Saturday, February 13, 2016

Project Manhattan Session #4 - Not So Super Saturday

After a nice win on Friday I deviated from my Friday only plan a little bit and went back in Saturday night. It was the day before the Superbowl and I was hoping that a handful of the 1,000,000 people in town for the game and related events might trickle in to the Oaks. This did not happen at all. It was mostly the regular faces and it was actually less busy than a normal Saturday.

My session was mostly a real snooze fest. I spent a lot of time losing small pots and just sitting there. The two hands worth noting were both bluffs.

On the first I had 53 of diamonds on the button and 5 of us saw a flop for $5. The flop was T 4 2 giving me an open ended straight draw. The player just to my right was a 6 foot tall, 350 pound guy who looked like he was about 80. You don't see too many old guys that heavy so even though I only played with him one or two times in the past I remembered him clearly and knew he was not a strong player. Mr. Heavy bet out $20 on the flop. Just about the only thing he would bet here is one pair of tens so my plan was to just call and if I either made my straight or a card higher than ten came along, I'd put the heat on. Surprisingly all three other players called as well. The turn was an 8 and Mr. Heavy bet out $50. Normally if someone is going to bet into 4 people twice they have something pretty solid, but I still had him squarely on a T. I opted to just call since it was possible someone else might a big hand. Everyone else folded. The river was a K and again Mr. Heavy bet $50.

In my experience the most reliable best bet sizing tell in all of poker is someone betting the exact same amount on either the flop and turn or turn and river in a cash game. Almost without exception it means "I don't know what to do here so I guess I'll just bet the same thing again." Strong players never do this because on the next round the pot is so much bigger that a bigger bet is called for. They might bet $50 and follow it up with $60 or $70 in some very specific instances, but exactly $50 again is a huge clue. In the hand above, on the turn Mr. Heavy was betting $50 into a pot of $120 which is on the small size, in the realm of normal. But after my call on the turn, when we get to the river he's betting $50 into $220. If he had any kind of hand at all that he thought was good, he'd probably be putting $75-$100 or more out there. When I see this behavior I shut down any doubt and raise.

I made it $200 to go, Mr. Heavy quickly mucked and I took down the $270 pot when I had literally the worst possible hand on the river.

With the next hand in mind I want to take a moment to talk about levels of thinking in poker.

-The first level is "what are my cards" - This is where rank novices start.
- The second level is "what do I think my opponent has" - Even beginners get here most of the time
- The third level is "what does my opponent think I have" - There is a quantum leap between level 2 and 3 and many players never think on the third level.
- The fourth level is "what does my opponent think, I think they have" - You can only get to this level when playing against a player who is thinking on the third level.
- The fifth level is "If my opponent thinks I'm thinking on the 4th level, what do they think I'm thinking.

There is no limit to how deep you can go, but you can only go one level above your opponent or you'll end up making catastrophic mistakes. It happens often enough a bigger games that players over think it that there is a name for it - it's called leveling yourself. The most simple example is if someone is only worried about their cards and not thinking about what you have at all, then you can't convince them of anything with your actions.

Near the end of my session I got into a hand with some 4th level thinking. I got dealt T8 of diamonds and called $20 on the button. The raiser was a an Oaks regular who has been a full time professional player for a number of years. I know him mainly as a $30/$60 limit hold'em player, but he's been playing no limit more and more lately and I know he's had some success in pretty big tournaments. We took the flop 3 way and the board came down  7 7 5 with two diamonds. Mr. Pro bet $35 and I just called. Raising was a possibility, but at the time (going to my 4th level thinking here) I figured if I raised he would not put me on a 7 because I'd likely wait until the turn to raise a 7. What I did not consider was he would probably put me on a pair in the 66-TT range if I did raise.

Anyway, the turn was an A which looked like a shitty card to me. I expected Mr. Pro to bet again, but he checked. My 2nd level thinking told me he did not have an A in his hand and probably had a pocket pair. My 3rd level thinking told me that he would think I could easily have an ace in my hand or maybe a 7. So I bet $80 and to my surprise he called. The river was a 3 and I found myself not being able to get past the 1st level. I had nothing and I checked. Mr. Pro rolled over KT and proudly took the pot! ACK! He called a 2/3 pot bet with two unders on the turn!?

On the turn Mr. Pro went to the 4th level knowing that I would read his check on the turn as weak and bet with probably my entire range which included a lot of draws and unpaired big cards. If I'd taken my time with the 2nd level on the river I would have bet big again and won.

I ended up losing $342 on the night in 3.5 hours. When I went to cash out something funky happened. I had $658 dollars in chips which amounted to one rack of 100 $5 chips, one stack of 20 $5 chips, 10 other $5 chips and $8 in ones. When the cashiers count out your chips, they usually put them in piles of $100 or $20 so it's visual how many bills to give you, but in this instance she put out two piles of four $5 chips, and then broke the rest into a pile of $15 that had two $5's and a pile of five $1 chips and then had three $1 chips on their own. I thought "She's going to stiff me $5" She's going to give me whatever fifty three and not whatever fifty eight. Sure enough she ran the bills through the bill counter and it said $1,153. I said "I think it's $58" and she looked again said "Oh!" put another $5 on there and proceeded to pay me $1,153. While she was counting out the hundreds I remembered that I was only due $653! Of course being no a huge a hole I told her she'd overpaid me.

