2.20.2005

In Which I Exact My Revenge

So, having taken a sickening number of bad beats at $2-4, I decide, what the hell, I'm going to drop down to $1-2 for the night, start playing with chips instead of money. The cards have been cold for so long that I'm reflexively playing tight and I think my game could use some loosening up. About half an orbit in I get the Hammer in middle-late position. With three callers behind, I decide it's time to have some fun. I raise. My raise buys me position; the small blind calls, as do all three previous callers. The flop: 3c 9d Ts. Everyone checks to me. The Hammer doesn't win pots by being timid so I bet. Everyone calls me. I find myself wishing someone had flopped a stronger hand so I could raise. The turn: 2d, giving me bottom pair. My fingers begin to tingle. Again it's checked around to me. I consider slowplaying bottom pair but the Hammer won't let me. I bet. One of the previous callers drops out, but it's still fourhanded going into the river. I hold my breath. The river: ... ... ...wait for it ... ...yeah, it's 2s. I've got trips. It ain't the nuts but the way this hand has been played I know I'm in clover. Once again it's checked to me. I bet. Only one person calls, the small blind (busted straight and flush draws are a bitch, I suppose). The guy who called me chats "what the fuck just happened?" He had A9o for second pair on the flop. I type "Hammer", pause before hitting the enter key, and then add a few exclamation points. For posterity. The next time I have a big pocket pair (KK) I raise and get five callers. I hit my set on the flop and never look back. At $1-2 I book a bigger win than I have at $2-4 in a couple of weeks. -EV my ass.

2.18.2005

This Isn't So Funny Anymore

O, woe is me, the cards have been hard to me. The hits just keep on coming. Forgive me. You don't have to read this particular bout of whining. I just want to remember this the next time I decide I'm unbeatable. Today's chronicle of despair: AKs (with a K on the flop) to J7s. Not even the right suit; the guy called with undercards and hit runner-runner 7s. KK to 88 (8 on river) AKs to A8s (A on the flop, 8 on the river) QQ to AK (board was rag, rag, rag, rag, A) AQs to ATs (two pair on flop vs. flush on turn) AA (and KK) to QQ (Q on turn) AA to KJ (K on flop, another on river) ...and a QQ that I abandoned when I had four callers preflop, since the flop came AK2, all clubs. (Now, if one of my queens had been a club...) This is all in about two hours, three-tabling. Not one big preflop hand held up. I did hit a set of fours, flopped quad eights, and rivered the backdoor nut flush, all of which got me a little action, but not enough to make up for that string up there. Hey, at least I'm getting good cards again! The run of bad beats did convince people to respect my raises; by the time I left the table I could raise with 28o from middle position and steal the blinds, which kept it from being an absolutely disastrous session. Apparently limping with aces has come back into vogue; I've seen it five times over the last day. Naturally, every time I've seen it done it's worked like a charm, perfect flops for aces, giving the guy with K9 in the blinds top pair with a decent kicker, a vulnerable hand that you've gotta try to protect.

And The Beats Go On

When you've got people cold-calling your preflop, QQ-inspired raises with 63o and sucking out on you, what can you do? "Drink heavily" is the obvious response, but I don't really drink anymore. This is my longest cold streak since I started playing. I know there are players out there who are thinking, "yeah, I should have such problems" - a couple of weeks ain't bad. The lousy thing about it is that it's happening when I'm learning to recognize what makes a profitably opponent faster than ever. One orbit in (less, if I've had to wait for my seat) I know exactly who will pay me off with a weak kicker. I've got a pretty good idea who will push at me with a marginal hand. And for all this I get... the longest run of trash hands I've ever had. My Party bankroll has taken a serious hit, naturally just after I cashed out a chunk of it to go climb Full Tilt Mountain. The temptation to abandon my game is strong at this point. When your big pocket pairs aren't holding up (at a table where an unimproved pair of pocket queens took down a five-way, 30BB pot), your big cards aren't hitting and your draws aren't coming through - and you're not getting a decent starting hand very often to begin with - the urge to play any two starts to take over. Those weak offsuit aces start loking pretty good. Watching people drag big pots with any two sooted begins to wear. Right now I'm staring at a KTo in the big blind against a raise from a guy who has not raised once in five orbits. It looks pretty good to me. But I gotta lay it down. Learning how to fold is an important part of your poker education, I'm told. I'm learning, I'm learning.

