Sunday, December 24, 2006

My Return to a Live Casino

Since the in laws are in town and Michele needed a break, I offered to take them to Casino Arizona. I have not played in a casino since before Jake was born in November. I think the last time I played was at the Gila River in that disaster of an Aces and Faces promotion. Bad memories.

This time I was called into a 4-8 Hold'em game after 10 minutes. My table was incredibly passive. It seemed like "raise" was a dirty word. Within the first orbit I saw pocket Kings and Ace-King limp into the pot preflop.

I won a good sized pot early on the big blind with Q-2. The flop was 7-2-2 rainbow with 6 players in the pot. I checked and let the player on my right do the betting for me. A Queen on the river and I was raking in a $60 profit.

Gradually the cards went cold for an hour and I leaked away my profits. Then in a couple of hands I picked up A-9 on the button, flopped an Ace and won a small pot. Then I picked up pocket Kings in a 5 way pot and had one caller all the way to the river. So I was back up to a $50 profit.

By this time it was 12:50 pm and I was supposed to meet up with the in laws in 10 minutes. I decided to hit the restroom and scan the casino to see if I could figure out where they were. It didn't take long as I found them on the slots, trying to win a new car. They were ready to go, so I told them I would hit the head and then cash in my chips and go.

I brought a couple of racks to the table as they were just starting another hand. The dealer saw me standing behind my chips and dealt me in. They had finally filled the 3 open spots on the table since I had left, so it almost looked like a new table. I figured I'd play one last hand while I racked up the chips. I was dealt the Kd-Td in middle position. I figured limping was safe since nobody was raising. A couple of others came along for the ride and we were 5 handed.

The flop was 2-3-4 with 2 diamonds. A big black man in a nice cream colored suit with a vest and some bling lead out from the big blind. The player on my right called, I called, and 2 others called as well. I could have raised on a draw, but it wasn't the nut draw and I felt like protecting my profit. The turn was a 4 of diamonds completing my flush. The black man bet again, one fold, and I raised. Everyone else folded back to the initial better who grudgingly called. The river was the Queen of diamonds putting 4 diamonds on the board. My opponent cursed and slammed down his hand for a check. Sometimes that is an acting job when someone is slow playing a full house and hoping for a check raise. I don't have a read on him, so I have to take the small chance that my hand is still good and bet it. He called and turned over 5-6 for a flopped straight. My hand is good and I get to leave with a $122 profit.

That guy didn't know what hit him. Tall white dude comes back to the table, plays one hand, and takes half my stack. Now he's leaving! "I'm gonna kill that whitey!" At least that's what I imagine he was saying in his head.

Overall, I felt a little rusty. I had some trouble concentrating on the play when I wasn't in the hand. There was so much limping that I got discouraged from trying to put players on hands because they could be playing any 2 cards. I'm glad I won and hopefully I won't have to play live again until I go to Vegas for Brady's bachelor party in January.

On a much more sour note, I lost another golf match to Bill last Friday. I am now down 3-1. The weather was absolutely miserable with light rain and a high temperature of about 50 degrees.

I had a one stroke lead going into #9. I hit my standard slice drive to the right by the practice area, while Bill hit his drive a little less right, but was still going to have tree trouble. I couldn't go for the green due to a tree right in front of me, but I could punch it out, around the tree and get pretty close to the green. That's what I did and I was 10 yards off the green on the left with a ton of green to work with for my pitch shot. Bill had managed to put himself in the right bunker. I was really thinking I would get up and down when I hit my 52 degree wedge. Unfortunately, I hit it way too hard and I ran by the pin and off the green. Now I am short sided with a pitch to an elevated green that runs away from me. Bill meanwhile hits another great bunker shot to 5 feet and makes the putt. I pitch up and miss the 15 footer coming back for double and now I am down one.

I was down 2 going into 14 when the wheels came off. Bill hit a crappy 2 iron off the tee but he was in play. I hit 5 wood trying to keep the ball on the grass and off of Osborn Road. I hit it like a pussy and it sliced to the right and out of bounds. My 3rd shot was almost a carbon copy except it hit a tree on the right and stayed in play. I could not hit it directly at the green because of the tree, so I tried to hit a miracle 3 wood and hope it sliced into the green. Of course when I want the ball to slice it goes straight. I track it down and then hit my punch shot chunky, hit another pitch, putt from off the green, and tap in for an 8. Bill had only managed a 6, but it was enough for the win.

I finished with a 90 which is just terrible. There was a stretch earlier this year where I had not shot in the 90's for something like 20 rounds. Now I can't seem to shoot bogey golf. I haven't been this mad after a round of golf in a long time.

Bill was playing on a surgically repaired knee and shot an 84. It's not like Bill is playing that great, it's just that I can't seem to put two good shots together anymore. I guess I'll just keep working on my game. I will probably try to stretch out the next few matches so I can get my game in order before I fall hopelessly behind.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

When can I play poker?

There is still not much personal poker to write about for the last week. I bought a new laptop, mostly because I needed a faster chip to run the film editing software I have, and I have been trying to get everything from my old computer on to the new one. This includes poker software and poker tracker.

I finally have that done, but Michele's parents are in town and we have been trying to entertain them. I felt a little self conscious firing up a couple of sit and go's on the computer while my inlaws were on the couch watching tv.

Mother in law: "What is Larry doing on the computer?"
Michele: "He's playing poker"
Mother in law: "Is it for real money?"
Michele: "yep"
Mother in law: "Why is he playing on two different screens?"
Michele: "Sometimes he plays in two or three games at the same time"

On and on and on. The good news is that the 2 table sit and go I was playing went well and I won the whole thing for a $100 profit on the night.

I was supposed to play golf and maybe a little poker last Friday out at Fort McDowell. On Thursday at work I started to feel naseous and feverish. It got worse at night and I was running a fever of 101 degrees. I gobbled some Tylenol and went to bed. On Friday morning, I felt better, but not good enough to play golf or go to work. So I missed my free round of golf. The good news is I felt almost 100% by the end of Friday and I was back to full strength on Saturday.

Since I was feeling good, I played golf on Saturday with the Noon Group at the club. My pairing was a little intimidating as I was paired with the club pro, Adam. We also had a 4 handicap and another 0 handicap, and me with my big 10 handicap. I was happy to be paired with Adam though so he could see my progress on my golf swing.

I had a lesson with him last Wednesday where he told me to stand closer to the ball again and stand up straighter. He also noticed that my right knee was straightening, which was causing a slight reverse pivot. For some reason, he became obsessed with increasing my wrist cock and lag into the hitting area. I know that is a big key on hitting the ball farther, but it seemed like the least of my problems in my mind. He had me doing a silly drill that was supposed to help me release the club. I was not getting it and it ate up all the time in my lesson. I did not even get to hit a driver for him.

So I wasn't expecting much on Saturday from my round of golf. The good news was that I hit it pretty well off of the tee. The bad news was that my short game was atrocious and I fired a 3 month high of 91. Adam did say it looked like I made some good swings with the driver, coming at the ball from the inside.

Hopefully I will get to work on it a little more after work today.

In other poker news, Joe Hachem just won the Bellagio 5 Diamond WPT Event for $2.1 MM. I am incredibly impressed. He even beat Daniel Negreanu when it was 3 handed. Poker is like golf for me in this sense. There are brief moments where you feel like a pro and make a good shot or make a good read in a card game. Then you see the pros do something incredible and you realize you have a long way to go to get that good.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Golf Bet Update

Bill and I played a week ago. Again, neither one of us played really well. I basically screwed the pooch on the second hole by putting my tee shot in the water and then 3 putting. Bill birdied and those 4 strokes were the difference.

In the middle of the round I had shaved his lead to 1 stroke, but never tied it up. Bill tried his best to make it interesting on the last 2 holes by bogeying 17 and double bogeying 18. I had a chance to make up a stroke on 17, but I left my pitch shot short and in the bunker. I played 18 great and almost holed my approach to the par 5. I made the 5 footer for birdie to end on a good note.

Bill had knee surgery 3 days after our round. He has yet to have the follow up visit with the doctor, but he says his knee feels great. Our next match may be as close as 2 weeks away.

Since I had a severe case of the "rights" off the tee, I am taking another lesson with the Club Pro, Adam on Wednesday. I think I have figured out that my backswing is still way too flat. Thumbs up and feel like I am trying to hit a slice, should fix the problem. I actually fooled around with my video camera last weekend and figured out that I am not quite where Adam wanted me from the last time I worked with him.

I am playing a great course named We Ko Pa on the Fort McDowell Reservation on Friday thanks to an Annuity Wholesaler. I'll probably waste a really good score playing with my co-workers, but that's the way golf is.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Some Lessons In NL Tournament Poker

I heard Paul Wasicka (2nd place at WSOP Main Event 2006) on Rounders, the Poker Show and he mentioned that he had blogged about his Main Event run. His blog is at I went and checked it out, and man do I have a lot to learn.

Here is an excerpt from his Day 1 post:

Day 1 - $10,000 Main Event
Ok, here is how my day went...After calling
a few raises with suited connectors and pocket pairs and missing all flops I was
down to around 8.5k. Then there was a pot where I called a raise with QJo and
the flop came 8,7,6. He bet 225 and I made it 600 in position. He called and the
turn came a 3 (board is rainbow) and he checks. I bet 1,200 and he quickly
called. River came an ace and he checked again, now I must win this pot as he
probably has J,J or T,T so I throw out a "value" bet of 2,500 and he folds.

That put me back on track to 11k or so. Then a pot came up where someone
raised to 150 in mid position and two callers. I look down at AKo and make it
700 and everyone folds except one of the callers. Flop comes T, 6, 4 rainbow and
he checks. I bet 1,000 and he makes it 3,000. I look at his remaining chips to
make sure he can still fold, sure enough he has 7k behind and I move all-in and
he folds J,J face up. This pot brought me up to around 16k.

Shortly after I call a raise in position with T9s and the flop came A,J,8.
I immediately knew I would raise him if he bet and check if he checked, knowing
he would bet a mediocre hand that would fold to a raise and would check a
monster. Well, he checked, and I checked. Turn came a 7 and now he bets 500. Can
you be any more obvious that you flopped a set buddy? I make it 1,500 and he
quickly makes it 2,000 more. Now here I had a couple different ways to play it -
I could go all-in, knowing he'll call an all-in and 80% of my chips will be at
risk as a 4:1 favorite or I could just flat call and see if he boats up before
committing all those chips. The only problem with the latter is if the board
gets scary I might not get his whole stack if he just check/calls or
check/folds. I decide to move it and he calls after a long think and turns over
the 8,8. The river pairs the board and leaves me out of breath....just kidding,
the river bricked and I took down the 22k pot, now up to 27k.

A few rounds later I call a raise with QJo and the flop came Ad, Td, 7. The
raiser made it 500 and I decided to call, either to take it away on the turn if
he doesn't have the ace, hit the gutshot if he does have the ace, or bluff the
diamonds if he has the ace. Turn came an offsuit 9, giving me the open ender and
now he bets 1,200, leaving himself with 5,500. Easy call to make, because now
I'm sure he has the ace, and if an 8, K or diamond come, the pot is mine. River
is the 6d and he fires out 1,500. I grab my big stack of yellows (1k chips) to
put him all-in, but then think for a second and decide to throw out 4k, for a
raise of only 2.5k, which would leave him with 1,500 if he called and he was
wrong. He gave out a big sigh and thought for a while, but ultimately couldn't
stand the heat and folded A,T face up for top two pair.

