The tight table flop steal

After a too-long hiatus, I hit the 5.10 tables hard tonight, albeit only for 40 minutes. I managed to rack up $131 in 40 minutes on 2 tables, and my stomach started growling so I bailed out to eat some pizza. Interestingly, I sat down to play after I got home from an after-work martini session, paid for by a co-worker who is running for Congress (vote Rick Bell for Congress!). His campaign picked up the tab, so I didn’t feel too bad about drinking 3 martinis at a posh West Hollywood restaurant (next to work). Celeb sighting: Tim Allen, king of the midwest, strolled in to have a nice dinner. Just like his character on TV!

Enough of Hollywood. My results were somewhat interesting, but perhaps the most interesting thing from tonight’s session is that I picked up a possible algorithm for bluff steals in tight games. Both of the tables I was at were very tight, but one was so tight that a preflop raise from any position won nearly 50% of the time without seeing a flop. I noticed that if 2 or three players did see the flop, it was pretty easy to get them off their hand with a bet, as long as no high cards came out. It’s a pretty safe assumption that tight players will only play premium hands, so they either have a medium pair, or 2 picture cards. So suppose the flop comes rags, like 3 5 9. If they are weak tight, and everyone checks to you. It is almost mandatory to try a steal here, no matter what cards you hold. If you think there is a decent probability they will fold (usually the case for weak tight players), then we might as well bet out. If you called a pre-flop raise, it may still be worth a bet, because you may even be able to get a super weak tight player off his ace-king or whatever. If you’re raised, then you can throw your hand away. It’s not rocket science, but I never realized that this bluff-steal on the flop is a high EV play. It was successful for me once, but I only picked up on it after I’d watched the table for a while.

On to the hands…
Table 1:
$44 win when my AKo holds up unpaired against one other player holding KJo.
$69 win when my AKo beats out QQ when I flop a king, and turn is A, river K. Beautiful.
$30 win with KK after caller folds on raggedy flop.
Hmmm… hard work! I guess sometimes you get really lucky.
I did lose 20 on my last hand, when I limped in with KTs and called a raise, making it heads up. Flop was Jh 2s 2d, and I called his bet, not wanting to be weak tight. But the turn came another 2, and I figured that the Ace I put him on made him a big favorite, so I folded.

Table 2:
Nothing real exciting here. I pulled off a couple of late position steals (one with 43o!), but the biggest pot I took was $30 on a hand I sort of misplayed. Here’s how it went down:
Pocket Jacks 2 off the button. I raise, and the button calls, everyone else folds. Flop is 4s Jd 6s, and I bet, he calls. Turn is 3h. Now how would you play this? I feel that if I fake weakness here he will bet out and try to take the pot. But I’m also a little afraid of those spades, so I’m not sure if I should lead out or not. I put him on big cards, maybe AT or better. I decide to check, and sure enough, he bets. Now I have to decide whether to reraise, and hope that he’s dumb enough to call. Or just call, hoping the last card isn’t another spade (would reject a free card if he did have spades anyway?), and bet the river. I decide to reraise, and I’m a little surprised when he folds. If I do call, I’m not sure he bets the river anyway, so I probably would have to bet out. So I think reraising was the right move here, but I’m not sure.

As an indication of the table’s tightness, every pot I won (5, including the above) didn’t make it to the showdown. Also, the 3 hands I lost didn’t make it to a showdown either. It looks like 4 of the 32 hands at this table actually made it to the showdown.

There is a lot of tactical action going on in games like this. Bluffing works, and so does slowplaying. I love the psychology involved when there are 2 or 3 players in a pot, and I think I am much better at these type games than the no-fold-em style that is more common at Hollywood Park. Hopefully I can win enough to move up, although I’ve heard the 15.30 at HP is like 3.6 at Party. That is a scary thought.

I’m still trying to erase the Vegas travesty from my brain, and after a short but profitable hour on Party, the game is coming back to me. The poker gods seem to be forgiving.

