Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Under The Microscope 001: A Feul And His Money

"If you've heard this story before, don't stop me, because I'd like to hear it again."

OK, so Hoyazo asked for a recap of a hand I alluded to last post, in which eventual MATH winner Fuel berated me for a play which, though marginal, I think was justified. Hoy asks, I deliver. Who am I to deny one of my three or so readers?

I do want to state from the outset that I don't consider this a great play by any reach of the imagination. And, though I did think the play is acceptable, I expect that some comments (if there are any) will not be complimentary. But I did have my reasons. Let's see if I can explain what those are.

First, the hand, without comment:

*********** # 108 **************
$20+$2 Hold'em No Limit - Level VI (100/200)

Seat 1: Julius_Goat (3519 in chips)
Seat 5: Astin (2590 in chips)
Seat 6: Fuel55 (10820 in chips)
Seat 7: NewinNov (5571 in chips)
Fuel55: posts small blind 100
NewinNov: posts big blind 200
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Julius_Goat [9c Qc]
Julius_Goat: raises 400 to 600
Astin: folds
Fuel55: calls 500
NewinNov: folds
*** FLOP *** [2c Jd 6c]
Fuel55: bets 4200
Julius_Goat: calls 2919 and is all-in
*** TURN *** [2c Jd 6c] [4c]
*** RIVER *** [2c Jd 6c 4c] [7c]
*** SHOW DOWN ***
Fuel55: shows [8s 8c] (a flush, Eight high)
Julius_Goat: shows [9c Qc] (a flush, Queen high)
Fuel55 said, "fawk"
Julius_Goat collected 7238 from pot
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 7238 Rake 0
Board [2c Jd 6c 4c 7c]
Seat 1: Julius_Goat showed [9c Qc] and won (7238) with a flush, Queen high
Seat 5: Astin (button) folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 6: Fuel55 (small blind) showed [8s 8c] and lost with a flush, Eight high
Seat 7: NewinNov (big blind) folded before Flop


NewinNov said, "arghhh"
Fuel55 said, "you putzes and your draws"
Astin: raises 400 to 600
Fuel55: folds
NewinNov said, "this game will last forever"
NewinNov: folds
Julius_Goat: folds
Astin collected 500 from pot
Astin: doesn't show hand
Fuel55 said, "you do realize that drawing is bad poker"
Astin said, "but it's good pictionary" <---- Line of the night.
Julius_Goat said, "if it weren't for bad play, I wouldn't be able to play fuel"



OK, the first thing we'll notice is that I'm pretty frisky in EP pre-flop. Queen-Ten sooted? Rags. I'm not going to deny it. However . . .

(1) A steal from EP even with fugly one-gapper can be a very successful move when you're trying to steal the blinds (which, obviously, I was).

(2) The better your opponents are (and all these guys are solid to scary from what I've seen), the more obvious the steal is the closer you get to the button.

(3) We're four-handed. I have to loosen it up.

(4) We're at the bubble. Time to loosen and steal.

(5) If I hit this flop hard, it's going to be harder to put me on this hand.

Fuel calls me. I am not happy about this. He's the big stack, he has me way covered, and he's very aggressive. Because of these factors, he could have any number of hands.

However, I'm not upset about this, for the very same reasons. A good flop could get me paid, because Fuel isn't a check-folder. He's more of a 'open your belly and see if you have guts' kind of guy.

As it turns out, he's got a pretty decent calling hand, pocket eights.


2 clubs, Jack diamonds, 6 clubs.

OK, now I have a nice flush draw. I pretty much like this flop, because if Fuel checks, I'm going to take control of the. . .

Oh. Never mind. Fuel just put me all-in.

So, I'm in the tank, which online means I think for 45 seconds.

Here's what I come up with:

1) Calling all your chips with only a flush draw is typically a donkey move.

2) I'm behind. Obviously.

3) I don't think I'm too far behind. Fuel has just given me a 'you go away now' bet.

  • Possibility 1: Fuel has a monster, and is over-betting for value. I've seen him do it to Hoy already tonight, so it's totally possible. Sixes or deuces fit the bill, Queens through Aces are a possibility. He's raising me pre-flop with Jacks.

    Verdict: Rejected. Fuel is going to milk me for the inevitable continuation bet if he's flopped a big hand or smooth-called with a big pair. I put this at low probability, let's say 10%.

    Goat's Note: All percentages are horribly arbitrary and made up after the fact. I didn't do ALL this work in 45 seconds.

  • Possibility 2: Fuel has a Jack. What kind of Jack hand does Fuel just call with? AJ, maybe, KJ or QJ more likely. If this is the case, it's the 3 remaining queens and 9 remaining clubs as outs. 12 outs twice makes it about a coin flip. I'm behind by a hair.

    Verdict: Fairly Possible. This explains the bet pretty well. But I think that with just top pair, Fuel makes a bet to define a hand. Fuel mocks those who think TP is gold, Jerry, gold!

    Let's put this at 30%.

  • Possibility 3: Fuel is bluffing or semi-bluffing at the pot. The semi-bluff scares me the most, because that could mean a better flush draw.

    Verdict: Rejected. I respect Fuel's game, and don't see him committing half of his chips on a pure bluff. And I'm simply not going to factor in a higher flush draw. If that's what it is, so be it. Hopefully I have 2 live cards.

    Let's put this at 10%.

  • Possibility 4: Fuel has a pocket pair lower than Jacks. I'd say 77 through TT.

    Verdict: Ding ding ding ding ding ding! This explains the confidence of the bet (he's got me on high cards), AND his reason for not wanting me to draw any more and just end the hand there. It's a good play for him to make, and he's still got plenty if I just caught my Jack.

