Sunday, May 22, 2016

Back in the Days When I Could Have a Good Session...

I assume that most of my loyal readers memorize everyone one of my blog posts.  You do do that, right?  But for the one or two of you who don’t, I will refer you back to the post here from last December.  Now that post was about a session from a year earlier.  And in it, I mentioned that I had then recently discovered a number of “nice” sessions from that time period that I had never written up for you and hoped to present to you in the future.  Well, the future is now—at least for one more of them.

There were a couple of reasons for me to go back and grab a report from the not so recent past.  For one thing, with my trips to Vegas having been reduced both in frequency and in length, I’m running out of recent material.  But also, I was getting tired of writing up losing sessions as I have mostly done lately.  I remembered that I had some old sessions that I thought were worthy of blogging about, and that most likely meant they were winning sessions.

And then I started to wonder if maybe I could learn something reviewing a report on a old session.  Clearly my results lately have been disappointing, to say the least. I’ve been getting some great feedback from you guys on where I need to improve (so many areas!).  And I also got one comment that I wasn’t playing the way I used to.  Maybe I could find something important from an old session that would make me go, “Damn, why don’t I do that anymore?” So I was digging for information that maybe could help more as much as anything.

Reviewing this session I’m writing up, which took place around Christmas time in 2014, I don’t think I found anything that will help.  Except that just revisiting (and then reporting on) a session where I had a nice win might help me with my confidence a bit (possibly) and at least will be more fun to write about.  So here we go….

The first hand I made note of was against a guy with a big stack who I said (in my voice notes) looked familiar.  Based on the description I had for him, I think I now know who this player is, a player who became an MGM regular I ran into a lot during the heyday of the MGM Invitational. (freeroll).  I dunno how many times I mentioned him by “name” but I did call him “Dave” when I needed him to have a name.  So let’s assume this was that Dave.

In this hand, I had Jack-10 in the big blind.  No raise.  The flop was Queen-9-x.  I checked, Dave made a small bet. Another player called, as did I. The turn was a King, and there were now two cards of the same suit each on the board (and I had no cards in either suit).  I checked.  I wish I had explained to myself in my notes why I checked there with the nuts, but I didn’t.  It’s possible that I was, by this time, pretty sure that Dave would bet.  But it remains a mystery.  Dave did fire, a bet of $27.  The next guy called.  With two flush draws out there, I check-raised to $100 (guess I started the hand near my original buy-in of $200, and as I indicated, Dave had me covered).  Dave then shoved, the other guy folded, and I snap called.  Dave had Jack-10 too, but his was suited in one of the suits on the board.  So he had a freeroll.  Either he hits his flush and takes the whole pot, or he misses and we chop with the same straight.

Lucky for me, he missed his flush, and we chopped it.  Phew.  But Dave did ask the guy who folded if he would have called if he only called my $100 instead of shoving?  He said he would not have.

I raised to $8 with pocket 7’s and got only one call, the guy on my immediate left.  The flop was 7-4-2, rainbow.  I checked, as did he.  The turn was a Jack, no flush possible.  I bet $10 and got a call.  The river was a 7.  I bet $30 but didn’t get a call.  It’s tough to get paid for quads.

A few hands later I raised to $8 with pocket Jacks.  Same guy was the only caller.  The flop was Jack-4-2 (too bad no one was playing the Grump on either of these hands).  I checked, as did he (guess I was more into slow-playing sets back then).  A 9 on the turn and I bet $10, he called.  Another 9 on the river, I bet $25.  No call.

From the small blind, I completed with Jack-8.  The flop was 9-7-3.  I called a $5 bet. There were still three of us left.  A 10 on the turn filled in my gut-shot.  I led out for $25 and got a call.  The river was a blank and I didn’t get a call to my $40 bet.