2.13.2005

Feeling Good About Doing Bad

The last few days, poker-wise, have been a bona-fide nightmare. Incredibly juicy tables, the kind where half the players are playing at least half the pots, capping their gutshot draws all the way to the river and then capping the river as a bluff. Unfortunately I haven't had the good fortune necessary to capitalize on such an embarrassment of rich pots. Set of aces on the flop? Goes down to a guy who called two bets cold preflop with 46o and stayed in heads-up to catch his gutshot. Overpairs? Raised out on the turn by two bluffomatic maniacs before I've seen enough of their play to realize they're just as likely to be holding 29o or bottom pair. When I finally land the overpair they're out of money. Get dealt AKh on the button with seven limpers and manage to cap preflop when I know I've got the best hand, and no doubt the flop will come 567, all clubs. Suited connectors? I'll have bottom pair and backdoor flush and straight draws that I know are no good, especially when the previously unraised pot is already three bets by the time it's my action on the flop. Hit open-ended straight-flush draws thrice in the span of fifteen minutes, and end up with nothing to show for it but, well, three busted open-ended straight-flush draws. Me? Couldn't be happier. It feels weird to have come to a place where I'm comfortable enough in my play that I could give a damn whether or not someone gets lucky and spikes his kicker to beat my TPTK. I want them to get lucky every once in a while. I want to suffer more bad beats than any other type of beat. If all I'm taking are bad beats, I must be doing something right, because that means I'm always getting my money in with the best of it. Three full days of bad beats (ok, and never hitting a flop hard enough when I've got something half-decent preflop) is three days of playing solid poker and weathering a statistical lull. Keep in mind that now is a good time to watch this space, as if the statistical lull continues, my Zen-calm and confidence will quickly sublimate into a bevy of inventive curses and railing at the sky. I'm studying more than a few languages to prepare myself.

2.08.2005

Why I Hate My Job, Such As It Is

"Who's ready to party on the big boat besides me?" -- Sandra Bullock, Speed 2: Cruise Control Sometimes I'm ashamed of my profession. Seriously. You're making a big-budget sequel to an out-of-the blue hit, and the best you can come up with is to set the thing on a friggin' boat? A cruise ship? With a top SPEED of maybe 30, 35MPH? Here's a little exercise. Take a minute and see if you can come up with ten things faster than a cruise ship. I'll make my own list and we can compare notes. -- light -- the '84 maroonish Plymouth Voyager that was my conveyance throughout puberty and a surprising amount of college -- any cat, large or small, that gets a hair up its ass to be somewhere else -- the average pro tennis player's SECOND service -- almost any police pursuit worth mentioning, O.J. excepted -- the last day of school before summer vacation -- the smaller participants in dwarf-tossing competitions -- greyhounds -- Greyhounds -- almost anything rolling down a large enough hill ...any of which is an EMINENTLY more suitable subject for a sequel to a movie called Speed. Which reminds me, I need to register the idea for that parody script about the invisible elf jockeys that ride the greyhounds. (Dogbiscuit. Coming 2008, baby!) Kudos to the Film Geek, whose inspiring quest for a berth on the Party Poker Million got me thinking about the 121 minutes of my life that Jan De Bont still owes me. Or maybe a little less. I probably didn't stay to watch the credits.

And Starring Guy With 95% VP$IP As Himself

My current record-holding $2/4 pot. Observant readers will note that I didn't bet or raise until the river. Party Poker 2/4 Hold'em (9 handed) converter

Preflop: Hero is MP2.
UTG calls, UTG+1(Guy With 95% VP$IP)/ calls, MP1 calls, Hero calls, 2 folds, Button calls, 1 fold, BB checks.

Flop: (6.50 SB) 5h, 4d, 2h (6 players)
BB checks, UTG checks, Guy With 95% VP$IP bets, MP1 raises, Hero calls, Button calls, BB folds, UTG calls, Guy With 95% VP$IP 3-bets, MP1 caps, Hero calls, Button calls, UTG calls, Guy With 95% VP$IP calls.

Turn: (13.25 BB) 4s (5 players)
UTG checks, Guy With 95% VP$IP checks, MP1 bets, Hero calls, Button calls, UTG calls, Guy With 95% VP$IP raises, MP1 3-bets, Hero calls, Button folds, UTG calls, Guy With 95% VP$IP calls.

River: (26.25 BB) Jc (4 players)
UTG checks, Guy With 95% VP$IP checks, MP1 checks, Hero bets, UTG calls, Guy With 95% VP$IP calls, MP1 calls.

Final Pot: 30.25 BB

Results can be highlighted below:
UTG has Kd 2d (two pair, fours and twos).
Guy With 95% VP$IP has 9h 3h (one pair, fours).
MP1 has 4h Kh (three of a kind, fours).
Hero has 5c 5d (full house, fives full of fours).
Outcome: Hero wins 30.25 BB.

