Monday, June 25, 2007

Poker Break: Non-optional

Toni Mannix: She's a lesbian, you know.
George Reeves: Who?
Toni Mannix: The one playing Lois.
George Reeves: Phyllis? Is she really?
Toni Mannix: No. She is now, as far as you're concerned.
George Reeves: Well... there it is.

I have played one SNG in the past week, and that was all the poker I got in. It has been a very busy week and the next to follow is likely to be the same, with the only chance I will get for even a hand will be on Sunday – and then it is a maybe. Withdrawal symptoms are sure to kick in and result in a down swing around the corner.

Speaking of which, I have suffered a 10% decrease is bankroll size thanks to the strength of the Aussie Dollar over the past few months. That affects it slightly too I guess.

In the one SNG I did play, I went out in about 6th or 7th. I played only two hands really and doubled up to be chip leader on the first one and then got down to last on the second one. Nothing really exciting at all happened, but that is the way it goes.

Managed to get see the new Fantastic Four movie last week. By far the most impressing thing about the night out was the Transformers preview before hand. Not to say F4 wasn't good, but my inner child is screaming for his Transformers. When the sound effect for the transform was heard, I was sold (as if I wasn't already).

Other than that, a fair portion of the weekend was spent at Aquariums, as the Distraction's birthday is this week and she has taken a keen interest in the home aquariums at our friends house. We're looking to get one started at ours, and after checking out the prices at the stores it looks like eBay will be our method. I'm keen to keep a salt water aquarium as they have more options for what creatures go in there and have generally more interesting fish. I mean, you need something different in these things, goldfish just don't cut it and it's a shame everybody has clown fish these days – we'll have to get something different to separate us from the masses.

And now a word from our sponsors:
"Full Tilt Poker Review"

Monday, June 18, 2007

World Series Of Prop Betting

Rusty Ryan: They built em smaller back then.
Danny Ocean: Yeah, but they seemed big.
"Ocean's 13

I have been trying to keep up on the WSOP, but interest is honestly fading. As everyone keeps saying, piles of people I have never heard of before are winning, and most of them we will never hear from again. Obviously there is the odd exception, but how many times can we get excited over the fact that some 22 year old who had never played in a casino before won a bracelet after qualifying for just $40?

Over the past few months I have been more fascinated by prop betting, and Pauly's tales of them since the start of the WSOP are better than the poker coverage – or at least a more interesting subject matter.

Searching the internet for prop betting stories, Ted Forrest's name pops up quite a bit and he has some great wins in his resume. Side bets and props bets have also become a regular feature of our home games, which was introduced to us when playing at an inner city game full of wild and crazy young guys (four bluffers to a pot, if you will). Being the tight playing consciences type of player that I am, and a little bit shell shocked by the action before me, at times it could be 15-20 hands before I saw a flop, and who knows before I had a shot at one. So we started to make little bets on the side for weather the flop would me majority red or black cards. If it was all red or black, then the bet doubles. We gave the prop bet the politically incorrect name "Africans and Indians."

Before long, in our regular game the betting on the A&I became more frantic than the poker. First it was between me and just one other player, and then it was two. When a third asked, I just decided to have the bet with the entire table on Indians, the hearts and diamonds, which was my usual bet. Of course, the flop come out all spades and I had to double the bet with each player on the table. I think I had the nut flush too, and I managed to break even on the hand. I have never played A&I since, and it is more scarce at the home games now too as it was getting out of hand.

My new favourite, as I said in a recent post, is to bet that at the next showdown, two pair with Kings or better will be the winning hand. If a hand is won before showdown, then that hand doesn't count and it goes over to the next one. I'd say my record for this bet is about 40% win. I have no mathematical basis for why the Kings-up is the line, but it seems to be about right for what goes on so far.

Other bets going around our table range from the "If we didn't fold, who would have won" between two pre-flop folders to the pub trivia variety. One player swore black and blue that Robert Deniro in "The Godfather Part 2" was not the same character as Marlon Brando in the original, even though he had seen the movie 20 times. We usually play on Friday nights when the Rugby is on TV, so there are always some side bets there to keep the players interested.

For a lot of these kind of side bets, I am at a disadvantage. I do not follow the rugby league so I have no insight into the games to form a basis for any bet. When it comes to the movie and music trivia, I am a decade younger than most of the table so their era of questions usually fly over my head. But I will share with you one of my favourite prop bets of all time, which has a nice hook for someone that may think they have an edge in this area.

