Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Should I make a big move up?

The poker bankroll currently sits at $4,000. This is quite comfortable for 3-6 ring games or $55 sit-n-gos. I have won back all the money I lost in the last Vegas debacle. Here's the dilemna. I am making close to six figures off of a real estate deal and it will hit my bank account on Friday. After paying off a second mortgage and buying my country club membership, I will still have plenty left over.

I am thinking of adding $6,000 to the bankroll and taking a stab at the higher games. Maybe the $109 sit-n-go's and the 10-20 or 15-30 ring games. I think there will never be another time in my life when there is so much easy money in high limit poker games. This poker boom cannot last forever and the losers cannot lose money forever. There may definitely come a time when all that is left at the high levels are the sharks who have eaten all the fish.

I am sure there is a difference in ability and level of play at the higher games. My question is how much? Is it so much that I could not adapt to it after a few thousand hands? I have averaged 2.36 BB/100 at 2-4 and 3-6 over the 18,000 hands I have in Poker Tracker. I can average 1 BB/100 at 10-20 and make substantially more money. My breakeven point is 0.7 BB/100.

The conservative route is to move up slowly and win my way up to 10,000. The problem is I play 10-15 hours a week. At that rate it will take me 2 years to make it to that level. All the fish may be gone by then. I have no desire to play poker full time and quit my job, but it would be nice to make 10-20k a year as a second income.

The other question is would I be able to take the losses mentally? Right now I look at it like I am playing with house money. All of the money in my poker accounts are winnings. If I add to my account and I lose the add on, how will I feel? If I lose 20 BB in a session at 10-20, that is $400. How pissed off will I get? Plus every time in the past I have taken a stab at a much higher game, I have been crushed. I never felt like I was outplayed but just unlucky. Who knows, I could be wrong.

Does anybody out there think I can do it?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Playing a tournament blind

Due to my slow realization that in order to win tournaments you need to win a decent amount of hands without having good cards, I decided to try a little experiment. I entered a $5 30 person no limit hold'em tournament on Party Poker. Once I was assigned my seat, I placed a small piece of paper over my icon and cards and played the tournament without looking at my cards.

My basic strategy was to only play hands in late position or in my blinds. I would raise if I was first to open the pot. If I saw a chance for a squeeze play I would take it. If it looked like someone was trying to steal my blind, I would play back at them.

I would say, I played about 90% of the early hands blind. A couple of times, I peeked on the river or if someone played back at me. Mostly I just played based on whether I thought I could push my opponent around.

Just like I expected, I did very well. I chipped up pretty consistently at every level and by the time we were down to about 14 players, I was 4th in chips overall. It was about this time that I became a little bored with the challenge and my emotions of wanting to win the thing took over. I tried to play the same style and I think I did a pretty good job of it.

Eventually it got down to 3 players. I had around 12,000, the small stack had 5,000, and the big stack had 13,000. The blinds were still relatively small at 100-200 so I had a lot of room to play around. I continued to raise the blinds mercilessly and finally the big stack got tired of it. He reraised me all in. Unfortunately for him, I had a real hand in Ace King of hearts. He had King Queen and my Ace high held up so now I had a 5 to 1 chip lead over my remaining opponent. He slowly came back to about a 2-1 deficit before I finally put him away.

I think I am going to do this a few more times or maybe in a big muliti player tournament just to get better at it. The small buy in tournaments should be a good barometer because they tend to attract the looser and more aggressive players. If I can make the strategy work in these tournaments, it should work even better in the larger buy in tournaments where the players tend to be more conservative. The live tournaments at the casinos here have such quick blind structures that you cannot just sit around and wait for good cards. I have also been pushed around a little by the more aggressive players. I always think I can wait for a good hand and double up, but by the time I get the hand, my stack has shrunk 50%. My double up only gets me back to square 1. So far I am 1-0.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

More Tournament Follies

Update on some of my poker adventures:

WSOP 2005: Still stuck on level one of the steps at Party Poker. Last one I played brilliantly and got heads up with about a 3 to 1 chip lead. I played well except for one hand heads up. I had AJ offsuit and only called the small blind because I was hoping he would raise and I could come over the top. He only called then must have hit the flop hard because he check raised me all in. I had nothing on the flop, but I bet out trying to steal. I had to lay it down to the big raise. After that I was card dead.

