probably the last game of the year...

ran the game last night, decent turnout of 12 people not named me, including 5 new players NOT from Go All In.

I got stuck with a table that...well...how do you politely say is NOT designed to be fun. I had Boston John who was taking even longer than usual...how long was he taking? They were done with their third hand at the other table before our table had DEALT the first hand. How is that even possible? Anyway, besides him we had Janet, Norman, and Darrell...and for whatever reason, Janet was cranky with everybody and Norm was nicer than usual. Weird. The new girl did not know how to play and the other new guy (her husband? boyfriend? anyway...) was a strange, strange player. I almost elected not to play since with the last arrival the tables would almost be even without me (6 and 7) and I knew this table would instantly put me on tilt.

I play to have fun with friends and sitting at a smoky table of players that are hard to get along with is not my idea of fun. But I elected to see if I could overcome my tilt to play well.

So John and this other guy promptly get in these huge bluff and rebluff wars. 2 and 3000 chip pots were being taken down with hands as bad as Jack high. Well, Darrell and I were just sitting there with our jaws on the floor and eyebrows on the roof...and waiting to catch any excuse for a hand.

I checked into a hand with an K/J from the big blind. Called off a bunch of chips against crazy guy when he bet on a low board and I had the bachelor hand. Called his turn bet. He checked the river and my King high took it down as I thought it might. Against Boston John and that guy I stayed in against a pre-flop weird raise (blinds 25/50 he would raise to 125, stuff like that...and he was doing it on purpose to screw with us, as he admitted) with a pretty marginal A/7 suited. Stayed with them through the flop and turn bets, rivered a 7 and took down another nice pot.

By this point I had not had a single legit hand but had won 3 or 4 pots with nothing despite heavy betting. I had not raised once at this point. Not pre-flop, not post-flop. In other words, I was playing really, really well, not raising bluffing maniacs, calling with weaker hands than I normally would, and knowing when to fold them.

I think one hand where I nearly doubled up is a good example. Boston John did one of his goofy raises, new guy called, I called with 3/6 diamonds, new girl calls. Flop came with 2 diamonds and a gutshot straight draw. I checked, new girl checked, John raised, new guy re-raised. I had nothing but a 6 high flush draw. I called because I did not believe either had a strong hand. New girl calls behind. John folded. Turn is a blank but a big card, I think a queen. I checked, new girl checked, new guy bet. Pot odds were right for a flush to hit and I genuinely thought I would have the better flush, I called, so did new girl. River was a big diamond. I checked, new girl checked, new guy raised, I called, new girl hesitated, hemmed, hawed...and called. Her I put on the straight. Him I put on a pair. Nope. He had 2 pair. She had the straight. And I raked a huge pot with a 6 high flush.

By the time I put out 2 last people at our table (the other one was down to 3) I had about 8 or 9 K. However, Darrell had also accumulated a fair share of our chips. We spread 21K among 5 players. Meanwhile, at the other table, they had accumulated all the chips from that table into just three players hands, so Darrell and I were still about medium on the chip stack despite being far and away the best players at the table that night.

And the game promptly got wilder. Janet was low on chips and playing short-stack, Darrell and I were waiting for hands, and three or four guys were just maniacally raising and re-raising with nothing. It was so bad that at one point 3 people were all in on a board of A/K/J/10/3, 3 clubs....and the winning hand was the paired king. He beat pocket 9s and someone who didn't even have a pair! Darrell and I were just laughing/crying...we had both folded queens for the straight.

Then came I think maybe the second hand all night I was active in and lost. I raised from early position (by now we were down to 5) with A/10. Lance, the big stack, hesitated a long time and then called. He could have something like A/rag, maybe 2 face cards, maybe medium pockets? Flop was ugly for me, a K/J/rag rainbow. I had a gut shot straight draw. He raised. I thought about it for a few seconds. He had been involved in some of those crazy pots, but if he hit the King I was drawing pretty thin. I called. Turn was ragged and he overbet the pot.

Every instinct I had said to call him. I did not think he had even a pair which meant I was probably ahead. BUT...he was also big stack and if I folded now I still had over 8K, plenty to work with and if I called and did not hit the river I could not call him and he would bet big. I did not feel like falling back to 5K. I said, "I think I am being bluffed" and folded, as did he. He claimed to another guy he had the jack. Maybe. Maybe not.

He tried to give all his chips to the old guy to my right. He raised from early position to about 6 times the blind. Old guy re-raises. I look at my 4/5 suited and cry. I would love to have a reasonable hand to call but can't call pre-flop 50% of my stack on a long shot draw no matter how loose they are. New guy folded, I folded, Darrell folded, Janet folded.

Flop came ragged. Lance raised. Old guy re-raised. Lance re-re-raised. Old guy called. Turn put possible straight on the board. Lance checked. Old guy raised. Lance went all-in. Old guy paused, hesitated...and finally called. He had Lance covered by about 1K. They flipped up their cards.

Lance had A/4. No pair. No straight draw. No flush draw. Nothing. (See why I thought I was bluffed off my earlier hand?) And worse...he was winning. Old guy had Q/J suited. But no straight draw. No flush draw. Just 2 big cards.

He did not improve and now Lance had a HUGE chip lead.

Not too long after I limped in with a 4/6 suited from the small blind. Darrell checked it. Flop paired my 4. With a defeated look Janet went all-in for her last 200. Old guy went over the top all-in. I called. Darrell called. Turn was a 6. I checked, Darrell checked. River was a 4. Darrell raised. I went over the top all-in. He folded. I took the other 2 out with my full house.

Now we were down to 3. And Darrell decided he wanted to go. So he just started pushing all-in. Every hand. I told him I could just take his chips off the table. At first he did not get what I was saying. Then he understood, but not before he had doubled up Lance again.

So now Lance had a ridiculous lead, something like 4-1 on me chip wise.

Well, about the second hand I rivered a straight on him that he priced me into calling. He got disgusted and just started shoving all-in pre-flop every hand. Sadly...with his chip lead, if I could not catch a hand, that was some good poker. I could not call it with 2/7, 3/5, 2/6...which is what my first three hands were when he was doing that.

Then I caught K/7 and called. And won. And again with A/6. Paired the 6. Took a slight chip lead. Called with q/j...and his 2/8 paired the lowly 2. Ouch. Next hand his 8/9 took out my K/10.

Looking back, I think I did about all I could. From the time I saw the make-up of the first table I was totally on tilt. I hate playing with sssssssssssssllllllllllllloooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwww players...and I would say taking 3 hands to get one hand dealt is pretty slow. I dislike playing with "drunken monkey poker" players...and ended up with 4 at the first table and 5 and the second table.

But I deliberately wanted to see if I could play well on tilt. I intentionally bust out quite frequently because if I am not having fun I don't care. Well, that is the epitome of being on tilt. Playing badly on purpose is still playing badly. Tonight I wanted to play goodly. And I did.

And there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that in a legit game I would have destroyed Lance. Just wait for a semblance of a hand, double up, rinse, repeat. But it wasn't worth my time. I was ready to be done with this group for the year.

Which is too bad. Some of the people are really nice and fun to play with. But my tolerance for some of the others is really slipping and more and more often it just isn't fun. Oh, well. On to the next thing, then.


How to go from chip lead to out in 2 hands

Played at Mixers to hang with Roman for a bit and let traffic die down. For them, a HUGE turnout...we started with 7 and after one guy busted out we had another guy join.

To my left is a guy I have played with 2 or 3 times. Complete maniac which means when he hits cards he wins and when not he loses. To his left, All-in Dee. We don't call her that for nothin. To her left, a guy I had not seen before. To his left, Taz, and to his left was Gypsy. Then to my immediate right was Roman.

First hand I limped with J/9 from late position with several people in the pot. Flop was low, Taz bet, I folded, guy to my left called, but on a big turn bet he folded. Tazz claimed low pockets. Maybe.

Then I folded for a while to get the feel of the table. For the most part it was a limpfest but heavy, heavy action thereafter. Dee is still Dee. If she raises a reasonable amount she has something, if she goes all in she usually has nothing but will also re-raise with a super strong hand if someone has raised ahead of her. Taz also will go all-in if he thinks people will fold, as will the guy to my left.

Therefore, the correct formula is to limp into more hands than normal since nobody is raising, then fold unless you catch the nuts. If you catch them, check once, if nobody raises, make a small raise and call their all in.Easy money.

So I limped with 8/10. Flopped 2 pair. Checked to me, I bet small I think 200 into a pot of about that, both Dee and Taz called. Turn was a blank, I raised 200, Dee folded...what, Dee folded? Huh? That confused me a lot. Has she switched up her play? Anyway, Taz called. River was another blank. I bet 600, Taz folded. I wanted to set a table image of strong hands sho I showed the 2 pair.

Guy to my left got felted. He decided to deal so he moved to my seat and I moved to his. This would soon cost me because I have not played with a dealer for months so I don't follow the button, I follow the dealer. Bad, bad habit.

Folded a few, limped with 7/8. Flop came 4,5,6. I bet into it. Oops...Roman was first to act, I was acting on the dealer, not on the button. Idiot. Roman admitted he would have bet into it, instead he checked. Taz called. Turn was a third diamond, I bet into it, he folded, I showed the straight. But I had cost myself chips with my out of turn bet. Bad play.

Shortly thereafter I checked the big blind with 8/10...and the flop was 7/9/J. I raised, Taz came over the top all-in and I called. He had top pair but never improved and I had a huge chip lead.

Meanwhile, another guy arrived and ended up sitting to my right. He is exactly the type of player who puts me on tilt. He is slow and methodical about everything, even if he is folding 2/7 off to a massive raise, puts in the wrong amounts, splashes the pot, etc.

So the game got boring to me. Plus, Dee was talking on her cell, the dealer was talking instead of dealing, and the game slowed to a crawl. I got bored. That is dangerous.

So I made a crack about being the next one out.

And instantly trouble arrived. I raised with Aces. Dee called. I blind raised the flop. It came J/10/J. She hesitated. I could see she wanted to put all her chips in. This could mean any of several things.

A) She thought I was bullying and would fold.
B) She had nothing and knew that was the only way she could win the pot.
C) She was on a straight or flush draw
D) She hit top pair and wanted to bet it.
E) She hit trips

I thought the most likely was any of C, D, or E. Her hesitation led me to weight E heaviest and figured she had a weak kicker. Anyway, I knew I had priced myself in with my pre-flop and blind raises (800 and 1600) since there was now over 5K in the pot and she only had 2200 left...even if she came over the top all-in and I put her on the Jack I was calling. So I thought about it and decided she had the jack and was trying to decide if I would call. So I flat out said "Go ahead, Dee, I'll call you, let's get it over with." So she went all in, I called, and sure enough, she had the jack. But she did have a better kicker than I expected, a Queen...and that is what flipped on the turn so I was drawing dead.

I still had 3450, so it was not like I was short stack. Next hand I limped, Dee limped, the second-to-shortest stack went all-in. I had Q/J and decided it would be funny to call so I did. Flop gave us 2 diamonds. Check, check. Turn was a Jack and Dee bet it all-in, only this time she had me covered. I instantly put her on the Jack as I have seen her do it before, and also figured I had a better kicker. So I decided to think about it. I still had about 2200 if I folded. I verbally counted my outs.

