The Comeback

Frustrated by my play, I decided to see if I had what it takes to play well. I determined to raise or fold, trust my reads, and go with it.

Tough group of players. To my left is the guy with the drunk girlfriend who loves to bluff, then Randy, then Gary B, then Cowboy hat wearing Jason, then Todd, then the other Gary and then me. As a general rule, other then other Gary these guys all have large chip stacks. Jason, Todd, and boyfriend all raise liberally more often than not.

First hand I had poor cards, Todd raised. Raised again after the flop, everyone folded, he showed his Cowboys. Next hand, nothing. Then in the small blind I picked up Fishhooks. Several limpers. Normally, here I just limp. This time I properly raised. 1 caller, Jason. Flop was all 9 & below. I raised, he folded. Normally I won't show here but this time I wanted to set my table image so I showed them.

Couple hands later picked up Big Slick, raised it, Jason called again, I bet top/top on the flop. They folded, I showed. I was developing the perfect image. Getting cards and playing them strongly.

A few hands later had A/J suited. Raised, couple callers. Hit nothing on the flop, raised it anyway. Callers. But they were "weak" callers...the type that hem and haw and basically could play with their hands face up because I know they are chasing and chasing long shots. Some people can hem & haw and I don't know what they are mean...but with some of these players, they do not think on deep enough levels to make me think they are sucking me in. Then again, Em's bluff the other day was not a typical play for her, either... Anyway, missed the turn, bet it anyway, they folded.

By now I was up about 7 or 8 hundred. As a side effect, Bob announced a bounty...50 bonus points to anyone who took me out. It would come into play.

I was in the big blind again and had 4/5 Hearts, a hand I don't mind seeing a cheap flop on. I had been resisting playing these types of cards in limping situations, so I was playing better for sure. This time the flop came 4/4/6. I had flopped trips. I led out four times the blinds, 200 chips. Folded to Jason. He said, "I get bonus points for taking you out, right?" I nodded. "All right, I'm all in."

Wow. To make that sort of re-raise is either very, very confident or just stone cold awesome. What could he have to make that raise? I went into the tank for a long time. If he had a 4/6 I was pretty much drawing dead. If he had 4/anything higher than a 5 I was in deep, deep trouble. I pretty much discounted the pocket 6's because he had not raised pre-flop which, when he has them, he likes to make stiff re-raises because he doesn't like to see flops with weak pairs. Finally I put him on four possible hands; 4/something that had me beat, 2 overs, a 6/something, or a draw of some sort. Then again, if he was on anything like a draw I had a redraw to the boat.

Mathematically inclined players will assign percentage likelihoods to each hand possibility and then decide whether to call or not. I just went with the idea that I had a better hand and plenty of outs if not.

He was on a draw. He had an open ended straight draw, he did not hit it, and I added a little over 3000 to my stack.

At this point many players better than I advocate playing big stack poker...raising more hands, pushing people around, putting pressure on them. I thought about doing that...but it simply isn't my style. I elected instead to maintain my current strategy.

Not too long after that I played a hand quite weakly. In the small blind I picked up pocket 3s. Everyone limped to me. I should have raised pre-flop. I weakly completed the bet. I checked the flop. So did everyone else. I should have bet the turn. I checked. And someone rivered an 8. Any time up until then I could have taken down the pot. By weak play I cost myself.

I got switched to another table not too much later and suddenly was card dead. When you go from playing 20 - 30% of your hands at an aggressive table to playing only when in the big blind at a passive know the cards have deserted you. But I remained patient. I won a couple times in the big blind when flops hit me.

Then I started getting cards again. I was raising to 4 times the blinds to limit callers. With blinds at 3/600 I picked up A/K diamonds. I raised to 2400. Beaver fan to my left came over the top all in for about 3700 more. Bluff Girl called. I called. This was going to be a huge pot.

And I flopped the nuts. 3 diamonds. Bluff Girl checked...and I made a HUGE strategic error. I actually thought she would call me so I went all in. She folded. I think had I checked she might have bet on the turn or river.

But it did leave her just 2400. And I had over 20K. Picked up A/Q next hand, raised again. Bills Fan called. I raised the flop. He called. I checked the turn...he raised. Something about it did not feel right so I called. River did not help me. He raised 4800. It felt like a semi-bluff. Even the smallest pair would beat me, as would A/K. But it did not feel right, and I don't know why. But I called. And he had King High. That call got me HUGE credit for reads...and the next hand from the button I raised an A/3 clubs. He called again. And we had almost an exact replay...except I rivered a 3. He flipped up the A/K this time...and I showed the 3s. Now they feared me.

Final table.

Not too long after that I put out bluff girl, put out Don...I was rolling. And I was making the correct calls and lay downs. We got down to final 3; Saul, Don's wife, and me. Saul was clear chip lead, I was a bit behind, and she was short stack.

For whatever reason, Saul is in my head. I become more passive against him...partially because he has rivered me so many times. I am cursed against him. Or feel cursed. I am not.

I was raising, he was calling, and then...I would check it down. This let him suck out on me a couple times. But I took down a couple pots of my own. And Chris took a couple pots from him.

On one hand he raised to 1200, I re raised to 2400. I ended up out kicking him on that hand. It was a nice pot. Then pocket 9s took down another nice one.

Somehow we had missed a blind level, so now they were 500/1000.

And I made a mistake.

I picked up 10/J. 3 handed, I like that hand. I raised to 4000. He called. Flop had an over and with 2 clubs. I raised. He called. I decided I was beat. Turn was another club and gave me a gut shot straight draw. I checked, he raised.

Now remember, I said I thought I was beat after the flop. So I did what any intelligent player would do...I did not count outs, I did not consider pot odds, I did not come up with any rationale reason to call...and did so anyway. Those chips should never have gone into that pot.

And the river was a 4th club. He checked for a club. I was pretty sure my Jack was a club...though I had not taken that into account at any point in the hand. He raised...I checked...and had the Jack High flush. I showed, he mucked, and I had the chip lead.

In the big blind I picked up 6/9. Flop came 6/7/8. I will bet bottom pair/open ended straight draw. I raised. He came over the top all in. I had bottom pair. I had an open ender. I figured he had the 7 or 8. I thought he was ahead but I had the better draw. But I would only be getting 2 - 1 on my money and need about 3 - 1 to call on an open ender.

That was poor figuring on my part. Let's count the outs; 4 tens, 4 fives...oh, and 2 sixes and 3 nines. I actually had FIFTEEN outs, not 8. I was actually a favorite to win that hand! So my call was incorrect by my math...but correct by the accurate math, even had my read been accurate.

As it turns out, my read was off. He had 5/6. I was actually ahead. Turn was a harmless (it seemed) queen. And the river paired the 8. We both had 2 6's, 2 8's, and my nine beat his 6...but not the queen. She meant it was a split pot.

I took a few hands, Chris took a few hands. He was being blinded lower, so was she, and my raising was now putting pressure on them...but I was getting raise-worthy cards.

A couple hands later I picked off a 6000 chip stone cold bluff he made on the river. He was down to about 8000. I picked up the Colts (4/4) and put him all in. He called. He rivered a Queen. I picked up pocket 9s. I put Chris all in. She rivered a Queen.

Both were real low, less than 5K each, I had over 50K. Finally I put Chris out.

Saul went all in. I figured I was no worse than 52-48 and called. He won the hand. And it happened again when I had a good hand, he had a better...he was coming back. Bob and I chatted about how reminiscent it was of the time Amanda won the first 11 or 12 hands head to head.

We got it all in again, this time I had a weak J/3. Still, with 2 players, I figure I am no worse than a 55-45 dog or so, aka 1.5-1...I was slightly wrong, checking in at 63-36 or about 2 - 1. But I flopped a J/3. And the river was a 3, giving me a boat and the win.

Looking back, it was overall, despite a few mistakes, a great night for me. I almost exclusively played strong poker. I only played good cards and I played them strongly. I did not bleed off a bunch of chips limping in. In fact, there are a few hands that may have cost me. For example, in late position I folded K/9 because I read Bluff boyfriend to be about to raise...which he obliged and did. K-9 is, like its namesake, a dog hand. Ironically, the flop was k/9/k and the case ace was held by Gar to my right. I could have broken him that hand. But it was still a good fold because it would have been a terrible pre-flop call. So the no-limp policy was good. And I did not meekly fold just because people raised if I had reason to believe I was okay or had a good chance to suck out. Nor did I call when it was hopeless. Here is a fine example:

I raised pre-flop to 2400. 2 callers. Flop, someone went all in for 5200. Got a caller. I had A/K suited...but the flop did not connect with it at all. Based on things they had said, I put both Bills Fan and Terry on individual pairs which, by definition were lower than my Anna Kournikova. So I needed to call 5200 to win about 17 = 18K. I was getting a little less than 3-1 on my money. I had 6 outs if neither of them had an Ace or King, 2 cards to come. So at BEST I was about 24% to hit or about 4 - 1 and I was only getting 3-1 so long-term the correct play is a fold. Of course, my pride was in the way. I wanted, really, really wanted to call. I tried to talk myself into calling. But I decided at least one of them had to have one or more of my outs counterfeited so I was less than that and folded...properly. My read was right...they both had just a pair. And one had an Ace, the other a King. Sure, I only would have risked 5200...but it would have given 5200 to someone I did not want to have it...namely, not me. It was a tough fold but a correct one.

So I have revitalized my belief that I can play good poker on occasion, taking down a tournament that had I believe 22 people overall and doing it playing correctly and with decent reads. Now I can go back to my normal suctitude.

How to play like a chump

I was pretty upset that 6 people from work who committed to showing up all no-showed...though at least 2 called. 2 hours after they were supposed to be there, but at least they called.

Early on Jamey was hot. He was catching Aces. I lost a few hundred when I flopped top pair on board, bet it, he came over the top. Alan folded. Right there I should have put him on an over pair but did not. His pocket rockets took me for a ride. Alan was convinced I was betting different than I normally do, though I did (and do) disagree. When I have J/8 and am playing well, I raise pre-flop. When I am playing poorly, I limp. I had raised pre-flop. I flopped top pair, I bet it. I do not dislike this play at all. I did get outplayed as Jamey let me do the betting and correctly so as he had me beat with hidden strength.

Lost a few hundred on other hands, too. I was catching cards..I had 2 pair beaten 4 or 5 times.

Came a hand where I was in the big blind with 2/8. Board paired itself early. Everyone checked it to the river where I paired my 8. Nick came out firing and it caught my attention. First off, he massively overbet...the pot had maybe 200 in it and he bet 1000. Second, his betting style heretofore had been quite steady...he would gently toss his chips in the direction of the pot (and more often than not directly into the pot itself). This time he authoritatively tossed them away from the pot with an atypical smile. I correctly read it was unusual and in a half a heartbeat tossed in my own chips.

This was a bad play for several reasons. First, the smile and confident pose are "I have a better than normal" type tell. Second, I did not look at the board for straights, flushes, anything like that. I decided he was bluffing, noted his atypical reaction, and did not go any deeper than that. Even if he HAD been bluffing it was a weak play on my part. Third, even if he WAS bluffing, I was paying 1000 to win 1200.

