Thursday, February 28, 2008
It comes with great joy that I bring you news of yet another sign that poker sites recognize the greatness that is the poker blogging community (and the hardwork of the One Man Party, AlCantHang). I've said it before and I'll say it again, Al is not just a man. He is a force of nature.
As bloggers, we all have our "thing." Al's "thing," though, is his amazing energy. I don't mean energy like some pompom weilding cheerleader, although that's some fine energy too. I mean sort of a magnetic personality type thing. When you meet Al, it feels like you know the guy by the time the first shots are poured (3.8 seconds, to be exact). By the time the second shot is poured, you may realize that the library you were just in suddenly morphed into Spring Break. This guy just exudes a good time. It doesn't hurt that his sweat is 98% Soco either.
What has Al done this time? Not only has he arranged a third Battle of the Blogger Tournaments, but he also got FullTilt to kick in the best prize package ever offered to bloggerdom:
- A leaderboard over the 55 tournaments will award cash prizes from $750 (first) to $350 (fifth) for the top five points leaders over the course of the tournaments. Players who palce sixth through twentieth will receive a FullTilt jersey.
- $2000 WSOP Bracelet package (to be used for preliminary events) for the top points earner for the three months of the BBThree, March, April and May.
- Two $12,000 WSOP ME packages to the winners of the Tournament of Champions, and two $2000 WSOP Bracelet packages for third and fourth place in the TOC. Entry to the TOC is provided to each winner of the 55 BBThree events.
Things kick off this Sunday with the Big Game. Details for all of BBThree is available at AlCantHang's site.
Until next time, make mine poker!
I think this is my second Dickensian reference in the last 10 days or so. I feel smart.
I played a little live poker yesterday. The game was hosted by Lee, a guy who works in the financial field and somehow knows Matty Ebs. A while ago, Ebs got me into the game, which I dubbed the Financial Game for the finance-heavy crowd. I made a few pesos the first time around, but couldn't make the second invite. Instead, I sent my brother-in-law Marc, who also made a few dinar before we both agreed that this was a juicy game. Most of the players seemed to have money, and the action was fairly loose.
It was with great delight, then, that we met up after work yesterday for dinner before poker at the Financial Game. We opted for nearby Jackson Hole, a bar, like JG Melon, known for its burgers. The difference is that where JG Melon has a small menu of standards, Jackson Hole has a huge menu with a variety of options. Even so, we opted for cheddar cheeseburgers and shared orders of fries and onion rings. Jackson Hole burgers are huge. They are also incredibly juicy. A couple of weeks ago, I was working late on a Saturday and stopped there solo for some dinner. I sat at the counter, where I watched the line cooks grilling burgers. It's an interesting system they have. Their burgers cook for a seemingly long time, which is probably necessary, given their girth. They are also covered at some point to keep the heat in. This is probably what cooks the burger through. Whatever the case, there must be more to it. My guess is that the meet is infused with some sort of liquid to keep it juicy. The grill is probably cooking at a low temperature to cook the meat without drying it out.
After gorging ourselves on burgers and beer, we began the long, cold walk crosstown, eventually opting for a roundabout subway trip, since we had time to kill. When we arrived, most players were already there, and the game started within 15 minutes. We each started with $200, playing $1/2 NLHE.
Within the first 5 hands, I was dealt A3s. I decided to play it for cheap, since the post-flop action can be great and we were shorthanded. These guys sometimes play any two cards, so the chance of coming against a stronger Ace, while still present, is not a foregone conclusion with multiple callers in this game. I'm not sure if someone raised it up, but in any event, me and three other players saw a flop: A3A. Yep. Flopped the boat.
In the SB, I checked. It checked around. Gulp. The turn was a 2, which also made a flush draw. I bet out $10, hoping to look like I was merely betting to take down the pot after everyone checked the flop. I think I got one or maybe two callers.
The river was a 5, and for a second, I thought that some donkey hit his straight. Then I remembered that I had a full house. Duh. I bet out $20, and only one player decided to play, Pete, a tall-ish shaved-bald guy wearing a suit. I looked like I didn't want a call, and saw him reach for his $25 chips. "Raise $50 more." When it got back to me, I pretended like I was really distraught. I was praying that he had a 4. I finally said, "You know what? $75 more." "All-in." "I call." I flipped over my full house and he showed 46o, for a rivered straight. Wow.
The very next hand, I made a few pesos off of Lee when I flat called his bet from the button after flopping top two pair on a J97 board. The turn was a 9, giving me another full house. He checked, I bet, and he folded, admitting that he was playing bottom pair.
As you can imagine, that's a nice way to start a game. I was up $280 or so by the time I had my next colossal hand of the night.
I'm pretty sure that b-i-l Marc had already rebought once by this time. We were now a full table of 9 players, and I was the chip leader or 2nd chip leader. Marc lost a big hand against a guy everyone called Ham. Ham was very tight by reputation, but he didn't show that yesterday. In the pivotal hand that left Marc broke, Marc decided to re-raise Ham huge in order to force Ham out of a pot. Ham had two pair, if I'm not mistaken, and Marc looked the fool at calldown. He rebought, but seemed to be on tilt.
I was super glad when I saw AA. I was up $280 or so, but I was card dead and I wanted to play tighter to avoid losing my stack. I was UTG+2, and UTG, a small guy with an eyebrow twitch named Piller (he was named Piller, not the eyebrow twitch) raised to $12. Lee called in UTG+1. I decided to thin the herd by raising to $30. I wanted to raise more, but I also wanted the action. Two players later, allegedly-tight Ham called. A few more players folded and Marc, in the BB, raised to $100 or something similar. I was salivating. Piller than pushed all-in for probably $70-90 or so total. When it got back to me, I raised all-in. Ham grumbled and folded. Marc called.
We all flipped our cards. I had AA, Marc had KK, and Piller had...AA also. Someone said, "It's over." I said, "Hell no. It isn't over until I see five more cards. Deal it out." Things looked good on the weak flop and turn, but a King river sealed my and Piller's fate. Marc had turned his $200 and change into a mass of chips, an I went from being up $280 to being down to $60-70. I opted for a full $200 rebuy immediately.
This is where the Tale of Two Shitties begins. It was frustrating to lose in such a manner, but I understand that such things will happen. I did my best to compose myself. I wasn't really upset with the suckout. It just sucks going from a profit to a significant defiict in no time.
I reminded myself that there was more poker to be played. If I played well, I could win my money back and thensome.
Later into the evening, Marc seemed to be still on tilt. He engaged in a major hand with Ham, where Ham bet big preflop, and Marc called. The flop was 842, with two diamonds, and Ham bet out $100, an overbet to the flop. Marc carefully pulled out a stack of greens and raised $200 on top. Everything he did screamed set. I was praying that Ham would just fold, but I figured that Marc was in good shape in any event. Ham took his time, but to everyone's amazement, made the call. Ham had JJ. Marc had A8. Marc was caught making another move, but it was one that I think was warranted or at least justifiable.
From there, though, Marc just tilted hard. I think the final straw that caused the uber tilt came when Marc had AhQx on an all heart flop (Marc had a nut flush draw and two overcards). A shortstack pushed all-in for $30. Pete called and Marc called. The turn was a blank. Pete bet $80 into the dry sidepot. Marc showed his hand to Lee and I, which to me is never a good sign. When people start announcing their hard decisions and bad luck, the rest of the table picks up on the frazzled mental state. It's like sharks to blood. He eventually folded, which in my estimation was the correct move. The pot was around $100. His chance of rivering a heart did not justify the call. Besides, it appeared from the action that the other players had at least one heart, and someone may already have the flush, reducing Marc's outs. The river, though, was a 7h. Pete showed a baby flush (64h in his hand), and Marc steamed.
His tilt really became apparent, though, at the very end of the evening. I think Marc had to reload again, so he was already down $400, at least. This hand is almost hard to type because it was just so aweful. On a diamond flop, 789. Marc held QTs. There must've been some preflop action, because the pot was sizeable, although not huge. It was just Marc and a quieter player at the table. The quieter player pushed all-in, and Marc mentally locked up. He showed his QTs to Lee and I, trying to determine what to do. "I don't think he has it." All I could think is, "Yeah, but you know that you don't have it." There is 0 fold equity, since his opponent was all-in, and even a King Duece was ahead of Marc's Queen high. Sure, there were 8 cards for a straight and Marc had overs, but that is being very generous. In reality, Marc could've been drawing dead against a flush, and even if his opponent only had one flush card, two of Marc's outs (6d and Jd) would not help him, leaving him with 6 outs or, if his opponent had a pair and a diamond, 12 outs. Whatever the case, it just made no sense to call, but sure enough, that's what Marc did. The quiet guy showed his hand, JJ, with no diamond. Ironically, that took away two of Marc's outs, leaving him with 2 Jacks, 4 Sixes, and 3 Queens, 9 outs total. As it turned out, the turn and river were both diamonds, and the players chopped the all flush board. Still, Marc's tilt was exposed, and from there on out, he was fighting from his back foot.
All the while, I was playing smart poker. I wasn't tight. I still limped into as many hands as possible. But I made some good laydowns and some great value bets.
At the end of the night, I stood up down $41 (I thought it was -$15, but I guess I counted wrong). Even though I lost, I recouped some of my earlier losses and for the most part, avoided tilt. Marc, on the other hand, stayed later than me, and probably left a decent loser.
Amazingly, I don't feel really bad about losing, either. The truth is, I'm down a couple of hundo for the year, but the year is still young. I also do not play live poker often enough to be worried. If you only play 4-6 times per month, there will be months where you are a net loser. I think I played 3 times in February and probably 4 times in January, so while I'm a loser so far, there is a lot of poker to be played.
Tomorrow, I have to go to Pennsylvania for work, but I'm angling to end up at AC for a few hours afterward. Wish me luck.
I am also toying with the idea of going down to AC for the weekend of March 28 to hang out with Jamie from the Wall Street Game. Apparently, Van Halen will be in town, and while I will not be attending the show (I just never got into VH...before my time sorta), I will be up for some poker.
I'd like to take a moment to wish a very happy birthday to wifey Kim. If I haven't made it clear, wifey Kim is the centerpiece to my life. As much as I love poker, as much as I love myself, I love wifey Kim even more. I've heard stories from other people about terrible relationships. From these stories, I see how truly blessed I am. Not only is wifey Kim a beautiful person, inside and out; she also "gets" me. She understands who I am, and she supports my endeavors, whether it be poker or anything else. Happy Birthday, wifey Kim! I can't wait to give you your presents.
