Doubling up and Dylanesque Poker

“No, maybe I can’t win. Maybe the only thing I can do is take everything he’s got. But to beat me, he’s gonna have to kill me. And to kill me, he’s gonna have to have the heart to stand in front of me. And to do that, he’s gotta be willing to die himself. I don’t know if he’s ready to do that… I don’t know.”
–Rocky, Rocky IV
Before we get into poker stuff, check out my About Me page which I finally got up. Hopefully I won’t run you off and you’ll come back when you’re done.
It’s Showtime!
Pauly‘s training regimen made me realize that I had a lot of catching up to do for The Grublog Poker Classic, so I’m still catching my breath from a 2 mile jaunt. I hadn’t run for about a month, and my pre-training meal of taco bell may end up all over the keyboard before this post is over. Everytime my feet hit the pavement, I repeated my mantra: “HAMMER!”
I think I’m ready to go. My only advantage is that most of the poker bloggers are playing on the East Coast… since the tourney starts at 6 PM Pacific Time, I may be one of the more sober players in the tourney. To add to the insanity, I’ve added a little bonus to the pot: the first person who shows down 88 as a winner gets $50. Oh yeah, there is one more condition: after showing it down, you must type “DOUBLE OCHO GETS PAID!” to collect. Since there will be at least 2 tables, I’ll have to rely on the word of my fellow bloggers if this happens on a table I’m not on.
I tried to sharpen up my game this morning by playing a $30 NL Sit-N-Go on Party, and played pretty well to put myself in second chip position (2300) with 3 other players left (chip leader had 3000). The other two players both had 1500 chips, so it was pretty even. Play tightened up considerably, the usual “I’ll take 3rd” strategy when the table gets short-handed. Of course, I wasn’t havin any of that, and I thought stealing from the button with J9h was a good idea… but the BB called, and I ended up losing 800 chips after folding when an Ace hit on the turn and the BB bet out. I dropped my remaining 1200 chips in the next two hands when I got a free play in the BB and my flush draw missed, and then my all-in QJ did not improve when the BB called me with ATo.
I played pretty badly– 3 mistakes is 3 too many in a SNG, and if not for a couple horrible plays by other players, I would have been out much earlier. I think playing the ring games has made me a little overaggressive… in the SNGs people get pretty desperate even with a medium stack, so if you play tight you’ll eventually catch one of these guys when you’ve got a big hand.
Doubling up
After reading about David Ross’ astonishing results playing multiple tables, I’ve abandoned the single table games and decided to play at least 2 tables simultaneously. Although I feel like this creates a lot of bad habits, it’s a lot more fun, and probably a lot more profitable.
I started the afternoon out with 2 $3-6 tables and quickly dropped $55 in half an hour, although I didn’t play badly. The cards just weren’t coming– both tables were pretty loose, so when the flop didn’t hit me hard with 6 limpers in, I’d fold. If you don’t hit a big hand in these games, your stack will slowly erode. It was looking like the winning streak of 10 straight sessions was over, with a $30 tourney loss, added to $55 on the $3-6 tables.
But the day was young, and I made a run for the border and refueled the brain and body with a nutritious feast at Taco Bell. I really wish there was a Wendy’s around here, but unfortunately they are underrepresented in SoCal. I still don’t understand why these Los Angelenos love those crappy In-and-out burgers and Krispy Creme donuts. People wait in line for HOURS for that crap. Give me a square burger from Wendy’s and I’m all set.
So back to the Party, where I hopped on 2 $5-10 tables. I’d never tried playing 2 of these simultaneously, and it was a bit of a challenge to keep up, especially since the players are super-aggressive and tricky at this level. I’m still blown away by someone who can play 4 tables. My shorthanded game definitely needs work, but after reading Abdul’s short-handed advice, I was ready to play. Abdul rules.
I won’t bore you with the details, but after 2 hours and 321 hands, I ended up $142 to the good. However, I held a lot of cards, and made my fair share of bad plays. I saw an unbelievable 43% of the flops, which tells you what kind of cards I was getting. I loosen up a little bit for the shorthanded games, but not that much… Biggest losers: suited Aces, and Ace-rag. I got killed with AKs also, getting outdrawn twice when the broadway straight arrived at the river. But I am clearly overplaying suited Aces and Ace-rag, as these are tough to play post-flop in a shorthanded game. Often I will raise my Ace high preflop, and bet my naked Ace until I’m raised. If this happens on the turn, it ends up costing a few bets.
I have to say that these games were a ton of fun. There is so much bluffing going on, and reading a player correctly can result in a great call or steal that puts 4 or 5 Big Bets in your pocket. And these plays come up all the time. The swings are huge, and the rivers cruel in these games, but they are a blast.
So I ended up booking a small win of $55 after a rough morning. Oh yeah, one of the best shorthanded players I faced today was named “HAMMERROCKS” and even shouted HAMMERTIME! after he punished my AK with his straight. I had a sneaking suspicion that the mighty Grubby had taken on a new screenname…
The Greatest RGP Post Ever?
The best source of poker news was kind enough to dig up the RGP debate between Erik Seidel and Daniel Negreanu. Negreanu chastised Seidel for hiding his hole cards, saying it’s bad for the game. Seidel shot back at Daniel, calling him a sellout to the WPT. While Negreanu is a flashy young kid who plays to the cameras, Seidel’s been a high-stakes winner for decades. Tall, lanky, and super-smart, Seidel embodies the “pure” poker player, one who doesn’t need sponsorship money to get rich.

