Sunday, January 28, 2007

The $45 hand

I'd been playing for about 90 minutes at a $1/$2 table on PokerStars, and was down about $25. I'm one off the button, and I'm dealt K&diams Q. I chose the table because it's super tight, and sure enough, it's folded around to me. I raise to $2, and OhBoyGolf, who is on the button and who hasn't let me steal a blind all day, calls me. Small blind folds, big blind calls, and three of us see the flop:

K T 5

I've got top pair with a great kicker, and when the big blind checks, I know that if I bet, OhBoyGolf is going to call me with anything -- he may even raise me back, thinking that I'm trying to steal the pot for the fifth time this afternoon. I do, he does, the blind folds, and I re-raise him, as if to say "hey, I've really got it this time." He doesn't buy it, and caps it at $4.00. I call. At this point, I think he's got a king with a weaker kicker, and I'm in great shape to take down the pot.

Two players, $14.50 in the pot and the turn is K. I've turned trips, and I'm thinking he's got trips as well, but with a lower kicker. I bet $2.00, and we go back and forth, capping it.

The river is 8. There's a flush possibility, but if he was going for the flush, he wouldn't have been raising. I bet, we cap the pot, and he turns over 5&diams 5, making a full house. He'd had me beat from the start. I lost $22 on that one hand, because I couldn't slow down and think about what he might be beating me with.

Sometimes, I'm quite the donkey.

I won another hand a few minutes later, only losing $40 for the session. I also hit the play requirements to collect my $37.50 bonus, so in the end, I was only down $2.50 for the day.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Shuffled thoughts

  • I've been trying for a few months now to figure out why my online poker balance has been so stagnant. PokerTracker shows that I'm winning about 52% of my sessions, and my current balance is just about down to where it was on November 1 -- after peaking $150 higher around Thanksgiving, it's been a slow erratic ride back down. I think I've been underestimating the skill level of the online player. I play the same quality starting hands, but in situations where I'm faced with the decision of "should I fold, or is he overplaying the second best hand?", I've been calling -- and losing. I need to respect more of my opponents' bets.
  • Therefore, in complete contradiction of some of the best advice I've heard and read, I moved up to the $1/$2 games today, which really forces me to respect their bets. (The general advice is not to move up a level until you're consistently beating the lower level game.) I ended up +$17.
  • Check out this $34 pot at the $1/$2 table. If I'd have had a deuce, I think I'd have been the victim of a virtual lynching.
  • Next I went to Happy Days to play in the $3/$6 ring game. Live poker is much better -- you can much more easily tell who's just throwing money in the pot, and who's representing strength. The last time I played a ring game here, a couple years ago, I think, I burned through $100 lickety split. Tonight, I played for about two hours, ending up +$36, plus a free orange juice :-) Not bad considering my best hand was hitting an ace on the flop with AJs. My highest pair was 77, and my biggest pot came when I represented a paired ace when I only held a paired ten.
  • Sigh. Happy Days' tournament schedule has been adjusted again. Sunday through Wednesday, they've got a midnight tournament. Thursday, it's a 10:00 ... something. The signs are inconsistent; it's either a $20+$5 industry tournament, or a $5 buy-in $5 bounty tournament with a single $20 rebuy. And they've got the $20+$5 seven days a week at noon and 7:00 p.m.
  • Their bad beat jackpot (AAAKK or better beaten by quads or better) was at $100,513 tonight. It wasn't hit, but some guy the next table over hit a royal flush on the turn for a $3020 jackpot. I think he kissed the (male) dealer.
  • Their rake is insane. For any pot other than a small one, it's a $3 rake plus $2 for the jackpot.
  • They're also running out of white chips. The poker room manager had to buy a rack off of a guy at my table, and told us that an order for 2500 new white chips was in production, but hadn't arrived yet.
  • Seattle Poker Forum has information about local casinos. Some of it's even accurate.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A sensible poker law

Following is a copy of an e-mail I sent to Rep. Steve Conway (R-Mercer Island), and cc:ed to my local state senator and representative. (Hyperlink added)

Subject: In Support of HB 1243: Please schedule a hearing
From: [me]
Date: Thu, January 25, 2007 10:11 am
Priority: Normal

Mr. Conway:

I am writing in support of House Bill 1243, "Providing an affirmative defense to unlawful internet gambling if the defendant committed the offense in his or her primary residence." Please schedule a hearing for this bill.

