Monday, October 27, 2008

Hand of the Day #1

While I know my friends and family (the ones who read the blog anyway) are always interested in my results, I've been thinking I need to put a little more meat on the table for my poker savy readers. My plan is to start putting up a hand of the day. It's not going to be every single day or even every single day that I play, but hopefully it will be most days. While ideally I'd like there to be some sort of lesson or tidbit of knowledge conveyed with each hand, sometimes it will just be a forum for me to vent about how unlucky I got on a major hand or perhaps describe something unusual.

Here's the story of a hand that I played today in a 6 handed $10/$20 limit game. I was on the button with AT off suit and I came in for a raise to $20. The small blind three bet it and the big blind came along. With AJ or against one aggressive opponent I probably would have capped it, but I didn't know anything about the players I was against other than not recognizing their names so I decided to see the flop and go from there.

The flop came down T 7 6 rainbow which I figured was a great flop for me. The small blind, who was the original three bettor, fired out and the big blind called. I raised to $20, the small blind made it $30 and the big blind called again.

When I saw the flop I thought it was very likely I had the best hand. Now I was pretty sure the small blind had either an over pair, a set or also had AT. I didn't have a good feel for what the big blind might have, but it felt like over cards, or a hand like T9 or A7. I didn't think I was ahead, but for only $10 there was no way I could fold without seeing the turn.

The turn was a wonderful card - an ace! Now I had top two and I was almost sure I had the best of it. The small blind bet again, the big blind just called again and I raised to $40. I was worried I might lose one of them with the raise, but they both called.

The river was another beauty - another ace! Now I was just praying they had enough to call. But to my delight the small blind bet out again and the big blind called again! I didn't care what they had since I had the nuts. I raised and they both called. When the hands got turned over I was surprised by one hand and shocked by the other.

It turned out the small blind had A8 and the big blind hand TT!!! The small blind bet every round with the worst hand of the three of us (in fact the reraised with the worst of it before on on the flop) and the big blind just called on all four betting rounds when I would have raised every time I had the chance with his hand! Not capping it before the flop with TT is weak but forgivable, not raising on the flop is a pretty good spot for a slow play so that's ok, but not putting in a raise on the turn or the river with second set and then a full house is criminal. It turns out he lost less, but it was really poor play.

For me the hand obviously worked out great. Any guesses as to how dead I was on the flop? 2% to win? 1%? WRONG! Before the flop I was 13% to win and 6% to tie. Not what you want, but not a flat line. After the flop I was .11% to win! That's over 900 to 1! I'll try to remember this hand and the $417 that came my way the next time I get really screwed.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

FTOPS Schedule

For those of you interested in exactly what I'm going to be playing in the FTOPS here is the schedule (sorry for the goofy format and extra garbage - it was cut and paste job). My plan is to play everything except for the events on November 9th (I have plans for that day), the stud/8 event, the heads up matches, and the $5,000 event (I'll probably play a few satellites to the $5,000 event and play if I win a seat). Like the WCOOP my goal is 4 cashes and 1 final table.

For those of you wondering what a "knockout" tournament is let me tell you! The way it works is for every player you eliminate you win a certain dollar amount. Whether they have 1 chip or 1,000,000 chips it's the same prize for eliminating them. For example for every entry into the $256 PLO Knockout, $16 goes to the house, $200 goes to the main prize pool and $40 goes to whoever knocks that player out. Eliminate 3 players and you win $120. Bust 50 and you win $2,000. It adds a little extra fun to the tournament and I'm looking forward to these type of events.


Note that the number at the end of each event description is the prize pool guarantee.


Event #1
Wednesday
Nov 5th
21:00 ET
$200 + $16
NL Hold 'em
6-Max $1M

Event #2
Thursday
Nov 6th
14:00 ET
TBA $240 + $16
PL Omaha
Knockout $200K

Event #3
Thursday
Nov 6th
21:00 ET
TBA $500 + $35
NL Hold 'em
3 x Shootout $300K

Event #4
Friday
Nov 7th
14:00 ET
TBA $300 + $22
NL Hold 'em
1 rebuy and 1 add-on $600K