In the middle of this debate, Jesse May, the author of “Shut up and Deal,” piped in with what could be my favorite RGP post I’ve read. There’s no strategy or EV charts, but May’s Dylanesque description of the high-stakes poker world is brilliant. Like a lot of Dylan songs, upon first hearing it, I cringed at the author’s attempts to create a shroud of mystery. But it stuck with me, and after rereading it a few times, I’ve begun to appreciate May’s genius.
The more I work, the more I see how the true workers are getting screwed by Management, the rich Corporate Execs who suck the blood of the people who do the real work. So May’s lines resonated deep:
“The men of respect have mostly been rangers. They grew up with
talent, they were burdened with honor, and they banded alone and faded
getting fucked. There have been freight trains of others, cattle cars
in and rib roast going out, and the few mangy cows that avoided the
slaughter bled from the jugular and squealed like pigs before the
devil came down and offered the deal.”

Along the same lines, May gives his respect to the true players:
“There’s poker players out there, stars of the game, men of respect who
hold their tongue and go about their business, because they’ve doing
it since boo… What you think? You think they don’t deserve what’s fair? You think you can tell a man who’s survived the war that the gun is not loaded?”

Ok, one more. May points out that poker on TV is not for the true poker player. No one wants to see someone fold all the time. They want Gus Hansen running a stone cold bluff. Tight players may win the tourneys, and be the favorite of the true players… but looks and wreckless bluffing will win the heart of the rest of the poker audience:
“Where’s all the money that sponsors pay to have their brands associated with the most exciting guy to ever fling two cards and his stack in the pot? You think people want to watch some schmuck who will crumble at the sight
of a raise? Everybody wants to watch the golden hearted lions, watch them flock in the jungle.”

Whew. Great stuff. I’m gonna have to go buy his book. Check out an excerpt from “Shut Up and Deal”, the book that put Jesse May on the poker map.
Good luck to everyone tomorrow in the tourney. I’m looking forward to talking trash to everyone.

