Thursday, September 27, 2007

Poker Poker Poker (Sadly Shaking Head)

Poker and I had been on pretty good terms, but last weekend was just ugly. Fairly gruesome run at the cash games, then I got bounced from the Aussie Millions freeroll on Sunday in 40th or so when AA couldn't hold up against J6h.

I think the key to poker happiness is keeping my expectations very, very low. I like to play poker. When I sit down to play and have fun, I do well. When I get emotionally invested (man, I need to win some money today) and or intellectually invested (man, look at these donkeys, I should win some money today) in the results, I tend to post some pretty piss-poor results.

Why I ignore that and put a metal trash can on my head and bang it with a spoon, shouting "Lalalalala, I can't hear you," I do not know.

One thing I continue to struggle with is picking my battles with the crazies. Especially the crazies who love to shove for a ridiculous overbet pre-flop or on the flop. I'm not recommending completely nitting up, but I'm also not sure I want to get all my chips in the middle with A10 on a flop of 8s 4s 10d, if a crazy calls a pre-flop raise and open shoves for $95 more into a $10 pot. Or if I raise it up to $4 pre-flop from UTG, everyone folds, and the resident push monkey insta-shoves from the BB for $100. In theory, sure, call all day, as I'm ahead more often than not, which means I make money over time. In practice, I'm usually not that far ahead, and often flipping coins with a crazy. Definitely see the value in pushing any edge, if there's a reasonable belief you have an edge, but the overall EV is sometimes marginal, and getting the bad end of a few of those encounters early in a session can easily lead to a downward spiral of poor play.

I'm also struggling with letting the past go, as far as targeting lucksacks that stack me early on with ridiculous hands. Yeah, there's a lot to be said for liberally involving yourself with bad players, but not so much when steam is still coming out of your ears. I donked off a buy-in or two that I should still have due to still being Tilty McTiltpants and getting entangled in hands I shouldn't, giving absolutely no credence whatsoever to the fact that even lucksacks are dealt strong hands from time to time.

But, you know, I still gots chips, and managed to stop the bleeding at around the $1,500 mark, after donking off $500 or so. I'm on pace to get in about 40,000 hands this month, which is more than I've played in many, many moons.

Poker play may be light for the foreseeable future, though, as I closed on investment property #2 last Friday, so there's lots and lots of work to be done. I'm hoping to bang this one out pretty quickly, hopefully finishing up by November 1, then that's it for the real estate wheeling and dealing until next spring.

Heading off to Niagara Falls, Canada in late October for another tournament reporting gig for, which I'm definitely looking forward to, then covering the WPT event at the Bellagio in December, which should be a nice break before braving a family Christmas in Tennessee.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

May You Live in Interesting Times

Part of me is tempted to say that not a lot has been going on in my corner of the world, but, on paper, that's a bald-faced lie. Highlights of the last few weeks include:

1) Seeing Bob Dylan and Wilco and assorted other cool bands at the Austin City Limits music festival.

2) Being threatened with legal action for the very first time in my life.

3) Preparing to close on another investment property tomorrow.

4) Playing many, many hands of poker.

Part of the problem is that I think of the last few weeks as being very slothful on a personal level, as for the first time since April I haven't had a house in need of repairs to work on. (Well, other than the one we live in, but that's a different sort of always ongoing never-ending sort of thing.) But I suppose I've been pretty busy, when looking at things from afar.

Poker remains, as always, a strange beast. The nice little heater I'd been disappeared, replaced with a fairly epic cooler that saw the fledgling bankroll drop all the way back down to $1,000. I would have thought it difficult to drop nearly $1,000 in the .50/$1 NL games in just a few days, but I managed to pull it off.

All the usual culprits, but the biggest was playing when I was very much distracted and not in position to play anything resembling my A game, but I insisted on cranking out tons of hands to qualify for the Aussie Millions freeroll promotion on Full Tilt. 6 max games can be pretty punishing when you get a bit spooked and run into some rough sailing, as it's easy to sit there in a semi-daze, calling far too many pre-flop raises with speculative hands, then meekly folding away buy-ins when you miss.

