A key hand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The bad part about being a good poker player

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So it is a terrible, terrible call. Horrific.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Pondering the play

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


When good cards happen to bad players

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



I have allowed myself to be convinced to play for points. On the one hand, that means I need to play seriously more often. On the other hand, that means I can spend less time goofing around since I actually take it serious when there are points on the line. If I am not playing for points I don't care where I finish, only how I play. But when I play for points...well, it is my intention to be one of the points leaders. Because, while I may not be one of the top players in terms of number of tournaments win, I do think I am good enough to be one of the most consistent. John and Chris might be more consistent...and John wins more...but almost everyone else has a sadly high number of flameouts.

Tonight we had an interesting table. I always like having John at my table, we get in a lot of good natured razzing. Todd sometimes is fun, other times annoying. Gary is pretty much always is annoying. The way he trash talks everybody is ridiculous. He has no concept of hand values, how to hide what he has, etc. He might as well play with his hand face-up. Justin I have only seen a couple times, and...and...and this is embarrassing, but I don;t remember who the 5th guy at our table was.

I was still somewhat on tilt from the big tournament nonsense but a good group gets me out of it. So does playing properly. I folded or raised most of the night. And it worked. I raised K/Q Hearts, one caller, flop was all small, another raise took down the pot. Raised A/10, they all folded. Picked up a few pots here and there. Trips got me more chips. Won several small pots, no big ones, managed to double up with these small pots. Negreaneau small ball. Very few memorable hands.

One I checked from the big blind with A/7. I actually played the hand weakly, everyone had limped in, I should have raised pre-flop. Anyway, flop came Jack, Jack 7. I had 2 pair, top kicker. I figured if anyone called they had to have the the Jack. Justin almost called, I showed the 7. He laughed, said he had that. And an Ace kicker. Sometimes being first to act is a benefit. I could make that raise, but not that call.

Blinds were pretty well up by the time we got to the final table. I raised a couple hands and everyone folded. I was stealing blinds, making up chips.

Then something horrendous happened. One girl wanted to go so she started raising and calling with anything. Suddenly it was dangerous to raise too awfully much. After all, A/10 looks great pre-flop, but if you bump it and know any 2 cards will call...which she would...and the flop comes all low and she comes out raising, you might be in trouble.

So I limped in a few times, lost some chips. Gary got crazy and made a raise from the small blind...but only to twice the blind. Since 2 people had already called, I had pot odds with a garbage hand, K/2. I called planning on bluffing. Flop came K/Q/rag. I raised. Maniac called. Gary disgustedly folded. Turn was a blank. I checked. She raised. I almost folded...then remembered how she had been playing and reraised all in. She called. She flipped up...bottom pair, a pair of 5s I think. I flipped up my K/2. Gary went ballistic. He could not believe I could raise 4 times the blinds with "just" top pair. But I had his raise read as weak, I had her read for dead money at the time. Now I was not sure if she was really dead money...she had SOMETHING every time she called or raised (except two hands previously when she called her father in law with a 5 high on a straight and flush possibility board.) But it was always a vulnerable hand...something like...say...a pair of kings. So it was a loose raise and all-in...but I had her read as being behind. When she called, I had second thoughts...but the Kings were good and I had almost a triple up with the money Larry and Gary had put in the pot.

Then I went weak. I called a couple hands I should not have, limped instead of raising, basically just changed my style. Bad, weak play.

After a while I figured out what I was doing and picked up A/10 under the gun5 handed. That is a pretty strong hand. I bumped to 2400, 4 times the blinds. And John hesitated, hesitated, hesitated, and then came over the top all in. She insta-called he all in.

I respect John's game enough to credit him for having a seriously good hand. I almost laid down the hand. But there was too much money in it and my hand was too good. I called. He flipped up A/2 Spades and she flipped up...pocket 4s. Both John and I had her covered. When an Ace rolled off on the flop we were looking good to take her out (and, sadly, John as well...). But she turned a 4 to take the larger pot and the river was a 10, giving me 2 pair to take John out.

Ironically, the 4 was because he burned an extra card. I almost said something but since it would benefit me I did not. He burned while waiting, then when reminded everyone was all-in, he burned a second card. I am okay with that. It was costly...but okay.

Well, soon enough I doubled up Larry when I called one more blind of his when he went all in and I had J/8. He hit a pair, I did not. Gave up more chips trying to get rid of the maniac girl...she is not always a maniac, she just was while trying to bust out.

Finally I gave up two huge chunks on big pots, one of which I got rivered and one of which I flopped straight, flush, and straight flush draws so called raises but never improved. That was a hand I think I misplayed. I thought Gary would lay his down if I re-raised all in but could not bring myself to go all in on a draw.

Oh, well, I finished 2nd and more importantly, got off tilt and had some fun.


How to make poker no fun

The first major tournament I went to for Oregon Trail Poker (at that time, that was the name), I was the second person out. I raised from the big blind with I think A/Q, might have been big slick. The flop was perfect, giving me top pair, top kicker, no flush or straight draws. I raised, a guy re-raised all-in. I went over the hands he might have and finally put him on a medium pair...and was correct. I called him. He flipped up his pocket 8s, I showed my Aces. He said, "Well, I always hit my 8." And when the river was an 8 I was gone. I was a 19-1 favorite and lost. That hurt. A lot. Even worse, he thought he made a good play by going in knowing he was behind.

Well, the second major tournament I have gone to (3rd if you count the charity tournament, but the 2nd for the league, though it is now Oregon Tournament Poker, we would see what would happen. On the bright side, I was not real into it. I was there primarily to help Bob run it. But he did not need help running it, so I got to play. On the bright side, I had Roman and Amanda on my left. On the dark side I also had Paul, All-in Dee, and Randy at my table.

I folded the first few hands, then raised to 4 times the blinds from under the gun (25/50 blinds). Dee called my 200 from the button, Randy called from the small blind. Flop was nice, A/q/7. I flopped a set. Bottom set, to be sure, but a set nonetheless. No flush draw...good. Randy checked, I raised 600, Dee raised to 1200, Randy called. I was half-way there so I called.

Dee will play some maniacal draws...she could easily have something like J/K, K/10, J/10...she will play any of those that way or even go all-in. Randy could have the same range. Or either of them could have something like A/Q, A/J, maybe A/10 or even A/rag and they would play it the same. I was pretty positive I was ahead.

Turn was a 9, putting all 4 suits on the board. I raised to 1200, same as Dee had, she called, Randy called. Hmm.

River was a ten and Randy almost beat the card getting all his chips in. I instantly put him on the straight. Then I set myself to trying to talk myself into believing he was on a bluff. First there is our history of him playing absolute garbage hands against me and crushing me on the river. Then there is the history of him making that all-in move as a bluff. But I could not talk myself into believing he had anything but a straight. I finally folded my set.

Dee then went into the tank for a long, long time before finally calling. She flipped up a hand I wish I could have been in there with...A/Q for 2 pair. She had a legit, strong hand and played it strongly. Look back at what she did; called 4 times the blind with A/Q, then re-raised a raise with 2 pair. She figured to have the best hand. The 9 on the turn doesn't bother her as nobody has anything obvious except a straight draw that is a long shot at best if they stayed around with something like K/J, K/10, something like that. And on the river 2 pair is hard to get away from, particularly if you have not played with someone before, and I don't think she had played with Randy. Of course, she had the third best hand at the river...but that isn't her fault.

