Thursday, February 28, 2008

An Evening at Mookie’s

I decided to play in the Mookie again last night. Tournaments are not my strength but it is hard to resist playing in this well attended blogger donkamant when I have the opportunity. I got a late start since the family wasn’t quite in bed yet when the tourney started. I only had two playable hands before the first break. I had Q-Q but got no action and I had A-Qs and flopped Q-Q-x but could not get any action - lots of respect but no action. After the break, I went on a mini-streak when I got 10-10, a suited Ace that flopped the nut flush, A-K with an Ace high flop, K-Qs flopped a flush and str8t draw but I never could convince anyone to play a pot with me. Then, I get 8-8, turn a set and river a boat to double through Dubspoke before the second break. After the 2nd break, I went on another run being dealt A-Q, K-K, and K-K in rapid succession. The noble monarchs decreed execution to be the fate of OhCaptain and I collect my first bounty of the night. Soon after that, Waffles had pocket Aces and I folded 6-6 to his weak bet since it smelled like he wanted a call. Wouldn’t you know it? An innocent seeming 6 came right out on the flop and I would have flopped a set and collected his bounty if I had stayed in the hand. I get nothing for a while but in the meantime, TripJax gets all in with Q-4 against A-K and makes two pair when a Q and a 4 flop right out. Soon, I look down to find another pair of Kings and this time, Jestocoast wants action. My Kowboys meet him in the street and gun him down for my second bounty of the night. By now, I have a comfortable stack compared with the field and I should have slowed down a bit. However, I am feeling good and make the final table full of confidence. I am honored to share the final table with such blogger luminaries as Fuel55, TripJax, and Sir Waffles. Within the first two orbits, I am UTG and look down at the hand of the day, pocket Kings. Now, if you have been paying attention, this is the fourth time in this donkament I have been dealt K-K. I should have known it was coming. Can you sense it? Yep. I run my pocket Kings right into pocket Aces. The flop was all undercards so even if I had not been all in pre-flop, I would have moved in on the flop. Dammit! Neither the turn nor the river helped me and my Kings are ignobly impaled on the Aces of McIarich, the usurper (and the eventual winner). And with that, I am eliminated in 9th place with 2 bounties. I had a great time but sure wish I had lasted longer at the final table.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Profiting with Suited Aces

I think many players overvalue and misplay weak suited Aces. They put too much $ in pre-flop and then can’t seem to get away from top pair weak kicker. While I am not a big fan, when considering which sub-premium hands to play, they are playable if you “begin with the end in mind”. What I mean by that is most of the time, you do not want to flop an Ace and have top pair, rag kicker. You are looking to flop a nut flush draw (or better) – period. These hands are somewhat better than suited connectors because if you make your flush, you will know you have the nuts (at least until the board pairs).

I never really considered this type of hand (A-Xs) to be very strong but when I look at my PokerTracker data (80,000 hands), I was somewhat surprised to see suited Aces are the third most profitable group of hands I play. Not surprisingly, Pocket pairs (not just the big ones) are the most profitable group. A-K and A-Q (both suited and offsuit) are the second most profitable group. Third, are the other suited Aces. I consider A-Ks, A-Qs (and A-Js, A-10s somewhat less so) to have value as “2 big cards” in addition to being a suited Ace. However, A-9s to A-2s are playable almost exclusively as suited Aces due to the probability of domination. So, I have been thinking about how to get the most value from them while not placing myself in risky spots where the price isn’t right.

You will flop two (or better yet three) of your suit when holding two suited cards approximately once every eight flops. The only other hands you would want to flop might be Aces up where you pair both of your hole cards (about 49 to 1 or 2%) or one pair and the nut flush draw (giving you 9 outs to the flush, 2 outs to trips, 3 outs to two pair). If you do not flop two (or more) of your suit or Aces up, you may usually check/fold with a clear conscience.

Our goal with this type of hand is to see a flop as cheaply as possible because you need to connect with the flop to continue with confidence.

