Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Sunday's Live Tourney

Sunday it was the second time me and Selfshine headed to a live tournament organized by T&I Poker. The same tourney we headed to earlier where I ended 7th.

We went inside after Selfshine paid our buyins thanks to saturday's winnings. First thing that became obvious is how popular poker has become in Holland lately. It was about 30 degrees Celcius outside and still 92 people had showed up for the tournament (for you Americans who wonder how many degrees Fahrenheit that is, it's hot). But atleast there was a good working airco.

Offcourse many of the conversations by the players inside were about the subject most poker players don't want to hear about, yet talk about anyways: bad beats. Then again, since most poker players, myself included, know more bad beat stories then comedians know good jokes, I mentioned a few aswell.

On the other hand, some subtlety is needed here aswell. When someone tells you that they lost a flopped quad 8's to a runner-runner straight flush, it's probably very rude to mention to them that it happened to you aswell after flopping quad 9's. It would show no respect.

Or when they flopped quad K's and lost to quad A's? Been there, done that...but it's rude to mention.

Then again, I still haven't played poker long enough to have lost a straight flush to a royal flush. Seen it happen, but still looking forward for it to happen to me. And if it happens on the bubble of a tournament, which means just outside of the price money, I got a bad beat story that will be hard to match. Since the law of probability makes it very unlikely that it won't happen to me if I just play enough hands, I can only hope that it won't be during the World Series of Poker in X years.

The tourney didn't go well for me, and that is only thanks to my own play. First I didn't mind paying quite a bit for my good draws, I also tried to steal many pots when just having middle pair or overcards. With the blinds going up at a nice slow pace, there's no need to be in a hurry at all.

So about two hours after the tourney started I had a stack of about 5000 chips left (I believe we started out with 10k chips) and I limped in with what I thought was 56 suited. On the flop I was against two players, the chip leader with over 20k chips, and someone else. I missed the flop other then a low pair, backdoor straight and flush draw. I bet about 1k chips hoping to take the pot right there, ready to give it up if I didn't.

Chipleader just called, other person folded, and the turn gave me an outside straight draw. I bet again since I was sure that the chipleader atleast had a weak ace, and if I hit I would double up here since my chipstack would not threaten him anymore.

After the turn showed up an 8, which also completed a possible flush of which I were sure that the chipleader wouldn't have it, I bet out again, and the chipleader put me all-in as expected. I called and he turned over a 23. A smaller straight then I thought I had. So I turned over my hand just to see a 4 and a 5 lying infront of me. I had two pair instead of the nut straight I thought I had.

Atleast I didn't go out because of a bad beat, but because of my own stupidity. Next time someone puts me all-in and I think I hold the nuts, I may actually bother to double-check my cards.

All the weight of giving this post a happy ending was resting on the shoulders of Selfshine, who was still in the tourney, and doing well. After the dinner break the cash game had changed into a sit-and-go tourney, which I'm not that familiar with, so I went over to watch him play.

He generally had a very large stack in front of him, only had the nasty habit of losing about half his stack everytime I went to get a drink.

He played great, but there was a time where he suffered some losses and became a relatively small stack at the table where his luck held up. The board came A23, someone bet, a shortstack called, and he went all-in. Both people called, the first one to bet turning over 22 for a set, and the shortstack 56 for a gutshot straight draw. With only 4 outs left, it seemed it was all over, but the river showed a 3 giving Selfshine the bigger fullhouse.

After that his stack only kept growing fast, and he used it well to intimidate the players with less chips (which were all other players at his table after a while).

He reached the final table, and as opposed to last time I were there, the blinds weren't that high yet, so there was plenty of time left to play serious poker. He was slightly in lead with chips compared to the other big stacks, but chose to get involved with many of the smaller stacks succesfully, leading to him getting a huge chiplead over the rest of the table.

After the other players lost their stack, it became a heads-up between him and another player who had a slight chip disadvantage. The other player suggested if Selfshine wanted to make a deal, meaning splitting 50/50. But after getting this far, being the chipleader, and the second prize still being being 950 euros, he only had to think a nano-second before making the logical choice and declining the offer. I would have done the same in this situation.

The other player was very good at playing heads-up. He won most the pots where none of them had good cards, but there was a hand where it almost went wrong for him. He made his standard raise from the small blind, got reraised, and then went all-in. He got called by Selfshine's AK while holding 86s, only to win by a hitting a straight or something.

The final hand was an all-in preflop from both where Selfshine held AQ against AK. Only because this would probably be the deciding hand, the dealer was kind enough to put a queen on the flop but completing a straight for AK aswell.

