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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Baby Steps

I have been brutally cold-decked for a week or so now. After a few days, I was actually able to start laughing about it. Bluffing? Out of the question--someone has pocket kings. Raise with AQo? No, sir--someone's pair of fives will find another five on the turn. I'm losing races, I'm losing hands where I get all my money in with the best of it, and I'm failing to steal anything. Also, as a result of all these bad cards and beats, I've started playing erratically and, well, stupidly.

I've had to move down to the $5.50 SnGs, in order to slow the bleeding of my bankroll. Last night, I finally made it back into the money, finishing 3rd in a single table $5.50. I saw some good cards, made some good reads, and took advantage of some weak betting. The sense of dread that had been accompanying flops disappeared. I made $3.50 for an hour and a half of work, and I couldn't feel better.

I leave for Las Vegas tomorrow, so I'll be taking a break from online play. I'm going out for defcon, the "largest underground hacking event in the world." If you have any computer security interests or responsibilities, you should be heading to defcon every year.

The weekend is jam-packed, but I hope to spend some time playing live games. I have only played in a poker room once before, and that was last year during defcon. I headed over to the Bellagio and bought into the 2/5 NL game for 200--no more, no less. I explained to the dealer and those around me that I was new to live play, and to please let me know if I did anything stupid or offensive.

Settling in, stacking my chips, and trying to get comfortable, when I look down and find KK. On my first hand. Still trying to figure out what the hell is going on. No time like the present to jump in. I threw out a weak raise to $15 and had one caller. Flop comes K-x-x. My heart pounding at 200 beats per second, I bet $50, hoping to take it down there and get comfortable. Caller re-raises me all-in. What the hell? He counts out his bet, which ended up putting him all-in $160 for the hand, meaning I could call and have a lonely $40 left in front of me.

I didn't know if he had flopped one of the rag sets, or if he was just picking on the self-professed new guy, but I had no option but to get my money out there. The turn came A, and then a rag on the river. My 3 kings were faced with -- AQ. I guess he had been taking a stab at the pot, trying to intimidate the new guy. After one hand, my stack had grown to $360.

I spent the next two hours giving it all back. I got some very weak cards, and my constant folding, after showing KK early, killed any action I might have gotten on my few good hands. Further, I just wasn't a very experienced NL player. Still, it was a great experience, and I look forward to playing again this year.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Grab the bull by the, um, ya know

I decided to catch up on some WPT events which have been waiting patiently on my Tivo. The first was the Bay 101 Shooting Stars tournament, which Phil Gordon won. I like Phil Gordon, so that was nice. Chris Moneymaker was one of the targeted pros, and he mentioned in one of his interviews that he continues to work as an accountant, and only plays poker part time. I did not know that. I've been known to call Moneymaker a one-hit wonder, since he hasn't really won since the 2003 WSOP. If he's only playing a handful of tournaments per year, then that makes sense. I apologize to Chris for my unwarranted bashing, should he ever stop by this blog.

The other event was from The Mirage and Gabe Kaplan was at the final table. I'm past the whole "Kotter" thing, and I know he's been playing for many years. I was shocked by the passive style of play he adopted. I know he can't have played that way through the whole tournament, and sitting at a table with Scotty Nguyen, John Juanda and Eli Elezra is tricky, but he sure allowed a lot of free cards. Still, he finished 3rd, so what do I know?

When it got down to Elezra and Watkinson heads-up, Elezra flopped a pair of aces, and slowplayed them against Watkinson, who had nothing (or close to nothing. It's hard to remember). The turn came a rag, and Elezra continued to slowplay it. At this point, Vince Van Patten says, "He did it before and he's doing it again. He's going to milk it like a bull."


Vince Van Patten cracks me up. He's the finest hipster doofus on television since Kramer. Many of his nicknames for hands don't make sense. One of my favorite local commercials is for a casino here. Vince Van Patten strolls up in his fancy suit, sans tie, shirt open a couple buttons at the collar. "If you can't spot the sucker at the table, youuuuurrrre it," he confides. "Ruuuulllllle number one in the great game of poker." A little later, he quips, "Got crocodile blood? You're gonna need it."

However, milking a bull seems a little beyond his scope of goofiness. Thanks to the miracle of Tivo, I was able to go back and listen again, hearing that he actually said "holstein." Well, that's a little better. Not as funny as bull, though.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Swallows returning to Capistrano

I started playing a lot of online SnGs on PokerStars a few weeks back, and I was cleaning up. Virtually every tournament found me in the money, and my heads-up play significantly improved, to where I feel pretty good about how I approach heads-up play.

This week, I saw a stunning reversal. I went 7 or 8 tourneys without finding the money, and busting out 6, 7, 8. While I wasn't seeing many good hands, I also got the feeling that I was misplaying many of them, especially in later rounds, where I always seemed to be on the losing end. So I went from cocky know-it-all to sad sack in pretty short order.

