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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A new strategy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So when you play slow...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good poker made easy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bad poker made easy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And he turned up Q/2 off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Pinball Poker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thinking back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Elks Lodge Tournament

over 90 players, 3500 starting chips.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I was bleeding.

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

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

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

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

But now I had over20K.

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

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

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

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

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