Therefore, in EP, MP, and LP, I recommend limping A-2s through A-9s.
If someone raises after you limp, only call if you are getting the right pot odds. Then, “fit or fold” on the flop. My rationale here is you want to win a big pot so you do not mind more players taking the flop. You want your implied odds as high as possible –remember, you are hoping to make the nut flush and have an opponent make a weaker hand. If you are in LP, flopped top pair rag kicker, you may be in the lead but don’t get married to the hand. You may lead out (and will often win right there) if checked to but beware a caller or worse, a raiser. You have to think, with an Ace on the flop, what does my opponent have that he wants to call (or raise) my bet with? Often, a better Ace he limped in from EP with. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

I suggest playing A-10s through A-Ks a bit more aggressively.
You can win with these hands just by flopping an Ace, making top pair top kicker by pairing your other card, making Aces up, or the nut flush. I would open bet these hands for 3-4xBB from any position. If raised, I would just call from EP, and re-raise from MP or LP. I will then C-Bet any flop. If I connected with the flop, and my C-Bet gets raised, I will re-raise if I made any of the hands I mentioned above (e.g. TPTK, TPGK, Aces up, or the nut flush draw).

This type of strategy (although admittedly weak-tight) has served me well and might work for you, too. Until next time, good luck at the tables.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Louisiana Trip Report, part 2

The break was just what I needed to mentally re-group and regain my focus. It is now after midnight and my birthday is over. I have not won and I am not winning but I have several more hours to play. I get 8-8 twice, 7-7, A-J, 4-4, and see a straddled flop with each one but never improve. I get Q-Js and win a small pot after flopping 2 pair. I also win small pots with A-Ko, once on a K high flop and once on a whiff that I continuation bet. I win a medium sized pot with Q-Q but nothing major. Around 2am, I get 9-9 on the button. The pot is straddled and then raised to me, $100 to go from an older player in middle position. My read was he had A-K or A-Q so I moved in. I had a tight image and had moved in previously with A-A and K-K pre-flop with him at the table. I figured he would probably fold. He didn’t. He called and tabled his A-Ko. I table my 9-9 and he seems confident. He never improved and I double through him. Sweet! I am up to about $580 on the table. I bleed off some chips trying to see straddled flops in position but get nothing until around 3:45am. I have about $370 in chips and I look down to see I have been dealt pocket Aces. I open bet to $50 since I am in early position and the pot is straddled. I get two callers when all of a sudden an older guy in late position says he is all in. It is folded to me and I call since I did not have enough to re-raise. The players behind me fold since the old guy has been pretty tight. I table my Aces and he tables his Kings. My Aces stand up again and I scoop a massive pot. Not long after that, around 4am, my buddy says let’s grab some food and I agree. I rack out with about $830 after tipping the dealer. I played about 9 hours and cashed out with $430 profit after subtracting the $400 I bought in for. I am sure I also gave out at least $60 in tips to waitresses and dealers. I estimate to have been dealt about 25 hands per hour (approx. 225 total) by the highly competent dealers I encountered. Heck, they even still shuffle by hand instead of using the automatic shufflers like I saw everywhere in Vegas. So, $430 divided by 9 = $48 dollars per hour. I think I could have won more but overall I am not too disappointed.
The trip back home was uneventful but relaxed. We scored some frozen boudain to enjoy later on the way out of Kinder, LA. Coming back winners makes the trip much less onerous although all the road construction still makes for an unpleasant ride. If there was anything good about the trip back, it was that we stopped and ate at Burr’s Smokehouse on I-10 in or around Vidor, TX. If you are ever passing through that area, do yourself a favor and stop at Burr’s. Their smoked sausage is exceptionally good. They even have cool shirts that say, “Burr’s, still smokin the good stuff”. I meant to get one but by the time I finished my meal, I was so full and satisfied, I forgot to. Anyway, we brought back a bunch of sausages so we could regale the homegame gang with food and tales from our experience in Louisiana.

