Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Project Manhattan Session #17 - That's Not a Bad Beat, THIS Is a Bad Beat

Poker players love to tell you how unlucky they were after a loss. We've all told our share of bad beat stories. When I was cranking away full time playing online poker I'd usually play about 3,000 hands a day. That meant that 3 times a day I'd have some 1 in 1,000 bad shit happen to me. Most days that was OK. I always said that one of my big strengths was having good bounce back. And of course I had 1 in 1,000 good shit happen to me at the same rate.

I've been sitting here trying to think of my worst bad beat ever. I feel like there has to be a worse one somewhere, but one that sticks out was in a $2,500 event at the WSOP. This was in the days when you got $2 in tournament chips for every $1 in buy in. If I'm remembering this correctly (and I think I am) the blinds were 100/200 with a 25 ante and I was in the big blind. The under the gun player who I'd been playing with for close to 4 hours and seemed like a reasonable, fairly solid player, moved all in for 10,000. I looked down at AA and quickly called. He had K9 off suite, flopped a pair and rivered two pair. It wasn't the K9 beating AA. That happens about 14% of the time. It was that a guy just lost his mind for no reason and moved all in for 50 big blinds and I lost a pot that was worth over $10,000 in real dollars as a result.

Anyway, back to the present! Or the recent past rather!

I was in a fantastic game on a recent Friday night. There were no good players and a few players who were if not total novices, pretty close to it. I played for about 4 hours, but my session was really defined by two hands that happened back to back about 2 hours in.

On the first I got dealt JJ and made it $20 to go under the gun. I was losing about $200 at that point, but had around $700 in front of me and had been playing pretty tight in a loose game. The player just to my left was a guy I'd never seen before who was a total lunatic. There were a couple of hands where he got it in with weak top pair or middle pair by 3 or 4 betting when it could not have been more obvious he was crushed.  He looked like he was in his early 30's, had maybe Greek or Italian heritage and was wearing a gray sport coat with jeans. He had his headphones in, never said a word and barely reacted when he won or lost big pots.

So after my $20 raise Mr. Lunatic called as did 6 others (SIX others!) and we took the flop 8 way. It was about the best flop I could imagine that did not have a J in it - 8 5 2 rainbow. It's really uncomfortable betting into 7 people without the nuts (close to 1/3 of the unknown cards are in play), but betting was the only option. I slid $100 out there and only Mr. Lunatic called with $375 more left behind in his stack. At this point I knew if he made a better hand than me I was in deep shit. I just couldn't possibly fold against this guy given his play up to that point. As the turn came out, if it couldn't be a J, I was hoping it would be a 2. Sure enough the turn was a 2! Even though he had about one pot sized bet left in his stack I figured I'd have better luck getting it all in vs a 5 or an 8 or whatever else he had by getting him in two chunks. For chunk #1 I bet out $150. And he made it $300. Oh God. Facepalm. Seeing a minimum raise when a player only has a little bit left behind that is surely the sign certain doom...unless he's a total lunatic. I didn't love it, but I couldn't let it go. I put him all in for $375 total, he quickly called and the river came out a K. I showed my hand and he rolled over...wait for know it's going to be bad right...7 2 off. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

The real majesty of this bad beat is that I was under the gun, was probably the tightest player in the game, he was right after me, and it is literally the worst possible starting hand. It wasn't even suited. You can't find any more questionable circumstances to play a hand. It wasn't like he was fully committed to seeing every flop either. He was folding maybe 30% of hands preflop in the field. He just figured he'd go with that one. Every time he folded preflop after that I wanted to ask him "Found one worse than 72 off that time huh?"

At that point I was committed to staying until he left.

On the very next hand I was in the big blind and got dealt 95 of diamonds. There was no raise and I got a free look. The flop came out 8 7 2 with two diamonds which looked pretty fantastic. I bet out $15 into the $20 pot and got 3 callers! That many callers had me thinking that my flush draw might not be good and I was hoping to see a 6 roll off. The turn came out the Q of diamonds and I wasn't sure what to do, but I figured checking was probably best. It checked around to the button who bet out $65. This was mildly promising. If one of the other players had a flush they'd very likely to bet out and the button could easily have a hand with a Q in it or even a hand like A7 or A8 with the A of diamonds. I called as did a fairly tight player. I was all but certain another diamond would be the end of me and a board pair might be bad as well. Happily the river was a black 4. If the button had a flush I didn't want to bet and if he had something else I wanted to give him a chance to bet again with whatever it might be. I checked, Mr Fairly Tight checked it along, and the button bet big putting $205 out there. Again I didn't love it, but couldn't fold. I called, and then to my shock and horror Mr. Fairly Tight moved all in for $550! NOOOOOOOOOOO! This had to be without a doubt the absolute nuts. The button surmised as much and folded and I mucked as well. Mr. Fairly Tight showed us both AK of diamonds as he scooped in the pot.

Eventually Mr. Lunatic got a phone call and within 30 seconds had his chips in racks and was walking away from the table. Astoundingly he walked off with $1,400. Another of the softies racked up $2,500 and left and I knew it was time for me to follow them out the door.

I lost $1,038 on the night. After 64.5 hours I'm ahead $1,263. I've pushed my target completion date back to July 4th, I should be in action Friday night and I'm hoping to get in at least one long session over Memorial Day weekend.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Project Manhattan Session #16 - The Siren Song Of $1/$1/$2

The Oaks has two stakes for no limit - $2/$3/$5 blinds with a max $500 buy in and $1/$1/$2 with a max $200 buy in. The way they house makes money in these games is to take $5 from every pot for the big game and $4 from the small game. They also take $1 for the jackpot which in theory you'll get back if they're honest about how much is being collected and you play long enough to hit a piece of the jackpot.

What you'll notice about the rake for the $1/$1/$2 is it's almost as big as the $2/$3/$5 rake in absolute terms, but in proportional terms, they're taking 2.5 big blinds every hand instead of 1.2, which makes it twice as impactful.

More importantly it makes the game totally unplayable under common circumstances. Let me explain with an example. Let's say 4 people call before the flop including both blinds. On the flop you make top pair and bet 2/3 of the pot and get one caller. On the turn you bet half the pot, get called again and on the river it goes check, check and you win.

In a $2/$3/$5 game  You're looking at $14 in the pot after the rake as you go to the flop. Headed to the turn there's $34 in there and headed to the river there's $68 in the pot. You've ended up with about 14 big blinds in the pot. Not a huge pot, but not nothing.

In a $1/$1/$2 when you go to the flop $5 goes to the rake and ONLY $3 goes to the pot! Your 2/3 pot bet is $2. There's $7 in the pot going to the turn and $15 going to the river. 7.5 big blinds in the pot at the end. Who the eff wants to play a game where there's $3 in the pot? Most people just say the hell with it and check it down and the lucky person who wins the pot nets $1 or someone bets $5 at it and wins.

One way to help mitigate this is to never just call before the flop. If your hand is good enough to play make it $4 or $6 if you would have just called.

In my last project where I crushed skulls for 100 hours mainly at $2/$3/$5 I was actually a healthy loser in the small number of hours I played at $1/$1/$2 all played while waiting for the bigger game. Not being a dummy I've been steering clear during this project...but I'm not just going to sit there and do nothing if there's a long $2/$3/$5 wait. Maybe I am a dummy!

So I sat down on Friday night with $200 in front of me hoping to not screw it up. On my third hand I was on the button with q7 of clubs and one player just called the $2 in front of me. I could either fold when I had a $1 in the pot already from the button small blind, call and likely be faced with a stupid $3 pot on the flop or put in a small raise. I made it $7 to go and the big blind re-raised it to $20. Ugh. This is the problem with the raising light with calling hands strategy. I thought about folding, but I had position, we were both $200 deep and I was getting better than 2 to 1 on my money. So I called. The flop came down J T 3 all clubs! Flush baby! My opponent came out with a big bet pushing $50 out there. I decided to just call and the turn came out a red 9. My opponent checked and I slid $45 out there. He just about beat me into the pot with his whole stack! I instantly called, the river paired the 9 (which had me a little worried) and he rolled over AJ of diamonds. OK? Thanks for the pot!

Over the next 45 minutes I made three top pairs and pretty much got two streets of value with them all. When they called my name for $2/$3/$5 I left with a $330 profit. Suck it low rollers!

Shortly after I made my way to the bigger game I got dealt 88 and raised to $20. I got one caller and then the big blind moved all in for $143. The caller looked like he was done with it. This is probably a spot to muck and I need to do some more analysis on it, but the quick at the table thinking I did was that I was risking $123 to win $203 and if my opponent has unpaired big cards I'm ahead. I think he has a pair there more often than big cards, but there's always a chance it's 77 or 66 getting out of line. Anyway I called, my opponent rolled over KK, I let out a quiet groan and then promptly flopped an 8! Ha ha!

A couple of hours passed and I was up about $600 with a nice stack in front of me when I got dealt 64 of diamonds on the button. I called $5 and then called a raise from the small blind to $25 along with 3 other players in the field. The flop came down 8 7 2 with two diamonds giving me 12 outs to a straight or a flush. Pretty sweet. The raiser bet out $55, two players called and after giving some brief consideration to dropping the all in bomb I decided to just call and hope for a a diamond or a 5, but really a 5 was what I wanted. The turn was a black 9 giving me 3 more straight outs that might or might not be good. Now the preflop raiser came out betting $200! And another player called all in for $140! This was a really sticky spot. If all of my outs were good, I had a huge overlay, but I could easily be up against a better flush draw or hands that negated some of my straight outs or both. My one remaining opponent with chips had about $150 and I figured he probably had a hand like a pair TT-AA and I thought it would be tough for him to fold for another $150 on the end if I got there with a huge pot in the middle. Speaking of huge pots, there was about $700 out there, it cost me $200 to call and I had a 1 in 3 shot at making a straight or better. So I called. The river was the 2 of diamonds making my flush and to my surprise my opponent bet out his last $150. I quickly called and he said "Flush?" and I said "Yep" ready to drag my pot. Then I realized he didn't say "Flush?" he said "Flush." as in "I have a flush with my T9 or diamonds that is bigger than yours and thus I will gobble up your pot." Shit!

Not too much else of note happened. I ended up winning $51 over 3 hours which puts me at $2,301 after 60.5 hours over the course of the project.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Project Manhattan Session #15 - I SAID SCREW YOU GUYS I'M GOING HOME!

I had reason to be in Emeryville last Monday night and decided to make a rare Monday appearance at the Oaks.

I started with $500 on the table at $2/$3/$5 no limit as per usual. I posted $5 to get a hand and looked down at AA! Aces on the first hand! WHAAAAAT!? Sadly I raised and all of those stupid jerks folded.

