Ship It!!!!

MH6-2, Guido, Pinata, and Shrek went to Atlantic City for the holiday weekend into Tuesday (2/17/09). All of them came back as winners. Early reports are that Shrek had 2 monster winning sessions and won $1,200 or more at the poker table. Guido also won over $1k, while MH62 and Pinata walked + $500 or more each. Pinata’s win was rather impressive given that at one point, he was stuck $600. A nice turnaround…

Congrats, fellas!


Good Read + Ballsy Move With Pocket 4’s, 2/11/09 Live Game

Near the end of the night at the Lunch Money Game, we were down to 6 handed, as Bob, Omaha, and Orange left early. I was sitting on about $80 (pretty much even for the night), and Pinata had a larger stack, probably at least $150. We played a pot for all my money, and even if I had lost, I think it was the best hand I’ve ever played. I put my opponent on a hand, was absolutely right, and I won a massive pot.

Preflop: It is folded around to Pinata on the button, who raises to $3. This is a little larger than button raises that he usually makes. That raises my radar, thinking that he has a relatively big hand, and he’s hoping to get involved in a bigger pot. I put him on the hand range of pocket 7’s-J’s, plus AK, AQ, AJ, possibly KQ. I am in the small blind for 25 cents. I look down and pick up pocket 4’s. I hope to call, hit a set, and crack him good. NJM folds, and we’re heads up to the flop.

Flop: The 8-3-2 rainbow flop is very good for my pocket 4’s. I’m pretty sure I have the best hand right now, but I also want to get some value out of it. I know that Pinata is a loose-aggressive (LAG) player. This image helps him win some big pots with his big hands. I decide to check to him, planning a check-raise to take down a larger pot, plus I can find out exactly where I’m at. I check, he bets $5. I get what I’m looking for, and the pot is now $11.50. I opt to reraise to $14 total. It is only $9 more to him, but I’ve shown that I don’t believe him. It is almost a pot-sized reraise to him.

Pinata now goes into the tank, probably trying to put me on a hand range. I could have any pair, a set, AK, AQ, AJ, A-10, or A-8, or I could have absolutely nothing. He puts me on a hand and reraises to $40 total. Now I’m a little concerned. I replay the hand (especially the size of the preflop raise). I have him on a hand like 99 or AK/AQ. I am literally in the tank for about 2 minutes trying to figure it out. Was he reraising for information or was he reraising for value? Finally, I decide he has AK. I push all in for about $37 more.

Now Pinata is in the tank. He does not instacall. The fact that I wasn’t snap-called makes me confident that I have the best hand. My biggest fear that this point would be Pocket 5’s, 6’s, and 7’s, but I’m pretty confident that I made the right move here. Pinata puts me on 4’s, 5’s, or 6’s (he told me after). The pot is worth about $123, and he has to call $37 or so for a chance to win the pot, so his pot odds are almost 4:1, and he has 6 outs twice to win (25% or about 3:1). In this case, he’s getting the odds to call based on mathematics, plus the pot is $123 ($160 if he calls). That’s assuming he puts me on a pocket pair and not a set. If I have a set, he’s drawing dead. Pinata decides I have a pair and not a set based on the action. He makes a mathematical call.

Result: The turn and river are blanks, and I scoop a $160 pot.

Analysis: In terms of overall play, I think this hand was played well by both players. Both of us played at the second level, and we made proper plays based on the information. After a night of really playing badly, I salvaged a profit by playing very well for about 5 minutes.

