Monday, February 28, 2005

HDouble and Iggy have given birth to their masterpiece: the premier textbook on Poker Tracker. I've just ordered my copy, and cannot wait to receive the code that will unlock more poker geekdom and number crunching than I could have even imagined.

Behold: The Poker Tracker Guide

I can't wait to check it out. Congrats, guys!

Quote of the day:

I bluffed, you caught me, and I outdrew you. Shut up.

Courtesy of Poker Geek. That needs to be on a t-shirt!

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Here's a question I was thinking about the other day. What kinds of players can be pushed off of hands? When I say "pushed off of hands," I mean middle pair or bottom pair, or maybe top pair with a weak kicker, as well as miracle draws like gutshot straights and runner-runner flush draws.

In order to have a shot at pushing somebody off of a mediocre hand, that person would typically have to be passive in nature. For anyone using PokerTracker, that would be a post-flop aggression factor somewhere around 1.2 (not including pre-flop aggression). If a person tends to rely primarily on the passive moves (checking, calling, and folding), you may be able to peg them as a passive player.

But not all passive players are apt to fold a hand. Just because a player isn't betting or raising, doesn't mean you can push them off their hand with your own aggressive play. Your opponent needs not only to be passive in nature, but should show tendencies of weakness.

Don't try to bluff a calling station!

A calling station is someone who prefers to call bets on each street and chase cards instead of folding his hands that miss on the flop. If you bet into a calling station, and he's got bottom pair or maybe an overcard to the board, chances are - he's calling you! (Even though he, at that street, has a very low probability of catching a hand better than yours). If you've got the nuts or a very strong hand, that's great. Bet into the calling station and build that pot. With a weak or mediocre hand, however, you're not going to bluff a calling station out of the pot, and if they're a lucky calling station, you may find yourself getting sucked out on (or, as we affectionately like to call it - rivered).

If you're using Poker Tracker, I'd note a calling station as someone that has a low post-flop aggression factor, but goes to showdown with more than 35% of all hands when he's seen the flop. In plain English, they're the players who rarely bet or raise (preferring to check or call opponents' bets), but often seem to take hands to showdown without folding. You may notice a calling station showing down hands with Ace high, overcards, and busted draws, where you think, "How did she call a bet that huge with nothing?!"

That brings us to the players who CAN be pushed off of a mediocre hand - the passive players who don't mind folding to a bet on the flop, turn, or river. With PT, again you're looking for people with a post-flop aggression factor of less than 1.2. When it comes to taking hands to showdown, however, these players don't often get there. If we assume that an average stat for "went to showdown when saw flop" is in the mid-20% range, a weak player makes it to showdown less than 20% of the time when he saw the flop.

Another somewhat less important factor to deciding if you should use aggression to try to push a player off of a non-stellar hand is the general types of hand selection that the player makes pre-flop. A loose or slightly loose player plays many more bad hands than a tight player, so ragged flops can actually be more dangerous than monster flops. You really have to be ready for anything when you're against more loose opponents, and if you sense that your typically weak opponent is calling-calling-calling you, there's a reason; he probably caught a piece of the board with the junk in his hand. Pay attention to what your opponents do and how they react to the board and to your bets; sometimes, they really will have good hands and nice draws and pot odds to call you down! If you're betting into someone you've decided is weak, but they aren't budging (or, heaven forbid, they bet out or re-raise you!), watch out and change your plans accordingly. Maybe you're beat! It happens.

After spending some time thinking about what types of players I may be able to push off hands (even if I'm not holding the nuts myself), I turned the tables on myself. How do I become a player that's not so easy to push off a hand? I know that I will fairly easily muck bottom or middle pair on the flop. I wonder what my own statistics are. Am I mathematically one of those weak players that can be pushed off a hand?

My "auto-rate" icon in PT has me ranked as aggressive post-flop, but I certainly feel like I fold pretty easily if a flop doesn't hit me or leave me with a strong draw and pot odds to continue in the hand. Of all of my hands, I wonder what my WtSD% is.

I was shocked to see my results. They're much higher than I expected. I fold more often post-flop in ring games than tournaments, but my overall average is around 30% WtSD. 27% or so in ring games and 34% in tourneys. My post-flop aggression, however, prevents me from falling into the "passive" category post-flop. In ring games, my flop-turn-river aggression factor, overall, is 2.03, and in tourneys, 1.94.

I guess that leaves me around average in terms of push-ability, if not a little too far towards the end of excess. Maybe I'm betting my weak hands too far down and should slow up if I'm being called down. Maybe I'm calling hands down a little too often myself.

The trick is to find the balance between making smart laydowns and smart bets, and to seek out only the draws that give you proper odds to chase them (unless you have reason to otherwise believe you can take down the pot - maybe by pushing your opponent off their hand with some well timed aggression).

For lack of a creative title... The pending title of this post was "It's dry, and it's painful" - a quote from Dusty at last night's Diamond game at Scott's (though in reference to something other than playing poker, the sick bastards). I opted for a more "clean" title, but in my current state of sleep deprivation, couldn't think of anything witty. Sorry, guys and gals.

Last night, a bunch of us Chicago Burb'ians headed out to Scott's recurring Diamond Game. It was a small tourney - 14 players. There's another one in two weeks, but Randy and I will miss it, as we will be in Sin City for that weekend. The usual deal... $50 buy-in, no re-buys, NL Hold'em. 15 minute blinds. T3500 chips to start. We started out with two tables, combining for a final table of 9 when we got down to it.

Randy and I ended up at the same table via our random card draws, and this is how the game started out at Table 2:

(Dealer) Matthew (thanks!)
1. Rodney
2. Shelly (me)
3. Dusty
4. John #1
5. Ed
6. John #2
7. Randy

Read on for the table stories...

The odd thing about this game is that I have hardly any hand notes. Most of my notes are just silly things that happened during the game. There weren't many soul-crushing hands to take down. Our volunteer dealer though was great with the flops (despite being uncannily partial to hearts). Most boards had a nice mix of possibilities - straight and flush possibilities, pairs onboard, good stuff. It was one of those games where I found myself engrossed in every hand, even when I wasn't playing.

My first notation is that I was the first person to swear at the game, dropping the F-bomb on Randy in jest. (I have an awful potty mouth, though I try to keep it clean here!)

Dusty took a lot of pots early. Nice pots, at that. The first big pot of the night was a few hands in at 10/20 blinds. Dusty is raising pre-flop with Ed calling. Flop comes QT9. Dusty continues to bet out, and Ed continues to call. Turn - 10, River - 8. Big bet on the end, called. Dusty turns over his K for the king-high straight over the board. Ed mucks. Nice hand, dog.

I caught quite a few high pocket pairs last night that held up for me. We saw Aces come through our table 4 or 5 times, holding up each time. It's a nice reminder that not all Aces get cracked (a la online poker). I myself saw aces, kings, queens, jacks, and tens - all of which held up for me.

At 20/40 blinds, I look down to see pocket Kings. Ahh, the Cowboys: a hand I really, really like. I don't know why; I generally dislike western movies and country music and things of that nature. I'm not a cowgirl myself. But there's something about looking down at KK that makes a girl feel special. This girl, anyway. I bet my Cowboys down to the river, and they held up for a very nice pot against Dusty's Ladies (QQ).

Ed earns the notation for "first check-raise of the evening." And he check-raised all-in, too. Nice.

At 50/100 blinds, after seeing a board come Rag-2-2-2-Rag, Randy informs us that he had folded The Hammer with the statement, "I folded Quad Twos." Armando very wisely advised Randy, "Don't do that, dude!" I'da loved to see the Hammer turn into quad twos. How sweet that would have been.

Randy lost a sizable chunk of his chip stack in this round to John #2, when John semi-bluffed all-in on the turn with three diamonds on board. Randy had the nut flush draw and an overcard to the board. After much deliberation, he called John's all-in (with proper pot odds), and unfortunately didn't catch. He read John correctly though - he was sure he didn't have a made flush (and even if he did, he was holding 7-high). Unfortunately for Randy, one of John's baby cards hit a pair, and he took a hunk out of Randy's stack.

Randy blazed on the comeback trail though, doubling up in both the 100/200 round, and 200/400 round. Both double-up's were against Rodney (who had amassed an early chip lead).

Dusty too made quite the comeback to make it to the final table. He came back from down to 125 chips, to being not quite shortstacked going into the final table.

Here's what the final table looked like:

(Dealer) Jim (Thanks, Jim!)
1. Kathie (of the Yin Yang games)
2. Randy
3. Ray (of the Forest games)
4. Rodney
5. Steve
6. Shelly (me)
7. Dusty
8. Ed
9. Armando (also of the Yin Yang games)

I brought a comfortable chip stack to the final table. Kathie had brutalized Table 1 and collected a huge percentage of their chips, leaving most of table 1's players on the short stack or close to it. As table 2 joined table 1 for the final table, all of us table 2-er's breathed a sigh of relief that our stacks were in such good shape, relatively speaking.

Dusty took a harsh beating to cripple him, eventually leading to his final table exit. The blows were delivered by Ray. Dusty's holding KJ. Ray goes all in with QQ. Dusty calls. Flop comes a King - Dusty's loving life and Ray's ready to pack it in and head home to his wife and daughters. Turn comes a blank, and the river... a Queen. Ray doubles up and Dusty lies mortally wounded in a pool of disbelief. Welcome to the River, dog!

