Leaving for Maui tomorrow, so don't expect any updates until late next week. Here's a little morsel to tide you over.
I don't really believe in bad-beat jackpots -- they're nothing more than a thinly disguised rake increase. The jackpots at Partys are especially bad now that the qualifier has been upped to quad 8s(!). Thing is, at 3/6 it seems that many of the fishy players have gravitated to those games, so I found myself camped out at a BBJ table today, 8-handed, jackpot $77k when this hand occurred:
***** Hand History for Game 899764055 *****
Table Bad Beat Jackpot #669791 (Real Money)
Seat 2 is the button
Total number of players : 9
Seat 1: Paulsburbon ( $186.5 )
Seat 2: seigaku ( $137.25 )
Seat 4: ruggrat ( $207.5 )
Seat 5: floydbob ( $114 )
Seat 6: JTSTAR ( $77 )
Seat 7: candokaz ( $67.5 )
Seat 8: oconnort ( $98.5 )
Seat 10: asphnxma ( $140 )
Seat 3: UncleBret ( $162.5 )
UncleBret posts small blind [$1].
ruggrat posts big blind [$3].
** Dealing down cards **
Dealt to asphnxma [ Jc 5c ]
oconnort has left the table.
four_five has joined the table.
seigaku calls [$3].
UncleBret calls [$2].
** Dealing Flop ** [ Kc Kd Ks ]
Interesting, I think to myself.
** Dealing Turn ** [ Js ]
ruggrat bets [$6].
UncleBret calls [$6].
** Dealing River ** [ 9s ]
ruggrat bets [$6].
UncleBret calls [$6].
Aiyah. They're both playing very soft. This is where I start chanting for quads and a straight flush.
ruggrat shows [ Kh 9c ] four of a kind, kings.
UncleBret shows [ Qs Ts ] a straight flush, king high.
UncleBret wins $31 from the main pot with a straight flush, king high.
Table share would have been over $2k, but alas, no jackpot. So close.
Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Leaving for Maui tomorrow, so don't expect any updates until late next week. Here's a little morsel to tide you over.
Sunday, August 29, 2004
I won't be posting much the next two weeks, if at all. Wednesday morning I'm leaving for 8 glorious days in Maui. It's a good thing, I think. I've become incredibly frustrated by poker. Since August 16, I'm up a whopping $90. Big deal. It's affecting my play. Here's an example.
$30 SnG, Level 3. One limper, I raise to 200 in LP with crap, everyone folds.
Next hand, KK. Same limper, I raise to 200, BB goes all-in, I call. He has 99, I win. Great.
Next hand, AKo. I raise to 200 again. This time, the button reraises me to 800. He has another 800 behind. I have about 1800. Rational me would say "no need to get involved here" and fold. Instead, I figure that he won't want to play for his whole stack and I push. Except he calls. With 99. So I'm racing for most of my stack. At Level 3. And (of course) I lose. I bust out of this one a few hands later with AJo, when I am called by AJo and he makes a flush.
Next SnG, at Level 2, I have TT in LP. There's a limp of 30 and a raise to 70. I reraise to 200. Both players call. The flop is Q-J-x and I have a tough decision when the initial raiser bets half the pot. I fold. What am I doing, reraising pocket tens like that in level 2? Have I forgotten how to play SnGs? I fight all the way back til we're down to 4-handed, get all-in as a short stack with TT, called by AT, and the ace comes on the turn, driving me further into frustration. I am now 3 for my last 18(!) SnGs, net loss of $393. For a while it was bad luck, consistently getting in with the best of it and losing. Now it seems to be a combination of bad play and bad luck. What the hell is going on?
I need a break. It's all going to my head. I especially need a break if I'm going to be in top form for the Borgata Open, which is in less than three weeks.
This is a quickie. Not much happened until Level 4. With T1060, I found 6s on the button. ThGamer, with T717, raised to T325 in LP. I reraised him all-in. He took almost all the time until deciding to call with AJo, egged on by others at the table. The board came 8-K-9r (very good), making me a 70% favorite. The turn wasn't great -- another K -- but I was still a 72% favorite. Then a 9 on the river killed me. My sixes were counterfeited. Sigh. I took a chance and paid the price. I had him on a medium ace and was gambling that he was unwilling to risk the rest of his stack on his hand. It's a classic play that I see all the time -- somebody make a raise of 40% of their stack with a medium ace, because they don't want callers. Maybe woulda been better off pushing with a bigger pair or ace. But the levels are so darn fast at Pacific, I decided to gamble.
Two hands later, with blinds of 50/100 approaching and only 343 left, I found A5. I pushed, MonsterZ called with KJ and it was off to the races. I never made it out of the starting gate as he flopped a straight. The end. Oh well. It was fun for 40 minutes.
Friday, August 27, 2004
Don't lie to them about their own resume, because when they catch you, you will look like an asshole and will blow any chance you had of hiring them.
Yesterday, I had an interview yesterday at a corporate boutique law firm here in NYC. I thought I was going in just for a screening, to meet with one guy, but at the end of our 20 minutes he said, "I want you to meet some other people". OK. That's a good sign, but it's mildly annoying, since I wasn't really prepared for anything more than a screening. It also showed me that they didn't value my time at all. Mental note.
The second guy I met is where everything went to hell. In the middle of the interview, as he was looking at my resume/deal sheet -- which was handed to him by the previous interviewer -- he said to me, "So tell me about the ADR program you worked on for the US software developer." I started racking my brains. I knew I had an ADR program listed on the deal sheet, but I was certain it was for a Russian oil company. Was there another program listed on there? I knew I had worked on at least one other... Pause, pause, pause. Think, think, think.
Finally, I asked him, "Are you sure you don't mean a Russian oil company?"
He responded, "No. It says right here -- US software developer".
If I had been really quick-witted, I would have realized right away that he was lying, because a US company wouldn't have an ADR program. (For those who don't know what an ADR program is, don't worry about it -- suffice it to say that only a foreign issuer of securities would have one.) But of course, I was more in panic mode of "What the hell -- why can't I remember this!" Pause, pause, pause. Finally I said, "Well, i worked on a few ADR programs, but I can't recall the specifics of that one."
At that point, I was thinking that I just completely blew the interview. I was destroyed. He asked me about something on my resume and I couldn't tell him about it. The end. Game over. Crap. Something felt weird though. I know my deal sheet pretty well. I'm almost positive that the only ADR program listed on it is for a Russian oil company -- but I have to believe him, right? I questioned him point-blank and he told me it was there.
Towards the end of the interview, he said to me, "It seems like you've had quite a bit of M&A experience." Again, this struck me as very odd. While it's true that my deal sheet lists a few M&A deals, the majority are securities or banking deals. I responded, "Well, I've had some. I had 4 areas that I dealt with at my old job -- M&A, securites reg, private equity and bank lending." We left it at that, but it struck me as odd.
On to the third guy (not much to say about him), and then I left the firm and went to meet a friend for a cup of coffee. While I was waiting for her, I pulled out a copy of my deal sheet and found the entry for the US software developer. This is what it says:
Primary author for all '33 Act and '34 Act securities filings of London-based developer of medical imaging technology. Routinely assisted and advised on compliance with various aspects of U.S. securities laws, including a potential spin-off, proxy rules, and going private rules. Substantial client contact.
He lied to me. In the interview. In an attempt to induce a lie from me. Why on EARTH would an interviewer use such an awful tactic like that? It's a no-win situation. If I lie, he doesn't hire me. If I don't lie, but call him out on it or catch him on it (as I did), then I get a horrible impression of the firm. Plus, even if I don't lie and DON'T catch him, I feel like I just blew the interview, which is going to affect my performance and perception the rest of the time I'm there.