I'd also like to take a briefer moment to wish wifey Kim's twin brother, b-i-l Marc, a happy birthday. But really, I hope he doesn't even read this post. Reliving tilt can be almost as bad as the tilt itself.
Until next time, make mine poker!
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Grumble grumble. I'm tired. Very tired. But there is poker to be had, so let's get to it.
I feel like I'm burning myself out this week. Monday, I played the Hoy rather late (but bearable). Even so, I was sluggish yesterday as I dragged my ass out of bed. After work, I was exhausted, but I made plans to meet some buddies uptown for dinner. We decided on J.G. Mellon, a bar/restaurant known for its burgers. According to my cohorts, J.G. had some of the best burgers in the city. The reviews online were split 50/50. While most agreed that the burgers were great, a lot of people complained about long waits for a seat and subpar service.
By the time I arrived with el Jefe, our good buddy Dutch was already hanging out. Scary Eric wasn't there yet, so we waited outside under an awning as it rained. The restaurant looked uncharacteristically vacant, with a few empty tables, but the place was so small that I was praying that Scary Eric arrived in time to get us seated quickly. Once he did arrive, we were told that the wait was ten minutes. Ten minutes later, we were seated in the backroom, at the largest 4-person table in the joint. It was still a tight squeeze, and I barely could fit between the chair, which was backed against a wall, and the table. Dutch and Scary Eric are sizeable guys, both tipping 250lbs. That probably was what earned us the best table, even if it still left me tiny room.
We ordered some food. Jefe and I decided to share an appetizer mozzarella in carozza. We also both ordered the burger, mine cooked medium-rare with cheddar. Finally, we opted to share an order of the crinkle cut, round fries. Dutch and Scary Eric opted for starter chilis, followed by burgers and fries. We all washed it down with surprisingly small $4 beers.
I'm not a food snob, but I just don't get what people are talking about when they praise food that is mediocre. I can only imagine that, with reference to JG Melon, it's all about the hype. This place is "known" to have the best burgers and is on every NYC best burger top ten list. Ergo, its good. People ignore the fact that the burger itself was really merely adequate. No doubt, it was good, but it didn't have that extra something to make it great. The mozzarella in carozza on the other hand was a complete disaster. It tasted like a grilled cheese made with french toast and mozzarella. The fries were mere adequate. At least the beer was good (albeit small, but good).
After dinner, I caught a ride home with Dutch, who was stopping by a friend's apartment in my hood. Back at home, I signed up for the Skillz series and the Bodonkey, knowing full well that I would sit out the first few rounds of one or both tourneys.
Frankly, I don't know why I played the Skillz HOE (limit Hold'em, O8 and Stud8) tourney. Limit tournaments, with the exception of HORSE, are usually boring and slow. The slowness is as bad if not worse than the boring part. I finally realized that I did not have the wherewithall to play proper limit poker, so I opted to play uber agressive until I chipped up or busted out. The latter happened sooner than the former. It didn't help that I was dealt several strong hands only to land in brick city. A five card low draw and flush draw with a pair turned into a weak two pair after sixth and seventh streets. Things like that. Blah blah blah. It's poker. Let's move on.
The Bodonkey was an assload of fun. I don't know why, but I really like this tournament. Maybe it is the fact that I have had some decent success in the past. Sadly, I made the final two tables, only to be knocked out 18th or so. Still, I rather go out 18th than on the bubble, so I guess I have that going for me.
When I logged off, I watched the penultimate episode of the inaugurral season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. If you are a fan of the movies, check this series out. If you are not, move along. There is nothing for you here. On a related note, I caught T2 on the TV a couple of nights ago and immediately hit the DVR Record button. I then sat and watched a good 40 minutes of the movie. All I can say is that it has it all: one of the best chase scenes ever filmed, an amazing villain, an even better cast of heroes, and a fantastic mythology. Big thumbs up to the cast, including the often overlooked Edward Furlong, who in my estimation is the best John Connor ever, although his only competition is the ever ugly Nick Stahl, the creepy goth kid from Heroes, and the T4 unreleased Christian Bale (sorry, Mr. Bale, but you cannot be Bruce Wayne, Patrick Bateman, and John Connor...save some roles for the Americans) (I'm sorry, Mr. Bale, you know I can't stay mad at you).
Wow! How did I get off on a Terminator tangent?
As we were waiting for a table at JG Melon, I received a telephone call from bro-in-law Marc. Marc wanted to see when we were meeting up for poker tonight (Wednesday). To tell you the truth, I had totally forgot about our plans. Early last week, I received an email from Lee, the host of the Financial Game I played in midtown a while ago (thanks to Matty Ebs). Since then, I had never returned to his game, but I did get an invite for b-i-l Marc, who cleaned up when I wasn't there. Now we are returning to the game tonight, only it was moved to the West Side...the far West Side. Any more West, and we'd need swimming trunks. For you non-NYers, that means that the location is not easily accessible by subway (crosstown is a bitch by subway and the shoreline is usually subway free for a good several long avenues). Still, I committed to attend, so we arranged plans to meet up beforehand.
The thing is, I just don't feel like poker this morning. I want to finish my workday and go home. Wifey Kim won't even be around (America's Next Top Model weekly gathering with her friends), so I'm not running home to anything other than comfort and quiet. Man up, I thought to myself this morning. I grabbed a backpack, loaded up a change of clothes for comfort, and then hit the road.
It wasn't until midtown when I realized that I forgot my poker wallet and card cap. This sucks for a few reasons, most notably the fact that I now have to go to the bank to take out a wad of bills to play. I hate mixing real world funds with poker funds, even temporarily.
Ultimately, though, the game should be juicy. I just know that it's going to be a long night.
Until next time, make mine poker!
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I had an interesting evening last night. When I got home from work, wifey Kim was out shopping for more shoes. She has already reached centipede status with well over 100 individual shoes and now she's seeking out millipede status. We are thinking about renting out the neighboring apartment to hold her shoes.
While she was out shopping, I was busy at work, putting together an Astin-like dinner. It wasn't anything as fancy, but after cooking for 8 guests (including wifey Kim and I) for this Saturday's MexiWii Birthday Extravaganza for my lovely wife, I had some left over peppers and onions. I stopped by the nearby supermarket/deli and picked up one potato, two pieces of sandwich steak and a soft roll and made myself a helluva cheesesteak with wedge-cut fries. As I sat down to eat, wifey Kim was just returning home. Before I went food shopping, I checked if she had eaten. "I just had some soup for dinner." Once she saw the cheesesteak, though, I was glad I made it an extra-long hero roll. She got the shoes and half my meat.
As for the shoes, wifey Kim was kind enough to model them for me. "Um, honey, aren't those the same shoes you wore on Saturday?" "No, those were heals, these are wedges." "Um, are you sure. It looks the same to me. Closed-toe, Mary-Jane style." Yes, I have been learning about shoes. It's the natural course of things when your wife bi-weekly tries to convince you that she needs this pair because unlike the other pair of brown slingbacks, these are a matte finish. "This heal isn't as high, and the wedge makes it less formal and better for work." "Wait a second, didn't you say that the shoes were for your friend's bridal shower." "I can use them for work too." "How do you even choose your shoes every morning? It would take me an hour."
As much as I don't get the shoe thing, I don't begrudge it. We all spend money on stupid stuff. For wifey Kim, it's more shoes than are necessary to clothe a small village. For me, its poker...which actually earns me money... Okay, admittedly, there are stupid stuff like comic books and video games too. It's all about perspective.
At around 9:30, wifey Kim wanted to watch the Fashion Police wrap-up of the Academy Awards, so I fired up the comp. I had $9 left on FT and entered a token SNG. AA fell to 67s and I was near felted. A few minutes later, I was felted.
I fired up a Stars Turbo 180-player SNG, only to lose near the bubble. I also fired up a 45-player turbo SNG on Stars, falling in the same fashion. While still playing the 45-player SNG, I realized that there were 15 minutes until the Hoy. I told myself that if I didn't win my token with my last $9, I wouldn't play. As I neared the game, I felt like I was playing well, even if the results didn't show. I finally bit the proverbial bullet and sent an IM to GCox. "Can you spot me $26?" G was happy to comply.
With barely enough to play, borrowed money no less, I started the Hoy with high hopes. I played uber aggressive at times, chipping up by taking down small pots. I lost a big pot in the middle of the game when I made a bad play against a player who turned an inside straight. That left me with under 1500, but I kept the pressure on my opponents, chipping up with small pots. Eventually, I found myself in 2nd place out of the remaining 12 players. At this point, my uber-aggression had set up my table image nicely. I raised two hands in a row and my opponents folded. On the third hand, in the BB, I held JJ. It folded to Katiemother in the SB. She raised, probably assuming that my uber-aggression would be curbed. With my strong hand, I raised. She raised back and we got all-in. She held A8o. The flop was JTX, giving me top set. The turn was a Queen. The river was a 9. With her straight, Katiemother took down the hand and more than half of my chips. I was now the shortstack. Earlier in the game, a player stated, "pp (pocket pairs) are not doing me any good." I replied that mine were doing just fine after I took down the pot. After the hand against Katiemother, CMitch, who was looking on while he played at the other table, typed something along the lines of, How are those pps now? I don't remember the exact statement, but it wasn't mean spirited. I just got the impression that he thought it was a bad suckout and that I was in trouble. I replied, "I'm still healthy." And for the most part, I was. Even though I was the shortest stack, I had more than 10x the BB, so I knew that there was more game in me...and I'm a shortstack specialist.
By the time we reached the final table, I was still in last place. I tightened up at times and loosened up at others, depending on the play at the table. Sometimes, the shortstack can chip up through sheer aggression. The key is to have a stack that is at least a little scary. It also helps if players see that you are aggressive. It isn't the first bet they fear in these situations. It's the continuation bet all-in for your whole stack that curbs players from calling you preflop.
In that way, I was able to claw my way back up to fourth place eventually. Sixth and Fifth fell, and I was ITM. Fourth fell as well, and I was three-handed with about 12000 against two players with 24000 or so. My comeback had ended in 3rd place. At least I had money to pay G back. And I'm still in the #4 position for most money earned in the Hoy this year. And it was a hard-fought game as well. I came back from a shortstack on more than one occasion and played well from what I can recall.
Future poker is looking good. I planned to return to the Wall Street Game on Friday, but I have to reconsider my plans. The Big Boss Man wants me to take a deposition in Pennsylvania by myself. I looked up the location and its about 90 minutes from AC. I could, hypothetically, take the deposition at 2:30pm, finish by 4:30pm, head to the casinos by 6pm, and make my way back to NY at around midnight. It's a bit of a degenerate's move, and one that I haven't done before, but I'm really itching to play some casino poker. I can also opt to grab a room in some nearby town, crash for a few hours and then head back. Wifey Kim is busy Saturday afternoon and I don't have anything to do until Saturday night.
