Friday, April 21, 2006

Big Fish, Bigger Pond

Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: This is the captain. We have a little problem with our entry sequence, so we may experience some slight... turbulence and then explode.

Last night, for the first time in nearly a month, I played some online poker. Actually the truth is I played some a few days ago – sat down at a $50 NL table and played two hands. I re-stole when someone raised my big blind first hand and then folded the next two. I realised I was really not into the game and then stood up after three hands and about $1 profit. But last night I just felt like a little poker action before I went to bed, and Full Til poker had my hook up.

I looked quickly through the SNG lists to find a game that was ready to go, not really caring what the level was. I went through the list and stopped on the $30 +$3 games, and sat down with 8 of my friends to toss some digital chips into the middle.

The first two hands, I was in late/middle position and was dealt crap so I folded. Everyone else except the blinds folded for those two hands as well, and for some reason the thought popped into my head that this table wasn't going to be as hard as I would usually think. I'm not sure if I have ever played a $30+ SNG before, and any rise in levels is usually met with a bit of self doubt and maybe even over-caution and the new superior skill levels that people must have to be playing at these higher levels. But after only two hands, I decided that I was the best player at this table, and everyone else was scared. Everyone else was playing outside their comfort zone, so I would capitalise on that. Why this thought after only two hands I don't know, but I decided to run with it.

Without hitting a hand, I managed to nearly double up by raising in position and then betting on the flop when it was checked to me. I was hoping I had an aggressive image by now and just looked for a hand to pay me off. Other fell to the dreaded pre-flop all-in including 55 getting over KK. That was hilarious, because the KK guy typed in chat "WTF? Moron goes all-in with 55, that is the most stupid play I have ever seen – no offence." My early chip lead was now relegated to third after that little event, and I have yet to knock anyone out (which is why others had taken over my chip lead). I stole the blinds with a suited King and the blinds were starting to get high thanks to 5 minute levels. That steal put me just into second, and then I got dealt pocket aces on the big blind – isn't that a blessing? Even better was the raise from the third chip stack in middle position. That will not be a steal attempt, that is a playable hand right there. So, lets see how playable and just push it all in right here – he calls with pocket sevens and the flop is all high cards, good enough for me. My chip lead is back and in a big way. With five left, I have half the chips on the table and I could limp into the money if need be.

I don't though, and I bleed about a 1/3 of my stack by missing flops and dropping the hands. One of the boards read QJT98 all clubs, which is unusual and ended in the predicted split pot for the two players who were all-in before the flop – JJ and QTo.

On the bubble, the short stack was far too reluctant to put their chips in the middle, and when he had only 3BB left on my immediate right I had resigned to the fact that I would be going all-in with them at some stage. On my big blind, it was folded to the short stack who just called – well, that is a sure sign of a decent hand I thought. But I have a naked ace, so lets get the formalities out of the way and just push it all-in here. I did, and he didn't. I don't know what cards they had, but you've got to put your ships in when you have only 3BB and one of them just got stolen like that. Hope to get lucky – you need it!

On the next hand – when the short stack had two free looks, then he decided to shove it all in. I had crap so I folded and the big blind reluctantly called with J8o versus the short stacks Kx. The eight hit, and that was enough. We're in the money.

Next hand, I am on the button and decided to raise with A3s. BB, a bit of a maniac (the one that went all-in pre-flop before with 55) comes back over the top of me for all his chips, about ½ my stack. I figured it was just a bluff and called really quickly, which I'm sure was to both of our surprise. Turns out he had 66, so this is pretty close to a coin flip situation. The flop was 245 with one spade, giving me my straight. The turn brought another spade, meaning he had 3 outs on the river to draw and none to win. They didn't come, and now I was a commanding chip leader once more. On about the fifth hand of heads up, we got it all in the middle before the flop with me holding AJd and him holding Ah8c. A jack hit the turn to make the river meaningless, and I'd won my first attempt at a $30 SNG, good for a $102 profit.

Ok, so that went a bit farther into hand histories than I would have liked, but I think the point of it all was for some reason I had no self doubt or lack of confidence despite jumping up a level or two from what I normally play online. I've been having a fantastic run of late, and that always helps in those stakes, but what I am learning more and more is that higher levels doesn't always translate into better players. Sometimes it just means players who are willing to loose more money than I am. If I loose $100 at the tables, it really hurts my bankroll. For others, $1,000 is nothing, and they are there to gamble.

So my read on the table after two hands was no doubt rushed, and was probably only true for 2-3 players at the table, but it helped my mindset. I had no suckouts, won only one race that I was in, and played really well for the rest of it. At one stage I had won a total of 18 hands, with only one of those at showdown. That's a nice table image to have when your cards are not hitting the flop as hard as you would like.

I cashed out about $50 to go towards bills and crap, still leaving myself with some money to muck around with online. I'm looking more and more towards cash games these days. Sometimes your tastes just move along and swap to different games and levels. I recall some time ago $1/$2 limit Omaha. Multi's and SNG have long been a staple of my poker diet. Limit poker – I dabbled here and there but rarely found any joy in it – both out of the fun of playing and the results. Even in home games now, I am much more inclined to play cash games – but recent results may just favour that slightly.

I'm finding live poker to be great fun at the moment, which is why online has been lacking a lot lately. I would normally play online during the week after tea, but sleep is more an option these days as the running of the tournaments at the pubs takes a lot out of me during the week. But last night was a quick little binge, and I was fortunate that the upswing continued.

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