A little later I got dealt QT in the big blind and called a raise to $15. We took the flop 4 way and the board came down T 3 2 with two diamonds. The preflop raiser bet $30, the button called and I called along as well with my marginal two pair. I really was not sure where I stood at this point. The preflop raiser could just be continuation betting or could have me crushed. The button could be on a draw or have a better ten or even just overs. There were a lot of possible situations. The turn was the 8 of clubs which didn't change anything. I checked, the preflop raiser checked it along and now the button came out betting for $65. I was really close to just pitching it here, but at the last second I figured that T9 suited and JT suited were hands that made sense here and decided to call. The preflop raiser mucked and the river came out the 5 of spades. I checked planning to fold to any substantial bet as there was no way T9 or JT would fired a third barrel for value in this spot and that's really what I was hoping to see. Happily the button checked it back. I showed my hand, he flashed a T and mucked.

On the next big hand, the under the gun player made it $15 to go, 3 players called, I called with the AJ of diamonds and the big blind came along too. The flop came down 8 4 2 with two diamonds and the raiser bet out $50. Having the nut flush draw I was inclined to push it here, but only if I had some fold equity and I was a little worried about someone putting in a big raise in front of me and making it a complicated spot. But everyone folded to me, so I made it $150 to go. The big blind folded and the preflop raiser went all in for $190 total. I threw in another $40 knowing I'd need to hit. The turn was the 5 of diamonds! Zing! My opponent showed QQ as I dragged the pot.

I won a couple of other small pots and then about an hour after I sat down the game broke (i.e. there were only 5 of us left, and the other players wanted to draw cards for the 3 open seats in the other $2/$3/$5 game). Rather than draw for a seat I oped to split and hustle home to squeeze in a workout.

I won $530 in 1 hour which brings my total to +$2,250 for the project after 57.5 hours.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Project Manhattan Session #14 - Screw You Guys, I'm Going Home

Last Friday my older son had a baseball game that ended around 7:30 so instead of rolling in to the Oaks right after work as per usual, I got there around 8:00 planning to burn the midnight oil.

I slapped five C-notes on the table and took my first hand in the big blind. 4 people called $5 and I looked down at JJ. With what was almost certainly the best hand I made it $30 to go and got 2 callers - both of whom were not players I knew. The flop came down 6 6 7 with two hearts. One of my callers was in the small blind and he checked. I bet out $65 into the $100 pot and the lady across the table called. Then the small blind cut out $210 and pushed it into the pot!

This was a tricky situation. Did this guy have a 6? If so I was totally cooked. And what about the lady? What did I think she was calling with? Could she have a 6? Was she calling with a 7 or a draw or a hand like 88 or bare overs? Luckily she was obviously pissed about the raise and I figured she was done with the hand.

That just left the raiser. Was he the kind of player who would call $30 preflop with A6 or 56 or 67 out of position in the small blind - something probably only a losing player would do. If so I should fold. Or was he the kind of player that would check raise a draw - something probably only a strong player would do. If so I should move all in. I'd literally only played half a hand with this guy and I had to sort this out. But luckily, the way that physically he cut out $210 was indicative of a strong player and also the fact that it was $210 and not $200 (better players are more precise with their bets, weak player bet in round numbers) was a huge indicator.

It might sound like I was fairly sure here that he was a good player and that meant he could not have a 6 and was very likely to push a draw, but it's one thing to think this though and another to put $500 out there and potentially lose $500 on the first hand! Luckily I was right. I moved all in and they both quickly folded with the small blind saying he'd folded a draw.

For the next hour I dribbled away much of my profit from that hand and found myself feeling tired in a shitty game. I decided to bail.

I won $110 over 1 hour and that means I'm $1720 to the good after 56.5 hours of play.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Project Manhattan Session #13B - The Tournament

After playing for 3 hours and booking a $487 win playing $2/$3/$5 on Wednesday I decided to play the weekly $185 Wednesday night tournament.

I'll always have a fondness for the Wednesday night tournament at the Oaks. When I was 22 and my biggest win to date was a $350 win at $6/$12 I played the Wednesday night tournament (which was at that point a $60 buy in with one $50 rebuy limit hold'em tournament) for the first time. I'd come in to play $6/$12 and after a hot hour was up $185 at the time the tournament was about to start. My total tournament experience at the time was 3 or 4 shots at a $10 tournament with 7 minute levels at Cache Creek (Ten dollar buy in! Seven minute levels!) where I never sniffed the money and one $20 with two rebuys piece of garbage at Casino San Pablo where I finished 30th of 30th. After what was probably a miracle run of cards I made it to the top 3 and we made a deal where my end was about $1,000. I'd cashed my paycheck that day and I remember riding home with $2,500 in my pocket and thinking how it was ridiculous to have that much money on me driving in a car that was worth no more than $1,000.

I had 11 times in my poker career where I won $10K+ in one day, 4 of those were $30K+ and one of those was $85K, but I'm not sure I was ever as excited with any of those as the first time I broke $1,000.

Fast forward 14 years and something like 5,000 multi-table tournaments of experience and I sat down as a 36 year old with 10,000 chips in front of me with blinds at 25/50 and 20 minute levels. When the action started only 3 of us where at the table and we spent a shockingly long amount of time (10 or 15 minutes) playing 3 handed before the table gradually filled in. I made two sets of jacks during this stretch and made no money. Grrrr!

My first big hand came in the 2nd level with blinds at 50/100. A few players called 100, I made it 450 to go out of the big blind with AK of diamonds and we took the flop 4 way. The flop came down T 7 3 all diamonds! Holy shit! I checked hoping someone would fire at it. Sure enough a guy who I knew to be a total nut from the cash games bet 3,000 into the 1,800 pot. Then the small blind moved all in for 11,000! I stalled a bit as if I was unsure, but eventually called, Mr. Nut folded and I beat the small blind who had flopped two pair with T3.

I was up to 26,000 at that point and in great shape. After 4 levels I had 23,000 at the first break, registration closed and I saw we ended up with 70 entrants.

With the blinds at 300/600 with a 50 ante I had two interesting hands back to back. On the first I called an all in to 3,750 with 99 and a guy who looked like he was in his 60's called behind me. At this stage of the tournament you'd normally expect either a raise or a fold, but I was quickly getting the sense that a large number of the players in this tournament were a bunch of loose passive soft spots who would just call in some situations where it was just flat wrong to do so. An ace flopped and Mr. 60's won that one.

On the very next hand I got AA and someone moved all in for 4,500. Hoping to get a repeat of the action from the previous hand I just called. Sure enough Mr. 60's called behind me. And then BOTH blinds called too! These guys love to call! We were 5 way going to the flop with more than two starting stacks already in the pot. The flop came down A T 4 with two spades! Top set baby! Send that pot to me man! The small blind moved all in for 5,800, the big blind folded, the all in was still all in, I made it 12,000 to go and Mr. 60's folded. When the hands got turned up the all in had JT of spades and the small blind had TT (flopped a set and was drawing totally dead!). The turn was a red 6 and the river was a red 8 and I took down a huge pot.

At the second break I had 49K chips with 30 players left, needing to make the top 10 to make the money.

The next big hand came with blinds at 500/1,000 with a 100 ante. The under the gun player just called the 1K with about a 30K stack, it folded over to me in the cutoff and I raised it to 4K with AQ of hearts. He called and the flop came down K J 4 with two hearts (and one spade) giving me 12 outs to the nuts. He checked to me and I bet biggish - 7K into the roughly 10K pot. He called without thinking at all. The turn was the 8 of spades, and my opponent checked again. I didn't like how quickly he called the flop, but he had a little less than 20K and there was 24K in the pot so I could put him all in without it being much of an overbet. Even if he called off a substantial stack, and I missed, I'd still have chips left. I decided to go for it. I moved all in, he quickly called and I thought "Well, I guess I have to hit it." But then he showed his hand - the QT of spades! I looked at this hand and the board and back a few times in rapid succession to confirm that he was in fact drawing. I was 70.5% to win and happily the river came out a 3 of hearts.

From there I cruised to the money guaranteeing myself at least a $315 payout. When the final table started an average stack was 70K and I had about 75K.

On the very first hand of the final table, with blinds at 800/1,600 and a 200 ante, the under the gun player made it 6K to go. 4 players called before it got back to me in the small blind. I looked down at 99. What a strange spot! Of the 5 players involved thus far 3 had me covered including the original raiser, but I strongly considered moving all in hoping to scoop up the roughly 34K in the pot without a fight. I decided I should be a little more tactical and just called. The big blind came along and we saw the flop 7 way! WTF! I'm almost positive I've never played a 7 way pot for a raise at a final table.

The flop came down T 8 7 with two diamonds giving me very possibly the best hand and a straight draw as back up. What do I do now? Do I just fire it in against 6 opponents? I decided to check. The big blind who was next to act moved all in for 30K and was quickly followed into the pot by the first caller of the preflop raise who shoved for 40K. If this was a cash game I probably would have called here. Getting a little better than 2.5 to 1 when I'm around 2 to 1 to make a straight with the added small chance that my pair might be good against something like two flush draws or that the two remaining 9's might be clean outs. But I decided to be conservative and pitched it. The big blind had T 4 (Ten four!) and the first caller had JJ. It turns out that if I'd shoved preflop or on the flop I would have smashed face first into those pocket jacks so check folding the flop was optimal.

The 10th place player collected his $315 and the 9th place finisher got the same.

The 8th place player followed him soon after collecting $410 and then 7th place got $510, and 6th got $620.

Meanwhile I was just sitting there getting garbage and getting blinded off. I did put in a raise with AT suited at one point and got 4 callers! These guys love to call! Normally a big part of my final table strategy is running over scared players, but there was no chance of that working with this crowd.

Playing 5 handed I finally got a real hand. With blinds at 2K/4K the under the gun player made it 12K to go and I shoved for 55K with TT. After some thought he made a thin call with KQ. Luckily the board ran out 6 5 4 2 A and I took it down. Mr. KQ was the next to go collecting $730.

I started 4 handed play with 96K of the 700K chips in play and we played 4 handed for close to an hour! Of the last three opponents one was weak tight, one was an inexperienced loose cannon, and the third is an Oaks regular who is a solid player and knows what he's doing.

At this point I was feeling tired. I'd been at the Oaks since around 2:30, the tournament started at 6:15 and we started 4 handed play around 11:20. I don't know if it's that I'm older now (To paraphrase Shaquille O'Neil - 36 ain't 26 bro.) or just that I'm not used to playing for 9 or 10 hours anymore, but I did not feel sharp.

On the first hand of consequence 4 handed, I made it 16K to go with blinds of 3K/6K with black AQ, I got called by Mr. Regular out of the big blind, and the flop came down KK5 with two hearts. He checked and I checked it back (this was questionable). The turn was a really interesting card - the A of hearts. Mr. Regular bet out 20K and I kind of figured he was on an ace, a big heart or total air with the big heart being the most likely. I decided to put on the pressure and went all in for 75K. He looked pained and took a long time before eventually calling. To my shock and horror he turned over K7 for three kings! I stood up to leave, but then an ace came on the end! ZING!

