Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Thank You for Not C-Betting

On my late summer Vegas visit, I played poker with Pete Peters three times.  You’ve already read about the second time (see here) and the third time (begins here).  But what about the first time, I hear you asking. Well, your long wait is over, here it is.

It was just the two of us.  OK, technically, there were usually seven other players at the table, but of the people you know, it was just PPP and me.  And we were sitting right next to each other.  The trouble with playing right next to Pete is that I was having such a good time chatting with him, I didn’t pay as much attention to the poker as I should have.  My notes are kind of sketchy, and I probably missed some opportunities to make some plays.

But who cares, when you’re having fun?  Pete told me all sorts of great stories.  I believe we might have discussed one or more fellow bloggers.  Not sure.  He also sold me on how great it is to be a powerful attorney working for a Washington, DC law firm.  In fact, after talking to him, I was very tempted to give up all my poker-related jobs and enroll in law school so I could eventually become a junior associate in his prestigious law firm.  But I decided I was just a few years too old to go for such a dramatic career-change.  If only I was three years younger….

One problem I would have, if I made the move, is that I don’t think I could manage all the drinking necessary to do the job.  Learning the law would be a piece of cake.  Drinking to the extent that Pete did in his recent post here?  Probably not doable.  And by the way, I insist you click that link and read the post there, if you haven’t already.  It details a night of excessive drinking that is beyond belief.  It is also the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time.  Seriously, if this is the funniest thing you’ve read on the internet since Windows 3.1 came out, Pete will gladly refund your money.

But I did somehow make some money this session.  Early on I had pocket 4’s three times within about a dozen hands (less, I think).  Limped in, missed.  Called a raise, missed.  The last time was the most interesting. Both my 4’s were red.  The pot was limped.  The flop was all hearts.  No one bet.  The turn was another heart, giving me a little baby flush.  Again, no one bet.  The river was a blank that didn’t pair the board.  Someone bet $10, someone called.  I didn’t think my flush was any good, but for a measly ten bucks I figured I could get a drawing ticket for the cash drawing, because, after all, I’m a drawing ticket ho’.  To my surprise, my four of hearts was the only heart shown.  The initial bettor had Ace-high, and the other guy had a low pair.  I got a ticket and the pot. 

I called a $12 raise with Ace-10 of diamonds in the small blind.  The flop had two diamonds.  I checked and called $17.  The turn was another diamond.  I decided to go for the check-raise.  He bet $35, I made it $85 and he folded.  I showed my flush to get another drawing ticket.  The dealer said, “It’s easy to play when you have the nuts, isn’t it?”  Can’t argue with that.

Then came the eerie hand.  You see, Pete had been playing at the table for some time before I joined him, and had amassed a pretty big stack.  But since I got there, he had been losing.  He seemed to be good luck for me, but I was bad luck for him.  One of the ways he had been losing money was by double-barreling.  Not just making the c-bet on the flop, but betting the turn again when he had air.  We had a long discussion about that, and I said I rarely fired the second barrel. I was planning to talk more about it in this post, but when I was doing my research for it, I went back and read Pete’s version of this night (here), and I see that he did a very thorough discussion of the double-barrel there, so I won’t repeat it.  And by the way, this evening took place before I had seen that Ed Miller video I talked about here.  One of Miller’s “rules” is that if you bet on one street, you should bet on the next street (mostly).  If you call on one street you should call (or raise) on the next street (again, most of the time).  This means I might start firing more second barrels in the future.  But at this point, I wasn’t doing that.

Now, if you read Pete’s old post, you will see that he gives an example of a hand where he has pocket 8’s.  He gave me this same example at the table this night.  And here’s the eerie part.  Within a minute of him mentioning the example hand of pocket 8’s, I looked down at my cards and saw 7-2 offsuit.

No, no, no.  I did indeed see pocket 8’s. Why couldn’t he have mentioned pocket Aces?  Well, at least he didn’t mention pocket Kings.

A guy raised to $12 and another player called and so did I.  The raiser was a guy I recognized, played with him before, and considered him a tough player, and fairly aggressive.  So when the flop came Queen or Jack high, no 8, I was surprised that he didn’t c-bet.  The other guy checked too.  The turn was a blank and no one bet.  The river was another blank and no one bet.  The raiser showed Ace-King, in other words, nothing.  The other guy mucked when he saw the first guy’s Ace.  My pocket 8’s were good.

I was shocked the guy had never fired even a single barrel, let alone two.  At that point I almost definitely would have laid down my 8’s to his bet with at least one over card on the board.  I commented to Pete about the guy not c-betting, and it sort of tied into our discussion of how many barrels to fire.  In this case, zero was definitely not the right number.  Thanks for not c-betting, sir, appreciate it.

Flash forward two nights to the poker session with PPP, Coach and Alysia Chang.  There was a hand where I called a raise with Ace-Queen.  Again, the raiser didn’t c-bet on a fairly dry board. He didn’t bet any street, it was checked down.  He showed Ace-Jack and I took the pot.  A c-bet from him would have earned him the pot.  Instead, I took it, thank you very much.  Zero barrels is definitely not the right number.