After 15 hours I'm up $832 for the project.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Project Manhattan Session #3 - Ignoring Russel Westbrook to play with Mr. Yahoo

The turn was a 6 making me two pair, queens and sixes on a Q 8 5 6 board. Mr. Yahoo was on his 8th seven and seven in the past 2 hours and after biding my time, eyeing his stack greedily, I finally had him right where I wanted him. After betting $25 on the flop and getting 3 callers, Mr Yahoo fired out $100 on the turn. I thought about raising, but he could have anything or nothing and I was almost certain he'd fire again on the river if I just called. To my horror one of the other players moved all in for $320 and then Mr. Yahoo shoved for $1,000. I looked down at the $600 in front of me and thought...

When I walked up to table 16 at the Oaks on Friday night there were a few new faces and as I listened to 3 of them argue with the dealer about the rules for a given situation I could tell that they have no clue what the hell they were doing. One of them was Mr. Yahoo. He was about 50, mentioned that he was a lawyer and appeared to have a fat stack of hundreds in his wallet. Next to him were two other guys who were drinking straight whiskey. Before I'd even played a single hand I knew it was going to be a great game.

The first hour was slow for me, but I was winning a little bit thanks to getting AA in a straddled pot and getting a little action. I'd seen Mr. Yahoo stack off for $300 preflop with AJ and also noticed that if he had top pair or even second pair he was calling all action post flop. I knew if I could make a hand I'd take him down.

About 90 minutes into the session I got my chance. He raised to $25 under the gun and I made it $65 to go with JJ. Then button cold called the $65! Shit! This guy seemed like a reasonable player and the only hands that made sense to smooth call in that spot were AA or KK. I was so sure that's what he had that I was planning to check fold the flop barring a miracle. Mr. Yahoo called and the flop came down J 9 2! YES! Top set! The button had about $500 behind and Mr. Yahoo had $700. If I was going to get it all from either of them I'd need to start building a pot, but I wanted to put out a bet that said "I'm unsure." I bet out $80...and the button folded! NOOOOOOO! I was shocked. Then Mr. Yahoo folded! NOOOOOOO! One of the problems with top set is it's really hard for someone else to have top pair. If I wasn't so sure the button had a big pair I might have checked. On such a dry board with a whack job who could fire with total air on the turn in the pot, I probably should have checked. Drat!

Around that time I noticed that Russel Westbrook (the NBA player) who was in town to play the Warriors was playing $15/$30 at the table next to me. I'd heard about him coming in to play at the Oaks in the past, but this was the first time I'd seen him. Oddly enough people were gathered around a TV near him watching the end of the Cavs/Celtics games and didn't seem to notice that he was sitting right under the TV! He's taller in person that I expected!

Pictured here: The Best Photo Ever Taken of Russel Westbrook

If you zoom in you can see him in the background in a blue sweatshirt under those two Chinese lanterns. I thought about putting my name up for the game he was in, but he quickly moved over to $30/$60 where there were 6 guys who play that game every day and have been very tough players for 10+ years. Limit hold'em cash games are much more formulaic and the biggest mistake you'll find these guys making is calling a raise with KJ when they should have KQ or better to call. If it had been Lebron or Kobe I would have tried to play, but I decided to stick with the more profitable situation of trying to get Mr. Yahoo's money.

After 3 hours I was winning a little bit when the hand I started this post with came up. It had been killing me that I couldn't make a hand against Mr. Yahoo. He was just spewing all over the place! To recap I had Q6 $600 deep on a Q 8 5 6 board, called $100 from Mr. Yahoo on the turn, then there was a check raise all in for $320 and Yahoo went in for $1000. When I hit that 2 pair I was all set to stack off for $700 with Mr. Yahoo and beat one pair of queens. But I was 90% sure the guy who went to $320 had a set. So I was in a spot where I'd have to call $600, in the hopes winning the side pot. My 1 second snap reaction was that it was going to be a big enough side pot, but after doing some math I figured out the side pot would be a little less than $800, meaning I'd be risking $600 to net $200 which sucked. If I could win the whole pot, I'd net about $1,300, but I knew that wasn't happening so I just had to suck it up and fold. Mr. $320 had a set of 5's a took a huge pot off Mr. Yahoo who didn't show.

Now I was back to even. :(

A couple hands later I got black 77 in the small blind. Mr. Yahoo raised to $20 vs one call, and we took the flop 3 way. The flop came down K 6 2 all clubs giving me a weak club draw and better than 2nd pair. Mr. Yahoo bet out $45 as I thought he'd do with anything after his preflop raise. I thought about raising, but by this point he only had $200 more behind and I thought he might bluff it off on the turn. The turn was the Q of spades and as expected he shoved for $200. Calling off $200 on the turn on a 3 of a suit board with two paints against a pre-flop raiser is absolutely stupid in almost any spot. But not in this one! I called, he said "You've got me." The river was the 8 of clubs making me a flush, I showed my hand, he excitedly flipped over Q2 of hearts thinking that I just had a pair of 7's. Then he saw that I had the winner and he totally lost his shit. He didn't say anything to me, but he started giving the dealer a hard time and was kind of in and out of his seat just buck, buck, bucking around like a chicken saying "Come on!" instead of "buck, buck."