By the time my friend arrived for coffee, I was outraged. I hate being jerked around. I called the recruiter who sent me over there, told him exactly what happened and exactly how I felt about the whole situation -- that there was no way in hell I wanted to work with someone who would do something that sleazy -- and then went to play some .25/.50 NL hold'em.
As a footnote, the Russian oil company was the only listing on the deal sheet that referenced an ADR program, as I correctly knew and felt. Without the deal sheet in front of me, though, I couldn't be 100% certain, especially once I asked the interviewer to confirm it and he told me it was there.
Thursday, August 26, 2004
I read somewhere once that, in order to make it to the final table of a NLHE tournament, you usually have to win more than your share of coin flip situations. Last night at Above Malibu's weekly $10 tourney, I went 1 for 3 in coin flips and still managed to get a piece of a 4-way chop.
The first coin flip was during the middle stages of the tournament. There was a minimum raise UTG and it folded to me in LP with pocket 9s. I decided to put the UTG player to the test and pushed. I had him only slightly stacked. He called with ATs and my 9s stood up.
Later on, I found pocket 7s in LP and raised to 3xBB. The BB pushed for just slightly less than double what I had out there. I called. He had AQ and spiked his ace on the river. It didn't hurt me that badly, knocking me back down to average stack land, but I wasn't happy. That was the pot that would have carried me for the rest of the tourney if I had won the hand.
Then, just before we collapsed to the final table, I was in the BB with pocket 9s again. UTG moved all-in for about 3500. He was called by a player who will call with any face and who had only another 300 or 400 behind. I had 3500 behind my blind. Faced with the probability that I had to beat three overs and that I might already be crushed by the UTG player, I mucked my 9s face up. They opened A-Q (UTG) and K-8. The flop, of course, was 9-high. I let out a long sigh.
That was ok, though. At the final table, with a stack of about 4200, blinds 600/1200/100, I got the big stack to double me up when he min-raised UTG and I pushed A-T. He called with Q-T and my ace played. Then came the hand that very nearly pushed me over the edge.
I had 10,500. At that point 8 players of the original 28 remained, with 5 getting paid. A short stack of about 2500 moved in from UTG. It folded to me in the CO, with AKs. There were three players to act behind me, one of whom -- the BB -- was a short stack himself. I pushed to isolate. The button hemed and hawed before pushing his stack of about 5800 into the pot. I didn't like that at all. The blinds got out of the way and we all opened our hands:
It was a coinflip! Crap. At that stage of the tourney, I didn't want to be racing half my stack on a coinflip. I dealt out a flop of K-Q-x, making me much happier. I was looking good to knock out two players and build a big stack. The turn was an ace to give me two pair. As I burned and turned the last card, I said "no ten, no ten!" and -- of course! -- a ten came on the river. I lost BOTH pots to a five-outer on the river. Cruel, cruel fate. Rivered by a slim draw for the second time of the night.
That second loss hurt worse, especially since the blinds subsequently went up to 1000/2000/200. With 4900 left in my stack, UTG raised to 6000. This was the guy that I beat with AT v. QT. I saw KK and pushed. Everyone folded, and he opened QQ. My cowboys held up.
We were down to four players by the time the blinds went up again, to 1500/3000/300. Amazingly, nobody busted during that entire level. At the end of the level, I asked for a chip count. The counts were: 11,600 (me), 12,400, 15,600 and 16,400. The next blind level was 2500/5000/500. That meant, essentially, that two of us had 2.5 BBs, one had 3 BBs and one had 3.5 BBs, and that the difference between the chip leader and fourth place was a mere 1 BB. I proposed that we find some way to do a 4-way chop. One player, who had just lost a small chunk of his stack on the previous hand, resisted at first, but quickly saw the logic of what I was proposing. With everybody having 3 BBs or less, the tournament was a total crapshoot at that point. We finally settled on a 70/70/60/60 chop of the $260 prize money (5th place got $20).
The chop was an anti-climactic way to end a tourney that had raged on for 3.5 hours, but given that I only won 1 out of 3 coin flips, I was happy with my $60.
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
[Ed. note: This is the third in an ongoing series of reviews of the major New York City Poker Rooms. Due to the quasi-legality of these games, no room will be mentioned by name or specific address. While I realize these restrictions limit the usefulness of the reviews, I also respect that most of these rooms are trying to operate without drawing much attention to themselves. Anyone interested in learning more specifics about any club should contact me directly.]
Last week, I reviewed a popular club on Manhattan's East Side that was raided and closed by the NYPD the day after my review appeared on this site. Hopefully, the subjects of the rest of my reviews won't meet similar fates.
About a month ago, Pauly sent an email to Ugarte and me asking us if we had heard of a club in Brooklyn, and included a link to the club's website. Neither of us had, but we skimmed the website and then filed the club away as something to check out some night. That night was last night. I called the club early in the evening to be sure they were taking new players. The guy on the other end of the line told me that yes, new players were welcome, but when I asked for directions, he told me to call back when I was in the area. I surmised that this club took security a little more seriously than the club on the East Side. After catching Ugarte's audition at Boudoir Bar, we hopped in his car and headed over to the South Slope.
Once there, I called the club a second time for more specific directions. A woman directed us to an ordinary building and told us to buzz the third floor. Once inside the lobby, Ugarte started climbing the stairs, completely oblivious to a sign with large lettering that read "NO ENTRY TO THIRD FLOOR FROM STAIRS". I called him back and we took the elevator to the third floor. Upon exiting the elevator, we were confronted with yet another locked door and doorbell, but were quickly buzzed through the door into a short hallway that opened up on the left to the club proper.
Freshly painted white walls and hardwood floors greeted our entry. The club comprised three rooms: a main room with three tables; and two side rooms, one with two additional tables and one that served as a lounge, complete with computer, projection screen tv, couches and a large aquarium. Huge cardboard face cards hanging from various walls of the club seemed tacky and out-of-place, but otherwise the club had a refreshing, inviting, new look.
The woman from the phone greeted us at the front desk and asked if we had played there before. As I responded that we were new players, prompting her to slide a membership form in front of each of us, I noticed that a computer screen behind her displayed images from at least two cameras outside the club. Security: check. She said the only information she really needed was "a name" and "some sort of contact information". I opted to give her my real name and an email address that I hardly ever use. Once that was done, she explained that a nightly tournament was just finishing up, that one baby NL table was going, and that there was an interest list for starting up a 3/6 table and a second NL table. She pointed out a dry erase board on one wall, beneath which a table was set up with some cookies, chips and a pot of coffee. Ugarte put himself on the 3/6 list; I opted for NL, which got going as soon as I added my name to the list.
The structure of the baby NL table at this club was $1/$2 blinds, a minimum buy-in of $50 and a maximum of $250. Of the seven people that sat down, there were a couple of small buy-ins and I don't think anyone bought in for the max, which I found interesting. I bought in for $150. Ugarte, despondent that a 3/6 game would ever materialize with only two names on the list, settled in along the rail to sweat me, not sure that he was up for playing NL.
Unfortunately, this club uses only one deck per table, unlike the now-defunct East Side club, which used two. Net result: fewer hands per hour. Time charges of $4 were collected every half-hour when the new dealer pushed into the box, which I'm starting to believe is standard NYC practice. I started in the small blind and took stock of my opponents, who were all young guys, aged 20-30 (with maybe one exception). I would characterize the table play as loose, but not especially crazy. The standard preflop raise was in the neighborhood of $7 to $10, which many people would gladly call. There wasn't much reraising preflop; the one hand that was reraised in the hour I played was, of course, when I was UTG with the Hilton Sisters. By the time it got back to me, there had been a raise to $30 and an all-in to $46. I wasn't worried about the all-in; it was the first reraiser who concerned me. When I asked how much he had behind, he told me about $75. I mucked. He called, and they turned up KK and 66. Thankfully, I've learned some discipline somewhere along the way.
