Jax, 6/24

Since I was passing through downtown decided to stop off at Jax. I really like playing there; their trained dealers prevent the stupidity of slow-rolling, stuff like that and the players are better on average. You see a lot less plays like Randy with his chasing runner runner as a good play, less stuff like Boston John playing "drunken monkey poker"...though there are still a wide variety of plays including a guy famous for playing 3/4.

Starts with 10K in chips and blinds of 100/200.

27 players, 3 tables of 9. Nice. Nothing to play in the first 4 hands. 5th hand I was in the big blind. Several limpers, looked down at pocket 9s. Bumped it to 700 total, still got lots of callers. Dealer commented, "Wow, 6K in their" referring to the pot. Flop was nice...Q/7/4. I glanced at the pot and raised to 5K. If someone hit the Queen I was in trouble...but everyone folded. Nice pickup that added 60% to my stack just like that.

Went with the Doyle plan of playing the next hand. Called a small raise with q/9. Regretted it instantly...I just called a raise with a weak hand out of position. But then I got lucky...the flop was Q/9/5 rainbow. I flopped top pair and the only reasonable draw was someone holding 10/J. My first thought was to slow-play...but then I reevaluated. I wanted to create an image where people were nervous about being in a pot for me. I bet the pot. Everyone folded. Nice...

A few hands later I picked up pocket 9s again. Jacked it up 3x the blinds, a couple callers. Flop was all low, someone raised, I came over the top, everyone folded.

At this point I was very happy. I had more than doubled up without ever being at risk...AND WITHOUT SHOWING DOWN A HAND!

The guy 2 seats to my left had limped once and not played a hand past the flop when he did an under size raise. I was one off the button with j/10, not a great hand but with about 4 callers the odds were right. I went ahead and called. Flop came 10/9/6. The guy who raised it checked and it was checked to me. I raised. Initial raiser hesitated, then came over the top all in, everyone folded to me. Time to think.

My initial rating put him on A/10 or better and pockets down to about 6 or so. When he checked I narrowed his range a bit: high cards and afraid of someone having hit the flop or maybe a small pair. This reeked of a bluff but there was still an outside shot I was drawing real thin to Jacks or better. However, there were enough callers initially that I was getting a bit better than 3-1 so I called...and he flipped up Pocket 8s. I was way ahead but he had 6 outs (any 7 or the 2 8s) to I was a prohibitive 39-6 favorite or better than 6-1. Furthermore, the first time I showed my cards I showed people A) I was willing to gamble a bit, calling a raise with J/10 off and B) I was either reading people well to call him or else was a poor player who overvalued top pair...depending on their perception of me.

I won that hand. Now I was in control of the table and people did not want to get involved with me if they could help it. This let me pick up a few small pots, including one that I thought was brilliant.

I had been watching a guy for a while. When he had bottom or middle pair he would lead out with a small bet, a feeler bet. Nobody had challenged him. At one point he limped from the small blind. I thought about raising but elected to check. Flop came, he made one of his small raises, I re-raised him and he folded. I flipped up my irrelevant hand to show the bluff. That, in retrospect, was a mistake. I had a tell on him and may have cost myself chips later by showing a bluff. But on the other hand...I also showed people I did not need cards to win a hand.

After the break we condensed to 2 tables. A guy sat down to my right who had me out chipped but otherwise I was leading the table.

I folded a few hands, then utg+1 picked up A/Q. The guy to my right had limped so I jacked it 4 times the blinds. We were both deep stacks and I could take it down on the flop just by betting. A couple other people called, guy to my right folded. Flop was ugly, all low and diamond, with a raise, re-raise and call in front of me I folded.

A few hands later I checked from the big blind with a weak Q/8 off. Flop came ugly...Q/J/9, 2 diamonds. Guy to my right checked, I raised, everyone folded to him and he went into the tank. Then he started trying to get a reaction to me. I decided to throw off a few false tells by acting super strong...if he knows the tells. I looked pretty uninterested, let my attention wander...and waited until the third time he asked, "You have K/10 already?"

He had made a HUGE mistake. If he had just come over the top I would have folded. I had top pair, weak kicker on a draw heavy board. But after his talk and trying to draw me out I knew he was weak. If he just called I was raising big on the turn, if he raised I was moving all in. I finally engaged him in conversation.

"I might. Hard to say."
He had no clue how to respond and folded. When he did he inadvertently exposed the deuce of diamonds and I heard him telling someone he had "a real high one to go with it"...I assume the King or Ace. Anyhow, the hand was still being talked about several minuted later.

And here is where I stopped playing well. I had built a great table image...but now I tightened up. That was the first of the 3 mistakes that would hurt me.

The second came shortly when I raised UTG with Big Slick. 3 callers. Flop came Q/Q/9. Guy to my right...who had thought a long time before calling...checked. Every instinct I had said to raise. I meekly checked, essentially giving up on the hand. An old guy I had watched for a while went all in. Folded to the guy to my right who hesitated for a long time. I figured he had an under pair at worst but the 2 queens were just too much. He folded.

I had to think about it. I knew the old guy didn't have a Queen. I actually thought he might have hit the nine. I had watched him play and he was weak tight. He would bet once with middle pair, then hope to check it down. Going all in represented either strength or a stone cold bluff. Even if he had the 9 I was drawing thin to 6 outs. Folding was correct.

And for whatever reason, I looked at the guy to my right and said, "This is a HORRIBLE call"...and called. Old guy ended up having Pocket Jacks and they held up. And I was right...I was not getting the right odds to call, particularly when it turned out the guy to my right had also had big slick and someone else folded a third Ace. I was actually drawing to just 4 outs...

Anyhow, now I was down a bit. The very next hand the woman three seats to my right...who was short stacked...came over the top of a raiser and a caller to go all in. In the big blind I looked down at the Cowboys. I re-raised enough to commit anyone who called as I wanted to isolate her. It worked and I regained a good portion of what I had lost.

