Thursday, September 17, 2009

Swing when you're winning....

What you risk reveals what you value. -Jeanette Winterson

So yesterday was quite an extreme day for me work wise. It started with my rivered full house losing to rivered quads, and proceeded to proffer several coolers, bad beats and I'm sure a few instances of bad play on my part. However, about 2 hours in when I saw I had lost nearly
2k I asked myself: am I in any good games, and am I playing well? I decided that the answer to both was a firm yes, and I continued to play. It turned out to be a good decision:

I managed to hit a few hands against the fish at the bigger tables I was playing on and not only did I erase the 2k debt but managed to make about $800 profit for the day.

I ran well again today, with loads of donks playing terribly against me and me staying lucky enough to not get unlucky when the money went in. In fact, this month I think I'm on a bit of a heater, running at about 12BB on average at my $1/2 and $2/4 games, and life once again seems easy. Of course it won't last, but I like the periods where I can pretend that winning will always be this simple and it won't be long before I'm driving my dream car....

To help my savings along I decided to withdraw some of my hard-earned cash from UB earlier today. After using their payouts software and being told I could not withdraw money because I hadn't made a deposit in the last 6 months, I mailed the support staff with my request. See below for my mail, their response, and my incredulous reply....

Please can you accept this email as a request for another payout of $XXXXX (in the equivalent £ sterling) to my home address via "Cheque by Mail." I tried to make a withdrawal this morning but as usual I was denied being cited 'no deposit'.

As you can see from my account history I have made several withdrawals in the past and once again require to do so. Please initiate the withdrawal immediately.

If you have any queries please contact me.

Regards, Damian

Dear Mr. Kowalski,

Thank you very much for your response.

We will gladly assist you by submitting a manual request for you in the amount of $XXXXX USD. Unfortunately, we are not able to request a different currency as our customers can when they request the payout on the site. <--- what?!? you can't manually do what the software does? ?

If you would prefer to have the funds sent to you in GBP, you can make a deposit to your poker account for as little as $10.00, and once the 48 hour time frame has past since your deposit you can go ahead and request your payout through the site by going to:
Cashier > Payouts > Request payout method > Drop down menu for currencies. <--- and why exactly would I put money into my account when I want to take money out???

If you would prefer to proceed with the manual request for $XXXXX USD please let us know and we will submit that for you.
We apologize for any inconvenience they may have caused. We are looking forward to your response.

Best regards, Diana
Payments Department @ <--- yes, she did in fact mispell 'Ultimate'. Nice one.

Hello Diana.

Are you telling me that you will not provide a certain service to a customer because as customer I can request that same service via the site's software? A yes or no answer will suffice.

If the answer is 'yes', please forward this mail along with my request for the equivalent of $XXXXX in pounds sterling on to your manager while you go and look up the definition of "customer service".

If the answer is 'no', then kindly send me my money as requested. As a long standing customer of UB I do not expect to have to take further action simply to make a withdrawal like I have done countless times in the past. Get this sorted now.


I'm glad to say they have since got back to me with an actual helpful reply, but I'm still stunned by the lack of thought and service offered to me from a site I've been using heavily for about 4 years now. Still, at least they offer a good selection of fish.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Selective aggression

A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it. -Albert Einstein

As a professional poker player, you rapidly become acquainted with your individual strengths and weaknesses. Because I have a highly competitive nature, I want to try and win as many pot I enter as possible. Sometimes though I end up trying to win every pot I enter, and the law of averages (not to mention common-sense) dictates that this cannot be.

Trying to 'buy' pots, whether through constantly leading with weak hands or bluffs or by check-raising with semi-bluffs (especially on the turn), is bad for many reasons. Not only will you lose lots of chips on each hand to calling stations and solid regs, for the rest of the session you also lose one of your best weapons: fear. With a correctly balanced strategy of calls bets and raises, your opponents be unable to read the strength of your hand. In keeping with human nature they will be afraid of the unknown. If you are seen to always bet however, they know you cannot always have a hand and so are much more likely to call you down with medium strength hands.

That means that while you are in hyper-aggressive mode, you will only be able to win a big pot by showing down the best hand, and never by getting your opponent to fold. Strikes me as similar to trying to eat a steak with a knife but no fork. Bluffing and semi-bluffing are tools that I regularly use, and though I probably succeed about as often as I fail for a net profit of zero, I firmly believe that I get paid off a lot more with my good hands because I employ both quite often.