Then a pot came up where I raised to 700 with AcQc and got two callers from
the button and the BB. Flop came Jc, 7c, 6 and the first guy checked. I bet 700
and the button called. BB check-raises to 2,100 and I think for a bit and decide
he has a big hand, maybe two pair or a set and don't want to play a monster pot
until I'm there, so I flat call. Plus, flat calling here might get the button in
there with clubs of his own or a straight draw that might pay me off if his
straight and my flush get there. He ends up calling the 2,100 as well. The turn
came an offsuit queen and the raiser bets a mere 1,300. Call, right? Well, not
exactly... I mean, what does this guy have?! He doesn't want to protect against
the flush draw? He had two callers behind him and now he's underbetting the pot?
There is over 9k in the pot and both of them have less than 7k in front of them.
I'm all-in. Button folds and the BB thinks forever and decides to fold,
disgusted with himself.

Now I'm up to 46k. A tight player in early position makes it 700 and I look
down at K,K right behind him. I decide to flat call, not wanting to play an
all-in pot preflop, also trying to induce a squeeze play by some of the internet
players at the table. Button calls and the flop came A,7,6. He throws out only
600 and I call and the button folds. Turn is an 8 and he checks, I check. River
is a 5, he checks, I check. He shows A,A and I show off my K,K, only losing
1,300 when most players wouuld have played an all-in pot preflop and lost over

I raise with KJs in early position to 700, one caller. The BB moves all-in
for 1,000 more and I call, as does the caller. Flop came Kd, Jd, 7 and I bet 2k,
he calls. Turn is a 7 and I go all-in and he instantly calls with A,K and the
other dude shows A,Q. I take down the pot for an 8k profit and now I'm up to 54k
and CRUISING. Average was probably under 15k at this point.

Then a pot came up where a late position raiser looks at his cards for a
split second and immediately makes it 600. I don't even bother to look at my
cards, knowing I'm going to raise no matter what cards I have. I make it 2k and
the BB immediately calls and the raiser folded quickly. Here is where I made a
crucial mistake - I should have just given up, knowing that the BB isn't going
to call a raise and a re-raise without a huge hand, but I just got so frustrated
that I read the situation correctly and had a guy wake up with a hand behind me.
I look at my cards and see a K3o and the flop came K,T,9. I should have either
check/folded or bet out and given it up if I got called or raised, but instead I
check/pulled on him and he instantly called with A,K. The turn came an A and I
was drawing dead. I lost 12k this hand and now my table image was shot, right
before the rounds were going to 100/200 with 25 in antes (where stealing becomes
a must). The table then proceded to 'high five' the guy who won, as they were so
happy that someone had finally won a pot off me and the bullying would now slow
down. Though it was pretty poor ettiquite on their part, it somehow made me feel
like a true world class player when the table is releived to see my chips

This was a huge turning point in momentum, which is the weakest part of my
game, as discussed in the previous Pot Limit post, but I had to continue and put
this pot past me as best as I could. A round later I raise in middle position
with KQs and get called by the cutoff. Flop came J,T,7 and I bet 1,000 and he
makes it 3,000. Now, because of the K,3 incident, my bluff equity is shot and I
can't re-raise and take down the pot. So I just flat call. The turn came a rag
and I check and he bets 3k again and I call. River was another rag and it went
check/check. He shows A,J and takes it down. So many damn outs and I know it
would have been mine if I hadn't had to show that K,3 earlier. Now I have to
really tighten it up until the table breaks.

I fold most hands, then get moved to the softest table imaginable. I win a
few pots without any showdowns and then get moved shortly after to a new table
that has a few good, but unknown players at it. I steal a ton of pots the first
few rounds and I'm working my stack back to around 42k.

There was a pot where I called a raise in the SB with Q9s and the BB
called. I flopped a flush and the raiser bet 2k and I check-raised to 5k and he
called. I shoved all-in on the brick turn and he folded K,K no club face up, as
if it were a tough laydown for his whole tournament life. At this table it was
mostly preflop and flop poker, very few showdowns or bluffs, just continuation
bets and check/raises.

A pot came up where I raised in middle position and got called by the
button and the BB immediately moved all-in for 10k. I was pretty confident he
didn't have a huge hand, but had to fold, as I thought the initial caller still
to act had a huge hand and was trapping me. I had 9,9 and reluctantly mucked and
then he proudly shows off the T3o after the button folds.

I ended the day with 38k and now I'm at a table that I think will suit me
well. I have Phil Ivey across the table from me, but he has only 16k in chips at
the moment. I'm still agonizing about that K,3 blunder, but I have a good
support group here that is helping me pull through it. What I'm trying my best
to do right now is pretend that I'm starting a new tournament on Tuesday, in
which the starting chips are 25k (the average going into day 2 so far) and I'm
sitting on 38k. I'll post day 2 later in the week.

I guess I am really impressed with the way he puts his opponents on hands and his ability to think ahead about which cards can hit that he can bluff with. Sometimes these are labeled as bluff outs. His hand with KQ when he flops the inside straight draw is a great example.

I need to make sure to refer back to his posts from time to time, if I ever play a large tournament again.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Analysis of Daniel Negreanu's No Limit Play

I've watched most of the episodes of High Stakes Poker on the Game Show Network and I found it highly entertaining and educational. I may write about others I see on the show, but I was drawn to watching Daniel since he seemed to play almost every hand.

Daniel is a very loose player preflop. I'd say he plays over 50% of the hands he is dealt. However, he is careful to do it in position. He is liable to raise with any 2 cards if he feels the time is right.

This raising of any two cards can pay off later, when he hits a strong pocket pair, and gets called by players with weaker hands.

He bought in for an obscene amount of money in both shows, so his implied odds are good for most of his hands, because if he gets lucky, he can take his entire opponent's stack.

Daniel also tends to be a calling station on the river. He made some "bad" calls on some sick beats. Most of them were where he had flopped the nuts, but the hand was beat by the time the river card fell.

He also talks alot during the game and is constantly guessing his opponents hand out loud in the middle of a hand. I believe he does this for two reasons. First he is looking for a reaction from them to confirm his guess. Secondly, if he does guess correctly, it tends to spook the other player. I believe this is also why he tends to call a lot of bets on the river. Between his hand reading ability and his tendency to call, it is near impossible to run a big bluff on Daniel. Think about how nice it must be to know that your opponents will eventually just bet their good hands and check their mediocre and bad ones because they know you will pick off their bluffs. It is a nice luxury to have.

I think his strategy is a sound one, until he steams. When he steams, this strategy can get pretty expensive. I have to believe he could have gotten away from a couple of those big hands if he had not been steaming from the prior beats.

It's ironic that tight solid play has actually done pretty well in the TV series. Phil Laak did nothing but play good cards and walked away a big winner. Antonio Esfandiari tried to do the same thing, but he kept getting his big pocket pairs cracked.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Baby Jake Arrives

My world will never be the same. Jake arrived on Friday November 10th at 10:50 AM. He was 8 lbs 4 oz and 20 inches long.
My greatest obstacle to playing in the World Series of Poker is a 9 pound baby boy. My second greatest obstacle is my lack of talent. I can work on the talent, the baby will always be there.
However, I am sure I will gain much more joy over my lifetime, raising Jake then spending $10,000 to play poker with Doyle Brunson.

Golf Bet is tied 1-1

Yesterday was round 2 of the $500 10 round golf challenge. I had been hitting the ball well in practice so I felt confident.

Once again I jumped out to an early lead as I saved par on #1 and made an easy par on 2 as Bill went in the water. I could have been leading by 3 strokes, but Bill made a great up and down save to scratch out a bogey. So my lead was 2 strokes going into #3, the long par 4.

I decided to hit 3 wood to be conservative and try to take out of bounds on the right out of play. A bogey is a good score on this hole as it is very long and the green can be quite tricky. My plan backfired as I still managed to hit the ball right and it ended up lost. From the tee box, it did not look like it went out of bounds, but we could not find it in the rough after looking for 5 minutes. This was one of the key points of the match, because I hit a really solid second tee shot, which put me in position to go for the green. From 195 yards way, I hit my hybrid and managed to stop the ball about 60 feet from the pin. I two putted to save double bogey. Bill only managed a bogey and just gained one shot.

Bill gained another shot on #4 and we came to the short par 4 #5 hole. I pulled my drive a little left, but it had enough on it to clear the fairway bunker and roll about 40 yards short of the pin. Bill laid up with an iron and then hit his approach just over the green into the rough. I hit a great pitch shot to 1 foot for a gimme birdie. For some reason, Bill decided to use his putter from the rough. He left the 40 foot shot, 30 feet short and two putted from there for bogey. A nice two stroke swing for me.

As the holes wore on, I was not hitting the ball well off the tee, but I was hitting my wedges great and I had managed to make everything inside of 6 feet. Bill was not gaining any ground and was beginning to get frustrated.

The wheels finally came off for Bill on 12. This is another short par four with a lake on the right and bunkers in the front right and left of the green. Even though I was spraying the driver everywhere, I decided that it was still the best club to hit, because it took the lake out of play. I was not real confident in trying to thread a 5 iron between the lake on the right and the bunker on the left. I hit a decent drive that faded a little right into the rough, but easily clearing the water. Bill hit his two iron left, over the fairway bunker into some trees. When we found his ball, it had nestled up against a tree. His only shot was sideways back into the fairway. As Bill lined up for his next shot from the fairway, I went out to find my ball in the right rough. I found it in a good lie 105 yards to the pin. I hit my 52 degree wedge solidly and the ball landed on the green and trickled to the left fringe 40 feet from the hole.

Bill's troubles continued. He pushed his easy 90 yard approach into the front right bunker. Then he skulled his bunker shot over the green and into a flower garden. He asked for a ruling and I told him he could play it from the garden or take an unplayable lie. For some reason he did not want to disturb the pretty flowers, so he took a drop. He finally hit a good wedge and made the putt for a 7. I made par and picked up another 3 strokes.

By 15, Bill was still 4 strokes down with 4 to play. He sealed his fate by hitting his tee shot in the water. He was so frustrated by 17 that he quit. I convinced him that he should hit a driver shot on 18 just for practice. He hit a decent shot, but he dumped his 3rd ball in the water by the green. I laughed to myself as he said, "Now you owe me $5 for that ball because I didn't want to play this hole to begin with."

So now we are tied at 1-1. Considering that Michele was ok with me playing golf a week after our son, Jake was born and she is letting me play in a tournament on Wednesday, I think I will still have enough time to keep my game sharp. Bill is scheduled for surgery December 7, so there may be time for one more match by the end of the year.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Big Golf Bet

Chris' brother Josh, checked in on the blog recently and forwarded the entry about the Pine Top weekend to the rest of the guys.