Then nothing I did seemed to work out for about 15-20 minutes and I dribbled back down from a peak of 200K down to 100K. It was very frustrating.

Eventually I ended up with KK on the button and made it 20K to go. Mr. Regular called me out of the big blind and the flop came down K Q 6 with two hearts. Top set baby! He checked to me and I bet an amount that I hoped said "I missed here, but I don't want to just check" - 15K. He hemmed and hawed and then raised to 40K. I quickly shoved and he practically beat me into the pot. I figured I'd be fading a draw, but to my delight he showed 66! He'd flopped a lower set! As the kids say it was so sick.

I had my chance to bust Mr. regular a few hands later. I was back on the button with AJ and made it 20K again. He moved all in for 70K and I quickly called him. This time he had QQ and it held up. Drat!

While all this was happening, Mr. Loose kept doing stupid shit all over the place and the other too dumb shits would never call him! He kept flashing me bluff after bluff while telling the other guys about how he hadn't bluffed all tournament and it was as if they were believing every word. He literally talked them out of calling multiple times after his money was all in the pot. They were folding good hands in spots where I felt like they should have been calling with almost any two. I couldn't believe that with only 58 big blinds in play among the 4 of us at the 6K/12K blind level, that no one went broke.

Eventually with blinds of 8K/16K, Mr. regular raised to 32K, I moved all in for around 80K with 88 and he called me with TT. There were no miracles this time and I was out in 8th.

I got paid $840 for 4th (3rd was $1,250, 2nd was $1,950, and first was $3,200 - SHIT! So close!) which was a net profit of $655.

After 55.5 hours I'm ahead $1,610 for the project.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Project Manhattan Session #13A - The Cash Game

I made a rare Wednesday afternoon trip to the Oaks this week and as I pulled in to the parking lot around 2:30 I was shocked to find almost every spot full. I'd gotten a call from a friend/backer/poker player who had just read my previous post and suggested that it would be dead the Oaks because of the Warriors game (the final record breaking game of the season) and I was surprised to find out he was SO SO SO SO SO WRONG! You know who you are Mr. Wrong.

On the way in I saw the previously mentioned Matt Lessinger on the way out who suggested that the Warriors game would have the opposite effect and that the game would actually bring people to the Oaks to watch while they played.

Actually they were both right. It was atypically busy from 3-6:30, but then at 6:30 BOOM! A bunch of games broke as people headed home to watch the game.

By 2:45 I was in a $2/$3/$5 game and I got off to a good start. After 3 players called $5 I raised with QQ to $30 on the button. All three called and the flop came down 6 4 3 all spades. About 90% of the time I remember to check and recheck the suits of my cards before the flop when they are off suit (if they're suited I'm sure what they are close to 99% of the time without looking back when the flop comes out), but this was one of those times when I'd lost track of if I had a spade.

Looking back is usually an indication that you do not have a made flush as most other people also are way more likely to know what suits they have if they're suited. In fact I like to look back as a bit of acting when I do have a made flush specifically to convince my opponents that I don't have it yet.

Either way, the hand was worth betting. My 3 opponents checked to me, I bet out $70 and got one caller who only had about $95 left. The turn was the T of diamonds. He checked, I put him all in, he called, the river was a red K, I showed, he mucked, bada-bing, bada-boom, I'm up $250.

There were two games going and the one I was in was the worse of the two so even though I was winning, about 30 minutes in I moved to the other table.

There was a guy there who I know I've mentioned at least once before, but I can't remember what I called him. He's a regular player and is a steady loser in the game. He always has a big roll of bills that is part small bills and part hundreds. When I say big it's like he has three packs of cigarettes in one pocket. He also has two phones - a top notch smart phone and a bottom of the line flip phone. I'll let you draw your own conclusions about what he might do for a living.

About an hour after I switched games Mr. Two Phones made it $20, I called in the small blind with 87 of clubs and we took the flop 4 way. The flop came out 9 8 6 with two spades giving me middle pair and an open ender. I checked, Mr. Two Phones bet $30, one other player called and it was back to me. Mr. two phones had about $230 left and the other guy had $300 or so. Thinking I might have the best hand and with a ton of outs to improve I considered just shoving it all in, but with only $140 out there, a raise to $300 was a little excessive. I made it $110 thinking there was a chance I'd lose them both even with that bet size, but to my surprise they both called. The turn was a 4 which was great if I was already ahead against other draws and terrible if I was behind. I decided to go for it and moved all in. Mr. Two Phones quickly called for $150, the other guy folded and I was hoping for a T on the river. Sadly the river was a red K. Happily, I rolled over my hand and it was good! Zing!

In my last hour I had one other big hand. I three bet a guy who seemed to be on tilt from $25 to $65 with JJ out of the small blind and got called. The flop was A J 5 (with two clubs)! Whoa baby! If this guy had an ace I was likely to get paid off and I was 99% sure to have the best hand. I bet out on the small side pushing $65 into the pot. He quickly called. The turn was a 4. I considered checking, but decided I'd make more against a ace by betting half pot all the way through and hoping to get called down rather than check raising the turn or check calling the turn and betting the river. I pushed $125 out there and my opponent quickly folded. Drat!

After 3 hours of play I was up $487 and racked up my chips. It was about 5:45 and at 6:15 the $185 Wednesday night tournament was starting. I bought in, walked over to 7-11 and got myself a snack, checked my email on my phone, and just spaced out for a bit.

I'll post about how the tournament went in my next post which will be up soon.

With that $487 win I'm ahead $955 for the project after 49.5 hours. Half way home!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Project Manhattan Session #12 - Why Don't I Just Go Ahead and Make All the Draws

After my three week break I was not feeling all that sharp headed in to play on Friday, but I was ready for some good shit to happen to me for a change. The theme of the night was a I made a lot of strong hands and with some of them I feel like I may have left some money on the table.

On my 5th or 6th hand I got dealt 63 off suit in the big blind and got a free look 5 way. The flop came down Q 5 4 giving me an open ender. I bet out $15 into the $19 ($6 goes to the rake) pot and got one caller. The turn was a bingo card - a 7! I bet out $30 into the $49 pot and got called again. The river was another great card - a Q. It was certainly possible that my opponent had a Q and if so he had trips so there was no way he was folding. If he had anything else he was almost certainly going to muck for even a small bet. So I decided to bet big. I fired out $100 and he quickly folded. Drat!

What left me thinking here a little was that if he had a Q he would have certainly bet if I checked, giving me the chance to check raise. And if he had a missed draw or something else I would have liked to have given him a chance to take a shot at the pot. Maybe he would have just checked back and I'd be left wondering why I didn't bet the river, but at the end of the day I thinking trying to induce a bluff was the right play here and I missed it.

On the very next hand I got dealt 22 in the small blind and called a raise from the button. We took the flop 3 ways along with a limper for $25 each and the board came out K 9 2 with 2 hearts. Bottom set baby! We both checked to the button who bet $50. I raised it to $140 hoping to get called by a K or a draw on a draw heavy board, but instead I lost both opponents. I think raising is right here, but was again left with the feeling that maybe I could have made more with a different line.

I had another hand where I flopped top pair with KQ and it was good. After about 15 minutes of playing I was up $250. Not a bad start.

About a half an hour later I raised a $10 straddle to $40 with AJ of diamonds and got 4 callers. The flop came down KQ4 with two diamonds! With a nut flush draw and a straight draw, a pot that was already $160 and facing medium sized stacks, I figured I was probably either going to win the pot or double someone up because I sure as shit wasn't going anywhere. I fired out $110 and got called by the button. Mentally I called "Ten! Ten! Ten! Put a ten out there!" I got a 5 of diamonds which was almost as good. I had the nuts, but now the board looked pretty scary. My opponent was aggressive so I decided to check and he obliged by betting $220! He had another $340 in his stack and I had him covered.

At this point my heart was really racing. I noticed that I had what I'm sure was a really uncomfortable look on my face and I decided to go with it. I went into full on acting mode, trying to look uncomfortable without making it look like I was trying to look uncomfortable. I looked at my opponent like I was trying to put a read on him when all I was doing was thinking, "Sweet lord, don't pair the effing board on the river!"

After 30 seconds I gave him one last look and shoved all my chips in the pot. Some people seem to like to throw in one chip and practically whisper "all in" but I'm old school in that way. I shove them all in there baby! My opponent said "Nice hand" and threw one chip in to signify a call. The river was a total disaster - it paired the Q. KQ or a set were two hands I could easily be up against. I showed my flush and my opponent picked up his cards to turn them over - a sure sign of doom - but instead of rolling them all the way over, he looked at them one more time and pitched them into the muck. There was almost $1,400 in that pot!

I had a couple of speed bumps running AQ into AA and losing $90 and dropping $50 with TT vs AK - which was really minimal damage - then I got back to the draws.

I raised to 20 with Q9 suited and got two calls. The flop came down J J T which is a really scary board, but I fired out $40 with my straight draw anyway. I got one call and the turn came out an 8! My opponent only had $90 left so I figured I'd check and he's probably just ship it in there no matter what he had. But he checked it back. The river was a 5 and I put him all in for $90. He snap called and didn't show, but his demeanor led me to think he may have had a J.

Not only did I hit all three draws to this point, I got them all on the turn which ensured that I wouldn't get blown off the draw and allowed me to focus on making the maximum.

A little later I got dealt 22 again and I thought "I bet I'm going to flop another set of deuces. I'm just going to run hot as shit all night here." Of course the chances were still the same 7.5 to 1 against me that I'd flop a set, but I did have that feeling. I called a raise to $20, we took the flop 3 way and it came out 7 6 2! Ha! There were two diamonds out there which meant it a draw heavy board and the preflop raiser bet out $40. My opponent was a thinking player and I figured if I raised he wouldn't know if I had a draw, a 7, an overpair or something else so I made it $100 to go. After some thought he called. The turn was a terrible card for me - the 5 of diamonds. I wasn't really worried about not having the best hand, but since all the draws got there it would be hard to get action. My opponent checked and I bet out $110 hoping to get called by a diamond, but my opponent quickly folded.

My next hand of note came when I raised to $20 with QQ and got two callers. The flop came down J 9 4, I bet out $40 and the player in the big blind called me. The turn was a T and my opponent checked again. This was an interesting card because it completed some draws and made a lot of reasonable two pair combos. It also gave me a straight draw.  My opponent was a tightish solid player and I figured I'd have better chance to get paid off on the river after having checking the turn. I checked and the river came out a Q. Now the board was J 9 4 T Q meaning an 8 or a K made a straight, but I could beat everything else. My opponent fired out $55 and I thought for about 20 seconds before calling. He showed 99! I really dodged a bullet there!

