Monday, March 27, 2006

So this is what running bad feels like…

Sometimes you need to take a break. Just keep making the right decisions and you’ll come out a winner in the long run. In the end luck evens out for everyone.

These are things I would tell my friends or people who asked for advice about playing through a downswing. I would say these things because I believed them, I still do, but until now I had never dealt with any real downswing of my own. Sure I’ve had consecutive losing sessions, but those were never big losses and never lasted too long. What I’m experiencing now is really frustrating and all of those bits of advice I would give to others really aren’t helping me now.

For three weeks now I’ve been running bad, really bad. In the last 15 SNGs I’ve only cashed 2 times, down from about a 65-70% cash rate before. Even those two second place finishes weren’t satisfactory because both times I was able to grind away at my opponents who were folding way too much for heads up only to get sucked out on and crippled; unable to make a comeback.

I also went on a serious tilt for the first time. It wasn’t a ranting and raving type tilt that people think of when they hear the word, instead I started becoming way too timid.

For about 4 days during the middle of these last three weeks I was limping too much pre-flop when I should have been raising. I was betting post flop at a pretty good rate but when I was raised or called I wouldn’t fire the second bullet and that showing of weakness invited my opponents to steal the pot from me on the turn which I let them get away with far too often.

Since then I’ve tightened back up and I’ve gone back to playing solid, selectively aggressive poker…but still no luck. I’m not going to start rambling off a series of bad beat stories but let’s just say this: If I could get my money in as good as I have recently all the time, there’s no way I’d be losing.

But I am.

I was up 50% from my starting bankroll in February, now I’m down 50% from my starting bankroll with the end no where in sight.

I’m going to have to step down in SNG limits which is frustrating because honestly the competition I’m stepping down from doesn’t seem much better than what I’m going down to, however I can’t afford to keep losing so much money if this downswing still has awhile to go.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The race is on….finally

I just read about the Donkey Invitational challenge that Columbo issued back in Janurary. Being new to the poker blog scene as a reader and as a blogger I wasn’t aware of this challenge until now. Luckily I’m not too late plus I keep records of my online play already so I know where I stand.

I started with $200 on PokerStars in Feburary and I’m up to $226.70, down from about $300 a week and a half ago. The challenge is to triple up to $600 by the end of the year. I’m going to try my best, I need to work on some cash games, right now I have –EV in cash games, by only a few dollars but negative is negative.

Sunday will be the first chance I’ll get to try and get some grinding in as I was sick all of last week when I had 4 days off, 4 days and I only got to play in two SNGs, I was not a happy poker player.

I’m also depositing some money on Full Tilt so I can play some Razz, I’m determined to become a terror at the Razz tables, I hear they are pretty soft so I’ll let everyone know how it’s going once I get some sessions in.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Poker and Friendships

Probably one the best aspects of poker is the social interaction and the friends you can make playing the game.

Sometime around last summer my friend and roommate Justin called to tell me about a poker game he played over at a co-workers house. He said it was a pretty soft game because a lot of the players had never played poker so when I was invited to the game the following night I was looking forward to some easy money.

I had some success early winning the first two weeks that I went but eventually most of the easy money stopped showing up and the people that remained quickly started improving their game, not to say they had to improve too much to catch up to me. Two of those that continued to play were Rob and his wife April whose house we played at.

It didn't take too long before I started to think of them as friends and not just cool people I played poker with. Not only did winning become much harder to do but the weekly game at their house quickly became the highlight of the week for me.

Today Rob and April are moving with their beautiful little girl Anna and crazy dog Loki to Missouri so that Rob can start his new job as an aircraft mechanic. I'm really happy for them and wish them the best of luck. We'll all miss you down here in Florida but we'll keep in touch, last night definitely wasn't our last game of cards together.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


My friend Rob and I went to Seminole Hard Rock Tuesday night for some live "poker" action. We sat down at a 7-card stud table and I only picked up one hand, Aces-full, but that was enough to put me ahead $28. Rob didn't have as much luck losing with two pair twice and not getting much beyond that.