If you're going to be in the AC area, let me know.
Until next time, make mine poker!
How to Set Your Home Game Tournament Structure
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Kaja recently asked about the live homegame tournament structures that I've played, and it came to my attention that this is a topic that I hadn't really discussed. I have a lot of experience with homegame tournaments, from quick super turbos like the 10 min blind levels at the Roose Game and long-form tournaments, like the rebuy for two hours, two table tournaments at the I Had Outs game. I never considered myself to be particularly adept at tourney structures, but at the recent Wall Street Game, where I was surprisingly the second-to-last person to arrive (and took 4th place for $19 profit on a $70 buy-in, no rebuys needed), host Jamie asked me to audit the format to ensure that it was proper for the longer-form tournament he wished to run.
I looked at the structure, and it was pretty standard. If you follow the traditional 25/50 starting blinds, there are two blind levels that are essentially the key to a longer or shorter tournament: 75/150 and 150/300. Jamie opted for the second of the two tweener levels, which is probably the smarter choice between the two, assuming you don't want to use both.
Ultimately, when I am looking at a structure, I want to know when the big blind reaches to 1/10th of the starting stacks. In Jamie's tournament, we started with 5000 chips, and the structure was as follows (as best as I can remember):
25/50, 25 mins.
50/100, 25 mins.
100/200, 25 mins.
100/200, 25 ante, 25 mins. (last blind period for rebuys)
150/300, 25 ante, 20 mins.
200/400, 50 ante, 20 mins.
300/600, 50 ante, 20 mins.
and so on...
According to Jamie's format, the BB reaches 1/10th of starting stacks at the 100 minute mark. Since this is a one-table tournament with an 11-person table, that meant that at around that mark, a good 1/2 of the players will be shortstacked. After all, if no one is busted, the average stack is just about at 10x the BB (or, more accurately significantly less, since its 600 BB and an ante, with a 5k starting stack). The point is, for me, this feels like the part where certain players are bound to be shortstacked.
From there, you have to factor in how many players are left and add in more time accordingly. Again, it is an art, not a science. I don't have any magic formula, but I can offer some general suggestions for setting your blind structure.
Start the blinds at either 1/50 to 1/100 of the starting stacks for an average tournament length. I used to play a homegame with blinds of 1/2, 2/4, 4/8, and so on. We started with 200 chips. This may appear vastly different than a 25/50, 50/100, 100/200 structure, but if that 25/50 structure has 5k in chips, its exactly the same (although, psychologically, the game may play different).
Next, figure out how long you want your tournament to run. Then, pick your final blinds with that goal in mind. You can end any tournament at any time if you set the blinds right. For example, if you only have 6 people and want to run an hour-long tournament (which, admittedly, is a bit turbo of you, but who am I to judge), with starting stacks of 2000 chips, plan on having the blinds reach about 400/800 by the end of the hour. By that point, if players aren't voluntarily all-in with any two cards, they will be blinded all-in with any two cards anyway. It might seem low, but if you tell people ahead of time about the structure, it is up to them to play accordingly. In that scenario, with 2000 in chips and a 1 hour desired time limit, I would set blinds at 25/50, 50/100, 100/200, 200/400, 300/600 and 400/800 with 10 minute blind levels. I would also tell everyone to pay attention so we can get as many hands in as possible given the time constraints. Admittedly, this structure will really last slightly more than 1 hour, depending on the play, but it won't get much farther because at the 1 hr mark, you are playing 500/1000 with only 12,000 chips in play.
Oh yeah, chips in play. I've discussed stack sizes compared to the big blind, which is key to figure out when players will sincerely begin dropping out of the tournament. Sure, some guy may bust in the first 5 mins with KK v. AA, but you can almost guarantee bust outs to begin seriously accumulating when the BB reaches 1/10th of the starting stacks. To determine the end of the tournament, just figure out when the total number of chips reaches is only 20x the BB. So, for a 10-person table with 2k in chips, there are 20,000 chips in play. When blinds reach 500/1000, if there are more than two players left, then each player has on average less than 10x the BB and someone is busting really soon, even if they are all even with ~6.5k stacks. Likewise, if they are heads-up, the game should not last longer than perhaps one more blind period because the blinds will force the action.
This isn't rocket science, but as I said earlier, it is a bit of an art. I could offer a generic structure, but truthfully, you can find that online by searching for "homegame tournament structure." These are the considerations you can use when tweaking a structure or determining how someone else's structure will affect the play.
- When the size of the blinds reaches 1/10th of a starting stack, players are bound to begin dropping out of the tournament.
- When the size of the blinds reaches 1/20th of the total chips in play, the game will end very soon. Likely, the game will end before you reach this point, but in any even, if you have a definite end in mind, for instance midnight on a weeknight, plan your structure so that in the worst case scenario, if anyone is still in the tournament at 11:50, theywill be so shortstacked that they will have no choice but to be all-in every few hands.
- Work backwards to determine how many blind periods you want and how long each blind period should take.
One last example to demonstrate. Johnny Poker wants to throw a home game. He gets 18 people to RSVP. The game is supposed to start at 2pm on a Sunday, but Johnny has to get everyone out of his house by 9pm because his wife is on the rag and giving him shit about his poker habit. The only way we can save Johnny from a trip to the pokey for knocking out his yapping harpy of a wife is to help him with his structure. Johnny has ample chips that he purchased for way over market price at the beginning of the poker boom (and now sell for peanuts).
With 18 players, and a 6 hour time limit, I would want players to start dropping out several hours into the game. You want players to feel like they are getting some play for their money. Let's use a 5000 starting stack, since there is the psychological component of giving players more chips (as opposed to 2k). Don't believe me? Check some casinos out. At Showboat in AC, they offer a few different buy-in tournaments. Some tourneys have 10k chips, whereas others have significantly less...but the 10k chip tournaments usually start at a higher blind level. In other words, there is no benefit to the higher starting stack aside from the psychology of the players. 10k for $120 instead of that stupid 4k for $75. SUCKERS! Yeah, not so much.
With 5k stacks, I want to reach blinds of around 250/500 in about 2 hours, to start weeding out players. Since we usually don't have that blind level, we'll try to make the 300/600 level somewhere near the 2.5 hour mark. Remember, once players bust, the average chip stack will increase, so if a bunch bust at that 2.5 mark, the other players will have cushion for several more blind levels. That's why we need to consider the total chips in play. With 5k stacks and 18 players, there are 90,000 chips in play. Divide that by 20 and we get 4500. So, to really end the game, we need blinds to reach about 2000/4000. The game will definitely end by 3000/6000.
We've set some water marks. We want to hit 300/600 at about 2.5 hours, and 2000/4000 at around 5 hours (leaving Johnny time to clean up before the wife gets home). Let's see what I come up with:
25/50 <--Standard Start 50/100 100/200 200/400 300/600 This is the standard starting structure. If we give each level 30 minutes, we will reach the end of the 600 level at about the 2.5 mark. That's a bit too fast, so let's add one of those extra middle levels.
25/50 <-- Standard Start 50/100 100/200 150/300 200/400 300/600 <--Starts at 2.5 hours into the tournament. Ends at 3 hours into the tournament. Now we are talking. We start the 300/600 level at 2.5 hours into the tournament exactly, using the 30 minute levels. I chose 30 minutes after I chose my levels, in order to reach the 2.5 hour goal. If we wanted to finish faster, I would spead up the blind levels or drop levels altogether. Now let's look at the second half of the tournament, when we begin to whittle down players we only have 4.5 hours to get rid of everyone.
400/800 <-- Standard next step after 300/600
1500/3000 <--Some people skip this level, but I believe, personally, that it is too much to jump from 1k/2k to 2k/4k.
Give each of these levels 30 minutes and you'll reach the 3000/6000 level at the 6.5 hour mark and complete it before moving to 4000/8000 at the 7 hour mark. This is cutting it close, so you may want to ditch the 500/1000 level, but realistically, the game will be over by the beginning of the 3000/6000 level.
Naturally, there are many variables to consider, like late starts due to late players or breaks, but if you start with the ideas I set up, you will make sure that your tournament is not over too fast or too slow. I also did not include antes, which naturally speed up the bust-out process. Frankly, though, I do not recommend antes for home games. If you want to speed up the action, just increase the blinds or decrease the speed of the blind levels (prior to the tournament). And remember, there will probably be at least one person doubting your structure. That's fine, but don't doubt yourself. Once you start putting it up for a vote, nothing will get done. A well run poker homegame should be a benevolent dictatorship. You may take suggestions, but in the end, a strong host/"floor" is needed to ensure that disputes can be resolved if anything comes up.
This was all put together on the fly, so I am very curious if anyone can offer further insight.
Until next time, make mine poker!
The Wonders of HU and Confidence
Friday, February 22, 2008
I didn't really want to play poker, but at the same time I didn't not want to play poker either. I was sitting on the couch, wifey Kim already asleep on my right. The laptop stood two feet away on a tray table. It was open and I could see the glow of the screen. Television was abysmal and even though I've been sitting on the same Netflix DVDs for a month, I didn't feel like watching them. I tried to watch The Number 23, a thriller from a few years back starring Jim Carrey. It actually started off strong, but I have a multi-tasker's mind. I also could feel the tension of the film and I didn't want to get myself amped up before bed.
I looked back at the laptop and felt that feeling I get from time to time. There is a certain comfort to playing poker online. It is always available and if you begin doing anything often enough, it becomes a habit. Not a bad habit either, just a habit.
I manuevered myself out from under wifey Kim's feet and moved to the overstuffed chair that matches our couch. I turned on FullTilt and checked my bankroll. Pitiful. I openned Bodog and checked my roll there. Passable. I considered playing an SNG or a cash game, but neither seemed to call out for me. I didn't want to grind. I didn't want to play tight. I wanted to get in there and mix it up.
As I perused the SNGs, I settled on something that wasn't even on my mind when I got up from the couch: Heads-Up SNGs. I chose a cheapo $10 SNG and beat my opponent on the first hand. I immediately fired up a second HU SNG for $20. The match was long and well fought. Ultimately, I lost, but I came to a realization about the urge to play online.
Heads-up is the answer to many of my problems. If I can't play a long tournament but I don't want to play a cash game, I should play a HU SNG. If I don't feel like exposing myself to potentially large losses, I should play a HU SNG. If I felt like playing aggressive or playing too many hands, I should play a HU SNG.