So, as all good players know you need to pick your spots to be aggressive as a simple blanket approach is decisively destructive to your game. A variety of factors must be in effect for an aggressive play to succeed. Calling a big 3bet with 22 preflop against someone who has 300BBs is a terrible idea if they will check call every street without the nuts. Representing a straight on a 346 7 board after you 4-bet preflop could prove costly. You need to know not only your opponents stack size but also their tendencies both before and after the flop, and what your image is and whether your range in a given hand would connect with the flop.

If you are against a tight player, and there is a scary flop, and there is a reasonable chance you hold a hand that now has them crushed, you can represent it. If you suspect your passive opponent had a draw on both the flop and turn and the river bricked out, you may go ahead and bet with your air if you know they are unlikely to call. If you suspect someone of squeeze 3-betting light, you can call and try and take it away later in the hand if they play straight-forwardly after the flop.

With all of these scenarios though, sometimes you just have to pass - do NOT call every raise or 3bet preflop just to try and outplay your opponent on later streets. Sometimes it's ok to fold a suited connector on the button. Simply dumping 66 to a 3-bettor can be a sensible move. Occasionally folding to a small bet on an XXY flop will save you money in the long run. Good players will notice if you always raise or float on certain board types and exploit you the next time. I know I do. So, be careful and balance your plays and you can deny them that opportunity.

Will leave you with some hands where I used some selective aggression and it paid off nicely - but again I have to stress these are not moves I'd often make....

#1 NLHE $2/4 Deep 5-players
Seat 5 - Villain ($922.50 in chips)
Seat 6 - XXXX ($373.75 in chips)
Seat 1 - Hero ($942 in chips)
Seat 2 - XXXX ($1,285.70 in chips)
Seat 3 - XXXX ($1,260.10 in chips)
Villain - Posts small blind $2
XXXX - Posts big blind $4
Dealt to Hero [9c 10c]
Hero - Raises $14 to $14
XXXX - Folds
XXXX - Calls $14
Villain - Raises $54 to $56
XXXX - Folds
Hero - Calls $42
XXXX - Folds
*** FLOP *** [9h 4c 3s]
Villain - Bets $77
Hero - Calls $77

Here I float the rainbow flop with TP and a backdoor flush draw.

*** TURN *** [9h 4c 3s] [Kh]
Villain - Bets $110

On the turn he bet so weakly that I decided to raise, representing a set or turned TPTK because the K is such a good card: it kills QQ-TT, and though he may have had AA or even AK, he has to be scared of my smooth call on the flop followed by a raise when a K falls.

Hero - Raises $240 to $240
Villain - Folds
Hero - returned ($130) : not called

There was also a chance he was squeezing light, and I may in fact have had the best hand.

*** SHOW DOWN ***
Hero - Does not show
Hero Collects $500.50 from main pot

#2 NLHE $2/4, $1 ante 6 players
Seat 4 - Villain ($801 in chips)
Seat 5 - XXXX ($754 in chips)
Seat 6 - Hero ($1,075.50 in chips)
Seat 1 - XXXX ($729.70 in chips)
Seat 2 – XXXX ($510.20 in chips)
Seat 3 - XXXX ($1,577.30 in chips)
XXXX - Posts small blind $2
Hero - Posts big blind $4
Dealt to Hero [9h 9d]
XXXX - Calls $4
XXXX- Folds
XXXX - Folds
Villain - Raises $20 to $20
XXXX - Folds
Hero - Calls $16
XXXX - Calls $16
*** FLOP *** [6s 6c 3h]

Here the villain was 18/11, so very tight basically and deep stacked too. I knew I could take him off all but his strongest hand with an appropriate display of strength on this flop. So I decide to lead into the 2 other players.

Hero - Bets $52
XXXX - Folds
Villain - Raises $156 to $156
Hero - Raises $268 to $320

By firing into 2 players on an XXY flop and then putting in a big 3bet when he raised I told a consistent story of great strength, and he basically has to fold everything except the nuts and maybe AA. Given that I’d been playing well though my image was strong and he may even have laid that down.

Villain - Folds
Hero - returned ($164) : not called

Or he may just have been bluffing with QJs and I had him crushed! :-x

*** SHOW DOWN ***
Hero - Does not show
Hero Collects $376.50 from main pot