Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Been a long time (shouldn'a left you)...

Hello dear reader. Know it's been a while, but it's been a busy couple of weeks for yours truly. Not only was I recovering from losing over 10k in the space of 3 weeks, in my last 3 weeks I have had an incredible amount of work on and haven't had much time to devote to writing posts (at work)! I have been working on a strategy post for a while, of course it started off all nicely planned and flowed really well, but now it seems nothing more than a jumble of tips and thoughts. See it in all it's - errr, entirety - below.

So, what's changed for me then in the last 7 days?
1. The limits I play. After my horrible losing streak (which I freely admit is mostly my own fault), I now play only $1/2, because of....
2. The new style I play. Having recognized the problems I've been having and purging bluffing from my arsenal, I wanted to completely re-tool my game. So I got in touch with my main man Honest, he sat with me and challenged my reasoning behind playing out of position, playing pocket pairs and playing from the cutoff and the button, all of which led to me making changes that are already yielding positive results, so big props to him. I will soon be able to play $2/4 and above again, so the bankroll race to 30k can begin again in earnest, and that's quite important as...
3. I won't be employed in 3 months. That's right, I've handed in my notice at work. You heard it here first folks (it's not public knowledge), and as I haven't found a replacement job yet I may just need to supplement the dole with the few dollars afforded by being lucky at cards.

Other than that things are fairly stable, I'm getting back into racing bikes on my rollerblades, and have given up kungfu for the winter months so I have planty of time for poker and socialising. I plan on nothing more than enjoying the steady salary of the next 3 months, and staying warm and dry this winter. I think that having access to every season of Battlestar Galactica, Sopranos and Family Guy will help ensure that goal is reached! On that note, 'til next time....

Getting Raised: A Player's Guide

Recent use of an overly aggressive style meant that I was facing almost constant raises to my flop continuation bets. I can't tell you how much I hate getting raised in poker. I demand respect for my bets, whether I have absolutely nothing (most of the time), a beautifully seductive overpair, or the elusive but exciting set. When someone raises your bet, they are telling you that they have a better hand. Whether they are telling the truth or not is where the subject gets a little tricky.

If someone is raising you on the flop, they can be doing it for a number of reasons. They may be bluffing and want you to fold. They may have a strong draw and are betting hard (as a semi-bluff), to trick you into either folding or at least checking so they might see both the turn and river cards. The other reason is that they have a strong hand which they believe is also the best hand, and want the chips in the middle now before you get the chance to improve.

So, sometimes your opponent doesn't have the best hand, but raises to make you believe that they do. Other times they don't currently have the best hand, but they know that it may become the best hand and are happy to raise to try and win the pot now, with plenty of ways to win if called. The rest of the time, they are raising with the best hand, hoping you will make a mistake by calling them with a worse hand. Accurately picking which case applies to each raise you face is fundamental to taking the appropriate action.

When determining the likelihood of each case, I think you should consider the following: the size of the raise, the position of the raiser, the texture of the board, and the image of your opponent along with your own image. I won't attempt explore all of these topics fully, but will include a few things to consider.

The texture of the board can be a clear indication of the motivation behind the raise. On a draw heavy board, a semi-bluff raise is more likely, especially if the raise does not commit your opponent . They may be hoping to slow you down and see a cheap turn card. If the raise is very big however, and the flop has put 3 to a straight or 3 to a flush on the board, then it is more likely you are up against a strong hand like a set or a made flush, and the raise is aimed at either getting all the money in, or discovering if you already hold the nuts and your opponent can fold before the more expensive streets arrive.

On a draw free board, your opponent is either betting a strong made hand (like an overpair or a set), or outright bluffing.When deciding which is the case, consider your opponents' image and position. Are they always aggressive in raised pots, or do they usually only fold to continuation bets? Are they an habitual check-raiser, or do they only check-raise with monster hands? Also consider your own image: are you always continuation betting (making it more likely they are making a play), or are you so tight that your opponent won't raise without the nuts? Of course your image means nothing if your opponent isn't paying attention, so as Sun Tzu said "know your enemy".

If the size of your opponents raise commits them to the pot, either by putting him allin or leaving less than the size of the pot in his stack, it's less likely to be a bluff. If this happens and you have a made hand, you will need to assess the likelihood that you are ahead of your opponent, and also the likelihood you will still be ahead on the river. If you are not a favourite for the latter, you should not call the raise unless pot committed, as you know your opponent will rarely be folding.

After you have determined the reason behind your opponent's raise, you need to take the appropriate action.

If your opponent is bluffing..... the solution is simply to raise, regardless of your hand (providing your opponent is capable of folding of course).

If your opponent is betting with a strong made hand..... and you have a made hand, you must decide whether his is likely to be stronger than yours, then raise, call or fold in accordance with your judgement. If you have played your strong hand deceptively, be more inclined to call than fold. Correspondingly, if you have played your strong hand openly, be more inclined to fold. If you have a monster, you can either raise now or later, but remember it's often better to get the money in before any scare cards arrive.

If your opponent is betting with a strong made hand..... and you are on a draw, take into account the usual implied odds, reverse implied odds, and pot odds that are being offered by your opponents raise, then decide whether you should continue.