Poker Bloggers Unite and Playing Blind

“The pain of losing is diverting. So is the thrill of winning. Winning, however, is lonelier, because those you’ve taken money from are not apt to commiserate with you. Winning takes some getting used to.”
–David Mamet, “The Things Poker Teaches”
Affiliate signups
Ok, some monetary issues to address off the bat. Let’s start out with the issue of affiliate signups and the poker bloggers “getting their due”. LondonFroggy, Grubby, and Ignatius have all addressed the issue of affiliate signups, and I thought I’d jump in the discussion.
I’m not really sure how many players us Bloggers are bringing into the Party/Empire world, but I’m sure that they are making some money off of us. On the other hand, considering how many players they have, the few players we bring in are just drops in the bucket ‘o fish. How can we get noticed by the corporate monsters? Well, it may not be possible, but maybe if we band together, we might make a little splash in that big ol’ bucket. If we could show empire 100 signups, they might be willing to offer some kind of cash sponsorship. Any suggestions?
The streak continues
I haven’t been playing as much as I’d like to be, but the results have been good… $83 last night on 2 tables for a win rate of 9.88 BB/100. And just about all of this came on this hand:
Oops, I forgot that I’ve banned myself from posting hand histories. In reading David Ross’ posts, I’ve found going through 4 rounds of betting somewhat exhausting, and it doesn’t make for good reading. So here is the summarized hand history:
Big Slick of the hearts variety, and two hearts flop (one of them a ten). I ram and jam the entire way, and am called down by JT and T6, no hearts. PartyPoker/Empire rules. $75 profit on this hand.
Relatively uneventful besides that. I think I’m getting better at knowing when I’m beat– I played my last hammer (hopefully), and caught the flop with KK7. Does somebody have a king? I check, early position bets out, and tight player in late position just flat calls. No flush on board, so I have to decide whether my 7 is good. But why would a tight player call here? I fold, and tight player has KK, while early position has 66. Before I would have overplayed that hand and gotten killed by the cowboys.
10 winning sessions in a row, with a win rate of 18.6 BB/100 during the streak. Thanks, Poker Gods.
Play in the blinds
After reading Stick and Move’s gutsy revelation of his 3 biggest weaknesses, I was inspired to do a little leak-finding using the mighty PokerTracker data. After looking at my play from the blinds, I had the suspicion that I was playing too loose– over 15K hands, I’ve folded 70% of my SB hands to a steal, but only 40% of my BB hands to a steal. I usually like to see the flop for 1 more small bet: I think my postflop play is pretty good, and I often think I can outplay the stealer after the flop. So I’ll take a card off with marginal hands.
But overall, the blinds are the only positions where I’m consistently losing money– -.09 Big Bets from the SB, and -.2 Big Bets from the BB. Which I suppose isn’t too bad, but over the winning streak the numbers look like this:
85% folded SB to steal (for an average win of +.36 BB), 27% folded BB to steal (for an average win of +.27 BB).
So loose play in the BB has actually paid off during this streak, but I’ve been hitting flops pretty hard. I consulted a wise online veteran about my blind play, and he suggested that I was playing a little too loose.
So I went to the ultimate authority on preflop play.
“The rankings of hands when defending the big blind versus a raise is quite a bit different than the rankings for opening. You are getting over 3:1 odds to flop something good, or at least a pair. Proper big blind defense strategy varies dramatically depending on the raiser’s minimums. Against typical raises, call liberally with hands that have straight or flush potential, as well as pairs. Get away from big offsuit hands that are likely dominated. 65s is usually on par with KQ here. If flopping a pair won’t do you any good, because the raiser is so tight that he is likely to have a big pair, then fold liberally, especially offsuit hands.”
Hmmm, my big blind play seems more or less in line with Abdul’s advice, but defending 60% against steal raises just has to be too high. I guess I just need to be more aware of who is doing the stealing. Ironically, my biggest loser in the BB is AKs, although I’ve only had it 5 times. I don’t have any epiphanies as to what adjustments need to be made, but I think I’m going to try to tighten up from the BB.
The stages of learning
On my recent run I’ve felt very confident about reading other players. It’s more difficult to do online, but as I get more comfortable with the rest of my game, I think I’m able to focus more on guessing what the other players are holding. I’m going to run Mamet into the ground, but I can’t resist:
“When you are proud of having made the correct decision… you are inclined to look forward to the results of that decsion with some degree of impassivity. When you are so resolved, you become less fearful and more calm. You are less interested in yourself and more naturally interested in the other players: now they begin to reveal themselves. Is their nervousness feigned? Is their hand made already? Are they bluffing? These elections are impossible to make when you are afraid, but they become easier the more content you are with your own actions.”
Perfectly said Mr. Mamet. When you spend less time thinking about which hands you should play preflop, and less time calculating pot odds, you’re free to live in the moment. You can hear the message that the check-raise on the turn is communicating.
Off the top of my head, here is a simplified summary of the stages I’ve gone through in improving my game:
1. Starting hand selection
2. How to play draws (odds of making your hand)
3. Basic hand reading– what preflop raises and checkraises on the turn mean
4. Understanding implied odds and when to ram and jam
5. Tells (in B&M play)
6. Intermediate hand reading– relationships between the board cards and opponent’s raises
7. Profitable bluffs and semi-bluffs
8. Shorthanded play
I left a lot of things out, but I think those are the basic steps. Hopefully I can make the next step soon, whatever it may be. Tighter play in the blinds maybe.
Good luck, and put the time in to evaluate your play– you’ll be a much better player for it.

Rambling about Tournament Profitability

“Knowledge without discipline is wasted, and talent without
knowledge is merely unrealized potential.”

