Tuesday, January 29, 2008

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Enjoy Poker

Paris: Do you love me, brother? Will you protect me from any enemy?
Hector: Last time you spoke to me like this you were 10 years old and you'd just stolen Fathers horse, what have you done now?

This past week held no poker for me, save for a very short 5 person SNG at a home that I came in third after not winning a pot, but I have already been given permission to fill my poker void to the brim this coming long weekend.

I am noticing a common theme among many people recently, that being a loss of love for poker. Not just the other blogs I read, but other players I know that are growing tired of poker or are not finding it the thrill it once was for them. There is no single reason for the group dissent, but there are a few broad categories that some, perhaps even the majority, of these people fall into.

Some are the early adopters of the poker craze. After Rounders, Chris Moneymaker and the World Poker Tour brought poker into the homes of more people, naturally the interest in poker grew. With any new trend, and I believe the poker boom has lasted too long to be called a fad, there are some that are in at the ground level when everything is exciting and new. Now there is poker in every single pub in Sydney, your friend’s grandmother has a favourite player, and each passing year brings the story of some other first timer who became a millionaire at the turn of the card. Poker is no longer the newest thing, and the early adopter who was once part of a niche culture has now lost the exclusivity of their involvement, which may have been half the appeal. All in all, poker is probably better off without these guys anyway.

Some others are finding that with the time past, some of the donkeys and fish have actually learned a thing or two, while they sat on their hands thinking “how awesome am I taking all these chips”. All of a sudden, it’s not so easy and a loosing streak hits. It’s hard to keep your passion up when loosing, especially when it was the monetary results that made poker attractive to you in the first place. As before, poker is also probably better off without these douches too.

Others have tried to make a living out of poker, and now find it boring. It’s not a surprise really, this happens. Even the biggest names in poker get bored with it some times – when it’s all you do day in and day out, you are going to get bored with it. I remember an interview in some magazine many years ago, and I think it was a big name quarterback at the time that said “(American) Football has ruined my Sunday’s”. The reasoning was before he went professional, he had a great time on Sunday with family and friends, having a few beers and a BBQ and watching a game of football on TV. Even after he had retired from the NFL though, he couldn’t watch football without it being work.

I kind of feel sorry for these kind of poker players. We’ve heard the old saying repeated many times over – “Poker is a hard way to make an easy living” – but few have really tried to understand what that means. It’s not only that it is hard to turn a profit and make a living playing poker, what with other people pursuing the same dream and a casino taking their cut along the way. It is also hard to discipline yourself to do this day in and day out, essentially turning poker not just into a living, but into “work”. And that is what it has become for these people, work and not fun.

If you think poker is not as fun for you as it once was, then you only have yourself to blame. You’ve tried to turn a hobby into a life, when the reality is very few people have the skill to do so, and even fewer have the personality and demeanour to live that way.

If you can not have fun while throwing chips around a home game with your friends, then either the game has been lost to you or you need to find some better friends. I’ve said it before, I’ve had massive loosing sessions where my wallet has been emptied and I’ve had just as much fun doing it. That should be what poker is about for the most of us. If you can’t enjoy it why play?

But you make money playing poker you say, that’s why you play!

That’s why you have a job. That shouldn’t be the reason to play. Sure, it makes things more interesting and it’s nice to pick up some money while pursuing a hobby. My other main hobby would have to be video games, and they cost me a stack. Especially compared to my poker hobby, which has paid either directly or indirectly for a lot of things around the house.

But that’s not why I play. Poker is still fun for me. I haven’t tried to treat it any differently than as a hobby. I’ve tried to improve, even kept results and records so compare different games. Which goes to prove my point. There is a poker room in Sydney that I have an amazing record at. My ROI for games at this place is somewhere in the 200% mark, while last year my overall ROI was just under 30%. But I hardly go there anymore, because the games are not that much fun, and over too quickly.

While making a profit playing poker is nice, and indeed one of the goals of the game by design, it can’t be the sole reason for playing – or even the main reason – unless this is your entire living. For most of us, this isn’t how we make a living. It’s beer money, or Vegas Trip money, or that 50” Plasma money – it’s not rent money and there is a difference, there has to be a difference.

I play online poker for money, there is no doubt about that, and it isn’t nearly as fun as the home games I play.

