Sunday, December 03, 2006

I've got to get away, I've got to get AWAAAYY...

I came to a decision last night. I will not be playing poker for real money again for the foreseeable future.

Is this a knee-jerk reaction to a bad night at the tables? Yes and no. True, I had a losing night last night, and it put me off the game. But as I look at my results over the past year, they are quite negative. I have had a few winning sessions and tournament cashes, but the losses outnumber the wins by much more than I like. No, I'm not in danger of missing my house payment or not feeding my family - not by any means. I play for very low stakes. The problem is, I'm having less and less fun playing. Losing certainly makes for less fun. Could I work at it, and study the books, and take pages of notes on other players, and do all the things that make successful players? Yes, I could. But I have other things in my life that I prefer to spend my time on, and I don't feel like I have the innate talent to make that work come to me easily enough to make the effort pay off.

For the moment I plan to play less poker overall, and only play for free when I do. There are plenty of freeroll tournaments and play money games on line that I can get into. I will probably continue playing in the Amateur Poker League tourneys, for as long as I can stand the second-hand smoke. I will most likely sell off the majority of my poker book collection (contact me if you want to buy some, cheap, and I will send you a list). Will I ever decide to get back into the game "for real"? I don't believe in saying "never" about nearly anything, so who knows? But I need to get away from it now.

I don't expect to update this blog for the foreseeable future either, not that I have written much here anyway. Or that very many people even know that this blog exists. If you read this, thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Like a yo-yo

I was ready to pack it in just about an hour ago. I've been playing like crap lately, or at least it feels that way. I decided to play some poker tonight, and I entered a satellite at Full Tilt to one of their Full Tilt Online Poker Series tourneys. Out of 52 entrants, I finished a lowly 41st. Maybe I didn't get a lot of great cards, but I suspect I could have played better than I did. So, thinking my luck should change, I bought into a two-table SNG. 18 started - IGH in 16th. Got sucked in by a flopped full house when I turned a flush. Should have got a better read on him/her.

Well gee, I'm thinking, I've barely played tonight, and things can't get worse, so into another SNG I go, this time a single table. I lose a chunk of chips early when I fold my TP medium kicker to a big raise with a flush draw showing. I tighten up and let the others duke it out, and some bust out, for a while. Finally I get a couple of hands and some chips, and I double up when I call the short stack's all-in with 88. He shows 76h and doesn't improve. Once I get a decent stack, I start putting some pressure on, and it pays off with some blind steals. Eventually, I take it all down. It's the first tournament win I have had in about four months. I've had several cashes and a few second place finishes in that time, but it definitely feels good to get first again. It might even make me think that I know something about how to play this game. That's kinda scary, because I know that I have a helluva lot to learn. I'm in the red for the calendar year, and that isn't a good sign in my opinion. Sure, variance can take you way up or way down, but I'm sure I could improve my stats if I worked harder at playing smarter. I finished 2005 with a small profit; I'd love to do the same in 2006. Guess I'd better pay more attention, study all the freaking poker books I have, and see what I can do to reach that goal.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Should I stay or should I go?

I haven't posted in a while, as I guess you can tell from looking at the date of this post and the date of the last one. I've been playing some, but not enjoying it all that much. I feel like I have forgotten much of what I have learned up to this point about how to play poker correctly. I also feel like I have so much more to learn, it's overwhelming.

I have a running joke with my wife, where almost every day I say that I am giving up poker. She knows that I don't mean it, and we laugh about it. But there are days, which lately seem to come more frequently, when I mean it a bit more than she thinks. I wonder if I should get over my "obsession" with poker and find another hobby. Usually I enjoy playing, but sometimes I think that the time I spend playing might be better spent doing something else. I worry that it occupies too much time that I ought to be spending with my wife and son. Neither of them is interested in playing, unfortunately.

I also wonder if I have the mental discipline to get better as a poker player. I have bought numerous books about the game, and read something in all of them, but I haven't really studied them closely, to make the effort to improve my game beyond the elementary school level. It seems too much like work, and I want poker to be fun. On the other hand, at least if I do fairly well in poker, the game can pay for itself. I don't want to be the kind of player who is always raiding the cookie jar for poker money because he always loses.

I know that I will continue to play for the time being. I will try to learn more about improving my game, and not make too many donkey plays because I am tired, or trying to get cute. I hope to keep my online bankroll intact, if not growing, so I can sustain my playing time without having to worry about the possible deposit hassles that may come with the UIGEA. We will see whether poker continues to be a source of fun for me, or a source of frustration or friction.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Bad Beat on Cancer Charity Tourney

On Sunday October 15th, Full Tilt Poker will be running a charity tournament for the Bad Beat on Cancer organization. Cost for the tournament is $5 for the prize pool, plus an additional $5 for the charity. Phil Gordon and Rafe Furst will be playing the tournament, and it's possible that more of the Full Tilt pros will also be in attendance. Details for the tournament are as follows:

October 15th, 9pm ET
Full Tilt Poker Private tournament tab: Bad Beat on Cancer
Password: badbeat
Entry: $5 plus $5

I am going to try to play in this one, and I hope you will too.

I got this info from Card Squad; the image is courtesy of Katitude.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Has on-line poker, and civil liberty, been dealt a mortal blow?

You probably know by now that Congress passed the Internet Gaming Prohibition Act late last week, by attaching it to a Port Security bill that was virtually guaranteed passage by the Senate. Of course, the anti-Internet-gaming bill wasn't getting much support on its own merits, so Senator Bill Frist snuck it onto the Port Security bill because it was not likely to pass any other way.

I have been reading quite a bit about this travesty of legislative trickery, although I don't think I have scratched the surface of everything that has been written about it. I have found some very good articles, and lots of links to even more excellent articles, about the subject at Card Squad. Go check them out as a starting point for information and opinions on this topic.

My personal reaction? On a shallow level, I am sorry to hear that some on-line poker sites are announcing that they will stop doing real-money business with US residents when the bill is signed into law in the next several days. I have enjoyed playing poker on line over the past few years, and I hope I can continue to do so. If the real money games dry up, I hope there will be play money games still available to me, so I can continue to play that way. I didn't play for very high stakes at real money, and overall I have more or less broken even, so it's not like I will be losing out on any profits that I was looking forward to or counting on. But I suspect that a lot of the players that I have met and come to know on line will not be interested in the fake money games, and I will miss playing with those that quit.