The frustration is also more evident when you can't, no matter what you do, get paid off on the big hands that you finally do hit. AA gets cracked by 94o, a flopped set goes down in flames to a runner runner straight, the only time the action is folded to your BB in an hour is the time when you have AA, and on and on and on. You start playing scared, dumb poker, and it all goes to hell pretty quickly.

On the bright side, I finally had the good sense to shut things down and spent the rest of the weekend watching football and drinking. Since then I've been able to repair about 2/3rds of the damage I did, getting back to around $1,700 or so.

It also drives home the old adage about playing within your bankroll, too. I've been a little too arrogant for my own good playing at the lower stakes while trying to grind out a bankroll, telling myself that $1,000 was more than adequate for me to play .50/1, I'm too hawesome to get tilty and do too much damage, yada yada yada. Not so much, though, in practice, as the only thing that saved me was that I started the whole debacle sitting at just under $2K, and managed to right the ship before doing irreperable harm. If I'd started at $1K I'd have blown through most of then donked off the last $300-$400 doing something stupid like sitting in a $2/4 game with my entire roll, getting it all in with a hand like QQ vs. AK then bitching and moaning about my terrible luck when my opponent rivered an A.

Very happy that maddening, maddening football is back. No wagering this year, other than an office pool at work, which is probably for the best given the wacky start so far to the NFL season. Week 1 looked fairly normal but Week 2, umm, not so much. Nothing much to say about my Longhorns, other than all signs are pointing to a serious beatdown when they play OU this year. If we struggle with Rice this week, well, that's pretty much the nail in the coffin, methinks, as some good Texas high school football teams could likely thump Rice.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What Do You Mean, I Made Money?

I've been trying to take full advantage of my relative downtime the last few weeks, as I'm waiting to close on the next rehab property on September 21st, and have mostly caught up on all the major freelance gigs that were on my plate. That's translated into some actual lazy weekends for me, with much watching of football and playing of poker.

The last four or five days were interesting on the poker front, as I managed to cram in about 8,000 hands at the .50/1 NL tables. Which is a ton for me, and also conincided with the first run of pure, unadulterated shitty luck since I've trying to grind the bankroll back to respectability. The glass half-empty side of me was expecting it, as I hadn't yet sailed through the I-Can't-Win-a-Big-Hand-for-My-Freaking-Life-Even-When-I'm-95%-Favorite-On-the-Flop seas.

Things took a dive south last Friday and it seemed like I got my teeth kicked in on a regular basis. Dump 2-3 buy-ins losing to runner runners, grind back to even or so, dump a few more, grind back, more teeth kicking, yada yada yada. I even managed to lose with quads, for just the second time ever in my poker career. Good times.

When I finally shut things down last night, though, somehow or other the bankroll was just shy of $2,000, about +$500 from where I started on Friday. Which honestly was a bit of a shock, as I'd have guessed I was still stuck a few hundred dollars. I've been making a concentrated effort this go around to just sit down and play, usually 4-6 tables, paying no attention to whether I'm up or down, no multi-tasking, just grinding out hands.

I'm also a little surprised that .50/1 has been as profitable as it has. Too small a sample size and all that good stuff, but I'm averaging about $25/hour for all the grinding. Not going to make me a rich monkey anytime soon, but that's not bad money for playing pretty straightforward poker on auto-pilot. Tempted to jump up to $1/2 but I'm going to try to be good and wait until I have $4K before doing so.

Aside from poker, it's been nice to just hang out with the wife and animal menagarie. The rats continue to be pretty dang amusing, especially as their different personalities develop. Scribbles is very much the affectionate, curious one, always checking stuff out, very laid-back, and a fat little pig when it comes to food. Rip, not so affectionate and pretty rough and tumble when it comes to wrestling with hands and beating the crap out of his brother. But he's also very much the scaredy rat when it comes to new things, waiting for Scribbles to check it out and deem it safe before he'll venture out himself.