I was able to win enough pots to keep afloat of the quickly increasing blinds, but I wasn't exactly a healthy stack. Armando caught himself a read on me in one hand. I was in the small blind, if I remember correctly, and I called to see a flop with 7-9 suited after it was folded to me. I flopped a straight with 8-10-J on board. I cautiously checked the flop, and Armando bet 1600 into me (twice the big blind). I smooth-called. Turn came a rag, and I checked. I believe Armando checked this street. River came a third club on board, and I checked. Armando bet, and I raised him. He feared out loud that I'd flushed (I wonder if my sigh of relief that he hadn't was audible), and he called. I turned up my straight to take the pot, and he mucked. His comment alluded to my bizarre play of that hand, and then:

"Check-raising me, too.... you biiiiiiitch!"

He then told me that he thought something was wrong, the way I was checking with one finger tap. It's funny, because as I was checking, I thought to myself, "D'oh - he's going to pick up on this nice gentle check that I'm doing..." Maybe a lesser opponent wouldn't have, but nothing gets past Armando. Nice catch, man - you were right on. Believe me - I'll be watching my checking finger from now on :)

I have no other notes on the game, since as it got to be shorthanded, I was too busy playing to keep notes. Monster chip stacked Kathie and I ended up heads up, and I went on a run of great cards to bring us close to even in chips. Sometimes, it's all about luck. We traded blinds back and forth for a bit, and then I made my move. I held QJ. Raised, Kathie called. Flop comes Q-x-x, two-suited. Turn comes the third card of the suit. I go all in, thinking she's got me covered. Kathie goes into the tank for quite a while. I breathe a sigh of relief, thinking that if she has to think that hard about it, she doesn't have the flush. When she finally comes out of the tank, she calls my all-in with her own (I've got her covered by 1,000 chips or so). She turns up Ax for a gutshot straight draw and an overcard draw. The river is unkind to her, and I win the tournament.

Here are the final standings:

1. Shelly (me) $350
2. Kathie $200
3. Ray $100
4. Rodney
5. Armando
6. Steve
7. Ed
8. Dusty
9. Randy
10. Matt
11. Scott
12. John #1
13. John #2
14. Candice

All in all, it was a really great game. Some very good poker, and I very much enjoyed it.

Following the main game, a table of us decided to do a $5 re-buy tourney. Rob made it out to join us for the second game, though it was quite a spectacle. The kamikaze poker was in full force for the first hour.

I've decided that from now on, at the Diamond game, if I place in the money in the first game, I really should not play the second game. If I don't place in the money, the second game is still iffy but more plausible. Here's why:

Shell-muth made a bit of an appearance at that second game. For some reason, sometimes I just seem to get very cranky and agitated when playing cards. Poor Randy, the saint that he is, often takes the brunt of my rude and - well, bitchy - behavior, as he did last night. (I'm sorry, baby). But - I finally figured out what causes the Shell-muth transformation.

Here's how the second game of many of these tournaments goes: the people that are drinking are usually drunk by this point. The casual poker players are usually tired at this point. These factors lead to very poor table etiquette. For example, the drunk players typically forget to post their blinds, have to be reminded when it is their turn to act, take a ridiculously long time to ponder calls (and you know they aren't calculating pot odds in their heads, so much as just trying to focus their swimming eyeballs on their cards), etc. The tired casual players start folding out of turn, not paying attention to the action, calling out their hands on the flop ("shoot, I just folded a 7!" when the board comes 7-7-3), stuff like that.

And that stuff absolutely gets on my last nerve.

It's worse than a pet peeve. I can't even describe how irreversibly irritable I get when people play what I consider to be sloppy and rude poker. I used to think it was just the insanity of the re-buy's - people going all-in willy nilly. But that's not it. That's entertaining, and can be fun if you're looking to play a crap-shoot lottery style game for a little while. It's not the awful play of cards that occurs in the first hour of a re-buy game. It's the awful play of the players; the horrific table etiquette that becomes so prominent in the late stages of the evening and early morning.

I don't think I can possibly change the fact that those types of things irritate me to no end. What I can change, however, is my exposure to those things. I think the best way to limit my exposure to those sorts of behaviors is to avoid playing in the second late-night game if I know there will be players in the game who typically display those behaviors. It's also pretty hard to play serious poker when I know I've got a wad of winnings in my pocket from the previous game. The second game just kind of takes a back seat. When I bust out in the first game, however, I generally play better in a second game.

Does this make me a poker snob?

So - Scott, Ed, you guys at the Diamond game - I think I'd rather avoid sticking around for a second game unless I know it will be the more serious crowd playing. Of course, you know how hard it is for me to turn down a card game, so... who knows. I could be full of crap!

Thanks to Scott for having us out last night. I had a great time (up until my pocket 8's ran into Scott's pocket Jacks to send me home after contributing $35 to the pot).

And my hugest most heartfelt apologies to Randy for the unnecessary and completely undeserved verbal abuse I subjected him to during my Shell-muth rant. They say we only hurt the ones we love, and I'm so ashamed to lend any truth to that statement. I'm sorry.

That wraps up this month's Diamond Game. One for the history books.

Now I have to decide if I save my $300 winnings for Vegas, or invest it into Party Poker....

[Read more...]

Saturday, February 26, 2005

"Get your money for nothin' and your chicks for free..."

In keeping with the 80's theme.

Man, was I steaming mad last night! I've decided that I should take a break from Party until I can buy in with at least a couple hundred dollars. I'm of the belief that the calling stations and fish are our friends; we want them calling down our monster hands all the way to the river for big payoffs. But, in order to survive the inevitable streaks of bad suckouts, you have to have more than fifty bucks in your account. I'd have to have instant turnaround on my $50 buy in and some crazy luck all at once to build up a fish-variance-tolerable bankroll. And that's just not a very realistic expectation. It's like playing the lottery. "Gee, will my fifty bucks hit lucky this time?" So, I'll save up a bit, maybe take some of my face-to-face game bankroll and move it online. We'll see.

So upon waking up today, I took a deep breath and said to myself, "You can play this game. You can win this game. The world is not just one big aquarium. Forget about last night...." I had $15 in PokerStars from yesterday's game when Scott so graciously spotted me a buy-in to a SnG and I placed in the money. Back in the day, I actually moved away from PokerStars because I felt like a fish in a sea of sharks. In retrospect, that was probably the case! I had spent months playing their late-night Hubble's NL Hold'em freeroll event every night. My highest placing was 32nd out of 3,000 or something obnoxious like that. I'd sit there for five, six hours straight. When I moved to real money games, I got eaten alive in the ring. I think that's why I moved to Party Poker. (It's so vague to me, over a year ago at this point). After last night's episode, I thought that maybe I could use a swim in the shark tank. See how I fare.

I fared well. I chose a $12+1 6-max sit n go NL tournament. I was thinking, I could either do two $5+1 games with my $15, or go for the gusto and put all my chips in to one game. I was hoping that the jump to $12 would be a little less fishy than the $5 game. That was (mostly) the case.

We had one calling station at the table. You know... calling down 3/4 of his chip stack with Ace high and no draw, to a pre-flop raise and bets on each street. Sadly that wasn't against me, but it made my notes. A couple players were out so early that I didn't get reads on them, and the remaining 2 (other than myself) were what I'd call solid players.

We got down to 3 players, all with about even chip stacks. One player, who I was eventually heads-up against, was quite the Loose-Aggressive-Aggressive type. 70% VP$IP, 44% pre-flop raise percentage, 68% blind steal attempts, post-flop aggression factor of 3.44 (2.10 including pre-flop). He was a monster. But, it was obvious early on that he was a smart player. Check-raise him after one of his pre-flop raises, and he'd fold if he had no piece of the board. He didn't call down with crap. He went to showdown 18% of the time, and won half of those showdowns. His "any two cards" approach was tough to play against. You couldn't judge what he had based on whether or not he raised pre-flop, because the hands he pfr'd could be anything - monsters to QTo. The pfr's typically had a face card, or were a pair. No regard to kickers.

To adjust to this guy, I tried a couple things. I generally slow-played my monsters. KK and QQ paid off extremely nicely, because I could count on him betting into me. I'm surprised he didn't pick up a pattern - I'd call him down to the river, then re-raise on the river. He'd have to call, being pot committed by then (he never made minimum bets, because we all know that minimum bets make Baby Jesus cry). That worked well for the few big hands I picked up.

Since he raised constantly pre-flop, I had to decide which hands were playable for a raise. To do this, I thought about the types of hands he was raising with and compared mine to it. I had to be a little more loose than usual in the blinds, as some blind protection was definitely in order. I chose to see raised flops with higher suited connectors (9-8 and higher), Ax and Kx suited (Kings only if the kicker was above 8), and the premium hands. I also played my low pocket pairs much harder than usual, and somewhat abandoned the "flop it or drop it" rule. For example, my pair of sixes ended up as 2nd pair to the board beneath a ten, and I pushed it all the way to the river. They held up to my opponent's underpair.

Another thing I had to be careful not to do was to feel bullied. I made a conscious effort not to become frustrated if I folded 5 hands in a row to his raises, if they were not playable hands. We had started out heads-up with me at a slight advantage (5k to 3k-ish), and I never lost the chip lead, though we went back and forth for a while. I just kept chipping away at him.

I took first place for a win of $48.50 after my AQ outkicked his A9 with an Ace on the turn. My VP$IP was a very high 45%, with 19% going to showdown and 86% hands won at showdown. For someone who usually plays around 20% VP$IP, I think I adjusted well to my opponents.

I feel a little better than I did last night. Why? I feel like I was able to play against someone who was probably better than me. I was able to figure out enough of his playstyle to defend against it. I was able to play more offensively than usual, something I need to improve at. I feel like this game was a challenge, and I met that challenge and won.

How do I feel after a fishy session at Party? I feel like I spent the session dodging bullets and suckouts. The only time I feel challenged on Party is when I run into a blogger table, honestly. This may be the most ridiculous thing I've ever said, but I much prefer to sit down at a table with a bunch of rocks and Taz's and eagles than a bunch of fish and calling stations. I play better poker in a challenging environment.

