Monday, July 23, 2007

Whatta player...

This last month has been basically insane. Not because I've doubled my bankroll or anything, but because I've only posted 2 sessions out of 20 where I didn't finish in the black! How is that possible you ask? Well, I haven't had more than a couple of bad beats for big pots, so I guess my good play has largely been justly rewarded! I'm making laydowns with what must be the correct frequency, as my aggressive plays continue to have a positive expectation. Even when I encounter resistance but can then occasionally sense it is not genuine adds greatly to my profits. In accordance with that, I'm very rarely getting out of line with my raises preflop, and I'm making far less mistakes in terms of position.

I think one of the best adjustments I've made recently is one advocated by Phil Gordon in his Little Green Book: don't play suited connectors out of position against a preflop raiser. Until recently I'd been trying to break players by calling preflop raises and occasionally re-raises with suited connectors from the blinds or early position, and I was then trying to play draws out of position for the rest of the hand. Phil reminded me that only pocket pairs can effectively be played out of position, as you can either hit the flop and be in excellent shape, or simply miss and get away cheaply. For drawing hands you need the option of checking or betting which position grants you, otherwise you will pay far too much for your draws if there has been substantial preflop action.

When you run well, poker seems the easiest game in the world. I recognise things must be going very well mostly through the absence of the doubt and uncertainty that usually constantly plague me! I sit down at the moment fully expecting to win, and I daresay this confidence is helping my performance considerably. To keep this from becoming a form of arrogance, I remind myself I'm still down 1.5k on FTP, and continue to grind out the $0.25/0.50 games to initiate my return. Given this current good run, I'm glad I'm now very familiar with both the good and bad effects of variance, as it has helped build my patience along with a limited immunity to tilt.

I continue to be challenged and motivated by the exploits of all the other bloggers I read about (see those on the right for a shortlist), and am glad that they always provide me with a level of discipline and other ideals to strive toward. Thanks guys. Next month I want to hit 30k and have a shot at a $5/10 game. Wish me luck!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Folding a set!!!

Interesting hand came up when playing some $3/6 the other night, and would appreciate any comments/thoughts on how I should actually have played it.
Table: typical $3/6, with at least one pf raise nearly every hand.
I'm dealt JdJs in the BB. One player limps, the cutoff makes it $34. All fold, I smooth call the $28 extra, as usually I would re-raise here but here I'm balancing my play.

Flop comes: Ks Th 9h Pot $74
I check, intending to check call. The cutoff also checks. OK, this narrows his range a lot. My first instinct is that this guy just flopped a monster. I'm thinking a set or the nut straight, maybe with a straight flush draw also. Other hands possible are an underpair from 66-88 or QQ, or a monster draw such as AhQh.

Turn: Ks Th 9h (Jc) Pot $74
Now I'm thrilled and horrified by this card. Obviously I'm now beating 2 of the 3 flopped sets I may be facing, but am a dog to AQ, QQ, and am only 27% to improve against the idiot straight! Against KK I have only 5 outs. I decide I want to see the river, so I make a blocking bet to represent the Q, so I bet $45, roughly 2/3 of the pot. Unfortunately, my opponent moves allin for $420 more.

Now I can really narrow his range, namely to a flopped set or a straight made on the flop or turn, and not the idiot straight at that. I don't put him on AQ, as he would milk with this. So, the more likely hand seems to be QJs, especially given the flop check and the apparent scared push on the turn, but is it likely every J is out? QQ is the next most likely candidate, and would tie in with all the action so far, apart from the size of the push. The alternative is a set that doesn't read me for the Q and hopes I lay down. Against the sets, I'm 66% to win. Against everything else at this point, with only the river to come I'm a solid dog. With all this in mind, I folded my 2nd set.

Am I missing a hand here? Should I include AhKh in his range? Most importantly, should I have folded here? Please let me know how I could have played this better.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Fish and chips

I got a reminder the other day that the fish are alive and well. Needless to say I added this particular individual to my buddy list, and he will be paying for my next Argentinian fillet steak....