That hand was the exception, though; most were either limped or raised once unless someone was especially short and decided to push. There were even some raises to just $5. One guy did that twice from UTG, with QJo both times, and managed to catch two pair and a runner-runner straight to grab both pots. Another guy, an orthodox Jew (though, how orthodox could he have been?), seemed to play just about any two cards, but was pretty disciplined with his post-flop play. He hit a rush early on but then walked into a big ol' bear trap when his top pair became trips on the turn. Too bad for him, somebody else's set became a full house at the same time. Overall, people at the table seemed very content to call, call, call. A couple of players clearly overvalued top pair. Overall, the table was somewhat meek.
My play was pretty standard, looking for good starting cards or cards with high implied odds in position. I took down two decent pots in an hour, one with QTs on the button when I turned a flush for free, and the other when I flopped middle set on a rainbow board.
In the end, how did this club stack up? It's definitely smaller than the club on the East Side (5 tables v. 10 tables) and the play, although just as loose, is not as crazy and is probably as poor, quality wise. That means, I suppose, that the swings aren't as wild but the potential to incrementally build your stack is bigger, which is either good or bad, depending on how you like to play. The club gets a big plus for security (the element that was probably the East Side club's downfall) but a big minus for its out-of-the-way location. Not so out-of-the-way for me, mind you, as I live in Brooklyn, but the South Slope is a minor trek for Manhattanites and tourists. The club's hours of operation -- 6pm to 4am Monday to Friday, 4pm to 4am on Saturday and Sunday -- are fairly standard, so no points to be awarded or deducted there. The amenities, including the lounge, snacks and waitress service, were also on par with the East Side club.
Overall, I would say that if you're in the area, it's worth playing there, but I'm not sure I'd necessarily make a special trip out there just to play cards, especially given the number of Manhattan clubs that are still in operation. That, of course, is the one huge plus that this club has over the one on the East Side -- it hasn't been closed down by the NYPD.
Now that the review's up, though, I'd give it a day or two.
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Dozens of people are gunned down each day, but until now, none of them was important. At 3:00 PM Friday, local aurocrat C. Montgomery Burns was shot following a tense confrontation at town hall. He was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. He was then taken to a better hospital where his condition was upgraded to "alive."
"How are you doing, asphnxma?" Well, I'll tell you.
1. I have a new roommate. The old roommate, a close friend, vacated NYC for the frozen tundra of New Haven, CT, where he is pursuing an MBA in non-profit management at Yale. The new roommate runs her own modern dance company and (so far) seems pretty reasonable. Being unemployed, getting the other half of the rent covered was a high priority for me, and it seems to have worked out nicely. Yay.
2. On the employment front, I have had three interviews at the same company over the course of the last six weeks or so, with the last one occurring yesterday. I shouldn't call it an interview. I took a test, something called a "Caliper Profile", which is supposed to tell my prospective employers if my personality will gel with their corporate culture. It was a wretched two hours, but hopefully it turns out well. My fingers are crossed -- I'm supposed to find out in about a week.
3. I also received word this morning that a different employer is interested in bringing me in for a first-round interview, which is encouraging.
4. I've been exercising regularly. Not much -- just jumping rope -- but it's much better than jogging. At this point, I can do 15 sets of 100 turns, with 30 seconds of rest between each set, without too much labor. Cardiovascular exercise isn't going to help me gain weight, though. I'm going to need to consider what other exercise I should add to the mix.
5. Still looking for Neo. Gotta be out there somewhere.
Me: Hello, Neo. Do you know who this is?
Neo: [beat] asphnxma?
Me: Yes. I've been looking for you Neo. I don't know if you're ready to see what I want to show you...
Neo: You're such a perv. Put that back in your pants and never call me again. [hangs up phone]
My plan is to head out to my next room tonight, assuming no unforeseen calamities. Look for the review by Thursday. Hopefully the room won't be closed by the NYPD the day after I write the review.
Please welcome Stan's Ace Nuts to the blogroll and the poker blogging community. He brings a unique perspective to poker and blogging, so check him out!
Also, a belated addition of Outkicked to the blogroll. He's been a frequent commenter here and I've only just now gotten around to checking him out because I'm a slacker.
Monday, August 23, 2004
Marge: This is the worst thing you've ever done.
Homer: You say that so often that it lost its meaning.
For quite a while now I have gazed longingly at the Party 15/30 tables. Every time I watch, I'm astounded at the low level of play. The games seem very soft and beatable. Problem is, I don't have the bankroll for 15/30, ESPECIALLY since I don't have a job and since poker is supposed to be paying my $1,000 monthly rent (it is) until I get a job (hopefully soon -- had a third interview this week).
Today, things changed. I played 15/30 for the first time. This was probably the stupidest poker decision I have made in a while. See, I was very upset after another two SnG losses (now 1 for my last 9), one when I ran into a sucker slowplay of AA 4-handed and caught top pair on the turn, and the second when I simply did not believe that the guy had stayed in with bottom pair when the board paired on the turn and there were no draws on board. That one steamed me so much that I slammed the table in frustration.
This, of course, was the time I chose to sit down at a game FAR beyond my $1700 bankroll. Makes sense, right? I think I fell vicitm to "I'm having a tough time at my normal limits lately so I'll step it up and get it all back in one fell swoop" syndrome. Bad me. Very bad me.
Be that as it may, I wandered around the 15/30 tables for a while and finally settled on one where there weren't any super huge stacks. While I waited for the button to pass, I watched, and it was typical Party 15/30 -- which means, super loose. The main difference from 3/6 is that 15/30 tends not to be as passive. More raising preflop and postflop, but in true Party style, raising doesn't get people to fold. I watched one hand that was capped four-ways preflop. The flop was K-T-4, two clubs. All four people called two bets on the flop to see an offsuit 3 on the turn. Another one bet each before checking down an offsuit 6 on the river, for a $502 pot. The hands shown down at the river: K9o (winner with top pair), T9o, 77 and 55. Yikes. I felt like asking the guy with 55 to just give his money to me, since it seemed clear he didn't want to hang onto it.
Anyway, I posted behind the button. First hand: 7h 3d. Wheeeee. There were two limpers to me, I checked, somebody else limped behind before the SB completed and the BB checked. Would you believe the flop came:
The BB led out and I was the only caller. The turn was an 8. He bet again, I raised, and he fled the scene. Just like that, I was up $117. I finished that orbit and then stayed for only one more round of blinds. A new player sat down two seats to my left who was raising a wide variety of hands, sometimes after the flop had already been raised. Realizing that I was fortunate to be up $92 instead of down $40 (or more, given that I was camped out on the edge of Tiltsville), and that I was sitting on the wrong side of that player if I wanted to preserve my sanity, I got the hell out of Dodge.
Lord, though, how I wish I had the bankroll for 15/30!
Sunday, August 22, 2004
For anyone who hasn't read just about any other poker blog out there, the MMPBT did NOT go off tonight as it was supposed to. Supposedly, Pacific had "technical difficulties" putting together a 75-person tournament that was first organized three weeks ago, finalized on Thursday, and confirmed -- by them -- this morning.
"Oh, the humanity."
Out of the 75 people signed up, how many opened an account on Pacific because of this tournament? I'd guess 40-50. How many will now be closing that account because of the lack of this tournament?
Bad tournament structure, bad interface, buggy software, and bad customer support. What exactly is supposed to make me want to play at their site?
Saturday, August 21, 2004
Word through the grapevine is that a certain East Side poker room (recently reviewed in this space) was shut down by the NYPD on Friday. That is decidedly not good.