Here's the problem playing at a table where the max bet is $2, everyone goes to the river. Ok, not everyone, but enough people to make two pair a less than average winning hand. The average winning hand has to be at least trips, in the 40 minutes we were at the table I saw two flushes, 5 boats (1 actually losing to another) and quad 7's.

After Rob went through his initial buy-in we decided to do a $40 SNG. The SNG structures here are sick, you start with $1000 in chips and blinds start at $25/$50. After 10 hands the blinds TRIPLE and then they double every 10 hands after that. To win one of these SNGs you need to win a big pot pretty early. You can't afford to play marginal holdings, if you take one shot at a pot and miss then you are pretty short stacked so you need hope you get some premium cards early or be prepared to play for a large portion of your stack, if not all of it, with a less than exciting starting hand. Everyone at the table is in the same situation though so it's not as grim as it may seem, but it does take a lot of the skill out of the game because you don't have the time or the chips to play poker. I knew that my normal tight-aggressive SNG strategy wouldn't work here but when I had my one chance to make a move I messed it up.

After about 12 hands I was dealt KK and I was second to act, no one was out at this point. The first player to act called and I made it 3x big blinds + 1 big blind for the caller. Everyone folded and I picked up a small pot.

That was my mistake, this is the play I would make in a normal SNG or multi-table tournament. However because of the super aggresive blind structure it's very possible to go two or three of these tournaments without getting a starting hand this good. The correct play here would have been a minimum raise, that would have thinned out the field a bit but I would have gotten some action. Normally you want to be more aggressive but to have a chance at winning one of these SNGs you need to accumulate some chips to stay ahead of the blinds. Sometimes that means running the risk of allowing someone with A-x in the pot cheaply only to have them hit an Ace. Your big hands really need to pay off in this type of structure and in this case mine paid off very little because I was too aggressive and didn't adjust my play for this SNG.

The blinds caught up to me soon after that and I got all of my remaining stack in with 5-4 offsuit, not the best way to go out. Rob won however and the $240 win more than made up for his earlier loss at the stud table. It was a fun night.

This was also my first time playing on the new electronic tables. When I first saw one I was very sceptical, I figured if I was going to use a computer to play I should just stay at the house. It wasn't too bad though, it did speed up the game and the social aspect of going to the casino was still there, but I still prefer a normal table. There's just something about listening to the chatter of the dealer and being able to touch your own chips that really make the casino experience enjoyable to me.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

A few thoughts...

I find myself a few mintues away from starting a multi-table tournament and I've decided to post a couple of quick thoughts.

First of all, Columbo has a great post from Friday that you should check out. I want to quote a small part of it here because it's something that I've been going through lately.

"...when you can play decent poker, know what your doing, and still the big wins elude you... but you look back over the last 60 days and think you are still improving...

How? Not sure... Or am I? I have started to absorb things at the tables that are required for winning."

I won't get into his list here because it's a great post and you should check it out for yourself. I did want to comment on this one part though because I know exactly how he feels. In the past couple of weeks I haven't had the best results. When I look back though it's hard to be too discouraged because I've felt like I've been playing much better than in the past.

More and more often I have the best hand when I get my chips in and that is a good feeling. I haven't had great luck lately in actually winning a lot of those hands, but in the end luck equals out for everyone and as long as I continue to put myself in winning positions success will start to come.

Flash Forward

I just finished the tournament. It was a $10 + $1 tournament on Full-Tilt, a total of 304 players entered. I finished in 49th place with 30 places getting paid.

I think I played pretty good poker today except for one horrible play and another one that was debatable. Everytime I went all-in or pushed someone else all-in I had the best hand.

There was one exception though were I was behind and knew it but called anyway, probably not a great play considering the board and the hand I put him on, read on for all the details.