And yes, Randy had the straight. Oh, not the 9/10/j/q straight that would make sense. No, he had the 6/7/8/9/10 straight.

So let's take a look at his play. He called pre-flop 4 times the blind with a 6/8. Okay, I am on board with that. If it hits hard you play and make bank, otherwise you get away from it cheap.

Flop gives him 6/7/8 with an Ace, a Queen, a bet and a re-raise in front of him. He has nothing, no flush draw, no reasonable straight draw...nothing. And he calls. This goes down as one of the most ridiculous calls I have ever seen. When some newbies used to call with nothing, they might have been as bad in poker terms, but they were excusable because the people did not know how to play. Randy knows how to play. He knows there is no hand he can beat and to beat anything he has to hit runner-runner that doesn't connect with anyone. Furthermore, it makes no sense.

I bet pre-flop after folding. He knows I have SOMETHING. Even if it is just 2 big cards. Sure, Dee will call anything with anything, but he does not know that. When I raise on the flop it is possible I missed it completely and am making a continuation bet. Let us say he puts me on something like the aforementioned K/J, K/10, J/10 type hand. What does he put Dee and her re-raise on? One person might miss and bluff, but few and far between are the people capable of calling a pre-flop raise, then bluff-re-raising a bluff on the flop. Unless he thought Dee was Daniel Negreaneau in disguise...that was the worst call I have ever seen based on his theoretical skill level and the situation.

So the turn comes, I bet 1200, Dee calls, so does Randy, making another mistake.
But wait, you say, his call on the turn was okay, now he has an open ender. There was 650 in the pot (200 from Dee, Randy and I and 50 from the big blind.) On the flop there was another 3600 added, giving us 4250. He called 1200 to win 6650, so 5 - 1 on his chips for a straight draw which has 8 outs, about 16% or so to hit...oh, wait, he is worse than 6-1 so no, even there it is a bad call. And even worse in light of all the betting that has gone on.

I suppose you could say at this point his implied odds make up for the pot odds he is not getting.

Still doesn't change his status in my mind. He was a complete donkey on that hand. And he got hugely rewarded for it. He got 2600 of my chips and 4000 of Dee's as a reward for being an idiot on the flop.

On the bright side, when a donkey has your chips, you have a pretty good chance at getting them back. Sure enough, a bit later I was under the gun again and picked up pocket tens. All my chips hit the middle, the 1325 I had left. He called. With a K/7o. So I got back to about 27, maybe 2800. Stole a couple more blinds to get to around 3K and hovered there for a while.

Blinds kept going up and I kept hovering, getting just enough blind-steals to stay at or around 3K. But every hand was being raised 3 - 4 times the blind with multiple callers and a mere call pretty much pot committed me so I could not play anything except hands I was willing to go to the felt on. I had no chance at all to play poker all night because of a first hand donkey. It was brutal. It was not fun. I just wanted to double up so I could actually play or else bust out and watch football.

Meanwhile, Randy donkeyed off every chip of his once huge chip lead. Every. Stinking. Chip.

Finally I was able to check it from the big blind with a bad hand, Q/3 of diamonds. Flop came Qc, 9d, 4d. I had top pair, a four flush, and unless someone was playing Q/9, Q/4, or 9/4 I was way, way ahead. I went all in.

And got three callers. Okay, maybe someone limped with Big Slick. At this table I did not believe it, but it was possible. Turn was a blank. Heavy, heavy betting. I figured I was dead. River gave me the flush. More heavy betting, 2 people got all in. Sure enough, they had a combined flush draw up to the river. I was ahead with a lowly pair of queens until the river where a J/2 diamonds was not as good as the A/7 diamonds.

I was just glad to be out. I was never able to play and unless I doubled up about 2 or 3 more times I was going to be right back in the same cycle of having to steal blinds just to not be blinded out so it was not a disappointment.

I was pretty much done with poker for the day but they talked me into playing a consolation table. Here is a little secret; I do not enjoy consolation table games. Starting with 1000 chips is so pointless. Let's see, I make a 3 times the blind raise. Now I have 850 chips. If I want to price out a draw, I need to bet the pot. If I get just 1 caller, there is a minimum of 300 chips in the pot. That means I bet 300, that leaves me 550 and I am priced in if they re-raise me. So there is no room to actually play poker. It is just all-in fest, exacerbated by the abominable play when people do garbage like, "Oh, it's just consolation" and make ridiculous calls and raises. To me, that is not fun,

I enjoy trying to figure out what people have, their strength relative to mine, and working my mental acuity to ascertain when it is correct to raise, fold, check, call...I have to admit, on one level it was a huge rush to fold a set. That is a pretty strong hand. But was it worth not playing at all the rest of the night? Pretty much no.

Well, on the bright side, I was able to start everyone with 3K chips. So it would not have that issue.

Too bad there were so many donkeys at that table, too. Roman and Amanda I know can play. We had 4 West Linners...and frankly, if they are any indication of the level of play at West Linn, West Linn sucks. Let me be upfront about it. They were TERRIBLE.

Example: again, I fold a few hands, then pick up pocket Jacks which I raise from early position. And everybody...EVERYBODY...CALLS. Flop is ragged. No straight draws, flush draws, or overs. I am happy. I jack it up. And get re-raise, re-re-raise, Roman folds with a stunned look, caller, I fold. Someone had to have flopped 2 pair with some heinous call with something like a 2/10 or some such nonsense. I think Roman said he folded pockets on that hand too. Care to know what won the hand? Big Slick. No flush, straight, trips, 2 pair, not even a pair. Big slick. She was the one that after my raise was re-raised elected to re-re-raise. Oh, and in case you are wondering...the re-raiser had a Jack high. I wish I was lying.

I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe I gave off a weak read or something. Maybe they were playing me, not their cards.

Fortunately they disabused me of this notion rather rapidly. They did similar stuff with regularity. They would have raises and re-raises and talk about how they had raised their draws...their gut shot and runner runner draws, that is...it was like playing with a table full of Randy's. It was horrific.

So I went into big-bet mode. If they were going to be donkeys it was going to cost them. I continued to wait for cards. When I got them I raised 4 - 6 blinds. Then on the flop unless it was super dangerous I was all-in.

Much to nobodies surprise I built a HUGE chip stack. You want to play donkey poker with me, you go right ahead, but you better hit the first time or you will be short stacked. Or if you hit it, I will be out. I am just sick of donkey poker. It isn't fun for me. And since I am playing free poker, if it isn't fun there is really no point to playing.

So I started doing bizarre things myself. Since I did not really need a hand to play with them, I once raised a 6/7 off to 500 (blinds of 50/100) because I felt like playing a hand and a green chip was closest to hand. Flop came K/9/K. Checked to me. I jacked it up, they all folded and I showed, mostly just to annoy them. Then I went back to playing good cards.

So Roman and I played our usual solid games.

We got rid of most of the donkeys and it was 3 handed. I had a decent chip lead, Roman was second and the donkey woman was a distant, distant third.

Roman checked out of turn from the big blind. Had I not called before he did that, I would have jacked it up right there, but I had called. She also called, he checked. Then he went into acting mode ad he flopped trips and ended with quads and suckered me into going all in. I thought he had maybe 2 pair but was afraid of the trips. I mis-judged it and went with my table play maneuver...so suddenly I was all the way down to 3 or 4K and he was the monster chip leader.

Eventually I was not at all surprised to find it was he and I heads up. I chipped away, taking down a few hands, he took a couple, but the ones I was winning were bigger than the ones he was winning. We got to where we were trading the lead back and forth.

