Was I wrong?

In my last post I talked about a certain individual and called them a horrible player. Here is an interesting anomaly; in the last few months, no other player has won more than 2 tournaments but he has won 3. How is that possible if he is a horrible player?

A lot of it goes to the nature of these tournaments. They are typically 1 - 2 tables. They run about 3 hours. In that amount of time someone who plays heavily on the "luck factor" is going to do fairly well. It only takes hitting a couple of ridiculous draws to win enough chips to pay for a lot of missed draws. However, in a longer tournament that type of player is going to come back to the pack.

I would use the example of the 3 month tournament at West Linn. Mr. R was at the same table as me. On one of the first hands I flopped a set, bet it, was re-raised by Dee, and he called. Turn I bet, Dee raised, he called. River completed a straight that, on the flop, he had to hit runner runner to hit a double gut shot (he had to hit a 9 & 10 to hit the straight) straight at the ignorant end. I read him right, Dee read him wrong, and he added almost triple the chips to his stack.

He then hit another long-shot draw to almost double that up.

And I still outlasted him.

I outlasted him because he kept playing those long shot draws. And with 8 tables the luck factor was somewhat minimized. The math started to catch up to him as the 20-1 draws stopped hitting and his chips disappeared.

And that is the thing. He will virtually always play long-shot draws. And since he plays them they are going to hit that small percentage of the time. Combine those with the chips he gets from his legitimate hands and you have someone who can do very well in a sprint type tournament.

He is the type of player that keeps professional gamblers going. He plays poorly but hits those bad percentage plays often enough to keep him playing them.

Strangely, it is almost an ideal strategy for these small tournaments. Let's look at a typical hand. Start with 3000 chips (he starts with 3300 for showing up early). Blinds are 25/50. I fold, most people limp. He gets in for 50 with a 6/10 off.

Flop comes Ace/7/2 rainbow. Someone bets the Ace, say...200, a not unusual bet. Someone else raises another 200. Randy will call. Turn is a 9. The Ace bets 500. The other guy calls. So does Randy. Now he has laid out 1250 chips. If he hits the 8 on the river he will make almost 4K chips just based on what is already in the pot...and probably more if someone bets or pays him off on the end. Is it a good play? No, it was a HORRIBLE play. He is going to lose that 1250 chips more than a dozen times. Say he loses just 10 times on runner-runner draws for each one he hits. 1250x10= 12,500 chips. He would have to bust 4 guys and get 17% of a 5th guy's chips just to break even. But that one time he hits the payoff is HUGE. He looks down at 5 - 6K in chips and that is all he sees.

And to his credit...he is a decent big stack player. He raises often and early and does so with any 2 cards so you have no clue if he has Aces or 2/10. He puts pressure. If someone checks to him he generally commits some chips.

On the downside he takes huge risks. He called 4 times the blinds with a 10/4off the last time I played him. He will give chips back in a hurry. I never worry about being behind him in chips because I know as soon as I get a hand I am an odds on favorite to double up. If I can't have the chips I would rather have them in the hands of someone who chases statistically ridiculous draws. If John has the chips...I worry. He is a good player who gets his chips in good. If Chris has the chips...I worry. She is a tight player who is not going to give her chips away unless she has something. If Bill R has the chips...I worry because he is a tricky player. If Randy has the chips I know I have a pretty good chance of getting them.

And that is why I say he is a bad player. I would argue I am better than any of the others I mentioned except John. I have the ability to shift gears, I understand and use percentages, am careful about which draws I chase, I put people on hands, I am willing to lay down bad hands when necessary and bet with bad hands when the possibility is there. I know there are times to play a poor percentage play but I don't do it every time...there has to be a reason it makes sense. In his case...he thinks he is making the correct play.

I wish I had more time. If I played in 10 of those tournaments I would win more than 3. Oh, well. Life goes on.



Traffic was fairly light, got a wild hair, stopped in to play for the first time in quite some time. Just had a sudden concupiscence like desire to play poker, even there. I am not a big fan of playing at is full of tilt-inducing type factors such as:

- the smoke. heavy smokers, a pall over the table
- rude players. they slow-roll like mothers, they don't know the rules, they don't pay attention
- horrific players who have scary-good luck; they regularly play AND HIT needing runner-runner...

And that is just off the top of my head.

Anyhow, I wanted to play so, even though I was a bit late, I stopped in. Wow, I made it 15 players! I was down about 400 chips for arriving late, but as I have said before...when I am playing well, at least against most of these people, a 10% chip discrepancy means nothing. I will take their chips anyway. When I am playing poorly it also does not matter, I will choke off my chips pretty fast. About the only time it matters is when I am being blinded out and lose fold equity...but coming in with 2600 chips or so and blinds at 25/50? I am fine with that.

First hand, j/3o. Fold.
Second hand j/2o. Fold.
Third hand 9/5o. Fold.
Fourth hand 3/7o. Fold.
Fifth hand 2/3. fold.

On the bright side, this gave me a chance to get a feel for the table. And I was salivating. Bob was to my right. He is the only player I really had a lot of respect for. Other than Bob...well, there was 2 all-ins where the guy going all-in had 8 high...and was ahead. On the first blind level. Seriously, if I could just catch a pair I would be a favorite.

Finally, in the big blind I checked my option with an Ace/7 off. The flop gave me trip Aces. I bet it, 4 callers. That says a lot about the table. Turn was a deuce. I bet, all but Bob folded. River was another blank. I figured Bob for the Ace as well and had kicker issues so when he checked I checked behind. Hmm. I had him out kicked all right...but he had a deuce kicker which meant he had turned the full house. My river check saved me a lot of chips.

