Sunday, February 26, 2006

Pechanga and Limit Poker

So Friday afternoon, Jay and I went down to Pechanga (about 1 hr south of where I live, if the traffic wasn't in the way) and decided to see what it was all about. Although I have played a few games in Vegas, I normally just play online.

We arrived in late afternoon, found the self-parking area easily (much easier than some of the places in Vegas) and wandered into the casino, looking for the poker room. I was actually impressed with some of the slots and stuff I glanced at on the way - as a technical person (read geek), I am always impressed with the technology. Anyway after wandering around the casino and following the signs (I swear they make you take the long way - or the casino was bigger than I expected) we went up the escalator and found the poker room.

Now this was the first time for Jay in a B&M poker room, and my experience in Vegas told me to take it real easy and play something simple. We signed up for the 2-4 limit (the minimum spread they offered) and got seated right away. (There was lots of tables and they seemed to be seating people with no more than a 5 minute wait).

Now the table I was at appeared to be the geriatric retirement table. I swear I wasn't even sure a couple of the players were alive. It did appear to be like everything you hear about at low limit tables - no foldem holdem was in full play. I still tried to play my normal tight agressive game, but that didn't really work well. The tight part was easy as I never got any cards worth playing (for the first 2 hours anyway) and when I finally got something (pocket Kings), I raised one BB preflop and everyone folded. At this point (I hadn't been paying enough attention) I learned that they have a flat rate of $4 per hand - when basically meant my hand won me about $4.

At 6pm, they started this jackpot thing where you needed to have AAA1010 or better and have it broken by something better (basically a bad beat jackpot). They also had to use both whole cards in the hand. This jackpot thing certainly woke up the seniors at my table and they got all excited. According to one fellow, the only reason he was still playing was to win the jackpot. I kept my mouth shut and nodded to agree with him. He commented on my previous pocket Kings that if the Jackpot was going, I shouldn't have raised as it was important to see the flop.

At this point I had been slowly bleeding blinds and was down about $80. Fortunately my cards changed and I managed to make a mini comeback. We decided to take a break about 45 minutes later and I was back up to being only down $25. Jay on the other hand had the same cards as me, minus the mini comeback.

We took a break for supper and came back in about an hour.

By this time, it was 8:30 or 9pm and the texture of the crowd had changed. The seniors had mainly gone home and there was a much younger crowd there. We still got seated right away and continued our bad card streak. Although I had previously had a couple good sessions in Vegas playing low limit holdem, this night reminded me of all the reasons I hated limit. I slowly bled blinds and although I managed to get slightly better cards than earlier, I never managed to get back up to my buyin and finally quit after midnight down about $40.

Overall, it was fun tho, and I figure I will be back again. Although they weren't advertising it online, they were spreading a cheap $40 NL game which I think I will target next time.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Back in the day..

Although the intent of this blog is to be slightly more general than just being about poker, that is not obvious from reading what I have posted so far. I was looking over the old site where I used to have my blog and realised I should create a link from there to here and vice versa.

If you look through the old blog, you can see that most of my activity revolved around my interest and participation in the QNX community. I am still an avid QNX user and developer, but my non-work interest appears to have been sucked into this thing called poker lately.

So going forward, I will try to post about things other than just poker. I will try to reflect my current interests more evenly in the blog (or not).

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Deep Stacks (again)

I think I have a love/hate relationship with these deep stack tournaments. I keep telling myself I won't play them anymore after never finishing above 600th, but then the next weekend I am back there again.

The play is different in subtle ways. You still get the people who don't realise that and play like it is a normal fast paced S&G or tournament. But in general, the play is more sophisticated than that. Most players realise they are in for a long slow grind and play accordingly.

This is not a live blog of the tournament or anything, but I am using it to keep notes and comments as I go. I suspect if I published it, it would be a live blog.

2nd Hour

My relationship continues into the second hour of the tournament. I have been playing really tight and laying down anything that wasn't top notch. Of course now I get into a fight with big slick and although I was smart enough to get out of it, it still hurt a little (well more than a little). Fortunately deeper stacks mean I can survive this and keep going, but I am going the wrong way.

3rd Hour

Of course I am not blogging much - I never said I was good at live blogging. I am surviving which is not the way to play this game. I seem to trade a bad play (or suckout) for every good play I make. Blah..

As usual, I get into a fight with A10o, there was a 1 BB raise and I was on the button. I called and the flop hit my A. The short stack to my right raised 1k, so I went all-in figuring he would have done it if he was confident. Of course he was pot commited anyway and call. He had AJ and it stood up. I am down to 4 BB and all ready to go all-in on the next face or ace.