“Bob” Makes a Tough Laydown on a Dangerous Board, 2/11/09 Game

As we all know, a huge part of winning poker is trusting your reads, then making the right plays based on those reads. Getting away from big made hands when you think (or know) that you’re beat will save you huge in the long run. “Bob” and I played for a rather large side pot on Wednesday. While my move pushed him out of a decent-sized pot with the best hand, I think he analyzed the hand correctly and made a good laydown given his read of the situation. While the video below might read as a successful bluff by EMG, I think it is a great example of a winning play by a good player. I’d like to think I could make that laydown (and I have in the past), but I’ve also lost plenty of huge pots by failing to go with my gut…

Preflop: EMG middle position. His hand range for limping is rather wide. Given the tighter action at the table, he could have a medium pair, suited connectors, big cards, etc. In this case, he has AQ, which is an interesting play. Since he had been playing tight, limp-calling a moderate raise disguises the strength of his hand. In addition, in multi-way pots, a player can get away cheap on a flop that misses. Or, in the case of a raise and a big reraise, EMG can just throw his hand away rather than play a huge pot in middle position with AQ. Dooley has an okay hand with KJ offsuit. It is playable, but in position, he’s fine to pop it up to $2.50. Given his tighter image, he has a chance to scoop a quick $1.25 without a fight.

Fat Tony comes over the top for all of his chips on the short stack with AJ. I’m fine with this play. He is very likely to have the best hand right now. He is hoping for 2 live cards or a race against only 1 of the 2 remaining players. In this case, he is a 3:1 dog to EMG, but is a 3:1 favorite to Bob. EMG smooth calls a pretty large reraise after a limp. Bob should be suspicious about this play, but calling with 3.5:1 pot odds with big cards is an okay play here. The main pot is about $24.50, and EMG and Bob will play on the side.

The Flop: This is a scary flop for any hand that doesn’t hold a club. Even though Bob has an up-and-down straight draw, he could easily be beaten by a made flush/straight flush, the J of clubs is freerolling against him, and QJ has a made straight. EMG checks, so Bob wants to isolate for the main pot. His $10 bet is a little small, but he’s probing for information. He’s asking EMG, “Do you have a made hand or a big flush draw?”. EMG flat calls the raise, which probably says, “Yes, I have a big flush draw or a J.” The side pot is now $20, with the total pot around $44.50.

The Turn: Good news! You hit your straight with the Q. If EMG has a lone J, you are now crushing him with the nut straight. The Q is also not a club, meaning your opponent has not made a flush if he had the Ac or Kc. If I’m Bob, I feel pretty good about my situation. In a somewhat surprising move, EMG goes all in! You immediately have to replay the hand in your head. He limp-calls preflop, check-calls a decent bet on the flop, then pushes all in on the turn on that board? The likely hand range here: the made nut flush, AJ with a lone club, A-x with the Ac, a small made flush (like the 4c-5c), or KJ with a club. In real life, Bob thought about this for a long time before folding. It was an agonizing decision, and if he saw my cards, he would have instacalled. However, from his perspective, I played this very oddly, and he was completely caught off guard by the play.

The River: With Bob throwing away the best hand (correctly, as I noted), Fat Tony has the made straight, and it holds up for a decent pot. EMG scoops the side pot for a small net gain.

Analysis: Going through the hand from Bob’s perspective after the EMG all in, I have to eliminate the made flush. If EMG had the nut flush, he’d likely check-raise the turn to get all the chips in the middle. If he had a smaller flush, he’d probably fire on the flop and push the turn to protect his hand against a big club draw. If I’m in his shoes, I probably put him on a set of 8’s, maybe KJ with the Kc, or maybe a hand like A-10 or A-Q with the Qc. Getting 3:1 on my money, I am getting the right price. I’m almost certainly beating most hands he could have bet that way with. Folding is not the right play there mathematically unless I am definitive that he has a made flush. It is a ballsy play by EMG, and I let him off the hook. Regardless, I (Bob) definitely put it in my memory bank for the future.

From my perspective (as EMG), I read physical weakness in Bob when he called Fat Tony’s all in behind me pre-flop. Even so, I checked a scary board on the flop, hoping to get a free draw at my flush. I expected a bet from Bob, but I read definite uncertainty in the way he bet that $10 on the flop. I flat called with pot odds to hit my flush and with an idea that I could push all in on the turn and probably take the side pot. I probably should have went with my read and reraised there (representing a made flush) and taken it down. I played a little scared, and it could have cost me dearly. The Q was actually a bad card for me because it made my opponent’s hand and strengthened my own. My read was that Bob had J-10 with no clubs. I determined that I was about 80% likely to take the side pot right there with a shove, and I and might even be ahead of Fat Tony for the main pot. If I’m wrong, I still think I have the biggest club out there, so I have up to 9 outs on a redraw on the river.