After losing that one HU SNG, I shut down the computer. I had enough poker to feed the habit. All that remained was sleep.
I've got live poker coming up, folks, and I'm feeling goooooooooood about it. I was thinking back to my more successful runs, like when I bubbled in a live tournament at the Showboat in AC and then moneyed (albeit in the worst money spot) in the Resorts tournament a scant few hours later. Or when I went on a run of wins at the Wall Street Game when I first premeired. Or my early run of success with live homegame tournaments. In all of those instances, I felt like I was ready to crush the world. I felt confident and I played smart. I admittedly have moved away from that attitude in live games. I know longer think that I am the best player at every table. Some people may see this humility as a positive thing. I do not. We are all wired differently, and for me to do my best, live, I need to think that I am the best. I need to feel that no one at the table is better than me. Call it self-denial or false confidence, but whatever it is, it's effective. It's probably closely connected to the idea that one plays better when one is in a good emotional state. It's all too easy to play poker as a way to distract from inner turmoil. When that happens, losses tend to follow. I am hoping that entering a game with the old confidence will help. We will see tonight.
Tonight, I attend a rare long-form tournament at the Wall Street Game with a $70 buy-in. On Wednesday, I attend a homegame with my brother in law in midtown with a $200 buy-in and a slew of aggressive players trying to one-up each other. In both instances, my number one goal is to play with intelligence and confidence.
Until next time, make mine poker!
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
...and it was good.
As a poker player, I have always had some goals in the back of my head: play in a WSOP event (not Circuit), play in the WSOP Main Event, win as much per year as I earn as a lawyer while maintaining both. Those are the goals that come into my head most readily. I have already completed some goals, most notably my annual profit goal for the last three years and playing in WSOP Circuit events, but the first three goals I listed are far from happening.
I have no illusions about the game of poker or my place in the game. I started off playing .25/.50 limit, and have worked myself up to decent bankrolls several times before using those funds for me or wifey Kim. Still, I have been able to increase my goals yearly because I have been able to move up the ranks.
Things change, though. I have begun to fear stagnation, particularly when it comes to live poker. If my stakes don't increase and my amount of time playing doesn't increase, how can I expect to make more this year than next year. If there was an answer it would be that I have to play better. Frankly, though, even the best play can only get you so far when your stakes are low.
It seems to me then, that I have three choices: (1) play higher stakes, (2) play more often, and (3) accept stagnation for now.
(1) Play higher stakes. Plainly put, I just can't do this right now. The truth is that my bankroll probably cannot handle it. I would like to move up to 2/5 NL regularly, but my roll is inadequate, plain and simple. I will, however, work toward increasing the roll through non-poker means. It feels like a cop-out to me, since I prided myself with earning my way up the ladder, but I have spent enough of my poker bankroll over the years to justify reclaiming some of those funds. Ultimately, however, higher stakes may not be possible all that regularly, due to the same problems I have with (2).
(2) Play more often. Ah, if only this were possible. I am working like a dog lately, and work must come before poker. I have other responsibilities too, including spending some time with wifey Kim, so it isn't like I can spend 5 days a week at a cardroom from the end of the workday until late night. But if there were any real block to (1) and (2), it is availability. Live games are just not readily available unless I am willing to play in underground clubs...and I'm not willing to play in underground clubs. I did it and I'm done with it. I am unwilling to risk losing my bankroll to a robbery or raid. I am unable to jump through the hoops necessary to get into some of the newly opened rooms. I do not want to live like a fucking bandit. AC is still available, but its a bitch of a trip at about 3 hours. Even so, I may look into more weekend day trips and travel via bus. Lord I hate the idea of taking a bus, but Matty Ebs does it regularly and he seems to think its a good setup.
(3) Accept stagnation. NO DAMNIT! I cannot! I will not! Okay, I have. I will do what I can to increase profit this year, but I will be happy if I can repeat 2007's profit. Poker is a long term goal for me, and I don't intend to abandon these long term goals anytime soon. I will also not allow speedbumps or slow downs to take me off course.
I am 28 years old. I can play the WSOP when I'm 50 and be happy. I can hit my goal to earn as much with poker as I do as a lawyer when I am 60 and be content. This is a long ass game. There is no 3 lives and you are out. There is no end boss that I can stomp out and save the princess. This is poker, damnit, a game that can be played by children and seniors alike. It would be great to have immediate success, but it is not a prerequisite.
Thanks for reading through my ramblings. If I'm not mistaken, I've got poker this weekend, so hopefully this will help me develop some new strategy ideas to share with you. But whatever the case, I just need to keep on playing.
Until next time, make mine poker!
Unlucky in Love
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
I have a little secret to tell you. My wife is bad luck. It's a sad state of affairs, but there is something about wifey Kim and poker that makes for a deadly combination.
Some people ask, "Hey Jordan, why doesn't wifey Kim play poker?" Half of the time, these people are trying to determine if wifey Kim is even real. The other half of the time, these people are really just auditory hallucinations brought on by excessive consumption of narcotics. But the third half of the time, it's a very valid question. Why doesn't wifey Kim play poker?
The reason, my friends, is the same reason why you and I do not get manicures. Manicures are made for a certain type of person. Yes, a female, but even moreso, a female who wants to be feminine. Or perhaps a female who wants to be pampered on occasion. But the point is, people do what they do in any aspect of life because it fits them. I don't get manicures and wifey Kim doesn't play poker.
To play poker (not well, mind you, but just to play the freaking game) there must be some impetus to play. For me, its the gambler's buzz, that feeling of adrenaline that comes with making a great (or terrible) play. Poker also appeals to my competitive nature. Finally, poker appeals to my love of games.
So, in other words, I play poker because I like the excitement, competition and gamesmanship. Wifey Kim, not so much. She likes excitement, sure, but she is not a gambler at heart, even though she dabbles at casinos. She likes games, but for some reason the gamesmanship in poker doesn't appeal to her. Ultimately, though, it is the issue of competition where wifey Kim falls short. It's a wonderful thing, really. Wifey Kim is just not a competitive person. She wants to see others succeed and she is willing to help anyone in that endeavor. Me? No such problem. When I am at the table, it is my goal to make you subservient. Give me your chips. Do as I say. Go home broke.
In the end, it is wifey Kim's lack of bloodlust that makes poker a non-entity to her. But then there is that other aspect I hinted at early on.
Wifey Kim is bad luck at the poker table. I hate saying it. I truly do. But when wifey Kim comes home while I'm playing an MTT or calls during a live game, I can't help but hear that doom switch turn on. In fact, she has a remarkable ability to appear just as I am about to get my chips all-in.
Okay, it may not look like wifey Kim had much to do with that hand. Frankly, I just pushed my hand too hard, unable to believe that Surf had hit his 8, and then unable to care when I developed a silly flush draw. But there is something about wifey Kim's presence that sticks. It's not just that situation, but other situations where her presence has caused me to fall apart at the table.
So what's at work?
First of all, let's take all the blame away from wifey Kim. She isn't really unlucky. Instead, her presence obviously triggers something in me. Perhaps it is that old Freudian idea: gamblers want to lose to punish themselves for their perceived inadequacies. Perhaps when I am playing poker and wifey Kim is presented to me, I realize that the poker is a distant second to wifey Kim and I am wasting my time with a silly game. Perhaps this leads to an unconscious desire to "punish" myself for not focusing on the important things.
That'd be a nice way to look at it.
The other way would be that wifey Kim's presence is a distraction. I naturally put wifey Kim above all else, including poker. So when she enters the room or calls me, I over-compensate for my poker time by concentrating on my girl. Maybe I don't give a shit about the game suddenly because wifey Kim is more important. Maybe I get into an awfukkit attitude because wifey Kim is my backup. If I know that busting means I get to go home to wifey Kim early or that I can focus on wifey Kim instead of the laptop, maybe that temptation to just stop playing well is just too great.
Ah, hell. All I know is that if I never won a hand of poker again, I'd still be lucky for having wifey Kim. But from here on out, I'm keeping detailed notes of what happens when she calls during a live game or interrupts me during an online game.
At the Lawyers' Game this weekend, another player mentioned the same phenomenom. Whenever his girlfriend called and he was all-in, he'd lose. So, does this happen to you too?
Until next time, make mine poker!
Token SNGs Made Easy
Monday, February 18, 2008
I recently mentioned how I play the FT 2-table token SNGs in a very formulaic manner. Since I am about to attempt a turbo token SNG to earn my buy-in to tonight's Hoy, I figured it may be fun to do a tournament simulblog.
My rules are simple for 2 table token SNGs. Since the top 5 spots all pay out the same prize, I am not playing for first place. I am playing for 5th, or even 6th, which earns a small cash profit. My goal is to limit myself to playing strong hands, with the hope that the weak players or dwindling stacks relative to the fast escalating blinds will allow me to double up when I do hit a strong hand. In later stages, I may make some plays, but it will be very rare and very situation-specific. The goal in those instances is to win the pot without over-exposing myself.
I easily fold for the first few hands, until I am dealt 77 in the fourth hand UTG+2. I am tempted to fold, but I may limp. Nah. Fold. A player after me raises from the 40 blind to 480. By folding, I saved 40.
In my first BB, I am dealt 56o. UTG limps and SB calls, preflop. The flop is AJ9, and we all check. The turn is a Queen and the UTG bets 80. SB and I fold. In the next hand, in the SB, I have 67o. It folds to me and I fold as well. The BB (who was formerly the UTG) has been fairly active, and I don't need to mess around.
AJs in the CO. I am extremely tempted to play to a raise, with blinds of 25/50. But I fold. It folds to the BB. If not for this blog post, I probably raise there, but I am hoping to use this post to keep myself in check and test my theory on playing uber-tight.
I fold 55 in MP. Folding is harder than I thought. The button raises preflop and the BB calls. The flop is JT9. Folding once again saved me a BB, which is very useful in the later stages of these tournaments.
I'm back in the BB and receive Q8o. I'd really like to see a flop just to feel like I'm playing poker. The CO calls, as does the SB and I check. The flop is AJ6. We all check. The turn is a 2, and we all check again. On the King river, teh SB bets pot (180) and takes down the pot uncontested.
In the SB, I am dealt K30. I am glad when a player in MP raises to 280 (blinds just went up to 40/80). I fold happily.
Without playing a single hand, I am in 10th place out of 15 remaining. It isn't a bad place to be, as three players have already busted and one double-up places me in the top 3.
Fold, fold, fold. Nothing to see here. Blinds are about to go up to 50/100. There are two players hovering around 900 and one around 1000. I fold twice as I type this. My fold finger is getting a workout.
