Wednesday, October 20, 2010

When to Go For It and When to Hold Back

I wrote this post on 10/20, but didn't finish it until 10/24. Rather than fix stuff like "yesterday" or "last Saturday" I just put this little sentence in.

I've been playing a lot of small stakes multitable tournaments lately with some success. In fact I keep cashing for about $1,200.

Shortly after my last post I finished 2nd in a $55 tournament with 100 or so entrants on Absolute which paid $1,150. Then on Saturday I had a $2,000 day, $1,175 of which came from winning a $22 tournament with about 200 entrants on Pokerstars. And yesterday I finished 3rd in a $55 tournament on Absolute with 241 entrants which paid $1,200. Of course I have been playing a lot of tournaments so it's not like that's all profit, but it has still been a good run.

During my time at the tables recently I came across a risky situation where going for it was clearly the thing to do in a spot where weaker players might not have and another where taking a very conservative approach was the way to go.

The first situation came in a $55 tournament on pokerstars with about 1,100 entrants that paid 153 spots. The blinds were 500/1,000, I was in the big blind with 14,000 chips behind, and we were down to 157 players. I got dealt AQ suited and when the action made it around to the small blind he moved all in for 20,000.

We'd started the tournament with 3,000 chips so I wasn't too far off of average which was about 21,000. The decision I was faces with was, fold and make the money for sure or call and potentially go broke.

Almost all pros would agree that if you can avoid risking your whole stack on one hand you should and anyone can tell you that going broke just short of the money totally sucks. Also often times when a player overbets the pot preflop like this they have AK which would completely dominate my AQ.

With that said, my opponent knows we're only a hand or two away from making the money and if I was in his shoes I'd be raising any two cards from the small blind (I wouldn't got all in with any two, but I'd raise something).

What was running though my mind was if I played this situation 100 times (or 1,000) would I make more by folding and bringing home at least the $75 for 153rd place 100% of the time or would I make more by sometimes going broke and losing my $55 but in but other times taking a stack of 31,000 (about 150% of average) into the money?

I'd be pretty close to even money against an underpair, but I'd be 3 to 2 against suited connectors, 2 to 1 against total garbage unders and 7 to 3 against a worse ace. Most importantly I thought the chance of being dominated by AA, KK, QQ or AK was negligible. Those hands make up about 2% of the starting card combinations and even with AK it would be a rare opponent who would move all in here.

Pile that all together and I figured I was at least 60% against his range. Now if you do a detailed analysis you might find that it's worth about $84 more to call than to fold. Of course you might not find that because you worked it out correctly and the shit I just did is total garbage loaded with fallacies. Which is why I deleted it out of frustration! With that said, $84 seems about right.

The brass tacks is, even though I was just short of the money it was still worth it to go for it. In the end I let my time bank run all the way down to give myself the best chance to sneak in to the money before I called. When the cards got turned over I was up against A6 off suit which meant I was 72% to win and 6% to tie.

A 6 came on the flop and I finished 155th, but despite that fact it would have been a major mistake to fold here.

At the same time I was playing in a $55 tournament on Absolute with about 100 entrants (I mentioned it above). I went into full on beast mode and by the time we were down to 5 players I was in first with 75,000 chips. The player dead to my left (let's call him Jerk Face) was in second with 70,000 and the other three players all had between 10,000 and 20,000.

One of my great strengths is finding situations where I can raise with any two cards and show positive expected value. After you've played a zillion tournament you get a sense for when other players are going to fold unless they find a total monster hand. At most final tables in tournaments of this size with players of this caliber playing loose aggressive is the only way to go. Every now and then you'll blow up an finish 8th or 9th, but much more often you'll end up at the top. When I get to a final table with an average stack or more I tend to win outright.

As per usual, in this case it was my aggressive style and not the cards I was getting that led to my sizable stack. But when we got to five handed I had to shift gears. On the first hand that we were down to five players I raised, and Jerk Face reraised me. I had total air so I folded. The next time I raised, he reraised me again and again I had to fold. The time after that he moved all in on me with no hesitation. Quit reraising me Jerk Face! At that point if I was going to play a hand it had to be one that could call a suspect all in reraise.