So if you are feeling a little burned out by poker, maybe it isn’t because you’ve been playing too much. Maybe it’s because you just having been playing it right. Slow roll your quads against your buddies, calling out “Two pair – sevens and sevens!” – it’s all ok amongst friends. Go rabbit hunting for the runner-runner straight flush. Offer to chop when you’ve got 5 high. Have some fun with it and make a bet not because it is +EV to do so, do it because it has a +FUN value too.

Poker is a game. Sometimes, you need to treat it as such.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Casino Poker Part 2

Brick Top: Do you know what "nemesis" means? A righteous infliction of retribution manifested by an appropriate agent. Personified in this case by an 'orrible cunt... me.

In my last post I left the action at about 11pm on the night, and that is when some really big pots started to develop, and the above quote became very relevant.

By now I had maybe just under $200 in front of me, and still on my first buy in. The table is full of new players and calling stations – I couldn’t have asked for a better table to be honest. One of the new players to the table my friend recognised from a now-defunct poker room a year or so ago. This poker room had a good reputation for having decent poker players because it was out of the way and not really a tourist attraction if you know what I mean. So I pencilled him in my mind as a player that would not be as bad as the others, and thought there was plenty of fish for all of us I will stay out of his way if I can.

I had no real big starting hands, so cheap flops were great for me. With 5 runners, I saw a low flop with 2 spades, me holding KsJs in late position, perhaps even on the button. There is a small $10 bet coming from the good player in early position, and 2 other callers. The turn is my money card, the ace of spades. 53s would have hit a straight-flush, but you are going to pay that off I guess in this instance. Good player bets $25 and there are two callers. What to do, what to do? With four runners, I thought about my options which are either call and slow play or raise and try to get some more money in the pot now. The good player bet out $25 into four runners, so it wasn’t an attempt to buy the pot, he has something. Maybe a set? Maybe 2 pair? Maybe a smaller flush? My thought was for him only, and the other guys will probably call if they have any piece of it, may even be drawing dead. If I just call here and then see the board pair on the river, what do I do then? And if he already has the flush with two spades in his hand, perhaps a fourth spade on the river will kill my action. In the end I am 99% sure I am ahead and if anyone is looking for that one out to a straight flush, I reckon they will call any bet for that chance. If the good player is drawing to a full house with trips or two pair, he probably won’t call a bet on the river if it doesn’t come – and I guess I’m screwed if it does but at least I am in late position and can foil a check-raise if that is his intention. So in the end I decided to raise it to $75 to see what happens – it’s already a decent pot anyway. The good player thinks about it and calls, calling station behind him actually folds (probably not even a pair) and the last guy has less than $50 and calls to be all in.

The river neither pairs the board or brings another spade, and I am of course prepared to put all my chips into the pot with the second nuts (to an unlikely straight flush). Good player checks, and I made a value bet of $40 (which into a near $300 pot should scream value bet) and he says he’ll pay me off. He shows the queen high flush and I scoop the pot. He did ask why I made the big bet on the turn, and I just said I thought he’d be more likely to call it then than to call it on the river. I didn’t think he was holding the queen high flush though – if I did, I might have waiting until the river and made even more.

The biggest pot of the night had my buddy involved neck deep. He put in an opening raise of $11 which was his standard, and got called by two players (a real fish and the same calling station from before) and then a new player in the 1 seat re-raised to $45 to be all-in. My buddy looks at that and seems satisfied, and even I’m thinking he should shove here to get heads up – me thinking he obviously has a strong hand. He does just that for another $103 on top of the raise from the short stack. Both the other players called. I get a peak at his cards and he is holding Kings – and I think he’s in real good shape as it is likely he is up against other pockets or an ace in more than one seat. The flop comes down club, club, club. Not good for two red kings. One player bets, the other calls for all of what he has left, and the first better on the flop shows AcKc for the flopped nuts. Player 2 had A3o and called nearly two buy ins pre-flop with that, and the other short stack had Ah8h, which I thought was a little fishy but not half as bad as the other two. A near $500 pot slides the way of one of the fish – and my buddy just could not win a pot against him for the rest of the night, invoking the “nemesis” quote from Snatch from me several times.

