Friday, June 18, 2010

June Swoon

Poker has a way of setting you straight right when you start to feel good about your game and that you've figured things out.

Thus, I shouldn't have been surprised that my comeback post, with its dangerous expressions of confidence, would mark the beginning of a nasty stretch.

I can't say I've been playing my best, but I'm also not sure that some of bigger losing hands have been played incorrectly. Let's just say that I have some thoughts forthcoming about when it might be OK to fold 2nd set.

Back to counting down the hours to my Vegas flight tonight.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

LV Trip Plans

Nothing dampens the thrill of an impending poker trip like a bad downswing in the preceding week. Neverfear, whines/incriminating charts are forthcoming. Downswings really sap my desire to play. But I only get one chance this year to play poker in Vegas, so I've got to try to stoke the fire manually.

I'm definitely not playing any more PLO between now and Friday, and my current thought is that I won't plan on playing much PLO cash in Vegas. I hear that the PLO games play big in Vegas - they're generally $2-$5 and play deep and wild. I'm probably a little too rattled by PLO right now to want to take that on. Which is a bummer, since it's probably my strongest game right now.

That said, my weekend plan is starting to look like this:
- Friday: Head to Rio while my crew (3 other friends) register for event #36 on Saturday. I think I may play 1, maybe 2 satellites at most for that event. If I fail, then I'm just going to ditch it and hit the $1-$3 NLHE cash games, either at the Rio or at Aria (where we'll be staying).
- Saturday: Again at Rio, sweating friends and grinding cash. Playing WSOP on outside chance of satellite win. If I have some early success at $1-$3, I may jump up to $2-$5 and dip my toes in the PLO games. Saturday night, party with friends from LA who will be coming in.
- Sunday: Play either the Venetian deepstack or Caesar's megastack (both around $350 buyin) at noon. If I bust early, play more NLHE cash.
- Monday: This day is open. I might play another deepstack event. I might just want to play another full day of cash games. Or, I might do some extracurriculars, like hitting the 100x odds craps tables downtown.
- Tuesday: Very small early morning window before flight. Probably no poker.

Alright, this is working. I'm getting psyched just thinking about my plans. And I didn't even mention plans to make badly uninformed bets on World Cup games, spend some modicum of time at the Vdara pool (can't be surrounded by filthy poker dudes the whole trip, right?), and dump money into the casino coffers playing Pai Gow and BJ.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

4 Months In One Post

February was mostly a big bad downward spiral, salvaged by some serious run-good all-in EV. Barely positive after rakeback.

March was more of the same, without the benefit of February's good all-in fortune.

And then sometime around April, I shifted my approach and things turned around.

May was good too, although I continued to run behind in all-in spots.

So that's the story in charts and numbers. The only missing piece is several hundred dollars in rakeback.

Friday, June 11, 2010

I Don't Bluff

A new look for the comeback! The new Blogger templates are far better than they were before.

The title to this post captures the key the my PLO turnaround over the past 4 months. It's pretty simple, but it's working well, so why mess with it? I've talked a couple of times here before about how optimism clouds the thinking of poker players and skews rational analysis and judgement. I found a much better term for it: optimism bias, or, even better, the valence effect.

The poker player's desire to win a hand overcomes his rational understanding of the likelihood of winnig the hand. As a result, we have all kinds of bad crying calls.

How do we exploit this tendency? Don't assume your opponents (especially unknowns) are bluffing, and do assume that your opponents will think that you are bluffing. Thus, bluff less, and bluff-catch less. Be rational, not emotional.

Although I mainly just wanted to talk about a key to beating $25PLO online, the concept does tie in loosely with this recent hand:

Full Tilt Pot-Limit Omaha, $0.25 BB (6 handed) - Full-Tilt Converter Tool from
CO ($34.11)
Hero (Button) ($27.54)
SB ($60.66)
BB ($31.60)
UTG ($46.27)
MP ($55.82)

Preflop: Hero is Button with 10s, Kd, 10c, 9h
3 folds, Hero bets $0.85, SB raises to $2.80, 1 fold, Hero calls $1.95

We can get into when to call 3-bets some other time (probably one of my biggest weaknesses). This is possibly a fold since I have no suits, but let's just move on, since it's aside from the point of this hand.