Friday, August 20, 2004
Cold streak on the SnGs approaching. I'm now 3 for 11 this week (tho at least the 3 were all firsts). Today's results were pretty emblematic of what's been going on: get in with the best hand and lose. KK (me) v. AJs all-in preflop, AJ goes runner-runner for a straight and cripples me; 66 (me) v. 22 all-in preflop, 22 flops a set and I'm gone; KK (me) v. AQs all-in preflop, AQ goes runner-runner for a flush and I'm gone.
On the bright side, because the 3 money finishes were all firsts, I'm still up for the week, but it's so depressing to consistently get in with a big favorite and lose.
Thursday, August 19, 2004
I played a $20 tournament on Pacific today in anticipation of the MMPBT on Sunday. I wanted to familiarize myself with the interface and also the tournament structure. Let me just say, they both blow big, bloody chunks.
The tournament structure is SO fast-paced that forty minutes into it, I had less than 7 BBs remaining, despite having increased my initial stack 20%. At that point, almost two-thirds of the field had already been eliminated because of a punishing blind structure that increases every ten(!) minutes. With an initial stack of 800, blinds were
I didn't make it further. I pushed with a small top pair out of desperation, and got called by an overpair. But if all of that's not bad enough, the tables were played 8-handed so the blinds come around that much faster.
The interface is no better than the tourney structure. I don't know where to begin with this one, but let's see. As far as I can tell: you can't set your own password; settings like "sound off" are not saved from one session to the next; there is an extreme lack of customizable settings; all-ins are not necessarily shown down; face cards are all black (even the red suits), making it more difficult than necessary to distinguish suits; the chat area is actually a separate window, making it more annoying than necessary; I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
There's no question that once the MMPBT is over with, I'm taking my money out of Pacific.
[Ed. note: This is the second in an ongoing series of reviews of the major New York City Poker Rooms. Due to the quasi-legality of these games, no room will be mentioned by name or specific address. While I realize these restrictions limit the usefulness of the reviews, I also respect that most of these rooms are trying to operate without drawing much attention to themselves. Anyone interested in learning more specifics about any club should contact me directly.]
[UPDATE -- 08/21/04: The NYPD raided the East Side club last night. Word through the grapevine is that it will be closed indefinitely, though I'd expect it to pop up again somewhere in a few months.]
[UPDATE -- 09/29/04: My sources tell me the club is back in business. Not sure if it's operating in the same location though.]
The first room to be reviewed in my series of NYC Poker Room reviews is, naturally, the poker room of choice amongst the Above Malibu Co. Located on the East Side of Manhattan, somewhere between 42nd St and 96th St., the club occupies the fifth floor of a non-descript office building on a block of similar non-descript office buildings. A lobby directory informed me that I was indeed in the correct building without giving any indication of what goes on in the club.
What goes on in the club? Poker, of course! Although this particular club likes to bill itself as a "social club" or a "backgammon club", and although there were chess sets, backgammon sets, and various other games scattered around the front of the club when the elevator opened at the fifth floor, the only game that anybody was playing was poker. (Funny, the club's web site promotes backgammon while completely omitting any mention of poker.) Ten, oblong green-felt tables were spread across two rooms of the club. During the several-times-a-week tournaments sponsored by the club, most of these tables fill up. In fact, they're currently running wildly popular satellite tournaments for the Borgata WPT Series in September. A bookshelf along one wall was stocked with instructional poker books that were, of course, for sale. And a tall man behind a desk near the elevator stood silently, surrounded by racks of poker chips, waiting to cash someone in.
A friend I had pre-arranged to meet got up from one of the tables and came over to say hello. He led me to the desk where, without so much as signing my name to a piece of paper, the tall man ("Alan") cashed me in for $100. "Shockingly easy," I thought as I sat down at a baby NL holdem table.
The NL game at this particular club is structured with a $100 minimum buy-in, $250 maximum buy-in, and blinds of $1 and $2. Time charges are $4 per half hour and are collected when the new dealer pushes into the box. Two decks are in play at all times; the player on the button shuffles the secondary deck while the dealer shuffles, cuts and deals the primary deck. This keeps the game moving at as brisk a pace as anyone could hope for. It was a bit odd being handed the deck on my first orbit at the table, but as a new player, I quickly and easily fell into rhythm with the system.
The dealers are a pretty friendly bunch, and it's as clear that many of them are players as it's clear that many of the players at the table are regulars. I found the play to be about what you'd expect: a couple of solid players, a couple of terrible players, and a bunch in between. I'm told that some nights the action can get pretty crazy, and I don't doubt it; there were one or two maniacs that sat down while I was there. Get three or four of them at the same table...
The club provides complimentary snacks (oreos, pretzels, etc.) and beverages, served by waitresses young and old. Be particularly on the lookout for Ali, a young, petite blonde who has been known to sit at the table, flirt with players and take their money with the nut flush while serving them cokes. The club will also gladly accept food deliveries from local restaurants on behalf of anyone who wishes to order, sometimes pooling food orders of several players. There's even a mini-lounge at the front of the club, equipped with flat-screen TV and a computer terminal. Somebody just spike a 2-outer on the river to take your whole stack? Go watch some TV in the lounge or hop onto Party Poker at the computer terminal until your nerves have settled down a bit.
Overall, the atmosphere in the club is nothing like what I was expecting for my first time in a NYC poker room. There was little security or secrecy; the staff were friendly and helpful; the club has a sustainable playerbase, spreading multiple tables most nights of the week; and the players weren't the degenerate hooligans, armed to the teeth, that I had expected to be playing against. Although the club is a bit further east than I'd like it to be, the nearest train isn't THAT far away -- probably about a ten-minute walk. Overall, I would say this room would definitely provide an enjoyable first-time experience for someone who has never been to a NYC poker room. It certainly did for me.
Another Wednesday night Above Malibu. Ugarte was late, but brought luck with him in spades (and diamonds, if I remember correctly). I was doing pretty well, too, until I made the right play against the wrong player -- which, I suppose, means it was the wrong play.
We were down to 7 from 26. Blinds were 600/1200/100, and about to go up to 1000/2000/200 (!) on the next hand. The average stack was 7500, and the chips were pretty evenly spread, so the next blind increase would basically turn the tournament into a total crapshoot.
My big blind brought 7h 6h. Interesting. The table folded to the small blind, who made the minimum raise to 2400. I pushed my stack of 8100 out. He shockingly called for his entire stack -- 8000 -- with K7s and I lost the hand. Was his call that shocking though? No.
I knew he had a face. He wouldn't have raised without one. I didn't think his hand was that strong, though, so I reraised to defend my blind, figuring that if he called, my hand would be live. I didn't expect him to call, but I should have, especially since I had seen him call a significant all-in (about 3000, with blinds of 400/800) with Q8s -- and he wasn't THAT big a stack. Also, he is somewhat pot committed just by raising.
Against the right player, I like my play. My 67s is live against a hand like KT, AQ, KQ, etc., as only a 3-to-2 underdog, and my all-in should get weaker hands like K7, Q8, J9, etc. to fold. It's a guess, really, that the raiser is on a steal, but with the protection that if the guess is wrong, the hand is probably live -- even against aces, I'm "only" a 3-to-1 underdog. Unfortunately, I made the move against a player who had not shown any inclination to fold hands all night (there were, in fact, THREE calling stations that made it to the final table, making me wonder just what the hell had been going on at the other tables during the first two hours of the tournament) and, true to form, he called me down.
You have to play the players as well as the cards. Certain plays will work against some players that won't work against others. I know that. I just forgot it at a critical time last night.
[The caveat, of course, is that if I had folded, I would have been in trouble anyway, with only 6900 left and starting 1000/2000/200 in the SB. Shrug.]