Louisiana Trip Report, part 1

One of my homegame buddies, the “Poker Savage”, and I left Galveston on Friday, the 15th at about 1:15pm. The weather was cloudy and threatening to rain, however, even the usually slow ferry ride seemed to go quickly. We were looking forward to playing some poker at the casino and the miles flew by. After checking in at our motel, we arrived at the Coushatta poker room around 6:30pm. The Coushatta poker room is very nice. It has approximately 40 tables and is mostly enclosed from the rest of the casino so smoke and noise is minimized. However, while lots of fish choose Las Vegas as a destination, not many choose the swamps of Louisiana. The shark to fish ratio was askew, there were too many sharks and not nearly enough feeder fish. The game itself had also changed. Instead of the $100 min and $300 max I was expecting, it was $200 min and $500 max. This game played much, much bigger and faster. I also believe this is why there were fewer fish than before – they were priced out. Within the first hour, we were both down $200. There was a straddle on just about every hand and that created a lot of action. The size of the game and way it was playing pushed me out of my comfort zone and, initially, off my game. Earlier, I had folded the best hand in the first big pot I got involved in. I had Ad-Kd, raised to 5xbb pre-flop and got 4 callers. The flop was K high with 2 spades, no diamonds. I was first to act and bet about 1/2 of the pot, because I did not want to kill the action. To my surprise, I got called by three players. The turn is a spade and I check. Everyone behind me checked, too. The River is another spade and I check not wanting to pay off since I figured one of my three opponents had to have a spade and I had none. One guy bets, a-ha, the spade I think, he is called and the caller shows Kh-8c, winning with top pair, 8 kicker. The better had pocket sixes and had never improved. I seethe inside for not betting the turn and then folding the winner on the river. However, I make a mental shift in gears and decide to play more aggressively. I figured if my opponents were going to play this recklessly, I would punish them. Soon, I look down at Kh-Qh and raise a field of limpers, two players call. The flop is Q high and being short stacked, I move in. Only a mature woman calls me and tables her A-Qo. I do not improve and she wins. So much for my first buy in.
I re-buy and soon after, I get moved to another table. That table breaks when the tournament begins and I am moved again to the “main table”. This table has five old guys (out of ten seats) wearing Coushatta jackets and talking amongst themselves as though they play together all the time. The dealer is calling all of them by their first name (and they are not wearing name badges). Oh, did I mention they all had me covered by far? Three of them had more than $1,200 in chips in play. I start taking some flops in position but before long, my flopped 2 pair go down to a rivered flush and I am knocked down to about $65 in chips. It is about 10:15pm, I have lost two-thirds of what I brought to play with, and I am beginning to wonder if I was shamefully going to be watching television back in the room by midnight? A few hands later, the straddle was on and I was in late position. I looked down at Ad-8d. There is about 2+5+10+10+10+10 in the pot so I move in for my last $65. I am called by three players and we take a flop of 9d-Jc-5d – giving me the nut flush draw and an overcard. The other players begin a side pot. The turn is a 7s, adding an inside straight draw for me. The river is a Kd giving me the nuts, so I win the main pot of about $270, some other guy wins the side pot with 2 pair Kings and Nines. Within two orbits, I am dealt two beautiful red Aces. The straddle is on and I am in middle position so the pot is about 2+5+10+10+10+10+10 and I make it $75 to play. The player to my right raises to $150 and gets one caller before it gets back to me. Of course, I move in. Both players call. They also have a side pot. I win the main pot when my Aces hold up. My opponents held J-J (the raiser) and A-Qs (the caller). I am now up to over $730 chips in play. I made a critical error in judgment and did not immediately pocket my profit by cashing out. I could have re-bought for $200 and been playing with other people’s money. Within 2 hands, I am dealt K-K. One of the old guys opens from UTG to 3xbb. He gets two callers so I raise to $50 when it gets to me. The original better re-raises to $100. My spidey-sense is tingling. However, my testosterone takes over and I move in (I have him covered by about $250). Of course, he calls and tables his pocket Aces. Ouch. I feel as though I just got kicked in the junk. The flop is all undercards and I think I would have moved in on the flop even if I had just called his raise instead of re-raising him. Anyway, I lose all my profit and am reduced to about $250. It is about 11:00pm, I play a while longer remaining at or about the same level in chips before deciding to take a food break. One of the nicer gentlemen at the table had advised me a $15.00 food comp was available once one played at least 3 hours of 2-5 NLHE. I asked the floor and was promptly presented with the best food comp I had ever received (in Las Vegas, you get $1 per hour seated). At about 11:40, I hurried over to the oyster bar since I knew it closed at midnight. I ordered a dozen on the half shell and a brew. Oysters are a great late night snack because they are high protein and low fat. Which is to say, they provide substantial nourishment without causing one to too full or sleepy. I wolfed those babies down and they were so delicious, I immediately ordered a 2nd dozen. I gobbled those down even quicker than the first dozen, finished my beer, and hurried back to the poker room.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Going to Play Live this Weekend

