Monday, January 31, 2005

The Gila River is So Soft!

I don't know why but I am always amazed at how much worse the level of play is at the Gila River Casino versus Casino AZ. Last Saturday, Robert called me during the U of A basketball game and said Jon and himself would be heading out to play poker and that I should join them.

For some reason I thought the casino would be dead on a Saturday afternoon with bad weather outside but it was packed. After signing up, Jon got seated first and me and Rob were still waiting. Finally they decided to open up a new table. Rob wanted to sit on my left because he wanted to get out if I decide to raise. We don't collude, but if Rob folding when I am in a hand is what it takes to have some company at the table than so be it.

I patiently waited for some decent starting cards and took mental notes on the other players. The two players to my right were buddies and obviously didn't know much about the game. They would play any 2 suited cards, any face card, and would call down with any piece of the flop. One of the guys had a cowboy hat so I'll refer to him as Cowboy. Anyways after watching for 30 minutes, I whispered to Rob that the Cowboy was an ATM machine and I was planning on making a withdrawal.

Finally I get JJ on the button. The details on this hand are a little sketchy, but I'll do my best. There were 5 or 6 callers and I raised. Cowboy is two seats to my right and had already limped in. He reraises and I cap it at 4 bets. A couple of the players drop out. The flop is Queen, Jack, 7 all different suits. There is an early bet, and a couple of calls including one from a player who was actually somewhat decent and the Cowboy raises. I reraise, the decent player calls two more, and Cowboy calls. The turn is harmless, but it does match one of the suits on the board. Decent player checks, Cowboy bets and I raise. Decent player calls (hmmm) and the Cowboy raises me again. Now 90% of time if someone reraises before the flop and then raises after the flop comes out Queen high he probably has AA or KK. Maybe he has AQ. I figure if he's got pocket Queens I am just going to lose a lot of money. Knowing how bad this player is, I am willing to take the chance that I can get a lot more money out of him if my initial read is right. So I reraise and one more call and Cowboy calls. Finally the river comes and it's an Ace there is no flush possible, but there is a straight out there. I am not too concerned about the straight because it would be incredibly dumb for someone to have stayed in preflop with King - 10. What concerns me is the possibility of trip Aces. The pot is absolutely huge. First player checks, and Cowboy checks. I briefly think about checking. I am sure the good player missed his draw or he would have bet. I decide the Cowboy needs to be value bet so I bet. The good player folds his busted draw and the Cowboy check raises me! I say out loud that I didn't think he even knew how to do that. I have to call because I am getting something like 30 to 1. Here's the best part.....the Cowboy turns over Ace-King for a pair of Aces. Wow! He had nothing, but an inside straight draw until the river when he hit his Ace. The check raise was a way for him to lose even more money. I am not sure how big the entire pot was, but my profit was $120.

After that I just played textbook poker and won $42 more dollars and left up $162.

I also played a lot of online poker over the weekend. I have noticed that my tournament play has sucked lately but my ring game has been pretty good. I think I am suffering from fancy play syndrome in the tournaments. I make a play that works against a good player, but the bad players call me down with 2nd pair or a flush draw and hit it.

Overall the poker has been good lately and my bankroll is back up to $1200 after my Vegas setback last month.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Has my luck turned at Casino AZ?

Last night was one of those perfect situations at a low limit table. One loose aggressive player to pump up the pot. A bunch of loose passive calling stations who will call down to the river with 2nd pair or underpair.

The loose aggressive player in the 1 seat was really hot. He hit runner-runner at least 3 times in the first 30 minutes that I sat down. Luckily I was not in any pots with him.

My strategy coming in was to tighten up and try not to let myself get sucked in to loosening my starting hand standards. I also wanted avoid making any tricky plays and play straight ahead poker for at least the first couple of hours. If I was winning and the players at my table appear to notice that I am playing tight aggressive, then I might loosen up a little.