I raised with A/4 of diamonds. Flop came 3d, 4c, 5d. He raised. I came over the top all in. He went into the tank for a long, long time. He finally folded, showing his 5. I showed my hand and we ran it out. Had he called my last 3600 the river would have been the 2D, giving me my first ever straight flush. Had we played it out. We didn't.

Couple hands later I doubled up and he was down to 2K. I blind raised to 2K (blinds by now were 500/1000). He called with his last 1000 and flipped up Dolly Parton. Sadly for him I picked that hand to pick up a hand for the first time in weeks...American Airlines. The Aces held up and I "won" a table that never exceeded 8 people. And I can say without fear of contradiction there was me & Roman, then Amanda, then everybody else. What a bunch of donkeys.

On the bright side, playing with Roman and Amanda was fun. On the dark side...I just don't even ever want to play at a table with people who play like Randy and Dee and the clowns from the other table anymore. It just isn't even fun. I would so much rather just work on my book. How sad is that? My favorite hobby just isn't all that fun almost half the time anymore. Maybe more than half.


Starving Crazed Weasels October

Decent turn-out of 9, we went one table. To my left was Emily, to her left Kevin, to his left Rick, to his left Phillip, to his left Mark, to his left Stanica, then Kenneth and finally to my right was Alan.

Early on I was raise or fold. The first hand I played I raised pre-flop, got a read, raised after the flop missed me and took down a small flop.

Second hand I played I raised an A/10 from late position after a couple of people had limped. Phillip called, as did someone else. The flop gave 3 queens. I thought Phillip liked the flop but raised anyway and he called hesitantly. Turn was a 5. I thought about raising but he had given off something saying he liked it again. I checked. The river was a 4. It was checked around. I showed my A/10 and he showed A/5...which gave him the hand with a boat. He later said had I (correctly) bet the turn he would have folded because he had me on a better pocket pair.

Then came a weak hand. I called Mark's raise with a 7/9. I knew I should fold but a couple people ahead of me called. Flop came 9 high. I had Mark on a couple high cards so I planned to raise. Then Mark raised...hmm...I revised my estimate to give him 9s with a better kicker. Then Stanica called...did she have a 9 too? I almost folded but since it was a small raise, I called. Turn came a 9 giving me chips. Mark checked. Stanica raised. I revised my estimate to give her the nines, especially since the other raises had been about 200 and hers was 500. I called. So did Mark. What was going on here? We could not all have trips...so what did they have? River was...wait for it...the case 9. I had quads. Mark checked, Stanica raised 500. Here I made a mistake. My initial thought was, as it had been back on the turn, to re-raise. I merely called. On the bright side, so did Mark, so not knowing if Stanica would call or not, maybe I earned an extra 500. But maybe I could have gotten more out of her with a raise? We don't know...but she probably would have with a full house. And that is what she had but my quads held up.

Then I went card dead for the most part. Not involved in too many hands. When I did come in I came in raising but there was not a lot of respect for my raises. I regularly got 4 and 5 callers. I had A/Q, raised it, flop came 4/6/7 and one of my callers bet it. My cards almost beat the raise into the muck. From the big blind with A/8 picked up gut shot but with a raise, re-raise, and call in front of me folded it. Fold, fold, fold, fold.

Stanica was first out, falling to Kenneth. Mark pretty quickly followed, as did Kevin and Kenneth. We were down to 500 and my 7 or 8K was down to less than 4K. I started pushing. Alan folded, I looked down at pocket deuces, all-in. Everyone folded, I picked up the blinds. A couple hands later in the big blind they folded to Alan who started to fold, noticed it was just he and I, called, I went all-in with some garbage like a 5/7 suited, he folded. Picked up a few more blinds, about one a circuit.

Finally, on Phillip's big blind I picked up A/9. Alan folded, 4 handed that is better than 30% to win if everyone calls, and if I can isolate I am almost 60% to win so I went all-in. Folded to Phillip who called with pocket 10s. Uh-oh, I was drawing to 3 outs. Flop was good for Phillip, K/rag/rag. Turn was another King so I was drawing to 3 aces.

One of the things I take pride in is it is seldom indeed that I put a bad beat on someone. Except for those times I deliberately donkey (like the A/2s all-in at Mixers when I needed to go to the softball game) I seldom get in with the worst hand. It happens sometimes, but not often. I like to have the odds in my favor and usually do. As a result, I ABSORB a lot of bad beats but do not give them out very often.

This was an exception. He was better than a 85-14 favorite but I hit my Ace on the river to climb back over 5K. No doubt I will say that was a bad beat. Would not have been so bad had it hit on the flop when I was only a 3-1 dog...but at the river I was a 6-1 dog and that is brutal. But it was enough chips that for the first time in a while I was out of the danger zone.

I raised a couple times, took down small pots, but also folded a couple blinds to raises...on one I had Alan on a bully raise from the small blind (he and Emily were both dominant chip leaders with Rick, Phillip and I trading back and forth short-stack duties)...but with 8/2o, still no way I could call.

Then I played a hand weakly. Under the Gun I limped with Q/K diamonds, the blinds were 3/600 and everybody called so there was 3000 in the pot. Flop hit nobody, turn was a diamond giving me a 4 flush and river gave me the flush, though there was a straight flush on the board. Phillip & Alan both checked, I went all-in. Should have made a smaller raise, didn't. For a bit I thought Alan might call and I was hoping he would but he didn't.

Now I was over 8K, there was about 45K in play so I was in third. Picked up pocket 4s. No longer felt I had to push so I jacked it to 2400. Rick called, everyone else folded. He checked the flop with a couple face cards on it. I raised all-in and he folded. I picked up his 2400 and a couple blinds to get over 10K for the first time all night.

Unfortunately that would be the high point.

Went card dead again. Lots of folding ensued. Emily took out Rick when he made a huge bluff and she correctly read him for just needing to go home.

Phillip got ground down and Emily mercy-eliminated him. I was down to about 4500. I was looking for a chance to double up. Emily was dealing, I picked up J/10 suited, a hand I sometimes weakly play because I like it as a drawing hand. With 2 opponents it loses 56% of the time. Why would I raise that? Well, Emily took that opportunity, raising it. Alan called. Emily was playing really, really well all night so I had her on a pair. Alan was playing a weird game but I had him on a pair or couple high cards so I got out of the way.

Flop came Jack high. Alan checked, Emily raised 1000, Alan came over the top to 3600, Emily called. Turn was another Jack. Emily raised to 1000, Alan re raised to 3600, Emily called. I had Emily on a higher pocket pair. Alan had looked at the second Jack really weird. I thought maybe Emily had something like A/J or maybe Alan did but if he didn't then I was trying to figure out why he was still in the hand...and vice versa, if I was right about her having an over pair, with his re-raise on the flop a Jack would have made a lot of sense. And now the pot was huge.

River was an Ace. Emily checked, Alan raised 3600, Emily came over the top all-in for her last 10,700. Wow. I still had her either on the over pair or A/J and Alan went into the tank for a long time leading me to believe he had to have something like J/K, maybe a pocket pair himself....and he called.

Emily flipped up pocket 8s. I was a little surprised, I thought she had something better than that but she showed a lot of courage playing that hand with an over on the board, and then the board pairing itself. What's more...she had the better hand. Until the river. Alan was playing an A/6. He hit the Ace on the river to give him a higher two pair and take Emily out.

