Saturday, July 16, 2022

Hero Calls, Semibluffs and Caveman Brain at Bay 101


The Worst Photo Ever Taken of the Outside of Bay 101

I walked in to Bay 101 (which you might think is a community college based on the photo above) yesterday with $2,500 in my pocket ready for the first session in my quest to play 250 hours of no limit to fund my 2023 WSOP plans. 

An Average Photo of the Inside of Bay 101

After an hour of waiting to get into a game I bought $500 in $5 chips and ten $100 chips. I sat down with $800 on the table and another $700 in chips in my pocket ready to top off my stack so as to always have the max. I got dealt pocket queens on the first hand! After my raise to $25, we took the flop 4 ways with $100 in the pot. On an A high flop there was a bet and a raise before it got to me, I mucked and my hopes of a massive win on hand #1 were squished.

After an hour I was in for a little less than $900 sitting on $875 when my first noteworthy hand came up. I opened black 66 under the gun to $20 and only the big blind called. The flop came down A23 with two hearts and one diamond. My opponent check, called my bet of $25. The turn brought the 5 of diamonds putting another flush draw and a one liner to a straight out there. Now my opponent bet 60.

My opponent has what they call a range advantage here in that he as the big blind has many 4's in his preflop calling range and I as the under the gun preflop raiser should almost never have a 4 here. With this being a great card for my opponent to bluff I decided to make the call. 

The river was the J of clubs and after a slight delay where he looked about to check, my opponent fired out $130. This looked just a little bit big bet size wise for someone trying to get called by an A. With both flush draws bricking out I decided I was getting the right price to bluff catch and made the hero call. My opponent rolled over K2 and I was good! I got an audible "whoa" from another player at the table and feeling great about making the right read here. 

Shortly after I raised J8 of spades to $20 in the cutoff and got called by the button and the big blind. The flop came down KJ9 with two spades and I had the first of a few moments in the session where afterwards I realized my top level conscious brain kind of shut down and caveman brain took over. 


I bet $45 and only the button called. The turn was the 4 of spades bringing in my flush. Zing! I grabbed a $100 chip off my stack and flipped it into the pot. My opponent instantly snapped three $100 chips in to the pot! 

Normal brain for one second thought, "that looks like a flush, you might be beat here" and was immediately shouted down by caveman brain "NEVER FOLD FLUSH! GRAB CHIPS! PUT IN POT!" My opponent had about $225 left in his stack and what I should have done is slowed down and considered the hands I beat (QT, 99, Ax with the A of spades, KJ) that could be played this way and the hands I lose to (Ax of spades and QT of spades) that could be played this way. Looking back now just getting it in is certainly the right move, but I didn't think it through in the moment. 

I pushed my chips in the pot and my opponent turned over red QT! I thought he was folding and almost showed my hand, but then realized he was still thinking. After about 20 seconds he called drawing dead, the river was the irrelevant 2 of spades,  I took down the pot and he took a trip out the front door. 

Sitting on ~$1400 up $500 for the session

Fast forward a little bit and I had been playing for about 4 hours. With the $10 straddle on I called $10 with A9 of spades after 2 calls in front of me. The big blind raised to $50 and we took the flop 4 ways. The flop came down T 8 7 with two diamonds giving me an open ended straight draw. The action checked to me and I thought about betting, but decided that I both don't have enough fold equity and am just a cowardly wuss. The turn brought the A of clubs and the preflop raiser bet out $75. I briefly considered making a big raise, but again went with cowardly wuss move and just called. The river was the J of hearts and I made my straight. Zing! To my surprise the villain fired out $200! 

Caveman brain here knows what to do. NO RAISE! EITHER BLUFF OR CHOP OR LOSE! DUMB JERK NEVER CALL MORE WITH BAD HAND! Without thinking about it at all I called $200, my opponent turned over Q9, I showed A9, quickly realized that I'd lost and with great annoyance flipped my cards back over. Boo!

Two hands later again with the $10 straddle on I called with 86 of diamonds after one other call. This hand and the one before were I think the only two times I called preflop and didn't either raise or fold which I'm sure is a better way to play in these spots. Weak! Anyway, the guy who had the Q9 on the last hand made it $50 to go and we took the flop 4 ways again. The flop came down 843 with one diamond, the player to my right checked, I checked, guy to my left checked and the original raiser checked it through. The turn brought the 7 of diamonds which gave me a gut shot straight draw and a flush draw to go with my top pair.