It's really great when you can read everyone's hand and lady luck smiles upon you to help avoid getting trapped. For example:
I was dealt A10 off late position. This is a sketchy raising hand. If there is only a couple of players in I might raise to try and force out the blinds. In this case there was a new player to my right and I didn't know how she played. She called so I decided to just call. The flop has an Ace and two low cards, with no straights or flush possibilities. First player bets, and then the woman to my right raises. Wait a minute, I was getting ready to do that. I call for time and think about it a little. I have found that many of these players will not raise preflop with A-J or A-Q. Sometimes they don't even raise with A-K. With a bet and a raise in front I decide to fold. Sure enough, the first better had A-3 for a pair of aces and low kicker. The raiser had A-J. I told her thanks for saving me at least $12.

Another interesting hand.

Ace King of diamonds on the button. 3 limpers and I raise. The blinds fold so 9 bets in the pot to the flop. Flop is King(sp) 8 (d) and 8(c). Remembering that I often play stupid with paired boards I start to concentrate a little more. First player bets. He is an awful player but he usually just calls. He almost never raises or bets first. Now he's betting into 3 other people after I raised the flop. Second player raises. She is a little more solid. I have not seen her get out of line yet. Third player folds and it's 2 bets to me with 12 bets in the pot. I call. Then the first player reraises. The second player calls and I fold.

The first call was questionable. 6-1 pot odds. Maybe 12-1 implied odds. At least one of them has an 8. My only outs are the other 2 kings and a backdoor flush draw. The last fold, I probably should have called because my odds were even better, but even if I hit my flush I could be up against a full house. Any way my read was right and they both had 8-9 in the hole and they chopped the pot. My diamonds or kings did not come on the turn or river.

As for the winners, they were all pretty straight forward. Including one nice kill pot where I had raised AK and had the loose aggressive guy calling me down.

I finished up $92 and I don't think I could have done any better. In fact it was hard to leave except for the fact that I hadn't been to my house in nearly 2 days and I wanted to get home to feed the dogs. If it wasn't for that, I might have stayed all night.

I also wanted to comment on Tilt, the new show on ESPN. I am enjoying it so far. Yes the portrayal of the poker is pretty bad, but I see the potential in the show. My only concern is the fact that they portray every card game as crooked. This can't be good for the long term health of the game. I still think that we are going to see a big cheating scandal in the game soon at one of the big tournaments. There is too many players buying pieces of each other that there is bound to be some chip dumping eventually.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Fantasy Football and Poker

Last night was our Fantasy Football Party. I came in 3rd place this year because I drafted Peyton Manning and Curtis Martin. I basically made my money back and drank for free at the party.

It was a given that a poker game was going to be played at this party since none of the wives or girlfriends were invited. Somehow the guys have the idea that playing Pot Limit Hold'em or No Limit Hold'em is to their advantage because they can discourage those crazy draws that beat them in limit hold'em. I hope they keep believing that. None of them have any idea what the odds are to draw to a straight or flush and they do not know how much to bet to make it a mistake for someone to draw to the straight or flush. We decide to play Pot Limit Hold'em with $1 and $2 blinds and a $40 buy in.

Here is a brief summary of my reads on my friends:

Jon - probably knows more than any of my other friends because he has read at least one book on poker. He is a talker in that he trys to throw you off reading his hand by making comments about it. Usually he has a classic tell in that he acts strong when he's weak.

Rob - The tightest player of the bunch. Plays straight forward poker. Was the first to notice that I mix up my play with my friends because everyone thinks I play supertight.

Carlo - Has no idea what he's doing. Will stay in to the end if he has any chance of getting a hand or hits any part of the flop.

Chris - Pretty tight player. No idea about position. Will only stay in with top pair or better. He never raises unless he has an unbeatable hand. Be worried if he calls a big bet.

Bill - Understands how to play tight, but gets bored easily. He will tend to blow off his chips late when it's close to him going home. He wants to win big or go home broke.

On to some specific hands last night.

I had 2-3 in the big blind. There were 4 callers before the flop. The flop had a 3 and a couple of medium cards. It was checked all around. The turn had an another 3. There were two of the same suit on the board and there was a straight possibility out there as well. I bet the pot and Carlo and Jon took their time trying to decide whether to call. They both did so now the pot is huge. The river is a blank and I move all in. They both fold and curse that they missed their straight and flush draws. Bill tells me I made a bad bet. Again proving that no one in this game knows the concept of pot odds. Since I am among friends I decide to teach and tell Bill that the odds of making that straight are 5-1 and that I will make that bet every time if I know that's what my opponent has.