Event #5
Friday
Nov 7th
21:00 ET
TBA $200 + $16
Limit Hold'em
6-Max $150K

Event #6
Saturady
Nov 8th
14:00 ET
TBA $500 + $35
PL Omaha
6-Max $350K

Event #7
Saturday
Nov 8th
16:00 ET
TBA $100 + $9
NL Hold 'em
Rebuy $600K

Event #8
Sunday
Nov 9th
14:00 ET
TBA $240 + $16
NL Hold 'em
Knockout
6-Max $600K

Event #9
Sunday
Nov 9th
18:00 ET
TBA $300 + $22
NL Hold 'em $1.5M

Event #10
Monday
Nov 10th
14:00 ET
TBA $300 + $22
Mixed
Hold 'em $250K

Event #11
Monday
Nov 10th
21:00 ET
TBA $1,000 + $60
NL Hold 'em $1.5M

Event #12
Tuesday
Nov 11th
14:00 ET
TBA $200 + $16
HA (half PL Hold 'em, half PL Omaha) $150K

Event #13
Tuesday
Nov 11th
21:00 ET
TBA $500 + $35
HORSE $300K

Event #14
Tuesday
Nov 11th
21:00 ET
TBA $200 + $16
NL Hold 'em
Turbo $500K

Event #15
Wednesday
Nov 12th
14:00 ET
TBA $200 + $16
PL Omaha/8 $150K

Event #16
Wednesday
Nov 12th
21:00 ET
TBA $300 + $22
NL Hold 'em
6-Max
Rebuy $1M

Event #17
Thursday
Nov 13th
14:00 ET
TBA $200 + $16
NL Hold 'em
4 x Shootout
6-Max $250K

Event #18
Thursday
Nov 13th
21:00 ET
TBA $300 + $22
Razz $150K

Event #19
Friday
Nov 14th
14:00 ET
TBA $200 + $16
NL Hold 'em $400K

Event #20
Friday
Nov 14th
21:00 ET
TBA $200 + $16
Stud/8 $100K

Event #21
Saturday
Nov 15th
14:00 ET
TBA $500 + $35
NL Hold 'em
Heads Up $500K

Event #22
Saturday
Nov 15th
14:00 ET
TBA $5,000 + $200
NL Hold 'em
Two Day Event
6-Max $2M

Event #23
Saturday
Nov 15th
16:00 ET
TBA $100 + $9
PL Omaha
Rebuy $400K

Event #24
Sunday
Nov 16th
14:00 ET
TBA $120 + $9
NL Hold 'em
Knockout $500K

Main Event
Sunday
Nov 16th
18:00 ET
TBA $500 + $35
NL Hold 'em $2.5M

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

40 Days of Pain - Day 31

Last weekend I cracked and took a full day off. It felt really good.

I don't feel like playing every day is having a profoundly adverse effect on my play, but I have really been struggling lately. In fact in October I've only made about $1,700 and I cashed in $4,000 in FPPs so that means I've actually lost $2,300 in game play.

The summer was INSANELY profitable and I've got more than enough money in reserve to have a few losing months in a row so having sort of a weak winning month is no big deal. It just sucks to have a bunch of losing days! In fact I've had 13 losing days in the past 21! ACK!

It's amazing how when I'm winning day after day it seems so easy. It feels like my opponents have no chance at all and it's just a matter of time before I get their chips. And then during runs like this it feels like all of my bluffs are getting called, all of my draws are missing, and I keep crashing face first into sets and five card hands.

The good news is that it WILL turn around. Not might. Not Maybe. I could break off five +$2,000 days in a row and make this a great month. That's the attitude you have to have when things haven't been going great.


Tomorrow is day 297 of 366 in 2008. That means there is 19.12% of the year left. Right now I'm at 790,061 points for the year, meaning I have 20.99% of my year's work load left to do.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

FTOPS X

The subject line of this post looks like pure gibberish, but as I'm sure you've guessed it's an acronym! In fact it stands for "Full Tilt Online Poker Series 10" which is a series of tournaments that will be running from November 5th until November 16th. This is sort of the WCOOP analog on fulltiltpoker.com and is kind of like the WCOOP's little brother.

They run this series twice a year and while it carries less prestige than the WCOOP, it still has some. The tournaments will have smaller fields than the WCOOP, but they'll still be pretty big. And in general the buy ins are a little less. There are going to be 25 events and 22 of them have buys ins between $129 and $535. By Contrast 9 of the 33 events in the WCOOP had buys ins (or effective buy ins in the rebuys tournaments) of $1,000+.