Overall, that is a scary, scary board. It takes heart to fire out there to begin with, and it takes a ton of heart and discipline to make a fold like that. Hats off to Bob for playing well. Even though it turns out he didn’t make a correct decision based on the results, he made a read and trusted it. That is the important thing to take away here. Edit: In reading comments from others, Bob likely didn’t make the best play. With 3:1 pot odds, he pretty much has to call.

Overplaying QQ: Another Case Study

Let me start off by saying that I am a huge fan of QQ. Not only is it hot girl-on-girl action, it is a hugely powerful hand that can win you a big pot in NLHE. At the same time, it is beatable, and I have lost a lot of money with the hand. By sheer coincidence, Hulk busted early in a SNG tournament just yesterday by overplaying the hand. If played properly and in the right situations, QQ can do a lot for you. However, this situation last night is a clear case of overplaying the hand. It cost “Orange” his entire stack and may have caused him to tilt away more cash later.

Preflop: As you can see in the graphic above, Orange raised to $3 UTG. Not a typical play by some standards, but in our 25/50 cent game, raised go from $2 preflop to $5 or even $6 depending on the number of players in the pot. By raising, Orange is trying to limit the chances of marginal hands calling (and beating him). He would prefer to play this hand heads up. The loose-aggressive Pinata calls, and the tight-aggressive (but also tricky) EMG raises to $10.25. With action folded back around, you have 2 options because you’re almost certainly not folding. You have significant set equity at the very least. You could also reraise if you put your opponent on a move. The fact that EMG reraised here should set off warning signals for Orange. While EMG will call preflop with a wide range of hands, why would he reraise preflop with 2 players already in the pot and field behind him and 5 players left to act? The hand range is small. AA, KK, QQ, maybe JJ, and maybe AK suited. QQ is unlikely, so you have to put him on AA or KK here. In this case, Orange smooth calls, a play that I agree with. There’s no need to pot commit yourself with QQ against 1 tighter-aggressive opponent with a loose-aggressive player behind. Pinata also calls, but he’s not getting reraised and can see a flop with a pot of $31.50 for $7.25 more, plus plenty of implied odds with some bigger stacks out there.

The Flop: Obviously, the flop missed you, but you have a big pair. The likelihood is that the flop missed EMG, but Pinata has to be watched. He could have flopped a straight draw, a set, or even 2 pair. In my opinion, you have to bet to see where you’re at. Going for 1/3 to 1/2 of the pot or so is the best way to go. If you have the best hand and your opponent has AK or JJ/10’s, you build the pot with a huge edge. You also get to read physical tells when your opponents think it through, and if you get reraised big, you can fold. Even if you get flat called by 1 or both opponents, you have 2 outs for a set, so there are implied odds. In this case, Orange tries to buy the pot with a $25 bet. I don’t see this as a good EV play. You’re likely only getting called by hands that are beating you, and if someone has a draw or a smallish pair, they’re probably not calling. You’re also pot committed with only $19.75 behind. Given the action, a huge overbet into 2 opponents, including a reraiser.

The Result: Here, Pinata folds (he was probably check-folding anyway), and EMG goes all in over the top. In this case, you have to know you’re beat. In a tournament, you have to call here with the size of the pot. In a cash game, you can just fold and reload. No need to throw good money after bad. Orange calls with his QQ and EMG has KK. EMG rakes in a giant pot, Orange has to reload anyway.

Analysis: Most of what needs to be said here has already been said. Orange played way too first level and overbet his hand without a clear value proposition. When I am playing my best (and I definitely wasn’t last night), I try to put my opponent on a hand range based on history, the betting action, and physical tells, then I try to plan out the hand in my head. There is also no shame in giving up a big pair or a made hand if you really think you’re beat. As Mike Caro says, “Poker players get paid to make the right decisions. Money you don’t lose needlessly is money won.” No hand is unbeatable, especially on that kind of flop. Poker is about people more than anything else, and you have to get to that second level (what does my opponent have?) in order to make money consistently. Orange is normally better than that, but we all have blowups. I’ve been there, and I know that he will remember how he felt when he saw those Cowboys, and he’ll learn and improve.