After winning a small pot with Ace-Queen (raise and a c-bet on an Ace-high board), I looked down at pocket Aces.  I opened to $8 and then someone three-bet to $21.  It folded back to me, I bet $48.  He called, it was heads up.  Harmless looking board of 8-7-2.  I bet $75 and he folded after tanking for a bit.  He showed two Queens.

With pocket Queens myself, I called $10, it was three-ways.  The flop was King-Jack-5, I called $30, the last guy shoved for $67.  The original raiser called, but I folded.  Probably shouldn’t have called the $30.  The shover showed King-Jack, which looked real good when a Jack hit the river.  The original raiser never showed.

With the dreaded pocket Kings, I opened to $8, only one caller, a guy who was a bit of a Crazian.  The flop was Queen-high, I bet $12, he made it $40.   Hmm.  I thought he could easily do that with just a Queen.  I called.  We both checked a blank turn.  Interesting.  The river paired a 7.  He bet $60.  I tanked.  I almost folded.  But I had a hard time believing the second 7 helped him and if he was that strong without it, why didn’t he bet the turn?  I decided I had to call.  As soon as I put my chips out, he folded instantly without me even having to show.  Guess he didn’t even have a Queen!

Wouldn’t you know it, not very many hands later, I got Kings again.  After a couple of limpers, I made it $12, two callers.  The flop was King-6-5, two diamonds (no diamonds for me).  I bet $25 and got a call.  The turn was another 5.  Nice.  This time I checked behind the other guy.  Hmm….does it make sense to check there if the other player has already checked?  Well, I figured he would likely bet something on the river, based on his play thus far.  Sure enough, on a meaningless river, he led out for $25.  I put out $65 which put him all in, and he did call.  He didn’t just muck (without showing) when he saw my boat—he left the poker room. 

Now if you’re one of those wondering how it is I would take so long to write up a session where I had pocket Kings twice (within a very short time frame) and won with them both times (including a flopped set and a turned boat), you have to get in line behind me.  I can’t believe it myself.  Should have written this blog post before going to sleep that nite!

There was annoying guy at the table for a brief period.  Announced that he had just gotten into town from Oregon.  He announced that repeatedly.  He mentioned it again when he said he had forgotten the drinks are free in Vegas because they’re not in Oregon.  He was one of those guys who just wouldn’t stop talking.

His very first hand, there had been a raise to $10, two callers, and he immediately announced “all-in.” He had bought in for $100. No one called, and he said, “Well, look at what I got on my first hand!” And he showed us his hand.  Was it Aces?  Kings?  Jacks?  Nope, he showed us two deuces.  He complained that people weren’t calling his wild bets and eventually got a table change.

I only noted one more hand for myself.  It was Ace-King, I raised, two callers.  No one called my flop bet on a King-high board.

When I cashed out, I was up $380. Oh, for the good ol’ days.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Not The Start I Wanted

This is going to be another one of those boring posts with a lot of hand histories.  Sorry about that, but you have been warned.

This was my first nite in Vegas last month, a visit to MGM.  My very first hand was Jack-10 of hearts.  Now that is a starting hand I usually play and almost always raise with if the pot hasn’t been raised to me first.  On the other hand, I always play very tight (even by my standards) when I first sit down, preferring to get a feel for the table before mixing it up—unless I get something I have to play, like a big pocket pair or Ace-King.  So my first thought was to just fold and see what was going on with this table.  Then I thought, no, you can at least limp in with it.  Then I thought, screw that.  I was in the hijack seat and it had folded to me.  If I raised, I might not see a flop and perhaps raising with my very first hand might give me an image I don’t usually have.

So I made it $8. And everyone behind me called.  It was actually pretty funny.  We were now five to see the flop, which was Jack-10-5, rainbow. Cool.  I bet $25 and had two callers.  I wasn’t thrilled with the King on the turn but I put out $60 and didn’t get a call.

So after one hand, I was ahead for the trip.  Considering how my last trip went, I have to say the thought of standing up, cashing out, and turning right around and going home so I could call this a profitable trip did cross my mind.  But only as a joke.  Of course I played on.