A bit later, with a stack of around $300 (up from $200), I called a raise to $10 with Ace-2 of spades.  Three of us saw the flop, which contained two spades.  The preflop raiser bet $25, sitting on a stack of about $150.  The next guy made it $75.  He had about $200 before he bet.  To prove to you that I’m not a total drawing ticket ho’, I did fold there, rather than chase the nut flush at bad odds.  The guy who bet first folded, so I never found out if I would have hit the flush.

Last hand to talk about, it was getting late, the drawing was getting close, and I was still up over $100.  I limped in with Ace-Jack of hearts in late position.  I admit it, the limp was because I wanted to hit a flush and get another ticket.  A whole bunch of us saw the flop, there was no raise.  It was a great flop for me—Ace high, the other two cards were hearts.  A guy bet $10 and I was the only caller.  A blank hit the turn, he bet $10 again and called.  A third heart hit the river, he bet $10 yet again.  I made it $25.  He said, “I guess I know what that means,” and folded.  I showed my nut flush to get a ticket.

Alas, none of my tickets were picked, but I left up over $100.  It was a fun nite, I had a great time playing with PPP and had some interesting discussions about c-bets and double barreling.  We didn’t resolve anything about how many barrels to fire, but the value of c-betting was proven.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Late Night With Scott Davies

This past Friday night, and into Saturday morning, I was riveted to the TV, watching poker.  Scott Davies was playing for a bracelet.  Not just any ol’ bracelet.  He was playing for the Main Event bracelet at the WSOP- APAC in Australia. In other words, it was a big effing deal.

I’ve mentioned before, I don’t actually watch that much televised poker.  But I was excited to make an exception for this event, in order to cheer for Scott and see if he could get his very first WSOP bracelet.

Why did I care?  Well, for over four years now, Scott has been blogging about his adventures as a professional poker player on AVP (now PokerAtlas).  He started long before I started blogging, and before I started working for AVP.  In fact, the title of his blog is called, “My Quest for a WSOP Bracelet.” You can find his blog here.

So I’ve been following his adventures and his quest, his highs and lows, for all this time.  He’s practically family!  If my memory is accurate, I only briefly met Scott one time, last year during the WSOP in Vegas (see here).

When I learned that Scott had made the final table at the Main Event down under, and that the final table was going to be televised on ESPN live here in the US at 10PM Friday night, PST, I knew I had to watch and see if Scott could do it.  He came into the final table with the second most chips, so it was certainly doable. 

Across the twitterverse, I saw all kinds of encouragement directed at Scott.  Some of these folks no-doubt knew Scott from his AVP blog.  Not sure how the others knew him, but apparently everyone who knows him or knows of him likes him; that’s the kind of guy he is. 

In Vegas, a few of his friends organized a viewing party to watch the telecast together: AlaskaGal, Stump, Michelle, all names you’ve seen on my blog in the past.  But since I wasn’t in Vegas, I had to do the next best thing.

Friends and followers of Scott from all over organized a Facebook chat group, just so we could all watch the final table together and comment about it in real time.  Isn’t the internet cool?  I hope I don’t leave anyone out, but on the group chat were Vook, Nick, John, Jess, Benton, Dwayne, Dan (sorry, don’t have a link for him).  Oh yes, Scott’s wife, Liezl, was also part of the chat.  She was home in Canada, watching on TV like the rest of us.

And it was the chat that made it extra special.  All of us, chiming in from around the country, sharing our thoughts, our good wishes, it was just a total blast.  And keep in mind, for those of our group who live on the east coast, this started at 1AM and didn’t finish until after 5AM!  They were all troopers.

One logistics problem was that, when you televise poker “live” and you show the audience the hole cards, you have to do it on a delay (so that a player can’t have an opponent’s hole cards signaled to him).  We all took a vow not to look at twitter or any other source that would reveal the results prematurely.  Even Liezl agreed…..insisting that Scott not tell her anything when he called her during the breaks.  Honestly, I have a hard time believing she didn’t get real updates during those conversations (or that she didn’t check Twitter for current updates), but hey, I’ll go along with it. J

It was so exciting watching Scott go for the bracelet, and chatting with all his friends and fans at the same time, that I wasn’t even tired.  I had no trouble staying awake, even tho this went on well past the time I normally retire when I’m home in LA.

At the start of the 6-handed table , the biggest stack belonged to Jack Salter, but after awhile, Frank Kassela took the chip lead (moving Scott down to third, I believe) and started bullying the table around.  He went on quite a run. Meanwhile, Scott was card dead and hardly played any hands.

But to show you how fast things can turn around in tournament poker, Kassela went from chip leader to busto in the span of just two hands!  First, he had the misfortune of seeing Ace-King when Scott finally woke up with a hand….a big hand.  Pocket Aces, to be precise.  They got it all in and Scott’s Aces held (I believe there was some Hollywooding on Scott’s part before he put all his chips in the middle).  Suddenly, Scott was the chip leader. 

The very next hand, Kassela was dealt Ace-Queen, and guess what?  Salter woke up with the Aces this time.  Again they were all in, and again, the Aces held.  Bye, bye Kassela.  From the penthouse to the outhouse in two hands.

The rest of the players were soon eliminated (actually, Kassela went out 5th; the lone woman at the final table, Ang Italiano, was the first to bust) and it was heads up between Scott and Salter.