Hand #44149311-4653 at Clifton (No Limit Hold'em)
Started at 08/Jul/07 06:39:10

Incrediboy is at seat 0 with $390.
Kooox is at seat 1 with $803.10.
tsigaty is at seat 2 with $834.40.
phishman1111 is at seat 3 with $234.50.
Mkind0516 is at seat 4 with $636.10.
Boobie Lover is at seat 5 with $856.80.
The button is at seat 5.

Incrediboy posts the small blind of $2.
Kooox posts the big blind of $4.

Incrediboy: 8h 8c
Kooox: -- --
tsigaty: -- --
phishman1111: -- --
Mkind0516: -- --
Boobie Lover: -- --

tsigaty raises to $8. phishman1111 calls. Mkind0516
folds. Boobie Lover folds. Incrediboy calls.
Kooox calls.

Flop (board: 9h 8s 3d):
Incrediboy checks.
Kooox checks.
tsigaty bets $21.
phishman1111 raises to $42.
Incrediboy re-raises to
$66. Kooox folds.
tsigaty re-raises to $201. <--- can he possible have 99???
phishman1111 folds.
Incrediboy goes all-in for $382.
tsigaty calls.

Turn (board: 9h 8s 3d Qd): <--- didn't like this, as JT now beats me (no action in this round)

River (board: 9h 8s 3d Qd 6d): <--- now T7 beats me too.... (no action in this round)

Incrediboy shows 8h 8c.
Incrediboy has 8h 8c 9h 8s Qd: three eights.
tsigaty shows 9d 8d.
tsigaty has 9d 8d 3d Qd 6d: flush, queen high. <--- oh. ok. right. the flush. of course.
Hand #44149311-4653 Summary:
$3 is raked from a pot of $838.
tsigaty wins $835 with flush, queen high.

Would you believe he had 13% chance of actually winning this when the money went in? I'm not sure, but I think that means I was almost a strong favourite to pull in this pot. Almost, of course, being the operative word!
A plague on all backdoor draws, and a pox on the monkeys that hit them.....

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Feeling the pulse

Happy to report that yesterday I got in a good few hours of play, and that they were a few hours of good play. I was fortunate enough to be rewarded for my sound decision making as the bad beats were few and far between.

I'm beginning to develop what I think of as an ability to feel the 'pulse' of a given game. Now this is something that is probably instinctively recognised by most pros, but it has occurred to me that the collective behaviour of the players at a given table should influence your decision making, so I thought I would make some observations about it.
First thing I think you should note is that you can't really study the behaviour of players at lower limits. No offence to anyone who plays under $1/2 NLH (that's where I built the core of my bankroll!) but the play at that limit ranges from weak to ABC poker. This kind of study I think only applies at the bigger limits.
When sitting down at such a table you should normally be taking notes of all the obvious variables: who is big/short stacked, who is playing aggressively/tight, and who has been winning the last few pots. If someone just suffered a bad beat, you should pay attention to that fact also. However, there is more information to be gleaned about the play at this particular table. This information is what each player is thinking and feeling: you are looking to understand their current psychological temperament. If you know this on top of knowing the individual playing style and image of each opponent, you will have a wealth of information to apply to each play you encounter.
Determining a players state of mind goes beyond looking out for bad-beat tilt and short-stacks willing to raise allin any flop with top-pair. Those things are usually the end result of a bad session or an allin gone wrong. I think you need to focus on the interim hands within a playing session. Has a player just been the victim of a bluff? Did they just have a big bluff called? Has the board conspired to force them to fold what looked like a monster hand? Have they just been beaten out of a big pot by a moron 2 pair? All of these things will have an impact on that player's mindset, and also on that of the other player involved. By keeping track of the results of each hand, and predicting the associated psychological impact these hands are having, you can usually derive an edge by understanding the reason a player is playing a particular hand.

For example, lets say an aggressive player in seat 5 has just been bluffed off a big pot by a player in seat 2. For the next few rounds, player 5 is much more likely to enter a pot where player 2 is also involved. Why? Because he likely feels cheated and as such will probably not be playing stronger hands, but will instead be playing weaker hands stronger, either in an attempt to prove that he can't always be bluffed or simply to get 'revenge'.
If you were player 2, this would be very useful information, and you could expect to have your value bets called much more often.
What about if you were player 6 and recognised the above? Then, after a raise from player 2, and a call from player 5, you would feel much more confident about re-raising both players, as if player 2 folds then player 5 will probably not feel the need to be in the pot any longer, and will also fold.