I had 9 minus two for the diamond flush...7 outs. 46 cards to come, 7 outs...about 6.5-1...except then I realized 2 things;
1) there was already about 3800 in the side pot. So I would be calling 2200 to make 8200. Not near the 6.5-1 I needed...IF I WERE BEHIND.
2) I was probably ahead. Yes, Dee had the Jack...but I was pretty sure my Queen had her outkicked. Which meant her outs were either 3 (if she was not diamond suited) or 12 (if she were diamond suited)...so I was probably actually either a 15.33-1 favorite (if she had 3 outs) or 3.83-1 if she was on the diamond draw. Either way, I knew I was the favorite.

Of course, I did not bother to figure up the odds on her winning, just as I did not bother figuring out the pot odds. I did the outs counting, knew she had the Jack, knew I was ahead...and checked the time. It was 7:30. Traffic should have died down, I was ready to go, the game was boring, and THAT is how I decided to call. Forget the pot odds, forget the outs...if I won I had chips, if I lost I had no traffic.

And sure enough, she had the J/6 of diamonds.

Now, remember, the previous hand, my Aces got cracked by Q/J. This hand, I had the Q/J...a hand I normally won't play against an all-in raise.

I deserved to see that diamond roll off on the river. I cannot argue I was not on tilt, I cannot argue I did not play the last hand poorly, and I cannot argue that I cared about going from a dominating chip lead to out in two hands.

But here is the real irony...traffic sucked. Getting off I-5 onto the Banfield was BRUTAL. My evil plan for world domination was foiled once again by import drivers...(there were about 4 Washington, a California, and 2 (two) North Carolina plated cars jockeying with each other for position and slowing everybody to a crawl.)

On on the whole, I am pleased. As usual, whenever I want to I can build a chip lead at that venue. Then it depends on how into the game I am and how Roman is running whether I finish or not. I suspect you will seldom see me win there, largely because I don't care. I just want to see a few hands, get off a few jokes, hang out with Roman for a bit, and let traffic die down. So I will have a lot of blow-ups like this. I will build a chip lead just about every time, of that I am confident. And I am just as confident I will give it all away real, real fast.


A quite Vincible Smurf

only 8 players. As John and I had discussed last week, last week I just got no hands at all and it was as un-action oriented as he had seen me. This week what would happen?

Early on, more of the same. Fold, fold, fold. Picked up A.Q. Raised. Couple callers...but I only saw one of them. That would hurt. Flop comes out A/Q/9. I raise. Bill folds. I thought he was the only one in the hand and show mine...so Christine folded. She would have called. Cost myself some chips.

Couple hands later picked up the Rockets. Raised. Couple callers. Flop was ragged, more raising, they all called right down to the river, picked up a nice pot.

Then...nothing. Went cold. Fold, fold, fold.

Blinds are up. Fold, fold, fold.

Picked up A/Q. Raised. 4 callers. Flop was 8/9/8. Checked to me, raised, 3 callers. Checked the turn, heavy betting at the river, I folded on a 9 high board. Sure enough, Todd stayed with K/8....and lost to Chris and her A/8.

Folded for a while. Picked up A/Q in late position. Raised. Three callers. Hit the Queen on a Queen high ragged flop. Raised. Someone came over the top, the other 2 called, I folded. River was a King and someone won with K/8. Again my raise was called...and beat...by a garbage hand.

Fold, fold, fold.

Down to about 1800, blinds up.

Fold, fold, fold.

I did not want to be folding but Todd was raising regularly and I was getting hands I could not call even a bluffers raise with...q/4 (would have tripped the 4s), 6/10 (would have flopped a straight), 3/6 (would have rivered a 6 high straight), K/6 suited, just trash hand after trash hand and after taking those two whuppings when I got in with far and away the best hand but got crushed by trash, I could not play anything except good hands or bad hands with good position...and with the raises and callers, those were not happening.

Finally I went all-in for my last about 12 or 1300 with A/Q. I would not mind a caller. I got 3. And then 2 of them went all in. Christine ended up winning with 2 pair...K/8 were her hole cards.

Three times tonight my A/Q was beaten by K/8. Grr.

The sad thing is...I played really well. I had good reads on people, I played the correct hands, I played them correctly...and it did not matter. Trash hands sometimes win and this was one of those nights. I ended up 5th or 6th, but to be honest, on a night I thought I should have won, does one place that ain't first really matter? I am going to argue no.

Or maybe I am wrong. Maybe I am just a horrible player who deserves to get beat. I don't really believe that...I pretty much have a good idea of the range of hands people are holding, I get away from hands where I am beat, I do the "correct' things to drive out sub-par holdings...but if people stay in with that, though they are mathematically incorrect to do so, they still are going to hit x% of the time...and sometimes those percentages work against me. And, in truth, with 3 and 4 callers, A/Q is an overall underdog even if it was individually a favorite against any calling hand. So the odds were not even in my favor and statistiacally, my A/Q did about right for the night.

With no cards...

Just 7 other people. I wasn't going to play but thought eh, might be my last game for a while, might as well. Of the 7 there were 2 new players, both older gentlemen playing an older style of poker. It was a fairly passive group, however. Verne to my left did not raise pre-flop even once all night, Bill Rickman will occasionally raise, but not often, Barbara never raises, Gary Todd will, but if he does you know he has Aces so his raises are seldom indeed, Al raised once all night...with Aces...and John very seldom raises.

I limped once, then was folding, folding, folding. Got into a hand from big blind with J/9 spades. Flop came 10 Spades, 9 Hearts, 8 Spades. I had middle pair, open ended straight flush draw. I raised. Everyone called. Turn was a 5 diamonds. Checked around. River was a King. I checked, Verne bet, Barbara called, I folded. Barbara had a straight.

More folding. Got down a ways to about 2600 or so. Raised three times the blinds with pocket jacks. 4 callers. Flop was bad for me with a King and Queen on it. Everyone checked, I raised. They all called. Turn was an Ace. Checked around. River was a 10...yay, I made the Ace high straight. Quick check...nope, no flush possibilities. I raised. And Al came over the top to put me all in. With the nut straight, of course I called...and he had a King Jack. Split pot.

Fold, fold, pocket jacks. Raise it. Only Barbara calls. Flop comes ragged, King high. I raise, she calls. Check to the river, she hit runner runner to hit a straight...

From there on it was look for an all in hand. And I was totally card dead. Nothing. Garbage. Rot. Finally, having blinded down to just 600, Al raised, caller or two by the time it got to me, figured I was getting 4-1 on my chips with a J/9, decent drawing hand, I called all-in. Flop was ragged and low. Al bet big. Bill came over the top all in. I figured I was finished. Nope, just bad poker. Bill did that with nothing. He had A/10. No flush draw, just two big cards against someone who raised pre-flop and, with someone all-in, showed strength post-flop. Now I had 2 live cards. Neither hit and I ended the night having "won" 1 hand...the split pot.

The only two decent hands I got were the fishhooks, and both times they were cracked by K/J. That hurt.

Worst thing is, there was no such thing as bluffing anyone off a pot since virtually every one was contested at the river, including some crazy ones.

Case in point; Bill and Al raised and re-raised each other on the flop, turn, and river. And on a flush and straight heavy board, Bill showed his pair of threes he had raised 2000 on the river, and Al showed the pair of 2s he had called that river bet with. So if they will raise and call like that with nothing...well, you ain't getting them off a pot with a mere 1600 chips (what I was left with after the second Jacks hand) or less. So I had to have cards and just never got them.

It made me sad. Last night should have been John v Drew finals round 2. Sometimes you just can't catch anything or do a thing. I ended the night without a clean win.


Another slow night...just 10 players, so 2 tables of 5. The dynamics change so much when there are just 5 people...and again, depending on who those 5 are. At my table there was Don to my left, then Barbara, then Christine, then Bill. What sort of table does that make it?

Don is a very, very aggressive player. He raises a lot, will check-raise like a fiend, and will bluff a lot. He likes to slow play a lot so I won't raise with just high cards very often.

Barbara likes to limp with any two cards, dislikes pre-flop raises, but will call them quite often, including with junk hands. However, about 4 times the blinds usually chases her off unless she has a really good hand.

Christine is a solid player. She typically limps/calls and will chase but she knows when to fold and almost always makes final table.

Bill is a different bird. He changes gears a lot but also tends to play a lot of power poker. He will shove with some pretty questionable hands (Q/2, Q/4 type stuff).

Additional factor; the next-door Radio Shack had been broken into the previous day so at 8 PGE was shutting off the power, so we needed to finish by 8 so the blinds were going to be really fast, which I hate doing. And no, I do not get the connection between the break-in and the power outage either, but...whatever. You work with what is, not what should be or what makes sense.

We started slow. I was playing almost no hands and catching no cards. In the big blind I checked with some garbage hand...J/3? Anyway, ended up pairing it. With the splashes and the limps ended up winning almost 400 to get above starting range. The next hand I "played" I had Q/10 suited, the blinds were 50/100 already. I raised to 300, everyone folded. A couple people had limped, so I made another about 500 between splashes and limpers.

Won a couple forgettable hands, forgot a couple, we got down to 8, final table.

Up to this point it had been a fairly uneventful but nevertheless fun game. The dynamics of the table were "friends playing cards". Now that would change. To my left sat Boston John and to my right sat Gary T. To John's left was Don, then to his left my Father in Law John.

Now, Boston John is one of those guys who I really do not enjoy playing with. He calls it "drunken monkey poker" and that is how he treats it. He will raise all-in without bothering to look at his cards, make horrific calls and wild raises not because he thinks he has the best cards or because he is reading people but just because it is "free poker". It is players like him who make the game no fun for people who, knowing it is free poker, still play it "real", play their best game and try to make sense.

Gary plays with his hand face up...or at least, he might as well. I can read him like a book. Unfortunately, he also smokes like a freight train. He not only chain smokes, he tilted towards me so I was operating in a brutal haze. I took to sitting about 3' away from the table, coming up long enough to check my cards, then retreating. Very unpleasant.

Papa John I have essentially taught Texas Hold 'Em. He knows poker but not this version. I taught him quite a bit, and he has enough natural talent that he could easily win a tournament if he caught the right cards.

Now the table is a bit chippy. Gary and Bill are going at each other a bit, John is causing discomfort, and now there is a tenseness and an edge. Suddenly all the joy has gone out of the game for the night for me. About three hands in I am big blind, everyone limps, I look down at the Cowboys. All in. They all fold and now I am over 6K. We only started with 30K in play, so I am above average and at the moment, chip lead.

Bill has been up and down. Right now he is up. Blinds are 2/400. I am playing almost no hands. With about 5 players I check the big blind with 9/10 off. Flop comes A/10/9 rainbow. Bill raises 1000. I put him on an ace with decent kicker. Gary whines and complains as he does when he is beat but he calls. Weak Ace or maybe even the 10. 2 people to act behind me. I check the score of the Blazer game. They are winning. Gary is lighting a cigarette. I decide to either win or lose the tournament right here because with Aces at least one of them will call me. I don't want to sit in the smoke, I would not mind watching the game, but if I win then I am going to win the tournament. With chips in hand, I am good enough to take this table without breaking a sweat if I want to. But I am only going to make a move if I legitimately think I am ahead. I don't mind getting sucked out on but my goal is to always put my chips in with a lead.

