I, Am, I-ron-Man, Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Bon-us Cleared

Wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be. I took some hard beats during the first 700 hands but ground my way back into the black during the home stretch. For the last few hundred I was four-tabling and trying to play hyper-aggressive, check-raising out of position with any piece of a ragged flop, betting the turn with a pocket pair with two or three overcards out there, raising preflop from any position with Ax suited, KTo, reraising with QJo, and so on. I came out "ahead" but haven't had time to sort through the data yet to see what kind of leaks my maniac experiment uncovered. I didn't take many opportunities to drop the Hammer; usually it was raised behind me or I got it when it was an absolute calling station's blind. But I took 8BB off a minor maniac when my UTG Hammer raise ran into his AJo; I capped preflop, hit two pair on the flop and checkraised, then checkraised the turn, THEN checkraised the river, getting him to call with his last money even though he hadn't improved at all. That's right. I busted someone with the Hammer at a LIMIT table. Of course I redistributed some of his chips the very next hand when I got the Hammer AGAIN and felt compelled to play my rush - my unimproved Hammer ran into a set of aces. But I slowplayed it a little that time so I didn't lose too much.


Welcome Back To The Party, Bitch

So I spent ten days in Austin for SXSW, drinking more beer than I have since... well, since the last time I was there. I managed to see about a dozen movies and a couple dozen bands, ate some damn fine barbecue, and only insulted the life's work of a network executive just the once, so on the whole I judge the proceedings to be eminently successful. I came back and realized there was a Party reload bonus. Score! Then I realized I'd have to play 1400 raked hands in seven days to claim it, but no big, I can manage that. Then I remembered I have to go out of town again this weekend, meaning I have more like four days to clear the bonus. Whoops. It's been a brutal return, too; the flush-fishing fish are out in full force and they've taken a few nibbles out of my stack. I've had some absolutely horrid sessions. When reviewing my sessions in PokerTracker, though, I'm comforted to see that my biggest losses have come without exception to outdraws by weaker hands (or, in one case, a guy who flopped a straight with a two-gapper vs. my top set). If you want to know how my game has been going, well, just see below. Here's a little lesson on how to lose the minimum when you flop top full house: Party Poker 2/4 Hold'em (9 handed) converter

Preflop: Hero is UTG+1 with Ah, Ad.
1 fold, Hero raises, MP1 calls, 2 folds, CO 3-bets, Button calls, 1 fold, BB calls, Hero caps, MP1 calls, CO calls, Button calls, BB calls.

Flop: (20.50 SB) 8s, Ac, 8h (5 players)
BB checks, Hero checks, MP1 checks, CO bets, Button calls, BB calls, Hero calls, MP1 calls.

Turn: (12.75 BB) 6c (5 players)
BB checks, Hero checks, MP1 checks, CO checks, Button checks.

River: (12.75 BB) 6s (5 players)
BB bets, Hero calls, MP1 folds, CO calls, Button folds.

Final Pot: 15.75 BB

Results in black below:
BB has 6h 6d (four of a kind, sixes).
Hero has Ah Ad (full house, aces full of eights).
CO has Jd Jc (two pair, jacks and eights).
Outcome: BB wins 15.75 BB.
Criticisms of how I played are welcome; possibly aggression on the flop drives out the eventual winner, but given the size of the pot, he's pretty near correct to call one bet on the flop and hope to catch his two-outer, and once he turns the set he's not going anywhere. I'd planned to checkraise the turn but nobody bet; when the BB woke up on the river I just called because I figured going for overcalls or a chance to reraise would get the most money in the pot. Also my spider-sense was tingling just a bit; something about the river screamed "bad beat in progress". 700 raked hands to go.


