Sunday, March 06, 2005

Wow. Party Poker sure is a strange, strange place.

Sometimes, you sit down to a game, and behind every corner is someone sucking out on you with a miracle two-outer (typically people who wouldn't know what "two-outer" meant if you asked them).

Other times, you sit down to a game, and think to yourself, "Amazing - these people are just giving their money away!" while you scoop up pot after pot.

The irony is, your opponents are the same people both times!

Welcome to the Fish Tank.

Today, I sat down to a $.50/1.00 limit table on Party. Just one table. No need to get crazy. I did some table scouting before I sat down. I spent probably 15 minutes or so clicking through each table that had an average pot size of $8 or higher, looking for tables with two or more players that I already had some notes on. (All hail Poker Tracker's notes export feature, which I'd have never discovered if it weren't for the Poker Tracker Guide). When I found four tables with some verified players, I pulled up the table stats with GameTime+. I was seeking a table with a VP$IP of around 30%. I ended up settling on a 25% table, since one of the players I had notes on was a Fish. The other tables had solid players.

What a wise choice that table was! Within the first five minutes of me sitting down, the VP$IP shot up to 35%, and finally topped out around 42%. Now, on a day when I'm not catching cards, this table would be ripe for sucking out on me. But today was a good day.

My first hand from the big blind was Ah8s. Two late-position callers, and the small blind raised it to a buck. Heck, I'll defend my big blind with an Ace, mid-kicker. Let's rumble. All callers came along for the ride. Flop comes A-6-7, two diamonds. Small blind (the original raiser) checks, and I bet out .50. One fold, two calls. Turn: deuce of clubs. I bet out a buck. Button raises to two. Alright... that club didn't help him, because it's the only one on board. The only way a two would help is if he was holding ducks in the pocket. Why the aggression? The best he's betting is a straight or diamond flush draw, and it makes no sense to me that he'd choose to bet those draws when a total brick hit the board. If he's got an ace with a higher kicker than mine, or called on the button with two raggedy cards to hit two pair, God bless him. I call, as does the small blind. $11.50 in the pot now. River comes a 5 of diamonds. D'oh! The diamond flush draw hit, as did a straight draw for anyone holding 3-4 or 8-9. I didn't put the small blind on either of those, because he raised pre-flop, and those aren't raising hands. The button - well he had me baffled, but I just didn't think he had me beat. I bet out a dollar, and got raised to $2. Small blind folded, and with the pot now at $14.50, I had to call for the extra buck.

My opponent flipped over a pair of 3's.


After the rake, I took down $14.75 with my Aces.

Welcome to the fish tank.

I went back and replayed the hand, trying to figure out what the heck that guy was thinking. By the time he left the table (I was SO sad to see him go), he ranked as a Maniac, loose aggressive. He dumped so much money to various people on the table that I was stunned. He made a few suckouts as well to keep him swimming, but they thankfully were not on me.

The thing that really helped me at this table was that so many people saw the flop, that I could go in playing mid suited connectors, and usually have pot odds all the way down to try and see the draws to fruition. I typically avoid speculative hands like 9-8 suited, but I was able to play it for great odds on one hand today, and had odds to call it down to the river. When my straight hit, it paid me $14.25. It doesn't even qualify as a suckout - I had odds to play it. For example, when I flopped the open-ended draw on the flop, I needed the pot to give me 2.54:1. There was $5.00 in the pot, and I had to call a .50 bet. I had more than 3x the pot odds I needed to call. When the turn missed me, I needed to see $5.57 in the pot to justify a $1.00 call. There was $7.00.

I really enjoyed the opportunity to flex some pot odds calculation muscles. And I really enjoyed the fact that a lot of my draws were hitting. I had some great starting hands hold up, and some great straight and flush draws hit.

Maybe I am better suited for limit ring games, and no-limit tournaments. That doesn't seem to make any sense, but for some reason I can do well in no-limit in a tournament setting, but not in a ring game.

Limit carries the inherent potential for frustration, particularly on these loose, high VP$IP tables, of people having proper pot odds to call junk hands down to the river and catch. The suckouts can be brutal - both to the bankroll and to the psyche. But I think if I can remember not to internalize the suckouts that truly were bad plays (ie. the people that call down with nothing and DON'T have pot odds to do it), and if I can consider the suckouts against me that in fact occur with proper pot odds on my opponent's part to be justifiable in the "that's poker" sense, I can find some success here at these limit tables.

My stats for that quick 36 minute session:

40 hands
VP$IP 27.5%
Went to showdown: 38%
Won $ at showdown: 100%
Pre-flop raise: 0%
Post-flop aggression: .59
BB/hr: 47.50
$ Won: $28.50

Interesting aggression stats - the pre-flop raise % doesn't surprise me; that's my trouble spot. But, I'm usually more aggressive post-flop. I did a lot of calling to the river, then re-raising when my draws hit. The whole table would generally just come along for the ride. It was pretty crazy. I never had to worry about a hand being checked around. It just didn't happen. Someone would always bet out.

That session has me feeling really good. It can be tough to maintain a good level of confidence when losing money - even if you know that the beats were mostly bad luck and not bad plays. I just try to use losing sessions as an opportunity to review my play and see where I can improve my game, and try and sit down at each session with a clean slate. Easier said than done sometimes, but maybe I can roll this good afternoon session into some positive momentum.

But for now, I have to get some work done. More poker later.


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