I know Bill's game well enough to be pretty confident in my read. If he had 2 pair he would have shoved. Gary would have re-raised with 2 pair or better. Barbara will call if she has any pair, Christine will fold unless she has me beat. I think about what they might have. I put the girls on weak hands, though this is iffy. They have really not had a chance to show the strength of their hands. But Barbara looks ready to release her hand and Christine lost interest in the hand, so I believe they will both fold. I decide I am ahead.

I go all in for my last 5500 over the top of their 1000. Fold to Bill who hesitates. He ponders. He fingers his chips. He starts to release his hand. I revise my estimate to a weak ace or maybe just a pair of 10s or 9s. He calls. Gary folds, claiming he will regret his fold. I put him on maybe the 9. Bill flops up A/7. Cool, I am way ahead, about a 3-1 favorite. The turn is a complete blank. At first I thought it was a 9 and he was drawing dead, but then it proved to be a 6. Oh, well. No flush draws, no straight draws. I am 3-1 to nearly triple up and take a commanding lead.

Until he spikes the 7. He has me covered by 100 chips and I am gone.

Which was more than okay. It gave me a chance to get the tables cleaned up, the place straightened out, and I got to watch a lot of the Blazer game.

Now, in retrospect, most people I know would not have made the move I made. There was a chance I was reading them wrong and someone had 2 pair. I could have just called and seen the river. I could have folded...well, okay, I flopped 2 pair, I wasn't folding to a mere 1000.

The situation is I could have folded my way to the final 2. A couple people were low on chips and the blinds were fast so I was in great position. Why put my tournament on the line where I KNOW I am getting called by at least 1 and probably 2 players (I really believed Gary would call)?

And the answer is simple. I believed I had at worst a 3-1 lead with a great re-draw. Even if I were enjoying the table, I want to WIN the tournament, not finish high in the points. At no point am I likely to have a better hand to double or triple up with. They are in the hand, they have shown interest. If they both have Aces, as I suspect, that leaves them the case Ace to catch trips. That leaves them at most 7 outs; 3 to pair the other card in their hand, 3 to pair the turn, and the case Ace. Even if they hit their card, I have a redraw for the boat if a 9 or 10 rolls off.

I believe I am a better player than most if not all of the other players at that table. I am not, however, more than 3 times as good. I am unlikely to have a 4-1 to double up. I can't win without doubling up multiple times. So I am taking my shot whether it is early, late, or in the middle of the tournament. I am after tournament wins, not 20 or 30 more points because I laid down a probable winning hand.

As I told John in the post-mortem, even knowing the outcome of the hand, had they laid their hands face-up and said they would call, I would have done the same thing. I had the best hand. I had the best draw. Sometimes that works out...sometimes it doesn't.

As I look at it, the situation was win-win. Either I have so many chips nobody there is coming back on me or I get to watch the Blazer game. So yeah...I would do it again. And again. And again. Busting out only bothers me if it is inadvertent or if I get in with a worse hand. Neither thing was true.


A new strategy

There is something I have been doing a bit lately just to see how it works. It is kind of the inverse of a blind check.

I love to blind check when I am first to act. Like, if I am out of position and weakly call with something like J/10 or something where I am trying to sneak into a cheap flop or if I raise with something like Big Slick or Fishhooks or something and someone calls or even re-raises, if I stay then I want to see what they are thinking so I will blind check. This essentially turns me into the button, though it does not give me the option to steal-raise. If they check, depending on the person, I usually have a pretty good idea of whether they improved and whether they will call or not if I raise subsequently. Some people slow-play so often that I do not get that information...then again, I am a smart enough player that I don't blind check with them, either. At least, not that they know about. I might have a plan for the hand that includes checking regardless of what card comes.

I actually like this plan against habitual slow players. If they are never going to raise their good hands, I am not going to do their raising for them. If they want to check down their set, let's check it down and I will play a small pot with them. Only if I have a pretty sure-fire win will I bet against the constant slow-players. This, by the way, is yet one more reason to mix up my game. Otherwise, if I am always (and only) betting good hands, people will fold and never pay me off. Conversely, if I am always (and only) slow-playing, they will check down every hand and I will not make enough chips on my good hands to pay the blinds and make up for hands I get involved in where I lose.

Be that as it may, my new plan is great fun. I usually, though not always, do it with a high pair. I have also done it with Big Slick, a medium pair, and once on medium suited connectors.

If I am first to act and raised pre-flop then everything is in place. After the last call, just before the flop, I blind raise, anywhere from 3 times the blinds on up to a pot-sized bet.

This blind raise proves quite intimidating. People instantly have to put me on Kings or Aces whether I have them or not. Thus, unless they can beat at the least a pair of Aces they cannot...or, rather, should not...call. I have a great chance to take down the pot right there. If not, then it puts tremendous pressure on them.

Take a hand from the other night. It was about the 5th hand of the night. I was in the big blind and picked up the Cowboys. 4 or 5 people had limped in so I jacked it up a bit more than usual, 300, which was 6 times the blinds. There was already about 3-400 in the pot, so they still might be priced in. Only Gary C. called and he was on the button. Before he could deal the flop, I said, "Raise" and tossed out 600. He was so shocked he almost folded right there. Then the flop came...rag, King, Ace.

I was thinking this flop was perfect for me. I know his game so well that I knew if he had Kings or Aces he would have raised, and with a range of pocket 8s or better or something like A/rag suited or better or even with 2 paint cards he would call me. So there was a real good chance he hit his Ace or King and would pay me off. I actually put him on the Ace and hoped he would re-raise me because after I hit the Alabama Knight Riders I would go all-in in a heart-beat. I did not believe he had a set of Aces and anything else I was destroying.

He hemmed and hawed and hesitated and considered and paused...and finally called. The turn was a blank, no straight or flush draws. I considered checking, but then decided to continue putting on the pressure and raised another 600. He asked what I had, paused, thought, almost folded, almost raised...now I was sure he had something like A/good kicker, but not A/K because he would have re-raised me with top two pair. In other words, I believed he had a good hand but he was beat, and beat badly.

The river was a blank. As usual, I raised and he thought, pondered, sighed, and finally folded face-up...Jacks. He had the Fishhooks. He called my pre-flop raise, a move I don't mind there. He should have raised them, it would have completely changed the hand. Since he didn't, he allowed the blind raise. And that determined the hand. Well, that and flopping the set. My blind raise completely intimidated and demoralized him (and he was eliminated soon after).

It also builds an image for me that if I am raising, you better come strong or stay home because I am not going to be afraid of any card that hits on the flop. It is a somewhat risky play...if someone DID limp/call with the Rockets, that hand would have broke me. Or if they limp/call with something like 8s and they hit their set while I miss mine it can cost me. But even if someone has something like A/9, A/rag, something like that, my blind-raise might get them off their Ace even if an Ace hits. It is something I will do sometimes with a weak pair...say, the hockey sticks. 7s are nothing to write home about, but properly played they can do wonders.

Of course, part of properly playing them is knowing your opponents. There are people I play against whom I am laying those 7s down pre-flop from the small blind and others against who I am going to raise them from Under the Gun. It all depends on my image for that night and who else is at the table. I know who is passive, who is a gambler, and who will respond with aggression. Against those who will re-raise, even with Aces I will probably not blind-raise since their re-raise might show 2 pair or something similar that will have me beat. With people who use blind aggression I want to consider the texture of the flop and the hands they will use before I put in a lot of chips.

So the blind raise is, like any other tool, one to be used selectively. Against the right player it applies tremendous pressure and gives you an advantage. Like anything else, when mis-used it will cause trouble. Just sayin'.

So when you play slow...

early on was not getting much but just waited...waited....waited....waited...got good cards, raised, got a couple callers, raised the flop, they folded.

Waited...waited...waited...raised Aces. Got a couple callers. Raised the flop, they folded. I was staying between 2500 and 4400 all night.

Finally, when I was at the upper end, raised pocket 10s. Leng called. Flop came King, rag, rag, he checked, I raised, he came over the top. I instantly knew he had the King...but now I was getting about 8-1 on my chips so I called. He had the King...and a 10. So I was chasing the case 10 and did not get it. Now I am down to about 1600.

Lots of callers to my big blind. I have 4/7 Spades. Flop comes 7/k/7, 2 hearts. They check, I go all-in, Leng calls (by now he had lots of chips) and I have about6K.

Get to the final table. Keep adding chips here and there. Pick up A/10. Raise to 3 times the blinds. Larry calls. Larry is a good player, always has a nice pile of chips when he gets to the final table. But he had taken a couple losses and my raise left him about 1000, less than I raised. Flop came King high. He checked, I went all-in thinking he was priced in but I could make that raise...but not that call. He thought for a long time and then folded. I picked up lots of chips on that one.

Get down to three people...Leng, John, and me. Leng is short stack, I am big stack. Pick up A/J, raise 3 times the blinds. John folds, Leng calls. Flop is beautiful, A/J/rag, though there are 2 clubs. I raise, he calls. Turn is a blank, he checks, I go all in, he calls. He has nothing...a 2/4, though the 4 is a club. And he spikes a club to double up and cripple me.

I double up a couple times, at the break I have about 12K, John has about 14K, and Leng has about 12K. We all go back and forth but I lose a couple hands and get low. Got down to 4500, in the big blind for 2K leaving me 2500. John, who twice had Queens busted, once by a Straight on the board, the other time when I river flushed him when I was all in pre-flop with 7/9 Hearts and my last 2000. I thought he might be a bit on tilt, he went all-in. Leng, who will call with any two cards, called. I hesitated. I had a 7/10 off. I knew I should fold. I decided 3 - 1 on my money and I probably had 2 live cards. I did. But both of them improved, I didn't and I was out in third.

But I am fine with that, I like both guys, they played better tonight and deserved to finish higher. Most important, I had fun.

Good poker made easy

So after the Thursday performance I felt like I really played well. Next up, 14 players. My table had Boston John to my right and John C. to his right, the rest of the table was pretty passive. Gary B., Paul, Danny, and...and....someone.

Boston John is one of those tough, tough players for me, much like Randy. Not because he is a great player...actually, specifically because he isn't. He likes to call it...and treat it as..."drunken monkey poker". He will make insane calls because it "is free poker". Which would be fine...except he is beating the edge. In other words, if I get him in as a 22-1 dog...which I do regularly...he hits about 40% of the time, a ridiculous statistical anomaly that threatens to disrupt my game. However, it also makes it easier to make more sketchy calls because he will raise and/or call with almost any 2 cards. So you need less of a hand because his raises mean less. Gary B., Paul, and Danny are pretty easy to read, though I respect all their games and John C is one of the few people I credit with being straight out better than me at poker.

Overall, I like this table because I can play good poker and it will mean something. I tend to do better against better players because I get my chips in too often against bad players and due to the sheer volume of times I put chips in play, their long-shots hit too often against me and I get in trouble.