After those three hands the tables had turned a little bit. I was down to 50,000, Jerk Face was up to 95,000 and everyone else was under 15,000. Tough guys always say "I play for first" and generally that's what you should do, but in this case playing for 2nd was clearly the way to go.

Jerk Face was rolling over everyone and they were giving no resistance. While first place was just over $2,000 and that's what I was really shooting for, 2nd was almost $1,200 while 5th was only $500. My 3 short stacked opponents seemed committed to playing super tight and trying to move up one more spot.

I could stand up to Jerk Face with a hand that was better than average (like KJ or A9) since I knew he was on the "any two" track, or I could get blinded off a little and probably end up in 2nd place.

This was a rare situation where playing like a total pussy was actually the best way to go. I'm not saying I was folding premium hands, but I wasn't taking any chances. Just like clockwork, three of my opponent were ground down to a few big blinds, got their money in with Ax and went broke. By the time it was heads up I was down to 40,000 facing a stack of 160,000 which wasn't great, but anything can happen heads up. More importantly I had $1,150 locked up. I got it all in with A5 and lost to KJ, but I was still happy with the 2nd place. If I'd tried to be a tough guy I easily could have finished 4th or 5th and left a few hundred bucks on the table.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How It's Been Going

I didn't quite hit my 500 SNG in a week goal, but I did play about 300 at the $60 level and 100 at the $38 level. I lost $350 at at the higher stakes and $650 at the lower.

This isn't a huge sample size, but I'm still losing confidence in this plan. Since my SNG rebirth I've played 608 tournaments at the $60 level and won $1,288 which is $2.12 per SNG. If you factor in the $997 I've earned in FPPs and other bonus I'm at almost $4 per. At 75 tournaments a day that's $300 a day or at least $6,000 a month.

That seems fine and it is. But I've having trouble trusting it. If you eliminate my first 100 tournaments (and look at the last 500 I've played) I'm only making 65 cents per. If you look at the last 400 I've played I'm losing 56 cents per.

Was I just running really hot in the beginning and now I'm performing at a level that I can expect long term or was I running a little above expectation at the start and a lot below it since?

I'm not really sure what to do. Should I keep plugging away? Should I drop down to the $24 level and just play an insane number of tournaments? Should I try switching to no limit cash games? Which site should I target? What about playing in person at the Oaks? Maybe I should try SNGs on other sites? Maybe I should just lay on the floor face down because I'm not sure I can handle any more losing? These are the thoughts that are rattling around my head all day every day.

To say it's stressful is a massive understatement. The major disadvantage I have over most of my competition is I'm supporting 3 people in Northern California. I can't just live cheap when things aren't going well. While my wife is doing a great job of supporting me however she can, I still have family obligations that get in the way of working all the time.

Part of me (a growing part) wishes we could just move to fucking Nebraska and work at a diner or something.

The other part of me says "Quit being such a pussy! Get back in there and kick some ass! Play better! Be Smarter! You can do it!"

So that's what I'm going to do. Let me see if I can break off 400 $38 tournaments between now and Saturday night. If I can make $3 per that will be $1,200. In the grand scheme of things that ain't much, but it's a start and right now I need some momentum. Also if I keep that goal in the forefront of my mind it will help me from getting overwhelmed. If I can get all my focus on hitting those targets maybe I can block out the panic that I'm constantly swallowing down and play my best.

Monday, October 04, 2010

500 SNG's This Week

I am believer in goals. I set goals all the time and even when I don't meet them (which to be honest is more often than not) I still make more progress than if I hadn't set any goals at all.

My current short term goal is to play 500 single table sit-n-go (SNG's) tournaments between Monday morning and Saturday night. More specifically I am going to play 100 $38 buy in 9 handed SNGs and 400 $60 buy in 9 handed SNGs all on pokerstars.

There is a good reason for this split - the Battle of the Planets leader board! Pokerstars SNG leader board is split into 8 divisions (all named for planets) based on stakes with each division having a "high orbit" and a "low orbit leader board". I'll briefly try to explain how it works.