I've been going all along on the thought that the soft, fishy tables are the ones to be at. That's the popular opinion around town. Maybe I need to do more personalized table selection. Maybe I need to find tables at Party with primarily solid players, and a couple fish or phones. That may be a strategy I employ when I finally do reload Party.

What kind of reload bonuses does Party/Empire have right now? Anybody know? (Does anyone have a link to a site that lists all the current bonuses on the various site)?

I can't help myself. I love playing poker.

This comment courtesy of High Plains Drifter, regarding the new blog template:

It's Miami Vice, the blog. Radical!!!

Thank you! I'm laughing so hard my eyes have sprung leaks.


It's not the hardest thing to do, busting out in Party Poker, when you only start with fifty bucks. There's like zero tolerance for variance with a bankroll that meager.

I had $43 going into tonight. Caught up with SirFWALGman with April on the rail, and sat down with the whole nut at a limit $1/$2 game. Figured, it's boom or bust. Played for a few hours - went from up, down to the felt, up, down to the felt, to up again. The seesaw really wasn't bothering me though. I felt good. I'd started out a bit loosy goosy but settled in nicely. Then, what I love so much about poker. In the span of 3 hands (two of which involved river suckouts by the calling station of the table (VP$IP 59%, went to showdown 40%)), I was down to three bucks.

Busted out, and time for bed.

That's what I get for planning what I was going to write in this post in my head before I finished playing. Shame on me for thinking I was playing well. Hell, I wasn't even hoping to walk away with a profit. I was ready to brag that I endured some turbulant waters without losing my cool, and without losing any money.

And maybe I was playing well, and maybe these were just a few suckouts. I once said in a previous post that I should "suck up the suckouts and move on." LOL! (laughter dripping with sarcasm there)

Tell me though: when you sit and watch "poker players" repeatedly make plays like cold-calling a pre-flop raise out of position with 8-3 suited, and call bets on every single street, only to catch a runner-runner flush on the river - when you see those plays, and get sucked out on by them regularly, how can a decent player possibly keep his/her cool? I really need to find my happy place, or learn the zen of poker, or something, because the atrocious level of play on Party just frustrates me to no end.

I know, I know - statistically, we WANT the fish, because by the numbers, over time, the good players win and the fishies lose. Problem is, I either need to buy in with a bigger bankroll so I can comfortably play at higher levels, or go muck around in the $.50/1.00 games, which drive me even more crazy with the suckouts. Seven people seeing a flop - practically ANY hand can call it down for sheer pot odds alone! And they wouldn't even be incorrect in doing so half the time!

Maybe I just need to play on another site. Because it's not the sharks that are killing me. It's the damned FISH!!!

Am I inherently unlucky? Well, I've never considered myself a "lucky" person, but I've not thought of myself as "unlucky" either. Get this: After running my 2,909 ring hands through EV Tester, my "luck" rating is a disgusting 8.32%. Zero is as unlucky as you can get, 50% is average, and 100% is as lucky as possible.

8.32%. A big red "unlucky." Cold-decked over almost 3,000 hands. Cold-decked half the time, and sucked out on by two-outers with big hands the rest of the time.

But it's not "luck" - it's horrible players calling down to the river with crap they shouldn't be calling with, and catching. So maybe that is "unlucky" on my part - but the jackasses shouldn't be playing or calling that crap to begin with.

How is it that I can play live games and not experience this problem, yet online it destroys me? I've cashed or walked away with a profit from every single live game I've sat down to so far in 2005. Coincidence? Sure, they're home games, but I'd hardly call it a soft crowd. So why do I put myself through these mental beatings online?

Should I just quit playing online? Seems to be a common theme lately.


Two weeks from now, I'll be sitting at a poker table in Vegas. I've got my money all saved, and will have a bankroll appropriate for the limits I plan to play. I suppose we'll see if I'm just fooling myself that I can play decent cards. I know I've got a ton to learn still, and I am completely willing to put in the time and effort.

But damn, does it sting to get beat by players who think that just because Gus Hansen calls all-in bets with ten high that that's the proper way to play poker. It stings because I know I'm a better player than most of these fish artists. I put in my time, study books, practice my game, analyze my play and my statistics, observe my opponents, and consciously work towards becoming a better poker player.

For what? To get sucked out on by fish.

/end whining.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Just when I finally had enough of GT+ being so freakin' slow... there's a new version out today. I'll have to try it out! Thanks to April for the heads-up.

Welp - I finally did it. Switched to the new template. In the goofy style that was known as the Dark Dots template, I've stuck with the retro scheme - though this might be more 80's retro than anything. What can I say - I'm a child of the 80's. Give me some big hair and a little Gn'R to rock out to and I'm right back in it. (Actually, this theme is probably more along the lines of Poison, circa "Look What the Cat Dragged In").

At any rate - if you discover any quirks or problems with it, let me know. I've checked it in IE and of course Mozilla Firefox.

Randy and I will be playing cards tomorrow night at the almost-bimonthly Diamond Game at Scott's. Ol' Scotty gave me a call this afternoon for a final headcount on my clan of invitees, and asked if I'd be up for a little turbo SnG action on PokerStars. Having all of 14 cents in my PS account, I pondered ways to get cashola in there, until Scott suggested a quick transfer from his account to mine, and I could pay him back tomorrow. Sweet!

I fired up PS and waited for the latest software update. (It's been a while since I fired up PS). Sat down to a $25+2 turbo no-limit hold'em sit-n-go. I proceeded to eventually take out Scott and the guy next to him, when I raised it up pre-flop in late position with 66. Scott raised all-in, and the other guy called. What the heck - I re-raise all-in, leaving other-guy to call off his remaining 600 or so chips. Turns out I'm up against sailboats (pocket 4's) and Scott's AK suited. The flop comes down, and all I see is a big ACE glaring at me - until I realized that there was also a 6 in the mix. Shizzle ma Nizzle! Sweet glorious Satan! The board paired fives and I took the hand with a boat. Thank goodness. 666 is evil. I ended up placing 3rd, so I paid Scott back and kept a $15 profit. Woohoo! I have money in PokerStars now! LOL.

Now that I'm done tweaking this new template, I think I may want to play some online poker. I think a little dinner is in order first. I'm sure I'll tell more stories later....

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Sat down to Empire tonight, hoping that a 2-table SnG would fill up fast enough to begin before my patience for waiting ran out. It was 12:30am or so. In the meantime, I decided to play some .50/1.00 limit hold'em.

Waited for the big blind and posted with 5-6 of clubs. One caller, then the button raises to a dollar. Well, shoot - I don't usually defend my blinds with low suited connectors, but why not? The raise could be a position move, and it's my first hand - let's gamble!

Flop comes two clubs for me and an open-ended straight draw. Well alrighty then! Button bet out fifty cents. I call, along with the other caller. Turn makes my straight. This time I bet out first. Other guy folds, button raises, I call. River is an Ace of non-clubs. I bet, button calls. My straight wins. First hand, and I'm up five-plus bucks. Sweet!

Then, all of a sudden the table started breaking up! I saw three hands total before it was down to 3 people left. I waited out the orbit, and then left the table.

Up five bucks, woohoo!

The 2-table SnG hadn't picked up any more players (still needed 11 more people), and I decided I was just too tired to play anyway. So I logged out and did a little more testing on my new template.

Seems that the layout isn't centering in IE. Stupid browser. I can't wait to see what a joke IE7 is. Mozilla rocks hardcore. I haven't the brainpower to hack at the CSS tonight, so that will have to wait till Friday most likely. But, I hope to have my new template up this weekend. Thanks to High Plains Drifter, April, and Pauly for the comments on the new design. Any other thoughts - feel free to post a comment.

I've pretty much decided, though, that I like it :)

Ahh well, off to bed. Work is killing me. At least I made five bucks tonight!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

I've been messing around with a new template design for ol' Hella here. I had a totally different one worked up, and just couldn't get the color scheme to my liking. Here's my most recent re-incarnation. Feedback welcomed - I just can't seem to cut the cords of my safe pre-made template and run free with my own!! I'm a programmer by nature and by no means a designer - thus my lack of confidence in the new design. Anyway, have a look - let me know what ya think. Suggestions welcome!

Hella revamp - large

I did find the guts to redo my geek blog site - based on a template I'd found elsewhere, so it's not completely my own:

Monday, February 21, 2005

Randy and I headed over to Armando and Kathie's last night for a little shorthanded Sunday night poker. I officially dub any games at Mando and Kathie's house the Yin Yang games. They have the coolest 2 cats ever - Pepper is pure white, and Dolan is pure black. The two of them sat like sphinx's last night, right next to each other, staring at us as we played cards. Cats rule.

Anyhoo, we started off with a NLHE game, 500 in chips, $10 buy in, winner take all. It was much of your usual game - I forgot my notepad, so I have no specific hand notes. Randy went out first and Kathie second, leaving Armando and I heads up. It lasted a few hands, when I decided to see a flop from the button (small blind) with 6-7 offsuit. I almost mucked it preflop, but I thought, "Well, at least it's connected." Flop left me open-ended on the idiot side, and the turn brought a 5 to make my straight, 5 to 9. Armando had flopped trips with his pocket Snowmen, so of course he was betting into me (as well he should have been). He ended up all in, and I thought I had fewer chips than he did. I called his all in, we flipped up, and the brutality inflicted by the hands of the snowmen was felt all around the table. Ends up I had Armando covered in chips (barely), and I took first place.

We played another game of NLHE, and this time Armando went ballistic collecting all of our chips. It came down to Armando and Kathie heads-up, and they decided to chop the winnings so that we could squeeze in another game. Kathie suggested a game of Omaha. Nice. I've never played Omaha "live" before - only online. So our third and final game of the evening was Omaha.