A little later I called $15 3 way with J9 of diamonds. The flop came out K Q T with two diamonds and I thought "OK, this is getting kind of ridiculous." How do you best play a flopped straight with a 2nd nut flush redraw? It really doesn't come up all that often! I probably should have just bet out as any raising hand would have a piece of this and no one in their right mind would put me on a straight after I bet out, but I went with the more standard line and check called $40. The turn was a T and I checked again. My opponent bet $75 and I really blew it by just calling. I continued to blow it by checking the river and having my opponent check back. In the moment I felt like he liked his hand and was going to keep firing on through, but a small check raise on the turn and a smallish bet on the river would have been much better. My suspicion is that he had a hand like AK or KJ and figured I either had a busted draw and wasn't calling or had him beat.

OK, I didn't actually make all the draws. My one miss came when I called $20 in the big blind 5 way with K6 of spades. The board came out K 7 3 with two spades giving me top pair an a flush draw and the preflop raiser who was a total nut bet out $60. Based on other hands I'd seen him play he could easily have had any pocket pair or a 7 or be on total air. He only had $140 left so if he was willing, we were going to get it all in. The only thing I needed to decide was if it would be better to just ship it on the flop or wait for the turn. I figured if I moved in he might fold a 7 or a pocket pair, but if I made a reluctant call on the flop he'd shove on almost any turn card (as was his pattern up to that point). The turn was a red 8 and like clock work, I checked, he moved all in a millisecond later, and I called almost as quickly. The river was a red ten and unfortunately I lost to KJ. Boo!

Those were all the big hands. I think I could have done a bit better getting value with my made hands and I'd give my self a C+ in that arena, but I had my A game working when it came to staying out of trouble. I lost the minimum on probably 10 hands that were all fairly inconsequential, but in aggregate saved me a few hundred bucks.

In the end I booked a $1,094 win over 4 hours. That has me back in black for the project. Overall I'm winning $468 after 46.5 hours.

I'm going to make a rare Wednesday afternoon plus evening appearance at the Oaks tomorrow. My tentative plan is to put in 4 hours of cash game work and then play the Wednesday night tournament. The tournament is a $185 buy in with the option to re-enter if you go broke in the first 4 levels. I think there are usually 40 or 50 entrants and my plan is to fire two $185 bullets at it if needed.

I hope I keep making all the draws!

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Project Manhattan Session #11 - Too Much Pressure or Something Else?

It's been almost 3 weeks since I played session #11 so the details are a little fuzzy, but here are the highlights!

After a little downturn recently, I have to say I was feeling the pressure when I sat down. It wasn't like a major weight on my shoulders, but more like a minor buzzing in the background.

The first three hours of the session were pretty tame and I found myself $150 to the good, The 4th hour, however, had quite a few big hands. On the first two hands of note I had QQ and in both got into it with a highly aggressive professional player.

On the first Mr. Aggressive and another player called $5 and I raised it to $25. The flop came down Q 5 2 rainbow giving me top set. Zing! This seemed like a good spot to slow play as there were no draws and I was up against a player who I was pretty sure would bet the turn. It checked around and the turn came out an 8. Sure enough Mr. Aggressive bet out $25 and the other guy called. I decided to just call again. This is a little questionable, but I thought that $25 was a bluff so why take him off it? The river was a J and Mr. Aggressive bet out $30 with about $170 left in his stack. The other guy folded and I put him all in. To my shock and horror he folded J8 (two pair) face up! ACK! I should have gotten paid off on that one. Mental note: Bluff this guy more.

On the next one I had QQ again, and Mr. Aggressive (who by this point had reloaded and had a $450 stack) called $5 after two other $5 calls. I made it $35 to go, everyone folded back to Mr. Aggressive and he made it $110. This looked like a hand like 88. I figured any hand I had to worry about, namely AA, KK or AK, would certainly have raised a couple of limpers, so I put him all in for $450. He called pretty quickly, I showed him my QQ, he said "I can beat that" and showed me QQ also! Nothing crazy happened and we chopped the pot.

Things went south in a hurry from there.

I got dealt AT with the T of spades and raised one $5 limper to $25. Both blinds and the limper called and the flop came down J 9 3 all spades. It checked to me and I bet $70 into the $100 pot. This was a bad idea. There was no reason to bet into 3 players on a wet board. Both blinds called and the turn came out the 7 of spades. Now the big blind came out betting $100 into the $340 pot. The big blind was a woman I've played with many times and she's really tricky. She could easily be bluffing in this spot, so I called. The river was a J and she bet $100 again. Now I was looking at $540 out there. All I could beat was a bluff, and this looked much more like a value bet. I would have folded for more, but I kind of got sucked in by the cheapness of it. I lost to A8 of spades! Ack!

I was still winning a little over $100, but I was feeling like I really blew it on that hand. If I'd just checked the flop I would have saved myself a lot of trouble. Or if I just dumped it on the turn there's no way that would have been a big mistake. More than the result or the fact that I misplayed it the fact that I was really second guessing myself, was not a good sign.

Around that time I got involved with a guy who looked about 25, was drinking a beer, and was asking questions like he'd played some before but never at the Oaks. There was one hand where after heavy preflop action he called an all in bet of about $400 into a $400 pot on a 6 3 2 flop. The board ran out Q A, he lost to 88 and didn't show. He must have called a preflop raise that went from $25 to $125 with either 77, 55 or 44 and then just called it off on the flop. The point is he was pretty loose if not totally on meltdown tilt. After that hand he ran off, got some money and bought back in for $500.

On his first hand back he straddled, I raised it to $40 with AJ of spades, a total goof ball called and Mr. 25 made it $140 to go. I wasn't really sure if he had a legit three bet hand or was on tilt. He wasn't visibly losing his shit, but he'd just made a titly call and lost in a way that would be likely to make him more tilty. I thought about moving all in, but decided to see the flop and go from there. Mr. Goofball called also and the flop came down T 9 6 with one spade. Mr. 25 bet out $100 into the $420 pot. Immediately I thought "He missed." He had $260 left and I had him covered. After some additional thought I decided that he had AK and had made a legit 3 bet preflop, but didn't know what to do when he missed and just stuck $100 out there. I decided to go for it and put him all in. Mr. Goofball quickly folded and after about 2 seconds Mr. 25 called. The board bricked out and I said "I missed." He just sat there, so I rolled over my AJ and he showed me AK! Son of a bitch! I can't believe he practically snap called me on the flop with no pair. I would not have been crazy to just dump that AJ preflop.

About two hands later I got dealt KK, raised to $25, had a short stack move all in for $125 with ATs and make a runner runner flush on me. Those last 3 hands happened over the course of about 15 minutes and I went from up $400 or so to down a little over $500. Normally you wouldn't want to leave a game where there's a dude who you know is going to pay you off who has $1,100 in front of him, but I'm not a robot and I was in no mental state to play well after those three hands. Sometimes you have to know when enough is enough.

I lost $510 over 4 hours. I'm losing $626 over 42.5 hours for the project as a whole. Boo!

After a 3 week layoff I'll be back in action Friday night.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Project Manhattan Session #10 - Making Sets and Getting Screwed with Draws Part II

Looking back at Session #9 I made a straight draw and lost to a bigger straight and missed a 12 out flush draw + gut shot combo.

In Session #8 I missed a pair plus a flush draw draw and in other draw related news got my pocket kings squashed in a $1,000+ pot by a guy building a flush around the 5 of clubs on a 4 club board.

In session #10 I missed 5 (yes 5!) draws in hands of consequence and looking back I haven't actually made a straight or flush draw and won the pot since Session #6. I have an active streak of about 18 hours of play since I brought home a pot with a flush or a straight. Not good.

I got off to a good start when someone moved all in for $175 against a straddle and a couple of $10 callers and I looked down at KK. It held up. But then I blew it right back when a guy who had raised four or five straight hands and was on meltdown tilt managed to find AK against my AJ. We both made trip aces so I'm glad he only had $175!

I dribbled off $200 in unexciting ways over about 90 minutes and then I got dealt 77. A mid twenties dude with a big beard and enormous headphones who was two to my right came in for a raise to $15, I called and and older guy who kept getting rivered came along too. The flop came down K T 7, which was a bonkers good flop for me. Mr. Headphones bet $15, I decided to slow play and just called and Old Man River called as well. The turn was an A and Mr. Headphones bet $15 again which was only 1/6 of the pot. I briefly considered that he might have AA or KK given his odd bet sizing, but raising was really the only option. I made it $100 to go and to my surprise Old Man River went all in for $250. Then Mr. Headphones quickly just called. That seemed really weird to me. With just about any hand I'd expect him to either put me all in or fold. Anyway, I wasn't folding so I moved all in for $420 and Mr. Headphones called. Old Man River immediately flashed QJ for the nut straight and I was a little worried Mr. headphones might have AK meaning I'd need a T or a 7 to drag the pot. The river came out and it was...a ten! Zing! I showed my hand and Mr. Headphones quickly mucked. Old Man River went on a mini tirade about getting rivered again and headed for the door.

Does this count as making a draw? I don't know, but I'm in bitch fest mode so I'm not counting it!

There was $1,180 in that pot which meant I was ahead $480 on the night. I was feeling good and planning to play a long session if things continued to go well. Then my parade of misfortune began.

DRAW #1 - I called a raise to $20 in a 6 way pot with T9 of hearts and the flop came down K J 7 with one heart and two spades. The first player to act on the flop was a short stack and he moved all in for $78 into the $120 pot. Everyone folded to me. Against a hand like Ax of spades or Kx I'd win about 1/3 of the time and getting 2.5 to 1 on my money, with no more betting this felt like a profitable call. Looking at the odds now it turns out that against anything but a set I'd be getting the right price to call and even against KK I'd be 27% to win. The turn was a 2 and the river was a 4 of spades and I lost to...wait for it...72 of spades! GAH!

(Sort of a) DRAW #2 -  I came in for a raise to $20 with QQ in the cutoff, the button called and then a player who just sat down made it $90 to go out of the small blind. He started the hand with about $500 and I had him covered. Against an aggressive opponent I'd probably 4 bet here, but I didn't know this guy at all. I was a little worried if I made it $220 or $240 I'd lose all the worse hands and get 5 bet all in by AA or KK. So I just called. The flop was J T 6 which looked terrible since I was hoping he had a hand like JJ or TT before the flop. But then he checked. Hoping he had AK or AQ, but also thinking he might have JJ I bet out $100. My opponent quickly called. The turn looked like the worst card in the deck, a king. Now I couldn't beat any hand that would three bet preflop, and check call the flop. But on the bright side I did pick up a straight draw. My opponent checked and I checked it back. The river was a 4 and he checked again. Now I was really confused. I checked it back and he showed KK for a set of kings! What an odd way for him to play that hand.

DRAW #3 - I called a min raise to $10 four way with J9 and a guy who hand limped for $5 and then called the min raise came out firing for $20 on a Q T 5 board. I decided to be aggressive with my open ended straight draw. I made it $60 and then he three bet it to $160! ACK! Unfortunately he only had another $100 behind which would certainly be going in on the turn. If I wanted to draw essentially I'd be risking $200 to win $360 which was not the right price. I folded.