Every time you finish in the money in an SNG you score points - for 9 handed SNGs it's 45 points for first, 27 for second and 18 for third. The low orbit leader board involves blocks of 20 tournaments and the high orbit leader board uses block of 100. Tournaments 1-20, 21-40, 41-60 etc. will be grouped together as will tournaments 1-100, 101-200, 201-300 etc. Only your first five blocks count for the low orbit leader board, but you can have as many blocks as you like for the high orbit.

Is this all for pride and glory? Of course not! It's for cash! In the "Uranus" division, (where the $60 tournaments fall) the top 15 scores of the week in the high orbit and the top 15 scores in the low orbit pay with 1st place of $1,000 and 15th place of $80 with everything else in between (it's much more of a linear payout schedule than a normal tournament - 2nd place is $700, 3rd is $500 etc.). In the Neptune division (where the $38 tournaments fall) 20 places pay with 1st place being $900 and 20th paying $60. I'm planning to play 100 $38 tournaments so I can have the maximum number of low orbit blocks and one high orbit block.

Of course it's not easy to win one of these leader boards with all of the players out there, but I expect to make some significant money out of this. Even if it's $80 or $100 a week on average that adds a lot to my bottom line over the course of the month and the year.

Maybe as important, this keeps me motivated. I want to win one of these leader boards! Last week I finished in 11th on the Uranus High orbit leader board which paid $80. This week I want to hit a top ten. I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, October 01, 2010

WCOOP Final Thoughts and MORE!

The 2010 WCOOP came at kind of a bad time. I would have liked to play more events, but in the midst of the worst downswing on my poker life taking shots at a big payday didn't seem like the smartest move.

In the end I played 14 events and had 4 cashes which isn't too bad. Unfortunately it's not about having a good percentage of cashes, it's about hitting that one big one. I also went 0 for 2 in satellites and 0 fo 1 in second chance tournaments.

When all was said and done my $5,000 bankroll was down to $3,760.

I don't expect to be doing much in terms of multitable tournaments, with the exception for occasionally playing the pokerstars Sunday Million or Sunday Warm up.

For now I'm on the SNG grind. I've been peppering absolute and pokerstars playing everything from $35 six handed hyper-turbos to 45 player $60 tournaments to $114 9 player SNGs. All in all I've played about 500 tournaments in the last week. My best results have been coming in the $60, 9 handed turbo SNG's on pokerstars. I've played 228 so far and won $1,863 which is $8.17 per tournament. Factor in another $1.50 per SNG in FPPs and other bonuses and we're talking big bucks if I can keep that rate up. This is actually a pretty small sample size, but it's still promising. We'll see how I'm doing after 2,000 and that should give me a more precise feel for my long term prospects.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wake Me Up When September Ends

It's much more fun for me to talk about the good news than the bad news, but bad news is a big part of playing poker. Simply put, September 2010 has been the worst month of my poker career.

August was a good month. In fact in the middle of August I went on a massive tear. I played about 10 full days over a two week stretch, won 9 of those days and banked $15,000 all in limit hold'em cash games. Maybe 10% of that money came from $30/$60, but the rest was all $10/$20 or $15/$30.

Just before that run I made the decision to play a little looser. has a feature where you can look up a username and see how they do things compared to the top 10 winners on a given poker site at a given stakes. When I looked myself up I saw that I was playing slightly tighter than the top 10 winners at $10/$20 and $15/$30.

I didn't go nuts, but in every situation where it was close before the flop I called or raised instead of folding. Winning 600 or 700 big bets in 10 sessions is uncharted territory for me, but it was over the course of 15,000 hands and there are guys who make over 3 big bets per 100 hands long term. Of course those guys are the total killers, but it's possible and I was hoping I was playing better not just running crazy hot.

After taking my Absolute poker account from $5,000 to $20,000 in no time at all I was feeling as good as I have in a long while about my long term prospects of massive fortune.

Then it was as if a switch was flipped. All of a sudden I couldn't win no matter what. I didn't have a winning day from August 26th until September 14th. Every day$1,000 or $2,000 was evaporating from my account. I tried everything I could think of to give myself the best chance to win. I mixed in some days off, reread some of my best poker books, started playing at night when the games are better, played fewer games at a time and played smaller stakes. Nothing worked.