I am a lifelong resident of Lakewood, and believe it is incongruent of the state of Washington to have made online poker a class C felony, while still permitting home poker games, licensing local casinos, and advocating the state's sale of lottery tickets.


[signature and contact information]

cc: 28th District legislators Mike Carrell, Tami Green, and Troy Kelley

Props to the Poker Players Alliance for the heads up on the existence of this bill.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The sky, it's a falling


Effective Immediately

Due to recent US legislative changes and events, effective immediately, US members are no longer able to transfer funds to or from any online gambling sites.

All US members will continue to be able to use their NETELLER e-wallet account to safely transfer funds to and from non-gambling merchants and are not required to close their account or withdraw their funds.

I received several e-mails from many of the online casinos I played at last summer, plus e-mail from FullTilt[1] and PokerStars. In short, without sending a check or money order, it's going to be difficult to get money into our out of online gambling sites.

Wil Wheaton comments at thusly at CardSquad: this is the beginning of the end:

See, I really like poker, but I'm not rich, and while I'm entirely comfortable risking the price of a night out for dinner and a movie to play cards and maybe even leave with more than I started, I don't see myself driving to Commerce or the Bike, or making a special trip to Vegas to play in a B&M room for higher stakes, with the associated costs of travel and the extra investment of my time.

There are a lot of reasons to loathe my idiot government now, and this is right up there in my top five: they're telling me what I can do in my own home, and they're negatively impacting my ability to support myself and my family . . . and for what, exactly? So Bill Frist can pander to a minority of ultra-conservative whackos, and then not even follow through on his presidential bid?

This sucks. It makes me angry, and it makes me depressed.

Wil refers to Bill Rini's article, in which Bill accurately points out that the sky is indeed falling:

The problem is, IMHO, people like Amy who tell people that the sky isn’t falling. It gives credit to those saying this is some sort of isolated incident. Just like Firepay[2] was an isolated incident, Party[3] leaving the US was an isolated incident, Paradise[4] leaving the US was an isolated incident, yadda, yadda, yadda. People need to wake up and realize the US government has come to the playing field with their A-Game. We’re bumbling around arguing about whether there’s even a game today or not. The sky IS falling! How can you watch these multi-billion dollar a year companies bolting out of the US faster than you move your hand off a hot stove and think this is something that’s going to easily pass?

If you have even one iota of knowledge about how money moves around in this business the goals of the UIGEA[5] should have sent cold shivers down your spine. The guys who wrote the bill either by design or by complete fluke figured out how to best kill an online poker company; starve it to death.

What's going to happen? Well, for me, I've got about $150 sitting in PokerStars, and a few bucks either at FullTilt or BoDog. Those few bucks will need to grow to at least $50 to make a permissible withdrawl. The $150 will have to be the basis for my entire future play, which will need to be pretty much exclusively at PokerStars, unless I want to go through the multi-week process of getting a withdrawl, cashing the check, and writing a new check to another source. (Western Union fees make using them prohibitive.)

Assuming everyone's in a similar spot, the way I see it playing out is like this: very few new players will be sending checks to put money into their accounts. It's too time consuming, and most casual players probably made their first deposit on a whim. This means that, for the most part, the only money in play will be money that people had in their accounts on January 18.

Generally, the weakest players will lose their bankrolls first. Few new players will sign up to take their spots. PokerStars, who has had 40,000-80,000 players at a time each evening, will see these numbers drop as the better players take the money from the fish. As the numbers drop, the caliber of the average player increases. The medium sized fish, who have eaten all the small fish, become the small fish. I'm guessing that I'm one of these medium sized fish.

A smart fish (I'm an example of this, I hope) will play until they're in the lower half of the skill level of the remaining players. The smart thing to do is to play until this point, then withdraw all funds. The tough part is determining what this point is. Maybe I'm already there. At that point, the pool of players gets smaller and smaller, until it's a small handful of very good US players, and middle-to-good players from outside the US.