In the poker game of life…

Noble readers: I bow before you, asking forgiveness for a grave sin. I spent 4 days in Vegas, and played only 2 hours of poker. It disgusts me just writing that. How could this happen? How could I let myself stand at the crap table for hours and hours, with the Mirage just minutes away? And only 2 hours of blackjack! I gave up the only 2 positive EV games in the casino to play craps. As a result, I don’t even have anything to write for a trip report. NOTHING HAPPENED. It was easily the most boring 4 days I’ve ever spent in Vegas, despite the fact that I think I set a personal best for number of beers in a day.

I’m not going to attempt a trip report. There is nothing to report. It was fun to spend time with one of my best friends on his birthday, but that was about it. I won’t get into them. I will just say that a newlywed couple where the wife hates to gamble and the husband loves to gamble can make it difficult to get out of the casino.

The one positive thing about the trip was that I think I played my best tournament poker ever. The 2 hours of poker were spent in the Luxor $30 buy-in limit tourney (one Thursday night, one Saturday morning). We rolled into Vegas at 7:30, and quickly headed over to the Luxor to get in the 8:30 tourney. I had placed third in this tourney on our last vegas trip, and about half of the players were playing poker for the first time in a casino. This time there were 4 tables (plus alternates!), and what looked like a lot of dead money.

I took my seat at the table, and it looked like almost everybody there was over 60. There were a couple of young guys, and I was sitting next to my buddy, the birthday boy, so we brought a little youth to the table. We started with 250 chips (!?) and had the option of buying 50 more for 3 dollars. 300 chips with blinds starting at 10-15, this was even worse than the PartyPoker sit-and-goes (800 chips). I figured it was pretty much a crapshoot, and determined to hang tight until I picked up a big hand. With this structure, you could barely make it through 2 full hands if you didn’t win one of them. What a joke.

Anyway, play got started, and apparently the weak-tight convention was being held at my table. Cards were being mucked at a lightning pace, and I don’t think we saw a showdown for the first 20 hands or so. I picked up K8 in the blinds, and saw the flop for free against 2 other players. 3 8 9 on the flop, and I bet out, knowing that everyone will fold. Someone calls, and the 4 on the turn doesn’t scare me, so I bet again, and the caller folds.

With that win under my belt I take it easy for a few hands, and pocket rockets nearly blind me when I peek at my cards. 1 limper, I raise from late position, and the blinds fold. Beautiful. The limper calls, and I’m heads up with a young guy who I prepare to have for dinner. Flop comes K 9 4, rainbow, and I remember Abdul Jalib saying that Aces are worth much more than the blind. Limper checks, and I set the trap by checking also. The turn is a jack, and limper walks into the trap and bets. I smooth call. River is a rag, and no flush is on the board, and limper makes me happy by betting. Check-raise, limper actually spikes his hand on the table and folds, leaving him with a single 100 chip. Beauty.

The bullets put me in the zone, and I feel like I have a read on the entire table. I steal a few pots, the most notable with a 3-2o on the button– I raise and SB folds, and the short stacked BB slams his cards on the table and stares me down for 4 hands. I should have showed my hand. The table fears me, and I steal when I can, but it’s not enough– I’m up to about 1000 chips, and the blinds are up to 100-200.

My buddy next to me has played 1 hand the entire tourney (good, he’s playing tight), but finally comes out firing. He takes someone for a ride to the river, and turns over pocket aces to win a big pot. The next hand, he’s firing again, and gets a couple callers. One caller has a single chip left, and my buddy, in early position, checks the river. Single chip guy thinks about it, and checks, and my buddy turns over pocket Aces again! Why didn’t you bet the river!?? Later he told me he had a brain freeze, but this major mistake would come back to haunt us… 2 pocket Aces in a row have brought him up to 1000 chips, and we’re all even.