I had 4400, there was about 45K in play...that is a huge deficit. First hand I picked up A/3o. I needed to double up a LOT and that hand wins over 56% of the time against one random hand. Unfortunately, Alan picked up pocket 6s. I was a 7-3 dog...and he got help, putting me away with a flush on the river.

Over all I actually think I more or less played well. I played strong cards for the most part, mixed up my play a little bit with some carefully timed plays with connectors, stole the blinds probably 7 or 8 times to keep myself alive...that was with well-timed aggression where I was probably going to double up, best case scenario, or steal the blinds, worst case scenario. I nursed a short stack for a good portion of the night, stayed patient, picked my spots, and just did not get the cards I need. I did get lucky once when I put the bad beat on Phillip but I then took advantage of my good fortune and stuck around. I don't think I could have finished any higher with the cards I got and at the end of the day, that makes me feel pretty good about my play.


2 hands

I was thinking about the game where I got beat by a guy I unequivocally call a donkey. There are not many players I will call that. There are players I will say make occasional donkey moves...for that matter, I do that...and sometimes even recognize that while I am doing it. I usually make an excuse to myself...such as "oh, I had a full house, you can't lay that down." Sure you can when A) you should not have stayed in the hand that long and B) you have your opponent on quads. Why would you NOT have laid that down way back on the flop? And my A/2s all-in was a classic donkey move, though I excused it with "I had to go", which I did...but just turn in the chips! No need for that. Or I plan to limp in all night...which is a sure-fire recipe for getting down to the felt. So maybe I am a donkey myself?

So I was thinking about how I played all night at Mixers. How many donkey moves did I make?

The hand where I lost a pretty good chunk, with a couple limpers, 5 handed, pocket Jacks, raising to 4 times the blind...I am fine with that move...with one caller and a re-raise for something like 1200 more from someone I knew would make that move with a wide range of hands...I am calling 1200 to win more than 3600 if Mike DOESN'T call...and with just 300 left he is totally priced in, so I am better than 3 - 1 on my money with pocket jacks. Even if they both have Aces I think that raise and subsequent call was correct and as it turned out I was about 56% to win the hand, take 2 people out, and have a HUGE chip stack. I don't feel bad about that one. And folding to raises with garbage hands, I don't feel bad about that at all.

Actually, I even feel like I played really well for the most part. The following two hands I think show that.

Hand one: Roman folds, Mike limps, Caleb raised from the button to twice the blind, Amanda folded, I called, Mike folded. What? Mike folded? That like...tripled his pre-flop fold total for the night. I knew he was ahead, I had a hand that was either going to hit the flop hard or I was going to fold. I had watched Caleb call to the river for all his chips on a gut shot straight draw, on 2 over cards...so if I hit I was going to take him out and if I missed I was just risking 1 blind with 1-1/2 blinds of dead money. He did not like the flop but I read him for calling if I raised so I checked. Turn, river, check, check, he took it down with two over cards. I folded.

Hand 2: Limps to me, I raise from the button, folded to Amanda who calls. She will continue to call if she hits something but typically fold if she misses twice. Flop does not fit my hand, I read her for having missed but having a draw, raise, she calls, turn is a blank, I raise, she folds, I take down the pot.

On the surface, nothing too exciting. But look a little closer; against Caleb I had a 3/4 suited. I did not raise because I believed he would call any raise. I had a plan for the hand and I followed it. I lost a total of 2 big blinds...the one I put in from the big blind and the one I called. When I called there were 4-1/2 big blinds in the pot (Mike's call, Caleb's raise, Amanda's Small, my big) and Mike did not re-raise pre-flop. He would raise pre-flop on occasion but never re-raise so I was not risking a re-raise. I had a hand that could get in cheap with great pot odds (4-1/2-1) and the chance of putting someone on the felt if I hit. Although they were weak cards and bad position, they were cards that could hit hard and knock people out. Knowing Caleb, I made a plan for the hand and followed it. I stand behind this play.

Against Amanda it was a bit different. I was sort of following the Bronson Super-System theory of playing every hand while on a rush until I lost one. I had 5/7o. It is a marginal drawing hand but I knew since I had raised and hit several consecutive hands I would get a certain amount of respect for the raise. There was about an even money chance of taking the pot down pre-flop or, if I hit, taking a nice pile of chips for a small risk; at this point 4 times the blind was not a hit to my stack at all. Everyone but Amanda folded to my raise. I figured to raise the flop and turn and, if she was still with me, check the river. Flop was ragged but did not hit me at all. I read her for it not hitting her, either. I raised, she called which surprised me a bit but when the turn rolled off she liked it even less so I raised again and she folded.

In both cases I ended up playing the board. In both cases I had a plan for the hand. In both cases I followed my plan and used my knowledge of both the opponent in the hand's playing style and how they felt about the flop to make my move. I think I lost the least possible with the first (and by defending my big blind, forestalled future raises) hand and in the second case I won a hand with aggression that I would have no doubt lost at the showdown.

I think I played both hands pretty well. Both hands were hands I got involved with marginal cards, though I actually believe the situations justified it, and for the two hands I ended with a net gain.

And isn't that the end result you look for in every situation? Take the hand where their Aces beat my Jacks. If we play that hand 100 times and the stats hold up, 56 times I win 5100 (my 2K, Caleb's 2K, Mike's 1100) , 44 times I lose 2000 (my call). On wins I gain 285,600, and on the hands I lose my loss is 88,000 for a net gain over the course of 100 hands of a whopping 197,600 chips. I will take that every time.

On a lesser level, the hand with Caleb, let's say we play that hand a hundred times. His K/J diamonds was 67% to beat my little 3/4. So 67 times he wins, 33 times I win. On my 67 losses I lose 400 (big blind doubled) for 26,800 chips lost. On the 33 times I win I win at least 1800 chips (4-1/2 big blinds if no other betting ensues) for a total of 59,400. Net gain is 59,400-26,800=32,600 gain. Not a lot in comparison to the nearly 200K gain from the fishhooks...but remember, this is if no other betting ensues. I am never going to lose more than 2 times the blind in that situation because if the flop does anything but slap me in the face...say, A/2/5, then I am done with it. But when it does hit, those being little cards, I am going to be able to put Caleb on the felt 9 times out of ten.

It is marginal situations like these where I need to push my advantages.

I can't actually do the percentages on the hand with Amanda because she did not show, but let's give her something like an A/10, a pretty good hand and easily something to call with. My humble little unsuited 5/7 is 36% to win against that. So I need to be getting 1.86 on my chips to gain in the long run. Being the first out of the gate, I raised, created dead money by taking the blinds and she called. So we have almost created the correct odds with a pre-flop raise that drives out the small and big blind and gotten her to call. Now we have 9-1/2 blinds in the pot and I have invested 4 of those. I am in good shape even if I lose slightly more than the 36%, say, to a bluff. And I am in great shape if I can occasionally take down the pot with a bluff.

And this was clearly a bluff, but it was well-timed. It was on one that looked like I had cards and my opponent missed. A call would probably have been a mistake. So it was a believable bluff. And I only pull those off when I am playing well. Or at least, when I fool myself into THINKING I am playing well...maybe I am bluffing myself. I just can't get past losing to a donkey. Makes me think that, despite all this introspection and math, I am a donkey myself. Maybe I should throw out the math and reads and just play my cards as they lay at any given moment.


Beaten by a donkey

Wow, what does it say about my alleged poker skills that I was taken out by a donkey? Not a good end to my Mixers night.