How you work into the conversation the topic and the bet itself is up to your own sweetness and charm, but the trivia bet is "Name the first names of all the living Beatles". Most people assume there is a trick to this question, and usually it goes on of two ways – what is Ringo's real name or who was that guy that Ringo replaced? This is where the bet gets good, because if someone knows the answer to either of those two "tricks", they are usually blinded by their own sense of satisfaction to consider the other one. Ringo's first name is a common trivia question, and the answer is "Richard". Anyone willing to take you up on this bet would be able to tell you that one. The guy who was replaced by Ringo is also another common trivia question, maybe a little harder but the answer is Pete Best – but the question is what is his first name? That is actually Randolph, and I guarantee most people would not know that one. This can be a deterrent for some people to even take the bet.

It can also be clever if you offer to give them Ringo's name for free, and then that will lead your opponent down the path of trying to guess Pete Best's real first name, be it Peter or Pete and so forth. Then there is the discussion of "was he really a Beatle" – which I say the answer is yes, he played in the Beatles so why not?

And if anyone remembers that his name is Pete, then they would be willing to take you up on the bet. If they guess Rudolph, then they are sitting in a very good position. But there is still a small percentage of people that will guess the answer to the question "Name the first names of all the living Beatles" with Paul, Richard and Randolph. It is rare, but there will be some people that can come up with both Ringo and Pete's real name. If they do, then you might be loosing the bet but for the final little hurdle (and I admit, most people that know Randolph will probably know the last trick, but those that only know Richard will be taken in if you give them Pete Best for free, or even expressly not include him because he was fired.) The absolute correct answer, including Pete Best, is Richard, Randolph and … James.

You'll be amazed at how many people are blinded by the fact that they know Ringo's real first name, that don't know that Paul McCartney's middle name is Paul, and his real first name is James.

And hey, if they get you on that, then pay up.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Little Balance Very Quickly

Susan: My psychiatrist thinks we should break up.
Philip: What? I didn't know you were going to a psychiatrist.
Susan: Well I'm not actually going to one. I've been dating one for four months.
Philip: This is so sudden!
Susan: I didn't want to tell you this over the phone, I really wanted to fax you.
"Mixed Nuts"

Poker is a crazy game. It is amazing what it can put you through sometimes, when you add in the elements of a few just as crazy humans. The swings are something that you just have to get used to.

I have made no secret of the fact that this year I consider myself on a down swing. I have seen more than my fair share of bad luck while still being able to break even or slightly better at times, while other times I was loosing money like it was a talent.

I thought a session online over the long weekend showcased this perfectly. In 58 minutes of play, I had won 1 pot and that was taking the blinds with a pre-flop raise. I had really only played two other hands, where I had JJ vs QQ (though I made a nice check on the river when I was beat) and another hand I don't remember but lost at showdown when my hand just wasn't good enough. No bad beats, just bad cards and no chances. So I am down to my last $10 when I get 99, and decide screw it – this is it, I am playing this hand no matter what happens. There is a pre-flop raise from a bigger stack, and I put in half my stack. Basically I'm saying the rest is going in eventually. He is the only one that calls and what happens? The flop comes 499. Yeppers, great flop for me but might have been handy if I had more than $5 to put in! I guess I could have reloaded at any time but I like I seldom do that for whatever reason, unless I am felted. Very next hand I had QQ and got no action, so I decided to call it a night.

Fortunately, everything else non-poker in my life is quite ok at the moment, so I didn't think about the losses too much and next time I had a chance to play some poker, the bad thoughts were nowhere to be found. And things started to go right. There is a bit of a hand history here, but then there is some poker theory at the end so hang in there!

Pocket Kings on the big blind, only the button plays and makes a small pot sized raise. SB folds, so we are already heads up and I decided to just call here and see what comes. Flop is QhKh6d, not too shabby for me. I check, button bets $4 so I make it $8. I like to do this with a strong hand, as slow playing is far too common and can be really obvious at times. If he has something he will call, if he has nothing then I probably won't be getting anything out of him anyway. He just calls, and now we see the turn. I probably put him on a heart draw, and if he isn't then he will probably put me on one too.

The turn is another queen, so now I am praying for that third heart to come out on the river. I just check it, letting him draw to it if that is what he wants, and if he bets any amount then I will call. He just checks, and the river is the most beautiful two of hearts. I hope he hit his hearts, so I bet out $10 and he comes back over the top all-in for another $30 or so. Easy call for me, and I take the pot as his Ace high flush is no good.