There was also one more play where I did have the best of it going in but the all-in push might not have been the best play, it happened on the hand I busted out on.

The Gamble

The blinds were $60/$120 and I had $2480 in chips. I was dealt A
d Ks on the button, the second guy to act raises to $420 and it folds around to me. I reraise to $720, not a huge reraise but I want to find out where I'm at. Both blinds fold and the original bettor calls.

Because of the call I put my opponent on a medium pair or even AK, I figure if he had a premium pair he would have reraised, probably put me all-in since he had $7104 in chips going into the hand.

The flop came 10d 6h 6d. I'm not worried about the sixes because I doubt he's playing 6x and if he has pocket sixes then I don't feel bad going out against quads. The 10 however is a scare card as it fits right into the range of hands I put him on. The opponent checks and I decide to put out a bet. This was probably a bad move, even without a 10 the range of hands I had put him on had me beat except for AK which would make for split pot.

I raised $720 leaving me with $1000 and he immediatly pushes me all-in.

Do you remember the feeling when you were in high-school and you were doing something you knew would get you in serious trouble and you get caught? That's the feeling I get when I realize I walked right into a trap.

Things get worse though, instead of folding I call because I tell myself I've already invested over half of my chips and I was pot commited. If I had folded I would have had $1000 left and with the blinds at $60/$120 and a new level coming in less than 2 mintues I would have been in very bad shape but still in the tournament.

I decided that the small chance that my opponent was just pushing me in and had AK or a medium pair other than 10's was worth $1000.

Oh, and lets not forget, even if all of those were true I still had to catch a card to get ahead.

My opponent shows pocket 9's.

AmazinglyI caught runner runner diamonds and I doubled up with a nut flush. Better lucky than good I guess.

In the future though when an opponent makes a horrible play and ends up outdrawing me for the win I'll remember this hand. Even good players can have a breakdown in play. In no-limit holdem it takes only one breakdown to take you out, or one breakdown and some luck to double you up.

The Debatable Push

This happened on the final hand of the tournament for me (sorry for the spoiler). Blinds were $200/$400 with a $50 ante, I was up to $3565 in chips having just went all-in with the previous hand picking up the blinds and antes but still in bad shape.

Under the gun I was dealt A
h 7h and I pushed all-in. It wasn't a bad play, but it might have been debatable.

I was under the gun and so I would be in the big blind next hand and if I didn't get a playable hand in the blinds I would have lost most of the money I made in the previous hand. If I made it through the blinds however I would have a full cycle to pick up a better hand. I was betting into three players that could call me just for the hell of it because they had huge chip stacks.

I think it was a tough call that could have gone either way, obviously just calling from early position with so few chips and everyone to act after me wasn't an option so I pushed. The other factor that let me to push was that I was still 19 places from the money and the payout was so low in the lower part of the pay structure that it wasn't really worth throwing away any chance of making almost $800 for a chance to win much less. If I wanted a real chance of winning any significant money I had to double up soon.

I had one caller and she had 10
s Ks and hit a full-house on river.

So I busted out but with the exception of the hand I described I was pretty happy with my play, I came close to the money and I feel it's just a matter of time before I work my way into some decent money at one of these multi-table tournaments.


Saturday, February 11, 2006

Poker x 3

I spent a good portion of this Saturday playing in tournaments online. I played a total of three 90 player sit gos and finished 16th, 30th and 29th. Not too bad I guess, but no money finishes.

I was happy about my play in the first two tournaments and most of the 3rd but the hand I went out on in the 3rd tournament I wish I could have back, here is how it went down.