He pulled out another $100 from his wallet and when the action got to him he just chucked it in the pot. I think if he'd had chips he would have raised, but the dealer read this as a call and he didn't object. I was on the button with 72 of spades. I had $2 already in there from the blinds and called another $3 hoping to get lucky. I flopped a flush! Still clucking and bucking, Mr. Yahoo fired out $20 and I just called. On the turn she shoved his last $75 and I snap called! He turned over T9 which I think made 2nd pair. When he saw that I had 72 and had flopped a flush the clucking and bucking intensified and he stormed off. I didn't get the huge stack from him, but it was still pretty sweet to send him packing.

Now that he was gone I set my sights on a new target. There was a 20 something Asian woman in seat 7 who seemed a little green. On one hand I got dealt 44 on the button and called a raise to $20 from a third player. Ms. Green called in the big blind and we took the flop 3 ways. The board ran out A 6 4 giving me bottom set. They both checked to me and I decided to check it back. The turn paired the A and Ms. Green bet out $30. I figured if she had an ace, I could put in a huge raise on the river and get called, and if she was bluffing or betting lite, I didn't want to scare her off. I just called. The river was a third A! AHHHHHHHH! Now if she had any pair I was cooked. She bet out $80. I thought she could have something like KQ and just be firing away so I called. I said "I can only beat a bluff and rolled over my hand." She mucked! About 2 second after her cards hit the muck she said she had JJ! She'd misread the situation thinking that I had a full house and not realized that she had a better full house.

On the very next hand I stuck it to her again. I came in for a raise with J9 with the J of spades and she called along with two other players. The flop came down K Q 4, all spades and I bet out $60. Ms. Green popped it to $160! Getting check raised when you're sitting on jack high isn't ideal, but I had the #2 flush draw and a gut shot, I was getting 3 to 1 on my money, and I thought I might be able to win the pot without making my hand. The turn was an off suit 3 and she checked. Now I could rule out a made flush and she had the perfect sized stack for me to take a shot at it. I put her all in for $275 with $400 in the pot and after about 30 seconds she folded.

We'd been playing short handed for a while finally so many people got up that we were down to 4 players being dealt in. We called over the floorman to draw for seats in the other game that was going, but while he was coming over and talking to us I got involved in one last hand. I raised to $20 with Q9 and got called by the big blind. The flop came down A Q 5 with two diamonds, my opponent checked, I bet $25 and he called. The turn was a 9 making me two pair and my opponent check called $45. The river was the 2 of diamonds bringing home the flush draw and my opponent bet out $120 into the $180 pot. Yikes! This was a biggish bet, but I remembered an earlier hand where this guy had put in a big check raise on the flop with a flush draw. I figured him to be the type of guy who would push a draw if he had one and there was always the chance he could think he was betting for value with a hand worse than mine. I called him very quickly and he folded his hand face down before I even showed my cards.

I decided to call it a night and not move to the new table. In the end I won $979 over 3.5 hours!

After 11.5 hours I'm up $1,179 for the project.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Project Manhattan Session #2 - The Universe Won't Let You Cash In Bad Luck

The universe won't let you cash in your bad luck. You're never due for a win in poker. Every time you sit down your chances of getting any distribution of starting cards or good hands and bad hands during a session is the same. You can't save up your losses for a win. But you can save up your wins for a loss. After all you have the cash in your hand. While this little bit of universal unfairness is comforting when you've been winning, it's really annoying when you've been losing.

I saw down Friday night at the Oaks in a $2/$3/$5 game with $500 in front of me facing a group with two soft spots, 3 players who were solid, but predictable and 4 new faces (which is usually a good sign). The chips were moving and in the first 20 minutes I saw three or four guys get stacked in pots in the $700-$1,000 range.

In one of those pots the guy just to my right who I'll call Mr. Basic got dealt KK, ended up getting it in for about $375 pre-flop against AJ and lost. He bought back in for $500 and maybe 2 hands later got KK again and doubled up through the player to his right who I'll call Mr. Tilty.

"Damn it! Why can't I get KK and get action?" I lamented.

One or two hands later I looked down at KK. Mr. Tilty called $5 and I raised it to $25. Two players called and then the big blind went all in for $65. "Ah ha!" I thought. I wasn't thrilled about a 5 or 6 way pot with KK, but now I would have the chance to pop it again and get it down to 1 or 2 opponents. To my delight Mr. Tilty who was on tilt after losing a few big pots called the $65 (an abysmal call with just about any hand). I decided to go for a healthy raise and made it $200 to go. I figured I'd lose everyone and go heads up with the all in player, but Mr. Tilty being true to his name came along for the $200. The flop came down Q 5 3 which looked beautiful. Mr. Tilty checked, I moved all in for $286 and after some thought he slowly called. At this point I was about 99% sure I was good, but my heart was racing and so was my mind thinking of every possible way I could get fucked in this hand. Happily the turn and river bricked out, I showed my hand and both Mr. Tilty the all in player quietly mucked their cards. Huzzah!

Calling $5 preflop, and then a raise to $65 and then a 4-bet to $200 is just insane. It's a flat out awful play with any hand.

Now I was up $600 sitting on $1,100 which was enough to cover everyone at the table.