I am now moved to the other table. A9c in MP gets folded. We are down to 14 players with 5 at or below the 1000 mark. One busts and I am 8 of 13 without playing a single hand.
JTc in the BB. Everyone folds to the SB who calls. We see a K42 flop with two diamonds. He bets pot and I fold. If he checks there, I probably bet out. I am now at 1155 with 60/120 blinds. I fold my SB with crap cards to a min raise from the button. I am now in push or fold mode. I am at 9 our of 11 and blinds are going up to 80/160. If I don't get a pushing hand soon, I'm in trouble.
AQo in UTG+1. UTG is loose and raised to 320 (min raise). I push over the top, everyone else folds and he calls with ATo. Neither of us hit, and I'm at 2550. Like clockwork.
I'm now in 5th out of 10. It's a good place to be in right now. I'm aching for the final table instead of these shorthanded 5-person tables. Usually, I love 5-person tables.
I see a flop with T6o in the BB vs. the SB. The flop is A34 and its checked to me. I min bet. He min-raises. I am reminded of why I am playing super tight. I fold.
Blinds are at 100/200. I have 2130 after I fold my SB to a raise from the CO. He ends up busting the BB and we are at the final table. I'm in 6th of 9...and immediately placed in the BB. Damn. QTo. Better now than when the blinds go up again. I fold to a limp by CO+1 and a raise by CO that takes down the pot.
In the SB, I'm dealt AJs. This may be a place to make a stand, depending on the action. A player in LP with 1430 pushes all-in. I fold. I'm playing for 5th, I remind myself.
On the button, I'm dealt A6o. The SB has 2600 and the BB has 7k. A player in MP limps, so I fold. Better safe than sorry. Blinds are up to 120/240 after this hand.
In the Hijack, I'm dealt 66. If it folds to me, I push. A shortstack (the same guy who recently pushed over my AJs) limps and I decide to push. Everyone folds and I'm back to 2430, 6th place out of 9.
The same shortie pushes all-in, UTG. He has 1490. The SB is even shorter, but manages to fold, leaving him with under 800. He pushes in the next hand and the UTG shortie is now the BB. Everyone folds to the under 800 guy. Damnit. It's like the two shorties just got a free orbit.
In the BB at 150/300, I'm dealt 83o. I'm back into push or fold mode, for the most part. The SB is very short, so when he pushes, I'm inclined to call. I lose to his Q8. The next hand, I'm dealt J5o. It folds to me and I have to fold. With only 1370 left, after pushing the last hand, I cannot expect the BB to fold.
The very next hand, I am dealt KK. One shortie with 1100 pushes. The next player with 3900 pushes. I call. I am facing A2c and QQ. The turn is a Queen, but I four-flush the river. I am up to 4280, 2nd place out of 8 remaining players. I can go back to folding with impunity. Blinds just went up to 200/400.
Desperation sets in and a player pushes with AT into QQ. AT is busted. 2nd out of 7 remaining players. We have reached the bubble.
A shortie doubles off of the big stack, who seems to be calling all-ins with anything.
In the BB, I am dealt A8o. It folds to the SB, who folds to me. Easy. In the SB, I get Q4o. I'm glad to fold to an EP's all-in for over 3k.
Another shortie doubles off of the big stack, when the big stack calls with 66. Shortie had AT and flops an Ace. Blinds are going to 250/500.
The big stack doubles up another shortie, with the big stack's 44 v. TT. Yikes! Still 2nd of 7, but even I'm a shortstack now. Everyone else is looking fairly healthy. I have 4280 and everyone after me has 2370 and up. The big stack dropped from 10k+ at one point to just over 5k. One player has taken over the 2nd place spot with 4500.
In the BB, I am dealt Q6o. I hope it folds to me. Hope fails. The SB min raises, and I choose to fold.
In the SB, I'm dealt A3o. The BB is mad short at 1870. That's still more than half my stack, but I push anyway. He folds and I'm back up to 4280.
In the next hand, the SB pushes and the BB chipleader calls. This time, the chip leader finishes him off. I'm ITM with 3rd out of 6. Now I just need one more player to bust to get my token.
Three hands later, the chip leader takes out another player, TT v. AJ. I immediately push all-in with 9To in the next hand, since I won my token. I hit a straight and bust two more players. I then take out the rest in the next hand with T6o. Go figure.
It bears noting that I played 14% of the hands only. I won my major hand with KK, as planned. I doubled up twice, as planned.
It also is worth noting that my goal is to get into the high-blinds/low-stacks section of the game. I joke about being a Short Stack Specialist, but there is some truth to that title. I enjoy the aspect of the game where you have to make the hard decisions, like pushing with crap cards like A3o against a short stacked BB. It's knowing when to steal and when to fold that really makes the later stages so interesting for me.
Even so, I can pretty much play this game with my eyes closed. It is worth noting the one dilemma. Inevitably, there will come a time when the KK does fall to the QQ. By playing super tight, you basically place your entire game in the hands of luck. When you finally push with your JJ, you may be facing QQ-AA. Even when you wait for AA, you may get sucked out on merely because mathematically the other player has to call given the stack sizes or blinds. With this in mind, my real goal is to minimize the amount of times I'm all-in, to avoid the chance of a suckout. In a normal tournament, I may play a wider range of hands because I know that it won't be an all-in or fold situation anytime soon OR because there is a benefit to accumulating chips early. In token tourneys, I only want 5th place, so I fold until I have to push.
I may take some time to elaborate later in the week. However, I hope this was somewhat helpful to any players curious about the ease of token SNGs.
With token in hand, I will see you at the Hoy.
Until next time, make mine poker!
Two weeks with no live poker. More, probably. But that all ended Sunday thanks to Matty Ebs.
It seems like the beginning of the year is traditionally a very slow poker time for me. I am sure it has to do with a multitude of things, such as the poker binge I usually have every December and the annual rush of work I have every Jan-March. Still, it's a sorry state of affairs for yours truly.
This Sunday, Matty Ebs got me back into the Lawyers Game. The game is usually held on Thursdays, but for whatever reason, the game was moved to Sunday and the format was changed from a $30 rebuy to a $50 freezeout.
I secured an invite from bro-in-law Marc, and the three of us met at the usual Italian restaurant across the street from the game.
Once inside, I presented the host with a gift, a set of black Copag cards. I had them lying around my apartment for months, and I didn't really know the host all that well, so I thought it'd be a nice gesture, since he was kind enough to invite me and my bro-in-law.
A nice gesture it was, but practical, it is not. Sadly, these black cards are terribly difficult to read. As you can see, its not that the card index is small or that the card is inherently unclear. There is just some odd psychological effect that comes with reading white on black or red on black. For instance, in an early hand, a player rivered his heart flush. Even though there were three hearts and one diamond on the board, the other player failed to even realize the possibility of a flush. I note the diamond only to underscore that the board had a whole lotta red, but even so, there was a mental barrier to seeing the three hearts.
After the second blind level, the black deck was retired. I guess its the thought that counts.
Meanwhile, I was sitting at a table with players I've come to know. Matty Ebs was there, although he was the first person out of the tournament. After busting, he hit the road, since he planned to go to AC for a $1k buy-in tournament.
Tom-Green-lookalike was at my table. He's a very intelligent aggressive player, so I knew to be cautious. There was another player who reminds me of Mikey Aps based on his look and his attitude. Unlike Aps, he isn't great at poker, so his easy-to-tilt nature and aggressive tendencies are exploitable. Another player at the table, a slightly older guy with curlier hair, was just plain awful, but in that good, exploitable way. He would chase draws and play terrible cards like A8 like they were worth raising. Finally, we had a player who was new to me, a bigger Hispanic guy. He had earned the nickname of Flushman, which told me a lot. Notably, he liked to chase cards.
I didn't get any good cards for the whole tournament. My best preflop hand was AK, followed by AJ twice. I didn't get any pairs over 4s. I played relatively tight as a result. Meanwhile, Flushman had knocked out the Aps-lookalike when Flushman hit top pair, top kicker on a T-high board to Aps-like's JJ. They got all-in and Flushman rivered an Ace. Eventually the tables combined, and I was a shortstack. I was also seated to the immediate left of Tom Green, with Marc to his left. It was a bad spot to be in, but I play shortstacks well.
I began to up my aggression and make some bold plays. After I accumulated chips by pushing with KQ, AJ and AT, I limped with 22. Flushman and the BB were in the hand. The flop was JJ4.
The BB checked. I checked. Flushman bet out. BB folded and I decided to call. I knew he was loose and probably making a play. The turn was a 9. I checked. Flushman bet out about 1600, and I pushed for about 5k more. He thought for a while before folding. He knew I had the Jack. I knew I had 2s. So I put out my cards and asked him to choose one. I knew that no matter what, he'd see a 2, so it didn't matter which one he chose. Sure enough, it just confused him. Did I have a Jack 2? I must have had something!
Sadly, I made a play that would eventually seal my fate. UTG, Tom Green pushed all-in. When it folded to me in the BB, it was 3.1k to call. If I called, I would still have about 7k left, but blinds were going up to 500/1000 soon. I also held JTo. I really debated whether to call, but I've played with Green before and I knew that he was capable of pushing with any two there. After all, he was about to be a BB with few chips and he may've thought that he'd make his stand before he was priced in. His demeanor confirmed that he did not love his hand. I did some loose calculations. His 3,900 + the 400 SB + my 800 BB = 5,100. I figured I was facing a cointoss weighted in his favor. 3,100 to win 5,100 for a weighted cointoss in which I had enough chips to survive if I lost. And it was against Green, who in my estimation is the best player of the group, not including me, Matty and Marc. I called. He had A8 to my JT, flopped an 8 and never looked back.
I was down to 7k when I opted to push in the CO with A7c. The blinds just raised to 500/1000, and I figured it was time to make a move. I was wrong for two reasons. The first is the fact that Tom Green had Aces. But I couldn't have known about that. More importantly, I would've been better off pushing with 7 rather than A7. Any AT-AK was going to call me, so I didn't need to put myself into a situation where I was going to get called by a dominating hand.
Naturally, I lost. I considered sticking around to watch Marc and inquire about a cash game, but I had enough and wifey Kim was waiting at home.
I made my exit. A few hours later I heard from Marc. He had chopped first place with Flushman. He also got on the email list.
Poker keeps chugging along. I've had no significant live success yet this year, but the year is still young. I came in 11th out of 135 in a Bodog $10k guarantee recently for a disappointing $120 payday. But it reminds me that I still got it. I just look forward to playing more and more so that I can collect on my potential.