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
My first NYC poker room review will be up either today or tomorrow. At the rate I'm going, probably tomorrow.
In the meantime, I want to gripe about people who insist on calling me by a name that I don't go by. It's irritating as all hell. For example, let's say my given name was "Daniel asphnxma". Every time I meet someone new, I introduce myself as "Dan". Every time I answer the phone or sign an email, I use "Dan". Yet it never ceases to amaze me that many, many people insist on calling me "Daniel", not even five seconds after I've introduced myself as "Dan".
Me: Hi, I'm Dan.
Them: Nice to meet you, Daniel.
I usually try to correct someone the first time they make the mistake with a simple "Please, call me Dan". The interesting thing, though, is that some people never learn, and some people clearly never TRY to learn. On the bright side, it's a handy tool for filtering people who are really interested in getting to know me better from those who aren't.
It may seem odd to some people that this is such a sticking point for me, but I really much prefer to go by "Dan" than "Daniel". Anyone who paid attention around me for about ten minutes would learn that. People who consistently call me "Daniel" clearly haven't taken the time to learn the first, most important thing about me - the name I choose to go by - so I usually choose not to learn much more about them.
Bottom line: pay attention when people introduce themselves to you. They're telling you the name they want you to call them.
Monday, August 16, 2004
I hate misconceptions and I hate petty behavior, so I'm going to try to slay both with one post.
On the right side of this page, there is a list of links to other people's blogs. They have been there for a long time. Periodically, I add links to the list when I come across other blogs that I'd like to link, or when I notice other blogs that have linked to me (I think recipro-linking is an easy, nice thing to do).
When I do add blogs to my blogroll, I add them at the TOP -- call me weird, but that's the way I do it. So, for example, some of the first blogs I ever linked to belonged to Iggy, Felicia, and Pauly, three of the oldest and most widely read blogs. The newer ones get added to the top and, hopefully, generate a little extra traffic for their owners that they might not otherwise get if I threw them at the bottom of the list.
I am always happy to add blogs to my blogroll, especially blogs that have linked to me which, for whatever reason (usually ignorance or negligence), I don't have linked here. Just leave me a comment and I'll add you. But for pete's sake, don't think that your position in my list has any significance other than the order in which I found you. Thanks.
Sunday, August 15, 2004
How many people "embellish" the poker stories they tell? How many people "embellish" the poker stories they write about in their blogs?
I ask because a member of the Above Malibu Consortium recently posted a hand history / bad beat to our private forum that was then blogged about by the person on the winning end of the hand. Although the general thrust of the blog entry reflects the outcome of the hand, many of the "rough edges" have been smoothed over to make the blogger's play seem more favorable than the hand history reveals it to be.
As a general principle, I own up to my boneheaded plays and don't lie about a hand once I'm away from the table, especially if I'm going to write about it on this site. (At the table, of course, is an entirely different matter.) There's a certain amount of shame/pride required to lie about a hand that I simply do not possess, and besides, when I blog about hands or tournaments that I've played, I'm using it more as a tool for self-reflection and analysis than any sort of puffery. How do other people feel about embellishing blog entries? Be honest!
First in a series.
As I was thinking this afternoon about what I wanted to write about that others might find useful or interesting, I realized that my home -- NYC -- is a major tourist destination. I assume that, given the explosive growth in poker over the last two years, some of the tourists who make their way to Gotham are poker players with a hankering to get into a game without having to trek over two hours to either Foxwoods or Atlantic City.
Unfortunately, finding poker rooms in the city isn't that easy. While the days of underground card rooms operating in near absolute secrecy (ala "Rounders") are largely over, the clubs do still fall within a gray area of the law and thus try not to draw much attention to themselves. [You can read the specific statute that criminalizes gambling in New York State - Article 255 of the New York Penal Law - at findlaw.com. Title 4 of the General Obligations Law also has a few things to say about the legality of wagering. I'm sure that there are local NYC ordinances that cover the issue as well, but I couldn't find them online.]
For tourists who probably aren't used to New York's edgier lifestyle, the nebulous legality of poker in New York City may seem troubling at first glance, but where there's a will, there's a way. The rooms typically get around the gambling laws by operating as private clubs and charging players for chair rental at the tables, rather than operating as public cardrooms and raking pots. Some take these measures more seriously than others. For example, at one club, locked doors, security cameras, and "members only" are the rules; at another, players can simply walk into the club and buy into a game without even so much as stating their names.
What does this mean for the tourist with a bankroll burning a hole in his pocket? Quite simply, there ARE games to be had here that don't require hopping on a bus to the Jersey Shore or taking a chance on somebody's wacky "dealer's choice" home game. Some rooms -- mainly, the rooms that take the members-only policy seriously -- will be off-limits to the average tourist who is only in town for a few days, but to be honest, it seems as if a new room is being promoted every other week, and as I said some rooms don't even require you to be a member at all.
I recently heard that one of the reasons rooms are now fluorishing is because the arguably oldest room -- Play Station -- survived a legal challenge from the city. I can't find any information online to confirm or deny that, however, and I suspect that most of the boom is due to the general poker boom. If anyone can point me in the direction of information which clarifies this issue, I'd appreciate it. In the meantime, I'm going to assume that the city has decided as a policy matter that it has far better things -- which are more clearly illicit -- to police than the local card rooms.
With so many new, small room sprouting up, trying to review them all would be a daunting task. Instead, over the next few weeks, I will provide reviews of the major NYC card rooms. I'm not really sure what criteria I'll use to review the rooms, so please feel free to leave comments to this post as to what criteria you think would be most useful. Thanks, and look for my first review -- of an East Side club -- this week.
Saturday, August 14, 2004
Friday, August 13, 2004
I'm surprised nobody suggested pushing here. To refresh, you have AKs on the button, and made a large raise against 3 limpers, one of whom called. The flop is 9-9-6 (not your suit), the limper bet about 1/3 of the pot and, based on his previous history and his actions this hand, you him on a small to medium pair that isn't 6-6 and is smaller than 8-8.
I've played this hand over and over in my head, talked about it with various people, and the choices seem to be fold or push. Personally, I like pushing better.
1. You represent a big pair.
2. You put your opponent to a TOUGH decision.
3. I don't think he's pot committed yet, so he can still get away from his hand.
4. If he folds, you will be in a position to start swinging the bully stick at your table with well over twice as many chips as anyone else.
5. If he calls with a hand other than 77, you have more outs than you think.
6. If he calls and you lose, your stack takes a hurting, but you're definitely not out of the tournament.
This is what the math has to say:
Versus 7s, you're a 73.5 to 26.5 dog. That sucks.
5s: 63 to 37
4s: 62 to 38
3s: 61.5 to 38.5.
2s: 61 to 39.
The favorability increase with the small pairs is because if the board double pairs, you win, and if you hit any of your six outs, you win. So, you have 9 outs on the turn (3 aces, 3 king, 3 sixes) and 12 on the river if the turn card is bigger than his hand.
The math shows that, on average, you're roughly a 64-36 underdog. Not pretty, of course, but not nearly as ugly as it looks at first blush. And that's only if he calls. I think that, if he truly has the hand you think he has, then AT MOST, it's 50/50 whether or not he calls. That means, if you push, you can expect to have 5000 chips (or more, if he calls and you outdraw him) 2 out of 3 times.
Does he have the hand you put him on? That's the question. It comes down to trusting your reads, which can be a scary, scary thing to do without some kind of a hand to back up your read.