About 30 minutes later I was on the button with Q8 of diamonds and called a raise to $25. We took the flop 5 way and the board came out T 3 2 with two diamonds. The player who had been in the big blind - who I'll call Charlie Day because he looked just like the actor Charlie Day - came out firing with a bet of $100 into the $125 pot. I didn't think he'd do that with a set or over pair so that left a T or a flush draw. Everyone else folded to me and I considered my options. Charlie Day had about $500 left in front of him. He seemed like kind of an OK, but not great player. I thought about making it $250 to go as a semi-bluff, but decided it would be better to see the turn and either hit a Q or a diamond or at least get some more information. Unfortunately the turn was a 4. Fortunately Charlie Day checked and I knew I had him. I pushed $220 into the $325 pot. This was too much to call with a draw or a T. Part of the power of this bet is not just the $220, but Charlie Day knowing that if I have a strong hand, I'm going to put him to the test for his last $300 on the river also. After about 30 seconds he folded later saying he had a weak ten.

About an hour later I got dealt AQ, called a raise to $15 (I should have 3-bet here) and took the flop 6 way. The flop came down 8 6 4 with two diamonds and it checked around. The turn was a third diamond, but it was also an ace. Now the preflop raiser came out betting $60. I figured he had an ace, but more often than not my kicker would be good. The river paired the 6 and he bet out $80. Again I just called feeling like I should have the best hand, but any worse hand would likely fold to a raise, and many better hands would call. He proudly rolled over AT and I crushed his hopes and dreams with my Q kicker.

At this point I was up $950 and starting to have dreams of my own about a $2K+ night. Mr. Basic still had about $1,000 in front of him and I had such a good read on him (because he played so straightforwardly) that I figured I'd find some spots to take pots away from him or take him to value town.

Over the next two hours things very slowly went south. I won a few pots and lost a few pots. The game got a little tougher. I started to feel a little tired. Still winning about $750 I decided to play one more round and then pick up.

On my second to last hand I got AQ with the A of spades. Mr. Basic raised to $25 and I just called (again I think this should be a 3-bet, in position, especially against a player I want to target - this was a significant mistake). 3 other players called and the flop came down Q T 4 with two spades. This was a pretty strong flop for me, but Mr. Basic fired out $125 into the $125 pot which looked like a serious bet. There was no way he'd bet so strong without something good. His M.O. was small bets with misses, big bets with good hands. But I didn't think folding AQ there made sense. I called and everyone else folded.

The turn was a really interesting card - the J of spades! Now the flush draw got there, and I picked up 9 outs to the nuts, and 3 more to a straight. Plus I still had top pair working for me. Given that turn card I expected Mr. Basic to check and he did. I also expected him to fold if I bet. Given that the Q and the J (along with the 4) were spades and I had the A of spades, he couldn't have a flush. With those cards accounted for there were just no hands in pre-flop his raising range that made a flush. He couldn't have AK because he wouldn't have bet so much on the flop. In the moment I was thinking if he can't have a flush, and he can't have a straight, and he can't have the A high flush draw because I have it, then he can't call here. He can't put all of his chips at risk to call down two streets when I could easily have a flush. He's Mr. Basic! Get out of there Mr. Basic!

I bet $175 into the $400 pot. This was a little lite, but it's how much I'd probably bet with a flush and it left enough behind that I could put in a big bet on the river as a follow up. To my surprise he called leaving him self about $475 behind. "SPADE, SPADE, SPADE!" I thought. The river was the A of clubs. Huh? Now any king would make a straight. I was trying to decide if my two pair were good or if I should shove for $475. My two pair might be good, but it would be really, really tough to call $475 in this spot without a flush, and certainly if he didn't have a K or a flush, even if for some reason he thought I was up to no good, it would be a sick call. While I was thinking this through and just coming to the conclusion that betting $475 was the way to go as he could easily have a set, he bet out $300! WHAT THE FUCK! HOW THE FUCK CAN THIS GUY BE BETTING INTO ME!? Didn't he clearly put me on a flush? How could he bet here?

With only $175 left he just didn't have enough left for me to buff him off a K. I considered the possibility that he was on desperate bluff and that maybe I should call, but quickly thew that out as there were no legitimate preflop raising hands, that would bet the flop hard that I could beat on that board. I showed the A of spades and folded. He said when I bet the turn he knew I didn't have the flush because if I had it, I would have checked? What? WHAT!? You don't have a clue what you're talking about you basic bastard!

Looking back I'm almost positive he had KK with the K of spades. Maybe he had KK with no spades or KQ, but I'd bet it was KK with the K of spades.

Looking back I'm not really sure what I should have done on the turn there. Maybe a bigger bet would have worked, or maybe a check was in order. I don't know.

I briefly considered staying, but I was all worked up and decided to just pack it in and book a win. I won $430 on the night over 4 hours which isn't a bad result.

After 8 hours of play I'm up $198 for the project. I'll be back in action next Friday!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Project Manhattan Session #1: Off to a Slow Start

I rolled into the Oaks on Friday with $2,000 in my pocket, full of resolve and looking forward to getting this project underway.

I have to admit that in a few of my late 2015 sessions I walked in the door hoping to get lucky. If that's your plan, you should just stay home. This time my plan was to take my time, think hard about every meaningful decision, pay attention, try to keep to simple, solid plays and take what the table gave me.

There were three $2/$3/$5 games going which is usually a good sign. I recognized about half of the players at my table and unfortunately two of them are among the best players at the Oaks. Happily they both quickly changed tables and were replaced with soft spots.

