Friday, December 30, 2005

The Good, the Weird and the Ugly (Plus Random Notes on the DADI)

Three hands from the PS tourney the other night kind of show the range of experiences I had. The theme that runs through all of them is aggression. From a hand that shows aggression at its best to a hand that shows the problem I’m having with managing my aggression. I’m great at initiating it, but not so good at responding to it or dealing with someone who plays back at me. In those cases I seem to either fold the best hand or play back with the worst hand.

First, the Good.

I’m sitting at a full table with just over 24K in chips, 4K more than the second stack at my table and 10th overall in the tourney. Blinds are 400/800 with a 50 ante. I’m in the SB with Ah8s and I make it 1600 when it’s folded around to me and the BB, who’s third in chips at the table with about 19K, calls. The BB has been nursing this same size stack since I got to the table, while I have almost doubled up, and we’re three from the money, so I’m thinking he/she is going to play tight. Flop comes T43 rainbow, and I lead out for 2500 and get another call. A 2 on the turn completes the rainbow and I toss out 5000 and get the fold, putting me ninth in chips with two to go for the money.

The weird was a couple of hands before that and it’s the hand that vaulted me into the top 10. It’s also a pot I technically “lost,” which is what makes it so strange. I’m sitting on the button with an about average stack of 14K, which is only the fifth largest at my table, and pick up pocket Jacks. UTG+1 raises the 800 BB to 2200, the next player calls and a short stack in MP goes all-in for 1448. I’m thinking I want to drive out the early raiser and caller to isolate against the short stack, so I push. The blinds and the initial raiser fold, but the caller has me covered and calls. The caller turns over 99 and the short stack KQo, meaning that I’m a decent 2.5-1 favorite over the larger stack, but just a slight favorite over the short stack. After all the cards are turned over, the short stack takes the 7K main pot with Qs full of Ts, but I rake in a 25K side pot when my JJ holds up against the 99. (The initial raiser, who folded before the flop, claims to have had AQ. Whew! But that shows you what aggression can do to help you.)

The ugly came when we were in the money with me sitting at a new table with 28k in chips, good for ninth place overall, but another player with 37k sitting across the table. I’m UTG with Qd8d and—figuring to keep up the aggression (never mind that none of these players has seen much of anything from me, or course)—open for a 3x bb raise to 2400. The larger stack calls and a short stack pushes all-in from the SB for a total of 5251. Getting nearly 4-1 pot odds, I’m forced to call at this point, and the big stack comes along for the party. When the flop comes Kd Th 4h, I wimp out and check. The big stack checks behind and the turn comes the Qs. Sensing weakness from the big stack, I check-raise to 12800 after he throws out a bet of 6400. He reraises all-in and I call. The rest of the cards are inconsequential, as the big stack turns over AJs for the turned nut straight. I was drawing dead and the short stack was close to dead with AA in the hole.

I clearly have no chance of winning this hand no matter what the big stack has, as I’m way behind to the short stack's AA from the get go. My only hope here is to minimize my losses, which probably would best have been handled by throwing out a feeler bet on the flop. I’m pretty sure I get a call (or a raise) from the big stack based on his combination of the nut flush draw, inside straight draw and an overcard to the board. But I’ve defined my hand and can comfortably go away if I’m raised or play much more cautiously on the turn if I’m called. Since I didn’t do that and I tried to get tricky on the turn, my last best hope would have been to run screaming in the opposite direction when my check-raise was reraised. Obviously I'm not that smart.

Two lessons: First, this was not a good situation to try a check raise. It was stupid; but I suppose I was just feeling my oats after my success in running up my stack on the bubble. Second, when your opponent comes to life like that, get out of the way (of course I came to life like that, but he wasn’t going to get out of the way with a made nut straight and a nut flush draw). I’m definitely hurting with only 10k in chips if I fold at that point, but I’m certainly not crippled and would have lived to fight at least one more day.

Donkeys Always Draw Invitational

I did play in my first blogger event when I made the scene at Jordan’s and Tripjax’s DADI on Wednesday night. I’d love to say that I shined in my debut, but I didn’t. Was pretty card dead for most of the night and couldn’t get any action when I did pick up a hand early on. I even checked pocket aces from the BB, when only the SB was in to see the flop with me. He folded, however, when I threw out a token bet on a rag flop. The only hand that troubles me is when I raised with AKo, checked behind on a ragged flop and folded to a big raise from an unknown that had been playing LAG, after betting out when a K hit on the turn. Not sure what he may have had, but it didn’t smell right. I do wonder if I folded the best hand, however.

DeadMoney busted me (right after taking out two others on a single hand by getting all in with KK before the flop) in 36th place when his 44 held up to my KQo. He gets a link on my blog roll for his trouble. I'm sure that makes his day.

