Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I Think I Am Improving

One of the things I have always struggled with in No Limit Hold’em is getting married to top pair or overpairs. I’m sure it comes from my initial training in Limit Hold’em. Top pair in limit will win a high percentage of the time and even if it doesn’t, you usually have the odds to call down to the river.

In No Limit, top pair or an over pair is a medium strength hand. Top pair is good for a small pot. A big pair is great preflop, but gets really tricky the longer the hand lasts.

I have lost many buy ins running top pair into two pair, or more commonly a set. Here is one hand that I felt I lost the minimum and was actually proud of the way I played it.

POKERSTARS GAME #15532662163: HOLD'EM NO LIMIT ($0.50/$1.00) - 2008/02/24 - 22:52:54 (ET)
Table 'Agamemnon IV' 6-max Seat #5 is the button
Seat 1: larryvq ($52.50 in chips)
Seat 2: DrunkenSeouL ($97.80 in chips)
Seat 3: stak1 ($129.50 in chips)
Seat 4: zwieback86 ($98.50 in chips)
Seat 5: limoni ($109.50 in chips)
Seat 6: maxthedog425 ($83.35 in chips)
maxthedog425: posts small blind $0.50
larryvq: posts big blind $1
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to larryvq [Ah Ac]
DrunkenSeouL: folds
stak1: folds
zwieback86: folds
limoni: folds
maxthedog425: raises $1 to $2
larryvq: raises $6 to $8
maxthedog425: calls $6

I am short stacking here and maxthedog425 has me covered by a little bit. The min raise from the small blind could mean a lot of things. I raise a good amount and he calls. The call tells me he has a high pair. Obviously it’s probably not Aces. Kings would probably push all in. I’m thinking TT, JJ, or QQ. Maybe AK or AQ.
*** FLOP *** [6h 2c Ks]
maxthedog425: checks
larryvq: bets $8
maxthedog425: calls $8

Good flop. No real draw possibilities. I make a continuation bet of ½ the pot. Usually I may bet a little more if there are draws present, but I want to make sure I get a call from AK, QQ, and JJ. He calls so my plan seems to be working
*** TURN *** [6h 2c Ks] [Qs]
maxthedog425: checks
larryvq: checks

The Queen scares me. I actually do think he might have hit a set here. I only have $36 left in my stack. The pot is $32. Now is the time to keep the pot small. I check behind and maybe call a bet on the river.
*** RIVER *** [6h 2c Ks Qs] [Jd]

maxthedog425: bets $11
larryvq: calls $11

The Jack is not a good card either. Maxthedog makes a value bet of $11. I figure there is a chance that he has Ace-King so I make the crying call.

*** SHOW DOWN ***
maxthedog425: shows [Qh Qc] (three of a kind, Queens)
larryvq: mucks hand
maxthedog425 collected $51.40 from pot
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $54 Rake $2.60
Board [6h 2c Ks Qs Jd]
Seat 1: larryvq (big blind) mucked [Ah Ac]
Seat 2: DrunkenSeouL folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 3: stak1 folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 4: zwieback86 folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 5: limoni (button) folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 6: maxthedog425 (small blind) showed [Qh Qc] and won ($51.40) with three of a kind, Queens

I only lost $27 of my original $52 stack with Aces. It’s rare that I am happy after my opponent sucks out on me, but this was one such occasion.

Here was a hand I misplayed last night that actually worked out in my favor.

POKERSTARS GAME #15581155951: HOLD'EM NO LIMIT ($0.50/$1.00) - 2008/02/26 - 23:46:01 (ET)
Table 'Umbriel' 6-max Seat #4 is the button
Seat 1: larryvq ($73.95 in chips)
Seat 2: luckywinz ($121.35 in chips)
Seat 3: MTHawghunter ($176.10 in chips)
Seat 4: foxhoundzr2 ($100.90 in chips)
Seat 5: desertfox18 ($53.30 in chips)
Seat 6: cdhtrout ($43 in chips)
desertfox18: posts small blind $0.50
cdhtrout: posts big blind $1
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to larryvq [Ah Qs]
larryvq: raises $2 to $3
luckywinz: folds
MTHawghunter: folds
foxhoundzr2: calls $3
desertfox18: folds
cdhtrout: folds