Normally I would slow WAY down but from small blind position with 4 limpers I limped as well with pocket 4s. The flop was gorgeous...K/7/4. No flush draws, no straight draws. Old guy across from me bet it for me. I put him on anything from the King to a stone cold bluff with even just a 10 high. Yes, the hand range was that wide. And 3 people called. Well, I had a choice. I wanted to get all-in by the river. Should I re-raise and hope a couple people stuck with me? Or should I try to keep them in and just call? I figured he would bet again so even though his bet was smaller than I wanted, I just called. Turn was a Jack putting a 2 flush on the board. On this table, that was bad...someone would stay around on a runner-runner flush draw. Still, he bet it, everyone called, so I called. River was a blank. He bet, calls, I re-raised all-in to 1500 (he had bet 500). He called, everyone else folded. I showed, he showed...his pair of Jacks. With a 3 kicker. Awesome.

Now I have about 5K, maybe 6. I am thinking I will have a pretty good shot at winning. Pick up pocket Kings. Raise. 2 callers. Take them for a ride including the old guy. They actually fold at the turn. I want them to KNOW I have good cards when I bet. I showed.

Limped with K/J after 3 or 4 other people limp. Flop comes 8/j/8. I bet. 3 callers. Turn is a king. I bet, the old guy comes over the top all in. But I am priced in as his raise is like 300 into a 4 or 5K pot. And he has...the k/j as well. Split pot. Made maybe 500 chips off the pot.

But I have consistently been showing down good cards. Call a raise with a q/10 clubs. Not a great hand but at this table I will play weaker cards more often. Flop has 2 clubs, an Ace and a King. I raise with nothing but a draw...and everyone folds. I did not feel bad about the raise as I had 9 clubs and 3 10s to draw to, plus I would not bet against a Queen high being the best hand.

Meanwhile, I had been watching the guy to my left. He had no concept of risk versus reward and bet sizing. In a pot of 500 he bet 2000. In a pot of 350 he went all in. Now, on the one hand this is a solid strategy as he built a nice chip stack since his bets were so large in relation to the pot that they weren't worth calling. On the other soon as I could catch a hand with him in it I was going to either double up or take him out because I was pretty sure that when he made those bets it was because he was weak and did not want a call.

Sure enough, when we collapsed to 1 table, he tried that move on a board of 2/10/K and Randy called him. Of course, Randy had nothing...something like a 6/9 or some such crap. But our villain was even worse, holding a 2/4. Randy hit the 6 to take him out. That was terrible because Randy is not the guy you want having chips and he was the monster chip lead.

Randy is a horrible, horrible player. He will chase ridiculous draws needing runner runner or more. He has no concept of pot odds, no clue what his opponent might hold...he is the epitome of someone who "just plays their cards"...except he not only plays his cards, he plays every long shot draw in existence. Sadly, when he hits them that lets him play more. If you play 10 10-1 shots you figure to hit one. So against him I "charge him for his draws" by betting VERY, VERY heavily...if I hit ANYTHING...even a pair...and have him read for a draw I go all in.

But before I could came up a hand with Bill. I raised with pocket 6s. He was big blind and was going to fold since I raised it 3 times the blind. While he was pondering I was talking to Bob because someone commented on the size of the raise. "Ah, it is habit...when I have a strong hand it is 3 times the blinds + 1 blind per person already in the hand."

That was a mistake because he might have folded but when he figured out it is my "standard" raise he reluctantly called. Had I kept my mouth shut he might have overvalued my hand. On the bright side, the flop was beautiful for me...2/7/10. About the only thing he could reasonably have hit would be the 10 and then only if he had an Ace. But I know his game and had him on a couple picture cards. He checked and I went all in. He thought about it, thought about it, thought about it...while he was doing that I got very happy. I knew I was right...he had nothing but a couple of over cards. If he folded, I had a nice pick-up. If he called I was a huge favorite; 45 cards unknown, 39 help me, 6 help him...a little better than 6-1 so I pretty much wanted him to call. He did and turned over about what I expected...King-Jack. Even more amazing, he made the call with a King high against someone who raised pre-flop, had consistently won every showdown, and who had raised after the flop. I was in great shape to add a healthy chunk to my stack and take out the best player not named me left at the table.

Until he turned the Jack.

Now I was back down to about 4K. Only now the blinds were 4/800. And he had a good size stack.

A few hands later for the second time I picked up pocket kings. Raise, raise the flop, raise the turn, they folded. I wanted to emphasize the quality of hands I was playing so I showed.

The reason I kept showing was simple. By now it was just Randy, Bill and I. I wanted them to fold when I had the goods. I did not want Randy in particular sticking around on horrible draws. I did not want them to think I was bluffing. Against that crowd I simply don't bluff. If I am betting...I have the goods. You have to outdraw me or have hidden strength to win the hand.

A couple hands later I had K/7 hearts. I needed chips as I was low so I went all-in. They both folded and I picked up 1200 chips.

Randy raised the next couple of hands. I was down to about 4000 and the blinds went to 500/1000. I had to make a move. Bill folded on the button, I had j/9 suited on the small blind. I went all in. Randy called with the 10/4 off. Would I have called? No. But I am not Randy. I am not sure what hand he thought I might have but he got his chips in pretty good for Randy...he had about a 33% shot to win.

So the 2 hands that really hurt I got my chips in as a 72.32-27.68 percent and 67.73%-30..96% favorite and got outdrawn both times. If I can get in as a 3-1 favorite with regularity I don't feel bad. I played really well in my own opinion and just ran into 2 bad calls that ended well for the caller. Bill's pre-flop call with King Jack was not bad, it was his post flop call that was horrid. People who regularly get their chips in as 3-1 dogs when they are calling, not raising, don't deserve to win very often. About 1 in 4 times. But that 1 time really hurts.

It saddens me that I finished third. When John was still playing there I always thought he was the odds-on favorite to win any given tournament. Last night there was 1 other player there (Ryan) who I think is at least as good as me...he understands pot odds, drawing odds, he works to put people on hands, he understands when and why to raise/fold/call....and a few people who I respect as decent players that I, right or wrong, believe I am better than...including Bill among the final three...but overall, I thought Ryan or I should be the odds on favorite to win and when he got taken out mid way through I believed right down to the end I had a good shot at it. Had I not taken the beat on the end there I would have had the chips to wait for a good time to get in good again...hard to say if I could have come back from the deficit though as they each had about 20K and I would have had 8. I am good enough to pick the right time...but as we all know, Randy will call EVERY time so I need to hit that 2 more times probably to get a lead on him.