We started short-handed, just 5 people per table. To my left was Roman, to his left Mike, to his left Juan, to his left and my right was Amanda. You know I think Roman is as good or better than I am, Juan and Amanda both are very, very respectable players. So for the most part it was a good table.

The first hand I played where anything happened I got into cheap with A/3s from the big blind. 5 handed I probably should have raised but did not. Flop was ragged...and gave me a gut shot. Roman raised 200. The correct play was probably a fold...except I did not think he hit that flop either and was playing 2 high cards, probably paint of some sort. This was a situation where the math was wrong and I was going with my read of a situation. The turn paired my Ace, though I was not proud of my kicker. A strong bet probably would have driven me away but Roman let me know with a shoulder hunch and grimace he did not like it. He checked, I bet, took down the pot.

Stayed out of most hands, limped from late with 9/10 suited. Flop came J/Q clubs and K diamonds...none of which I had. Mike raised 500. I went over the top all in, putting him on maybe a pair. He called...with A/9, no clubs. He was drawing dead to a 10. I was riding high with over 7K in chips when only 15K were at the table. Then Caleb showed up and changed the dynamics of the table.

I raised a few hands with stuff like A/K, K/Qs, etc. Took down a few, lost some. Played a Q/7 from the big blind. Flopped top pair on a ragged flop. Bet it. Got all in with Mike. He rivered me with a 4 to hit 2 pair..6's and 4's. On the one hand, just a pair and getting it all in might not be too sharp...okay, it isn't...but I correctly had him read for a weak pair he was vastly over-valuing just as he had been all night.

I had watched him raise, Caleb call, the flop come ragged & low, Caleb re-raise him, then he put all his chips in to call Caleb's all-in raise on a straight card...with A/K. He hit no part of it. I had no fear of him. I had a good read on him, on his style of play, the types of cards he would play and the value he would assess those cards. Getting his chips was simply a matter of getting good cards and taking his chips with them.

Fold, fold, fold...fishhooks. Because of the rapidly raising blinds, my raise was to 800. He called, leaving himself about 2 - 300. Caleb went all-in for 1200 more. He had made that move before and gotten people to fold. I put him on a good but not great hand. 5 handed (Roman was moved to the other table), I like the fishhooks, I called his all-in and Mike called off his last 2 or 3oo.

This time he had cards, A/Ko. Caleb also had cards...A/9o. And someone had folded an Ace. Had they not, I was 56.21% to win pre-flop (Mike, to his credit, was 33.9 and Caleb checked in at a whopping 8.5%, they had a slight chance of a split.) The first card to roll off was the case ace and I was down to about 4500.

That hurt but I was okay with it. I knew I had gotten in with the best hand (though I did not realize how much better I had gotten them in...) so it did not bother me to get outdrawn. Nor did I criticize either call. 5 handed both hands figure to be the best, though calling with A/9 against a raise and call seems iffy. But then again, Caleb likes to gamble.

Mike was on the verge of elimination a handful of times thanks to more unbelievably bad calls...as Amanda pointed out at one point, he had not folded to any all-in even once...and then coming back with Big Slick after Big Slick. I think he had 6 of them while I was still there. He had other hands, too.

At one point Caleb the quiet raised to about 4 times the blind, a big raise for him. He raised the A/rag/rag flop. Mike was already grabbing chips so I folded. Mike raised. Caleb called. I folded. Turn, river, more raising/calling. Showdown, Caleb had a good Ace...and Mike had A/3, 2 pair. In with the worst hand, out with the best.

The blinds were raising and Juan went out so we were down to 4 handed. I was getting horrific hands. 3 times in one circuit I pulled 4/5. So I was losing 600 chips per circuit. Lost another 1200 trying to put out Mike with my A/10 vs. his 4/6. Yes, he called with 4/6 again. At least this time he did not hit 2 pair. He did trip up, though...

And I had about 2400. I was looking for an all-in. 8/3? No. J/2? no. 8/4? Nah. Only 1800 left, I really need an all-in. Down to 1400. J/10. Amanda all-in for her last 700. Okay, I raised all-in for my last 1400. I like my odds heads up and put her on something like A/middle card since she doesn't often raise. Maybe a good pair but I didn't think so. Of course Mike called as we knew he would. And this time he had a hand, something like A/Q I think. He hit his queen on the turn so my river Jack meant nothing.

Just from watching what he called HUGE raises with...Caleb doubled up off him 2 or 3 times, Amanda once, I think Roman once...all when he called with stuff he should not have been playing...even I doubled up and when I did he was drawing to 3 outs...he thought they were the Aces, I knew it was the 10...but he called off 2400 with an Ace high on a board with straight and flush draws...I have seen him play once before and everything I saw tonight confirmed it. He is a donkey.

And he beat me.

How bad do I suck? I am going to go with pretty bad.



another weak, weak turnout. 8 people at first, so I got into watching the Red Sox-Indian game and enjoying it. Then Chris showed up so we switched it to two tables of 5 people each.

I deliberately went into weak mode, limping into several pots, losing most of them. Then I got to about 2000 and went into all-in or fold mode.

Sadly, it was mostly fold...fold...fold...fold...fold...fold...fold...just horrendous hands.

Finally I was blinded down to 1400 with the blinds at 400, so well past the danger zone mark. I finally got to isolate against one guy so went all in with a K/7, the first card I had seen higher than a 7 in quite a while. He had a better hand, something like A/j maybe? Well, I hit a 7 on the flop but I was calling for them to give him his Jack or Ace to get the night over with. Just wasn't fun poker sitting there folding and listening to them yap at each other. But instead the board gave us both a straight so we split the pot and I was right back to 1400. I could have worked with it if I had won or gone and watched the game if I had lost...I would much rather have lost than split that pot.

A couple hands later the blinds were about to raise again, I was under the gun and picked up 8/10 suited. Not a very good hand for an all in...but the 10 was the highest card I had seen in the entire circuit, so I went all in, 2 callers. Flop came 10 high giving me top pair on the board. Todd raised, other guy folded, and he flipped up...10/9. Done in by one pip. I got no help and finally escaped...err, busted out.

It was a sad, sad night. No interesting hands whatsoever. A blind retarded monkey could have played the same hands I did and would have had the same results. I think I won 3 or 4 hands, 2 of them when I went all-in with something like A/q suited and everyone folded, the other 2 where I raised after hitting a flop and everyone folding. I think the most interesting hand was the one where I limped in with A/10, flop came 10 high, I raised 300, Chris called, something about her call did not feel right, I put her on 2 pair, we both checked the Jack on the turn, river was a blank, I raised a meek 300, she called, I showed my 10s with A, she showed her pocket rockets. Only vaguely interesting in that she limped with Aces so I did not put her on Aces, but I did put her on enough of a hand to only put out a feeler bet at the end instead of a high end, proper bet. Small victory...that cost me 650 chips (50 for limping, 300 for betting the pot with the first bet, then another 300 as a value bet/am I thumped so let's limit the pot size bet...

I guess that is a good concept to explore; betting to limit the size of the pot. Sometimes I have a hand that really is not raise or call worthy but wants to see another cheap card. In those cases I often will make a small bet designed to keep someone from doing something crazy. If someone is regularly over-betting the pot...say, betting 1000 into a pot of 300 as I have seen a few times lately...and I want to see another card, if I have the option to act first I might bet say...200, an under bet that will price in any reasonable hand. When I do this, even if someone re-raises, they tend to match my raise though more typically they merely call. My raise indicates some strength so often players will grow somewhat timid and incorrectly merely call. Of course, I also occasionally under bet with the nuts or close to it to keep people in so those paying attention cannot simply raise big to get rid of me. This is a case where mixing up my game a bit means I can control pot sizes when I need to.