–Lou Krieger
Party NL Sit-n-go Profitability
Short entry today, as I’d like to actually get to play some poker. I’ve been thinking about the profitability of the Party $30 NL sit-n-gos after email exchanges with the infamous Grubby and my buddy RDub. I’ve done pretty well in these games, and although I prefer the limit ring games, my gut tells me that the $30 SNGs may be where it’s at for profitability. Both RDub and Grubby reported finishing in the money 40% of the time (they are both rock solid). RDub’s bottom line:
167 entries
26 1st
23 2nd
66 3rd
As you can see, he plays for first. That gives him an average profit of $9 per tourney– not a huge win rate for 45 minutes or more, but the big win here is the tiny variance that comes with it. Conventional wisdom says that tournaments have extremely high variance, since you either hit it big or get nothing. However, this applies more to tourneys with large fields and strong players, characteristics not applicable to the Party $30 SNGs. You’ll also find lots of RGP posters claiming that the SNGs are a crapshoot because of the rapid increases in blind size, and the relatively low number of starting chips.
Ignoring this, I plugged in RDub’s numbers into the “Risk of ruin” formula, which allows us to determine the probability that we go bust before we double our bankroll. In other words, if we enter 10 $30 SNGs ($300), what are the chances we double up ($600) before we go broke?
I think my math is right, but the surprising answer is this:
There is only a 10% chance that we go bust before we double up.
Of course, this assumes that we can finish in the money 40% of the time. I don’t like the low rate of $9 per tourney, but the relatively low risk involved makes the SNGs a pretty good option if your bankroll is hurting. You put up $30 for the hour of play, which around the same cost as betting a single hand of $3-6 from preflop to showdown.
I’ve never tried playing two SNGs simultaneously, because I think it would be difficult to play three-handed (assuming we can make the final three) on 2 tables. However, you could compromise, and stagger the tourneys 10 minutes apart so you can avoid this problem. If we could continue a 40% in-the-money-finish, this would put our hourly rate up to around $15 or so, or 2.5 BB/Hour on a single $3-6 table (with a lot less risk involved).
I’m still on the fence as to how profitable these games really are, but it’s definitely something to explore on a short bankroll. These tourneys are fun, but only after you get through the first 15 minutes or so (where you’re folding 95% of the time). Ever wonder why Hellmuth shows up late for tourneys?
How to fit more than one table on your monitor
Ok, if you’re not asleep after that mathematical diatribe, I’ve got a tip on how to make your multi-table experience more profitable. Most people already know this, but if you increase the “Screen Area” in your display settings, you can fit 4 tables on your screen (note: unless your name is David Ross, I don’t recommend playing more than 2). To increase your “Screen Area”, click the following on a Windows PC:
Start Button –> Settings –> Control Panel –> Display
Then click the Settings tab, and slide the “Screen Area” bar all the way to the right. The tables will be tiny, but still big enough to follow the action. This way you don’t have to keep clicking back and forth on the different tables you’re playing.
There is so much great poker blogging going on out there. I’m truly grateful, as rolling through them really makes me think critically about the game.
One of the things I like about poker is that the good players are playing only for themselves. It doesn’t matter who you impress or how “good” you are. What matters is your ability to make the right play at the right moment, and your ability to determine your skill level relative to the other players at the table. Self-knowledge and brutal honesty about your game is the most important factor in being a winning poker player. Of course, we all aspire to be the best player in ANY game, but on our way up we’ve got to know where we stand.
I’ve had an extensive background in academics, and anything I approach, I approach as a student. Absorb as much knowledge as you can, and then go do it. But I’ve often wondered if studying something takes away from the instinctual feel for that thing. I can’t picture Stu Ungar poring over Sklansky, but I also can’t picture Sklansky winning any money from his “feel” for the game. I guess you’ve got to walk the line and find the right balance.

Academic poker: it’s been interesting to me to see all of the recent interest in poker from all walks of life. The old vision of drunken thugs in a smoky barroom–where Wild Bill is gunned down holding Aces and Eights– is being replaced by slick Dot-Commers and ex-CEOs ruling the poker world. Somehow it’s sad to see some of the original kings (Doyle and TJ) being outplayed by the new kids. You don’t have to pay your dues in a crooked home game to learn poker, you can fire up a simulator on your PC.
Jumping the shark: reruns of both “Will and Grace” and “King of the Hill” featured poker games. Grace actually cheated her way to a huge win, and Hank’s boss lost Hank in a poker game. Worst poker joke to end the show: “In this house, a queen beats a straight every time!” Genius.
I have heard from dealers many times that low-limit players tip better (on an absolute scale) than high-limit players. Maybe they should play online instead.
At what limits do you have to worry about cheating online? I never worried about this before (the games were easy to beat, so who cares?), but as you climb the ladder, it becomes more of a concern. I think there are probably a lot of small timers playing as low as the $3-6 games. It’s just so easy to hop in instant messenger and share your cards, I can’t imagine that a lot of the high schoolers and college kids playing on a short bankroll aren’t doing this. But I’m sure there are lots of cheating packs at the higher levels, so I’ll stick to the casino if I can ever get enough cash to play consistently at $15-30.
Where do you even start when looking for RGP posts these days?