Here is a little story that is sort of a microcosm of my first two weeks of September. It is a story about THE WORST PLAYER IN ONLINE POKER! His name is CHUCK999. When I first looked him up he was losing $210,000 in 70,000 hands. That's bad, but not unheard of for high stakes players. This guy had lost that much playing $15/$30 and below! His most common stakes is $2/$4 where he's losing $58,000 in 28,000 hands! All in all he is losing FORTY SIX BIG BETS per 100 hands! That is totally off the charts.

To put it into perspective, if there is a player who is losing 5 BB/100 (that's $1 for every hand at $10/$20 - play 1,000 hands, lose $1,000) or more they are bad enough that they can make a game profitable all by themselves. If I'm up against someone who is a 10 BB/100 loser I won't leave the game until they go broke no matter who else is in it or what else I could be doing with my time. I've seen a few guys in the range of -15 BB/100, but they had all been blown up playing no limit. 99% of this guy's play is limit.

I'd been fortunate enough to play against this fellow for about an hour at $10/$20 and I knew I could never leave a game in which was playing. I'm mean N-E-V-E-R. If the house is on fire but the flames haven't reached my desk yet I'm going to keep playing.

Towards the end of the time that I'd been getting totally bombed every day I saw CHUCK999 was playing $15/$30 at a 4 handed table and there was a seat open. I DID NOT want to play 4 handed $15/$30. That's a volatile game and I was looking for stability, but I had to play.

I lost $1,000 in 7 minutes and then CHUCK999 left the table. FUCK! The thing about this guy is he was putting in 3 or 4 bets on the turn and the river with NOTHING! I don't mean over playing middle pair, I mean a pure bluff cap on the river with 6 high! So think about the kind of money you'd lose if for example he made two pair against you when you had top pair and then ON THE VERY NEXT HAND he made a straight against your over pair. Do you know how frustrating it is to have someone cap an 8 high gutshot draw on the turn when you have pocket kings and then hit it on the river? I do!

Losing $500 pots to thin draws always sucks. But getting crushed like this after not having a winning day for weeks hurts. That's the only way to describe it. It just hurts.

Trying to shift gears I started playing a little on pokerstars. I saw that they'd reworked the way they award VPPs and now it would be a little easier for me to earn rewards. The way it used to work is every time you were dealt into a hand where $1 was raked you earned one point, and if $2 or more was raked you got two points. Now for every $1 raked 5.5 points are awarded and split evenly between every player who is dealt into the hand (the count the rake and split the points down to the penny or the hundredth of a point).

After some experimentation I saw that I could earn points about 25% faster than before! That is a HUGE deal. I would mean I could make it to supernova elite with 75% of the effort I needed before. "This is great!" I thought. "I've found the solution!" I thought.

I played 10,000 hands of $5/$10 over three days and won about $1,000 (not counting the points and other rewards). Not earth shattering, but I felt like I could grind it out and pay the bills. Then I lost $1,000 a day three days in a row.

That might still be the answer, but for now I've shifted gears again trying to find something that works. The past few days I've been playing sit-n-go's. I've played about 15,000 SNGs in my career and it was what I did full time for maybe two years at the start of my career. 3 days into the experiment I'm about even, but I feel like the play is much worse than it was when I switched away from SNGs in 2006. My plan now is to play about 80 a day at the $55 level and make $3 per tournament. If I can do that, when you factor in the points or the rakeback I'll be able to make enough to pay the bills.

If that doesn't work, it might be time to start thinking about closing the door on poker as a career for a little while and moving on to the next chapter of my life.

In other news as a result of this massive horrible run I haven't been playing any WCOOP tournaments. But I will be playing the $215 NL hold'em event tomorrow which is the last day of the 2010 WCOOP.

Monday, September 13, 2010

WCOOP 5 Event Summary

After my last post I've played 5 more WCOOP events: $265 Knockout, $109 8-game mixed games, $109 NL hold'em (10 minute levels), $215 limit hold'em, and $215 NL hold'em.

There isn't too much to say about this group. In 4 of the 5 I did no better than doubling my starting stack before getting busted.

But I did squeak into the money in the $109 NLH event. I used some major stalling and a little luck to make the money with a stack that was barely more than we started with. I went broke the first hand after the money bubble, but still got paid $200 for the cash.