Next time, gadget, next time.

Hand reading

You raise pre-flop, get 2 callers. The flop comes Qs, 6h, 2s. They both check, you bet into it, the first guy calls, the second guy raises you. What do they have?

Obviously there is not enough information here. You would be hard pressed to say even what you have from the information presented here. Decisions like this can make the difference between winning the tournament and going out first. Should you pursue it? What if you had pocket Jacks...are you beat? Or still ahead? Same question if you had pocket Kings, A/Q or A/K. What if you raised with As, 10S...should you continue the hand?

It is times like this that reading the opponents is important. If you are just sitting down at the table you will not have the information you need. However, if you have been playing for a while there are ways to, if not know, at least make a good guess and the right decision as to whether you should fold, call, or even re-raise.

Too many players play their own cards. Let's suppose you raised with A/Q in the above scenario. You know you have top pair, top kicker. So you assume you have the best hand. However, there are a lot of hands you are losing to; Pocket Aces, Kings, 6s, and deuces, and also any q/6, q/2, or even 6/2. You are also vulnerable to anybody playing suited spades...and if they are playing something like 4s/5s, you are essentially even money. At this point you need to know how likely your opponents have to be playing any of those hands.

If you are against solid players you know you can discount most of these hands; very few players will have that. Good players know there is no point to playing a Q/6 or Q/2 and 2/6 is a horrific 3-gap hand...pocket deuces and 6s they were getting the wrong price for so really they only hand you reasonably fear is pocket qs, a hand that is highly unlikely in view of you having one and the other on the board. So the hands you fear from the better players at the table are something like A/xS where they are drawing to the nut straight, someone playing suited connectors who hit the 6 and are drawing thin, and the poor players who see a face card and play it so could be suspected of having that Q/6 or q/2. Of course, the preferred outcome is to have someone playing something like a K/Q or Q/10 where you have them crushed.

The problem comes with separating them into categories. There is an easy way to do attention to the hands that are played.

If you see someone playing every hand or nearly every hand you can assume they are pretty loose. They will have a very wide range of hands. They will play anything from pocket aces down to a 2/7. These players are very difficult to cannot reasonably expect to put them on a hand. But you can still get a feel for if you should continue in our example hand.

First, you need to have concentrated on this player for a while. I don't mean concentrated on trying to spot an eye blink or weird way of holding their shoulder...I mean look at how they play their hands. If they have shown down 2nd pair 4 times, how did the betting go on each hand? Did they raise? Check and call? Check and raise? How many other people were in the hand? What was their kicker? Did they have any draws or did they just think they had a pair so would not lay it down? Having the answers to these questions will let you know how to proceed.

But take it further than that. Do they slow-play hands? For example, let's say they are a loose player who falls in love with pocket pairs and will never release them. They might have a set of 6s and you are drawing essentially dead to running Queens or Aces. Are they likely to check their set hoping someone will bet into them or are they going to raise? If they would raise, will it be a normal raise or an all-in?

You can even take it a step further. Assume you are that loose player...maybe you see a Queen, get excited, and play it. Say you have a Q/10 and the Q/6/2 flop hits. The pre-flop raiser now leads out and bets. What is he saying?

He is representing a hand that can beat the Queen. That does not mean he HAS a hand that can beat the Queen...but he is not afraid of it. You have no straight draws, no flush draws...what hands can he have?

If you have played against me much you can put me on a fairly narrow range of hands. Let's say you are in early position, I am in middle position. You limped from early, I raised, the big blind called and you called. I ended up with the button so after the flop when you both checked I raised. What hands could I have?

It depends. You need to know what hands I have played. There are times I am tight-aggressive. If I am playing very few hands, raising or folding, then you can put me on a narrow range" Pocket 6s, pocket Kings, Pocket Aces, A/Q or better. If you can't beat trip 6s or a pair of queens with an Ace then you should fold.

On the other hand, if I am playing my loose-aggressive game you will have seen me in a lot of pots. I could have any pocket pair, any suited Ace, maybe even a J/10 and be betting position.

If you have been watching my play you will have seen the hands I have shown down. If I have shown just top pair or better then you pretty much know I have the queen. If I have been showing a few middle or bottom pairs then you would be much more inclined to think I hit something other than the Queen...or am even betting with something like an A/K or A/ which case you would obviously want to stay and perhaps even re-raise me.

So let's look at it again as if you were me. We are playing well...we are folding our trash hands and playing aggressively with our strong hands. We have the Ah/Qd. We hit top pair. The only other people are the early position limper and the big blind. I have yet to see either limp with a big pair, they have raised every time so I am not afraid of the Kings or Aces. They both showed weakness on the flop so regardless of what I have I am betting into it.

Now, assume the first guy calls and the second raises. If I have been watching them I will probably know the first guy likes to check/call with his draws and he will play any suited Ace. He will also call with any dry ace so he might have something like A/6 or A/2. The raiser likes to bluff a lot and loves to check raise. Here I might be in trouble. He could have nothing or he could have trips. The point is, I should be able by now to put a loose percentage on each of his plays.

Let's say he has shown 3 bluffs, 3 made hands, and has won 4 pots without showing. Unless you have picked up a pattern...say, on the bluffs he bets larger than his made hands...or vice versa...then you would simply discount the 4 hands and figure he has a 50% chance of being bluffing. Then you compare the bet being made to your outs, figure your percentage, and you have an easy way to know if you should raise, call or fold.

It all comes down to watching what people play, where they play it from, and how they play it. If you pay attention you will have more information available when you need to choose what play to make.

How You Doin'

Well, we were matched up with the Hawaiian shirt wearing team. They have a very large roster but sometimes get confused about who is supposed to show up. They were worried they might have to forfeit but scraped together a full 10...actually, 11. Apparently it was guys they were short.

