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Observation = Profit

After last week's $270 win at the Financial Game, I have been reinvigorated for live poker play. Last night, I made my return to the Wall Street Game with the hope that I could start off strong in my first tournament of the Season 5 of the Wall Street Game. For those not in the know, the host pulls a few dollars out of each buy-in for a season-long prizepool, and keeps track of stats as the season progresses. The player with the best stats who has played a minimum of 1/3 of the tournaments wins 1/2 of the prize pool. The next 9 or 10 players get a winner-takes-all freeroll for the other half of the prize pool.

Sadly, I fell short in Season 4, but made it into the tournament of champions. Even sadder, I'll be away this weekend (okay, not so sad, since I'll be in AC), so I have to give up my seat to the next eligible player, Pervey Pauly. Fortunately, Jamie, the WSG host, is a smart guy and has a rule where if Pauly wins, I get half of his winnings. So, good luck, Pauly. You better not fuck up!

As I was saying before you so rudely interrupted me, my goal was to start Season 5 strong AND eke out a profit in the .50/1 NLHE cash game that followed the one tournament. In the past, I've had some trouble being profitable in the WSG cash games. Usually, I just donk it up, making bad calls and chatting way too much. Essentially, I have more fun, but less profit. A lot less profit. But then again, as I said last night to Bakini Mary, "I'm not trying to slit anyone's throat here." It is a friendly game, after all.

Still, losing sucks, so I decided to win some money. My first goal, however, fell woefully short. Rather than placing 1st in the tournament, I opted for 1st out of the tournament. Unlike the usual tournament vibe, this was a very tight game. Most of the hands were won with 3x BB preflop raises. I figured it was time to start utilizing the table's tightness after we entered the 50/100 blind level (2500 starting chips). I was in EP and decided to limp with J8s. It folded around to the SB, who called, and the BB, Alceste, who decided to raise. A minute before this, I was lamenting the tightness of the game, so I saw Alceste's raise as a preflop position bet. I opted to call, with the hope that I could hit a Jack and take down the pot. The flop was Jack-high, he bet out and I raised all-in. He called after thinking for a while (before realizing that pot odds dictated a call), and then showed KK to my top pair, Jacks.

After busting, I heated up some of the leftover ziti I brought with me. I grabbed a bottle of water and sat down on the couch, remote in hand. I settled on Wheel of Fortune in the background as I ate my dinner. One of the greatest things about the WSG is that its so comfortable. The proximity to home means I can always stop home and change after work (yesterday had me in full out don't-give-a-shit mode, with a ratty t-shirt and garish plaid shorts because, hey, they were 'clean'). After dinner, I checked the clock: 7:45. I had a good hour and a half before the cash game, so I considered what I could do with my time. Ultimately, when it looked like no one else was busting out anytime soon, I made a quick, discrete exit. Within 5 minutes, I was home, on my couch, hanging with wifey Kim. We watched the Big Bang Theory, which is a pretty good sitcom although a bit too sitcommy, and an episode of some other show that now escapes me. I helped her bring the heavy basket of laundry back to the apartment, and then I made my 2nd exit of the evening, running about four blocks through a sudden torrential downpour while my iPod screamed Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation".

When I got back into the Wall Street Game, Bakini Mary and Tony were playing HU for the top spot. Mary won, and we eventually retook our seats to start the cash game. Skidoo remained on the couch, where he finished a PLO SNG on his laptop, moneying in 2nd place. In the meanwhile, I was playing .50/1 NLHE and doing my best to remain profitable.

I don't recall many hands except for the one I will go over in detail. What I do remember is that there was one action player at the table, and when I say "action player" I mean donkey. Its always dangerous posting things like that on this blog, and I hope that if the donkey, er, player, reads this, he understands that I must remain true to my readers. This player was in a lot of pots, and was clearly unable to control his nervous habits. I watched this player carefully, especially after he made a play on me in the early goings. This hand, I do sorta recall. I think I raised to 5 or so in MP/LP with decent high cards, but nothing really worth raising about. I hadn't played a hand yet and I felt that if I was going to play, I would at least play the role of the aggressor. The donkey called along with one other player, Scott, sitting directly to my right. The flop was J65, and both players checked. I put out a continuation bet and the donkey pushed all-in. That was a sizeable sum, so I folded when it got back to me. He showed his cards to Wendy, sitting at his right, and I quite loudly proclaimed, "Show one, show all." He flipped over his 67o, and seemed kinda annoyed by my request. I admitted, "I had no idea what you had, so if I can see your cards, I'm going to want to see them." He said, "I knew you didn't have the Jack," and I agreed. I admitted that he was ahead. Scott leaned over and whispered incredulously, "He was ahead with 6s?" It was true and I didn't hide it. But I did repeat under my breath (although loud enough for Scott to hear), "I got what I needed out of that hand." The truth is, I did get what I needed. I had been watching the donkey the entire time and I got a feel for his game.

As the game wore on, the donkey suffered a few big losses and I saw him unravel. I knew it was time to go in for the kill if at all possible. I was in the BB for $1 and was dealt 22. Dawn, who had been suspiciously quiet the entire game, raised to $6. The donkey called. I decided to call for an additional $5. By then, I was up around $50, so I could afford to gamble with $5 to set farm. I figured that Dawn had good cards, but I had no faith in the donkey's hand. He just seemed to want to play too many pots. Still, Dawn was very quiet, so I was cautious, even if I was willing to throw $5 away with a call preflop.