Bill's first response was, "How do you have so much time to write that novel?". His second response was "I agree with everything you wrote except the part about you being a better golfer than me. In fact, if we played 10 rounds of golf against each other, I bet I'd win 8 of them!"

I chuckled on the inside and told Bill that he was nuts. Later he called me back and said he wanted to make a bet. We would play 10 rounds for $500 total. Whoever won the most rounds would win the bet. I accepted right away. Then to tweak Bill a little bit, I sent a copy of both of our handicap sheets with the scores of our last 20 rounds on it. Over the last 20 rounds, I have been better by over 1 stroke. I compared this to Tiger Woods leading the PGA Tour in stroke average by over 1 stroke. "Who would you rather have in this bet, Tiger Woods or Jim Furyk?" I asked Bill. I also noticed that I had played over 40 rounds in 2006 and Bill had played less than 15.

Bill then tried to change the bet to 4 rounds in 4 days like a normal golf tournament. First of all, I know for a fact that he could never clear his schedule to play 4 days in a row. I could barely do it, and I don't have to deal with 3 kids. Secondly, my back would never make it so I politely declined.

Then I realized that Bill is scheduled for knee surgery in December to fix his meniscus and possibly his ACL. So this bet may take 12 months to complete. This is even better for me. Besides dealing with a surgically repaired knee, Bill tends to lose focus on his golf game if there is not an immediate bet on the game. Having to wait 6 to 9 months to win the bet will drive him nuts.

We had our first round together last Wednesday. Phoenix Country Club has just come out of overseeding and they have yet to mow the rough. They did not overseed the greens, so they are running really fast. In other words, the course is playing pretty tough.

I was not all that confident in the current state of my game, because my last rounds were in Pine Top with Bill in the Stag Tournament. I could not hit a drive in the fairway to save my life there and I had not swung a club in the 3 weeks since. I was counting on the fact that Bill had not played in 3 weeks either and that maybe I could scratch out an 85 which should be good enough.

I started off fantastic, with a drive down the middle, a nice layup, and a wedge to 5 feet for an easy birdie. Bill had a bogey and I was two up after the first hole. The first hole was the last hole I hit a fairway with my driver.

By the turn, Bill had taken a one stroke lead. By the 13th hole, I had caught up due to Bill taking a couple of double bogies. On the short 14th, I pulled my drive left, but found an opening and hit a great wedge to about 7 feet. Bill had hacked his ball up the fairway and into a greenside bunker. I was up by one stroke and had a chance to go up by 3 if I make my birdie. I missed the chance and was up 2 going into the 15th hole.

The 15th is a short par 3 over water. The pin was back right, measuring 155 yards. Bill hit a 7 iron over the green and into the back bunker. He grumbled about me giving him the wrong yardage with my laser range finder. I liked my swing, but I caught the ball a couple of grooves low, and sent mine into the back bunker as well.

Bill had a pretty easy shot out of the bunker, but mine was on a bit of a downslope and I had another bunker and the lake on the far side of the green. In other words, I needed to hit a really good shot, just to keep it on the green. I caught it fat and left it in the bunker. Bill hit a good shot to about 6 feet. I was now determined to hit a good shot, inside of Bill's. I hit my next shot thin and into the bunker by the lake. I could not stop the momentum and left my next shot in the bunker. Next shot, over the green into the same bunker I had just left. Finally I was out, and to add insult to injury I made the 20 foot putt for 7. In conclusion, I went from 2 up to 2 down in one hole.

The last three holes did not go any better as I was pressing trying for birdies and Bill played really solid golf. He actually played the last 4 holes in 1 under par, so even if I just bogeyed 15, I may not have held up.

Bill ended up with an 82 and I had an 89. Horrible golf by me, but encouraging in that I played pretty bad and still felt like I had a chance to win with 4 holes to go.

So I am down 1-0 and I have a baby due any day now. If I can get it back to even before the baby comes, I will be in good shape. We may not play again until at least January and that will give me some time to tighten up my game. We may play this Saturday, stay tuned.

Friday, November 03, 2006

A Boring Tennis Parallel

I was playing Tennis this morning and thought that I had found an interesting parallel: Playing against bad tennis players is similar to playing against bad poker players.

I try to play in a regular Friday morning game of tennis with about 8-12 different guys. Occasionally we have an odd number and two of us are stuck playing singles instead of doubles.

Today I played some singles with Tim N. Tim is not one of the better players in the group. I am probably 3rd or 4th best of the regulars.

When you play a bad player, the best strategy is to play boring tennis and hit everything back down the middle and wait for the opponent to hit the ball out or into the net.

Against bad poker players, your best strategy is to play tight conservative ABC poker and let the fish make the bad plays.

In tennis, it gets exceedingly frustrating when your bad opponent hits one off the frame and it goes into a spot where you can't reach it. Or they hit a shot off of the net cord and it trickles in. Their lack of consistency throws you off, because they never hit a shot the same way. A good player will consistently hit the ball back with a little pace. You can get into a groove and start worry more about placing your shots.

In poker, when you play with other good players it is easier to figure out where you are in the hand. You know that they know the basics of the game and are going to play stronger cards in early position and open up in later position. With bad players, their range of hands is so large that it's almost impossible to put them on a hand. You are forced to play your own cards and hope they hold up.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Have I Reached Bottom Yet?

The last week has continued the downward spiral in my bankroll.

Last weekend I spent a few hours at the Gila River casino playing during their Aces and Faces Cracked promotion. If you have pocket AA, KK, QQ, or JJ and get beat, you can win $200. The catch is that you have to be the first person in the room to do it, and once it is done, that hand is off the board for the rest of the hour.

On Saturday, I sat at a table for 4 hours and we did not have one winner on the promotion at the table. We also missed every splash pot drawing as well. So it was up to me to be a winner just playing cards. I finished down $45 after having pocket KK beat along with trips running into straights and flushes twice.

I came back on Sunday and this time one person at my table won $200 when his Jacks got cracked. But that was it for the winners. I have played in this promotion for probably 12 hours and the only time I won any money was when I agreed to chop with Robert if either of us won. Robert had his pocket Aces cracked and I was happy mooch a $100.

This past Sunday might be the worst I have ever played. My cards were not that great as I lost with pocket Kings again and with trips again. However, when I did catch a good hand, I missed numerous bets. In one hand I did not even raise with the top full house on the river, because I was convinced that my opponent had the same hand and we were in the middle of the Aces and Faces promotion. I was trying to get the hand over with quickly. There were a couple of times when I was dealt AK under the gun and did not raise, because we were in the middle of the promotion. I lost those hands when someone who would have folded if I had raised, caught a good hand.

I caught myself a couple of times and gave myself a pep talk to play better. But nothing worked. I ended up leaving down $200 after I decided to push my open end straight draw in a kill pot. I broke one of my cardinal rules which is to leave when I am losing. Even if the players are bad and I am playing tight, I need to leave if I am down a buy in. My table image is shot and I need to start over again at a new table or a new day.

Last night I played in the home game freezeout. There were 6 of us, using the new table that I bought for everyone. I played my normal strategy of tight early and looking for good opportunities to double up cheaply. I took some early pots from Greg and Devin.

After about 45 minutes, I started to go card dead and watched as everyone else was really aggressive preflop. Almost every pot was raised preflop. It's the same story every week in that Greg gets hyperaggressive and makes a dumb move. This time it was putting in a 3rd raise all in preflop with Ace-6 offsuit. Craig called him with pocket Queens and busted him.

Usually Devin plays way too passively and either loses all his chips on a bad beat or gets blinded into the ground. For some reason, this week he decided to play a little crazy. He ran some big bluffs including one against me. After Devin's bluff, I was down to $26 with the blinds at $1-$2. Then things started to turn around.

I became a human card rack. I picked up Aces against Devin and doubled up. Then I picked up pocket Kings and flopped a set against Mike. I doubled up there too. I picked up some other high pocket pairs and won some pots. We finally eliminated Jason and it was down to 3 of us with Devin having around $60 and Mike and I having $100 each.

I was dealt 10-7 suited in the small blind. Devin folded on the button and I completed. Mike checked. The flop was 8-9-Q. So I had the open end straight draw. Just to mix things up, I decided to check instead of semi-bluffing. Mike bet the pot and I called. The turn was the 6 giving me the nut straight. I checked again, and this time Mike bet the pot again. I went all in and he called immediately. Mike turned over Q-6 for two pair. I had him drawing to 4 outs and I will be over a 3-1 chip leader heads up. Then the poker gods decided to kick me in the nuts again and dealt the 6 on the river for Mike's full house.

That left me with $0.50 which was all in the next hand and out 5 cards later. The positive of the night is that I felt like I played pretty well. I won most of my bluffs, I lost the minimum on a couple of others, and I got good value out of my strong hands. I just got unlucky. Hopefully the next time I play well, I will get lucky too and win a big amount.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Poker Bully: Political Operative

Anything I can do to get Jon Kyl out of office seems like a good option to save Internet Poker. Here is my latest attempt, a letter to the Poker Players Alliance.

Subject: Senate Race in Arizona

Dear PPA,
The senate race in Arizona is closer than anyone had previously thought possible between Jon Kyl and Jim Pederson. Obviously it would be in the PPA's best interest for Jim Pederson to win this election.
I have attempted to contact Pederson's office to see if I could discover his stance on internet gaming. His office was unwilling to give an opinion. I have heard from other friends, that Pederson's office does not consider this to be an important issue.
I think as the campaign comes to a close, they would be willing to pick up as many votes as possible. Obviously there are possibly thousands of online poker players in Arizona. Has the PPA contacted Jim Pederson about this legislation? Could you tell me how many members of the PPA are Arizona Residents, so I could have some additional information for the next time I try to call Pederson's office about this topic?
Keep up the good work.


Here was the PPA's response:

Hi Larry,
Thank you for your e mail. I have looked at this race between Kyl and Pederson and it is a close race. I will pass on your suggestion about working with Pederson’s camp for this election and the president of the PPA will see this e mail as well.
Thanks for your support,

Jason Chaput
Poker Players Alliance

Monday, October 16, 2006

Progress Report on Goals for 2006

I was in a reflective mood this morning so I thought I would share my list of goals that I set for myself in January 2006. I will tell you the goal and then my comments on whether I have reached the goal or am going to fall short.

Professional Goals

1. $500,000 in production credits in 2006 for my job. My father and I are on track for this goal, but we don't have a lot of slack. We need to keep it up for 3 more months.

2. $95,000,000 in assets under management. Currently we are at 91 MM. It's still possible but looking a little tough. I probably have 1.5-2MM in the pipeline, but some of it will probably not come in until 2007, and we may need a little market appreciation.

3. Qualify for Chairman's Club. This would have taken 600k in production credits so it was in conflict with goal #1. A little too optimistic.

4. One new client from Phoenix Country Club. Nobody yet, however I did get one client to join Phoenix Country Club so that should help in the long run and passing my name around.

Personal Goals

1. Show Michele I love her by doing at least one nice thing for her every week. I think I have lived up to that for the most part.

2. Get Michele pregnant. Baby Jake is due to enter this world on November 17th. This was probably the goal that was the most fun accomplishing. :-)

3. Lose 10 pounds and keep weight at 220. After I set this goal I managed to ballon up to 235. I had recently dropped to 225 and have probably slipped a little since then. It's still possible with a little discipline.