On a deeper level, I am frustrated, bordering on angered, by the actions of our elected officials who think they need to tell me, and millions of other responsible Americans, what they can't spend their money on in the privacy of their homes. The hypocrisy and arrogance of these dolts boggles my mind. I have tended to stay on the sidelines of the political world over the years. That isn't to say that I don't vote; I have voted in every presidential election since I became old enough to do so some 30-odd years ago, and in plenty of others in between. But I haven't closely followed every local campaign, or read up on each issue that was on every ballot I have cast, or written many letters to my government representatives. These days, though, I am growing increasingly discontented, if not disgusted, with the way our so-called leaders are behaving and speaking. Too much in the way of the freedoms that our founding fathers fought for (how's that for alliteration?) is being sacrificed in the name of the "war on terror" or "national security" or "family values" or some other nominally admirable phrase that has little connection with the actions being associated with it. When political gain is more important to our representatives than doing what is sensible, or is what one's constituents actually want, then we citizens are in danger of losing control of a country that is, by constitutional definition, ours.

I will be watching more closely what our Congresspersons do and say. And not just the US Congress, but my state and local reps too. I will speak up if I don't like the way things are going. I will encourage others to do the same. I will fight for what I know is right, and not what some suit in a capital building tells me is right. I may not be the most visible or vocal person around, but I'm not going to stay on the sidelines all the time any more. You know, if I have some extra time on my hands because there aren't as many poker games for me to play, I just might use that time to make my voice heard, and write a few of those letters to the people who are supposed to represent, and promote, my interests in our governmental bodies.

For now, I have joined the Poker Players Alliance, who I hope will work diligently to convince the powers that be that poker should be omitted from the list of on-line games subject to this new law. I will try to become better informed about what is being decided in our next election. I must admit, the governor's race here in Texas scares me, because none of the candidates strikes me as someone I would want running the state where I live. And I will play poker, somehow, somewhere. I cashed out of PartyPoker when they announced that they would stop allowing US residents to play for real money on their site. I moved the money I had there to PokerStars, and will use it on that site until and unless Stars decides to bar us at their door. I will play the fake money games when the urge strikes. I would love to get some like-minded players together and play some private or semi-private play money tournaments, for the fun and camaraderie of it. Maybe I will clean up my house and start a home game. Maybe I will make another trip to Oklahoma and play in one of the Native American casinos up there. Poker is too much fun for me to give it up completely.

I will see you at a poker table someplace, sometime, hopefully with the blessing of the numbskulls who are trying to keep us away from it - or else, the blessing of their replacements.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Random notes, and how to beat Phil Hellmuth

So, you're wondering what I have been up to and why I haven't posted here in so long.

Oh, you aren't. Well, here it comes anyway.

I haven't been playing as much as I used to, thanks to real life intruding on my poker playing time. But I've been in a few tournaments here and there, on line and some live freerolls. Since July 17, I have played in nine tournaments on line, mostly SNGs, and cashed in four of them. My best finish, money-wise, was 9th out of 62 in the DADI Re-buy tourney on July 26. That gave me a nice little bankroll boost. I had not played in a re-buy tourney before so I wasn't sure of the protocol, but when I saw people buying extra chips before the cards were in the air, I decided to put in my first re-buy up front too. Fortunately, I didn't have to re-buy again to keep up with the other players because I was able to build my stack the old fashioned way, i.e. with other players' chips. That was a fun tourney and I hope to play another DADI again soon. Meanwhile, my ring game play is in the red for the month, although I am just barely ahead for 2006. I should be doing better than this; virtually breaking even in my ring play tells me that I have leaks to find.

I have also played in a few APL tournaments and just recently joined the Bern league, another live amateur poker group which as far as I can tell is only here in Texas. The play in the two Bern games I have been to so far has been normal for free play games: some players who have a good idea what they are doing, some who haven't a clue, and most somewhere in between. I made the final table in my first Bern game and finished 6th; the next one I busted early. The nice thing about the Bern game here vs. the APL game I usually play in is that the venue is mostly non-smoking, whereas I always come home smelling like cigarette smoke when I get back from the APL games. I think I like the play better at the APL game, and they are better organized, so I'll have to see whether I want to spend more of my time at one or the other.

I also played in a fund-raising tourney for the Runway Theatre, a community theater that I have worked with here in Grapevine. Out of 36 entrants, I made it to 4th. Unfortunately, the only prize was for first, so all I got was a pat on the back from my theater friends who were cheering me on.

This past Wednesday night I watched the Professional Poker Tour event on the Travel Channel, where I saw Phil Hellmuth take two beats that put him on tilt. In analyzing what happened, I think I have stumbled upon the magic formula for defeating Phil in tournament play. Feel free to spread this around to anyone you like, except maybe the Brat himself. Not that he would believe what I am going to say.

OK, here it is.

How to Beat Phil Hellmuth


*Get lucky*

But actually, there is more to it than that. Here is what transpired at the table, as best I remember it, and how I came to my conclusion.

On one hand, Phil had AKo and raised preflop, about 3X BB. The player to his left, last name Kinney, had KQ of spades and called. Everyone else folded. Kinney didn't have a huge stack but wasn't one of the leaders either. Hellmuth had him covered.

Flop comes As-Js-X. With top pair, Phil bets, not too large, Kinney calls with the straight flush draw.

Turn: 4s, giving Kinney the nut flush. Phil checks; Kinney checks behind.

River: blank. Hellmuth has TPTK and bets it. Kinney reraises (he may have pushed, sorry my memory isn't better). Phil, talking out loud, says "All I can beat is AQ...." but after thinking about it he eventually calls. When he sees the flush, he is stunned. He mutters to himself, "You called my preflop raise with KQ..." shaking his head as if he can't believe someone would do that. This is the first stage of tilt for him.

A few hands later, Phil opens a pot with a preflop raise on AQ, and Phi Nguyen calls with JT of diamonds. Flop comes 9-Q-K rainbow. After several bets, raises and calls, and a board that doesn't help Hellmuth any further, he loses another big pot. Once again, he can't figure out why Nguyen called his preflop raise with those cards. Phil is on serious tilt after this.

My point about this is, it appears that Phil expects everyone he plays against to play the way he would. Phil is an excellent player and generally knows the right decisions to make in just about any situation. However, it is a weakness to expect others to do the same when trying to put them on hands. Maybe Phil would always fold KQ or JT suited to a preflop raise, and that's why he couldn't put his opponents on the hands that they had. Therefore he couldn't lay his hands down, since surely they couldn't have something that would beat him.

Mathematically, Kinney and Nguyen may have been making mistakes when they called those preflop raises. But strategically, their moves looked good (and the results were perfect). If you know your opponent will have a tough time putting you on a good hand, then your chances of maximizing your profits when you hit your hand are greatly increased. So Kinney and Nguyen both had what I will call good Implied Trapping Odds for their preflop bets, and in these cases they paid off. Nguyen may also have benefited somewhat from the tilt that Phil was on from the beat he took from Kinney.

