Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ready for Take-off

Done pretty well this month. Think I've only had 2 sessions where I lost more than a buyin, and I've been running very well on UB: my rating on MPI has jumped from 0.70 to 2.35bb/100 in just 2 months, which I'm very happy with. Also happy that I've been able to tangle with a few big fish, like the one who doubled me up over the weekend. I had JdJs in the big blind, and this fish first called an UTG raise, and then a preflop re-raise from me, holding.... the mighty 9h3s offsuit!!! I check-raised him on the As 2s 4s flop with my J-high flush draw (which he gladly called), and he called my allin when the 8s came on the turn. Amazingly his straight-flush didn't arrive on the river. Ship it.

In other news, I've bitten the bullet and registered for the latest HUC, organised this time by the illustrious Alan. Now, I've only ever played HU when I've had a few drinks or the stakes have been small to tiny, but as was recently pointed out, how can I call myself a pro and not enter this competition? So I'm going to brush up on my HU skills and see what damage I can do to all the players I've come to know and respect in the blogosphere. Today the HUC, tomorrow the world!

Only 3 days left at work now though, and am more excited than something really excitable in an exciting situation. January has been a very successful month, and I'm ready for lots more during the rest of the year. Bring it on, I'm ready to go.....

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What to expect as a Pro

I emailed my friend last week to ask him how his life had changed since he turned pro a year ago. His reply was the lists of pros and cons copied below, along with a list of advice that he would offer anyone who wants to do likewise (i.e. me). I read through the lists, and thought about how each would impact me. My comments follow each point in the lists....


  • I never get up before 9 - think I'll usually getup at a normal time since I won't be doing the midnight thing and my gf will be up at 730 each day
  • I don't have to pretend to care about a whole host of crap that you need to in an office environment - can't wait for this to be true!
  • flexible hours - this is useful, but largely I'll be working 7 hours every day, with maybe a small shift either Friday night or Saturday
  • no commute - again, can't wait
  • for the most part I love my job - I sincerely hope I will still feel that way in a years time
  • I don't have to tell people I work in IT - I'm looking forward to doing something unconventional, and to hell with the haters!
  • feel like I could make a LOT of money doing this eventually - I too share this opinion, and am prepared to work pretty damn hard to try and realise this goal
  • I get to laugh at everyone who pays tax - this will be pleasant, not to mention stopping payments to my lousy student loan....

Unhappy with:

  • don't see any hotties during the day. not in real life at least - not really a concern given my marital status, and won't be a massive drop from the amount I see in an IT office....
  • people think you have an easier ride than you do, and no-one is really symapthetic when you're losing - that's why us pros have to stick together, through thick and thin!
  • miss the human contact of the office - given that I work in IT, I don't really get that much out of any 'human contact' at work. And since I'll be continuing with sports/hobbies, will get my fix through friends in those areas in addition to seeing my lovely lady every day


  • get ready for the beats. they hurt a lot more, and you need to be twice as immune to them! - I've done as much playing as possible to maximise my exposure to bad beats, and feel I've come a long way in getting used to them. I'm still not prepared fully, but with a bit of common sense and determination I will hopefully avoid major tilt.
  • make sure you don't blame too much on bad luck. I pulled the wool over my own eyes for a long time before I finally fixed up, changed a few things, and plugged some leaks. your game usually isn't as good as you think it is - Sound advice. I will continue to analyse my performance even while playing well, and constantly be looking for leaks. I plan to spend at least an hour every day studying in on form or another before I start to play to get my brain in gear
  • join cardrunners, watch all the videos - This will form part of my studying
  • read 2+2 forums. so much good strategy in there - This will form another part
  • learn to love Pokertracker/PAHUD. it's the best thing ever - More sound advice. After I consolidate my PT databases I plan to regularly review my stats and keep on top of note-taking on opponents on all sites I play at
  • befriend players at your limit who are better than you and try and discuss hands with them on AIM etc. - Very very good advice. There are lots of clever and friendly players out there willing to share their thoughts. For those who don't blog, some will post on forums. For those who don't post, some will chat. For those who don't chat, just watch and learn....
  • GET IN THE POKER HOLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! - Don't worry my friend, I'm gonna be right down there with you!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Feelin' alright....

Just to break with the recent bad beat posts, thought I'd post a reminder that there are still plenty of fish in the sea, and plenty of money to be won with ease.