Either The Highest Or The Second Highest Mountain In The World

...not counting maybe the ones that are below sea level. I don't know. Am I a fucking geologist? K2 is what I'm talking about. Why am I talking about it? A glitch in the system, a crack in the armor of the online poker shuffle, a simple twist of something that we might call fate if it were of any import at all. I just had one of those nights where I looked down at my cards and more often than not saw K2. 18 times over the course of 262 hands, the statistical probability of which someone with a bigger brain than I might be able to calculate. Suited more often than not, another anomaly - 11 times to 7. I flopped a nut flush from the blinds with it and got 10BB out of the deal, and folded it the other 17 times to the desired effect, so I'm not complaining. It's just on the list of things I think you ought to know, gentle reader. Don't you feel closer to me now?


Et Tu, Mrs. Slick?

10+1 limit tourney on Pokerroom. I've outlasted 3/4 of the field by playing and winning a whopping two pots, plus a couple of stolen blinds. These tourneys are a bit of a crapshoot because with the escalation of the blinds and the relatively small number of players (around 200 for this one), there just aren't that many chips in play relative to the blinds. You can bust someone out and still be in trouble. My cards were cold as ice; the best I'd seen the whole tourney was 44 UTG and AJs in the big blind, otherwise just random junk. I'm at about T2100 with 300/600 blinds when I pick up Hellmuths in the big blind. It's raised and reraised before it got to me so I cap it; the first raiser (later to become my nemesis) folds and the button calls. Flop comes jack high and I put half my stack in; turn was a rag and the rest of it goes to the middle. The button flips over AQo and I cross my fingers; the river doesn't help him and I double up. Me: 1, AQ: 0. Two hands later I get AA on the button and see my shot to vault into comfortable position. My nemesis raises from UTG and it's folded around to me. I reraise, he caps, I call. The flop comes 884; he bets, I raise, he calles. Turn was a Q, he checks, I bet, he raises, I think for a minute, put him on AQ and reraise. He calls. The river is a queen ("a fucking QUEEN," I hiss). I call the last bet anyway with about half my remaining chips and pray he'll turn over the kings, but no. Dead to runner-runner queen and he draws out on me. Me: 1, AQ: 1 The next hand I find A6o and figure it's the best I'll see before the blinds come around again. Four people see the flop of AQ6. With two pair I figure I'm good to go, but no, after a blistering round of betting, raising and folding, my nemesis turns over AQ yet again for a better two pair. The river is another Q, just to rub a little salt into the wound. I walk away from the monitor and curse the fates for a while. Then I check on the tourney progress and discover that my nemesis has given away most of my chips and isn't likely to make the money (which he doesn't), a small comfort. I fire up PokerTracker and look into the guy and realize he's given me about $100 over the last few weeks and decide not to care about the beat anymore. But the next time I have to muck AQ you can bet it's going to be done with a little more force than usual.

And The HORSE You Rode In On

I wish to hell I could play in the HORSE tourney a week hence, but I'll be out of town with no PC access. Thankfully I'll be living it up at South By Southwest so I'll have a nearly unlimited supply of movies, bands and barbecue with which to comfort myself. I would offer a bounty but I think the only thing I own of any transferable value is prescription medication.


Credit Where Credit Is Due

FilmGeek's post regarding Hank and Iggy's new project, giving them a little credit for his growth as a player, is something I'd like to do as well. I haven't been getting as much out of PokerTracker as I should have and following their hand-review guidelines after both good and bad sessions has bolstered my confidence significantly. Also, they get the credit for changing my PokerTracker icon from the yellow unhappy face to the moneybag. Instantaneously. Apparently I've been a moneybag all along! Just one with a subpar rating system. The one thing I've picked up from Harman's limit section in Super System 2, so far, is her emphasis on aggressive, fearless turn play. I'm dragging pots that I can't possibly have the best hand, and in exchange losing only the occasional bet or two. Sometimes the willingness to bet the turn and the river, despite the appearance of scare cards, has convinced others to lay down what has to be a turned ace with a weak kicker or a pocket pair that's probably good. I need to be quicker about tagging calling stations; overaggression against particular players has cost me a few bets against people who wouldn't give up their bottom pair, and generally those hands represent my biggest losses outside of blinds or unavoidable outdraws. So some selectivity is in order, but in large part I've been happy with my cards and my play; Hank and Iggy's suggestions have made it clear to me just how happy I should be.