I only hope that I can remember this strategy when I face Phil at a future tournament.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

WSOP Final Table live blogging by Dr. Pauly

I do have some poker posts swimming around in my brain, but until I get around to composing them, allow me to encourage you to visit the Tao of Poker site today (and every day), because Dr. Pauly will be providing live blog updates on the final table of this year's World Series of Poker Main Event. Pauly is the king of poker blogging, and his reports are always informative and entertaining. Be sure and stop by his site to get the latest news and gossip from the WSOP.

Monday, July 17, 2006

I joined the Party, and I'm having fun so far

I finally broke down and opened an account at PartyPoker, because I had heard that there are many fish just waiting to be caught there. I've only been playing there for about ten days, but so far the rumors seem to be true. I haven't exactly drained the lake dry, but I am ahead in both my cash game and tourney play there to date.

Tonight I got into a one-table $6 NLHE SNG. The donkeys there surprised me with their goofy play, and once I got some chips I did my best to push them around. I did run TPTK into a set of 3s that broke me down to 750 at one point, but I came back by letting the others make even bigger mistakes. I finished first, which felt nice and gave a nice little boost to the bankroll.

I'll probably play some more on Party and see if I can exploit the poor play there some more, although I will be on PokerStars as well, when I want a bit more of a challenge. If you ever want to look for me on Party, I play under the same ID as at the other sites: yestbay1.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The floating WWdN tournament

A couple of weeks ago I played in another Tuesday night tournament with Wil Wheaton. This tourney was different from the others of his that I have played in, though. For one thing, it was live instead of on PokerStars. For another, it was held on the Holland America cruise ship ms Maasdam, as one of the events of this year's Cruise Trek. Hey, Wil is no dummy; even a Former Star Trek Actor who doesn't want to be remembered just for that is smart enough to take advantage of a cruise vacation when the opportunity comes up. You can read more about the cruise itself, which was fantastic, on my personal blog.

I actually helped put the tourney together. My family and I had already planned to go on the cruise, and I contacted Charlie, the owner of Cruise Trek, when I found out that he was intending to hold a tournament on this year's cruise but the tourney host had to cancel. Charlie said he would be happy to let me take charge of planning it out, determining the blinds structure, chip colors and counts, and all the stuff that putting together a tournament entails. It took some work, but I enjoyed it and learned a lot about how a tourney is arranged and run.

A few weeks after I had agreed to do all this and had started working on it, I was playing in one of the weekly WWdN tournaments on PokerStars, when Wil said to me in the girly chat box,

"Hey Dave, I just signed up to go on this year's Cruise Trek."

"No way!" I said.

"Way," he replied.

"We're going too!" I declared.

"I know, Charlie told me," he answered.

"Did he also tell you that I am organizing a poker tournament on the cruise?"

"Yeah, and I'm going to kick your ass," he snorted.

Or maybe he said, "Yeah, I'm looking forward to it," or something along those lines. My memory is a little foggy there.

So we now had a bona fide poker star (or at least, PokerStar) heading up our cruise tournament. I took care of the logistical details of structuring the tourney, while Wil rounded up sponsorship from PokerStars and some prizes for the tourney winners, including signed books and PokerStars goodies.

I would wager that of the 45 people who signed up for the tournament, which was a freeroll, 42 of them had never played in a tournament before, and most of those had only seen Hold 'Em on TV if anywhere. The great majority of the "experienced" players in the tourney had only played draw or stud poker at their kitchen tables for toothpicks or pennies. Anticipating this, Wil held a poker and tournament basics lesson the day before the big game. Several people took notes and brought them to the tables when they played. Some went into the ship's library and practiced by playing for M&Ms. Many entered the tourney for the heck of it, and just wanted to play in the same game as Wil and a few of the other Star Trek celebs who joined in.

As you might expect, the play in the tournament itself was slow and weak. At my table, it was fold or call, with very little raising. I acted as "table captain" by helping with the flow of the game, making sure everyone knew when it was their turn to act, how much the bet was, and all that. I could hear Wil doing the same at his table. I was quite card dead, but managed to take enough small pots to survive to the final table. Wil didn't fare so well; he busted out about 30 minutes before we got down to the final ten players. Too bad we didn't make a last-longer bet.

The final table was played the following night, and Wil was our dealer. I started the final with 4900 in chips, about the third-shortest stack. Blinds were 1000/2000, so my M was crap. I ended up UTG for the first hand, and picked up KQo. I pushed right away, knowing that if I got called I was no better than a coin flip to just about anything but also knowing that I had to take a risk and could do a lot worse than those cards. However, everybody folded and I took the blinds. I got nothing to play for the rest of the orbit, and when the BB got around to me again, I had 83o, and the blinds had gone up to 2000/4000. It folded to the SB, who completed. With 4000 of my 4900 chips in, I went ahead and threw in my last chips, figuring that I might get lucky and either steal the blinds or catch a card or two if I got called. The SB hesitated for longer than I thought he would, and almost folded, but finally called. He showed JT sooooted, and I didn't improve. I finished in sixth place and won an autographed copy of The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King, by Michael Craig. I had been wanting to read that, so now I will have the chance. I watched the rest of the game, and the winner, Jeffrey Lu, turned out to be a guy who had never played Hold 'Em before. He obviously caught on quickly enough, and got lucky enough, to finish first. He won a Poker Stars jersey and a buy-in to a WSOP satellite on PokerStars. Second place won a PokerStars chip set, and the other final tablers won various autographed books. Everyone who made the final two tables got either a PokerStars hat or T-shirt.

The tourney seemed to be a big success among those who played and even many who watched. Wil did a fine job as host and poker guru, and it was a pleasure working with him to make it all happen. Hopefully there will be more Cruise Trek poker tournaments in the future for both of us.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

World Poker Blogger Tournament results, for me

I played in the World Poker Blogger Championship tournament at PokerStars today, and had a great time. I more or less kept my head above water during the first few rounds by playing tight and making moves when I had the opportunity. I caught some good hands that held up and built up my stack during the middle stages. Once I had some chips, I tried to use them to my best advantage and steal blinds when I could. Thanks to a few big pots, I was among the chip leaders for a good portion of the time. I made it past the bubble at 55th place, and wondered if I should try to dump my chips to take the PokerStars jacket that the finishers in 41st to 54th place got. That thought only crossed my mind for about a nanosecond; at that point I was well up in chips and knew I could last a good while longer. The idea of winning it all and getting a trip to the WSOP Main Event looked pretty sweet, plus the other prizes at the higher levels were nothing to sneeze at.

