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.

My WSOP 2023 Plans and Missions

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