Early on, Armando's monster preflop hands were getting crushed, but one huge blow against his wife, and he was in the black and back with a vengeance. Kathie ended up making a boat, 4's over Aces, with an ace and a pair of 4's onboard and an A4 in her hand. For those unaware, Kathie's favorite hand (sentimentally, anyway) is 4's - the sailboats. (I must admit, even I get a little excited when I see them, if only because I hear Kathie's voice in my head exclaim, "Sailboats!"). Fours over Aces - about the only hand that could be cooler in Kathie's book would be quad 4's - two sailboats. Unfortunately, Kathie got the wind sucked right out of her sails when she ran into her husband's Kings over fours (holding pocket cowboys with a K on board). Ouch. I think Armando might have been sleeping in the garage last night. Or maybe out on the back porch.

It came down to heads up, Randy versus Armando. It might have been the first hand into HU play - it was quick - We see a flop of Q-J-3, and Randy makes a big bet at the pot. Armando pushes all-in over the top, and Randy calls. Armando had Randy covered in chips. The nasty wicked truth: Armando had QJ for two pair, and Randy had Q3 for two pair. Mando's hand held up for the win.

So, my winnings for the evening:

$30 profit from game 1
- $20 losses from the next two games
= $10 winnings
- $9.11 for the 1:30am Big Mac craving (I treated Randy to McNuggets, the Big Winner I was)
= + $.89 for the night

Good times. In addition to some good poker, we also learned that chocolate and beer go very well together (thanks to Armando). I personally don't like beer, but Randy does. Armando was quick with the chocolatey goodness to allow for chocolate-and-beer experimentation. I myself skipped the beer and enjoyed the chocolate. We also got to try the new fudge peanut butter cups. They were OK - I prefer the regular milk chocolate ones. Not much of a fudge girl.

Thanks for having us, guys! Hug those kitties for me :)

A few weeks back I had posted a little blurb about poker personalities. I ran across an article today about introverts and poker, and how the INTJ's and INTP types may just be the best personality types for poker. (I'm an INTJ - find out what you are).

Other poker introverts: let's see. Howard Lederer. Dan Harrington (whose book I'm loving, by the way). Johnny Chan. Chris Ferguson.

A few quotes from the article:

"Extroverts are expressive—not exactly a winning characteristic at the poker table. They generally talk a lot—and we all know you cannot listen when you are talking. Extroverts want to be, and perhaps are compelled to be—the “life of the party”. Expression, expression and more expression. How can any of this be good for your poker game?...

Introverts are less expressive than extroverts, and for this reason, they certainly have more opportunities to observe people. I suspect that intelligent introverts make very good use of these opportunities to gain knowledge of themselves and others. Self-reflective, self-examining, self-aware, externally aware, minimally expressive in social settings: how can this be bad for your poker game? These are the characteristics of winning poker players....

Poker is about a great many things, but it is most definitely not about naturally expressing yourself...."

And my favorite quote of all:
"Poker is the playground of the intelligent introvert."

Interesting article, with a few links to more articles that I wish I had time to read right now. As is, I've got to go get a shower and head to work!

Thanks to HDouble for the linkage.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

A few random tidbits for your Sunday afternoon... (or Monday morning, for those killing time at work). I've been playing around with the default table images for Party Poker (Empire, actually - same difference). Pretty doggone cool what you can do. I haven't done anything fancy to mine - just removed the dealer body and replaced her with a chart of outs & odds, and added to the table the abbreviations for each statistic in my new PlayerView setup.

Yes, I decided to give PlayerView a real try. It's a pain in the butt to set up the table layout, unless you happen to like one of the ones on their web site. But, I didn't, so had to create my own. I spent a couple hours yesterday tweaking the positioning of all of the numbers. It's not perfect, but livable. The main reason I wanted to try it out is that GameTime+ lags my system terribly. I can't imagine I need an upgrade just yet - I am running an AMD Athlon 64 3500+ with a gigabyte of Corsair XMS dual channel DDR400 ram. If GT+ needs more than a gig of ram to run comfortably, forget it! I'll learn to like PlayerView!

So far, PlayerView is running very smoothly on my machine. No problems to report. I like that it can dock to the system tray when minimized - frees up space on my taskbar. I wish you could group each player's stats into a block that could be easily moved around. As is, you have to move every single stat for every single player individually. Getting the numbers to line up nicely has been my biggest problem. But, no lag - and that is wonderful!

Right now I'm sitting at a $25NL table, trying to nudge my bankroll up a little bit before I head out with Randy to play cards over at Armando & Kathie's house. A nice little Sunday night game to gear up for the new week, eh? I'm up $20 right now... I'm tempted to take my winnings and go, but I haven't hit cold cards yet, so maybe I'll go for the double-my-buy-in mark. That's my stop-win - hit $50 and head out. Stop loss is at $15 - lose five more bucks and head out. That's my plan.

In other news, I've been playing around with creating my own blogger template for Hella Hold'em here. I found a font that I really like for a logo, but the color scheme has been the tricky point for me. Just can't settle on one. We'll see... I had another color scheme idea a few minutes ago, so I'll be trying some things out. Hella here might get a facelift one of these days.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

After posting my humble SnG strategy the other day, several people commented on the huge juice rates vs playing a $10+1 game. I thought about it some, and came to the conclusion - yeah. Why bother with the $5+1? I can afford the 10+1's.

So I played one yesterday, and one today. I placed 7th and 6th, respectively - getting no cards. A few months ago, I'd have taken two losing games as a sign that I shouldn't be in those games, but really the play seems fine to me. I just haven't gotten playable cards. I've won the few pots I've gotten involved with, but have folded more J-2 offsuit hands than I can count. It's tough not to fall into the "hey I have a face card, it's the best hand I've seen in three orbits - it's playable!" mentality, but I've been strong in fending off that monster. I'm sure things will pick up one of these times.

I was noticing today as I watched people's stats rack up in Poker Tracker the true benefit of the aggressive playstyle. You don't even need winning cards to win pots, because at a tight/passive table, you'll be folded to more often than not. I'm thinking there may be some good to a strategy whereby you play very aggressively early on, then tighten up with the chip stack you've amassed and ride it out. Of course, you're risking busting out early, but 9th and 4th place all pay the same amount in these ten-seat SnG's: nothing. Getting blinded to death isn't the most confidence-boosting way to go.

The problem with that, for me, of course, would be forcing myself to raise with a non-premium hand. I feel like my brain is hard-wired to play only my top hands aggressively.

Things to think about... I'm off to my friend's baby's first birthday party. Babies everywhere, these days.

Please please please please PLEASE let them play!! Yes, I'm literally praying for hockey this year. I've spared you all of my hockey drivel on this blog, but if you get any enjoyment whatsoever out of Hella Hold'em, please do me this one favor and send out some good vibes that this lockout is settled this weekend. Do it for me! Please please please! If there's anything in my recreational life as important as poker, it's hockey. Maybe even more so (*gasp!* the blasphemy!)

Yahoo! News - NHL, Players' Association Resume Talks: "The greatest save in NHL history might come at the bargaining table. Just three days after the season was called off because of the protracted lockout, the NHL and the players' association restarted talks at 9 a.m. Saturday at an undisclosed location in New York. [more]"

Friday, February 18, 2005

I just logged out of Empire after a quickie little 80 minute session at the $25NL tables. I ended in the black + $36, just over doubling my buy-in. It wasn't as a result of a hot run of cards, though, that's for sure!

To illustrate: I saw 87 hands, and my VP$IP was 9%. No, I didn't leave out a 1- in front there. Nine percent. I saw very few flops, folding most of my hands (79 of them, to be precise). Two hands basically made me all of my profit.

My first big hand saw me holding AsQd in the big blind. A late position raise to $2.25 from one off the button invoked folds from the button and small blind, and having noted this opponent as a loose-aggressive, I'm betting that I've got the better hand right now. I re-raise to $4 and he calls. Flop: Ah-6s-6c. I bet out five bucks, a little over half the pot. He calls. Turn: Qc. (Sweet!) I bet out ten dollars (again, a little over half the pot). He thinks for his full 20 seconds. I was putting him on a club flush draw, or an Ace with a lower kicker. After climbing out of the think tank, my opponent finally calls. River comes a 3 of diamonds. No flush worries now, and I doubt he's holding a six, thinking so hard! I go all in with my remaining $11.85. My opponent dives back into the tank, then makes this comment:

i wanted to fold on the flop but this kids tellin me i got it
u gotta have ace king or ace queen
I have no idea who "this kid" is, but "this kid" was sure wrong, and my opponent should have trusted his gut instinct, which was right on. He called anyway, and my AQ took the pot of $58.95 against his pair of Aces, Jack kicker, for a profit of almost $30.

That leads me to a tangential train of thought: what do you do when the rules you've set up for your typical playstyle run smack dab into a contradictory gut feeling? The intuitive side of me likes to think that my gut is more often right than wrong, and that when those gut feelings creep up, I should act on them. I went with that for a little while, and realized quickly that either my gut was more frequently wrong than I'd thought, or that my poker gut in particular just wasn't yet trained at a very high level.

I think there has definitely got to be some common sense and conscious decision making applied to any gut instinct. When I have one of those types of gut feelings that would cause me to do something contradictory to what my brain says I should do, I try to stop and very deliberately re-analyze my situation to see if there is supporting evidence to go along with that gut feeling. Maybe that gut feeling is really the result of me subconsciously picking up on someone's tell or air of weakness, and if I consciously step through the situation in my mind, that tidbit will come forth to my conscious mind and I can justify the gut feeling and proceed.

It's definitely a situational thing, but acting on a gut feeling seems a much more powerful move in poker when it results in the realization of something tangible - something you can maybe use in future hands (information, tells, opponents' tendencies, etc).