Then came the hand I didn't play. UTG the next round I limped with 6/7 suited. A guy who is regarded as one of the better players but whom had been unwilling to play with me. He is a guy I have played before...he was the guy on my left. Anyhow, he had been up and down a bit. Now he was down. After another limper, he raised all in. Guy to my right, as is his wont, hemmed and hawed for a while...and then called.

I desperately wanted to call. I had the chips to play with, though it would definitely cut into me about 40%, I was highly unlikely to be dominated...and I had the first guy read for being on a move. Still, I would be calling with 7 high...I REALLY wanted to call...but for whatever reason...I folded. And the guy was on a move with 3/4 and was against K/10 suited...same suit as my 6/7. Well...the guy paired his 4, I would have hit the straight, and the K/10 never hit anything.

From then I pretty much just got blinded until we collapsed to the final table. Once there I was middle of the pack in chips.

The table was a fast table with a lot of raising and re-raising. One guy took down a huge pot when he jacked pre-flop with pocket queens and flopped a full house. The very next hand he raised, the guy 3 seats to my right re-raised, the original guy raised again, guy to my right went all-in, and after thinking for a while got called. Guy to my right had pocket Jacks. Guy who flopped the boat? Pocket Queens. The Queens held up and guy to my right was crippled.

The next hand everyone limped to the small blind...who was the guy I had bluffed earlier. He limped, I had pocket jacks so raised, he re-raised, I checked the would about double me up now, I shoved, he called...with Aces. Oops. I was left with 1000 chips and blinds of 1/2K.

Now, here is where tournament strategy comes into play. If I care about the points (I don't) then I don't even look at my cards, I make the guy 3 seats to my right go through the blinds...he has 3K. On the other hand, if I want to see if I can make a comeback, I look for my best hand.

Best part is I now hit a hot streak. If I went all in the first hand I would have quadrupled up. The next hand (2/6 off) I would have flopped 2 pair. Then the tragic happened...I picked up Big Slick. It was the best hand I would get before being in the blinds, I called.

And the guy who had gone all-in with 3/4 called, among others, and flopped 2 pair. 3s and 4s. I was done.

I played really well early...I was aggressive, I played good cards strongly and when I did not have cards I played the players and picked up a couple pots I had no business winning. However, late I became passive, made 2 bad calls...I need to close out stronger.


The Retirement Game

Last week I filled in on Phil's team, a Men's League game. For some inexplicable reason they put me at third base. 3rd is known as "the Hot Corner" for the large number of screaming line drives that make their way down the path. Now, if the ball is in the air I am fine but on the ground my confidence is shot, plus I have been in a batting slump.

First play of the game, the old adage that "The ball finds the unprepared" came true as the first batter grounded it directly to me. I mean between my legs right to me. And I froze. I could not read the ball, thought it was to the short stop.

Well, now my confidence is even worse. But I am out there trying. And a couple batters later a shot down the line looked stoppable. I laid out for it. I had never played 3rd except for one inning in all my life. It was not a smart dive. The ball was outside my reach and I landed badly, driving all my weight onto my left shoulder.

A few years ago I weighed 220 and it would have been no big deal. Now I am about 265 do I put this politely...the added figure is NOT from building up can be seen from the profile pic. Anyhow, it instantly started to hurt a little bit. Well, as the game went on it got worse. Every (pathetic) swing of the bat tore it and the plays I did make were no help.

On the bright side, I had only 2 more legit chances in the entire game. One was a line drive I caught that drew a lot of oohs and ahs from both teams...ironically, I thought it was an easy play. The second was a ball I charged perfectly and threw on a hop to first...bad throw but it beat him. However, the ump called him safe. He later admitted he had blown the big deal, happens.

Anyhow, my arm killed me all week. Until Saturday I did not even shave, mostly because I could not lift my arm. It hurt all the time and made sleeping very difficult. At work I had to physically lift it up to the keyboard with my right arm. Pathetic. And all that is set-up for the How You Doin' game.

I wasn't going to go. My arm still hurt, though not nearly as bad, but I still can't lift it above about chest high. I left the video camera at home (I am working on a documentary project for the team) so there was no point to going...until JJ called and said I was the 5th guy. He did not know about my arm.

So one of my character flaws from the past rose up. Growing up I was hyper competitive. I did a lot of damage playing basketball on sprained ankles, stuff like that. And winning. Because I would push past the pain to do what needed to be done to win. And it wasn't just in athletics...long before I knew strategy guides existed I knew to start the game of Risk in Australia and/or South America. I could win Diplomacy starting with Turkey or Russia. I never lost a tournament game in chess, even at state. I was too competitive to let someone outwork me. And I loved to play.

I still love to play. So I sacked up and headed down to the game. Got there as the team was milling around waiting for 2 later players to make it. Asked JJ to "hide me" at the bottom of the batting order and in right center where very few balls are hit, planning not to even attempt to catch a ball, just to track down anything hit that way and heave the ball back in to make them hit it again. Yeah, I laughed when I read that line too. I know me too well. Yes, I can let myself lose a game now, unlike when I was growing up...but I still cannot not expend effort in an athletic competition.

While we were milling around waiting for the game to start one of my teammates made a friendly gesture of camaraderie...he tapped me on the shoulder. The pain was so intense it literally drove me to his knees. I know what you are thinking...he got smart and didn't play.

Hahahahahahahahhaa. Oh, you kid. Of course I played. I am that way.

Anyhow, we were the visitors. Batting 9th, I figured I would not hit for a couple of innings. Wrong. I came up with runners on 1st and 3rd, 1 out. I physically could not even swing the bat right handed so I was going to hit from the left side. My plan was to work the count...see if he could get 3 strikes over the plate or if I would walk.