Poker Goals

1. Win over $1,000 in a poker tournament. On 5/29/06 I won over $1,500 in a World Series Main Event Qualifier.

2. 40% in the money and 20% ROI on the $50 SNG's. Not even close. I am currently refocusing on the $20 sits and hope to do well. Now that Party Poker is closed, I am not sure I can get the hand histories from Full Tilt or Doyle's Room into Poker Tracker.

3. 4 table with 2 monitors at 3-6 online with 2 BB per 100 hand win rate. Once Party Poker opened up 6 handed tables, all the fish seemed to move there. I was not as confident in my short handed game and never moved up to that high a level.

4. Win a satellite into the World Series of Poker Main Event. This is the goal that was the most fun trying to achieve, but train wrecked my other poker goals. I tried for the first few months to build up my bankroll to make a satellite run. I hit a bad patch, so my bankroll was not as high as I would have liked. I came very close in a couple of satellites to qualifying, but washed out.

Golf Goals

1. Shoot par for one round of golf. My lowest score over the last 6 months is a 77. The golf gods have conspired against me on this one. I herniated a disk in the summer of 2005 and it took me until January of this year to feel like I was back to 100%. This was just in time for our golf course at Phoenix Country Club to go into the shitter. It would have been a miracle to shoot a really low score on the dirt greens we had early in the year. Finally they hired a new greenskeeper and he shut the course down for the summer as he installed new greens. I could still play other courses in the valley, but I could not practice my short game. The course had reopened on Labor Day in great shape, but it was only for 1 month before they had to shut it down again for overseeding. In the mean time, I had another minor back episode that kept me off the course for a couple of weeks.

2. Handicap of 5 or lower. See above for most of the explanation. With a baby due in one month, this one looks impossible. I would have shoot at least 4-5 rounds in the low 70's to bring my handicap down that far.

3. First place in a golf tournament at PCC. I came really close with my friend Mike, in the Sidewinder in March. We had the lead going into the final round. We ended up losing by 1/2 a stroke.

Financial Goals

1. Save $20,000 in a taxable account.
On 12/31/2005 I had the following:
Cash $17,705
Mut Funds $25,894
Total $43,599

Currently I have:
Cash $9,393
Mutual Funds $35,239
Total $44,632

I have been putting in $1,000 a month into different mutual funds, but apparently I have just been whittling down the cash balance I started with in the beginning of the year. Although, that number is deceiving because I had to write a check in April to the IRS for about $2,400 net in taxes from selling my rental home last year. That was money I had set aside from the sale in 2005, so my cash balance at the end of the year was a little over inflated.

2. Save the maximum in my 401k including company match. I hit the max of $15,000 in my last pay period. This is the first time I have ever maxed out in the dollar category of 401k savings. My first year at Arthur Andersen out of college I maxed out at 15% of my pay, but my salary was only 30k.

3. Rent my house on Carson for $1,200 a month starting in March. I did accomplish this for 6 months. I am now trying to sell the house. I started it at $399,900 and have lowered it to $369,900. Bill seems to think it may need to go down to $350,000 before someone bites. That sucks because the comps 6 months ago would have priced it at least at 400k.

Overall, it's been a pretty good year so far. The main upheaval is the poker section, obviously. It may take until January 2007 for me to get a feel for what I can accomplish with the new online landscape.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Another Shot at a Casino AZ tournament

My friend Jeff has been bugging me for weeks to play with him at Casino Arizona in their Tuesday or Wednesday night Poker Tournaments. Jeff is the one who runs a semi annual tournament at a friends house and wanted to check out the operations of a professional tournament.

Since my weekly Wednesday night game was canceled this week and my wife was busy driving back from Parker, AZ I finally took him up on the offer.

Since you need to get there early to make sure the tournament is not sold out, I arrived around 5:00 PM. I immediately got a seat in a standard 3-6 Hold'em table where everyone was awful. This time my strategy was to try really hard to win the first pot I voluntarily enter. It's so much better for my state of mind and my table image if I start out winning.

Luckily, my 2nd hand was pocket queens. They held up against the loose aggressive player on my left who had pocket Jacks. A while later, I took down a multiple raised pot with a King high straight and I was up $80. Hey, I might get to free roll this $130 tournament if things keep up.

Finally Jeff arrived around 5:45 and I took a break. Jeff did not want to play 3-6 while he waited so we found a 4-8 table with two seats open. I racked up my $180 and sat down with Jeff.

I immediately began to lose my profits. I got a bit unlucky when a guy on my right limped into a multi way pot with pocket Aces. I of course raised on the button with Ace-King. Everyone's in and I hit my King on the flop. Opponent bets, I raise, he reraises, I call. The turn and river I call down. Another guy flops a set of 5's against me when I hit top pair again and now I am back to even.

During my observation of the table from the 10 seat, I notice the young guy in the 1 seat is a really bad player. I happened to notice that he played 2-4 offsuit in early position and drew to an inside straight. He also tended to bet his weak hands.

A few hands later, I am on the button again with pocket 7's. 5-6 people limp in and I limp as well. The one seat bad player raises and everyone calls. The flop is 9-6-2 rainbow. The bad player checks and everyone including me checks around. My guess is he has Ace-King. The next card is a 10 and he leads out. Everyone folds to me. With a little bit of tilt creeping in and the fact that I still have him on Ace-King, I call. The river is a Jack and he bets into me again and I call. He shows 2-7 offsuit and my hand is good.

One round later, I raise with A-J and the one seat calls. I flop the Jack and lead out, he calls. Turn is a low card, I bet he calls. The river puts out a possible straight, so I check. He bets and I call. My hand is good again. Now I am back up to my $80 mark. I tell Jeff that this guy might be my personal ATM.

Eventually I racked up a $65 profit and headed over to my tournament seat. Once again, I get the crappy seat to the right of the dealer. I start with 2000 in chips and 25-50 blinds. The levels are only 20 minutes and there are no ante levels. I believe the only way to win these is to win your first couple of hands, and then double up each round. Once you get to the third level, the average chip stack is about 10 blinds, so basically you have to get called on a push and win a race.

I of course do the opposite. I have Ace-little on the big blind and there are 5 people in the pot. I flop the Ace, but my position sucks, so I check to see what everyone else does. Everyone checks. The turn is another low card which puts a possible wheel out there. This time I bet 300 trying to take it down. Another guy shoves all in for about 1600, and everyone folds to me. I muck it pretty quick and the nice guy shows me his straight.

From there I managed to slowly chip up. I turned a pair of 7's into a flush in a big multiway pot and did not get called when I moved all in. I reraised all in with AK against a raiser and caller. The first raiser folded, but the second guy called. He also had AK so we split up the dead money. I raised a coupld of times preflop with good hands and everyone folded. I even noticed a tell on the guy in the one seat. He would always look at his cards right away and grab chips if he was going to play. I also realized that the guy on his left was pretty tight, so there would definitely be some opportunities to steal. I pulled it off one time with 10-3 suited.

So for a very short time, I was the chip leader at my table with about 15x the blind. After we got to the third and fourth levels, players started to bust at my table and new players arrived with more chips than me. This is when things started to get crazy for the other players at the table.

There were three hands where the two players were all in. One player would be ahead preflop. The other guy would pull ahead on the flop. Then the first player would resuck out on the turn or river. It definitely seemed like you were the underdog if you were the favorite preflop.

I was watching all of this and folding my bad hands, looking for the right opportunity to gather chips. Finally in the small blind, it's folded to me and I look down at A-4 offsuit. I now have 2800 in chips and the blinds are 150-300. I had been watching the player in the big blind in the one seat for his tell. He had not grabbed any chips and he had actually turned around to talk to a friend who was standing behind him.

This looks like an easy steal, so I move all in. "Oh!, I call" he says instantly. I jump up in my seat in shock and say, "Uh, oh" I think the table expected me to turn up complete crap. I turned over my Ace-4, but the big blind has Pocket Kings. Since the underdog had been sucking out, I thought I might have a chance, but my Ace must have been buried deep in the deck. I was left with less than one blind after the blinds went up to 200-400. A few hands later my Ace-Jack fell to King-7 and I was done in 98th place out of 180.

Jeff was very short stacked when I got up. He told me that he wanted to place in the top 80. I told him he would need to win a couple of pots. I guess he listened because he texted me when I got home that he had finished in 44th.

I really wish I could have watched Noah play in a couple of these where he did well. I still find it hard to believe that there is much skill involved in getting to the final table.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Black Sunday for Online Poker

“Bye Bye Miss American Pie, drove the Chevy to the levy but the levy was dry. Those good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye and singing this will be the day that I die”

Don MacClean

Late Saturday night, the US Government may have sounded the death knell for the poker boom. That insider trading, goat fucker, Bill Frist attached language to the Port Security Bill that outlaws financial institutions from letting their customers send money to online gaming sites. It will become a law when President Bush signs it in a week or two. The banks have 270 days from that time, to figure out how to code transactions so they can prevent the unauthorized transactions.

To quote Roman Moroni from the classic movie Johnny Dangerously, “I would like to direct this to the distinguished members of the panel. You lousy cork suckers. You have violated my farking rights. Dis somanumbatching country was founded so that the liberties of common patriotic citizens, like me, could not be taken away by a bunch of fargin iceholes…like yourselves.”

Today when the stock market opened in London, all the publicly traded poker room sites got hammered. I cashed out my 2600 shares of Partygaming at $0.85 a share after buying some at $2 and my original purchase at $3.

So far, Party Poker and 888 holdings have released statements saying when Bush signs the bill that they will freeze all US players’ accounts and they will not be allowed to play on their sites. As far as I can tell, you are still free to withdraw your funds and not face any penalties by US law. I am sure the other poker sites will follow suit.

I did see one post on 2+2 where the site True Poker said they will continue to accept US customers. Since they only have poker on their site and they believe that “poker” does not fall under this new law, that they will be exempt. I sincerely hope that’s true, but I really don’t believe it.

I don’t think True Poker has the financial resources to fight, but Full Tilt might. I sincerely hope that somebody stands up and says, “Please try to arrest us, we would love to fight this battle in court!” That might be the only way to settle the debate on whether Poker is a skill game in the eyes of the US Government.

The other slim chance is that the lobbying efforts of the Poker Player Alliance and others can get a carve out for Poker attached before the 270 days are up or during a vacation session before the Congress officially ends it’s session for the year.

So in addition to the $500 of my bankroll that I lost in September due to learning No Limit Hold’em, I have now lost over $4,800 in the stock market. I figured it was a good hedge since if I lost playing poker, that at least the stock should make money for me. Obviously the legislative piece was not considered in my sophisticated hedging formula.

Just for fun, I am going to make a few predictions and see if any of them come true one year from now. This assumes that I will still be writing in this blog or even playing much poker. That is a big assumption.

1. The World Series of Poker will have its participation cut by at least 60%.
a. The vast majority of the players in the Main Event satellite in online
b. Since no US citizens can satellite in via online poker rooms, the field will be less than 4000

2. A Foreign citizen will win since they will outnumber the US citizens

3. Online poker will still be alive in the US, but just barely

4. The largest online companies like Pokerstars, Partygaming, and 888 will survive and make money in the burgeoning international markets and possibly China.