In the case of my opponent, he obviously had a gut feeling about my hand, and did take time to ponder. Who knows how deeply he was pondering - he could have been sitting at the computer doing the "should I call? Oh, gosh, I don't know, should I? But I have Aces!" dance. Or, he could have been weighing the likelihood of my hand beating his, and his level of pot committedness. With my river bet, he was only getting about 4:1 on his money, and from the big blind, I could have easily had a 6 in my hand for trip sixes, or had and Ace with a higher kicker than his Jack, or two pair. I think I would have folded in his position, especially with the gut feeling he indicated via the chat. But, I guess the lure of 4:1 on your money can be a strong one. I can't say I haven't called off huge portions of my chip stack after falling in love with my top-pair-decent-kicker hand.

Back to the big hands - my "hands of profitability" in today's little session.

The second hand that made me some cash was the last hand I saw. I had settled on "one more orbit," and was one out of the blinds. I looked down to see AK offsuit. The pre-flop passive in me wanted to call, as my brain screamed "but AK is not a made hand! Danger, Will Robinson!" The wanna-be pre-flop aggressor in me said, "Raise, you fool!" The passive replies, "But I'm in early position!" and the aggressor retorts, "So fold on the flop if you miss it! Don't be a wuss!"

So, I compromised with the voices in my head. I raised a minimum raise, to 1.00. Four callers, including the small blind, and we're off to see a flop: AcTc9h. One of the voices in my head chimed back to a quote I'd lifted from Pauly (I think previously lifted from Iggy): "Play your draws hard." I didn't have a draw here, but my opponents definitely could. I wanted to make it too expensive for them to draw at this board. Manipulate the pot odds to induce mistakes from my opponents. Every time they call me with less than proper pot odds, I have induced a mistake from them, and those mistakes are statistically my profit in the long run.

There's $5.85 in the pot. Under-the-gun bets out $2.00. I re-raise to $4.00. The two un-invested opponents are getting less than 3:1 on their money - it's impossible that either has got a flush draw with any overcards to the board, so they don't make their odds for a flush draw, nor odds for a straight draw (open ended or otherwise). The first guy folds. The second calls. UTG, who had originally bet out, folds.

Turn comes another Ace, no help for a club draw. With the pot at $15, I probably should have bet out a little more here (per my above philosophy), but now I'm feeling pretty strong with my 3 of a kind Aces and King kicker, and I'd like to extract some more chips from my fishy friend. I don't want to scare him away. I make the same bet - $4.00. It should have smelled like a fishy underbet. I got called, and the river came a 5 of spades.

No draws were made, and there are no straight or flush possibilities on board. It's highly unlikely that my opponent could beat my hand. A5, AT, or A9 beat me, but no other Ax combo (or any other card combo, for that matter) would win. I figure my opponent on a busted straight or flush draw. I make another 1/4 pot bet, $6.00 into a pot of $24. Please call me! Alas, my opponent folded, but I took down a near-$30 pot for about a $13 profit, without even having to show my cards.

To grab hold of another tangent before it whirs through my brain into oblivion, I find that a lot of times, like in that last hand, I have the inklings of a really strong play, but am a hair off in implementing the play. A couple months ago, I had just started getting the hang of calculating pot odds. Now, I am just starting to get a hang of the lovely concept in no-limit of manipulating the size of the pot to provide improper pot odds to your opponents, in hopes of inducing mistakes from them. I was able to implement that philosophy on the flop in that last hand (though I think I should have gone up another buck to make it less of a close call for my opponents), but on the turn, I backed off. I had reasons to back off, but I probably could have gotten a little more out of the guy on the turn had I kept pushing my train of thought on pot odds manipulation. I'm trying to be more consistent and follow through these various trains of thought that I think could turn into spectacular plays - maybe I'll actually make a spectacular play one of these days :)

I just got off the phone with Randy for the night, having just finished off a wonderfully delicious half-of-a-leftover-burger from a local sports bar that puts their burgers on garlic bread (mmm mmm goood!) I got home from work about 45 minutes ago, and finished the task of lugging the garbage out to the curb. It's damn cold outside. 19 degrees. I'm sick of winter!

So I popped into Empire to see if anybody was playing, and alas, all of the day dwellers have hit the hay for the night. But, I just caught the registration for a 5+1 $1,000 guaranteed daily multi-table tourney. 3 minutes left to register - should I do it???

Yup. So I just folded my first hand, J9 offsuit in early position. In in the chair with an orange shirt on - orange being my favorite color. I always forget about this seat in Empire. I need to sit here more often. It looks nothing like me, but the shirt feels lucky! I'm at table 4 of 22 - cool. Hopefully I won't be moved anytime soon and can get a good read on my table. 211 entrants.


Fold fold fold. So the NHL hockey season has been officially cancelled. Somebody please remove the dagger from my gut so I can bleed out my soul in unobstructed fashion. Yeah, it's that important to me. I'm completely irate at the NHL Players' Association (the player union). Idiots. The sickest part of the whole thing is that they're not even unified amongst themselves; I'd bet money that more than half of the 700 players would have gladly accepted the NHL's last offer, early in the week. Instead, they held their tongues and here we are. No season. Weak. Honestly, I'd be surprised if the NHL even survives in the United States.

Looks like I'd better move to Toronto...

Why is it always either chilly or roasting in my house? I just cannot find the sweet spot on my thermometer this winter.


Flopped the low end of a gutshot straight draw, hit the str8 on the turn, and won me 270 with blinds at 10/15. Tasty!

Nice little book review post over at Ship It Poker. (What's the significance of "ship it?" I'd love to hear that story). Maybe someday I'll come out of hiding and have the courage to admit in the face of ridicule (as these boys did) that I, too, have read Phil Hellmuth's "Play Poker Like the Pro's" a whole lotta times. What can I say - I really like the book. People call Phil a big whiny baby, but that to me is just part of his charm! (LOL I'm kidding - but his whining doesn't bother me. It very greatly amuses me!) Maybe I'm just a sadist at heart and take pleasure in his misery. Naw. I just crack up at his antics. His ego is so over-the-top that it's hysterical. I find it ironic that I'm not a more aggressive poker player than I am, having read his book a zillion times as my initiation into the game of poker. Maybe I need to read it again.

Entire orbit passed... no hands even remotely playable. I wish I had some Reeses Pieces. Those might be my favorite candy of all times.

I spoke too soon - American Airlines just doubled me up against a 7-handed raised pot that resulted in a snowman going all in after the flop. I win. I'm not a big stack but I'm twice the average... not bad for playing 3 hands. It's the shirt.

Alas, a level later, my stack is now merely average. I re-raised to 4x BB with pocket queens preflop in late position. One caller. Flop comes a rainbow of undercards. My opponent (VP$IP 67%) bets out half the pot. I put him all in, about 800 more. He calls - AK offsuit. I'm in great shape until he spiked an A on the river. Oh well.

My pocket 8's just fell to trip 7's on a board of 772 - versus a guy playing 5-7 of diamonds under the gun in a 3x-BB raised pot (which I raised). That sure was a nice hand. I'm down to 555 chips. With blinds at 15/30 I can surely come back... but it sure feels like all in or bust time. Patience, young grasshopper. Wait for a hand... 120 players remain at 12 tables.

Would ya listen to this? I win a small pot on the tail end of the level there, just before the 5 minute break, to bring me up to 750. I get up to grab a can of pop, and come back to find "Connection lost..." blinking on my screen. A quick scurry downstairs, and I find my cable modem blinking it's no-signal blink. Grrrr!

Forty minutes later, and my net connection still isn't back up. Tick tock. I'm sure I've been blinded out by now. Frustrated.

I figured out why it's so cold in here. One of my fat ass cats is sleeping on top of one of the two heat vents in this room. I'm sure he's toasty!

Well, that was six bucks wasted. At least I got to read through the latest PC World magazine while I sat here.

Oh mad.

Well, it's noon now. Internet is working again, so I'll post this post for the heck of it. I went to bed at 2am and the net was still down. Why can't Comcast send out an email for planned network outages?

Monday, February 14, 2005

I just sat down to a little nightcap $5+1 SnG on Empire. Pulled out a 3rd place win. I won enough chips early on to keep me afloat through the blinds to limp into the money before shoving my last 585 (with blinds at 100/200) all in with QT - lost to AJ, Ace high. That's OK, I cashed, and for the late run of cold cards I saw, that is fantastico!

I've decided to write up my little $5+1 SnG strategy. Why, you ask? It's certainly not because I deem myself a subject matter expert. If you find something useful here, I'm glad, but this being my first attempt at verbalizing ANY form of cohesive strategy, be forewarned that it probably sucks! :) I wanted to get it down on paper (or on ones and zeros, as the case may be) so that I can reflect on it down the road and hopefully catch some of my mistakes, plug some leaks, see where I've improved and where I still need improving. This blog is primarily self-reflective at this point - self reflective in a very public sort of way.

On with my strategy...

Up until a few months ago, I spent a lot of time snatching up every blog post and web article I could find on single table tournament strategies. I'd dogear the pages in all of my poker books that referred to online play, particularly SnG play. I'd print out other people's lists of starting hands and try playing those. I'd write down other players' strategies for each level of play, and try that. I tried countless strategies on for size, and none of them quite "fit" me. It was like the shirt that looks so good on the rack, or on your friend, but is just too binding in the shoulders or too tight around the collar. Not deal-bustingly bad, but enough to just not feel comfortable.

After quite a few unsuccessful runs at the tables wearing other people's clothes, I gobbled up all of my notes and printouts and tossed them in the trash. Pshaw! Who needs it. I actually stopped playing SnG's for a couple months, figuring they just weren't for me.