The weak-tight convention soon breaks, and I move on to the next table: 20 players remaining. This table is the opposite of the last– calling stations in all seats. Maybe it’s because everyone is so short stacked. I vow to hang tight until they knock each other out. I have enough chips to survive a few blinds. But I look down and see the Aces again (! I’m in the zone!) in late position. UTG limps (the guy is horrible), and another early player raises. Beautiful. I reraise, and put UTG all in for 300. Raiser just calls, and the pot is now 900. Flop is J 9 6 rainbow, and I bet out after pre-flop raiser checks. He folds, and I turn over my Aces. All-in guy turns over J9d, and I feel my chair leg being chopped out underneath me. Ugh. Oh well, I’ve still got enough chips to survive, so I grin and bear it…

I survive to bring 625 chips to the final table. The game now switches to no-limit, with the blinds at 200-400, and I know I have to make a move. My buddy has also made the final table, and so has one-chip guy who should be long gone by now. My buddy has 200 chips, and one-chip now has 400. On the second hand, I get AJo in 4rth position and figure this is my chance. I sadly watch as my buddy goes all in UTG, and I have to come over the top with my 625. Surprisingly, one-chip man calls from the button, and we all turn over our hands. My buddy has Q3s, and one-chipper shows QJs. I’m liking my chances here, but of course a Queen hits on the flop. I watch in disgust as one-chipper hits a flush on the river, and I’m left with a measly 125. I go out before the blinds reach me with a K7, when nothing hits on the flop and and Ace high busts me.

Disappointing. I felt like I played perfectly– not a single mistake, and a couple excellent steals early on. Who knows what would have happened had my Aces held up against J9, and who knows what would have gone on if my buddy had bet the river. But that’s poker.

The rest is ugly. I went on to lose about $800 on the craps tables, and managed to win back $300 when I hit four deuces on the deuces wild video poker machine. I won about $100 counting cards in a double-deck blackjack game, but my heart just wasn’t in it, due to extraneous circumstances. Here’s how bad it was: we saw a movie in Vegas! At least it was good– I recommend Matrix III– I hated the second one, but the third was very good. Not in the same league as the first one, but the story was very good.

My Vegas appetite has only been whet. In the words of KGB: “Just like a young man coming in for a quickie. I feel so… unsatisfied.” From now on: no women accompaniment to Vegas, unless they are real gamblers. I gotta get some rest and get back to POKER!

Poker in the office: negotiating salary

First of all: OUCH! 0-3 yesterday in football. I finally had a losing week, and in a big way. All my hopes rest on the Pats tonight– if they manage to win in Denver, I stay alive with a 2-3 record on the weekend (since I bet two units). If they lose, it’s 0-5 and my sportsbook bankroll takes a major blow. More on the sportsbook after the game.

More importantly, in an hour I negotiate my new salary… I’m moving over to the web team, since the funding for the project I’m working on has dried up… I don’t really have any clue how to negotiate a salary, but I did a bit of reading, and at least have some clue. It’s definitely time to apply some poker ideas to the negotiation, but first lets start with the facts:
1. The HR department lists an upper and lower bound on the salary range for the position
2. The position has been filled by 5 other people in the last year, all of whom quit within 3 months (yikes)
3. They are currently trying to fill 2 spots
4. I am far above the job requirements in several areas, but far behind in several others
5. I’ve been here for a year, so I can’t leverage the negotiation with offers from other companies
6. I don’t particularly like LA, so it is possible for me to refuse their offer

All of these numbers suggest I might as well go for the upper range of the requirements, although number 4 suggests I might skim a little bit off the top just to make it “look good”. Clearly I’ve got the best hand here, and I should be value betting that they don’t have much of an alternative but to pay me a lot. I’m somewhat of a proven quantity and they can’t fill the position, so they are in a tight spot.

In any case, I will most likely be getting a substantial raise, which will substantially increase my poker bankroll. But we’ll take Kenny Rogers advice this time and wait until we leave the table before we count our money…

Thanks to Avandalay for his kind comments… my wife’s family is heading up to San Francisco tomorrow for a few days, so I’m hoping to get a few solid nights of pure PartyPoker madness and get back to the grind. This journal needs to get back to poker!