I like to raise 3x the BB under the gun and 4x the BB everywhere else. The main reason for the small raise is that I put a little less money in the pot when I am out of position. Plus the smaller raise makes people more suspicious that I have a really big hand. I use this to my advantage a lot because I often mix in a medium suited connector in my raise range and I swear it feels like everyone folds to my raise 70% of the time.
*** FLOP *** [8c 6h Qh]
larryvq: bets $6
foxhoundzr2: calls $6

I hit my pair, but I am out of position and there are draws on the board. I have the Ace of hearts so I do have a backdoor flush draw. I would like the hand to be over now, so I bet the pot. Foxhoundzr2 makes the call. He could have a weaker Queen, or some kind of flush draw, maybe a set and waiting for the turn to pounce. The straight draw seems less likely since the “books” don’t recommend calling under the gun raises with 7-9.

*** TURN *** [8c 6h Qh] [9s]
larryvq: checks
foxhoundzr2: bets $13
larryvq: calls $13

I have a brain fart here. My mind says keep the pot small and I instinctively check. After I hit the button, I curse myself because checking is the play I am supposed to make if I have position. Similar to how I played the Aces hand listed above. This time I just gave up control of the pot. The $13 bet into an $18 pot seems strong and concerns me. I should have led into the pot again for about $10. Then if I get raised, I know I should probably let the hand go.

*** RIVER *** [8c 6h Qh 9s] [7h]

What an ugly card! Now the flush and the straight have made it. Or is it ugly? I really want to see what this guy has. I decide to bring out the $15 blocking bet into a $44 pot. I formalize the thought to myself a split second after I bet when I notice that even if foxhoundsr2 has a set, this may be a tough call. I played this like I had Ace-King of hearts and the small bet looks like I want a call.
larryvq: bets $15
MTHawghunter said, "one has a flush one had a 10"
foxhoundzr2: folds
larryvq collected $43.30 from pot
larryvq: doesn't show hand
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $45.50 Rake $2.20
Board [8c 6h Qh 9s 7h]
Seat 1: larryvq collected ($43.30)
Seat 2: luckywinz folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 3: MTHawghunter folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 4: foxhoundzr2 (button) folded on the River
Seat 5: desertfox18 (small blind) folded before Flop
Seat 6: cdhtrout (big blind) folded before Flop

Foxhoundzr2 took the full time allotted before folding. Maybe he folded a set? More likely it was something like KQ.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Big Tournament Score at Casino Arizona

It is Presidents's day today and a holiday for me so I decided to spend my day off playing poker. After a tough tennis workout in the morning, I cruised over to the casino by 8:00 AM.

During the graveyard shifts they run the Aces Cracked Win A Rack promotion until 9:00 AM. Luckily my Aces were cracked by Jack-3 offsuit when he rivered a 3 to make two pair. That was good for a quick $100.

I folded away about $50 and bought into the 11:15 AM tournament with a $50 profit.

The buy in is $60 with an additional $5 toke to the dealers for an extra $500 in chips. I also earned an additional $1000 for my two hours of cash game play. My starting stack was $3500 with 25-50 blinds. We started with 183 players.

One thing I always wanted to try is raising the very first hand. Everyone always starts out trying to play tight solid poker. The problem is that everyone loses their patience at a different rate. I raised A-7 offsuit in middle position to open the pot. The big blind called. I made a continuation bet for $200 and he called. Uh oh! I had nothing except position. The turn brought a check and I checked behind. The river brought an Ace. He checked for a third time and I made a value bet of $500. He folded and looked a little disgusted. I guess I lucked into it.

A little while later, I picked up Aces under the gun. I decided to pull the old Doyle Brunson Super System play and limp hoping to reraise. It worked out perfectly as another player woke up with pocket Kings and raised. I of course raised and he pushed all in. And miracle of miracles the Aces held up and I had a quick double up.