So there is something to think about from the evening. Well, that and the fact that bored poker is bad poker...


An online hand

The Set-up

Playing a 45 person tournament. Early on it is a donk-fest as hand after hand after hand sees pre-flop all-in raises with absolute garbage. This meant a couple things; 1, donkeys had lots of chips. 2, it inspired patient play since Jacks were likely as good...and, in this environment, bad...as Aces. Because you can bet your bottom dollar if I got Jacks or better I would call their pre-flop mania and have a good change to double up. In fact, that is what happened...pocket queens doubled me up once, A/K did it again, lots of folding. Finally we got to the final 11. Most of the donkeys had given back their chips. I was about 4th position with almost 7K. Blinds were 2/400.

from late position, 6 person table, called a 2x blind raise with K/Q. The guy two to my right had watched me push the big stack off three or four hands and been commenting on how he (the big blind) was scared. Of course, I happen to have had the nuts on those hands so I actually was far more impressed with BB play than I had been when he was pushing with nothing and sucking out on hands he should not have been in...but the two of them were still at each others throat. 4 of us in the hand.

The Flop
A/J/rag rainbow. min raise from big stack, call from his antagonist, pot odds were decent, I called, other guy folded.

The Turn:
10 of clubs. I have the nut straight but now there is a flush draw. I want to price out the flush draws so I need to raise the pot which is about 2400, maybe 2600, somewhere in there. To do that commits almost half my stack and pot commits me. I go all in. Big stack folds. His antagonist calls. And turns up J/4 clubs. He called a raise that put him all-in (I got 200 chips back) on the 4th nut flush draw. Interesting. I am pretty ecstatic that he called. He is calling about 6400 to win 8800 so he is getting less than 1.4 on his money. He has 9 outs, 8 cards are known, 44 aren't...so 9 help him, 35 help me, 35/9, I am a 3.9-1 favorite to win. Put another way, he is getting 1.4-1 on his money when he is a 3.9-1 dog. It is a terrible, terrible call. Which, of course, means...

The River
A Low club. He makes his flush and his bad call pays off. This happens sometimes in poker. He is ecstatic, pointing out, "Went to the well once too often, huh?" to which I replied, "Actually, if you check your pot odds you made a horrific donkey call with a weak draw and it paid off for you. I am fine with that, I will take that bet every time."

This caught a raft of criticism for me. So let's take a look at the play and see if perhaps I should have checked.

First off, my tournament theory is pretty basic. I have two common modes:
1) I am just here to see a few flops, could not care less whether I win or lose.
In this mode I will limp with virtually any 2 cards, check and call a lot of garbage, avoid most big confrontations, and donkey off all my chips in a time frame ranging from 2 blind levels to the final table. I have even won a tournament playing that way. But 9 times out of ten I am among the first people out.

2) I am going to play my best game and try to win.
In this mode I will raise or fold, I will play pretty much just premium hands, and I am willing to take my chances on doubling up as early as the first hand. I completely subscribe to the theory that I need to take advantage of every edge I get. If I can get them all in the middle first hand as a 60-40 favorite I will do it. 6 times I will double up and have a lot of chips, 4 times I will be out. But I am not good enough to give away 60-40 advantages because it is early.
To win the tournament you have to accumulate every chip in play. If I have pocket 10s and know my opponent has pocket 9s and he re-raised all in, I am calling whether it is first hand, last hand, or in the middle. I am not afraid of getting booted from the tournament and I am far more interested in winning the thing than I am in grinding my way to the final table and then being put out because I gave up my advantages early on. Now I might be pushing all in with something like A/J against pocket 10s. Now I am a favorite to lose...and that is assuming I even get that good a hand! Some times stack and blind considerations mean I am pushing with a marginal hand like J/9 or worse...now, which seems better? Getting all my chips in the middle as a slight favorite early on or getting them all in as a slight underdog on the bubble?
To me, winning tournament play means finding or creating opportunities to accumulate chips and it does not matter when it is.

Furthermore, I am all about helping other people make mistakes. If I get in as a prohibitive favorite, I am ecstatic even if I get taken to the cleaners on that particular hand. Example:

We were in the third blind level at the big tournament for Oregon Trail Poker. I had built a slightly larger than starting stack. I raised from early position with something like A/K, got a reluctant call from Terry in the blinds. Flop came A/9/rag. I raised. Terry came over the top all-in. I correctly put him on a non-9 medium pocket pair. I had top pair, top kicker. I still had plenty of chips left if I call...in fact, I would still have my starting stack. Should I call?

Let's go to the math of the situation. We know 7 cards; My Aces, my king, the 9, his 8s, and a rag. We don't know 45 cards; so 43 help me, 2 help him, or he could hit long-shot runner- runner for a straight. I never worry about runner-runner, if they hit it, so be it. So I am 43-2 or a 21-1/2 - 1 favorite to win the hand.

I could play with my cards face down and everyone else's face-up and never get that good of odds. I will call every time.

Of course, we all know that means he hit his 8 on the river and I was the second player out. So many people would argue I should not have called, I should have waited and gotten my money in at a better spot.

What better spot? Wait and bet the nuts and only the nuts? How many hands do you have the absolute nuts? I doubt I have had a hundred hands in my entire career where I held the stone-cold nuts. That is why the "best" players do not win every tournament. Sometimes someone calls with poor odds and makes their hand, sometimes someone mis-judges the situations and makes a call they shouldn't that works out...

My job is to get the best odds I can, regardless of the time frame, and go get those chips. If I bust out as as 23-1 favorite or a 7-3 favorite...I am fine with that. On the other hand, if I bust out as a 40-60 dog because I gave up a 60-40 advantage earlier because it was "too early"...well, I played poorly.

So was I disappointed the Jack high flush rivered me? Yeah. But I would do it again. I was not winning the tournament without doubling up almost 7 times, and being almost 4-1 favorite...well, I like those odds.


The mammoth 100th Post

For whatever reason, I like to do something special (read "even more pointless and annoying that most posts, full of hot air, pointless asides, and dubious information) on my milestone posts. My 1000th on my main blog was a pretty good example. This is my 100th gaming post so I will compare and contrast a couple hands with trips or a set and probably keep on rambling from there.

As a general rule, I don't particularly like getting involved in big hands early. Then again, if I have a good hand, what difference should it make if it is the first hand of the tournament or deep into it? If I am going to be at risk, I will be at risk.

The set-up: 3000 starting chips. 7 handed. To my left is a tight-aggressive, to his left a loose-aggressive, to his left a loose-aggressive, to his left a rookie, to her left a maniac, to his left a tricky, somewhat maniacal player, to his left a rock and immediately to my right a guy I have only played with once. In the first three hands everyone that plays limps and then there is some serious betting. I fold those hands. On the 4th hand I am in the big blind and they have already raised from the start of 25-50 to 50-100. Several players limp into the pot. I know nobody has a pocket pair over about a 6 because if they did, this group would have raised them. The same goes for A/K which gets treated as a pair. So with nothing but limpers in front of me I put them on marginal hands, with maybe someone with a weak ace and someone with paint. There are probably a couple connectors and probably something like King-rag.