Then, a couple months ago, I started randomly sitting down in them... and cashing. Huh? What's going on here? I tried going into Poker Tracker to see what I was doing in these games that was helping me to win. Oddly enough (or maybe not), my statistics were very similar to my ring game stats, in terms of how often I played pots voluntarily and out of the blinds, how aggressive I played pre and post flop, and how often I went to showdown. Hmmm. Well, there's no new information there. So what is going on?

The more I played, the more I tried to reflect post-game on what had been working for me, and what wasn't. I realized that I had taken bits and pieces from many different playstyles and strategies, and sort of molded them into a strategy of my own. It's nothing earth-shattering or different from anyone else's, except that it's mine. And it's working - for me!

The first thing you have to realize when you sit down to a $5+1 single-table sit-n-go game is that you get what you pay for. You aren't going to win a million bucks playing at these low levels, and you're not going to be playing with very high-caliber players. That said, these games are often no fold'em affairs early on, riddled with bad beats and river suck-outs, and crapshoots in the later stages when the blinds gobble up meager chipstacks.

Still wanna play? Of course you do! These games are actually really good for teaching the wonderful skill of discipline. Yes, it is a skill. And yes, it is hard not to fling all of your chips into the center of the table with a marginal hand when Sir_Bluffs_Alot has been running over the table with horrific calls and crap hands. It takes discipline to wait out the bad players and the maniacs, and to trust that your tight play will yield mighty pot drags as a result. These games also give you time to consider your strategy, formulate your own ground rules, and test them out relatively inexpensively. I can only imagine this thorough testing will benefit me in the long run, as my bankroll grows and I move up the levels to higher buy-ins.

I find that the two most important things to consider in these games are the level you're playing at, and the position you're in during the hand. You of course have to monitor the usual other things as well, like the size of your chip stack in relation to the blinds, and the tendencies that your opponents make visible to you. But those things vary from game to game, table to table, and therefore don't really fit well into any specific strategy. I'm sure you already have a strategy on how to play when you're short-stacked, or what you like to do against maniacs or fishies or rocks. Those strategies don't change, in my SnG strategy. I play those features exactly as I would otherwise, at any other game.

First, let's look at the levels. I'm using Party Poker and its skins as my SnG tournament ground. The first few levels of a cheapo SnG are usually wild and crazy. It's not unusual to see two or more people all-in on the first hand. I almost make it a rule of thumb never to play the first hand. The play in the early rounds is often very loose; lots of people want to see flops while they're cheap. I tried playing this way for a while, under the philosophy that if the flop didn't hit me, I could jump ship having lost very few chips. The problem is that too often, you'll get a piece of the flop - just enough to call off way too many chips and lose the hand. The hands early on in these SnG seem to be very hotly contested; I'm not entirely sure why. You've got a lot better chance of being called on an all-in bet in the early rounds than later on - which seems counter-intuitive to me. It's almost as if most players are playing with the "double up or bust" philosophy (another one I'd tried on for size, unsuccessfully). The moral here is, don't try to bluff early on. Don't make big bets unless you're holding the nuts. You WILL get called down.

In the first two rounds, I generally play monster hands only. I may limp for a cheap flop if I'm in late position holding a high-end marginal hand, but even then I try to sit tight. I might consider a hand like A-10 suited on the button or one off, or a suited Blackjack hand. Nothing less, though. No A-8 crap. No King-x suited. No suited connectors under J-10 - and even those I'll fold more often than not. No pairs under 10. Just oober-tight. I've got to be feeling pretty frisky to play anything other than AA, KK, QQ, or AQ early on. Even Jacks make me cringe. Let the psychos beat each other up and knock each other out.

By the end of 2 rounds, there are typically 2 to 3 people knocked out, and maybe one or two people who hold a small chip lead. If the table is loose, your 750 or so chips look like a goldmine in front of you against a backdrop of 225 and 450 ish stacks. With a few more rocks at the table, you're likely to be right around average. It doesn't much matter. The blinds are still tiny, leaving you with at least 15 or so big blinds in front of you for level 3.

My play at level 3 (25/50 blinds) varies. Usually, this is when I'll start to open up to my "normal" playstyle. By nature, I play tight, sticking to top ten hands and the higher drawing hands. Starting around this level, though, I will start considering making late position moves. I'll play a few more marginal hands from late position, either to see a cheap flop, or for a raise if the action is folded to me or there is only one limper in the pot. Don't expect to steal blinds yet; number one, they're not really worth it yet, and number two, most players are still playing a bit loosey-goosey. Rely on your post-flop instincts to get away from those marginal hands when they miss, and - again - don't expect to bluff very successfully just yet. Calling station mode is still in full effect.

At level 4, the blinds hit 50/100. For some reason, bringing out those 100 chips makes some players fold up like clams. If you're sitting with some of these passive types, try some blind stealing from late position. Hopefully you've won a few pots in level 3 to build up the chip stack a bit. If the blind steals don't work for you, stop doing it. No big loss. Swallow your pride and fold on the flop if your steal attempt got called and your opponent is betting into you (assuming you missed the flop completely). Just fold it. Move on.

Aggression starts working well in levels 4 and 5. By now, a few more people have gone out, and you may be approaching bubble time. While most people start clinging to their chips like greedy bankers, you should do the opposite, assuming you have a decent stack in front of you. Even minimum raises will get people to fold, and this is wonderfully good because you don't have to put a lot of your stack at risk to do it. Pick on the short stacks, and avoid messing with the larger stacks. With a decent stack, my play actually gets more loose and aggressive in these later rounds (whereas most players get tight and passive). Layeth the smacketh down and pick up those orphan pots so that your stack can survive some tight play once you're 3-handed.

Of course, if you are short-stacked, you're looking for the all-in move to double up. But, let's say there are 4 people left at your table. It's bubble time. Two of your opponents have 3,000+ in chips, and the remaining 2,000 is split about evenly between you and one other player. If you think your fellow short-stacker will go for the all-in-or-bust move, LET HIM. Fold those marginal hands and give your opponent a chance to make a mistake. Pray that he goes all in and busts while you limp into the money. Let him do the work for you. So what if you limp into the money? Are you too proud to limp into 3rd place cash? I'm not! So what if I go all in with my very next hand after limping into the money, and it busts me out. I won $4. So there! Limp limp!

If your fellow short-stacker is fold-fold-folding, you may just have to make your move, lest be blinded out. Do whatcha gotta do. Pick a hand and go all in and hope for the best. Just be sure you gave your opponent sufficient chance to take the risk first.

This is by no means a comprehensive strategy. It's more of a general sketch of my mindset throughout a $5+1 SnG. One thing I've noticed is that you really have to be ready and able to switch gears at the drop of a hat, and be able to go from tight to aggressive back to tight again. You have to be able to mix up your starting hand requirements as play dictates. You have to recognize the ebb and flow of the game and adjust to it - even if you're adjusting to a style opposite of your opponents' styles. The times you play opposite are often the times you'll score your biggest pots and make your most successful plays. It's the same with your own playstyle; your biggest and most successful plays will often be the ones that are directly opposite of your typical playstyle, because your opponents won't be expecting that from you.

The dichotomy is really intriguing. Poker is an amazingly wonderful and complex game.

Anyway - that's how I've been playing 'em lately, and it has served me well! See ya at the tables...

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Sunday, February 13, 2005

Since I've started playing online, one thing I have always done is take notes on players. Note-taking comes in many different forms, from the old pen-and-paper style notes, to digital notes stored along with each player's name in your online poker program. But what's the best way to take notes? Should we even bother taking notes at all? Where do we draw the line between sufficiently useful notes, and overkill?

These are all things I was thinking about yesterday as I played in my 9 SnG tournaments. I decided to do some investigation, and here's what I came up with.

Most pro's recommend that you maintain a log of notes on your regular opponents. You can use your notes to prepare scouting reports of your opponents, which can help you to prepare for your next encounter with them. Your goal is to observe your opponents and note their strengths and weaknesses, and then use that information to exploit their weaknesses while avoiding entanglement with their strengths.

When I first started playing online, I'd sit down to a table with a notepad and pen. I would write down each player's name and leave some space for notes. I would then proceed to write down every hand each player showed or showed down, along with any relevant observations, such as "called down to river with a busted draw," or "raises pre-flop with suited cards." I would look for patterns, and eventually realized that there were a few generalizations I could make about people's starting hand selections:

"Any ace or face"

"Ax suited" or "Ax"

"Any two suited"

"Suited connectors"

"Blackjack hands" (KQ, QT, JT, KJ, etc)

"ATC" (any two cards)

"Premiums only"

Some people crossed over several categories, but amazingly, I could really put most players into one or a couple of those general categories. It is unbelievable how many "any ace or face" people are out there willing to play K4 just because there's a King in their hand, or how many people will play any ace even with a horrific kicker. Knowing those tendencies can help you to analyze a flop and determine if your hand is likely to beat that of your opponent.

The problem with keeping notes on paper was that there was no easy way to organize them. After playing just a few games, I had a bunch of sheets of paper, and digging through them all at the start of a new game to see if I'd played against any of these people in the past was a logistical nightmare. I had not yet discovered the joys of Party Poker's online note taking system.

A couple months ago, I discovered a program called Poker Tracker. It is only the most useful thing in the world - probably the best online poker investment I will ever make. It allows you to analyze your play as well as your opponents' play via statistics as well as hand replays. I couldn't possibly describe all of the features here, so go check out their web site if you haven't already.

Why would you want such a program? Let's look at the nature of online poker rooms. First of all, there are literally hundreds if not thousands of tables one can choose to sit down and play at. The larger rooms often offer countless choices of tables within each level, aside from the numerous choices of levels at which to play at. With so many choices, the turnover rate of players at any given table is quick. A two hour long session at a ring game table could result in four pages of paper notes, with the number of players that come and go in that time frame. I felt like an overworked secretary, trying to keep up with all of my notes - much less like a poker player.