By the same token, when I mentioned his unusual bet caught my attention, that brought a lot of criticism my way with comments such as, "I don't even have a betting style" from Nick and similar stuff from a couple others.

Well...that makes it even MORE telling. When people do not think about how they bet they are prone to giving off a LOT of information. There are people I play with who regularly put out a bet in small denomination chips when they have a weak hand and put out large denomination chips when they have a strong hand. I assume it is because if they have a weak hand they expect to lose the chips and don't mind seeing small ones go away...but it is hard to say.

Meanwhile, I picked up pocket Queens. I had been folding for a while, so I came out raising 4 times the blinds. Emily called...and I have played with her long enough to know that means she has a good hand. She will limp with weak hands but never calls a raise without something good. Flop came A/10/rag, 2 diamonds...and she came out betting. I put her on the ace and folded. Someone else called. On the turn she laid out her 5000 chip and he folded. And she flipped up a 2/3.

She totally bluffed me. I misread her as badly as I have ever misread anybody. As Roman admitted when we talked about it later, in all the times we have seen her play we have never...NEVER...NEVER seen her bluff. In almost 10 months of playing, this is the first bluff she has ever pulled off and she did it beautifully.

Someone thought she had put me on tilt...I do not think she did. I was actually kind of proud of her. And I went back to fold-fold-fold. But that blinded me to 5100.

I picked up pocket jacks after a couple people had limped in. I planned to raise and was too lazy to make change so I just went all in. Jamey called. He had A/K...standard race. I figured I was about 52-48 to win...and I was actually off a bit. According to Card Player magazine, that situation is a 57-43 advantage to the fishhooks, so I was looking good to double up. Until the flop gave him a King, I never improved and I was first one out.

And deservedly so. I think I won 1 hand all night. I played poorly yet again. I am starting to think I have lost my feel for the game. Oh, well. Easy come, easy go.


Lydias, 9/24 or The Perils of Random Dealers

I was right in that hazy "I want to play/nah, I would rather watch football" area last night. I elected to play. Sadly, that meant I was in my weak "I want to be the well-liked" guy instead of playing a strong game. As a result, there was lots of limping.

Of course, it is easy to excuse that. By limping I get to play a lot more hands and the rationale always goes something like this. "Ooh, 5/7 unsuited. Garbage hand, but a good drawing hand. I can get in for cheap against a lot of players and if I hit, I will take down a nice pot. If I just limp then I can play these."

Okay, good theory. Problem is...5/7 is NOT all that good a drawing hand. There are really only maybe 2 flops that hit that mean anything...4/6/8, 6/8/9...and on the latter I am drawing dead to anyone playing j/10 which is a much better drawing hand. Any pair might look good but is probably beat.

As a result, I sat there bleeding away chips. Because once you get into the limp mode, you can find something to like about almost any hand. And I know why I do it, too. Most of the people there prefer to limp. And they tend to tilt a tiny bit if someone is regularly raising. This is one reason Cowboy hat guy and the two bikers are so effective. They really don't need cards to play because they raise so much that people get tense and underplay their own cards against them. So by blindly and maniacally raising the majority of hands, they win a lot of small pots...and sometimes they hit when people play back as well. My raising is more selective when I am playing my game properly...but no less lethal.

When you play good cards strongly you tend to have good results. When you play cards weakly, and here it matters not if the cards are good, bad or indifferent...if you play your cards weakly, you get beat on some hands and pushed off others.

Case in point. Tall Bill was sitting a couple spots to my left. Early on I picked up the bachelor hand in late position so weakly limped in. This was a raising hand in a limped-into pot, but I let people stay around. Flop came K/rags, two diamonds, giving me top pair, Jack kicker...against a flush draw. Bill bet. He will bet a flush draw and I knew it. I should have bet him out of the hand pre-flop (mistake 1) and here I should have re-raised to price him out of a draw (mistake 2) but instead called (mistake 3). That is the one thing you CAN'T do here. If he is on a draw and hits it, I have no redraws. I suppose running king/pair the board...but that is so unlikely I don't even count it as a draw. Should the Jack of Diamonds hit I have 2 pair...and he has the flush. In other words, I have given him control of the hand and unless he is not actually on a flush draw but is suddenly betting middle pair...something I did not see him do even once all night...he can just keep betting small amounts to control the pot size until the river and if he hits he has, at least against me, the nuts. And I processed all this information between the time he bet and the people between he and I folded...then I called. Weak play begets weak play.

I did bail on the turn...but I paid off 200 to lose a hand I could have won with better play. And paid off a few hundred more limping and folding.

Then I hit an interesting stretch. I picked up 7/8 in the big blind. 4 other people in the hand. After the flop I saw 3 of them give up. I read it in their of the things I was looking for tonight. Sure enough, it was there, that little shoulder slump you can only see if you are specifically looking for it. It is not deliberate and I doubt any of them even noticed it. Watching, I saw it several times last night and it was helping my reads a lot. Turn, nobody was interested and one guy pre-mucked. River was another high card...I was literally playing the board. Checked to me on the button, I bet 200. Stone cold bluff. Except I knew nobody was interested in paying more to see who had what. They all folded. I did not show. Next hand I picked up 7/8 of hearts. Paired the 7 on the river and won that hand. Next hand was another 7/8 unsuited. Played it. Hit the pair of 7s. Bet. Three callers. Turn was an over card, heavy action, folded. But three consecutive hands with 7/8...weird.

It would get weirder. Picked up pocket 6s in the small blind. Limpers to me. Every instinct I had said make a good, strong raise here. So I weakly completed the bet. Flop came heart, diamond, diamond, nothing too dangerous. Tall Bill bet. I put him on another diamond flush draw. Couple callers. I called. Turn was another heart. He hesitated, then bet. I was positive my read was right, though I adjusted it to now give him either another pair or a gutshot straight draw to go with it. People folded to me. I was doing the math in my head to see if a call was right. It was a good size pot, I had 2 outs, one would complete a heart flush...which I was NOT worried about...and I had the 6 of diamonds, so that did not worry me. I was debating call or fold...when Randy flipped up the river card. It was a 6 of hearts, I saw it out of the corner of my eye. It would give me the winner...except I cannot legitimately call there. I folded face up.

This is one of the drawbacks of having people deal their own. There are a lot of things to watch for; are people betting the correct amounts, acting in turn, is all action completed, etc. Also, keeping the playing surface "clean" so people can assess what is going on; I will cover 2 other dealing mistakes that had potentially huge impacts on the outcome of the night a little later on. This was a mistake by Randy that cost someone...probably Bill...some money. I had just about decided to call, but rather than "bury" the card and draw to the case 6, I mucked. He hesitated about folding, started to show his cards...which led me to believe in retrospect I should have mucked earlier in the hand. Usually when he showed when it was not a showdown it was a spectacularly strong hand; with the current board, that would represent a mis-read by me and trips for him already, or he could have been doing something out of character for him, bluffing, in which case I might have had him beat. But I could not in good conscience call after seeing the river card. But he might have hit an even bigger hand with that 6 so who knows who it hurt? I think everyone thought it was me that was hurt...but there is no guarantee I was going to call his bet on the turn. And the more I think about how he played the hand, especially him wanting to show, I think he had something where trip 6s wouldn't touch him.

In fact, with the 6 being a heart, let's read the hand backwards. River heart, turn heart, one heart on flop. He will bet top pair...maybe he had something like A/Q of hearts and was betting top pair, top kicker. Then when the turn came with a heart he could have had a flush draw and the 6 of hearts could have given me trips, him a flush... so his betting was consistent with how he plays both top/top and flush draw. And his wanting to show his hand would also fit, saying, "Hey, you didn't get screwed...I would have had a flush"...though this also is no certainty. In the end, it does not matter who had who...the inadvertent early card reveal fundamentally altered the flow of chips. And the flow of play, for that matter, because I had to be careful not to tilt there.

Later, I was down to about 1900 with blinds at 1 & 2 and shifted into raise or fold mode. I always play better when I am in that mode...note to self; READ THAT LAST SENTENCE AGAIN. Just sayin'...

Anyway, I picked up pocket 7s. I planned to raise. A raise to 800 would only leave me 1100 so I would be pot committed. I elected to take advantage of my fold equity. All in. Everyone folded and I picked up the blinds and a limper's chips. Hmm. 2300....a couple hands later, last hand before break and blinds would raise, picked up pocket 10s in the big blinds. Todd raised to 325, I came over the top all in, everyone folded and I picked up a nice chunk. Showed my 10s.

First hand back, picked up pocket 10s again. Back to back pocket 10s. This was the night for like hands time after time. Then someone pointed out he hadn't cut the deck...and a misdeal was declared. That hurt because 10s are a powerful hand with 5 players which is what we had at that point.

Again, a simple dealer's mistake cost SOMEONE a huge pot because with just over 10 times the blinds, I had raised to 800...but I was probably going to the felt if someone played back at me. Now, there is no guarantee 10s will hold up. Sure, they are a powerful hand...but they are also quite vulnerable. Any over card can hit...and people will play any two face cards in that situation and especially any Ace....or any two pair or a straight, which some people will play suited connectors I was probably a slight favorite but nothing so overwhelming that I was super confident if I got 2, 3, 4 callers...

Of course, the redeal was not kind. Muck. In fact, lots of mucking followed, got down below 2000 again, all in with pocket 9s. Showed when everyone folded. In big blind, about 3 limpers, all in for 2100. Old Bill called. I said, "This time I have something better...not unbeatable, but better" and flipped up my queens. He said, "I've still got you" as he was counting out his chips. From what and how he said it, i figured I was drawing thin against Kings or Aces, so I was real happy to see him flip up A/J suited. One over, a flush draw. I like my chances. About 67-32 if Card Player's calculator is correct. And here we run into a third major dealing situation.

Bill was the dealer. He dealt out one card, 2...then moved his hand over them. And stopped dealing. He then burned a card. But he was not sure if there were 2, 3, 4, or even 5 cards dealt! Part of it was because there were chips scattered all over, folded cards mixed in with the chips, and his hand laying on top of part of the flop. I had turned my head for an instant, so when i turned back I thought he had flopped a couple extra cards in some bizarre order.

So then he burned another card and flopped the next one, one of the best cards in the deck for me...the 7 of hearts. A complete blank. Of course, I was trying to figure out where we were at. And he started to muck the deck...but there were either 4 or 6 cards out there. So confusing. Finally I figured out what had happened, we put the 7 back as burn card and flipped up the card I did not want to see...a 10. So the 7h now became the burn card, turn was a jack. He had a straight draw, so he could win with any Ace, Jack, or queen...he had 7 outs, about 14% so I was still looking good. And my queens held up. With limp chips, I now had about 5K and was coasting.

What should have been an easy, straightforward situation became a confused mess because of people not used to it dealing. If the chips are collected in one place, the mucked cards in another, the all-in hands properly situated they would be close to the board but never on it so everyone would know how many cards had been flopped and how many were yet to come. Instead it became a huge, confusing situation with cards everywhere mixed in with chips everywhere and poor Bill getting very, very confused. It is an easy, easy fix...just keep a clean playing field and this doesn't happen.