In the actual hand, I mistakenly raised him from 500 to 1000, saying something like "I don't believe you" because I knew he was bluffing at trips. He thought loooooooong and hard. We had a little staring contest. His body language screamed to me that he was not very confident about the fact that I had raised him, but he finally called. When the turn was a blank, I asked him how much he had left and he told me about 850. That's when I realized I had screwed up. NOW he was pot committed, NOW he had to call any turn or river bet. Ah, I was plenty mad at myself. I checked the turn, I missed the river, we checked it down and he turned over...
Thursday, August 12, 2004
Above Malibu Wednesday night tournament, Level 2 (50/100). You have just taken down a good pot with AQ and are sitting pretty at about 3500. On your button, you get
There are 3 limpers before you. You raise to 500. The blinds fold, one limper calls. This person has been raising lots of hands in the first two levels, and shown down raised hands like 88, 99, etc. He has about 1800 behind him after calling.
The flop is 9-9-6 (suit unimportant).
Your opponent bets 500. This is what's going through your head:
1. I think he has a small to medium pocket pair.
2. I think he thinks I have a big hand (does he put me on slick tho?).
3. I think he thinks I think that his flop bet is scary.
Furthermore, you believe that if this person flopped a monster, he would check to you to try to get you to hang yourself, so you are reasonably confident he does not hold 66. What do you do? Results to follow tonight, after I get back from my interview.
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Ok. First things first. Have you read Poker Nerd's SnG strategy? If not, go do it.
With that under your belt, I want to establish that I do have success on the Party SnGs. I've been reviewing my SnG numbers since I resumed playing the $30+3 SnGs in late July after a long hiatus of most of the year. Here's the breakdown:
30 money finishes (55% ITM)
1st place: 8
2nd place: 10
3rd place: 12
Total ROI: 57%
Hourly rate: $26.95
My historical ITM last year, before I stopped playing the SnGs, was in the high fifties, so although this sample size is on the small side, the numbers sound about right. I think the lower than normal ITM is probably accountable to two brutal days right at the end of July when I went 1 for 9. Also, in an ideal world, I'd love to see one or two of the seconds become a first for a more even progression, but wouldn't we all.
Ok, enough of that. Actual strategy time. Poker Nerd eschews the traditional early/middle/late strategy for a stack-based strategy. However, I believe that a combination of the two, with an eye to table conditions, is the ideal method of play. So complex! At the start, however, everyone will have the same amount of chips, and you won't have a read on the table, so let's begin with...
In the early rounds (on Party, this is the first two rounds), you should play generally solid poker. That means, play your position, raise when you should, etc. There is no sense in getting fancy in the early-going; it's giving the average SnG opponent FAR too much credit. It is definitely ok to limp speculative hands in the early-going, because the implied odds of catching the right flop are huge. Keep in mind, it is not uncommon for four people to be eliminated in the first two rounds of play on Party. Those chips are up for grabs; this is an excellent time to double up if you catch the right flop.
However, I tend to play a little tighter than normal in the first two rounds. Why? Two reasons. Number one, I see absolutely no point to stealing the blinds. On Party, the first two rounds are 10/15 and 15/30. Those chips are not going to make or break me. Number two, there are usually several people in the early going who don't know how to fold preflop and are willing to gamble it up. I think the better strategy is to conserve those chips for later rounds where they can be put to more effective use, or for more clear-cut hands in the early going. I will still limp the speculative hands, of course, but I generally play fewer hands than I otherwise might. This also allows me to get a feel for the table.
A few other pointers:
1. Group 1 hands need to be played hard. A 3xBB is not going to scare out ANYBODY in Levels 1 or 2. AA, KK, QQ, and JJ to a lesser degree depending on position, need to be raised aggressively, by as much as 10xBB. If you do not raise them aggressively, watch as 6 people call your raise, and then be prepared to lay your hand down when an ace flops (while holding KK through JJ), because you can be sure that somebody called with A6, and shame on you for not protecting your hand with a bigger preflop raise.
2. AK and AQ, on the other hand, are a different matter. With AQ, suited or not, I will only play the hand in position and will limp it most of the time. This does two things: keeps the pot small, and allows you to get away from the hand when you miss the flop. AK I think requires a raise (again, depending on position) but raising to 10xBB with AK is asking for trouble. Mark my words here. Somebody will call you, and when the flop misses you, you'll have a hard time getting away from it.
3. In Level 1, I will call with ATC in the SB if the pot is unraised. The SB is 2/3 of the BB, it doesn't make sense to throw it away. What you're hoping for here is to flop something more than a pair.
I assume that, if you're reading this blog, you probably have a handle on post-flop play in NLHE. However, I will point out a few areas where I disagree with Poker Nerd. Number One on this list is top pair, solid kicker on the flop. I'm the first to admit more money is lost on top pair in NLHE than just about any other hand, especially in an unraised pot. Remember what the Texas Dolly says about this: "Never go broke in an unraised pot." However, also keep in mind that on Party Poker, especially in early levels, bad players can't get away from hands that have missed or only caught a small piece of the flop. If the pot is unraised, there will probably be as many as five players seeing the flop. Bet your top pair and narrow the field. The bad players will call all the way looking for that inside straight, the fifth heart, or two pair, or whatever. Sometimes they will hit; that sucks, but you will know when they do. Most of the time they won't. Sometimes you will be beat on the flop; that sucks too, but again as long as you don't overvalue your top pair you will be able to get away from it. Keep in mind that the bad players are the ones who aren't going to be around long. You want to get their chips while they're still in the tournament. And if you have enough NLHE experience, you'll know when your top pair is no good. I don't know how to articulate it better than that; it's a feel that comes from experience.
I do agree with Poker Nerd that you shouldn't bluff on the flop in the early levels, for the most part. A semi-bluff is ok once in a while when you're HU or if you're sure that an orphan pot is out there waiting for an owner, but if you get called, you're done. You have to go into check-fold mode.
Not much to say about turn and river play. The river is straightforward and self-explanatory, I think, and if not, Poker Nerd covers it fine. Value bet your winners; check behind if you think you might be beat; etc.
By the end of Level 2, you should have a read on the table. My general experience on Party is that there are either: a) 3 to 4 people eliminated, with the remaining players breaking down as 1 or 2 poor players, 2 or 3 tight-weak, and 1 or 2 decent players; or b) the entire table remains, in which case you can be sure that you're playing at a table predominantly populated by tight-weakies. Keep that in mind as we move to...
The Middle Rounds
On Party, the middle rounds start at Level 3 (25/50). By this point, you will generally either have an above average to large stack by having taken down a couple of hands from the poor players and/or having doubled through in the early going, or you will have a bit under 700 chips from blinds and missed flops that you check-folded. You will also have a read on the table: again, either 6-8 players remaining broken down as above, or a table of tight-weakies. This is where the strategy starts to branch off.
Table of Tight-Weakies
Start raising. And when I say start raising, I mean don't stop raising. Any time it's folded to you in LP, you should be raising to 3xBB with ATC. Watch them fold. They will do it. If they don't, or if they reraise, it's easy to let it go. This is where stack play gets involved. If you're a big stack, you can pretty much turn into the table bully. Don't raise EVERY time, of course, but do it often. They'll be afraid of tangling with you. On the other hand, if you haven't managed to pick up any pots and your stack is ~700, selective aggression is key, because losing one or two steals is going to put some hurt on your stack. Also, keep in mind that the table does not have to fold to you in order for you to raise. If you see somebody trying to limp in from EP who you've seen trying to limp in from EP position before, don't be afraid to raise to 4xBB. Again, watch them fold.
Table of 6 to 8
If you're already down to 6-8, you should still be raising, but you needn't raise with as much fear. Few players will make the adjustment that they should be playing a wider spectrum of hands, so you will still win many blinds uncontested. When you do get called, you will (hopefully) have position and can proceed cautiously.