Maybe you start by looking at Lederer’s posts. Like a true chess player, he sees many, many moves ahead. And many more than me.
Limit Hold ‘Em is so much more popular than other poker games because it offers both the bad player and good player the best opportunity to win. How is this possible? No hand is an overwhelming underdog (any two cards really CAN win), so an unskilled player can win in the short run. But in the long run, the small advantages add up, and the expert gets rich. If the odds were more skewed towards the expert in the short run, new players would not enter the game.
Cya at the Party.

Rushing Headlong and The Final Table

“Any poker player knows that, despite what mathematicians say, there are phenomenal runs of luck that defy explanation. The poker player learns that sometimes both science and common sense are wrong. There is such a thing as absolute premonition of cards, a rock bottom surety of what will happen next. A good player knows that there is a time to push your luck and a time to retire gracefully, that all roads have a turning.”
–David Mamet, “The Things Poker Teaches”
What is it about a rush that makes you play better? Poker felt perfect today– not only did the deck hit me in the head, but I felt like I was in “the zone,” and everybody else’s cards were face up. I knew when my hands were best and when I was beat. Of course, it always helps to have a maniac at the table. The sad thing is, the maniac’s win rate (52.78 BB/100) was only slightly lower than mine (54.17 BB/100) over 70 hands. Of course, he probably gave it all back over the next hour, but its tough to know that even when I’m playing my best, some goofball catching cards (TM) is winning just as much as me.
But hey, 54.17 BB/100 is fine with me. Here are the PokerTracker numbers for what probably is the biggest rush I’ve ever had online:
Limit    Hands     BB/100    $Won
$3/$6    68    54.17    $221
$3/$6    68    21.08    $86
$5/$10    18    39.60    $99
After catching up on some of the early David Ross posts (see below), I was inspired to go back to playing 2 tables simultaneously. I think this probably teaches bad habits, but since the Party $3-$6 crowd is so soft, ABC poker on 2 tables is considerably more profitable than playing perfect poker on a single table. Profit won out in the profit vs. learning battle, and my bankroll is glad it did. I cleaned up against the maniac at one table, and suddenly I was in the zone– reading hands perfectly, making the right raises and the right laydowns with my marginal hands. This carried over to the second table, and I ended up with a total win of $307 in an hour of play on the $3-6 table. Add to that the morning quicky on the $5/$10 shorthanded table and I finished with $406 after 2 hours of play.
When my wife came home after a rough day at work, I was in the middle of capping the turn with KK against the maniac, and took down a monster pot. Torn between playing my rush and being a good lover, I signed off and hoped the poker gods would forgive me. It was probably for the best, as it’s hard to imagine I wouldn’t give some of the winnings back.
While we’re on poker vs. love, I came across this hilarious bit from David Ross’ second week of play:
“Now here is something you never have to deal with in the casino. I start my afternoon session and as usual the afternoon games are quite tight. I’m playing good solid poker and I’m ahead around $80. Now my wife, who is home this week comes to visit me with a grin on her face and asks if I would like to join her in some afternoon delight. Poker or sex. Hmmm. So of course I played around to my blinds and took a break. Modesty prevents me from giving too many details but lets just say I didn’t get back in time to keep my seat. Now of course when I get back and finally get seated again I quickly drop $450 and start blaming my wife for the bad mojo. Maybe there’s some truth to that lucky at love unlucky at cards thing.”
There’s a lesson in here somewhere. Any sentence that begins with “Modesty prevents me from giving too many details” usually ends in something that will anger the poker gods.
I know I’ve been pimping the David Ross posts for a week now, but I have really enjoyed reading through the journey of an online pro, and I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned from these posts. This is not some genius poker player with years of experience who is writing, it’s a Canadian guy playing from his house every day. It’s really interesting to follow his development and learn from the massive number of hands he’s played. Here are a couple more snippets:
On the average player’s biggest weakness:
“Played 3 hours in the afternoon and ended up exactly even. It has occurred to me that the biggest weakness in many of my opponents games is their inability to let a chance to bet go by, even if they have nothing. If it’s checked to them they are going to bet. It makes playing the blinds so much easier because you get so many chances to check-raise and drive out the borderline hands that might outdraw your pair of 8’s. There is too much macho in a lot of these players and taking advantage of them sure helps me win a few pots a night.”
On the stages of learning Hold ‘Em:
“If I was going to give advice to new players trying to learn the game I would tell them to approach it in stages. Eventually you will have AA against KK, and KK against AA. You’ll flop sets, and they’ll be flopped against you. Step 1 in becoming a winning player is making sure that on your fair share of winning hands, you win the max, and on your losing hands you lose the least. Doing that properly will make the difference between a loser and a winner. I think I max my wins pretty well. And when I’m running well I do allright with the minimizing losses. But on days like today, I lose it. I can’t believe my big hand has been cracked again, even though the evidence is right there in front of you. And I keep paying off. No one in the world could have won money with my cards today. But I should have lost around $300. That’s $130 I won’t have at the end of the week. I need to do better.
For what it’s worth I think the 2nd stage to go through is winning more than your fair share of hands with selective semi-bluffs and strategic raising to force out hands that could beat you later in the hand.”