I did not play in the BoDonkey last night because I played in our regular Tuesday night home game. I had a good night and cleaned up at the table. My buddies were generous and I plan to put those winnings to good use. I am going to play live in Louisiana this weekend. It’s going to be my birthday and what could be better than heading out to one of the nearest (4+ hours away) cardrooms. I will be following my own advice (see previous post) and staying away from the table games and other such distractions. I am going to focus solely on No Limit Texas Hold’Em cash games. While I am a realistic person and know that anything could happen, I am going with an expectation of winning. I have been thinking about poker, writing about poker, and working to improve my game by reducing the times I play when I am not on my “A” game. I will be well rested and sharp. All of these exercises to improve my skills, as well as, playing as often as possible have helped me to have an unprecedented level of confidence in my game. I do not feel overconfident but I am no longer fearful of “sharks” lurking everywhere and that I may be playing out of my league when I go to a casino. I will play conservatively because that is just me but I will also play strategically and look for opportunities to exploit the mistakes of my opponents. I will also employ the semi-short stack philosophy Ed Miller recommends to keep my decisions relatively easy and straightforward. This worked well for me in Las Vegas and I hope it will serve me well in Louisiana, too. Wish me luck, and, of course, you may expect an obligatory trip report sometime next week.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

How to Play Middle Pairs More Effectively

Our subject today is middle pairs (8-8, 9-9, 10-10, J-J).

These are powerful hands that are often misplayed, usually underplayed.

J-J and 10-10 are listed in the Top 10 best starting hands in Hold’Em, yet I frequently observe people, both live and online, playing them as if they were 2-2 or 3-3.

What I mean by that is very timidly. Limping and trying to flop a set and folding to any bet if they do not make their set.

This gets only the minimum value from these hands. Their value is greatest before the flop. Think about this, 57% of the time, at least one overcard will flop against your pocket Jacks. A whopping 70% of the time, your pocket 10s will face at least one overcard on the flop. It only gets worse. 9-9 will see at least one overcard 79% of the time and 8-8 a mind numbing 87%. How strong will you feel then? The thing to do is play them fast and only slow down in the face of considerable opposition pre-flop. You want to seize the initiative. Why? Well, you almost certainly have the best hand at the moment. If someone has Q-Q, K-K, or A-A, you will know it when they play back at your bet. If they do not have one of those hands, you are ahead right now. Furthermore, by betting (or raising if bet into) pre-flop, you are being the aggressor and can make a reasonable continuation bet on almost any flop if you choose to do so. Remember, your opponent doesn’t know you don’t have A-K or even Q-Q because you are going to play these strong middle pairs virtually the same way you would play A-K or Q-Q pre-flop. The key concept here is to make THEM have to make a hand that they think will beat what you are representing.

