Beyond the Poker Plateau

"Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact

–Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

I’ve been holed up in my humble Hollywood cabin for the last few days, hard at
work on an article about Poker Blogs. The finished product has gotten positive
so far, including one from yours truly, who reads with an extremely critical
eye. The article is for a new poker mag, and should be out by the end of the
month. I couldn’t have done it without the great Ignatius
, who assisted with some of the writing between draughts, and offered
healthy doses of moral support during the brutal editing process. I’ll let
you know more about the magazine as the release date approaches.

I love to write, so the article was a good experience, but the hard work involved
made me long for the familiar unscripted blog format. I spent around 10 hours
polishing up the article, and had to think about such things as "target audience"
and do my best to satisfy a demanding editor. I felt pretty good about the
piece until I read Jesse May’s WSOP writeup on Ted Forrest, which was so well-written
that I felt like throwing my final draft out the window. Damn that boy can
write! His recent trip reports have blown away all other poker journalism on
the planet, and his writing style is hands down better than any of the authors
who wrote the poker canon. I just ordered my copy of "Shut up and Deal", and
anxiously await its arrival.

May’s Dylanesque take on Ted Forrest’s game made me think about the evolution
of my game, and where it goes from here. I feel like my game has reached somewhat
of a plateau– I play pretty solidly these days, and I’m making fewer mistakes
at the table. I do my best to incorporate some creativity to my game, but 90%
of my game is straightforward tight-aggressive play. The main reason for this
is that most of my hands come from playing 3 tables simultaneously online,
and there isn’t that much room for creativity on the loose-passive $3-6 tables
of Empire– this type of game is all about implied odds, and if you get too
fancy you’ll find yourself bleeding chips. So how can I take my game to that
next level, making plays that nobody at the table thought possible, winning
a monster pot with a junk hand because your reads are incredibly sharp? Jesse
gives us a clue:

"But as far as I can tell, about eight to ten years ago Ted Forrest got
into running poker simulations through a computer. He got together with the
or Better Kid, that maniacal pudge faced infuriatingly always right paranoid
control freak from the Midwest USA, and they started running simulations that
nobody had thought of. Weird simulations, flexible maybes, particular situations
with certain kinds of players involving percentages of things that might possibly
be happening. I don’t know what I’m talking about. But I seen what it did to
them. I seen strange looks on their faces and strange glints in their eyes.
They don’t play like everybody else, and I seen them spin people round and
round and round."

Simulations. It’s a well known fact that any hold ’em starting hand is not
that big of an underdog (if you haven’t figured this out after an endless streak
of bad beats, take up stud). The key is matching up which hands can be played
with the appropriate table conditions. KTo from early position in a loose-aggressive
game? Probably not a good idea, but in a loose-passive game, it’s a winner
if you play it right. The key point here is that poker is so situational, the
rules of thumb we use to guide our play are often far too rigid. If you can
figure out how to refine those rules, to bend them to fit the game just right,
you can extract the big bets from the unsuspecting, uncreative players surrounding
you. That means it’s time to go back to the lab. To break free from the solid,
tight-aggressive shell and climb into poker greatness, you’ve got to do the
research. You’ve got to spend the time tweaking the rules, running sim after
sim until you know exactly when to play that KTo, and when you play it, you
ram it down their weak tight throats.

I’m not quite there yet, but before I get off this plateau and reach the next
level of limit poker, I’ll be spending a lot of time in sim city.

Oh I almost forgot, I made it to Hollywood Park on Sunday and pocketed $350
in 4 hours on the table of dreams. A loose-passive $6-12 table where a young
girl had 400 $2 chips stacked in front of her. It turns out that her and her
had been playing for 20 hours straight, and they were making plenty of mistakes.
She actually played pretty well, and showed me her pocket rockets before laying
them down after being check-raised on the flop with K 7 7 on board. There must
have been $4000 on the table, and there were plenty of $200 pots. Most of my
money came from a monster pot I raked when my set turned into a boat on the
river, punishing a guy to my right who caught his nut flush on the turn. It
was even nicer that the player to my left caught runner-runner to make a smaller
boat, and called my river raise. But $60 of that win went to a long and boring
morning limit tourney, where I placed 70th out of 170. And subtract another
Franklin that I lost playing $5-10 short on Empire as a B&M warmup. Still,
that’s a $190 day, I’ll take it. I need to make it down there more often.