After folding a lot for 30 minutes I got my first hand of consequence. I got dealt 87 offsuit on the button and we took a flop 7 way for $5 each. The flop came down Q 8 8 giving me trips. My 6 opponents checked to me and I fired out $25. I got two callers. The turn was a K and it got checked to me.

This was a strange spot. There were no draws on the flop (other than 4 out straight draws) and I had a tight image. If someone else had an 8 we were likely going to chop the pot, unless they had Q8, K8 or A8 in which case I was in hot water. The other possibility is they both had QX, in which case they'd almost certainly fold to a bet on the turn given the K, but might check call a small bet on the river if the turn checked through. It felt really strange to check trips last in a small pot, but the logic was clear. I checked it back and the river was a 4. After one check, the other opponent bet $30 into the $80 pot. Again, putting in more action didn't make any sense. All worse hands would fold, and no better hands would fold. I called and ended up beating KQ, which is actually just about the only hand imaginable that I could have made more from. :(

That hand was the sole highlight of the first two hours. I wasn't taking beats, but I wasn't winning any pots of consequence either. Mostly I was folding. At that point I was stuck about $200.

The biggest hand that went against me happened when I called $5 and then called a raise to $20 in the cut off vs a button raise with T9 of hearts. We took the flop 5 way and the preflop raiser bet $60 into the $100 pot on a K 3 4 with two hearts flop. One loose passive player in the field called and I called as well. The turn was a 5 and now the loose passive player bet out $100. There was $380 in the pot and the bettor had about $150 behind. In the moment I was thinking I was getting a little better odds than I actually was and that it was almost certain given my opponent that I'd get the rest of her stack if I hit it. I decided to call. For a minute I was worried about the preflop raiser behind me. But Ms. Loose Passive looked like she made a straight on the turn perhaps so I couldn't see him raising, but I could see him calling which would help my pot odds and implied odds greatly. Sadly, he folded, I missed the heart on the river and folded to an all in from Ms. Loose Passive. Looking back this one is right on the line between fold and call on the turn.

After that hand I was losing about $400 on the night.

On my next hand of note, I got dealt A4 of diamonds. I called $5, we took the flop 7 way and the board ran out T 9 6 with two diamonds. I was in the middle of the field and decided to fire $25. I got one caller. The turn was a black K which was good and bad - It was an overcard to the board which could be scary, but all of the JT, QT, J9 type of hands picked up a gut shot to go with their pair. I decided to keep on firing and bet out $55 into the $80 pot. My opponent called again. The river was a black J which missed my flush draw, but also put a one liner to a straight out there. Normally I'd fire something like $120 or even $140 into the $190 pot as a bluff, but I went for the "make it look like I want a call" size and instead opted for $75. My opponent thought for 20 seconds before making a reluctant fold.

A little later I went for another bluff. I called a raise to $25 with 22 in late position and we ended up seeing the flop 5 way. The flop came down A T 6 missing me completely, the preflop raiser bet $25 into the $125 pot and got one caller. This bet looked like total bullshit to me. There was some small chance it was AA or TT, but more likely this guy just got lost and put $25 out there. I slid $125 into the pot and both players sighed, looked at their cards and mucked them. It's so easy to just toss your deuces and move on to the next hand in a spot like this, but risking $125 to win $175 in this scenario has a huge expected value. I felt really good about that one.

There wasn't much else to report. I got KK and QQ each once and won both preflop uncontested and had one hand where I called $15 with AQ and then folded to a $400 all in, but other than that I was pretty dry preflop all night. I got 12-15 pocket pairs and never hit any sets. It was a slow night.

I put in 4 hours and lost $232. Given that my average win and average loss were both in the $800-$900 range for project 10K (I won twice as often as I lost) this is a pretty inconsequential loss. I'll give it another go next Friday!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Project Manhattan - Preview

After a solid two month break from poker I'm ready to get back at it with a new project - Project Manhattan! The project name generator told me that I should go with Project Maroon Furious Snake, but I decided to go with project Manhattan for 3 reasons: 1) Like the Manhattan project (where they developed the first nuclear bombs) I'm going to pull out all the stops do everything in my power to succeed 2) I'll be drinking Manhattans either in celebration or defeat at the end of this thing 3) I think it sounds cool.

Doing everything in my power to succeed will entail the following:

- Focusing on Fridays when I know the games are always softest
- Getting to sleep early the night before I play
- Eating right and exercising on Thursdays and Fridays
- Limiting both stress and boredom by playing 1 day a week instead of 2-3 (I might violate this one if things are going well)
- Staying when things are good and leaving when things are not so good (this one is harder than it sounds).
- Changing tables if one game is better than another and changing back if I need to
- Attempting to pay attention to the action on every hand even when I'm not involved.
- Having strong discipline when it comes to which hands to play and when to fold

I'm also going to have more cash in reserve so hopefully I can play without sweating the money too much. I'm putting together $15,000 this time around with some money coming from me and some from a group of a half dozen backers. My intention is to win $5,000 over the course of the project.

Once again my plan is to play 100 hours, and post about every session. Session 1 will be tomorrow!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Three Bluffs From My Last Session

I have been on my worst run of the year over the past month. Sometime when your results are way below average it's a matter of taking a lot of bad beats or just all around shitty play. I haven't been taking a lot of bad beats and I actually feel like I've been playing pretty well. What it feels like to me is I've just been getting a wave of frozen cards. I'm getting premium starting hands or favorable flops, turns and rivers way below expectation.