    In other words, this is the hand that fits the play. And it's a good play (remember, my read is based on the fact that I think Fuel is a good player).

    Unfortunately or fortunately for Fuel (depending on if I catch up) . . . if my read is correct, and unless it is TT (the least likely combo, as I've got one of those), I have 15 outs twice. Which means, I am behind, but I'm favored.


10% possibility that I am behind to a big pair or a flopped set. I have 9 outs.

10% possibility that I am WAY behind to a high flush draw, esp. AJ clubs. I have 3-6 outs and have to dodge the very clubs I hope to catch.

30% possibility that Fuel has a Jack with no flush draw. I have 12 outs twice, and am basically in a coin-flip.

50% possibility that Fuel has an underpair. I'm favored.

And there's one other thing.

Fuel has an enormous stack compared to the rest of us. Unless I chip up significantly, he is going to money-whip us like sad little puppies until the water is eight feet high and rising. Forget that action. I want to win. My read says call.

So, I call. He shows eights. One is a club. Curses!

Turn. Club.

River. Club.

Ship it.


Now, I realize that I got lucky, or 'lucky', or whatever. I think Fuel played the hand just right. And I think this was a marginal call. But, as I said, I had my reasons for making that call.

And now you know.

Edited to Add: OK, anybody paying attention will notice that throughout this writing I forgot what hand I had and thought I had been holding QT, not Q9.

Easily explained. I was tired when I wrote it. Also, I'm a big donkey.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Donking At the Hoy

The good news: I cashed. Yes, the Goat's on the money board.

The bad news: I came in third, and it should have been higher. It's my own fault. Absolutely no complaints, just recriminations. I slow-played my Aces for the first time I can remember, and received a beautiful lesson in exactly why that's a bad idea, courtesy of Fuel. Um, thanks, Fuel.

Sweet Georgia Brown, that was dumb.

Fuel also berated my play earlier, but I think that's just a badge of honor. Also, I think I made a decent play in that particular instance. Debatable, but decent. Half decent? Decentish? Anyway, recap pending. Read if you care.

Thanks to all for a great game, and thanks Hoyazo for hosting.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

An Open Letter To Luck

Next time I see you, remind me not to talk to you.


Dear Luck,

What is it with you lately?

We've been through rough patches before, I know. The infamous 'counterfeited full house' incident of November 2005. The cold deck at the Final Table last September. The Detroit Lions. My hair. But this is different.

Look, I'm not trying to pin you down. You've been a feisty and capricious muse, and that's what I like about you. Heck and darn, I'd say that's what well ALL like about you. I'm not telling you that you have to marry me or anything.

Just stop stabbing me in the ears with your stiletto heals, please. Please?

I can't even post MTT recaps. There's a poker blog fatwa on bad beat stories, and this would set off Geiger counters despite my flimsy readership.

Suffice it to say, I would have to use the words, 'runner-runner' more than once.

Suffice it to say, I just played a tournament in which I got all my money in against shorter stacks four times. All four times I was ahead -- usually far ahead -- when the money got in there. All four times I lost or chopped.

I got my money in against a larger stack (larger from suckout against me) who called me preflop for about a quarter of her chips with, with, with . . . I can barely say it.

Four three. Soooted. Preflop.

Don't look at me like that. YOU saw it, too. And you know what you did. Yes, you do. Don't you dare play dumb with me.

Runner runner gives the straight. IGHN.

And you know what? I just knew it was going to happen. That's the point to which our relationship has gotten. I wasn't very far ahead of 43 sooted, to be honest. I was making a move against limpers, I read them as weak. And I was right.

Look, I don't mind maniacs. I WANT them to play this way. Or I should.

But, but, but, aren't I supposed to benefit sometimes? I mean, sometimes? Yes, good players take more bad beats. But they don't take bad beats every time.

In poker at least, I'm getting to be like a kicked dog. I should have been delighted to see that 43 loose call, but I wasn't. In my heart, I knew I was doomed. I get called when I'm ahead, and I think 'uh-oh'. It just happens so often. On Stars. On Tilt. In live play. If I had a nickel for every time my lead (big or small) didn't hold . . .

Well. I'd have a big bag full of nickels. Which would be very inconvenient.

Luck be a lady? Luck, you be whatever you want to be. Just for the love of sweet potatoes, stop being what you are right now. If you are going to keep blasting me for solid play, will you please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please ALSO reward me for my (admitedly not infrequent) bad play with similar regularity?

Seriously, what did I do? Break a mirror? Black cat? Walk under a ladder? Feed the Mogwai after midnight? What?

Hey, Luck, don't get me wrong. Don't think I'm saying this is all about you. I know full well that a once-flourishing relationship doesn't get to this point unless both parties have some part in it. I think what we had was special. I'm willing to work on it if you are. I'll shoulder the blame.

Let's not end it like this.

I want you back.

Hey, I need you back. Neteller stranded me with only $20 in Full Tilt, and I'm going to need help grinding it up to the point where I can play in the WPBT Event #1.

With Hatred & Longing,



GOAT'S NOTE: I guess now I owe everybody who reads this a dollar. Just play at the same table as me, wait for me to flop a straight, and then jam.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

MTT Report 001: Clifford the Big Red Dog

"He may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot but don't let that fool you. He really is an idiot."


Hopefully, this isn't going to be merely a chronicle of my big victories. Those are great, and I'll post 'em for sure, but my plan is to post on all tournaments, and to focus on the hands that I think I misplayed, or I wonder whether I could have played better. The blog is not here to help me pat myself on the back. The blog is here to hopefully help me get better.

I'm clear on my skill level. It's a whisker above mediocre. I'd say that puts me in the 90th percentile of online players. I'd like to bump that over the Mendoza line.