The final hand

This actually was a profitable day for me aswell. Since me and Selfshine decided we'd partly split the profits from these tourneys (I gave him 100 euros when I won 245 last time) I received 300 euros (which is about 377 dollars).

Results: + $377
Bankroll: $920

Saturday Night Poker

Saturday I headed over to a friend to play the finals together of the 1 million dollar freeroll he qualified for earlier. It's the same friend who went along with me to the last T&I-Poker live tourney from the earlier post and the same friend who actually got me into trying out poker. I'll just refer to him from now on forth using one of his nicks, Selfshine, first to keep it simple, and second because even while I trust the employees of the national tax department are fish when it comes to their googling skills, there's no need to provide them with a first name.

Playing together worked very well. Generally we discussed in each situation what the best move would be, and eventually settled with a choice both of us could agree on.

The first few hours went well, but when there were about 2k players left it went downwards though, we didn't manage to win many pots and kept running into situations where we had the second best hand. Eventually it ended when we got QQ and decided to make a move to double up, only we ran into KK to end the tourney in about 1200th place.

A few six-packs of beer and some liquor since the start of the evening it was still pretty early (well, 1am or so) and we decided to join a 5 dollar turbo rebuy-tourney (Translation into something slightly resembling English: A tourney in which people can rebuy a new starting stack after losing their whole stack up till the first break. And for the really big fishes, that means they can re-buy like 10 times if they want, which increases the prize pot pretty fast. Turbo just means that the blinds increase so fast that if you wait until you actually get great cards your stack will be gone).

The tourney went smooth, we started out playing tight, kept a good stack and the other tight players didn't seem too willing to put their chips in against us. So we just played more aggressively and managed to rake in many pots.

Eventually we got to the final table with a big stack compared to most players there, and proceeded to take more then our fair share from the pots, while the low stacks got smaller from the blinds. Selfshine then announced that if we'd end in first spot he'd pay my buyin for the live tournament we were heading to the next day.

When we were only against one other player that almost failed, since even while we had a bigger stack, having him doubling up would give us lots of trouble to play back at him. And that's when we reraised him all-in when holding AJs against his AK.

But what's poker without a bit of luck? The board ended showing two pairs, 7s and 4s, giving both of us two pair with ace kicker, splitting the pot.

A few hands later, with our opponent probably on tilt, we managed to take his stack as our own and finished first in the tourney, winning 750 dollars.

Very nice profit for Selfshine, and my buyin for sunday's tourney would be free for me. Not bad at all for one night of playing cards.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Continueing the grind, but what is the goal?

I was talking to a friend yesterday who has read my blog and pointed out to me that it's not clear what my main focus and goals for the short term are.

The long term goals are probably pretty obvious. After turning the 25 dollars into 10k I'll continue till I'm a millionaire, get a big house with a nice white fence, buy a private island and then spend most of my days watching Blackadder re-runs from my jacuzzi.

Other than that, my short term goals are perhaps less obvious. Right now the end goal of playing at this limit is to work my balance on pokerstars up till I have over 600 dollars there. Which means I'll have a bankroll of 300 big bets ready for the 1/2 dollar games. But it's not my focus to get there as fast as I can.

I think I could earn more if I played 'fit and fold' poker. Which is a playstyle many good tight-aggressive players use in the lower limits. It simply means you won't get involved in pots where you missed the flop, but play those where you think you have the best hand with the proper aggression. Those players make good money since there are so many bad players at the lower limits and they take little risk, but they are very easy to read.
I regard that playstyle in much the same way as acrophobics regard skydiving: technically feasible, but strictly for other people.

My focus is to get better at identifying what the right situations are to take down pots without having a good hand, extract as much money out of people as possible when I am quite sure I have the better hand, and to get out of more pots where I have a good hand but someone has a better one. To do that, I need to become much better at reading opponents, pay more attention to what they do in certain situations.

What does the player two seats to my right do when he gets reraised on the flop while he just holds two overcards or middle pair? And when he has top pair with a decent kicker, does he play it different then when he's on a draw? Can he release a hand like top pair when an overcard comes and he suddenly gets reraised?

Here's an example from today to show what I mean:

Poker Stars
Limit Holdem Ring game
Limit: $0.50/$1
10 players

Pre-flop: (10 players) Soultwister is CO with Jack of Spades King of Clubs
4 folds, MP2 calls, MP3 folds, Soultwister calls, Button folds, SB calls, BB checks.

Flop: Ace of Spades 10 of Diamonds King of Hearts (4SB, 4 players)
SB checks, BB checks, MP2 checks, Soultwister bets, SB raises, BB folds, MP2 calls, Soultwister calls.

