Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Friday Night Big Hands against Mr. Tricky

I headed in to the Oaks on Friday and played from about 9 until 3:30 am. The late night Friday crowd is even looser than the folks I see in the 5-9 range every week and I got involved 5-6 pots in the $1,000+ range.

On the biggest one of the night there was a raise to $20 and one call. The caller is a tricky regular player who I've played against many times. Mr. Tricky is loose and aggressive and usually either wins big or implodes catastrophically. I raised to $60 out of the big blind with black AA and both the raiser and Mr. Tricky called. The flop came down K 6 5 with two hearts and I bet out $130. The raiser folded and Mr. Tricky made it $330 to go. He had another $450 behind and I had him covered.

I know what I did, but I'm going to try to sort out what I should have done. At the time I was thinking almost all of his range was K's and draws. I think he could have KQ, KJ, KT, 87 suited, 65 suited, and then Ax or any two connected or one gap (e.g. J9) suited in hearts. That breaks down to 36 combos of one pair of Ks, 3 combos of straight draw, 22 combos of flush draw, 2 combos of two pair and 6 combos of sets. I think with this guy I'd have to throw in 10 combos of total bluffs as well. If that's all correct then I'd expect:

46% of the time I'm against one pair of Ks
28% of the time it's a flush draw
13% of the time it's a bluff
8% of the time it's a set
4% of the time it's a straight draw
3% of the time it's two pair

Looking at it this way I should be ahead close to 90% of the time, and in the middle of working out all this mess I realized that shoving is almost certainly best against both the drawing hands and the K's. I was thinking my opponent might fold his one pair K hands against a shove, but I think most of the time he checks back the turn and folds to a river bet with a bare K so I'd just end up giving him two shots to catch up with no added value.

In the actual hand I did shove after a 30 second pause and got called by 65. Mr. Tricky took about 60 second to call me and the longer it look the more sure I was that I was ahead. The turn and river were both blanks and when I showed my hand that fucker slow rolled me! He hung his head and sighed and then after a few seconds turned over his hand. He said he was relived that I didn't have KK, but whatever the reason it was a dick move.

Later on I had a chance for my revenge. This time I had AK of diamonds on the button and I've forgotten the preflop action. I know the flop came down A T 8 with two diamonds which barring a Q J T board is about as good as it gets for AK suited. I bet and happily Mr. Tricky check called. The turn was 7 of hearts, he checked, I bet about $130 and he raised me to $300. Uh oh. My gut feeling was I was against aces up. There was around $600 in the pot and I only needed to call $170 more to draw to my flush so there was no way I was folding. Plus this guy in tricky and it was a super draw heavy board. The river was a blank and he bet another $300. If I was playing my best I would have folded here, but I was still pissed about the other hand and it was about 2 in the morning so I called. I lost to J9. Son of a bitch!

Luckily I got the best of some other people in the game.

On one hand I raised KQ to $30 before the flop and got 3-4 callers. The flop came down Q T 4, I bet and got one caller. The turn was a K making me top two. I bet, and my opponent shoved with what turned out to be K9. My gut feeling was that he was really strong, but then I realized there was no  way I was folding top 2 so I called. The river was a 9 which looked awful, but was actually inconsequential. I picked up about $600 on that one.

On another I raised to $105 on the flop on an A high board and got called. On the turn I spiked a 5 and bet $210 followed by $315 on the river. I got called down by a man who was very pissed to see my hand.

In the last round I got AA again and stacked someone for about $600. In the end I booked a $150 win which broke my losing streak, but I'm still thinking about those two big hands against Mr. Tricky.

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Big Advantage of the Poker Pro - Evaluating Hands and Losses

Every hand of poker you ever play will be unique. There will never be the same set of players with the same cards, stack sizes, and mental states. But situations that are similar to past situations come up constantly. One huge advantage I have over my competition is that I know how to look back at hands and sort out in detail if I made mistakes and how big they were. Anytime I can I find spots where I thought what I did was correct was not or the reverse I learn something new and increase my advantage.

I should spend more time evaluating wins, but it's human nature to look back when things have been going south.

I've put in 68 sessions at $2/$3/$5 this year and through session #62 there was only one instance where I lost two times in a row. #63 was a loser #64 was a loser, then #65 was the mega amazing $5,700 crush everyone for 7 hours win from my last post, which I followed up by promptly losing 3 times in a row.

In my last session I dropped $1,600+ in a good game and I've been thinking a lot about why.

