Thursday, December 31, 2009

Luck Can Only Take You So Far

I had a free Wednesday night since I usually play Tennis, but our USTA team has a vacation due to the holiday season. My friend Jeff (see has been hosting a weekly tournament at his house for a $40 buy in. I finally decided to make an appearance knowing I could also catch the U of A vs. Nebraska football game at the Holiday Bowl.

The football game started at 6:00 PM while the tournament was not starting until 7:00. This gave me some time to get there early and watch my beloved Wildcats fall behind by a touchdown only 71 seconds into the game after an interception was run back to the 5 yard line. The rest of the game went downhill from there and I was glad to have a poker game to distract me.

We started the game with eight players and 10,000 chips. The starting blinds were 100-200 and the levels were going up every 20 minutes. Jeff was nice enough to provide us with one of his dealers, the lovely and talented Heidi. This helped move the game along and let the players focus on their cards instead of shuffling and dealing.

I’m pretty sure I did not see a flop for the first level as my cards were pretty crappy. Early in the second level I picked up K9o in late position. There was a limper to me and I decided I should play a hand and try to pick up some chips. I raised and got an additional caller in the big blind. The flop missed me, but they checked to me and I bet half the pot. They folded pretty quickly and at least I was back up to my starting stack.

The next two levels went by with me winning an occasional small pot and staying right around 10,000 in chips. The fourth level was 400-800 and it was the last level for rebuys. The next level would be 500-1000. During this level a couple of late arrivals showed up and bought in so now we had 10 players at the table. With two minutes to go in the level, I open raised AsQs to 2,400 in the hi-jack. One of the new players moved his 10k all in. From the brief comments I had heard from the other players, this player had the reputation of being an “action player” and could very well be trying to double up quick during the final stage of the rebuy level. An older gentleman who had been playing somewhat solid called his bet. Here is where the rebuy screws up your thinking sometimes. I did not give the caller too much credit because I figure he knows the other guy is gambling. Plus he only had about 12,000 in chips so he may be trying to make a quick score. I see a chance to triple up if I get lucky. I raise all in.

To my surprise, I was waaay behind. The “action player” had AK and the older gentleman had AA. I can’t get much more behind than that. The flop was K-X-X. The turn was a Jack, and before anyone noticed except for me, the river was a Ten giving me the straight! That goes down as one of my better suckouts. I am now the big chip leader with 35k in chips and no need to take the add-on.

The very next hand, which was the first hand of the 500-1000 level, it was folded to me again in late position and I had 3s4s. I figure I would intimidate a little bit and raise to steal the blinds. The other new player then raised all in with his 9,000 in chips. I did some quick math and figured I was getting better than 2-1 and called. He had Ace-King so it was the best hand I could hope for. Naturally I binked off the straight again on the river to beat him and added more to my big stack.

From that point on, I tried to play pretty tight. It was pretty much ABC poker until the field started to narrow. Jeff was only going to pay the top 3 places and apparently they never chop. As the blinds went up, the short stacks were going broke and I was maintaining my stack. We eventually got down to 4 handed. The man on my right was a nice guy and had built up a stack similar to mine. Unfortunately he lost most of it to his wife, Tina and was down to one 2,000 chip on the bubble. He almost made the miraculous comeback. He won three hands in a row, and then he open raised all in from the small blind into my big blind. I talked myself into calling with Jack-Ten and he rolled over Ace-3. For once, I did not lay a beat on someone and he doubled up again.

Because the blinds were getting so high, I did not feel too comfortable trying to abuse the bubble. One wrong move and I could be crippled as well, so I was not happy to see the comeback. Luckily soon after he got his chips, Tina ended up knocking him out when he flopped top pair, but she had top two pair.

We soon knocked out Ira, a former dealer at Harrah’s, in third place and it was heads up between me and Tina. She was a good player, but she was not very aggressive when it got short handed and she was letting me run her over. The blinds were high enough, that the only real move for her and me was to go all in on any hand we wanted to play. But she kept trying to limp in on her small blind and I kept raising her off the hand.

I had her down close to 2-1 in chips when I finally decided to limp with 10-4 offsuit on the button. She checked and I flopped a ten for top pair. She bet into me and I decided to just call and slow play. The turn was a Queen and she bet again. I became a little concerned, but I thought she still had enough chips to fold if I raised all in. That’s what I did and she hesitated for a couple of seconds, which gave me some hope, before she announced, “call” and had me crushed with Q-5 which was two pair. I slow played my way into a big loss.

I only had 3 big blinds left for the next hand and lost the next all in to come in second place. With all the lucky breaks I was getting, I was sure I was going to win this thing, but made a bad decision and it cost me. Still the $210 was nice.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

WBPT, The Craziest Game Ever; Will I Ever Be Good At This Game?

