Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Knowing when you've reached your (time) limit

I made a mistake playing in a SNG recently. It wasn't a mistake that would occur to everyone right off. It didn't have anything to do with what plays I made, or what stakes I was playing for, or anything like that. My mistake was, I got into a tournament without making sure that I had time to see it through to the end. I had a commitment Sunday afternoon that required me to be somewhere at a specific time. I registered for an on-line multi-table SNG about two hours before the time when I would have to leave for my appointment. I thought that I would have enough time to finish the tournament, even if I made it to the final table. Well, I did make it to the final table, but when I got there I only had about ten minutes before I had to leave. As a result, I had to rush my play and ended up busting out on the bubble, missing the money by one place. I didn't make a particularly bad play when I busted out, I don't think. I just never should have got into a multi-table tourney knowing I had a commitment that could conflict with it. If I hadn't busted when I did, I would have been stuck there and would have been late for my appointment, which I never like to do (especially because I would have made the rest of my family late too). I won't make that error again. Next time I'll play in a regular game that I can leave whenever I want. :-)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Sore losers

I read a report on Card Squad about one of Phil Hellmuth's tiresome tirades over getting busted out at the Monte Carlo Millions tournament. Apparently he got short-stacked when his JJ was beat by AK when the K paired. Then he was knocked out when his pocket Queens got beat by a flush that started with his opponent calling his all-in with K6 suited. Phil was quoted as saying:

"I ALWAYS get my chips in when I'm ahead. I come all the way to Monte Carlo & some idiot takes me on with K-6 - it's what I've come to expect, people call just to eliminate me. I'm the best player here, & these idiots can't play the game. I've had to battle against these idiots all my life..."

Speaking as another "idiot" myself, I would like to take a look at what happened and see how "bad" this play was.

First off, if I'm playing anyone who is short stacked and I have a big stack, I don't mind calling an all-in bet (heads-up) with a hand like K6 suited. Sure, I might be behind to start, but if I win, I've eliminated another opponent and moved a step closer to the money. If I lose, I still have a good stack and can keep playing. Don't try to tell me that Phil himself wouldn't make a play like that.

Second, if I'm up against a world-class player like Phil Hellmuth, I am going to take ANY good chance I have to eliminate him. What am I supposed to do, fold all my hands to him just because he's "the best"? I don't WANT to give him any advantages, because eventually he will use them to bust me out. If anything, Phil should feel complimented that other players respect him enough to take a risk in hopes of beating him.

If Phil wants to belittle his opponents during a game, in hopes of putting them on tilt so he can outplay them or force them to make mistakes, I can see that as a fairly legitimate tactic. But ranting after being knocked out just makes him look like a crybaby.

Wil Wheaton wrote a great article about how Phil needs to get over his tantrum throwing and act like an adult. I couldn't agree more. Will Phil ever get his act together? We can only hope.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

WWdN Poker Yahoo Group

I have started a Yahoo Group for those who play in the WWdN tournaments or are interested in staying in touch with each other to set up games outside of the tourneys. You can sign up for the group by going here and clicking the Join This Group! button, or you can send an e-mail (from the address where you want to receive messages from the group) to wwdnpoker-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Once you have joined, you can send messages to the group that all members will be able to read, so we can arrange to meet for games, or talk about poker stuff, or whatever.

Feel free to join us, or contact me if you have any questions.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

New poker blog / APL thoughts

I have created this new blog for entries about my poker experiences, to free up my other blog for non-poker stuff. You can find a link to my personal blog in the Links section to the right. There are some poker posts there, but I am in the process of moving them over here; some of them are below.

Last night I played in the weekly Amateur Poker League tournament held every Tuesday at a local bar/restaurant named Willhoite's. I've been playing there since May, and it's been a good way for me to practice my skills. I generally do pretty well there; I have finished as high as second place, and often (but not always) end up in at least the top 16, which gets me points in the APL standings.

If you aren't familiar with the APL, it's a league that puts on free poker tournaments in locations in several states. It costs nothing to be a member; all you do is sign up on line and get a membership number. It costs nothing to play in the tournaments, either; however, you are encouraged to buy drinks, food, etc. from the establishment that is hosting the tournament. That is the key to the APL; it's a vehicle for bringing in more business to the bars and restaurants that host the tournaments.

The venues often sponsor nice prizes for the players who frequent their games. Willhoite's has partnered with Pocket's, another eatery in the League, to offer a trip for two to Las Vegas to the winner of their contest, which started in September and runs until December 31. The top 64 point winners for those two venues combined for that period will have a playoff tournament in January to determine who wins the trip. I may not play often enough to earn sufficient points to finish in the top 64, but we'll see. Another venue near here, the Gaylord Texan Resort, offers one free night's stay in their hotel to the first place finisher in each week's tournament. I fninshed second in the only tourney I have played there so far; missed it by THAT MUCH.