If your opponent is raising with a draw..... and you have a made hand, you need to assess which draw is most likely, and thereby how many outs he has with 2 cards to come. Then, check the stack sizes in play, and see if you can re-raise enough to make him call unprofitably with his draw. If you don't quite have the chips, and you're out of position, you may want to call and see the turn. Then, if a blank falls you can push allin against his draw, but with only 1 card to come a call will now be unprofitable.

If your opponent is raising with a draw..... and you also have a draw, take into account the usual implied odds, reverse implied odds, and pot odds that are being offered by your opponents raise, then decide whether you should continue. Bear in mind that in a draw vs draw scenario, if you're not drawing to the nuts then your implied odds may be negative (ie you'll get stacked when you hit), so never put yourself in that position if it can be avoided.

Hope some of this is useful, comments welcome as always...

Below is a snapshotof how bad I was running when I was in hyper-aggressive mode. I made a great read, a great play based on that read, but lost the pot I was favourite to win. Most of the time though, I am miles behind at this point.

This hand shows the captivating beauty of poker: every action after his flop re-raise was perfectly correct for both parties, and in the end it came down to no more than mere chance:

Lemme Win is at seat 0 with $850.90.
silverstar75 is at seat 1 with $110.
Villain is at seat 2 with $595.50.
Xeric is at seat 3 with $494.
Incrediboy is at seat 4 with $668.10.
Money75 is at seat 5 with $81.90.
The button is at seat 2.

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

Lemme Win: -- --
silverstar75: -- --
Villain: -- --
Xeric: -- --
Incrediboy: Kh 3h
Money75: -- --


Money75 folds. Lemme Win folds. silverstar75 folds.
Villain raises to $14. Xeric calls.
Incrediboy calls.

Flop (board: 8h Ts Ah):

Xeric checks. Incrediboy checks. Villain bets
$25. Xeric folds. Incrediboy raises to $70. (semi-bluff raise...)
Villain re-raises to $250. Incrediboy goes all-in for $654.10. (donkey shove with a flush draw...)
Villain goes all-in for $581.50. Incrediboy is returned $72.60 (uncalled).

Turn (board: 8h Ts Ah Kc):

(no action in this round)

River (board: 8h Ts Ah Kc 9c):

(no action in this round)


Incrediboy shows Kh 3h.
Incrediboy has Kh Ts Ah Kc 9c: a pair of kings.
Villain shows Jh Qh.
Villain has Jh Qh Ts Ah Kc: straight, ace high.

Villain wins $1201.50 with straight, ace high.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Lead balloon

Got back from my holiday in Egypt wonderfully relaxed. If you like warm weather and plenty of swimming, then Marsa Alam (and I've heard also Sharm El Sheikh) are great holiday destinations. Like England, Egypt is just about to enter the winter season, but unlike England, the temperature there is a balmy 28 degrees on average!

I headed out with my mother and uncle for a week's break (they were staying for 2 weeks) with the Red Sea Diving Safari, but had no underwater plans for anything other than snorkelling. We were staying on a resort site 10 miles south of Marsa Alam, and which was all of 100 metres from the coast. The water was incredibly clear just 50 metres out from the bay, and so any colourful fish or coral was in easy view. And believe me, there was an awful lot of both to be seen! Countless fish swarmed over, under and occasionally through the coral as far as the eye could see, in a magnificent multitude of colours and sizes. The coral itself was incredibly diverse: from familiar 'tree' shapes to bizzare and improbably coloured balloon shapes, and every mutation possible in between. I swam both the north and south reefs at least 5 times each, and was never wanting for new things to see.

On the days we didn't swim the coast of the resort we went to Abu Dabbab to swim with the green turtles and the dugong (sea-cow), both of which were awesome to behold. We also ventured out by boat to the dolphin house, which was itself a magnificent reef in a horseshoe shape, and home to scores of dolhins, though that could be mere rumour as not one of them deigned to see me on the day of my visit. When I wasn't swimming, the choices were usually limited to eating, reading or sleeping. Sunbathing was an option only for the masochistic (or the Italians, several of whom were sporting some worryingly dark tans!).

I will be looking forward to my next visit to the fabulous world under the sea, and hope to take along Faye, confident that as a self-confessed 'water baby' she would truly love the experience.

My relaxed state of mind alas failed to last. The night before I left for Egypt, I played for about 5 hours, and lost heavily. After I returned, I proceeded to lose. Every session. Heavily. By 2am on Sunday, I had lost over 10k altogether.
I went to bed that night wondering what on earth had happened to my game. It wasn't just bad beats and coolers (of which there seemed to be hundreds!), but I couldn't place the missing element. I honestly couldn't figure out what was going on, so, feeling dazed and deflated, I simply slept on it. And in the morning, after a little lateral thinking, the answer was waiting for me: I was bluffing too much.

All the signs were there. I was getting called down by some very marginal hands, but I was losing to them. I was finding myself having to fold from big pots on the turn and river with hands I should have dumped preflop. I was starting to chase draws. My aggression postflop was off the charts, and no-one can have a monster every time, paint whatever picture I would. So I was getting called, and raised, and I was losing.

So it's back in the saddle, once again sticking to more solid hands and tight play, with much more folding going on. PokerAce HUD is up and running and the data-mining continues. Am crossing my fingers that it will help lots, and soon. Good luck to everyone else.