Enter a program like Poker Tracker. All of a sudden, with a few clicks, I could look up any player in a neatly organized alphabetical list. Then, I could see a list of every known starting hand that player has played - both today, and in previous sessions. Wow! How cool is that?! Poker Tracker became my new best friend!

I stopped taking paper notes on players, and started to rely on Poker Tracker. I started up the program immediately upon sitting down at a table, and set up the auto-import of hand histories feature. This feature causes PT to automatically import new hand information every X number of minutes. I have mine set to 1 minute, so my updates are nearly in real-time. This works automatically with all of the Party affiliates. (For other games, see the PT web site for documentation).

I was very pleased with Poker Tracker and the plethora of information it provided to me about my opponents. It didn't take long, though, for me to notice a shortcoming in my system. When I sat down to a new game or tourney, it was still a pain for me to look up each player in PT to see if I'd played with them before (albeit less of a pain than doing the same thing with paper notes). I needed some way to easily and quickly see who I'd played with in previous games.

For ring games, there are a couple of nice solutions. A program called GameTime+ works as a transparent overlay to your Party skin, and gives an excellent heads-up display of whatever statistics you'd like to see. A similar program is PlayerView. I don't like its interface as well as GT+, but it supposedly is less of a hog when it comes to computer memory and CPU resources. Both programs work in conjunction with Poker Tracker. I've got GameTime+ set up to show what percentage of hands a player voluntarily puts $ into the pot, their pre-flop raise percentage, post-flop aggression factor, how often they go to showdown, and how many hands I have recorded on the player. Very useful stuff to see when you want to classify your opponents as tight or loose, weak or strong, or in possession of maniac qualities.

The downside: GT+ doesn't work with tournaments (though you can use a feature of Poker Tracker to show a second window called "Tourney Time" which displays most of the same information. Not quite as handy as the GT+ heads up display, but still useful).

The other problem with this setup of player analysis tools is that it shows me statistics and a player's overall poker personality, but no indication of their typical starting hands. Within a few clicks, I can gather starting hand information from Poker Tracker, but - it's a few clicks away.

(I sure am greedy, aren't I? I want my data! Right in front of me! And I want it NOW!)

Lucky for me, Party Poker and its skins (like Empire Poker) have a built-in player notes system. With a click, you can store text notes on any player at your table. Players with notes attached to their usernames have a small icon of a yellow post-it note by their names, so you can tell immediately that you've got info on a player. The notes are instantly visible via a mouse-over tool tip, and can be viewed in depth by clicking on the notes icon. The best thing is, the notes are persistent from session to session. Once you record notes on a player, you'll have them forever (or until you delete the notes).

Since discovering the usefulness of the Party Poker online note-taking system, I've been honing my note taking skills. How much information is enough? How much is too much? I want to find a nice balance between taking and maintaining my notes, and preventing the note taking process from becoming a distraction. I think I've found the perfect mix.

My note taking system now consists of 3 parts: first, I keep Poker Tracker running at all times when I play online. Second, I utilize some form of heads-up display to view statistics: either GameTime+ for ring games, or Poker Tracker's Tourney Time window for tournaments. Third, I add player notes to every single player I sit down with on Party/Empire Poker.

The notes I type into the online interface consist of at least a notation on the types of starting hands the person likes to play (see categories above). Players that are extremely fishy will get a notation of the % of pots they voluntarily put money into - a statistic I grab out of Poker Tracker. People over 50% generally get noted. Particularly passive players will get a notation of the percentage of hands they see to showdown - another PT statistic. Players under 20% showdown rates get noted. For the "any two cards" types, I'll add notations of which hands I've seen them play - just to reinforce that they REALLY are an ATC player.

If I notice any playstyle tendencies, I'll note those as well. "Chases flush draws and will call to the river with one." "Chases straights." "Raises any unraised pot." "Folds to a bet larger than the pot." "Likes to slowplay big hands." That sort of thing.

What I end up with is a comprehensive picture of my opponents, which can be built upon table after table, with ease.

My online notes aren't extensive; with Poker Tracker a few clicks away, I have the information I need readily available to me. I've seen other methods of note-taking that go far beyond my notes. I applaud the effort. What you have to do is find a system that both works for you, and is logistically comfortable and non-distracting to you. Having great notes is next to useless if you're so distracted in taking them that you miss opportunities to make plays or make mistakes as a result.

Here's a link to an article on taking more thorough notes online - well suited for players who don't have or don't want to invest in Poker Tracker. Here's a template of this article's author's online notes:

(Tricky/Good/Ok/Poor) :: (Tight/Semi-Tight/Loose)/(Maniac/Agg/Solid/Caller/Passive) :: (PSER / NO PS) :: (BLUFFER!)
(Tell descriptor)
Bets: (Draw / Top pair / TP weak kicker / Mid pair / Low pair / trips, etc)
No Bets: (Draw / Top pair / Mid pair / Weak kicker / Low pair, etc)
PR: (Cards) NOPR: (Cards) TRN: (Cards)
p: (Cards)
See the article itself for an explanation of each line. In the case of a template like this, you could easily keep a text file containing this template. Then, upon firing up Party Poker, open your text file and highlight the template and copy it to your computer clipboard. Then, for each new player you encounter, simply paste the template into the player notes area and fill it in as you observe the players.

You may even want to create your own template and keep it in a text file for the same purpose.

Whatever method or combination of methods you choose, it is vital to keep records on your opponents, especially online. With so many player encounters online, it is impossible to remember the nuances in each opponents' play. Miss an important observation on a player, and you could be giving your chips away - needlessly, at that!

Do you have a note taking template or system that works for you? Let me know - drop me an email or a comment. I would love to research this topic further. :)

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StudioGlyphic wins the phrase of the day:

If the phrase "even fish have eyes" hasn't been copyrighted by anyone, I'm laying claim to it right here and now.

That's some funny good stuff.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Well, hello there again (or just hello, for the Hella Newbies)! I'm here to tell a tale of nine sit-n-go's. But first, I must soothe my aching skull... [queue ibuprofen].

There. That's better.

OK... well, today I decided to sit down to a few SnG's on Empire - the $5+1 variety. I've been scrapping together my own personal baby-SnG strategy - a piecemeal collection of tips I've read on other blogs, strategies from various books, and truths I've come to believe from my own experiences. After today's bunch of tourneys, I think I've finally got a feel of my game at these stakes. Expect a writeup soon.

But for now, I bring you tales of what ended up being a good day at the tables.

Since most people like to eat their dessert before their green beans and carrots:

SnG's played: 9
1st place finishes: 2 (Net +$38, 50-12)
3rd place finishes: 3 (Net +$12, 30-18)
Busted: 4 (-$24)
= + $26

Read on for the stories...

My last SnG was the most satisfying, so I'll tell that one first.

Level 1: An early hand in L1 saw me in the big blind with JhTs. 6 limpers, including the small blind, so we go 7 to the flop. 6c-7d-8c. Gutshot draw for me! One to my left throws out a minimum bet of 15, with 3 callers. I'm getting over 10:1 on my money - there's 165 in the pot now, versus the bet of 15 to me. My draw is giving me 5:1 to complete on the turn or river, and I do have 2 overcards. I call. Turn comes Th - I've got top pair now to go with my draw. Two flush draws onboard. It's checked around, and last-to-act bets out 135, about 3/4 of the pot. One caller behind me. There's now 450 in the pot, and I have to call 135. I should have folded here. I didn't, hoping my top pair would hold up. I called, and two folds after me, leaving me with the bettor and small blind. River comes a 2d. Bettor pushes out 405 into a pot of 585. If he's got a 9, I'm toast. The SB folds, and I fold. That left me with 635 in chips - very playable for the 10/15 blinds, but a disappointing hit nonetheless.

I should have folded the turn bet. At the time, I was thinking, "But if I hit, it will be SUCH a sweet pot!" That's the kind of thinking that gets me into trouble. I can be so good at laying down the unprofitable draws - except when I'm chasing them.

A few hands later, I see KdQc, one off the button. I play it for cheap in late position and take down a pot of 295 on the turn without a showdown, having flopped my King and bet it aggressively post-flop. I'm feeling better at this point.

I played hands here and there through levels 2, 3, and 4 - picking up enough chips to cover what I lost in blinds, plus a little.

The first hand in level 5 (blinds 100/200) gave me my first indication that lady luck was on my side for this game. I'm in the BB with J3o, 1,575 chips in front of me. I'm 3rd in chips but not by far, and we're down to 4 players. I take the free flop of 7-8-J. Nice - Hit my Jacks, but with my crappy kicker, it could be dangerous. What the heck - only 3 of us went to the flop, I think my Jacks are good. A feeler bet should help me figure it out; I toss out the min bet, 200. One call, one fold. Turn comes a Q with 3 spades now onboard. I'm holding a spade (so what if it's the 3), and I've got a 2-to-1 chip lead on my remaining opponent. Time to put him to the test. I bet out 720 into a pot of 1,000 - exactly what he's got left. Since he's holding QT (red ones), of course he calls. Yikes! Then, the devastating turn - for my opponent, anyway: the 3d. I take him out with 2 pair, and we're now all in the money. Isn't it funny how much we love those river suck-outs when they fall in our favor?