I've decided that the 18K Guarantee is my game. I've found myself without a 'go-to' tourny for a few months, and I've been like a sad little dog ever since. I used to have much love for the $11 + 1 Rebuy + 1 Add-On that used to run at 8:30 until they moved it to a time that just doesn't work for me.

Gadfreys, I love that tournament. The 1 rebuy made it essentially a deep-stack, giving me room to maneuver, and it gave about 80% of the field the impression that they were in a true rebuy, which gave me typically 2 double-throughs by the end of the break. Those were the days. I don't have actual statistics, but it felt like I was making it to the money over 50% of the time. Move it back, PokerStars, move it back!

The 18K is not bad, and I recommend it to any MTT lovers out there who haven't discovered it. The pool is usually about double the guarantee, the buy in isn't too awful, and average play is . . . how to put it? What's the word? Bad. Real bad. Keanu bad. Federline bad. It's razing the earth and salting the ground. It is the reason that children and old men cry.

I think I can beat this tournament consistently enough to make it worth playing. So far, the results have been encouraging.

Last week, I was bounced deep into the tournament (and well into the shallow money) on a three outer. This week. . .well, read on.

And sorry about the image quality. I'm still learning.


MTT Report #0001
PokerStars 18K Guaranteed
Buyin: $25 + $2.50
January 6, 2007
Entrants: 1326


My Starting Table

Let's meet the contestants, shall we?

dtuff. A five-foot, three-inch tall albino lumberjack, dtuff plays Pot-limit Omaha and No Limit Hold 'Em tournaments when he isn't strip-cutting Amazon rain forest to make cardboard boxes for Nabisco Shredded Wheat. His nickname is "The Big Squirrel." A relative newcomer to the poker world, dtuff hopes tonight to win some respect from his peers and enough money for some new ankles. His favorite hand is Ace-Ten suited.

ParliPro. ParliPro enjoys a good challenge. He also enjoys a bad challenge. He also enjoys ketchup on his pancakes. He also smells like cheese. Not in a good way. His favorite hand is Aces in the pocket, the big weenie.

(Incidentally, informs me that dtuff and ParliPro are the only successful MTT players of note. Let's see what that information and a bag of potato chips will get us, hmmm?)

Julius_Goat. Our hero, (nominally). Today, the part of Julius_Goat will be played by Elliot Gould. His favorite hand at this time is T8 offsuit. Why offsuit? Why, indeed.

Nano_Pair. Fun Fact: Nano_Pair struts. He struts everywhere. An up-and-coming neurosurgeon for marine mammals, Nano_Pair cannot walk backward without giggling. Nano is credited in the recent hit film Spider Man 2 as 'Man in Crowd No. 874'. His favorite hand (honest) is KJ offsuit.

(I actually have a note on Nano from a previous tournament. It tells me . . . that I've played Nano in a previous tournament. Thank you, unhelpful note!)

brills7. This card-sharp from Northern Portugal is being sponsored today by Hagen-Daz iced coffee paddle pops. She's a master of the squeeze play. Her favorite hand is her left one.

howdumb. Do not be fooled by the name. Our lad howdumb is the 1995 Saratoga county spelling bee runner-up, and can be booked for children's parties. His favorite hand is K2 diamonds, which he calls 'The Whillacker'.

All_in_Man38. Our last-minute entrant to tonight's event fought the law. The law won. His favorite hand just lost.

rcray. Only the warrior who can crack rcray's Aces can win her hand in marriage. Her shock of red hair is distinctive, even across the felt and under a green visor. Her friends all call her "The Gootch." Her favorite hand is pocket threes.

pdjd20. The most feared player at the table, pdjd20 (short for "Pabst: Don't Just Drink 20") has a long history of days, which form weeks, months and even decades. pdjd raises with anything better than pocket 4s, but he longs someday for a hand he can call his own.


By the time the chips are done sliding, only one of these jokers will get into the money. Let's see who that might be . . .

HOUR 1: Bring Out Your Dead (Money)

Some people are going to play very badly now. They will open-push with Aces. They will call a fourth raise with Top Pair Low Kicker. Some of them will get a whole lot of chips. The rest are going to go away very soon.

Other people are going to be very lucky. Still others are going to be totally snakebit. Yes, it's the first hour. Let's watch half the field go 'bye-bye'.

Hand # 4: ($10/$20) Didn't I tell you some people are going to play very badly? What I didn't tell you is that 'some people' means 'me'.

With rcray limping in early position, I look down to see AJ offsuit. That's gold in middle position, Jerry! Gold! I pop it 4x the blind and am called in short order by Nano_Pair and rcray. Flop comes Ace high, two hearts which is cranberry muffin time as far as I'm concerned.

I pop it T200 into the 240 pot. Too high? Maybe, but in my experience, it takes a bet of about 80% of the pot to say 'I really am serious, I have a hand' and I'm planning on taking this little pot before a third heart on the turn ruins my day.

But then Nano min raises. He was really supposed to fold.

Shouldn't this smell fishy? Really fishy? Min raise? Doesn't that just scream: "Please call me, here are the odds to please call my set please call me now please?"

But then my brain tells me that Nano is stealing with a flush draw. Instinct. And then I push all-in, which I immediately regret. Thanks a lot, big brain.

As the seconds tick by, I count all the hands that have me beat right now. I figure out just how far ahead I might be to a heart flush draw, which is what I hope I have. It's not really all that much.

I recall that I am deeply, deeply, stupid. And . . .

Nano folds. My read was right, perhaps. I am a genius, sort of. $590 profit, ship it.

In retrospect, I have to put him on absolutely nothing. You'll see why. At the time, I felt like I had just played the donkey and gotten lucky. And I had. A man in love with TPTK is a sad sight. That kind of play usually doesn't end too well.

