Friday, June 30, 2006

Solid playing resumes

After my $100 blowout online a few nights ago, I fought hard to get my head in place for last night's league tournament. It's SO important not to play with the intention of catching up to your losses. I find it always leads me to making high risk, high payoff plays that hardly ever pan out. Instead, I am working on my concentration and putting my focus on playing high quality poker at all times. I'm a big believer in the math of this game and I know from experience that grinding it out always pays off in the long run.
There were 11 players last night, which made for a tough few games. For the first time in a long time, there were no complete donkey plays that I could see. Even Matt, who has been chastised in the past for loose play, didn't make any visible plays that could be called dumb. True, he was sucked out on badly when his pair of 7's got counterfeited with a high two pair on the board, but it was hardly a bad play on his part. The closest we came to a bad play was when I had JJ and I put Vlad all-in with a 256 on board. He called with his 2h 3h. Now I say this came close to a bad play because it was the wrong play, but not awful. He told me later he had put me on AK or AQ, so his made pair of 2's would have been strongly leading. Even if he was behind, like he was, he still had plenty of outs. Two 2's, Three 3's and Four 4's all would have helped his hand, which is the equivalent of a four card flush draw (9 outs on the turn and river). I can only come close to calling it a purely bad play because he was putting his tournament life at risk, but it was gutsy because he made a read and then acted on it. There's something to be said for having the courage of your convictions. As it turned out, the turn was a blank and the river was a 3, giving Vlad two pair over my pair of fish hooks. Nice catch Vlad!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The importance of playing the player

I had a crappy session last night on Ultimate Bet. I normally play the $0.50-$1.00 No Limit table with $100 buy-in and I usually scrape a few bucks off of it. Sometimes I'm up and sometimes I'm down but I'm usually up in aggregate. Last night, however, I blew through my buy-in on 2 hands against the same guy. The first hand, about 20 minutes in, I was able to limp in on the big blind with 10 8 offsuit and the flop came 889. There was about $4.50 in the pot so I made a $3.00 bet, which I thought was small enough to induce a call from somebody drawing but large enough to chase out complete trash. The turn came up a seemingly harmless 2. It was now down to me and two others and I bet $7 to see where I was at. The pot was around $13.50. The first player folded and the second player, on a short stack with $35, raised to $20. A range of possibilities went through my head and I narrowed it down to 3 possibilities. He had A9, A8 or a pair of 2's in the hole. I should have folded right there, especially since I was relatively new at the table, but I reraised him all in and he showed...a pair of 2's. Blech.
I lost half my stack on that hand and had to do some battling to make it up. This is where playing the player comes into play. Twenty five minutes after my last beatdown, I got As10s in early position and I raise to $3.00. I get two callers, including my nemesis. The flop comes up with 9s 6c 6h, a nice board. I check, the second player checks and my nemesis bets $5.00. I don't put him on a pair given his play so far and I figure this is an opportunity to semi-bluff. I have two good high cards and I could be leading right now. I also have a backdoor flush draw and two over cards. I move all-in with my remaining $35 into a $15.50 pot. The first player folds and my nemesis thinks for the longest time before calling me. He shows down...AJo (!). He made the right read on me and even though the 6s fell on the turn, I couldn't get one of the many cards that would have helped me (17, if you're counting).
What did I do wrong? Against most players holding AJo in that situation, I did the exact right thing. But against the guy who took me down 20 minutes earlier, I gave him motivation to call me. Look at it from his situation. He cracked my made set with a 2 out draw to the tune of $50. He thinks I'm going to be steaming, specifically at him. So when he sees me come over the top on HIM, he thinks there's a strong possibility I'm bluffing, and he's right. He makes the call and busts me out. And that's why it's important to play the player and understand what HE/SHE might be thinking and not just what your hand is. These motivations can guide the right bet, which in my case should have been a call or fold.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Toughing it out, and the importance of table position