We spoke about that hand later, and he knows that both of us would have folded AK there so fast, and we both know there is no way that fish could be talked out of that hand, and the other two were just really silly players that didn’t deserve their chips. The Nemesis now had the chip lead on the table, even covering me by nearly $100 and I was in second. My stack peaked around this time to just over $500.

I misplayed a hand here too, when I held JT and the flop came TTx. I slow played to the turn which was a 5, and got two callers. The river was another 5, and I bet out again. The Nemesis from above raised me to $50, and I figured we were just chopping so I called. He had the 5 and I took the pot. I should have raised there, I gave him too much respect and he would have called a bigger bet without a doubt because he had a full house – never mind that it is obviously beaten. Even though I won the pot that hand cost me over $100 I guess.

By now, a lot of the real fishy players had left after doing their money in and headed home. The table changed again and was a little bit better now but not by much. We had already decided to stand up at 4am but when that came around, my buddy said he had gotten his second wind and he thought the table was particularly juicy right now. At about 10 minutes before our scheduled finish I had exactly $400 left in front of me after going on a cold run and being hit by one particular river which counterfeited my two pair on a hand that I had been betting all the way. I was feeling kinda hungry and was playing uber tight for the last 15 minutes or so because I wanted to cash out at exactly $400 instead of something like $395, so I said I would be more than happy to wait an hour while he scratches his itch. When 4am came around though, I decided to play properly and make the most of the last hour.

All night I had been dealt 63 maybe 4 times and I played them 3 out of those times, without hitting anything. At about 4.15am I had 6d3d and called a small raise to go to a multi way flop that comes – 663. Yeah, not too bad. One guy bets and I just call as everyone folds. Turn was a 9, he bets and I raised, he called. River was an Ace – which I figure was a good card for me. He bets, I raise and he calls. I show my 63 for the flopped full house, and he shows 69 for his turned one. Ouch! That one hurt but there was no way he was folding after the flop. Really though, you get what you deserve when you play crap like 63d to a raise out of position.

I got some chips back in the last hand I won, with my first big pair of the night holding up – KK vs AXc with the second club coming on the turn and thankfully not the river. On the night I had 5 pocket pairs – in order that they happened 55, 55, 99, 33 and then KK. The kings were the only ones to make any money. I had AQ and AK once, and that was about it for the good starting hands.

When 5am rolled around, the table broke and I had just over $300 in front of me. That counts as a good night for me, when you consider all the time charges we had to pay and the over priced drinks we bought on the night, there was probably another $100 spent out of the chips on the table. It was a good night and I left well in front, but the last hour cost me as I should have booked the win and grabbed a bite to eat instead. But anyway, you live and learn from that. I felt like I was in control for the whole night, and when reviewing it realised that I had sat in the same chair without even standing up for 9 hours. Not bad an effort, considering it was all on my original buy in. I still felt though that there was room for improvement and I should have made more chips on the night. A few hands misplayed late that cost me, but all in all a good night of poker for me.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Casino Poker Part 1

Bobby Dukes: Why does this bag smell like doughnuts?
Bill Henry: That is the smell of death. That is the smell of the death of your failure. That is the smell of the death of your defeat. That is the smell of the death of your shame...
Bobby Dukes: It smells like doughnuts.
”Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story”

It has been an exhausting week. I decided to sacrifice a home game on Friday night so that I could have a better game at the Star City casino on Saturday. We had a lot of yard work to do Saturday morning anyway, so crawling in at 7am before that would have made life extremely difficult. And also, the Friday night home game looked to be turning into a spread limit game with some new guys, and had all the indications of being a real melt down. I was told later that it was actually quite fine but I needed the night off anyway.

When my poker playing buddy and I got to the casino, they had nearly every poker table open which was good to see for a change. They also had 4 of the new digitalised poker tables ready for people to play. I still don’t get it – if I wanted to play online, I’d stay at home. They proved to be far less popular than the other tables which is a promising sign I think.

The wait to get a seat was just under two hours, which is about standard and good for what you would expect on a Saturday night. During the wait I wandered around and watched various people blow what would be a months salary for me on roulette and blackjack.

When we did eventually get called for a seat, it was when they opened up a new table so that was good – everyone would be starting with the same size stacks and we had our choice of seats. It also meant, as another player pointed out, that the dealer’s chip float was empty. At Star City, you can’t buy chips at the table, you have to do it at the brush at the front of the poker area. So the dealers float is just to make change and take their rake. As everyone was on their first buy in, and the brush gives you an appropriate chip break down so there is no real need for change to begin with so they do not start with any chips in there. As we were committed to a long evening at the table, it would be interesting to see just how much rake they take from the table over that period.