Another had I am dealt K-8 of hearts on the button. I limp in with about 5 other players. The flop is A hearts, A diamonds, 10 hearts. The small blind (Mike) bets $4 and there are three other callers. I decide against raising because I want to be deceptive. I just call. I think the pot was about $32. I was already up a good amount so I could afford to make a big bet if I had to. The turn was the Jack of Hearts giving me the nut flush. Mike bet again, this time $15. This scared out the other guys except for me. I am a little worried about a full house since Mike has not really been that aggressive before. I just call. I now have an the Ace flush with a Royal Flush draw. Well wouldn't you know it, the Queen of Hearts came on the river giving me the Royal Flush. My first one ever! I have checked in different places and it is somewhere between 60,000 and 120,000 to one in hitting that hand. Anyway Mike checks because it's obvious now that he is afraid of the flush. I try to come up with an amount that he will call. I bet $15 and he ponders for a while and he calls. I rake in a $92 pot and nobody at the table can believe they are seeing a Royal Flush. Poor Mike had 3 Aces.

At one point in the night I had over $200 in front of me after starting with $40. I ended the night up $115. I am so glad my friends like Pot Limit.

Monday, January 03, 2005

You Gotta Get Lucky!

I played a 20+2 sit n go on Sunday. I was playing really tight and didn't have any cards to start with for the first two rounds. I saw one crazy play where one guy bluffed all in about twice the amount of the pot with absolutely nothing, but got called by another guy with King high who only had about 100 more in chips. In other words it looked a lot like chip dumping. I made a note not to bluff that guy since he may call with anything. That wasn't good for me though because he was on my left so I was going to need to get by him if I wanted to steal any blinds.

Players kept hanging on and the blinds were up to 50-100 and they were going up to 75-150 in two hands. I had 500 left and needed to make a move soon. Since there were still like 8 people left with stacks at least my size I decided I needed to get lucky. I went all in with Jack-3 suited. If nobody calls, fine. If I get called it's a roll of the dice. Of course Mr. Unbluffable called me with crap, and I got one other caller as well. Well wouldn't you know it but I ended up with 4 of a kind in 3's and tripled up. Suddenly I was second in chips.

The blinds went up and I won a couple of hands and everyone was forced into all in mode. I only played good cards until there were 4 left. The other large stack was on my immediate left followed by the two short stacks. They only had enough for their next blinds. I was dealt KQ offsuit under the gun. I raised all in because I wanted to isolate the blinds. The button (bigstack) took way too long to get out the way (why take that risk?) and the blinds both called. I flopped a king and suddenly there were only two left.

Heads up play in online poker is really a crap shoot. I wonder what edge a professional really has. Maybe 10%. There are no visual reads or tells only betting patterns. And with blinds increasing so fast, you can't really depend on those either. Anyway I battled and eventually got my opponent down to his last 800 with the blinds at 200-400. Sure enough he doubled up and then doubled up again and actually took the chip lead. Finally I got some good cards and eventually took the lead again, put him all in and won the thing.

I also played some no limit holdem at a guy's house in South Phoenix on Saturday. There were only 4 of us so I thought I would try to bully people around since the buy in was $20 and the blinds were $.25 and $.50. One of the players was Josh Stanley who really doesn't know the game and got incredibly lucky when I saw him play in Yuma (see Yuma trip report). I knew enough that if he calls a big bet, that he has a good hand. He never raises. For some reason he kept calling my bets and I kept losing money to him.

Another lost hand when I had top pair with a good kicker. I read my opponent for top pair with a bad kicker. I didn't even notice the straight possibility on the flop. Which he happened to hit on the flop. Luckily I didn't do anything too crazy since I was trying to bet small to keep him calling.

Anyway I finished down $10, but Josh must have won at least $60. If I ever play with him in the future here's my strategy. If I have good cards preflop, raise with them because he will pay anything to see the flop. If he stays for the flop, bet small to feel him out or even check to him once in a while. If it looks like he is going to stay with the hand then make sure you can show down the best one. If the flop doesn't hit you, then get the hell out.