lost.
Nut(s): The best possible hand. Ex. When I flopped the nut straight, I was just hoping no flush draw or pair hit the board on the turn or the river.
Pocket: The two cards dealt face down. Ex. When I looked down at two sevens I hoped this pocket pair would finally win me a pot.
Rainbow: When the three or four cards on the board are all of a different suit. Ex. My straight looked a lot better considering the flop was a rainbow.
River: The last of five community cards.
Rockets: A pair of Aces in the hole.
Set: Three of a kind when two of the cards are in your hand. Ex. I finally flopped a set when a 4 hit the board to go with my pocket pair.
Slowplay: To underplay a very strong hand as to induce more people to bet. Ex. I slowplayed my pocket rockets only to lose to a flush draw.
Tilt: When a player begins betting indiscriminately after a particularly bad loss. Ex. After that bad beat, he went all-in and I figured he was on tilt.
Top Pair: When a card in your hand matches the highest card on the board.
Turn: The fourth of five community cards. Ex. When a club came on the turn, I had the nuts.<-- Hide More