2.03.2005

Sturgeon's Law, applied

Ninety percent of everything is crap. That's Sturgeon's Law - Sturgeon being Theodore Sturgeon, a science fiction writer whose greatest achievement may lie in proving that Sturgeon's Law applies just as firmly to Sturgeon as it does to everything else. (Though he did provide nigh-seminal Midwestern sludge band Killdozer with a fine name.) That's ninety percent of everything, mind you. Ninety percent of what's on TV. Ninety percent of the work done in the halls of power. Ninety percent of the times you've had sex - let's be honest, now - have been utter crap, compared to the other ten percent, when you were just afire. Odds are, you are really not that great at ninety percent of the stuff you do. I shudder at the potential horrors of what goes on in an Olympic-level athlete's ninety percent, because those crazy legs have to be paid for somehow. I'm a writer. Ninety percent of what I write is crap. And I get paid for it, somewhere between a pittance and a handsome sum, and I know it's crap and the people paying me to do it know it's crap. The best way to deal with Sturgeon's Law is to accept it. Find your ten percent and go with it. I am a semi-decent home chef, but ninety percent of the recipes I come up with are going to be unpalatable. I am never going to run, let alone place, in the Boston Marathon. (And here a chorus of joy from all the parts of me ostensibly protected by my tiny, misshapen patellae.) Hell, I'm too lazy to run downstairs to program the TiVo sometimes, now that I can schedule things from the web. This isn't to say you shouldn't follow your dreams, but this isn't a post meant necessarily for inspiration, either. This is food for thought. Sturgeon's Law applies to poker more directly than you might think, you see. Ninety percent of everything is crap. Ninety percent of the hands you are dealt? Crap, whether you know it or not. This makes poker seem like a losing proposition until you realize that it's just as true for everyone else at the table. And, what's more, poker affords us the opportunity to lie. Statistically speaking, only one person at the table has a hand that's not crap. If it's not you, your job to figure out who it is and see if there's a way to take their money anyway. Yesterday I played in my first WPBT event, and I played pretty much according to Sturgeon's Law, and I played miserably. By 'miserably' I mean I didn't really play at all, since I made a decision early on not to embarrass myself by playing KJo and A8o against raises. Here's how well that works: --------------------------------------------------------------- You finished in 20th place (eliminated at hand #1162435363). 170 hands played and saw flop: - 1 times out of 20 while in small blind (5%) - 4 times out of 20 while in big blind (20%) - 6 times out of 130 in other positions (4%) - a total of 11 times out of 170 (6%) Pots won at showdown - 5 out of 6 (83%) Pots won without showdown - 10 --------------------------------------------------------------- Eighteen places paid, natch. About ten percent, that being the ten percent that weren't crap. So I was in the ninety percent; I was crap. One off the bubble, still crap. No, really. I played supertight. I played so tight that even limping UTG I'd clear out the field. I played so tight that - and I am not making this up - I had AA in the big blind, TWICE, and the entire table folded around to me. I played so tight that when I caught a set of aces on the flop and checked behind, I couldn't even get a measily little min-bet action on the turn. The only semi-solid move I made the entire time was calling an all-in with Q4s - which I had to since the blinds practically committed me at that point. (The pusher had J2o in early position, which may have made me look like a genius. It wasn't anything more than simple math.) There is a point to all this ninety percent crap. (This, right here, may be the ten percent of this post that isn't crap.) Over the long haul, you get ten percent good hands, I get ten percent good hands, everybody gets ten percent. But it's not the ten percent that makes us our money. It's what we do with our allotted ninety percent of crap that allows us to make use of the other ten. Those of you who make use of PokerTracker know exactly what to do when someone with a VP$IP around 10% raises in front of you: you get out of the way and hope some sucker behind you calls, flops a raggedy two pair and puts him on tilt. If you play strictly according to Sturgeon's Law, you are only going to get action from the worst players. You can't play every hand, but sometimes you are going to be dealt crap and just have to find a way to win with it. Hence, the Hammer. This isn't the poker wisdom of the champions or anything. Most of you who've read this far know everything I've said (and a lot more). For those of you looking for someone to blame, thank Otis, whose offhand comment inspired this post, and this guy, who provided me with some food for thought by behaving like a betmonkey on uppers. Yes, he's a bastard, but he had a chance to win the tourney, and I never did. Up next: a proper tournament report. Thrill to the excitement of reading my blow-by-blow account of folding 153 times!