Losing 5 out of 6 times isn't all that improbable. In fact if I win two thirds of the time there is still a 1.5% chance that I'll lose 5 of the next 6 sessions I play. So every 200 sessions I should expect 3 runs like this. Maybe I'm just hitting that bad run of cards that is inevitable. That's one explanation.

The other is that something has changed about my play or the play of my opponents. In fact I think I've narrowed down one contributing factor. I've been far too willing to make high variance plays, or put another way I've been far too willing to gamble.

Here is a perfect example from my last session. I called $10 vs a straddle with 66 and after a few more calls a wild player moved all in for about $200. Everyone else either folded or looked like they were going to fold and I was faced with a decision to risk $190 to win about $240. I called and lost to AJ.

The amateur level analysis is: I got it in when I was a small favorite. I didn't win but I made the correct play.

My in the moment analysis was: If I was up against overcards I'd be somewhere in the range of 48%-55% to win depending on the exact overs and getting better than even money that would be profitable. If my opponent was equally likely to have 22-55 as 77-TT that would be a wash as sometimes I'd be way ahead and others way behind (I discounted JJ+ as those hands would probably not shove). I should be a tiny favorite against his range and I'm getting better than even money.

My post session analysis is: Looking back I'd actually be much more likely to see 77-TT than 22-55 and that's the problem. If I'm up against a range of AT+, KQ, 55, 77-TT then I'm only 42.6% to win when I need better than 44.2%. Couple this with the non zero chance that I'm going to get called by someone behind me and this is a pretty big error.

I had a similar situation where someone with about $250 in his stack made it $150 to go vs a raise to $25 and a call. I called and on an A 8 5 flop I check called $100 and lost to 88.

The amateur level analysis is: I thought I was up against a small to medium pocket pair and I was. I was right.

My in the moment analysis was: This guy was also wild and I'd just seen him do something similar with AJ. I had AQ and decided to call and shove the last $100 on any flop fully expecting to get called, but thinking there was some small chance that I might unload a medium pair on a flop with a couple of overs or lose AK if we both missed. Essentially I knew I was risking $250 to win $300 in a spot where I was very likely to be about 45% to win, but there was some tiny amount of equity in him folding in some very specific spots.

My post sessions analysis is: Turns out if I was against AJ+, and 55+ I'd be 46.5% needing 45.5% for this to be profitable. If he's capable of making this play with worse aces or KQ my equity jumps up a bit, but if someone else calls behind me I'm usually cooked.

These are spots where if you've evaluated the situation accurately and perfectly then you have a small edge. The problem is if you've screwed something up - like maybe either of these guys are frustration shoving AA or KK because they're sick of losing or one of the guys who looks like he's ready to fold actually has a huge hand and comes along - then you've made a horrible miscue.

It's really easy to look at those two hands and think "Shit I lost two flips. I got it in close to 50/50 with some dead money in the pot both times and it's unlucky that I didn't win one of them!" That's what I was thinking on the drive home. But a deeper dive reveals it's either correct to fold or the margins or so razor thin that all you're doing is adding to your swings. If I'd just folded both I would have been out $10.

Two other big hands I had were even more gambly.

On the first I had 66 in the big blind and 6 of us saw a flop for $20. The flop came down 8 7 5 with two clubs giving me an open ended straight draw. It got checked to the raiser who bet $60 into the $120 pot. I called and then a very aggressive player with a big stack made it $300 to go. The raiser folded and it was back to me. I had about $475 left.

What I came up with in the moment is "That's a pretty big bet, this guy loves to push draws, that is probably a flush draw which means I'm actually ahead. If it's not then I should have 8 good straight outs and maybe a 6 is good also." So I shoved.

I ended up risking $475 to win $715. I missed the straight and lost to 87. But does that mean it was a bad play?

The rank amatuer analysis here is: Boo! I lost the pot! I'm stupid and/or the universe hates me.

The solid amatuer analysis here is: I was 34.2% to win and 1.6% to tie. Call it 35% to win which would mean I'd need $830 or more in the pot to make it profitable. This was a clear mistake.

The pro level analysis here is: My opponent's hand range probably any two clubs, 55-99, 87, 86, 76, A8, A6, T9, 96, 64. If I plug that into a simulator and I get that I have 41.65% equity against that range meaning I only need the pot to be $665 to make this a profitable move. But what if I've misread this guy a little bit. If he's only making that play with two pair or better I'm only 26% which is dreadful. The breakeven point on this is I need 39.9% equity so the "What if I fucked up the analysis just a little bit" factor of safety is not there. This is not a big mistake, but I'm really adding to my swings by doing this.