A Whole Latte Poker

[Please forgive the atrocious punnery in the title. I tried. -Ed.] No, I don't know why I'm pretending I have an editor either. I choose to blame coffee. Which I don't drink much of these days. Nor any sort of caffeine, really, except when I'm on a road trip and need the jitters to keep myself alert and alive. Or to get jazzed up for the poker tables - it makes for a more consistent shaking of the hands that's less of a tell. Or so I tell myself. But yesterday, I found myself consuming not one but two large vanilla lattes at a local coffee shop with free wi-fi, multitabling Pokerroom 2/4 on my laptop. A side note: for reasons not quite clear to me, I generally play better at Pokerroom without a tracker. Maybe because I play more aggressively without it and give less respect to raises than I should, I don't know. (Usually I have better results without the tracker, that is. Currently in the middle of a tracker-assisted +60BB session, knock on wood.) Anyway. I absolutely tore up the tables. You all know how it feels. Redrawing the nut flush to your opponent's turned set in an action pot, outpipping aggressive players coming after you with KQ to your AQ, catching gutshots against players who should have raised you out two streets ago. Beautiful. I raised it up preflop with the Hammer twice and got no callers, both times showing and then catching a big pocket pair within the next orbit. By the time I'd drained my second cup I had a palpable buzz in my head and another 85BB in my bankroll - not bad for a way to kill a couple of hours at a coffee shop. Play the rush, I told myself, and when I got home I logged in and promptly lost 30BB back to the game - most to a major gambooler who'd obviously had way more coffee than I had. Any piece of the flop was grounds for capping every street, as was J3o preflop. (He caught a J on the river to beat the guy behind me's pocket 10s.) The general atmosphere of looseness was exacerbated by one particular fishy station - you could almost see the lightbulb clicking on over his head as he realized, "This guy's betting with nothing! I have an ace! I raise! All the way to the river!" Any pot involving the two of them was invariably capped on every street, meaning it cost $48 to take your hand to the showdown. The megalomaniac burnt through $100, bought back in for another $100, lost most of it and worked his way back up to $160 before departing in a flash. Meanwhile I was crashing hard and decided to pack it in for the night. Or, at least, stop playing poker. I was wide awake until 4AM. Bed wasn't an option so I sat up and thought about poker, coming to one realization which I'll share in a subsequent post - it may well be my first and last semi-substantial contribution to the world's wealth of poker knowledge.