$55 Sit-n-Go's: I won my first one over the weekend. I finally caught a couple of lucky breaks and won the key hands. Previously I was the one taking the bad beats. I am wondering if poker tracker is catching all of the ones I have played. It says I have only played 11. I am in the money 54% and my ROI is 57%. Obviously a big jump due to the win. It sure seems like I have played more than 11.

Last night on the way back from a client meeting in Payson, I stopped by the Fort McDowell Casino. I have played in a couple of their tournaments before and always seem to do a little better than average.

You gain extra chips for playing hours before the tournament. I only got one $500 bonus to add to my initial $1000 in tournament chips. I think the most you can start with is 3000. There are $300 rebuys for $10 or a $600 rebuy for $20 if you go bust. You can also add $2000 in chips at the first break for $20. My original entry was $30.

The first level of blinds is 25-25 for 20 minutes. Then I believe it went:
75-150 with 25 ante
100-200 with 25 ante
150-300 with 50 ante
200-400 with 50 ante
300-600 with 100 ante

So they give you some room in the early stages but the 4th level after the break is a big step up. I really did nothing for the first couple of levels. My big hand was at level 3 I think.

I was dealt pocket 10's in middle position. I had about 2,000 in chips. UTG raised 3x the BB and UTG plus 1 called. 2 folds and then it's to me. My first thought was to throw them away. Luckily I took my time and decided that was definitely too weak tight. I could call and hope for a set, but I didn't like my position. If I let someone else in, there is no way I can win this pot after the flop if I don't hit the set since I am sure there will be some overcards. I decide to raise. When I look at my chips, I decide the best move is to put them all in. If I make a solid raise, I will not have many chips left. Plus I don't mind winning the pot right now.

The button struggles a little and then throws her hand away. The blinds fold and it is to the UTG initial raiser. He thinks for at least a minute and then throws it away. The last woman in, calls in a shot with Ace King of hearts. Alright, I guess I need to get lucky and win a race.

The flop was Queen, Ten, 8 with two hearts. I didn't even notice the third 10, I was worried about the flush. The turn was a King and I actually groaned. It was then that I realized I had 3 tens and was still in control. Now I need to avoid a Jack, a King, or a heart. The last card was a 2 of diamonds and I had made a big score.

I was now the chip leader by a large margin at the table. I was planning on trying to bully a little bit. A few hands went by and I didn't see any good opportunities. Then a new guy got moved to our table. He had at least 2 times my chips and the guy next to me, said he won the qualifier to get into the WSOP there last week. So much for being a bully. He won a few pots early and I went completely card dead.

Eventually I was blinded down to about 10x the BB. The pots were pretty big with the antes and I would have loved to steal, but I really didn't have the opportunity. I only like to steal if I have some chance of hitting a decent hand on the flop if I am called. A couple of times it was folded to me on the button or one off the button and my hand was so bad, I couldn't pull the trigger to steal. Then I was dealt 22 and 44 in very early position and didn't want to put my chips in out of position. I just knew I would get called and at best I would be a slight favorite. I wanted a bigger edge if I was going to risk my tournament life.

Finally, I was dealt AK offsuit one off the button. It was folded to me and I raised all in for 8,000. The small blind called for around 2,000 all in. Everyone else had folded. He turned over AA. So I'm lucky that he didn't have more money, but I'm unlucky that I ran into such a good hand. The very next hand I am dealt 88. I think there were one or two limpers. I raised all in and nobody called. 2 hands later I was dealt 99.

Again I raise all in, first in pot. Another player who has me covered by $100 calls me with 10-10. I am out in 26th place.

Overall, I felt like I played pretty well. I don't think I made any mistakes.