Seat 1: breakin (2,115) (**ME**)
Seat 2: charles155 (14,770)
Seat 3: jimbo 13 (1,160)
Seat 6: tyrtle101 (8,370)
Seat 7: chefbuster (3,780)
Seat 8: shady0708 (3,840)
Seat 9: thepburghkid (2,575)
tyrtle101 posts the small blind of 40
chefbuster posts the big blind of 80
The button is in seat #3

My stack isn't very big here but I have an M of 17.6 which puts me high in the yellow zone according to Harrington, I'm not in trouble of getting blinded out anytime soon but I need to play more aggressively to stay ahead of the blinds and get back into the green zone. This would be a perfect time to pick up a great hand.

*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to breakin [Qc Qs]
shady0708 folds
thepburghkid folds
breakin raises to 320
charles155 folds
jimbo 13 folds
tyrtle101 calls 280
chefbuster folds

So far so good, I start with the Hilton sisters and put in a standard raise, the small blind calls and everyone else folds out.

*** FLOP *** [3c Kd 6h]
tyrtle101 checks
breakin bets 400
tyrtle101 raises to 8,050, and is all in

Good news and bad news. An overcard flopped but it was only one plus there is no flush or straight draw. I put in a $400 raise, just over half the pot which was $720. The other guy goes all in for $8,050 and I'm put to a big decision. There is a good chance the other guy is pushing with nothing here, even if I call and win he's only losing about 1/8th of his remaining chips, he had gotten other small stacks to lay hands down with big moves after they had invested a sizable chunk of their stacks previously and maybe thought I would do the same. I make the call.

breakin calls 1,395, and is all in
tyrtle101 shows [Ks 9h]
breakin shows [Qc Qs]
Uncalled bet of 6,255 returned to tyrtle101
*** TURN *** [3c Kd 6h] [8h]
*** RIVER *** [3c Kd 6h 8h] [3s]
tyrtle101 shows two pair, Kings and Threes
breakin shows two pair, Queens and Threes
tyrtle101 wins the pot (4,310) with two pair, Kings and Threes

Was this a bad call? Maybe. Had I taken a bit more time to think this over I might have made the same call or maybe not, what I'm not happy about is how I made the call. I hadn't gotten very great cards this tournament and I felt like I couldn't get away from a hand this good even when I had the feeling I was beaten. I felt that if I could have gotten away from that hand I would still have time to pick up another decent hand in a better spot.

In the 2nd tournament I got busted on a hand that I felt I played correctly.

Seat 1: turnerover (3,930)
Seat 2: breakin (1,260)
Seat 3: Dooter444 (1,240)
Seat 4: gcdjed (7,445)
Seat 5: HATER AID (1,425), is sitting out
Seat 6: nscar (4,720)
Seat 7: Jenks_On_U (910)
Seat 8: to-dum-to-fold (5,265)
Dooter444 posts the small blind of 30
gcdjed posts the big blind of 60
The button is in seat #2

This was still pretty early in the tournament but people were getting knocked out left and right. I just stayed out of their way for the most part, losing money in only one hand that I wasn't forced to put in a bet.

*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to breakin [Jd Ad]
nscar folds
Jenks_On_U calls 60
to-dum-to-fold folds
turnerover folds
breakin raises to 200

I picked up a decent hand, the best one I had gotten so far in this tournament. I get four folds and one limper before me so I put in a standard raise.

Dooter444 folds
gcdjed raises to 1,500
Jenks_On_U folds

Now I have to make a big decision for all of my chips. He raised $1,500 into pot of $290 which is over 5 times the pot. I figured there was no way he had a high pair or AK because I think he would want to get some action here. I figured he had either A-x suited with a smaller kicker, a small or medium pair or suited connectors. Out of those possibilities only one put me in a situation where I was an underdog and even those situations were coinflip sitiations so I called.

breakin calls 1,060, and is all in
gcdjed shows [Qh Th]
breakin shows [Jd Ad]
Uncalled bet of 240 returned to gcdjed

It turned out to be a great call. I don't mind him raising in that situation but I really think he bet way too much, the pot was so small compared to his raise that he was only going to get called by a better hand, my AJ suited was probably at the low end of hands that would call him.