Hand # 8: ($10/$20) This is a fun hand! ParliPro raises and rcray calls. Flop comes Jd 5c Ac.

ParliPro checks, rcray bets $90, about half the pot.

ParliPro performs the old check-raise and makes it $300.

rcray RE-raises nearly the minimum to $700.

ParliPro goes all-in immediately, and rcray calls immediately.

Goodness gracious. Later, ParliPro, none of your (admittedly numerous) outs are coming for you.

Don't look now, but we just had Starting Table Elimination #1.

Taking Parli's seat is nolivera64. Welcome to the table, nolivera64!

Hand # 9: ($10/$20) And . . . goodbye nolivera64, who calls a re-raise preflop with Ah2s, then goes all-in on a board of 2h 5h 3h Kd for the inside straight flush draw. All_In_Man lives up to his name with the call, and his Queens hold against (quick tally) 15 outs twice. Crippled, nolivera'll be out next hand.

We barely knew ye, nolivera64. We barely knew ye. Hello, SonnyInMtl.

Hand # 14 ($10/$20) Near death experience for Nano_Pair, whose aces get all-in against dtuff's flopped set of nines. An ace floats down on the river and takes a dump on dtuff.

Nano's got to be feeling good. You can realistically only hope to suck out like that once a tournament.

Hand # 21 ($15/$30) Hooray for Captain Spaulding! I have Kings in the pocket, and preflop action before me!

A raise from pdjd20, a call from dtuff. I pop it 4x to $360, fulling expecting at least one call. In my experience, the majority of players decide they are going to see a flop once they make that first call, and new information after they make that decision rarely sways them (how presidential).

Two calls. Let's see a flop.

5h Jh 6d.

I have no intention of giving somebody the right price to chase with hearts, so I bet $700.

Fold from pdjd, and a call from dtuff.

5s on the turn, and dtuff is immediately all-in for $920 more.

Hmmm. $920 to win $3445? Looks like I'm calling and hoping I'm not up against a set. Since I've been the aggressor all the way through, I don't see a set trying to scare me with a big bet. This smells like a flush draw to me. And If he called all that action pre-flop with A5 or (ye gods) K5, he's getting paid now.

But I did not put him on this hand.

Sorry, kitty. This is my pot pie.

Seriously. You guys. Seriously. That was the most successful player according to thepokerdb. ParliPro was second. Yow. I guess the moral here is that sometimes TPMK, no draw, paired board, just isn't worth it.

And that's Starting Table Elimination #2.

Welcome to the table, Raccoon4477.

Boom, baby. I'm rolling.

Hand # 32: ($25/$50): Raccoon scoops an big ol' pot with AK on a K high flop. Brills goes all-in on an Ace high flush draw, Raccoon goes all-in to isolate, and All_In_Man, who has everyone covered, is clearly aptly named, calling with Top Pair, Bad Kicker.

Big Slick holds for Starting Table Elimination #3. Goodbye Brills, hello grandslamal.

Hand # 39 ($25/$50): SonnyInMtl just decided that A8 was worth going to war over on a board that missed him. All_In_Man sure thanks you for all your chips.

Hello Moosebabies! You have my favorite name of this whole tournament! You sound like an extremely disturbing children's cartoon show!

Moosebabies! The new theater candy made of walnuts and nougat!

Moosebabies for drain commissioner!

Hand # 48 ($50/$100): Nano's badly hurt, as pdjd20's pocket sevens flop a QQ7 full house. Nano pot-commits himself on that flop with a huge bet (which I've observed is becoming a bit of a habit for him). Let's just say he doesn't get a fold. Tens are not enough, and Nano's M is in the red zone.

Hand # 49 ($50/$100): Nano, holding KJo, doubles through raccoon on a coin flip. Raccoon paired his low card and pulled ahead on the flop, but Nano caught a J on the turn.

Nano's got to be feeling good. You can realistically only hope to suck out like that once a tournament.

Hand # 56 ($50/$100): Now here's something not to do. I slough away a quarter of my chips to grandslamal (who is impressing me as a solid and cagey player) by raising pre-flop and then making an obvious continuation bet . . .

. . . with Ace five.


I cannot call al's immediate re-raise. But I can resolve to stop playing like that. Ugh.

Hand # 58
($50/$100): All_In_Man rubs out howdumb on a board of T5K rainbow.

Severly shortstacked, howdumb pushed with T4.
I have to say it: How dumb, howdumb.

All_In_Man, severely big stacked, has the luxury of being able to call with T8 for Starting Table Elimination #4.

Greetings, quixotic78.

Hand # 61 ($50/$100): Meanwhile, the late streets continue their love affair with our goodbuddy Nano_Pair.

Nano demolishes raccoon and is plenty healthy again. Nano called aggression on the flop with nothing but overcards and caught his pair. Raccoon pushed very hard with a pocket pair below the board, the sicko. Now' he's got enough money to buy a bus ticket home.

Nano's got to be feeling good. You can realistically only hope to suck out . . . um, how many times CAN you suck out??? Let's see . . .

Hand # 63 ($50/$100): With A3, raccoon pushes $70 more into an already raised pot to go all-in. He's called by KQ and AJ. The raccoon is gone and rehillj takes over at the one seat.

Hand # 64
($50/$100): Talk about tilting at windmills. After pdjd20 makes a huge re-raise, quixotic decides to call for his tournament life with 77. That's a terrible call, especially when pdjd flips over Aces, catches a set on the flop and QUADS on the turn.

And let's all say hi to Rudolph. He can play in all our reindeer games.

Hand # 66 ($50/$100): Moosebabies decides to risk his tournament with A2 offsuit, which is usually pretty bad against Ace with. . . anything else.