We knew this was coming. I finished in 522nd place out of 1578 when my K3 couldn't grow up and was beat by a pair of Jacks.

One of these times I will either learn, or quit wasting my time on the deep stacks tournaments.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Moving day and a couple tournaments

Yesterday was moving day for me. About twice a year we move our 5th wheel trailer to a different site and yesterday was the big day. I think the anticipation is harder than the actual move, as once you get all 20,000 lbs on the road and moving, it seems to be rather anti-climatic (which is the way I like it).

So after my not that exciting day yesterday, I had planned to play my normal deep stacks tournament over at pokerstars on Saturdays. Those plans got squashed as I was invited to a late breakfast and missed the start time by an hour or so. So I wandered over to PokerRoom and looked to see what they had lined up.

They have this thing called a Royal Tournament which is a $10+1 event with $10k added in tickets to their large $1000+0 event called the Grand Tournament. There was about 2300 people signed up and it was about to start, so I figured what the heck, why not.

A deep stacks tournament this was not, and although I last almost 2 hours, I was eliminted in around 600th place. Being a beggar for punishment, I looked to see what else was available and there was nothing on the regular tournament board which interested me. I went over to the S&G tab and found what they are calling a Centurian Cup game about start.

These are basically 100 person S&Gs with a portion of the rake set aside for a weekly leaderboard type prize. I joined into a $5+0.75 game and played along.
One hour went by, then another and all of a sudden we were in the money. I like my short handed game and when we were down to 5 players, I was in 1st place and called a double all-in. It just seemed like a blink and we were down to 3 players. The second place player and I were pretty close stack size wise and he got into a fight with player 3. Unfortunately player 3 was nice enough to go all-in and seriously increase the size of my competitors stack. This stack advantage was used well by the other guy and he managed to kick me out into a 2nd place finish.

Overall it was a good game and I was happy to have made enough to pay for my last couple tournament entry fees (and then some). All in all, a good day.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Variation in play

When we listen to all the forums and websites out there, a common theme is the issue of variation. It can be described as a run of good luck, or more often a run of bad luck. Although there are definitely patterns and cycles of good and bad cards in any deal, my latest hypothesis is that it is partly caused by the way we think.

Our perception of our recent "luck" is based on the way we remember things. We tend to remember the losses and the "bad beats" much more than we remember the suckouts and good plays which benefited us. Part of this has to do with our ability to adapt. You can see this every day in your life outside of poker (you do have a life outside of poker, right?) We quickly adapt to a noisy or smelly environment and soon don't even notice, until you leave and come back, or someone else points it out.

The same thing happens at the poker table. When you start to play at new table, it takes a certain amount (results vary by player) of time to get familiar and adapt to the play at the table. If you play tournaments, like I do, you may end up changing tables a lot. To make this worse, if you play at multiple sites, the play at each site can vary hugely. Once you adapt, your perception adjusts to this new baseline and your memory of how you played highlights a completely different level of play.

All in all, this means that when you think back over the last month, your recollection of your play focuses on the exceptions to your changing baseline. Your mind convieniently flattens the baseline and gives you a distorted view of your play. In some cases, this make you think you had a consistently good (or bad) month, when in reality your play was probably varied than you think.

Before you say, what about the reports I get from tools (like pokertracker, or whatever), I want to make a comment or two on them. I actually like them, but they are potentially part of the problem if they are not used correctly. The problem is they go exactly the opposite direction and try to assume a completely unbiased rating. Good play is not the same from one table to the next, never mind one site to another. The same can be said of bad play. Although they can give you stats like VPIP and showdown % and any other stat you can think of, these measures have the most value when measured against the table average in each case.

Are they useful? Of course! But like anything, they are just one form of feedback and you have to figure out how to incorporate them into your mental picture of how you are doing.

Perhaps this is obvious to everyone but I figured I would try to articulate it and see whether this makes sense in writing. Your feedback and/or comments are always welcome.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

CanonBall Tournaments

I was waiting to play my regular WWdN Thursday night tournament and decided to see what was happening over at PokerRoom. They have this tournament which they call a Canonball. It has turbo levels for the first 6 levels (3 minutes per) and then switches back to the normal (12 minute) levels after that.