I just learned a lot by doing that analysis!

In my other gambly hand there was a straddle and a very loose, sort of aggressive player who is not good made it $50 to go. I had JT of clubs and we took the flop 6 way. The flop came down Q 8 5 with 1 club giving me a gutshot with a backdoor straight draw. The raiser bet out $100 into the $300 pot, which seemed weak to me. Normally I don't expect people to continuation bet into 5 opponents with air, but I thought this guy might. He had about $400 left behind and I thought about moving all in, but I was sitting on a $1,500 stack and one player left to act had me covered. I decided to make it $300 to go thinking that would be just as effective. The others folded and the raiser went all in. I called another $200 and lost to AQ.

The rank amatuer analysis here is: Boo! I lost the pot! I'm stupid and/or the universe hates me.

The solid amatuer analysis here is: This is good and bad. I made a strong move which is good, but ultimately I got it in there risking $500 to win $800 when I was only 23% to win which is atrocious. At least when I called the last $200 to win $1,100 I was getting the right price.

The pro level analysis here is: In order to sort this out we need to decide what his preflop range is, which hands he's betting on the flop and which hands he's calling our raise with and how often we win when called. I'd put his preflop range on 66+, any two cards T and higher and any Ax suited (this is very loose). There are 197 combinations of two cards that make all those hands and only 60 of them make hands that can call a raise (AA, KK, QQ, 88 and all of the one pair of Q hands). That means 69% of the time I'm going to win the $400 in the pot uncontested, 24% of the time I'll lose $500 and 7% of the time I'll get it all in and win $800.  If you sort all that out my equity in the hand is +$212, meaning if I made this play some huge number of times I'd be better off $212 per instance than if I'd folded. This illustrates the power of bluffing with a draw even a shitty one like a gut shot and back door flush draw.

But there are some major assumptions here. The biggest one of which is that my opponent is going to bet 100% of the time on the flop. Let's say he only bets AA, KK, QQ, 88 and all of the one pair of Q hands. Then I've put myself in a horrible spot of losing $500 77% of the time and winning $800 23% of the time which has an equity of -$201! ACK! 

So where does that leave us? It turns out the key here is more psychological than mathematical. Is this the kind of guy who would bet $100 into $300 with a hand that he's willing to stack off with? I thought he would have bet more if he had a good hand. It also leaves us with the notion that if a player is betting 100% (or close to it) of the flops, putting them to the test is a great idea.

Monday, October 12, 2015

What a Difference a Day Makes - A Record Breaking Cash Game Session

Coming into Thursday night I'd played 5 sessions since my last post booking 3 wins for about $900 in profit.

About 10 minutes after I got to the Oaks Club they started a new $2/$3/$5 no limit hold'em game and I bought in for the $500 maximum.

On the first hand I got dealt AQ in the big blind and when the action got to me there had been a raise to $25 and three callers. I made it $125 to go, the raiser folded, as did the first caller, but the second caller to my surprise went all in for $300. Given the action most of the time I'd expect him to have a pocket pair in the 77-TT range against which I'd be about 45% to win and I only needed to risk another $175 to win the $475 already in the pot. Sadly the board ran out all garbage and I lost to AK.

I pulled out another three hundred dollar bills and bought back up to the max. On the 2nd hand I got dealt a few players called $5 and I threw in another $2 to call out of the small blind with 86. The flop came down 7 6 5 giving me middle pair and an open ended straight draw. I bet out $20, got two callers and then someone moved all in for $175. I had about a 33% chance to make the straight and just over 50% chance to make two pair or better. There was $235 in the pot and I had to call another $155. This was a close decision. If I was up against 98 or even 87 I was totally cooked and even against something like 76 or 55 I wasn't getting the right price. But I decided to go for it. The turn and river were both bricks and I lost to 75. Ugh.

The rest of the night went similarly and after a little less than three hours I left a $1,415 loser. About 1 time in 20 I'll have a loss of that size at $2/$3/$5 and it always sucks. I went home had a glass of wine and went to bed early...

(beep, beep, beep...beep, beep, beep...beep, beep, beep). That's the noise I heard outside my bedroom window at 4 in the morning. It was loud enough to wake me up, but I felt like it could have been going on for a while. (beep...beep...beep) I tried to go back to sleep. I failed. I looked out the window and didn't see anything, but it sounded like it could be far away. (beep...beep...beep). I heard one of my neighbors go outside to investigate and I silently cursed him for the intrusion that was surely his fault. (beep...beep...beep) After 15 minutes I decided there was no way I was getting back to sleep and went out to make sure it wasn't something in my backyard.