Well, not long after that I got involved with Randy. he has a little tell...when he has an awkward number of chips, he doesn't like to get he will just go all-in. So you need a little bit less of a hand to call him when he is doing that. I was 99% sure I was right...and there was one hand I was really rooting for John to call on.

Not to long before that, Randy had limped in. Flop brought Jack high and almost before the other guy said check he said "No Checking!" and forcefully planted his chips down. I instantly put him on the Jack. Turn was a scare card, giving possible straight draw. He did the shoulder slump. Everyone checked. River was a Jack. Other guy checked and Randy did his "No checking!" chip slam. Other guy folded. I said, "Didn't matter, Randy had his Jacks." I actually thought there was a chance he had quads...he didn't, just trips...but I was glad to be on him so well since in the past I have struggled to read him. Well, later, John was looking for a chance to double up. So was Randy. Randy was real low and did his shoulder slump all-in. I wanted to call but had only an 8/5 off and John was still behind me. I actually thought he would call and would be drawing all but dead against 2 opponents. I put Randy on maybe A/rag, maybe a couple face cards. John had A/rag and folded...and Randy showed the bachelor hand.

So it was just a matter of waiting for my spot to get Randy heads up. Sure enough, a couple hands later he went all-in again...and I picked up A/rag. Sometimes that is an insta-muck...I had mucked A/5, A/7, and A/9 earlier when I was looking for spots to get all my chips in the middle myself. This time I figured I was ahead so called. I was.

Randy had something like K/9, maybe even 2 face cards...but unless he paired he was done. He didn't pair.

I made it to the final table despite my poor early play. Once there I could not catch a hand to save my life. I started looking for a spot to get all the chips in the middle. The blinds raised. I watched and watched and watched... I almost did it with K/4 suited, then remembered 3 things; 1, that is a pretty crappy hand. You are trying to hit the second nut flush, there is really no other hand you can make. With suited cards pre-flop you hit a flush 1 in 16 tries. I would not play that hand with chips, why play it on a hand I could go out on? 2) I was in early position; there were 4 people left to act. 3) All 4 of those people had a LOT of chips and would not hesitate to call if they could take someone out. I wisely folded. I briefly regretted it when the flop's first card was a King. I regretted it less when I saw the flop was all suited...and obviously not the cards I had folded.

Next hand I picked up K/4 for a second consecutive hand, but this time unsuited. I reached for my chips, then my brain started working.

Fold. Fold. Blinds went up. I was all the way down to 800 chips with blinds at 3/6. I picked up pocket 10s in the big blind, raised it my last 200, 2 callers. The flop was sad. 7/8/10. Sure, I had trips...but the way Jerry jumped I knew I was in trouble. I put him on the J/9. First guy checked, he bet, and I almost mucked my 10s. Then I decided to see if I could get lucky and get the board to pair itself. I commented I had thought I was good when I hit the trips...and before I could complete it he said, "They are no good" at which point I completed my sentence with "until you looked like you had J/9." He flipped up his jack. But he did have a 6 to go with his 9. So I was drawing to actually a good number of outs; 1 10, 3 9s, 2 8s, 2 7s, and, after the turn, 3 4s. 11 outs, close to a quarter of the time my redraw wins the pot. This was one of the 75% of times...which was fine. Even if I win I am on death watch with just 2400 chips...4 times the I will be all in momentarily.

A mixed evening once more. Lately I have been sloppy with my reads but tonight they were very, very solid. But I was playing weakly and thus had a soft 5th place finish. Not where I should be.


Charity Tennis Tournament, 9/22/07

Phil of the HYD softball team put together a tennis tournament for novices. The entire $10 per person entry went to Kenya, so it seemed a good thing to do. Along with fellow HYDer Molly, I went out to play.

My foot and ankle were still tender from the softball stuff but I thought I would give it a shot. Unfortunately, even in warm-up I knew I would not be playing long. But I gave it a shot.

A couple things happened even before we started to play. First off, the courts he had reserved, somehow the message had not trickled down and the club had not reserved them. So instead of inside, we were outside for the games. Second, a lot of people no-showed, so instead of all mixed doubles teams there were a few guy-guy teams.

In the first set, Molly and I were matched up against Phil and Nick, both fellow HYDers. So the first set was all HYD all the time.

They got the first serve. About one shot in I knew I should not be playing. So I did exactly the worst thing I could...I played half-way...just hard enough to get to balls but not hard enough to hit them right. We only one one of the first 4 games and were down 3-1 with Phil serving. So I decided to go all out for the rest of the first set and then quit...but I knew I was into my "competitive" mode where I refuse to be beat so if we lost, I was playing another set.

I started getting to every ball, playing the net aggressively, and, unlike the first time where I just lobbed my serves, I started actually playing...getting a couple aces off Phil and a couple more off Nick. Even the returns they got were weak since I was putting a barrel full of spin so they struggled to handle them. I did a lot of network and a few baseline shots. We broke Phil's serve, won my serve, broke Nick's serve, then Molly won.

During that stretch the key play was one where I started at the net, Molly moved up to the net during the play, Nick was at the net and Phil was playing baseline. After several sharp shots Phil lobbed one over Molly's head. I came all the way across court from front left to back right, got it on the first hop, and sent it back to the far corner. Their weak return was easy pickings for Molly who put the point away. It was a fantastic save that turned the tide completely.

Suddenly, from down 3-1 we were up 5-3 and Phil was serving. He unleashed his best serves at me but I was so dialed in now that they were easy returns. I played them like a banjo, running them from side to side and then putting the ball where they weren't. We won that won to finish the set 6-3.

And I was done. My ankle is toast. It is questionable whether I will be able to make it to softball. But for a few brief moments I was "that guy" again, the one who is so competitive that he will do any legal thing he can to win, will get to every ball, make every shot...I like the pressure of being the man. To be honest, we beat a better team. If we play 10 times they probably win 6 or 7 of them...but not this one.


Weasel School

So a few people at work, a couple relatives, and a couple people from the HYD team all want to learn how to play Texas Hold 'Em. I told them I would go ahead and teach them. So I am trying to put together a 1 day "Basics" school. So I am going to start with an outline. If you see anything obvious I missed or think a different order would be better feel free to let me know:

Introduction: The 7 cards of Hold 'em
Here I figure to show them how each individual gets 2 hole cards, then the flop, turn and river are community cards. This sections will also include:
Ranking the hands
If you know the ranking of the hands you have a good start. I will have a little fold-out with it they can keep by them. Perhaps I will have a board with straight, flush, and full house possibilities, as well as a few sample hands; one hitting a straight, one a flush, one two pair, etc. so they can see the possibilities.

Part 1) The Hole cards
Here I will go over the concept of starting hand strength. I will probably have them play a few hands face up so they can see the relative strengths of starting hands. I will really drill the importance of knowing their hole cards, knowing the value of their hole cards, and knowing whether those cards are likely to hit a flop and, post-flop, how well their cards fit the flop.

Part 2) Basic betting strategy
Here I will go over the blind structure, relating their bets to the blinds, options of checking, folding, raising, or re-raising, along with what amounts they should raise if they choose to do so.

Part 3) Play a few hands face-up to give them practical experience of relating what they have heard to the actual game.

Conclusion: Provide a set of links to pokerstars, full tilt, and maybe another free online spot or two.
That will probably be it for day 1. With that information they should be able to understand what is going on.

Day 2:
More strategy:

1) The hole cards: ranking the starting hands
Here I will cover a little bit what hands should be played and which ones should find the muck.

2) Position
Here I will discuss why you can play something like say...K/jo from late position but not early, why certain hands are strong no matter where you sit but others can only be played late.

3) Basic outs and odds
How to calculate outs, the 2% rule, etc.

That should give them a start. Anybody who only wants to ever play casually with family and friends will (theoretically) have enough information to play a good enough game to have fun, not be embarrassed, and, when the cards fall right, maybe even win here and there. If they want deeper strategy they can either read up on it or I could create more advanced material.

How You Doin' Fall ball game 3

Started at shortstop. Always something that gets me pumped, though I note that lately it makes me nervous, too. That must be old age creeping up on me...I used to LOVE the position and the action. Actually, to play well I need a lot of action. Keeps me interested and on my toes.

Be that as it may, we were again visitors, which I like. I get to get involved offensively which almost always is a good thing since it gets my confidence up. This time he had me batting second. Betsy Singled and up I came. I think of this as an RBI opportunity, particularly with their defensive alignment. They only had 3 outfielders. Instead of going with the classic baseball outfield alignment, they left right field open. Wide open. Their "right fielder" was lined up almost in straight-away center field. Crazy. Especially against someone like me who lives with the opposite field.

So right field was wide open, Betsy on first. I always want to at a minimum double to take away the double play opportunity. With their defensive alignment I figured they would be pitching inside and letting people pull so I was looking for something inside. I didn't get it...he put it out over the heart of the plate. I adjust well enough but got a little bit on top of it. I lined it to center, no chance of getting out, but no chance of scoring Betsy or even doubling. So it was a marginal success. On the bright side, I did not make out so we still had the big inning potential alive. And we took it. Becky grounded out but Betsy and I advanced. Nick brought us home. We scored a couple more, then into the field we went with 4 or 5 runs under our belt.

It started like one of those quick-sand innings. They were hitting poorly...but sometimes that is advantageous as their poor hits were Texas Leaguer type that land in front of the outfielders. They had a run in and a couple on with 2 out when one of them hit a screamer to right center. I went to take the throw in by second base. As I often do, I made a random sweep tag...and the runner was off base for the third out. She should have been standing on the bag, but had taken a few steps towards third for no apparent reason. It should not have been an out...but it was. Just another reminder that solid fundamentals such as always making the tag will lead to an occasional unexpected out.

Our bats were hot and this time I had the sacks stacked. The first pitch was where I thought he would pitch me the first at-bat, inside. It was also short. I relaxed. It hit the front corner of the plate...and he called it a strike. Huh? Bad call I suspect, though since I don't know the slow-pitch strike zone, I could be wrong. Still, I suspect a pitch that lands on the corner of the plate closest to the pitcher is too low to hit, so I doubt it should have been a strike. Regardless, having 2 strikes does not bother me. Every pitch looks like a grapefruit. I simply adjust my approach and plan to go with the pitch.

And I did. Because his next pitch was a mistake, belt high and outside half of the plate. I took a couple half steps and a 3/4 swing to drive it into the wide open spaces of right field. Had Betsy been faster I could have easily tripled or even scored, but as it was she just strolled to third and I was at second. Again we both scored and had a nice lead.

Next inning with a runner on and one out a guy popped behind third. I thought it was deeper than it was and called it. I was there easily...but a bit embarrassed and feeling like a ball hog when I realized how shallow it was...maybe 5 steps behind Steve. That was his ball and I stole it. Ball pig.

Bottom half of the inning I again came up with a runner or two on and 2 out. This time Betsy had popped out so she was not one of them. To my amazement, they had not yet shifted to cover right. In fact, I deliberately looked down the left field line...and they shifted that way even further!

There was no doubt I was turning the pitch inside out no matter what he threw. And I did. But I got under it a bit. Instead of the line shot I wanted to produce it was a soft fly. They still had no shot at it, but whereas I could have crawled home had I hit the line shot, the soft fly gave them time to make a play on our runner who headed home. They had no chance at getting him...but they could try. Sadly, as I was approaching 2nd I stepped badly and rolled my ankle.