Poker Blog Report
I finally linked up to the most famous blogger to write about poker, Wil Wheaton.
I really enjoyed Wil’s writeup of the Hollywood speakeasy game in his "Lying
in Odessa"
posts, and found myself wondering what I could do to get in this
game (it’s right down the street from me). Most of us bloggers are writing
about online play, where your opponent is a collection of pixels sitting in
a room somewhere far away. This "new school" of poker lacks the colorful characters
of the "old school," where there was no such thing as a legal game, and the
old guards like T.J. Cloutier and Texas Dolly drove hours to find a game in
some dingy room filled with suspicious characters. Think getting your Aces
cracked is a bad beat? Try losing all your winnings when some thug with a shotgun
walks away with all the chips in the room. Wil’s writeup was a nice combination
of the old and the new school: Hollywood heavy-hitters facing off in an illegal
game in a back-alley speakeasy. Expect more great poker posts from Wil, as
the poker bug has bitten him hard.

Speaking of bug bites, get well wishes go out to Mean
, who paid for the
sin of doing yard work with a vicious
spider bite
. Sadly, I was slightly jealous of Geno’s peaceful hospital
stay, and wistfully pictured myself sleeping 12 hours a day and playing on
Empire for the other 12. I guess that means I should start sprinting around
and appreciate the remaining strength in my legs before I become catatonic…

There are too many Vegas trip reports to mention, and I’ll be adding my own.
I’ll be on the rail for the first weekend of the main event, unless by some
miracle I manage to win my way in if I get there early enough to play a last-chance
But with the number of entrants likely to be in the 2000 ballpark, I can’t
understand how anyone could think they have any chance of winning this thing.
But I’ll be at the Horseshoe for the opening weekend of the big one, so if
anybody wants
up, shoot

No mas! Thanks for reading… as one of my coaches always said, "You never
stay the same. You get better or worse every day." Get better.

Back on the chain gang

Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small;
Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all.”

–Friedrich, Freiherr von Logau

Let’s ramble, shall we? I don’t have anything specific to write about, but
I’m amped
on diet coke and 10 hours of sleep, so maybe I’ll get lucky and type something
Spirits are high after I broke out of a rough two weeks on the table. The slump
hit a low point last Sunday night, but after I caught up on some sleep the
$3-6 games were good to me– 800 hands since Tuesday, showing a nice $370 profit
a win rate of 7.7 bb/100. Now that’s more like it. I think Party’s reload bonus
is bringing more fish to the $3-6 tables, and I’ve been hitting my draws and
having my big pairs hold up, resulting in a nice week of short sessions.

A buddy suggested we play some Omaha High-Low at our home game this Thursday,
so I thought I’d hop on the .50-1 tables for a minute to get a feel for the
game. 10 hands later, I was up $35 buck after scooping 3 or 4 huge pots. With
four cards to draw with rather than two, Omaha seems like a great game to play
if you have the discipline to stick to playing solid starting hands– the fish
will draw to hands that are big longshots, and you have a huge advantage with
your solid starters. I guess my Omaha win rate will remain ridiculous for a
while– it was fun, but
I think
I’ll stick to Hold ’em until I get bored.

I just beat the deadline for the Party reload bonus, since it takes Neteller
a week to get the money from your bank account. I’ll take the free benjamin,
but considering that I’ve paid Party/Empire $4,142 in rake, I feel its somewhat
deserved. Too bad you can’t buy stock in offshore gambling enterprises…

My buddy Monk is still learning, and battling it out on the $1-2 tables. He’s
been diligently sending my hands to review, and I’ve put a lot of time in analyzing
his play. He’s learning quickly, and there will always be a few hands that
impress me. Unfortunately they will often be followed by plays that leave me
baffled, so the analysis is usually a rollercoaster ride between pride, disappointment,
and bafflement. The preface to his last set of hands was too good not to share,
so here it is:

" i’ve been struggling and a real close look at my game is needed. there
are things i am doing that i KNOW are not good. still trying to sneak in with
subpar hands (QJo, 3s) and getting raised. but that is being cut down. the
place i am having the most trouble now seems to be post flop. getting caught
be two pair when i have the top pair top kicker has lured me into loosening
up, which leads to more troubles. so i cut that from the diet. the tough part
is what to do when you are probably beat, but the guy is a KNOWN idiot. laydowny
no helpy, calling costs more than ugg boots. ugg. here is some of the evidence:"

For those of you that haven’t memorized Izmet (shame
on you!), the "laydowny" reference refers to the famous Fekali poem about The
Furcoat Dilemma. I think Monk is ready to turn the corner, and in a few
more weeks he’ll be off and running…

I usually stick to poker here, since news and politics is usually only good
as a depressant, but this
news item
scared the hell out of me. It’s nice that
the American media shields us from news like this, and we have to rely on the
Scottish media for news on important world events. Good think we have The
Fat Guy scouring the internet to bring us the real news.

