Good things come to those who play tight

The Good: Flopping the nut flush on a $15-30 table, being bet into the whole way, and pulling in a $387 pot.
The Bad: Turning a full house, and having the board double pair on the river. $109 pot is split to the two fools holding a higher full house.
The Ugly: Tilting away a total of $300 after getting rags for an hour.

It began a cold and stormy night on the $3-6 tables. Our hero was mucking rag after rag, and became so bored he started semi-bluffing and drawing to hands that the pot odds didn’t justify. The poker gods punished him, dealing him a few bad beats and not pairing his big offsuits. They looked on him in scorn and he felt their laughter rain down on him, as pixellated chips magnetically were drawn to fishy players.

Our hero drew comfort from the instant messages from another chip warrior. He laughed bitterly as he wallowed in the river, and vowed to get his revenge.

So he asked the poker gods for mercy, and sat with the mighty and the bigger fish at the $15-30 tables. He resolved to play correctly, taking few chances. He mucked and mucked, hoping to see a big pair before the blinds came around again. There were a few sharks, and several fish, and he roamed above the waters, waiting to pounce. His second hand, he took a chance and called a raise from the SB with pocket 2s. But no 2 on the flop, so he humbly mucked, and the poker gods were content. The orbit completed, and he was down $45. He resolved to play one more orbit, and hoped for a single big hand.

Rag after rag, he mucked anxiously. His time was running out. 3 more hands until the BB would end his session. The first card was the mighty Ace of spades… and he found his hand filled with the 8 of spades and had to quickly decide whether to call or fold. The player UTG limped before him. He figured this was his last chance, and hesitantly called. The table was respecting calls from early position, and he hoped he could limp in to a multiway pot.

To his dismay, it was folded around to the SB, who raised. But the BB called, along with the UTG limper, so he called the raise, making it 4-way. The computer hummed, and his heart leapt as he saw the black cards hit one after the other. He had flopped the nut flush. Thank you poker gods.

He pondered how to extract the maximum number of bets. But before he could think, the SB bet out, and was called by the 3 limpers. He smooth called, waiting for the turn to raise.

But the turn was another spade, making his hidden flush less valuable. The SB bet out, one call, one fold. To raise or not to raise? He didn’t want to scare anyone out, and figured that he could get another bet and call on the river, so he just called.

The river was the horrible, ugly, 5 of spades. Not only was a straight 4-flush on the board, but it killed his action. He didn’t fear the 4-flush, but sadly watched the 2 players check to him. He bet, and was called… the SB showing AQ, with the queen of spades as the $387 pot finally floated his way.

#325217303: hdouble wins $387 from the main pot with a flush, ace high with ace kicker.

I’m not sure if I should have raised the turn, but hey, I’ll take it. That one hand turned a $300 losing session to a $100 loss in a matter of minutes. For the record, I was drinking Guinness #2 when the I hit the hand (currently imbibing number 4). Regular, not extra stout, like one NL multi-fiend and guinness addict prefers.

Although I don’t recommend this desperation style of poker, I do have to say that playing at the outer reaches of your bankroll is guaranteed to make you play more solid poker. “You gotta play where it hurts to lose!” says Doyle, and I think good players perform better when the stakes are higher. I know I play sloppier at the lower levels, rationalizing drawing to pots that aren’t laying good odds with the thought “it’s only $3”. I have to remedy this quickly.

One of the best scenes in Woody Allen’s movie “Sweet and Lowdown” is when Sean Penn (playing the idiotic musical prodigy) enters a small-town talent show and blows away the hicks with his masterful guitar playing. They refuse to give him the cash prize, as he is obviously a hustler. His buddy tells him, “Why do you have to play so good?” Penn replies, “I can’t remember the tunes if I don’t play good.”

The main leak in my game is impatience. If I go several orbits without picking up a playable hand, I loosen up a bit, and find myself playing hands like QTo from early position. This leak is getting expensive. If I get 1 playable hand per orbit, I can stay sharp… I think this is why playing 2 tables helps my game. You’re almost guaranteed to get a playable hand out of the 20 you are dealt in the single 2-table orbit.