Since it was 4 a.m. I strolled out there in my boxer briefs and discovered to my horror that the sound was coming from my garage! We're remodeling the first floor of our house so our garage is packed floor to ceiling with furniture and boxes to go along with the normal random garage junk. In my partially asleep state I struggled to find the light and when I found it I wasn't sure if it was smokey or my eyes were cloudy with sleep. (BEEP BEEP BEEP) The sounds was emanating from deep in the room and panic rose inside me as I realized that I was the dick neighbor producing loud beeps at 4 a.m.

I climbed over my dining room table and cracked my head on the garage door opener. Shit! Could the garage door opener be beeping? I unplugged it and nothing happend. I couldn't quite pinpoint where the noise was coming from and I was staring at a set of boxes that looked similar in size to where the ark ended up at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie. I went back to the other side of the room and cracked my head again on the garage door opener. SHIT! I realised that there was no course of action other than to start opening boxes. 10 minutes later on the bottom of a stack in the center of the room I found a smoke detector that was going off. I have no idea why it was going off. There was no smoke in there and it was in a closed box. I cracked my head on the garage door opener one more time for good measure while climbing out of the room and spent the next hour thinking about carbon monoxide and garage fires before finally falling back asleep.

Thursday was a stinking pile of beaver shit, but Friday dawned a new day!

When I counted my money I discovered an extra hundred meaning I'd only lost $1,315 the night before.

I made my way back to the Oaks Friday night, again they started a new table of $2/$3/$5 shortly after I arrived and again I bought in for $500.

In the first four hours I had 5 hands come up where I flopped a flush draw and every time I ended up playing a $1,000 pot. I love pushing my draws hard and I'm used to taking down a lot of pots in those spots when everyone folds. But this time someone had the goods every time and either shoved on me or called my all in shove. Luckily I made 4 of the 5 draws and found myself about $1,900 ahead!

My regular readers will know that a $2,000 win at $2/$3/$5 has been something like the 4 minute mile for me. I've gotten to +$1,900 a few times this year but couldn't seem to crack $2,000.

About this time I got dealt KK and raised to $25. After a few calls the small blind made it $125 to go. This guy was a tight player who had been pretty conservative and seemed a little inexperienced. I was almost positive he had a big hand. I considered just calling and giving the others a chance to put in another $100, but I decided my best bet would be to hopefully get it all in against Mr. $125. I made it $300 to go, everyone else folded and Mr. $125 called. I silently called for no ace and the flop came out Q 5 4. My opponent checked, I put him all in for another $300 and after about 20 seconds he reluctantly called. The turn was a king! Zing! The river was an 8 and I took down the $1,300 pot.

Now I was $2,500+ to the good. I sent my wife this picture and told her I was about to head home.

That's 540 five dollar chips, 5 hundreds and 22 ones (I was actually in for $570 after a small rebuy in the early stages of the session). When you consider that 5 of those stacks of yellow is the most you're legally allowed to buy in for in this game, it's not easy to end up with 6X that amount in front of you.

She said "Holy smokes! You sure this isn't a day to really milk it?" As I was reading that text I got KK again and stacked someone for $250. I decided maybe I should stay.

Then I really, really, really got put to the test. I was in seat 4 and there was a guy in seat 10 who had close to $2,000 in front of him (I'll call him Mr. Patient). We'd been crushing everyone else all night and had both sent a few people packing.

Mr. Patient likes to talk all the time about how his strategy is to be patient. He is good at waiting for a good hand, but when he gets one he isn't afraid to get it all in, often make huge overbets or calling down no matter what.

On the hand in question seat 3 opened for $25, I called with QJ of clubs, seat 5 called and seat 8 called. The action got around to Mr. Patient who was in the small blind and he made it $125 to go. Mr. Patient I knew would not raise in this spot without a big hand and just about all he could have was the pairs JJ-AA, or AK. That's a hand range that crushes QJ suited, and I would normally never put in another $100 preflop when I knew I was behind. But I thought if I called the guys behind me might also call too and more importantly Mr. Patient still had a huge stack in front of him and if I hit the flop hard getting his whole stack was a possibility. I called as did seat 5 and seat 8.