DRAW #4 - I raised to $20 with QJ of hearts and a tough regular player made it $60 to go. I called and the flop came down 9 5 4 with two hearts. I figured my opponent would bet close to 100% of the time after three betting and sure enough after I checked he fired out $70 into the $120 pot. He'd started the hand with $400 so he had another $270 behind. This was pretty much the perfect amount for him to have as I wouldn't be risking a crazy amount to semi-bluff raise all in, but he was no where near pot committed. I decided to go for it and put him all in. He quickly called. The turn was a Q giving me hope that I'd caught up to JJ or TT or even A high hearts. The river was a black 2 and I saw that I'd run into KK again. Drat!

Around this point I was stuck $400 on the night. But then I won a few small pots and crawled my way back to the point where I was sitting with $700 in front of me in for $900 on the night. I was closing in on the 4 hour mark on the session and decided to play one more round before leaving.

DRAW #5 - I was in seat 8, seat 5 called $5, seat 7 made it $15 to go, I called with T8 of spades and we took the flop 3 way. Seat 5 and seat 7 are both weak predictable players that I've played with before. The tend to buy in for $200 or $300 and tend to play scared. Seat 5 had been running hot and had run his small buy in up to about $900. The flop came down 9 4 3 with one spade and two hearts, seat 5 checked, seat 7 bet $25 and I decided to float. I didn't have anything, but that bet of $25 into the $50 pot wasn't exactly a strong bet, so I figured I'll call the flop and maybe put the heat on on the turn. Seat 5 called as well and the turn came out the 6 of spades. This was a great card for me as I went from nothing to a combo straight and flush draw. Both players checked to me, my plan was coming together as expected, and I fired out $105 into the $150 pot. To my surprise seat 5 min raised me to $210! This was a major alarm bells raise. A check raise on the turn is almost always a huge hand. A min raise on the turn is almost always a huge hand. Put them together and this looked like a set. But there was $440 in the pot and I only needed to call another $105 for a shot at my combo draw. This was an easy call. The river was the 2 of hearts making the board 9 4 3 6 2. The front door flush draw had come in and there was a one liner to a straight out there as well. My opponent quickly checked. I looked down at my stack and saw that I had almost a pot sized bet left. Actually I had $422 and there was $545 out there, but it was pretty close and in the moment it looks like the pot was a little smaller. I still thought my opponent had a set, but I also thought of him as scared. I thought there was a chance he might fold to a big bet with that scary board. I didn't think about it too long, I just went for it and moved all in. After about 15 seconds my opponent called. And showed 65! Son. Of. A. Bitch.

I was 41% to win on the turn, but the real pain of this hand comes through when you realize that the 2 of hearts is the only card in the deck that can come on the river where I lose my whole stack. If a 7 comes he makes a straight, but I make a bigger one. If he doesn't make a straight he might bet again and win or it might go check check on the river or if I bet at it there is no way he's calling with one pair of sixes. That is literally the only card where he checks, I bet and he calls. Anything else and at least I save the $422 on the river.

I'm also left questioning my play. The way it went down all makes sense. I don't think I made any huge errors, but I certainly could have just pitched it on the flop. Or I could have left one round earlier. Or I could have just checked back the river. Anyway, how ever you slice it, it sucked.

I lost $900 on the night and am now down $116 over 38.5 hours.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Project Manhattan Session #9 - Making Sets and Getting Screwed With Draws Part I

I was back at it at the Oaks Friday night. I bought in for $500 and got involved in a hand of consequence on the first hand. But first, an aside!

One of my best friends Matt Lessinger wrote a poker book called The Book of Bluffs: How to Bluff and Win at Poker. One of the first bluffs in the book is a play to use when you've just joined the game (or have missed your blinds) and are posting to get a hand and everyone folds to you. In this instance you should raise unless you are against the loosest possible players in the blinds.

As an example, let's say you're in a $15/$30 limit game. You post $15 one off the button and everyone folds to you. There is $40 in the pot from your post and the blinds and to put in a raise you only have to risk $15 more. If everyone folds 3/8ths of the time or more, you immediately profit. If you get a call or callers you'll be in position with some equity no matter how bad your hand is. This doesn't come up all that often, but it's worth taking advantage of when it does.

This made great sense to me when I read it for the first time about 10 years ago. The next time I played after that was at $15/$30 at the Oaks, I posted my $15 and got dealt 72 off suit - the worst possible starting hand. Not to be deterred I raised it to $30 ready to scoop in my $40 win. "I'm soooo smart!" I thought. Then all 3 players left to act called me. "Stupid Matt Lessinger and his stupid book!" I thought. I flopped a 7 which was second pair and decided that would be good enough to try to push through. I bet the flop got one call. I fired again on the turn and got called. The river was a 2, giving me two pair. I bet again, got called and my opponent's mewling made sure everyone saw the shitty thing that had happened to him and my shitty play. Then on the next hand I got in there with 55, flopped a set, turned a full house and since everyone thought I was a total loon who would raise 72 I got paid off big and dragged a $500+ pot. Thank you Matt Lessinger!

Anyway, on Friday I posted $5 and got dealt T7. Everyone folded to me and I made it $20 to go effectively risking $15 to win $14 if everyone folded (there are $10 in blinds, but they rake $1 even if everyone folds). The small blind and big blind called (Stupid Matt Lessinger!). Happily the flop came down 7 5 3 rainbow which is a pretty solid flop for T7. To my surprise the small blind fired out $45. This guy was tall, about 50 and had an accent and appearance like maybe he was from Central or South America. I'd never played him before so I figured I'd just call and see what happened. The turn was a J and he bet out $85 with about $150 behind. This was another big bet and my gut reaction was to fold, but I took my time and eventually was fully convinced that he had a 7 or perhaps was just losing his mind. There wasn't much else that made sense. I also figured with the J out there that if I shoved on him, he couldn't call with a 7 or some other hand like 65. He kind of sighed when I put him all in and I figured he'd be folding, but to my surprise he called with...T7! We split the pot.

On the very next hand he went broke and I thought he might pick up and leave and people who lose their $300 stacks often do. But then he pulled out a wad of hundreds that looked like it was about $3,000 strong and bought back in for $300. A hour later, without buying in again, he was sitting on a $3,000 stack! He pretty much started playing every hand and just ran super hot. I'll call this guy Mr. Deep.

A little later I put in a big bluff. Mr. Deep made a min raise to $10 and a loose player made it $40. I called out of the big blind with A5 of hearts for another $35 in a 5 way pot. This is probably more than I should be putting in with A5 suited out of position, but everyone was $500+ deep and it was multi-way so I decided to be speculative. The flop came down 8 4 3 with 1 heart and it checked over to the $40 raiser. He bet out $100 and two players folded. I stopped to think. I had 4 outs to a straight, a backdoor flush draw, and 3 more outs if an ace was good. If he had a hand like JJ I'd win the pot 1/3 of the time if we got it all in. But this guy had a really wide three bet range compared to normal competition and an even wider continuation betting range, so I figured I'd unload him some of the time. I made it $300 with $300 in the pot and everyone quickly folded. Hooray!

Then I got tied to the tracks. I saw a flop for $5 with 87 of diamonds. The player directly to my right came out betting $15 on a board of J T 3 with two diamonds. With a 12 out draw and 4 players left behind me I called, and Mr. Deep also called. The turn was an A and the same guy bet again - $30 into the $75 pot. Mr. Deep and I both called again. I was a little worried Mr. Deep might have a bigger flush draw after he called again and so I was mentally calling for a 9 on the river. The river came and bingo! It was a black 9. The guy who had been betting bet out $60 and I put him all in for $200. He snap called me and proudly rolled over KQ for the nut straight! ACK! I'm glad he didn't have more chips.

I had more draw problems on the next hand of significance. I completed the small blind on the button for $3 to see a flop with 32 of spades and we say the flop 6 way. The board came down T 9 5 with two spades. Everyone checked to me and I bet $20 with my flush draw. Mr. Deep called in seat 10 and then seat 1 raised it to $60. I called as did Mr. Deep. The pot was getting big! The turn was the A of clubs and Mr. Deep checked. Seat 1 bet out $150 into the $200 pot. This was a toughish spot. One one hand, I've played with seat 1 many times and I was sure he had something big and I thought he'd have trouble folding even if the front door spades came in. I also thought there was a good chance Mr. Deep would call giving me another person to pay me off on the river potentially and better immediate pot odds. On the other hand, if I called I'd only make a straight or a flush 26% of the time and I could be up against a better flush draw in the hands of Mr. Deep. In order for the call to be profitable I'd need the money in the pot and the money I'd make on the river add up to $577 or more and that's if all of my outs where good. If I called I'd have about $300 left for a river bet. Add it all up and I should have pitched this one. In the actual hand Seat 1 had 55, Mr. Deep had QJ, I did call the turn, the river was a red 8, Mr. Deep moved all in and seat 1 called him for about $400.

At that point I was down about $400. But then I made two sets.

On the first I flopped a set of threes and got called for $20, $35, and $75 (all in) by one player on the flop, turn and river.

The other was a little more involved. I raised to $20 with 88 under the gun and got three callers. The flop came down A 8 5, I picked up chips to bet and then very awkwardly checked. This was not a pre-planned move and I wasn't sure what my opponents would make of it. This dude that looks like 2007 WSOP main event winner Jerry Yang bet out $45 and Mr. Deep called. Ah ha! I decided to continue the slow play plan and just called. The turn was a 7, I quickly checked and Mr. Jerry Yang fired out $155 very proudly like he just knew I had a hand like JJ and he was going to blow me off it. Mr. Deep folded and I took a good look at Mr. Jerry Yang as if I was trying to sort out what he had and after some hesitation I put him all in for $200 more. He sat there for at least 3 minutes. It was the longest I can remember someone taking to call me in a cash game, but eventually he put his chips in. The river was a brick, I dragged a $900 pot and I was up $50 on the night.

Some time passed without much happening and then I got dealt T9 of clubs on the button. The under the gun player raised to $20, Mr. Deep called, I called and along with the small blind we took the flop 4 way. The flop came down T 7 3 with two diamonds and they checked to me. Figuring I had the best hand I bet out $60. They all called! ACK! This was a draw heavy board so it was possible I had the best hand, but I was ready to shut it down on the turn. Then the turn came out and it was a T! They all checked to me again and I bet big - $220 into the $260 pot. Then the stupid small blind moved all in for $375. Shit! If he had a T also it was probably better than mine, but with only $155 more to call and $850 in the pot I wasn't folding. He turned over 77 which meant a T, 9 or 2 would make me a winner on the river, but alas a Q came out and I was toast.

In the end I lost $558 over 5 hours. I'm ahead $784 for the project over 34.5 hours.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Project Manhattan Session #8 - These Guys Hate To Fold

I made my way to Bay 101 Tuesday night feeling confident with a good plan in place. I had $2,000 in my pocket and was ready to take on the challenge of playing against a bunch of new faces.