You can read more about how the tourney went at the PokerStars blog. I have requested my hand history from the tourney and plan to look through it for highlights, and things in my game to work on. Maybe I will post more about it in the near future. But suffice it to say, I eventually got all my chips in when my M was below 10 with AKo. My opponent had AA, and I was unable to overcome that domination. I finished in 26th place and won a 4 GB I-Pod Nano. My 14 year old son is already jealous.

I am very pleased not just with my final placement (26th out of 2,247), but with my play tonight. I didn't make a lot of donkey moves, and made what I thought were mostly good decisions. I'm looking forward to the next tourney that I enter, to see if I can keep the success streak going.

Update: PokerStars e-mailed me the cool trophy graphic for being a "bronze" winner. I kinda like it.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Back from Sin City

Earlier this week I took the trip to Las Vegas that I won in the APL tourney back in January. While I was there, I played in a NLHE tournament and in a $2-4 Limit HE game. I didn't cash in the tourney or come out ahead in the cash game, but I did enjoy the experiences and learned a few things about my game.

The tournament was at the Aladdin. Buy-in was $60 which got me 2000 in chips, with starting blinds at 25-50. I started out relatively tight, and didn't play a lot of hands. I did take an early pot with TT when everyone else showed weakness and I bet at the uncoordinated board, even with an overcard to my pair on it.

One hand that disappointed me in the early round came when I got Ac-Ad in early position. I raised 200, but the player two seats behind me popped it to 500. I immediately put him on KK or QQ with that large of a reraise, but of course I called him. Maybe I should have reraised again, but chose to call instead so he wouldn't get too suspicious.

The flop was K-x-x with three clubs. Still thinking that he might have KK and had made a set, I checked. He bet 500. I figured I had lots of outs with the other two aces and any club for the nut flush, so I called. The turn was another rag. I checked again; he bet another 500. I called again. The river was yet another brick, with no club. I checked it, he bet 500 again. If he had made a bigger bet, I might have put him on AK and trying to get me to fold. The smaller bet made me think he wanted the call for his set. I folded. I think my biggest error was not betting on the flop. If I had bet strongly, and he didn't have KK, it might have been harder for him to call. If he had raised me, I could have put him on the set and folded right there, saving me the bet on the turn.
I didn't want to put too many of my chips at risk that early in the tournament, so I didn't (and don't) regret the fold at the end. But I wish I had not been as weak as I was earlier in the hand.

My weak play would continue when I got short stacked in later rounds. At one point, my M was about 4 or 5, and I got KJo in EP. I should have pushed with that, but I folded it, thinking I stood too much of a chance of getting called by a stronger hand. I ignored the principle of going with a relatively strong starting hand with fewer chips and taking my chances. As it turned out, two or three people got into that pot, and the flop came with two Jacks. Of course, if I had pushed there might not have been as many players in the pot, but if there had been any, I could have doubled or tripled up. Eventually, I busted when my AK lost a race to a pair.

In the cash game at the Luxor, I was very card dead. I also took a nasty beat on this hand: I limped from the BB with 94o. Flop: QQ4. With bottom pair, I checked. The hot chick two seats behind me bet the minimum, and I called. The turn was another Q. Since no one bet hard before or on the flop, I didn't suspect a pocket pair, so I figured my boat was good, and I bet. The hot chick just called. The river was a blank, so I bet, Hot Chick called. Thinking I had the pot won, I showed my 4. She turned up the case Q. She almost never raised the whole time she was at the table, not that I would have put her on quads if she had. But I might have put her on a higher full house, and that would have given me a reason to think harder about calling. The dealer even told her that she was allowed to raise if she had a good hand. Maybe she was unclear on that concept, although I don't think it is the dealer's place to give someone at the table lessons during a game.

I thought I made decent decisions most of the time, other than what I mentioned above in the tourney. But I did chase a hand that I shouldn't have in the cash game, when I couldn't lay down AQ that paired the A on the flop. I kept getting raised by the guy on the other side of Hot Chick, and I kept calling him. He showed AK at the end. Hee-haw.

I also played some blackjack, and only lost $15 over the course of about an hour at a $10 minimum table. The only time I came out ahead was when I played a 2-cent slot machine at MGM Grand while waiting for my wife and son who were checking out the lion exhibit. I actually won $7.34 in just a few minutes. But I don't plan on switching from poker to slots. I know where my EV is positive and where it is negative.

Overall, I enjoyed the trip quite a bit, and I got to see some of the WPT Mandalay Bay Championship tourney in person. That was a nice surprise since I didn't know it was going on until we got there and saw a bunch of signs for it. I saw a number of name pros playing there, including Phil Ivey, Phil Laak, Barry Greenstein, Chau Giang, Jennifer Tilly, and some others that I am surely forgetting. Pretty neat to see these folks in person for the first time.

Now I am back home and will need to find some time to play some poker, maybe this weekend on line. I need to build up my bankroll, so it will probably be some micro-limit HE to grind out a dollar here or there. Plus I should study some more to remind myself of good strategy so I will be better prepared for the next tourney I enter, maybe a WWdN in the next week or two.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

PokerStars World Blogger Championship

Online Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!

This Online Poker Tournament is a No Limit Texas Holdem event exclusive to Bloggers.

Registration code: 4511484

Monday, May 29, 2006

Poker lesson from the movies

Recently I went to see "Mission: Impossible 3" at the movies. My son and I decided to see something that my wife, who was out of town visiting her dad, would not have been very interested in seeing, so we picked an action flick that looked like a fun way to spend a couple of hours.

There is a scene in the movie fairly early on where Tom Cruise's character has just captured the villain and is trying to get some information out of him. The villain, played superbly by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, is telling Tom, "Do you have a wife, or a girlfriend? Because if you do, I am going to find her, and hurt her, and make her scream your name." You can see Tom getting more and more upset as the bad guy taunts him with these threats. Eventually Tom opens the bottom hatch of the airplane in flight, where the interrogation is taking place, and holds Hoffman over the open doors while screaming at him to tell him what he wants to know.

What does this have to do with poker? Well, as I was watching this scene, and what Hoffman's villain was doing to Cruise's good guy, I kept thinking to myself, "Tom, he's trying to put you on tilt! Don't fall for it!" It reminded me of players who trash-talk at the table, or in the on-line chat box, and who are probably in at least some cases doing it for the main purpose of tilting another player or players at the table. I consider myself fairly immune to such tactics; I probably put myself on tilt more often than someone else does, by allowing myself to get upset when I lose a hand that I feel like I shouldn't have, or get sucked out on by some donkey who shouldn't have been playing the hand that won. But other players' comments seldom affect me to the point where my game suffers.