Either that or I have selective memory and I have just been running hot for the other 9 months of the year. That is always a possibility.

Anyway, I took matters in to my own hands and ran a few bluffs during my last session, because after all if you're bluffing it don't matter what ya got!

On the first hand I raised to $20 with some hand that is irrelevant. I got 3 callers and the flop came down all hearts. I had no hearts and there wasn't much reason to try to steal it vs 3 opponents out of position on a monochrome board so I checked. It checked through and the turn was a 4th heart. It checked around to the button who bet out $35 into the $75 pot. The bettor is an aggressive player who likes to make plays at pots and I knew there was no way he would have checked the flop with a big heart and I didn't think he'd bet the turn for value with a small heart. A raise here would seem a little weird, but I figured even if it felt off that didn't mean he was going to put me to the big test. I popped it to $125 and he quickly folded. When the flop came down I was done with it, and even on the turn I thought if I bet out it wouldn't look credible since I'd be unlikely to check the flop with a big heart. But I saw an opportunity on the turn, jumped on it and it worked.

The next hand had some similar elements. I called a raise to $25 with 55 and we took the flop 4 way. The board came out K 8 8 with two hearts and a club and it checked around. The turn was a J of clubs putting two flush draws out there and it checked to the last player who fired out $60. This looked really fishy to me. I didn't think he'd check a K or an 8 on the flop since he was last to act. On the other hand he could easily be betting a J or a draw. I raised to $160 and he thought for about 45 seconds before folding. Turn check raises look really strong and come with the added power of your opponent expecting a bet on the river to surely follow when you have it. I had the added bonus here of some showdown value if my opponent, called the turn, missed his draw and it went check, check (not super likely, but worth something).

The third hand didn't go quite as smoothly. I called $25 on the button vs a cutoff raiser with 98 of hearts and we took the flop 5 way. The flop was A J 6 with two spades and one diamond. It checked to the preflop raiser who bet out $35 into a $120 pot. This looked weak as shit to me and I happened to know the bettor was a little intimidated by me. I took a glance down the table at the other three guys in the hand and they were all watching TV or looking at their phones. It was clear they were done with it. So I made it $135 to go, the others quickly folded and to my surprise the main villain thought for a moment and then called.

When he bet $35 I was thinking that he could easily have a weak ace or just be C-betting whatever. When he called, my brain kind of shut down. I was surprised that he called and I got wrapped up in thinking about how I didn't really like my options on the turn rather than trying to sort out what he had in his hand. The turn came out a 7 of diamonds. This was a great card for me as I went from absolute total air to having some equity with a straight draw. He was sitting on about $325 and there was about $400 in the pot so we had less than one post sized bet in play. At this point I was not really sure what to do. I think the right move would be to just sit there for 30 seconds and tried to figure it out.

If I had done that this is what I may have come up with. I have 3 options: check it back, go all in, bet some smaller amount. There are 4 types of hands he could have: big ace, weak ace, flush draw, A6/AJ (AJ is a maybe as that would probably just move in on the flop as would sets - this guy is not tricky at all). How is he going to like facing an all in with those hands? He's going to hate it. Maybe I get called by AK, AJ and A6, but everything else is out the window and even if I do get called I have 8 outs. Can he lay down a good hand? Yes. OK it's shove time!

Here's what I actually thought. "Man, I can't believe he called. That $35 looked really weak. What should I do here? AHHHH! I don't know! AHHHHHHHH! Check and pray? Yes! That's what I'll do, Check and pray!"

My prayers were not answered. A small diamond came out completing the back door flush draw and the villain checked again. I was back to the same 3 options: check it back, go all in, bet some smaller amount. I fired out $200 immediately. If you have absolutely no hope of winning at showdown and your opponent could have also been on a draw, I think it makes sense to put something out there. What I really didn't want to happen was to check it back and lose to a hand like KQ or KT of spades or Jx or something like that. $200 may have been overkill for that scenario. I think something like $100-$125 or going all the way all in are better options in hindsight.

What I was hoping to do was make it look like I'd checked back a good ace on the flop for pot control or to avoid getting stacked against a set, but now after two checks from my opponent I was sure that I was good and betting for value. My opponent was also maybe the type of guy who could worry about me having diamonds even though that made no sense whatsoever with the action. Sadly my story was not bought and I got quickly called by A9 of spades.

There are some guys who would never in a million years fold for a close to pot sized bet on the turn with a weak top pair and a flush draw and other guys who would lament folding it, but would fold it every time with that flop action and an all in on the turn. I think my opponent is more of the latter, and regardless, against all of his other likely hands I really like bombing the turn. Honestly I think if I'd been winning lately or even up a fair amount on the day that's what I would have done, but I talked my self out of it.

I'm hoping to play Friday and Saturday of this weekend to take advantage of those sweet sweet weekend games.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

What Day Should I Play and How Long Should I Stay?

I have continued to get drubbed at the tables lately. In the last month I've played 46 hours of $2/$3/$5 over 9 sessions and had 7 losers and only 2 winners. I've dropped $3,685 during that stretch. This undoubtedly sucks. Luckily if I zoom out a bit farther I'm actually $1,644 to the good over 74 hours since the end of Project 10K, but even with that in mind this is still a very disappointing run.