Poker outlook sees a Wall Street Game next Friday. Wish me luck.
Until next time, make mine poker!
Saturday, February 16, 2008
FullTilt, PokerStars, Bodog, and Absolute. If you were to ask me where US poker aficionados can can play online poker, that would have been my entire list. The bottom line is, since the UIGEA, a bunch of the major sites closed shop or turned their back on US customers. But time has passed, the UIGEA turned out to be nonsense (thus far) and it appears that the online poker world is starting to inch back into US territory.
So, it gives my great pleasure to declare that I have found another online poker site open to US players, BetUS.com.
Oh, but there's more. Remember sign-up bonuses? I do. I used to jump from site to site just to earn a juicy sign-up bonus. Once completed, I'd hop town and find a new site, since they were a dime a dozen. Of course, with the lesser amount of online poker sites, this has gone by the wayside for me. But BetUS.com offers a 100% sign-up bonus up to $500.
I haven't deposited any funds yet, but I have dabbled with their software. The appearance is like an updated Party Poker or even Noble Poker feel. You can choose from a limited selection of player avatars. The table layout is clean and clear. The chat box is big enough to be useful without being obstructive, and the note system offers conveniently labeled color coded tags. The last hand function is a tad annoying, offering a view similar to ye old Noble Poker (aka Titan Poker). The bet/raise slidebar is easy to use, and the site offers a half-pot and pot sized bet option.
Traffic was reasonable for a Saturday afternoon, with over 2600 players, and ample NL Texas Holdem tables. While there were a few higher games going, traffic seemed to be concentrated at the $2/4 NLHE level and lower. Even so, $8/16 and higher games were still running. SNGs and Scheduled Tournaments were aplenty, with the SNGs actually posting an estimated duration, something I haven't seen at any of the aforementioned sites. The scheduled tournaments running Saturday afternoon all had less than 200 players, which is ideal for a player like me.
Overall, I really like what I see at BetUS.com. I haven't deposited yet, but if I do, you'll be hearing more about it here.
Until next time, make mine poker!
Thursday, February 14, 2008
I'm sorry, but I couldn't let this pass. According to an article about Billy Ray Cyrus apologizing about not wearing his seatbelt (I kid you not):
"According to 2006 data compiled by the
Let's do the math with these bullshit statistics. Out of all of the "rear seat fatalities", 58.2 percent "involved passengers who were notwearing seat belts" and 32.7 percent involved people, "who were wearing seat belts." 58.2 + 32.7 = 90.9. So what happened to the other 9.1%. I mean, this isn't .01 percent or even 1 percent. 9.1%. Let's assume there were 2,000 rear seat fatalities, which is probably a low estimate for a year. That's a whopping 182 people (9.1% of 2000) who died in some nefarious half-seat-belted category. WTF?!
All I am saying is that if you are going to post statistics, it would be nice if they made sense. My guess is that its all just a bunch of bullshit propoganda. There is a reason why most states do not require adult rear seat passengers to wear seat belts. But the government is also in love with bullshit propaganda like, "Click it or Ticket!" or "Buckle up. It's the Law!"
I'm not saying that the government should not encourage people to use seat belts. I just want them to do so in a manner that does not appear like bullshit. I mean, why is it that most school buses, WITH CHILDREN!!!, do not have seat belts in the seats.
The answer, my friends, is that its all a steaming pile of bullshit. Besides, even if you isolate the statistic for rear seat fatalities without seatbelts, 58.2 is damn close to 50% in my mind.
Until next time, make mine poker!
That Didn't Take Long
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Mere hours after posting my "Poker Sucks" posts...I played online poker. I know, I know. But it's cool, because I followed one of my exceptions...sorta.
Wifey Kim was out at her friends place last night, so when I got home, I had a lot of free time to kill. I've had poker on the mind lately, specifically, my renewed distaste for online poker. Still, I love the game of poker. It's the gamesmanship that keeps me coming back. It's the same reason why I get my assed handed to me regularly in Chess, but keep playing, even if I take several months' hiatus after losing match after match.
My goal was to play the Hoy, mostly because blogger tournaments are the closest thing to live tournaments, and live tournaments are just more fun. Unlike other online tournaments, blogger tournaments are chat-heavy affairs, where conversation at the table offers both the social elements of poker and the human-interaction aspect of poker. The social aspect is self-explanatory, but I should probably elaborate about the human-interaction aspect.
In a live game, table chatter not only provides a social experience; it can also be used to get a feel for the moods and attitudes of your opponents. Are people saying, "nice hand" in a positive way, indicating a friendly game? Are people talking smack, indicating a challenging, cut-throat game? These things obviously matter live, but they matter just as much online. The usual disconnect is that in your average online tournament, maybe 1-3 player at most are willing to chat in the chat box. Usually, it's dead silent. But in a blogger tournament, table chatter will tell you a lot.
I suppose a sub-topic of the human-interaction aspect of online poker is that, online, some people simply play a math game. They have 8 windows open and they make their decision without reference to anything other than their cards and math. While some people play blogger events distracted (including me, usually), there is still a lot more knowledge available about playing style from previous experience and there is a higher incidence of players actually keeping track of table image (or, in some cases, general image accumulated over time).
Yeah, so blogger tournaments actually make sense as an exception to the rule about online poker sucking. Sadly, though, I don't have much at FT anymore (most of my funds are at Bodog, but even that isn't anything to write home about), so I opted to try a 2-table turbo SNG to win a token for the Hoy. I used to win a token easily 2/3 times or more, and frankly, over time that is probably still accurate. However, recently I can't seem to win a token, mostly due to bad lucks or deviation from my intended strategy. Let's not get into the bad luck debate, but let me make clear that I play the token SNGs in a very specific way. Essentially, my goal is to only play premium hands, with very few exceptions. All I need is two double-ups (easier than you think once the blinds get high and players start pushing) and I can coast to the money. However, if your moster hand runs into another monster or you suffer a suckout, that's it for the tournaments, since it's an all-in-or-fold style. Also, when I deviate from the strategy (i.e., play poorly), it usually comes back around to smack me in the face.
As it were, I won the tournament after getting lucky in the middle levels. With TT, my first premium hand, I raised pot, as I always do. A player after me raised to 1460 or so, which was slightly less than my 1620 stack. The blinds were at 60/120, but were going up to 80/160 shorly, so I figured it was time to make the call. It also helped that the raiser had over 5,500 after the raise, so I figured he was playing uber-aggressive. I pushed, he called, and showed AQ. I won the coin toss and that was that. Now, you'll note I consider this getting lucky, because I was essentially putting my token at stake for a weighted cointoss. Frankly, this is the very situation I try to avoid. If I wanted to toss a coin for a token...I'd toss a coin for a token. But it worked out for the best, so I guess I've got that going for me.
Down to the final table, I had about 3200 when a player UTG raised all-in for about 2100 with blinds of 120/240 or higher. I had AKc in MP and folded. Yep. Folded. It's not my job to knock out UTG, and I went through his range in my head. I was beating or dominating some possible hands (AT-AQ) but a lot of hands would leave me with another cointoss (this time weighted in his favor) and there were players left to act after me. In most situations, I push, but not here. Adjusting for a particular game is crucial. I didn't want to be the shortie with 1100 if he had 22 and I missed. So, fold, I did.
A few hands later, I pushed with QQ with blinds of 200/400 and was called by TT. I doubled up to become the chip leader and then knocked out three players to win me a token.
With my token in hand, I signed up for the Hoy. I then went about with some other things around the house.
Wifey Kim arrived home at 9:30 and we spent some time catching up. At 9:45 we were settling into the couch to watch Sunday's episode of The L Word. Yes, I watch The L Word. It was then that I leaned over to the computer, opened up the Hoy and unregistered. As much as playing "sounded" like a good idea, I didn't really feel that it would've been smart. I would be watching TV with wifey Kim until 11 easily, and didn't want to be distracted from her or poker. Oddly, during the hour-long program, I caught myself on a half-dozen occasions looking over to the computer to see if it was my turn to act. Each time, I was met with a blank screen.
Until next time, make mine poker!
Poker Still Sucks, Just Not THAT Way
Monday, February 11, 2008
I felt it necessary to post a quick addendum to my last post, Poker Sucks. I appreciate the support in the comments, but I wanted to make clear that my recent distaste for poker does not arise merely from the lows of losing. Nor does it come from inevitable suckouts. "Poker Sucks" merely because I am not having fun when I play.
If you are a professional poker player, the most important thing may be winning (in the long term, or good decision making in the short term). However, I am not a professional. I am a recreational player, one who takes the game very seriously. Poker does not pay my rent, but it is how I choose to spend a great amount of my free time. So, while winning may be the most important thing for a professional, the most important thing to me is that I am enjoying myself. This may mean that I am winning and therefore am enjoying myself, but it can also mean that even when I am not winning, I am having a good time or getting something out of the game. That is where poker has been lacking lately.
Losing is a part of poker. That's why I wrote Dear Whiny Poker Player in the first place. If you complain every time a 80/20 underdog hits, then you will be complaining 20% of the time. If you complained every time you lost three coin tosses in a row, you'd be complaining roughly 12.5% of the time. If you are complaining that much, either you don't understand the game of poker or you love complaining.
I am not complaining because of losses. That's the nature of the game. I am, however, a bit beside myself when it comes to my recent distaste for the game. I sincerely believe that it comes from my stagnant online poker game. I should work on my game, but the real question I ask myself is, why? Why spend that time right now when it isn't fun? I don't need online poker to pay my rent, so why dedicate so much time and emotion to something that isn't fun.
Once again, I have to remind everyone that I am a degenerate poker player (time-wise, and not quite stakes-wise). This is all temporary. In fact, I may end up playing the Hoy tonight, if only for the fact that I can't make the Bodonkey tomorrow. So, this distaste is countered when I'm playing something fun, like blogger tournaments or live poker. THAT is why I want to get back into live games. It's just more fun for me.
So, I hope that makes everything clear. I am not "out of love" with poker because of some losses. I am merely bored with online poker and when I'm bored with it, taking bad beats or even playing poorly makes me dislike the game even more. I acknowledge that I will continue to play poker but I also strive to play the type of poker that I find fun. And frankly, that's a hard idea to argue against.
Until next time, make mine live poker or perhaps a blogger tournament but likely not online poker for another couple of days at which point I will be bored and probably play online poker. So, in other words, Until next time, make mine poker!
Boy, I sure do hate poker. In fact, I think I'll quit playing. From here on out, I am going to change this blog over to my true love, commenting on Dear Abby opinions. Cause everyone knows Dear Abby is the next big thing.