I almost took myself out for a pinch runner, but before I could yell for time, Becky grounded out.

At that point I did something I have never in my life done before. I took myself out of the game. I did it for a couple reasons. First, we were ahead at that point something like 15-1. So I did not feel needed. Second, I am finally at the point in my life where my long-term health means more to me than winning a garbage-league softball game that nobody will remember the score of in 2 weeks. REALLY hurt.

It was bad enough I followed that bit of anti-machismo with another move I have never made before. I left before the game was over.

On the bright side, I played okay against the only other undefeated team in the league. I got some nice hits, made a couple plays...on the dark side, we would have mercy rule'd them even without me so I was not needed...and I did some poor teammate stuff like leaving early. So a mixed day.


The Hand where criticism keeps me thinking about it

Picked up A/7s in late position. Raised, got a couple callers. Flop came 10/8/7 rainbow. Checked around so I raised it. They both called. Turn was a 6. I raised it. Both called. River was a blank. Checked around. I showed my 7s, guy to my left showed 8s, winner showed 10s. Someone laughed and said something along the lines of "Nice, only the worst hand bet."

But did it? There are a lot of ways I could have played this hand. One was folding. However, in late position in an unraised pot A/7 figures to be marginally the best hand. I could have limped in but that is a weak play that invites a steal raise from the blinds. Or I could raise with what figured to be the best hand. I don't mind my play here, particularly since those to come were tight players. Standard wisdom goes loosen up when the table is tight and tighten up when the table is loose. With a couple callers but no re-raise, I probably have the best hand, though there is always the possibility someone is slow-playing something like cowboys or rockets, though the odds are slim.

The flop I played well I thought. They both checked it, I hit a pair, even if it was bottom pair, and bet what was likely the best hand, even if it was just bottom pair, top kicker. Had top pair hit, more often than not he bets it here since his hand is vulnerable. Middle pair might play just as they did, checking and calling a small bet. In this case, top pair had mediocre kicker so check-called as well.

The turn was where I actually like my play a lot. Nobody has shown any interest in winning the pot, only in making "see what happens" calls...I suppose you could give the top pair credit for letting me do the betting if it were a tricky player...but it is someone I read as more call and hope with a tendency towards staying with 2 overcards. He plays good cards and calls a lot with rare raises. Sometimes he hits his good cards and wins, sometimes he misses them, stays with them, and loses. Meanwhile, I have a pair and a belly buster straight draw. I figure to have lots of outs IF I am behind. I have 2 7s for trips, 4 9s for the straight, and 3 Aces for 2 pair. If I am behind, any of these should give me the winning hand. At this point I have them both put on over cards. So I believed I had the best hand and was certain I had the best draw when I bet.

Of course, I did not hit my straight. Here is where I think I played it weakly. The river was a big card, a King if I recall correctly. Played properly, it is a good scare card and worth a bet. Instead, I saw what I DIDN'T have, the straight, and weakly checked. Though perhaps it was not that weak...a bet into 2 opponents with just a small pair is not so much a value bet as a "here is more of my money" bet. So perhaps checking was the correct thing to do.

Either way, based on my reads and draws, I believe I was correct to be betting. And based on their cards and styles of play, both of them were correct to call. The top pair might have re-raised with such a vulnerable hand..though I think calling was a very valid option. Top pair, weak kicker against a raiser is not so good...I could easily have been holding Jacks or Queens and still played it exactly as I did. In that case, they lose the least money possible while staying in the hand. If they re-raise on the flop and I re-raise all-in, they have to lay it down. By simply calling they stay in the hand and ended up taking a small pot.

Overall I am not displeased with my play. Possibly a river bet would have taken it down...but perhaps not. I figured they would call and since they had both called on the turn I believed I was beat without river help.

Yes, in the end I had the worst hand and did all the betting...but in the same circumstances, I would do the same thing which leads me to believe that, for me at least, it was the correct play.

I think it also illustrates a lot about play styles. I am not afraid to play low or middle pair, particularly when I have a draw to go with it. If people miss pairing the board 2 out of 3 hands and the other 2 play passively, I might take down the pot in any number of ways; raising with the worst hand, betting with the best hand, hitting a nice draw...but if I play it passively I will have to fold to any bet with just low pair and never hit the draws or make people fold. Nor will I have a deceptive game if I only ever play top pair.

And it works for me. That night by the final three I had such a commanding chip lead that Josh or Phillip would have had to have hit a HUGE hot streak even to pull even. So looking back, even though I lost THAT HAND, I think THAT PLAY was still correct.

interestingly enough, for MOST of the people I play with, this would be the wrong play. Most are too cautions, too timid, and tend to only bet with stuff like top pair, two pair, trips, and fold to any heat. Probably 80% of the people I play with would automatically fold on the flop to the first bet if no Ace hit.

Nor would I say they are wrong or I am right. Different personalities, different styles.


Lydias, 9/17

One of my flaws is I refuse to believe, for whatever reason, that it is possible to go into a night, play well, and never win a hand.

So I sat down to a 7 player table. Immediately to my left is a guy I have only seen play once. He is a weak-aggressive with more tells than an Israeli dig. To his left is Todd, who lately has been playing a much sounder game so he is a bit harder to read since he is bluffing less and playing better hands. We also had I think Danny to his left, the Cowboys fan who plays quite similar to Todd sitting to my right, Bill to his right more. Randy maybe?

This is a table where bluffing is pointless because someone will call you all the way to the river. I did not see one hand not shown down. So you HAVE to have cards to play.

It was also a weak-aggressive table. Until a couple people busted out and Don joined the table there was not one hand raised pre-flop. On the bright side, you can limp in with any drawing hands...all those medium suited connectors have as much value under the gun as they do on the button. On the dark side...unless you flop a MONSTER you are probably beaten.

And if you are not even getting suited was a night when how I played did not matter.

I limped in with a few drawing hands...stuff like 4/5 hearts, 7/8 off, k/j off. But for the most part, even in a limp-fest, I folded, folded, folded, folded, folded...and proved wise, wise, wise, wise because not one of my hands would have hit and on a night when everything is getting shown have to have the cards to win. Meanwhile, we had several hands with 3 full houses on them at showdown, several trips, etc. Big hand after big hand.

I was being blinded out. The best hand I had was at one point, in a hand eerily similar to another I had shown John the previous session, I picked up J/10 suited in the big blind and checked it. Weak play? Maybe. But there was no raise I could make that would drive everyone out with 5 other people in the pot and I was not going all-in with J/10. It is not that good a hand. Well, it looked good when I flopped 2 pair...problem is, there was a queen to go with it. So anyone with A/K has me drawing all but dead to 4 outs. And with 5 other people in the pot...who is betting against it? And yes, they had already limped multiple times with Aces, Kings, Big it was not an unreasonable assumption. Still, I bet into it to test their resolve. Nobody came over the top, but 3 people called....including Randy who lately has been on a slow-playing kick. If he had a good but not great hand...say, 2 pair...he would have come over the top. Right there I was done with the hand. Of course, the turn was a queen, counterfeiting my bottom pair anyway. I checked and folded. One full house beat 2 others at the showdown.

I only played 2 other non-blind hands, both of them weakly. I limped with pocket 4s and pocket 7s. The 4s had a huge flop of face cards and were into the muck fast. The 7s saw a better flop...only one over card, a 10/6/4 flop. This had promise. I bet into this one...and had one caller, one re-raise, and a re-re-raise. Fold. Sure enough, someone had the 10, someone else a set of 6s.

Other than those hands I folded, folded, folded. On a table where you can't make moves...what else is there to do when people are hitting straights, flushes, boats or sets on every hand and even a pair looks like gold to you? Ironically, I still had more chips than 2 other people who went to the final table...despite not winning a single hand all night. Actually, I did not show down a single hand all night. I was down to about 1400 (I started with 3K) and the blinds were still only 100-200, so I had time. I was at 7 times the blind...the point where I pick a premium hand, raise all-in pre-flop and have fold equity so I either steal the blinds, double up, or am out.

This is a night I would argue I played well...and it was some of the most boring poker of my life. On the bright side, just watching the others battle, I picked up some nice information so we will see how that goes.


Sample Column 3, rough draft

Sometimes there is a hand where one group of solid players believes it is correct to make a call while an equally talented group disagrees. In those instances it comes down to personalities. Let's examine such a hand.

There are two primary players in the hand.

Our hero has been hot, catching a lot of hands. As a result he has played a lot of hands and has a loose-aggressive image. His last few hands have seen him win with some aggressive betting, but on the most recent hand he played he laid down pocket 6s to a flop of 10/K/A rainbow.

The villain has been playing tight all tournament. During the most recent hand he played, his bet got someone to state, "You have been playing tight all night," as they folded. Yet the villain has been all in 3 times by this point.

The blinds are at 300/600 with 8 players. It is folded to the hero on the button. With the large stack, he looks at pocket 3s. He raises to 4 times the blind, 2400. The villain, in the small blind, comes over the top for 4600 more. The big blind gets out of the way.

Should the hero call? There is 5400 in the pot (2400 from hero and villain, 600 from the big blind) and he has to call 4600 to win 10,000. If he calls he will no longer be big stack, though he will still be in second place.

He is getting 2.1-1 on his money. If his opponent has a pair he is a significant dog, 4-1 or higher and it does not make sense to call. If his opponent has just over cards he is a slight favorite, about 52-48. With any over cards he is getting the correct price to call. This being the case he has to determine whether his opponent has a pair or if he just has over cards.

This is where you need to take playing styles into account. Remember our hero has been splashing chips around a bit. Classic poker theory therefore tells you he has a wide range of starting hands. Additionally, he raised from the button, a classic stealing position.

Conversely, the villain just was credited with playing tight and has been all-in several times. If he called the initial raise he was pretty much priced into the hand regardless of what came on the flop. With 5400 in the pot and 4600 chips remaining he would have been getting the correct price to call almost any flop. By raising all-in he takes advantage of possible fold equity, particularly if the button raise was a marginal action or if he was making a move. The all-in raise is therefore the correct move if he was going to play the hand at all.

It also widens the range of hands he is likely to play in this situation. The odds he has a pair are significantly less than the odds he has a pair.

Our hero did, in fact call and the villain flopped up K/7 of diamonds. Now that we know the cards, was the hero still correct to call with only pocket 3s? As it turns out, the 3s are a slight favorite, 50-49% with a slight chance of a split pot.*

In this case the 3s held up, eliminating the villain. It is important to remember, however, that poker is not about short term results. Even had the villain prevailed on this hand, it was still a statistically correct call and in the long run will have positive results for the hero.

So the next time you have a low pocket pair, remember to consider position, the table image of those to follow, and that a pair has the advantage over an unpaired hand and you might have a new tool to add to your arsenal.


Starving Crazed Weasels, September

Had 9 players this month, a decent turn-out. We started with double chips and slow blinds, 6000 chips with 45 minute blinds to allow for plenty of play.