Scott had a small chip lead.  I’m not sure, but I think Salter may have jumped slightly ahead once or twice, but it was usually Scott in the lead, but never by more than 60% to 40%. 

When it was heads up, things got real interesting, thanks especially to the commentary by noted pro Antonio Esfandiari.  The few times previously I’ve heard Esfandiari doing poker commentary, I’ve always enjoyed him.  He is not only insightful, but he’s witty and charming and presents a winning personality.  I think he’s the best poker “color-man.”

Or at least I did until he started his commentary on the heads-up match.

Antonio didn’t like Scott’s play at all.  He didn’t like his heads-up style.  He clearly didn’t think Scott was aggressive enough.  He even said that he didn’t think Scott had a lot of experience heads-up. 

He was only the “guest” commentator, but really, he should have done some research.

Those of us in the Facebook chat group all knew (or soon learned) that Scott is actually a heads-up specialist.  He might have checked Scott’s cashes from this year’s WSOP.  Scott finished fourth in the $10K heads-up event. 

Antonio predicted immediately that Salter would win the bracelet; he made it clear that he felt Scott was overmatched, and kept praising Salter (and dissing Scott) even as his stack was shrinking.  It was kind of funny.  Except that it was really annoying to our little chat group of Scott’s fans.  Antonio may have lost some fans this night.   Meanwhile, Liezl was telling us that Scott was doing exactly what he wanted to do, that this was his specialty, and that he was going to win.  She laughed off Antonio’s digs at her husband and expressed total confidence in Scott.

To be fair to Antonio, he has his own view of how heads-up should be played, and that’s what he was there for, to give the viewer his expert opinion.  But you know, there’s more than one style that can be successful in poker and Antonio didn’t seem to be willing to consider that.  If you ask for advice on how to play a specific hand of five different pros, the first thing they will say to you is, “It depends.”  Then the five of them will give you at least seven different answers. 

We didn’t see it until after the event was over (on TV, that is), but we later learned that another top pro, Phil Hellmuth, had tweeted out that he disagreed with Antonio and that he actually loved Scott’s style and strategy. 

Anyway, Antonio’s disagreeable comments probably made us pull even harder for Scott, if that was possible, just so we could all kind of universally say to Antonio, “Take that!”  Or “Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah.”  Or even, “Where’s your main event bracelet, Antonio?”

Heads-up play went on for a (seemingly) long time without a lot of dramatic hands.  Scott kept chipping up, but there were no monster pots or monster hands.  It was after 2AM on the west coast, and it was beginning to look like I’d see the sunrise before this thing would be over.

There were a couple of hands that had us all going crazy on the chat.  On one, I think Scott had top pair, but there were two 4’s on the board and Salter had one in his hand.  Scott was beat, but it was hard to put Salter on a 4 and Scott could have easily thought he had the best hand.  Facing a river bet, Scott tanked for a long time.  The chat room was going crazy, “Fold!”  “Lay it down!”  Finally, Scott did indeed fold and we all cheered.

The flip side was when Scott had a Jack in his hand and there were two Jacks on the board.  But the board was scary.  Salter had a straight draw, and on the river, he missed.  But the river put a third diamond on the board.  Scott’s trip Jacks looked eminently beatable.  But Salter had absolutely nothing.  He led out with a huge overbet, bigger than the pot.  Scott went into the tank for a long, long time.

Then the weirdest thing happened.  As we were all shouting in the chat room, “Call, call, call!” the TD came over and told Scott that he had one minute to act; the clock had been called.  But no one, and I mean no one, had heard Salter call for the clock.  Even the commentators were surprised, they hadn’t heard it either.  We wondered if it was possible that the TD did it himself?  Pretty sure that isn’t allowed.  Apparently Salter must have whispered it, or perhaps had somehow signaled to the TD non-verbally.

However, Scott couldn’t hear us shouting to call (especially since, by the time we saw it on TV, it had happened half an hour earlier).  And as the clock was counting down, he folded.  Damn it!

The commentators, Antonio and Norman Chad, had a field day with this.  They both proclaimed that, even tho Scott still was the chip leader, this was the “turning point” of the match.  They clearly expected Salter to go on from there and start taking Scott’s chips as if he was taking candy from a baby.  Honestly, they way they were talking, Scott may have well as just thrown in the towel. Even before this, they were saying that Salter was clearly outplaying Scott, which was absurd. Scott was the one who was slowly but steadily building up his stack. It would have been funny if we weren’t all pulling so hard for Scott.

I assume at the break that Scott learned that he had been bluffed there, but that’s the difference between successful pros and amateurs.  They can deal with that without going on tilt.  Scott kept playing his steady game—the one Antonio didn’t like—and built his chip lead back up. 

At some point, Antonio finally realized that Scott was playing well, and started praising his moves a bit.  Then finally, just when it looked like there’d never be a truly game-changing hand, it happened.  Scott had pocket 6’s and Salter had Queen-10 (yes, Coach, the “evil hand”).  I believe Scott three-bet with his 6’s.

The flop came 10-10-6.


Scott had flopped a full house, and Salter “only” flopped trip 10’s.  On the turn there was some back and forth betting, Salter finally announced “all-in” and Scott insta-called.  He had Salter covered. The river was a blank and our pal Scott had his first WSOP bracelet—and a Main Event bracelet at that.