The flop came down Q 6 5 with two clubs giving me top pair and a flush draw. This was a fantastic flop for me as I maybe could have the best hand and had 14 cards that could come on the turn or the river that would make me two pair or better. To my delight Mr. Patient checked and at that point I put him squarely on AK. I bet out $300 into the $425 pot content to tangle with the other two guys in the pot. Seat 5 went all in for $375 and seat 8 went all in for another $8. Then to my shock and horror Mr. Patient went all in for $1,775!

At that point I figured Mr. Patient had AA, seat 5 could have had 55 or 66, some hand with a Q in it, a flush draw or 87 and seat 8 could have anything. There was about $500 in the main pot that in order to win I'd need to beat all three of them. If I called there would be another $1,100 in the first side pot that would be up for grabs between Mr. Patient, seat 5 and I. And there would be a second side pot with $2,800 - $1,400 from Mr. Patient and the same from me - that would be just between the two of us. This was a really convoluted situation.

In the end I went with the simple analysis - I had to put in another $1,475 with a chance to win ~$2,900 that was already in the pot meaning I was getting about 2 to 1 with a 50% chance I'd make two pair or better. I called.

By this point people from other games had gathered around the table and when I called there was a big "Ohhhhhhhhhhh!" from the small crowd. There was more money in that one pot than in all of the stacks at the three surrounding smaller stakes tables.

When the cards got turned up Mr. Patient had QQ! AHHHHHH! Then seat 5 showed A8 of clubs! AHHHHHHH! Now I was drawing dead for the main pot and the first side pot and only had about a 20% chance of winning the big second side pot. Mr. Patient started saying "pair the board, pair the board" over and over. The turn was the 4 of diamonds. "Pair the board, pair the board." I tried not to think about how much money I'd have left after I lost this pot. The river was...the 2 of clubs! The smallest, most lowly card in the deck! The card that people ask for most on the river when they just want nothing to change so their hand will hold up. I stood up and said "YES!" with a small fist pump. I only won the side pot, but it was big enough that I netted $900 on the hand and that 2 of clubs was worth $2,800 to me. Seat 5 won the $1,600 in the main and first side pot, and Mr. Patient walked off to I'm sure tell everyone who would listen that he lost a $4,400 pot with top set against two flush draws.

The next day my wife and I went out and bought a big ass sectional couch with a big ass ottoman that has big ass storage inside and paid for the insurance against damage and it was almost exactly $2,800. I may or may not call that couch the deuce of clubs.

Now I getting close to $4,000 to the good.

Then I saw a flop with 97, flopped a straight draw on a Q 8 6 flop, check raised the flop, missed on the turn, bet the turn anyway, hit the straight on the river, bet the river and got called. " were drawing the whole time!?" my opponent said. Actually I was semi-bluffing, but I didn't clarify and just said "Yep!"

3 or 4 hands later I got dealt 77 and called a raise to $25 from a guy I'll call Mr. Loose. Mr. Loose was one of the key reasons I was still there. He played a ton of hands and was fairly aggressive, but I had a good read on him and I knew if I could make a big hand against him I'd have a good chance to get his stack. Two other players called the $25 and I thought "If I make a set and win a big pot the whole table is going to go from jealous of my stack to just wanting to flat out punch me in the face."

Sure enough, I flopped a set! The flop came down Q T 7 and as expected Mr. Loose bet out $80. I just called and another player called behind. The turn was another T making me a full house. Now Mr. Loose checked. I decided to bet small and make it look like I was trying to bluff at it. I bet out $100 into the $340 pot. The other guy in the pot had about $250 left and Mr. Loose was sitting on about $600 more. After about 20 seconds the other guy called and Mr. Loose immediately went all in! Part of me wanted to just snap call, stand up and shout "AH HA! I KNEW I'D GET YOU! TASTE DEFEAT AT THE HANDS OF MY MIGHTY FULL HOUSE!" But there was still a chance to pick up an extra $150 from the other guy so I stalled for 30 seconds as if I wasn't sure. After I called the other guy reluctantly put in his last $150. The river was a 6 and Mr. Loose showed KK! BOOM!

After not winning $2,000 in a session all year I won $3,100 in about 90 minutes after already being up $2,600. I played a few more hand but at that point the table was so decimated there wasn't much money left to be won. I packed it in and won $5,748 on the night!

Here's what my chip stacked looked like pretty close to the end.

That's 940 five dollar chips, 15 hundreds and about 15 ones. I've had more money in front of me before (not a lot more), but never so many actual chips. Pretty sweet!

My WSOP 2023 Plans and Missions

After four and a half years working for StubHub I wrapped up my time there in March. I've been at the poker tables 3-4 days a week since...