So, my point is, don't let the villain get under your skin and affect your ability to play your best game. If you do, then you have given up a portion of whatever advantage you may have had.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Donkeys don't fold

I played some $0.01/0.02 NL last night. I was very card dead for the whole time I played, which wasn't very long, about an hour. Shortly before I quit for the night, I made a foolish play that cost me most of my stack. I think it makes a good example of a play that requires some thinking through to know the right way to play it.

I was in the BB and got 54o. There were several limpers ahead of me, and I checked. The flop was 4-8-4.

Wow, I thought, I flopped trips. I should play this fairly strong. I bet 3-4XBB. The guy two seats ahead of me pushes all in for almost $3. Everyone else folds.

I only hesitated for a few seconds before calling. The thought that he had 88 occured to me, but I thought trips was too good a hand to fold. If I had been smarter, I would have stopped to figure out what hands the villain would have bet so hard with. Some possibilities:

88 - the most obvious, since he limped in which would have made sense with a middle pair like that. Making a big bet with a full house would be logical, although maybe not as big as he did, since he should have wanted more people in the pot.

The case 4 - not as likely since three of them were out, but if he had it, he would have been betting on trips too, and likely have me outkicked. If he had 84, he had a boat, but that seemed very remote.

An overpair - quite possible; limping with 99 to JJ would fit, although anything higher probably would have been raised preflop. But it wouldn't have given him a made hand; the overbet would seem like a move to discourage a call.

So of the above possibilities, I am ahead against two pair but behind against the others. This would have been a prime spot to practice my folding skills, since there was a good chance I was beat by 88.

The turn and river did not help me, and the villain turned up A4o. A questionable hand to limp in with, but I should have considered the possibility that the 4 was out there, especially when the big bet came out on the flop.

This hopefully will serve as a reminder to me that I need to put more effort into putting my opponents on hands and not getting attached to my hands that look good but stand a decent chance of being second best.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Today's poker lesson is....

...don't misplay your hand as badly as I did at the final table of the World Poker Blogger Tour Hammer Out Cancer tournament on FullTilt last night.

I had done pretty well up to the hand in question. I was short stacked for a good part of the time, but bounced back a few times and for a good stretch was in the top five in chips. But by the time I got to this point, I was the second shortest stack out of five. A double-up would have put me in good position to make a run at first. Here's what happened, from memory since I don't have the hand history.

Blinds were 500/1000 with ante 25; my stack was about T11,500. I was in the small blind and got KJo. I thought, why couldn't I get these cards in early position so I could push with them, getting some first-in vig. Well, it was folded around to me, so I had my chance to be first in. FrankL in the BB had about T26,000 so he had me well covered.

Mistake 1: I just made a standard raise of 3XBB. I was hoping that the BB would see that as a bet looking for a call, meaning I had a strong hand, so he would fold. Instead, he called. If I had pushed there, he might not have liked the idea of putting almost half his chips at risk, and folded then and there. Still, I thought if the flop hit me solidly, I would be in good shape.

Flop came Q-x-Q.

Mistake 2: I bet, hoping to represent the Q and get the BB to fold. Instead, he raised to set me all in. By then, I felt committed, so I pushed. Of course, he turned over a Q. I didn't improve and was out. I should have checked to see if he would bet, and folded if he did. FrankL went on to win the tourney; congrats!

I was mostly pleased with my play up to that hand. I put pressure on the smaller stacks when I had the chips to do so, and I got decent reads on a few players. I did get lucky on a couple of hands, including one where I pushed with 22 against SirFWALGman, who showed AK. I flopped a 2 and doubled up. I even got a compliment from Sir Waffles later, who said I played a mean late game and that he was impressed. But I definitely misplayed that KJ hand and it cost me a chance to stick around longer.

Nevertheless, finishing fifth out of 61 in that tourney gave me a very satisfied feeling with my overall play. The competition was pretty tough, as it always is against poker bloggers. It was my first game for real money on FullTilt, and coming out with a profit made my evening.

Last but in no way least, the tournament, which was organized by Easycure, raised over $1,000 for the American Cancer Society, since $15 of each entry fee was donated to that cause. I am happier about that than about anything else.

The bonus: I am now on the WPBT Player of the Year list, since this tournament was an official WPBT event. I guess I will have to play in a few more WPBT games to see if I can stay on the POY list.

In other news, I took second place in a one-table SNG on PokerStars recently, which may not seem like much but I'll take every high placement that I can. That game featured a comeback from a short stack, mostly by stealing blinds from one of the weaker tables I have played against, plus a few suckouts that helped me stay alive. I got two Hammer-related hands that
aided my cause:

Table '23090223 1' 9-max Seat #8 is the button
Seat 1: sweathog_68 (6055 in chips)
Seat 4: mikedm139 (2610 in chips)
Seat 5: MACA277 (1515 in chips)
Seat 8: surferbumb (2675 in chips)
Seat 9: yestbay1 (645 in chips)
yestbay1: posts small blind 100
sweathog_68: posts big blind 200
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to yestbay1 [7h Ks]
mikedm139: folds
MACA277: folds
surferbumb: folds
yestbay1: raises 445 to 645 and is all-in
sweathog_68: calls 445
*** FLOP *** [2s 2h 6c]
*** TURN *** [2s 2h 6c] [2c]
*** RIVER *** [2s 2h 6c 2c] [7c]
*** SHOW DOWN ***
yestbay1: shows [7h Ks] (a full house, Deuces full of Sevens)
sweathog_68: shows [Th Jc] (three of a kind, Deuces)
yestbay1 collected 1290 from pot

and just a few hands later...

Table '23090223 1' 9-max Seat #8 is the button
Seat 1: sweathog_68 (5610 in chips)
Seat 4: mikedm139 (2610 in chips)
Seat 5: MACA277 (1215 in chips)
Seat 8: surferbumb (2675 in chips)
Seat 9: yestbay1 (1390 in chips)
yestbay1: posts small blind 100
sweathog_68: posts big blind 200
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to yestbay1 [2d 7c]
mikedm139: folds
MACA277: folds
surferbumb: folds
yestbay1: calls 100
sweathog_68: checks
*** FLOP *** [5s 7h Qd]
yestbay1: bets 400
sweathog_68: raises 800 to 1200
yestbay1: calls 790 and is all-in
*** TURN *** [5s 7h Qd] [2h]
*** RIVER *** [5s 7h Qd 2h] [7s]
sweathog_68 said, "lol"
*** SHOW DOWN ***
yestbay1: shows [2d 7c] (a full house, Sevens full of Deuces)
sweathog_68: shows [Qs 6s] (two pair, Queens and Sevens)
yestbay1 collected 2780 from pot
yestbay1 said, "wow"
sweathog_68 said, "that's the last time I go up against a 2 7"

At this point I had moved up to second in chips, and I started picking on the shorter stacks as much as I could. I played it fairly well from there on, but the cards didn't fall my way heads-up.