After 10 events, 2 satellites, and 1 second chance tournament my $5,000 starting bankroll is at $4,208.

My next 3 events are $320 mixed hold'em (half limit/half NL) Tuesday at 10, $320 8-game mixed games Wednesday at 2, and $320 HORSE Saturday at 2. These are all in my wheelhouse and I'm hoping for at least one strong showing.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Thursday, September 09, 2010

WCOOP #11 ($320 Ante up) Recap

The way this tournament structure works is the blinds stay at 5/5 for the entire tournament (effectively no blinds) while the antes (which start from hand 1) increase.

The reason I LOVE this structure is that half the players seem totally unable to use their brains. By level 5 (still in the early stages) the antes are 50 per player per hand. That means that there is 460 in the pot before any action has taken place. If you call the 5 chips preflop even at a crazy aggressive table you have a shot at winning those chips.

I'd say 1/3 of the time we were taking the flop with no raise. You'd think with those kind of pot odds everyone would call the 5 chips and see as many flops as possible.

Even when the antes added up to thousands of chips in the pot, maybe half the players at my tables were folding for 5 chips before the flop! This tournament was one of the two or three I was most looking forward to because I remember it from last year (I went a little deep in the money then) and they only run tournaments with this structure a few times a year.

We started with 1,789 entrants with 5,000 chips each and I got off to a crazy good start. I turned a set of aces against a set of nines and took out one player and then flopped top set against TWO players who went nutso with draws. About 2 hours into the tournament I was in 1st place with 30,000 chips and 1,000 players left.

I felt sure I would just cruise into the money, but then I hit a major speed bump. I came in for a raise with A5 of hearts. The antes were 100 a player and I made it 600 to go. The big blind who had 17,000 chips to my 27,000 (both big stacks) called and the flop came down 9 8 6 with two hearts.

My opponent checked and I bet 1,500 into the 2,100 chip pot with my flush draw- gutshot-overcard. He took it to 4,500 and I figured he probably paired the 9. Thinking if he didn't have more than one pair and knowing I'd have outs no matter what he had I dropped the all in bomb without hesitation. He called with surprising speed.

When the hands got turned over I saw that he had 78 of hearts. For a split second I thought "Ah ha! He has a worse flush draw!" But then I saw he had a pair too (and a straight draw). The turn and river were both bricks and I was down to 10,000.

But from there I went on a run. By this point I was seeing maybe 40% of the flops for 5 chips and shooting out half pot sized bets which were bringing home the antes with shocking frequency.

I had my stack all the way back up to 39,000 when someone got KK vs my AA! That monster took me to 75,000, put me into the money and had me in 25th place with 225 players left.

I got it up to 120,000 as we made it down to 100 players and I was starting to think about the final table. Then I had three hands go against me.

On the first hand I raise with QJ, got two callers and the flop came down jack high with two hearts. I bet about 2/3 of the pot and got one caller. The turn was an ace (YUCK!) and we both checked. The river was the jack of hearts, I checked, called a 3/4 pot sized bet and lost to a flush. That might sound like a pretty pedestrian pot, but that late in a tournament losing one at showdown meant it was a huge pot.

A few hands later I got dealt KK and just called a preflop raise. The flop came down ace high and the preflop raiser check raised me all in on the flop. Yuck again!

That took me down to 60,000, but I chopped out a few small pots and was on my way back up with close to 80,000 when I made some very questionable decisions.

I got dealt AT suited in early position, the antes were 800 each (meaning 7,200 chips in the pot) and the player to my right raised to 4,000. I thought about folding or reraising both of which would have been better than what I did, which was just call.

A third player called behind and we took the flop which came down J T 4 with two spades. There was close to 20K in the pot and after the original raiser checked I bet out 14K. The other player called and the original raiser folded.

Here is here things got dicey. The turn was a blank and I was faced with a tough decision. There was 50K in the pot and I had about 55K left. I could either check and give up on the pot (my opponent had a solid stack and I was all but sure he'd fire if I checked) or go for it and move all in.

I thought for a few seconds and for some reason I decided my opponent was on a draw with either two spades or KQ. So I moved all in and got instacalled by AJ. No ten on the river and that was it.