* Money dance * * Money dance *

Shortly thereafter, we were heads up. My final opponent was one who got all kinds of notes scribbled about him in my Empire Poker notes box. He was something else - one of those any-ace-or-face guys, loved to overbet the pot with bottom pair and push people off hands (probably with junk). I had a good feel for him by the time we got heads-up, and he definitely backed off the aggression when I started playing back at him. Behold the power of the re-raise! Once I knocked him off his pedestal, he started pulling back and folding to my bets. I picked up 9 consecutive small pots off him with a minimum bet on the flop after that, and then the clincher:

Blinds are 150/300 and I'm BB. I've got 9s5h. He calls, I check. Flop comes 9d-2d-9h. Gotta love flopping 3 of a kind heads-up. I decide to slow-play. It's not too likely that he's on a diamond draw at this point, and after taking 9 pots in a row from him (after seeing his early aggression), he's got to be just itching to play at me. Sure enough, he does. I check, and he comes out for a bet of 300. I pause, and then call. Turn comes 4s. (This made him a pair of 4's). I check. He bets again, the minimum of 300. I pause a little longer to "think about it," and call. River comes Qh. I check, praying he'll bet into me one more time (and hoping he hit a queen). Hallelujah - he goes all-in for 2605. I have him covered by 1,000 and gleefully call him. I take the pot with my 3-oak nines.

* First place dance * * First place dance *

That tourney was definitely my favorite of them all, for two reasons. First, I didn't let an early mistake take my mind out of the game. I consciously decided to let it go and move on. It worked. Second, I really feel like I outplayed my opponents. I had a great feel for when to scoop up a loose pot, when to let a good hand go - I really sensed that I could pick my spots in this game. I caught a few lucky hands, but I played them well and I think maximized my chip extraction on them.

My earlier first place finish happened while I was on the phone with my mom. I was supposed to be meeting her for lunch, but I went so far in the tourney that she was calling me from the restaurant asking where I was. (I only live 5 minutes away from it, so I wasn't too worried). I told her to stay on the phone to hear me finish second - little did I know, I'd catch some mad cards and take down first place. Two flushes in a row brought me from a 4:1 chip-stack-dog to the winner of the game. I was so surprised and excited that I hooted and hollered on the phone to my mom. As I did the "I won twenty-five-dollars" chant, she says to me, "In real money?" [queue DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince.... "Parents just don't understand...."] She's not too computer savvy; this online poker thing doesn't yet make sense to her.

Lunch always tastes better when you just placed first in a tourney.

It seems amazingly that I either do very well or very horribly in these tournaments. Of my 4 busts, 3 of them were 10th place finishes (ouch). One saw my pocket Jacks get sucked out on the river to a board of all undercards, and a guy who called a pre-flop raise of 4xBB with 6-4o out of position. I cursed at the computer monitor on that one. Another saw my AJ with top pair onboard fall to AQ. (I dislike AJ soooooooo ridiculously much). The other saw most of my chips vanish with pocket Jacks turned trips on the flop of J-7-8. Turn and river come 6-5, and I lose to A9 offsuit for the straight.

I'm not mad at my plays on any of those hands though. Really, they were good hands that I either got sucked out on or just ran smack right into bad luck. All three were cases of fishies calling down bets without proper odds to do so on draws that were a miracle to hit. Too bad for me, they hit.

The other bust was a 7th place finish, and my other 3 money finishes were 3rd. One was a gift - there was a massacre whereby 3 people went out on one hand, leaving me in the money, when I probably should have had no business being there with my little stack. Thanks guys! The other two, I think I earned.

I blew $6 of my winnings on a limit Omaha Hi/Lo tourney. Man, did I do bad! LOL! I played it in the middle of my NLHE games, to break up the monotony and give myself a break. You know, mix things up a bit. It took me about half my stack just to really remember how to play - I was calling off chips left and right where I should have been fold-fold-folding. When I finally got the hang of it, I made a valiant comeback from down to the felt, but alas busted out 8th. I hadn't expected to win, really - and the game served its purpose of refreshing me and my spirits. I got a good laugh at myself and was ready to take on some more hold'em.

Net result for the day: up $20. No big deal to most people, but to me, that's a 40% increase of my online bankroll. I'm pleased!

Tomorrow I don't think I'll play online, or not as much, anyway. I have a bunch of writing I want to do. I have 2 post ideas I'd like to write up, and an outline for the book I've decided to write: how to create, manipulate, and hack Blogger templates. Yup! I'm going to try and write it. I sent a book proposal over to O'Reilly & Associates (the people who make the computer books with the animals on the cover). Even if they don't like my idea, I've decided I'm going to write it anyway and maybe self-publish it. I've always wanted to write a book - I've just been waiting for the right idea to come along. I've finally found it! :)

Goodnight all....
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Friday, February 11, 2005

Sat down for a little sit-n-go action tonight. Actually, it started with a seat at a $.50/1.00 limit table, but that wasn't going so well. Table was just cold cold cold for me. If I saw a K, it was kicked with a 2. Had many 8-3 type hands. (They weren't even suited!) I had been thinking maybe I'd stick around and be patient, when it hit me:

Patient? Why? My cards are cold here. GET UP AND MOVE!!

So I left the table. I decided to try my luck at a baby SnG, $5+1. My general rule of thumb in these is to sit tight in the first 2 rounds. Usually, a few people are knocked out by that time, and I can start playing (assuming the cards are coming my way).

Tonight, it was early in the game, and I was seeing more useless cards fly by me, when I came upon pocket 10's. The Roman. I'm in the big blind (15) with 770 chips in front of me. Two off the button calls, one-off raises to 30, button calls, SB folds, and I raise it up to 100. I like my 10's, and I'm not smelling "higher pocket pair." I want to eliminate as many limpers as possible and maybe race against someone with a couple overs. Heck, maybe I'll take the pot right here - I pushed it up to over 7x the BB. Anyone calling had better have a hand!

The original raiser bumps it to 215 all-in, and button calls. I'm getting almost 5:1 on my money for the additional 115 I'd have to call. I could be beat - but I also could be holding the best hand right now, and my gut told me I was. So I went with the gut and called.

Flop comes 3-4-3 rainbow. I don't remember what the heck I was thinking here, but UTG I checked. It checked around. Turn comes a J. All four suits onboard. I bet out 450, about 2/3 the size of the pot, and exactly the amount my other opponent had left in front of him. Put him to a decision, right?

Little did I know, that J had just made top pair for both of my opponents. Of course, the button calls. Both players had QJ.

River: a glorious 10, giving me the full house, tens over 3's. Knocked both opponents out.

Evaluating my odds here post-game:

Pre-flop I was a 65% favorite to win vs. two players holding QJ.
Post-flop, my chances increased to 83%.
On the turn, I'm down to less than a 5% shot at winning the hand.

Then came my miracle two-outer on the river!

For as many times as we take bad beats, sometimes you just gotta smile and say, I deserved that miracle, thank you very much!

I actually caught a couple more lucky rivers in the tourney to make it into the money, but caught more dead cards there for a 3rd place finish.

My stats for this game:

VP$IP: 23.44%
Pre-flop raise: 6.25%
Post-flop aggression: 4.50
Went to SD: 38%
Won $ at SD: 63%

If there's anything I need to work on, it is pre-flop aggression. This is my recurring theme. I have to pound into my brain that raising pre-flop can not only win the blinds right there, but also eliminates the limpers who may catch and bust out my hand. If I trust my post-flop play, I have to be willing to put my neck out a little more pre-flop, and rely on my skills to fold the hand post-flop if it misses me. I have to trust that I can lay down the hand with money invested.

Honestly, I think I can - I have gotten quite good at laying down even good hands when the flop misses me and the pot isn't giving me odds to draw. Maybe too good - I probably lay down hands a tiny bit too easily. So - if I know that I can lay it down, why not push a little harder pre-flop and see what happens?

Every time I say this in my blog, I swear to myself that next time, I will try. I will be more aggressive pre-flop. Considering my VP$IP is typically so low (I range from 20-25% in most cases, though sometimes find myself around the 18% mark), the hands I'm playing should be monsters, right? At least favorites, pre-flop. So WHY NOT RAISE THEM?

If it's good enough to play, it's good enough to raise, right?

I must stop chickening out with the pre-flop raises!!!

[Read more...]

I made some hacks to the template of my humble lil' blog here... found some really cool stuff out there in the world.

I really think there needs to be a book devoted to creating and hacking Blogger/Blogspot templates. The help files are really good on, but you really won't find the good stuff unless you know what you're looking for. If anyone knows of such a book, let me know. Otherwise, I may just have to write one myself.

Some features I added:

1. Expandable posts - Some of the posts here get really long, and it would definitely unclutter the front page to be able to hide half of the post behind a "Read More" link. So, that's what I did! I've only got it on one post right now - the one from last weekend's "Collusion at Shellmuth's" post. From now on, when I make huge posts, I'll use the summary and "Read More" link.

This hack was described in the help, but I didn't like how it was implemented. I didn't want the "Read More" link to display on EVERY post - just the ones that actually had more to be read! My solution wasn't the most graceful, but it'll do the trick.

2. Collapsing Comments (aka Peek-a-boo comments). Awesome. No more having to load a new page to view and post comments.

3. Fixed the display problem that was happening with Internet Explorer (ie. all posts began way down the page, after the sidebar). This was caused by a renegade tag in one of my previous posts. Thanks to April for pointing out the glitch! I use Mozilla Firefox, which was showing the pages properly, so I hadn't noticed a problem.

If you encounter any problems, please let me know! Thanks :)

Paul Phillips posted a link to his new poker player photo blog today. Check out this particularly hysterical photo of Phil Hellmuth: link

You can find the rest of the photos here.

My favorites:

Andy Bloch chasing a duck. (I like ducks)
Gus macking on some girl. (Sob! Sob!)
Daniel Negreanu dancing.
Howard Lederer professing.
Carlos & Cecilia Mortensen & Paul Phillips, cool pic. Cecilia is so cute it kills me.
Jesus and Annie Duke dancing. Love that girl.
Howard Lederer professing some more, this time to Phil Ivey.

Good for some giggles.