Goodbye, Moosebabies. I loved your name, but not your play. But in the spring, as the sap begins to run once more in the maple trees, and the flowers start to bloom, the wind will always whisper to me . . Moosebabies . . .. Moosebabies . . . Mooooosebabies. And here comes MaggieMayB into the Moosebabies Memorial Chair as we enter the break.

HOUR 2: How High's The Water, Mama?

Ah, the second hour. When stacks that have not improved or have lost a bit start to get desperate. When tight players loosen and loose players tighten. When the monster stacks get over-confident. The first wild hour. There's money to be made now. Bluffs are more allowable. The Goat may just bring his favorite trash hands out to play . . .

Hand # 76 ($75/$150) After an orbit or so of tight play, rehillj opens UTG with ATo and is called by a rather small-stacked rcray in the small blind with presto.

Flop: 3d 8s 3c

rcray pushes all-in to take it down . . . but he doesn't count on rehillj's precognative abilities. Rhillj calls with overs and catches the Ace he knew was coming on the turn.

I remind myself to push hard on rehillj if I have a good hand.

That's Starting Table Elimination #5. Howdy, richm1. Stick around, won't you?

Hand # 86 ($75/$150): After a decent run and pretty good play, rcray decides to play the TPTK he flops with AK a little slow . . . and $0 wagered on the turn gives grandslamal the pot odds he needs to get to the river, where he fills his flopped open-end straight draw.

When pdjd20 poooooshes, we have Starting Table Elimination #6.

Bye pdjd, bye rcray, Please join me in a round of applause for our new players, richmal and robbo33.

And let it be noted, grandslamal is impressing me as a dangerous player, and able to play on all streets. Luckily, he is sitting 2 to my left, so stealing is going to be a lot of fun.

Only All_In_Man, Nano_Pair, and Julius_Goat remain from the starting table.

Underscore in name = success. I'll sell you my lucky underscore for $800.

Hand # 89 ($100/$200) I have cowboys on the button, whoo hoo hoohoohoo! Sadly, this time it's folded to me, and neither blind bites on my min. raise.

I mis-played that situation. I think grandslamal is savvy enough to fear the min raise. He may have called on general principle if I'd popped it a bit more.

Money's good, though. I'll take money.

Hand # 98 ($100/$200): I'm getting antsy. My M is at 8 and it's fixing to get way worse if I play a hand and lose it. I see AQo in middle position with one limper and raisy-daisy to $800. All_In_Man, who's been loose all game, just calls and we're heads-up to the flop.

AIM bets the minimum into a raggedy 7s 9s 2h flop, and I decide to take my changes and push. After a long time, AIM mucks and I exhale. I don't even know if I wanted a call there; I suspect I was ahead, but didn't really want to race.

Got a little more room to breathe now, though.

Hand # 105 ($100/$200): With 92 offsuit, I check my option; rehillj on the button is the only limper. I'm hoping for a ragged flop to check-raise on.

And I get it. 3d 4d Jh hits the board. I check, and rehillj, who has been aggressive and unchallenged for quite a few hands now, makes a pot-size bet. I wait just a bit to sell the 'weak is strong' angle, and then re-raise x4. Fold.

Aaaaahhh, I like my play for a change! And, more breathing room.

Hand # 107 ($100/$200): Pocket Queens with a raise from Rudolph before me. I pop it up to $1800 and scoop the pot.

More room.

Hand # 108 ($100/$200): MaggieMayB out, pushing all-in with nothing but overs. PeposKool slides in.

Hand # 109 ($100/$200, $25 ante): Scary hand, questionable play here. I limp in EP with 66, call grandslamal's big raise, then dump about half my chips in on a ugly before al can make a continuation. Make a big move when out of position to take the momentum away from a LP raiser; call it continuationus interruptus.

Risky, but I am going with my gut. I wouldn't make this move if it weren't al, who I think is a solid enough player to be able to fold. After a looooooong consideration, he mucks.

Yeah, boy. I'm healthy now. Meet the table chip-leader.

Hand # 112 ($100/$200, $25 ante): rehillj DESTROYS PeposKool in the second of two consecutive hands. Nothing much esle to say. Pepos is behind and stays behind, and then he goes away.

Taking his place is lucky lindy2.

Hand # 115 ($100/$200, $25 ante): With Ace-low, I play some very dumb limp-and-check-call poker against Granslamal on an Ace-high board. Al's got the higher kicker, and the turn makes him Aces up.

What a fantastic way to lose half your chips!

I'm still healthy, but I'm not scary anymore.


Hand # 116 ($100/$200, $25 ante): And here's AhQd in middle position. OK, then. I'm perfectly happy with either a call or a fold-around. I raise it up to $1K and Nano_Pair doesn't hesitate to call.

Nano's been calling with nada all night. I'd really like a favorable flop.

How about 3d 4d Qh? That'll do. Nano's only got 1260, and that's how much I bet. Exactly that much, to communicate "I am pushing you off the pot here." I want a call.

Nada waits about 0.0003 seconds and boom, calls. He shows . . .

KhJd, for one overcard and a weaker backdoor flush draw.

Wow. I figured he had better than that. To recap:

He called half his chips off with KJo, without hesitation.

He called the rest of them off on a flop that missed him completely.

The turn is a King. Three outs? No problem for Nano_Pair.

Motherfather Chinese DENTIST!

Son of a farging bastiges ***ongle!

Meet the new short-stack. He's . . . me. He's steaming a little bit right now. Don't poke him.

Ghastly, ghastly call.

And you know what? I wanted him to make it. I practically begged him to.

After a while, I type: You called. Why?

He responds: Needed a break.

I reply: You're a sicko, but I like you.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Nano_Pair! Isn't he great?