Poker Blog Patrol

I definitely can’t keep up anymore. Some great new blogs that I have been
meaning to link to for a while now, but haven’t gotten the chance.

I had the pleasure to sit with Phil from StudioGlyphic today,
who has been posting about a variety of topics for a while now, and has recently
started blogging a lot more poker. Phil told me that experience has been his
main teacher so far, so it will be interesting to see what happens when he
gets into the poker literature.

Burt Fu brings a little Taj Mahal
– Joyzy swing to his poker blog. I’m not sure which I like better, his sign
off (FU, signing off) or his description of abusing a couple of "mumblers"
at his Taj table:

"The guy next to me says, "He’s got nothing." But
most fold, except one of the Mumblers. We’ll call him Mumbler #2. He’s mumbling
to Mumbler #1. Ok, the river, Q, BINGO! I bet, and I’m glaring at Mumbler #2.
His hand was actually kind of shaking (I guess.) He was trying to get chips
into the pot to raise, and was dropping them…meanwhile string betting all
along, and the dealer stops him and says he can’t bet like that. He can’t turn
his cards over quick enough…he has a J…BUT I flip JQ, oops. Mumbler #2
turns to Mumbler #1 and immediately starts another Mumbler conference."

The Poker Prof is bringing
us daily reports of all of the WSOP tourneys, and offering some wisdom of his
own as well. Check out his Philosophy
of Luck and Poker:

" First, the lucky charm player, the person who bring his miniature
velvet portrait of Elvis to the table and rubs its nose before each hand. There
a way to sometimes influence the psychology of this player, have your own ‘luck
charm’ and have something bad happen to it during the course of game. The lucky
charm player will interpret this event to mean you are now unlucky and hopefully,
this will influence their decision making processes and they will play loose
pushing more statistically improbable hands against you. This will then increase
your statistical chances of winning against them. I do indeed love my lucky
charms! But only for breakfast."

I have to agree– Trix are for kids!

Also be sure to check out Mas’ excellent 3 part trip report, and Felicia’s 3
part writeup of the $1500 WSOP stud event. Thanks to Boy
Genius for giving me a clue about the Kentucky Derby– the race was a lot
more enjoyable after reading his sneak preview.

He had what now?

I’ll leave you with my favorite hand of the week (thanks to Chris for
the pretty new suits):

Party Poker 3/6 Hold’em (8 handed)

Preflop: Hdouble is MP2 with Kd, Kc. CO posts a
blind of $4.
UTG calls, UTG+1 calls, MP1 raises, Hdouble
, CO (poster) calls, Button folds, SB folds, BB calls, UTG calls,
UTG+1 calls, MP1 caps, Hdouble calls, CO calls,
BB calls, UTG calls, UTG+1 calls.

Flop: (24.66 SB) 2c, 2h, Tc (6 players)
BB checks, UTG checks, UTG+1 bets, MP1
, Hdouble 3-bets, CO calls, BB calls,
UTG folds, UTG+1 calls, MP1 caps, Hdouble calls,
CO calls, BB calls, UTG+1 calls.

Turn: (22.33 BB) Jh (5 players)
BB checks, UTG+1 checks, MP1 bets, Hdouble
, CO 3-bets, BB calls, UTG+1 calls,
MP1 calls, Hdouble calls.

River: (37.33 BB) 5s (5 players)
BB checks, UTG+1 checks, MP1 checks, Hdouble checks, CO
, BB calls, UTG+1 calls, MP1 calls, Hdouble calls.

Final Pot: 42.33 BB
Main Pot: 42.33 BB, between Hdouble, CO, BB, UTG+1 and MP1.

BB shows 2d 6d (three of a kind, twos).
UTG+1 shows Ad Ts (two pair, tens and twos).
MP1 shows Ah Ac (two pair, aces and twos).
Hdouble shows Kd Kc (two pair, kings and twos).
CO shows 2s 3c (three of a kind, twos).
Outcome: CO wins 21.16 BB. BB wins 21.16 BB.