5. The stock of these companies will not recover to their previous highs.

6. I will only be playing poker in a weekly home game or in Las Vegas
a. My son is being born soon, taking up a lot of my poker playing time
b. I won’t be able to play online and feel my money is safe.
c. The rake in low limit casino poker is so bad, that it is near impossible

to make money in the long term.

I once saw the disintegration of the Internet industry in the stock market in 2000 and 2001. There were a lot of people with rosy predictions that their company would never go away. I often heard the quote of, "The internet is not going away". That took 2 -3 years to unwind.

This past weekend is the same thing, except it is all happening overnight. I would not be surprised to hear of a suicide of a top player who loses his sponsorship, players moving out of the country, or small poker sites taking off with their client's money.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

What Am I Doing Wrong In NL Hold'em?

I saw this article on the hope page of Adam Schwartz from Rounders the Poker Show. It pretty much details my problems in No Limit Hold'em.

No-Limit Strategy
Most players who earned their stripes playing in the public cardrooms of Vancouver learned to play one game only: limit hold'em. But now, in the post-WPT, post-ESPN world, it's no-limit hold'em that everyone wants to play. While many of the players in a typical no-limit hold'em game might be new to the game, trying out the "all-in game", many are seasoned players at big-bet hold'em, making them formidable no-limit players.
I am one of those players. I was raised in the limit hold'em cardrooms of Vancouver. I enjoyed success in the relatively loose, passive low- and mid-limit games that were prevalent of the time. I didn't play much in the way of no-limit hold'em cash games until I started playing more on the internet. Until recently, it was hard to find a no-limit game in the public cardrooms of Vancouver. Even the major casinos and cardrooms in Las Vegas and Los Angeles rarely spread no-limit cash games. So until recently, if you lived in North America and wanted a good selection of no-limit hold'em cash games to play, the internet was the place to do it. Nowadays, of course, there aren't many cardrooms where you won't find the "Cadillac of Poker".
Initially, I had a hard time adapting to the differences between limit and no-limit hold'em. Poker players often refer to opponents derisively by saying they play with a "limit" accent in no-limit games, or vice versa. In this article, I'd like to talk a bit about how a winning limit hold'em cash game player can become a better no-limit hold'em cash game player. The easiest way to do that is to talk about the typical mistakes a successful limit hold'em player makes when he changes over to no-limit.
1. Betting too often
This first mistake may come as a surprise. After all, isn't no-limit hold'em a game of aggression? Aren't the super-aggressive players like Gus Hansen and Phil Ivey the most feared opponents at a no-limit hold'em table? Doesn't the undisputed all-time guru of no-limit hold'em, Doyle Brunson, advocate a powerful, attacking style?
The answer to all of those questions is yes. Doyle's (and Gus' and Phil's, among others) style of picking up small pots whereever possible is as valid now as it was when he literally wrote the book on no-limit hold'em 30 years ago. However what most successful, strong limit players converting to no-limit don't realize is that you don't have to bet medium-strength as often in limit hold'em. In limit hold'em, the pot is your primary concern. Since the pot is laying you good odds, you often need to bet - whether it's to protect your made hand, or as a semi-bluff. For example, in limit hold'em if you're heads-up on the turn against one opponent, and you're holding a hand like middle pair, you should usually bet the turn even if you're really not sure whether you have the best hand. That's because if you check and allow your opponent a free card to draw out on you for free in a situation where he would have folded, you've cost yourself a lot of money. However in no-limit, since for your bet to have credibility it needs to be about one-third to two-thirds of the pot, the price of protecting your hand is much more. Therefore it's not a huge disaster to give up a free card which costs you the pot, if you had significant doubts about whether your hand was best.
Another instance of this is when you hold a good draw. Let's suppose in limit hold'em you raised before the flop with AsKs and got two callers. The flop comes down Js9c2s. You bet, as you should, and one of your two opponents call. The turn is no help to you, a 7h. Your opponent checks to you. In limit hold'em, unless you have some information about your opponent that indicates to you that you should check, you should typically bet in this situation. Your opponent may fold a better hand like Ad9d, ThTc, Ac2c or even 9h8h. You may still have the best hand, if your opponent holds a hand like QsTc, Th8h, KdQs, or 7s6s. Because it's relatively cheap to do so, and chances are reasonable that you'll win the pot, you should bet. Even if your opponent was sandbagging a huge hand like 2h2c and raises you, this is unfortunate, but not a disaster, because you can still call and draw out on him.
However, if the exact same sequence occurs in no-limit hold'em, it is probably a significant mistake to bet (again, unless you have some information about your opponent that indicates you should). In no-limit, when an opponent checks and calls the flop, it indicates a much stronger hand than it does in limit. While in limit it is usually correct to take a card off with a mediocre hand or a weak draw, in no-limit it is usually incorrect to make these calls, because the size of the bet (and implied bets on future streets) is so much larger. Thus you're probably against a bigger hand than you were in the limit scenario. But more importantly, in no-limit, you can be raised off the hand. If you bet in second position and your opponent check-raises, he will probably raise you so much it would be incorrect for you to draw at your flush. Now you have to fold. By betting and allowing yourself to be check-raised, you've cost yourself not only your bet and the pot, but also any bet that you would have won on the river after completing your flush (or even top pair, if that was enough to win).
Yet another situation where limit players bet too much is in last position on the river. In limit hold'em, holding all else equal, you should typically bet top pair on the river against a single opponent. In no-limit hold'em, it's often a mistake to do so. By the time the river card is dealt in limit hold'em, the pot is usually laying your opponent good enough odds that he will call if he has anything at all. Therefore you value bet knowing your opponent will call with almost any kind of hand. In no-limit, however, it's rare that an opponent will pay you off with a hand that top pair can beat, unless you have a profile as an aggressive bluffer. The reasons for this are both mathematical and psychological. Mathematically, if you make a solid bet on the river, your opponent is not correct to simply "call for the size of the pot". Psychologically, many opponents have a much harder time calling say, $1500 on the river in a 10-25 blinds NL game, than $200 on the river in a $100/$200 limit hold'em game. In addition, we have the same problem as the previous scenario, presented in a different way: If your opponent puts in a big check-raise, you'll probably have to lay down your hand. By betting, you've opened yourself up to the possibility of a bluff-raise on the part of your opponent, which you can't call. In limit, the pure check-raise-bluff on the river is fairly rare, as the bluffer knows that the bettor is getting good odds to call that last bet, and probably will.
2. Paying off too much
Suppose you're heads-up on the flop against a very aggressive player. He's raised before the flop, and you were the only caller. You make something like middle pair with an ace kicker. True to his style, he's come out gunning on the flop, and there's no indication he's going to stop betting any time soon. Should you call him down?
In limit hold'em, the answer is almost certainly yes. Unless you pick up a tell or the board gets very scary, you normally should call down heads-up with middle pair against a very aggressive opponent. In fact, calling down is often preferable to firing back at him, because you're letting him bet your hand for you if he has nothing. Because you he's a gunner, you're not afraid of giving free cards - he's going to take care of the betting for you.
In no-limit, however, calling down an aggressive opponent automatically is a recipe for disaster. If you buy in for around 50-100 times the big blind, your entire stack is in danger any time you play a pot against an aggressive player - even if you never raise. Let's suppose the game is no-limit with $5 and $10 blinds. If your opponent raises to $50 before the flop, you call, and check and call a pot-sized bet on the flop and turn, you'll be facing a bet for pretty much all your chips on the river. Are you so confident in your read on your aggressive opponent that you're consistently willing to back your stack with middle pair? If so, I want you in my game.
Usually the best thing to do against a very aggressive player like this is to fire back at him early in the hand. A good-sized raise preflop or on the flop will tell your opponent that you mean business, and that he's going to have to risk his stack if he wants to take you off the hand.
Another spot where good limit players fail in no-limit is paying off on the river. In a limit game, a good player will often raise preflop, lead out on the flop, bet again on the turn, and again on the river. Sometimes the good player will get raised on the river and figure that he is beat, but pay off anyway. As we discussed earlier, he is usually correct to do so. However in no-limit, if the player with the initiative gets raised, his best play is often to fold, not call.

3. Over-defending blinds
In middle- and high-limit hold'em games, say 30/60 and above, players must be careful not to give up their blinds too easily, especially if the raiser is first in from a late position. Since the big blind is getting 3.5:1 to see the flop, he must call quite liberally against a player first in on the button.
However in no-limit games, the big blind is usually not getting such good odds to call (most opening raises in no-limit cash games are 3-4 times the big blind, making the immediate pot odds about 2:1 for the big blind). But far more importantly, the positional handicap suffered by the blinds is much more pronounced in no-limit play. If a strong opponent acts behind you, he can often infer weakness from your betting patterns and steal pots on later streets. He can also get far more value when he suspects that you've got a good hand, but he's got an even better one. In limit, position often helps a good player win a bet or save a bet. In no-limit, position often helps a player win the entire pot, win a big pot instead of winning a smaller pot, or lose a small pot instead of losing a big pot.
Again, concrete examples may help. Let's say your opponent raises, first in from the button in limit. You call with a hand like 9c7h, which is a correct defence heads-up against a button raise. The flop comes down Kh8c6h. Depending on your opponent, your playing style, and how you are perceived at the table, you may choose to play the hand hard, hoping to take your opponent off a better hand, or play it softly hoping to hit your straight for a good price and get paid off when you make it. Nevertheless, you won't be blown off the hand, and it won't cost you a lot of money when you miss your hand.
Compare the same hand in no-limit. If you choose to check and call the flop, and you miss on the turn, you could be faced with a bet that makes you lay down your draw. If you make an aggressive play for the pot and either bet out or check-raise on the flop, you'll be in no-man's land on the turn if your opponent calls and you haven't improved. Now you're in the uncomfortable position of either making a large bet on the turn as a probable dog, or meekly giving up the initiative and check-folding to a large bet.
4. Over-valuing "big cards"
Many no-limit authors have already written that while hands like AK, AQ, AJ, KQ, QJs, KJs and so forth can be your bread-and-butter hands in limit hold'em, they can be downright treacherous in no-limit. The most common playable flop for these hands is top pair with a good kicker, which is a definite money maker in limit hold'em. Even in no-limit hold'em tournaments - especially in the later stages where the ratio of blinds to stacks is larger - these hands should often be played hard. But top pair has broken many an unweary no-limit player in cash games. To play top pair correctly with over 100 big blinds on the table requires a lot of finesse. The skillful no-limit player walks a fine line, trying to make money with the hand without being broken with it. Again, position is critical when playing a hand like this, as it can often earn a good-sized bet from a dominated hand like top pair with a worse kicker, or save a large bet if the hand is second-best.
Big pairs are also vulnerable in deep-money no-limit. Heads-up in limit hold'em, you're almost always getting to the river with your big pairs unless the board looks very scary. Whether it's you or your opponent who is leading the betting, your hand is usually good enough to get to the showdown.
When there is lots of money to be played, the only hand you can feel very good about putting all your money in with before the flop is two aces. After the flop, while many people believe that two jacks is the toughest hand to play in no-limit, many experts believe that it is in fact two kings. When you've re-raised before the flop with two kings and get played back at on the flop, you have to consider two possibilities: that your opponent flopped a set, or that he slowplayed two aces before the flop. I'd bet on AA, KK, QQ and JJ winning money in the hands of just about any competent player, but the truly skilled no-limit player knows how to maximize his winnings when he's up against a weaker player while keeping from getting broke when the hand is beat.
It takes a lot of education and practice to develop the skills necessary to becoming a winning limit hold'em players in the middle and high limits. But many winning limit players don't understand why they fail when they step into the no-limit arena. If you're a successful limit player and you haven't quite enjoyed the success you think you deserve in no-limit cash games, consider whether you're making any of the mistakes outlined above. On the contrary, if you're already an experienced no-limit cash game player, think about the some of the mistakes your limit cash game opponents might be making, and try to find ways to exploit them.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

My KK gets Hammered!

