After 2 straight losing sessions at Hollywood Park, I sat down at the $6.12 table hungry for a win. Before I start, you need a little background. This is real California no fold em hold em, even at the $6.12 level. Depending on the table, usually there are 4-8 players seeing the flop, and you’ll often see 5 players going to the river because the pots are so big. These wild games have been killing me: if you get caught chasing draws all night, and none of them hit, you’re in big trouble. Anyway, I was relieved when only 3 players limped in, and figured that I was probably the favorite with Ato in the Big Blind. When an ace hit the flop, I bet out and everyone immediately mucked their hands. What??? They folded??? I must be in the wrong place. All 3 players, and not one of them had an ace! Amazing. I happily stacked the small pile of chips, realizing that the wild players must not come out on Wednesday nights. I play much better in tighter games, since it is much easier to put people on hands. It’s also a lot less frustrating, because your good hands have more than a 30% chance of winning
Another, perhaps more profitable, form of gambling that I like to participate in is sports betting. I believe that with a small amount of research, a bettor can get a small edge on certain games. Being an ex-football player, my best sport is of course football, although I do ok at basketball as well. I think that the handicappers are often too stat-based– most of the games I bet on are decided by a touchdown or more, so a 6 point spread isn’t as big a deal as the handicappers make it out to be. I like to fade the weak teams, especially teams with weak QBs. Kordell Stewart has won me a fair bit of money this year.
So how have I done this year? Well, I started out great– 12-2 in September! My picks were made after reading game summaries and a few good NFL columns, but with limited watching of the games. I don’t have cable, so I usually catch one or two games on the network, but that’s it… I experimented with creating a neural network to predict nfl game results, and even trained a small version, but I figured that the handicappers are already doing this… if you’re going to beat the house, it’s not going to be by out-programming them, it’s going to be by finding weaknesses in their algorithms.
Anyway, of course my luck had to settle down, and I’m 6-7 in October (losing 4 games in the final minute), for a total of 18-9. I think the linemakers have been doing better, and there are fewer chances to get an edge. However, I think they have made several mistakes for this weekend. Here are my picks, in order of confidence:
Carolina over New Orleans, Money line (+120)
I’m amazed by this line. Carolina coming off a bad week against a tough Tenn. team, and NO off a blowout of the lowly Bears, and the linemakers make the 3-4 home Saints a favorite over the 5-1 Panthers. Sure Carolina has no passing game. Sure their QB is Jake Delhomme (who I actually think looks decent so far). Sure Stephen Davis was held to 20 yards on 11 carries by Tennessee. BUT THESE ARE THE SAINTS! Their 3 wins are against Chicago, Atlanta, and Houston! The best explanation of the line is that it was 19-13 in Carolina, and HeHateMe had a 100 yard kickoff there. But I just think the Panthers are so much better than NO. They will pound the ball and get their field goals and win easy.
Seattle over Cincinatti, Seattle -1.5
Yeah I know, Marvin Lewis has the Bengals believing in themselves and Seattle is overrated. Fine, but Seattle is a classic team that beats up on average/bad teams and does not do well against good teams. The Seattle offense will eat up the weak Cinci secondary. Kitna vs. Hasselbeck– showtime!
Unfortunately, I also took the money line on Denver at Baltimore. I say unfortunately because it was announced today that Steve Beurleine is OUT FOR THE SEASON with a dislocated pinkie on his throwing hand. Come on Steve, I have dislocated both pinkies about 5 times, and this is an injury you can play with. Sigh. Still, I think Denver has a good chance if they can stop the Baltimore run, and Jamal has an injured shoulder… but then again, Danny Kanell is now the starter, going up against the beast Ray Lewis and his boys… I think I’m gonna puke…
**new** 2 picks added
After reading John Clayton’s first and ten(the best pregame column out there), I’ve added two more picks.
Tampa Bay over Dallas, TB -6.5
I’ve lost on Tampa twice in the past 2 weeks, one game being the dreaded Indy Monday night comeback… however, Dallas runs a high school offense– Parcells had the Dallas OC dumb it down so that Quincy Carter only has to go down the progression rather than really read the defense. I’m banking on Monte Kiffin to eat this high school offense alive… TB will disguise their coverages, and step in front of a couple passes for INTs. If the TB defense can get 2 turnovers, and the offense doesn’t turn the ball over, I think TB wins by at least a TD.
Tennessee over Jacksonville, Tennessee -3.5
McNair at home vs. Leftwich on the the road… hmmm… well, I haven’t seen too much of Leftwich but I am a big fan of the Titan defense. I think they will just be too much for the rookie to handle, especially at home coming off a big win last week. Fisher always prepares Tennessee well, and this game will be no exception.
YIKES! Well monetarily this makes the biggest betting weekend ever: $440 in play on 5 games. It would be quite nice to go 5-0…
No poker yesterday– I watched the Yankees beat the Marlins in the Series to go up 2 games to 1. I think Mariano Rivera brings more focus to the mound than anyone I can remember. I want to be that focused at the poker tables…
Reread Mummert’s excellent Simulation study about starting hands yesterday. Some interesting results from the simulation:
1. AKo is one of the hands that is most sensitive to the number of players contesting the pot. So we should always raise with AKo unless we are sure that our raise won’t knock 1 single player out.
2. The “big suiteds” play just as well in multiway pots as non-multiway pots.
3. Both JJ and TT play BETTER in multiway pots. This one really surprised me.
4. KQs was the 10th ranked starting hand according to the study (I think I have been overplaying this hand)
5. ATs was the 11th ranked starting hand
6. KTs was the 16th ranked starting hand
7. Medium suited connectors win much less often than traditional thinking suggests
I think the way the simulation was carried out gives somewhat strange results, because the players in the sim either went to the showdown, or did not go to the showdown– folding was an option only before the flop. However, it does show the performance of the starting hands against random hands, which allows us to get some sort of line on their strength.