Flop: ($5.85) Kc, 4s, Jh (2 players)
SB checks, Hero checks

Turn: ($5.85) 6c (2 players)
SB checks, Hero bets $4, SB calls $4

I think it's good to bet here. I retake initiative and reduce the amount of guessing that I would otherwise be doing on the river. By which I mean that it takes a lot more strength for my opponent to check/call and then lead the river, than it would for him to lead out on the river after it checking through on the flop and turn.

When he calls, I'm probably not good, since I already expect him to have AAxx a lot. There aren't a whole lot of AQTx/QTxx type hands that wouldn't have led out on the flop with such good equity.

River: ($13.85) 7d (2 players)
SB checks, Hero?

So now the question becomes, can I shake him off of AAxx? The river completes some low straights, so it's at least a little bit scary. I bet the turn, so he may give me credit for K6. The problem is, by checking the flop, it seems unlikely to my opponent that I would have a stronger hand like KK/JJ/KJ.

Nevertheless, it's PLO, and you can't call 2 big barrels with just 1 pair, right?

Hero bets $11, SB calls $11

Total pot: $35.85 Rake: $1.79
Hero had 10s, Kd, 10c, 9h (one pair, Kings).
SB had Ad, Ah, 5s, 10h (one pair, Aces).
Outcome: SB won $34.06

The Valence Effect in full display. But really, this is one of those times where you just have to admit defeat, since it can be really hard to make people fold in PLO. This is especially true when you are only betting 2 streets, and not threatening to bet all 3 streets and potentially stack someone.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pre-WSOP Rebound

I'm going to make a gradual attempt to revive this blog to a semi-regular posting state in the leadup to my Vegas trip during the WSOP (that would be June 19-23). There's a lot to catch up on, and I'm going to resist the urge to try to knock it all out in one post. So expect a couple of short posts while I get back into the groove and figure out how to layout where I am and where I'm heading in the world of poker.

I've been gone for a number of reasons, but I've been playing plenty. So why no posts? First, I think I just needed a break, in order to take my limited free time and put it all towards play.

Second, I was running thin on strategy content. Just before I started my hiatus, I was playing almost exclusively Rush PLO (.10-.25), and I hadn't gotten a full handle on how to play the game well. I was running through my processes in posts here, but it was very raw. I've played for 3 straight months since then, and my understanding of the game was progressed considerably.

The third reason I took a break was because I had an awful month in March and got burnt out. I have since plugged some leaks and turned things around. My confidence is high and I'm really enjoying the PLO action.

So that's that. I'll gather my results from the past few months and post them in a few days.

I can't get back into posting without a little hand history. So here's one to remind all that despite my professed confidence and recent win streak, I can still be a massive bonehead in big PLO pots:

Full Tilt Pot-Limit Omaha, $0.25 BB (6 handed) - Full-Tilt Converter Tool from
BB ($25)
UTG ($27.50)
MP ($10.14)
Hero (CO) ($25)
Button ($37.56)
SB ($10)

Preflop: Hero is CO with 9s, 5d, 10d, 7d
1 fold, MP calls $0.25, Hero calls $0.25, Button calls $0.25, 1 fold, BB checks

All 3 options are OK here IMO. It's a borderline playable hand, but I should probably prefer raising to limping. That said, I do use a mixed strategy that includes limping hands with big pairs (increase likelihood of set-over-set occurrence) and also limping from up front with strong-but-non-premium hands when I don't want to get 3-bet or to bloat a pot from OOP.

Flop: ($1.10) Kd, 5s, 8c (4 players)
BB checks, MP checks, Hero checks, Button checks

Turn: ($1.10) Js (4 players)
BB checks, MP checks, Hero bets $1.10, Button raises to $4.40, 2 folds, Hero calls $3.30

I bet after picking up a wrap on the turn and then get raised. I should have broken it down like this: villian either has a big made hand or a draw. KKxx is possible, but he probably bets it on the flop to start building up a pot. JJxx makes sense and fits the line. He also could have picked up a big draw on the turn with something like QT9x with spades. Does he makes this big raise with KJ or some other 2-pair? Maybe, but this should probably be discounted.

In sum, I'm either behind against made hand, facing a bad spot on the river even if I hit, since I probably have to lead out and give villain a clear chance to get away. I also face the possibility of hitting my straight on a flush card, which would put me in another bad spot. The final possibility is that I am badly dominated by a bigger straight draw. Pretty rotten altogether, should be a fold.