The flop was 974, rainbow, hardly the flop I was looking for. The one consolation was the fact that there were no high cards. I checked, and Dawn checked too. The donkey reached for his chips. His demeanor lacked confidence. He grabbed 4 redbirds ($5 chips) and bet out $20. I thought for a moment about the bet. $20 into a $15.50 pot was an obvious overbet. In the previous hand when the donkey hit 2nd pair with 67o, he check-raised all-in. In that instance, it was clear that he did not want a call. I saw the same thing forming here. His bet, $20, was designed to force folds from me and Dawn. Frankly, it was a reasonable enough play, since all indications pointed to Dawn and I missing our cards, so our folding would be imminent. But I decided that the donkey was likely full of shit, and I could get more information on the next card. I called, and Dawn folded. I was essentially setting a trap. I smelled bullshit, but I wasn't ready to take down the pot immediately. I figured that if I raised the $20 flop bet, I could face a problem from the oddly quiet Dawn, and/or face an all-in from the overzealous donk. I couldn't call a re-re-raise.

The turn was another 9, which was oddly the ideal card for me. The 9 was harmless. If he already had top pair 9s, I was behind anyway, so the fact that he hit trips would only make my life easier. Certainly, if he had a 9, he would be more fearless and more comfortable, two things I can pick up in body language. I checked, hoping to gather more information. I would have been also willing to check it down, if he checked behind me, since I did not have a definite read yet. Fortunately, my opponent bet out $20 again, and I had all the information I needed.

Its not always the case, but if your opponent does not escalate his bets from the flop to the turn, he usually has lost his confidence in his hand (if he ever had any) and it betting out of desperation, not to mention the fear that if he checks, I will bet with impunity on the river. There are other possibilities, but I had eliminated those. Other than lack of confidence, players might fail to escalate their bets when they are (a) trying to keep you in the hand, or (b) don't know any better. From his flop bet, it didn't appear that his goal was to keep me in the hand. The river didn't change much. It was not as though he was worried about his top pair on the flop, and suddenly confident with his trips on the turn. After all, if he did have top pair preflop, I was fairly confident he would have bet a lesser amount. And while he was a donkey, he knew how to escalate his bets, so that was eliminated.

After his bet, I raised to $60 with my sad pair of 2s. He took his time before folding. He later claimed he had JJ, but I don't believe that for one moment. Still, my play could have scared off an overpair since I seemed to really light it up after the 9s paired, suggesting that I hit top pair, shitty kicker to call on the flop and check-raise the turn. Whatever the case, by observing my opponents' behavior in previous hands, his general unease in the current hand, and his bet sizing signals, I was able to pick up on weakness and win myself $50+ in profit in that one hand alone.

On a side note, a little while earlier, Scott had lost a big hand when he correctly called out another player's set but called anyway with a overpair to the board. He was pretty upset with himself. It was like looking at a mirror to myself. In the last month, I've pretty much read a players' hand and called them anyway at least once a week. Usually, its for big money. Ultimately, its something Scott and I both have to work on. If there is any consolation, though, its that you cannot learn to follow your reads until you get reads. At least Scott and I are observant enough to make correct reads. The next step is to follow those reads every time.

I should probably mention that the Wall Street Game has continued to amaze me with its random cast of characters. I've said it before and I'll say it again: You just never know who is going to show up at a Wall Street Poker game. This time, though, was absurd. I stroll in to Kearns, Jamie and one other person cleaning up a spilt soda. As I make my way into the main room, I see the usual crowd. However, as I get to the far end of the table, who do I see but 23Skidoo in the flesh. Skidoo is an Atlanta blogger who has visited NYC on a handful of occasions for work. In the past, I had taken him to Salami Club, but when I heard he was going to be in NYC on Monday, I had to reluctantly pass on hanging out because of plans to spend some time with wifey Kim. I had assumed that he would be out of the area by Tuesday, but I assumed wrong. Skidoo, reading about the WSG, emailed Jamie and arranged to join the festivities. And frankly, that's just fucking awesome that (a) WSG is so freakin' open that a random blogger from Georgia can get in the game with little effort, and (b) that Skidoo took the initiative and made it happen.

So, it was a great night for me overall. I won $120 in the cash game and lost $30 in the tournament, netting me $90 profit on the night. I had planned to play at the Financial Game tonight, but it looks like that plan has fallen through. That's fine by me though. I was literally exhausted this morning as I dragged myself from bed. I left the game at 11:30 last night, the first player to leave, and I felt like a real gash for leaving 'early'. However, after poker, I'm usually on such an adrenaline rush that won't let me sleep for at least an hour. Last night was worse, and I didn't fall asleep until much later than usual. But the world keeps on turning, and I keep plugging along.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 10:14 AM,


At 4:37 PM, Blogger Alan aka RecessRampage said...

Friendly game of poker = oxymoron. :)

At 5:19 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

I know your comment is tongue-in-cheek, Alan, but I honestly thought that about poker games too, until I read Alan Schoonmaker's Psychology of Poker. It reminded me of the other reasons to play.

At 7:38 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

WSP = Friendly and comfortable place to play and learn. Kind of like Sesame Street.

At 1:57 PM, Blogger 23skidoo said...

Now that was tongue and cheek!

I'd like to thank you personally. If I didn't have such a good experience meeting you in NY, I might not have had the courage to hook up with other bloggers up there.


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