If in EP, depending on your table image and your opponents, you could either limp planning to raise or you could open bet 3-4xBB. I think you are surrendering way too much value if you just limp and check/fold the flop. If you would limp and then call a bet, why not just bet it yourself and increase your chances to win by giving your opponent an opportunity to fold? Even if you get a caller, you can almost always push out one caller on the flop with a pot sized C-bet. If you get multiple callers, slow down.

In MP, open bet if limped to and raise if bet into. You will often win the hand right there. Even when you take a flop, you are the aggressor and should remain so. An opponent usually needs to hit the flop hard to want to continue in the hand with you if you bet pre-flop and on the flop, too. If you raise and get called pre-flop, you must follow through with a C-bet on the flop - maybe an overbet depending on what you put your opponent on.

In LP, always open bet if limped to and always raise if bet into.

What you do not want to do is take these hands all the way to the river unimproved. You want to win pre-flop or on the flop. If you play these hands like I am suggesting and you are still getting action on the Turn, you are probably not in the lead.
These general guidelines have worked well for me. I even see some players (think Fuel 55) playing this style successfully with pairs as low as 5-5. You will have to decide what works best for you. As always, good luck at the tables.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Liquid Assets – Casi Cielo

Attention all coffee drinkers and, in particular, all you Starbucks lovers.

Right now you can obtain one of the best tasting and most satisfying coffees available anywhere.
Forget about all that stuff that starts with a frip or frap or whatever. I am talking about coffee. Serious coffee. From Guatemala.

Casi Cielo is only offered seasonally so get it while you can. In fact, I recommend stocking up. You’ll thank me later. This rich and robust coffee is deliciously deep and dark. Almost chocolate-y. Yum. IMO, this is the best tasting pure, unadulterated coffee Starbucks offers. I really like it. Let me know what you think.

Friday, February 8, 2008

My Ignominious Return to the Mookie

The Mookie is a blogger tournament I used to play occasionally before it moved off of PokerStars and on to Full Tilt. I even won the whole enchilada back in 2006 – here is the link to my Champion’s profile.
However, I was unable to summon forth my “A” game and it was apparent. I was looking forward to the opportunity to make a triumphant return and then write all about it on my blog. Yeah, right. Well, I am going to write about it but that’s it. Buddy Dank is now live blogcasting the tourney on his site and he even had Mookie himself on the show. They were quite entertaining but also very distracting since they were also live blogcasting the Big Blogger Cash Game at the same time as the Mookie. I allowed myself to be captivated by watching these well bankrolled bloggers taking turns kicking one another in the junk for fairly large sums of chips. This game was 4-8 NLHE deep stacked. I railed them for over 2 hours. It was intense. The biggest pot I observed was a hand where two players flopped sets and got it all in. Set over Set for almost $3,000 in that one pot. Brutal! Weak Player won that pot and seemed to be the biggest winner. Fuel55 and CMitch also played well and seemed to do OK. Besides all that action and the funny chatter, Buddy Dank’s show comes out of the speakers so loud that he drowns out the sounds of the chips, cards, warnings, etc. All of these distractions spelled disaster for me as I was not disciplined enough to overcome them. I called off one third of my chips with A-K and A-Ks that never improved and then ran my pocket Jacks right smack into pocket Kings – which was the end of the Mookie for me. I was disappointingly knocked out in 55th place (out of 74 entrants) - a weak showing for me. Oh well. I still look forward to playing in the Mookie again soon and next time, I focus on my game without all the other stuff.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Poker Grump’s Tournament for Readers