Hand # 119 ($100/$200, $25 ante): richmal's QQ vs. Rudolph's AK preflop. The ladies don't hold up.

Better luck to our latest contestant, Kaymor116.

Hand # 125 ($100/$200, $25 ante): Nano_Pair decides to get feisty with Jacks. He pushes all in into a King high board and is insta-called by rehillj, who has King Jack.

Kill with KJo, get killed by KJo. How karmic. Bummer for you, Nano, nice knowing you.

Except . . .

The case Jack falls on the turn. One outer? We got your stinking one-outer right here.

I've lost count of how many times Nano's improved after getting all-in way behind.

Let's call him Clifford, shall we? He's a huge dog, but he always wins in the end. So be it. From now until the end of time, Nano_Pair shall be known in this blog as "Clifford."

Hand # 126 ($100/$200, $25 ante): After getting rogered by Clifford, I have an M just over 3, and the blinds are about to double in a minute, so I'm looking for a nice little place to open-push.

K4 offsuit? Gooooooooooooooooooot.

I'm called by All_In_Man, whom I actually have covered by just a little. Ouch, All_In_Man. AIM shows me A9o and I throw up in my mouth, a little bit.

Oh well, two live cards, two tiny stacks. Let's have a raise of the little people.

I pair my four on the flop, and AIM never improves.

Call me Travolta, I'm stayin' alive. AIM makes Starting Table Elimination #7, which means that it is down to me and Clifford from the original gang.

Rags4Me takes AIM's spot.

Hand # 128 ($200/$400, $25 ante): Kamor's pocket sevens fall to Rudolph's KQo.

Bye, Kamor. And now . . .ZionHsu.

Hand # 131 ($200/$400, $25 ante): Rags4Me desperation-pushed with Ace-rag and lucky lindy calls him with Tens. Tens hold.

After 5 hands at our table, Rags is gone. I feel like we should say a few words, but none of us know him. I opt for respectful silence.

Rags is replaced by the next guy, whose name is 22eddie.

Hand # 132 ($200/$400, $25 ante): Speaking of pocket tens . . . I have them. Lucky lindy bets x4, and I wait just a bit, hoping to put off some weak vibes and collect a call (probably unnecessary, since Lindy has me so covered he amost has to call). Lindy's behind, and he may be well behind. Just a feeling.

All in, and fold around to Lindy, who calls and shows . . .


Double through on the big stack. I'm feeling much better.

Hand # 144 ($200/$400, $25 ante): There's been some tight play for an orbit and a half, so with KJo (AKA 'Chico and the Man') in middle position, I raise to steal.

Which is great, until eddie22 raises me 3x. Unlike Clifford, I don't fall in love with this hand, which is essentially rags. I wouldn't even have tried the steal if the table wasn't so tight. I'm out of the hand as soon as the bet hits the table, though I pause long enough to make it seem like I'm thinking it over. I want the players who are paying attention to think I might have something reasonable.

Eddie shows me cowboys. He didn't need to show, but it's nice to have free confirmation that I'm reading well -- though Dr. Seuss is harder to read than that hand was.

Thanks, eddie22.

And that'll pretty much take us to the break.

LEVEL 3: Bubble In Paradise

And now, mein sprokets, is the hour where we get paid. Or don't. We'll hit the money bubble in about 1/2 hour, and I expect to see a general tightening now, with a few players taking advantage and stealing the not-inconsiderable blinds.

The bad news? Even with two double ups after Clifford the Big Red Dog bit me, I'm not in good shape. My M is a little over 3, and I have 3 hands before the blinds come. I'm going to have to make some obvious desperation plays with some very questionable hands. My goal is 2 live cards or an Ace, but I'll take what I must Ten high? Giddyup.

Thanks, Clifford the Big Red Dog. You donkey.

Hand # 152 ($300/$600, $50 ante): First hand, here it is. Ace six, one EP limper. Instructions? Push. Hold breath.

I give the EP limper no credit. Except for grandslamal, we've got Any Two Will Do players.

Holding breath . . .

Holding . . .

The limper (rehillj) calls (crap!) with . . . Ace five. (Yes!) And now I dance.

My kicker plays. Now that's a spicy meat-a-ball. I just doubled up on a steal and am over 10K in chips.

Hand # 153 ($300/$600, $50 ante): Ace QUEEN this time. I'm feeling it. Raise it up.

Rehillj calls me in the BB.

Flop K 6 3 rainbow. I don't like that King. I do not.

I check. Min bet from rehillj.

And now I eat a brain tumor for breakfast and just call.

Turn, blank. Repeat. Check call. Somewhere, the smart part of my brain is screaming at me about what kind of player check-calls it down to the river. There is a reason this is no-limit.

River, blank. Repeat. Yes, that's right . . . ANOTHER check-call. I'll never understand my play on this one. Worst hand I played the whole tourny.

Rehillj has pocket sevens, and I just gave back most of the chips I just took from him. I'm a dumb-dumb sometimes. Like right now.

Luckily, I still have enough bullets to steal judiciously, and the knowledge that I played badly there. I will play better.

Hand # 157 ($300/$600, $50 ante): I find pocket dueces in the small blind. It's folded to me, and now I have a decision to make.

Fold? I just can't see doing that. Unless Clifford in the big blind has a higher pair, I'm ahead. The odds of him having that higher pair are low. But a raise in the SB is such an obvious steal move that it almost invites a call, and I'd hate to have to play most flops with just ducks. An all-in raise wouldn't be fun either. Thanks to my donkish play on hand 153, Clifford's actually got me covered. And he WILL call with any overpair.

Limp? No way. I want to finish this before a flop if I can. I'd rather just have the blinds and antes.