Started out winning a couple hands, then losing a couple. About even after the first blind level. Was limping in for whatever reason. Decided to switch it up and play good poker. Picked up pocket 3s from middle position. Raised triple the blinds to 300. Gary called. Flop came 8/q/8, I raised, he folded. I saw what he folded, A/9. I had not realized it before but he does not protect his cards when he looks at them. I had to actively work to not see his cards all night.

Next hand, I bumped it with pocket 4s. One caller. Another flop like the one before, the board paired and had a King. Randy checked, I raised and...he folded? Randy folded? He must have had something like a 2/9 or something. He never folds before the river. So I was up about 4K off those 2 hands.

One hand I lost a few chips on. Limped in with K/9 suited. That is one problem with limping. I start playing trash hands like that. I am essentially playing for the second nut flush since any straight means I bust out to someone playing the big slick. Couple other callers. Flop came King high, I raised, Paul folded, Danny and Randy called. As soon as Danny called I shut it down, putting him on the King and better kicker. We checked it down and sure enough he flipped up Big Slick. So I lost about as little as possible...it is an open question whether he would have raised or not, and an even better question if I would have called. I would argue I was playing somewhat poorly with limping...so I might have.

Meanwhile, Paul started doing some selective raising, John C. raised on occasion...and when they did, it was great because it told me they had good hands. Did some selective calling. Example; picked up the transvestite (A/4) suited. John C. raised. I put him on a big pair, MAYBE Big Slick. I called. If I hit the flop hard, either the Ace or 2 or even a complete flush, I could take a bundle of chips, if not...he only double the blind and I was in the big blind so I was getting 4-1+ on my chips (the plus was if others called...which they did). The flop was ragged with King high, he raised, we all folded. He showed Kings.

Now, I liked that he showed them because it let me know my read had been pretty solid and pretty much let me know how he was playing. But it also let us all know to respect his raises.

So now the table had slightly shifted to where some limping, some raising was happening. Boston John came back from death's door several times to actually have me outchipped. I had about 4200 by the time we got to 3/600...and unbelievably, nobody had busted out.

I picked up Q/K suited. I raised three times the blinds to 1800. Everyone folded to Boston who had limped in. He now went over the top all-in. Here is where reputation matters.

If Paul, Gary B., Danny, or John C. makes that raise I fold. With Boston John...yes, he might have me crushed with something like A/Q...but I doubt it. He is just as likely to have 10/4 suited or some such trash. Actually, more likely. So I went ahead and called. It was playing the person, not the cards because K/Q is a dangerous hand.

If someone like John C. calls, I am going to credit him with having limped with something like an A/Q or A/K where I am playing for 3 outs since I am dominated. I will essentially discount the flush and straight possibilities as those require everything to fall just right. Since I think it likely I am dominated, I will fold. But with a looser player like Boston, I am more likely to have 2 live cards...and 2 big ones. That is the difference between calling and folding. If I fold, I am in trouble with 2500 left.

Well, this time John had a legit hand...A/J. But I spiked the queen on the flop, he never improved, and now I had a nice stack of over 8600 (blinds who did not call our duel).

This let me play a hand I maybe should not have. I called a raise of double the blinds with J/8. The flop came Q/J/10 giving me second pair and a gut shot. I briefly considered raising, but before I could Paul raised. Now, normally here I credit him with the Queen since he was first to act and is a solid player. However, I did have A) chips to play with, B) middle pair, and C) I have been called so many times by 2nd pair that sucked out, I was still a bit on tilt and randomly called, as did one other guy. Turn and river were blanks and were checked down. Paul only had the 10s and my jacks were good. Interesting.

Not long after that, Gary was down to 400 and under the gun. I promised to call him (I was in the Big Blind and had 600 out there) if he went all-in. It got the desired laugh. Couple of limpers, including John C. I raised enough to put John all-in...and John, to my surprise, called. I was a bit bummed. I figured he would know me well enough to not call there. Also, I really wanted to isolate. The more people involved, the more likely I will get my Aces cracked.

Well, Gary turned up the 5/8...of Hearts. John turned up the 9/10...of Hearts. I had both Red Aces so if a lot of Hearts came, I wanted 4, not 3. Gary had a long-shot straight draw or needed 2 pair, John had a better straight draw and a flush draw.

The flop I did not like much at all. It had a 6,7, and rag...and 2 hearts. Gary had an up and down straight draw, John had a flush draw. Turn was a 10. But neither got help on the river and they were both gone. That also sent us to the final table.

I now had 14, 15K, something like that. And I kept winning. If I got into a hand, I won it. There was really only one "big" hand. It came when we got down to 5 players.

I was in early position and picked up 7/9 diamonds. All night I had folded these hands. Now, however, with a clear chip lead...by this point I was well over 18K and probably had over half the chips in play, the others being pretty evenly distributed among the other 4...I decided to limp and see if I could hit it hard. With blinds of 4/800 people were not raising much. Well, everyone calls and as the small blind completes I say, "Looks like a family...first one of the night." Obnoxious Gary says, "Nope, because I am going to raise it."

Fair enough. Actually, I will argue this is a strong play. You have Terry limping under the gun, I limped, so did Bud and Danny. That means, with Gary's blind, there is already 4000 in the pot. That is a worthwhile pot already. A strong raise here will get rid of weak hands and might even win the pot. Picking up 4K at this point is huge. Instead, he made a minumum raise, 800.

I consider this a weak, weak raise. Let's look at what price everyone got:
Terry had originally called 800 to win 1200 (the blinds) if nobody else called.
I had called 800 to win 2000.
Bud called 800 to win 2800.
Danny called 400 to win 3600.

Now, his raise:
Terry needs to call 800 to win 4800. He is getting a whopping 6-1 on his money. Even if he was just being funny with a 2/7 off suit call, he is getting the correct price to call. In a stunning move, he weakly folded. Very weak play. What hand can you call getting 1.5-1 on your chips, but not call 6-1? As an aside, this tells me he does not understand or use pot odds. This is valuable information for the future as far as pricing him in or out of hands for draws, etc. He will go with his hunches instead.
I need to call 800 to win 4800 with a strong drawing hand that, if it hits, has hidden strength and can take down a HUGE pot.
Bud now needs to call 800 to win 5600 and does so.
Danny needs to call 800 to win 6400, an incredible 8 - 1 on his chips. And amazingly, he is the only one for whom the price got worse...but still, even if I have 2/7 against Aces, at 8 - 1 I am at least going to see a flop. So is Danny.

Well, the flop was great and horrific for me. It was great because I flopped a flush, with the backdoor runner-runner straight flush impossible dream draw. It was horrible because if anyone else flopped a flush as well, there were and Ace, King, Queen, and Ten out there that beat me. I flopped the 5th nut flush. If the second nuts loses a lot of chips, how many can you lose with the 5th nut flush? Well, with 7200 already in the pot I wanted it. And since Terry had folded, I was first to act. I did not even hesitate, almost as soon as the third card hit the table I went all-in meaning it was going to cost anyone who called all their chips. I am getting called by the Q, K, or Ace high flushes. Nobody else can even think about it because I have their outs to the straight flush.

They all got out of the way. Gary, as usual, complained about having to make a laydown and insisted it be run out, showing his K diamonds and some other random card. He would not have made his flush and I would have taken him out. He lost a hand he could have won.

If instead of a weak nuisance raise...a raise so small that anyone who limped is priced in by definition, except for the small blind...he had raised, say, 4 times the blinds, lets see if I call. Blinds are 4/800 so that would be 3200. Now I have to call 3200 to win 7200 once Terry lays it down. I also see weakness in those behind me so cannot imagine they would call this raise so there are no implied odds to make the weak call look right. I fold and probably so does everyone else, giving him the pot. However, he is a weak player who does not understand the concepts of pot odds...he actually makes fun of people who use them...and thinks if he raises, people should fold...then complains when they did because he had such a great hand.

Of course, he also had targeted me because I had made a pre-flop raise with A/10 and hit top pair, raised it again and was called. At the showdown, Danny had, as I suspected, a weaker Ace. It had not been a big pot, but Gary thought I was playing weak cards.

Really? 5 handed, A/10 is weak? Okay. Anytime you want to go all-in, you go right ahead. I will call you more than likely if I have A/10 or better. With 8 or 9 players, no. But 5? In a heartbeat.

Got up to about 22K. Got down to heads up with Bud, whom I have not played with, and a HUGE lead..about 30K to 12K. And could not put him away.l At least twice blind raised his last 1000 pre-flop...and he won both hands. Got him all-in 4, 5 times...and either he won or we split every time (twice we split). He never got over about 14K...but I could not put him away. Finally did just by attrition and won.

Overall, it was a solid night. I played slow, solid poker. Only once all night were all my chips at risk (the hand against Boston John) and, while I did get in slightly behind and suck out, it was not a huge deficit. I slowly but steadily made gains when I played hands and lost very few. Once more, play good cards, play them strongly, or fold. Good things happen. Very few spectacular...or even interesting...hands, just a steady climb to accumulate chips.


Bad poker made easy

The Goose and I were going to go to a movie but it did not start until late so to dodge traffic and wait for the movie start, I headed over to Mixers.

First off...wow, how the mighty have fallen! There were 4 of us besides the tournament host...Gypsy, who works next door, Taz, who works there, myself, and a guy I don't really know though this is the third time I have played with him.

I had a pretty firm goal going in even before I knew how many people would be there. Accumulate enough chips to win if I wanted, then about 45 minutes in start working on depleting them by playing "respectable" hands that could still lose and not look like I was dumping them.

Early on I pretty much limped from small and big, raised if I played from anywhere else, or folded. Meanwhile, I got a read on their play.

Gypsy has gotten better. Now he raises a bit more often and, instead of just raising with the nuts or close to it, he raises with draws, for one thing, which adds a lot of deception to his game. The director is a terrible, terrible player. He stayed in on a board of 4/5/6 against flop and turn raises with Big Slick. Then, just to prove it was not an isolated incident, he stayed in against pre-flop raises, a board of A/K/5 against a raise on the flop, and another raise on teh turn with a 2/4 and when he rivered a 3 he had lots of chips. Of course, he kept giving them back by staying to the river with any 2 cards...

Taz was playing his normal maniacal game and going from short stack to average to short to average. The other guy has calmed his game a lot and gotten much, much better.

I just played good cards and played them solidly. Once I called a raise with A/J hearts, the flop was low and ragged, checked, when an Ace hit the pre-flop raiser (three time player guy) bet and I put him on a better Ace and folded. Sure enough, at the river he had big slick.

Other than that, I played my cards solidly. On one hand I raised with A/9 (I loosen my requirements a bit 5 handed) from the button, the director called. I knew he would call with any 2 cards but I bet the flop after I missed it anyway. I bet it strongly and he actually folded.

An interesting hand came up I was not in. First guy folded, I folded, director, in the small blind, hesitated to complete his blind. As soon as he did, Taz reached for a big chip. Director completed, Taz raised, he folded. We all saw what happened and commented on it. I knew Taz would make that play and knew what to watch for. Just another reason to pay attention even when not in the hand. You can pick stuff up.