Early on I picked up the Cowboys. I bumped it up. I think there were 4 callers. I would have liked fewer, but...well, sometimes other people pick up hands as well. Flop was all low, no straight draws but there were a couple of spades out there. With 4 callers, I was probably behind but I wanted to see to who so I raised, Emily re-raised. Right there I knew I was in trouble. When she re-raises, she has something good. The question was...trips, or 2 pair? I elected to call. Turn was another spade. I checked, she bet. I checked my hole cards...yes, the King was a spade. She was ahead, I had a better draw...I did not believe she had Aces so was not afraid of the higher flush...I called. Sure enough, the river was another spade. I now had the King high flush. No boats on the board...only an Ace High flush could beat me. I made a large bet, she called. She had flopped 2 pair and ended with the 8 high flush but my King high was good and I had a nice stack going.

A couple hands later I picked up the Rockets under the gun. I raised to 4 times the blind and got a couple callers. One stayed with me to the river with top pair on the board so I took another nice pot.

A while later I picked up j/9 and the flop came jack high. It was checked to me on the button so I raised it. Alan folded. Phillip stayed with me to the river, when I showed the Jack/9 he groaned...he thought I had him out-kicked but he had j/10.

This hand did let me know he has a GREAT read on me. Earlier he had called the cowboys, here he knew I had the jack...I am giving off information somehow, but not sure how.

Just a couple hands later I had J/9 again and the flop came 10/8/rag, rainbow. I thought about it for a bit and decided to build the pot. I bet...and all 4 other people folded.

Weird. On the one hand, they aren't respecting my pre-flop raises; I got multiple callers of 4 times the blinds on both my cowboys and rockets. Then, post-flop, they all lay down on a non-dangerous flop? I would soon take advantage of that.

I limped in with A/2, then called a minimum raise. Flop came 2/6/9, 2 clubs. My Ace was a club. Phillip raised, I put him on the 6 or 9. I should fold, I knew I should, but I talked myself into calling since I had the Ace and backdoor flush draw. It was a HORRIBLE call. He checked the turn and I decided to get in his head. I counted down his last 4600 and raised that exact amount. They were convinced I had an over pair and he laid down his nines. I showed the bluff. That got them fearful. I had showed pocket pairs, King high flushes, straights...and now a brutal, huge bluff.

I had put Tim out earlier and several times Bob, Roman, and Phillip had been all-in but won, some of them multiple times. Meanwhile, I had a nice stack and was hitting a lot of hands.

With blinds up to 3 and 6 hundred (and only 1 person out...some very nice playing!), people folded to me on the button. I looked at pocket 3s, bumped it up to 2400. Bob, in the small blind, went all in for 4600 more. Roman folded and it was decision time. I needed to call 4600 to win 5400, a little better than 2 - 1 on my money. Should I call?

If Bob has 2 overs...which is what I put him on...I am a slight favorite, maybe 52-48 or so since he is almost guaranteed to have 2 overs. On the other hand, if he has a pair I am behind. What are my odds there? Well, I have 2 outs, 5 cards to come; about 20 %, so I would be a 5-1 dog and it would be wrong to call. So then I have to figure out how often he will have pockets versus how often he will have a pair.

Then I remembered how just a couple hands earlier Phillip folded to Bob, pointing out how tight he had been playing. This made the current situation rife for Bob to be on a bit of a bluff...I raised from the button, prime bluffing position, and had been playing a lot of hands so he knew I had a wide range of he would need less of a hand to make a move. I called.

He flipped up K/7 suited. I was ahead and a favorite to add a nice chunk of change and put out a dangerous player. He got no help and was gone.

Alan was not a huge fan of my call and I really had to think about it before making it but I think it was the correct call. More analysis to follow later.

We narrowed the field a bit, then I raised with pocket 6s. Almost everyone called, the flop brought A/K/10. Someone was ahead, I got out of the hand. Someone hit a straight.

For some reason, I was upset with myself. I thought I had not raised enough to get rid of people...but seriously, in retrospect, the hands that called were all worthy of calling. But I was on tilt anyway, so shortly after I made a TERRIBLE play.

4 players left. I picked up pocket 9s. I was going to raise, with the blinds I would be bumping to about 3200. If someone re-raised I would be priced in, more or less, so I decided to take advantage of my fold equity. I went all-in.

Emily called almost instantly. She had taken a LOT of chips from me and our stacks were close. Phillip, the short-stack, almost called...he thought and thought and thought and finally folded. I flipped up my nines, afraid she had queens...but she had A/4. It later turned out Phillip also folded A/4...well, I dodged the Ace, though she did have a gut shot by the river...and she was left with 600 chips.

I had had more than enough chips to justify playing the hand correctly but was on tilt over losing with 6s. Terrible play, I just got lucky that she made a loose call (because, as she said, "sometimes I get competitive against you") and did not hit her Ace. Now I was chip monster.

Next hand Josh put her out when the big blind put her all in.

From there it was smooth sailing as Phillip and Josh took turns being short stack and I picked off the blinds here and there until I caught a hand when Phillip did, took him out, and shortly thereafter Josh was all-in via big blind, so I blind called...and my 4/5 beat his q/3 when the 4 paired to give me the win.


How You Doin' Fall ball game 2

This game was going to be rough. After Tuesday's practice my defensive confidence was...well...low. So many balls hit right to me that I just botched. I suppose a couple of them were justified by bad bounces...but a lot of them weren't and even those "bad bounce" ones aren't in my mind. My reactions have slowed but my mind refuses to accept that and I still believe any ball that comes within my reach should end up in my glove. Well, with low confidence, I was going to be shortstop tonight.

We were short-handed at the start of the game as Casey called and said she was sick, so we brought in Betsy...but she was leaving Woodburn at 5:30. Fortunately, we batted first. Eric started us off with a single. Becky hit a moderate roller to short. He bobbled it a little bit, then hurried his throw. It was low and I came up with runners on 2nd and 3rd, no outs. On the bright side, I love situations like this because there is no doubt in my mind I will produce. On the dark side, I had just watched someone who looked a lot more talented than me hit on my weaknesses defensively.

I set up deep in the box for a change, planning to stay behind the ball and put it into right field. Sure enough, he took that as his cue to give it to me chest high and over the outside corner. It was a little further away than I thought and I hit it off the end of the bat instead of the barrel, so instead of a deep drive it was more a line drive, but perfect placement over the second basemen and in front of the outfield. Eric and Becky scored and I had a single to start the night. Julie grounded me into a fielder's choice, so I got a few seconds to sit on the bench. I was a bit disappointed with myself...had I doubled instead of singled he would have had to make a play to first which would have put pressure on their short and maybe kept our inning alive. As it was, we ended with just 2 runs in the first. Still, producing at bat helped me feel good heading into the field.

When it comes to softball I have discovered I am very much a confidence player. When I have it I play well, when I don't...I don't. First batter was a guy. He laced a pretty hard one. The Delta Park infield is nice and smooth, so I picked it clean and threw him out pretty easily. They got one aboard, then Steve threw someone out at first. They got runners on first and second, I got the next ball and went the short way to third.

We scored a couple more in the second, though Betsy had not arrived yet so we had to take an out in her spot or we would have scored more.

Bottom half was more of the same. They got runners on first & second with one out. Next one grounded to Steve who stepped on the bag for the second out. With 2 outs, another ground ball, this one to my left. I scooped it clean but did not think Julie could take a toss and find the bag so I ran it there myself which created one of those awkward situations where Julie and the runner are coming at 45 degree angles and I am running towards them both. I bumped the poor runner a little bit, but we got the out and were up 4-0 after 2.

I led off the third inning. The first pitch was really low and short. Ball two...except the Ump called it a strike. Huh? I needed a golf club to hit that one, how could it be a strike? This is one of those times starting with a 1-1 count hurts. No problem, his next pitch was belt high and middle of the plate. Sadly, I came out of my shoes. This was much prettier than my first at-bat. Nice, long, arching drive. Of course, when you hit nice, long, arching drives, they might be pretty to look at...but as I was about half-way to second the ball settled nicely into the glove of their right-center fielder and I was out. Fortunately, the rest of the team was hitting and we scored 2 more.

Bottom half of the inning was more of the same...they got runners, Eric made a catch, I made a play, JJ made a play, we are up 6-0.

4th was ugly. On the bright side, Betsy showed up. She actually got her at-bat leading off the inning. With Betsy, Eric, Becky and I coming up to start the inning, this would be a great chance to put the game out of reach. Unless Betsy popped out, Eric grounded out, and Becky grounded out...our best hitters went down in order.

Bottom half of the inning, first guy singled, second girl hit a smash down the line. Steve made a solid stop, dropped it, picked it up...and threw it to the fence. They had 2nd and third, no outs. Next guy hit it to my right. It was a long run. I tried to backhand it but it bounced over my glove. It would have been a fantastic play...if I had made it. I didn't. I needed to. If I am going to be that guy, the one that changes the momentum of games, that is the type of play I have to make.

I did make the next play, throwing the runner out at first, though another run scored on the play. I just thought we needed an out more than we needed to try some tricky pick him off third play. In the long run I think it was wise because that out settled us down a bit. They did score a run, then with the bases loaded, still 1 out, I took another grounder to my left, stepped on the bag and leaped over the incoming runner, through a perfect strike to first and the double play got us out of the inning. But now it was 6-4.

I led off the next inning. As usual I was first pitch swinging, and this time it was right down the line into the right field corner. I was into third easily with a stand-up triple. J.J. had noticed me limping a bit (I tore up my knee a bit kneeling to catch one sinking liner earlier and had been on my knee a couple other times, so I was hurting. Well, Julie popped out right behind me. Then Nick flew to deep left. JJ told me not to go, but I tagged up and scored anyway. Good thing because Larianne lined out to short so we would not have scored.

Again there was a grounder I thought I should get (though nobody else thought so...maybe I AM too hard on myself...I just know I would have gotten that one had I been playing a lot) and they got a runner aboard who eventually scored. By this time I was wearing the glasses, which are so hard to get used to. Still, putting them on was a mistake. Sure, everything was blurry before I put them on...but after I did, i could not see without them and I could not keep them clean. It was after I put them on that I started missing the balls I thought I should get to. So maybe blurry is better? But I was worried because it was taking me that extra half second to pick up the ball...I don't know, maybe I should stop playing. A key play came with 2 outs. They had the sacks jacked and at 7-5 were breathing down our necks. The batter hit a slow roller up the middle. I grabbed it, took a quick look, and knew the only chance we had for an out was at second so I took off to outrun the base runner. Unfortunately I was coming straight at him and could not was the same guy I had made contact with earlier and I ran into him pretty good. I felt bad about it...I am not a dirty player and I guarantee you I am not going to hurt someone over a crap-league softball game and here I run into the same guy twice in the same game. I was able to make sure I took most of the impact, but still...he was pretty cool about it, though.

Next inning, we had a run in, 2 outs, and the bases loaded when I came up. I was drooling. Here is where we were going to break the game open. We were ahead 8-6 now and I never doubt myself in these situations. Sure enough, the first pitch he served up was ball one. Then an inside strike. No way was I going to left, they were perfectly positioned for me there. The next pitch was somewhat inside. I had 2 strikes, though, so there was no way I was letting it pass. I came out of my shoes, drove it deep to right...well, okay, right center. I missed the pitch, it jammed me a bit, and instead of right field where I wanted to go, I went back to right center and the guy made a fine running catch. Instead of clearing the bases as I expected to do, I was just the third out and with 6 minutes left, it was unlikely we would bat again. By not coming through at the plate, I put the pressure on us in the field. 2 runs is nothing.