The Pre-Flop:
With 4 or 5 callers, there is already 5 - 600 in the pot. With pocket 8s I raised it another 400. That cleared out most of them, but Taz calls.

Taz is a tricky player but an ego player as well. He seldom believes he is beat and thinks he can take any pot he is in because he is Taz. But he is also a good player and I was not crediting him with being one of the connectors...I figured maybe paint, maybe an Ace, maybe something suited, those hands would make sense for him.

The Flop:
Taz has position on me and, at the end of the day, all I have is snowmen. The flop comes Qd, 8D, and rag. I have flopped a set but there is a chance he has flopped a flush draw. I want to bet him off the flush draw. I doubled my initial raise, making it 800 to go. He ponders, then calls. Let's take a look at the action:

I don't like my bet here...but not for the reason most people would not like it. I am a person who WILL bet trips, especially if they are vulnerable. With a flush draw, I need to bet him off it. I frankly discounted a set of queens so at the moment I had the best hand and needed to protect it.

Of course, I also had the redraw to a full house. Even if he had something like a pair of queens and nice kicker or even a flush draw, any pairing of the board would give me essentially the nuts. And the best scenario for me would be him tripping his queens (if he had them) giving me the hidden boat.

In short, I needed to raise the pot to make his call incorrect. I had raised 400, he had called, so there was 800...good...BUT...we already had about 500 in the pot previously. So I ACTUALLY needed to raise it 1300 to make the flush draw call incorrect. However, we only started with 3000 chips, I had already committed 500 pre-flop. So I only had 2500 left, betting 1300 would absolutely commit me to the hand and if a flush hit I needed to be able to get away from it. This is one issue that short starting stack/fast blinds poker leads to; Standard raises could legitimately commit me to an all-in on the first hand I played. That does not make for good poker. 25/50 blinds, m=75 , start with 3000, 40 times the blinds is not good...but with a 10 minute blind, not even enough to make a circuit of the table, by the time I played this hand my m was 300 and I started the hand with 10 times the blind. I can make a legitimate case for all-in or fold on the first hand I played. That is bad poker.

So with those considerations, making a "standard" raise is a bad idea...and anything less than a standard raise prices in a flush draw. Actually, in retrospect, I think I do like my raise here, though in a properly run game I would not.

The turn:
Another blank falls, a small, non-diamond that does not advance any straight possibilities. Unless he was calling with a backdoor gut shot, which of Taz I would not believe. All-in Dee? In a heartbeat. Taz? Not so much. If I had the better hand pre-flop and on the flop, nothing has changed. I still have the better hand. Raise. But 800 is not big enough. So I bump it 1000. He calls, a bit quicker.

So again, what is happening here? Now I have committed so many chips I only have 700 left. Again, probably should have just shoved all in because with just 7 times the blinds and an m of 2, I am in deep, deep trouble if I lose this hand. At this point I cannot price him out of a flush draw...though if he folds here, he still has over 2000 chips. So a raise of 1700 would have made it a tougher call for him. Still, with 500 + 500 + 500 + 800 + 800 means there is a pot of 3100 in there so he is calling either 1000 to win 4100, better than 4-1 and therefore a correct call if he has a flush, or calling 1700 to win 4800 or 2.8 - 1 and still really close to correct for a flush; from his standpoint, 9 outs (he has no way of knowing 2 of them are counterfeited and I hold a third) = about 18%, or about 4 -1...okay, so not real close. Another mistake by me. Again I price him in even though I am pot committed at this point. This should have been my all-in moment as I was positive I had the best hand and a good re-draw.

But let's not get locked in to believing he has the flush draw. What could he have? Well...he could have hit top pair on the flop. With the time he took, if her were a more advanced player I would say he was trying to look weak with his slow call. That is a pretty common ploy. But it looked more to me like if he did not have a flush draw then he had 3 possible hands: Queen with a big kicker, Queen with a small kicker, or middle pair with a good kicker. So let's flip around and see how things look from his perspective.

I don't know how much attention he has paid to my play. I am a little more...uhm...aggressive in studying my opponents than about anyone I see there. He once took a whupping from me when I flopped a boat, checked, he came over the top of someones raise and I called with my 2/7 (I had been big blind). That type of trash hand taking you out can stick in memory...as could the fact is was a trash hand. If he doesn't remember I was big blind in that hand, he would think I am a terrible player. So I may not need a huge hand to bet on the flop. If he has Q/good kicker, he just has to decide if I raised with something like A/Q or if I have something lower, maybe pocket 10s or jacks. Or if I am on a stone cold bluff, making a continuation bet. So if he caught part of the flop, even middle pair, he might stick around.

The quicker call on the turn could mean he hit a second pair. So he might have been playing something like Q/4, hit top pair on the flop and 2 pair on the turn. A quick call sometimes means a strong hand. He might react quickly thinking he is ahead and he will let me bet myself out. Or he might want me to check the river so he can raise me all-in. Or he could even still be drawing to the flush and know if he was priced in on the flop he is getting still better odds here. So really at this point I am narrowing the field of his hands to flush draw, top pair with good kicker, or 2 pair.

The upshot is, I don't know what he has but I KNOW my hand is better. You will note that at no point did I put him on pocket queens because I know his playing style. As an aside, that is one reason limping occasionally is not as bad as I make it out to be because it will add deception to my game. With most people, if they raise I can put them on a relatively narrow range of hands and if they limp it could be any 2 cards EXCEPT that narrow range of hands.

Look at Eric "Gypsy" by contrast. If he limps he might have anything from Aces to 5/6 suited. If he raises, he might have anything from Aces to 5/6 suited. I saw him limp with Aces and raise Kings during this same game. He is very difficult to put on a hand. The one thing you do know is if he is calling a raise he does not have trash. I fear Gypsy's play a lot more than I fear most of them because of that deception. I used to fear Jeff's play until I figured it out. Now he is not overly deceptive to me and I can generally put him on a pretty narrow range of hands.

The River:
The Ace of Hearts rolled off. This could be a good card for me if he hit it or a bad card if he just had 1 pair. On the bright side, since for the reasons previously discussed, I had discounted the possibility of him having pockets, this meant I had the nuts. No straight, no flush possibility. I was raising here for sure. And with only 700 left that meant all in. He went into the tank for a long time. I was positive I had him beat every step of the way so of course I wanted a call. I did subtle things...held my breath to make it look like I was nervous, peeked at him from the corner of my eyes, even held a short conversation with Roman saying, "He can't call, he only has a busted flush draw" which I partially believed and partially didn't...I actually thought there was a chance he had something like A/Q in which case I would get my call. In fact, unless all he had was a busted flush draw or a medium pair I expected a call. He finally folded.

I wanted to establish an image that they should not call me without really strong hands so I flashed the set. He claimed he had 2 pair and that was what he was afraid of. Well, maybe. But if so then why did you call to the river and then fold to what was a weak bet, the smallest bet since the flop? That fold makes no sense if you had 2 pair. I think he is too good a player to have had nothing.

Now, compare that hand with the following: By now I am the chip leader or close to it. From the small blind I limp with A/3.

Lots of limping ahead of me. Again, this connotes weakness. It shows people with hands that want to see a flop cheap...say, A/3 off hoping for that miracle flop. So instead of raising I meekly limp and Roman checks.

The flop:
This is a dream flop. A/7/A. I flopped trips. I was first to act. Previously with a strong but vulnerable hand I raised. That is the correct play here. Nobody will believe they Ace, but they can't call, either, and I take down the pot more than likely...though the guy 2 to my left thinks I suck and might call. I decide to be an actor. I slump a bit, sigh, and check. It backfires. So does everyone else.