The guy to my right checked again so I was all but sure I had him and the preflop raiser beat with my 8. I bet out $125 into the $200 pot, the guy to my direct left raised to $290, and both other players folded. I started the hand with about $725 and my opponent had me covered by about $50. Normal brain did recall that this guy had folded two pair face up to a big raise earlier so he was capable of folding good hands, but did not take the time to think through the hands that would play this way that I want to raise against. If he also has a flush draw or somehow has 99 or a better 8 a raise is great. Looking back I think all of those hands just call and his raising range is 33, 44, 77, 88, 87 or 65 all of which have me crushed and are never folding. I guess sometimes he is just going apeshit here with a bluff, but probably not for a big bet in a big pot. 

Up to this point caveman brain had been totally correct and doing its job of stopping me from overthinking things. In this case normal brain would have been better, but caveman brain took over. PAIR AND FLUSH DRAW AND STRAIGHT DRAW! MONEY IN POT! 

I raised all in for about another $400 and my opponent took maybe 10 seconds to make what looked like a somewhat pained call. I showed my hand before the last card was dealt. The river rolled off another 8 which I didn't think really changed things. But then my opponent said "oh damn it! Man that sucks" and some other similar comments. At that point I figured he must have 43 or 74 or 73 and had two pair counter fitted! This was a tremendous development. After about 10 seconds of going on and on (which is a really long time actually) he showed 44 and someone said "you won, you have a full house" and then he said something like "Oh, I thought he had a full house too!"

Jesus Christ! I'm losing to this fucking guy who doesn't even know what he has! Serenity now! Serenity now! 

You can't rule out that someone is totally trolling you with an awful slow roll in a spot like this, but I'm 98% sure this guy did not know he'd won. I told you these games were good right?

I think if I'd lost that pot without all of the theatrics I might have stayed, but the emotional roller coaster of making a big all in hoping for a fold, getting called, missing all of the draws then thinking I'd won and then not winning was enough to not have me in an ideal mental state. 

The remains of my $1,500

After 4 hours of 250 in the books my $10,000 bankroll is at $9,119. I'm traveling next weekend so my next session won't be for a couple of weeks. 

Friday, July 15, 2022

Funding My 2023 WSOP Plans with No Limit Cash Game Profits

Anything but hundreds = loser!

 One of my big weaknesses in poker is sweating exactly how much I'm up or down in a given session. Especially if I'm getting close to the end of a session. If I'm ahead $1,050 for example and it's 30 minutes or an hour or even two hours before my preplanned departure time I might rack up my chips to lock up the $1,000+ win. This is stupid bullshit! I know for a fact that the mission is to get in as many hands as possible while in a good state of mind but I'm often mentally weak!

Also problematic when playing sporadically is the losses feeling semi permanent. In my pro poker days if I lost, I knew I'd be back at it the next day and the day after that. In my normal human working days losing $1,500 feels like spending $1,500 on something that sucked. 

A tactic that has always helped me with both of these mindset problems is to set up medium term plan and goals. This helps me to look at each session as a piece of a larger project and not sweat individual session results.

With that in mind, here is my plan:

  • $10,000 starting bankroll
  • Play 250 hours of $2/$3/$5 no limit between now and 2023 WSOP
  • Set a max loss per session of $2,000
  • No max win per session, just play the hours
  • Goal of $50 per hour win rate
  • Play 2-3 Friday nights and maybe one Sunday per month

If you look closely at my photo you'll see it's not $10,000. In fact it's only $2,500 and the 50's and even more so the 20's (gross!) are a sure sign that I'm rolling like a newb. While I do prefer to actually have my bankroll sitting in cash, at 42 years old I'm telling myself to use banks and not be an idiot. 

If I pull this off I'll have $12,500 which should be good for rolling into Vegas for a 9 day Friday to the following Sunday trip with $10,000 in bankroll and $2,500 for expenses (At 42 I'm also too old and too well off to stay at the Flamingo and eat the $6.99 breakfast special). 

I'm expecting to do most of my playing at Bay 101 which may have the best $5 big blind games that have ever consistently existed anywhere. Let me tell you why they're so good.

1) No small games in the house. Bay 101 has done away with the $3 big blind no limit game meaning the $2/$3/$5 is the smallest game in the house and it has a minimum buy-in of $500 (maximum of $800). Tons of players who would love to play smaller are forced to play larger.