If the damn 2+2 Search Interface wasn’t so horrible (as Iggy said of their webmaster, “eff Mat Sklansky”), I could actually give you some links to his posts, but your best bet is to go and search on the last 500 posts by username “davidross”. It’s worth the effort.
I also signed up for the 2nd Poker Blogger Tour tourney on True Poker, which our kind host has graciously set up for us. Be sure to sign up through this link so that the bloggers get a cut of the bonus.
After an hour of getting my butt kicked on the $1/2 table (I missed on AK, AQ, and AQ), I have to say that I’m very impressed with the site. It took 10 minutes to download, since I wanted to try out the super-nice graphics and sound that True Poker is known for. It was worth the wait– the graphics and sound are excellent, and it’s about as close as you can get to playing in a B&M.
Despite the super hi-res graphics and the shouting of “raise” and “fold” from the players, the game moves along quite fast. Kudos to the True Poker programmers. The avatars are actually pretty cool, and you get to pick from a pretty wide range of characters (Bonus: I’ll pay someone’s entry fee in the next poker blog tourney if they can guess which character I chose… email me if you have a guess).
Go check out Grubby‘s account of our joint effort to take down the $6-12 games at Hawaiian Gardens. The famed playwright does a much nicer job of wrapping it up than yours truly. Also check out the pictures from the auditions for his latest play. In the second picture, I believe the playwright is alluding to the triumphant victory dance of Hon Le, while the guy on the right is inspired by a beaten Phil Hellmuth. Or maybe not.
As I’m typing this I’ve somehow managed to hang on in a 60 player $20 NL tourney on True Poker. The tourney is down to 18 players, after I knocked out somebody when my dreaded AQo held up with 3 hearts on the board. The big hand that doubled me up (from 1K to 2K) came when I was all in from early postion with JJ… only to be called by KK. My luck continued when the third Jack hit on the river, and I lived to fight another hand.
Ended up 10th of 60, with the top 8 places playing, going out with AJh with the blinds threatening to bust me out. BB had JJ and I was 2 off the money. Overall I feel like I played pretty well, but made 2 or 3 minor mistakes. As Mr. Reilly once said, “One mistake in a no-limit tourney is one too many.” It also helps to catch a few cards.
I suppose I should be happy, as this is my highest multi-table finish and it was fun to make the final table, but I don’t think I ever could be content knowing that I made even a single mistake. But my NL game is improving, so at least that’s something to feel good about.
Poker Blog Patrol
I finally made it to Lion Tales, the superb blog of Richard Brodie, a high-stakes player who chronicles his attempts to get to the final table in a WPT event. Unbeknownst to me, I have actually read one of Brodie’s books many years ago, “The Virus of the Mind” (which is excellent). Not to mention that he is the creator of Microsoft Word– as much as I dislike Microsoft, Word is about as good as it gets when it comes to software (besides that damn talking paperclip). I have no clue why it took me so long to get to his blog, but I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.
Liquid Swords has a nice new layout for his blog (much easier on the eyes). Check out his latest adventures in the Party sit-n-goes, where he’s building his bankroll at a nice rate.
MT king (he wrote the Poker Hand Macro) Chris Halverson writes about his first SNG experience. I can barely remember my first $5 SNG, but I do know that after getting my butt kicked I immediately went out and read TJ’s tourney book, and even bought Sklansky’s horrible tourney book. Chris is also fooling around with TTH, and seriously working on his game. I think that programmers are well-trained to see patterns, so the more hands we see, the more quickly we can develop an optimal strategy. Note that Paul Phillips and Phil Gordon are among the many ex-programmers (see Brodie above) that are regulars in the WPT final table. This may only be because they struck it rich in the dot-com boom and have the cash to pay the 10K buy-in, but who knows…
MT prince TFG was nice enough to send me a template for comment viewing, but I mucked up the PHP and can’t get it to work. I’ll have to sit down and read some of the MT documentation to figure all this out (I hate PHP!). I also found out that TFG is a big Tungsten fan (the new color handheld device that everybody will be walking around with in the future). I’m doing some development for the Tungstens at the hospital I work at, and hopefully I can convince them to buy me one. I’ll be check-raising the Party Fish from the lunch room in full color if I can get my hands on that thing. TFG and the Tungsten rule.
TFG also hooked up Felicia’s dandy new site, which is much easier to read than the old yahoo group. She’s put up a repost of some of her online tourney experiences in her most recent post, check it out.
There’s no need to pimp Iggy, as everybody is already reading him (and I’ve already linked to him twice in this post). But I had to recount my favorite offhand remark from his latest post:
“TruePoker CEO David Gzesh actually called me a while back after I wrote and asked if they would host our tourney.”
Yeah, major poker sites usually call me up too. Ignatius keeps pimping us poker bloggers in deep, dark caverns of the internet, and we should all be grateful for his blue-collar efforts.
Keep on truckin…
“Jammin’ gears has got to be a fever. ‘Cos men become addicted to the grind.” –Merle Haggard, “Movin ‘On”