Wow, I just finished a really tough direct entry satellite tourney (which I placed second in!). As you can see from the screenshot below, I beat out 34 other people to place second. It was $44 for entry to the tourney and the top 6 players get their entrance to tomorrow's $200+15 tourney paid for. The 7th player gets $150 cash. But that's not the whole story and hardly worthy of a blog entry.
The real story is this: It is VERY VERY difficult to accumulate chips when the tourney chip leader is sitting to your left. The guy who finished ahead of me (pavelplanet), had a HUGE chip lead throughout most of the tournament and was sitting to my direct left the whole time, until the final table. It seemed like every time I tried to limp in to a pot, he would make a big raise. Every time I tried to steal blinds or make a button raise of any sort, he would come over the top. He was doing this for the whole tournament until some player, about 90 minutes in, finally re-raised him all in. This would have put half of his stack in play and he pondered a call before folding. Since he still would have had the chip lead if he called, I surmised he was finally called on his bluff. But it didn't matter since he kept doing it and it kept working. So how did this affect me? It made me tighter than a nun's cooch is what it did! I didn't play anything but super premium hands the whole tourney. Unfortunately, this had the effect of keeping me in the tourney but on a subsistence level. I eventually got to the point where I had to gamble when I had Ad10d in middle position. I moved all in and, sure enough, big stack called me since I wasn't threatening him. He showed AKo. Ouch. Luckily for me, I hit my miracle flop with an A10, but it gave him the heart flush draw. As if by magic, another 10 appeared on the river and I was able to double through. I continued this way, all the way into the final table where, blessed be god, the seats got reshuffled and I was now sitting across from pavelplanet. However, at this point, I was in 5th place, but only the top 3 players had considerably larger stacks than me. Everyone else had within 2000 chips of each other and the blinds were at 200/400! So it became a very tense match of who would go out first. In these cases in tournaments, I tend to let a shorter stack risk it against a larger stack. Again, I had to clam up and only play premium hands. And even in those cases, my only move was all-in. If I get AQ, I can't make a small bet since the big stacks would probably call and I would have to hit the flop to justify my staying around. If I can represent the strong hand early, I can pick up the blinds and antes which are very significant at this stage. So I did that for the few times I could and we finally eliminated two players. So now it was down to bubble boy time. Who was it gonna be. I was in 5th place and a few players changed places with almost nothing getting shown down since that always meant an all-in. Finally, after 15 minutes of this (!) I get dealt JJ in the BB. Blinds are 300/600 with 50 antes at this point and the smalles stack at the table, in seat 5, moves all in for 1900. It's 1300 for me to call, but if I lost I would have a much worse chance of making the money since it would move me into last place. However, I figured the small stack would pull this play with nearly any face card combination or even A-little, so I called thinking I would be a 50/50 shot at worst. He showed AQo which was better than I put him on but I'm still a slight favorite here. The flop, turn and river were all low cards so I took his chips and breathed a huge sigh of relief. The very next hand, I get AQo and the next smallest stack moves all in. Well, I'm in the money now, which generally leads to looser play from people, so there's no danger in making the call. I do call and he shows JJ, the exact opposite situation from the last hand! Except this time I flop a Queen and hit another Q on the river. That is why I placed so high even though I was in a precarious situation. The player mode28, who was in very dire straights with about 2000 chips, got down on his virtual knees to thank me for ending the tournament in two straight hands.
So, wish me luck everyone. The tournament starts tomorrow (Sunday, 6/25/2006) at 5:00 PM. The prize pool is guaranteed to be $200,000 so I'm hoping for the best!

Busted out early of the big $200+15 tourney

Well, that was quick. I didn't make it past the 45th minute of the tourney. It started out innocently enough. Antonio Esfandiari was sitting at my table(! See screenshot below !), which made for a lot of chatter in the chat box.
I folded mosly everything for the first 30 minutes. DaveHellmuth got lucky when I had KK and I almost got 800 chips out of him except the board made a low straight and we split! Then, later on I got AA (curses!) and made a fatal mistake. The button was on DaveHellmuth and everyone folded to me. With blinds at 20/40, I raised minimum to 80 hoping to draw in some people. DaveHellmuth and the BB took the bait. Here's how the action proceeded:
Hand #32908891-59 at Sun5pm200-038 (No Limit tournament Hold'em)Powered by UltimateBetStarted at 25/Jun/06 17:47:06 davehellmuth is at seat 0 with 3520. FloataCheck is at seat 1 with 460. madcityfats is at seat 2 with 4035. RiverStallion is at seat 3 with 2170. RBDB44 is at seat 4 with 4275. Carnegie19th is at seat 5 with 4995. sniper88 is at seat 6 with 1785. Fritzle is at seat 7 with 2630. killerapp is at seat 8 with 3245. HoosierCat is at seat 9 with 4935. The button is at seat 0. FloataCheck posts the small blind of 20. madcityfats posts the big blind of 40.
davehellmuth: -- -- FloataCheck: -- -- madcityfats: -- -- RiverStallion: -- -- RBDB44: -- -- Carnegie19th: -- -- sniper88: -- -- Fritzle: As Ad killerapp: -- -- HoosierCat: -- --
Pre-flop: RiverStallion folds. RBDB44 folds. Carnegie19th folds. sniper88 folds. Fritzle raises to 80. killerapp folds. HoosierCat folds. davehellmuth calls. FloataCheck folds. madcityfats calls.
Flop (board: 3s 5s 3c): madcityfats checks. Fritzle bets 80. davehellmuth calls. madcityfats folds.
Turn (board: 3s 5s 3c Td): Fritzle bets 200. davehellmuth raises to 500. Fritzle calls.
River (board: 3s 5s 3c Td Jc): Fritzle checks. davehellmuth bets 1000. Fritzle goes all-in for 1970. davehellmuth calls.
Tournament all-in showdown -- players show: davehellmuth shows 3d Kd. Fritzle shows As Ad.
Showdown: davehellmuth has 3d Kd 3s 3c Jc: three threes. Fritzle has As Ad 3s 3c Jc: two pair, aces and threes.
Hand #32908891-59 Summary: No rake is taken for this hand. davehellmuth wins 5360 with three threes.
So what was my fatal mistake? Making such a small raise and then not having the discipline to lay down my hand on the turn re-raise. My thought process was this: He called the 80 bet on the flop when the 3's came down. Then when the 10 came, I though He might have had A10, Q10 with the flush draw, or J10 with a flush draw. That would account for the reraise on the turn. Then when the J came on the river, I assumed he had made his two pair. I also could have just called the 1000 bet and had some chips left to play with. Once again, the wisdom of the old adage "dragging a small pot is better than losing a big pot" is made clear. One of the biggest weaknesses in my game remains my inability to fold overpairs when the board has undercards and my opponent is betting huge.
As an aside, I outlasted Antonio who went down in the first twenty minutes. He had moved all in on an Ace high flush draw against DaveHellmuth's AA with an A on board. Antonio made his flush on the turn, but the river paired the turn card, giving Dave the improbable full house. Antonio was down to less than 200 chips but miraculously quadrupled up the next hand on a miracle straight. But he was taken out three hands later when his K9 ran into A4 and the magic ran out. Incidentally, he was obviously not caring about placing in the tournament and was clearly there to fulfill contractual obligations, which was a little annoying. He was gracious in the chat box, answering questions, but his poker play left a lot to be desired.