Mrs. Double starts the new job at the posh Beverly Hills Hotel on Monday. So we’re both off this weekend. What should we do to celebrate? You guessed it, VEGAS! Well, state line anyway. We’re taking off tomorrow morning and will be staying at Buffalo Bill’s, one of three small casinos on the Nevada state line, about 3.5 hours from LA. It saves us an hour by not driving all the way to Sin City, and yes, there is a poker room. The game is 1-4-4-8 spread, which I don’t like, but at least you get to see more hands (a max of $4 to see the flop makes the implied odds quite good). It’s been a long time since I’ve sat in a B&M, so it will be cool to play a lot of hands.

But I can’t miss the games tomorrow, so hopefully we can beat the traffic and get there before the morning game.

Check back on Sunday for the report.

Don’t let the fish bite ya, and don’t forget to ram and jam.

Never marry your big pocket pair

After 3 winning sessions, I was due for a loss. Party’s hand history isn’t working, but I think I ended up down $100 after 100 hands. I played pretty well with the rags I got, but got burned on JJ and QQ when I couldn’t muck them even though I knew when I was beat. I really felt the grind– mucking 90% of your hands isn’t much fun. I did win a big pot with rockets… as usual, the only time I got them was on the blinds. What’s up with that?

But the loss didn’t get me down, because I got a postcard that made my day. The Grubster fought off the flu bug to get to his mailbox, and let me tell you, the Grubster is quite a looker. The postcard shows him in action, check raising some poor sap. I’ll forgive him the Andy Warhol stamp, maybe the flu got to his head.

Playoff Picks
The linemakers did a good job this weekend, and I don’t like any of the spreads, but I wanted some action. I like my under bet better, but I’m hoping Peyton can pull it out at KC. Me and Peyton were academic All-Americans at the same time (yeah, he was a big shot on a top DI team, and I played DIII, but so what?), so I’m hopin his brain will continue to lead the Colts to victory.

Carolina at St. Louis UNDER 45
Originally I had the Pack at St. Louis, but Dallas stayed home last week so it changes the matchups. The Rams are so tough at home, and Carolina’s D will keep the game low scoring. I can see a Ram blowout, 27-10, or a low-scoring battle, but I don’t see the total going over 45. I’m keeping an eye on Bulger and Faulk… if these guys come to play, the Rams could win it all.

Indy (+3) at KC
I’m waffling on my original prediction here, after Peyton’s masterful play calling last week (he’s one of the few QBs that calls his own plays) and the Indy special teams. The Chiefs win by capitalizing on their opponents mistakes, and I think Peyton interceptions or Edge fumbling could lose it for the Colts, but I don’t see it happening.

Those are my sportsbook picks. In the other 2 games, I’ll stick with my original prediction for Tennessee at NE, with the caveat is that you should never bet against Belichek:
–Titans at Patriots
Ahh the Pats. Belichek is my man, and I’m rooting for New England, but I really think Brady’s knee is a lot worse than they are letting on. They’ll brace him up, but the tough Tennessee D-line will pressure him all game. The Pats are outclassed by half the teams in the league talentwise, and there are only so many rabbits Belichek can pull out of his hat. However, he does have an extra week to prepare… I’ll be rooting for the Pats, but I think the Titans will take this one.

–Green Bay at Philly
Game of the weekend. Favre against McNabb. The Eagles are suspect. They have been consistent all year, but McNabb is the 16th rated QB in the NFL and doesn’t have much in the way of receivers to work with. If Favre and Green get rolling, I like the Pack. In a close one, I think the destiny talk continues next week as GB capitalizes on McNabb turnovers.

In sad television, I kept an eye on “Extreme Makeovers” as I was mucking uncontrollably on Party. This has got to be one of the most appalling shows ever. They butcher some poor woman, and then she returns home to her family to reveal the new face. The crying and outbursts of “this is the greatest day of my life!” from all involved really disturbs me. Maybe this is one reason for my poor play… I was dreaming of getting implants…

Live by the overcards, die by the pocket pair

Just busted out 3rd in a $30 NL SNG. I was playing well, and catching cards, despite the fact that I’m exhausted. I haven’t been sleeping well and it caught up to me today, so my tentative plan to hit Hollywood Park was foiled by tiredness. I took it easy and actually watched “The Simple Life”, which was somewhat enjoyable and appalling at the same time. Could they have found more annoying girls? And do people really think Paris Hilton is hot? By the way, please click on the poll to your right… I’m interested to find out how much poker experience exists in the blogger community. Are we ever gonna get that blog game goin???

