Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I Met a Poker Star!

I was in Maui last week for my girlfriend's brother's wedding. It was my second time on the island and it is truly one of the most beautiful places in the world.

One of the events scheduled, was a luau at the Renaissance Hotel in Waliea. While everyone was being seated I noticed that Daniel Negraneau (sic) was also at the luau with his new wife. I went up and introduced myself and told him congratulations on the wedding. He seemed to be enjoying the dinner. I read on his blog that some drunk guy kept inviting him to play golf, but I never saw anyone bothering him. I chickened out on getting a picture with him. I had the perfect opportunity while everyone was waiting for the valet to get our cars. I just hate playing the role of "my life sucks so I live vicariously through yours on TV". I'd rather have a conversation and find out something interesting about him than pester him for a picture.

During the vacation I started reading two books on poker. The first one is Michael Cappeletti's book on Omaha Hi-Lo and the second is volume 2 of Harrington on Hold'em.

The Omaha book is solid so far. I totally understand that the number one strategy for beating the average loose game is to play tight preflop and only draw to the nuts. In probably ten different tables of play at Party Poker, I have probably come out ahead on 9 of them in the .50-$1 level. I think I am ready to take a stab at the live casino 3-6 game. I watched a little of one game while I was on a break from the hold'em tournament and I watched two people fight over which was the low hand on the board. If they are playing and can't figure out the low within 10 seconds, then they obviously don't know much about how to play the game.

My main weakness right now in Omaha is knowing when it makes sense to raise. My mind is still cluttered with figuring out the nut lows and highs on the board and figuring out how many outs I have to the nuts. There is no time for higher level strategy just yet. Once I can figure out these other details quicker, I will have more time to spend on figuring out what my opponents might have and whether I should raise for value or raise to narrow the field.

The second volume of Harrington on Hold'em is excellent. I have finished about 1/3 of the book by skipping around to the sections that interest me the most. The first section I read was on heads up play. There is an excellent analysis on the heads up match between Phil Ivey and John D'Agostino at the end of the big poker tournament in New Jersey last year. He presents a lot of interesting stats to consider on how often someone hits the flop and what you should be thinking about when you are on the button vs. first to act.

Here are a couple of the helpful tips I gleaned from the book:
1. It is always correct to at least call from the small blind. With 3-1 odds on your call, even 2-7 versus a random hand has better odds than that. Now if your opponent always raises you when you call, then it may be ok to fold occasionally.
2. Most flops miss both players, so the first one to bet, or the one who plays most aggressively usually wins the pot.
3. Calling down with Ace high is ok if you can get there cheaply.

I played a set of 3 sits last night and made it to heads up in one of them. I tried to use his tips and came back from a 3-1 deficit to pull slightly ahead. Unfortunately I got a bit unlucky as I flopped top pair, check raised the flop and he called. On the turn he only had about 1500 left so I decided to check and see if he would put the rest in. He did and I called with only about 200 left over. Unfortunately, the turn filled his inside straight and he won. So I think I played it right and did charge him for the draw. Oh well.

Now that my back is almost 100% I am looking forward to putting in some time in the live casinos again.

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