River: ($9.90) 5c (2 players)
Hero checks, Button bets $9.90, Hero calls $9.90
So here we are...I've missed by draw, but rivered bottom trips. I check and villain pots it. The essence of the grossness of this spot has been highlighted. Consideration #1: The big pot-sized bet on the river usually means a monster. Why bluff for full pot when you can bluff for less. Consideration #2: Villain wouldn't be bluffing a counterfeited 2-pair hand. It has good but vulnerable showdown value, so why fire big? Consideration #3: Draws should be discounted on the turn, since villain has to fear that I have a big hand that might re-pop him off of a draw. Of course, I didn't think of that until long after the hand was over.

Not much in the way of good reasons to call, but that didn't stop me.

Total pot: $29.70 Rake: $1.48
Button had Jh, 4d, 8d, Jc (full house, Jacks over fives).
Hero had 9s, 5d, 10d, 7d (three of a kind, fives).
Outcome: Button won $28.22

I'm back and as bad as ever!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I'm Reasonably Sure...

...that the difference between a mediocre and a solid winning PLO player at low-stakes is the ability to identify times when the 2nd nuts is no good. It's easy to get caught up in the absolute strength of your hand when it's the 2nd nuts. But it's a critical mistake to discard the context of the hand and to abandon your normal thought process and hand analysis.


Full Tilt Pot-Limit Omaha, $0.25 BB (6 handed) - Full-Tilt Converter Tool from
Hero (SB) ($27.29)
BB ($11.14)
UTG ($14.75)
MP ($36.30)
CO ($13.22)
Button ($26.39)
Preflop: Hero is SB with J, J, K, 7
1 fold, MP calls $0.25, 1 fold, Button calls $0.25, Hero calls $0.15, BB checks

Flop: ($1) 3, Q, 2 (4 players)
Hero checks, BB bets $0.50, 1 fold, Button raises to $1.50, Hero calls $1.50, 1 fold

Button makes a small raise but I'm definitely not folding the K-high flush.

Turn: ($4.50) 8 (2 players)
Hero checks, Button bets $4.50, Hero calls $4.50

I check and villain pots it again. Any chance that villain holds a small flush is gone. There's always an outside chance that he's blasting away blindly with a set, or possibly making a pure bluff, but that's mostly wishful thinking.

River: ($13.50) J (2 players)
Hero checks, Button bets $13.50, Hero calls $13.50

It's hard for this barrel to be anything but the nuts. Would the Q-high flush play it like this? You see, when you're holding the 2nd nuts in a spot like this, there's this self-pity trigger that comes into play. You know you are almost surely beat, but you have to call so that you can tell your tale of woe and bad luck. It's like you're calling just for the bad beat/bad luck story you know you have coming. This makes you (and me) 1) a self-absorbed sad sack and 2) a bad poker player.

Total pot: $40.50 Rake: $2.02
Button had A, 7, 4, 3 (flush, Ace high).
Hero had J, J, K, 7 (flush, King high).
Outcome: Button won $38.48

Full Tilt Pot-Limit Omaha, $0.50 BB (6 handed) - Full-Tilt Converter Tool from
SB ($97.30)
Hero (BB) ($91)
UTG ($50)
MP ($50)
CO ($154.80)
Button ($24.70)
Preflop: Hero is BB with K, Q, J, 9
3 folds, Button calls $0.50, SB calls $0.25, Hero bets $2, Button calls $1.50, SB calls $1.50

Flop: ($6) K, 10, Q (3 players)
SB checks, Hero bets $4, 1 fold, SB calls $4

Pretty lovely flop, top 2-pair plus 2nd nut straight. Only the SB calls, who could have anything from the same straight to a set to 2-pair.

Turn: ($14) 7 (2 players)
SB checks, Hero bets $8, SB raises to $38, Hero calls $30

First, I thought about checking back this turn, given that we were playing almost 200BBs deep and I would hate a check-raise. Then I figured I'd bet to get a set to call and draw to a boat. Boom, the big check-raise. Again, I almost folded, but I convinced myself that he would make this play after picking up a spade draw to go with something like a set or 2-pair.