We started slow. I was batting third. Top half I came up with Becky 2 on first and 1 out. I was a bit discombobulated and unprepared to bat. He gave me a great pitch to hit and I went up the middle with it. When I am hitting well I hit a lot of grounders because I can more or less place it where I want it and when I am "on" that means a double since I can place it between fielders.

In this case I whacked it off the poor pitcher's ankle, it ricocheted off the second ankle, and right to the shortstop who forced Becky at second. A foot to the left or right and it is a great piece of hitting since they had NOBODY in the center portion of the field. I might have tripled it was that wide open. Instead it was a horrible piece of hitting that put us in a quick 2 out hole. Fortunately, our big sticks came through and we punched a couple runs across.

Bottom half of the inning I had just one chance, a high hopper that I charged and, in a rarity, pegged a perfect throw. Oddly, when I am stationary and make the fundamentally correct throwing motions I seem to have accuracy issues. But when I am running pretty much full speed and throwing across my body while leaping in the air, the throw is extremely accurate. So backwards. I suck.

Anyhow, next at-bat I was leading off. I wanted to hit...but he gave me nothing. 4 straight balls and I walked. I am pretty much a free-swinger so I VERY seldom walk...I am also a junk ball hitter, so seeing 3 pitches in an at-bat is even unusual. I always believe I can take about any pitch and hit it wherever I want. I am wrong...but I believe that. So walking...not so fond of.

Still, I was on 2nd. Jules grounded to third...and he barely looked at me so I took third. Then Steve grounded to third...and having seen his arm, I thought I could score since I could get home before he could throw to first and she could relay it home. Yes, I took advantage of their weak arms. I will justify myself by saying my run only made the score 6-1 and in softball...well, a 5 run lead is not super safe. Good thing I did because otherwise we would not have scored that inning. It was good, aggressive, and most importantly, smart base running and scored a run that otherwise would not have.

Moved to the outfield, had no chances out there.

Next at-bat we had bases loaded, 1 out. I got under it a bit and drove a fly to deep left-center. It got over her head but for a few seconds it looked like she might catch it so our runners held. As a result, 2 scored but we had people just on first and second. I was said...I like the 2 base hits. I am greedy...

Moved over to first base for an inning. Jules is getting so much better...she caught a tough over her head pop early in the game, and now she cleanly handled a sharply hit grounder and got it to me in time to nip a fairly quick runner. Her throw was low but to my left so I was able to stretch and snag it. Under the circumstances, she made a very nice play. Proud of her on that one. Steve made a nice throw so I got 2 chances and handled them both.

My final at bat we were well ahead, something like 15-1. So I did not bother trying to get a hit...I just wanted to do something I seldom do and unleash my swing. 19 times out of 20 I hit it to right field. I can place it so well just by adjusting the length and speed of my swing. This time I decided to pull the ball for the first time in about 4 years. Pull is right...the first pitch landed in right field. Of the field behind us. I pulled that so far left it cleared 2 fences. The second pitch was a ball, but the third one was in my happy zone...letter high, just inside the center of the plate. I hammered it down the line. It landed on the warning track about 2 feet inside the line and I rolled into 3rd with a triple. Felt good to actually give a real swing for a change.

Anyhow, I was watching from the bench for the final inning. We gave up a 3 spot but were never really in danger and won 15-4.

Kind of nice to be on the right end of a game like that. Had been 0-3 coming in. Everybody was hitting well and playing solid defense. And it was pretty fun. Of course, not stretching or warming up by jogging before hand means I think I pulled left leg is feeling it. But it was totally worth it!


If I were to teach a class part 1: Pre-flop

To begin with, I would go over how to determine hand values:

1) How strong are my cards?

A) strictly hand strength

I. Top ten hands

You can play these hands from any position. I.E., even with a raise, re-raise, and re-re raise in front of you you will play Pocket Rockets. The Cowboys...well, that depends on the players in front of you but they would be tough to lay down.

So pocket 10s through Aces, A/K suited, A/k off, K/Q, A/Q suited suited is a pretty good foundation. With these you do not need to be too advanced about thinking about what type of hands your opponents have/play.

II. Middle Position

Hands you can add from middle position. Here you add hands like middle pairs (down to say...7s), Ace/x suited where x=10 or higher, off suit hands with both cards paint

III. Late Position

Widen the range of hands you play from late position. Mix in your suited connectors, stuff like that. If facing a weak raise and you have a couple callers you can play literally any 2 cards. For example, Under the gun makes a minimum raise, 2 people call, small blind folds and you have the dreaded 2/7 off. Do you call? Let's say for ease of numbers the blinds are 100/200. The pot has 1500 in it. You need to call 200 to win that 1500 but of course you would get your 200 back so you are getting 1700/200 or 8.5-1 on your chips. That should be an easy call. If you hit the flop hard...2 pair or keep going. If not, get out. Small investment, big payoff. If you are the bluffing sort you can make a stab at the pot even if you miss, though generally against a large number of callers that is ill-advised. Sure, you will lose your 400 chips most of the time. But as long as you get out cheaply and then maximize the value when you DO hit the flop it is a winning proposition in the long run.

IV. Why position matters

If you are playing 8 handed and open with an Ace/rag, what are the odds someone behind you will pick up a stronger hand; say, A/10 or better, or else a big pocket pair? Let's say they merely call your raise with an A/Q, a not uncommon occurrence. The flop comes A/10/2 and you have an A/4. Barring running cards that pair the board make a straight or a 4 hitting you cannot run down the A/Q as their kicker will give them the pot. Thus you are likely to lose a large number of chips with your weak Ace. It is even possible to have the board provide your kicker. However, if you are in late position and nobody has shown strength your Ace is more likely to be the best hand at the moment.

You can also afford to play hands from late position you cannot play early. Say you pick up Pocket 3s. You are almost guaranteed to have 3 over cards to your pair on the board when the flop comes and the only way you will gain chips off this hand is to hit a set (have a third trey hit the board). As a result, since you will only hit a set 1 in about 9 tries you want to see the flop cheap. If you enter the pot from early position you will probably have to fold if someone raises. However, from late position you can often see a flop cheaply which is the only way you can realistically play this hand unless you plan to bluff with it.