The rake is at the $1/$2 level 10% up to $8, and $5 per hour time charge. That’s a bit steep, but let me tell you it is worth it when you see the calibre of players here.

I also had a prop bet on with my buddy over who would get 63 first – our word is good enough to confirm a winner. After getting everything all around 63, I finally had it and lost the exact amount of the prop bet on the hand – and then he got it the very next hand so I just snuck home on that one.

The table had 4-5 Dutch guys at the beginning who all knew each other, and were straddled/re-straddled here and there. I was card dead so didn’t see much action but the few hands I did played I pulled in some decent pots so it was ok.

I think I’ve subconsciously reached a new level in picking up tells because for the third or forth time I have been having some great accuracy in that department – mind you, some of the players were chomping oreos, figuratively speaking.

My first real hand was an open ended straight draw that got there on the turn or river – either way the raiser in the hand did not call my all-in with the nuts on the river but it was a tody pot that gave me a platform to build from.

When all the Dutch guys left at once, the table dynamics changed considerably, and this was when I made the most of my chips and fishing ability. The new players were either first timers in a live game or just plain calling stations – except for one guy, and I’ll get to him later. Perfect example was in a hand my friend was in – KJx on the board and no flush by the river, he is last to act heads up and bets out an ok amount – an amount that to me looked like a value bet. One of the new players that we had already labelled a donkey called with nothing but Ace high, and my friends pair of jacks were good, and he knew they would be too.

It was now that I could start making a few moves, as the pre-flop action was very passive with only a few raises and even fewer re-raises. If there was action pre-flop, it tended to be a $20 opening raise that no one would call – and why would you without a really good hand? Saw a $20 opening raise get popped back for a $70 all-in – original raiser called and was disappointed to find out his 66 was not in front, JJ was. Anyway, I was more than happy with this as it allowed me to see more flops and play it from there. I made a couple of moves to win medium sized pots and found that nearly any bet would get multiple calls on the flop, but the second bullet on the turn would work more often than not. So I built up a bit of a stack – not chip leader, but certainly above average.

And then I made some more chips the way I usually do – making people pay far too much for their draws and then they missed. I had a new player in the 10 seat heads up, with the board showing 9TJQ. I had KT, but there were two hearts on the board. It was about his 3rd hand at the table so I didn’t have a read at all so when he bet out for $15 on the turn, I thought it was time to put it all in and see. If he had AK (no raise pre-flop) then good on him, otherwise it is likely we’ll chop or he can pay severely for his draw. All in would be another $50 or so, and he called – with 52h. Thankfully, the last heart did not come, and he stood up and left. Not in disgust mind you, just because that was his only buy in and he was out. Wow – if I had only one bullet, I think I would find a better time that that to get my money in the middle.

Nearly an identical hand occurred later when I had TPTK heads up with AQ after I made a pre-flop raise. I bet again on the flop a nice amount to see if he was interested and he called. The turn was not a scare card except for bringing a flush draw, so I way overbet the pot to finish it there. The dealer says to the player, who was a nice guy and we’d been chatting, that he had to call for all of his chips, $55 or thereabouts. I said “Or you can fold you know, that’s still an option”. He called and had a 9 high flush draw that also missed. Phew – but a couple of nice pots no less.

It was about this time that the real action started to heat up and some amazing hands occurred. I will save them for my next post in a few days to space this out a bit. Stay tuned…

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

First Games For 2008

"There are 3 different ways to play pocket jacks – their all wrong."

Ok, so it isn’t a movie quote above but I heard this little line at a poker game over the weekend. I’m sure it’s been said a million times before, but this was the first time I heard it and I thought it was right on the money. And for the rest of the night, I had a real hard time with Jacks as well.