The first pitch looked so awesome I could not help myself. I swung. At least I did not swing hard. It was a slow roller to the first baseman who got the force at second but I was safe at first. And the run scored. As did I. Big first inning.

No chances in the first couple innings in the field and I would lead off the third. Again, the plan was to NOT SWING. I should not have even taken a bat up there. First pitch was bad, ball one. 2nd pitch I could see was a strike and if feeling good I would have crushed it. Instead I followed the plan and DIDN'T SWING. Go me! Of course, on the very next pitch I undid all my good work by uncorking a mighty swing that Casey might have envied. I mean I really unwound and obliterated the ball. Well, okay, so obliterated might be a bit of hyperbole...I will say it was hit so hard that lots of things happened. First, I screamed in pain and bent over in the batters box. And still made it to first because I hit it so hard the first baseman could not handle it and even after connecting with him it skittered into the outfield. But it about crippled me.

And remember the adage that the ball finds the unprepared? Bottom half of the inning, the ball found me. Soft liner almost directly to me. Now, remember...I had promised myself I would not even attempt a catch, I would just recover and throw to the infield. Uh-huh. Any other lies, Mr. Weasel? I briefly considered bare handing it with my right hand but then gauged the arc...I could basket catch that sucker! So I did...I moved back and forth to where I caught it waist high and used both hands...fundamentally horrible, but very effective. Even after the game I was catching compliments on that one because they saw how I had to maneuver just to be physically capable of making the catch.

My next time up I swung 1 handed...and singled to right. I am 2 for 3 with no physical ability...and then came the long inning.

Two batters flew to right and our right fielder could not handle them. I was doing what I do, backing her up and held the runners to fewer bases. Then came a liner that, if I am feeling good, I probably catch. This time I wisely angle back to stop the ball and throw it back in. Then another one I would catch if I were right but I wait for the bounce and grab it with my bare hand...which wrenched my shoulder and caused beads of sweat to pop out on my forehead. Another ball my way...I was getting to the ball and getting it back in quickly but I was frustrated because those were easy catches if I could move and extend my arm. As it was, not one of them was catch able.

Anyhow, we finally got out of the inning. My next time up I saw where the third base girl was playing and knew she had just an average arm. The plan was a soft one handed swing...basically a legal bunt that would not even get to her it would be rolling so slow. I kept my left arm in tight, let my top hand roll off, nice, soft swing...and flew out to moderately deep left. Best ball I have hit in two weeks. Hilarious. Also probably the last ball I will ever hit unless something changes.

I am too easily injured nowadays, my skills have deteriorated, and I don't feel like I am helpful to my team when I play. Time to pack it in and what better time than after a 2-4 performance from the left side with every chance handled cleanly?

So I "retired" after the game.

A sad day for me. I love to play...I just am not in shape to anymore.



With the Goose off in Arizona last week I spent a sad amount of time playing on Poker Stars. Some of the time I spent on the classic No Limit tournaments, mostly sit & gos but I played a lot of H.O.R.S.E. as well and learned some interesting things. Each game had something to offer. Prior to this I had played very little Limit Hold Em, a small amount of Omaha, and never played Stud or Razz.

Limit Hold 'Em would actually probably be my best game. I have the patience to wait for good hands, I generally get pretty good reads on my opponents, and I know the percentages. Still, it is such a slow is good for learning patience. I came out of almost every Limit session up a little bit. I waited for good hands in good position and played them aggressively. At one point I had not played a hand in nearly 2 full circuits as I was pretty card dead when I picked up the Rockets under the gun. I raised them and it came back to me with a re-raise. I 3 bet...and everyone called. When I flopped a set I saw no point to slow-playing. The betting was capped on every round and I raked a huge pot. Now, anyone who was paying attention should not have been in that hand without a pretty good straight draw (no flush possible) and there wasn't one. Sure, by folding when 2 and 3 bets came to my blind I was getting ground down a bit...but it is limit. I did not get ground much and was able to maximize my winnings when I got a hand. So the key I learned was patience.

Omaha is a much faster game. Because so many combinations can hit, lots of people play any 4 cards. Using the patience from Limit, I waited for hands that were connected, preferably with a suited Ace. When I flopped, if it was a small draw I folded and if it was to the nuts I called or raised, depending on the game. Because of the nature of Omaha I won some huge pots and lost some huge ones. Then when it switched to Omaha High Low, I only played hands with the potential to win the low. As a result, when I won pots they were typically the whole pot and when I lost I was usually out of the hand early as if no low is possible I got out. Twice I folded straights when I believed an opponent had a flush or full house and once I folded a full house (deuces full of 2s) believing one of the 2 opponents had to have queens over deuces. I was right...and wrong. One guy had that, the other had Aces full. The lesson to be learned from Omaha is pretty simple; you have to be willing to fold when you are beat.

Razz is a different game where you want a bad hand. A/3/4/5/6 is pretty solid. An 8 high is questionable. And all too often you find yourself with a hand that looks good but is beating by subtlety. You and your opponent both roll 7 low hands but he is 7/5/4/3/2 and you are 7/6/3/2/a...and you lose. Subtle differences in hand strength make or break a hand so you start developing a feel for how good your hand needs to be to stay in.

Stud is a game that requires you to pay attention and use your memory. If you are dealt 3 to the flush but see 4 cards of your suit up on other boards there is not much point to playing the hand. Forgetting someone folded one jack and another opponent has a Jack showing renders your buried jacks meaningless. The player who does not pay attention to who has what door cards and other cards showing on their board...and who forgets what was folded...finds them self drawing thin too often. And by following the betting pattern you can often discern what people are representing. So Stud is great for developing memory.

Last but not least, the Hi-lo split versions of the game help with developing a sense for the meaning to percentages and getting a feel for pot odds. When you hit your flush and pull in just 50% of the pot...well, sometimes you barely break even!

