Thursday, February 21, 2008

To Slow Play Or Not

Dexter: I suppose I should be upset, even feel violated, but I'm not. No, in fact, I think this is a friendly message, like "Hey, wanna play?" And yes, I want to play. I really really do.

An interesting discussion came up the other day about slow playing hands that then get beat. We’ll start from the top here.

Why do we slow play hands? The obvious reason seems to be to hide our strength, and maximise a win when we have the goods. But like everything there is a risk involved. By allowing free cards other players have a chance to catch up and perhaps even overtake. That is where this discussion began – in a certain hand a player flopped a set and slow played it, where another player hit their lower set on the turn and hit quads on the river.

There isn’t much you can do there, that is a horrid beat and will get you to the felt more times than not. But was the slow play to blame? Any bet on the flop will have got the small pair to fold before hitting their set which commits them to the hand, and then the river buries them. My buddy (who was the one with the quads…yet again) said it was the other player’s own fault for loosing that pot, slow playing his flopped set like that. I am of the opposite belief that this slow play was near perfect and if not for quads on the river would have paid of handsomely.

What it really came down to was the loser in that hand berating the player who hit perfect-perfect to beat him. When the smaller set hit on the turn, that was the exact card the slow player was waiting for. You need someone else to have something to pay him off, or give them a chance to make a play at it. But when the miracle comes, you can’t blame yourself for that – but you also can’t blame the other guy either. That’s just steam talking and inviting Mr Tilt to the table.

Slow playing is probably one of the easiest and most common moves you see, and it is hard to play it wrong when you’ve flopped something like quads or a straight flush. You need to try really hard to screw those hands up. I’ve seen some players “slow play” top pair, and can’t believe it when it gets beat.

There was a hand from High Stakes Poker a year or more ago, with Daniel Negreanu and Shawn Sheikman – from memory, Shawn made a pre flop raise or re-raise and Daniel called, then checked in the dark. The flop was Queen high, and Shawn had pocket queens. Shawn checked, and then bet out big on the turn. Immediately Daniel picked him for trip queens – the play was just too obvious and Daniel had nothing to pay him off with anyway.

Which brings me to one of my favourite plays – betting out when you’ve flopped a monster. When you’ve made a pre-flop raise, you are almost expected to follow it up on the flop especially when heads up. Betting out can actually disguise your hand and make it look like you are just making a continuation bet, inducing players to either try to push back or call and look to hit a weaker hand. It seems to be working quite well at the low levels I play at – of course, it can be argued that again these hands are easy to play well and very hard to screw up, but you need to make the most of it when you can.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Is A Small Loss Really A Win?

Delia Surridge: Oppenheimer was able to change more than the course of a war. He changed the entire course of human history. Is it wrong to hold on to that kind of hope?
V: I have not come for what you hoped to do. I've come for what you did.
”V For Vendetta”

Another week, another loosing session but at least there was some good news from the poker tables this week.

While waiting for a table at the casino, we decided to try the new digital poker tables at Star City. I was a little sceptical because essentially it’s just online poker where the other players are in the same room. Sure, it’s faster and there is no dealer error but I can get that online at home, so why play here? Anyway, it was a better option than sitting around doing nothing for the expected 3 hour wait to get a table (turned out to be 2 hours) and is better than playing craps for us anyway.

I sit down and get very familiar with the fold button. After a few rounds, I get dealt Queens and raise it up, getting it all in on the turn and getting called by a flush draw that hits. Hmm, there goes one buy in. I delay the inevitable and buy-in again. This time, again with an over pair I get it all in and a player with a large stack calls with a gut shot straight draw and bottom pair. The straight draw hits on the river and I am down two buy ins already without having been dealt an actual card.

Am I overplaying my pairs – or other hands in this current streak? Well, in the first case I was a 3-1 favourite and in the second it was 70% on the flop and 80% on the turn, so I was in good position just getting a little unlucky. When I put all the chips in though, I figured I was around the 70% mark both times, so not far off it. Anyway, that’s poker and it happens but it was just another loss that I could have done without.

Eventually we get seated at a table that was very unlike what I had come to expect from Star City. It was very passive pre-flop, which allowed limpers and then when there was a raise it was sensible – in the 4-6BB range not the usual 20-30BB range. It was a good table and I think I even managed to take the first pot of the night.

There was a drunk player to my immediate right who would push all-in with any pocket pair pre-flop. He was harmless and trying to have fun, but was talking non stop about crap right in my ear. When he was UTG he did it again, all-in for about $130. I looked down from the big blind and saw QQ and thought that finally I would get a chance to put a stop to it. Then, on the button a player who seemed to know what he was doing, pushed all-in as well. This had me worried, as I really felt like he had aces. I took a moment to think about it and the more I thought, the more I believed I was behind. I asked for a count, and he had $45. I had about $101 in front of me and figured even if I loose to him, hopefully I can claim the side pot which I think I am a really good favourite for and get my money back. I called and saw JJ from the drunk guy and AK from the button. That was about the best result I could have hoped for.

Unfortunately I was beaten by an ace on the flop, but held up for the side pot and a small profit. Would have liked a scoop there but at least I got something from this and it put an end to the constant beats I was getting.

The cards went cold for a few hours next, and I was down to a rebuy after blinds and hitting nothing but air for that period. I eventually got things back together making some good plays and having hands hold up. My buddy sitting to my left hit quads with 63s. The amount of times I’ve played that hand and hit trips or two pair on the flop and be in awful shape – and he hits two pair, turns a full house and rivers quads, all with an ace on the board so he gets paid off along the way to the tune of $320+. I constantly call him a luck box and now won’t let him forget it.