Out little chat group was ecstatic, to say the least.  Liezl told us that Scott had actually called her with the news while she was watching the final hand on TV (I guess Scott was tied up with interviews and such).

It was freaking awesome.

Side note:  I’m pretty sure that in the entire 4+ hours of poker, we never saw anyone get dealt the dreaded pocket Kings, for whatever that’s worth.

Congratulations to Scott Davies, Main Event bracelet winner!  No doubt there are more bracelets in your future!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

"Don't Let Him Look at Your Boobs"

Flattery will get you…...somewhere.

In response to the post here, one of my readers, xdex7, posted a comment complimenting me for doing a good job with my tournament summary and thanking me for posting it.  He said that most of the blogs he reads don’t do tournament summaries. That got my attention because the tournament wasn’t even the main part of that post.  I actually haven’t done too many tournament recaps lately, not feeling very motivated to write them up unless I cashed.  And lately, I haven’t cashed in many.

But xdex7 gave me some motivation.  I remembered a tournament where I lasted a long time but didn’t cash. More important in my mind however, was that there was a classic “woman said” from it.   For over a year, it’s been eating at me that I had this “woman said” out there and just hadn’t been able to get it up here on the blog. And the longer I waited, the less interested I was in revisiting that tournament.  But xdex7 inspired me.  I knew at least one reader who would like to hear about this tournament.  And there must be at least one or two of you out there who would like the “woman said.”  So, here’s the story on a Binions 2PM tournament from last year.  This one’s for you, xdex7!

Before the tournament I noticed another tournament going on, and recognized a bunch of my Vegas pals playing in it.  One of those pals was Jeanne.  It’s important that you to know that I first met Jeanne when I noticed her taking a picture of her friend’s cleavage (see here) at this same Binion’s tournament over a year before.  And it’s also important for you to know that a few months later Jeanne insisted that I take a picture of her and her two pals pulling down their shirts and modeling their cleavage (see here). For some inexplicable reason, to this day, Jeanne thinks of me as a “boob-man”—and rarely lets me forget it.  Go figure.

Anyway, Jeanne and I had a nice chat while she was playing.  Then I left to play in the 2PM.  Now, there was this guy directly to my right at the table who I didn’t recognize (and I recognize a lot of the players every time I play this) and who I figured out was visiting from out of town. 

As I am known to do, I was taking notes in my trusty notepad, and the guy never said anything about that, unlike others who have indeed commented about it.  But at one point, I dropped my notebook and he noticed it on the floor before I did and pointed it out to me. 

So, a few hours into the tournament Jeanne, finished with her tournament,  came over to my table.  But she didn’t come to see me.  No, it seemed she knew the guy next to me—the guy who had pointed out my fallen notebook.  Sidenote: The poker world is a very small community and these days, I’m more surprised when two poker people don’t know each other than when they do.

She nodded to me but carried on a fairly lengthy conversation with this guy who had been to my right all afternoon.  Then suddenly, she pointed to me and said to him, “Watch out for this guy.  He’ll write about everything you do and everything you say.  And whatever you do, don’t show him any cleavage, because he’ll write about that.”  This was said loudly enough for everyone at our table—at least—to hear.

He didn’t seem to find that comment at all unusual.  All he said, “Yeah, yeah, he’s already writing about me. I picked his notebook up.”

She responded….”Well, don’t show your cleavage….don’t show your boobs….he’ll write about your boobs.”  And then she left.  (Note to Jeanne:  I generally don’t write about man-boobs)

To this day, it astonishes me that the guy never asked me what the heck she was talking about, but he didn’t.  He didn’t say a word about it.  And it was disappointing too, because if he had asked me, I already had the perfect response picked out.  I was going to say, “I have no idea who that woman is.”

First level, in early position, I raised to $300 with Queen-Jack of spades.  One player called.  Flop was King-10-4, one spade.  I bet $500, she made it $1K and I called.  A Jack hit the turn the turn and she bet $2k and I called.  The river was a 9 giving me the straight, but I checked worried she might have the top end of it.  She checked too and she had King-7 suited, top pair, crappy kicker.  (Edited to add, thanks to ohcowboy12go who was the first to comment on this post and noticed an error.  Originally I had it that the turn was a blank, but if that was true, she couldn't have had a bigger straight.  My voice recording totally ignores mentioning what the turn card was, which is way I thought it was a blank.  Hopefully it was a Jack--or a Queen--otherwise I didn't bet the nuts.  I'm sure there was a chance she had a bigger straight). 

To the fourth level, I had a bit over the $20K starting stack, blinds 200/400.  On the button I raised to $1,200 with Ace-Jack of diamonds. One guy—the big blind—called.  There were two diamonds on the flop, and the other guy led out with a $1,200 bet.  I called.  The third diamond hit the turn.  He bet $1,200 again.  I made it $4,500.  He shoved with a similar stack to mine.  Since I had the nuts, I of course called.  The river was a blank but he was drawing dead.  He had Queen-2 of diamonds for a small flush.

Fifth level (300/600), $51K stack.  I raised with pocket 8’s and no one called.  Very next hand I had pocket Jacks.  A guy in front of me raised to $1,200, I three-bet to $3,600.  He shoved for $11K.  Tough decision there but I called.  He had Ace-Queen and caught a Queen on the flop.  Ouch.