I'm glad to get a couple of decent tournament showings. Maybe I *am* learning about this game, and remembering some of what I learn so I can use it as I go along.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Sorry to disappoint you, but....


Nor do I know who is (or was). But it's a fun mystery, which for all I know may have been solved already.

I speak of the "champ" referred to in my previous post about the Champ vs. Chicks tournament. See the link there to the "champ's" blog for some background.

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming....

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Poker bloggers rule, especially Texas bloggers

I watched a WPBT WSOP satellite tourney on PokerStars last night, with some of my favorite poker bloggers playing in it. I didn't play myself because I didn't want to pay the $30+3 entry fee for a chance to win a seat at the WSOP that I wouldn't be able to use. My family and I will be on a cruise right in the middle of the WSOP, which is a shame because I would love to go to Vegas and soak up the insanity of that event and meet some of the bloggers that I have only seen on line.

I always enjoy observing the blogger tourneys, even when I'm not playing in them. The players are entertaining to watch, the chat can be hilarious, and I even learn a thing or two from these often quite skilled folks. I celebrate their wins, mourn their bad beats, and groan at their unbelievably numerous suckouts. Last night's game was no exception, with plenty of wild poker action plus amusing banter in the chat windows.

But the really cool thing happened in a tourney that I didn't watch. Fellow Texan Jaxia played in a World Cup of Poker heads-up qualifier game last night, and won it! She will be a member of Team Texas in the next round to qualify for joining Team USA to play in the World Cup championship in Barcelona, Spain later in the year. Congrats to Jaxia, and I wish her good luck in the next round! I'm sure she will represent us well.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Back in (the) black

I haven't written much about poker lately. I don't feel particularly qualified to write about my "strategies for winning," since I am still learning and I know there are lots more knowledgeable and skilled poker bloggers out there than I am. I don't know how interesting posts about specific hands or games are, although I've read some accounts on other blogs that have been entertaining. But because I don't want to let this blog go too long without an update, I'll ramble a bit about this and that.

Today I played in two NLHE SNGs in a row. The first was a $1.50 + 0.25, the second was a $5 + 0.50, both 18 players to start. I was doing OK in the first one for a while, and made the final table, but lost a couple of hands and finally pushed with JJ when my M fell below 5. I got called by AKo, who rivered an Ace to knock me out in sixth place. I did better in the second one, thanks to a good run of cards and some tight-weak players that I was able to steal a number of blinds from. I finished that one in first place, which was a very nice feeling since I hadn't won a tourney in several weeks - not since the live tourney where I won the Vegas trip (which I haven't taken yet, in case you were wondering). Plus, I am now officially in the black for tourney play for 2006, which is an even better feeling. I tend to stay in the black in my micro-limit cash game play, but my tourney play hasn't been as successful until recently. I finished sixth in a WWdN tourney earlier week, which gave me a profit of $29.95 for that night , and that was a nice boost to the bankroll (and to my poker morale). With a third-place finish in another $1.50 + 0.25 last Sunday, my total profit for this week is over $60: the second-most I have ever made in one week of on line play. I'm sure that is peanuts for some people, but it gives me a feeling of accomplishment.

A random observation: as elementary as this may seem to experienced players, I have only lately started to make note of something. If a flop full of rags appears on a given hand, the first thing I do these days is look to see if anyone limped in from the blinds. I figure there is a good chance that the players in the blinds might have lousy cards that they would have folded in other positions, but would limp in with if no one raised preflop. If the board has a lot of those crappy cards too, one or both of the blinds might have caught a good piece of it. If I see a bet or raise from the blinds in that situation, my guess is that they could have a fairly strong hand like two pair or a flush or straight draw (or made hand). If I'm in the pot and my hand is marginal, I'm more likely to fold than pay to see another card in hopes of catching something, unless the pot odds are really good.

Another observation: in the WWdN tourney this past Tuesday, I was low on chips and got pocket Queens on one hand, so I raised about 3 or 4 times the BB. SirFWALGman reraised me, and I popped him again to see what he was up to. He put me all-in, so I called, thinking I have much too good a hand to fold. If he has KK or AA, I'll have to take my lumps. He showed 72 off-suit. Now, I know the Hammer is a fun hand to play sometimes, but only under the right conditions. For me, I will only raise with it in late position when everyone has folded in front of me, and I think the odds are good that those behind me will fold. It's just too weak a hand to play after a bet or raise (or reraise) in front of me. I went on to win that hand, and Waffles was pretty badly crippled while that pot put me solidly back in the game. He made a strong comeback from that, though, and ended up finishing the tourney one place ahead of me. I was just shocked that he made that play at all.

One more note: I was playing in a Limit game a couple of days ago. I started a hand with AJo, and called preflop. An Ace hit the flop, and two undercards to the J. There were two other people in the hand betting ahead of me, and the first guy led out, the second called. I figured top pair, decent kicker is worth one more small bet, so I called too. The turn is another undercard, no pair on board. Bet, call, call. The river is a K. Immediately I think someone has paired the K and my J is no good. First guy bets, second guy calls, I fold. The first guy shows A5h; second guy mucks (must not have paired the A, or had an even worse kicker). I don't recall a heart flush draw, or even the gutshot straight draw, on the board, although there may have been one. I'm wondering, did I make a mistake by putting him on a stronger hand than I should have? Maybe I should have raised on the flop or turn to find out how strong the other kickers were. (I don't recall how much raising there may have been preflop.) I'm pretty sure I should have played that hand differently, and I'm thinking that I should have raised earlier to either drive out the others or determine if I was probably behind and should fold. But I definitely missed a nice pot by folding on the river there.

Closing bit: On-line poker is evil. It is so convenient, so easy to just sit at the computer and play, that I don't take the time to study up on how to improve my game. I start reading one of my many books on the subject, and while trying to absorb the useful information in the book I get the itch to actually play instead of just read about it. So I go fire up Poker Stars and get into a game before anything I have learned has a chance to sink in. Yes, yes, playing is one of the best ways to learn, but I need to acquire more techniques to use, and I have to take the time to learn them before I will be able to use them. If I could only play live games, in home games or card rooms, I would be forced to wait until one of those games was available, and would probably be more likely to study the masters more thoroughly until the next game. With on-line poker available anytime, the instant gratification factor gets the best of me. Discipline; I must learn discipline.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Champ vs. Chicks tourney

Tonight, a few female poker players challenged a man who apparently thought that women don't make good poker players, or something like that; I haven't read his whole blog to see what brought this on. But "the champ" was knocked out in grand style by Maudie with this hand, after the champ tried to trap her. Nice hand, ma'am.