Both Table Types, After the Flop
Either you raised with a strong hand to begin with, in which case, proceed with normal post-flop play, or you raised with trash. Remember, if you've been using a "standard" raise every time, you have given your opponents no signal as to the strength of your hand.
If you raised with trash and were only flat called (not reraised; if you were reraised preflop, just let it go), you have some choices. With a large or above average stack, if the caller checks to you, fire a 3/4 pot-sized bet. What you're doing here is guessing that your opponent missed the flop, and will credit you for a hand and fold. This is especially effective at the tight-weak table, because even if your opponent did hit the flop, if it's not top pair, they're still likely to fold. If you get called, it's check-fold from there. No harm. You lost a few chips, but your stack can take it. You'll get them back by continuing to aggressively pummel the blinds.
With a below average stack, you have to proceed very cautiously. A flop bluff, if called, will decimate your stack. I almost think it's better to check-fold in this situation and conserve your chips for better opportunities. So you got caught trying to steal. So what. One or two players might take notice of that, but with your stack now bordering on "short", you're probably not going to be steal-raising anyway. That works to your advantage, because when you do push with a strong hand, you're more likely to get the action you need to double up.
Keep in mind that this strategy is for HU play only. If you get called in more than one place, you are beat. Let it go unless you get a miracle flop.
If You Fall Into Short Stack Land in the Middle Stages
You're looking to double. Plain and simple. Get all the chips in preflop. Ideally, you want to be the first raiser if you're going to get all your chips in. It's a bad idea to be calling other people's raises unless you've got a strong starting hand, so be the first one in. Sometimes you will win the blinds. That is probably a small victory, because the blinds are starting to get big. Sometimes you will get called and win; sometimes you will get called and lose. That's poker. At this point, any pair from any position looks good; a medium ace or two faces in MP/LP; and of course the big hands.
"But asphnxma," you ask, "how will I know if I'm a short stack?" Good question. In a SnG, the rules are a bit different than in a typical MTT, where often the 10xBB is a good rule of thumb. Here's my guidepost: if you raise to 3xBB, and get called, and can't make at least a 2/3 pot bet on the flop, you're a short stack and need to get 'em all in preflop. So, at the 50/100 level, with 800 or 900 you're getting close but still treading water; at 600 or below, you may as well just push. It's true that committing 300 chips with only 800 or 900 behind is putting 1/3 of your stack out there, in theory pot-committing you. But it's a weird quirk of SnGs that you can still get away from that pot and not be completely desperate, and I think that's largely because 3 out of 10 places get paid, as opposed to the typical MTT, where only 10% of the field gets paid.
The Late Stages
I usually define this as the Final Four. Table-type is not really important anymore, so the strategy is going to merge back into stack size considerations.
As a large stack, you should still be raising LOTS. Remember, you're 4-handed now. Almost anything looks raisable. You should be especially keen in picking on the players in 2nd and 3rd place. Very often, they will be unwilling to play back at you, instead choosing to follow the (dangerous) strategy of hoping that the short stack busts before they do, so they can slide into the money. With the blinds starting to reach the stratosphere, you can rack up the chips to position yourself well for heads-up play.
As a medium stack (~2000), it's very important to keep up with the blinds. If you miss one or two orbits without picking up blinds, you'll quickly start falling into short stack land. You cannot wait for cards at this stage of the game. If you get them, fantastic, but don't rely on getting them. Watch your opponents instead. If you see someone folding his blind every time because he doesn't want to tangle until after the bubble pops, go after him. If it folds to your SB, raise with anything.
As a small stack, your work is cut out for you. You should be pushing with any ace, any pair, any two faces, any medium face, etc. Basically, all but the crappiest of crappy hands. The goal is to double up before the blinds gobble you up. The caveat, here, is that if there's a shorter stack, you can try to play the Waiting Game, hoping they bust before you so you slide into the money. It's dangerous, though, because if they double up, you are Screwed with a capital S. This is a very situational decision. Some money is better than no money, and I disagree with Poker Nerd that one first place finish and three fourths is better than four thirds. While it's true that one first place finish will get you (slightly) more money than four thirds, the psychological impact of making the money four out of four times v. making the money one out of four times shouldn't be overlooked. You will feel like you won four times, instead of feeling like you won once and lost three times. And, if you're like me and play several SnGs in one sitting, this can affect your subsequent play. But again, keep in mind, that if the other short stack doubles up, you're in trouble.
Oh, another thing I can't stress enough that applies to all stack sizes: there should be NO limping at this stage of the tournament! I -might- limp in Level 3, but after Level 3, if I'm coming into a pot, it's for a raise. Limping at these levels is suicide, because a) you're asking to be reraised behind you; or b) you're giving the BB a free flop when most likely you could be scooping his chips preflop. How many times have I seen the SB complete and then get reraised by the BB? I do it all the time, to punish stupid players for completing their small blind with crap instead of raising/folding it. Also, how many times have I seen the button limp, the BB check, and then the BB check-fold to a flop bet from the button? Does anybody REALLY think the button caught a piece of the flop? Of course not! It's just that the BB didn't have anything to begin with. By limping, the button gave the BB a chance to put the hurt on. Don't do it.
I sometimes see people try to get cute with a big hand (aces, kings, queens, jacks) in the late stages, trying to maximize it's value by limping it. Don't do it! If you hadn't been throwing away all those garbage hands that you should have been steal-raising with, you wouldn't need to maximize the value of your big hand when it comes along. Raise those big hands, the same way you would any other time. Don't give the BB a chance to flop some weird two pair for free. If you only get the blinds, so be it. That is NOT a tragedy in the late stages of a SnG. If you do get action, even better! Because of all the raising that's been going on, your opponent will be hard-pressed to put you on a big hand.
Raise or Fold?
With a pinch of luck, you made it to the final two. Great. But it's not over yet. Finishing first is significantly better than finishing second. My general rule of thumb at this point is to be raising any two cards that are a heads up favorite. Don't know which cards are heads up favorites? Take a look at this handy chart. If it's at least a 54% favorite, I'm definitely coming in for a raise.
Now, if you don't have one of those hands, then you're put to a situational decision. Obviously, you can't fold the crappy hands every time. You need to raise some of them, but you don't need to raise all of them. If your opponent is weak, raise more of them. If he's aggressive, raise less of them. Etc. Remember, it's ok to fold sometimes. Just for the love of god, don't limp in. When your opponent raises you, you will be swearing to yourself as you fold.
What If It's MY Big Blind?
On the other side of the coin, if I'm the one whose blind is being raised, I will play all of the above-mentioned hands for sure. I will also consider a mix of smaller cards if they're connected, suited, etc. But crap hands (93o) are still crap hands and should still be folded, I think. It's true that at this point, ATC can win, and that my opponent could be raising with crap, but I'd rather be in there with two cards I'm a bit more confident about. It takes more hand to call a raise than it does to raise. It's also very hard to pick off steals at this point in the tournament, so calling a raise generally demands SOME sort of hand.
[To head off any controversy on this point: I am aware that even the worst heads-up hand, 32o, has 32% equity against any random hand. Thus, in theory, I should be willing to call with ATC at this stage since I'm getting 3-to-1 for my money. I'd just prefer to get me money in where I'm have a better chance at taking down the pot, either by being the aggressor or by having a good hand. Argue this point if you want; maybe it's why I have slightly more 2nd place finishes than 1sts.]
This is the one, and only, time I submit that it is ok to limp. However, if your opponent is sharp, and sees that you've been raising or folding EVERY time but suddenly limp in, his trap radar will go off. It's more effective to CALL a raise with a big hand, then it is to limp the big hand in. Unless your opponent is an idiot, in which case feel free to limp away. =)
If you're on the short end of the stick (really short, I mean; he has a greater than 3-to-1 chip advantage on you), find a decent hand and go with it. If you're on the short end but less than 3-to-1, be patient. You can't be afraid to bet at flops that miss you, but you don't have to pick one hand and go all-in. Continue to wear your opponent down by raising his blind and getting him to fold on missed flops.