Turn: 8 of Diamonds (5BB, 3 players)
SB bets, MP2 folds, Soultwister calls.

River: 4 of Clubs (7BB, 2 players)
SB bets, Soultwister calls.

Final pot: 9BB
Soultwister showed Js Kc
SB showed 7s 9s

The player in the small blind here is a slightly loose aggressive but tricky player. But he plays his big hands slow, his weak hands strong. Against most other players at this table, I would definitely have folded to this flop checkraise while having middle pair and a weak straightdraw. But I was pretty sure that if this player had an ace, two pair or a straight he would have waited for the turn to checkraise, even while the board looked so scary.

I could have done two things here. Reraise to find out if my read is correct, which would probably lead to him folding, or play in such a way I get the most money out of it. So trusting my read, I decided to just call him down giving him more chances to bluff into me, making him put two more dollars into the pot. Further, other people on the table observing this hand may take note of my 'bad' calls and that could lead to them paying me off better on my good hands.

The reason for working on this is that my edge against my opponents will get smaller as I go up in limits, and I'm thinking of switching to shorthanded tables in a while (no tables with 10 players where you can wait for hands, but tables where there are 4-6 players maximum forcing you to get involved in many more hands). Shorthanded the win rates are higher, but so are the losses and the variance, so I'll need every edge I can get then. Just playing the cards would be a losing strategy there.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

PokerStars $ 0,50/1 Upswing!

After reviewing my hands I noticed my mistakes when playing were not the reason of the earlier downswing. I did notice some leaks, but over the sample in which I had the downswing they accounted to a loss of about 5-6 dollars, just a small portion of the downswing.

It was time for the natural law of randomization to catch up with my previous downswing, and it did in such a way that it seemed it wanted to appologise.

Over the next 450-ish played hands my nut flush draws hit on the turn more often then not allowing me to maximize my profit, two pairs improved to fullhouses as another player hit his flush, outside and inside straight draws hit, I got quads twice and my semi bluffs allowed me to take down many pots. Which translated into $66,5 profit since last post.

After slightly less then 3k hands played at this limit this puts me back at over 2bb/100 hands profit, while having a standard deviation of over 11 dollars per hour played.

So I'm back in business, and poker is already giving me a higher hourly income then the average person in China.

Results: +$66,50
Total $0,50/1 results: +$64
Bankroll: $543

Thursday, July 06, 2006

PokerStars $ 0.50/1 - Downswing

Played three small sessions since my last post. The results are quite bad, but worse, I played bad.
Managed to get my total $0,50/1 winnings down to a loss of $2,5.

Even while I were facing a cold deck mostly and didn't have much luck with flops, I didn't play as I should have. And got beat a few times while holding very strong hands (second best flush against nut flush, set over set, KK vs A10 with an ace on river etc.)

A downswing is normal, but this one went too steep, and I should have lost much less if I just played correctly, so right now I'm not going to sit down in any game till I reviewed each single hand played and notice my leaks.

Results: -$55,50
Total $0,50/1 results: -$2,50
Bankroll: $476,50

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

PokerStars $ 0.50/1 - First case of Tilt

Started out on 0.50c/$1 Limit tables about a week ago. It started out well, just sticking to my game. I still made some mistakes which hurt much more at this limit, but overall I was happy about my game.

Eventually I was up 42 dollars as I ended for the third evening. The next day though I managed to get this profit down to about 12 dollars in about 2,5 hours. What was I doing wrong?

Sitting out at the table I started to review my hand histories. First thing I noticed was that I simply missed every single flush and outside straight draw, which means if I had just hit my fair share of them my profit wouldn't have declined much if any. It were 14 huge draws in which I was drawing to the nuts or close to it.

While that wasn't bad in a small sample at all, I noticed it started to affect my play. I was calling down in hands I'd normally bet out with or reraise, and started to slowplay the few big hands I had (like trips). Even while I would probably have lost more if I played the hands as I normally would, changing my playstyle subconciously because I'm in a downswing should definitely not be a reason to start playing more passively. And if I'm not playing my own game, I should not play at all. So even while I had about an hour left to play, I stopped playing for the night, recognizing this as a slight case of Tilt.

The next evenings I was back playing my own game again, and it worked out well. Got back to even in a short time and made a profit overall, ending at 53 dollars profit totally at this limit.

Still over 3BB/100 hands and atleast getting some FPP's (Pokerstars Frequent Player Points that can be used to purchase some items). So just a few months away from getting a free composite chip set or a few decades from getting a free Porsche Cayman.

Results: +$53
Bankroll: $532