And the dwarf bunny Creasy, well, he's just crazy:

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Grindy McGrindsalot

I've actually been getting in a ton of hands of late, in a fairly silly quest to log enough FTP points on Full Tilt to qualify for their Aussie Millions freerolls. While I've been trying to stick to the Chris Ferguson bankroll challenge rules, I caved a bit and jumped to .50/1 a little prematurely, as I just couldn't grind at .25/.50 any more.

I'm currently sitting at about $1,500, which ain't bad. I've had a couple of slips here and there (including one day when I played a boatload of $33 SnGs for no good reason other than to try to rack up FTP points more quickly) and I caved and played a couple of $50+$5 satellites to the $750 guaranteed last Sunday, so the total bankroll would be slightly higher if I had better impulse control.

It's been interesting as far as sticking to basics and just playing tons of hands at the 6 max NL games. I don't feel like I'm doing anything that spectacular, other than amping up things on the aggression front and forcing myself to keep my VP$IP ~27%-30%, which mainly consists of stealing more in position with a wider range of hands. I'm sticking to just 4 tables at a time and, more often than not, just playing poker and not multi-tasking, etc.

One thing that sticks out is that aside from your typical continuation bet on the flop/turn after whiffing the flop, I'm really not bluffing that much. I will occasionally bluff, depending on the player and how active I've been, but for the most part I'm playing things fairly straightforward. If I bluff, it's usually on the flop, or leading out on the turn for a pot-sized bet, with very few big bluffs on the river.

Part of that rationale is that stacks are typically very short at the lower limit games, and people simply won't ever lay down an overpair (and very rarely will lay down top/mid pair), so there seems to be a lot less value in bluffing.

On the flip side of that coin, I constantly shake my head at the all-in bluffs on the river at these stakes, especially the massive overbet that is 90% of the time a bluff, and 10% of the time the nuts. I just don't see how that moves works enough to become as popular as it apparently is, but I guess it's more the love of shoving in on a complete bluff (and winning, every now and then) that's more appealing than the reality of how much that move costs you over time.

Still waiting to close on the next rehab house, with the first rehab I did still on the market (although it's only been listed a little over a week). I'm kind of enjoying the slight break in my myriad labors, and it's been fun to take it relatively easy, donking around at night with poker, playing with the crazy hyper baby rats, and other such stuff.

Thank Jebus that football is back, too, as the sports well had been awfully dry of late. We'll see if the Longhorns can get their acts together, otherwise TCU may hang a loss on us and it'll be a long, long season.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Sweet, Sweet Home

Flew back home on Friday and was pretty dang happy to do so, although I did enjoy the trip out to LA and the WPT Legends event a good bit. I'm coming to realize that I've been blessed with a pretty great gig, covering events for, especially given the nature of the work they want me to do. Since they're looking for detailed coverage only on their qualifiers, I get to avoid a lot of the headaches that other non-exclusive media have to stomach at major events, and they actually encourage me to write in a more humorous, laid-back style.

It's looking like I'll be covering four major tournaments this year that they send qualifiers to (the WSOP, Legends, North American Poker Championship at Niagara Falls, and Bellagio Five Diamond World Poker Classic), which is pretty manageable as far as fitting into my schedule, and not an insane amount of time to be away from home. I'm not getting rich covering these but it's very nice extra money, and, as a poker player, pretty damn cool just to be at the events. So there's a lot there to be thankful for, and that sank in this last trip, especially after talking to a few of the other poker media there at a late night cash game at Commerce. It's easy to focus on the downsides, especially the 12-16 hour working days at times, but it's a pretty unique opportunity that landed in my lap, and I definitely appreciate it.

Poker-wise, it was a pretty nice trip, as I finished up about +$4,500. Most of that came from the tournament score the first day, but the cash games treated me very well the last few days. Part of it was simply running hot, but a lot of it boils down to some very bad players sitting down at the table, on a regular rotating basis. I can count on one hand the number of good players that I sat with, and still have some fingers left over.