River: ($90) 8 (2 players)
SB bets $53.30 (All-In), Hero calls $47 (All-In)

I made the mistake of discounting the nuts on the turn, so when the river whiffed for the spade and boat draws, I figured I had to call the river. Another case of wishful, self-manipulative thinking. And a cardinal sin in this case, since it led to stacking off 200BBs deep.

Total pot: $184 Rake: $3
SB had 6, A, J, A (straight, Ace high).
Hero had K, Q, J, 9 (straight, King high).
Outcome: SB won $181

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bloated Pot, Scary Flop

An interesting spot came up twice in a short session last night - after 4-betting a single-suited AAxx PF, the flop comes monotone and my opponent ships into me. So gross, given the pot odds and the potential to be drawing close to dead.

In the first spot, the pot was actually 3-way:

Full Tilt Pot-Limit Omaha, $0.25 BB (6 handed) - Full-Tilt Converter Tool from
Button ($8.87)
SB ($21.94)
BB ($11.43)
UTG ($25.81)
MP ($7.40)
Hero (CO) ($45.11)
Preflop: Hero is CO with A, 4, A, K
UTG calls $0.25, MP calls $0.25, Hero bets $1.25, 2 folds, BB raises to $4.35, UTG calls $4.10, 1 fold, Hero raises to $17.75, BB calls $7.08 (All-In), UTG calls $13.40

Dead money from UTG makes this a must-4-bet. UTG bizarrely decides to call, leaving $8 behind.

Flop: ($47.28) 10, 9, J (3 players, 1 all-in)
UTG bets $8.06 (All-In), Hero folds

Wow, not sure how to script a worse flop. I'm getting almost 7-to-1 and I'm still not sure I can call. It's a 3 way pot and I can count 1,000 ways that I'm totally crushed here. I guess it's a fold.

Turn: ($47.28) 9 (2 players, 2 all-in)
River: ($47.28) 7 (2 players, 2 all-in)
Total pot: $47.28 Rake: $2.36
BB had A, A, K, K (two pair, Aces and nines).
UTG had 6, 6, 8, Q (straight, Queen high).
Outcome: UTG won $44.92

The 668Q PF call off 70% of my stack to see a flop maneuver. Justly rewarded. I guess it was a good fold, but I still feel dirty.

This one was a much tougher call:

Full Tilt Pot-Limit Omaha, $0.50 BB (6 handed) - Full-Tilt Converter Tool from
MP ($13.55)
CO ($66.20)
Button ($27.45)
SB ($47.55)
BB ($68.85)
Hero (UTG) ($69.25)
Preflop: Hero is UTG with A, J, 6, A
Hero bets $1.50, MP calls $1.50, CO calls $1.50, 2 folds, BB raises to $7.75, Hero raises to $26.50, 2 folds, BB calls $18.75

We start 140 BBs deep, so calling PF in position isn't a bad option either. But I still think 4-betting is better - I'll be shipping it or calling off on a vast majority of flops, and I'll be ahead a vast majority of the time.

Flop: ($56.25) 2, Q, 3 (2 players)
BB bets $42.35 (All-In),

An otherwise dry monotone flop, and my opponent shoves. Pretty nasty because the shove here is far bigger and the pot odds far worse than in the first hand. I'm holding the dry Ace, but it doesn't matter much b/c I expect villian to check far more often when he flops the nuts here. In fact, he should be checking almost all of the time when he flops a flush, since is almost surely calling off, and by checking, he gives me a chance to shove a ton of worse hands.

If he's somehow worried about me flopping a set or 2-pair and filling up, then he shouldn't, b/c I'm shipping those hands if checked to anyways.

There's 2 ways/reasons he is shoving here:
1) As a bluff/semi-bluff (hit the Q for one pair) on a scary board
2) He hit a flush or set on the flop and didn't give much thought to the fact that he might scare me off with a shove
3) He hit a flush or set and is trying to level me (i.e., shoving in a place where a flush shouldn't be shoving).

I think I want this one back. I give more creedence to 2) than 3), but I think it may be 1) enough of the time to call.
Hero folds
Total pot: $56.25 Rake: $2.80
BB didn't show
Outcome: BB won $53.45

Anybody hate this? Who calls off here?

I 4-bet planning to get it in on most flops, but I think I happened to run into a few worst-case scenarios here.