Third, if you are in late position and people have folded or limped to you, showing weakness, you can often raise with any two cards and potentially take down the pot right there. Making the same raise from early position is vastly more dangerous as you are far more likely to have someone wake up behind you with a big hand when there are 6 or 7 hands that haven't shown their strength than if you have just 1 or 2 hands left to get through.

B) Comparative hand strengths
Under the gun raises to 3 times the blind, 2 people call, and you are in the big blind with A/6. Should you call?
The first thing we established was starting hands. So you put your opponent on a range of hands. Here is where knowing your opponents comes into play. For arguments sake we will say you know the UTG raiser is a fairly tight player who pretty much only plays the top 10 hands, the first caller is a somewhat loose player who will play any Ace, any paint, any pair, and any suited connectors, and the third player is also a bit loose.

4 of the hands the open raiser might hold contain an Ace: Pocket Aces, A/Ks, A/Qs, A/K. To be honest, I have never seen anyone that tight in real life, you can pretty much figure in local type games they will have A/10 or better.

The other two are even less likely to hold an Ace as their range of hands is much broader. Let's be mean to ourselves, though, and say the open raiser exposed his cards and has A/K. You KNOW you are a 3-1 underdog to him. Would you call, KNOWING you are behind?

Surprisingly...yes, you should. Let's keep our 1/200 blind structure. He raised to 600, 2 players called, so you need to call 600 to make 2400, not counting the blinds. You are getting 4-1 on your chips and are only a 3-1 underdog. Now, take the same situation where you are the raiser with your A/6. You limp in for 200, everyone folds to the big blind who shows A/K and raises to 600 you need to call 600 to make 1400 (your 200, his 600, your 600) or 2.33-1 and you are a 3-1 fold. Same cards, different positions, different potential return on investment. Which leads us to

C) Position

Assuming 8 handed game, early position will be the first 2-3 people, depending on their aggression; middle position, again 2 - 3 people and late position 2 - 3 people. Note that late position pre-flop is, except for the dealer button, early position after the flop. For example, if you are the big blind, you are late position pre-flop because you are last to act. After the flop, however, only the small blind will ever act BEFORE you. So you have become early position.

The primary reason this matters is for information. Let's assume you pick up a mediocre hand, say...pocket 9s. High enough to have under cards on the flop but still likely to see a flop where at least one over card hits the board. If you are in early position you face a risky proposition; if you limp someone is likely to raise it which will give you a tough decision; are they sensing weakness in you and making a move or do they have a monster? If it is just 2 high cards...say, A/ are "in a race" where it is so close to 50/50% to win or lose that you can play it. But if they have a higher pair...say, are now crushed, a 4-1 underdog, and likely to lose a large percentage of your stack. If you are in middle position you already have a sense of the strength of hands of the first 6 people and are more likely to know whether you should play the hand or not. If you are in late position it becomes an easy decision; if there is light action you can play them cheap and hope for a favorable flop, if there is heavy action you can fold. In late position, judging by who folded, limped, called, or raised you should be able to put people on a range of hands and thus can decide whether to play your mediocre hand or not.

2) How do my cards compare to those of my opponents?

A) put opponents on a range
It is a great feeling to be able to tell your opponent what cards he held while those cards are face down. It is also very difficult. Usually you don't need to know the exact cards they have...just a range of hands they might play to see if you should continue in the hand or not. Example: You have pocket 10s and raise from late position. The big blind calls, everyone else folds. The flop comes Kd/Qd/2c. You raise and he re raises. Do you fold, call, re-raise, or move all in?

The answer is "it depends".

If you are playing someone "tight" they have a narrow range of hands at this point; they are representing a hand that can beat either the King or Queen or they have a draw. That means they have Pocket Aces, they have the King or Queen (or both), 2 diamonds, or something like J/10.
If you are playing someone a bit looser then you can add any pocket pair, hands like A/10, A/J where they are praying for that miracle straight, or even something like A/rag where the Ace is a diamond and they want the runner runner for a flush.

Against the tight player you fold. Against some loose players you call, against others you re-raise, maybe even all-in if you put them on a bluff or a weak hand. It just depends on what range of hands you believe they will A) call you pre-flop and then B) re-raise you with. How do you figure that out?

I. What types of hands have they played?
Even when not involved in a hand, watch every hand. Your goal is to see as many hands shown as possible. If you watch a guy play 20 hands, 10 he does not show and the other 10 are only shown at a showdown, he wins 9 of can assume he is a tight player and seldom has anything but a monster when he plays. In the example above you would fold.

Conversely, if you see him show everything from pocket Aces to a pair of deuces you can assume he is much, much looser and now you either call or re-raise. Whenever possible, reconstruct the hand to see when he likes to call, when he likes to raise or re-raise, and what it takes to get him to fold.

II. How do they play them? I.E. top pair, set, they raise or call?

3) Raising, calling, or folding
Should you raise, call, or fold? A lot of people tend to just call. This can work if you know when to get out of hands but it really limits your options. If you just call your opponent controls the size of the bet, when there is a bet, and thus will win a lot of pots that he shouldn't. If you just raise you risk running into someone who is slow-playing the nuts. In short, you need to mix up your play.

A) Standard raise theory

A good standard raise is 3 times the blind. If the blinds are 25/50, you are first to act, you typically want to raise to 150. Many people adjust this a bit. For example, 2 people limp in, then you raise, some people add 1 blind per person who has entered it so in this case you would raise to 250.

B) When to limp, when to raise, when to fold

It depends on the types of players seated at the table with you. If you are in with action oriented players who like to see a lot of flops cheaply you can limp with a lot of hands you would typically fold. Conversely, if they only ever enter for a raise then you should raise more, call less. Here is an example of why.

You limp in, the opponent raises strong, you look at your 3s and release your hand. The next time you limp in he is likely to raise no matter what cards you have. Conversely, if you are the one who raises, your opponent folds, the next time he limps you do not even need to look at your cards, just raise.