The first guy hit a line shot that got past Steve, then past me. Way to make up for bad hitting, Barton. The next girl hit it down the third base line. Steve made a great stop but threw it away. First and third, no outs. Next batter flew out to short left center, no chance for the guy to score. 1 out. Next batter hit it to Steve who looked the runner back and threw her out for the second out. JJ walked the next batter to load them up. Next batter hit a slow roller. I got to it, lined it up, threw to first...and we had the win, 8-6.

Overall, I did all right. No scorer would have given me an error, though I would have given myself 2. I hit 2 for 4, knocked in a couple, and scored a key run. On the downside, I should have gotten those 2 balls and certainly should have driven in 2 or 3 runs in my last at-bat to take the pressure off. Still, it was a lot of fun and we got the job done.


Rough Draft, Sample Column II

One of the most underused but extremely valuable skills in Texas Hold 'Em is knowing your "outs" and how often you will hit them.

An "out" is any card which turns your currently losing hand into a winner. Imagine that you could play with all the cards face up. You have a K/Jo. Your opponent has Pocket Aces. The flop comes Q/10/4 rainbow. Your opponent bets. Should you call?

The first thing to consider is how likely you are to get the card you need to overtake your opponent's lead. We know you would lose the hand if it ended right now. However, there are several cards that change the outcome. Either of the 2 remaining Aces give you the nut straight and any 9 also completes the straight. There are 6 cards that turn your losing hand into a winner. You could also hit runner-runner Kings, Jacks, or one of each...though in the latter case your 2 pair are no good since it gives your opponent the nut straight. For simplicity sake, then, we will just take the most likely scenario...hitting either an Ace or 9 for your own straight.

There are 6 cards that help you. These 6 cards are your "outs". Any one of them turns your hand into the winner. Now that we know how many outs we have we need to figure out how often we are going to hit them. Many people fear this next step because it involves mathematics...but it is such a basic level of math that you should easily be able to do it in your head even if you have only the most rudimentary level of math skills.

A good rule of thumb is to multiply the number of outs you have by 2 for each card to come. This gives you a close approximation of your percentage chance to win the hand. Let's walk through the above example. You have 6 outs after the flop. So multiplying 6x2=12. And there are 2 cards to come so multiplying 12x2=24. After the flop you have 24% chance or about a quarter of the time you will complete your straight. How close was our rule of thumb? Well, typically on an open ended straight draw you will hit it about 34% of the time*...but that is with 8 outs. We had 6 outs because our opponent held 2 of them. Adding in the 2 outs we are missing, we would have had 32% (8x2=16, 16x2=32) which, for something you can do quickly and easily in your head without having to memorize a lot of charts is pretty good.

There is one more thing to consider, however. What if the turn is an Ace? You have to be feeling pretty good at this have the nut straight. However, you have given your opponent a redraw. Now he has a set. If the board pairs itself, he will make a full house to defeat your straight. This is a good opportunity to test your new found skills. What are his chances of making his full house? Work through it yourself, then check the answer at the end of the column.

Let's look at one other factor with outs. Sometimes even if you make your hand it will lose to someone else who makes a better hand. What if instead of pocket Aces your opponent had A/8 of Hearts in our example and the flop came with the Q/10 in our Q/10/4 flop are Hearts? We still have the same outs as before, the Aces and 9s to make our straight. Now, however, if the Ace or 9 of Hearts falls, we make our straight but lose to their Flush. So how many outs do we have now? We know what 7 cards are...our hole cards, our opponents' hole cards, and the flop. Of the 45 cards to come, 8 make our straight...but 2 of those cards also make our opponents flush. Therefore we now have just 6 outs even though 8 cards make our hand.

Now that you know how to calculate your outs and approximate how often you make your hand, be sure not to go overboard with it. Having a 3/7 in hand and seeing an A/Q/9 flop, if someone bets from early position, don't bother counting your outs. Just fold. You are so far behind it is not worth chasing the impossible dream. Play smart and you will have a valuable tool when deciding which hands you might have that are currently losing but have a good chance to run down your opponent and which hands you are holding that are total losses.

Answer: About 20%. He has 10 outs: 3 Queens, 3 Tens, 3 4s, and even the Ace. 10x2=20.
Odds courtesy of


Sample Column rough draft I

Ah, the moment of anticipation. As the second card slides across the felt towards you, you receive that miniature burst of adrenaline. What will it be this time? Pocket Aces? The Cowboys? Maybe the dreaded Fishhooks? Or a pedestrian and forgettable 3/9 that will find the muck almost as quickly as the turn to act comes to you?

Naturally I am referring to those glorious moments before you peek for the first time at your hole cards. Before you look at them everybody has the same chance to win the pot that is about to develop. After everyone sees their hole cards that percentage chance changes immensely. Some cards will get played regardless of what others do, other times they won't get played regardless of what other people do. But every time you have that glimmer of hope that this time you will be looking at a pretty pair of cards.

Your hole cards are the foundation of every hand. They can be used to strong-arm your way to dragging a monster pot when you hit the nuts and someone else pulls a strong hand...but not quite strong enough. They can be used to bluff a better hand off the pot when things break just right. Or they can be used to finesse out a few extra chips when your opponent has a decent hand and you have cards just a pip or two better.

They are also among the most misunderstood. If you hang out around the poker table long enough you will hear someone say, "I hate Pocket Aces. They always lose." When you hear that, you know someone does not understand how to play them to their fullest potential. For example, if you have 4 other people in the pot with you and you are holding the rockets you are going to win about 56% of the time.* If you can get head to head that number goes to an astonishing 85% if the time. If you compare that to a common favorite starting hand that many people say "wins all the time" like J/10s in the same situations the figures are 29% and 58% respectively...a great deal lower. So why do people fear Aces and love J/10s?

It is a matter of expectation. If you have Aces you expect to win. But many times people limp in and let large numbers of people into the pot. Even if they win more often than they lose, they EXPECT to win and quickly forget. However, those times their Aces get cracked stick out in their mind and are weighted much more heavily in the memory bank. It is a much better story to tell about the "fish who stuck in with a 2/7, hit the deuce on the turn and rivered me with a 7 to steal my pot" than to tell about "I raised the Aces, 2 callers, raised the flop, 1 caller, checked the turn and raised the river, he called, he had a pair of Jacks." That is what you EXPECT to it never crosses your mind again.

By contrast, when you get in cheap with a trash hand because they let you check in the big blind and those pocket deuces make a set on the flop, that makes a good story.

There is a lesson to be learned from this. If you know the approximate percentage chance of winning with a hand against various numbers of people then you can adjust your play accordingly to maximize the number of chips you win when your hand hits or minimize the number of chips you are going to lose by playing that 3/9 "because it was suited". Any two cards can win if they are played right or flop strong...but some hands are going to flop strong a whole lot more than others will.

An easy way to improve your play then is to study which hole cards are worth taking a peek at the flop and which ones should be in the muck. It is worth picking up a book by your favorite author and studying their starting hands to see which hands are going to keep you in the chips and which will send you to the rail if you like how they look to often.

* All statistics courtesy of
Poker Terms:
Cowboys: Pocket Kings
Fishhooks: Pocket Jacks
The Nuts: The best possible hand on the board


Lydias, 9/10/07

Traffic was an absolute nightmare. It took me 27 minutes to get to work....1:40 to get to Lydias. I knew going in if I played I would be on tilt.

That in itself is a weakness in my game and something I need to work on. I need to develop a strategy for getting off tilt when I am dealing with outside distractions. Time is probably the strongest distraction as I hate, hate, hate being late to anything and especially to something I am running.

But that is life. Sometimes you are going to arrive late.

And have a short table. Including myself we had 7 tonight. It was, however, a good 7 for me to play against. To my left was Bill, a solid player who has a betting pattern where you should know when you are beat and when he has something but not much. To his left was Todd, a frequent bluffer who plays a lot of weird hands. To his left was Danny, a solid player but very easy to read. To his left was Randy who sometimes is a very, very solid player and other times is all over the page. To his left was Marykay, a wild player. Sometimes she is deceptive and other times she might as well play with her hand face up. To her left and my right was John, far and away the best player there for several weeks now whether he will admit it or not. And me, Captain Openly on Tilt.

To my credit I knew I was on tilt so made a point of being selective about my hands without going overboard. I considered position, players, and more or less played the Sklansky hand selections.

I won a few pots, lost a few, nothing super memorable. Then came my first idiot pot.

I had A/Q and raised it. Bill called. He does not call with nothing. Flop was all low. I raised "to see where he was at." He called. I figured him for high cards. Turn was an Ace. I checked. He checked. River was a King. It crossed my mind he might have an A/K. I dismissed it for 2 reasons; 1) I had not bothered to put anybody on a hand all night...which showed that I was allowing myself to tilt in ways other than playing stupid hands. and 2) He had not raised it.

Uh...there is no law whatsoever that he must raise A/K. Yes, he TYPICALLY does...but he is at times a deceptive player. So I decided my Ace was good, raised, he re-raised. Anybody who knows him lays down their hand right there. I called just to prove he had me beat...which he did. He had A/K which I had thought about and dismissed because I was not putting in an effort...and because it was not something I consciously put him on or tried to.

Hey, idiot...when your instincts tell you something, believe it. Trust your instincts.

I cost myself probably an extra 1500 on that hand.

Which was not a huge deal. I made a lot of it back with fishhooks, more with pocket 7s, a bit more with a straight.

Meanwhile, John and Todd were accumulating masses of chips, John with his usual solid play, Todd with more controlled play than usual but a lot of aggression.

After Bill, Danny, and Randy busted out came a hand I received a lot of undue credit for. I picked up something like a Q/9 and played it cheap from the small blind. Flop was ugly, A/Q/rag. I checked. Todd checked. Turn was a King. I checked. He raised. I reraised. He folded.
"You must have a really good read on me tonight," he said.
"Drew is the master at reading," said John.

Well, the truth is...I had no read whatsoever. Oh, I did not believe he had the king...but it was more a "Ah, he is bluffing here...but if he comes over the top of me I am folding because he might have the King I am not crediting him for" type raise. I was completely just seeing where I was at.

Anyhow, coming down to the end I made the final three...not such a big accomplishment when you consider we only had 7 to start with...

For the night, however, it was indeed valuable to play. I was able (I thought) to work through my tilt to play decently in stretched, tightening up when I got towards short stack but never playing maniacally.

However, I also figured out I was allowing another form of tilt. I was not reading people at all. A couple times I had a vague sense of being ahead or behind but it was just instinct, not actual intellectual play. That has to change.

So I have identified a problem with my game and that is always a good thing.


How You Doin' Fall Ball Season

After taking a couple seasons off for marriage and health reasons, this week brought a return to the softball field with the How You Doin' team.

Tuesdays practice was depressing. I was using the new glove which is getting comfortable, though still nowhere near where my beloved black Worth glove was. But my pinkie is still sore, I think it is broken, and my forefinger also hurt. But those are just facts of life as I grow old.