There are a 3 small differences at Bay 101 that end up making things materially different: 1) they play the games 9 handed instead of 10 handed 2) they have 5-6 games going at once (even on a Tuesday) 3) there seems to be a cultural difference where people spend more time lobbying (i.e. away from the table). All of these things combined lead to the games playing 6 or 7 handed often.

In theory this should be good for me. Almost all of the time I spent playing online poker full time for 7 years was short handed. When I played no limit cash, it was 6 handed games. When I played limit games, it was 6 handed. I played about 15,000 single table tournaments where, guess what - you spend a lot of time short handed.

In practice...I was going to say maybe it's not, but screw that. It has to be good for me!

Shortly after I arrived they started a new $2/$3/$5 game with 7 of us. I bought in for $500 which is the max and oddly everyone else bought in for exactly $300 or $400.

My plan was to be conservative for the first hour so I could get some sense of how everyone played, but I had to throw that out the window on the 3rd hand. There was a raise to $15 and we took the flop 5 way. I was on the button with A3 of spades, the flop came down K 2 2 with two spades and everyone checked to me. The conservative play would be to check it back, but it just didn't seem like anyone had a piece of that and I did have a flush draw so I bet out $50. Everyone folded. So far so good.

One round later I was back on the button and there was a raise to $25 and two calls. I looked down at AA and made it $85 to go. All three called without hesitation. At the Oaks I might expect one or no calls and if it was a little later in the session after I confirmed that these guys all hate to fold I would have made it at least $100 and maybe as much as $120. Anyway the flop was a beauty - K 6 3 rainbow. They checked to me and with $340 in the pot and all of them having $400 or less I moved all in. The first two folded and then the third guy took about a minute before finally folding what he said was a pocket pair.

Not much else happened in the first hour and I found myself $275 to the good an hour in.

In my first hand of note in the second hour I had AT of diamonds in the small blind. A 30ish Asian guy in middle position who I'll call Mr. I Got There raised to $25 and got called by one other player. I called as well and the flop came down A 7 2 all spades. Mr. IGT bet $40 on the flop and I was the only caller. The turn paired the 7, I checked and Mr. IGT bet $60 with another $120 left in his stack. I figured he could have an ace or a pair with a big spade or even just a big spade. I was a little surprised that the turn card or the fact that I called the flop didn't slow him down. I didn't think he was on total air, but there were plenty of hands - like a pocket pair with a spade or Ax with the x being smaller than T - that I could beat. Since he wasn't that deep I decided to go for it and moved all in. He snap called me, the river was a red Q and he showed me AK with no spades. I'm not saying I'd expect this guy to fold here, but the fact that getting check raised all in on the turn didn't cause him any hesitation with one pair is telling.

I got another taste of "These guys hate to fold" a little later. I got dealt T4 of hearts on the button and I threw in $3 to see a flop 6 way. The flop came down 9 4 3 with two hearts giving me middle pair and a flush draw. Everyone checked to the cutoff who bet out $25. I considered raising, but decided with 14 outs to improve I wouldn't mind a few other players in the pot. But everyone folded. The turn card was a A and my opponent checked to me. With 14 outs and a great scare card I took a shot at it and bet $60. My opponent slowly called. I figured he probably had a 9. I was hoping to either make my hand or get something like a K or a Q that would help me unload a 9, but sadly the river was a black 8 missing me completely. There was about $200 out there and my opponent had $90 left. I figured another bet might convince him I had an A or had flopped a big hand. I'd only need this to work about 30% of the time for it to be profitable. After a short pause he called and showed me T9. Drat!

Those felt like a couple of pretty minor losses, but that was $425 out the door. I saw a few more flops and missed and before I new it I was stuck $300 on the session. I was also square in the mode of waiting to make a hand and bet for value.

The I got dealt KK! A ha! Time to bet for value. Mr. IGT called $5 with a $500 stack and another player who had us both covered (I also had $500) raised to $25. I made it $65 to go out of the small blind. Mr. IGT asked how much it was 3 times. As in "How much is it? [10 second pause] Man. How much is it? [10 second pause] Man. How much is it?" All 3 times the dealer told him it was $65 to go. Eventually he called, as did the other guy. The flop came down Q 4 2 with the 4 2 of clubs. I had red kings, but that looked like a pretty sweet flop. I bet out $130 hoping to get called by a Q. Mr. IGT called and the other guy folded. "Pair the 2!" I thought. The turn was a 6 of clubs bringing in the flush draw. Was it possible that my opponent made a flush? Sure. But his hand is really pocket pair heavy given the preflop action and it would be much more likely that he had a pair 77-TT or even something like QJ. Either way I wasn't just going to check fold, so I moved all in for $295 in to the $460 pot. He thought for a probably a full minute before calling all in for $290. The river rolled off the 9 of clubs and I knew I was cooked. "Overpair?" he said. I showed my KK and he said "I got there" and showed 55 with the 5 of clubs. Son of a bitch!

There was about $1,050 in the pot and I think it was the first time in Project Manhattan that I've been taken all the way to the felt (or within $5 of it) on a hand which is actually pretty surprising.

I will admit that I felt a little rattled after that one, but I had more money in my pocket and bought back in for $500.

About 10 minutes later I got dealt KT of diamonds and came in for a raise to $20. I got two callers and the flop came down 9 7 6 with one diamond and two spades. The player in the big blind check called my bet of $40. The turn was the 9 of diamonds and my opponent checked again. I had to consider that he might have a 9, but it was much more likely that he had one of a bevy of possible draws. Also now I had a flush draw and a gut shot. I fired out $75 and got called fairly quickly. The river was the 3 of spades completing the front door flush draw and my opponent checked again. I shut it down because - Say it with me - These Guys Hate To Fold! To my surprise my opponent rolled over JJ! What the? This is probably one I could have lost a little less with. My turn bet sizing was off. With $140 in the pot I should have bet $120 if I wanted to blow him off a draw and if I wasn't going to try to do that, then I should have just checked it back.

At the end of the second hour I was stuck almost $900. Did I really just have a -$1250 hour? Had it only been an hour? I had to look back at my notes to see just what the hell happened and if I had done anything really egregious.

I did finally make a few hands I could bet for value. 

On the first I got red KK again and Mr. I Got There called my raise to $25! What I should have thought was "Great! I should get action from this guy." What I thought instead was a very amateurish thing to think. I thought (in not these exact words)"Oh sweet lord, I'm never folding this hand against this guy and if he makes something I'm totally screwed and I'm going to lose my shit." The flop was 8 5 4 with two spades and he folded to my bet of $40.

On the second I got KQ in the big blind and facing 3 calls in from of me I made it $25 to go. As expected they all called. The flop came down  K 8 4 with to clubs and I bet out $75. They all folded. Bastards! Where is that suspicious guy with 87 that I need to pay me off?

On the third I threw in $3 to call with K3 of diamonds on the button 4 way. The flop came down K 5 3 and the cutoff bet $10. My gut reaction was that he was betting, but didn't really like it. I just called and the small blind called as well. The turn was a Q, the cutoff bet $20 into the $45 pot and I raised it to $60. Both of my opponents folded. Shit!

After 3 hours, other than the have with the AA, I didn't really have a hand that played out how I wanted. When I missed or had second best, I got called. When I made something, my opponents managed to find a fold. Sometimes this is indicative of being over matched or easily readable, but half these guys didn't know their ass from a hole in a the ground and there is just no way they were putting tight reads on me.

In the end I lost $938 on the night. I'm still winning $1,342 for the project over 29.5 hours.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

5 Tips for Winning in Poker Games with All New Opponents

I'm going to be in San Jose playing at Bay 101 tonight. While I've played limit hold'em or tournaments there 25-30 times, I've only played $5 big blind no limit there 3 times. Since there is pretty regular churn in the player pool at any casino and the player pool there is much larger than at the Oaks, it's likely I'll be facing an entire table of players I've never played a single hand against.  Before I play in a game that is likely to be composed of unfamiliar players I figured I'd take the time to give myself the advice I'd give to someone else if they asked me about this challenge.

1) Pay attention - They say the three most important things for a successful restaurant are location, location and location. Playing in a game of new faces, the three most important things are pay attention, pay attention, and pay attention. If you know 3/4 of the players in a game because you've played a dozen sessions against them you can get away with spacing out or checking your phone when you're out of the hand once in a while, but forcing yourself to watch every detail for at least the first hour is key.

2) Start a profile on every player - It's not OK to stereotype people in real life, but in poker that's where you have to start. Not every old white guy you ever play is going to be weak tight, but the vast majority of them will. I'm sure there is a 45 year old woman out there who wears $10,000 in jewelry and looks like she spent an hour on her hair who has a perfectly balanced three bet range, but I've never played against her. Of course some people will surprise you, but if you've already thought hard about how to categorize them in detail when they do something out of character that will jump out at you and stick in your memory for later. Thinking beyond appearance, general behavior is huge. Watching how someone handles their chips and cards is very telling. Even if the sound was off how long would it take you to figure out that Beyonce' is an amazing performer if you'd never seen her before? How about if we put me up there next to her for a duet? It would probably take about 10 seconds to figure out that Beyonce is amazing and less to figure out that I am not. Take a look at everyone, create a detailed set of initial conclusions and then adjust as the sessions continues.

2) Build the image you want - Understanding the way your opponents perceive you is huge. What snap judgements are they going to make about you based on your appearance and behavior? In old TV shows and movies either the hero or villain would often pretend to be an absolutely awful player until the key hand or situation would come up and then they'd pounce. In reality, it's much better for your opponents to perceive you as a threat than a soft spot. In fact one of the things that really screws me up is that under normal circumstances I know most players know I'm a strong, winning player. When I play new opponents sometimes either they perceive me as softer than I am or I start thinking that they perceive me as softer than I am even though they don't. Both of these are not ideal. The best thing for me to do is to play tight preflop for the 1st hour. That will usually get people started on thinking that I'm at least pretty good, and they also won't expect me to be loose post flop which I try to be.

3) Find the errors in your opponents frequencies - This is really the key to all winning in poker. If they call too much you beat them by making hands and betting for value. If they fold too much, you beat them by playing more hands and bluffing more. If that 45 year old woman with the hair and the jewelry three bets you, you can be pretty sure it's a big pair and fold. A more detailed example is most recreational players will bet an A high flop if they've raised before the flop 100% of the time whether they have it or not. That's not the optimal frequency. They do this because their opponents fold whenever they don't have an ace. That's also not optimal. Every situation on every street needs a certain amount of balance and if you don't have that balance it's exploitable. One hand can show you that an opponent is doing something that's exploitable so you better be paying attention so you don't miss it.

