Friday, February 24, 2006

A fun listen: Ante Up! podcast

I just finished listening to episodes 1 through 34 of the Ante Up! podcast at lunch today. It's an entertaining listen with several literal laugh-out-loud moments. Want to know how to play against a drunk? How to irritate other players? Why one poker video game gets an "M"ature rating, while others get an "E"veryone (hint: don't ask Mrs. TJ Cloutier)? How to tell if you're a degenerate gambler?

For a taste of the podcast, I'd highly recommend episode 33, their "best-of" show.

Wil Wheaton busts out John Juanda at WPT Invitational

Read the whole report at

A little bit later, this sweet girl named Marissa moved to our table. I guess she's on the TV show Stacked. She didn't have many chips, and the pros took what little she had by moving against her on the flop, pretty much regardless of their cards. She had never played poker before last night, and though she was in over her head with these guys, she was clearly having fun, and even said that she was just looking for a good hand to bust out on, so she could go out with some dignity.

Allen eventually busted her with 93o vs. her A-little, when he paired his three. She was a really sweet girl, and we were all sad to see her go. Especially when her seat was filled by John Juanda.

Some of you may have read that I busted John. This is true, but it's not as exciting or masterful as you may think. John was crippled when Jason flopped Broadway for the nuts, and John made aces up on the turn. A few hands later, Daniel Negreanu came running over to our table with some guy I didn't recognize, and said to John, "Can you eat ten Saltines in sixty seconds?"

"What?" John said, and everyone else at the table thought.

"Saltine crackers. Can you eat ten of them in sixty seconds?"

John thought for a second while he looked at his cards.

"Yeah, I think I can," he said.

"Okay!" Daniel said, with a little hop. "Juanda is my horse! You get half my action, John."

"Let's do it!" John said, and shoved his last 1000 or so into the pot. It was folded to me, and I figured that the BB and I were calling based strictly on odds and probably checkint it down. That is, until I woke up with pocket aces.

"I have to raise," I said. While I thought about what amount would get the BB to maybe call with something that I could survive, he folded J2o face up.

"Go ahead and play it out," he said. "I'm not playing this."

I flipped up my aces, and John flipped up KQ. I flopped an ace, busted John Juanda, and ended up with about 16K after the whole thing was said and done. John and I shook hands, and the WPT cameras captured the whole thing. Daniel was putting on quite a show for them, calling for cards and stuff, and it was pretty funny, so it stands a good chance of making the broadcast, especially if I make it deep today.

Second best hand ever = minimal payoff

On Tuesday night, playing four 2¢/4¢ tables at a time, I'm dealt K6o in the big blind. When it gets to me, I check. The flop comes K9K. The small blind checks, I'm in for my 2¢, five others call (SB folds), and the turn comes... the case King. I've hit quads on the turn.

Unfortunately, three of the kings are on the scary looking board, which makes my chances for milking this out of position really slim. If I go in for 4¢, my only hope is that someone with a 9 will play agressively. If I were to try a checkraise, there's a huge chance that it'd check around, and I'd get nothing. I go in for 4¢. The guy to my left calls, and the other four players fold. No big payoff today.

The river's a blank, I go in for 4¢, and the guy to my left calls, showing an ace. Whoopty doo: 18¢ profit on quad kings.

(Incidentally, by best hand ever was a decade or so ago when I drew a 45678 straight flush in a five-card-draw game on a Scout trip. My third best was quad queens last May at the Seminole Hard Rock, at the $1/$2 limit table, which also didn't end up paying out very much.)

Saturday, February 18, 2006

300% Bonus; Caro power

Last night was a good night for me at the old home game. Ted, Shrek, Phil, and TMIB showed up, and over the course of about three hours, I grew my $10 buy in to $40.

Early on, TMIB asked about playable hands. For example, K5 offsuit, or what I like to call, "the home team". I advised that I'd never play it, but Shrek said that he'd call from the small blind, but would fold if the big blind raised. The very next hand, Shrek's on the small blind, it's folded to him, Phil raises, and Shrek folds, showing the home team.

The home team was good to me last night, because after that, I just couldn't fold it any of the three times I got it. Two of the three times, my king paired, and I won the pot. The third time, my five paired, and although I got to the end cheaply, it didn't hold up.