So HORSE is great for seeing poker from other angles. It remains to be seen if I will put those lessons to good use.

Coffeehousing:Why it matters

I had a plan: I would play 2 blind levels to the best of my ability, then play virtually every hand and bust out before the end of the third blind level. I had places to be.

First hand I played I limped from the small blind with 4 callers behind with my A/8. Flop came ragged, A/9/5. No reasonable straight or flush draws, I decided to bet it and see what happened. Only one caller, an old guy I have played before and he is pretty wild. He actually reraised me. Effective stacks of 5K, about 400 in the pot and his raise of 100 over my 100...I called. I blind checked the turn. It was a blank, he raised 100. Call. River, another blank, I considered raising but decided to play smart; if I raised, he would reraise no matter what he had and I had him probably on an Ace with a marginal kicker...much like my own. I checked, he raised 100, I wanted to see it...he had pocket 5s. I did not feel bad about it, I actually think (other than playing the hand at all...) I played it pretty well.

I have played with this guy before and he tends to think blind aggression is good. I have seen him with 20BB get 80% of his stack in on a Jack high...several times. He will bet and reraise whenever he is in a hand even with third pair or just a paint card so against him if I have even a pair I pretty much check and call because I want to see a showdown. I got out of this one pretty cheap.

The very next hand, on the button, I picked up pocket 5s. I nearly folded them because you only hit a set 1 in 8 times. But after 4 limpers I came to my have no memory. I had a 1 in 8 chance of hitting my set and if I did I would make a lot more than I limped. Sure enough, K/7/5. I did not like the potential straight draw but after it was checked around I raised the pot. 2 callers, one Todd's wife, whom I have not played with before. Turn was a blank, I raised, they folded, I showed because I thought it was funny.

My next hand I picked up K/10o, a hand I usually don't play, but this time I called from late position to see a flop. Here is why it is a bad idea. I hit top pair on the flop and there were 2 diamonds. Someone raised, 3 callers. I merely called. Turn gave me a flush draw...the NUT flush draw. So with the same raiser/3 callers I came along for the ride. I missed my flush and with the raiser again raising and 2 callers I knew my 10s were no good and no way would they all be bluffed out. I folded. The guy raising all the way along? 2/3 diamonds...he hit the flush. I had everyone until the river, pretty funny stuff.

Raised an A/J, couple callers, low flop, lots of action, folded.

Then I started blinding down a bit. After a while, blinds now 50/100, the table had loosened a lot with heavy action on virtually every hand. On the button, I had3750 left, a couple 1 limper, I raised to 500, Paul agonized for a while before calling from the big blind, the maniac old guy called pretty quick.

I briefly considered blind raising but elected not to. Flop was ugly, 4/5/8, 2 diamonds. I was going to bet the pot, 2K. I knew Paul would call and so would the old guy...but that would only leave me 1250. I decided to try to pick up the pot as it was. I went all in. Paul went into the tank for a long time. He hated to give it up but with someone after him...he was out of position and folded. The old guy went in the tank for a long time. When he did I wanted him to call...he probably had 2 court cards or some ridiculous draw. Finally he called...and he was in shape than I would have believed, 5/6 diamonds. He could hit a 5,6,7, or diamonds...but blanks rolled off the turn and river and I was way up. Oh, and Paul pulled back his cards and showed pocket Jacks.

I am not sure about my play on this hand. Had I raised just the 2K that was in the pot...or less...I would still have been committed to it but might have made more as he probably would have called. On the other hand, I really don't want 3 of us seeing a turn card and I don't want anyone reraising me there. I need to think about that a bit. Did I want them to call? I was kind of going with my, "Any hand where you win the pot and don't show your hand is a good one." I often tell people I teach how to play that the best hands you play are the ones where you win without a showdown because THERE IS NO WAY TO LOSE THE HAND IF YOUR OPPONENT FOLDS! So I would not have minded them folding...

Although I hit a cold run of cards, I did see one interesting hand that would matter later and it was one I was not involved in. Flop came Q/2/2. Forrest led out, pretty small bet. Paul called. Turn was another Queen, Forrest led small, maybe 300 or so, and Paul called. River was a King. Forrest now led for 1K. Paul went into the tank.

I have seen Forrest play a few times and this betting pattern means he has something. His bets at least alluded to the size of the pot. He could have a deuce, he might have the Queen, or he could have a pair higher than the deuces. He could also have the King. I knew he had something because if he had nothing he would have made a HUGE bet.

Meanwhile Paul has something too. He wasn't on a draw as there were no flush or straight draws. His reaction made me think maybe he had pockets higher than Deuces but he was afraid of the King. Then he started coffee housing. "I am going to bet you DON'T have the boat." And he re-raised.

As soon as he said that I knew he had the boat, possibly the Queen, maybe the deuces. I knew he had the queen or deuce in his hand. And when Forrest merely called I knew he was beat. Sure enough, Forrest rolled over the King and Paul flipped up Q/8.

In every big hand he was involved in Paul tried to engage the other person. When I had the Rockets he looked at me for a long time and I basically ignored him, leading to his fold. I should have looked over at him, he probably would have called. In this hand he tried to talk Forrest into a call with his challenge. I would use this later.

Anyway, did not play another hand before the break. Now my goal was to call off my chips in 20 minutes.

First hand picked up A/Qo. Blinds 1/200, raised to 800. 2 callers. Flop was j/9/j. Forrest checked, I raised a weak 1500. Paul called, Forrest called. Turn was an 8. Now I had a gut shot straight draw...though to anyone with 9/J I was drawing dead. I underbet again, both called. River was a blank. I thought about going all in for my last 4K but there was over 10K in there and all I could beat was a bluff. I checked, Paul went all in...I had him covered by 100. Forest folded.