At least I can drive a mile and visit a local B&M casino. This has to really suck for people who live in places like Dallas or Salt Lake City, where the nearest card room is several hours away (or available in the warehouse district only if you use the secret knock and password).


[1] From an e-mail from FullTilt: "As you may be aware, NETeller has announced that it will no longer accept transfer requests from U.S. customers to online poker sites or allow withdrawals from online poker sites to your NETeller account, effective immediately."

[2] Firepay was an online payment processor, like Neteller and PayPal. PayPal pulled out of the online gambling market a couple years ago, when they were getting dinged with too many chargebacks.

[3], [4] PartyPoker and Paradise pulled out in October, with a slew of other sites.

[5] The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. This is the party of smaller government?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

You know it's going to be good

These are the kind of receipts parents fear to find. Good thing it was me making the purchase.

(Yes, we already had enough baking soda already.)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Tacoma's monopoly

Spotted at Exit 133 this morning: City buys The News Tribune

Other critics of the purchased have pointed out the City’s monopoly is actually far wider than just the media. The ACLU, which is representing Cosgrove against the City, said, “Let’s look at the facts. Besides Click! and the Tribune, the City owns the Water Works and the Electric Company, plus one of the four railroads. They also have the biggest monopoly in town: Park Place (both North and South garages) and they’ve begun building a hotel on Boardwalk (which they’ve tried to rename as ‘The Esplanade.’)”

Later in the article, they mention Tacoma's short line railroad, and that free parking is available on downtown streets.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Kansas City (lowball), here I come

I don't know how long PokerStars has offered it, but I started playing 2-7 Triple Draw earlier this week (which the cool geezers call Kansas City lowball). It's a nice change, similar to Razz, and there's an amazing lack of strategy written on how to play it.

Two months ago, PokerNews wrote a decent article on the strategy. Michael Weisenberg also wrote a pretty good article for Card Player last year. But the undisputed bible of the game is Daniel Negreanu's chapter in Super/System 2.

I played the game with play money for a while, learning the rules as I went (five card draw, three drawing rounds, worst poker hand wins, straights and flushes count against you, so the best hand is 75432). I liked it, so I searched and found the two online articles I mentioned above. I played it some more and started stomping the play money tables.

I'm too much of a cheapass to actually go buy a poker book (the only ones I own are copies of magazines I bought at the airport), so I went to Barnes & Noble, sat down with Super/System 2, and made notes in my Blackberry. As my contribution to the body of knowledge online, here's my notes:

If you don't have a 2 in your hand, fold, unless you're defending the big blind or stealing from the button. Even then, you're probably not playing too wrong to fold it.

With these starting hands, do the following:

234Raise or Reraise
235Raise or Reraise
236Playable, fold if lots of action
237Raise or Reraise
238Fold in early pos, raise in late
23xxxOnly to steal
245Raise or Reraise
246Playable, fold if lots of action
247Raise or Reraise
248Fold in early pos, raise in late
24xxxOnly to steal
256Playable, fold if lots of action
257Raise or Reraise
258Fold in early pos, raise in late
25xxxOnly to steal
267Playable, fold if lots of action
26xxxFold - the straight possibilities will kill you
27xxxOnly to steal
347Only to steal or def. blinds
348Only to steal or def. blinds
357Only to steal or def. blinds
358Only to steal or def. blinds
367Only to steal or def. blinds
457Only to steal or def. blinds

If you find yourself thinking "This 9-high hand is probably good," it probably isn't.

If you are holding onto an 8 and betting to draw two cards, fold instead.

If you are holding onto an 8, betting to draw one card, and are afraid you'll hit a straight, fold instead.

That's abuot it. Using this strategy at three (non simultaneous) 50¢/$1 tables this morning, I ended up +$9.10, -$20.00, and +$9.35. The -$20 was me playing too many eights and nines. A bit more practice, and I'm gonna do well at this game.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Another Stud Hi/Lo hand: how lo can you go?

This hand features many of the same characters, as it took place only about five minutes after the hand I posted earlier this morning.