I joined a $10 + 1 single-table last night and saw BadBlood44 sitting across the table. I may be new to the Poker Blogosphere, but I played in Charlie's Tournament and was introduced to many poker bloggers. I made a note to self, "Be careful around BadBlood44" and dove into the tourney. I busted out 5th, I think. I had started thinking, though, and I realized that my game needed to be a lot better now, and not just because I'm bound to run into random poker bloggers at the table.

PokerStars sent a record number of people to the WSOP; something like 1200 people. So, the whole time I was beating up on SnGs, a large swath of the good players were in Las Vegas. I could no longer count on 4 to 5 people busting themselves out early, and needed to start playing for chips a lot earlier.

I entered another SnG. I'm still seeing some awful starting hands, but I can't just wait for the cards to turn. I skimmed the No Limit section of Super System 2, and Doyle mentions that his strategy is to play a lot of hands, so opponents have a hard time putting him on a hand. He especially likes small suited connectors, because they can become big hands, without appearing to be big hands. So, people frequently accuse him of being lucky, when it's simply a matter of being in so many hands, and when one does hit, it hits big. Oh, and a big part of that is that a loose appearance allows him to pick up a lot of blinds, which add up. As a matter of fact, he can make enough picking up blinds that he can afford the occasional beat on a long shot.

I'm not likely to start playing a super-aggressive Doyle style of play, but what he writes made a lot of sense to me. Early in the tourney, still 9 people at the table, and I think I was in middle position. One or two callers to me, I raise with Q3s, BB calls and I think one early caller calls. Flop is all spades, king-high. I figure to have the best hand, and I'm willing to take the risk that the one card which can beat me is out there. Down to me and the BB, who continues to call my raises. No change on the turn or river, and so my KQ flush is the nuts, as long as he doesn't have the A, which I determined pretty early wasn't the case. He had me covered, but just barely, so I doubled up and left him with a few crumbs.

This was a pretty cheap gamble for me. A pre-flop raise of 60 early in the tourney is cheap, and I figured I had the nuts after the flop. With Q3s. All told, I was pretty happy about that play, and I went back to my normal tight-aggressive play. A comment cracked me up, though.

"raises with q3s," comments the know-it-all across the table.

Yeah, I'll do it again, too. Make sure you call me, buddy

In the end, I was heads-up against him for the tourney, at a significant disadvantage-- 10,500 to 3,000. I battled back pretty close to even, and then went all-in with AJo, he barely had me covered and called with KQo. He caught a queen on the river to knock me out.

I'm pretty happy with the way I played that tourney, even though I wish the ace had held up. I won't misunderestimate the players on Stars again.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


I wonder how many poker blogs are started because of a bad run of cards. Some sort of cold deck causation. I could probably check, since one of the miracles of technology is the automatic archiving of personal blogs. Behold the march of progress.

So, yeah. I've been playing for a while, mainly PokerStars Sit 'n Gos, with some success. Some success being that I have more money now than when I started, which puts me in a far better situation than many find themselves. I play lower levels, having recently moved from $5 + .50 to $10 + 1. I guess it doesn't matter which level you play, there's always going to be someone waiting to suck out on you.

A couple nights ago, I spent 4 tourneys staring at every combination of J8o, Q5o, 63 suited, etc. I folded almost all my hands, and then when I'd try to capitalize on my table image with a steal, callers fell over each other to grab my money. Unlucky. That's poker.

Last night, I played a pretty solid $10 + 1 SnG. The deck remains cold, but I saw a couple opportunities and capitalized on them. Down to 4 remaining, and I was one of two in ugly position. We each had about $1500T and the other two were roughly even at about $5000T apiece. I find myself in this position a lot lately, and I can't entirely blame the cards. I play well enough to survive in tournaments, but I rarely build a large stack. I'm hoping to gain some insight in Dan Harrington's books which will help me adjust my early and mid-round strategies.

So, on the short stack, I find AJo. Since I'm so weak, I go all-in hoping to steal the blinds, which are 200/400. The other shortstack calls, and he has me covered. He turns over A4o. The flop pairs his 4, and I do not improve. I had my money in when I was heavily favored, so I can't be too upset about it. I am concerned about my consistently weak position in these late rounds, though. Having to go all-in to stay alive is no way to play.


I don't know if Blogger appreciates this or not, but since I hate that search bar that appears across the top, I figure that passing on information related to the elimination of that bar will make the world a slightly better place.

It's pretty straightforward. Go to the Template tab for some editing, and scroll down until you find the <body> tag. Surround the tag thusly:


That's it. No more Blogger bar.


How charming. Starting out a blog with a first post.