I finished 72nd which paid $1,153. Certainly not a bad result, but I was hoping for more.

Meanwhile I played the $215 ante up second chance. It had the same structure as event #11 and had about 500 players. I got off to a good start doubling my starting stack, but I didn't do anything beyond that.

Also in WCOOP Event #12 $215 heads up matches, I won my first match, be went down the tubes in the second.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

WCOOP Update

I am rolling in the WCOOP ante up tournament. Almost 2 hours in an I'm in first place overall with 30,000 chips up from 5,000 to start.

I'll be playing the $215 buy in ante up second chance tournament at 1. I love this format!

I just wanted to remind those of you who have a piece of my action that you will have a piece of this and any other second chance WCOOP tournament or WCOOP satellites.

Also I have heads up matches at 2. Busy WCOOP day!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

WCOOP Event #5 ($320 6-max shootout) Recap

This event was on my "maybe" list when I first saw the WCOOP schedule, but when the time came I decided to play.

For those of you who don't know what a "shootout" is, the way it works is you start with a table of players and they play until just one is left. Then that player moves on to the next round where everyone at the second table is a winner from the first round and so on.

In this case we started with 1296 players split into 216 table of six. The 216 players who won their first table were then put at 36 tables. The 36 winners of those second round tables were put at six tables and the winner of those tables came together at the final table.

We started with 5,000 chips, 20 minute levels and blinds of 25/50. I caught my first big break when I got dealt K7 suited in the big blind and called the small blind's raise. It turned out that he had K6 and the flop came down K 7 6! It's pretty hard to screw a hand like this and when the dust cleared I had 12,300 chips.

A little while later I took AQ up against A8 and despite an 8 on the flop I took down the pot and had a commanding lead of 17,000 chips to my opponent's stacks of 9,000 and 4,000.

By this time the blinds were all the way up to 40/80! There was zero blind pressure and I did my best to stay patient and wait for really good spots to get my chips in.

By the time we got to heads up I had a 21,000 to 9,000 chip advantage and it didn't take long for me to stick it to my opponent.

On the 175th hand of round 1 I raised to 240 with A2, my opponent reraised to 560 and I just called. The flop came down 2 2 7 - BINGO! I was expecting my opponent to bet and I wasn't sure if I should put in a raise on the flop or wait for the turn. To my surprise he checked and I decided to check behind him. The turn was the ten of spades putting two spades on the board and again my opponent checked.

I thought there was a chance he had a hand like KK and was really slow playing it hard (if that is a thing you can do hard). If I was going to have any chance of getting his whole stack I needed to bet now and build the pot. I made a pot sized bet and to my delight my opponent moved all in! When he turned over his hand he showed KQ of spades meaning he had 7 outs, but he missed and I was on to round 2!

Winning my first table was worth $637. At the second table the only thing that mattered was winning since 6th place though 2nd place all paid the same amount. 1st place however was worth just north of $2,700 plus the chance to play at another table where winning would be worth at least $9,600.

At my second table I got off to another great start. Again we started with the same structure - 6 players with 5,000 chips and blinds of 25/50. Early on I took A9 up against AK, the flop came down A 9 7, and I doubled up. A little later I took down a player who made a huge all in raise with K2 on a king high flop. I almost folded, but decided to call with my KQ. After winning that one I had 13,000 chips.

At my peak I had 15,000 chips against stacks of 13,000 and 2,000. But the guy with 2,000 made a comeback and I slipped big time.

The critical hand came after we'd been playing 3 handed for over 100 hands. I was in the small blind with 55 and the button raised to 300. I made it 900 to go and he moved all in for 5,500. I had about 7,500 when the hand started so I'd be left with 2,000 if I called and lost. Normally I'd fold 55 in a heartbeat here, but this was the 4th consecutive time that this guy hand moved all in on me when I reraised him. I'd folded the previous three times and I felt like it was time to take a stand.

When the cards got turned over he had KT and flopped a king. My last 2,000 chips went out the door two hands later when I got them in with AT against AK.

I'm happy to have an early cash under my belt, but I really felt like I was on my way to winning the second round. I just didn't quite get the job done.

$637 is better than a kick in the nuts as they say. Back in action tomorrow with $320 ante up!

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...