Sometime later, still with a little bit of profit in front of me, I raised to $8 in late position with King-Jack of clubs.  Three of us saw a flop of Ace-3-2, two clubs (the little cards; the Ace was a heart).  Before I could c-bet a guy led out for $15.  The other player folded and I called.  The turn was good news/bad news.  It was the Ace of clubs.  So I had the nut flush but certainly not the nuts.  This time he bet $40 and I called.  The river was a blank, and I was a bit surprised to see him check.

As observant readers of my blog know, my default here is to check behind and see if my flush is good.  I started to do that and then I reminded myself how I should be value betting the river a lot more often than I do to try to get more money for my made hands.  This is a huge leak in my game.  So I thought about the action.  And I realized that there was just no way this guy, after donk-betting the flop and betting the turn, would be checking the river with a boat.  Just no way.  I mean, yeah, I suppose he could be trying to induce a bluff from me, but I just couldn’t see it. I was certain he would bet if he had me beat.  More likely he had a lesser flush or maybe trip Aces.  If he had those, he might call a bet with them.  I put out $60.  He tanked for a bit, but ultimately folded.

Still, I was happy that I bet.  It was a small victory overcoming my natural tendency to play it too damn safe.  Maybe he would have called a smaller bet.  But if he had, I’d be thinking, “He would have called more.”  At least I pulled the trigger.

I was up nearly $100 when my buddy Mike pushed in. Now Mike is famous for cracking my Kings—he was doing it long before it became a thing for me—but this time he didn’t have to give me the dreaded hand to ruin my evening.

In early position he sent me Ace-King off.  I made it $8 and the guy behind me made it $25.  The next player, an Indian fellow who had played very few hands since sitting down, called.  Two more players called.  So of course I called.  Although, with five people willing to see a flop for $25, I’m not sure what kind of flop I’d really like.

Certainly not the one we got, which was Jack-high. I checked, the preflop aggressor put out a good sized bet, and then the Indian announced all-in.  Hmm….he had a bit over $150 or so.  Everyone folded, including me, until it got back to the preflop aggressor, who wasted no time in calling (he had the guy covered).  I was thinking that the Indian must have had a set of Jacks—that would make total sense.  But no, he turned over two Aces!  The other guy meekly turned over two Queens.  He was shocked, as was everyone else, that Indian hadn’t four-bet with his Aces.  Nothing hit the turn or the river and the guy with the Aces had a nice pot. But boy, did he play that oddly.  I suppose you could say it was smart—if he four-bets preflop, he’s basically turning his hand face up, especially since he hadn’t played many hands.  And then by shoving any flop, it’s maybe his best chance at a double up.  But there’s a huge risk that someone hits a better hand.  And of course, he couldn’t know that it would be five players to see the flop.  So I can’t say if the guy was clueless or brilliant.  But in this case, it sure worked.

Mike wouldn’t deal me pocket Kings so he sent me two black Aces instead.  I raised to $8 and had three callers.  The flop was King-high and all hearts.  I dutifully put out $25.  Anyone think I shouldn’t bet there (or maybe less?).  Two folds, and then the last guy—also the last guy to call my bet preflop from the blind—check-raised all in for $125 or so.  I folded.  He showed his hand, Queen-2 of hearts, so he could get a drawing ticket for his flopped flush. 

Then Mike dealt me two Jacks.  After a limper, I made it $12.  The guy on my left called, it folded to the limper, an older gentleman from Houston.  He announced “all-in.”  But he only had $28 total.  So I called and the other guy called.  The flop was Queen-9-7, rainbow.  Hmm….Well, I’m basically heads up against the guy with a big stack.  I figured the odds were against him having a Queen so I bet $40.  But the guy behind me shoved.  He had me covered (we both started with over $150 or so).  I shrugged and figured I was beat, so I folded.  The turn was another Queen, and the river was a brick.  The old guy turned over pocket Kings.  Clearly, Mike intended to give me those Kings and missed by one seat.  He took the pot, but the other guy had already claimed the $40 I bet on the flop with his shove.  And he showed 9-7.  He said, “I only played it because it’s my lucky hand.”  No, he was not The Trooper.