I was in Las Vegas last weekend to tag along with my wife, Michele as she attended the Colorado River User Water Conference at Caesar's Palace. Naturally this meant lots of poker for me along with some alone time with the wife sans Jake.

My first foray down to the poker room at Caesar's was derailed at 10:00 AM because there was not a game running. There were only 2 tables with players at them and they were left overs from the 9:00 AM tournament. I went to get breakfast and kill some time until the 12:00 tournament. This is when I found the casino's excuse for a $5 black jack table.

Shockingly the minimum bet at a table with a live dealer for blackjack on a Thursday morning was $25. The alternative is video blackjack with a virtual dealer. The minimum bet is only $5. The video is creepy because it does not flow smoothly. Plus they change it every 5 minutes. It would be infinitely better if you could just freeze it on the hot dealer in a bikini dealing by the pool. Instead I got a steady diet of a good looking black man followed by a smiling japanese female.

This was fine for killing time, but I found one major fault with the game. Once you have put in a bet, there is no way to delete it or decrease it. I was content to play $5 at a time, but after winning a couple of hands in a row, I decided to up it to $10. I hit a button that said 10 but it increased my bet by 10x so I wound up betting $50. I frantically looked for the delete button as the clock ticked down but I could not find one. Oh well, maybe I'll get lucky. Nope. My 15 busts. I end up losing for $40 for the session before I walk into the poker tournament.

The noon tournament at Caesars had a good turnout with over 80 players for $85 a piece. I was disappointed to find out that the structure has changed since the last time I was there. Now the blind levels are only 20 minutes. They do start you with 130 BB but I knew that would not last too far past the second hour.

There was not anything real exciting about this experience. Some times in tournaments every move you make works out and other times it doesn't. I got caught bluffing repeatedly and my image was pretty bad. I never caught the really good cards to get paid off and I finally busted when an active player on the button raised my big blind. I had Kc9c and decided to ship in 18 BB over the top of him praying for the fold. This time he was raising with a good hand and called with Ace-King. I missed my flush and 3 pair outs and was out in around 50th place.

I played a good amount of No Limit cash games this weekend and here is my list of concerns.

1. Far too often I don't feel comfortable that I know where I am at in a hand. For some reason I think that I should be able to sit at a table at this level and have confidence that I can play better than most of the players at the table. This was rarely happening.

2. I still don't know how to adjust to certain tables that play different than ABC poker. Here's what gives me trouble:

A table with a bunch of loose passive players. They limp whenever they can and hardly ever raise. They never reraise. So I will raise good cards in position and get 3-5 other players in the hand. Unless I flop two pair or better, I can almost always expect to get beat by someone smooth calling AK and flopping top pair or a sneaky guy who hit his set.

The other kind of table is one I seldom run into but it should be insanely profitable. What do you do when you run into a player or two who is content to raise every hand 5x the blind in the dark? He will call almost any raise to see the flop and loves to try and outplay his opponents. Do you risk the reraise and c-bet any flop hoping he misses? Or do you call and try to wade through the other 3-4 players and just hope you hit a monster?

I posted the question on 2+2 and the majority response was to reraise my good hands or hands that can make top pair, good kicker. If I hit top pair or even middle pair, bet strong and hope it holds up. I'm sure that it becomes a much higher variance game and I have to be able to stomach the swings. However, in the long run that is probably the most profitable way to play it.

On Friday night I managed to convince my wife to join me in a forayh over to the Mirage to join the a bunch of Poker Bloggers and the World Poker Blogger Tour WPBT gathering. I found Iggy at the table and he warned me that the 1-2 No Limit game was crazy. "If you have any respect for money, this is not the game for you."

I sat back and watched and met Otis and Linda from PokerWorks . Michele decided to try her luck at the slots so I swallowed hard and decided to put my name on the list for the game.

I was quickly moved into the game and it was as crazy as advertised. The sole purpose of half the players at the table was to lay as bad a beat as possible on someone so they would have a story to write about when they got home. Multiple players were raising and reraising blind.

This is definitely not a game I am comfortable in but it should be profitable if my hands hold up. I was there to have a good time so that's what I decided to do. This didn't change my normal tight poker game much, but I made sure to interact and tell some jokes so maybe in their drunken stupor they would not notice that I was only playing premium hands.

Sure enough, on two different hands I raised preflop with Ace-Queen. Got called in a couple of spots. Flopped the Ace, and check raised all in on the flop. I got called by weaker Aces both times and left the game up over $300. Otis was down over $2,000 when I left. That's how swingy this game was.