This fellow blogger not only writes a quality poker blog, he also hosted a tournament for his readers last night. The turnout was a bit low but the quality of the players was quite high. The Grump himself (not surprisingly) also played well. It was a deepstack tourney so I played small ball in the early stages. I got pocket Aces twice in the first 90 minutes but since I refuse to limp in with Aces, no one would give me any action. I folded a lot of marginal hands out of position while trying to get a read on the table. I got all in with my pocket Queens against the Grump’s A-J s00ted, and of course, he hits an Ace on the flop. That was a near crippling blow but shortly after that, I chipped back up to a decent stack. Along the way I made some BIG folds even when I held premium hands (J-J, A-Q, etc.) if I was out of position. Until the final two hands of the night, I got my money in the middle with the best hand every time. I played a little under aggressively and in hindsight, I forfeited some opportunities to steal and position myself better for the final battle. Heads up, first hand, I turn two pair only to find I am up against a flopped boat. Argh! Then, in the final hand, I get pocket 10s (a hand I really like) and got all in only to find myself up against pocket Aces. Guess what? Another Ace comes right out on the flop and I am toast. Good Game to both the Grump (who placed 3rd) and the Pemite (the winner). I finished 2nd and felt I made a respectable showing. Thanks again to the Poker Grump for hosting the event. The best part of all this is now I have a few bucks on Full Tilt again. I will be returning to the Mookie for the first time in about 18 months tonight. Wish me Luck.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Apocalypse was (at least temporarily) Averted

Although it seemed the Fates had conspired against me by having the Mardi Gras and the Super Bowl in the same weekend, thereby ensuring no responsible behavior whatsoever would occur from Friday at 5pm to Sunday at 11pm, I somehow survived. Since I do not like the Giants or the Patriots, I was not really excited about the game, just the opportunity to cut loose and do some serious partying with friends. I did not want the Patriots to win since I still despise them for the “Tuck” and preventing the Raiders from reaching the Super Bowl during what would turn out to be Gruden’s last year. I also wanted them to lose because (in my eschatological opinion) it is a sure sign of the end times if any NFL team goes undefeated throughout the regular season and then also goes on to win the Super Bowl. In today’s NFL, the one where many of the rules have been tweaked to promote parity, no team should be able to accomplish that without cheating. Enter, the Patriots. I believe (but have no evidence) they probably cheated a lot more than we know about since they came so close. It would certainly help explain their dominance over the last few years and it would explain the “Tuck”.
Remember Occam’s Razor – the least complicated explanation is almost always the most accurate. Anyway, to do my part to prevent a Patriot victory, I placed a wager on the Patriots to win (even though I loathe them, I bet with my head not my heart). Yes, that is right. I gave them the kiss of death by wagering on them to win. I am lucky in many ways but betting on sports is not one of them - which is why I do not do it often. I truly thought they would probably win which is why I bet on them. However, once that bet was in, they had no chance. In fact, after watching the first quarter, I knew they would not cover even if they did win. So, with that out of the way, I tried to focus on poker.
Unfortunately, I lost at poker, too. Not a big loss, but a loss nonetheless. Since I tend to play quality starting hands and make pot-sized bets/raises, the pot is always big by the River. I was sucked out on in two massive pots - once a 2-outer and then later, a 3-outer hit on the river to ensure a negative day for me. Oh well. That’s poker.

Mardi Gras - Galveston!

Warning – no poker content. I am still recovering from the big party this weekend. I had some relatives come down to party and we sure did lots of that. Both of my brother in laws are really into Mardi Gras and we never miss going to the Strand for the Big Event. In Galveston, that happens to be Friday and Saturday night of the second weekend. I know Fat Tuesday is the “Biggie” over in New Orleans but (unlike New Orleans) since no businesses close or let their employees off for Fat Tuesday, it just isn’t the same over here in G-Town. Everyone “throws down” on Friday and/or Saturday. The Strand is packed with revelers and the party is in full swing. Usually, we are down on the street among the “hoi polloi” wading through the throngs of unwashed masses. This year, we were up on a balcony overlooking the Strand. This really helps to position one for easy negotiations with the many lovely ladies that want you to throw beads to them. Needless to say, we threw plenty of beads and saw plenty of bouncing flesh. I have been to the Mardi Gras in New Orleans and I have to admit, we do not “outdo” them or even come close. However, we do throw a really big party here in Galveston. If you are interested in checking us out, let me know. We locals know how to do it right.