In my record keeping during my poker career I've often noted the date, but I just recently starting making a quick note of the day of the week. It turns out that since the end of Project 10K I've played 5 Fridays and 11 sessions on other days. I'm +$7,808 on Fridays and -$6,164 on the other days. This is a tiny sample size and I'm not going to jump to any conclusions, but holy shit! That is a major disparity!

Another thing I've been tracking is my results by the hour (i.e. how much I'm ahead or behind after every hour). Thus far the data is all of the place, but I'll be writing a future post about that once I can draw some conclusions.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Can I Make the Big Lay Down?

I've been all juiced up to play poker lately after watching a bunch of videos and making a few posts and comments on the forums at so I was excited to go play Wednesday night. I ended up sitting in maybe the worst $2/3/$5 game I've seen at the Oaks and I think if I wasn't so amped to play I might have left early.

I got involved in two tough spots against tough competition.

The villain in the first hand was late 20's slightly hipsterish looking white guy who I hadn't seen before. I didn't know what to make of him because on one hand he looked like he was super high and on the other he seemed like a really strong player. He did a lot of check raising and just by looking at his bet sizing in every spot where he showed a hand I felt like he was a strong player.

In the hand in question, I had A8 of clubs in the big blind and he open raised from earlyish position to $20. I was the lone caller and the flop came down Q 8 3 with two spades. This was a pretty good flop for me and given that I was in the blinds I expected him to bet close to 100% of his range on that board. I was all set to check and call, but he checked behind me.

The turn was a bingo card for me - another 8. It might be right to bet here, but I decided to go for a check raise. Either he checked back a big hand on the flop or had air and I think in either instance I make more with a check raise. I checked, he bet $25, I raised to $70 and he called. At this point I considered that he could have checked back QQ on the flop, but there were plenty of other hands he could have.

The river was the 4 of spades completing the front door flush draw. I decided that I thought there was no way that he'd check a flush draw last on the flop heads up vs the big blind so there was (almost) no way he could have a flush. I bet $100 hoping to get called by a hand like AA, KK, AQ, 98 or 87 or some hand trying to catch a bluff. Then he raised it to $300! GAH! I figured it had to be QQ. That was the only hand that would make any sense at all. Competing with that was the fact that this guy was either a very good player and thus capable of making a legit river bluff, or super high and just running good and thus capable of anything, or both. I called, got shown QQ and kicked myself a little for not folding.

The villain in the second hand was a mid 20's Asian guy who seemed sharp. He was limping a lot of pots and running a lot of bluffs on the turn and river. I know he was running a lot of bluffs because he showed a lot of them and got snapped off on a few as well.

Earlier in the night he bet $30 into $50 on a 6 4 3 flop and when I raised him to $75 he three bet to $210. I called and he check folded to an all in of $270 when an T came on the turn. He said he three bet the flop with air and that's about the only thing that make sense when you consider he check folded the turn rather than moving in when all I had left was half a pot sized bet.

When I say this guy was running a lot of bluffs I mean I've never seen anyone put in so many turn or river raises or $100+ bets as bluffs. But, he was also playing very in control and like I said he was sharp and not just a wild player.

To his right there was a woman who was a total novice. I mean, she didn't know how much the blinds were supposed to be and got mixed up a few times as to the denomination of the chips (there were only two colors - blue =$1, yellow =$5!). She absolutely had no clue.

On the hand in question, Mr. Bluffy limped for $5 and I raised to $25 with QJ of spades. Ms. No Clue called as did Mr. Bluffy. The flop came down Q 8 4 with two clubs, the both checked to me, I bet $50 and Ms. No Clue called. I was trying to sort out how much I could get her to call on the turn when Mr. Bluffy raised to $155.

We both had about $900 to start the hand and this is where a lot of players start to think "Well if I call another $105 here, I'm going to have to call $200 on the turn and $400 on the river and I don't want to basically go all in with one pair with a medium kicker, so I can't call here" and this is exactly why Mr. Bluffy has been bluffing so much and it had generally been working for him.

I decided that given how tricky he was I couldn't fold top pair here. I figured he'd expect me to bet any Q x x flop given the action, and could easily be taking a shot at the pot. So I called. The turn was a red 9 and he bet $250 into the $435 pot. At the time I was thinking that it was a bigger bet, more like 3/4 of the pot, but I guess it was a little less. Still a serious bet though.

I was pretty close to folding here, but four things stopped me: 1) there was a flush draw on the flop so he could be semi-bluffing with that 2) I picked up a gut shot which wasn't much but was something 3) he had run so many naked bluffs that I just couldn't give him full credit for a hand 4) I didn't have to commit the rest of my stack to calling him down - I could see the river and see what he did and then use that information to decide.

I called and the river came out a Q which although it greatly improved my hand, I didn't really think it changed anything. Either I was good with one pair of Q's because he was on a flush draw or total air or he flopped a set, and now had a full house. I didn't think there was much in between. Sometime around the time I was calling the turn bet or as the river came out I was thinking that I would not call an all in for the last $500 or so on the river. But then the Q came, sure enough he went all in for $500 (I actually had $470 left)  and I thought "That doesn't change anything. Either he flopped a set and I've been totally fucked this whole hand or I was good all the way. I should stick with my plan to fold to an all in. Fuck that, I can't fold trips to this guy." I called, he showed me pocket 8's, I did a quick check to make sure he had me covered and I headed for the door.