C) Few folds are bad folds but sometimes you have to play back; defending your blind
Sometimes you need to defend your blind. Pay attention to the table. If someone raises every time you are in the blinds it does not mean he has a hand. He might sense weakness in you and be trying to steal your blinds. If you see someone doing this, "play back" at them. The next time they raise, come over the top and re-raise them. If you do not have the courage for that, at least pay to see the flop and if there is anything to work with, take a stab at that. If you do not, they will raise your flop every time no matter what cards they have.

4) Basic odds
Sometimes you think you are behind and need to decide whether to call or not. All you need are basic math skills and a general sense of how much is in the pot.
"The Rule of 2" allows you to quickly figure your percentage chance of hitting a needed card. Say you have an 8/10 and the flop comes A/J/9. At the moment you have nothing but a straight draw. Someone you put on an Ace raises. Should you call? The first thing you do is count your outs. In this case there are 8: if any 7 or Queen falls, you figure to hit your straight and that figures to be the best hand. 8x2 = 16 so you have roughly a 16% chance to hit your card. If this is a flop your actual percentage chance is 34.24% so you are close enough. You will win about 32% of the time, or roughly a third, so if you are getting 2-1 or better on your chips then you can call. If you are getting less then you should fold.

However, don't forget "counterfeited odds". Example:
I had K/10 diamonds, the villain had pocket Jacks. The flop came K/J/2, 2 diamonds. In theory I have 9 outs to make a flush; however, the Jack on the board is a diamond leaving me 8 outs. But not so fast; if another King or deuce falls, he makes a boat. I have the king but the 2 is his, so now I have 7 outs. Regardless of what falls on the turn, if it is not a diamond it takes away one more out since it will also give him a full house and thus a higher hand so you can say that 2 of my theoretical 8 outs are "counterfeited" and in truth I have just 6 outs. Now I need to get 8-1 on my chips to make the call.

That will get you started. More next time, mostly on flop, turn and river play, though some of that was covered here.


How You Doin'?

Fresh off last week's obliteration, we took the field against another team that looked pretty good. How good? They are the first team I have seen using a lady pitcher...and I could see why.

We were home and I sat out the first two innings. I was glad to...the wind was playing with the ball making outfield an adventure and there was no infield action to speak of. We gave up 4 and 2 runs. Meanwhile, bottom of the first, Eric flew out to deep right, Becky popped out, I singled, took third on a bobbled ball in the outfield, and scored our first run of the night.

My first action at short was nice. Two soft grounders that I charged pretty hard and made bullet throws to get the runners.

The bottom part of our line-up got rolling and we scored 7 runs in the third to take an 8-6 lead. But we would not be able to hold it.

By the time I caught a short fly we had given up a couple. Then there was a play I SHOULD have made an in the past would have...little flare over the pitchers mound. I thought JJ had a bead on it, got a late start, called him off so we would not collide....and had it bounce off the end of my glove. Tough chance but one that, when I was a REAL athlete, I would have made. Oh, well, did make one other catch that inning.

My next time up I got under it a bit and flew out to the warning track. That was interesting...I normally don't have that kind of power any more. It was also a mistake on my part. They were shading my beloved right-center alley and I went to left-center. Oh, well, it was an excellent pitch and I gave it a ride.

Next time up I went back to right and got it over their heads, ending up with a triple. My final time up I weakly singled.

It was a fun game but ultimately we could not come back and lost something like 18-13. Most importantly it was a fun team to play against and we had a great time. Overall I thought I played really well. Must be less of a perfectionist that I have been because I did not really give a lot of thought to the misplayed pop-up.

Normally that would be all but Phil needed help on his men's' league team. As a general rule I try to avoid back to back games as I am not in shape to play 2-1/2 hours...but since I sat out 4 of 6 innings I was okay with it.

Initially they had me in the outfield but then their normal center fielder showed up so they moved me to catcher. Yuck...I hate that.

We gave up a couple runs in the first and then scored a couple. In the second they looked to have a good rally going. With one out they had runners on 1st and 2nd when a guy made a pretty routine fly to left...which the normally reliable Phil just...dropped. Very atypical. Since their runners were waiting to tag, a fortuitous bounce meant the guy on third did not advance as our other outfielder pounced on it and rocketed the ball back in...and he caught the runner off second. So as we tagged that guy out, the guy on third broke for home. A quick relay, slightly offline, and I blocked the plate and tagged him out. Close play but we got him. And he got me. Tore my knee up pretty good.

And, as so often happens in baseball, the guy who makes the defensive play then comes up to bat. I went right into my right-center power alley, over their guys head, and walked into third with a triple. I scored, so I felt pretty good about that.

My next time up we had runners at the corners, one out. This time they were playing deep so I tried to under swing and just pop it over the second baseman's head but I topped it and grounded to him. Fortunately I got to the base quick enough to avoid being doubled up and we scored one but I knew it was a poor swing.

My next trip up (not much defensive action as a catcher...) I got caught up in watching them and swung from my heels, flying out to the warning track in right center. Hmm. I have not had home run power in 15 years and not had warning track power in 10. What is up with that?

Anyway, they started to mount a comeback. They had scored a couple runs, had a guy on first, no outs, and one of their better hitters was up. He was fooled by a pitch and hit a little pop about 8 feet up the first base line. I knew I could not catch it but did not want it to go foul because I did not want him to get another shot at it. I came out of the crouch pretty fast and jumped on it about 6" fair. They thought it was foul so they weren't moving. I started running towards the guy standing on first planning to tag him and step on the bag when it occurred to me I actually don't know the rule...if I tag him but he is on the base, even though it was a force...would he be out? So I threw it to second, they stepped on the bag, back to first...meanwhile, the batter was standing there arguing with the ump that it was foul.

It was a stupid argument. My footprints were plainly visible where I had jumped to a stop to keep the ball from going foul, and I was a good 6" inside the base paths.

Well, that double play killed their rally and we ran away with the game. I did manage to double my next time up so on the night I went 2-4, scored twice, drove in 1, and made a couple pretty spectacular plays.