Last night was the weekly sit and go at Greg’s house. We had a good crowd of 8 players. A couple of the tougher players like Tavo and Kory F. were absent, so I liked my chances.

I did not have a good start. I tried to limp in a few times and was either raised out preflop, or I called and totally whiffed the flop. Before I knew it, I was down to $30. I told myself to tighten up and wait for premium hands.

Usually we have a rebuy period for the first hour. $20 for $20 in chips. We start with $40 in chips, so it’s really not a good deal. However, a couple of the guys like to go crazy at the end of the rebuy period if they are low on chips. Craig is one of these guys.

Craig was in the small blind and had whittled away to $15 before the start of the hand. I was dealt KK in middle position and raised to $2. Everyone folded to Craig, who called the raise. While he was calling the bet he announced, “I think Larry is trying to steal my blind, so I have to call.”

The flop is 3-5-6 rainbow. Craig immediately moves all in for $13 into a $5 pot. I’m about 95% sure I am way ahead and waste no time in calling. Craig turns over “the hammer” 7-2 offsuit. The turn is a blank. The river is a fucking 4 and Craig gets a straight.

The blinds go up to .50-1 the next hand and I have $15 left. I hang around for a long time, picking up a small pot, here and there. By the time the blinds were up to $1-$2 I had built my stack up to $35.

Then I went on a bit of a rush. I flopped a full house twice and won a big pot and small pot. I also stole the blinds a couple of times as well. Before I knew it, we were down to 4 players. This is when some of the bad luck returned.

I raised with Ace-King into Medical Kory. He pushes all in and I call. He turns over pocket Aces. Mike is eliminated and we are down to 3 players. The blinds are 2-4 and I have about $80.

In quick succession, I lose 3 pots to Craig where I am forced to fold preflop or on the flop after big bets from him. He had a hand every time. I wanted to play a little careful since Kory only had 6x the blind left when we started 3 handed. Before I knew it, we were almost even.

The blinds increase to 3-6 and I am dealt A-6 of clubs. I move all in from the small blind and Kory calls from the big blind with A-8. An 8 on the turn and I am bubble boy.

Overall I felt I played pretty well. I made a nice comeback from my early bad beat. If the cards fall right for me in a couple of places I may have been able to take out Craig.

I still am not able to pick up many tells on the guys. I would think that I could do that by now, but I am still kind of clueless. Maybe I’ll thumb through Mike Caro’s book again and look for a couple of tells that I am not looking for.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Luck vs. Skill

After watching last night's episodes of the World Series of Poker Main Event, I may quit the game.

Last night went from 27 players down to the final table. Jamie Gold, the eventual winner, picked up the craziest hands I have ever seen. Every time someone went all in, he woke up with a better hand.

Jamie raises 8-7 offsuit and gets reraised by Prahlad Friedman. Jamie thinks 2-1 odds is good enough so he calls. The flop is 4-5-6. Bye Bye Spirit Rock. Gold raises with K-6 suited and the flop has two 6's along with an Ace so his opponent with A-K can go broke. On and on and on.

Jamie finally lost an all in hand with a straight draw that did not come in. He steamed so much that he lost a big pot the next hand when he stupidly called 2 Million dollar raise on the river with a paired board and he only had a 10-high flush. He has Allen Cunningham in the pot and he bets the river with a medium flush? What the hell else is Allen going to raise with except a better flush or a full house? You check that river against a seasoned pro, you dummy!

Jamie: How could I get away from that hand? I can't fold a flush
Allen Cunningham: Yep that was a cold deck ( I can see him smirking as he says that to all the fish he plays with)

Allen must have been exceedingly card dead at the final table to not win this thing.

Then, the moron who pushes 20x the big blind in with Q3 off suit on the button. It's the final table bubble. After 5 days of seeing idiots call big bets with crap, how can you pull this move?

I was also amazed that Richard Lee was down to less that 10 big blinds before he came back. He had a legitimate chance to win at the final table before he overplayed his Jacks.

Michael Binger was a goner when his pocket Queens ran into pocket Kings. Somehow he hits his 3rd Queen and survives. He goes on to take 3rd place and basically ruin Allen Cunningham's chances by surviving every all in against him.

But I can't fade 3 outs twice against me in a $22 tournament. Poker is so unfair.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Small Tournament Milestone

I have been bored playing No Limit cash games for the last 3 weeks so yesterday I decided to fire up a $20+2 180 person Sit and Go on Poker Stars. I have only played one other large multi player tournament since the World Series of Poker ended so I have been jonesing to play for a while.

My early tournament hands were really uneventful. I am staring at my Poker Tracker stats and here is the early going:

Blinds Total hands win/lose
10-20 14 (50)
15-30 13 240
25-50 16 (325)
50-100 19 550

So as you can see I played with my original stack amount for quite some time. I finally picked up some hands and they held up and I began to plow through the field.

As everyone knows, you need to get lucky a few times to go far in these tournaments. I was up to 5,860 and 2nd in chips at my table. The blinds were 100-200 and I decided to steal the blinds with Ad-6d from middle position. It's folded to the small blind with 1330 in chips. He pushes all in. I am priced in so I make the crying call and he turns over KK. The flop is T-Q-9 all hearts. Absolutely no help for me. Luckily my opponent does not have a heart either. The turn is an 8. And the river is a beatiful 7 giving me a runner-runner straight. They moved me to another table right after the hand finished so I did not even realize how I won the hand because I was looking for an Ace.

A few hands later I am at 7,990 in chips and blinds are 100-200 with 25 ante. I open raise in the cutoff with Ace-Ten offsuit to 600. The small blind "Rippyken" calls and everyone else has folded. The flop is Js-7c-4h. It's very ragged so I figure my continuation bet should take it down. Instead Rippyken leads out for 600 into a 1,600 pot. The bet looks weak and the board looks so harmless, I decide that I can raise him off of it. I raise to 1800. Rippyken calls.

I did not want a call obviously. Now I am thinking he may have a set of 7's or 4's. The turn is a 6s and he checks the turn and I check behind. The river is a 4d, pairing the board. Rippyken checks again. I know the only way I can win this is by betting. However I feel like it will take a bet of at least 1/2 of my remaining stack to win it and I don't want to gamble. I check it through and he shows Qd-7d for a pair of 7's. I am surprised he did not lay it down preflop or on the flop, but I probably saved some money since if was willing to call those two bets, he probably would have called the river. So now I am back to 5,565.

About 10 hands later a carbon copy of the previous hand happens again. I have As-Th in the cut off position. I have one limper in front of me. This time I raise to 800. Rippyken calls again out of the small blind and the limper folds. The flop is 2s-Jh-4c. Another ragged flop. This time Rippyken checks and I check behind. I was thinking that this time, if I fire out on the turn, he may give me more credit for a hand. Plus it will give me another chance to see what he does on the turn. The turn is 3h. He checks and I bet 1800 into the 2,200 pot. Rippyken folds. He had shown weakness twice, plus I had better outs this time with a 5 for a straight or an Ace on the river probably gives me the pot as well. So I am back up to 6,465.

The blinds are up to 200-400 with 25 ante and I need to do something. I am down to 5140 in chips. I am in the small blind with 8-8. Boomerang with 5,605 in chips (who I had reraised a while ago when he tried to steal from my blind), open raises for 1,200. I push all in and he lays it down.

I fold 10-15 hands in a row again. I am in the big blind with Kd-Jh. A small stack raises all in to 1600. The blinds were 300-600 with 50 antes. Everyone has folded to me. I have to call. He turns over pocket tens, so I like my chances. Unfortunately, I don't win this race.

A few hands later I open push with 66 and win 1,800 to stay alive.

Then under the gun, I open push for 5,115 in chips with Ah-Jd. This is probably too aggressive. The blinds are 300-600 with 50 antes. I am not interested in sliding into the money so I feel that 8-9 times the big blind is short and I need to move up. I need to stop doing this. Be patient. Sure enough, kidjason calls with pocket 5's and I need to win another race. This time a Jack falls on the flop so I think I am winning. Then I realize that a 5 also fell on the flop, so I am crushed.

I am only left with 1,141 after this and I am in the big blind which is 600 plus the 50 ante. This is where I go on an incredible run. I have 6-7 offsuit. Kiddjason decides to min raise to 1200. GCagg with 14,000 in chips calls from the small blind and I of course throw in my last few hundred in chips. I flop the open ended straight draw and hit it on the river. So now I have 3,623 in chips.

Blinds go up to 400-800 with 50 ante. We are now to the money bubble. I guess players are starting to tighten up, but I don't know why since you only win $18 if you squeek in. I have Ac-2c under the gun and I open push for 3073. Amazingly everyone folds and I collect 2300.

In the big blind, the very next hand I am dealt a garbage 8-4 offsuit. A moron only min raises to 1600. The small blind calls, and since I am getting 10-1 I am forced to call. The flop is 8d-5h-2h. The small blind checks and I push in. Everyone folds and I collect 5100 in chips.

Then I pickup pocket 7's. I raise all in after two limpers and they all fold. What do you know, I am over $10,000 again. I raise again with pocket 8's and get no takers. I even win a pot with 6-3 offsuit in the big blind when everyone checks every street and I pair my 3 on the river. I think this was the hand that broke the money bubble.

This was a nice milestone because I had not yet made the money on the 180 person sit and gos until this moment. I paused briefly to pat myself on the back and then got back to work.

Not that it mattered much, but during the last 30 minutes of my tournament I had the computer at the dinner table and was enjoying lasagna made by Michele. I am glad she is so understanding about my hobby. I think a lot of wives would have thrown a tantrum. Not Michele.

So now I am pumped up to 13,898 in chips. I pass for a few hands and then raise with KQ. I get two callers. The flop is Qs-4s-3h. The pot is 8000 and I have 11,198 left after the preflop action. One player checks and I move in. They both fold. Now I am pumped up to 19,198 in chips. The blinds are still 400-800 with 50 antes so I have some room to play now.

Unfortunately, it all ended quickly and painfully. I am dealt Qh Jc on the button. It's folded to me and I raise to 2400. Bartonfa in the big blind calls the bet. Bartonfa is the chip leader at our table with 39,814 in chips. I briefly thought of just limping on the button to avoid tangling with him, but I figured if he comes over the top, I'll just lay it down.