Another limitation of this study is that betting is not simulated. Think about TT. Sure it wins more than its share of multiway pots, but how much money are you going to win if the highest card on the flop is a 9?
Anyway, I’m still on the fence on the debate about not raising with JJ or QQ in very loose no-fold em games. Clearly you aren’t going discourage people from calling with a raise, but you know that you’ve got the best hand pre-flop… it seems like the best strategy is to keep betting while you’ve got the best hand, then be a good enough player to release the hand once you feel you are beaten. I guess there must be some threshold point where you become a big underdog with your JJ and there are 6 limpers in the pot. I would like to see some stats/odds on this, or maybe I should work them out myself… ah well, back to work– the boring way to build the bankroll…
So why dedicate precious hours of life hunched over a card table in complete concentration? I guess it’s because the poker table is one of the few places where concentration and knowledge is immediately rewarded, while mistakes are immediately punished. After giving up football, I needed an arena to compete in, something that required complete concentration to succeed in. There are very few places in life that if you’re not at your best, you suffer… if I come to work tired or unfocused, I can just work harder the next day, and no one will notice. If my workout is not as intense as I’d like it to be, I’m a little frustrated, but there isn’t much noticeable difference in who I am. But at the poker table, mistakes cost you, and cost you immediately. If you’re not focused, you will lose. If you don’t sit down with your best stuff, you are most likely in trouble.
So I guess poker is something that makes me push myself to my limits of concentration and study. There’s a lot of incentive, because unlike work, where a job perfectly done most likely does not result in any financial gain, a good check raise results in an immediate gain in profit. There are no politics in poker– no annoying boss, no coworkers who aren’t doing their job. Poker is purely an individual pursuit, where the player’s results are directly proportional to his knowledge and skill.
Oh yeah, and of course there is some luck involved.
In a lot of ways, poker is like football, and I suppose like life also. I played Tight End on the football field, which meant I was dependent on the quarterback to get me the ball. In poker, you’re dependent on the dealer to give you some cards to play with. The temptation, if you believe that you’re knowledge and skill is greater than your opponents, is to believe that you can beat them with ANY two cards. This is where patience and an understanding of probability theory is extremely useful. On the football field, I learned to keep running my routes as best I could, and keep beating my man, no matter if the quarterback threw to me or not. Eventually, he would hit me, usually for a big play that would have a big effect on the outcome of the game. At the poker table, I’m learning that you wait for an edge to appear, and then you push that edge as hard as you can. I think this is true in life as well– although in the long run, success comes down to knowledge and skill, there is a lot of luck involved. At the poker table, unlike in life, it’s very difficult to create your own opportunities, so you have to exercise your patience until an opportunity arises. In life, you can sometimes create an opportunity by pushing your skills, but the ability to recognize a good opportunity is a talent. In poker, winners wait patiently until a solid opportunity arises, and then make the most out of that small advantage.
Well, it weren’t pretty, but I managed to come back after getting my butt kicked on a super tough $5.10 table to book a huge win of $8 in a short session of 1 hour (2 tables simultaneously, so 2 hours total). All stats for this journal brought to you by pokertracker— if you don’t have this stat tracker, spend the $40 and get it– it’s by far the best software tool out there (perhaps challenged by Wilson’s Turbo Texas Hold ‘Em, but that’s for another log). Here are the highlights:
The good: caught some cards at this table in my short stay of 14 hands
Table 3   13 minutes   +93
$34 came from pocket kings, which I 3 bet a good player’s raise pre-flop, and no overcards came.
$33 came from ATo… after a Ten came on the flop, the hand held up as a guy with K7 tried to bluff me off the hand.
$29 came as AK suited held up on the river with high card ace in a heads up match with QJ
The OK: 6.5 BB in my hour, I guess that’s pretty good… just solid poker here
Table2   55 minutes   +60
$39 as ATo held up after an ace flopped
$20 from a lucky river queen which gave me trip queens after an AK hit the flop. The loser had KJ, and let me see the river for free.
$25 after flopping 2 pair with AJ and everyone folds on the turn
$47 after flopping 2 pair with Q9s heads up… loser had QJ
The important thing was that I had no big losses– biggest loss was $20 after my A9 was beaten heads up… no help from the board
The Bad: tough, tough table and a few mistakes made for a whoopin
Table 1   36 minutes   -145
(-$25) after trying to steal with JTs and trying to hit the gutshot after the flop 🙁
(-$35) after flopping 2 pair with Q9 in a preflop steal raise, and the winner flopped the straight with KJ
(-$20) after Q8 in the BB goes down to Q9s UTG when 2 queens flop. I was actually lucky here as my check-raise on the turn failed. An ace on the board too.
My only real win ($23)at this table was on the first hand, when I flopped a Queen high flush in the BB, although everyone folded on the turn.
Looking at the above, I guess the 2nd two losing hands I played correctly, just got extremely bad luck… The first hand was just horrible. I should have ran away from this table after a few orbits after a few late position preflop raises stole the blinds…
Summary: A decent session, nothing to be ashamed of. My game is still tightening up, and I am still developing my ability to “feel” an opponent’s hand based on bets and raises. I think my biggest weakness is extracting the maximum number of bets in shorthanded play with a good, but not great hand. This is a product of the wild games at Hollywood Park– if you slowplay there, you are dead, and it’s carrying over to my online play. However, “letting people catch up” is extremely dangerous, and requires an excellent read on your opponent(s) in order to make it profitably, so I’ll keep playing straightforwardly for a while.
I’ll take the $8 and 100 more hands toward the Empire $100 bonus…