Commerce, Part II: In Which Somebody Else Gets An Ass Handed To Them

After a beer and some chat I suggest we all go play some cards. Nobody objects. I stop in to the restroom and return to the poker floor to see Ftrain, Bill and Glyphic all sitting down at the same table - which happens to be the exact same table to which I'd previously donated a buy-in. I get a kick out of the notion of making the table 40% blogger (at least) but there are no more seats open and there are already people on the list, making the odds of me getting a seat at that table essentially nil. I decide I've had enough of no-limit for the day anyway and want to sit in a game I feel like I can crush. 2/4 limit looks like it would be entertaining enough but the list is two columns long and it isn't moving fast. I went to the other side of the room and signed up for 3/6 Hold'Em and 3/6 Omaha 8; I'm not the greatest O8 player out there but I figure the games have got to be loose enough that if I sit tight and catch a scooping hand I'll come out ahead. But I get called for 3/6 Hold'Em first, and the staff ushers me... into another room entirely. The California games room, so there's a smattering of multipurpose tables and blackjack tables. Probably Super Pan too, for all I know. There's no autoshuffler or anything, which slows down the pace of the game a bit, but it's a friendly table - and, what's more, there's a veritable school of fish sitting down. A few people shift in and out but here's the general gist of the table: 1s: Fairly Solid Player Who Vaguely Resembles Eric Balfour, If You Know Who That Is 2s: Martingaling Truck Driver Who Keeps Buying In For $20 And Losing 3s: The Love Child Of Tommy Chong And Charles Manson 4s: Increasingly Drunk Car Dealer With Slick Mustache 5s: Young, Aggressive Asian Player Later Replaced By Glyphic 6s: Older, Solid Asian Player 7s: Guy Who Looked Familiar To Me But He Just Moved Here From Chicago, Anyway, He Was Solid 8s: Me 9s: Standup Comic Who'd Just Come Back From Afghanistan And Was Either On Coke Or Off Heroin The next few hours were the most fun I've ever had playing poker. Sure, the pace was slow and I only finished about 5BB ahead, but I was beating the game and having fun in the meantime. Why, you ask? A. Almost Everybody At The Table Was Scared Of Me The first big hand I got involved in, I limped in early position with QJd. The guy in the 1s raised and the table folded (an unusual occurrence) around to the big blind, who called, as did I. The flop came 25T, all diamonds. I checked, the 1s bet, the big blind folded, I called. Turn was a blank; I checked planning to checkraise but the 1s checked behind. The river was a rag and I decided to bet. The 1s thought for a second and raised. I reraised, he rereraised, I asked the dealer if there was a limit on raises heads-up and the dealer said the betting was capped. So I called and turned over my flush. The table gasped; the 1s turned over AK with one diamond (phew!). I guess he thought I'd missed my draw and was trying to steal. After that everybody was a little nervous about getting into a pot with me. I said a little nervous, of course - that meant I only had three callers on my preflop raises instead of the usual five. But I did manage to steal the blinds with an UTG raise on the only flopless hand for the entire three hours I was at the table. This led me to reason #2: B. I Could Get Away With Bluffing The fellow in the 4s was playing completely random cards, raising for no reason in particular (47o, that's a reraising hand!), and cold-calling with anything. I ended up heads-up with him in a hand where the flop came KK2, with two diamonds. I held ATo with no diamonds; I bet, he raised, I called. Another diamond came on the turn and I check-raised him; he seemed surprised, looked at the board, said "flush" and mucked. I would proceed to do this to the same guy twice more; eventually he decided to call me down, which leads me to: C. Hammer Time Since I'd stopped getting a lot of action on my raises, I decided I was ahead of the game enough to advertise a little. When the 4s raised my button, I peeked down and found a lovely 27. Suited, so not a proper Hammer, but I played it like a Hammer anyway. "Raise it," I said, spinning a few extra chips into the pot, probably with a little too much english on them. I got the 4s heads-up and the flop came 962, rainbow. He bet, I raised, he called. The turn was my savior, another 2. I glanced over at Glyphic, trying to let him in on the joke telepathically while I threw more chips into the pot. The 4s check-called me. I couldn't tell you what the river was because I didn't even look. The 4s sighed, "Go ahead," I put another bet in, he called, I flipped up 27, his head exploded, and the table gasped again. "That was amazing," the dealer said, "I thought you had ace-king." I gave her an extra chip for the toke; I'm not a big believer in karma but I'll make an exception for the poker tables. The 4s had spontaneously regenerated his head and said, "you raise with that?" I shrugged and smiled. D. Winning Pots And Influencing People The guy in the 2s had a bit of a tell: he was buying in $20 at a time and if he bet anything other than the blind he had a high pocket pair or AK, though he'd sometimes limp with them. Unfortunately for him, high pocket pairs weren't holding up very often since our table was so loose. On one hand, he limped in, the guy to my right in the small blind (who was supertight) completed, and I looked down to find 35o. The flop came A25 rainbow, giving me second pair and a gutshot. The SB checked, I led at the pot, and the 2s raised... sort of. He only had 4 chips left, so it was an all-in $1 raise. The guy to my right only played good cards; I figured him for a medium ace when he called the $4, since he'd limped from the small blind. "Does that count as a raise?" I asked the dealer, reaching for more chips, but he shook his head. I shrugged and threw in my call. Turn was a 9, the SB checked, and I figured my odds were better if I only had to outdraw one player, so I threw in a bet. He folded. The river was a 4 (d'oh!), making my gutshot - the 2s turned up JJ and looked very sad, disappearing to an ATM and coming back with another crisp $20. The only bad part of the whole session was getting outkicked when I hit trip queens on the river in a multiway pot. And I almost got the guy in the 6s to lay down his KQ on the turn; he almost mucked his cards. (I know he almost mucked it rather than play on, because he didn't raise with KQ on the river and seemed genuinely surprised to be getting the pot, as he often was.) The table was incredibly wild, though, and a fun time was had by everyone but Glyphic, who only played one significant pot that I can recall, in which the twitchy guy in the 9s outdrew Glyphic's AK by spiking his kicker on the turn. This was the same guy who'd turned a full house his very first hand, when he posted his dead blind, with 73o. After that he turned to me and said, "seven-three, it's not like I play that kind of crap"; then he proceeded to play every single hand. He once hit three nut flushes in a row, one a backdoor against a made flush. Despite all that he was nearly out of money more than once. I considered cursing the fates for hitting him in the face with the deck but then remembered that I was dragging pots when I didn't even HAVE the flush. The table finally broke a little after 1AM and I headed for home. I was seventy bucks lighter but a lot more confident. A lot happier. And, possibly, a slightly better poker player, which was the whole point of the exercise.