2/11/09 Lunch Money Game: A Tighter Game, I Play Badly and Win

We had no game last week because Fat Tony was busy moving out of his slum apartment that lacked heat, electricity, and self respect. His new digs are much nicer, and I’m glad he and his future Mrs. were able to find the place and get in there. It was everyone’s first game at the new crib. In attendance were myself, Guido, NJM, Eman, “Bob”, Fat Tony, Orange, Pinata, and Lady Omaha (back for the first time in about 7 months following some service time overseas). Without BMRK and MH62 at the game, the action was much tighter. There were fewer straddles, not too many reraises preflop, and we didn’t see quite as much money flying around. Still, with Guido and Pinata there, anything was possible!

Point of clarification: “Bob” was a whiny crybaby about the fact that I used his last name in other blog entries. As such, I decided to name him “Bob”, which is his wife’s name… I’m not even kidding.

There were a lot of really interesting hands played last night. I said this many times, and I mean it: I played terribly. Easily my worst live session at the Lunch Money Game in 2009, and probably my worst in 6-8 months. I was playing way too first level, not making reads, missing bets and opportunities to bluff, and I was costing myself money. If it wasn’t for immense luck (namely picking up premium hands and getting paid for them), I would have lost my buyins and been on my way. I was up about $25 early, lost and had to buy up, then I zoomed up $80 total thanks to a big KK vs. QQ showdown (more on this later). I had a reawakening and felt like I was playing much better, but I lost some larger pots and was back down to $90 total (on an $80 buyin). Towards the end of the night, I made a great read and won a monster $160+ pot from Pinata.

I expect to post information and analysis on up to 7 hands from last night. Because of how badly I was playing early and how lucky I got late, I seem to be involved in a lot of them. You’ll also get to read about the worst side deal made in poker history… which also involved me metaphorically fisting myself out of anywhere up to $40 profit on a single hand.

Breaking the Rules: Playing When Unfocused

I woke up this morning (that’s as good as this story gets) with to the best of knowledge was a small creature with a sledgehammer smashing the insides of my head. It was bad enough to call out of the office, since focusing wasn’t gonna be my strong suit today and the potential for self inflicted pain at work was high. So I got the bright idea to try a couple of sit & goes, and try to get my mind off of the pain. What followed was the throwing away of the modest profit that I had earned in three sit & goes, culminating in this ridiculously simplistic misplay at the end of the 3rd:

It starts out well enough, a standard under the gun raise to 150, and my decision to flat call there was an attempt to not race so early in the tournament. I thought about the raise, but I didn’t want to get over involved with pocket Queens when it’s very possible that this guy’s raising in that position with Ace King and a raise will induce him to shove.
The raise behind me should have set off all kinds of bells and whistles but instead I decide he’s just trying to squeeze with his 2nd place stack (a horrible conclusion) and decide to do EXACTLY what I didn’t want to do … get over involved with pocket Queens this early in a tournament when there’s so much play left. I guess the good news is that it’s only a $5+.50 sit & go, but for this day, I break my rule by playing when I can’t stay focused and go out like a Mexican Clydesdale.

Just Call Me ‘Gefilte Fish’…

At the Lunch Money Game (like many home games), we tend to give each other table nicknames based on stories, moments, jokes, etc. From Bad Touch, Donkey Kong, Pinata, Guido, Hulk, Mr. Primetime, Sloppy Floppy, the Unabrower, Shrek, BMRK (Blind Master River King) we have a lot of things going on. When you get a bunch of jack-holes in a room together looking to have a good time, you’re bound to get some funny stuff going on.