There's nothing like getting involved with a true loose cannon and actually coming out ahead for a change! Standard big-blind special for me with AA, facing an UTG raise. I re-raise to $25 as normal. My opponents raises to $75 very fast, so rather than calling and check-shoving on the flop, I simply shove right there. He calls like lightning (who knows why!), and the rest is now happy history....
I did actually think I'd lost to a straight for a second, but was then re-assured by the software's graphics of all the chips being shipped over to me. I even permitted myself a wry little smile....

Friday, January 18, 2008

Muppet of the week

This fine specimen was found early on a friday night, swimming lazily in the FTP waters.

He was short-stacked (a common feature on these creatures) and called my allin on the flop with only high cards, only one of which was live. Of course, my nut flush draw fails to arrive, and the river delivers one of his 2 outs:

VNH sir! $160 to the inspirational "thelocman" please!

The runner up for this weeks prize was the following individual who not only deemed A8o strong enough to call a preflop re-raise, but also decided that TPTK was enough to call allin with on an 8 high flop. The turn was kind enough to deliver one of the 5 remaining cards which could save him.

VNH sir. $199 to the redoubtable "justin3299" please dealer...

Missing a bluff: -EV ...or -POT?

Here is hand I think I played pretty damn poorly. I could have won the pot at several points in the hand, but each time I failed to do what was required. Here was the hand:

$2/4 6 max(No Limit Hold'em)
Started at 17/Jan/08 15:32:43

Hero is at seat 1 with $526.40.
Villain is at seat 2 with $497.90.

-------- posts the small blind of $2.
-------- posts the big blind of $4.
Hero: Jd Jh
Villain: -- --

Hero raises to $14. Villain re-raises to $48.
-------- folds. -------- folds. --------
folds. -------- folds. Hero calls.

At this point, due to my notes and his image I put the villain on a bigger pair or AK, with a small chance of him having TT/99. He’d reraised me with position a few times previously, and I had laid down each time, so he had to credit me with a pretty decent hand if I called.

Flop (board: Jc 8h Th):
Hero checks. Villain checks.

As I didn't reraise the flop, I gave the impression of either a big Ace or a mid pair. I check here with my top set, hoping the villain will lead if he has an overpair and I can then substantially check raise him. Unfortunately, my opponent is a very good player, and checks on what he correctly recognises as a dangerous flop. I still don't know if he has an overpair or AK unimp. The pot was big enough to try and take with a bet here (like I normally would), and push on any raise. My first mistake.

Turn (board: Jc 8h Th As):
Hero bets $102. Villain calls.

The turn I didn't really like as it hits one of the 3 likely overpairs the villain may have, and provided a gutshot for the other 2 overpairs, so I fired a pot bet. He called pretty quickly, and so I surmised that he most likely wasn't on a draw, and that he obviously didn't hold KK or QQ (or 99 for the OESD). The only possible 'drawing' holding really was AhKh, but the action just wasn't in keeping with a monster draw like that, and as he was a good player I couldn't see him calling a turn pot bet with an obvious flush draw and a gutshot. I didn't stop to think that the most likely hand he would call with on such a dangerous looking board was a set. My second mistake.

River (board: Jc 8h Th As Qs):
Hero checks. Villain bets $145. Hero

This is where I fell apart. I knew he didn't have KK or QQ. I had discounted AK from his range. What I should have done is put him on a set, and recognised the most likely one was a set of Aces. If I had thought all of this through, I would have recognised that he would have been very scared of me having a K, and then fired a 2/3 pot bet, putting him to the test and hopefully eliciting a fold. Instead, I checked, for mistake number 3.
So, faced with a check instead of a value bet, my opponent can see that I likely don't have a K. He then decides his hand is good enough to try a value bet. Now I am faced with a tough decision. I manage to work out he doesn't have a straight, but fail to see that he isn't value-betting with a set lower than mine. The only way I can actually win is by bluff raising allin to represent the King that neither of us have, but instead I elect to check-call.


Villain shows Ad Ac.
Villain has Ad Ac Jc As Qs: three aces.
Hero mucks cards.
(Hero has Jd Jh.)
Villain wins $592.50 with three aces.

So as I said, I'm not too thrilled about how I played it, but I'm hoping that thinking about what I did wrong recognising the ways I could have played it better will mean I'm less likely to make the same mistakes in the future. I suppose I should actually be grateful the board didn't pair on the river, as there wouldn't have been any getting away from the resulting fullhouse...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Onwards and upwards

Things are still going well poker wise, and that's pretty lucky given that I've only another 12 days left of work. I really can't wait to see if I can "cut the mustard" as a pro, but even if it turns out that I can't I will just find a job, keep poker as a profitable hobby and be happy that I took my shot at making a living from a game that I love. Basically I'm pretty psyched.