Ok, so the hand turned out perfectly for me on every street. The fact that he had more than a maximum buy-in and I had him covered was just icing on the cake. But the moment I want to talk about is the turn card where I made my hand.

I had put my opponent on a heart draw, and had the thought that AK was an outside chance. Lets assume the heart draw is true (which is was in this case, but that is not important). I have made my hand on the turn and really no river card will stop me getting all my chips into the middle. I believe I have a lock on the hand so our attention turns to maximises the value of the pot.

The amount of chips my opponent is willing to commit here becomes just as important as what the river card is. As in the hand above, if the heart comes for the flush then it is all beer and skittles for me. But what happens if that heart doesn't come on the river? It is unlikely my opponent would have called any bet, no matter how small, on the river if the 2 of clubs fell for example. Perhaps he could call out of curiosity, but certainly he isn't going to call any substantial bet. If the flush doesn't come, my best chance is hoping he wants to bluff or thinks I am bluffing – but I rate both as an outside chance and more than likely he would be in check/fold mode on the river rag. So the value point of the hand becomes the turn card – making him pay for his draw.

Usually most new players associate this with trying to discourage a player from seeing the river card – scare the player off calling for his draw. The difference here is he would be willing to pay for a draw, and won't pay for the miss. It is difficult to figure out what amount he is willing to pay for his flush – in this case with about a $20 pot (25c/50c blinds) I would guess he might even pay up to a pot sized bet on the Ace high flush. A pot sized bet though is nearly half his stack on a draw, I don't think it is a sure thing for him to call. $7-9 is far more likely, just keeping it below double figures. That is a decent sized bet considering the blinds and pot size. If the flush misses, at least I make a little more profit for him paying for a draw that missed. If the draw hits, it doesn't matter what happened on the turn necessarily, because at this level players don't expect you to bet out with such a strong hand and when they hit theirs the blinkers go up.

It is important to remember that in the hand above the pocket Kings are not the nuts at this stage, nor are they a lock on the hand. But really if he has Quads, or is drawing to Quads, Aces-full or a straight flush then chances are I am just going to pay him off if it hits, and there isn't much I can do about that.

And that is what I have been thinking about more – slow playing a monster by not slow playing it. Not that I do that all the time, but it can be an extra string to the bow from time to time.

That was how my online poker went for the past week, putting some decent profit into my bankroll there. It was funny how live poker proved to be very similar in function.

The home game was treating me terribly. My had bought in four times, and had a little of my third one back by 5am, a good 8 or 9 hours into the game. My night was going badly from the beginning, when I had KK beaten twice in four hands when all the money went in pre-flop. It was beaten by 67s (hit a 7 on the flop and river) and 78o (gut shot straight hit on the river). I had a flopped flush drawn out on another all-in by a king-high flush draw. I had Aces-up beaten by a better aces-up. I was feeling abused and looking in trouble. I have had to make a few very important withdrawals from the poker bankroll to buy important things like beds and pay bills over the past few months. In total, I have had to take out about 75% of the bankroll over the past 4 months or so for these various needs (I don't regret that, in the end that is what my poker bankroll is ultimately for, so ease financial pressure when needed). This accompanied with a bad year, meant the bank roll was rather dry. It will be a month or two at least before I can top it back up. After loosing three buy ins and having my fourth on the table, it was looking like I might be broke and not able to play home games for a month or so as I have a general rule of the old saying "neither a borrower nor a lender be".

And then I am dealt KQ in the small blind. UTG makes a raise, and there are a number of callers as is common in home games. The flop comes KQT rainbow, which I think is perfect for me. I just check, me and my sneaky slow playing, and BB also checks to the original raiser who makes a bet – nothing too large, nothing too small. I like it, and decide that perhaps he has a jack, or maybe there is a jack sitting in the BB and in that case, in this home game, I don't think I can push either player off their draw and will instead make them pay for it if it doesn't come on the turn. Besides, I might be able to coax the BB to call also and get more money into the pot. The turn is a King, and I have hit my hand beautifully, and now want to give both players a chance to hang themselves here. If he has the jack, I'll let him draw for his straight. If he has big slick, well I am in a very solid position.