No, really, I hate poker. I mean, what kinda game toys with your emotions like this. I won't even go into details, but really, this game is designed for masochists. Play well and you can still lose. Lose and its harder to play well. The easiest access to the game is via the Internet, but its also seemingly the most frustrating form of poker.
Take yesterday. I played my first round HUC6 matchup against Australian poker pro Jeciimd. Before we could jump into a HU game together, I ended up in two games against scrubs, beating them easily. Finally, Jecii and I get into a game and I end up busting when my A3 turns a wheel and Jecii just happens to have 36 for the nuts. Fuck! Naturally, we played our second in our best-of-three match immediately after, using FT's new "Rematch" function. A quick explanation: After a HU match, a window pops up asking if you want a rematch. If both players agree, the next match starts.
As is often the case (and this is also, notably, Jordan's No. 2 Rule of Poker), Losing begets Losing, and I played like trash in the second game. It didn't help that my chosen strategy, relentless pressure, doesn't match up to a player dealt monster hands (by Jecii's own admission, as I meekly folded most of the time to his re-raises). I almost wished that Jecii was taking advantage of my earlier loss, but that's not how Jecii explained it.
What's a boy to do?
Let's be real. None of this is anything new. I've even previously wrote the post, "Dear Whiny Poker Player" admonishing people for these very complaints. In my heart of hearts, I even know that this bitching and moaning is not only useless, but actually counterproductive. But I am trying to use this as a cathartic exercise. Bitch, moan, get it all out, and get back to it. I will not quit poker. I cannot quit poker. But I sure as hell need a break.
What's a boy to do? The answer is to get back in the game the way it works for me, namely, live poker. I haven't played live in weeks, mostly due to a very busy work life (I was in the office Sunday, yippee!) and home life (Playa del Carmen, I miss you so...). It also doesn't help that my schedule and my prime home game outlet have not matched up. It's gotten to the point where I'm toying with re-entering the world of underground poker in NYC. The major thing holding me back is my dwindling bankroll compared to the action junkie NYC games and my desire not to be robbed, raided or shot.
What's a boy to do? Probably plan a trip to Atlantic City or see if my buddy el Jefe wants to go to Buffalo for a weekend (while he is hanging out with our old fraternity, I hope to skip town and hit the Niagara Falls casinos). Maybe I'll bite the bullet and attend another Roose game out in the dangerous, deserted and isolated landscape known as (shudder) Queens. Maybe I'll pull that trigger on my goal to make a poker-centric vacation in an exciting, exotic locale like Mississippi or Indiana.
All I know is that for the time being, I need to reconsider my online play...again...and probably take some more time away from the game to gain some perspective. At least there's finally some decent television on (I'm looking at you, Lost, Terminator, the Wire, and Prison Break) and I recently learned about the hilarity that is It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Now go read about poker elsewhere. Because until next time, make mine anything but poker...for probably about 1 day until I'm back to suckling on the poker teet.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Hey folks. I'm still in Mexico. It's been a great trip so far, but while I am away, I figured it would be a good opportunity to direct you to some newer blogs out there. So, without further adieu, take a look at these three blogs:
Lair of Lucypher's - Blog reader Lucypher decided to start his own blog after meeting a bunch of our blogger bretheren (myself included) during the WPBT Winter Gathering. He's been writing for over a month and has been joining our crew in some of the blogger tournaments. He also has a great writing voice. I can't think of another time I was so interested in reading about the nuances of gumbo. This one comes highly recommended with the HoP Seal of Approval. I suggest starting with his first posts, his Vegas Trip Report which coincided with the WPBT. Thanks to Lucypher's post, I finally decided to give the ole $20-tip-ask-for-a-room-upgrade a try in AC last Christmas and even though all of the other people with us were bitter, wifey Kim and I slept well.
Uncle Chuck & Friends - Uncle Chuck and his fellow writers, Gordon Greene and poker blogger MeanHappyGuy, discuss the joys and trials of marijuana use. It's an interesting, different take on the ole blog routine.
Mr. Goss' The Phoenix Returns - Mr. Goss is a serial commentor at HoP and I am glad to have him around. He's recently recommitted himself to posting and poker, so I look forward to the results. Goss will also be joining the Bodonkey tournaments.
Welcome to the Blog Roll, guys.
Until next time, make mine poker!
Saturday, February 02, 2008
And Now, a Word or Two about Lost
Friday, February 01, 2008
I have few hobbies in life, but amongst poker, enjoying myself a good TV show is near the top. I'm particularly fond of serials, shows with long-building storylines like The Sopranos or Prison Break, as opposed to procedurals, shows that have stand alone stories in each episode that tend to follow a pattern like CSI or Law & Order.
Naturally, then I am a nut for Lost. I try not to write about it too much because this is not a Lost blog. However, after last night and reading Hoy's post this afternoon, it's probably worth discussing the show here. In fact, don't be too surprised if you get another Lost post just about every week, provided that the show makes it worthwhile.
A few posts ago, I warned everyone that the 8-episode half-season would probably leave us all disappointed because the big reveals were going to happen in the 2nd half of the season, which probably won't make it to air until 2009. Still, if you watch the show with that in mind, I expect the eight episode half-season should be enough to wet our appetites before the next hiatus.
But onto last night. All I can say is WOW! Big reveals all around, provided you watched carefully enough and are willing to connect some dots. In fact, after the episode, wifey Kim, me and her friend sat there and talked about what we saw like we were three junior detectives or maybe more like grade schoolers giving a book report. Whatever the case, I feel confident that I've come up with some decent conclusions (which may, of course, be entirely wrong, since I do not put it past the show to mislead).
Here they are:
- The Oceanic Six- If you've watched the show, you no doubt heard Hurley announce, "I'm one of the Oceanic Six!!!" to avoid arrest. Well, it's safe to assume that the Oceanic Six is the public name for the six people who survived Oceanic flight 815. "What?!" you ask incredulously. "Wasn't there something like 45 survivors?!" Yes, yes there were, but obviously, only six of them made it back to civilization. We already know who some of the six are: Jack, Hurley, Kate, but we don't know the other three...or do we...
- What's in the Box?! It's not just a creepy, yet awesome line from Brad Pitt in Seven. It's also all the rage amongst Lost fans. What, or more accurately, who is in the pine box that Jack visited in the end of season 3. As a refresher course, in the season 3 finale, Jack's flash-forward saw him distraught about the death of an unnamed person. When the funeral director asked, "Friend or family?" he replied, "Neither." When he told Kate about the funeral, she seemed insulted and asked, "Why would I go?" Sounds like Sawyer to me. That would explain why Jack does not consider the dead person a "friend" and why the jilted Kate would be insulted when Jack suggested that she would care about Sawyer (who, notably, did the hibbidy-dippity with Kate and then ignored her after he killed his own father and went into a dark, dark place). Okay, so Sawyer may be in the box, and we know that there are six people who escaped the island, but what about the other 39 or so people?
- The Oceanic Thirty-Nine-Or-So- If we know where six of the survivors are, where the hell are the rest? Are they all dead? Nope. They are still on the island. Don't believe me? Well, then, explain to me why Hurley's hallucination of the now-water-logged Charlie (or as the Aussie actors say it, Chahlee) said that Hurley had to go back and help them. This is the one aspect where I may not be exactly correct with my episode reference, but someone said that they needed to go back to help the others. Wait one second! If the other survivors are still on the island, then how did only six survive?
- Jacob is "It"- Who is this Jacob anyway? All we know is that he is some spirit-like being with a human form from time to time with some weird connection with the island. He has supernatural powers, controls the Others via Ben, and now communicates with Locke. I'm going out on a limb here with two possibilities: (a) Jacob was a human being whose connection with the island was so strong that he has advanced supernatural powers and has become essentially the controlling force on the island. Locke has a connection with the island. Ben does too. Could it be that Jacob is like them, only he's been there longer and/or he has an even stronger connection to the supernatural powers on the island? (b) Jacob is the island's spirit, and frankly, may be the Earth's spirit. I use spirit loosely, but think of it as a consciousness or soul. Perhaps the island is the center of the Earth's spirit, which would explain why it can hide itself from civilization and can control the things around it to make sure that people don't leave the island. Whatever the case, I am sure of two things: Jacob does not want outsiders on the island and he does not want people to leave the island. Want proof? Here we go. Several people attuned to the island (Locke and Ben) have said that the island does not want people to leave the island. Both have communicated with Jacob. But even better, when Jack met Hurley at the hospital, Hurley said (paraphrasing), "It wants us back and it won't stop." It?? So some thing, not someone, wants the Oceanic Six back. And it has abilities. And it seems to have driven one of the Six to death (I'm looking at you, pine box with Sawyer inside), one to the looney bin (Hurley), and one to drug and alcohol addiction (Jack). That's one powerful "it". My guess is that "it" is Jacob, the spirit of the island. But if Jacob is so powerful, why would he let the Six leave in the first place? And why doesn't the Six tell everyone about the island and save their friends?
- The Deal- My best guess is that Jacob allowed six of the survivors to leave the island, but only six. There was probably a deal that if they left, they would not tell anyone about what happened. This all sounds like a lot of baseless conjecture until you consider Jack's visit to Hurley at the mental hospital. When Hurley finally asked why Jack was there, Hurley suggested (paraphrased), "You are afraid I am going to talk?" Why would Jack care if Hurley told everyone about the other people on the island? Because it was part of the deal! Jacob must've only agreed to let six leave if they agreed to keep the location of the island and the existence of the survivors a secret. This also explains why Hurley would not admit to knowing Ana Lucia; it would also explain why he bugged out when the alleged lawyer for Oceanic Airlines (played by an actor who has a major role in The Wire and had a great role as Desmond Mobay from Oz) asked Hurley, "Are there other survivors? Are they still on the island?" Wow!
- The Deal Breaker- This is all conjecture here, based on my other theories, but as I see it, Jacob likely has decided that it was a bad idea to let the survivors escape. That's why he wants them back (according to Hurley) and will stop at nothing. Jack eventually comes around and agrees that they have to go back, so it is safe to say that this will be a major scene in flashforwards and likely the major story arc in season 5 (with season 6 taking place back on the island). Joy of joys!
Until next time, make mine poker!
Yesterday, I posed the following question:
Which is True:
Statement A: In a deep stack tournament with a reasonable blind structure, it is better to have tight hand selection while the blinds are small relative to your stack.
Statement B: In a deep stack tournament with a reasonable blind structure, it is better to play more hands early, while the blinds are still small relative to your stack.