Then I had pocket 9’s and raised to $1,800.  The lady I mentioned early made it $5K.  She only had a few more thousand behind her. And she had been playing aggressively.  So I shoved to put her all in.  She called and showed pocket Queens.  Ugh.  But there was a 9 on the flop and, for good measure, another 9 on the river.  As she left, someone said to her, “Well, at least you can say you lost to quads.”

Fast forward to level 8 (100/600/1200), I started with nearly $40K.  I raised to $3,500 with Queen-Jack offsuit in late position and had one caller, a brand new player to the table. Flop was Jack-9-3.  He checked, I bet $6k.  He responded by shoving for $28K.  WTF?  As I said, new to the table.  I saw no point in risking half my stack in this spot, so I had to fold.

Next level a lady with a short stack shoved in front of me for $6-$7K.  That was a good time for me to be holding the dreadedpocket Kings.  I raised and no one else called.  She had pocket 6’s that didn’t improve. 

Level 11 (300/1200/2400), starting with about $72K.  I raised to $7,500 with Ace-King off.  The only caller was the big blind, the same guy who had check-raised me off the hand when he was brand new to the table. By now, I could see he wasn’t any kind of maniac, he was playing fairly tight.  The flop was Queen-10-4, rainbow.  He checked, I c-bet $12K and he shoved.  By this time, he had me covered.  With just a gut-shot, it was an easy fold to his check-raise.  This time he showed his hand, he had a set of 10’s.  He said, “We were in a big hand before, sir, so I want you to see I’m not bluffing.”  Nice of him.  But losing the chips hurt.

That same player got into an interesting hand with a nicely dressed woman I’ve played with before, normally a good player.  But she kind of embarrassed herself out of the tournament.  The guy had flopped a flush, and all she had was a pair of Kings (one King on the board).  She bet the river, and the guy, who had been slow-playing his flush, asked for the amount of her bet before he raised.  She thought he had called and showed her hand.  The player insisted—and the dealer confirmed—that he hadn’t taken any action yet, and then raised—a bit more than a min raise, not a shove.  Everyone had seen her hand, which the dealer had tried to instantly cover with his hand (she was directly to the dealer’s left).  But it was too late. She waited for the guy to show his cards, apparently not hearing yet that he had raised.  When the dealer told her, she said, “OK, all-in.”  She could have folded, or even called and still had chips left over; her “all-in” there was a horrifically bad play. The guy snap-called and showed the flush, and she was out.

The rest of us were all kind of surprised.  Her bet on the river wasn’t necessarily a mistake, but when he raised it should have been an easy fold for her. We came to the conclusion that she was so embarrassed by prematurely exposing her hand that she just wanted to get out of there so she wouldn’t be in the company of those of us who saw her mistake.  Weird.  Or maybe she had dinner plans.

Another bit of discussion was whether the dealer had made the right move by trying to cover her cards.  He was a new dealer and he just went by instincts, but I believe the general consensus was that he shouldn’t have done it.  It didn’t matter since the other player had seen it plain and clear.

Anyway, I said to the guy with the flush, “I thought it was just me that you flopped monsters against.”  He laughed and said, “No, no, nothing personal.”

By this time, I was down to shove-or-fold mode.  I took pots without resistance by shoving with Ace-King and pocket Jacks.  And then a level later, I did the same thing with Ace-10 and pocket Kings.  I had shoved so many times without getting called I decided to show the Kings just so they wouldn’t think I was shoving with mediocre or bad hands. 

I didn’t make a note of the level but we were down to about 24 players (paying 9) and I had less than 10 big blinds.  On the button, it folded to me with pocket 6’s.  I shoved.  The big blind, who had a big stack, called with Ace-Queen.  Because I had been shoving so often (and hadn’t just made a raise in a long time), someone sarcastically said, when they saw my 6’s, “Oh, he actually has a hand there.”

And there was a Queen on the flop, and another one on the river for good measure, and I was done.  I had survived 6 hours, but it wasn’t enough to cash.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"Breast Milk For Everyone!"

This is about one of my last sessions of my most recent Vegas trip.  It started late afternoon and didn’t end until after midnite. 

The first hand of note was against a player who was very aggressive preflop, but he wasn’t getting much action after the flop.  He took down a lot of pots with c-bets.  I was thinking he was raising pre with a lot of mediocre hands and winning without much.  In early position, I limped in with Ace-5 of hearts. He made it $15 in late position.  Ordinarily, that’s an easy fold for me but I thought my read on this guy was pretty good so I called.  The flop was Jack-Jack-5.  I checked and he bet $25.  Now, I was pretty sure he would have slow-played a Jack, so I really thought the flop missed him.  I decided to call and see what he did on the turn.

The turn was a Queen and he checked behind me.  The river was deuce or a 3 and I checked.  I considered betting, but I thought my 5’s were good, and that he’d only call (or raise) if he could beat my low pair.  He did indeed check behind me.  He showed Ace-10 offsuit, which was actually better than I expected.  But his Ace-high was no good against my mighty 5’s.  I was especially pleased to win that hand because it was based solely on my read, at this point, I wasn’t in the habit of calling a flop bet with bottom pair.