I check, and the BB goes all-in for about $25. UTG thinks quickly, and then just calls. I know these players, and the "call" there doesn't mean a straight draw. It could mean a straight, but now I am fairly confident he has something like AK and would be willing to call any bet here. I have $34 left on top of the $25 call, and decide to push it all in here. By the time I finish counting out my chips, he makes a quick call.

I was a little shocked, because both players are fairly tight when it comes to an all-in bet, but I say "Guys, I've got the nuts." And then everything becomes clear as they roll over their cards. The big blind had AJ. He had the nuts on the flop and was just slow playing it until the turn, but now my Kings full has him drawing dead. I can understand why he committed the last of his chips there. Then UTG rolls over QQ – he hit his set on the flop and improved to Queens-full on the turn, but thanks to the queen in my hand he is now also drawing dead to the river. Both players had very strong hands, and both players had me beat on the flop that I thought was all mine. In effect I had two outs and one came on the turn – and now they are drawing dead for a $239 pot – which in this game equates to just under 5 buy ins.

Even I was in shock. I had not picked their hands on the flop – though it wasn't as if I couldn't get away from two pair if I had not hit the nuts on the turn, and when I did hit the turn it didn't matter what hand I put them on except for value sake. An absolutely perfect hand like that comes along very rarely indeed – as does being able to be paid off two ways on the hand. I went from being into the game for $200 to being in profit of $39 in one hand. In the next hour, I had a run of cards you could only dream of and at one point was north of $200 in profit – and it was only that small because I started to feel bad about taking so many pots and started making really large best when I had the nuts so I would not get called. It could have easily been another $100 or so, but when the shorter stacks went all-in, again I had them drawing dead. In one hour everything was erased from the previous 9. I gave a little back before nights end – and lost a little with silly side bets which were keeping everyone entertained all night (my favourite bet was that the winning hand would be better than kings-up.). I ended up $186 in front, which is my second best result for the year. With all the wild fluctuations on the night, most people ended up about even with a few early leavers making their donations before leaving.

Year to date, I am now actually ahead of last year and have recorded winning session in my last 5 outings. After a rough start to the year, things are looking a lot better as the good luck and the bad luck are starting to even out just a little.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Back To UB

Blade: You better wake up. The world you live in is just a sugar-coated topping! There is another world beneath it - the real world. And if you want to survive it, you better learn to pull the trigger!

I have been spending my online poker time in the past week at Ultimate Bet, just for the change of scenery. I played there a few years ago when I was going through a Poker Source Online promotion, and I recall having a really good run on the SNG's there at the time. In the past week I have had a good run, with the cards being not too nasty and I've been making some calls that I usually wouldn't make. I think perhaps I've made some moves at the right times too, which has helped.

But what I have become addicted to is the Blackjack SNG's. I only play in the $1 tournaments, but I have been having a great time while basically breaking even. I did see half an episode of the televised Ultimate Blackjack and I thought it was quite silly, but after playing one I found myself mildly amused by them and kept going. I've played maybe 15 and have won a couple, but it is interesting to try to figure out what tactics you can employ and when, considering the massive amounts of luck that are involved in the whole situation.

Live games are going to become very rare in the coming weeks, as the Distraction has me booked solid for various things. We had to bail out of a friend's birthday party last week due to an injury I sustained and the delivery of a new bed for the spare room – preparation for the arrival of more in-laws in the coming months. More fun to follow, that is certain!

I am also being dragged along to a pre-screening of the new movie "Knocked Up", which I understand opens in the US this week (not here for another month). The trailer for this film had me sold in the first 5 seconds with the first joke, and that was it – it looks like another easy chick flick that you won't be ashamed to watch with your significant other. I can't give you a full report on the movie as yet (though initial reviews look good), because when we went to the cinema last week for the pre-screening, tickets in hand and everything, we found out we were a little early. About 4 weeks early in fact. Oh well, what can you do but turn around and go home and watch DVD's.

Speaking of which, since the big release season has been disappointing so far (Ocean's 13 can save it for me), the Distraction and I have been going through some of the DVD collection. We have now watched the entire run of Red Dwarf on DVD (save for a few episodes that were on a disc I seem to have lost from series 7) and have now started again on Law and Order: CI. I love that show, and hope more of the seasons become available on DVD soon. Like going back to old friend's, this may soon become a thing of the past as finally, it has been announced that TiVo is coming to Australia. Albeit in 2008, and it may only be supporting one network at this stage, but it is a start.