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.