*** FLOP *** [Td 7s Ts]

Yep, I saw that coming.

*** TURN *** [Td 7s Ts] [7d]

Now the deck is just teasing me, for a quick second I get excited about catching a diamond giving me the flush draw, but then realize that it gives my opponent a full-house and I'm drawing dead.

*** RIVER *** [Td 7s Ts 7d] [6h]
gcdjed shows a full house, Tens full of Sevens
breakin shows two pair, Tens and Sevens
gcdjed wins the pot (2,610) with a full house, Tens full of Sevens

Oh well, Phil Gordon always says that all you can do is get all your chips in with the best hand, I did in this situation and even though it didn't work out this time this play will be a profitable one in the long run.

Monday, February 06, 2006

"Who is this guy and why would I want to read his blog?"

I'm sure this is what you might be asking yourself. In a community with so many contributors already this is just another poker blog*. However my blog is something different, it's not just an online journal consisting of random thoughts on poker and life in general; it's therapy. Not for you but for me.

See, the thing is I'm a little crazy. Not really crazy, just slightly crazy. How so? Well, I talk to myself quite a bit. Lately, and by lately I mean the last twelve or so months, I've been talking to myself a lot about poker. That is where this blog comes in. I'm starting to bore myself with my inane thoughts and I think it's time that I start to bore a wider audience, this is where you come in.

Seriously though I'm not a writer and I don't fancy myself as being one. Instead I would say that I've been bitten by the poker bug but even that's not entirely correct, it's been more like a slow-spreading virus. I got my first taste of real poker when I watched Carlos Mortensen win the 32nd WSOP Main Event in 2001 on ESPN. I've always been interested in games that challenged the mind and I was instantly hooked.

I guess you can say I was only a fan for awhile, outside of random penny-ante games with friends, which were more for socializing and drinking than poker, I didn't actually play. It wasn't until a couple of years later when ESPN really started increasing their WSOP coverage, followed by the WPT, that I decided I wanted to try my hand at the game.

My first try was at a $45 NL Holdem tournament at Derby Lane. I thought having watched enough poker on TV had prepared me for live poker, I couldn't have been more wrong. First of all I was way out of my league, there was so much I didn't understand about the game yet. I did know some things about the game, but here is the caveat to jumping into a tournament without any practice: Knowing the correct play and making the correct play are two completely different things.

There were a few times where I knew I should make a certain play but I was too worried about looking like a noob go through with it. That tournament was pretty humbling, I didn't play many hands and the one that I did play I kept calling bet after bet with only top pair and lost most of my stack. The drive home to Clearwater, which is only like 15 minutes away, seemed to take forever. I had such high expectations but I realize now there was no basis for those expectations. I didn't care about the $45, I was mad at myself for playing so weak and for thinking I could actually play well when I had no experience.

Fast forward about 18 months later and here we are. I made one more attempt at a live tournament, this time it was a $40 Satellite at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa. I fared much better this time finishing in 2nd place. There weren't many people, it was a single table tournament, and I only got my $40 back for 2nd place, but I was optimistic about my play. The nerves I felt at the start of the tournament settled down just a few hands later when I realized I had a pretty good idea what I was doing. During heads up I felt I had a good chance to win but my opponent flopped bottom two pair when I flopped top pair, and with me being down in chips (he started with a 3 to 1 chip lead) and the chip stacks being very small compared to the blinds there was no way I wasn't going to be eliminated on that hand.

Now after being serious about my studying of the game I feel it's time to start putting what I've learned to use. I know I still have a lot to learn and I lack real money experience but I'm confident that I can do well in this game if I’m patient and honest with myself. Hopefully you will enjoy reading about my experiences as much as I enjoy living them.

After all, I don't think I can do worse than this chode**.

*Not to be confused with This is Not a Poker Blog
**Thanks to Gracie and Jordan for the link to this ass.