Other than that, it was a good time. I railbirded Will Wonka for a while and got to see him pull down a big pot when his hammer turned into deuces full of sevens, then watched some excellent play (and a few suckouts) at the final table. I was getting pretty drunk by that point, however, so I’m not sure if any of my side comments made any sense. I promise I'm really not an idiot (although I'm pretty sure that my brain works just a little bit differently than yours), if anyone came away with that impression.

Congratulations to the winner, Change100, and the runner up, Joe Speaker, and the rest of the final table.

Finished the night with a third place finish in a $10+1 SNG to offset some of the DADI buy in, so whoop de doo.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Holidays at the Virtual Tables

Had a great holiday weekend and hope all of my readers did too. It was great to spend time with my family in the spirit of the season. I played some PS2 and did Legos with my son (8), had some great talks with my daughter (soon to be 12), and spent some quality time with my wife. Even cooked a kick-ass Christmas Eve dinner, featuring bacon-wrapped fillet mignon and twice-baked potatoes with bacon and horseradish.

Since my wife took ill on Christmas Day and went to bed early Sunday and Monday, however, I wound up playing more poker than expected over the holiday weekend. My game was…there.

It started on Friday night, when I fired up Poker Stars and sat down in a $10 SNG, finishing in third place for a tiny profit. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I just haven’t been able to get any traction on Stars since I started playing there a few months ago. As a result, this seemed like a major event to me.

When that wrapped, I plopped down $10 and joined 642 other people in a NLHE MTT. Up until the first break, I floundered around; not getting many decent cards and not hitting much on the flop. As a result, I went into that break below average and without much hope. Things got worse after the break and I found myself staring at a rapidly diminishing stack in the face of increasing blinds and the added problem of antes.

I started to get a few decent hands and managed to chip my way up to about average going into the second break and stayed there until we were closing in on the money (top 63 places paid). Then things got interesting and I would up ninth in chips with the bubble closing in.

The pivotal hand was a strange one because of how it happened. I’ll have to check the details, but there was one MP limper and an all-in from a teeny tiny stack ahead of me. I had a hand I felt would hold up against the likely holdings of the short stack and I had the limper covered by a little bit, so I pushed to isolate myself against the short stack. Lo and behold, however, the limper calls. I wasn’t happy about that, but it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened, as the short stack took the tiny main pot and I would up scooping a much larger side pot and vaulting into position to make the money.

Once that happened, I moved into selective aggression mode, stealing the blinds a few times, winning a few hands and even bluffing a nice pot away from the player to my right with a big bet on the turn. When the money came around I was sitting pretty in ninth position and trying to figure out what to do with the big payday that was sure to come my way.

Of course you know where this is heading. Once the bubble burst, I wound up at a table with one of the chip leaders who had about twice as many chips as me. A few hands into that table I raised in EP w/ Q8s (things had been pretty tight) and got a call from the big stack in MP and a short stack in MP. Checked around on the KTx rainbow flop and I checked. Then a Q hit on the turn and I lost my mind, throwing a big bet into the pot, which was called all-in by the short stack and then raised by the big stack. For some reason, which likely will remain unexplained, I decided the big stack was trying to buy the pot and pushed the rest of my chips into the center of the table. He obligingly called with his turned nut straight and the short stack turned over AA.

I was out in 61st spot for a whopping $16.07 payday. Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Haaaaaaaaawwwwwwww!

Ah well. At least I have a cash next to my name in thepokerdb now and I’ve broken my Stars MTT curse.

Spent Sunday and Monday nights treading water on Stars and UB. Dropped a couple of $20 SNGs on Pokerroom, including one where in the second hand I found AA in MP, raised an EP raiser and was looking at three all-ins ahead of me when it came back around. I knew I was ahead, but I also knew that I probably had only about a 50% chance of winning (closer to 53% in the actual analysis). I called anyway and saw myself facing KK, QQ and 44 (!?). QQ flopped a set and the rest of us went down in flames. At least it was quick.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Hold the Bus! Vegas in February?

I've just found out that I may be forced to go to Vegas Feb. 6-8 for a business meeting at the MGM Grand. This development could significantly alter my bankroll allocation plans, as I likely will look to free up some offline funds to play in live games when I'm there.

My preliminary thinking would be to hit MGM's nightly $100+$25 tournament on Feb. 6 or Feb. 7, and fill in the rest of my time at the $2-$4 limit and/or $200 max NLHE tables there. If I have any success or feel the urge to just drink and play donkey poker, a return the the Excalibur might be in order at some point too.

Anyone with other suggestions for my itinerary or who may wish to join the fun is free to get in touch with me through my comments or via email.