I still feel like there must be someway to win more hands with out having the cards. The really good players manage to go far in these tournaments all the time, and I know they do not have the cards all the time. I am guessing there must be some other times where I can pick out a player to pick on. Wait until they enter a pot, call their bet and then outplay them on the flop. I just don't know if I am confident enough in my reads to figure out if my opponent will lay down their hand.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Still winless in the $55 Sit N Go's

I have played 10 $55 sit-n-gos at Party Poker so far. I am up $150. Last night I played in one where everyone at the table was left and the blinds were 50-100. I haven't seen that much tightness in a long time.

I started stealing blinds and pushing people around and eventually it got down to 4. Then in a great lucky break, 3 of the players got involved in a hand where two of them were all in. The bigger stack won the pot and suddenly there were only 2 of us.

I thought I played pretty well heads up. I mixed up my raise amounts and made the appropriate folds. On the last hand, my opponent was leading 5500 to 4500. I was dealt Ace Jack in the big blind. My opponent doubled the blind and I pushed all in. For some reason he decides to call me with 8-10 suited. He hit his 8 and I was out in second place.

That's twice now where I had a good chance to win and got all my money in with the best hand and lost. That's poker I guess.

As for the difficulty of the 55's, I really haven't seen much difference at all the levels. This level seems tighter, but it is easier to steal blinds. I have especially noticed that when it gets short handed, the players really let me abuse them. We'll see if that changes as I get more tournaments under my belt.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Great Golf and Bad Poker

Our annual Tucson golf getaway started on Friday when I left work early to play with Billy at Whirlwind at 11:40 AM. Whirlwind is not in Tucson, but in the town of Maricopa which is on the way out of town to get to Tucson.

Billy and I were going to play golf alone, but at the last minute we were joined by Adam and his brother Mark. Mark was in town from Austin and said he was a 5 handicap. I have played with Adam before and he can usually break 100. Mark piped in immediately and said he wanted to bet on the round. He suggested $5 a hole using a best ball format. He would take Adam and Bill and I would be a team. This was a really stupid bet on Mark's part. He's never seen us play, and he is playing a golf course for the first time. I on the other hand have played the course at least 50 times since I bought a membership in 2004. So being the greedy bastards that we are, we immediately accepted the bet.

By the end of the round, I had shot a 74 and Billy had shot an 86. We won 16 holes, tied 1, and lost 1. It was a blood bath. I also had a $50 bet on match play and $50 on stroke play with Billy. I won those easily and even won a $50 press on the last hole when I made par after hitting my tee shot in the desert.

We cleaned up and headed down to Tucson. We stayed at the Loews Ventana Canyon Hotel on the first night. As I mentioned before, this is my favorite place to play golf in Arizona. You are right at the base of the Catalina mountains and have some spectacular views of Tucson and of the mountains. Once we arrived and checked in, we started having a few cocktails. Drinking continued over dinner and we finally got back and I was ready to play some poker.

Since our rooms were not big enough to hold an 8 player game, we got permission from the hotel to play out by the pool. It was a beautiful calm night and there was just enough light from the hotel to see the cards. The game was 1-2 Pot Limit Hold'em.

Now out of the eight players there were maybe 3 including me, that have studied the game at all. The rest of them, only know what they have seen on TV. What drives me nuts about these games is that they are so passive. Absolutely, under no circumstances does anyone raise before the flop. They are all pathologically afraid that if they raise everyone will fold. There is usually no raising after the flop either. As an example, Christian decides to show me his pocket jacks before the flop. He's in late position and there are only a couple of limpers in front of him. The flop came 9-2-3. Jon bets $2 and the other guys fold so it's to Chris. Chris is asking me what he should do? What the fuck? Bet the pot fuck face. Make Jon pay for his draw. It was plain as day that he was betting on a draw. But Christian chickens out and just calls. Now a Queen comes on the turn. Jon checks and Christian checks again because now he is afraid of the over card. The last card is an Ace. Now Christian is fucked because it looks like the draw got there and now there are 2 overcards. Jon bet the pot and Christian folded.