I know Paul is capable of a bluff. After all, he raised every street with a 2/3. He is a pretty solid player, somewhat tricky. But what bluffs could he be on at this point? A/K has me beat, 10/Q has me beat, A/Q we split, any Jack has me beat...really, the only thing I can beat is a weak Ace or low suited connectors, neither of which I believe he held. I actually went into coffee house mode a bit. "No could have a missed flush. Would you stay with q/10? Maybe." thought about it a bit more and then did the smart thing. He had at least a pair. I folded.

The next dealer accidentally flashed his cards as he was scooping them up...9/10. If I was playing solid I would have said I misplayed. On a dangerous flop like that with 2 callers I should have been done there on the flop. However, it was a good hand for me...I got rid of almost half my chips with a hand I was not upset to have played.

Next hand, pocket 6s. Limped along with about 4 others. Flop was A/7/4. Raise and call in front of me, I folded. Turn was an 8. River was a 5. I started laughing as the showdown had the old guy maniac showing A/2, another guy showing 2 pair...and then everyone realizing the old guy had the nut flush.

6/8o, limped from button to see what would happen. Hit nothing on the flop, folded.

3/8off, checked from big blind. Flop was 8/5/3, 2 diamonds. Bet the pot. Todd's wife called, guy to my right went all in. Now, I was going all in regardless here, but first I decided to see how close I could come to his hand.

He was a weak-tight player. The first hand he played was j/7...because he had seen nothing better. Still no excuse to play that trash. So he will play bad hands. And he played it for a couple streets. But then he played a K/10 and on a 10/3/3 flop with Todd raising, his wife calling, and a raise past that, he laid it down. Rightfully so, as said raiser had trip 3s. So he had some skills. He looked a bit desperate so I finally put him on a draw. Sure enough, he had 2 diamonds. And he turned the flush so I was done in 4 hands, none of which did I feel bad about. Well, maybe the 6/8o....if I were playing serious I would not have played that. Oh, and the best part? That hand finished 1 minute before my goal...


On Pot Control

One of the reasons I enjoy writing on here is it gives me a chance to go back over games and, sometimes, to spotlight errors I make which I can then tighten up. And this is one of those times. It goes back to a big hand I lost to Phil. On the one hand, I can't think of a way I could have played the hand where I would have won. He had a hand he was not going to be driven off so no raise would have won it for me and he had better cards. The problem was I paid him far too many chips...and it was my own misplays that made it that way.

With effective stacks of about 4K the situation was pretty clear. I had been on a rush, built a decent lead, and had been driving people out with raises. Phil was gun shy towards me, having lost 2 or 3 big pots. The blinds were 50/100.

With a couple limpers I picked up the fishhooks on the button. I raised to 300, Phil called UTG, everyone else folded, pot had about 800. Flop was gorgeous, all low, though there was a potential straight if he called with something goofy like a 6/8 or something weird like that. He came out and raised 200. Based on what I had seen I put him on something like top pair with top kicker or maybe 2 big cards. I reraised to 1000. He hesitated, then called. Turn was a King and he hit it. I knew he hit it as sure as if I saw his King. I did not know if he had A/K, K/7, or what...but I knew he had a King. But when he put in another 1000 I called anyway for reasons I will go into shortly and on the river his last 1200 was called as well.

From my standpoint the thinking went like this:
pre-flop with just limpers I believe my Jacks are good.
On the flop, which I loved, I believed I had the best hand. When I have the best hand I love to get all the chips in the pot and double up. I was planning to bet the pot and when he showed interest I adjusted my bet up a bit. The plan was to get all the chips in on the river.
On the turn when he hit the king I went into, "I might hit a miracle card" mode. Horrible play. I knew it was but I also knew I had the chips to play with. On the river, I know I am beat but, as I commented at the time, "there is so much in the pot I can't not call". Another HORRID play. I was 99.9999% convinced I was beat and getting only about 6-1 on my chips. A fold saves 1200 chips and I would still have been in fine shape, though no longer chip lead. Basically it was a frustration call.

From Phil's standpoint, the hand went something like this: limp with big hand, call a frequent raiser, see beautiful flop of all unders, send out feeler bet, get re-raised. Only pocket Aces or a bizarre medium suited connectors that hit 2 pair or straight are beating him. Turn gives a set. Now the object is to get all the chips in the center and the opponent is very aggressive. A nice raise of almost half the remaining chips. Innocuous river card, the rest of the chips go in.

And now, a look at the hand as I SHOULD have played it.

I like my pre-flop raise. There has been plenty of raising in the game so far and a fair amount of limping as well. I have no reason to believe the Cowboys are lurking.

I don't even like my PLANNED raise on the flop. Sure, the odds are my hand is best. But with a pot of 800 and just a pair of Jacks I really don't have a lot. I am vulnerable to any Queen, King, or Ace that falls on the turn or river, to any 2 pair. I want to play a small pot here.
So when Phil bets 200 I should either A)call or B) reraise the same amount or slightly more. No need to bump up to 1000 and make it a big pot.

He was willing to play a small pot with his Kings. If I just call there is only 1200 in the pot. I am not getting hurt, nor is he. This will be important on the turn.

When the King rolled off I saw his reaction. I KNEW he had the King and was beat. If there is only 1200 in the pot I am not tied to it. No big deal, I can let it go and not think about it. He is unlikely to switch gears and throw a huge bet out there and if he does I can happily lay it down.

This was a case of being overaggressive. I would not care hugely except for one basic fact: I do this too often. I get too aggressive, create unnecessarily large pots and then too often can't get away from them because I committed myself with too weak a hand.

I need to be more patient. Every pot does not need to be a big, make or break pot where huge amounts of chips are exchanged. Just as an open raise of 500 with blinds at 25/50 is ridiculous, so my habit of betting the pot borders on ridiculous.