But back to the tourney… there were 2 or 3 solid players in the game, but the rest were calling stations or weak tight. Here’s the summary:
–Second hand in, T40 to see the flop. I fold, but several call. Flop is all spades, 4 5 9. 3 people go all in! I figure somebody’s got trips, and somebody’s got a set… turn pairs the board with a 9, and the river 7c, and the winner takes down T2500 with quad nines! Ouch. The other guy had KJs, and the third? 88, with one spade. This gave the guy a monster chip lead, and he remained chip leader for the rest of the tournament.
–10 hands in I get Big Slick offsuit (TFG might call this “Walkin back to Houston” like TJ Cloutier… if you don’t hit an Ace or a King…) and end up pushing all in when a king flops. Other guy has KQo, and I will be flying first class to Houston… I double up early and can wait it out until the blinds go up.
–I get AQd and raise it up 3x the BB, and the BB calls. I flop the flush and think how I can extract chips from this guy… surprisingly he goes all in, and I can’t click call fast enough. 750 more chips, and I’m in great shape.
–I make 5 or 6 steals as the table tightens up, and I’m in second with 1800 chips. Big stack from early has 3000.
–Big Slick offsuit one off the button, I raise it up 500 and this chatterbox who has been talking all day says he’s got 77 and finally calls. King comes on the turn, and I was just one jack off from hitting the straight. Like you haven’t heard that one before. This puts me up to T3200, giving me the chip lead for the first time all tourney. There are 4 players at this point, and 2 of them are at least decent, so I have to be careful…
–One guy goes out and doubles up the best player at the table, who’s only got 1667.
Ok, so here’s the big hand. I need your opinions…
Seat 4: ReverendIke (3023)
Seat 8: thepokerguru (1667)
Seat 10: hdouble (3310)

I get pocket tens in the BB. Great. Ike raises 600. I know that he is a little loose, and may be on a steal here. I want him to fold, so I raise it 1200, half my stack, and hope I don’t have to mess with this hand post flop. But Ike calls, and the flop is 5c 9s Jc. Would Ike call 900 chips with a small pair? Maybe. But most likely he’s got overcards, AK or even AQ, or maybe a suited ace. These are much more likely starters that would be raised… I debate and become the anti-Hellmuth, and push all in. I want him to fold his AK or flush draw, and there’s no way he can call unless he’s already got me beat. I’ve got a longshot straight draw and a longshot flush draw giving me a couple more outs… and I think my hand is best at this point. Ike quickly calls, and I can only hope for AK. The turn is old Saddam himself, the Ace of spades. I figure only a river 10 can save me… but no help, and Ike surprises me with AJo. I just didn’t put him on AJ, although clearly this is a reasonable hand to have put him on. So he had two overcards and busted me.

Looking back at this play I think it was quite bad. If I had thought about it, I would realize that I had no reason to risk all my chips in what was most likely a coin flip situation. He hadn’t shown himself to be a very good player, so rather than flip a coin, I could have used my big stack and steals to build up my chip lead. The Hellmuth approach is correct here– if you feel you have a skill advantage over several other players at the table, do not risk all your chips in marginal situations. I believe Poker Penguin addressed this a while back.

But I’ll blame it on tiredness. What do y’all think?

I’m about to pass out but wanted to encourage people to check out Royal’s Poker Blog, passed on by that multi-table freak Iggy. Royal is on a quest to play 10K hands at .50/1 and win 2BB/Hour. Talk about a grind. Or, have a guinness and read about Iggy’s journey to the top of the Party multi-table circuit. The only good advice I ever gave Igs was to test the multi table circuit. I don’t dare to suggest that the extra stout is not even close to the new bottles with the widgets in them…

My main man Paul got screwed by the Chicago snowstorm. Hopefully that will give him more time to storm the .50/1 Party tables.