All night there were weak tight plays like this. Obviously this is bad strategy for them, because it lets the other players in cheap and they can catch a miracle and beat their pocket pair. It also hurts my game, because then I have no idea what anyone has. Players could have any 2 cards because no one has put them to a test the whole hand.

After thinking about it a while, the right strategy to crush this game is to limp with big drawing hands, and to raise relentlessly with high pocket pairs in late position. To my dismay, I was not getting any decent starting cards, and getting very bored. It sucks when you are stuck dealing the cards and moving the game along, and don't get to play any hands because you are playing tight. I heard Jon Juanda say in a interview that the difference between Pot Limit and No Limit is that large pocket pairs are devalued because you cannot bet enough to protect your hand in Pot limit. I would agree in a game with decent players, but in this case, even a small raise was enough to chase most players out.

Just for fun on one hand I played 2-7 offsuit "the hammer" for a raise. Since I had not played a hand in 20 minutes, everyone folded except for Rolf on my left. He called. I knew this was bad news because no matter how much I bet from now on, he's going to stay in the hand. Not because he's ahead, but because he knows nothing abut the game. Sure enough we make it to the river after a couple more attempts to bluff him out and he shows down bottom pair to win the pot.

A little later, he was in another pot that came down to the river. There was around $20 in the pot. Someone bet $2 and he calls it down with.......................10 high. If you have 10 high and someone bets in this pot, please fold. Or better yet, grow a dick and raise! The best part, is that he got lucky later on a big pot when he and another player had 3 Queens. When the turned over the hands, they were ready to chop until I saw that Rolf had paired his other card, the 3 with the board. Hello Full House!

The next day we played the Canyon Course at Ventana. Once again I played some of the best golf of my life. I shot a 73 with 6 birdies. At one point in the round I had 4 in a row. Billy was really pissed because he shot a 78 which was his best round in a year and a half and he still lost $100.

We played poker again at night and it was pretty much the same thing. I had no cards all night. I did play position a couple of times where I'd limp in late and wait for the flop. If no one bet at the flop, I would bet around 1/2 the pot and take it down. Even when I had nothing, I knew they didn't have anything either and they were not going to call a bet.

We stayed up late trying to finish off the beer and the scotch. This made getting up the next morning a bear for some of us. Our tee time this morning was 8:30. Robert made it to the first tee, but after one hole he had to go off into the desert and take a shit. He used a golf towel to wipe his ass. About 3 holes later we started making fun of him because you could see skid marks forming on his shorts. On the next hole we came up to the green and there was something stuffed into the cup on the green. We pulled the flag out and found Robert's dirty underwear. James used his putter and wedge like salad tongs and left it in the desert for the rattlesnakes. Apparently Robert called it a day after that and went back to the hotel.

Meanwhile Billy was playing great golf again trying to get even. After 6 holes I was still playing fantastic and was at even par. However, I was 2 strokes behind because Billy was 2 under. I really fucked myself on 10 when I hit my first tee shot into the desert and then had to retee up another one. This one I yanked into the driving range and had to take a drop. I made triple bogey which I thought had put me out of the running.

I managed to get back on track and then made back to back birdies on 15 and 16 to pull even in the day's match. My joy was shortlived after I pulled my approach on 17 into the one place I could not afford to go. I short sided myself in the bunker on the left and to top it off, I had a buried lie. So after leaving it in the bunker the first try, I blasted out and then missed the putt for bogey. I almost got lucky when on 18, Billy hit a horrid tee shot that looked like it went straight into the desert 50 yards in front of the tee. After looking worriedly for a few seconds, Billy spotted his ball in the fairway. I guess it trickled down the hill from the tee box and out of the desert. His hole didn't go much better, but I could only manage bogey so I only made up one stroke. Losing the match on Sunday, gave Billy $100 back so I only ended up $100 on the trip in golf bets.

After we added up the scores I was good for a 78 and the best weekend of golf I have ever played. Billy finished with a 76 which is the best he has played in years. It felt like we were Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueling down the final holes of a major. At least that's what we'll tell our friends.