You might think that people playing in free poker tournaments play pretty loosely, making crazy bets and not being serious about their game. You would be right, about some of the players. But a lot of them do take it seriously, and make an effort to play well, even if there isn't any cash at stake. Some of the players are just there to hang out, drink beer, and socialize, and play cards while they are at it. It's like a home game in that respect, and that makes the atmosphere more relaxed that at a casino. Unlike a lot of casinos, though, there are no rules against smoking at the tables, unless the venue has their own rules about it. I have only played at Willhoite's and the Gaylord, so I can't say how it is at other places. But Willhoite's especially gets very smoky, and I have thought more than once about not going there any more because I don't want the second hand smoke in my lungs and on my clothes. I plan to look at other nearby venues to see if there are any with better air circulation or, if I'm really lucky, no smoking at all. I'm not counting on that last thing, though.

In last night's game, I finished 16th. It was the monthly championship for the highest finishers for the month of October. I might have done better if I hadn't donked off a bunch of chips on the very first hand of the night. I had A6o in the cutoff, and it was folded to me. I raised to try a blind steal; the small blind called. The flop was something like 10-7-4 rainbow. I didn't pair, but it didn't look like much of a flop for my opponent either, who checked. Sensing weakness, I put in a healthy sized bet, and he called. The turn was a 2. SB checked again; I bet even more to drive him out; he called. The river is a blank. No straights or flushes, and SB checks again. I cant figure out what he's up to, but I figure I've missed something, so I check also. He shows 22 for a set. I'm thinking, why didn't he bet those on the turn? Or even check-raise with them? Better yet, if I'm betting more than the minimum on a flop full of overcards to his deuces, why does he call? Either my ability to get a read on this guy stunk (which is entirely possible, since my reading isn't that great) or his play is awfully weird. So, I start the night with a much shorter stack than usual, and I have to tighten up some. I have another chip spew a bit later when my pocket aces don't improve and I have to fold them on the river to an all-in raise. Good thing I folded, because the winner had rivered a flush. Still, I had some redemption shortly after when I got AA again, went all in, and flopped J-A-J.

I like playing in these APL games. It gives me some experience playing with live people instead of on line, and I want to build my skills for the next time I visit a brick and mortar casino again and play face to face for real money.

Friday, November 11, 2005

WWdN West Coast Warm-Up Tournament # 1

Last night I played in my first WWdN poker tournament, and had a lot of fun. "WWdN" stands for Wil Wheaton dot Net, and Wil is the host for these tourneys on PokerStars. He started them a few weeks ago on Friday nights, but I have been busy on Fridays doing "pit dad" duty (see my post "It's OK, I'm with the band..." in my personal blog for background). Last night was the first Thursday night game, created for west coast players with a later start time. I decided to play in this one because I expect to be tied up again tonight, and I had the day off from work today so staying up late wasn't a problem. Here is a recap of how the game went for me, with my memory ably assisted by the PokerStars transcript.

9:30 PM (CT) - Cards are in the air, as the saying goes. There are only seven players at my table. My first hand is 9-6s. Easy fold. Over the next several hands, I get a lot of trash for starting cards, and fold just about eveything coming my way. There isn't a whole lot of action; lots of folds around to the blinds, and some raises that aren't called.

9:36 PM - "I wish I could have limped in" hand: I'm UTG with 32o. No-brainer fold. The flop comes 2-2-3.

More junk hands follow. I manage to steal a few blinds when in position. Considering how tight everyone is playing, I'm thinking I should be a bit more aggressive and try to pick up a few more pots. But I decide to stick with my conservative plan and bet any good hands I get aggressively.

9:47 PM - I finally get KK, but only one caller to my raise, who then folds on the flop. Hey, at least they didn't get cracked.

More crap. A few more steals.

9:57 PM - My first stone cold bluff. I get Jd-7d in the BB. It's folded around, Oolon in the SB min raises, I call. Flop is 4c-9h-6c. Check, check. Turn is 6s. I have no pair and no draw, but Oolon checks again. I bet 90, Oolon folds. Whaddya know, it actually works sometimes!

10:00 PM - I finally win a decent sized pot. I get Ac-2d in middle position. I open with a 3X BB raise. CW21 in the BB calls. Flop is 5d-3c-9c. CW21 bets 200, I call with my Ace, gutshot straight draw and backdoor flush draw. Turn is Ah. CW21 bets another 200. I figure if he has paired an Ace, he would bet bigger, so my top pair is probably good. I raise it to 500; CW21 folds. I pick up 1125 in chips, almost doubling up on that hand. Feels good.

I win another nice pot a couple hands later when my A5s flops two pair and I get chased to the river.

10:16 PM - After a lot of worthless hands, I get As-Qs UTG and raise to 400 (blinds are 50/100). ZowieZ on the short stack on my left raises all-in to 505. Oolon in the BB calls, and so do I. Flop is 7d-2s-8s. Nut flush draw for me, not looking like much for anyone else. Oolon checks; I check, although I should have bet to avoid giving Oolon the free card. Turn is 9d. Oolon checks again. With a straight draw out there now, I bet 300 (not enough) and Oolon calls. River is 7h. No flush for me, but possible trips or boat elsewhere. Oolon checks again, so I figure he hasn't made his hand, or he's thinking of check-raising. In case of the latter, I check also, and Oolon shows Kh-Jc. ZowieZ had Ah-6h. I take it all, putting me at 4895 and the chip lead at my table.