One funny hand occured the last night, in what was a pretty friendly, talkative $2/3 NL $100 max buy-in game. Lots of showing of hands, lots of chatter, etc. One limper in front of me for $3, I limped with 67h, folded to SB who completed, and BB checked. Flop is 5s 6c 9c. Checked to me, I get a little frisky and bet $10 (willing to fold if anyone re-pops it) and only the BB calls. The BB had played very straightforward so far and made absolutely zero moves and hadn't gotten out of line at all.

Turn is 8s, putting 5s 6c 9c 8s on the board. BB checks, I bet $20, and BB pretty quickly check-raises me all-in for $200 more (I had about $300 behind at that point). I think about it for about two seconds and fold, showing the 7h. And pretty much the entire table exploded, with much shaking of heads, as if that was the absolute craziest laydown they'd ever seen, and the BB showed the 7d amidst the general uproar.

I didn't say anything other than shrugging my shoulders sheepishly, but I think that's a pretty easy laydown. Against a few of the crazy players at the table I'd insta-call there, but not against the BB. With no action pre-flop and only $33 invested in the hand and one straightforward opponent, I have to assume I'm playing for a chop, and he very well might have a freeroll for a flush as well. With no raises pre-flop, 7 10 isn't out of the question for a bigger straight, and he'd never make that move with just two pair. He'd raise with 88 or 99 pre-flop to try to think the herd, so the only hands I'm ahead of are 55 and 66.

But yeah. 95% of that line of thought went entirely over the collective heads of the table, who only saw silly me lay down a "huge" hand when someone bet big at me. And, in all honesty, it'll likely continue to fly over the collective heads, for their entire poker career.

Which brings us to the point of this (not my mad laydown skillz), and one of the things I wrestle with in my head space, especially after the last few working poker trips I've done. As much as it pains me to admit I'm, I'm a pretty good poker player. Put me in any tournament except the very biggest ones, and I've got a better than average shot at making the money. Sit me down in an average cash game and I'm better than most people at the table.

That's actually a difficult thing for me to admit. It's not modesty, but more a desire to shirk responsibility. Well, not even responsibility, but potential more than anything. I used to work very hard at poker, constantly reviewing hands, analyzing stats, reading anything I could get my hands on, etc. And it paid off, in the end. I've spent the last year or two donking around and hamstringing myself, but from a dollars and cents perspective, I'm substantially ahead, with most of that cash produced way back in the day when I was grinding it out at the 15/30 and 20/40 limit games. I've also had more than my fair share of success in live tournaments and cash games, kicking in a healthy amount to the bottom line.

Yet I still tend to embrace the self-deprecating role of the donk, reassuring anyone I meet that I'm not that good, that I have no patience these days, that I played fairly seriously at one time but not anymore, hee haw, hee haw. And I'm not sure why, other than it lets me off the hook, as far as taking my results seriously, and gives me an out, as far as continuing to ignore the things I should be working on, to play better poker.

It's very much the competitive side of me surfacing, but getting to witness the play at the WSOP and WPT Legends event does leave a burr under my saddle, even after I'm back home. As far as tournament play itself, there's not that huge a gap there. Banrkoll-wise, enormous, gaping chasm, which in and of itself presents a pretty huge gap in relative skill, as I'd currently never be table to treat the chips as chips in a major event. But I don't doubt I could hang at that level, especially if I put in the time and effort to build a bankroll to get there.

Which brings me full-circle to exactly the fly in the ointment, which is being willing to put in the time to work on my game, grinding out a bankroll again, moving up in limits, rinse, lather, repeat. And that'd be a long, long road, as while I've managed to grind my roll back up over $1,000 at Full Tilt, that's still just a wee drop in the bucket.

Regardless of grandiose dreamings, though, it does feel good to be playing "seriously" again, even if I'm still sitting at .25/.50 and .50/1 games. As far as how long I can maintain the enthusiasm before reverting into donk, recreational mode, we shall see.