My fielding has suffered greatly. I love playing shortstop but the truth is that year off might have ended my shortstop career for good. I can still go get anything in the air no matter how hard it is hit but balls on the ground seem to elude me every time. Since shortstop has always been my dream position...that really bites. But I am still a good team player and I honestly believe I help the team a lot playing first.

For the game tonight we had exactly 10 players so everyone was going to play every inning. Traffic was HORRIBLE and instead of getting there at 7 I got there about 7:20. I warmed up my arm a bit but did no stretching. All the elements were in place for a classic melt-down of errors, poor hitting, etc. I am seldom a good player when I am rushed and not limbered up.

The plan was to alternate innings with Dan...he would play short and I first in the first inning, then I would play short and he would take first in the 2nd, then I would be first, etc. But first, we were the visitors so we would bat first.

Larianne led off. She drilled the ball but right at their shortstop who scooped it up and threw her out by a few steps. Eric laced the ball, their left center fielder got it on a hop and he was aboard. Becky singled him to second and I came to the plate. I was nervous because I really only got maybe 2 practice swings in and I need to really loosen up to swing the bat well. I planned to take the first pitch and then step out and take a couple more swings to loosen up. I don't fear 2 strikes in slow pitch because I can drive anything. Well, that plan went by the wayside as their pitcher, a woman, lofted an unbelievable lollipop in my wheelhouse...chest high and a bit outside. I stepped into it and crushed it to right center, over the head of their right center fielder. Had I stretched before and/or run hard I would have had an easy triple. As it was, Eric and Becky scored and I coasted into second with a double. I scored easily on a nice rip by Molly but that ended our scoring for the inning. Still, throwing up a four spot is a nice way to start the game.

6 is better. And that is what they threw back at us. They hit the ball hard, a lot of their hits found open space and a few was just too hot for our fielders to handle. Probably 3 plays could have been made but weren't and it was not looking good.

It looked worse when the top of our line-up went down in order in the second. But we held them, too, in the bottom half of the inning, though they did threaten with runners at 2nd & 3rd and one of their top hitters up. Paul made a fantastic running catch to atone for an earlier drop and I led off the top of the third.

She apparently had forgotten where I liked the ball because her first pitch was chest high and outside. This time I obliterated it. A few years ago that ball would have been in the middle of McGloughlin, but these days it landed a few feet short of the fence. I was home long before the ball returned to the dugout with an inside the park home run. I was feeling pretty good about myself.

And we scored again that inning, maybe even 2 runs I think.

In the bottom half of the inning I was perfectly positioned to scoop a grounder about half way to second. I looked to flip the ball to J J but he was a bit slow covering so I took off for the bag myself. To my amazement, I beat the runner to the bag. I was either really, really fast tonight or they were extremely slow.

My next time up they sort of had a shift on to take away the right center power alley. I licked my lips a bit because they had left my true power alley, left center, wide open. Give me something over the heart of the plate and even I might go yard.

And she did.

I started drooling as I saw the pitch coming, it was going to be belt high and dead center over the plate. I came out of my shoes (figuratively speaking) swinging at the grapefruit. And I got under it...popping out to short. I knew I had over swung and felt terrible. We were not having a particularly strong night at the plate and needed every run we could get, and instead I, in the run producing clean up spot, got greedy and instead of doing what I know I should do, a nice controlled swing to put a ground ball right up the middle, gave them a cheap out. It hurt the team and that stunk.

They plated another run before I could come up again and we were down 7 - 5. Once more Eric and Becky were aboard on first and second. We had one out. I elected to try without the glasses for two reasons; 1, the kept fogging up because of my sweat and I was struggling to keep them clean. 2, I figured I was close enough to the pitcher to see the ball. "Stay in your shoes, Barton" I muttered and stepped in. This time the outfield was playing their original spot again. And for a third time she tossed it chest high and outside. I crushed it and took off. By second base I was closing in on poor Becky. I tried to pick up the base coach at third, they were still chasing the ball. He was waving me home so I rounded third just a few steps behind Becky.

Then I paused...the base coach was standing in the field waving. And he was wearing white, not black.

I had followed the call of their third baseman to throw the ball home, not our base coach.

But this year there is a new rule and a "commit" line. I was too close to it to stop but I could not get my speed up again. The ball beat me by about a step and a half and I was out at home.

I made several errors on that play. I did not register the base coach was wearing the wrong colors and standing in the wrong place. I slowed up before I crossed home and did not put out 100% effort. And it meant instead of having a great chance to take the lead I had almost run us out of the inning. We did score a couple more runs but it could have...and should have...been a HUGE inning.

The next inning they were threatening again with 2 outs and runners on second and third. Their guy hit a slow roller to short. Dan picked it clean...and threw it in the dirt. I went to one knee and somehow picked it clean out of the dirt to make the save and kill the threat. It was a spectacular play and I knew it and I felt better about having hit poorly once and run into a stupid out a second time.

In the final inning I thought I had heard the score was 8 - 7 us. They got one runner on with 2 outs. Their guy laced it into short left center. Dan was going out on the ball but it was clearly going to fall when out of nowhere Eric arrived at full speed and made an outstanding shoestring catch to put the game away.

I was wrong about the score, though. Apparently the final was 10 -7.

Over all I feel pretty good. I drove in 5 of our 10 runs and scored run production of 6 runs (the home run doubles as run scored and RBI). I played flawless defense, turning at least 4 throws from throwing errors into outs. On the downside, I did pop out once and make a stupid base running error...but I feel like without me the team would have been in a lot more trouble than we got into for those things. I am going to call this one a successful return to the field. And more importantly...a fun one.

Thoughts on Hand Reading

Sometimes a dim bulb brightens. Like much else in my life, I am never satisfied with anything less than perfection. One of these areas is hand reading. For whatever reason, I got it in my head that to read them correctly, I had to have the exact 2 cards down. At times I have played past this self-defeating belief, such as when I have read instead what they DIDN'T have, or even if I just correctly read the situation...I.E., I am ahead, I am behind, he is on a draw, he has a made hand but my draw is better/ truth, the exact cards only matter when I decide to try and run them down if I think I am behind, and even then the exact cards STILL don't matter...what matters is if they have a hand I can run down or one I am drawing dead to.

To be sure, there have been times I have nailed the exact cards. Probably the best exact card call I ever made was at Home Turf. The old guy was sitting directly across from me. He looked at his cards, then slowly looked at them again. To this day i don't know why I put him on A/4 but I instantly put him on that exact hand. But when the flop brought a red ace and black four, I put him on the ace/4 of the suit that did not fall...and at the showdown he had the A/4 of clubs or was a spectacular read and I had properly folded. At the same time, I have had BETTER the time I laid down my Tens full of 8s on the turn and Nathan had Tens full of 9s at the showdown. I properly read him for having me beat and laid down a full house, thus saving a TON of chips. And here is the important part; I did not know WHICH full house he had, only that he had a higher one. There was no 9 on the table...they were pockets for him. He had checked and called the 2 pair on the flop and when the board brought trip 10s he raised. Perhaps the best meaningful read I had came in a game at Mixers against a guy I had never played before. Early on I figured him for the straight and mentioned I laid down 2 pair. He was stunned I would lay down such a powerful hand, though he did confirm he had the straight. Late in the game I had a dominating chip position. I raised the Colts (pocket 4s) from late position and he called. Flop came rags, I raised, he called, turn was another low card giving me a gut shot, I raised, he came over the top all in. I almost folded, then went into the tank. Something about his bet was not right. I thought back to the earlier confrontation. I could not put him on a specific hand but I did put him on a bluff. I could not say what he DID have but I could say what he did not have...a pair or straight. I called. He disgustedly flipped up two big cards and I flipped up my lonely little pair. He could not believe I called with such a weak hand...but the correct read...that I was ahead...allowed me to do so. And I was not just ahead...I was crushing him. At that point we knew 8 cards. There was one to come. 6 of the remaining 44 cards in deck helped him, 38 did not so I was ahead 38-6 or by more than 6 to 1. I like my chances when I can get the chips in with that sort of advantage.

That lesson, that knowing the EXACT cards seldom matters got lost on me somewhere, however. Instead of putting someone on a RANGE of hands I decided I had to put them on the exact hand...and that is where reading gets frustrating and then stops happening.

When someone raises I need to, instead of asking "what two cards does he have", ask, "What types of hands will he bring it in for a raise?"


If Jeff raises pre-flop he can have any two cards; I have seen him raise with any pocket pair, with both cards paint, with a dry Ace and with suited connectors. I have also seen him raise with 2/7. So when he raises it is just plain silly to put him on, say, Big Slick.

Conversely, when say...Tor raises, I am not going to put him on a 2/7. I am going to hesitate about 3 seconds, then put him on 10s or better or any Ace from dry on up to big slick. I will also credit him with paint.

Once the flop hits, if checked to Jeff, he will bet with any two cards. Unless someone has already bet you still can't put him on anything. You have to pay to find out. However, as often as not if someone check-raises him he will lay it down which leads one to believe he will bet a lot of sub-optimal hands so he continues to be very deceptive.

Tor will almost always check the flop. If he is raised then he will:

fold if he has a small pair.
call if he has over cards to the board.

So just because he calls does not mean he has a hand. Again, it is silly to put him on a specific hand. I have had him call to the river with straight and flush draws...but also with K/2 off suit that connected with the board in no way, shape, or form. In fact, he is MORE likely to call with a high card and rags than he is a legit draw.

Linda has a pocket pair if she raises. The larger the raise, the smaller the pocket pair.

I know these things and have similar information on a lot of players. In fact, the only ones I DON'T have that sort of information on are two types:

1) people so maniacal they don't even know what they have

Marykay, Dawg, there are a couple prime examples. Either one will stay to the river against flush draws, straight draws, even full houses when they have jack straw. Other times they will raise with nothing thinking they have something and still other times they actually have something...sometimes they know it, other times they don't. They are dangerous players, though I do not personally classify them as good players.

2) People I have only played with since I fell into the habit of "put them on a specific hand or don't bother putting them on a hand at all."

So I am putting a plan in place in the interests of improving my game yet again.

1) Put people on a range of hands every time.

2) Remember information is gathered even if it does not go to a showdown; what was the texture of the flop, betting patterns, any tells I might pick up...I need to remember I can use that information later.

3) Concentrate on just one player as much as possible.

4) Recreate what possibilities were on the board when bets/checks/raises are made and by whom.

5) Ask what they will raise with, what will they call with, and what they will check with.

6) Remind myself it is a RANGE of hands, not a specific hand.

By doing this I hope to have a better grasp on how people act when they have legit hands and how they act when they are speculating which, in turn, will lead to me knowing if I am ahead or behind. And once I have the lead...look out because I am putting the pressure on.


Lydias, 9/3 (Labor Day)

I have been doing a bit of thinking about my game. And I have decided I have truly been playing some awful poker. Oh, sure, as often as not I seem to end up with a decent chip stack. But that is as much a matter of luck as anything. I have been making some plays that might work against weaker competition but against better competition will quickly result in being on the felt.