My next big hand was on the button in the same rotation. I picked up pocket Queens on the button. There was an under the gun raise and everyone folded to me. I reraised and he moved in. I had him covered by about 2-1 so I called. He turns over Aces and now I need to get lucky. No such luck as I miss my two outer and I'm back where I started.

There was a bit of trend at my first table as out of maybe 50 hands we played before we broke up, someone had pocket Aces 10 times. I was lucky enough to pick them up again and make some good money.

The blind structure is pretty quick as I would liken it to a multi table turbo Sit-N-Go on Poker Stars. You never have a big stack after the first 3 levels. I was constantly between 8 and 12 Big Blinds for the middle levels. Occasionally I would pretend to look at my cards, but blink so I would not lose my nerve to raise. I also had some good hands, but I don't recall ever getting called when I was all in.

I continued to scratch and claw my way to survival and we were getting close to the bubble. The top 20 places paid. 11-20 would get $100 which would be a whopping $15 profit for me. I was not sure if people would take the money bubble seriously. After all it's only $100. Boy was I mistaken. When it went hand for hand, everyone at our table was constantly looking at the other tables and trying to find out if anyone was really short. One of the women at my table said she absolutely did not want to bubble since she had already done that at an early tournament.

The first hand at my new table was a little nerve racking. I was moved into the Big Blind for the first hand. Blinds were 500-1000 and I had 12,000 in chips. There was an early raise to $3000 and everyone folded to me. I had King-Queen offsuit. I felt like reraising all in but I did not think I could get him to fold because I did not have that many chips left. I decided to call and see if I could get a good flop.

The flop was Jack-Nine-Eight. I thought for a few seconds and then moved all in. I figured with over cards and inside straight draw, I had outs if I was called. He thought about it for what seemed like a couple of minutes and then told me he folded Ace-Queen. Whew!

I managed to steal the blinds a couple of more times before the bubble burst.

The next highlight was the final table. Once we got there, everyone immediately started talking about a chop. Basically we would each get $1000 and play for the last $640 and the tournament leaderboard points. Everyone agreed except for the chip leader. I can see his point, but he did not even counter with a different deal. He was willing to piss off 8 other players to try for the $3,400 first place. The funny thing was that I think he only had about 15-20x the big blind, so he wasn't exactly dominating.

Very shortly after we got started, I picked up pocket Kings. I raised and the other big stack at the table reraised me all in. He had been a bit loose and aggressive when I had spent some time at his table earlier, so I called believing I would have the best hand by a mile. To my shock, he turned over Aces. So here I am, one dick head away from collecting $1,000 and I run my Kings into Aces and I am going to leave with $350. What a crock of shit!

Then the poker gods shined down on me when I flopped a King. My trips held up and suddenly I had a big stack. I think that had pumped me up to around $120,000 with the blinds at 2000-4000. Maybe I can win this thing?

This is when my luck started to turn. I got a little frisky and raised with Ace-Five of diamonds in early position. The player on my left raised all in for just a little bit more. The player whose Kings I had cracked, moved all in. It was too much to call and I folded. He turned over Ace-Jack offsuit and the guy on my left had 7's. I would have flopped a straight flush draw and rivered the flush. Instead the short stack lived and I lost a chunnk of my stack.

A while later, I got healthy again from my wild friend on the other side of the table. I picked up pocket 10's under the gun. I raised and he moved all in for almost all of my chips. He made a mistake in that he asked me if I was going to make another good call. The way he said that told me that I had the best hand. I called and he turned over King-Ten. My hand held up and I was healthy again.

The last of my unfortunate circumstances happened a short while later. Once again I am under the gun and I have Ace-King offsuit. I raise and my friend on the left goes all in on me again. I believe I had raised to $25,000 and raised all in to $36,000. Then the big stack who did not want the chop, just called in the small blind. Since he did not look that comfortable calling, I figured I could push him off the hand. Plus who are we kidding, I am going all in with this hand any way I can.