So I made a good fold, and I really don’t think my flop bet was a bad idea (agree/disagree?). Of course, had I called his shove, I would have won the side pot when the Queen on the turn counterfeited his hand.  But that’s results-oriented thinking.

That was pretty much the end of the (mildly) interesting hands.  I noted one more hand, when I raised with Ace-Jack and took down a three-way with a c-bet on a Queen-high flop.

All told, what started out as a promising night ended up with a $100 loss.  My trip was not off to the positive start I had hoped for.  These losing sessions are starting to drive me to drink……

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

How Much Do You Bet With a Set of Aces?

Saturday I went to Player’s Casino in Ventura to toss some cards and chips around.  Otherwise known as playing poker.

The goal was to get out of the house, have some fun, and see if I could manage to come up with a winning session, something that has been all too rare of late.

When I got there, the list for the 2/3 game was quite long, but within minutes of adding my name to it, they called a new game, and I was last person on it to get in.

The game was a little chaotic and wild to start out.  As often happens with a new table at PC, a number of the players in this game were really waiting for a seat at a bigger game—either the PLO game or the 3/5 NL game.  So they were a little more aggro than the average regular 2/3 player.  The first couple of pots played out huge and there had been no limping. Three-betting preflop had been the rule, so when I looked down at Ace-King in early position before the first orbit had been completed, I momentarily considered limping, waiting for someone else to raise.  But no, I did indeed raise, and waited to see how much the three-bet would be.

But my raise to $12 was only called—by two players—not raised.  The flop was ugly. Queen-Jack-Jack.  Well, I did have a gutshot to Broadway.  I held my breath and put out $25.  Only one player called.  The turn was a deuce, no help.  I checked, giving up on the hand.  I was a bit surprised that the other guy checked behind.  My play smelled of exactly what it was—c-bet. a missed flop and then giving up when he called.  This player was one of the ones waiting for the 3/5 game, too.  The river was a 3.  I thought about it and decided to bet it.  The guy’s check on the turn showed bigger weakness, in my eyes, than my turn check had.  And I had a hard time believing the 3 helped him.  I figured what the hell and counted out $35 and bet it.  He folded quite quickly.  Cool.

Not long after I had Ace-Queen and opened to $13 (meant to put out $12 and grabbed an extra dollar chip by mistake).  Again, two callers.  This time the flop was a little more boring, just Jack high.  I tried a $25 c-bet and won my second pot of the day.

After about 20 minutes, they opened a new 3/5 game and all hell broke loose.  Three players from our table left to join the bigger game and everybody at my table left decided to change seats.  For about five minutes, it was like a Chinese fire drill as everyone claimed new seats, and a couple of players who came in new played a hand or two and then moved to another game as well.  Luckily, the list for our game was long and they didn’t have any trouble filling up our table.

I was happy to see the guy on my immediate left take off.  For one thing, he straddled my big blind every time. Also, he was annoying.  He liked to discuss the hands afterward—recreate them—in great detail.  All while the next hand was going on.  I was trying to follow the current hand and he was talking about who raised on the turn on the previous hand.  I really don’t like playing next to a guy who thinks he’s Norman Chad.

One of the seats was taken by a middle-aged woman.  Perhaps middle-aged is a tad generous.  She sure didn’t look like a poker player.  But if we thought she was going to be some timid nit, we were in for a rude awakening.  She played pretty crazy.  Her first few raises (of many) were huge--$25, $20.  Eventually she made smaller raises, and limped a decent amount of the time.  But folding preflop was not anything she liked to do except on rare occasions.  A lot of times she took pots with aggressive play, but when we were able to see her hand we some odd cards.  Her stack fluctuated quite a bit. 

