Sunday, November 20, 2005
In my final catch-up post for the week, I bring you a couple of versus:
Online versus live poker, and
Limit versus no-limit hold'em
I have no timely or earth-shattering revelations to share with you - just a few observations as the state of my poker game shifts a bit.
First up: online versus live poker
Since I started playing live at Trump a few months ago, I stopped playing poker online. It's not that I don't like playing online; it was more that I have a limited bankroll, and a few months ago I had to choose one or the other. Last week, I got back into the online poker saddle and fired up a little reload to Full Tilt Poker. (They've got a 50% reload bonus going on for another week or so through the month of November, and if you're a new player, sign up and get a 100% deposit bonus).
I decided to play one of FTP's $7,000 guarantee $26 buy-in multi table tournaments. An 11th place finish out of 325 entrants was a nice "welcome back" to the online poker world, nearly quadrupling my tourney buy-in and boosting the online bankroll.
While playing that MTT, I also played a couple of $1/2 limit hold'em tables. It is truly amazing how many more hands you can see online versus at a live poker table. I've always known that to be true, but the delta between the two is truly staggering when you've been away from online poker for a while, limited to a measley 25 or so hands an hour.
My other "versus" story is limit verus no-limit hold'em. On Friday night, after 7 hours or so of break-even poker playing 3/6 at Trump, I was surprised by a tap on the shoulder. It was none other than Baz - finally, we meet! Baz was on the list to get on the 200 max no-limit table with Maigrey, who had also made her way to the boats for an evening with Lady Luck. Unfortunately for me, the 200NL game was still hopping (despite it being near midnight here in Chicagoland), and when I requested a table change to #18, where Baz and Maigrey were playing, I was told I'd have to pass through the feeder table first. I'd never played at the NL cash tables at Trump, and decided that I didn't want my first time to be with a bunch of strangers after an already-tiring session. I stayed at 3/6.
A couple hours later (why hadn't I gone home yet? I'm not quite sure), the feeder table was broken, and table #18 had an open seat. Sweet! I moved over and locked up a seat between Maigrey and Baz. After Maigrey's display the previous Wednesday, I was quite happy to have her to my right (though Baz's stack told me loud and clear that I should avoid tangling with him as well!)
I made mental note of any people who seemed to be regulars (based on how well Maigrey seemed to know them), and did a lot of folding and watching. Pocket Queens early on won me a small pot, and my no-limit casino cash game virginity was broken. A bit later I won a very nice pot with pocket Aces against a guy who called me down on a board of all low cards. I had position on him, and on the river, instead of checking to me (as he had been doing), he mucked his cards face up. With that, the dealer pushed the pot my way, and the guy questioned why I didn't have to show. The dealer explained that he'd folded his hand, and he didn't argue much. I couldn't see what his cards were; they were both black, and weren't face cards. Baz or Maigrey - if you saw his hand, let me know what it was! I'm quite curious.
/edit - I forgot to mention Baz's HAMMER! Stop by his blog for the story :)
As 4am rolled around, I was reaching the 11 hour mark - officially my longest session at Trump. Baz cashed out a hefty rack of chips, and I managed to turn my $130 buy-in (all I had after 8 hours at 3/6) into $385. I was pleased with that, and saw firsthand the very real truth that you don't have to play many hands to win a chunk of change at no-limit. Maigrey headed to another table to continue her assault on the guppies, and Baz and I headed out to the parking garage and parted ways into the early morning twilight.
Saturday night, I managed to convince Randy to come up to Trump. We both sat at 3/6 (different tables), and I was down a buy-in pretty quickly. It was your usual Saturday night... 7 or 8 people to every flop, 5 or 6 to every showdown. The only way to win: catch cards. I wasn't catching cards, despite the fact that I had odds to draw at all sorts of open enders and 4-flushes. My draws were plenty and my catches were nil. I'm not even sure if I won a single pot through that buy-in. I'd had enough of that, and decided to grow a pair and go play the 200NL game. No friends at the table, no Randy at the table, no safety net. Just me and the sharks. I sucked it up and put my name on the list.
Within a few minutes I got called to the 200NL feeder table, and my favorite dealer Jose was at the helm. I immediately felt better. On my second big blind, I was able to limp into a pot with pocket 3's. I hit a set, and check-raised a girl at the other end of the table who appeared quite fishy as she gabbed with her neighbors and seemingly paid little attention to the board. She thought for a moment, and then asked me if I was in the big blind. I said, "yes," and she said reluctantly, "Take it. Your set of three's is good." I did my best to look un-surprised and stacked my chips. When I come to a new poker table, I really don't like getting playable hands right away. I much prefer having some time to get reads on my opponents before having to play against them. It ended up that the girl at the other end of the table was a solid aggressive player. I wasn't upset when she got moved to another table.
Shortly thereafter, I was called to move away from the feeder table to a regular 200NL table. I was seated at table #20, where I recognized at least two of my opponents as regulars. This time, I had plenty of time to fold while scoping out my competition. I had blinded down and paid time 3 times before I saw a playable hand (that's about an hour and a half, and a good $40 or so off of my stack).