Eight of us post the nickel ante, and I'm dealt A 2 7. There's six stoppers showing -- one of the eight of us has a 9 for the highest card on the table. My 72A is usually pretty good, but there's going to be a lot of people drawing to the low, and a lot of low cards are already gone.

Toffee74 brings in for 25¢ with his 3, and he gets four callers. I raise to 50¢, and Cardrush (to my left) folds. Toffee74 re-raises to 75¢ (hey! don't scare away the fish!), and five of us call, including me.

It's all non-pairing high cards on fourth street, except damajha, who is showing a 65 (another blocker). It's checked to Toffee74, who bets 50¢. Everybody calls, and six players go to fifth street.

I get a 3, giving me J732A. There's a nice low on its way, folks. Only two players have lower possibles: damajaha showing 965, and Toffee74 showing 963. It's checked to me, I bet $1, and Toffee74 raises to $2. One more caller, damajaha and two others fold, and I call.

4. Monster. 7432A. It's checked to me, and Toffee74 and I cap it, trapping poor Galster64 in the middle, calling away.

The river gets me another ace, for [A 2] 7 J 3 4 [A], my monster low and AAJ74 for a weak high.

Galster64 checks, I bet, Toffee74 raises, Galster folds, and we cap it off. He shows [7 5] 3 9 6 J [8] for a jack-high flush, but his low is only 87653, so we split the pot.

*** SHOW DOWN ***
toffee74: shows [7d 5d 3d 9d 6s Jd 8c] (HI: a flush, Jack high; LO: 8,7,6,5,3)
LauricT: shows [As 2c 7c Jh 3h 4d Ad] (HI: a pair of Aces; LO: 7,4,3,2,A)
toffee74 collected $17.45 from pot
LauricT collected $17.45 from pot

$34.90 in the pot in a 50¢/$1 game. Amazing.

Does the E in HORSE stand for +EV?

The beauty of low limit HORSE -- particularly in the Omaha and Stud Hi/Lo games, is that you'll get three or four players going to the river, and if you're going for the low, it's usually pretty easy to see that the other players are going for the high. Therefore, you jam the pot, because betting $4 to make the other two players put $8 in the pot is a very +EV maneuver. Two amazing hands from last night illustrate this well. One now, one in a future post.

It's Stud Hi/Lo, and all eight players post the 5¢ ante. I'm dealt (8 5) A. My strategy for Stud Hi/Lo is to go for the low, with the idea that I might back into the high. I'll only go for the high if I get dealt a monster to start. 85A is a decent hand to go for the low, and as I look around the table, there's only three low-blockers visible (two sevens and a four). I keep track of the number of blockers on one hand; when it gets to six, it's time to start thinking about folding.

Seven players, including me, go to fourth street for the 25¢ bring-in minimum. I get 7, for an 875A low draw with three cards to come. With my ace showing, I'm the current high hand, so I lead with a 5o¢ bet. I get four callers, with only one other person possibly going for the low, toffee74 with 7 A.

Five of us go to fifth street, where I get 6. I've made a low, but not a very good one, 8765A. However, I now have a straight possiblity -- might I scoop this one? Toffee74 got a 2, giving him three to the nut low. Cardrush, who is sitting on my left got a second ten, giving him the current high hand of T 9 T.

Cardrush checks, as does everyone else, so when it gets to me, I put in the $1 bet. Cardrush then checkraises me to $2, implying that he's got trip tens. With just five cards, I can't imagine he's got a boat yet. Toffee74 folds to the checkraise (this is huge!), kt10k (with 4 Q K) calls the $2, ssvaw25 folds, and I reraise to $3. Only two more blockers have come out, so I've got 7 outs to significantly improve my low, plus two more nines to make a straight (the two fours remaining for the straight are also part of the seven low cards). Nine outs with two cards to come almost demands that I raise here, and doing so will tell me the strength of Cardrush's and kt10k's hands. More importantly, though, I've got a made low, and I'm facing TT9 and KQ4. I'm pretty much a lock for half the pot. With two other players still in, building the pot is almost mandatory here.