It paid off a couple hands later. With 4 players (Gypsy had busted out after a couple bad calls) I picked up Q/J in the big blind. He hesitated, then called, Taz folded, guy to my right completed, I raised 3 times the blinds (2/400 w/ante...one reason their attendance has fallen. People don't like the ante.) to 1200. He hesitated again, then came over the top all-in, the other guy folded.

Now, had I not seen and confirmed his hesitation, I don't know if I would have called. After all, when all else is said and done, I had a Queen high. But several things worked against him.

1) He consistently mis-valued hands.
2) His initial hesitation led me to believe he had something weak...maybe middle cards or low cards or at best something like a K/4, that type of trash hand.
3) His second hesitation included pulling out calling chips, then deciding to make a big overbet...2500 more or so all-in. It seemed like a move, not a "I have a killer hand and think he will pay me off."

Had Taz...or even the other guy...made this play I would have folded. But based on my read I called.

And he turned up Q/2 off.

Good read. Better flop...Q/J/rag. Turn was a deuce, giving him 2 outs. He hit neither.

Then the Goose called...the movie was off. I started looking to go home, loosening my play A LOT,

I took a lot of small pots and ended up pretty clear chip lead with about 9K (only 15K in play) and 3 players

Picked up pocket 3s. Raised to 1200. Might have been a bad raise since it essentially pot committed me. Taz came over the top all in, it was only about another 8 or 9 hundred so I was guaranteed calling. He had A/4. He hit the 4 on the flop, I never improved. Now he was the chip lead

Next hand he raised, we both called (I had K/7 and would not have called had I not wanted to go.). Flop came King high, 3 spades. Guy next to me made a speech about should he go all-in? then checked. Now, that could mean several things:

1) he really had a big hand. I did not believe it.
2) he had a weak hand and wanted us to check in hopes he could improve. This I believed.
3) he had a draw to a strong hand and wanted a free card to get it. Another possibility, though I really thought it was #2.

I did not check. I sent in the chips, believing they would both call and Taz had something like Big Slick. He did call, the other guy folded. And Taz was ahead...though not as far as I thought. He had Aces. I thought I had 3 outs (the 7s), but because he had a BETTER hand than I thought, I actually improved to 5 outs since the Kings would help.

Fortunately, I did not improve and was on my way out the door.

I know it sounds weird to go from chip lead to out in 2 hands and think I did well...but that fit my time frame and I did exactly what I wanted. Had I wanted to win I would have. Instead, I proved (to myself) that I was, that night, the best player at the table and when it was time to go, I got in with hands that were believable I would call on but were odds on favorites to lose. (I actually suspect I was a slight favorite on the 3s, but not so much that I was surprised to get beat. Probably something like 51-49 or some other statistically irrelevant advantage.)

So I will argue I played well, even on my bust-out binge.

Plus, I got home with no traffic. A perfect night.


Pinball Poker

Small turnout of 8, but Leng elected to play so we split to 2 tables of 5. I had Barbara to my left, John to her left, Randy to my right and...uh...someone across from me. Trying to remember who. Oh, well. Bill. Bill Rickman.

I started off okay, winning a couple pots. When the blinds were up, picked up fishhooks with a couple people in the pot. Raised to 400. Randy called. I was first to act so I blind raised. I did that because I figured to have the better hand and I did not want him staying around on a draw. Also, if an Ace rolled off, I did not want him thinking I was scared of the Ace. Flop was ugly. 8/k/8. He really wanted to call, but my blind raise scared him off and he finally folded.

Then something happened. I started limping in...and I knew it was weak and did not care because I just wasn't in to the game. This is happening a lot lately. Anyway, I had the q/9. Flop came Q/5/3. I raised. Barbara and Randy both called. I gave her credit for the Queen and was not proud of my kicker. The turn was checked around and the river was an Ace. She hit two pair...Aces and 5s. A couple hands later, I was in the big blind with K/7. Another ragged flop with King high. I bet, they both stayed. Checked to the river. Again an Ace spiked and Randy hit two pair...his kicker was a 3.

For whatever reason, that put me on tilt. And it should not have. But getting slapped around twice in short succession when I flopped top pair, played them weakly (I should have bet bigger and bet the turn both times) I got river ratted. I think it was largely because I really didn't feel like playing so I let stuff affect me.

And when I was next in the big blind I had K/7 and it was just Barbara and I. I still had plenty of chips, about 5K since I had won quite a bit early before I lost interest. Anyway, the flop came King high. For a third time in just a short period I had flopped top pair. However, this time it looked dangerous...3 clubs. My 7 was a club. I thought about betting. If I were not on tilt I would have. But I found myself in a weird place...not enjoying the game, but attached to my chips. When I play well, I will lay chips out there without worrying about losing them all. When I play poorly, I hesitate to bet when I should and call less often.

Turn was another club giving me a 7 high flush. I checked, she bet, I flipped my cards up saying "I just have top pair and a 7 high, I can't call." She flipped up hers...a 3/5, with the 5 her club. I had the better hand. I played it weakly. I lost chips.

And I kept bleeding them until at the final table I had just 1600. I went all in with K/Q suited and ran into big slick. I spiked the queen on the flop...but there was a 10, too. I said, "Give him his Jack" and meant it. The turn was a blank but the river gave him the Jack and I was on my merry way.

I have been trying to figure out where the fun went. I used to love poker and want to play. Now about half the time I like it and the other half I just don't feel like playing...or if I play, after 10 - 15 minutes I get bored. I find very few hands interesting (note how few I looked at here...I got up over 6000 chips early on. There should be some interesting hands in there.) Hmm. What is going on here? Must examine this situation.


Thinking back

There is one play I made in the Friday tournament which has really gnawed at me as a mistake...actually, it was a play I DIDN'T make.

Here is the situation: A guy raises from middle position, everyone checks to me in the big blind. With A/6 I call because something about it did not feel right. I kind of thought he was playing position more than his cards and he thought everyone would fold. Generally speaking I am folding A/6, suited or not, if someone shows strength. But this time I decided to play, and going into that decision was his short stack. I had chips to play with at this point as I was the clear chip leader at the table.

The flop came King high and paired my 6. Check, check. Right there I figured I was ahead. I planned to bet the turn. Out came another high card. And I ....checked.

That was a weak play. I had twice read him for weakness. Even though I was weak as well, with 3 overs to my pair on the board, I thought he had something like a couple high cards. I believed I was ahead. And I gave him a free card to catch up. I should have put him all-in. He checked.

River was a blank. I had decided to check it down when before I could act, he hovered his hand over his last 2K. My first thought was he was trying to intimidate me so I should bet. My second thought was if he bet the 2K I would fold. My third thought was when Kenneth does this same tell, he actually HAS the hand.

So I sat back to think. If I went with my first read I should bet the 2K. If I was correct about his weakness he would fold and my own weak hand would win the hand. After all, there were 3 overs to my lowly 6s on the board.

However, 2K would, thought I was chip lead, still be a reasonable chunk of my stack. I would still be chip lead, but there wasn't enough in the pot to really fight over, certainly not enough to risk 2K.

I KNOW that tell, though. When someone who usually waits for their turn suddenly, deliberately, and intentionally, does something to reveal their plan out of turn...THEY ARE ACTING. And when someone acts, figure out what they want you to do and do the opposite. In this case, he obviously wanted me to check. I knew it as surely as I could know anything. I knew he was weak. But I knew I was weak, too. I never really convinced myself he was doing the Kenneth on this one. Different people, same tell, different meanings.

I talked myself out of the raise because I did not want to raise with 4th pair and have him call. I wanted him to check.

So I checked. And he, with a relieved sigh, checked. And showed his pocket 4s.

Sure, I won the hand. But I won it weakly and only because he played it weakly. I should have gone with my read, bet the 2K, and put the pressure on him. No matter what the result of the hand was, I was outplayed on this one. I made a read and refused to go with it.

This is a weakness in my game. If I am going to play an aggressive style...raising pre-flop, making continuation bets, being willing to shove all-in with vulnerable hands if I think I am ahead...then I need to be aggressive all the way. If I read my opponent as being weak, I need to put pressure on them regardless of what I have.

This was a time I played my cards instead of the opponent and it cost me.

Not so much in chips...I am positive he would have folded had I put him all-in as I should...but it cost me in table image as I demonstrated I would A) play a weak hand and B) allow myself to be manipulated.

An aggressive player needs to control the table. When I am playing correctly people will fold if I am acting after them because they know if I enter the pot I am coming in firing. This allows me to develop an image, alter the table mores, and even play more pots since the way I set this image is to raise early, win the hand, and show good cards.

If I am a part-time aggressor, part-time soft player I destroy all the good work I have done and am going to get some calls I don't want. So the mistake was, in retrospect, HUGE. And hopefully it is one I will not make again.


Elks Lodge Tournament

over 90 players, 3500 starting chips.

I started slow, folding hand after hand. By the 2nd time through the blinds, with the blinds up, I had only been able to "play" one non-blind hand...I picked up pocket 4s from middle position. I had it read as a soft table, raised 3 times the blinds, they folded.

A couple hands later picked up pocket 10s, raised 3 times the blinds to 300, one caller. This guy was a maniac. He would call down straight and flush heavy boards with anything from a pair to a low flush. Of course, the maniacal nature of the table had been set on hand one when Aces raised, Queens called, and on a flush and draw heavy board where neither ever improved, they got it all in.

The flop came Q/Q/8. I thought he might have something like A/Q, K/Q...but he might also have something wildly different. I threw out a 300 chip feeler bet. He raised to 500, we pointed out it had to be 600 so he reluctantly did.

That could mean a couple things; it could mean he had the queen...or it could mean he thought I was making a continuation bet and would fold. I called to see one more card. It was a blank. I checked, he raised. I thought about it, said, "No, I can't get away from thinking you have the queen." and folded. He showed pocket 8s. He had flopped the boat. I got away from it pretty cheap but still it cost me 600.

A few hands later in the big blind with several limpers I had the bachelor hand. The flop was something like 5/7/8. Checked around. Turn was a 9. Checked around. River was a king. A guy made a minimum position bet. I was not sure if he had the king or straight so I called 200 to win about 1000. Nope, he had the straight.

So now I was in trouble. I had won one hand, played 3, and was getting blinded out. I wanted to make a move but I just had trash hand after trash hand. Finally I picked up K/J suited. I had about 1500 left, we were on the 4th blind level, 3/600. A guy 2 seats to my right raised, I went all in. He had pocket queens...uh-oh. One out. And I flopped it to double up.

Next hand I picked up pocket 10s. I raised it. The guy who value bet the straight called. The flop was beautiful, A/10 diamonds and a rag. I went all-in. He went into the tank. I put him on either something like a diamond draw or MAYBE something like top pair and trying to figure out if his kicker was good. But I thought the draw was more likely, I thought he would definitely call with top pair. I was wrong, he had A/9, top pair, mediocre kicker, and he called. My set held up and suddenly I was chip leader.

I won a couple more hands and finally our table was broken up. I ended up sitting next to John. I came out firing, knocking down a couple quick pots with strong hands. And I was playing correctly...it was raise or fold, put the pressure on. I even raised a J/8 off and everyone folded. I knew I had the correct table image.

Then I went card dead. I doubled John up once when I had pocket 9s and he hit an over.