I was up for awhile and then started dripping into the red. Then I got pocket Aces in early position.  I made it $10, two players called and then a short stack shoved for $59.  I raised to $125.  My instinct there is that I want to go heads up against the short stack, I don’t want to play the Aces multiple ways.  But is that right?  First of all, it’s unlikely either of the other two players are going to call the $59.  And if one of them calls, I’m essentially heads up against that player since I can’t lose any more to the guy who shoved.  Maybe I need to rethink that.  Thoughts?

Anyway, the other two players folded and the flop was something like 9-8-2, all hearts.  I was heartless.  When a innocent looking 4 hit the turn, the guy flipped over his hand and said, “sorry” and showed pocket 4’s.  The river was a blank.  I said to the guy, “You’re not really sorry….but that’s ok.” See, I can lie. too.

By the time I needed a dinner break, I was down over $200, so I picked up and went to eat.  I could have left my chips to hold my seat since it wasn’t going to take very long for me to eat, but I decided this table was both unprofitable and boring and I should just pick up and start anew when I was done with dinner.  The aggro I had the read on had been long gone so I couldn’t get any more money out of him.

When I got back to the room after a quick bite, I was sent to a new table.  This was a fun table.  There was a young couple at the table visiting from Seattle.  I soon learned that they had recently had their first baby and that the mom was breast-feeding the kid.  And also, pumping a lot of breast milk out.  This is not the sort of conversation one usually hears at the poker table. 

Apparently that whole discussion of breast feeding and breast milk pumping had started before I had gotten there, and it appeared that the husband kept bring up the fact that his wife was producing breast milk.  The wife was a little bit embarrassed by this, but generally a good sport.
She even told the story of pumping breast milk in the car on the freeway (I assume her husband was driving).  Truckers would drive by and honk and hoot and holler.  I swear, the subject of breastfeeding kept getting revisited time and time again.  No more than 15 minutes ever went by with it coming up.

But her husband did go a little too far at one point, when he “complained” that she wouldn’t let him drink the breast milk “at the source.”  She turned beet-red at that point.

She was doing well at the poker table.  A few minutes after telling the trucker story, she won a nice pot and raised her arms and shouted, “Woo hoo!  Breast milk for everyone!”

There was a guy at the table who looked like a middle-aged biker.  His wife was sitting behind him, participating in the discussion with the young Seattle couple.  This couple had a couple of teen-age boys.  First, Mrs. Biker suggested that now that they had a baby, they were going to have to schedule “sexcations” just to keep the romance rekindled—because that was tricky once you have kids (though this couple was in Vegas, so I guess they were figuring it out—I have no idea where the baby was during their visit).

Mrs. Biker was also giving the breastfeeding Mom “warnings” about what to expect when the baby gets older.  She said she was deathly afraid of seeing her teen-age boys doing something she didn’t want to see.  Gee, I wonder what she could have meant?  She said that whenever she went upstairs, he was sure to make a lot of noise so that her boys knew she was coming up to see them.  And then she made the oddest comment.  “I don’t want to see buttholes.”  Seattle Mom said, “That’s what you’re afraid of seeing?”  Mrs. Biker said, “Whatever….I don’t want to see it.”

The conversation never stopped, it was all fun.  The table was more like a 2/4 game than a 1/2 NL game.

The poker for me was ok.  In the big blind I had King-8 off and no one raised.  The flop was King-Queen-X.  I bet $6 and had one caller.  The turn was a Queen and I bet $10, again, he called.  The river was another King.  I bet $15 and he folded.  But I showed my full house so I could get a drawing ticket.  I believe my hand there is what’s known as “the big blind special.”

On the button, I had Ace-9 of spades.  The Seattle Husband raised to $10.  I called (hey, I wanted another ticket) as did three others.  The flop was King-high, one spade.  I checked, Seattle bet out $25.  Pretty easy fold, right?  I decided to call.  I had an overcard, I had a back door flush draw and I also thought the guy might be c-betting with nothing.  Obviously, it was a pretty loose call.

Here’s the funny thing…at the time, I thought it was a bad call even as I made it.  But as I’ve explained in a couple of recent posts, more recently I watched Ed Miller’s video on how to beat “any 2-5 game” (see here).  And this is exactly the kind of situation where Miller would call the flop.  Absolutely.  An overcard and a backdoor draw is more than enough to call.  But I can’t say I was following Miller’s advice when I called there.

My call got Seattle’s attention.  We were now heads up and he said, “Oh….you’ve hardly played any hands.”  The turn card was a second spade and he checked.  I checked behind (you see, if I was following Miller’s strategy, I would have bet there).  The river wasn’t a spade, but it was a red Ace.  He checked again and I checked behind him.  He showed King-Queen and I had rivered him.

He was a bit incredulous.  “You called $25 with nothing.  I can’t believe you called $25 with nothing.” 

My new line in that situation is simple, and I remembered to say it.  “I’m sorry, sir.  I’m a terrible player.”  There’s really no answer to that.

The evening wore on.  It was about 10 minutes before midnite, which was the time of the next cash drawing.  I was planning on calling it a night after the drawing.  I was a little bit down for this session (and a lot down if you include the session before dinner).  At this point, I only had ticket in the drawing, the big blind special hand where I rivered a boat.