Cardrush and kt10k both call (a sign that they fear each other's high hand), and on sixth street I get 7; the low Hellmuthian pair is not much use to me. Cardrush gets a worthless looking 5; kt10k gets A, giving him a possible broadway straight, but with two of the tens in Cardrush's hand, I don't think that's a strong possibility, particularly after they both check to me. I bet $1 to build the pot, and they obligingly call.

On the river, I get 6, for a high hand of 7766A, and a low of 8765A. They both check to me, I bet $1 to build the pot, and they call again.

*** SHOW DOWN ***
LauricT: shows [8d 5h As 7s 6d 7h 6s] (HI: two pair, Sevens and Sixes; LO: 8,7,6,5,A)
cardrush: mucks hand
kt10k: mucks hand
LauricT collected $9.60 from pot
LauricT collected $9.55 from pot
kt10k leaves the table
LauricT said, "wow"

The hand history shows that Cardrush mucked [2 J] T 9 T 5 [8]. what was he even doing getting in the hand with JT2? And checkraising with TTJ92 with only two cards to come?

kt10k mucked [Q 3] 4 Q K A [8]. He never raised during the hand, just calling every bet. Q43 is not a good starting hand, although when he hit a pair of queens on fourth street, he might have thought he was good to improve. Two aces, a king, and another queen were already out, though, so he couldn't have felt too good. After that, he was just wedded to high looking cards.

It was Toffee74's fold on fifth street that told me I had the green light to jam the pot with my made low. Every bet beyond that point was going to pay off 1:1, with a 100% +EV. Backing into the high was the icing on the cake.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

HORSE: a $46.40 pot in Stud Hi/Lo

I've been doing surprisingly well the last couple of days at PokerStars HORSE tables, both tournaments and ring games. Pretty simple, really: follow my list of starting hands in Omaha, start with three unpaired cards <= 8 in Razz or Stud Hi/Lo, and start with JJx or better in Stud.

And then this game happened tonight (edited out irrelevant stuff):