But I was bleeding.

At the next break I had about 11,500. And the blinds went up.

Now it became an all-in fest so unless I had good cards I could not play at all. And with people going all-in for 6, 8, 10K it just wasn't worth playing. One guy kept going in with stuff like K/5 so I knew I would call him with any reasonable hand. And I picked up pocket 3s. Sure enough, right on cue he went all-in. I was going to call...when 3 people called before it got to me. My 3s went into the muck. Ironically...they would have held up. Nobody ever paired and he took it down with A/Q.

Well, I was in trouble and ended up going all in from late position with K/2 hearts. If everything followed recent form, everyone behind me would fold. But the big blind had K/J and called. No help on the flop. None on the turn. But I spiked a deuce on the river. It was a bad beat.

Bled down a bit, picked up K/6. All-in since I would be in another circuit anyway. Again, one caller, the big blind (different guy, I did this one from early position). He turned up...wait for it...K/j. No help on the flop. None on the turn. And I spiked the 6 on the river. Brutal.

But now I had over20K.

And by the time the all-in fests let me play another hand I had 16K. With blinds at 6K...I was in trouble. Pocket 5s. All in. Only the guy I had spiked the 6 against called...and he only called because he was in for 6 in big blind and only had 2K more. He flipped up K/7. And hit the 7 on the first card. So now I was down to 8K.

And I was on the bubble. Should I have made that move? We were 9 handed, final table. That guy had only 8K so he had to survive the blinds. The guy 2 spots to my left would be all-in on his circuit of the blinds. So I could sit and wait for them to go through the blinds and see if they survived...or I could take a shot at really moving up the rankings. On the bubble, a lot of people get tentative. That is the correct play for them. For people like me who are trying to win, not make the points, I would argue it is the wrong play. I am not disappointed at all.

Well, the next hand, the guy 2 seats to my right went all-in on a flush board with a pair of queens...and was taken out by a pair of aces. Neither of them had any of the needed suit, though the board had 4 hearts. Crazy. So I was at least 8th.

I had 2 hands left. And next hand I picket up 7/8 diamonds. Not a good hand...but at least a decent drawer with the odds it was probably better than my next hand. I went all-in, everyone except the big blind folded, he just had k/5. But I never got any help and was gone.

Weird. When I played well, I lost chips. When I played poorly, I won lots of chips. I was a suck-out artist all night. And that makes it hard to feel good about finishing so high.


A key hand

Now that I am taking points, my goal is to win every tournament. Obviously, that is not possible, but going in, that is my goal. I am not just trying to get "in the points", I want as many as possible. I will take chances that might get me out before the points but if they hit will get me close to my goal of pulling in all the chips.

In each tournament, there is a key hand...occasionally a sequence of hands...that determines how close I will get to my goal. One step to improving my play is identifying those hands early and using them to their fullest advantage.

Sometimes those hands are disastrous; the "big tournament" hand where I got crippled when someone donkeyed into a runner- runner low end straight, a couple days ago when someone called an all-in on a gut shot draw and hit it...other times they are the hands where I get chips to play with such as my first-hand set that held up and almost doubled me up against Taz...or even the sequence of hands where I doubled up 2 or three times while getting pocket pair after pocket pair at Jax a couple weeks ago.

Last night the key hand came early. About the second or third hand I raised with the Greek (A-J, or "Ajax"). Couple callers. Flop came Jack high giving me top pair, top kicker. I bet it. Cowboy Bill called. I had him on a draw. Turn was a blank, I bet bigger, he called, river was another blank, I raised, he folded saying he missed his flush.

On the surface, nothing too exciting. However, this was probably THE key hand for my entire night. At little risk to myself (had he hit his flush he would have been full of regret because I had the Ace high flush draw...so he would have lost more chips), I added about 50% to my chip stack. When I raised I got a couple callers. With a raise of 200 and a couple limpers, there was already about 700 in the pot. Bill called raises of 2 and 500, so I added about 1400 to my stack, give or take a few chips.

With the "big stack", this allowed me to take a few small chances. For instance, the next hand I played, I was big blind. I checked it with something like a 2/9. When the flop came 9 high I had top pair, weak kicker. I bet it, everyone folded. I did not take down much...maybe 3 hundred from the limpers...but I added a little bit to my stack. I was able to do that 2 or 3 times with garbage hands they let me check into and then, when I hit, I took down the pots.

Had I not taken down the first pot I could not afford to risk those chips on marginal hands. I mean, seriously...if someone played back at me with a pair of 9s, playing the board for a kicker, could I call? Nope. So those chips were gone if someone re raised me. So if I am at or about my starting stack...or below...I don't make those raises. However, because I am in good chip position, I can make those raises. And those raises garnered me more chips.

I did not get involved in any big pots...I just kept taking down small pots. But I took down several. Finally I raised with Siegfried and Roy (2 Queens), I took down just the blinds...but that was another 300 added to my stack. It got me about 6000.

And that is where I stayed. For a long, long time. I was almost card dead. I got into a pot here and there, stole the blinds a couple times, but was getting almost nothing. Meanwhile, Adam was being super aggressive and I had nothing to play back with. He is a calling station, so raising to get rid of him just doesn't work. He called an all-in with 10/4. They were suited...but they were still a 10-4. He called someones all-in playing for the 5th nut flush...if that is not the epitome of a calling station, I don't know what is.

And later, almost everyone limped in, I weakly completed from the small blind with pocket 3s, and John checked. The flop was dangerous with A/K/blank. Checked around. I bet the turn, Adam called, I shut it down. Yet at the river my 3s stood up. What was he calling with?

Anyway, I was stuck on about 6K from before the end of the second blind level right down to final table. The blinds were not excessively high...about 3/600. But I was going no place and there was such heavy action on every hand I could not get involved. And it was crazy, crazy action...huge pots being taken down with Ace high, stuff like that.

Gary was being Gary, too...whenever he won a pot, talking about what a good lay down everyone made, complaining every time he laid down a hand that would have won.

And I noticed that is a habit I had gotten into. At one point I was going to raise a K/Q off from late position once we were down to I think 5 handed. But a significant raise came in first, I weakly folded. The hand was won with a pair of deuces, and it was a huge pot. Gary kept complaining he would have paired the 8. I figured out how pointless and whiny that is. I actually would have won the pot with a pair of queens, but I kept my mouth shut. That is a step up and I think I shall continue not revealing all the lay downs I (prudently) make pre-flop that would have lucked into a win. Especially on hands like this one where with all the betting that followed I would have had to lay it down anyway, even though had I stayed to the river I would have won.

A little later they folded to me in the small blind. I know John's style of play. He is a solid, solid player, and a tight one. With just 8/10, I decided to take advantage of that and raised. He folded, showing his K/10. So I showed my 8/10. It brought a good laugh....and also built a crazy table image for me in case I needed to get a loose call later on.

Well, a key hand came up that I wasn't even involved in. Danny was all0in pre-flop and got 3 callers. And when the flop came King high, ragged, rainbow, the betting kept escalating. And 2 more were all-in by the river. Adam took it down with a full house which he hit on the river. Instantly he had about twice as many chips as the rest of the table combined. However, the rest of the table combined was a crippled Gary, myself, and John with about 6K each.

Why was it a key hand? Because it put the chips in front of a maniac. If I could just catch a hand, I knew I could double up. Adam is an effective player...but I would not argue a good one. Sure enough, he doubled up Gary, John got him a time or two, and I got him once.

Gary went out. John built to the chip lead, I built to second place. Finally, Todd busted out of the consolation game, and Adam just wanted to leave so I went ahead and put his chips away and it was down to John and I. He was way ahead, probably about 48K to 16K. And 10 of that 16 I had picked off from Adam over the course of about 3 hands plus a couple well-timed blind steals. When the blinds are 4/800, a simple steal adds 1200 to your stack. If you only have say...7K, steal twice, double up once, and fold through a couple of circuits, you are right there.

Well, of all the people at the tournament, John is the one I most want to face and least want to face. I most want to face him because of the people there, he is the one I most enjoy playing with. He is a fun guy to goof around with, he is polite, considerate, and just generally an engaging fellow. He is the one I least want to play because he is about the only one I think is better than me on a consistent basis. Give John and I the same cards against the same opponents, I think his results will be better. I don't think there is anyone else there I would say that of.

Not that I don't respect their games...Adam often ends up with a good size stack, so do Todd, Gary, both Bills, Randy...there are a lot of people who do so. But it pretty much relates to when they hit big, big hands at the right time. I later dealt the end of the consolation table and Randy will consistently chase backdoor straights and flushes against big raises, for example. That is a weak, weak play. But some nights it is hitting and he gets a huge stack. Todd will bully. Some nights when he does, one of the more sophisticated players will have slow-played something and will take him out. He either gets lucky early or is out...and not always on good hands. Adam plays well sometimes but is susceptible to blowing off huge stacks just trying to get lucky...and so forth. They all have strengths but they have weaknesses that are easy to exploit, also.

In John's case, the biggest weakness I have identified is he can on occasion be a little too tight...but very seldom. He picks his spots, gets in better, and plays HIS game. So it is a really hard thing to take advantage of.

In my case, I am often too aggressive. So it plays right into his strengths.

And that is the thing. I have enough tools to deal with almost anyone. Heads up against Gary, if he bets I know I am beat and will fold. Danny I can read like a book. Adam does not have a slow-play in his arsenal. Barb will chase, as will Randy, Cowboy Bill, etc., and so forth...I know who has what tools in their arsenal and I have all those tools in mine...and more...and know how to attack them. I can switch gears, I can adjust my play, I can adapt to what my opponents are doing...and I know how to attack everyone. Except John. He just has my number and I genuinely believe he is a better player.

Be that as it may, this time I switched up my game. Normally I will play every hand heads up. This time I folded a few hands, which is an adaptation to his style. We both raised a few pre-flop, we both folded a few. But I raised a few more, he folded a few more, and when we both saw the flop I won a couple extra hands. I was catching up a bit.

Which makes what happened next a mistake. You see, there are 2 primary modes I play; one is "small-ball". Take down a few chips here and there, build my stack slowly. I am involved in a lot of pots, and neither win nor lose big pots. I plan to win a lot of small pots and not play any big pots. The other is home-run where I want to double up quickly, where I don't play very many pots but I want the ones I do play to be huge.

Now, all night I have been playing small ball. It would be one thing if it weren't working...but it IS. I am hitting cards, I am catching up to John. Small ball is the way to play.

So I pick up the fishhooks. Blinds by now are 1/2K. I bump it to 6K. He goes over the top all-in. And I make a HUGE mistake. I call before he finishes the word "in".

Why is this a mistake? I have Jacks...ain't no way that, heads up, I am laying those down. So the insta-call seems pretty sharp, especially since it was my plan to send in the chips on the flop anyway.

But remember...small-ball was working. Why give back everything I have made up and then some on one hand? Even if he has 10s or worse, or if it is a straight race, the way things were going, I should have folded and gone back to small ball. I got impatient.

Worse, I did not take time to consider what hands he might do that with. I know John well enough to know he was not making a move...at least, not without something like Big Slick or better.