I need to work on controlling the size of the pot. Sure, if I have the nuts I want as many chips as possible in the pot. Otherwise, do I REALLY want to play for all my chips with a weak pair or even 2 pair, something like that?

I need to work on betting less and less often. Sure, aggression is good...when properly channeled. Improperly channeled it leads to huge pots that need not have been played.

Imagine this: Phil calls my 300, I call his 200, I fold to the King. I am still chip leader. I lost only 500 chips on a hand where my Jacks ran into a SET of Kings. I lost less than 10% of my stack.

This has been an ongoing theme that for whatever reason has eluded me in my post-mortems.

So maybe I will have better success sizing my bets with half or 2/3rds of the pot. By slowing down I might do a better job of getting my chips in the center in better situations.

Of course, I understand one reason this occurs. I play pretty tight pre-flop so when I actually catch a hand I want to make some chips off it. But that detracts from the patience I need. Patient aggression, that is a good plan...but can be made better by changing it to patient intelligent aggression.

So we will see if I take the lesson to heart and begin sizing my bets more wisely.


Texas Hold 'Em

I was pretty pumped. Nate was bringing FOUR people with him, had 2 people from Craigslist, 5 people from the softball team, Roman was showing, a couple more from work said they would show up...I was worried 2 tables would not be enough. Then Nate called...he had a fight with his wife and wasn't showing, we called Becky...she bought an ATV, they were not coming, and so forth...we ended up with a sad showing of 6 people. On the bright side...a good group.

Early on I was not getting much to play. But I hit a little run...pocket 10s, picked up a bit, pocket queens, lost a bit, A/k, lost a bit, k/j, lost a bit...hmm. Pocket Kings, picked up a nice pot. Next hand, pocket Kings, picked up a few hundred, showed them...back to back hands with the kings, nice. Used my image of having a hot run to raise with A/J, on a ragged Queen high flop, raised again, everyone folded, I was chip lead, nobody in real danger.

Picked up pocket jacks. Phil called. He had tilted toward me a bit and talked about it since he was in on both my Pocket King hands and I had seen him play a hand where he hit top pair on a 7 high flop and he played it rather strongly and only won when he paired his Jack on the river to beat pocket 9s. This flop was another just like it...4,5,6 rainbow. He came out with a pretty small bet...200 into a pot of about 800. I had him covered so we were playing for about 5K. I re-raised to 1000, he hesitantly called. I initially put him on maybe a suited Ace where he hit the top pair again, though I also tentatively put him on an overpair. Turn was ugly, a King. Something about the way he reacted made me believe he had hit it but when he bet 1000 I called anyway. Part of that was pure ego. I never think I can't come back from taking a hit and I had the chip lead by a shade over 2K when the hand started. That was a frustration call, a tilt call because I thought I had him up until then. River was a blank. I figured him for 2 pair at worst but by now when he went all-in for his last 1200 there were 6K in there...1200 to win 6K, I better be real sure I am beat to fold. I was sure...and called anyway because I am an idiot. And he had me the whole way...he had pocket Kings.

I was still okay, had about 2K, blinds of 1/200. About 3 hands later I picked up 5/6 clubs in the small blind and everyone folded to me. I thought about raising to drive Emily out but A) she is so competitive with me she would call anyway. Bluffing her off a pot I am in is all but impossible and B) she is fully capable of re-raising me and with just 2K left I am not calling that with a 6 high. I limped, she checked. Flop was great for me...4c, 5d, 7c. I picked up middle pair, straight, flush, and straight flush draws. I raised, she called. Turn was the King of Clubs...I hit my flush. I went all in. She called. And flipped up...3/9 of clubs. I was drawing to 1 out, the 8 of clubs. She had the 3 that would have helped me. River was a blank and in 2 played hands I went from chip lead to first out, mostly on 2 horrible calls when I (correctly) believed I was behind Phil but knew I could come back and played for the miracle card. That was stupid. The hand with that situation I am not good enough to get away from that hand. No way did I put her on a made flush and I don't feel bad about that hand at all. If I did not put myself in low position with a couple misplays earlier I would not need to push here anyway. Overall I played well but getting outplayed by Phil basically put me out first.



I was wondering if Saturday was a fluke or if I was just a poor player. The Goose wanted to go to Sex and the City (2008), an abomination even I won't go see, so I elected to take a run at getting off tilt. On nights where I am trying to get off tilt the idea is to play well, not win. 16 people, 2 full tables. To my left was the only guy at our table and he was chain-smoking. Perfect. This will be a test of my "get off tilt" skills. I have been up tight ever since my play in the Saturday morning softball debacle so this will be a good test.

Early on I am playing almost no hands, just watching. I am reading pretty well. I have something on the guy on my left. At one point I pick up pocket 7s. Usually in this league I can limp with them. Bob, just to my right, raises. Uh-oh. That is unusual. He is steaming a bit from losing the prior hand...and I see a couple people making it obvious they will call. I do something I almost never do in this situation...I fold. Good fold as the flop is Aces and Kings and lots of chips change hands.

Pick up A/Ko from late, raise, couple callers, 4/5/6 flop, raise and re-raise in front of me, I fold. Very next hand pick up A/K suited, call a raise all-in to 850. Like 4 other callers. Fold to a big flop bet that missed me completely. A pair of 9s wins the hand (and would have even if I stayed).

Check in with K/J in big blind, down to 6 handed. Flop comes Q/J/Q. I raise, the guy to my left calls. Hmm. I have a pretty good read on him. I have not seen him slow-play yet. When he has something he generally re-raises, when he has a vulnerable hand or nothing he goes all-in. I figure he is on a draw. Turn is a blank. I double my raise. He calls. Something not right here. He checks the river, I check behind...he was slow-playing the Queen/6. Nicely played, something I had not seen from him before. Now I am down to about 1100.