It has a pretty intense feel as the turbo mode kicks in and all the players get into all-in mode. I managed to survive that, a little ahead of where I started. My plan was to then switch to my more normal mode of play. Unfortunately the rest of the players still seemed to be in a turbo mode. The rush had also built up some pretty serious stacks, so the free for all continued. The biggest thing was you could pick and choose and survive. We made to the 1st break with just 2 to go to get into the money.

The money was not really the issue (it was a $5+0.50 buy-in).

At this point I had about $4900, the blinds were 400/800 (going to 500/1000 after the break). I was on the button, so the farmer in me said I can wait out two people and at least get my buy-in back (I hate busting out on the bubble).

The round started with me getting moved to another table right away (well after the first hand which I folded). This unfortunately put me back under the gun (argh) but gave me AJo. I pushed and everyone folded to me. This allowed me to pay for the upcoming blinds.

In the end, I lasted about 5 more hands (which was into the money) and went out in 38th place. I pushed with QQ and I was called by two people with Ax. An ace came on the flop and that was it.

Overall, the canonball format was an interesting variation - especially if you like turbos. I am not sure it is for me, but I might be convinced to play it again since I won a net of $4.34.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

A Chip and a 3 legged Stool

Although I am no-where near proficient enough to be spouting poker philosophy, I couldn't resist the temptation - given my own blog and all. I have been playing poker (the online, holdem kind) for about 15 months now and although I have been winning more than I am losing, I now know enough to see I have a lot to learn.

Over the last couple months I have been forming an internal philosophy of how I play poker. I am generally a tight agressive player, but with time I realized that is not enough. I generally play tournaments, not ring games, so these ideas only apply to S&Gs and tournaments. The game is not about the cards, but rather the people we are playing with. Of course the cards matter, but in many hands and situations, they are much less important than you think. This is my first attempt to articulate the philosphy I have developed. Feel free to comment and give me feedback.

My 3 legged Stool

The three tenents of my philosophy are initiative, position and situation. Now, of course, these can be interpreted to mean just about anything, so I will try to explain how I use them.


Initiative is interesting because it can be used differently in each position and situation. When you are in the early positions, you can use initiative to represent a strong hand. Using the its harder to call than to bet philosophy, you can often steal pots with this alone. If you are in a middle or late position and someone has already taken the initiative from you, you can re-seize the initiative, with the caveat that this will only work if you are sure they are bluffing, or you have the cards to back the action. If you are in a hand where you, or someone else goes all-in, this effectively closes the door on initiative. If you are the pusher, you ensure they can't steal initiative from you (although you close a lot of other doors with that move). If they do it to you, you have to decide whether your cards beat theirs - that is all that is left.


Position is not as simple as the closer to the button, the better your position. When combined with initiative, it is often better to be in an early position so you can use that initiative to set the stage for whatever play you have in mind. Often players in late positions will try to take advantage of their positions and by using initiative in early position you can prevent that. Too often late position only gives you the ability to fold, especially with weak starters or in a game where the blinds and stacks are such that initiative wins unless someone has really good cards.


Now I have to admit that this tenet is a bit of a escape. It gives me an excuse to explain why the other two tenets didn't work. This is where you need to use your experience, and your read on the other players to know whether they have a good read on you, whether they have cards, etc. A large part of this philosophy is based on getting a reasonable read on your situation and then taking advantage of it if you can.

How and When I use it

When I am playing in a tournament, I start off playing the tradition TA (Tight Aggressive) model. I have my starting cards and if I don't hit them, I just sit out. After some amount of hands, I start to get a read on the table. It helps that I start to get recognised as a TA player. As my comfort level moves up, I will start to take advantage of a situation or two to steal the blinds. Generally this doesn't make a huge difference early on. It pays for the blinds and lets me comfortably wait for the better hands I need in case we go to showdown. All that really matters is that the opponents are sophisticated enough to actually recognise you are representing something (some low entry tournaments take a while to weed out those players).

At some point you get to the place where this works the best. In any case, you have certainly hit the point when you approach the bubble. Generally players tighten up and play more defensive when they are close to the money. At this point when the majority of players are waiting for good cards, you are able to ignore your cards and purely play your initiative and position. One advantage of this is even if players know you are doing it, they almost always have to have better cards to counter it (or more bravado).

My experience with this has shown that it reduces variance somewhat as I am less dependent purely on geteting good cards. I recently played a tournament where I noticed that out of the first 18 pots I won, I had only gone to showdown once - that is not normal, even for me. Of course the cards matter, but if you want to consistently finish in the money, you need to play more than just the cards.

I would love to hear what you think about this concept.