I ended up losing $665 on the night which is a pretty moderate loss, but I was really kicking myself on the drive home. One of the huge things that separates the 1 in 10,000 top notch players from the 1 in 1,000 and the 1 in 100 very, very good players is the ability to make big lay downs. That has never been one of my key strengths and lately more than anytime in the past 6 or 7 years, I've been walking around dreaming about playing in big games for big money. So I felt discouraged that two of the better players in the game got the best of me on two big hands. I felt like I'm doomed to be a very good, but not great player.

After sleeping on it I felt better about it.

Looking back on the first hand I think there may have been enough uncertainty. And what really were my alternatives? Checking the river would be total paranoia. Once I bet and get raised I have to be up against a full house, an ace or maybe king high flush or a bluff. Against an average player this is an easy fold as they'd never raise the river without the mortal nuts, but against a strong player getting 3 to 1 on my money I think it's an OK call.

Looking back on the second hand, there is something to be said about not being afraid to get it in. I have no doubt that Mr. Bluffy is capable of a three street bluff. That's totally in his range. The fact that a river is a Q actually increases the chances that he'd bluff one more street as it's a scary card if I don't have one.

But seriously, fuck these Q 8 x flops!

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Fixing My Leaks

Every poker player has leaks. Leaks are plays you make that are not major errors, but are small mistakes that leak the profits out of your metaphorical money bucket. The more leaks you can fix the better your results will be.

Here are a few leaks I have:

- I don't pay close enough attention when I am not in a hand
- I don't closely examine my opponents for physical tells
- I don't focus hard enough on not giving off any physical tells
- I act too quickly sometimes
- I sometimes make calls with draws when the pot odds are not there
- I play too many suited connectors and suited gappers in early position (the combo of this one and they previous one is a actually a pretty big problem).
- After I've called $5 pre-flop I'm too willing to call a substantial raise with a hand that doesn't justify it

- I chicken out on some bluffs
- I don't three bet enough pre-flop
- I slow play the turn too often with huge hands hoping to induce bluff or otherwise encourage bets
- I give my opponents too much credit

The main ways I work on fixing my leaks are:

- Doing analysis away from the table (this is one of my major strengths)
- Talking over key hands with other skilled players
- Reading poker books and articles

Recently I've added a new tool - I've joined a subscription poker training website It's $30 a month which feels like a lot for a bunch of web videos and articles (i.e. the kind of stuff we're all used to being free with ads), but I'd read a few dozen articles by the owner/main guy (Bart Hanson) and they're all filled with solid advice.

Equally important is that just about the entire content catalog is geared towards in person no limit cash games and Bart's main experience comes from games in the $3/$5, $5/$10 or $10/$20 games in Southern California which are very similar to the games I'm playing. Many of the training sites are focused on how to beat online 6-max no limit games where the players are much, much tougher across the board or tournaments which doesn't really appeal to me at this point.

I had one pot that I won Friday that I would not have if not for watching the few videos I have thus far. I had AT suited and called a raise to $20 in the cutoff that came from a player just to my right. The big blind called as did the one limper. The flop came down K 8 3 with three different suits and the preflop raiser bet $30. With two players left to act and having missed the flop completely this could easily be a simple muck.

But one of the videos I'd watched touched on how K X X dry boards hit late position preflop raisers range way less often than A X X board because most players are folding anything worst than KT or K9s, but will play any Ax in late or middle late position. This is actually a pretty simple thing. You can explain it in one sentence to anyone who is not a novice. But I don't think it's something that I've explicitly thought through before. I have not been on the lookout for K high dry boards. But in this instance I did have it top of mind. I raised to $75, both other players folded and when it got back to the raiser he thought for a moment and mucked. From his perspective my raise looks really strong - I called raise preflop and then raised the preflop raiser with two other players in the pot. It's hard for him to put me on worse than a strong K.

In the end I picked up $90 I would not have so I figure Bart Hanson is going to get at least three months out of me before I cancel.

I had another big hand where I corrected an error I've made previously. There was one $5 caller from a very loose player and then a raise to $20 from a tight passive player. Mr. Tight had $95 in front of him and Mr. Loose had about $600. Mr. Loose had just called an all in of $140 with Q3 suited after calling $5 preflop and won. I looked down at QQ and raised to $50. Normally I'd probably go to $60 here, but I intentionally made a smaller raise so that if Mr. Tight went all in, which I fully expected him to do given his stack size, I'd be able to hit it again against Mr. Loose who I figured very well might call my raise to $50. In the past I've made the mistake of raising just a little too much vs a short stack, leaving myself in a spot where I couldn't put the heat on a third player because the short stack all in was not a full raise.

Like clockwork, Mr. Loose called, Mr Tight went all in for $95, and I pumped it up to $225. Mr. Loose called and I hoped for a favorable flop. When the board came out I was looked at T 7 4 rainbow and to my surprise Mr. Loose shoved for $375! I really had no idea what kind of hand would limp for $5, call $45 more and then call another $175, but I figured that any hand that could beat me would probably check the flop so  I quickly called. The turn was a K and the river was a 9. When the cards got turned over Mr. Loose showed JJ and Mr. Tight had AK. So I lost the $300 in the main pot, but won the $750 side pot.

In the end I won about $700 on the night over 6 hours and had a lot of fun playing.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Friday Night Big Hands against Mr. Tricky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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...