Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A down Monday, my first B&M comp, and next week's strategy

Yeah, blogging this one a bit late.

The regular Monday vacation poker day started at Palace, where I signed up, then had to make an emergency run to my daughter's school for a few minutes. I returned 10 minutes into the tournament, having missed only one hand -- they started late. About 45 minutes later, on the button and with my stack about half of its original size, I push all in when a middle position raised. I show AK, he shows AJ, and a jack comes on the flop.

Over to the ring game, where I end up ahead about $40 before I leave to go to the noon Happy Days tourney. I also asked for a breakfast comp (my first time ever), and got it no questions asked. Free eggs. Sweet.

I've arrived at Happy Days a bit early, so I buy into the $3/$6 game there. Several times over the next 20 minutes I'm dealt the second best hand, play it too agressively, call weak draws with proper pot odds, and lose $100. At blackjack, I win a match play and lose a match play, play some more, and end up +$2.

I need to stick around at Palace longer next week. I don't know why I find the game there more profitable than Happy Days' ring games, but I'm roughly +$100 at Palace $3/$6 lifetime, and roughly -$180 at Happy Days $3/$6.

In the Happy Days tourney, I survive for about an hour before I get moved to another table. This table had lost several players, so I went from being one of the big stacks to being a very small stack. With no read on anyone yet, under the gun, blinds at $400/$800, and $2600 in front of me, I push pre-flop with 7 6. One caller shows pocket red threes. The board helps neither of us, and I go home.

It turns out that 7 6 is a 50% to 47% favorite over non-spade pocket threes (with a 3% chance to split the pot). I knew it was close, and figured I'd put my money into both tournament situations with the best hand, which is what you've gotta do. Even more importantly, I'd have done the same thing even if I'd known the cards I was facing.

In retrospect, I'm not so sure that was the right move.

I used a Barnes & Noble gift card (thanks, TMIB and Pony!) and bought The Poker Tournament Formula a few weeks ago. In it, Arnold Snyder discusses fast local tournaments, and how to play them differently than the longer, day-long tournaments that the other pros write about. In short, blind-stealing from two off the button is required when nobody's entered the pot; aggression into single-suited flops is mandatory. The odds are slim that someone has two clubs when three of them are on the flop, so it might as well be you who takes down the pot. To do so, though, you can't give someone proper pot odds to draw to their 40% chance to hit a fifth club on the turn or river, so you've got to bet big. Doing this, you'll win a lot of small pots, and lose big ones, but in short-term fast tournaments, you'll often not have the opportunity to lose the big one. By betting the pot, a caller is making a mistake, and as Sklansky points out in Small Stakes Hold 'em, poker profit comes from your opponent's mistakes.

Sklansky, however, is talking about $3/$6 play, not tournaments. In a tournament, making a play that will win 52% of the time is a quick way to the exit. Making my 7 6 move three times leaves me less than a 14% chance of survival. A better opportunity probably would have come along some time before I was blinded away in the next three orbits. My past tournament wins at Happy Days have come when I won a few small hands, then just waited for everyone else to get busted out.

Arnold says this playing this way -- playing early for survival -- will very rarely get me into the money, but that playing as the agressive blind thief will get big money finishes or nothing. That explains why I've never finished first in a brick and mortar tourney. However, I've gotten enough money finishes that if I play a super-tight strategy, I'll get my money back about half of the time, and will profit about 10% of the time. If that 10% covers the 35% of the time I bust out, I break even.

Next Monday, I play super tight in the tourneys, only committing my chips when I'm almost sure I've got an advantage. Only allin preflop with QQ-AA or AK pre-flop, and only all-in postflop with trips or better, until I'm in the money or my stack is an orbit or less deep. (We'll see in this space next week if I can actually do this.)

And I'm staying out of the Happy Days $3/$6 game.

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