It was nice because I was a bit intimidated going in...I have only ever played one other men's' league GAME and that was as a pick-up player last year. I just usually don't like them as much because that is where you find softball guy...drunk, obnoxious, taking it as seriously as a Major League Baseball game even though he is pot-bellied, probably drunk, and less talent than a single a short season guy...

So I had lots of fun, played really well and look forward to next week, because they asked me back...


On money games

I have often been asked why I prefer to play "free" poker...the Starving Crazed Weasels league is no money involved, the various other leagues I have played in have all been free...there have been I think 3 exceptions:

1) a charity tournament for a cause I believed in. Flat entry fee.
2) a couple small "cash games" we ran as freeze out tournaments; 10.oo each.
3) one larger tournament for 22 dollar entry were allegedly the bulk of the money went to a retrospect I have my doubts.

On the rare, rare occasions I play in those tournaments I ensure that, whether for a cause or not, the fee is one that obeys one simple, basic rule; nobody gets hurt.

In other words, if we have 10 dollar entry fee, nobody is going to miss their rent or have a hard time eating.

Furthermore, I typically do everything I can to finish where I win no more than I put in. This, believe it or not, usually works; for example, I once paid 10 bucks each for the Goose and I and 6 bucks for snacks; I "won" 21 dollars... that is pretty close to even. The most recent one I played in like that, I paid 11 dollars (1 dollar to a high hand fund) to enter and 6 bucks for Cheetos and Doritos. I "won" 18 bucks...

In other words, I stay as close to "even" as possible. I would be lying if I did not admit that, overall, taking into account JUST the entries I have paid, I am "ahead" about 40 bucks. Not something I am proud of...then again, nothing I am ashamed of.

One of the critiques of gambling is the greed factor. I have unadulterated proof that I am not greedy...I have deliberately finished in a lower place at least twice, just to not win as much money. And it is not lack of talent...with 1 exception where I finished "on the bubble" I have been "in the money" every time.

With that said, I have been asked why I won't play Ring games and why I not only say I prefer free poker, I back it up by seldom winning the max possible in the cash tournaments, but am still willing to play them.

And finally I found a way to phrase it...courtesy of multi-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Chris Ferguson:

LH: Do you ever play in cash games?
CF: Not really. I like tournaments because they change over time and the strategy that you use to be successful also changes. Early in a tournament, the players have very big stacks in comparison to the blinds. You cannot risk everything without a monster hand. Later on in the tournament, players tend to tighten up a little bit as it gets closer to the money. You have to be able to take advantage of that. As the blinds go up, the stacks become relatively smaller, and you are not playing big-stack poker anymore. At this point, you can push people around a little more. Once you make the money, you are in another stage. This added dimension makes tournament poker interesting to me. I don't really enjoy live-action poker, mostly because I feel like I am taking money from other people. It doesn't seem fair to me. But once they put up their money in a tournament, someone is going to get it, so it might as well be me

I like almost everything he has to say except the last sentence...I really could not care less about the money. What it does do is feed the competitive beast within me.

I used to be insanely competitive. A psychologist would probably call it a compulsion. I just needed to have a winner and loser. These days I have grown up and matured a lot. I am not that way any longer. I can relax and enjoy playing on horrible basketball teams, for example, and not really care about losing games. For anyone who knows me and knows the drive to not just play but compete, and not just compete but WIN that I used to have...that is a nearly unbelievable statement.

Poker feeds the remnant. At least, tournament poker does. In a ring game, there can be many winners and losers. In a tournament, only one person can walk away the winner. Oh, many people can "cash" in those played for money...but only 1 gets the title.

And being able to rely primarily on my own abilities to win or lose...that I still love to do. I prefer the free tournaments and play those about 98% of the time...but when I am willing to play for small stakes...5 or 10 bucks...that is why I will play tournaments.


The Home Game

Had 9 people show up, we went all at one table.

To my left, Kevin
to his left Roman
to his left Kenneth
to his left Drew
to his left Nick
to his left Nathan
to his left Jose
to his left, my right, Ryan

I have played with Roman and Kenneth a lot and know their games pretty well. I have played with Nick I think 3 times, Nathan and Ryan twice apiece, and the other three never. That means my strategy should be play very few hands until I get a feel for them, and play those hands strongly. Watch the game closely, get a feel for who plays what and how they play it.

So I promptly pick up some semblance of a hand, get involved in a 4 way pot, and lose about 800 chips to Ryan. He took the others for a lot more. To my credit, I was ahead until the river, but that gave him the straight and I got out of the way.

A few hands later I picked up pocket Queens. I raised them, Jose called. Flop was perfect for me, all low cards. I raised, he called. Hmm... turn another rag. I raised, he called. River put a potential straight on the board if he called with something goofy like A/4...I raised, he folded.

Pocket 10s, I raised, everyone folded. A/8, if they are going to be passive, I am going to raise...everyone folded.

Perfect, I have the image I want...which has been helped by my holding forth as we went along on how I never bother to bluff because I always get caught. So now I have shown a couple good hands and not shown a couple but I seem to always have cards when I am in the pot.

Meanwhile I am watching the others. Jose had a full boat early that took a bunch of chips from Drew who had 2 pair. Drew is pretty loose anyway. Nathan is bluffing left and right but never having to show. Kevin is a tight/passive player and bleeding chips like mad. Calling station is the correct term.

Kenneth and Roman are both building chip stacks. Ryan is bleeding.

And I am playing too many hands...limp/calling with 5/7o, stuff like that because I know if I catch a hand I can put the hurt on some of the guys. And that would prove costly.

Roman raised. I know Roman's game so I put him on something like a strong Ace, maybe 2 face cards, possibly a pocket pair. Nathan called, I had 6/7 hearts and decided to take a flyer. Flop was good...3/6/9 2 clubs. I have a little something on Roman and instantly narrowed his range of hands to 2 overcards. He checked. Nathan went all-in for 1900. I put him on a bluff. I went into the tank. And started talking.