The first session of home game poker in 2008 was very good and I ended up in front a reasonable amount. I was well in front at one stage, before I went on a river-beat run for maybe an hour. Some were of the 2-3 outs variety, others were just having mediocre hands beaten by something less mediocre. But I was making some excellent reads on the night and that was an encouraging sign. Two hands in particular against one player – early in the night calling a large river bet with 2nd pair because the betting pattern and amounts suggested to me that he had nothing, and then later in the night when his betting patterns told me he hit his hand on the flop and then wasn’t scared of the flush coming on the river made me lay down a strong hand. Turns out I was right, but for the wrong reasons – I thought he flopped a full house and it turns out he rivered it, but either way I saved quite a few chips by folding that hand and I felt good about it.

I had a 3 buy-in profit, and the best hand I hit all night was three of a kind, so that was interesting considering I never had any monsters. All my profit was from making big protective raises when I had two pair, top pair, trips or good drawing hands and then firing another bullet when I missed or checking it down when my opponent missed and getting paid off. Interestingly, the majority of my losses came when opponents made the same calls but hit instead. When that happens on the same night, and you end up in front, you can see that something right is going on when the wins outweigh the losses.

The first session of online poker in 2008 was just about the opposite. I played poorly except for maybe 2 hands (and one of them was not raising when I had a feeling my turned set of sevens were behind to a flopped set of kings) so not many pots or chips came my way. But I try to look on the bright side of things here, and at least I could see where my errors were and I know I was playing badly and not just getting unlucky. In fact, I even got lucky on one hand hitting a gut shot straight on the river when holding…pocket jacks. Ace-rag was not happy about that, but he shouldn’t have been in the pot in the first place. That happens some time.

So what have I learned so far in poker for 2008? Playing good gives you a better chance at winning than playing bad.

And they say poker theory is complicated!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

2008 - The Year Of Poker On Film

Bill Lumbergh: So, Peter, what's happening? Aahh, now, are you going to go ahead and have those TPS reports for us this afternoon?
Peter Gibbons: No.
Bill Lumbergh: Ah. Yeah. So I guess we should probably go ahead and have a little talk. Hmm?
Peter Gibbons: Not right now, Lumbergh, I'm kinda busy. In fact, look, I'm gonna have to ask you to just go ahead and come back another time. I got a meeting with the Bobs in a couple of minutes.
Bill Lumbergh: I wasn't aware of a meeting with them.
Peter Gibbons: Yeah, they called me at home.
”Office Space”

Xmas has come and gone once again, and was enjoyable if not totally lacking in poker. We managed to play a few hands of holdem with my brothers, though I never managed to win a hand out of the maybe 20 we played in the early hours of the morning. The most exciting it got for me was when all-in and drawing to an 8 for an inside straight, I peeked at the river card (so that everyone could see I was looking at it before dealing it) and then grabbed a random card out of the middle of the deck and slammed it down – lo and behold, there was my 8! It didn’t stand of course, but it was funny that I could pull one of four outs from the middle of the deck, as useless as it was.

We did play some more 9 card Omaha, which I have only ever seen played before on the Phil Laak and Antonio Esfandari show “I Bet You”. Not a bad game, and when playing for free and to waste time, I prefer this to holdem anyday.

Over the Xmas period I also managed to open up the inner problem gambler in my mother by signing her up to Casino on net. She was getting into the video poker, and when she was down about $4 would ask me or my brother the casino dealer to get her back up above her starting point – like it was the easiest thing in the world for us to do. Somehow we managed to go 4 from 4 in getting her miniscule losses back, and I think she believes we can do this at whim now. If only that were true.

To complete our gambling holidays, we went to a local greyhound racing track in Melbourne and had a good night. My younger brother and his girlfriend had a big win when a dog bearing her name and 30+ odds managed to sneak home when the favourite got bumped on the last bend. The Distraction and I after 8 races pulled to a $4 deficit, which is not a bad price to pay for an evenings entertainment. Had some good results and overall enjoyed it. Though it was rough at the start – I would instantly pick a dog without thinking, and then after putting some thought into it change my selection – of course, the original no-thinking selection would win. So that became the goal of the night, ignore my changes of mind and go with the first selection before any thought could cloud the non-judgement. Worked ok, as good as any other system I guess.

I’ve got the itch to get back into the poker playing arena, and this weekend is looking good for some action, wherever that may be. I have also used some of the advertising dollars from here to reload the two home games I play at with some more copags as the last lot of KEM’s seemed to be pretty crappy. I remember the first deck of KEM cards I bought, they were AU$60. Now, you can grad a deck for about $20, and two copag decks for $25 which is the preference.