I fold a lot and hang on to the table chip lead for a while, but I get overtaken by people who get cards to play while the junk keeps landing in front of me. Meanwhile the blinds keep going up and are gnawing away at my stack.

10:53 PM - Some excitement at my table: Wil has just been moved to it, and is seated directly to my right. Just where I want him, as long as he doesn't kick me under the table. At this point I am short stack at my table with 2145 and terrymr is leader with 8545, some of which he won from me earlier when I folded my AQo to his raise on a flop with a pair of nines in it.

11:01 PM - My stack is dwindling fast: 1545 with blinds at 100/200. I can last for a while but don't want to waste any chances. I'm dealt As-8s in the SB. It's folded to me, and I raise to 800. terrymr in the BB calls. Flop Ts-5s-Td. With my nut flush draw, I decide to push; terrymr folds. I heave a sigh of relief.

11:14 PM - Boredom has nearly set in. Fold, fold, fold. I remember the second of the six principles at the martial arts school I go to: Be Patient. I get moved to another table. This fails to change my luck, since I am still getting dung like 82o.

11:20 PM - I manage to steal a pot by pushing with A5o and getting no callers. I'm still alive, but still second-shortest stack at my table.

11:22 PM - My table is turning into the second TV table. Card Squad blogger Joanne has just been moved in, two seats to my left. Shane Nickerson, friend of Wil, is here too, between Joanne and me.

11:24 PM - I push with A-8 again and get one caller. Big D Fan26 shows A-T; I'm a dog. Flop is 2-K-4, turn is 8c giving me a pair, river is a K. My eights win. Another big sigh of relief.

11:31 PM - A hand that turned out well for me, even if I may have played it wrong. Joanne limps in for 400, everyone else folds, I have JJ in the BB. I raise it to 1200, Joanne calls. Flop is 7-7-3 rainbow. I make a continuation bet of 1200, Joanne raises it to 2400. She's probably representing a 7 for trips, or maybe she has a 3, or a pair of them. Would she have limped from early position with an unpaired 7? Seems unlikely, but the 3s would have made sense. I didn't think of it at the time, so I called her raise. Turn is a 2h. I check, Joanne raises all-in. By this point I feel committed to this pot, and I don't think the 2 helped her, unless she was dropping The Hammer. But I doubt she would have limped with 7-2; she would have raised with it if she was going to play it. I decide to take a risk, and I call her all-in with my remaining chips. I turn over my Jacks; she shows 6-6. I double up, and Joanne is crippled with only 425 left and blinds and antes at 200/400/25.

Next hand: I get Ac-Kc in the small blind. Joanne calls the big blind all-in with her last 400. Euclides also calls, and I raise but Euclides folds, so it's Joanne and me again. She shows Ks-Qs. I'm ahead, but the flop is Q-T-8, all diamonds. Joanne jumps ahead with the pair. Turn is Tc; river is Js, giving me the straight and knocking Joanne out. I've never sighed with relief so much in one night before. My chip count at this point is 12,030. It's all downhill from here.

11:42 PM - Blinds are 300/600/50. I'm in the small blind and get Ad-5d. It's folded to me. I raise to 1800; Mourn in the the BB reraises to 5400, which is over half my stack. I chicken out and fold. Mourn shows J-6o. I know I can't wait for pocket aces forever, but I'm not ready to stake it all on A-small. Not yet.

Next hand: I'm on the button and get Ah-Qs. BigBry UTG goes all-in for 4965. I've got 8665 in chips, but I have to like my chances with AQ, so I call. BigBry shows Ts-Jc. I've got him dominated, big time. But wait; the flop comes Tc-2d-9d. To add insult to injury, the turn is Jd, for two pair. I need a K to make the straight, but the river is the 7c. Now I'm down to 3640. Things are looking kinda discouraging, having dumped about 9K chips in ten minutes.

11:43 PM - very next hand, I'm in the cutoff with Qh-Kh. One raiser in front of me, and I push. Shane, in the SB, pushes also with his last 1810 chips. The original raiser folds. Shane shows Ks-6s. The board comes Jh-4h-9d-2s-As. My Q wins and Shane is busted out. I'm back up to 7950.

I go card dead and the blinds are taking chunks out of my stack. I try a couple of hands but have to fold when the flops miss me by miles.

11:53 PM - I have 4150 in chips. In middle position, I get Ac-Jc. redrebel in front of me calls 600; I bump it to 2400. Mourn reraises to 6000. Everyone else folds, and I push in my last 1750. AJ suited isn't a bad hand to take a stand with heads-up, right? Mourn shows Ad-Kd. Also not a bad hand to play. The board comes Qd-7s-Ts-9h-6c, and I'm out in 13th place.

I don't feel like I made any really boneheaded errors (although some may disagree, and I'd be grateful to hear where I really blew it). I did have a great time, and was pretty well pleased with my decisions most of the way. I'd be very happy to have any feedback anyone cares to leave!