PokerStars Game: HORSE (7 Card Stud Hi/Lo Limit, $0.50/$1.00) - 2007/01/07 - 04:09:37 (ET)
Seat 1: Sofa_KingLky ($19.10 in chips)
Seat 2: GigaDeck ($11.80 in chips)
Seat 3: QuinnDnvr ($18.70 in chips)
Seat 4: dlazmdm ($28.85 in chips)
Seat 5: LauricT ($23 in chips)
Seat 6: aislepoker ($21.65 in chips)
Seat 7: ~Angel Kiss~ ($26.65 in chips)
Seat 8: wizball ($12.15 in chips)
[All players post $0.05 ante]
*** 3rd STREET ***
Dealt to GigaDeck [2d]
Dealt to QuinnDnvr [Js]
Dealt to LauricT [6h Ac 5d]
Dealt to aislepoker [Kd]
Dealt to wizball [7h]
GigaDeck: brings-in low $0.25
QuinnDnvr: calls $0.25
dlazmdm: folds
LauricT: raises $0.25 to $0.50 (I've got a good start on the low)
aislepoker: calls $0.50
~Angel Kiss~: folds
wizball: calls $0.50
Sofa_KingLky: folds
GigaDeck: calls $0.25
QuinnDnvr: calls $0.25
*** 4th STREET ***
Dealt to GigaDeck [2d] [7c]
Dealt to QuinnDnvr [Js] [Jc]
Dealt to LauricT [6h Ac 5d] [Ad] (QuinnDnvr looks to be the one I'll showdown against. And my buried aces beat his jacks. He called before my raise, so I don't think he's got a J down)
Dealt to aislepoker [Kd] [Qs]
Dealt to wizball [7h] [8c]
QuinnDnvr: checks
LauricT: bets $0.50
aislepoker: calls $0.50
wizball: calls $0.50
GigaDeck: calls $0.50
QuinnDnvr: raises $0.50 to $1 (I think he's looking for information here)
LauricT: raises $0.50 to $1.50 (So here's your information. I've got you beat.)
aislepoker: calls $1
wizball: calls $1
GigaDeck: calls $1
QuinnDnvr: calls $0.50
*** 5th STREET ***
Dealt to GigaDeck [2d 7c] [Kc]
Dealt to QuinnDnvr [Js Jc] [Jh] (!!!)
Dealt to LauricT [6h Ac 5d Ad] [Ah] (See? Beat.)
Dealt to aislepoker [Kd Qs] [9c]
Dealt to wizball [7h 8c] [5s]
QuinnDnvr: bets $1
LauricT: raises $1 to $2 (What I'm trying to say: Hey buddy, here's what I think of your three hooks! What I'm really thinking: Crap -- hope he doesn't have a concealed pair for a boat)
aislepoker: folds
wizball: raises $1 to $3 (Where'd he come from? Looks like he's pushing for the low; he can have it now.)
GigaDeck: calls $3
QuinnDnvr: raises $1 to $4 (I've got AA showing, and he raises with JJJ. His boat has me worried.)
Betting is capped
LauricT: calls $2
wizball: calls $1
GigaDeck: calls $1
*** 6th STREET ***
Dealt to GigaDeck [2d 7c Kc] [4s]
Dealt to QuinnDnvr [Js Jc Jh] [9s]
Dealt to LauricT [6h Ac 5d Ad Ah] [3s] (Nice. I still have a draw for the low.)
Dealt to wizball [7h 8c 5s] [6d]
QuinnDnvr: bets $1
LauricT: calls $1
wizball: raises $1 to $2 (Showing possible straight.)
GigaDeck: calls $2
QuinnDnvr: calls $1 (We fear the straight.)
LauricT: calls $1 (Yes, we do.)
*** RIVER ***
Dealt to LauricT [6h Ac 5d Ad Ah 3s] [3c] (Boat!)
QuinnDnvr: bets $1
LauricT: raises $1 to $2 (I no longer fear the straight, nor QuinnDnvr's concealed pair. Only if QuinnDnvr has Jd hidden would his quads beat me.)
wizball: raises $1 to $3
GigaDeck: folds (Thanks for your money. Try the veal.)
QuinnDnvr: calls $2 (A good sign)
LauricT: raises $1 to $4 (Feed me.)
Betting is capped
wizball: calls $1
QuinnDnvr: calls $1
*** SHOW DOWN ***
LauricT: shows [6h Ac 5d Ad Ah 3s 3c] (HI: a full house, Aces full of Threes)
wizball: shows [2c 6c 7h 8c 5s 6d 4c] (HI: a straight, Four to Eight; LO: 7,6,5,4,2)
QuinnDnvr: mucks hand [6s 7s Js Jc Jh 9s 2s] F(a flush, Jack high)
LauricT collected $22.95 from pot
wizball collected $22.95 from pot
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $46.40 | Rake $0.50
Seat 1: Sofa_KingLky folded on the 3rd Street (didn't bet)
Seat 2: GigaDeck folded on the River
Seat 3: QuinnDnvr mucked [6s 7s Js Jc Jh 9s 2s]
Seat 4: dlazmdm folded on the 3rd Street (didn't bet)
Seat 5: LauricT showed [6h Ac 5d Ad Ah 3s 3c] and won ($22.95) with HI: a full house, Aces full of Threes
Seat 6: aislepoker folded on the 5th Street
Seat 7: ~Angel Kiss~ folded on the 3rd Street (didn't bet)
Seat 8: wizball showed [2c 6c 7h 8c 5s 6d 4c] and won ($22.95) with HI: a straight, Four to Eight; LO: 7,6,5,4,2

Sucks to be QuinnDnvr.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Key to winning at Happy Days: stay out of hands

Played the midnight tournament at Happy Days Casino last night ($25 entry fee), won both match plays (+$40), some additional blackjack (+$5), placed fifth (+$52), ending up net +$72. One very loud guy at the table -- from his loud, social demeanor; his shiny silk tie; his short buzzcut hair; and his discussion of 2006 model year car deals, I think he was a car salesman -- really made me focus on my play, and the table image I was projecting.