I had about $150 in front of me when I saw pocket Jacks. Hook-hook! I raised it up to $30 (the standard raise at that table), and the guy to my right said, "Uh oh... she's playing a hand." Yes, it was my voluntary entry into a pot. I was min-re-raised by the guy 3 seats to my left (a regular whose name I missed). I called and saw a useless flop of 4-2-2 or something of that nature. I bet out $50, and he re-raised me all in. I agonized over my luck, wondering if he was just pushing around the latest girl at the table, and laid down my hand and said something like, "I'll make a chicken-shit laydown with my Jacks." He graciously showed me pocket Kings, and while I was glad to have made the laydown, I had no more than $60 or so left in my stack.
Welcome to no-limit: one and a half hours + one hand = chip stack on life support
Thankfully for my chip stack, I'd hit a little lucky streak upon entry to the boat, winning $250 on video poker while waiting for my 3/6 seat to open up. I knew I could rebuy if I needed and wanted to.
A while later, with KQ of diamonds, I flopped a draw to the Broadway straight, and as last-to-act with 3 people in the pot, I called all in on my draw. I didn't hit, but felt good for the thought process I'd gone through to choose the play, and decided to rebuy.
From that point on, I slowly accumulated chips. I didn't really have any monster hands, but top pair held up for me a few times.
I have one hand that I've been questioning ever since I played it. It won my my biggest pot of the night, a double-up shortly after my rebuy. Your comments are welcomed.
I've got AQ offsuit out of position. I'm UTG+1. Under the gun raises to $20, and at that table, a $20 raise was the "guaranteed to be called" raise. $30 or $35 earned some respect preflop, but $20 was an insta-call for a lot of players. To me, it smelled fishy - as if UTG had a big hand and was luring us in for the kill. I flat-called. The guy 3 to my left called as well. The flop came A-x-x with two clubs. (My cards were red). UTG bet out again. I called, as did the other guy. At this point, I'm pretty sure UTG has me beat, and I'm putting the guy to my left on a flush draw. The turn put a 3rd club onboard, and much to my surprise, UTG checked. I figure, I need to find out where I'm at, because if I check and the third guy bets out at me, there's no way I can call. If he raises, I can fold assuming my read was correct. I bet out at the pot, leaving me very few chips. To my left simply called, and UTG folded. (??? Guess I was wrong about his hand). The river came a blank, and I pushed the rest of my chips in. My opponent ws probably getting 10:1 on his money, since I was so low at that point, and he called.
I turned over my AQ for top pair Aces, queen kicker. He folded disappointedly, saying that I had him outkicked. As I scooped a $400+ pot, I could hear my opponent talking to the guy next to him (both were regulars), and he was definitely unhappy that I hadn't re-raised preflop.
My question to you all: was my preflop call really that bad, based on the table conditions and the situation? I agree that it was the weaker play, and I could have found out pretty quickly if I was dominated by re-raising preflop. If UTG went over the top of me, I could assume I was beat. I'm not sure what the other guy's kicker was, but even if he had Ace-Jack: shouldn't he have done the same thing? (Reraised preflop for information, or raised the bet on one of the streets). If his Ace was much weaker, what was he doing calling it down?
I don't think my play on that hand was good, and the stronger play would have been to re-raise preflop. However, I don't think it was the worst play in the world, and no worse than my opponent calling down the entire way with a weaker ace.
Comments are appreciated. I'm new to this NL cash game thing.
Later in the night, one of the guys who had played with us Friday night showed up at my table. It was the same guy I'd taken a huge pot off with AA the night before. He'd told us that night that he was new to poker and was still learning. I almost felt bad taking chips off the guy for that reason, but maybe he'll learn a lesson or two from it. Saturday night, I taught him about kickers. With a couple of limpers in the hand, I raised preflop with AJ suited. He had position on me, and called my raise (the lone caller). The flop brought an Ace, and he bet out $40. I min-raised him to $80, and he pushed all in for another few bucks. I called.
He showed Ace-deuce offsuit. I won the pot.
Such is life at no limit.
At the 200NL table Saturday night, I made back my 400 investment, plus the 100 I lost at 3/6, plus $300. And with that, I just about doubled my brick-and-mortar poker bankroll in two nights.
Of course, I realize that I will not have winning sessions every time I play, and that I have a lot to learn about the nuances of playing NL cash games. If I stick to my game plan thus far, though, testing the waters at 200NL doesn't risk much more than I'm used to. My typical game plan:
1. Bring no more than 2 buy-in's to the casino and stick to the rule of 2 buy-in's, max. Lose that money, go home.
2. Only rebuy if the conditions warrant it. Bad game, or bad luck: limit losses to one buy-in and go home.
With that game plan, I typically risk $200 a night at 3/6. For the 200NL game, I'd have to risk $400/night.
I think I'm going to try it out. Why? As you all know, limit play has been frustrating the hell out of me. This no-limit game, in one weekend, has exposed to me a million different flaws in my game - and that to me is a challenge. Fix the flaws. Improve my game.
I'm excited again about playing, and I'm going to run with it for a bit and see where I end up. If I fall on my face, then you'll be reading about me going back to limit, grinding out my 2BB/hour profit while swimming upstream. But maybe I won't have to tell that story. We will see, now, won't we?