So that’s why I limped in with 5-4 of clubs.  Seattle guy made it $12.  There were two callers to his $12 so I thought it was pretty easy to call as well.  Four of us saw the flop, which was 9-8-6, one club.  I checked, Seattle guy bet $20, the others folded.  I decided that with my gut-shot—and the back-door flush draw—it was worth a call.  The turn was a big club, so I wasn’t going anywhere.  I called another $20.  The river was the deuce of clubs, giving me the flush.  I checked, not totally confident my baby flush was good. He bet $30 and of course I called.  He had Ace-9—just a pair of nines.  My flush was indeed good, and more importantly, I got another drawing ticket, which I hurriedly filled out for the drawing that was only minutes away.

Of course, Seattle couldn’t believe it.  “Again?” he said.  My two best hands had been against him, and I sucked out on him both times.  I said I was sorry, and he was such a nice guy and had provided so much entertainment, I kind of almost meant it.  He was muttering to himself, something about a bad call I made on the flop—again.  Since I was going to leave in a few minutes, I went ahead and explained.  “I did have a gutshot on the flop.”  You know, trying to convince him it wasn’t the worst call in the history of poker.  He kind of nodded.  But I’m sure that, to this day, he thinks my call on the flop in the earlier hand was the lamest call in the history of poker.

A few minute later they pulled an envelope out of the drum.  The current method of doing the drawings is to pick an envelope that contains the amount of money to be given away and the number of tickets that will divide it up.  The minimum is $200 ($100 to two ticket holders).  The maximum is $2,000, which can be $1,000 to two winners, $500 to 4 winners, $400 to 5 winners or $200 to 10 winners.  After they know how many tickets will be pulled, then they start pulling the tickets we’ve submitted out of a separate drum.

The shift boss announced that they would be giving $2,000 away this time….and that there would be 5 winners.  So the winners would get $400 each.

After the final sweep to make sure they had all the tickets, the shift boss pulled out the first ticket and announced, “Table 13”—which happened to be the table I was at—“Robert....”  Before I had to chance to jump up, I heard the last name and it wasn’t mine.  Turns out the guy sitting across from me all this time, the quietest guy at the table, was named Robert too.  Rats.

A couple of more names were selected.  All three of those players were there.  You have to be playing in a game and not have a missed blind button in order to win.  Then suddenly, I hear my name—my full name—announced!  Yeah, my ticket was the fourth winner.  I had just won $400.  Nice.

I waited about 10-15 minutes before they brought me my money, but it was a pleasant enough wait.  After I collected my bonanza I racked up.  The last hand I described had put me up slightly for the session and the $400 had made the entire day a profitable one. 

Since I had two tickets in the drum, I needed to know which ticket had been pulled so I could go back and tip the dealer who dealt me the lucky hand.  What I do is write the name of the dealer on the ticket so I know.  I almost forgot to ask the shift boss whose name was on it, but I remembered in time.  It turned out that the lucky ticket was the one I had just earned against the Seattle guy.  I suppose maybe I should have tipped him too?  No, I guess not.

Turned out to be a great night, winning at poker, winning at promos, and a really fun table to boot.  And poor Seattle guy, he probably thinks he lost two big hands to the worst poker player ever.  But at least he had a new baby and his wife’s breast milk to go home to.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Table Full of Maniacs


Love ‘em or hate ‘em, if you play poker, sooner or later you’re gonna have to deal with them.

I haven’t quite figured out how to do that yet.  When I first switched to NL, I tried to avoid them.  I would ask for a table change if the action got too crazy.  But as I got more comfortable playing NL, I realized that maniacs could be very good for my bankroll.  Or bad.

I still sometimes can’t resist the urge to get away from them if they are just too, well, maniacal.  But now I mostly stick with them and see if I can find a way to get them to give me some of the money they seem to care so little about.

This is a session from several months back, up in Vegas.  It was a new game that started just as I arrived.  Usually a new table plays tight at first, but not this one.  I was in seat 1.  Seat 2 was occupied by someone from the Midwest, and his buddy was in seat 9.  Seat 2 was only semi-aggressive but seat 9 was the guy who never saw a starting hand that he didn’t think was worth $12.  He played most hands and almost always raised.  There was another guy who looked like someone I’d played with before, though he wasn’t a regular regular that I recognized for sure.  He was fairly aggressive too.  Then, to top it off, there was a guy from Sweden wearing a baseball cap—backwards!  Do they even play baseball in Sweden?  You all remember how much I love the backwards baseball cap look (see here).  He was your fairly typical Euro aggro.

So, the plan was, wait for a hand and let the maniacs double or triple me up.  The trouble with that is, unless you get dealt the big hand, you have to put a lot of money in the pot preflop to see if you’re gonna get a big hand.  And ideally, you should really lower your starting hand selection since you don’t need as good as hand as you would against a normal table to get paid off.  So, more money at risk.  Thus, it was a bad time to be card dead.

And that’s what I was.  Early in the session, but after I had most of the aggros figured out, I got pocket Jacks.  I was under-the-gun, and reflexively put out a raise.  I raised to $12 which was the normal raise at the table, though more than I would usually raise.  And only one player called.  None of the aggros called.  Just the tightest player at the table.  Damn.  Why didn’t I think that through?  This was the perfect table to unleash the dreaded limp/re-raise.  I might have been able to shove when it got back to me.  Stupid, stupid.