One time when she had fallen below $100, she open shoved.  The fellow on her left had commented to a few of us on her play when she was away from the table earlier.  None of us could really figure her out.  Anyway, that guy raised to $200.  That got everyone to fold, which was his plan.  He showed his hand—pocket Jacks.  She showed her hand—Queen-3 offsuit (she wasn’t a lot below $100 so it was a totally horrific play on her part).  Of course, she caught a Queen on the turn and took the pot.

This lady was responsible for one of the more unusual things I’d seen in a poker room.  By the time this happened, she had gotten to the point where she was limping a bit more frequently than she was raising.  There was one limper and then she put out three yellow chips (in this casino, as in the Bike, the $5 chips are yellow, the $1 chips are blue).  She went oops and somehow indicated that she hadn’t meant to do that.  The dealer said, “You meant to just call?”  She said she grabbed the yellow chips by mistake, she thought they were the blue ones.  The dealer said, to everyone, “Is it ok with everyone if she takes it back and just calls?”  I didn’t think that was allowed, at least not as it occurred there. Has anyone ever seen a player raise and then be allowed to take it back?  Or allow a vote of the players to decide if a bet is a bet?  But no one objected and she limped instead. Someone else raised, the hand went to showdown and on the river, she went all-in.  The only player left was the same guy on her left.  He tanked and folded and said, “Well, you’ve got to show your hand….we gave you that break.”  But she acted like she didn’t hear him and sent the cards back to the dealer face down.  The guy, a friendly, jocular fellow, said, “OK, next time, we’re not giving you any breaks.”

Meanwhile, I had fallen into my recent pattern of being incredibly card dead.  I barely played another hand for a long time.  I realized at one point that I hadn’t seen a single pocket pair the entire time I was there.  Not a big pair, not a little pair, and nothing in between.  Nada.  I had maybe seen one medium suited connector and Ace-Queen once or twice that didn’t go anywhere.  I actually looked at my watch to see how long I’d been there.  It was about an hour and 45 minutes.  Seems like a long time to go without a pair.

Just a few minutes after I had done that calculation, I looked down and saw a pocket pair, finally.  And wouldn’t you know, it was a couple of Aces.  Worth waiting for—I hoped.  A couple of people limped in front of me so I made it $18.   Only one player called—the guy I mentioned who was on the lady’s left.  He had been one of the limpers.  The flop was totally innocuous and he checked.  I started to grab some chips and before I could count them, he folded.  But then he turned over his cards—two Jacks.  “I assume these are no good?”  I was a bit surprised, why had he originally limped in with Jacks?  Note: This hand occurred before the hand when he had raised the lady’s all-in to $200 with Jacks.  Still this guy had been reasonable aggressive, and had put in more than his share of preflop raises.  I couldn’t believe Jacks weren’t in his preflop raising range.

So I actually said to him, “Surprised you didn’t raise with those.”  He misunderstood what I meant and said, “No….I wasn’t going to re-pop you with Jacks.”  I got that—it was the first time I’d raised in at least an hour.  I said, “No I mean you limped in with pocket Jacks, I wouldn’t have expected that.”  He just shrugged, said, “Yeah, I limped.”  Ok, I can’t blame him for not giving away his strategy, I wouldn’t have either.

That didn’t exactly open of the floodgates for me, card-wise.  I did get Ace-King again, and won a two way pot with a raise and a c-bet.

Then I just checked with King-Queen offsuit in the big blind. I bet $5 on a King-high flop and got a caller.  I bet $15 on a blank turn and got a call.  The river put a third heart out there and I checked.  Instead of checking behind me, the other player just mucked his cards.  Strange.  That annoyed the same guy who had limped with Jacks earlier.  He said, “Why didn’t you check, I wanted to see his hand?” He meant my hand.  Somehow, this guy had gotten particularly interested in how I was playing.