4) Don't force it - Playing somewhere new or where you don't normally play can be exciting. Getting all jacked up to play and then sitting down to a string of garbage cards can be tough to handle.
If things aren't going well, it's much easier to get the "What I'm doing isn't working" feeling than if you're in your normal game. Usually that leads to "Let me try this other thing!" when the situation doesn't really call for that other thing. Every next hand could be the one where you get a no brainer double up.

5) Be confident - These jabronis can't handle you!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Project Manhattan Session #7 - Just a Little Patience

As I drove to the Oaks yesterday, the Guns and Roses song Patience came on as I was driving over the bridge to leave Bay Farm Island. I had my windows rolled down with the warm air of the early evening was gently blowing through as I took a quick look out over the bay towards San Francisco and the sunset. I wish I could bottle that feeling of total calm and general pleasantness.

For the next few hours a lot of patience was required at the table. I discovered a few months back that you could call in advance for the $2/$3/$5 game and put your name on the board. This has been a huge boon as I'm normally at the top of the list by the time I arrive and don't have to spend 30 minutes to an hour waiting or playing smaller stakes. When I rolled in there was only one game going, and sure enough I was first. But no one was getting up!

Finally after 45 minutes they called my name and I sat down at table #2 in what was a shitty game by Friday night standards. 10 minutes later they called out 10 names to start a new game. I looked at the cast of characters sitting down at table #9, saw that it was a bunch of stooges and quickly put my name up for a change to that game.

While I waited, not a God damn thing happened for me at table #2. After an hour I'd won no pots and I was only losing $75. It was fold city!

On my first hand of note, I called a raise to $25 with KJ of clubs on the button. We took the flop 3 way and the board came down K 8 4 rainbow. The preflop raiser bet out $50 and I just called. Unfortunately I felt like it was totally obvious what I had. There were no draws out there and after calling the raise preflop I pretty much had to have Kx, 88 or 44, but with Kx making up most of my range. We went to the turn heads up. The turn card was a 5 and the preflop raiser checked. I figured there was a 90% chance I was going to bet and win on the turn, but checking didn't make any sense. I cut out three stacks of five $5 chips and pushed them into the pot. My opponent quickly check raised me to $175! What the?! I figured he probably had AA and after a short pause I mucked. He flashed AK and said "King queen?" to me. "Something like that." I replied. Drat!

90 minutes after sitting down I was still waiting to move to table #9, when they started another $2/$3/$5 on table #8 with even more stooges. Get me out of this game where people are betting the flop and then check raising one pair on the turn! Luckily one of the stooges was so stoogy that he wanted to play on table #2 and we switched.

I was in seat #9 and in seat #10 was a guy wearing sunglasses with headphones on. He looked like he was trying to look like a really baller poker player. The only problem was he bought in for $100 and had no clue. He was a real spot.

I got into it with The Spot after he'd doubled up to $200 or so. I had JT of hearts and came in for a raise to $20. The Spot called. The flop came down Q94 with one heart and I bet out $30. The Spot called again. The turn was another 4, I bet $55. The Spot called yet again. At that point I figured he was calling me down with a Q and I decided I wasn't going to fire another barrel on the river. I hit a T on the end and checked it figuring he'd check back something like KQ or QJ. He did check, but instead of Qx he rolled over 66 which was just a lowly pair of sixes. I showed my JT and he jumped out of his chair like it was the worst beat he'd ever gotten. What are you so upset about? You can't beat third pair you spot!

On the other side of the table were two guys I'll call Mr. Quiet and Mr. Loud. Mr. Quiet is a roughly 65 year old fellow who never says a word. Mr. Loud is a mid twenties guy with baggy clothes, tilted hat and lots of tattoos who is constantly talking. Some people who talk all the time are real dick heads, but this guy is very charming and funny.

 On the first hand I got into it with them, The Spot and Mr. Quiet called $5, Mr. Loud made it $15 to go, I called with 86 in the big blind and we saw the flop 4 way. The flop came down 9 8 5 with two clubs and The Spot and I called a $20 bet from Mr. Loud. The turn was the J of clubs bringing in the front door flush draw. I had the 8 of clubs in my hand to go along with my pair and gut shot and I thought it was certainly possible these guys didn't have squat. I bet out $60 into the $120 pot. The Spot folded and Mr. Loud pumped it to $155. I made an easy fold and he showed 76 of clubs! What a flop for that hand!

I got into it again with The Spot a bit later. There was a $10 straddle out and I got dealt KJ of clubs. As soon as the guy to my right folded I went for my chips to put in a raise, but before I had a chance to do anything, The Spot called $10 on the button out of turn. The dealer immediately stopped him and let him know that I hadn't acted. "I couldn't see his cards" spouted The Spot in regards to my clearly visible cards right in front of my stack that had not been touched. The Spot slurped his $10 back into his stack and I raised to $35. Now The Spot tanked. After 30 seconds he moved all in for $90. "Well, I guess this is happening to me now." I thought. I called primed with the knowledge that 1) I absolutely without a shadow of a doubt had the best hand 2) I had zero percent chance to win this pot. The Spot flashed me the 97 of hearts and I showed him that yes, I was in fact raising a hand that had a card higher than 9 in it. The flop came down K 7 6 with one heart and I figured I'd be losing to the running hearts, but it was the 7 on the turn that got me. "YUUUUGH!" spouted The Spot on the turn, a behavior that normally calls out to the poker gods to stick it to you on the river. But alas the power of the goofy, brain dead shit The Spot was doing on this hand was insurmountable. In explanation to me the Spot spouted "I only did it because I have to leave soon." "You will be leaving soon because unless you have $5,000 with you, you're going to be broke in less time that it takes to watch an episode of Charles in Charge you Spot!" is what I was thinking.

He blew off his stack to Mr. Loud 2 hands later and left.

At this point I was losing about $500 on the night, but things turned around.

After the Spot's departure, Mr. Quiet raised to $20, Mr. Loud called and I raised it to $60 with JJ out of the big blind. The flop came down T 5 4 with two diamonds and I bet $125. Mr. Quiet went all in for $90 with what turned out to be K9 of diamonds and Mr. Loud folded 33 face up. The turn and river were both black aces and I won a nice pot.

Mr. Quiet bought back in for $400, much of which would come to me.

A few hands later five of us saw a flop for $5 and I bet out $15 with 76 on a 877 board. Only Mr. Quiet called. The turn was a total bingo - a six! I checked and Mr. Quiet quickly bet out $25. I check raised him to $75 and he stopped to think. "What were you thinking check raising, you goof?" I asked myself. The last thing I wanted was to blow him off a draw that might come in and if he had an 8 there was some chance he might call a turn and river bet, but no way he was calling a turn check raise. I would have been better off betting out and I thought I'd lost him. But happily he called. The river was a J and I was hoping he might have T9, but when I bet $110, he instantly mucked.

A little later I raised to $20 with AT and Mr. Quiet made it $45 to go. I've played with him a half dozen times and I don't think I've ever seen him three bet anyone. I felt pretty sure he had a big pair. Then another player cold called the $45. I felt like he had a big pair too, but I was suited and it was only another $25 to go so I called. I went to the flop hoping I didn't get a ten high flop. I wanted to flop the nuts or just totally miss. I got a ten high flop - T 7 4. I checked and to my surprise Mr. Quiet checked it along. The other guy bet out $45 and all of a sudden I thought I might be good. A bet of $45 into $135 is pretty weak and he only had about $175 behind so it wasn't a big risk to put him to the test. I decided to go for it and made it $200 to go. Mr. Quiet mucked and after some deep thought the other guy folded as well.

On my last hand of note Mr. Quiet called $5 before the flop and when it got to me I made it $25 to go with AK. One other player called and Mr. Quiet shoved on me for $125. I figured he was getting fed up with me pounding him, but that he probably still had a pair. Whatever he had I sure a shit wasn't folding AK preflop for $100 getting 1.75 to 1. I made it $300 to blow the other buy off the hand and the board ran out Q 3 4 5 5. The was a terrible run out. I couldn't beat a pair or some other likely hands like AQ or KQ or QJ. Can this guy really have AJ or some other bullshit? Turns out he could. I don't know what he had, but he didn't show and I took down the pot.

I won $210 on the night over 4 hours which felt pretty sweet given how slow the night started. After 26.5 hours I'm ahead $2,280 for the project.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Project Manhattan Session #6 - The Odd Behavior of the Poker Gods

I was back in action at the $2/$3/$5 no limit game at the Oaks on Friday. I sat down with $500 as usual and got off to a hot start.

Within the first 10 minutes or so I got JJ, the flop came down a beautiful 7 5 2 rainbow and my lone opponent bet $40 into the $80 pot after calling my three bet preflop. I put him all in for $140, the turn was a 7 the river was a 9 and he did not show when I rolled over my JJ. Sometimes it's just easy.

Other times, not so much. A few hands later 9 of us saw the flop for $5 (9 of us!). I had 99 and again the flop came down 7 5 2 (this time with two spades). Very strange! The player in the big blind who had about $1,000 in front of him bet out $25, another player who had about $175, raised him to $50 and I was next to act with 4 players left behind me. With so many opponents it's really tough to sort out who could have what. You can make an argument for calling, raising or folding here, but I was feeling confident after my JJ win so I decided to go for the raise in the hopes of unloading everyone except the guy with $175. I made it $100 to go and Mr. $1,000 and Mr. $175 both called. The turn was the 3 of spades and Mr. $1,000 immediately went all in! Mr. $175 called and I had an easy fold. Mr. $1,000 turned over a king high flush and for a moment I was wishing I'd raised more on the flop, but then I saw it was K7 of spades. With top pair and a flush draw he was locked in.

I found myself with some more unclear decisions a little later. One player opened for $10, and Mr. $1,000 raised to $30. With about $750 in my stack I called the $30 with 44 in the small blind. We took the flop 4 way and the $10 raiser moved all in for $92 on a 2 3 5 flop. Mr $1,000 called. I had an open ended straight draw and was risking $92 to win about $300 which would be good odds if I could see the turn and river, but not the right price if I was going to get blown off my draw on the turn if I missed. I didn't feel great about it, but I decided to call. The turn was a beauty, a 6 making my straight. I decided to check in the hopes that my opponent might fire at it or in the hopes that he might make something on the river or in the hopes that I might convince him I didn't have a straight. Sadly he checked back. Also sadly the river was a 7 that put three diamonds out there and he folded to my bet of $130.

Happily I was up about $575 after the first hour.

Then I made my first of two sets of 8's of the night. 5 of us called $5 preflop, the flop came out Q J 8 and with bottom set I bet out $15. I got one caller. The turn was a 7, I bet out $30 and he went all in for $80. He showed QJ and I was sad that he didn't have more money in front of him...until the river came and it was a Q! I lost the pot, but felt glad I didn't get burned for more.

After two hours I was ahead about $300 on the night and as I looked around I realized I was in the best game I'd seen in at least 6 months. There were a couple of crazies who were going to spew off every chip eventually surrounded by a bunch of predictable ABC players. It was really ideal.