Early in the game, I'm dealt AA in middle position. Starting stacks are 5000, and everyone's still close to that. UTG raises to 600, and I re-raise to 1500. The cutoff calls, the original raiser calls, and everyone else folds. The flop comes pretty raggy, so I'm sure my aces are good. UTG checks, I put in another 1500, the button thinks for a minute, and calls. UTG folds, and the turn is a Q. I push all in. The button folds, and I muck my cards.

The car salesman (in seat 8) says something to the effect of "Nicely played. I can tell you didn't have anything. Why didn't you show?" I'm in seat 3, and I glance around the table. "Nobody paid to see it," I say. He's not sure what to make of that comment.

Twice over the next 30 minutes, I'm in the pot with the best hand, and get outdrawn. (The guy to my left gets pocket kings four times over the course of the night, getting beat all four times, including once at the final table to go out in 8th place.) Each time was an all-in (against smaller stacks), so my quality cards are shown. Car salesman points out my quality hands to the table: "You're playing exactly right, but you're not winning the hands," he says. "Guess you can throw your well thought-out poker theories right out the window. What 'cha gonna do?"

"Deuce seven, all the way to the river," I answer. The table's amused.

About 20 minutes later, with 23 players left, I get moved to another table. One hand later, I'm moved back to my original table, but now in seat 6, one away from the car salesman. The blinds are moving up, and because of the table image I have set for myself, I'm able to steal car salesman's blinds twice with marginal hands. He'll call almost anyone else at the table, but not me.

I've got a relatively small stack, but I know the other looser players will quickly start knocking each other out now, so I muck pocket threes, KJo, and pocket sixes when faced with a raiser ahead of me. These hands might have won, but at this point, it's just about survival.

My stack is pathetically small -- 11000 -- but I make it to the final table, with blinds at 4000/8000. The ten of us make the "Happy Days Special" deal: 6th-10th get $25; 10% of the pool is a dealer tip. I'm at least going to get my buyin back. Lucky for me, I draw the button, which gives me one orbit to get a good hand. The best I get is Q9s, with five hands to go before the blind, and I fold it. Nothing else comes. With 8 players left, I post my 8000 blind.

Everyone folds, including the small blind. "Looks like I get to live to see another day." I say. Now with 15000, I post the small blind, and fold it in the face of an all-in when I get a garbage hand.

With 11000 left, I get another two bad hands, then the blinds go up to 5000/10000, and we color up. The 11000 becomes 15000, meaning I'll get to the small blind if I have to. No good hands come, but three more players drop out -- two of them in a monster three-way all-in fest. I'm in the positive money. In the big blind, I push all in pre-flop with KJo. It's folded to the small blind (a big stack), who calls me with T7o. A ten hits the flop, nothing helps me, IGHN.

If I'd played those low pocket pairs close to bubbleville, or if I'd have run with the Q9s, I don't think I'd have made it as far. It seems like folding anything less than a premium hand is the key to placing in the money at Happy Days.

The key to placing in the big money, on the other hand, is to call smaller stacks all-ins with losing hands (K9o against AT), then get lucky when a four-on-the-board flush hits you. This happened more times than I can count last night. Too risky for me to play that way.

(Also, I ran into a former scout from when I was scoutmaster -- Kaspar was in the tournament, too, and although he looked forward to knocking me out, we never made it to the same table.)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

It's just $5

Bodog offers a $4 + $0.40 tournament, 10 players, top five positions pay $4-$6-$8-$10-$12. Yes, half the field gets paid. I'm pretty sure if you sign up and fold every hand, you'll end up ahead enough to make it profitable.

Yesterday, I got knocked out of three of these in a row, out of the money, losing all three going with the best hand. JJ lost to A9 on a 9-high flop when the river brought another 9. AK lost to AQ preflop when a Q hit. And AJ lost to QT on a board of AJK-J-x. At the 5¢/10¢ limit tables, I got schooled for another 80¢ losing to hands like a calling station's pocket threes when they rivered a set.

Fine. I can play that game. I mentally wrote off another $5, and decided I'd sign up to a 5¢/10¢ limit tables and see the flop at any price, then fold if I didn't hit the flop hard.

I dropped down to about $3.80, then brought down a monster pot when my 52s (calling a capped pre-flop pot) rivered a flush against pocket aces and TPTK. Take that!