Monday, June 06, 2005

I Wish I Was At The World Series

I have been reading and looking at some of the other blogger entries about the first weekend of the WSOP and I am very envious. I still think about my AA being cracked by King-5 in the satellite at the Rio. It looks like there will be over 1000 people in every major tournament during the world series. I heard they even capped the main event at 6600.

I guess I'll have to get the gamble out of my system this weekend when I go down to Tucson for our annual golf/gamble fest at Ventana Canyon. Last year was awful. I think I lost over $500 to Bill over the weekend. It made up for about 6 months of me just killing him in every sports bet, so we probably broke even on the year. The first big loss was during our initial round of golf. I think we started with $5 skins with carry overs. After nine holes I was only down $10 so we made it $10 skins. Time and again I had chances to get even and blew easy shots. Finally it came down to the 18th hole, a short par 5. If I won, I would only be down $40. If I lost, it would be $200. I cranked out a monster drive while Bill hit his standard 2 iron 200 yards. I was only a five iron into the green, so there was no doubt I was going for the green in two. Bill laid up to about 100 yards. I hit my approach in the right greenside bunker, however I had a good clean lie and it was on the upslope, so I should have been able to get it close. Bill hit his 3rd shot to about 25 feet. I totally choked on the bunker shot, almost leaving it in. I now had 35 feet for birdie. I proceeded to hit a horrific putt and leave myself with 6 feet for par. Bill had already 2 putt, so now I needed my putt just to tie. Of course I missed.

Later that night after playing poker for way too small a stakes, I was frustrated. I wanted to play for bigger stakes so I could win some of my money back. Bill wanted to deal blackjack to me. I knew that was a mistake, but it was the only way to win any money. I decided to play for just a little while and ended up winning approximately $80. Then I got the bright idea to play Bill heads up in poker for the rest of the money I owed him from the previous bets. That lasted about an hour and Bill finally ground me into nothing and now I was down $400. I still had 2 days of golf left to play.

The rest of the days were a little better as my game started to come around and Bill started thinking about going home and watching Phil Mickelson play in the British Open. I made a small recovery at the end, but overall it was a very expensive weekend.

This weekend I am seeking my revenge. I shot a 79 and 84 last weekend at Phoenix CC and I switched back to my standard putting grip. Hopefully this will put me in good shape.

As for poker.......

I have adapted to playing 4 tables at a time in the 3-6 limit games at Party Poker. After 5,000 hands I am up, but only at 1.86 BB per hour. I need to get it over 2. I decided to pony up and buy the playerview software that I had tried out earlier. It is impossible to make notes on players when playing 4 tables. The playerview software allows me to track all of my opponents hands and give me great stats on VPIP, pre flop raise %, and money won and lost. This way after about 30 hands I can get a general read on all of my opponents.

This along with updating my ratings of players in my poker tracker data base should help me with my game selection. I think I need to look for better tables at 3-6. This seems to be the rock haven for many players where there are not too many players preflop and after the flop, there are very few players that will try to chase you down with a worse hand. I will see if technology will help me figure this out, or I might have to go to a different level.

I have also started playing in the $50+5 sit n gos at PP. They seem to be about the same difficulty as the $33's. I've only played 8 of them so far and I've finished in the money 50% of the time. The nice thing is you can start with 1000 chips instead of 800 so you can afford to limp in a couple of times and see if you can hit a big hand. In the 8 I've played so far there have been 1 or 2 players out by the end of the first round due to big all in bets with top pairs against flushes. I still can't believe people are that dumb. There is almost no reason to ever go broke in the first round of these internet sit'n'gos. Why risk all that money, when you can steal a couple blinds in the 4th and 5th levels and win the same amount of chips?

Also, I think from now on, when I go to Vegas that I need to stop playing cash no limit games. It's obviously not my best game and the stakes make me uncomfortable. If I want action, I am much better off playing at 6-12 or 10-20. I am a much better tournament player, because I realize that my chips in front of me are just chips. When I play a cash No Limit game I am acutely aware of how much real money I have in front of me.