After receiving 10 comments from some fine poker thinkers, we have another split decision. Out of 10 commentors, four believe Statement A is more correct, three believe that Statement B is more correct, and three land in the "It depends..." category. Even amongst the "It depends..." three, there is dissension, with one player leaning toward A, another toward B, and one squarely in the middle.
Inevitably, the truth behind the statements rests in one's style of play. Obviously, both statements address conflicting styles, namely the Loose and Tight styles of play. Before I give my opinion, though, let's take a look at some of the comments.
The Statement A crew consisted of Kaja, LJ, HUC6 Commissioner RecessRampage, and Gnome.
According to Kaja, "A lot of top tourney pro claim that the tournament doesn't start until the antes hit and the pots are worth playing for." Kaja has a valid point. Early pots where the blinds are small compared to the pot are not worth a lot of chip value. I emphasize "chip value", because Kaja also points out that there is more to early play than merely winning small pots: "if you play too tight you will not get paid on your big hands." That point is arguable, since I have seen early tourney donks who pay off the tightest player, but it does at least open the door to the question of whether there are non-chip-accumulation reasons to play lots of pots early.
RecessRampage does a good job of explaining why it may be right to play fewer hands early in a deep stack tournament. According to RR, "It depends on what kind of hands you are talking about." Naturally, the definition of playing loose or tight is variable, but RR makes a good point. It is wholly acceptable to play drawing hands like 89s and still be "tight." The key is position: "I think playing tighter has more to do with playing hands in position, not committing too much chips in marginal situation, etc and not necessarily folding until you see AA, KK, QQ, or AK."
RR also notes that building an image is not a factor in his analysis because, "no one is paying attention to your 'image.' What's the point of building a loose image if you get moved???" I consider this an arguable point. There is usually a few players at the table paying attention, and even the donks will notice if you are playing an unusually high amount of hands. It may not involve a player keenly watching all action, but if you constantly limp or raise, the guy to your immediate left will notice, even if he is 5-tabling, beating off to Red Tube and watching a DVR'ed episode of Price is Right.
Gnome believes that it doesn't make sense to play loose early because it won't pay off: "I find that taking too many chances early in a tournament are more likely to result in a diminishing stack. The reason for this is that it's hard to both hit a flop hard with gambling-type hands, and it's also difficult to get paid off." I am not certain that it is difficult to get paid off, especially since a lot of commentors argued that there are a lot of donks in the early stages of an MTT. Wouldn't it be true, then, that these aggro donks will pay you off if you hit early on. Also, if you are willing to play aggressively, you may not need to hit the flop to win the pot.
Gnome continues, "Sure, I like to see cheap flops if the price is right, my stack is healthy and I'm in good position. But even if you are somewhat successful in chipping up, I'm not convinced that the value of those early-tournament chips is high enough to to justify the risk." This is more akin to my De-Lucking MTT post from March 2006. In that post, I argued that if you avoid getting in pots, you will avoid suffering suckouts, etc., and can minimize the amount of "luck" one needs to win a tournament. Essentially, loose play does not net enough chips early on in tournaments because of small blinds, and therefore, playing tighter is preferable because you are reducing your exposure/risk.
LJ thinks that Statement A is the 'better' of the two ("no sense in stealing blinds when they're so small"), but advocates a mixed approach, based on position: "there's nothing wrong w/ seeing cheap flops in late position, as long as you can throw garbage hands away when you don't hit/only have a small piece." Frankly, this idea surfaced in a couple of comments in all three categories (Statement A people, Statement B people and the It Depends people). So we will examine it further as we proceed to discuss the Statement B Crew.
Three people leaned toward Statement B: DP from Wired Pairs, CK aka BWoP, and Smokkee. In the end, the common thread was something hte LJ mentioned, postflop ability. In fact, the statement was first made by Fuel55 in my comments, but we'll get to that in a minute.
As DP explained, post-flop play is the key to making a looser style work in the beginning stages of a deepstack tournament: "Assuming a skilled NL Hold 'em player, preferably with cash game experience (read: post flop playing abilities) ...Statement B is definitely more accurate, but that plan takes A LOT more effort and focus." The amount of focus and effort is a great point. Clearly, folding all but premium hands is an easy strategy. A natural part of loosening up, however, is the fact that you will see more flops. If you are able to make the correct plays given the flops, then a looser approach may be more profitable. However, it invariably requires more work, since the tighter player will have much fewer decisions. Focus is more important as well, because the tight player's decisions could be based entirely on his/her cards (AA and KK often play themselves), whereas playing middle pair on a flop requires one to consider his/her opponents' cards and play.
CK agrees: "it does require a lot more *skillz* than style A (being able to make good reads, knowing when you can get tight opponents to fold, managing bet sizes, etc.)." She also adds two very appropriate caveat: "If you are okay with increasing the variance in the early portion of a tournament, go for it. How often have you seen someone amass a huge chip lead early and then blow it out in the middle of the tourney? Once you have the big stack, how can you make adjustments to keep it?" Variance will increase if you play more hands, leading to more early bust-outs. That leads to another question, whether busting out early is preferable to busting late while still out of the money, but this is almost another topic unto itself. The bottom line is, even if you are playing well, you may play 79s, flop two pair on a 279 rainbow flop and get all-in against KK (for instance), only to turn a King. Or you may hit a major second-best hand, such as a set-over-set situation when you play low pairs like 22 or 33 for set-value. Similarly, even if you do not get unlucky, once you have a big stack, you must adjust to make that early accumulation worthwhile. This may mean keeping up the pressure, but it also may mean tightening up. Once again, the player who goes for Statement B has a lot more decisions to make.
Finally, Smokkee agrees that post-flop pay is key to a Statement B player: "so, i guess i would lean more toward (B). i'm very comfortable with my ability to play post-flop." Naturally, Smokkee has his own words of caution though: "there really is no sense making fancy plays early in an MTT stealing/restealing and you don't want to get caught in a bad situation with something like AJ/KQ/QJ, etc. but, i do like calling standard raises in LP with suited connectors, gappers, small pocket pairs hoping someone will stack off if i hit a huge flop." Once again, the Statement B player has more decisions. Does he play the Royalty-heavy hands like KQ or is the suited gappers better for a low blind, deep stack game?
As you can probably figure out by now, the Statement A people tempered their answers by pointing out the pitfalls of Statement A (no action when you get hands, missing postional opportunities). The Statement B people did the same (harder decisions, higher variance). So, it makes perfect sense to turn to the "It depends" people to see if they have figured out when its right to follow path "A" and when its best to follow path "B".
The "It Depends" group consists of Fuel55, Instant Tragedy and PokerWolf (and, arguably, many of the Statement A and Statement B people).
Wolf stays with the tried and true formula, play opposite of your table: "It depends on how your table is playing." This is certain a smart strategy, but I do not afford it the same weight some people do. Logic would dictate that if the table is loose, you should tighten up, but arguably, if the table is loose, you should loosen up and see as many cheap flops as possible, with the hope to hit a hidden major hand against one of the loose players. This may be especially true in deepstack games, since you can afford to see many cheap flops and fold when you miss.
Wolf also correctly points out that, "It also depends on your definition of 'tight'". This is similar to Smokkee's idea, that certain hands like 89s may be better than others, like QJ. Depending on the player, "tight" might mean top-ten hands only, or it could mean top-ten hands and suited connectors in position. I didn't define "tight" because I wanted to allow people to use their own definitions. Ultimately the question is whether one should play "looser" or "tighter" in deepstack, small blind tournaments. It's about adjusting styles, without necessarily choosing which style is correct. Regardless, one's definition of tight and loose do come into play.
Instant Tragedy suggests that each player should loosen or tighten up depending on their usual (or preferred) style of play: "If you are aggressive, and you feel like you are better with early play, you try to see a lot of flops...I choose to be more selective because of the ability to play good hands." I definitely think that IT is onto something. On a personal note, I am more prone to play more hands for cheap, because I am an action player. I play to my "needs" and "strengths", whereas a player like GCox is more prone to tight play and would probably benefit most from tightening up his play, since he has time to let his usual hand-selection based strategy to pay off.
I leave the final word to Fuel, because his one sentence comment answered the question in a direct, and in my estimation, 100% correct way: "This really depends on how good you are postflop ..." Fuel is one of the few chosen poker role models at HoP. He knows what he is doing and he is playing at a level (not to mention stakes) that I hope to achieve some day. HoP is pretty swell-headed, so it isn't often that someone reaches HoP Poker Role Model status (other members include Cmitch and ScottMc). In that simple statement, Fuel says it all.
In the end, it all depends on how good you are at postflop play. If you are an excellent postflop player, then the increased variance is less of an issue and you should play more hands. If you are an excellent postflop player, you do not need to hit the flop to win often enough to make it a profitable play. If you are an excellent postflop player, those early accumulated chips will give you the ability to continue your postflop style game when the blinds get high enough to make most other players desperate. And, naturally, if you are an excellent postflop player, those things that make loose play so difficult, namely the extra effort and focus needed, are your strengths anyway.
On the other hand, not everyone is a postflop player. Many players do not have the focus necessary to make well-informed post-flop decisions. Others cannot stomach the variance. Whatever the case, those player are better off essentially nut-peddling when the blinds are low. Once again, these players are utilizing their strengths, namely patience and (hopefully) the ability to extract the most money when they do hit monster hands (which can be easy if you are playing against calling stations or aggro donks).
So, I'm in the It Depends category, I suppose, but if I had to lean one way, it would be Statement B. I sincerely believe that it is advantageous to see lots of flops while the blinds are low because I have faith in my ability to play well postflop. I know how to fold and I know how to take stabs at a pot when it has been abandoned by my opponents. I think position is key, in most of these situations, but if you get a good read, sometimes being out of position can be profitable as well.
But the bottom line is that this style of play ("B") is a lot more difficult, and some of my poorest performances came when I was trying to play style "B" without putting forth the necessary focus or effort. For a much more simple path to success, "A" is definitely a way to go. Unfortunatley, even though variance will rear its head less often in style "A", it will eventually play a large role late in tournaments if you do not get at all monster hands or the few monster hands you do get either earn you no chips or suffer a loss. This leads to more deep finishes, but not necessarily more ITM finishes and certainly not more big ITM finishes unless you get the right cards at the right time. Even so, it may be a preferable route, rather than slugging your way through hours of tournament poker playing a focus, laboreous "B" style game, only to suffer the fate variance anyway.
Thank you for my commentors. Once again, I'm inclined to join the people who agreed with Statement B, with the caveat that it takes a lot more effort/focus and it all depends on one's ability to make good postflop decisions.
Until next time, make mine poker!