Two monster hands made my night, though. The first one, against Shrek, I get pocket aces on the big blind. Ted folds, Shrek puts in "a Ruleslawyer bet," which means 75¢, indicating he's got a hand, Phil folds, TMIB folds, and I raise "another Ruleslawyer bet" to $1.50. Shrek calls, and the flop is Tc8c2d. I bet $2, and Shrek goes all in for another $6.75. I discuss my thought process out loud to the table: "A pair of tens isn't an all-in hand, so he's got to have better than that. If he had two pair, he'd play it slower, to suck me in. Therefore, he's gotta be on a flush draw, holding a couple clubs. I've got Ac, so if we get runner runner clubs, I'd still win. With two cards left to come, he's got about a 40% chance to make it. Another $6.75 is less than 50% of the pot, so it makes sense for me to stay in. But he could be playing two pair. Should I fold these?"

I think about it a bit more, then stack up $6.75 in chips, and ask Shrek "$6.75?", watching him closely. He flinches and gulps.

Caro power.

I call. He turns over TxKc. His pair of tens doesn't improve by the river. I bring in a big pot and knock Shrek out.

About an hour of dealing, and Shrek's made enough in tips to come back into the game, and quickly triples it up to about $3. He had been playing lousy hands agressively, winning all-ins with hands like T8o. Then, I get pocket aces on the button, Shrek on the big blind. Phil folds, TMIB folds, I put in 75¢, Ted folds, and Shrek goes all in for $2.50 or so. As soon as the words "all-in" leave his mouth, I call and turn over my aces. Poor guy. He shows his wired threes, which don't hit the flop, and runs into an ace on the turn.

Ted did well, only down 80¢ for the night. Phil was down a couple of bucks, and TMIB ended up ahead, I think. Good times.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Sklansky + Microlimits = Profit

I can't say enough about Sklansky's Small Stakes Hold 'em, which, as I mentioned last week, I read before losing $50 at $1/$2 limit at Commerce Casino. I've been using its strategies intently at the 2¢/4¢ tables, and over the last week, have ended up...

2/7/06: +1.54
2/8/06: +1.74
2/9/06: -0.25
2/11/06: +1.17
2/14/06: +0.66
2/15/06: +1.56
Total: +6.42

In a nutshell, Sklansky says that at these no fold 'em tables, where any two cards can win, you're not going to scare off weak hands with agressive betting. Your pocket aces are a 6:1 favorite, but you'll see the river with four other people often enough that you're gonna get them cracked, frequently.

My inclination was to tighten up my play, paying monster pairs and maybe AK, AQ. Skalnsky points out that when you fold hands like T9s in the face of a 9-player limped-in pot, you're losing money; the pot odds are in your favor.

Instead, I've been watching the pot odds a lot more closely -- with five others in pre-flop, yeah, it makes sense to go in with A5s.

Sklansky's other advice is that when you get to the river, in these loose games, it's almost always a mistake to fold in the face of a bet. With a 40¢ pot, a 4¢ call gives you 10:1 pot odds, so you'd better be at least 90% sure that the other guy is bluffing. And in these games, you can't be 90% sure of anything.

Expect to see and lose a lot of hands, but those that you win, you'll win big. $1 pots haven't been uncommon.

(Side note: Before reading Small Stakes Hold 'em, I'd been sucessfully trying to play less than 20% of all hands pre-flop, including the blinds. In the last 163 hands, it's been 46%.)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Fear the AJo

I was party to an interesting series of hands tonight, started by my win of $1.57 (net $1.20) in a single hand of 2¢/4¢. I'm dealt AcJd, one off the button at an eight-player table. One player folds, the rest of the players limp to me. I raise to 4¢. The button calls, the small blind raises to 6¢, everyone stays in, I call, and the button caps it. Everyone calls; the pot's at 56¢ already, pre-flop.

The flop is Ad4c9d. Top pair, top kicker.

Small blind checks, big blind bets, the next three players limp, and I raise. Button calls, big blind raises(!), two limpers stay in and one folds. I re-raise to cap it at 8¢, and the four other players call. The pot is at 98¢.