Regardless, I was talking with MH6-2 the other day about a dealing gig he had at a local synagogue. He dealt craps and poker at a non-profit event to earn some poker money (which he’ll probably lose to me on a vicious suckout… ha). He was mentioning how the people at the event really had no idea what they were doing, but they acted like they knew it all. He claimed that “they were really just a bunch of fish…”. Of course, I asked if they were actually Gefilte Fish because they were Jewish. He found this endlessly funny, so we agreed that my new table nickname would be Gefilte Fish because of how “bad” I’ve been playing lately. So I’ve got that going for me… which is nice…

Took a Break, Ready to Roll

After a week where I started to run bad and probably started to play bad, I decided to take a short hiatus from any poker at all. This was aided by a Lunch Money Game vacation because Fat Tony had to move… again… Anyway, I didn’t play for 5 days after pretty much playing 5-7 days a week for 4-5 months. I almost logged in a few times to Full Tilt or Cake, but I did not play any hands for the work week. It was good to get away from trying to grind it out at these microstakes, and I worked on clearing my head and making sure I was playing my best game.

That’s not to say that I was completely removed from working on my poker skills. I bought Collin Moshman’s Sit N Go Strategy book via Amazon. I learned of this book listening to Mediocre Poker on 106.7 WJFK, a local talk station. The hosts had him on as a guest, and he discussed his background, rise to prominence and some basics to his overall thinking about the game. His interview impressed me enough to invest $15 in his book. It is published by 2 + 2, so the format echoes Harrington on Hold ‘Em, a series of 3 excellent books about tournament strategy from a former WSOP Main Event champ. I am currently about 40% through the book, and there are some excellent tips in there for handling situations early and middle of the way though Sit N Go’s. If you are a beginner, the book might be a little over your head, but if you can grasp basic strategy and are looking to improve your play in Sit N Go’s, it’s a great investment.

I logged in Friday night for the first time, and I played 4 SNG’s. I finished up about $30 in 45 minutes, winning 2 SNG’s, placing second once, and bubbling in 3rd in the other. Not a bad start for getting back into it, but I want to get back to playing 5-7 days a week again. Once my roll is in a place where I have a total profit of 15 buy-ins for 5/10 cent ($150 total), I’m going to switch over to play cash games. Until then, I’m going to grind it out with the $5 SNG’s and see what happens.

EMHD #3, 1/31/09. Final Table Recap

This past Saturday, we held EMHD #3, which drew a record # of participants (26) and buy-ins/rebuys (66). Thanks to everyone’s contributions to the pool in this tournament and the first two, we have officially eclipsed the $2,500 needed to pay first prize (1 $1,500 buy-in to a WSOP event, $500 for airfare, and $500 for hotel stay), and the money for second prize is building up. It is conceivable that we could send 2 or maybe even 3 people to Vegas during this year’s World Series.

Anyway, the final table for this event included main-stays Jocko (2 final tables) Julio (3), MH62 (2), Justin (2 for 2), and Fat Tony (2 for 2 as a proxy). Tony was playing for DMT, who was in Pittsburgh to celebrate the eventual Steelers Super Bowl win. Also at the final table was newcomer James, Faith, Lesley, and myself. Final table bubble boy was Harry (the EMHD 1 winner). I was in Seat 1, followed by Lesley, Fat Tony, Faith, Justin, Julio, Jocko, MH62, then James in Seat #9. The short stacks: Lesley, Jocko. The medium stacks: EMG, Justin, MH62. The larger stacks: James, Fat Tony, Faith, and Julio.

Jocko was first to go out, having to shove on the microstack. I cannot recall who got the kill, but Jocko finished 9th. Play continued, with Faith driving a lot of the action with large preflop raises that stole the blinds. Many of the players had less than $20k, so she did well with the big stack to raise to $8k-12k preflop. Lesley got whittled down by a combination of bad cards and lack of aggression. She and MH62 were eliminated by James a short while later in the same hand. Lesley was in the BB with 8-2 and was essentially pot committed due to her stack size. MH62 raised it up significantly with AJ, and James called with AK, followed by Lesley’s shove. There was an A and a 2 on the flop. MH62 bet out, and James raised. I’m not sure if MH62 was committed to that pot, but he must have thought so, because he pushed all in, and was quickly called by James. No one improved, so James KO’d 2 players and became a huge stack. In terms of the push with AJ, I really don’t like it. I have made that mistake countless times in tournaments. James is a tight player, so what is he calling your raise with? You might be best, but if you’re reraised, you’re probably no good…