The turn:
A blank rag falls, though it gives a second Spade to the board. I don't worry much about that. "Okay, I'll buy it" I state and throw out some chips. Folds to Jeff who calls.

Oops. There was now, with his call, 900 in the pot. I under bet and priced him in on a draw. Knowing Jeff, he will call on a draw, re-raise on a good hand of bluff. So I knew he was on a draw.

The river:
Another small card falls...a spade. I bet 1000, just over the pot, and Jeff calls. As soon as he did, I said something along the lines of "just trips. You have the flush?"

He nodded, relieved, and said, "Yep, but I was afraid of the higher flush."

So in both cases I flopped the same hand, once a set and once trips. The first time I played it strongly, the second time I played it weakly. The first time I essentially doubled up, the second time I gave away 1800 chips. Both times I priced in draws. Worse, this time with a vulnerable hand I bet it and not strongly. I should have put him all in if I were going to bet. He still might have called, but it would not have been an easy one for him. He probably folds there. Conversely, I could have check-raised him on the river to represent a better flush. Either way I chose I would have put pressure on him instead of giving him an easy call.

Betting trips on the flop is something everyone there seems to concur is a bad idea. But it can work to your advantage, too. Which is better; taking down a 5 or 600 chip pot or losing a 3600? Win lots of small ones to pay for the occasional terrible hand.

Some hands really need to be bet. For example, back to the early part of the night. After I won my first hand, I played a hand weakly and lost a few chips. Then I started playing weak poker that played really well, but only because after weak starts to the hand I played vulnerable hands strongly.

Example 1:
With multiple limpers I limp from the button with 5/7 hearts. And here was my reasoning: "Ooh, flush and straight possibilities, I want to see a cheap flop." Hmm. That sounds familiar. Oh, yeah...like someone with a marginal hand they don't want to pay to take any further. Like most of the table, I am folding it to a strong raise.

The Flop
The flop comes 7 high with 1 heart. Check to me, I bet into it. 1 caller, the guy who dislikes me called, everyone else folded. My thought on the flop is I have the best hand at the moment. It is unlikely he has pockets since any pocket he would have raised. I have the better hand, he most likely has overs. In fact, without seeing his cards, I am positive that is what he had.

The Turn:
A king. Uh-oh. Of Hearts. I like. Now I am 4-flushing with 2nd pair. He checks. I do not put him on the king. I raise. Even if he has the king I might raise and believe I am correct to do so. Let's analyze that thought:

Let's give him paint, say...K/Q. Now he has me beat. So let's check outs. I have a few; I have 9 Hearts for the flush, 2 7s for trips, and 2 5s for 2 pair that do not also give him 2 pair. Since I have the 5/7 Hearts I don't need to take them off my outs list so that gives me 13 outs, or about 26%. So I am a hair better than 3-1 against to improve. So let's check the money situation and see if I would be right to raise or re-raise if I am beat:

There was about 600 in the pot pre-flop. I raised a weak 300 and had one caller so now the pot is 1200. Let's say I raise 300 as I did. He is calling 300 to win 1500 or getting 5 -1 on his money. If he were to re-raise, traditionally his raise is double mine so he would raise to 600. Now I am calling 300 to win 2100 (1200 + 300 + 600) or 7 - 1. I am only a 3 - 1 dog so that is a no-brainer call.

But what if he bets coming out of the gate? Let's say he matches my bet and goes 300. Now I am calling 300 to win 1500 (300 bet plus a pot of 1200), or getting 5 -1. Again, I am only a 3 - 1 dog here so a call is correct. And a re-raise might represent a stronger hand and win it from a better hand.

But what if he is more aggressive and bets, say, 5 or 600? (He regularly laid out "convenience bets" of 500 because it was an easy chip to throw so I know he does not understand or consider pot odds.) Let's say he was not lazy and rolls out the 600 bet. Now I am calling 600 to win 1800 (1200 pot, 600 bet) and it is again correct to call since I am getting 3 - 1 or exactly my odds. If he bets more than 600 a fold is correct and if he bets less it is an automatic call.

For improving, by the way, this is an easy and obvious step in my evolution of poker. I definitely subscribe to the David Sklansky Fundamental Theorem of Poker:

Every time you play a hand differently from the way you would have played it if you could see all your opponents' cards, they gain; and every time you play your hand the same way you would have played it if you could see all their cards, they lose. Conversely, every time opponents play their hands differently from the way they would have if they could see all your cards, you gain; and every time they play their hands the same way they would have played if they could see all your cards, you lose.

So my first step is to put them on a range of hands, then figure out my odds of beating them. If I can win more money in the long run then it behooves me to make the call. If I will lose more in the long run, then it is always a mistake to call EVEN IF I HIT THE HAND THAT ONE TIME.

Example: When I went all in with A/2 diamonds and Eric had Kings, it should be obvious he will call if we were heads up. And you would think (as I did) that in a multi-way pot I would be a prohibitive dog and it was a stupid call. However, if the hands were as I remember, not so much: with the multi-player pot, Eric was 39.03% to win...and I was 30.28. Oddly, had everyone stayed out, then he was a prohibitive 67.24 - 32.33% favorite...so the multiple callers HURT him even though he had the same hand.

Since my intent on that hand was to deliberately violate the Fundamental Theorum of Poker and get in with a worse hand, had everyone else correctly folded then I would have had an incorrect raise even though it hit; however, their calls gave me more than 4 - 1 pot odds on a 3-1 dog situation...believe it or not, by them calling, it was NOT the donkey move I tried to make! Had everyone played with their hands face up, if I knew they were going to call I would be making a mistake to NOT call even though I would lose nearly 70% of the time.

Back on point, to make my play better, I need to manipulate my opponent's pot odds. I need to make it too expensive for them to draw on draws that will beat me and when I have the nuts I need to bet so their draws look good and they call.

So a strong night would look like this:
I raise or fold; I raise premium hands from early position, fold everything else. This allows me to develop information on potential holdings my opponents might have and keeps me from playing weak hands that can get me in trouble.
When I fold I pay attention to what the others are doing; what they raise with, what they fold, what they limp in with and, in advanced circles, what they re-raise with.

The Flop;
I watch their reactions to the flop. If it fits my hand, I bet it. If not, I check it. If I flop the nuts then I bet to draw them in. If my hand is vulnerable I bet to price them out. But I mix it up so my methodology does not tell them that "every time he bets the pot he has top pair, medium kicker." I work to narrow the range of hands they could have.

The turn:
Again, I check out their reactions to the flop to read strength or weakness. Then I check, bet, or re-raise in such a way as to price them out of risky situations for me or fold if I am behind. I use their actions to further narrow the range of possible holdings.

The river:
Before I act, I reverse engineer the hand to see what the story is. I compare it to what I know of their playing style. Will they bet draws or just made hands? Do they bluff? With what? Based on their betting and reactions, what hands are possible? How likely is each hand?

Then I can choose whether to bluff, value-bet, call, check, or fold with a fairly accurate assesment of where I stand. I will still get hurt when I guess incorrectly, but by proper betting and play it will be less frequent and will more often be a result of someone else playing incorrectly which, in the long run, is still a win for me.

And whether I am in the hand or not, I need to pick a player or two and put them on a range of hands, follow it down to the river, and when I see their hands, reconstruct them so I know a little piece of information on what type of player they are.