In hour 3 I got into a couple of big hands against against the same couple of opponents. I'll call them Ms. Think and Mr. Tilt. Ms. Think is about 50, Asian, and whenever she has a big decision she talks it out, out loud. It's great for me because I have gotten a great sense of the way she thinks. Mr. Tilt was also about 50, heavy set  and was someone I did not know. He lost a couple of pots and then it seemed like he committed to seeing every flop for at least an hour no matter what.

On one hand after many $5 callers, Ms. Think raised to $40 and Mr. Tilt called. I had AK in the big blind and seeing that Ms. Think had about $250 and Mr. Tilt had $230, I decided to make it $200 to go expecting I'd unload Ms. Think and get called by Mr. Tilt who would certainly have a worse hand. As you might expect, Ms. Think took some time to think. After about 30 seconds, acting out of turn, Mr. Tilt said "I call" and stared putting his chips in! When you're on tilt you can't be bothered to wait for your turn. Ms. Think seeing that it would be a three way pot, quickly folded. I bet $30 in the dark to put Mr. Tilt the rest of the way in and he called before the flop came out. I turned over my AK, but Mr. Tilt didn't show right away. The flop came down 9 7 6. The turn was a 5 and Mr. Tilt rolled over 54! ACK! Ms. Think starting groaning about how she'd folded 88! And then the river came an 8 and we spit the pot!

At this point I realized I was not leaving until this guy did. If he was willing to stack off with 54 no amount of good luck would save him and any chips he had would go to the rest of us.

Then a different guy also decided 5 high was good hand. This guy called $5 with 53 off suit. I made it $40 in the big blind with AJ facing many $5 calls and he just went ahead and moved all in for $101 with his 53. I've talked in recent posts about the levels of thinking in poker where level 1 is "what are my cards" and level 2 is "What does my opponent probably have." This guy was at level 0. He didn't even get to what are my cards. He just decided to do some shit. The board ran out 2 3 4 5 Q and I won with a wheel.

Then Mr. Level 0 pulled out a stack of 7 or 8 $100 chips from his pocket! He only put one on the table, but my eyes got wide with greed just seeing that he had a fair amount of money with him.

I thought "If these guys stay here I'm never leaving. I will stay all night and all day tomorrow. I am never leaving this game."

My second set of eights arrived around this time. I called a $15 raise with 88 and 6 of us saw the flop. The board came down 8 6 4 with two spades and everyone checked to me. With a wet board and 5 opponents I was not going to screw around. I bet $75 into the $120 pot. When it got back to Ms. Think she moved all in for $425! Yowza! And now it was on Mr. Tilt. He'd blown off the short stack he had, bought back in for $500 and won a couple of pots so now he was sitting on $800. I had him covered. Get in there baby! The longer he thought the worse I figured his hand was. Eventually he folded, I called, and making it clear she had gotten out of line Ms. Think sadly asked if I had two pair. I showed my set and she sighed. The turn was the worst card imaginable - the 5 of spades. Mr. Tilt pounded his fist on the table and we all knew he'd folded a flush draw. Ms. Think still looked sad. The river was a 9 and she mucked her hand. Mr. Tilt said he'd folded T9 of spades! How the hell do you stack off with 54 off and then later fold a straight flush draw? If Mr. Tilt had just stuck to his tilty ways I would have lost $800, but instead I won $500. The Poker Gods really spared me on that one.

On my last hand of consequence I got involved with Mr. Level 0, Ms. Think and Mr. Tilt. I had J9 off suit and after a $5 call from Mr. Level 0, Ms. Think raised to $20 and got called by Mr. Tilt who was back on tilt. Normally I'm not calling a raise with J9 off, but against these folks I wanted to play as many hands as I could in position. I called and the flop came down J 6 2. They all checked to me and I was like "Oh great! I have the best hand." Against better players you have to worry about check raises and slow plays and bluffs. But against these guys I was 99% sure I was ahead. I bet $60 and Mr. Level 0 and Mr. Tilt both called. Normally if two players call a 3/4 pot sized bet on a board with no draws and you have a weak top pair, you're in 3rd place. This time I was still sure I was ahead. The turn was a T, they checked to me, I bet out $140, and Mr. Level 0 called off his last $70 with Q6. Mr. Tilt seen enough and folded. The river was an 8 and that was the end of Mr. Level 0.

Soon after Mr. Tilt blew off his chips an left as well. Both were replaced by toughish regulars and in no time other soft spots picked up and were replaced by less exploitable competition.

After 4 hours I picked up with a $1,002 profit! Whoop whoop! After 22.5 hours I'm ahead $2,070 for the project.

I might break with the Friday only plan and play sometime during the week as this win has given me a bit of poker fever. I'm a little worried that I'm going to go in, play well and still get beat and feel some regret about deviating from my Friday plan so I'm considering going to play a tournament which would give me a chance to play while eliminating any chance of a big loss. We'll see how I feel when the time comes.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Project Manhattan Session #5 - The Champagne Is Flowing All Over The Table

I put in 4 more hours of $2/$3/$5 action on Friday. When I first sat down at table 1 at The Oaks, I noticed that my table had 5 or 6 players that didn't suck. Luckily there was another game going and I made a quick escape to table #16.  There was a ton of money on the table relative to what I normally see. One guy who I call Mr. Patient (for more about him check out this post where I beat him in a $4,400 pot) was sitting on $3,000, a couple of others had $1,500+ and everyone was at least $700 deep.

Just to my right was a mid 20's middle eastern fellow drinking Champagne. Over the course of the night he spewed about $2,500 off to the rest of the table.

The theme of the night was that found myself winning quite a few pots where I had the best of it and was left wondering if I pushed too hard and missed out on some value.

On the first one I had TT in the big blind. After one $5 call, the next player to act made it $25, got one call in the field and we took the flop 4 way.Three betting preflop here is not crazy, but I just sat down and wanted to get a feel for the table before building a big pot out of position. The flop came down 7 7 4 rainbow and the $5 caller bet $70 into the preflop raiser. The other two players folded and it was back to me. I was 90% sure he had exactly 55, 66, 88 or 99. Nothing else made any sense at all with that action. But I didn't know exactly how to proceed. If I raised I figured he'd probably fold. If I called he'd probably consider that I had a 7 and shut down the betting and certainly if a card like an A or K came he'd check back the turn. Did I want to let him see the turn and river and give him a free shot to catch up in the hopes that he'd call some smallish river bet? No. I decided that I was all but sure I had the best of it now and I should not screw around. I made it $200 and he folded 88 face up. I think if he'd been a little more short stacked he would have gone for it.

A little later I got dealt AA in the big blind. There was a raise to $20, and two calls including Mr. Champagne. I raised it to $70 and only Mr. Champagne called. I'd just seen him stack off for $300 on the flop on a QJ5 board with JT vs AJ with minimal pre-flop action so I was hoping to get paid off. The flop came down K T 4 which looked perfect. He'd probably have a piece of it, but unless he had KT or 44 exactly I was in great shape. I bet $100 into the $200 pot and after some thought he folded a T face up. GAH! He had about $300 behind and I was pissed I didn't get it.

A couple of hand later I got QT of spades and raised to $25. I got one caller and the flop came down A Q J giving me middle pair and a gut shot. I bet out $40 and got quickly called. The turn was a K making my gut shot! Bingo! I tried to imagine I was sad (so I could give off subtle sad vibes of course!) and checked. I could almost hear my opponent think "AH HA!" as he proudly bet $155 into the $130 pot. I thought about calling, but there was a front door flush draw out there and I wasn't going to be happy to see a board pair or a T so there were 20 cards that I didn't want to see on the river. I opted to shove for $500 and I took it down on the turn.

When I moved all in Mr. Champagne said "Whoa! You've got balls bro!" A few minutes later he dumped a full glass of champagne all over the table. My chips were sticky for the rest of the night.

In the next hand of note I got 99 on the button. There was a raise to $30 over a few $5 calls in front of me. Taking it to $100 was an option, but I decided I'd rather play a multi-way pot for $30 than get it heads up with a medium pair. Which is better is certainly an opponent dependent situation, but if I'm being honest I just opted to take the conservative route which I'm not sure is best. We took the flop 5 way and the board came down K J 4 with two diamonds. Everyone checked to me. This told me that the raiser didn't have a K and probably didn't have a J or something like QQ, but I didn't tell me the same thing about the other players who would have checked a K or a J to the raiser in most circumstances. If I bet it would basically be a bluff into 4 players on a wet board.

The turn was another bingo - a black 9! Now I had a set. One of the preflop limpers bet out $70 into the $150 pot - it was the same guy who'd bet $155 when I made the straight on the turn in that previous hand. I was sitting on about $700 at this point, he had me covered and I figured if I was going to get it all in there it would be better to put in a raise now. I made it $200 and after a few seconds he called. The river was an interesting card - it paired the K. Now I had a full house, really the only hand I had to worry about was KJ, and my opponent was likely to have trip kings given the action. He thought for a long time (in what seemed to be an obvious act to me) before checking. I bet out $260 and he reluctantly folded.

Looking back, my river bet was a pretty big mistake. There was $550 in the pot and I had $500 left. Betting $260 was the worst of three options. I certainly could have counted slowly to 10 and then shoved it all in. It would be hard for him to fold a K in that spot and he could certainly have a K. 2nd best would have been to bet an amount that a hand like QJ or JT could call, like $100. Normally I'd say the $500 bomb is the way to go. Even if you usually get a fold, the times you get called make up for it. For example, it's better to make $500 once and get folds three times than to get called 4 times for $100. But in this instance since I read his river stall as a total BS effort to make me think he had a hand that might be worth betting, if I take this to the 5th level (Where I'm thinking about what he's thinking that I'm thinking about what he has - I think?) I know he wants me to check back which implies that he has some showdown value, but it's relatively thin. Thus $100 was the bet to make.

Those hands went pretty well, but they didn't all go smoothly.

Towards the end of the night I raised to $20 with AJ or spades and got 5 callers. The flop came down T 6 2 with two spades and I bet out $75. Everyone folded to the player in the big blind who looked for a second like he was going to fold, but instead moved all in for $200. Only needed to risk another $125 to win about $400 with two overs and a flush draw made it an easy call. I bricked out and lost to A6. On the very next hand that guy won a huge pot and was up to over $1,000. In two hands and about 4 minutes he went from $220 to a $1,000 stack! That is why people love to play.

In the end I booked a $238 win over 4 hours. I'm now ahead $1,068 after 18.5 hours for the project.

After 5 sessions the story for me thus far is how tame everything has been. In Project 10K my average win was $847 and my average loss was $825 (I won 2/3 of the sessions). This time around it seems to be a few hundred one way or the other. In the sessions I was playing at the end of 2015 I felt like I had 5 or 6 $1,000+ pots going one way or the other every time I played, but those have been few and far between (If I've had any at all). Low variance is certainly a good thing, it's just a little surprising.

Back in action Friday!

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