The turn is As, giving me top set, top kicker. Nice. It's checked to me, I bet, the button calls, the big blind raises, the two limpers call, I re-raise, the button folds, and the big blind calls. I can smell her fear now; I put her on a big flush draw. The limpers call. The pot is $1.40.

The river's a Qh, so the blind's missed her flush. It's checked to me, I bet, the big blind folds, and the limpers call.

I take down the $1.52 pot. The limpers show A6o (with the 9 and Q on the board, his 6 kicker was worthless) and KQo (WTF?).

Over the next six hands, two more players get AJo and win with it.

Then, seven hands later, I'm dealt AJo again, and win a smaller 44¢ pot when I river the ace against Q5o, with a board of J4Q-3-A. Good times.

While Sklansky's book didn't help me on Monday, it's improved my online play a bit.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

To Seahawks and fans: don't sweat the bad beat

Chris Sprow of the Chicago Sports Review commisserates with the Seachickens, but warns of the danger for the team and the fans going on tilt.

The most dangerous person at a poker table is often the one who takes a "bad beat," which is poker terminology for playing a hand well, only to see the flop go against you, or your opponent to have made a hand that was statistically unexpected. It is a common term in poker, mostly used by people to describe their own play. It applies in other sports as well, for we all know that nobody ever loses because they played poorly, the cards just didn't go their way.
Seattle is in the same position now. Perhaps more than any team in Super Bowl history that doesn't have a kicker named Scott Norwood, they genuinely feel they lost a game that for moments, was in their grasp. They had the cards, they feel they played them well in most cases, and, from their perspective, the refs dealt them a death blow. Whether it was fate or conspiracy, they only know the franchise is languishing in despair.

Yesterday, when the Seahawks arrived home to a stadium where over 15,000 fans awaited them, Mike Holmgren drew a huge cheer (and probably an equally significant fine) when he said, "We knew it was going to be tough going against the Pittsburgh Steelers. I didn't know we were going to have to play the guys in the striped shirts as well."
Any team dealt such a hand needs to smart for a moment. The question is, will Seattle's fans be wise enough to eventually drop it, leave the conspiracy theories behind, and address the future, which, to anybody with some football sense, looks bright?

The fact is, those who spend too much time licking their own wounds can lose their taste for anything else. Namely, winning.

Seattle, an organization with class players and coaches, will recover quickly if they leave behind what was truly a bad beat.

Hopefully their fan base will allow them.

Monday, February 06, 2006

I must still be doing something wrong; (-$50)

Back in LA this week, and I've spent a lot of time last week, and on the plane down, reading Sklansky's Small Stakes Hold 'em. After my last visit to the $1/$2 no fold 'em tables (net result: about -$100 over three losing sessions), I knew I had to do something to play better. Tight but agressive didn't work. Super tight didn't work. Insane loose isn't something I'd dare to try -- the reason I'm at the $1/$2 tables is because I treasure my measly bankroll, and the variance would be too much playing hands like 83o every time.

After reading Sklansky, I realized that part of my problem was my tendency to fold hands that will very frequently lose, even though the pot odds said stay. For example, Sklansky writes:

For example, say you have 8d7d in the big blind. Four players limp, and the button raises. The small blind folds. You call, as do the limpers (12.5 small bets). The flop is Th7c5c

You check, and everyone else checks to the button, who bets. You should raise. You have middle pair and a [runner runner] backdoor straight draw. You estimate its worth at about five outs (the two-flush and the coordinated nature of the board lower the value of your hand somewhat). For a five out draw, you need the pot to lay about 8-to-1 to continue. Getting 13-to-1, you clearly should at least call. ... When the pot is large, invest extra bets if doing so improves your chance to win.

He later continues:

In small stakes games where many of your opponents play too many hands and go too far with them, the pots will often be big. This means that hands that will win only a small percentage of the time are still frequently good enough to pay off on the river, and some questionable raises can also be correct.

Several times, I got decent starting hands, ended up with overcards on the flop, the pot odds to six outs were good on the flop and river, and they never paired.

I won two hands all night (three hours). I sat down at a newly opened table, and got dealt KK in middle position. I bet it agressively, and ended up +$12 for the hand when my final opponent folded on the river.