2) Ton's of money in the area. The San Jose area is loaded with a mix of twenty something software engineers who work at Google or Facebook and retired (but not that old) people who have made money is various startup boom cycles over the last 25 years.

3) The game often plays with a $10 straddle. Unlike other places I've played where players will agree to an orbit of straddles where everyone puts out the extra $10 for one round, it's common for 2-3 players to put out the $10 straddle and not expect the remaining players to do so. Putting in $10 of total blinds per orbit while some others are putting in $20 is a tremendous advantage to us nits. 

4) The game plays very fast. This is a combination of strong dealers and a player pool with a lot of regulars who don't think too hard about anything but the biggest decisions. We might be getting 25% more hands per hour than you'd get in Vegas.

5) I see very few pros. A pro level rate of return in a $5 big blind game is generally around $50 an hour. That's a ton of money in most parts of the country, but in the bay area it's not as much and the alternative career opportunities are much stronger than almost anywhere.

6) There are bigger games in town. Bay 101 runs a $2,000 max buy-in "deep stack" $2/$3/$5 game that always plays with a $10 straddle from every player as well as $5/$5/$10 that is really $5/$5/$10/$20. This draws off the top level players.

7) Great game selection. It's typical to find 6 or 7 $2/$3/$5 games going at any one time meaning you can table change of any particular game is too tough.

Anyway, these are great games! My hope is to blog about my Friday night sessions on Sunday mornings. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

2022 WSOP and What's Next for My Poker Life

Look at me winning with AA at the WSOP! Fun!

From late 2018 to mid 2022 I only played poker a half dozen times at most. But recently I got fired up to play again. Over the past 18 months I've been playing a ton of chess. It's hard and I am not good, but it makes me appreciate how much I know about poker. I still have a lot to learn in poker and I'm not good enough to compete with the top echelon pro players these days, but I can still stomp the faces of recreational players.

I also got the urge to blog again so here we are!

In June I played 3 sessions of $2/$3/$5 with an $800 max buy in at Bay 101 in San Jose. I had a $270 loss, a $340 win and a $2,050 win in 3 roughly 5 hour sessions on Friday nights (my chip stack from the last pictured below). 

With a couple thousand in profit I sold my wife on somewhat short notice trip to Vegas for a long weekend. I fired 3 bullets in the $400 buy-in Colossus and played some cash at the Bellagio as well.

The one highlight hand was getting AA vs AK against the worst, loosest player at my table as shown above. Nothing crazy happened and doubling up early felt great.

The lowlight is shown here. The guy on the right with the words on his shirt who was rationalizing his sus play when this picture was taken, joined our table a few hours in. Before he came the table was a filled exclusively with passive, highly recreational players. 

Side note: those of us with some class try not to disparage the weaker players these days. While I could say I was playing with fish, donkeys, suckers, pigeons, whales, marks, clowns, and shit for brains low roller ass hats, and be completely accurate, I like the word recreational. As in you "bro, you would not believe how recreational this shit for brains low roller ass hat was."

Anyway, the rationalizing villain seemed decent and was certainly active and aggressive. Factually he was friendly and charming, but I instantly disliked him for no good reason. Maybe it was because he was running crazy good, had his 40K starting stack up to 200K in a couple of hours and I was seething with envy. Who knows?!

In the pictured hand, the blinds were 1K/2K with a 2K big blind ante, he raised to 4,500, and I called in the big blind after one other call with T6 of spades. The flop came down A 7 5 all spades! Zing! I checked, the villain bet 6K, the other player folded and I shipped it for 55K. This is a somewhat big over bet, but I thought it made my hand look like a flush draw as opposed to a made flush. My opponent thought for about a minute and called with K of spades, 8 of clubs.

The turn was the 4 of hearts, but sadly the river was the Q of spades and that was it. My opponent said he thought I had and ace in which case this is still probably a fold, but I guess not that bad.

In my other two bullets I got ground down to under 10 big blinds without ever getting my starting stack more than a few thousand above where it started, both times shoved with Ax and both times ran into pocket aces! Gross! 

In the lead up to this trip and since I returned I've been following along with some poker vloggers on YouTube and maybe 2 dozen players on twitter. Their excitement is contagious. While my 2022 WSOP is over, I'm already thinking ahead to the 2023 WSOP.

I'll share my plans for the time between now and then in my next post. 

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...