Later on, I had my double-up through Julio (who became the short stack with Justin), then my KO by Fat Tony (which I’m sick of talking about… haha). I finished 6th, and Julio busted in 5th. That meant Justin (back to back cashes), Tony (back to back cashes as a proxy), Faith, and James were the Final 4. Justin was the extreme short stack, Faith was strong, and Tony and James were sitting on around 90k-100k in chips each. As I mentioned, Tony was playing aggressively, raising many pots. Specifically, he stole Faith’s BB 6-10 times, which I doubt she appreciated. Soon after the bubble burst, Tony raised on the button with 6c-7c, and Justin reraised all-in for like 6k more with AK, and Tony had to call. Tony flopped a flush draw and turned his flush to eliminate Justin in 4th. Another beat in a tournament full of outdraws and suckouts (10’s lost 4x, Shawn got busted with JJ against A-3, I lost a hand with Q’s, plus the 2 AK losses).

Down to 3, Tony continued his assault on the blinds, but Faith really started playing back against him, shoving all in over the top of his raises several times to take down some nice pots. James also sprung into action as the blinds climbed. Tony was by far the most active, but he got into some trouble when he raised preflop with KJ (a fine play 3-handed) and got called by James (who held J-10). They both flopped a J on the flop. James check-called Tony’s raise, then turned an up and down straight draw, and doubled up when he hit his straight on the river. Tony was essentially crippled, but he was able to battle back from the short stack 2 or 3 times. Finally, with the blinds about to go up to 7,500/15,000 and the players pretty much even in chips, Faith, Tony, and James agreed to a 3-way chop of points and cash for 1st-3rd. The result: $915 each.

It really was a good and exciting final table, which was preceded by a pretty tough tournament field. The new kids on the block (including Dan H, who busted in 14th) and the grizzled veterans really make these tournament fields difficult to navigate. Surely EMHD #4 on February 21 will be a great event. I cannot be there, so I will depend on The Hulk to provide a report.

Officially Not My Week…

Okay, so in the last week, I have taken the beat described in the last post to get knocked out on the bubble. Here are some other beats I have taken:

I am in the BB with Q-10 and check my option. The flop comes Q-10-2. I check-call a pot-sized bet. The turn is a 7. I bet out and get raised all in. I call. My opponent has 7-2. The river is a 7 for a boat.

I am in the BB with 6-8. I check my option. The flop comes 5-7-9, so I have a made straight. I check, someone bets 3x the size of the pot, so I go all in, hoping for 2 pair. Even better, the player has the A-5 of clubs for 1 pair and a backdoor flush. Runner-runner flush, and I lose my stack.

I raise with 7’s and get called by 2 players. The flop comes out 7-5-4 rainbow. Someone bets out. I call, the other player folds. The turn is an A. The player bets out, I go all in, he calls. The guy has K-6 suited for an up and down straight draw and rivers a 3 for a straight.

I am in late position against a new player. I have Q’s. The new player raises to $.40. I flat call to see a flop. The flop comes K-10-3, rainbow. The new player just shoves. I think about it, and I decide he’s full of it. I call. He has A-Q for an inside draw. He rivers a J for Broadway.

Note: The new player turns out to be a human ATM. For him, any pair on a board warrants an all in. He is also lucky, outcatching JJ with A-5, etc. I have a pretty good read on him.

I pick up 10’s in second position. The turbo-donk pushes all in UTG. I call with 10’s. The button calls with AK. The turbo donk has Q-9 of diamonds. The flop comes 10-5-2, 2 diamonds. The turn is a blank, and the river is a 3d. Turbo donk takes my stack and doubles through AK. I scream in anger.

Don’t know what more I can do. I’m getting my money in really good, and my luck is just terrible right now. I’m trying to stay vigilant and keep playing my game. It’s just hard to remain positive and focused when these hits keep coming.