Now, to be sure there has been some decent poker in there. While I was taking the game serious at Mixers I was doing really well. Once I started playing my "win quick or go home" game it wasn't too long before I was felted. And my reads have, at times, been very solid. It is not often you will see me lay down top pair on the flop to a bet by a frequent bluffer such as I did to Todd a week ago. Yet I was correct to do so. So I guess from that standpoint it has been okay.

However, I have been using the excuse that it doesn't matter how I do since I won't be at the final table to allow myself some lax and lazy play...limping in, not raising, never bluffing, playing ABC poker with marginal hands. Sure, a few times I have gotten lucky and hit some big, big hands...although even there I somewhat deliberately misplayed them and took down far less than I could have on the theory I really don't want to put anybody out. Bad theory.

I have come to the conclusion that this is a form of tilt. I am allowing myself to play less than my optimal game. By so doing I will do two things:

1) I will prevent myself from improving.

Practice, practice, practice goes the mantra. Well, it is true...practice does help. So does repetition. And so does experience. Knowing certain things will work...and when...makes a difference. Take a key hand from Monday for example.

Under the gun I picked up A/J of Hearts. I raised to 3 times the big blind. I have learned that at 3 times the big blind I get some callers but not so many that I cannot still win the hand. At 4 times the big blind I typically either just pick up the blinds or else only get called by rockets or cowboys. Also, 4 times seems to set people on tilt and cause them to play back maniacally. I can handle people playing back. When I raise I have a hand that can play well against someone else with a plan. But when people play maniacally, they might stay in with anything from a 3/4 (such as Randy did in the consolation game) to a legit hand. And maniacs playing back are likely to hit 2 pair on a ragged flop. Sure, they will miss it MOST of the time...but maniacal play is virtually impossible to read. Hence practice and experience have combined to set my typical raise...I say typical and not default because certain elements will adjust it. Anyhow, sure enough I got a couple callers...and the flop came down 3 low diamonds. Danny checked, I raised just as if I had hit. Everyone but Danny folded...he hesitated a long time and then called. Lately I have played with Danny a few times so I read him as having either over cards or a draw. With his calling of my initial raise from the big blind he could have a slightly weaker hand to call...but unless he was on a diamond draw he missed it completely. Turn was a 10 of clubs. I bet again and this time he did not even hesitate, he folded. He ended up showing K/J of the possible hands I had put him on because of past experience.

Of course, part B of that was raising even after I missed it. Lately I have gotten sloppy and lazy and not done the continuation bet, telling myself, "They are just river rats who will chase and hit a 2 to beat me anyway."

Great! Please, keep chasing, because even if you DO hit that are, in the long run, paying me so you can chase with low odds of improving enough to beat me. But practicing playing correctly allows me to call on the experience of having succeeded at what I need to do. I then will bet at orphan pots when I get the correct feel...not a "hunch" but a read on the group collectively that an authoritative bet will get them to fold. I know you can't bluff out an entire table but there are times when a simple Ace high is the best hand, too. When I know I have the best hand, even without a pair, I do not think of it as a bluff so much as I do as it being a value bet.I can only read the table correctly when I have been doing it from time to time and when I call on the experience of the "feel" of the table when I did it before.

Which leads to point 2

2) My performance and abilities will degrade.
To play my best I need to be factoring in a lot of things:

A) Position. Where am I in relation to who raises, who calls, who check-raises, who bluffs, how many people are left to act.

B) Starting hands

c) Who is in the hand

D) What sort of reads do I have on the people most likely to be in the hand

E) What is my Table Image at any given moment

F) Odds, both pot and otherwise

There are more, but those are the most obvious.

When I don't play my best I fall into bad habits. I limp with virtually any 2 cards. I don't raise when I know I should, I price people into pots and let them run me down, I lose pot after pot that either I should not be in anyhow or else had a lead & lost because of poor play, occasionally on the part of my opponents...which can't be helped...and more often because of my own poor play, usually timid play. I cannot count the number of times I have had the best but vulnerable plan and, through my raising just the minimum instead of a real bet, let them stay in with a trash hand because it was cheap to stay in, then they hit a "miracle card" to swipe the pot. That is not their is mine for giving them staggeringly good odds to draw to ridiculous hands. That is bad play on my part.

Timid play is bad because I play as if I am afraid to lose the chips. That is a sure formula for losing them...sure, I slow the loss but never give myself the opportunity to win them. Timid, cowardly play is the same as handing my chips to whoever plays with courage and the willingness to take a chance.

A fine example would be middle pair. When I am playing poorly I fold them instantly. When I am playing well I will sometimes play middle...or, depending on who is in the hand, bottom...pairs. But I don't play them blindly. I consider my I just drawing to the trips or 2 pair? If I hit them, will it be enough to give me the lead? Or am I drawing to other outs as well...maybe a gut shot straight or backdoor flush draw? None of them, alone, provides enough outs. However, combined, sometimes they do.

In one hand I played a 6/8 spades when I was able to limp from late with about 4 others in the pot. That is where limping is good...if I hit it hard and someone else hits as well I can get paid, possibly by 2 or three people in a hand they will have a hard time reading. Conversely, if someone raises a few people out I will fold it. As luck would have it the flop brought a 10 of diamonds, 8...hearts maybe? and a 5 of spades. I had middle pair, weak kicker, backdoor straight and flush draws. I knew who was in the pot and the guy on the button will bet if nobody else does. I bet as if I had top pair, couple callers including him. Sure enough the turn was a 9 of spades giving me flush and gut shot straight draws. Normally after I bet he will give me the free card on the turn which is one reason I did so. So I checked. He raised. I revised my estimate of his hand from 8s to 10s. And here is where secondary draws come into play.

His raise was not particularly large. In fact, I was getting about 8-1 on my money to call (based on how many other people were in the pot) with the potential to bust him if the right card fell. So now it was time to figure out if calling was a good idea. After all, he could still have the 8 and a better kicker. He might have a pair of 9s or 10s. I would even believe he had 2 pair. Or he could be on the same straight draw I was or a similar one. He could even be on the flush draw and he is a player who will bet on draws. So my outs were as follows: 8 for trips, 6 for 2 pair, 5 for 2 pair, 9 for two pair, 10 for 2 pair, or 7 for a straight or any Spade for a flush...27 outs, though a few of them duplicate for a net of 22. Let's take a look at those outs.

I figured him for the 8 or 10...let's say we assign 40% to each likelihood with 5% each on the 9 or a bluff. If we both have trip 8s I am beat more than likely so I am not counting the 8 as an out. Same for pairing any of the others..if he has an 8 and better kicker or the pair of 10s then any time the board pairs for me it pairs for him and gives him trips if he has the 10 and it is the 10 the board pairs. So those outs are out. That leaves me with the 7 for a straight or any spade, 12 outs. That gives me about 24% chance to win the pot or 3-1 dog...and I am getting 8-1 on my money. Up front it COULD look like I am almost a favorite if I discount the outs that I believe help me and make him the winner. The only card that I discounted that maybe I shouldn't is pairing my 6.

So this is one time when, even believing I am beat, I am going to call because, even though I LOSE the pot more often than I win it, in the long run I come out ahead.

I should point out this is an example of a time when the outcome of a given hand does not necessarily reflect whether I played it well or not. Some people would argue the initial raise was a poor play. However, several times I had already raised with middle pairs and taken down the pots. I am actually pretty far ahead on that move. It is not something I will win the pot with every time and I know that. But by so doing I mix up my play (not just betting the nuts or the likely best hand) and taking down a lot of small pots. So when I make that raise and end up getting deeper into a pot, sometimes I will run into someone who checked the better hand. No big deal. And when it gives me the potential to get in cheap and possibly take down a huge pot then I am playing well even if I lose a specific pot. In this case, Don took it down but I felt fine with that. He had the better hand, I had the better draw. In some future game I will get involved in similar hands, lose a few times, win a couple times. The times I lose I will be down a few chips, the time(s) I hit it I will be up a boatload. When I lose I will not be hurt badly and will be in good shape in the tournament (I don't play those hands when I am low on chips) and when I win I will be in great shape to go deep. It is a case of losing when I play well.

By the same token, later I had pocket kings and raised from early position. Couple callers including Danny. I have a GREAT read on Danny. I have yet to stay in a hand with him where he has me beat at the river. (How is that for a guarantee the next hand I am in with him I will stay to the river and lose?) Once he bluffed me out of a hand where I thought he had trip Aces when in fact he had the exact hand I had...J/7. We would have split the pot with Aces up (we both paired our jacks), King kickers. Well, the hand I am discussing now, the flop was beautiful for me, no straights, flushes, or Aces. I raised it up, he called. I actually put him on a pair here but knew I was ahead. Turn was an Ace. I picked up his reaction. I checked, he bet, we were the only two in the hand, I pitched my cards in the muck saying, "Nah, you caught your ace, nice hand, Danny." He gave his Cheshire Cat grin and showed his A/7...and yep, he had 2 pair.

That was one time where the odds were wrong to chase. I had 2 outs to improve, the Kings. I believe he has the Ace as surely as if he was playing with his hand face up. That means if the board pairs, yes, I have 2 pair...but so does he. There is no straight. There is no flush. That means his 2 pair mean nothing. I am drawing against the Aces with 1 card to come. The second pair is just gravy for him. Even without it, I am drawing to 2 outs...about 4%. I am going to lose 25 times for every once I win that one, more or less. Let's be generous and call me a 24-1 dog. I am getting about 5-1 on my money in this particular pot. My cards almost beat his bet into the muck, though to be honest my analysis when playing live went about this deep: "He hit his Ace, I am too far behind."

I guess that goes back to experience, too. When someone has an over pair to mine I know the odds of beating them are staggeringly high unless I have other outs...straight or flush draws...and it is virtually never worth chasing unless I think I can bluff them out of the pot. Danny is not a guy you will bluff out of many pots.

Of course, I think those hands show that my attitude change led to playing better. I played strong hands and I played them aggressively. When I had nothing I folded, when I had a hand worth playing...I made them pay.

Other examples:
Pocket 9s. I raised, got a few callers. Right then I knew I was in trouble. 1 caller, maybe 2 and they might miss. With 4 way was this hand holding up unless I flopped trips. Sure enough, flop was all high cards. One raise, one call before it got to me, I folded.
Few hands later, pocket 2s. Raised from middle position after a couple of people limped in. BB called. Flop was ragged, mostly middle cards. I raised, he folded.
Pocket Jacks, raised, everyone folded.
10s, raised, had one caller, a re-raise, a caller to that, folded.

All of those, in those cases, I think I took strong hands, played them strongly, and played them correctly. When I am playing poorly I will limp with the 2s and lose the pot. I will probably limp with the 9s and lose less. I will limp with the jacks and lose. I will limp with the 10s and get raked over the coals to a hidden good hand.

By playing correctly and aggressively I get rid of the trash hands that flop 2 pair, I get rid of the people on long draws, and take down a lot more small pots which in turn allows me to absorb the hits when someone stays in and hits a gut shot or some such nonsense.

It also illustrates that playing well does not necessarily mean being dominant and playing poorly does not necessarily mean having no chips. I actually would have hit the final table in about every week for the last several Mondays even though I have not played particularly well. So we will see what happens if I actually keep playing correctly.