Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Poker, Pinetop, other assorted thoughts

This past weekend I went up to Pinetop as a guest of Billy and played in the annual Stag golf tournament at White Mountain Country Club. This is a great tournament because the course is fun and the players consist of a bunch of laid back rich guys who want to get away from their wives and children and relive their youth by drinking, gambling, and carousing.

The only bad part of this tournament is that the weather is always a crapshoot. This year did not disappoint as it rained on us for 1/2 of the second round and the third round was rained out because the course was too wet.

I was teamed up with Brian, a realtor that works with Billy. Jon was on Bill's team. We also had two new guys who work with Jon named Keith and Mike.

Brian is a pretty good player and I believe his handicap was 13. The first day was a two person scramble. Luckily we were paired with Bill and Jon so it was a good time the whole day. Because Bill and I were playing golf that meant we were betting as well. We made a team bet for $25 and my team had to give him 1.9 strokes due to handicap differences.

They jumped out to a quick lead when Jon sank a 30 foot putt for birdie on the first hole and we bogeyed it. For the most part they built on the initial lead except for a stretch in the middle where we birdied a couple of holes. I think they beat us by 3-4 shots, the details are fuzzy in my mind.

I won the $25 back by pressing the bet on the last hole. This was a 500 yard par 5 that has a sharp dogleg to the right. If you aim down the middle of the fairway, you will run out of fairway after 220 yards. If you want to get there in two, you need to take a dangerous line over the very tall pine trees along the right side of the fairway. I hit a safe shot down the middle of the fairway with my 5 wood. Brian hit a big drive to the right and just cleared the trees and made it into the right rough 155 yards from the green.

Bill and Jon were 220 yards away from the green. I asked Bill if he'd like to bet the $25 I was going to owe him on whether my team would get a better score on the hole. I offerred 2-1 odds and he said "no". Then Jon hit his shot first and it was awful. Bill was getting ready for his attempt and I offerred 3-1. Bill finally grew some balls and said yes. He hit a pretty good shot that ended up about 20 yards short of the green.

Brian and I both pulled our wedge shots left of the green. We were pin high, but did not have a lot of green to work with and the greens had been running incredibly fast all day. Jon and Bill went first and the best they could do was a shot on the front fringe of the green. They were about 20 feet away for birdie.

The achilles heel of my team was that Brian is not very good around the greens. The benefit of playing as a team is that I am able to coach him within the rules. I gave him a quick 2 minute lesson on playing a flop shot. Then I stepped up and hit the shot of the day. Phil Mickelson could not have hit a better shot than I did. I left the ball two feet from the hole for birdie. Brian tried the flop shot after my coaching and watching me hit. His shot came up a little short of the green, but his form was great. He just needed to swing a little harder. Bill and Jon both missed their birdie attempt and Brian tapped in for us to set me even for the day. After adjusting for handicaps, Jon and Bill were near the top of the flight. Brian and I were near the bottom.

As for day 2, the teams were split up and we played with Phil from Scottsdale and Chuck from Albuquerque. The format for the second day was a modified Chapman. This means that we each hit our drive, then switch balls for the second shot. Then we choose the best ball and alternate shots from there. It's not quite like the foursomes from the Ryder Cup format but it's still pretty damn hard to keep your composure. Hitting from the trees after your partner has put his drive out to the right is annoying after you have piped one down the middle. More frustration ensues if your partner duffs your perfect drive with his second shot, and all you could do was punch out his bad drive. There is a reason why this format is referred to as, "Screw Your Neighbor".

We started out ok, but once the rain came, the wheels came off. We struggled home with an 84. Bill and Jon came in with an 85 but due to the 1.9 strokes we had to give him, they won the bet.

In addition to golf, we played a little poker at the cabin after we were done. The first night we all bought in for $20 and played Pot Limit Hold'em with .25-.50 blinds. The winner of the night was Jon who won about $10-$15. I lost $5 and I think Mike and Keith split the other wins and losses.

During the second day, I logged on to Full Tilt and played a little .50-1 No Limit. I was doing just fine until I ran my set of 4's into a set of Kings and lost a quick $100 pot. I was down about $60 net before we went to play golf.

The second night of poker included Brian and Bill as well. Bill lost his $20 first. At least this time Bill went down with a good hand and did not just give his money away so he could go to bed. Brian went broke next and it was down to 4.

I was up early after running big river bluff on Brian. I don't know what hand Brian laid down, but I could tell from the flop that he was not comfortable with his hand. My third bet finally put enough pressure on him to fold.

After Brian went bust, I lost my profits and then some. I was down to my last $10. I decided to tighten up and play more ABC poker to make my comeback. My plan was working as I had clawed my way back up to my starting stack when the big hand of the night hit.

I had King Ten offsuit on the button. Keith folded and I limped on the button. Jon completed the small blind and Mike checked his blind. The flop was 9-Jack-7 all different suits. Jon bet and Mike called and I called with a double gut shot straight draw. The turn was a Queen giving me the nut straight. Jon bet $5 this time, Mike called again. I thought about raising, but there was no flush draw out and I felt like my hand was pretty safe to play slow and try to get the rest of my stack in on the river.

The river was a Jack pairing the board. Jon bet and this time Mike folded. I raised all in and Jon called quickly. Jon tabled QJ for a full house and put the bad beat on me. The bitter taste of two bad beats in mouth, I quit for the night.

While I was brushing my teeth and getting ready for bed, the remaining three guys called me to the table to deal a hand. All three of them were all in. Jon had Aces, Mike had Tens, and Keith had Queens. Jon's Aces held up and he won all the remaining money on the table. In a small limit game, Jon had managed to win over $120!

My random thought has to do with the 5-150 spread limit game at Casino Arizona. I think I have figured out how to beat it. Everyone who plays that game plays too loose preflop and very passive. There is nothing they like better than seeing a $5 flop with 5 players in it. They are all waiting to hit a set or two pair to win a big pot and are too willing to give up medium strength hands when the pot gets big.

My strategy has been to play tight until I am in the last 3 positions. Then I play strong before the flop with my good hands and occasionally I will raise one or two limpers with any two cards if I feel my reputation is strong. If the flop texture is good, I fire out the continuation bet. So far this has worked very well and I have avoided getting trapped by someone slow playing a big hand.

Most of these players will call any preflop raise with a pocket pair. They are making the mistake of not taking stack size into account. In order to call a $20 raise, by straight odds your opponent would need at least $170 for the 8-1 odds on hitting the set. That assumes you will win your opponent's stack every time. Obviously that does not happen every time so the most effective stack size is probably $300-$450. This is not a big mistake but it can add up over a few hours of play. Everytime they call and miss, they lose $20 and they are not making enough money on the times they hit.

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