This type of analysis can be viewed as an extension of note taking, but I think it goes deeper than observing instances of cause and effect (ie after getting bluffed a player will call more often). If you have an idea of what a player is thinking or feeling (especially if it's "I can't catch a break...") then will be better able to adjust your own play to effectively exploit any flaws their current mindset may afford.

By bearing in mind the psychological elements of poker table warfare, you will have another layer of data to use in your interpretation of a players actions. If you can see how they respond to a situation against another opponent, you can gain insight into how they might likely respond to that situation with you as their opponent. The more information you have about a player, the less you will have to examine any action they take in a vacuum, and at the higher limits, this may make the difference between winning or losing.

Wow, didn't know if I'd get through that, but there you go. This is a bit more original, and I hope some of it is relevant or useful. Maybe it will prompt you to think a little differently about the players you play against. Just remember that all players are people, and people are all( to one extent or another) emotional creatures. Maybe you can use that to your advantage.

Best of luck.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Assigning a danger rating to a flop

Just wanted to jot down my thoughts on playing dangerous flops, this will probably be a mish mash of various scholar’s ideas, just hope some of it is useful. No original thoughts on this area yet, obviously you shouldn’t always play predictably and you need to tailor how you play dangerous flops according to your opponent’s tendencies.

Most players will be familiar with the defining characteristics of good hands for NLHE, namely that non pocket-pair hands improve according to High-Card Strength(H), Suitedness(S) and Connectedness(C). For a hand to be deemed generally playable, it should rate strongly in at least 2 of these 3 criteria. Admittedly, not all players adhere strictly to this advice, and can be found playing strange holdings for obscure reasons.
For example, people playing J5 offsuit will probably confuse nearly everyone who isn’t keen on hip-hop. That said, however, most people will usually be folding hands that don’t conform to these guidelines, and this has a direct correlation to how likely a particular flop is to have hit their hand, and thus how ‘dangerous’ that flop is.
Basically, a flop becomes more likely to have made someone a strong hand if it displays the same characteristics as those used to rate the ‘playability’ of hole cards, namely the attributes of the aforementioned rating categories H, S and C, and whether a card (of any rank) is paired.
For the more experienced player, evaluating the dangers of a given flop and deciding how to react will be something they do instinctively, however for those newer or less experienced players, the following should hopefully prove a useful guide to calculating risk, and furthermore provide sound advice on using that risk rating effectively.

I’ve had a play with assigning numerical value to flops and using this to calculate overall risk, but I think an easier method is to split the potential Risk for each category into Small, Medium, Medium-Big and Big(L, M, MB, B). Say the flop brings 3 cards all of the same suit, then there is a level B risk for the Suited category. If the cards are ranked 5 6 8, there is also a MB risk for the Connected category. If a flop has a risk of MB or greater in 2 or more categories, and you have a vulnerable hand (such as TPTK or an overpair) caution is advised, and you should probably want to use probe bets or checks to keep the pot small. If the same dangerous flop comes and you have a very strong hand (such as a set or a straight) which may already be second best or favoured to lose by the river, a display of strength is normally
advised, maybe through an overbet or large check-raise so that your opponent cannot draw profitably or will hopefully ‘announce’ their made hand so you can save some money.

In addition, any paired flop is of course inherently dangerous, especially in an unraised pot, when limping and completing can be done with literally any 2 cards. If the pot is raised, probe bets on a paired board with a made hand are usually advised, as you will both appear suspiciously strong when you are ahead (or when your opponent thinks you are), and mean you will build (and probably lose) a smaller pot when you are behind. If the board pairs a broadway card, particularly an A, you need to be cautious: whether you have the A or not! If you have the A and build a pot, in my experience the times you are getting called you are already behind! Either they flopped a full house or have a weak A but paired their kicker. Whenever the board has paired, if you get raised allin, even if you have trips with the best kicker, evaluate your opponent and ask if they will push with less than a full house. The answer is usually a resounding NO!

This stuff should be common knowledge to a lot of you, but for those that haven't read or thought about this, I suggest making it a permanent part of your game.

Good luck at the tables, and for those who blog, keep up the good work!