If I hesitate and try to put him on a hand, I am still going to call because I am too aggressive and have Jacks head up. But I should have still thought about it for a few seconds. After all, his chips are committed, he isn't going anywhere. A quick call is not going to scare him into an illegal bet retraction. It serves no purpose whatsoever. I need to lean back, think about it, THEN make my choice.

And what hands can I put him on here? John is a smurfing good player. He has no doubt noticed I have changed gears and am raising less, folding more. He knows I have a hand. Additionally, I had been limping a lot heads up, taking flops, checking them down, betting when I had something. I had folded to some of his raises, I had even folded a few hands pre-flop and given him a walk. So he knew I had a hand. He is already pretty tight. I have seen him play heads up and he is a better heads-up player than I am.

So with that to think about, I am putting him on any pocket pair 8s or better, maybe 2 cards of paint, or a strong Ace. Of those hands, I am behind 3 (Queens, Kings, Aces), a coin flip against a handful (any 2 overs), and ahead of the rest. I think the most likely is a medium pocket pair or a strong ace, maybe big slick. And against them I am calling. So I still make the call. But I should at least think about it yet. I don't have the bullets so I am vulnerable to being behind.

Which is exactly where I was...he had Queens. He had me dead to rights, a 3-1 dog. Flop was no real help...A/9/K, rainbow. Turn was a 10. "Ah, you can have your queen" I joked, since that would give me a straight. The real irony here is I we had traded outs. Any Jack gave me trips and him a straight, and a queen gave him trips and me a straight. SO neither of us wanted a set. But he got one when I 2-outed him on the river for a brutal beat. Even worse, I had him covered and took him out on that.

When someone else deserves the win and I get it, I feel badly about it, just as I do when I deserve it and someone else takes it. John got me in bad and deserved to win the pot and the tournament. How bad was it? We knew 8 cards, there were 2 left that helped me, so he was a prohibitive 21-1 favorite and I gave him a horrendous beat.

John, of course, is very cool about it because he is such a good guy. And I took down a 17 person tournament, the largest turn-out we have had on Monday in quite some time. But I deserved second. Then again, the other night I deserved to finish much higher than 11th or 12th or whatever it was and was gone relatively early, so...there you go.

And I learned some valuable lessons about patience. I need more.


The bad part about being a good poker player

I feel egotistical claiming that...and I would argue I can only say it because of where I have the opportunity to play. I doubt I would fare as well as I do if I consistently played against tables of people who KNEW what was going on. There are a few people I play against that I think are really solid players, know how to play...but frankly, there are a lot of them that just...well, they aren't that good. But I fairly consistently get into hands with better cards, play them better, make more off my winning hands and lose less off my losing hands, have a better sense of what others are doing than all but maybe 2 or 3 people that I regularly play with.

So we have 6 players at each table to start but people keep flowing in late and we end with 8 and 7.To my left was another of Gary's daughters, though this one I had not played with before, then Gary, then Terry, then (late-arriving) Boston John, then Bob, then Randy immediately to my right.

I started playing well. I raised or folded, only played good hands. Unfortunately, my hands were not hitting. And I kept folding junk hands...2/9, 2/5, q/2...all of which would have tripped up. Of course, on the 2/5, Gary's daughter would have tripped as well, and she had an Ace kicker...though I think I could have gotten out of the way. I had a REALLY good read on her. For example, early on in the big blind I had J/rag and people limped to me. Flop came K/K/J. She raised, a couple callers, I folded. Turn was a jack...and I was still glad I folded because I had her on the King. Nobody else did until she put in her pink chip which she had commented on how much she liked. Since I had folded a Jack I knew she had the nuts but it was not until now that everyone folded. Much to nobodies surprise she folded the king. Two other times I got out of her way when I had good hands and she had better.

I picked up pocket 10s, jacked them up, Randy called. I knew instantly I was going all-in on the flop no matter what came. And the flop was beautiful...10 high. I flopped a set. I bet, he folded, and I was up a couple hundred. He did show his pocket 8s, a better hand than he usually has, and sow I showed the set.

A little later Saul raised, I got out of the way, flop came 10 high, he bet, everyone folded. I had him on an over pair, said, "Ah, show the fishhooks." He hesitated, then showed his pockets; 10s. He had hit a set.

Then Bob raised. He does not like to raise so I put him on Aces. Flop was queen high, he bumped it up, three callers. THREE! Turn was a blank, he raised less, they all called. River was a queen, he checked, Boston John raised, Bob disgustedly folded. Sure enough, Bob had Aces, John had the queen.

I think Bob overreacted his disgust a little since John DID have top pair on the flop, but it put Bob on tilt. Not too long after, he had limped in, flop came J/Q/K, 2 clubs, he went all in and John called. John had nothing, something like a 7/9. And of course he rivered the 10 to hit his straight and take Bob out. This time Bob's disgust made sense. It was a horrifically bad call and John got lucky.

Lots of folding by me, we go to break, I am down to about 2600, maybe 2400, somewhere in there.

First hand back I picked up the rockets. I have not had Aces in a long, long time. I raised to 800. Boston John called. I only had 16 or 1800 left after my raise, I know he will chase, flop came q/q/8. Randy groaned so I knew a queen was gone and probably an 8 as well. That meant John had to have the case queen to have any real hand worth calling me. I went all in, as I planned. And he said, "I am going to play the percentages." I knew that meant he was folding. But as John is wont to do, he just sat there staring. I finally said, "Does that mean you are folding?"

"Oh, no, " he said, "I am calling."

Okay. Well, either flip up your cards or put in your chips then. Or both. That is preferable. And the polite thing to do. Also the thing called for by the rules. Well, he finally flips up his hand. J/9 suited. A quick check shows me no clubs on the board. Cool, he is drawing real thin to 4 tens or runner runner for trips. So let's check the math and see if he made a good call.

Pre-flop he called 4 times the blind with J/9 suited. I am okay with that. He doesn't pay close enough attention to have any idea what I might have but that is a decent drawing hand. That gives us a pot of 1100...my 800, his 800, and the blinds both folded giving us 300 dead money.

I raised let's say 1600, I think that is what I had, for all in. So he is calling 1600 to win 2700, or approximately 1.7-1 for his chips. So he needs to be no less than a 1.7-1 dog to get the proper pot odds. And since I was all-in, there are no implied odds.

He of course does not know what I have. If I have a queen then he has 4 outs and I have a redraw to the boat. If I had pocket 8s he has runner runner for a higher boat. If I just have a big card or cards then he has 10 outs (3 Jacks, 3 9s, and 4 tens) which gives him...well, let's do the math. He knows 5 cards, there are 47 unknown, 10 help him, 37 don't, so he is a 3.7-1 dog...and that is the BEST CASE scenario!

So it is a terrible, terrible call. Horrific.

Even worse, after he saw the Aces...he still thought he made a great call. He is truly ignorant of percentages, pot odds, and so forth.

The turn was a rag, no help to either of us. At this point I am feeling pretty good. I am about to rake a nice pot, get some chips to play with, about 5100...everything looks great. I am a HUGE favorite; we now know 8 cards; his j/9, my aces, 3 from the flop, and the turn. I, of course, know 2 more because Randy is still groaning and I know he would have flopped the boat. So with 8 gone, there are still 4 that help him and 40 that help me, I am a 10-1 favorite to double up.

I am nowhere near a good enough player to not be ecstatic about having a 10-1 chance to double up. If you run this scenario 11 times, 10 times I win 5100 for a net gain of 27,000 chips (300 dead money x10=3000, the 2400 he called x10=24,000, 24k + 3K =27K) and the one time I lose I am bounced for my last 2400. I like those numbers.

Of course, the problem with consistently getting in with the best of it is that it hurts that much more when the river spikes the 10 to give him his gut shot straight. Which of course it did.

He made 2 horrible plays in short succession, one against Bob and one against me...and got rewarded for them.

I would argue both Bob and I are better poker players than Boston John. We both do a better job at reading our opponents (Bob's pre-emptive lay down of the Aces when the Queen hit, for example...) and even being aware of the NEED to read them...we both have at least some concept of pot odds and/or implied odds...we don't make terrible chase calls, etc.

But maybe it is a spurious argument. After all, he comes in week after week, makes mathematically HORRIBLE plays, and ends up with mountains of chips. Maybe getting in with the odds in your favor is not actually all that good a play. It certainly is not working out too well for Bob and I...I have taken so many brutal beats in the last couple of weeks it is pretty discouraging. Why bother playing well if it just gets you rolled by terrible poker? Randy and his runner-runner for bottom straight, John with his almost back to back gut shot straights...so pointless.

And that is the tough part about wanting to be a good player. I laughed it off at the table. People were telling me how sorry they were for me and I pointed out they should not be...I got in as the prohibitive favorite, he got lucky...but I WANT him to make that call every...single...time. Including when he gets lucky because that keeps him calling me when he shouldn't.

Even knowing the outcome, I would make the same play. Had we played that hand face up I would have played it exactly the same way. And once I made the initial bet, I was going all in. At the break I had seen some of the stacks at the other table. I was going to be short stacked very shortly, I had a great hand and a huge advantage. If I am not willing to play those...and bust out on them when someone hits their long-shot...then I should not be playing at all.

So my challenge is to not let it put me on tilt but simply laugh it off as the breaks of the game and get them next time.


Pondering the play

So I was trying to figure out why my "reads" were so much better against a group of people I have not played before than against people I see all the time. It seems counter intuitive.

But I suppose part of it is what I mean by "read". To me, it is not necessarily a bodily reaction...at times it is just a subconscious "feel" for what is going on. It is a combination of their playing style, betting patterns, and the texture of the flop more than it is anything like "Oh, he twitched his left eye three times so he has A/K" type thing.

For example, take the guy with the I-pod that I called down turn and river bets with just a pair of queens on a flush heavy board. I had no doubt I was winning the pot. I almost re-raised his river bet and had I went completely with my "read" I would have. How did I "KNOW" that was the right decision?

It was nothing physical he did. He had his hat over his eyes so I could not see them, I did not catch anything in his posture to indicate he was bluffing...to be honest, because of our respective seats, I could only see about half of him. Nor was it anything about HOW he bet his chips. He was pretty consistent about stacking them out to the side, then throwing them out in sort of a twisting, splashing thing.

I think it was just observing him in a couple of hands prior. He wanted to have the "poker pro" image. Part of that is a certain play style that indicates aggression against passive opponents even with weak holdings. So when he checked the flop I knew he was not slow-playing it...not that he WOULDN'T slow-play, but against someone new he was going to put pressure on once he thought I did not have a hand. Before the turn and river came out, I knew he was going to bet and I knew I was going to call.

I had put him in the tight-aggressive mode and that is a play that a tight-aggressive player will make.

At the same time, the guy to my left I had watched and decided he was tight-passive. He did not raise pre-flop but played a lot of hands. However, once he flopped a big hand, he switched up and became aggressive. For example, in one hand he limped in, it was raised to 3 times the blinds, a guy to my right called, he called. Flop came A/Q/rag. The pre-flop raiser raised, the other guy called, he re-raised it, then called when they both went all-in. He had A/Q and had flopped top two pair. By seeing how he played the hand I had him as passive pre-flop, passive on the flop with something like top pair...those he would check/call...and aggressive with a monster.