The flop is Jd-6h-5d. Perfect. Bartonfa checks and I bet 4000 into a 5600 pot. He check raises me all in. I feel like I have too much invested in the pot, so I call. He turns over J-T and I have him crushed. He only has 3 outs. I'm gonna be chip leader at the table! I am gonna go all the way.......Ten on the turn. FUCK!!!!!!!!!!!! I am out in 15th with a whopping $18 profit.

How in the hell do guys do this for a living?????????

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Subtle Tilt

There are many forms of tilt. There is a raging tilt where you want to rip the face off of the guy who just ran down your pocket Aces with 5-2 offsuit. There is long term tilt where you become so beaten up by a relentless string of bad beats, that you become timid in your play waiting for the next beat to come and take your stack. There is good luck tilt where you are running so good that you start to take -EV chances because "I just knew I was going to hit the flush on the river". There are also the more sublte forms of tilt.

Last night I experienced the "I'm Tired of Being Raised All The Time" tilt. I played in the Wednesday Home Tournament again. I had nothing going early, but managed to maintain my original $40 stack. I finally got lucky and caught KK and doubled up when I flopped trips. Then in quick succession I busted two other players when I was dealt Ace-King in back to back hands.

With three players left, I had the chip lead against Medical Kory and Tavo. Kory is the guy who I beat heads up for my first and only victory in this weekly game back in August. Tavo is here for the second time. He's a little loose, but a pretty good player.

I figure since I had been playing pretty tight and I had shown down nothing but good hands, that I would start to bully people around. The next three hands that I was involved in, I raised preflop and then followed through with a continuation bet. Each of those hands, Kory raised me out of the pot. I was still in first place even though I had given Kory about $40 in chips over the last few hands.

On the Big Blind with A-6 offsuit. Kory calls, and Tavo folds in the small blind. I raise to $8 (4x the blind). Kory calls. The flop is A-K-9 with two diamonds. I have the Ace of diamonds. I lead out for $15. Kory raises me again. This time it's all in for $101 more. The other times he had raised me $10 or $20, so this was a big raise. He also just limped on the button, so I was not putting him on a big hand.

Because of the frustration of losing every pot to him, I could not get away from top pair and I called. Kory turned over Ace-Queen. I did not improve and I was down to 6 times the big blind. I eventually busted out 3 hands later.

One of the things I learned in the new Sklansky-Miller No Limit book is when you are at a No Limit table that you need to determine who you will play big pots with and who you will play small pots with. You can play the big pots with the loose-aggressive players with medium strength hands because a lot of times, your hand is good. If it's a tight player, you want to play small pots and chop away. If they come in betting or raising, you better have a really good hand.

Kory is definitely a player that I wanted to play small pots with. I broke my rule and paid for it with my tournament life. It kind of reminded me of one of the first times I ever played No Limit in a cash game at a casino. I had an old man on my right who was rock tight. He got involved in a hand with me where on the river I had the non nut straight. I bet and he raised me all in. If it is any other player at the table I should call the bet. Of course I call the tightest living human and he has the nuts and I lose to the one card that could beat me.

God damn this game is really hard sometimes.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

What the Hell Do I Know?

In an ironic twist of fate you cold see coming from a mile away. As soon as I wrote my last post about "the things I've learned" I proceed to lose in my next two sessions.

Party Poker had given me a $40 bonus to come back and play at their site. I spent a good amount of time on their .10-.25 blind NL games trying to work off my hands to earn the bonus. I finally finished and had about $50 in the account. I decided to move back up to the .25-.50 level and play some more "serious" poker. I was stacked off within 15 minutes and the party balance is back down to nothing.

The first hand of my demise, I have QsJd under the gun. I limp in for .50 The small blind folds and Canalope in the Big Blind checks.

The flop is Qd Qc 5h. Yahtzee! Although I have a great hand, chances are that Canalope has flopped nothing. I want to give him a chance to catch up. Canalope checks and I check it through.

The turn is 7s. No flush is possible and very remote chance of a straight. I still have the best hand. This time Canalope bets out .50 and I smooth call hoping for a good card on the river.

The river is 6s. It makes a 3 card straight, but it's still not very threatening. This time he bets $2. I raise to $5 hoping for a crying call. Instead he raises me to $15. I just call since I don't have the nuts. Canalope turns over Qh 6h for the rivered full house. Man that sucks. Again another reason why No Limit can drive people crazy with the swings. In limit poker I only lose a couple of bucks on this hand, but in No Limit I lose close to $20.

My demise was soon to follow.

I am in the small blind with Kc Qd. Canalope calls on the button after one other limper. I complete and the small blind checks.

Flop 3s Qc 6c.

I bet $1. The big blind and other limper folds and Canalope raises me to $3. I call. Canalope did not raise on the button preflop but now he's raising on a pretty uncoordinated board. I put him on a weaker Queen, maybe QJ or QT. A set is a possibility but he hasn't had a chance to prove it to me yet. There is $8 in the pot.

The turn is Qh. Now I have top set with a good kicker. If he has a set of 6's or 3's I am screwed. If he has the weaker Queen, I'm in great shape. I decide to go for a check raise since he raised on flop. I check and Canalope checks behind me.

Now I am convinced that he has a weak Queen or maybe a pair of Tens or 9's.

The river is a Jack of hearts. Even though I thought he may have QJ, there are a lot of other hands that I beat so I lead out for $7 an almost pot sized bet. Canalope raises to $25. What the fuck! I don't wait to try and talk myself out of it and I call. Canalope shows Ace-Queen and my hand is no good.

Canalope played the hand sneaky slow and unconventionally and it worked to perfection.

So I am back down to $0.50 in my Party Poker Account.

However, I did make a strong comeback on Full Tilt. I am up a net $60 since my last post due to some nice wins on Full Tilt and a marathon 8 hour session at Casino Arizona yesterday.

We'll see how I do on the Wednesday night game this week.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Let's Review What I've Learned Lately

It seems like a good time to write down some of the things I have learned lately. They aren't exactly earth shattering, but they are nuggets I would like to remember down the road.

1. Seldom bet a hand that seems average for the situation.

This is stolen from an article by Mike Caro in Bluff Magazine. The explanation is below.

This practice of betting medium hands drives me crazy. Listen. When your hand seems about average for the situation - right in the middle of what would be defined as a good hand or a bad hand - you should almost never bet. The few exceptions tend to center around wanting to stay on stage and maintain the pressure. This especially happens in 7-Card Stud, when if you're the previous bettor, pairing your board might drive an opponent out on the next bet, even if you have the worst hand. But, in general, it's unwise to bet middle hands. There - it's simple and I said it. There's almost never a motive to bet a medium hand. You can bet weak hands for posturing or as a bluff, and you can bet strong hands hoping to be called. But medium hands are the perfect hands to check.
I'll prove it. Suppose you played poker with only three cards: an ace, a king, and a queen. You shuffle and deal a single card each to an opponent and to yourself. You have each anted and now you look at your card and decide whether to bet. Well, if you have a queen, you must have the worst hand; but you might bet, hoping to bluff a king. Obviously an ace would call. And if you have an ace, you might bet hoping a king would call. Obviously a queen wouldn't call. But what would be the purpose in betting a king - the middle hand? No purpose at all. You'd get called when an ace beat you and never get called when you were the best hand against a queen. Betting this middle hand would be foolish. And that's what I want you to remember, because the same concept applies throughout poker.

2. A Wide Reraising Range preflop can be profitable in No Limit

This may be different at higher levels, but at the .10-.25 blind and .25-.50 blind level I seem to get a lot more folds than I thought I would. If an early opponent raises to 1.00 and I raise in position to $3, I get a fold over 50% of the time. So that is $3 to win $1.35.
Let's also assume when I get called the other 50% I win a pot of $5 half the time and lose a pot of $4 the other half. Here's the math.

50% * 1.35 = .67
25% * 5 =1.25
25% * -4 = -1
Total +0.92

I know this does not take into account the few times when someone puts in the 3rd raise against me. This happens very rarely. I tend to think that when it does, I either throw my hand away, or I have Aces or Kings and I call and win a huge pot. It probably evens out in the end.

I stumbled across this strategy after getting frustrated by my opponents constantly folding to my preflop raises with Aces and Kings. I can get players to loosen up by raising a lot of hands, but it's very tough to establish an image online because players are changing over so fast. This discovery also led me to my next epiphany.

3. A pair of Aces or Kings is still a below average hand by the river.

Playing high pair hands in No Limit is really an art form. They consistently win small pots and lose big pots. I really think the key to making money with them is not to maximize your wins, but to minimize your losses. Here's an example from last night.

My first hand at the table I post a .25 blind in late position. The table is 6 handed. I am dealt Kd Kc. Utg calls .25 and I raise to 1.50. Rushure calls from the small blind and Pcon23 calls from the Big Blind. The utg limper folds.

So $5 in the pot and the flop is 8d 8c Qh. This is a good flop. Maybe someone called with Ace-Queen. I doubt someone smooth called with Aces. I doubt someone has an 8. It's checked twice to me and I bet $3. Hopefully it's big enough to fold a naked Ace but small enough for a pair of Queens to come along. Rushure calls and Pcon23 folds.

So $11 in the pot and the turn is Ac. Rushure checks. I don't like the Ace. If someone called with Ace-Queen, I am nearly dead. If the weak Queen called, he may fold to another bet. So there is nothing to be gained from betting here. I check it through.

The river is a 2c. So a flush got there, but I doubt that's much of a probability. A lot of times, the check through on the turn will encourage a river bluff. If the bet is not too high, I am usually willing to call it. Rushure bets $5. I call.

Rushure turns over pocket Queens for a full house on the flop. I feel like I lost the minimum on this hand which was $9.50. Now if Rushure had led out on the flop for a small amount, I probably would have raised him. Then he could have called and checked the turn. He may have got more out of me that way.

The point is that I would have lost a lot more money 2 months ago in this hand, because I would have been ready to push in with the overpair on that flop.

4. Do not raise the underbettors on a draw

Every strategy post I read on the message boards seems to recommend playing your 8 out and higher draws very aggressively. They say it helps you get paid off on your good hands and sometimes with a straight or flush draw and overcards, you are actually a favorite. However, I have found this strategy does not work against the weak timid players.

Let's say I flop an open ended straight draw with $3 in the pot on the flop. A "Underbettor" bet's .50 into me. Some would recommend a raise because it's a weak looking bet. I don't like that and here's why. The "Underbettor" will bet small when he has a monster or when he has nothing. If he has a monster, I am more than willing to take my favorable pot odds and draw to my own monster. If I hit, I will stack him. If I miss, I lose the minimum. If I raise the bet to $3, I may win a small pot, but I will lose a big pot if he doesn't fold.

I realize that just calling small bets screams out that I have a draw. Luckily the "Underbettor" does not seem to consider my cards, only the ones in his hand.

Monday, August 21, 2006

With Friends Like These .....

Last weekend was our annual summer golf weekend. For a change we went to Pinetop this year since Bill and Glen bought a home up there last year. Usually we go to Tucson and play in the heat at a 5 star resort. This year we decided it would be better to stay for free and play in 80 degree weather.