The other winning hand I got dealt A9o on the small blind, and the flop came A99. My mistake on that hand was failing to raise it on the flop, hoping to keep people in (a mistake that Sklansky points out repeatedly). The turn and river were rags, but the guy to my right was the only other person in at the river, with AQ.

Otherwise, hands that I played the pot odds with never came through. Six times I had a flush draw on the turn and river; I hit it twice. The first time it hit I lost to a bigger flush. The second time I lost to a full house (fives over threes).

My pocket tens lost to pocket kings (mostly low board with a scary but ultimately harmless Q on the flop). My AKs and AKo never hit.

And my final hand, Qd9d, hit the flop which came 8Q3 rainbow, which I bet agressively in late position after it was checked to me and raised by the under-the-gun. Several players stayed in for the turn, but by the time it got to my final $3 all-in on the river, it was me and the UTG (one to the right of the button), who turns over his 83o for two pair. Sigh.

That's my bankroll for the week. It'll be a while before I hit brick and mortar play again.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Big stacks (of windows)

I've had five consecutive bad tourney finishes (i.e., out of the money, most by losing 45%/55% races), so it's temporarily back to the 2¢/4¢ limit games. They're obviously looser than, well, her, so the strategy, as always, is to play tight tight tight.

This leads to a generally boring game, so I spiced it up tonight by playing three tables at once. This worked well, and I ended up ahead on all three tables when the night was done. A few times, I had to act on two tables at the same time, and accidentally called once when I should have folded, but I think it really kept me more disciplined. Heck, I folded pocket kings when faced with a re-raise following an Ace on the turn. And pocket jacks when the flop came AQx. Those have always been hard hands for me to get away from.

But... on to the hand of the night:

Eight players, and I'm dealt QJo; I'm one off the button. Pre-flop, all but one player are in, so I call too, and the big blind raises 2¢. Everyone, including myself, calls. Two more cents to win 28¢? I'm liking those odds.

The flop is 3TQ rainbow. The question in my mind: pair of queens... is my J kicker good enough? I think so. BB checks, UTG bets 2¢, two callers and a folder later, I raise to 4¢. The button and SB folds, and the three remaining players call. At this point, I figure an overpair, AQ, or KQ would have re-raised, so I'm feeling good.

The turn's a 7. It's checked to me (my read: nobody's got a queen), and I bet 4¢. Two callers and a fold. Vey nice.

The rivers a 2. No straight possibilities, no flushies, it's checked to me, and I bet 4¢. BB calls, the last player folds, and BB shows TK for a pair of tens. I collect the 66¢ pot, net +50¢ for the hand, and net +96¢ for the night.

It's about time I won one of those. If this was last night, the river would have been a K.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Goonies 2: Dead, dead, dead

IGN Interviews Richard Donner: Part Two says:

IGNFF: A Goonies sequel has been discussed for years. I know you've gotten this question a million ways over the years, but the fans just want to know if there is still any hope. Do you think it could ever happen?

DONNER: We tried. No, I don't think so. We tried really hard. Steven and I, we pitched a couple of things to them and, quite honestly, they weren't right. And we put it aside. If I could ever find a really good handle on a screenplay for it, I'd go pitch it again, because talking about [something] I'd want to see… It's extraordinary. But it's got to be right, or don't do it, because I couldn't believe that movie. It's done to generations of kids what it's done.

IGNFF: I've shown Goonies to young kids recently, around 7 and 8 years old and they loved it. They watched it and were totally enraptured. They kept the DVD and watched it over and over.


IGNFF: Now they love to quote Chunk.

DONNER: You know, I still stay in touch with these kids. Chunk's a lawyer and he's great. Cory, he's doing great. He went through some s***, but he's really pulled himself out and he's clean and married and has a baby and he's the happiest kid. They're all good, they're all great. I love that movie. That's probably my favorite process of filmmaking in my life. I've fallen in love with all those kids. I was lucky because I never had kids. I never wanted kids. I wanted dogs. If I could come up with a really great concept, I would take it to Steven. And if it was really right, he'd know it too. Maybe one day Chris Columbus will write it for us and we'll get back to the old group.