I move in, and he thinks for a short while and calls with pocket 3's. My buddy on the left has pocket 9's. If I win this pot I will have at least half of the chips in play with 4 players left. I can jump up two spots in the money as well. By the way, what the hell is that guy doing calling off his stack with pocket 3's?

My luck runs out and I miss everything. My buddy on the left triples up and I think the big stack makes money by beating me out of the side pot. Now I am down to 6 Big Blinds and stepping into the big blind.

I go out soon after to Mr. 3's when I reraise all in from the big blind with Ace-5 and he turns up 7's.

He was probably on his way to victory after picking up my chips. There was one guy left who could make a dent. The other 3 players looked like they were just hoping to move up or talk him into a chop.

Anyway, I walked away with $650 for my effort and an entry for a $12,500 prize pool free roll in March. Although their "free roll" has a $25 service fee.

In summary I felt like I played pretty well. I picked my spots and made some good laydowns. I also stepped up with some aggressive moves when the timing looked right. If I could have just gotten lucky one more time, I might have picked up a big pay day.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Golf Match #7 Larry Establishes His Dominance

Bill and I played match #7 last Sunday. It did not go well for Bill as I closed out our W*****/VQ Cup match 5.5-1.5. The final score on Sunday was 85-87.

I played relatively solid on the front nine and eventually built up a 7 stroke lead before I slid back and Bill started playing better on the back nine. He never led and after the first few holes he was never closer than 2 strokes.

There was not anything special about the round except for the dispute I got into with a golfer named Tom who was in our foursome.

Tom and his friend Larry were paired with us for the round. Tom is a new member of the country club and probably a 15 handicap. I am guessing that he is of Japanese descent. The tee times were set up as a shotgun start because there was a tournament later in the day that the club needed to set up.

We started on the 5th hole and by the 8th hole, Bill and I realized that Tom and Larry were very slow golfers. On the 8th green, Bill and I had finished our putts while Tom and Larry were still reading their putts. Since the group in front of us was already on the 9th green and there was a fivesome waiting on the 8th Tee, we decided to speed up play and tee off on the 9th hole.

Bill had already teed off and I was into my preshot routine, when Tom called over to me, “Excuse me I don’t mean to be rude, but I believe I have honors.”

I looked at Bill and asked, “Is he serious?” Bill shrugged his shoulders.

I backed off and was going to start my routine again, when Tom explained, “You can’t go against the rules of golf, this is a country club after all.”

I picked up my ball on the tee and explained, “We play ready golf here. The group ahead of us is already on the green and the fastest golfer in the club is waiting behind us. I don’t want to get yelled at by him.”

Tom did not like that explanation and proceeded to put his ball down and tee off. I was in shock. He never raised his voice and he was very polite about it, but I could not believe that he was going to play with honors in a casual round of golf. The reason I brought up his race it that maybe because of the importance of tradition in the Japanese culture that he has this belief about playing in turn.

I teed off and sprayed my shot to the right. I quickly realized that I should just let it go and forget about it, because if I spent my mental energy trying to change Tom’s mind, it was going to hurt my golf game.

Bill and I both decided to bear down and play better and not give up the honors the rest of the round. I think we succeeded for all but one or two holes the rest of the day.

The funny part of the round was on the 16th hole. I hit my tee shot to the right and it cleared the fairway bunker and then disappeared. We looked all over and could not find it. So I had to drive back to the tee where, Bob and 4 others were in the process of teeing off. Bob is the one who puts together the weekly game and is the fastest golfer in the club. I explained that I had a lost ball and had to reload. I then told him the story of Tom and his Honors. Bob’s mouth dropped wide open like I had told him Phoenix Country Club was going to host the Masters.

In the Men’s grill after the round, I told the story again and found out that one of the guys was scheduled to play with Tom on Thursday. He promised to straighten him out.

I really don’t have a problem with following the rules of golf. I wanted to help Tom because if he plays slow and follows it up with playing in the correct turn, he won’t find anyone at the club who will play with him.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Golf Match #6 Bill is in Trouble

Friday, February 1 2008

I was supposed to play a match against my friend Mike for a tournament I entered at Phoenix Country Club. Mike called in the morning to cancel because he had friends flying in to town at the last minute for the Super Bowl and he wanted to hang out with them.