In the big blind I had 7-3 of hearts and there was no raise.  It was just three of us.  The flop was Queen-5-4, one heart (the 5). I checked and the next guy bet $10.  The other guy folded and I decided to see one more card, so I called.  I was kind of hoping for the 6 of hearts but I wasn’t too sorry to see the 6 of spades instead.  From his play all day, I expected this guy to bet, so I checked.  He didn’t disappoint and put out $20.  Of course I knew that 8-7 beat me, but I dismissed the possibility.  I couldn’t see him playing that the way he did.  I was pretty sure he had a Queen and not really a strong one.  I thought about betting smaller, but decided my check-raise would be to $60.  He took some time to call, but did.

The turn was a 9, no flush possible, and still 8-7 was the nuts.  I went over it in my mind again, and still was convinced he didn’t have the nuts.  I put out $100, which I suppose was too much (but the pot was around $140).  He tanked for a long, long time.  He took a stack of $100, put it close to the betting line, but not over.  And finally, he folded.

Before I relinquished my hand, the guy who had limped with Jacks spoke up.  “I’ll give you seven bucks if you show me anything other than 7-8.”  I laughed.  Now by this time, I was almost ready to call it a day.  So I figured what the hell and flipped my cards over.  The guy said, “Well….almost the same thing.”  But sure enough, the tossed me seven $1 chips.  I laughed. But I actually didn’t feel right about taking them….even though he had committed to it and I had taken him up on it.  After all, “verbal is binding.”  Still, it felt wrong.  I said, “I can’t take this.” and tried to give them back to him.  He said, “Well, here, at least I’ll post your small blind for you.”  So he put two of them back for my small blind.

My initial $300 stack had grown past $350 despite being so card dead.  And I decided that this was going to be my last or second to last orbit.  And I still hadn’t gotten a second pocket pair yet.

I got nothing until, in early position I got my second pocket pair of the day.  Two black Aces.  Well, I guess if you’re going to only get pockets twice in a session, that’s the pair to get, right?

I opened the pot to $15.  And promptly got three callers, including the guy so fascinated with my play.  He was the big blind.  I didn’t really want to play my Aces against three other players, surely someone would hit something.

Well, someone did.  Me. The flop was Ace-6-3, two diamonds.  The big blind checked and I had to decide how to play it.

Here’s where I’d like your input.  I’m certainly not checking there, not with the diamonds out there. For that matter, any of the players in the hand could have called my raise with 5-4, especially if it was suited.  If it was two or three-handed, I would probably go with a 2/3’s or 3/4’s pot size bet.

But three others in the hand gave me pause.  I wasn’t about to do anything crazy like shove to make sure no flush draw called me.  I’ve seen my opponents do that many, many times.  But I sure as hell didn’t want to make it easy for anyone to call, or for more than one player to call.  I tanked for a bit and decided that, if I was going to lose with a set of Aces, I was damn sure going to give them bad odds to hit it.  I went with $60—a pot sized bet.  Well, I guess a little bit more than pot-sized, when you take out the rake.

The first guy mucked instantly.  But the next guy went into the tank.  He was a youngish Asian guy, but he had not played anything like the kind of “Crazian” you see in Vegas.  He was actually a pretty tight player.   After a few minutes, when it really looked like he was going to call….he mucked.  My buddy, the big blind, folded immediately.

Now I was just a hand or two from leaving, so again, out of character for me, I showed my hand.  That got a few oohs and ahhs.  The Asian didn’t say what he had but said he assumed I had Ace-King, Ace-Queen and thought that he could maybe steal the pot on the turn if the right card came up.

But I ask you, what was the right bet to make there? I have to say, if anyone who had cards had a decent flush draw, I don’t think my $60 bet would have gotten them to fold. I just wanted them to be wrong for hitting it.  Let me know what the right bet was.

And a few hands later I racked up and cashed out.  It was a pretty fun table and I won some money.  My $110 profit wasn’t a lot, but it was a welcome change from the way I’ve been running lately, and I was glad to leave with more money than I came in with.