I almost went all-in with a trash hand just to call it a night. Then it occurred to me...that would be a continuation of my tilt. I am good enough to come back, the blinds are only 50/100 so I still have an M of 7+. Sure enough, I check in the big blind with a 7/8, flop 2 pairs, take down a decent pot, pick up a couple more hands and build back to a shade over 2K.

In the big blind we have a family pot, I check with pocket 3s. I thought about raising but at this table, all 5 other people (we had already lost 3 and brought one over from the other table) will call and I don't mind seeing a cheap flop trying to catch a set. And the flop is GORGEOUS, K/8/3 rainbow. If anybody at this table other than Barb had pocket Kings they would have raised for sure and probably would have raised 8s. Everyone had already shown that by raising with as little as threes. But someone is sure to have either a King or 8. Now I want to get action. How best to maximize?

All night I have raised any time I had a hand and gotten multiple callers. I briefly considered slow-playing since this was not a dangerous flop. Then I came to my senses. They might check around as they had often done...they love to check call. I want to get some chips in the center. I raised 500 into a pot of 600. One caller, 2...and the girl I have never played with before goes all in. Interesting.

I have yet to see her raise without SOMETHING. And usually something strong. I briefly consider pocket Kings but just as quickly dismiss it. She raised with K/J, pocket 5s...she would have raised the Kings and probably the 8s. But I could see her playing something like a K/8 and she would be drawing to 4 outs. I did not see myself getting away from the hand so I went all-in...though I only had her covered by like 50 chips. Everyone folded and she flipped up...8/4. She was drawing real thin to running 8s or an 8 and pairing the board. No help to her and I had about 6-7K.

Took down a couple more hands, was feeling frisky, just Barbara and I in a hand. I checked with 10/5...notice a pattern? Since the early A/Ks and 7s, I was getting horrific hands. I was pretty much only playing when I could check my blind and the rest of the time...I was not even completing the small blind. So I was playing well, I was back to being patient, I was playing smart. I decided I had accomplished my goal and could loosen up, have a bit of fun and go home. Well, anyway, flop came A/K/rag. I raised. She hesitantly called. We checked the turn. A King came on the river, I bet it, she thought about it, and finally called, saying, "You have the third King, don't you?" Nope. But good to know you will call when you think you are beat...and then I made a huge mistake. I should have advertised the bluff, because that is what it is...but I mucked face down to her A/8.

Picked up pocket 10s, again in the big blind. With blinds of 1/200 and everyone with stacks about 30-50BB planned a standard raise, 3x blind + 1BB/limper. But first Brad raised to 500, actually a shade less than I was going to raise. I briefly considered re-raising but something about his raise felt different. I had seen him raise with A/Q, K/J...but here I had him on pockets and suspected higher than my 10s. Still, for 300 chips and with 2 callers already, I was calling 300 to potentially hit almost 2K already in the pot. Another player called behind me. Flop was nice, all rags, but 2 clubs. I briefly considered checking. Then I decided to bet 400. I know it sounds weird, a horrendous underbet...but I had noticed a pattern. On big bets people called with anything...any draw, any pair, etc. But with smaller bets...they had been taking down the pot.

Unfortunately, I made a horrendous error. I meant to grab 4 red chips...and instead grabbed 4 green. Instead of 400 I bet 2K. And once the chips were in, the bet was made. Even before I completed I saw Brad grabbing all his chips which confirmed my pre-flop read. Folded to him, he went all-in, and it was only 600 more than my bet. Even if I knew he had Aces with over 6K in the pot I would be getting 10-1 so I was calling just in case I was wrong. I was pretty sure he did not have Aces. "Jacks or Queens?" I said as I flipped up my 10s. Queens. I got no help and was down to about 5K.

By now the blinds were 3/600. I did not get another playable hand for a while. It was so bad that I considered playing 7/9o from early position just because it looked comparatively good. I wisely folded and watched the flop come 7/k/7 and turn the 9. Would have raked a HUGE pot. Oh, well.

But then I started blinding into the danger zone. Caught Randy in a bluff when it was folded to him, he went all in for a couple thousand, I had a J/10. I called...only to find the guy calling behind me. Had I seen him I would have folded...and when my J/10 beat Randy's 8/6 but lost to the other guys' K/J I was hurting. Now I was looking for a hand to go all in on.

Got down to about 1100 with the blinds now 4/800. I had 2 hands before I would be in the big blind again. Under the gun Randy went all in, he had me covered, and I looked down at 7/8suited. Not a great hand but good equity against Randy's range...which was literally any 2 cards. I called. Got 2 more callers...uh-oh. Randy had an 8/6 so I was ahead of him but an A/7 won with Ace high and I was out in 7th.

So a quick post-mortem;

The good: I played patiently, waited for good cards that seldom came, and when I had a hand that was essentially the nuts I extracted the maximum. I read the hands well and did not call with trash just because it was good compared to what I had been seeing. On three or four hands I had called exactly who had what before they rolled their hands. And I did not let their slow-rolling get me off center.

The bad: I made the mis-read on the trip queens, the mis-bet when I had him on a better over pair, and the call against Randy when I thought it was just the 2 of us.

The ugly: I did not set out to win, I set out to get off tilt. I was fine with going out early, did not care. Wrong mind set. I should have played my best game instead of just going with the flow. I made just one move all night...the idiotic bluff against the unbluffable see every river bet Barbara...when I know at least two of them lay down their hand to re-raises on the flop over 80% of the time. I never entered a pot simply to steal which I should have.

But overall I am pleased. Now I feel refreshed and ready to go Saturday. I may not win but I will play well.


Starving Crazed Weasels, May

Just 9 people showed up. I was a bit on tilt from the HYD debacle where I played probably the worst game of my life and topped that off by having a pathetic I was a bit down on myself.