Been playing a little bit of low stakes PLO in the last few days, and it's so much fun! A good reminder of how poker used to be for me, when every hand was a brand new situation, and the brain is working overtime just to recognise all the variables at work in each. Think I will continue to play it as the games (although scarcer) seem very weak, with lots of people chasing non-nut draws and playing terribly weak hands in all positions.

Been trying to find a good rakeback site to provide me with rakeback at Ultimate Bet, but only managed to find megarakeback.com as able to help. Has anyone heard of or used this site? Or have any better recommendations? I also want to try out PKR (that 3D animated site that is heavily advertised all over the www) and would like to get a rakeback account on there before I make a deposit, so does anyone know of a good rakeback site for PKR also?

Alan has recently been posting about his experiences at playing 6 max NLHE. As he mentions, aggression is markedly increased at these tables and to stay afloat your own aggression must be correspondingly increased. Resteals are common from the blinds. Re-re-steals even occur a few times. Strong draws must be aggressively pushed, and strong draws are rarely folded when counter-aggression is encountered. That said, a good player must still know when to run, or when to push it in. I was playing a 6 max game myself the other night which nicely illustrates what can regularly happen:

A very aggressive player was in the cutoff when he put in a raise. Both the button and the SB called, as did I with AcTc. The flop came down Ts 8c 5c and I immediately said to myself "That's it, I'm going to war with this hand". We both checked to the cutoff, who bet the pot, which was his standard move. The button and the SB promptly folded, and I min-raised to $44, hoping to slow my opponent down and see a turn. He moved allin instead for another $180. This screamed weak/draw to me, so with my TPTK and nut flush draw I made the call, knowing at worse I was 30% but was far more likely a strong favourite against this very active player.

He turned over QcJc for a flush draw, gutshot and 2 overcards, normally a monster draw but against my AcTc he was only 28% (9 outs). Even if he had a real hand (QQ or KK) that he was trying to protect, I would have had plenty of outs. As it was though, he didn't catch up and I took the pot.

Just goes to show that when you think you have a good draw, you have to be prepared to go down with it at a 6 max table. There's no way you can profitably call such an allin at a full ring game, at least without an extremely specific read IMO.

Brain teaser: 6 max NLHE. You are in the BB with TT. The cutoff raises, the button calls and you call. Are you more likely to hit a fullhouse on a flop of Tx Jx Ax, or on a flop of Tx 3x 6x???

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Words fail me... (or Pre55to blows)

Just had a terrible session on the tables. I was losing to runner-runners left, right, and centre. Was hitting sets, even with AA, but either not getting paid or getting 2/3 pot bets called by turned OESDs, which of course hit on the river. In the following hand from FTP, the money all went in on the flop. Only 3 cards in the deck prevented me from scooping the lot. The turn kindly provided one of them.

So, I ran the odds on this one, and I was only 81.5% favourite. The short stack of course had no outs....

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Call yourself a pro? Part 1

Here is one of my recent donkey plays. Would like some advice on playing it better if possible, or if you prefer you can just read it then shake your head in disbelief. That's what I've been doing after all....

Lapwai ($1/2 No Limit Hold'em)

The button is at seat 0.

Player1 posts the small blind of $1.
Hero posts the big blind of $2.
Player2: -- --
Player1: -- --
Hero: 4s 3d
Player3: -- --
Villain: -- --
Player4: -- --

Player3 calls. Villain calls.
Player4 calls. Player2 folds.
Player1 folds. Hero checks.

Flop (board: 4h 3c 8h):
Hero bets $9. Player3 folds. Villain
calls. Player4 folds.

4 players and the small blind means a $9 pot. So with bottom 2 pair, I lead out with a pot sized bet. I get one caller, so far so good. I'm thinking I'm against a bare flush draw here, or maybe something stronger like Ah3h.

Turn (board: 4h 3c 8h Kc):
Hero checks. Villain bets $17.
Hero raises to $50. Villain calls.

The turn doesn't complete the heart flush draw, and as I'm against an aggressive player, I decide to try a check-raise. He bets $17 into the $27 pot, and I raise it to $50, which he calls. I thought this was a big check-raise, but it still offered him 3-1 odds (calling $33 to win $95). Now I definitely know he's on a draw, as with a set or the unlikely top 2 pair, he would be re-raising me here. I now put him on KhQh along with Ah3h/Ah2h.