"I hit part of that. I think I am ahead of you." I count out the is over 50% ov my stack. I count the pot...1900 exactly. His all in means I am getting 2-1, I have him on a bluff, and I have a pair...a WEAK pair, to be sure, with a mousy kicker...and no real draw. Maybe a backdoor gut shot, but that is so unlikely I don't include it in my thoughts. There are several things to consider:

1) If I am wrong about Nathan and he has an overpair I am drawing thin...5 outs, about 20%...a 4-1 dog
2) If he has 2 overs (that are not counterfeited by Roman) I am instead a 3-1 favorite
3) Roman is yet to act behind me. And there are 2 scenarios there:
A) He has what I think he has, 2 big cards, and will either fold (preferred) or just call
B) He has an overpair and will re-raise to drive me out. This is unlikely as I am pretty sure of my read, but he is also a very capable player who can and will slow-play to suck people in. If he re-raises I am priced in to calling and could be done...but I am not going to call because I will think I have too much ground to make up. I respect his game more than enough to think a lay down becomes appropriate. Furthermore, he is now giving off signs that he may, indeed call.

So if I call Nathan and Roman calls or folds, I will most likely be crippled no matter what. Even if Nathan is on a pure bluff, with just a pair of 6s and 7 kicker I am a distinct dog to 2 players. If I call Nathan and am right I am a favorite to double up. If I call him and am wrong about his holdings...I am a dog and likely to A) short-stack myself and B) give a lot more chips to someone who enjoys bluffing. That is a hard type of player for me. I don't want to do that.

Ultimately, against my better judgment, I folded, mostly out of fear of Roman. Then...he folded. I was sure he was going to call or I would have.

And yes, Nathan later told me I was dead on...he was on a stone cold bluff. But it was a great bluff because I went in with a weak hand and it was such a large percentage of my stack.

Well, that got me into playing my correct game for a while. I built my stack back up to about 6K, then went on a little run. First, I checked into a hand from the big blind with a garbage q/8. Flop was King high...but I paired my 8. I checked, Nick checked, Jose raised. I put him on a bluff and called. Nick called. Turn was an Ace. Nick checked, Jose raised...I thought about it, decided he did not, in fact, have either the King or Ace and called. Nick folded. River was a blank, I considered raising but then came to my senses...if he re-raised or went all-in, I would fold, this way I could see if my 8s were good relatively cheaply. They were and I took down about 4K.

A couple hands later I jacked it up with pocket 10s. Kevin called. Flop came K/Q/rag, 2 diamonds. I did not like that much. I raised anyway...and he reraised. Now, normally, I lay it down right there. But this...this did not "feel" right. Nothing I could put my finger on.My first thought was he was on a flush draw and I should re-raise. That was my immediate thought. But I had not seen him pull that move all night. He might have just the King or Queen... So I called. I raised the turn (a blank) and he just called. Interesting. River was another blank, I checked, he raised...but he raised only 500, leaving himself 600. That was curious...there was plenty in the pot by now, I had raised I think 600 pre-flop, 600 on the flop, he reraised me to 1000 (I was not enforcing the proper betting rules because of all the new players...a mistake on my part), and the turn was another at least 4800 in the pot. He is raising but not going all-in. My instincts said to re-raise him all in. But I hesitated. I knew I was not folding at this point. Did he have the King or Queen? Or, in light of the flop, did he have a busted flush draw? I called. He turned up...pocket 9s. I picked up a nice pot. And a bad habit.

Raised A/K. Ryan called.

Because a few turns later I played a King/2 Hearts because Kevin and Jose were in the pot and I wanted to be in as many pots as possible with them. What I forgot was Kenneth was also in the pot.

He is not above bluffing but he is a good, good player who does something weird...he plays GOOD cards. And he had raised this pot. I should have folded. I didn't. Flop was pretty ragged. I hit my deuce. Kenneth raised. Jose folded. The correct response here? Fold. I am behind. Way behind. This is Kenneth, not one of the 4 bluffers. So of course I called...and the turn was a Jack. He went to raise, miscounted his chips, and went all in thinking it was 2300 (he had been raising 1800 so the all-in would be correct). However, he ACTUALLY had 3500...a much more significant raise. And I again responded not to him but to the guys who had been raising/bluffing with nothing. I called. And he flipped up pocket jacks...he had a set. I announced I was drawing dead. River was a small heart...and someone pointed out I had flushed him.

Oops. I played that hand HORRIBLY. I had nothing, really. And did not even see the flush possibility. And instead I put him out and picked up another huge pot.

So then I started getting into too many hands. Problem is...Nathan, Kevin, Drew and Jose had all been eliminated. We were down to the following:

Roman solid, tight player, not too tricky, pretty much ABC poker
Nick: solid, tight player, not tricky at all.
Ryan: solid player usually, somewhat tricky, the most likely of any of us to bluff.

In other words, it was time to adjust my game; if they raised and I had little or nothing, fold. If they limped, I could raise with any 2 cards.

Instead I got super tight.

As a result, by the time Ryan went out Nick, Roman and I were about even in chips.

We traded the lead a few times. Worst case was where Roman raised, the flop came K/J/rag, I had an open ended straight draw and gave Roman a lot of chips when he turned out to be playing the K/J.

Anyway, we traded a few more times. I got down to 6500. Nick folded. I had pocket 6s so went all in, actually figuring Roman would fold. He called...with pocket 8s. I flopped an open ender...4/5/7. But never got more help and finished in third.

I think part of my problem was I got into my "invincible" mode...sometimes I look at the table and don't worry about playing some bad hands because I know I can rebuild my chip stack. But then when the fish are gaffed I become the fish because I don't adjust my play style. With Nick and Roman I could have gotten down to heads up just by stealing the blinds a few times...they were both playing super tight. But I got involved in hands where they had cards a couple times and ended up getting short-stacked. In other words, I was outplayed. And I went from chip lead to out in third.

Not that I cared...I like them both, had a great time, and had made some pretty spectacular calls, 1 each against Jose, Kevin and Ryan. So although I played poorly in the final 3 I played really well on the way there with the noticeable exception of the hand with Kenneth.