If you're the big stack, keep the pressure on. Raise, raise, raise. If you get your opponent down to under 1000 chips at any point, take a stab by putting them all-in with anything even marginally playable. They will be forced to call with just about anything. If you double them up, so be it. It doesn't hurt you that much, but at least you took a chance of knocking them out right there and taking down first place.
Unfortunately, luck plays a huge role at this stage of the tournament, with the blinds consitutint more than 10% of the chips in play. One SnG, I got the short stack all-in three times as a dog (one of them a severe dog) and he won all three. The last all-in crippled me and I finished in second place. Boo. This will happen. Just keep grinding away, and the first place finishes will come.
I guess that's it. Some of this advice overlaps with Poker Nerd; much of it differs. Clearly, no one style is more correct than another. Go with whatever works for you in the moment.
Hello. I'm Leonard Nimoy. The following tale of alien encounters is true. And by true, I mean false. It's all lies. But they're entertaining lies. And in the end, isn't that the real truth? The answer is: No.
I'll get the SnG strategy up later today, I think. But in the meantime, a hearty thank you to Dawn and Ugarte for their efforts to attend my show last night. I say "efforts" because, although Dawn's unique laugh assured me that she was in the audience, Ugarte informed me that he showed up at 7:30, when we were already in the back getting notes, instead of 6:30. Oops.
For those wondering, the show was mediocre. Part of the problem was that it seemed that nobody else who was performing invited anyone to the show, so the audience consisted of seven people who were friends of mine, and three or four other random odd people. 11 people in the audience == low energy. Another major problem was that nobody in the class has known each other for longer than three weeks. Not much chemistry has developed yet.
At least my team, which performed second, did a better job than the first team. And I was only mildly displeased with my performance. There was lots of room for improvement, and I dropped a major element from my first scene in my second and third scenes, but it wasn't terrible.
What a glowing review. Next post will be poker-related, I promise.
Monday, August 09, 2004
Today at 6:30pm! 307 W. 26th Street. $5 gets you in.
Today's $5 MTT on Party: 15th of 928. With a short stack (5xBB), I made a semi-steal from the CO with QT. The SB had AK and I didn't improve. Pauly also put in a good showing in a $5 tournament recently.
Not much else to say today. I still need to get the SnG strategy up, but I had a bit of a poker hiatus over the weekend and haven't had the time to do it properly yet.
Thursday, August 05, 2004
Just another Wednesday night at the UCB office. Decided to be a bit more aggressive. The results were... unfortunate.
In the early going, I just played solid poker. I took down a nice pot with QQ by reraising an EP raise and getting a nice flop. He had AK. After that, I took down a few pots with quality hands and tried to mix in a few more steals than normal. I think one of them worked. Ah yes, not a good night.
First of all, I drew the Table of Death. We have a ranking system at UCB (cuz we're poker nerds). Of the roughly 40-odd ranked players, the Nos. 1, 4, 5, 7, and 9 players were all at the same 9-handed table, in addition to the No. 14 player and the No. 16 player, who is much better than his 16th rank would indicate. Nos. 2, 3, and 8 were on the second table together, and 6, 10, 11 and 13 were absent. Thus, Ugarte, with his one tournament showing and one win from two weeks ago, was the highest ranked player at the third table. As I looked at the table draws, I was very, very sorry not to be at his table.
Secondly, the steals. The first steal attempt, I had 72s in the CO. Folded to me, I make the standard 3xBB raise, and get reraised to 6xBB from the SB. No worries, easy fold. Then I think an 84o steal worked, but then there was another train wreck reraise on my steal attempt. In addition, I managed to double up one of the shorter stacks with AJ in the BB. It folded to him, he raised, so I put him all-in. He called with TT. Sigh.
It was that kind of night. My stack made no progress, because the pots I did take down, I lost on later steal attempts. The last hand was just god awful. I should preface it by saying I never bluff all-in, because if you get called, you're pretty much screwed. Anyway, I have Q8s in the CO and it folds to me, so I once again make the standard 3xBB raise. I get called by the BB, who has been calling large preflop raises all night and then dumping his hand when he misses the flop. The flop is 6-4-2; I figure he missed it, and I move in for all my chips, about 50-60% of the pot. He calls. With KJo. Ugh! Not even an ace. Why, oh why, did he pick THIS hand to call. No queen, no eight, adios.
The loser's lounge was already full up by that point, as I went out 12th of 27, prompting me to pack it in and head for home. It was raining, of course. Not to worry though; another nice morning on the Party $30 SnGs found me with one 1st place and one 2nd place in three tries.
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
The Party $30 SnGs have been particularly juicy this week. I've played 11, with two 1sts, three 2nds, and two 3rds, for 64% ITM and a whopping 90% ROI. If only it could always be like this...
I have some SnG thoughts floating around in my head, some in contrast to Poker Nerd, some in common with him. I'll try to remember to bang them out when I have more time.
Went out of this morning's $5 MTT on the 4th hand! Set over set cost me my entire stack. Oh well. I've heard that if you don't lose your whole stack with the smaller set in that scenario, you probably didn't play it right. Unfortunately, it means I didn't make it to the middle stages to try to sharpen my play.
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
I've been having a problem on Party, lately, in the MTTs. Basically, it goes like this: I survive the first hour no problem. Maybe I double up, maybe not, but usually I'm not in absolutely terrible shape. The field is whittled down by half. I usually make it through the second hour, where the field is further reduced by 2/3. The problem is, I never seem to have a huge number of chips by the end of the second hour. I'll typically have anywhere from about 2/5 of the average stack to just under the average stack (T6000, typically). As a result, with blinds of 250/500 starting the third hour, it becomes a game of treading water to the money b/c I don't have enough chips to do much besides push or fold -- a "typical" raise pretty much pot-commits me to the river.
This bothers me. Something is sub-optimal with my play.
I decided to go trolling through the MTT forum on twoplustwo, and lo and behold, last night someone posted with a similar problem:
I need to bone up on my tournament play. I can always seem to get to the mid-levels of the tournament just fine. It's when the blinds get up to 300/600 or 400/800 that I really seem to start losing ground. I always get there around average or above average chip position. I continue to only play top hands but seem to lose more than I gain. How much should I loosen up pre-flop? What about post-flop? This is a major hurdle i need to overcome. Thanks.
There are a few excellent responses in the thread, which I encourage anyone who plays MTTs to read. There's nothing earth-shattering about the advice given, but sometimes it's helpful to see it in black and white right in front of your nose.
Today's $30 MTT, btw, found me busting out 82nd of 640, when my KTs short-stack push was called by QQ. 12 off the money. Oh well.
Monday, August 02, 2004
I've added a small self-pimp box in the upper right corner of my blog. Now, anyone who cares will know when my next long-form improv gig will be.
In case you're too lazy to even look at the box, it will be next Monday, the 9th, at 6:30pm at the UCB Theater. Cost $5. Come watch me perform the Harold, the signature piece of long-form improv comedy. In fact, for that price, you will get to see -2- Harolds. Talk about value.
Developed by the late improv guru Del Close in Chicago, the Harold begins with a simple audience suggestion. In most cases, the Harold unfolds from there with some type of entertaining group opening to build ideas for the scenes that follow. 3 small, unrelated scenes, with 2 to 3 players each, then occur, followed by an unrelated group scene using all of the players. The three small scenes are revisited a second time, followed by another group scene, and then a third time, culminating the piece as the separate realities of each small scene begin to bleed into each other. A typical Harold runs about 25 minutes.