On the bright side, I got in a half dozen or so games of Raw Deal and had fun with them, but the tournament I had a hard time getting set up as we went, while setting up, from 8 to 10 people, then settled in at 9. Meanwhile, I had set up one table, then 2, then condensed it back down to the time we got settled in I was not into it which was really sad since I had been looking forward to this for weeks.

I bled off a lot of chips playing too loose which is hilarious since usually I play too tight at these because of the nature of the game. And I KNEW I was playing poorly, too. I let myself get pushed off a couple hands where I was sure I was folding the best hand but there were 3 or 4 people behind me. I would have won at least 2 of those.

On the first blind level I got all the way down to 1050 chips. One person limped, I looked down at pocket 9s. If I made a standard raise to 200 I would have 800 left with probably 6-800 in the pot so I would be committed. I was tilting a bit so I shoved. Folded to Kevin who thought for quite a while. Finally he called and I said, "Best I can hope for is a race" though I was at least vaguely hopeful he had something like A/6 suited. Nope, A/10...straight race. I got lucky and my nines held up.

Lost about 500 when I checked from the big blind, flopped a straight flush draw and never hit anything. Raised J/10d planning to go all in, everyone folded. Pete pointed out it was the first uncontested pot of the evening. By that point he had been all-in a couple times, Robin had been all in, I think Kevin and Phillip also...and every all-in at risk had won, including me. I won again when I was pushed all-in in a three way pot, managed to triple up and hit 3300 chips...the highest total I would hit on the night.

Pete raised all in for about 1000. I knew he had a pretty wide range of hands at that point. I had a King and was going to call even with a 6 kicker...but Phillip looked ready to call behind me and Kevin often will call all-ins. I don't want to play for a third of my chips with K/6 so I folded. Would have flopped trips and won a huge pot. Still the right fold since Phillip did call...and had a better hand than me.

Lost a few when I limped from late with pocket 3s. Got blinded a bit.

Picked up A/Ks a few hands later, raised it, 3 callers. Flop of 7/8/9, 2 diamonds...I raised and then saw someone I have 2 tells on was going to push all in, though I was first to act. He was giving off both tells which was weird. He gave off the one he does when he bluffs. But he also gave the one that said he had a strong hand. There were 2 other people to act, one of whom folded, one called mine, and my nemesis raised a further 500. I had 1500 left so it was either all in or fold. And every instinct said call. I am still irritated with myself for folding but I did.

Now, blinds of 1/200 and 1500 left I have an M of 5...desperation time. From middle position it was folded to me, I looked down at pocket 7s. Send in the chips. Again Kevin called, this time with a dry Ace. But he hit the Ace and I was done.

I played poorly all night, getting pushed around and making a couple calls I probably shouldn't have. Oh, well, some days are good, some days suck beginning to end like this one did, starting with the first softball game.

HYD Tournament

We had a "D League or below" tournament. We were going to be tight on players...only 10 of us showing up. And then one of the 10 was not there for the first we went with a 3 player outfield. No big deal.

Top of our first did not last long. 3 groundouts. Bottom of the first lasted a bit longer as we gave up a 3 spot. Top of the second went better...we had 4 batters. Bottom of the first was a little tougher...they had 1 in, 2 on, 1 out, and I played a grounder perfectly, moving to my left. All I had to do was scoop it up, step on the bag, and throw to first for the double play.I had done everything right. I watched their feet, swing, and the pitch location. I knew the situation. I had a plan for anywhere the ball was hit to me. And I got moving perfectly, the ball was right where I needed it...and I just whiffed. It rolled right under my glove. Fortunately we got the third out, but that was in my head.

We had just 3 batters that inning.

Next inning, almost the exact same situation except this time they had not scored. I played it perfectly, this time got my glove on the ball...and left it on the ground. Another easy double play I turned into base runners. They scored 1 because of that.

Our 1, 2, 3 hitters again. Ryan dribbled to short, outran the throw and was safe...except as the pitcher started their windup he was then called out because he touched the white bag while running there. Becky then hit a smash down the line to left and their left fielder made a spectacular leaping back hand catch to turn an easy triple into out number 2. I then flew out to deep right.

I managed to boot another ball in the bottom half of the inning though by that point it was over anyway. We got shut out and mercy ruled.

Game 2 was against a team that had gotten slaughtered 19-3. Again we were up first. Ryan made an out, Becky singled, I tried to go the other way and instead lined a base hit into left center. Our next hitter struck out...oops. We went to the bottom half tied at 0.

I made a play (finally) on a grounder and caught a pop in the infield. I started to get a bit of confidence back. We got shut down again. I made another play, our outfield was on fire, and JJ caught a liner. 2 innings, no runs. We now were scoreless for 5 innings for the day, maybe 6.

Becky led off and singled. Then I did go the other way and tripled over their right fielders head. Becky scored and the drought was over. Julie brought me in with a fly to left and we had a 2-0 lead.

Made a couple more plays as we built a 7-2 lead, though I still struggled at the plate, flying to left my next at-bat, but that was okay. We were scoring, playing good d, and doing well.

They did threaten finally, loading the bases with 1 or 2 runs in and 1 out. Guy hit a soft grounder to my left. For the third time all I had to do was pick it up, step on the bag, throw to first. Easy play. And for the third time I completely botched it. 6 runs later we were down by 1 and I for one was demoralized. So demoralized that a grounder hit straight to me i did not charge, let come to me, fielded cleanly but the throw was WAY late.

I made one more error of note. Sharp hit ground ball too far to my left. Somehow I made the play. Ironic. All day simple, easy, lightly hit ground balls were essentially unplayable for me. Hit a sharp grounder just about straight over 2nd and I get it...spun, saw the first basemen, and LASERED it...nowhere near anybody. Wasn't our first basemen I had seen, it was their coach, but even him the ball was nowhere near.

We got 10 runned again.

And I was completely crushed by the way I played. I am pathetic. I suck. I cannot believe how bad I am.