A hand that nearly put me on tilt came up. I got to see the flop from the big blind without anything extra, and it was a nice 457 rainbow, I had 69o. There is a small bet from one of the players, and a few callers in front of me so I called also. The turn is my card, the 8 of spades, but now there are 2 spades on the board. I am hoping someone else was drawing to the straight and hit it, and hopefully a small bet here will get raised for protection. I bet out $10 and get called twice. Damn, looks like one or more flush draws out there. The river is a horrible 3s. I couldn’t have asked for a worse card – except maybe the 9s. Anyway, I check and the next player bets $20. Second player flat calls and I am left to make what I believe it a crying call here. 4/5 times I think I would have folded here, but a little bit on tilt I call expecting to loose. First guy has a six for the straight, second guy has a six for the straight also – no flush draws. Fuck – ok, so I win the pot but why couldn’t one of them raise me on the turn to get rid of the flush draws? And what happens if the last spade doesn’t come – I’m raising the hell out of them and getting paid at least one way, my feeling was tripling up here though. Even though I won, it felt like a bad beat.

My last interesting hand was one that I am not sure if I played good or bad, but it made me think at least. I had pocket tens and called a small raise to see the flop 3 handed. The flop was all diamonds, 9 high. I didn’t have a diamond but figured I might have been ahead here. Original raiser bets, gets called and I call as well. Turn is another low card, not a diamond. Same pattern – original bets, second guy calls and I think about it. For some reason, I just thought that both other guys had a big ace or picture cards and were just drawing to the diamond, but I didn’t think I could bet them off it and didn’t want to go broke so I just called again. The river was a 3 and not a diamond, and it was checked down. The other two players had AcQc and KcQs.

So I was right in the fact that I was ahead, but I couldn’t pull the trigger because I figured that the ace of diamonds was out there and would call regardless of the amount bet. The river card was obviously good for me, but what if it was any picture card? Would I still call a bet on the river? Any picture card is a danger for me, and any diamond. That’s a lot of potential scare cards. Maybe a smaller bet might have got one of them to fold and increased my chances but who knows the way the hand played out?

In the end, I had made a profit at the table but just short of what I had lost at the digital poker table earlier. But it was an enjoyable night of poker and it was good to actually get to play some hands for a change.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Lets Give A Hand To...

Juno MacGuff: I think I'm, like, in love with you.
Paulie Bleeker: You mean as friends?
Juno MacGuff: No, I mean, like, for real. 'Cause you're, like, the coolest person I've ever met, and you don't even have to try, you know...
Paulie Bleeker: I try really hard, actually.

I heard someone describe “Juno” as “Knocked Up” from the female perspective. More accurately, it should be described as a indie teenage version of Knocked Up from the female perspective. But it’s worth paying to see so what more could you ask for?

I been having a real rough time at the tables of late. I have been averaging less than 1 pot an hour over the past 40 hours – and that includes a lot of bluffing. It’s just been mediocre starting hands and then really cold flops, and before I know it I’m down to a quarter of a buy in without seeing a turn card.

I said at the star of the year all my profit was coming from making donkey’s pay too much for their draws, and I was worried that their lucky streak would start sooner or later. Well, it was sooner and boy did they hit at the wrong times. The last was when I was finally back to a stage where I could conceivably get close to even, when dealt pocket kings. I made it 8BB to get rid of all the limpers, and got 2 callers. Flop was 2d5h9d, and I made it 25BB. I got an all in for 32BB from the next caller, and the other folded. He had 5d3d – which means it is a coin flip from here, and he hit it on the turn to have me drawing dead on the river. He even told me that 10BB preflop wouldn’t have been enough, he just had a feeling about the 53 suited. Looks like pre-flop raises need to be 15BB from now on…

It took me two weeks to realise I played badly at the casino where I had my worst night ever. I even recall going through my results hour by hour. Total hands won per hour went like this: 0 – 0 – 1 – 1 – 2 – 1 – 0 – 1 – 1 – 0. That’s a lot of mucked hands right there, and the biggest winning hand of the night shouldn’t have been either. I flopped trips with 63h and made it $75 on the turn. And old guy in the one seat called out of his $96 stack, and a new player across from him folded his cards – right across the table, into the one seat’s cards. We had our dealer, the next dealer waiting to take her seat once the hand was finished, and 2 supervisors trying to figure out what to do. The dealer said that it is every players responsibility to protect their own cards, and the one seat would have to muck his hand and couldn’t get his chips back. Now I know that technically that is the rule as well, but that’s pretty unlucky to be stuck with that. I said to at least give him his $75 call back, and eventually that’s what they did after one of the supervisors was talking to whoever on his head set. Even if they enforced the rule in the strictest sense, I would have returned his money to him outside because to keep it would be just wrong – I couldn’t have that reputation at the table.

Then I proceeded to give most of the rest of the pot back to him later on when I had big slick. I raised to see a ten high flop. One guy bet out, I raised him and then the old guy in the one seat called. I bet again on the turn thinking he had either a straight or a flush draw, and he called again. The river was the nine of hearts – which filled both the straight and flush draws, and I gave up. He checked, and turned over a seven to show he had hit his gut shot for the straight. But I played the hand badly, and let the hours of cold cards get to me so that when I finally had a playable hand, I had to win that pot and wouldn’t give it up. Before long, Aces got cracked when it was all-in pre-flop against Q2s. Even hit an ace on the flop and still lost to a turned flush, but for some reason as soon as he turned over his cards I knew I was beat. It has been that kind of run for me.

But anyway, at least my reads have been just as accurate as before, I just haven’t been having the cards or luck to make the most of it. Affiliate deals have been keeping me afloat for the short term, and on the home front the baby’s room is now complete save for Little Ed. Little Ed has been kicking like a champ so that I have been able to feel it on a few occasions. Got some strength behind those pummels, has this kid!