The Penguin is ramblin and gamblin up at the $10-20 tables, check out his wild ride. I share TFG’s frustration with the web architecture at medium and large sized companies… Tell ’em Scott:
“This whole thing is held together with naught but baling wire, chewing gum, jackasses on support desks doing zippo to resolve your problem, and a swift hard kick in the gonads of the server of your choice.”
Amen. It’s amazing how much babysitting and manual junk our webmaster (and now me as well sometimes) does every day. Write some code!

Check out Sean’s NFL picks… they are good ones.

Last night I found the infamous Daniel Rentzer had commented on one of my posts after I mentioned him as one of the most interesting WPT players:
“Anyways I saw my name on here and read was written about me, and wanted to state that the story is true. I did manage to do what I said I did regarding online poker. However there were many other things besides online poker that led to my success, it all added up to what it did.”
If you haven’t read Daniel’s story, check out his post, “How PokerStars changed my life” to see how a longshot kid got to the final table at the WPT with Gus Hansen.

To sleep perchance to dream… the rub is actually that I’m not playing enough poker. Don’t play tired…

Weird PokerTracker Stat of the day:
I have 13,154 hands in PT. 61 of these (this is almost exactly 1/220 hands) are AA. The wierd part: 21 (1/3) of my AA have been received in the blinds. Coincidence? You decide!

Not born a ramblin man

Well I’m pressed for time at work today, but I thought I would try something different. I usually like my posts to be relatively well thought-out, and have some overall theme. Today I figured I’d try rambling stream-of-consciousness style and clear my the thought cache” in hopes of allowing more interesting thoughts to fill up my head.

The Wife flew to Vegas this morning, and will be staying at New York, New York for 2 nights. The whole package cost $300. I’ve trained her to avoid the flashy slots and stick to video poker, where the EV is slightly positive if you play correctly. But the odds are, she’ll end up pulling the old lever at “Wheel of Fortune” or another of Grubby‘s flashy favorites. If she hit’s the big one, I’ll probably end up living in a poker room somewhere in Europe…

Up $120 last night after 100 hands in $3-6. $50 of this came from a $3-6 table that was down to 3 players… I played 3 hands, and won all three. I took some guys last dollar when a queen hit the river and I paired my AQ for a nice suckout after he flopped a pair of tens (hey, AQ heads up ain’t bad). I’m feeling really comfortable at the tables, and I’ve had several excellent sessions in a row. But because we’ve had company, I haven’t played a session longer than an hour or so. I may make my return to Hollywood Park tonight or tomorrow (I’m free!) to conquer the wild games that drove me to playing Party exclusively. May the poker gods be more kind this time.

I watched the USC-Michigan and LSU-Oklahoma bowl games last week. These were the first college games I had seen all season, and reminded me why I don’t watch college ball. Michigan’s offense was just horrible, and their QB couldn’t even check off the primary receiver to the second option. I really think that the majority of college coaches are very, very bad, especially the offensive coordinators. I think both of these games had teams of equal talent level, but the difference was simply coaching. The Michigan and Oklahoma offenses were stiff and inflexible, and when their opponents forced them to throw, the Mich/Ok QBs looked like they were playing sandlot ball. A successful offense is very systematic– a good quarterback knows where to look when the primary is covered. Check down to secondary. Then to the third option. Then throw the ball away or run with it. These guys were like deer in headlights.

Peyton Manning on the other hand looked like a wizard. He knew exactly what Shanahan was bringing, and just torched the Bronco D. Read, recognize, and react. Peyton’s neurological processing is on a whole different level than say, Quincy Carter.

I was 2-0 on my bets, and 3-1 on my picks. Carolina really came to play, and Dallas didn’t. I thought Parcells might pull another rabbit out of his hat, but he didn’t have much to work with.

I’ve taken my NFL bankroll from $100 to $700. Hopefully I can get it up to $1K during the playoffs, and then everyone bets on the super bowl, making it a very easy game to pick (although I got burned last year, I hate Bill Callahan!).