Commerce, Part I: In Which I Get My Ass Handed To Me

The Commerce Casino is a little more than half an hour from where I live - though in LA time, that really means it's an hour, give or take. But it might as well be on fucking Mars. LA is a strange place; anyone who's flown in to LAX and looked out the window can tell you that. Los Angeles goes on and on in a way that warps your sense of place, that damages your sense of what a city is. New York has boundaries - all that water. Yeah, Los Angeles has a coastline, but from a lot of places it takes a ridiculously long time to get there. (I can drive to San Diego in roughly twice as long as it takes me to drive to Santa Monica when the traffic is lousy.) The city is incomprehensible. Some of the poker is incomprehensible, too. Saturday last I went out to meet Bill, Glyphic and FTrain, and for some reason I sat down at a $100NL table. These tables are soft, sure, but so is my NL game. I got the 1s at a table where the 2, 3 and 4 had at least 4 buyins each - the 4 seat was around 10 stacks deep when I sat down. I resolved to play tight until I picked up a monster. The guys to my left were aggressive enough that when I caught trips (A7 on a 377 board) I didn't even have to bet it - I checked the flop, the guy with AK (slowplayed preflop) put me all-in, I called. This put me back to about $25 over my buy-in (I'd blinded away some chips and put in a few unrespected preflop raises, only to miss completely). For the first time I was feeling good about having sat down. Then this hand: I'm one off the button with AQo. It's folded to me and I raise it up to 10 (despite the huge stacks, the standard preflop raise at our table). The button calls, as does the big blind, who's the guy in the 4 with the monster stack - he'd call any reasonable raise with anything in his blind. Flop comes Q73 rainbow - the small blind checks, I check, and the button throws out $10. The small blind calls. I decide my hand is good and come over the top, hoping to get called with KQ. The button, as it turns out, DOES have KQ and calls me. Unfortunately, the small blind has us both covered, and promptly raises the button all-in, then turns over 33 for the flopped set. The turn was the case Q, giving me a burst of false hope (and some small relief - I overplayed my hand, but I was going broke anyway with trip queens, top kicker), but the river was no help. Goodbye to buy-in #1. I built up buy-in #2 the same way, catching trips and watching other people overplay their hands. Then came a hand where the guy who'd taken my first stack made a move on me when I had AQo on a flop of A78; I called his raise on the flop, the turn came a 9 and I checked it, because I'm a pussy. The Geek says I should have pushed at him on the flop, and anyone else at the table I would have, but once bitten, shame on me, or however that goes. FTrain came by at that point and suggested a drink. I couldn't have agreed more. Up next: I discover possibly the loosest 3/6 table I've ever seen, and start earning my money back!