What’s worse, I flopped a set.  It was a rainbow flop, Jack-high, so I checked.  He didn’t bite, he checked behind me.  The turn blanked, and I felt I had to bet then.  I put out $15 and he insta-mucked.  A set of Jacks totally wasted.

And I didn’t really see another big starting hand for the rest of the night.

Just one more hand to mention before I get to the story of the night.  I had 3-2 offsuit in the big blind.  By some miracle, no one raised.  I flopped a gut shot and one of the maniacs bet $2.  Weird.  I took it to mean he maybe had a monster?  I called.  The turn was a blank and no one bet.  I hit the gut shot on the river and bet $10, which got one caller.  The wheel was good and I won a very small pot.

In fact, for the next couple of hours, I didn’t have a hand to write down.  I might have won a few small pots, but mostly I was bleeding chips due to having to call raises with marginal or semi-decent starting hands just to see a flop.  A flop that never hit me.  The way the aggros were all playing, there was no real opportunity to pull off a bluff, and I never had a hand good enough to make a semi-bluff.

I had to add another $100 to my original $200 buy-in.  I was down to about $180 when I was pretty close to calling it a night, very frustrated.

That’s when I was dealt Jack-10 offsuit on the button.  To my astonishment, it was limped to me.  I considered raising, but two of the bigger aggros were behind me and I was afraid one of them would three-bet me off the hand.  If one of them just raised, I could justify a call, but a three-bet would be too much.  Besides, I was so excited at the thought of playing a decent hand maybe cheaply I couldn’t pass it up.  To my surprise, the small blind folded and the big blind didn’t raise. and at least four or five of us saw the flop.

The flop was Ace-9-8.  And it was all diamonds.  My Jack was also a diamond.  I had an open-ender and a draw to the third nut flush. Which of course might not be any good.

Surprisingly, it was checked to me.  I checked as well, at this point hoping maybe if I hit my flush I could at least get a drawing ticket even if I lost the pot.

The turn was the 7 of diamonds.  It was the best card I could have hoped for—or was it the worst card I could have seen?  It gave me the straight.  It gave me the flush.  It gave me a gut shot straight flush draw.  If only I could turn that black 10 in my hand into a diamond.

This time, the newest aggro at the table led out for $10.  On his very first hand at the table, after a couple of limpers, he just shoved his entire $140 stack preflop.  Of course, no one called.  The aggro to my left said, “I like your style.”  Really?  You like that?  Could someone please tell me what hand he would have had to have had in order for that to have been a good play?  Aces?  Yeah, win $7.  Seven-deuce?  Risking a lot to get those seven bucks.

Anyway, he bet out the $10, a couple of players folded, and the last guy to act before me raised to $45.  I start counting chips as I considered how to proceed.  But before I could do anything, I hear the player who led out say, “all in.”  He had me covered.  Now I know if I call I’m in for my whole stack.

It was a tough decision.  Considering what maniacs the players were, I thought there was at least some chance that my hand was the best one.  Plus I had the damn straight flush draw.  Obviously, only one out there, but I could be good without it.  If the two guys left in the hand were both tight, it’s a different story.  But these guys?  No, that Jack high flush might be good.

I called and then the guy shoved as he had announced, and the other guy called—he had a huge stack, the biggest stack at the table.  The less than $200 he needed to call hardly made a dent in his stack.  Well, ok, it seemed unlikely at least one of them didn’t have me beat, except the guy with the huge stack who called knew what a maniac the other player was, so maybe he was calling light.

I went ahead with my plan to call the all-in because I had one card to guarantee me a monster pot and at least a possibility of getting that pot even if that one magic card didn’t come.  Plus, by calling, I would be getting a drawing ticket, and the drawing was less than 15 minutes away.  But honestly, that wasn’t really a consideration. If I was sure I was beat I wouldn’t have put all that money in just to get a ticket.

The river was not the miracle 10 of diamonds.  It was a total blank.  The first guy (who had bet $10, then shoved) showed 8-7 offuit for two pair (I told you he was a maniac—he shoved two pair on a four-diamond board).  But the other guy had the nuts—the King of diamonds (and a black Queen as well).  I was felted.

But I got a ticket.  Problem was, in order to be eligible for the drawing, I had to be active in a game, and the drawing was still a few minutes away.  One of the reasons I called was that I was basically winding down for the night and didn’t plan on rebuying if I lost.  Except that I had to rebuy in order to be eligible for the ticket.  I knew that and just rebought for the $60 minimum.  My new strategy: fold everything without looking, post a few blinds, and hang on until the drawing.

No, no….I didn’t do that.  I did buy in for the minimum and I played tight and didn’t really get anything to play.  One suited Ace and I missed the flop.

My one lousy ticket was not drawn out of the drum, and I was done for the night.

Funny….at the time, I was really upset and felt that I played that hand really badly.  In the morning, I felt better, thinking it was ok because my flush really could have been good there.  The guy with the King of diamonds might have had two pair as well, or a set, or even the 10 of diamonds I was praying for.

And now that I’m writing this up months later, I’m back to thinking it was dumb on my part.

Poker, huh?