So I raise it 4x to show I'm serious.

Clifford calls. I put him on overs or any ace.

Flop comes 757. I'm in the tank for a while.

I really like this flop. I'm almost certainly ahead if my read is right. If he's got a five or a seven, that's bad luck. If he's got an overpair, it's a cold deck.

I want the pot, I want it now. Problems?

1) I know just how easily my two pair can be counterfeited. Basically whatever comes on the turn besides a 2 or a 7 will add outs for Clifford's overpair.

2) I have seen Clifford play. He'll call with nothing but overs. I'm pretty sure of this.

In the end, I decide:

1) I'm ahead.

2) If Clifford calls, so be it, all the more chips if my hand holds up.

3) I'm pretty crippled if I let this hand go.

4) I can't afford to give a single free card.

5) I'm taking these hobbits to Isengard.

I go all in. Clifford calls with his AJo, actually a better hand than I gave him credit for. I think: one of us was doomed as soon as the cards were dealt, and then I see who is doomed.

Five on the river. Counterfeiting, it happens so often. Clifford has sucked out again. Stupid fat hobbit.

Starting Table Elimination #8 is me. Later, virtual poker players. I'm getting some rest, and Clifford is going on to make some money.


I got my money in with the best of it and a correct read, so I'm at peace with what happened. At the same time, I can't help but wonder if it would have been better to find a better spot. Pushing with 22 when you are pretty sure you're ahead is fine, but pushing against a known calling station is questionable. In other words, I knew I had a coin-flip, I knew I was getting the best of it, but I was still pushing with the knowledge that I'd probably get called. Given that my read was correct, was I far enough ahead to make the push the right move? I just can't see getting away from the hand on that flop.

The best thing would have been to throw it away in the SB, but I was ahead until the river. Even pre-flop I was a slight favorite. I improved every street until the river.

I guess I was close to committed when he called pre-flop (not a bad call there, either, given the range of cards I may have had). I was committed to a continuation, at the least, and I knew my continuation was going to have to be my whole stack if I had any hope of winning the pot right there (which was my hope).

The moral: stealing blinds is dangerous work, especially against somebody who is likely to call you down with extremely modest holdings. You can make a big score when your hand holds up, but you can find yourself playing with your tournament life on some awfully slim leads.

I'll say this: Reviewing the hand history, #115 and especially #153 are the hands that cost me. Badly played on all streets. I save these chips, I don't go out when I did, and those weren't luck -- they were me. In both cases, they were hands that I check-called down to the river. That's not a coincidence, and I am quite sure they're the only hands I played that way.

Good to know.

Not surprisingly, old Clifford didn't hold on for the final table. I looked him up about a half hour later just in time to see him crash and burn, calling off his whole stack after the flop with nothing but overcards. He has since married, had a wife, a pet carp, and five kids, and settled into a nice career in chartered accountancy.

We wish him all the best.

The Stats

Finished in 204th place.
157 hands played and saw flop:
- 6 times out of 18 while in small blind (33%)
- 7 times out of 19 while in big blind (36%)
- 17 times out of 120 in other positions (14%)
- a total of 30 times out of 157 (19%)
Pots won at showdown - 5 out of 10 (50%)
Pots won without showdown - 19

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Bends

"Now there's a man with an open mind - you can feel the breeze from here!"

I played Mondays At the Hoy last night.

I played really. . . um. Well, 'skillfully' does not spring to mind. 'Badly' seems to apply.

That isn't entirely fair. Except for one hand, I did all right. Of course, that one hand sent me home in 16th place out of 19 runners for no good reason.

In late position I called a standard raise from the most excellent slb with KQs. Mistake #1.

Ace-high flop, two spades. Approximately pot-size bet from slb. Hmmm.

A reasonable man might fold here. Apparently, I am not a reasonable man.

So, I decided to try to go ahead and push him off his Top pair (my read) by re-raising x3. Mistake #2.

There's a difference, I find, between having TP and TPTK, and that is the difference I ran into.

Slb didn't wait long before pushing the rest of his chips with big slick. Of course, I didn't wait long before calling, even though I'd have still had plenty of chips to play with if I laid it down. Why? Oh, I don't know. Adventure outweighed common sense? I didn't want to be a short stack? It is better to die young and pretty than old and rich? I was feeling it?

The real answer: I had already decided to take this one all the way if I had to before slb even bet. Just wanted to, I guess. Mistake #3.

That's weird. I'm looking through all three volumes of Harington On Hold 'Em, and I don't find his 'Because I Wanted To" chapter.

Anyway, I made a questionable call, followed by brick-brick. Good night.

It's really a change in atmospheric pressure, going from a dead-money fest MTT to a smaller game where everybody is skilled and likely to jam with 72 offsuit. You can get the bends trying to adjust your play. That's my excuse for the old hee-haw, anyway.

No matter. Even if they are horendously -EV, I love those blogger tournaments.

Everybody can spell.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

The Fallacy of Bad Beats

"A child of five would understand this. Fetch me a child of five."

As I wrote in my inaugural post, I've been consistently getting the heave-ho from tournaments lately by getting all the money in with a higher pair than my opponent, or some other dominating hand, only to see them hit their set (or even quads), their four flush, four to a straight. Sometimes, we'll play a pot for all the bacon when I sneak in with the smaller pair and hit my set. But (it seems) inevitably the evil opponent will catch their two outer set, or their runner-runner.

Sometimes (often?), I donk off all my chips with medium pair. Ahem. Never mind.

There are infinite variations, but the same story: Some mind-blindingly bad junk happens and I'm all done, despite my blindingly effulgent poker skills, which are both "sick" and "madd".