River (board: 4h 3c 8h Kc 7c):
Hero bets $50. Villain goes all-in for
$125. Hero calls.

The river card wasn't a scary one for me at first. I did recognise that it put a 3rd club on the board, but given that he'd called a pot bet on the flop didn't see him calling a pot bet and a turn check-raise with only an OESD, I put him instead on chasing the flush. As he was aggressive, I thought that he was pushing with a busted flush draw. So, I found myself calling his allin with bottom 2 pair, effectively ignoring the OESD that just came in for 65, along with the backdoor flush draw coming in for anyone with 2 Clubs. Unfortunately for me he had both, and picked up an extra 8 outs on the turn, which justified his call of the big check-raise.

Villain shows 6c 5c.
Villain has 6c 5c 3c Kc 7c: flush, king high.
Hero mucks cards.
(Hero has 4s 3d.)

Hand #49045855-21372 Summary:
Villain wins $373.50 with flush, king high.

My problem here was suspecting that the 7c may have helped my opponent, but betting anyway. Did I bet because I knew I would call the allin? Or was I betting to not get bluffed off? Regardless, I fired a bet and then convinced myself I was priced in for the call when he went allin, reinforcing my suspicions that the 7 was indeed a bad card for me. I should have had the discipline to bet then fold, or check fold unless the bet was really small. 65s should have been at the front of my mind, not the back, and that's what bugs me the most.

Live and learn with luck.... any comments? Other than "fold to the shove you donkey!!"?

A New Year and a new ball game

It's been a great holiday. Not only did I get over a full week off work, but I got to spend loads of time with my girlfriend and our respective families, and I ate a preposterous amount of great food! One thing about the Chinese (and I think I've said this before) is that they love to show affection through sharing food, and they like to make sure their is plenty to share. Christmas day involved a huge buffet of roasted meats and vegetables, along with a smattering of seafood. I don't think I've put any weight on, but it's not for want of trying!

On top of all the eating, visiting and such, I managed to play a lot of poker. And either the skill levels of my opponents has dipped sharply over the past few weeks, or my play has improved markedly. Maybe it's both, but I think that my play has improved a lot, and I think I know why.
Queue Alan, and a comment he left a while back that chimed with me long and loud:
"If you want to control the pot size, then you have to be doing that on every street and I don't mean checking. I just mean that your cbet % doesn't have to be so high, the amount could be about half pot but don't control pot size by shutting down on the turn and the river. Once people start noticing that, they will kill you on the later streets."

Having read this, I thought hard about my style of play, and I realised the following:
1) Don't default to pot size c-bets. I had heard that pot-sized continuation bets were the most effective tool for applying pressure. While this may be true, if you use them routinely they do more harm than good. You can forget that people calling a pot size bet usually have a strong hand, and you should slam on the breaks. Also, the pot can become bloated early on, and if you are raising too frequently with drawing hands then your opponents turn and river bets can cause you to chase with your draws.

2) Don't always c-bet. If you always c-bet the flop, you will be doing so with nothing over 60% of the time you raise preflop with 2 unpaired cards. This will lose you too much money, and gives your opponents an easy means to take your stack by leaving yourself wide open to check-raises and check-raise bluffs. If you always c-bet, your opponent won't know what you have, but that doesn't matter as you still won't be ahead often enough to make money.Couple that with pot sized bets and the situation becomes hugely unprofitable.

3) Build different sized pots. Each flop is different, and as your hand and your opponents hands are in constant flux, taking the same action (ie c-betting) for each different situation is against good sense. You need to mix up your flop action to include c-bets (1/2 bot or higher), probes and checks, so that your opponent is constantly guessing what each bet (or not) indicates, and so that you can build big pots with your great hands, and small pots with your mediocre hands.

So basically I needed to stop c-betting so often, and stop c-betting so much. And just like that, my game came back. My last 10 consecutive sessions have been profitable, and I can count on one hand the number of serious mistakes I've made. So, if you're reading this, thanks Alan. I believe I owe you one! When I come out to vegas next, drinks will definitely be on me!

That said, there are still a few situations that I'm not happy about where I feel I have been leaving money on the felt. Will post them soon. In the meantime, hope everyone had a great xmas and NYE, and I look forward to reading everyones latest posts -soon as I'm back at work of course!