Lessons from an Online Pro, and when calling beats raising

I’ve been slacking. A co-worker had a party yesterday, and I saw Mystic River on Wednesday, so I haven’t played poker in two days. I’m not going to do a review here, but if you haven’t seen Mystic River, GO SEE IT! I walked out of the movie making Shakespeare comparisons, and although that may be going a bit far, I can say that it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in the last couple of years. Incredible acting (outstanding performances by Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, and even Kevin Bacon) great cinematography (directed by Clint Eastwood, who returns to making great movies), and a superb screenplay (I have to read the book by Lehane) make for a great movie. Check out Poor Richard’s review… I think the movie deserves the max number of stars, but the review is excellent.
I’ve been happy to see some of the other poker bloggers plunking some money into the supersoft Party $25 NL Games, and profiting from it. Pauly has a monstrous win rate of $38 per hour on these tables, and The Penguin ran up his buy-in to $183 and $110 on two $25 NL tables. So you see, reading The Cards Speak can not only be boring entertaining, it can make you money!
Learning from a true online pro
I’ve been following up on Iggy and Grubby‘s urgings to read David Ross’ 2+2 posts. Ross is a Canadian who’s been playing 40+ hours a week on Party (4 tables simultaneously) for the past 9 months, and is generous enough to share his experiences I finally got around to it yesterday, and found that Mat Sklansky (the 2+2 webmaster) provides a very-user friendly search interface, so it’s easy to get all of Ross’ posts. Oh wait, I forgot that you can either search by author OR by post title, but not by both. Since Ross has posted hundreds of things, and there are hundreds of replies to his weekly writeups, your best option is to search on “Playing online for a living week XX”, and then scroll all the way down to the first post in the thread. What fun! You’d think Malmuth and Sklansky have made enough money that they could throw us a bone and provide decent search capability, but they probably have secretaries (or sons) who do their searches for them.
Anyway, it’s worth the painful seach– Ross brings us into his living room, and documents the wild ride of playing online for a living. His bottom line so far?
“This coming week will make 9 months of playing full time. The first 3 months I won $13,950, the 2nd 3 I won $17,932 and so far for the last 3 I’m up $19,287.”
Not too shabby ($5700 a month!). The most amazing thing is that he amassed this profit with a win rate of just over 1 BB/100 hands. But when you consider that this win rate spanned across 4 simultaneous $5-10 6 max tables, you realize that it’s quite an accomplishment. I can barely handle 3 full ring games at the same time, and this guy is playing 4 shorthanded games? Maybe I need to play some Quake to speed up my synapses…
As you’d expect, the swings on 4 tables are huge– losses of over $1K in a few hours are not all that infrequent, and Mr. Ross recently went on the rush of his life: +$4400 in 19 hours of play. It shows that the two most important things in being a winner when playing for a living are (1) an adequate bankroll, and (2) an unflinching faith in your abilities as a poker player. Check out this snippet from a dejected Ross after a tough week 10:
“The experiment is all but over. Another horrible night has left me in a very bad position. The bankroll can’t withstand another week of this. I am going to have to find a real paying job very quickly or dip into long term savings. I’ve only had 3 winning days in the last 17 days. My confidence is shattered and I’m doubting everything. I keep waiting for one of those days where the deck hits me in the face instead of kicking me in the ass.”
Luckily for him (and his readers), he perservered, and if we believe him, he’s making a pretty good living. An interesting comment from week 1:
“90% of the hands can be played on auto-pilot, but the last 10%, which is where I think most of your profit comes from, requires you to be focused, not only on my own cards, but on my opponents.”
I think 90% is a little bit high, but the quote brings up a good point: you’ve got to stay focused and alert so that when you hit that 1 tricky hand in 10, you’re able to make the right play when it matters.
The most interesting thing about these 41 weeks of posts is Ross’ path through the different games. He started out playing 2 $5-10 full ring games on Paradise, and ended up playing 4 $5-10 6 max games on Party. Should we assume that his choice of game reflects the most profitable tables on Party? Maybe, but obviously Ross makes his money through VOLUME. The short run will always be volatile, but with a slight skill edge over your opponent, you’ll make money in the long run… and increasing volume gets you closer to the long run. By playing 4 tables, Ross chooses to increase his volume while sacrificing some of his skill advantage (playing 4 tables has got to bring your advantage down).
I want to go through the entire 41 weeks and see if I can get a better idea of why he chooses the $5-10 6 max. My main goal is to determine which limit/game I should play on Party if I want to build my bankroll.
Calling Rather Than Raising in Marginal Situations
Check out this excellent article by Roy Cooke in the current cardplayer. Cooke’s articles have grown on me, even though he mostly writes for the higher limit players. In this article, he debunks the “Raise or Fold, never call” myth that’s become popular lately. While tight-aggressive play is the way to go, it doesn’t mean that there are times when calling isn’t the best move.
Cooke outlines the times when calling may be better than raising:
1. When playing against loose-aggressive players– to control pot-size and diminish the odds for drawing hands
2. When playing against tricky post-flop players– you need “protection” from other players, which prevents the tricky player from making moves in heads-up situations
3. When playing against tough players– for obvious reasons
4. To collect more post-flop bets from the fish– “In situations against players behind me who respect my raises but play very badly after the flop, I will avoid raising in order to let them into the pot so that they will have the opportunity to make post-flop errors.”
This last point is an extremely good point… Izmet also advises us to lure as many people as we can into the pot if we think they might play dominated hands. You’ll make a lot more with your AK by drawing someone in with AT who may fold to a raise, but will play it for a single bet.
Cooke’s advice only applies in games where there aren’t huge multiway pots. In most low-limit games, raising won’t scare anyone away, so you want to raise with big hands, no matter what. But in games where there are frequently 3 or 4 players seeing the flop, calling can lead to far greater profit than raising in the above situations.
Home Game in Burbank
After reading about all these poker blogger home games going on (Pauly vs. Rick and BG vs. Lord G), I was happy to hear that my buddy M had slapped together a game tonight. M and I go way back, and I had fun dominating the first home game he had (the first I’d ever played in). The players didn’t know much about poker, so when we played Hold ‘Em it was kind of annoying to be directing traffic, but it gave me a chance to work on my Stud game a little bit. We even played five-card single draw, and I ended up winning $20 on the first hand after I drew Kings full of Aces on a 4 card draw. I doubt I’ll get that lucky again tonight, but it is Friday the 13th after all…
More Poker Blogs
The Daily Grinder left me a nice comment on my last post, and showed that he knows something about literature, so he’s earned a linkup and I’ll be checking his blog out daily.
And THE TURTLE had a great comment, asking whether or not it’s worthwhile to focus on poker, or if it would be more rewarding to spend time thinking and writing about something else. This question deserves its own post, but for now I’ve got a home game to go to!