I've started asking myself, though: ARE these really 'bad beats'? If my all-in gets called by somebody who only has 8% of it pre-flop and he sucks out, is that actually a bad beat?

The people I play sure seem to think so when I suck out on them. They'll type things like this.


"OMG. So ghey."

"**** u ur a luck"

"This ****ing site is ****ing rigged u doknkey awlys sucks!!11!!!!!!1"

"***** ***** of a ****** RiverStars monkey***ers"

"Every TIME!!! Every ******illet *other***ongle TIME!!!"

Ah, to be fair . . . that last one was me. Last week.

But are these actually bad beats? Do bad beats even exist?

I'm drawing a line in the sand. I'm going to say no. It's a myth.

This may be easily refuted by anybody with a math degree or an IQ in triple digits. It may be a completely obvious thought that has been writen about before, and better, and here I'm treating it as profound and original. But I think that if you get your chips in with 92% of it, and you win the pot, you didn't hold up. No, bubba, you just got lucky.

Behold. Here's the Fallacy of Bad Beats in MTTs.
Proposal #1: The goal of a poker tournament is to get all the chips, every last one of them.

Proposal #2: In a non-rebuy tournament, everybody starts with the exact same number of chips.

Proposal #3: With evenly distributed cards, and with completely even talent, winning a tournament is essentially a process of doubling and redoubling your chips, for as many re-doublings are necessary until all chips are yours.

Proposal #4: Every time you double your chips, you are incurring a level of risk somewhere between 0% (you're holding the mortal nuts) or 100% (drawing dead).

Proposal #5: All things being equal, your level of risk for each attempt to double through should approach 50%, the popular coin flip. Skill is the factor that tends to lower this risk -- by making good reads, good bluffs, good lay-downs, and by managing bets, flop texture, and innumerable other factors to win larger pots with smaller bets. Incompetence is the factor that raises this risk, through poor card selection, failure to calculate pot odds when chasing draws, and over-valuing marginal holdings.

Proposal #6: All things aren't equal. Sometimes you are wrong, sometimes the pot odds or implied odds recommend a call with the worst of it. Sometimes you just need to take a stand before the blinds gobble you. You're sometimes going to get into the money with the worst of it. Your average risk for a double-through is not going to equal 100%. Even the very best players, catching the very best cards, can't hope for an average risk lower than 10% -15% (just making up numbers here, but that sounds about right).


OK, hopefully all that makes sense and doesn't make me sound like a baboon or a pedantic dink.
Having said all this, the question is begged: How many times do you have to double through to get all the chips? Answer: It depends on the size of the field.

Let's take the last tournament I played, which had approximately 1300 entrants.

I started with 1500 chips, which represented one (1) buy-in. My goal was to represent approximately 1300 buy-ins.

The first time I doubled through, I officially had 3000 chips and represented two (2) buy-ins. The next time I doubled through, I had 6000 chips and four (4) buy-ins.

If I continued like that, I would next represent eight buy-ins, then sixteen, then thirty-two, then sixty-four, then 128, then 256, then 512, then 1024, at which point I would only need to add about 30% to my stack to get the rest of the buy-ins. I'd be heads-up with a commanding chip lead. So let's make it simple and say 1024 is the promised land.

That's ten double-throughs.

Say I am correct that getting an average of only 10% risk for each double-through is a best case scenario for even a very good player (and if you disagree, ask yourself how happy you are when you're called by somebody who is only getting 10%).

You are 90% ahead. Which means that you'll lose one time out of ten. And you have to do this successfully ten times.

So, in a field of 1024 or more, you have to do better than being way, way, way ahead, or statistically, you're going to lose. You have to be, on average, better than that when you risk your chips, or you can't really call yourself unlucky.

It's something I intend to remember when I push with cowboys, get called by Jacks, and watch the Jack hit the river to end my night. That was the one time in ten.

Variance, then, is the property that says: Sometimes your opponent will hit his 2-outer on the river, but not always: sometimes, it will be on the turn or even the flop.

But your opponent will indeed eventually hit that 2-outer, but only if you're good enough.

I realize that I'm describing a closed system of nothing but all-in shoves and double-throughs, and that this theory doesn't take into account the delicate dance of bluffs, semi-bluffs, positional steals, and the rest of it that makes this a far more complex equation. There are other things you can do to get chips, other tools in your kit to give you an edge.

In the final wash, though, the goal is to get chips. To get them, you must risk them. It comes down to chips and cards, and with what combination of the latter you choose to risk the former. So the next time your Aces hold up against those pocket sevens, feel very lucky. You missed the one in ten.

"Every time I get in with rockets against Jacks, a Jack hits the flop. EVERY TIME!"

Well, of course every time. That's expected. That's normal.


Am I saying, then, that it's all luck? Skill not a factor?

Just the opposite.

I'm saying you need skill to even hope to get lucky. A player without skill could start with 10x the starting chips as the rest of the field, and rarely get lucky enough to find the final table. Try this: take note of the chipleader about a half hour into a large-field tournament. When it's done, see what place they went out. Was it even in the money?

Skill gets you to luck's front door, then you hope that luck is home when you knock. She's usually out on a date. Sometimes, she's home, and will invite you in and scramble you some eggs for breakfast. You need that 'good' kind of luck, which, like the 'good' kind of cholesterol, is necessary in small doses for healthy living.

"Good" luck is when your favorite doesn't lose. "Bad" luck is when you suck out, and it will clog your arteries if you get too used to living on them. Suckouts are like the Big Macs of poker. They taste so good, you want another.

So the next time I'm bounced despite a good play with a good read, I'll try to keep it in perspective, and wait for some scrambled eggs.

A little advice: When you hit YOUR two outer on the river, your victim doesn't seem to want to hear your theories about how it's supposed to happen.

They become so rude.