So when he raised for the first time in the game I immediately put him on the correct hand, Aces. It was only after I talked myself down a bit that I expanded it to include other possibilities but my first instinct was correct. And I also knew immediately how to play the hand when I flopped the set. There was no question he would bet if I checked. And I was pretty sure my check-raise would generate a call.

Again, it was nothing in his physical demeanor. As near as I could tell, he was a robot. He also was lost in his I-pod world, he never smiled, frowned, etc. His chips were consistent in how he bet them, he did not bounce, hold his breath...I profiled him as tight-passive pre-flop and tight-aggressive post flop. By putting him into a CATEGORY of players I was able to anticipate the types of plays he would make.

And that, I think, is where I lose it with people I play with all the time. Because I have seen them raise with varieties of hands, I don't always categorize people as I should. I stop paying attention to their betting patterns. I allow the hands they play to bleed together and instead of a clearer picture, I get a blurry one.

I need to go back to putting people in various categories. That will allow me to put them on various moves they are or are not capable of which allow me to exploit their weaknesses while masking my own and avoiding their strengths.

So hey, even someone who consistently got in with the worse hand can learn a lesson from a night like Jax.


When good cards happen to bad players

Roman & I broke out of the mold and played at Jax. Totally different set-up. 10 people per table instead of 8, better players on average, and different stacks...10,000 with blinds of 100/200, 20 minute blinds. I started on the button and picked up some good cards, raised, and got a couple callers. I hit my card, bet, they folded, I was ahead. Woo-hoo!

A couple of guys were mixing it up so I was getting a bit of a handle on their play. One was the "look like a poker player" type with the i-pod, low-pulled hat, etc. And that read was important. Picked up K/Q from middle position, jacked it 3 times the blinds, he called from late position. Flop came A/Q/3, all hearts. Check, check. Turn was a blank, he bet it. Something about it was not right. I figured he was betting position and my timidness, not his cards, and I called. River was another rag, he doubled his bet. I considered re-raising, but when you get right down to it...I had second pair on a flush board. I did, however, call. He had paired I think his 5 and my Queens took down the pot.

It also got me a lot of credit for making the call on a dangerous board. I was pretty happy with it because my read was right. And it let me do some stuff. For example, several times from late position with either nobody in the pot or else jsut a limper or two, I raised with literally any two cards. Twice I flat out stole the blinds and the limpers chips. Once I got called from Roman and one of the limpers, the same guy from the previous paragraph. As it turned out, I had a reasonable 8/10 off. And when the flop came rags, I knew I should bet. But I hesitated, checked, and when he bet the turn I had to fold. Still, I was ahead from two steals to just 1 call so it was a positive outcome.

Later I misread the same guy when he limped from late, I checked on the big blind, flop had a couple 3s and a high card, check, check, turn paired I think a 4 or something, he bet small, I called, river was a blank, he bet double again, I was not sure if he was making a move or had something. I kind of thought he had something since I had called him the prior time but called anyway with my 2 pair, King kicker thinking I might be good or might not...and he flipped up pocket 3s. He had quads.

But I was not ready to be passive or timid. I called a raise to double my blind from the big blind with A/4 suited and one caller. I flopped a flush draw, bet it, and they both folded.

A few hands later, pocket 9s, raised it...guy to my left, a tight player who had won a couple hands and only shown down good cards called. Flop was ugly....K/Q/rag, 2 hearts. I raised the pot (5K) and he came over the top all in. If I called and won I was the chip leader, if I called and lost I would be down to about 5K. My thought on the raise was with a flop like that, he could not call unless he had the King...MAYBE the Queen...and if he had one he would do exactly what he did, move all in. So I put him on either the Queen or King...then set about trying to convince myself he had nothing so I could call. Finally I figured he had been playing tight, a solid game, and gave him credit for a hand and folded. He claimed he had Big Slick, making it a good lay down.

I was happy, I was playing well, I still had about 30K (I had won a few hands here and there that were not particularly memorable). Coming back from break, he raised to 4 times the blinds from under the gun. I instantly put him on Aces, then backed off that a bit and figured maybe just Queens or Kings. However, it was his first raise of the night. He had limped and called but not raised so I was pretty certain of my read, especially in light of his limp-call with Big Slick. I looked down at the ducks. I figured I would call/fold unless it looked like an ugly flop for him. It was. Flop was something like J/6/2. I checked. He raised. I came over the top all in. He called. He showed his Aces, I showed my Deuces and when my set held up I had cracked Aces with Deuces. Brutal. But he still had a lot of chips.

Picked up Queens, raised, everyone folded, I showed them. Wait a hand, picked up Queens, raised them, got a couple callers, took down a nice pot. Hey, this game is easy when you are getting cards.

Picked up 7/8 diamonds, raised it, a guy from late position came over the top for less than my raise all-in, everyone else folded, I figured I was behind but the odds were right. Sure enough, he had K/Q suited and I had 2 live cards. He improved, I didn't, and away we went.

A little while later I picked up 8s again. Guy to my left called, Roman came over the top all-in. It was a significant one because A) he had hit some nice hands early and had a decent stack, B) he plays pretty tight, so I was probably behind, and C) the guy to my left was already looking like he was making a "no-brainer" type call. I put roman on high pockets, the guy to my left on either paint or medium pockets...hmm...well, the price was right.

When someone is all-in...even a friend...I check it down unless someone raises. If someone raises, I will go all-in on them. Well, the flop was gorgeous for me...5, 6,...wait for it...8. I flopped a set. Check. The guy to my left looked greedily at my chips. I said, "What, you want me to send them in? Okay, I will call." so we did, we put the rest of our chips in. He had Big Slick again, and had hit nothing. Roman flipped up the Rockets. My set held up and for the second time I had cracked Aces. With horrendous hands...pocket 2s and pocket 8s.

Well, when you are getting hit in the face with the deck, keep playing. I was big stack and picked up pocket 7s from early position. I raised. Someone went over the top all-in. Someone called all-in. Another guy went over the top all-in. What? But it was less than my original raise to call so the price was right. "No way I am ahead of 3 guys" I said, "but the price is right." I sent in the chips. One guy flipped up pocket 6s. Good, good...one guy flipped up two random cards, J/8 maybe? And the guy immediately to my right flipped up pocket Queens. Do'h! My hockey sticks don't look so good now! And when the 6's filled up, the same guy I doubled up earlier doubled through again.

Next hand I picked up A/Q suited. Raise. Called all-in by 2 short stacks. Both flipped up weak hands...and hit. I doubled one up, the other was out.

Folded a hand, the guy I had doubled up twice lost some chips. I picked up pocket 9s on his raise to 4K (blinds were I think 1/2K by now). He only had 10K, I raised him all-in...and he flipped up Aces. I doubled him up a third time.

On the bright side...I was getting good cards. On the dark side, how many people can you double up before you run out of chips?

And I was still chip leader. I folded several consecutive hands. Then I won a small pot. Then, without a hand being played I became 2nd place in chips as a new guy sat down to my left with more chips than I had.

He and I both folded, then with a couple limpers, I picked up A/J suited. By now we were 5 or 6 handed, so that is pretty strong. I raised 4 times the blinds, he came over the top all-in, and one limper called.

At first I put him on a move. It felt like a move. But then I started trying to talk myself out of a call. He had me covered, if I was wrong I was out. And he had been playing tight...I had not yet seen him play a hand. But I DID have a premium hand...finally I called. He had K/Q diamonds, the other guy had a dry ace. I tripped up my Jacks and took one guy out and doubled up, leaving him about 6K chips. I would come to regret not having him covered.

Not too long after that we combined to a final table and I got moved to seat 7. A couple people went out. The blinds climbed. I had over 100K in chips. But every time I thought about playing a hand...say, K/J off from middle position...someone would raise all-in and a couple people would call. No way was I ahead or calling 30 - 40K on a hand like that. I started getting blinded down. People kept doubling up. The blinds went to 10-20K. Still had not played a hand. I wanted to make a move but it is hard with 3/8, 4/5, K/2, especially when several people are priced in to calling you just because they might have 28K and have paid a 20K blind. Also because someone was making a move EVERY hand. And they had to.

Finally the guy I had left 6K doubled through about a 4th time and took out a couple people. By simply getting no cards I had gotten down to about 56K and was still looking for a chance to steal the blinds. More people went out. 5 handed. 4 handed. Finally, 3 handed...but by now between people moving all-in and having no fighting cards, I was down to 28K. K/2? Nah...good thing as they both had hands and the guy I had left 5600 was the chip monster. Stewart folded from the button, he completed, and I checked my 2/8. Flop came 2, 4,5, I laughed and said, "Let's see if my massive raise scares you off", raising 800. Of course he called. Would my deuces be good? No, not really...he flipped up pocket rockets.

And I rivered an Ace. For the third time tonight I cracked the rockets. It was sick, sick, sick. I felt horrible. Here just a day or two before I was talking about seldom putting bad beats on people and then I thrice crack Aces.

Well, the blinds raised that hand. So on the bright side, I had I think 46K. On the dark side, the blinds were 20/40 so I would be all in on one of the next to hands. From the button I picked up Q/9. I guess three handed that is a decent enough hand...I went all in. Stewart raised all-in to isolate, other guy folded, and he flipped up...A/J. I was going to have to put a bad beat on him to triple up (with the other guy's blind I would be 12K short of tripling up) and become a legit threat. And I flopped a gut shot straight and backdoor flush draw. Of course, that meant he had a pair of Jacks, so I was drawing to 3 queens and 3 tens. Turn gave me a diamond, adding a Queen High flush draw, but the river was a blank.

On the night I played very, very well I thought. Out of 36 people I finished third and had a legit shot at winning. I just went card-dead at the wrong time and never had even a chance to make a move. I got lucky a few times and beat better hands...seriously I cracked pocket rockets with Ducks, Snowmen, and 2/8? What is that? I took a couple bad hits, but made really, really solid reads all night long. I am not displeased at all.

One reason I enjoy playing with new GROUPS is I seem to read people better when I am first watching them. I often pick up on the types of things they will do...like the one guy I called with queens and a weak kicker on a dangerous board or the time I called all my chips with A/J on the first hand the guy played. Both of those were, I think, very, very strong calls. And I had a pretty strong fold to the long-time chip leader I eventually took out. I also had him read correctly both on his rockets and his re-raise. It has been a while since I have had that many reads, so it was refreshing and invigorating.

It is also inspiring to, after the tilt-job I was on over Randy's miraculous suck out, to come back and finish second and third so I think I am playing pretty good poker right now.

Of course, when you get about 25 pocket pairs and a half dozen or so of them give you a set, it is pretty easy to play...and seriously, on the one hand, it is hard to say I played well when I got in with worse hands repeatedly and got lucky...but on the other hand, when I did hit the cards, I made the most of them. I rightly read the one guy on the all-in when I checked my set to induce his raise, got the rest of his chips when he imprudently raised the set I would have checked down with Roman all-in, and so forth...and maybe maximizing value from fortuitous flops, semi-bluffing my way to a couple pots, and showing well-timed aggression overcomes the luck factor. Who knows? We will see if I can continue to play well.