We left at 8:30 AM Friday morning from Phoenix and arrived in Pinetop by 12:00. Bill's Mercedes is a monster. I have never had the pleasure of riding or driving a car where you can pass anyone at will, even if they are already going 75 mph. His car definitely has some balls.

We grabbed a quick bite at Pinetop Lakes Golf Club and we were on our way. Bill already owed me $70 from a previous bet so that's what we decided to play for. Currently Bill is an 8 handicap and I am a 10, so he has to give me two stroke on this course. In past trips, we have had problems with Chris trying to be funny and hitting into us on holes. In order to prevent this, we let them tee off first. So my group was Bill, Adam, and I. Ahead of us was Robert, Bob, Chris, and Glen.

I did not start out well, but Bill was not playing well either. After 13 holes, Bill was hopelessly behind and made a deal. He would forfeit the $70 bet if we played the last 5 holes for $140. Usually he waits until the last hole to press. Then it's usually a coin flip. Since I feel like I am a better player, a multi hole bet is definitely an advantage for me. I said ok and we flipped the switch. We both started playing really well. We seemed to hit every green, or if we didn't we made great up and downs. We played the first 3 holes of the new match at even par.

Since Pinetop Lakes is an executive course, Bill felt he had an advantage because he only hits irons off of the tee. Bill can't keep his driver on the course so a short course is right up his alley. The 17th hole is one of the few par 4's on the course. Bill teed off and pushed his shot to the right. I used 3 wood and hit a decent shot that was fading right as well. We saw it bounce twice and even though it was close to out of bounds, we were 100% sure it was still in. As Adam was teeing off, I noticed that Chris and Robert had doubled back and were driving their cart around where my ball had landed in the rough.

After Adam hit, we took off down the fairway to look for our balls. Bill found his right away, but I could not find mine. We spent about five minutes walking up and down the right rough, but it was no where in sight.

"I think Chris took my ball" I said to Bill.

"Chris wouldn't do that. He knows there is a lot of money riding on this." Bill replied.

"What do you want me to do?" I asked. Bill said what I knew he would, which was to drive back up to the tee and hit another one. So that's what I did and of course I striped one right down the middle. If I could play my second tee ball all the time, I might be good enough for the PGA.

I wedged on to the green and had a 25 foot putt for bogey. Bill missed his up and down and was in for bogey. So I still had aputt to tie the hole. I hit a good putt, but it came up a foot short and I carded a double bogey.

The 18th hole was a par 5. Again a rarity on an executive course, but the perfect kind of hole for me to make up a stroke. I decided to go for it and hit driver, even though I had not hit one all day. My ball stayed on the course, but it did banana to the right and landed in the rough by a couple of trees at the turn of the dogleg right. Bill did the same thing.

Between the trees and my lie, I could not go for the green in two, so I laid up. My 2nd shot went a little farther than I wanted and it went through the fairway into the rough on the left, about 80 yards from the green. I did not mind being in the rough. The course was so soft that I had backed up 6 balls off the greens from the fairway during the round. Hopefully the rough will take some of the spin off and I can get it close.

Meanwhile, Bill had advanced his ball down the fairway, and hit the green in 3 shots with about 50 feet left for birdie. I hit a decent wedge shot over a big pine tree and landed about 20 feet away.

As I got to the green, Chris was there waiting for us and wanted an update on me and Bill's bet.

"Do you have a Callaway ball in your pocket?" I asked Chris.

"No, why?" he replied.

"I thought you hit my ball" I accused.

"No I wouldn't do that to you. Did you lose your ball? Rob lost his ball on that hole too" said Chris.

Bill two putted for par, so I needed birdie for the tie. I missed and made par and finished the round even on the bets. I was disappointed that I lost, but I felt good about it, because I played well and forced Bill to play 5 holes in 1 over par to beat me. I hit a good tee shot on 17 and just caught a bad break.

Here's where it get's interesting.

We finish up and we meet up with Robert, Jon, Marty, and Bob at the cart return area. I ask Robert if picked up my Callaway ball. He played coy for a while and then admitted that he did hit a Callaway ball from the right rough on 17 and then produced the ball. A Callaway with a blue logo and a red Sharpie pen line around half the ball. That is my ball. I mark it with the red sharpie to help me line up short putts. Everyone who plays with me on a regular basis knows that's how I mark my ball.

Now all hell breaks loose. I tell Bill, the bet's off. He says, "tough shit!" I yell at Robert for costing me $280. The other guys thought we should go back to 17 and play the holes over again.

Finally, Bill and I agree to ask the club pro what the ruling is. The pro tells us that since I declared my ball lost and put a new one in play, that that is the ball I have to count and I lose. If I had dropped a ball where I thought my drive was supposed to be, played that one in, and hit a provisional off the tee, then I could have counted my first ball when we found out that Robert had picked up my ball.

Now if I was in Bill's shoes, I would have declared the second part of the bet off and just owed $140. If my friend get's screwed over like that, I am going to give him a break. I don't begrudge Bill for taking the money, because we both play to win. We tend to try and play by the rules and the pro confirmed his opinion. I was a little mad at Bill, but I understood.

Robert, on the other hand, had a lot to answer for. First of all, I still don't believe that he did not know that it wasn't his ball. I know he would not hit my ball on purpose, but he probably thought he found a ball near where his was supposed to be. "I'll just hit this one and put it in my bag," Robert probably said to himself.

I told Robert, that he doesn't even play Callaway balls. How could he not know that it wasn't his? His excuse was that he was playing all kinds of different balls that day.

Now I am pissed because Robert did something stupid and it cost me $280. I would have gotten over it a lot quicker if he had just said, "Larry, I screwed up, I'm sorry, " and shown some remorse. Instead he kept insisting that he didn't know it wasn't his ball and making all kinds of excuses on why it wasn't his fault.

After dinner we go to dinner at Charlie Clark's Steakhouse. We pound a few beers in the bar and get seated in their large dining room. By now, I figure that maybe it has sunk in with Robert that he should feel bad for screwing me out of the bet. I suggest that he buy me dinner and we forget about it. For some reason he doesn't take me seriously and I buy my own dinner. Dinner was great by the way. I had their house specialty of Blackened Prime Rib, which was awesome.

After dinner, we headed straight to the Hon Dah Indian Casino. I found their poor excuse for a poker room and sat down in a 3-6 Hold'em game. There were only two games to choose from and one of them was Omaha. The rest of the guys went to the black jack tables. After 20 minutes, Marty popped his head in the 3 table poker room and said that everyone was leaving. I was on the button, so I told the dealer it was my last hand.

I was dealt Kc Qs and raised it after 4 limpers. The flop was a brick with one club. It was checked to me and I bet to see if I can get any over cards to fold. One player folded. The turn was another club. Everyone chekcs and I check it through. The river was another club so I had the King high flush. It's checked to me and I bet. I get two callers and take down the pot. I rack up with a $12 profit. I find everyone else and they are all stuck at least $100 at black jack table. Karma's a bitch isn't it?

We all leave and go back to the house to play 1-2 Pot Limit Hold'em. The game started 6 handed with Bill, Marty, Adam, Jon, Robert, and me. Within the first few hands I raise K-10 suited on the button. Jon calls and we see a flop of K-T-6. Jon bets into me. I raise the pot and Jon calls all in. Jon has T-6 for two pair. My two pair holds up.

A little while later, I am dealt pocket Kings. Marty raises in front of me preflop. I reraise and he calls. The flop comes out ten high. He checks to me. I bet the pot. He check raises me the pot. I call and Marty is all in. Marty turns over AA. Oops. The turn is a King and now I have trips. The river is no help to Marty and he's broke and done.

As the night went on, I lost a few pots to Jon and won some small pots here and there. Eventually it got down to 3 handed with Jon, Robert, and me. Rob was the short stack and Jon was the big stack.

I was determined to break Robert and take some money from Jon as well. We all swapped chips for a while, but eventually Robert was ground down and I finished him off when I rivered a baby flush against his pair. Karma is a stone cold bitch. In the end, everyone was broke except for Jon and I. Jon finished up $200 and I finished up $100.

For the second time, I was really impressed with Jon's poker game. I really concentrated on finding some physical tells and he kept fooling me. Sometimes he would talk with a good hand and then a little while later he would talk while he was bluffing. Sometimes he would act strong with a good hand. Other times he had nothing. His only weakness against me was his inability to fold a good hand against me. Twice he said he knew what I had and yet he still called a big bet on the river. I was more than happy to confirm his suspicion and take his money. I finally told him, "if you know what I have, then you should fold." I think it finally sunk in.

I was happy with the way I played for the most part. I managed to get away with a lot of bluffs short handed for some small pots. I got away from the big pots, unless I had a monster. I don't know how long we will keep playing 1-2 pot limit however. Adam, Carlo (who was not here this time), Chris, and Bill keep going broke. The money goes to the good players much faster in a no limit or pot limit game rather than a limit game. We may break them eventually.

Saturday morning I woke up hung over and tired since I had to sleep in the same room as Bill and Glen. I do not sleep well in strange beds. Bill went on a McDonald's run and brought back breakfast. This morning we played at White Mountain Country Club a regulation length course.

Right after we got there, Robert came up to me with a black label Callaway ball and said, "Larry I just wanted to show you that I do play a Callaway ball."

Due to the time in the morning, my hangover, and general anger towards Robert from last night, I went off on him. I don't care what ball he plays as long as it's his ball. What Robert kept failing to understand is all I wanted to see from him was a little remorse and an "I am sorry, I screwed up." No excuses and no rationalizations. Just own up to it. I finally berated him into saying a half hearted "I'm sorry" and I left for the first tee.

My heart was pounding from adrenaline for the first two holes, which I somehow managed to par. After the second hole, I tried to give myself a reality check. I am playing golf in beautiful weather on a fantastic course. Enjoy it god dammit! I really did try to have fun, but my golf game went into the shitter and I was miserable for 4 hours. I eventually staggered home with an 89 and a $75 loss to Bill.

I immediately went home to take a shower and a nap. When I awoke, Robert, Chris, Bob, and Jon had gone back home to Phoenix. They all had to be there for other committments so the rest of us watched the end of the third round of the PGA championship and we decided to go to the Kabuki House for dinner and then Talledega Nights for a movie. Dinner was great and the movie was a classic. This definitely put me in a better mood.

We had made a 7:30 AM tee time at White Mountain CC again for Sunday, but Adam, Marty, and Glen all bailed out so it was just Bill and I. The stakes were $75 again and this time we played some solid golf. Bill jumped out to an early lead with a birdie on the first hole while I 3 putt bogied it. I managed to string some decent holes together and finished with a 42 on the front 9. Bill had shot a 41. I was in a much better mood and I was hitting the ball pretty well off the tee. My putting was still suspect, but I was doing enough to make par, and I even made a 15 foot birdie putt. I finished him off on 18 with a bogey and took his money. I also knew that I was a lock to make another $75 on the PGA championship since I had Tiger Woods on my team.

Overall I made $175 in gambling on the trip and got to cool off in the high pines. Another great trip with lots of stories that will be told and retold over the years.