I was all geared up to play so I called Bill to see if he could squeeze it in today. To my surprise, Bill had packed his golf gear in his car and was planning on surprising us at the course and playing with us anyway.

So we start match 6 with the score 3.5 to 1.5. I am coming off once of my worst matches, but I had a good feeling about this match. I had picked up a tip on the Golf Channel and had worked on it with my Leadbetter Swing setter the day before. At the top of my backswing I wanted to concentrate on opening my hips first to start the downswing, while keeping my shoulders closed. This would build up tension that I could unleash at the bottom of my swing. Plus it would keep me from coming over the top and hitting a weak slice. I hit some balls on the range before the round and the move felt good and I was making very solid contact.

I started off the first hole by making a 10 footer for par. Bill missed and I had a one stroke lead. On the second hole, I pushed my 8 iron into the right bunker. I had a horrible downhill lie with a green running away from me and water on the other side. Somehow I hit a perfect shot and left myself about 15 feet for par. I made that one too and Bill made an easy par. Already Bill was a little on tilt as he could see it might be one of those days where I make everything I look at on the greens.

I continued to play well and finished the front 9 with a score of 39 to Bill’s 43. Bill made a comment about how I never shoot two consecutive 9’s in the 30’s so I was motivated to prove him wrong.

I guess I was a little too motivated as I started off #10 with a bogey and I made a bad double bogey on #11 to quickly give him 3 shots back.

On the short par 4 12th, I hit a great drive and wedge to the middle of the green. Bill hit two iron off the tee, but airmailed his approach shot over the green and it settled on the cart path behind the hole. Now the rule is that you take the nearest point of relief, no nearer the hole. In this case that would have been in a flower bed behind the cart path. I felt like if Bill wanted to take a drop then that’s where he would have to do it. Bill did not think that was right and I encouraged him to call the pro shop for a ruling. He did and they said drop the ball behind the flower bed, not in it. So he got a bit of break and made a great pitch shot that eased 12 feet by the hole. Bill’s putt looked good the whole way but lipped out at the very end. So I got one stroke back but Bill was glad that he did not fare worse.

We both made par on 13 and we both played the 14th horribly and made double bogey. On the par 3 15th, I pulled my iron shot into the left back bunker. I hit a terrible sand shot that stayed in the trap. My next one was much better and it rolled to 6 feet. Bill had an easy two putt par. I needed this putt to make sure I only give up one stroke. Once again, my putter saved me as I jammed it in the back of the cup.

So now I still have a one stroke lead. We both hit the fairway with our tee shots on 16. I pulled my approach again into the deep bunker on the left of the green. Bill was in better shape short and right of the green. I hit an ok bunker shot and left myself a big left to right breaking 15 footer for par. While I was raking the trap, Bill somehow managed to 3 putt from 15 feet and made double bogey. I did not see what he did, but I could see the steam coming out of his ears. That is what made it so great when I managed to coax in my par putt and increase my lead to 3.

I absolutely killed my drive on 17 and only had 105 yards to pin for my second shot. Bill was 40 yards behind me and sent his approach over the green. I hit my worst shot of the day and totally laid the sod over my wedge shot. I left it 10 yards short of the green and then hit a bad pitch 15 feet by the hole leaving an extremely fast downhill putt for par. Just to totally jam the knife in Bill, I made this putt too for another unlikely par save. Bill dropped another shot and I had a safe 4 shot lead to cruise on home with.

The final score was 81 to 85 and I now lead the contest 4.5 to 1.5. If I win the next match it will be all over. The only thing left to decide will be if we should put the plaque on the locker or create a trophy. The locker room will be remodeled this summer and I’m sure they will not want us putting our crap on the nice new oak lockers. I will only get 2-3 months of enjoyment out of it that way. I think I should find a nice small trophy that we can engrave the results on every year and let the winner keep it.