I'm sure there will be other blog entries elsewhere about this tourney, which I came in late for. But what I saw of it was pretty entertaining.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Poker chat etiquette

Rather than dissect hands that I have recently played, or brag about wins or moan about losses, I thought I would bring up a point that bothers me occasionally when I play on line.

While I am playing in online games, I often see some players in the chat box criticizing the plays that others make. Many times, it will be due to one player winning with a hand that the losing player considers to be unworthy of having been played. More than once, I have agreed with the sentiment of the losing player. If someone plays 53 offsuit in early position, calls one or more flop and turn bets without making a hand, and then hits a straight on the river to beat the other player's flopped set, I would immediately suspect that the winning player had no knowledge of the proper strategy for playing the game. I have read chat comments like, "Why did you play that crap? How could you call my raises with such junk?" And so forth.

I consider myself a fairly polite person. I would not make disparaging remarks like that to strangers, and would have to feel very comfortable with friends that I might joke with in that manner. Some players might try to put someone else on tilt with such trash talk, thinking of it as a strategic tactic. My courtesy filter has so far prevented me from engaging in that sort of gamesmanship. The way I figure it is, if this player is so ignorant of the correct plays to make, I have the advantage over him or her, and in the long run have a very good chance of picking up a lot of chips from this person. The last thing I would want to do is encourage them to improve their play. I also don't want to create an atmosphere of conflict at the table, which could not only antagonize the player being criticized but other players there as well.

I haven't done it yet, but I think that the next time I see some donkey make a boneheaded move that wins a pot, I might make a comment like, "Bold move there" or "Wow, I wouldn't have thought of that." It might make them think that such plays are admired, little knowing that the reason I admired it is that in the long run it is more likely to benefit me than them.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Live blogging the WWdN penner42 Invitational

I'm going to try live blogging tonight's tournament and see how it goes. Hopefully I won't get so distracted by this that I screw up my playing.

All times Central:

7:30 PM I am at table 16. There are 118 entrants tonight, one of the biggest fields in a WWdN tourney yet.

First hand: AJo in EP. I decide to fold. It's the best I see for a few hands; probably should have played it.

cfinnn is at my table; I've played with her before. The others I don't know.

I have tried to limp into a couple of pots but the flops keep missing me. The others are keeping the action going though.

7:40 I've been moved to a new table. It hasn't helped my starting cards yet. So far the best I have had is KJo in bad position. When am I going to get something decent, like the Hammer?

7:50 I finally win a pot - I get KTo on the button, it's folded to me, I raise 3XBB, the blinds fold. Yippee!

7:59 - Another blind steal, this time with 22. I'm really burning up the felt now. Not.

8:04 - I actually saw a flop that helped me! T7o, caught a T, bet 4XBB, everyone folded. I'm on a roll.... but still below T1,500.

8:10 - I get TT, limp but get min-raised so I call. The flop is 9-X-7; I bet 3XBB, original raiser pops me again. I figure him for a set of 9s, so I fold. When it gets to the river, it turns out he had 7s. Either way, I was glad I folded.

8:20 - I only have 1075 left, blinds are 50/100. I get 99 on the button. I raise it 4XBB, get two callers. Flop is T-J-Q, two spades. I get raised 500. I doubt I am going to last much longer so I push my last 675 and get called by AQ. I don't improve and I'm out. Maybe I should have pushed pre-flop but the AQ probably would have called regardless. Oh well, I blame it on the cards; I got next to nothing worth playing. I should go to bed early anyway, since I am taking my wife to the airport around 4:30 AM. But I find this blogging to be distracting so I don't know if I will be doing much of it in future tourneys, unless I get really good at playing or blogging or, preferably, both.

WWdN tournament tonight

I expect that most of you who read this blog already know about Wil Wheaton's weekly tourneys, but in case you don't, or as a reminder, here is the info for tonight's game:

What: WWdN: penner42 Invitational
Where: PokerStars.
When: Tuesday, January 31. 8:30 EST
Password: monkey
Tournament number: 18610753
Buy-in: $10 + 1

You can read more about the game, and other interesting poker stuff, at Card Squad. Tell your friends; we'd love to get the player total over 100 each week!

I may play tonight, if I'm home and I decide I can stay awake for it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Leaving on a jet plane....

As you may know, I play regularly in the Amateur Poker League (APL) which puts on free No Limit Hold 'Em tournaments at bars and restaurants in several states. I have found these tournaments to be a good place to hone my poker skills without putting any of my hard earned cash at risk. I enjoy playing on line very much, but being in a game with live people across the table from you is a whole 'nother experience from sitting at your computer and trying to figure out what your opponent is doing based almost solely on betting patterns.

Last night I played in another APL tourney, but this one was a little different. It was the championship game for a contest that ran from September to the end of December. The 64 players at two APL venues combined who accumulated the most points over that time period qualified for this tournament, which had actual prizes to be won. You earn points in APL games by finishing in the top 16 at each weekly tournament. The higher you place, the more points you get, plus a bonus depending on how many players entered that week's event. I had finished 16th or better (although never first) often enough over the past four months to qualify; I think I ranked 49th on the qualifiers list. I was less worried about where I stood in the point totals than about whether I made the cut, which I did. Strangely, only 30 of the 64 qualifiers showed up to play. I expected a much bigger turnout because of the prizes being offered.

The grand prize for this contest was a trip for two to Las Vegas, including airfare and three nights hotel accommodations. Second prize was tickets to see a Dallas Mavericks basketball game. There was a third prize too but I never found out what it was. Because this tournament had something tangible riding on the outcome, the players (at least at my starting table) played very tight. No one wanted to take a chance of losing a chunk of their stack too soon. I'll admit, I played tight too, but that isn't unusual for me; I'm a fairly conservative player most of the time. What I should have done, with everyone else playing so scared, is made more plays at the pots, and raised more to steal the blinds. But, I didn't do as much of that as I probably could have got away with. Instead I stuck to my normal game of playing only good starting cards, limping in with draws when possible, raising when I had something worth playing, and getting out of the hand if I felt like I was beat. This worked well for me, because when I got good cards and bet them, I either won the pot early or my hands held up. It took a while but I built up my stack and eventually became one of the chip leaders at my table. Because of how tight everyone was playing, the bustouts were slow in coming. It seemed like forever for our table to break up and for those of us remaining to be moved to another table.