Blind Softball (a.k.a Beep Ball)

I just came back from an amazing event over at the Hofstra campus on Long Island. The event was a tournament of 4 teams, all of whose players are legally blind, playing a modified version of softball called "Beep Ball". One of my fraternity brothers from Hofstra is the coach of a team from Boston and the other teams drove to New York from as far away as Chicago to play! The monsoon-like conditions did not stop these fine individuals and the game is incredible to behold. The way it works, basically, is that the pitcher (who is on the batter's team) announces when the ball is coming in. The ball, which looks like an oversized softball, emits a constant loud beeping sound which enables the batter to get a fix on it. When the ball is put into play, the fielders must find the ball and hold it up before the batter can run to the "base". The bases themselves are just cushion pylons placed along the 1st and 3rd base lines about 100 feet away. The pylons also emit a beeping sound so the player will know where the pylon is and which pylon to run to. If the batter can touch the pylon before the fielders can possess the ball and hold it up, a "run" is scored.
It's fascinating to see these guys get themselves so worked up and display such motivation over a sport which is entirely their own. It's even more fascinating, and inspiring, to see my old fraternity brother and his sighted colleagues show the passion and intensity which the sport requires. There was supposed to be a news segment about it tonight which my our league member Jon Reigel is taping. If he managed to get the segment on tape, I'll try to digitize it and put it online. If you're interested in reading more about the sport (which is played worldwide), go to

Friday, June 23, 2006

June 22 Tournament craziness

The part I love best about playing in the League is the very varied play that I see. At first glance, a lot of the plays seem crazy but further investigation shows some of the them to be very canny. A good example came up last night in what was, by far, the most interesting hand of the night:
Blinds were at 300/600. Scott St. Germain had the table's big stack with at least 6 players left. Matt Slavin was on the big blind whent he cards were dealt. I don't remember all of the pre-flop action here but the end result was that Will Hynes, Paull Hellman and Scott St. Germain all moved all-in (pre-flop, mind you). Matt then had the choice to call for all of his chips, which he did in the face of 3 all-ins. All 4 players showed there hands:Scott had A J offsuitWill had A A with a spade and a diamond(?)Paul had 10 10And Matt had....drumroll....3 5 offsuit.
Before I reveal the results, let's think a second to see if Matt's play was "correct". Common logic will tell you that facing 3 all in calls you're a huge dog, and that's usually true. In this case, though, Paul was very short-stacked and could have gone all-in with any two cards. If Matt had put Scott and Will on two high cards (AK, AQ, KQ, etc...), he might have thought that there were 3 players in with high cards, giving them all very poor chances of pairing up. In that case, all he would have to do would be to pair up and he would have a pretty good shot at making 4X his stack! Definitely a cagey play. Of course, that logic is more appropriate for a cash game where you can just go into your pocket if you're wrong. In a tournament, you're risking your chance to make money by doing that. In Matt's case, I would have folded. I also would have been hugely dissapointed when I saw the flop that came:
3s 5s 8s
Matt flopped two pair and all but killed Scott and Paul's chances. At this point, Will had the nut flush draw with the As in his hand. He could also make a higher two pair if the board pairs an 8 or if the turn and river come as a pair. Scott is drawing dead to running Jacks (of which neither can be Js) and Paul needs at least one of the cards on the turn or river to be the one remaining 10 that isn't a spade. So, discounting Paul and Scott's tiny chances to win the hand, Will still has about a 1 in 3 shot to take this pot down (9 spades plus 2 eights plus possibility of runner runner pair). None of those things happened, however, and Matt took down a HUGE pot, changing the whole dynamic of the game.