KD down in Texas sent me an email telling me to increase the size of my font (yeah, it was too small) and also pointing out an outstanding blog. Check out TableTango for an up close and personal look with the high rollers at Bellagio, brought to us by Linda, a dealer there. Linda knows how to write, and brings us the antics of Grizzle and the genius of Lederer. Check out her new year’s post to see who’s better, Damon or Affleck.

Boy Genius is a blogging machine. It took my entire 20 minute lunch break to catch up on his latest round of posts. BG gives some honest advice to women about how to get a man, and does so with untarnished optimism:


Win big, lose small

Okay, a lot of my favorite reading has been polluted by Vegan bashing, and I’m hoping I get to read about poker soon. I agree with The Fat Guy, who thinks good writers shouldn’t waste their time with idiots:

“Anyone that can use the phrase ‘fellow mammals’ with a straight face doesn’t deserve the attention paid to him thus far, much less a rational counterargument.”

Amen to that.

Yours truly is a bit worn out after a weekend jaunt 4 hours north to Hearst Castle and Wine Country. I’m not a foodie– in fact, I’ve been mocked many a time by friends for my motto that “food is fuel.” I use food for energy… and while I enjoy eating (sometimes), I’ve chosen to spend more time on things that I feel are more important (football, poker, reading, writing, etc.). Sometimes I wish I could share other people’s enthusiasm for food– we’ve got to eat, so why not enjoy it to the fullest? But a steak and potato tastes just as good to me as the recipe of a famous French chef. Unlike certain other folks who will tell you how and what to eat, I respect a person’s choice to enjoy whatever food they want… it’s just that personally, I can’t get excited about different wine flavors or a gourmet chef’s cooking.

That said, the wine tasting was fun. We only made it to a few wineries, and I was driving, but it was kind of like a high class pub crawl. The wife thoroughly enjoyed it, so it was time well spent. This was my first trip to that area, and I was blown away by the amount of open land on the central coast. We were about 10 miles inland of the Pacific, and there were more cows than people. Stretches of beautiful landscape for miles and miles, which soothed my nerves, on edge thanks to the concrete jungle of LA. I’m from a small suburb in Connecticut, and it had been a long time since I’d seen anything that resembled “nature”.

Hearst Castle was something else. Beautiful and decadent, but all in all a big waste of money.

Back to poker. We drove home on the Pacific Coast Highway, which wound its way along the Pacific through several very small towns. My eyes nearly popped out of my head as we drove through a town that must have had a population of 5,000, and I saw the good old symbols of the four suits painted on a window. “Oceana Card Room” the sign read, and it must have been the smallest card room I’d ever seen. I was really tempted to stop, but the odds of a game going on Sunday morning were probably not good. I found this tidbit on the web “Brook’s Oceana Card Room has 3 total table games”. 3 tables! I doubt I’ll never make it back that way again, but if I do, I’ll be sure to stop.

PartyTime: Had a short session that netted $124 for 73 hands, or 28 BB per 100 hands. Both tables were very loose, and my profit came from hitting two big hands, and bailing out early if the flop didn’t hit me. The big hands were as follows:
–$76 after flopping the nut flush with KT in the BB. Some idiot capped the turn and river after an Ace hit the turn. He had A8o, for top pair weak kicker. Where do they get these guys?
–$66 after slowplaying a set of twos in a multiway pot.

I also won 4 or 5 smaller pots (5 BB not including my bets) just playing my top pair aggressively.

I’ve heard it said before, but I am really starting to agree that the low-limit winner’s profit comes from his ability to lose money well. Once you gather an appropriately tight set of starting hands, and play “fit or fold” poker, you gain extra bets by folding when you accurately assess where you stand in the hand. The successful low limit player is good at identifying situations when there is a reasonable probability that his hand is beaten. Everyone will suffer suckouts and bad beats, but the real profit comes from the correct play facing a check-raise on the turn, or saving a bet when your nut flush is in trouble when the board pairs on the river.

Its obvious that knowing when you are beaten is important in low-limit poker. But I think by constantly working to put players on hands and saving bets in situations where we are marginal favorites, we can increase our win rate by at least a big bet an hour.

Maybe that wine got to my head. Back to real poker this week, and better blogging!

Pick of the day: Hellmuth’s Home?