Once I finally moved, to one of the final two tables, the defining hand of the tournament came for me. Six of us were playing. Blinds were 500 and 1000 and would soon go up to 1000/2000. I had about 13,000. I was in the small blind, and picked up AQo. UTG, who had about 1300, called the BB. The next player had about 6,000, and went all-in. Next player folded. The button, who was the chip leader, thought long and hard but called the all-in. Action was on me. I figured UTG to be on a draw since he only called, and UTG+1 to be on a desperation push, so I didn't think his hand was that great. Maybe a medium or lower pair or two big cards. Since the button only called the all-in instead of pushing himself, I didn't think his hand was that great either, probably similar to UTG+1. Although I knew there was a decent chance that my AQ was behind, I felt like I was no worse than a coin flip against the hands I put the others on. I went ahead and pushed the rest of my chips in. The BB folded, and it was back to UTG, who wasn't happy about all the raising in front of him but decided to throw in his last 300. The button then called my all-in, leaving him with about 1200. When we turned up our cards, UTG had two medium connectors, UTG+1 had something like Q9, the button had AJ. I was ahead with my AQ, and it held up. I knocked out the two short stacks and crippled the big stack. A few hands later, we were down to the final table. I had a nice stack when I moved there, and managed to get a couple of good hands. The play was amazingly tight at the final; no one wanted to play with less than premium hands, it seemed. For example, when we got down to three, the guy to my left, who was the short stack, folded pocket fours when I pushed with KQ. He blinded out shortly thereafter, but not before I crippled the other stack when his 99 ran into my JJ. A hand or two later, my sole remaining opponent pushed with a J; I called with a Q, and he didn't improve, although I did catch a Q on the river to seal the deal.

So, I won a trip to Las Vegas! I have been itching to go back there; it's been a couple of years since my last trip out, and reading about the WPBT adventures last month just whetted my appetite for a visit even more. I had even started looking at airfares and hotels and what days I could take off work. Now, I can pick the days I want to go and let the APL's travel agency do the planning, and the paying. I don't know yet what hotel they will put us in or when we will go, but I'm hoping we can make the trip in March when my son is on spring break from school. We'll have to pay for his plane ticket, but I have no problem with that.

I have finished in first place in a couple of low buy-in SNGs on line, and cashed for $70 in third place in a WWdN tourney a couple of weeks ago, but this trip is easily the biggest payoff for me in a poker game yet. I intend to savor every moment of it while I am there. I just hope the APL puts us up in a decent place so we can feel a little bit like we've won a Major Award. Oh, yes, I do plan to play some poker while I am in Vegas (duh). Any recommendations on which casino poker rooms have the softest players, so I can at least last a while if not come out ahead? I'll try not to play like a complete donkey. I'll post more when I know when we are going and where we are staying, and then I'll have a report when we get back.

Yippee, I won a tournament, and a big prize! Can you tell I'm excited?

Friday, January 13, 2006

Live Poker! Real Money!

I played at Winstar Casino in Oklahoma today. It was my first casino poker in almost two years. I have played in a few nickel and dime home games, quite a bit on line for very low stakes, and regularly in the free Amateur Poker League games locally, but it's definitely different playing in a real card room. I had the day off work so I made the hour-plus drive just over the Texas-Oklahoma border this morning to see how Winstar's poker room would treat me.

The casino building is huge. It looks like a big tent out of a Middle Eastern desert from the outside. Inside, they have different sections full of slots (their bread and butter), plus some table games. The poker room is in the rear of the building, and it's a very popular place. They actually have had to set up poker tables outside the poker room proper to keep up with the demand. I kept hearing them tell players to go to the Showroom; what do they do when they have entertainment playing there? Probably make the band play in the hallway.

They spread Limit Hold 'Em from $4/$8 up to $20/$40, and No Limit starting at $1/$2 blinds with buy-ins of $100 min/$200 max, up to $5/$10 blinds with buy-ins of $500 min/$1,000 max. I chose to play $4/$8 Limit so I could ease in without putting too much at risk at once. I got there just about when the poker room opened at 10:00 AM, and they sat me at a table that was just opening. I bought in for $100. Once the table filled up, which didn't take more than a few minutes, the cards were in the air. I played tight, much tighter than the rest of the table. While not everyone played every pot, it seemed like every pot had mulitple players and ended in a showdown. There were a few players who saw virtually every flop and, as you might expect, a fair number of suckouts. One older guy, who was across the table from me, seemed to catch the winning card on the river on nearly every pot he played. I must admit that I caught several good cards myself over the course of the day. Early on, I limped in from the BB with 82 suited. The flop had an 8 and a 2 in it, plus something like a T. I bet, was called by one player; the turn wasn't scary, so I bet and got called again. The river was another 8. I bet again, got called again, and took down a nice pot. The same kind of thing happened to me later with J9 suited in the BB, when a J and a 9 hit the flop and a J hit the river. There were several people in that pot, with pairs and flush draws, so that one was healthy-sized too. Mostly I played the cards rather than the players, because my pocket cards were either great starters or easy folds preflop. But I did get reads on a few of the players, and picked up some obvious tells. The most glaring tell was committed by a couple of people: picking up chips before their turn to act when they planned to bet, and picking up their cards in advance when they were going to fold. I knew every time what they were going to do before it was their turn. Need I say to anyone reading this: not a good idea. Another big no-no: one guy who was sitting two seats to my right was not hiding his cards very well at all when he looked at them. It would have been way too easy to see what he had without even trying. Then again, this particular guy, who was a regular at this casino since all the dealers and staff knew him by name, played just about every pot with any two cards, all the way to the river. He sucked out a couple of times, but I can't imagine him doing anything but losing in the long run.

I didn't make any fancy plays, just mostly stuck with premium hands and played them aggressively. Most of the time. On one hand, I got AKs under the gun and just called instead of raising, to mix things up a bit. I got several callers, and the flop came 9s-Ts-X. With the nut flush draw, I bet for value. The guy to my left raised. If I remember right, everyone else folded, leaving it to me. I didn't stop to figure the exact pot odds (I'm not very quick at that), but I figured it was worth one more small bet, so I called. The turn was the 8s. Bingo! I bet and got called. The river was a brick, the board was unpaired, so I knew I had the nuts (except to the straight flush), and I bet. My opponent saw the straight and flush possibilities on the board, figured I had one of them, and folded. He was about the only player at the table who would have folded at that point; most of the others would have called just to see what I had, they were that loose.

Overall, it wasn't a spectacular day, but I did leave the table with double my buy-in, which was very satisfying. Now that my bankroll is fatter, I just might have to make another drive up there soon and see if things are as soft next time. Maybe I will even try the NL game, if I'm feeling brave.