After a brief look at the schedule my plan is to play somewhere in the neighborhood of $5,000 in tournaments. The one I really have my eye on is $535 HORSE. If you want to check out the full schedule you can do so here.

While I won't be selling a big piece of my action I will be selling a splash. I'll be sending an e-mail to my usual backers in the near future.

Shifting gears, you may have noticed my new banner ad. I'm never one to pass up an easy buck and I'm hoping this banner ad might just lead to a few. If anyone clicks on my ad and signs up for an account on pokerstars I get a piece of the money that pokerstars makes from them for the life of their account.

So if any of you out there in blog land have been thinking of diving into the online poker world or are thinking of joining pokerstars after playing on other websites, please do it by clicking on my add! If you do so and let me know via e-mail I'll even give you a free 90 minute poker lesson over the phone! That's somewhere between a $15 and $300 value (even though I've given a few lessons for money I have no idea what they're worth on the open market)!

I have no idea what percentage of the rake we're talking about here and the only reason I did this in the first place was my friend Matt Lessinger asked me to. He wanted to do it himself, but he doesn't have a website. Anyway one of the players who he gives lessons to is going to be switching from another site to pokerstars and since Matt had experience with this type of thing in the past (on now defunct poker websites). He suggested that I set it up and give him the money that this one fellow brings in.

What do I get out of that arrangement? NOTHING! But you do favors for a guy who won you $5,000 a few months ago.

For those of you out there that are particularly enterprising (for example, Kristen!), if you get someone to sign up via my banner ad I'll split any money I make off of your referrals 50/50. So tell your friends!

I would give it at least a 60% chance that I never see a dime from that ad other than what Matt's guy brings in, but it didn't cost me anything and wasn't hard to set up so who cares!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

40 Days of Pain - Day 21

I played for a little while early today to keep my steak of consecutive days going, but I've finally gotten to the point where I needed to take most of a day off. Luckily I put in some major points last week so I'm still in good shape.

I have 19 days left to go and need to earn 92,000 more points to make my goal, having earned 103,000 points in 21 days so far.

I had a bit of a bad run losing 5 or 6 days starting last Sunday, but the largest of them was $1,300 and after a $2,400 win yesterday I'm still ahead of where I expected to be in terms of profit.

In other news I've taken on a protege of sorts. My sister in law Kristen has a friend (also named Kristen) who wants to quit her job and be a professional poker player or sorts. She is in a great situation since she's currently working part time (her husband is the main bread winner) and only needs to win about $1,000 a month to make as much as she does working 25 hours a week at her job.

She had by far the biggest win of her career recently finishing second in an $11 tournament with 21,700 players (that's not a typo!) winning about $10,800. Clearly an amazing return on an $11 investment. Not surprisingly she's pretty gung ho about playing. We've made a deal where I'm going to give her lessons and she's going to give me 5% of her profits in 2009. Obviously I'm not doing this for the money, but she said she wanted to pay me something and this way if she runs into a big win I'll get a piece. If we have e-mails that might provide good blog material I'll post them. Here is one such exchange we had recently:

Lately I have had a strange run of "luck". I have been maintaining about 300$ in my account for over a month now and when It gets closer to 400$, I'll cash some out and so far have had about 350$ sent to me in smaller checks-I think I mentioned this before. Anyhow, a couple of weeks ago, I lost a big hand at a cash table with pocket queens. It was at a 1$ 2$ table and I raised to 8$ pre-flop. I had one caller who was behind me, I was under the gun. The flop came 10-6-Q, all unsuited-beautiful! I was stoked and bet 10$ just trying to make a little bit more from him just hoping he made a pair or even tripped on the flop. He just called. a 2 feel on 4th, perfect....so i bet 22$ at this point, I felt like i was milking the guy. He just called again. a 7 fell on the river and i bet 36$ he pushed all in for 70$. I had a strange feeling that I might have just been beat by the most ridiculous player imaginable. I called and there it was: 8 9 off suit to wipe me out for over 100$! I was in awe that he would not only call a preflop raise with that hand and then call all the way down for a gut-shot! Is the anything I couldv'e done differently? I'll admit it took me a bit to shake that one, in fact, it probably cost me another 40$ or so not really having a clear head about things. A few days later I got dealt pocket kings in the bb and was left with one caller out of the blinds that had been playing fairly loosely. It seems that pocket kings have been the hand to knock me out o several tourneys lately so I decided not to deal with a possible risky situation so I raised it to 10$. He called. flop is 10-2-5 with 2 clubs. I bet the pot, he calls. a J falls on 4th, but not a club and i bet 30, hoping he hadn't called my preflop raise w-J-10 and if he had, i hoped to outdraw him on the river, he calls and at this point I'm fairly certain he either tripped, made his 2 pair or is really hoping for a 3rd club on the river. River brings an 8 or diamonds and I feel a little better, but jst in case of the 2 pair, I check, he moves all in for 56$-and I call, assuming he had in fact missed that club flush. In reality he had called he had 10 8 of spades! The river killed me. Another 100$+ loss that I felt I couldn't have done anything differently that got railroaded on the river. Is this just part of the game, or should I have played it some other way? Long story short, I had 5$ left in my account and played a 4$ 180 person tourney and came in 5th for 45$ and then played a 20$ single table s-n-g and came in 1st! for 90$ so my account is back over 100$ which I am pretty proud of after those 2 horrendous hands that cost me most of my $! I have the next 2 days off so hopefully I will get in some good playing time. Any suggestions for my cash game blunders is appreciated, as always. Thank you :0) talk to you soon-Kristen

Here is my reply:

I have answers to your questions! First of all let me say that this is just the type of e-mail I want you to write me. One of the best ways to learn is to discuss the merits of different ways to play certain hands.
The first thing that jumped out at me reading your e-mail is that your bankroll is a little (or a lot!) thin. I'm guessing you were playing on Ultimate bet or you cashed out almost all of that $10,000 you won?
$300-$400 isn't close to enough to ride out the swings at $1/$2 blinds NL. When I used to play NL cash games I would have something like 2,500 big blinds in reserve (which would be $5,000 for a $1/$2 game) and would cash out 500 big blinds when I got to over 3,000 in my account. That's not to say you absolutely have to have that much in your bankroll to play at that level, but you should think about trying to get your bankroll into AT LEAST the $1,000-$2,000 range. Otherwise you'll find yourself is just the spot you mentioned where you lose two or three big hands and then your account is empty.
As far as the hand with the QQ goes I think you played it right, but your impressions about the other player are a little off. One of the big differences between tournaments and cash games is everyone's chips stack is much larger compared to the size of the blinds. Most players have somewhere between 50-150 times the big blind in a cash game while in a tournament (other than the first few levels) an average stack might be something like 20-30 times the big blind.
When the stacks are deeper it makes more sense to call a raise or 3 or 4 times the big blind with a speculative hand like 98 suited once in a while hoping to hit the flop hard and maybe win 50-100 big blinds. Also for opponents that are paying attention it makes it much harder to put you on a hand if you play 89 the same way you might play AQ.
The big thing you missed was that 89 was a DOUBLE gutshot. A 7 or a J would have made him a straight. Given that he had 8 outs to a monster it makes it much more reasonable for him to call you down like he did.
With that said, you still played the hand very nicely. In no limit when you have a big hand and you suspect that your opponent is drawing you want to bet an amount that encourages them to make a mistake.
Let say you've played with this guy a million times and you're 99% sure he's drawing to 8 outs. How much should you bet? If you bet too little it's giving him the right price to call and draw, and if you bet too much he'll fold and you won't make anything with your set. On the flop there is $19 in the pot and he has about a 1 in 5 shot of hitting his straight on the turn. So anything more than $5 means he's not getting the right price to draw. You bet $10 meaning he was only getting about 3 to 1 when he needed 5 to 1 to see the next card. Seems like a good bet on your part.
Of course he knows he might make money on later streets if he hits so maybe it's worth the stretch for him even though he's not getting the right price.
On the turn it's similar, but this time he makes a big mistake You bet $22 into a $36 pot meaning he's getting something like 5 to 2 when he needs 5 to 1.
I might be making this too complicated. Let me just say that if you make a set and someone makes a not obvious straight you're going to go broke. If you don't go broke it means you're probably not making enough with your good hands. You bet the right amount the whole way and on the end when he hits your stuck. It just as easily could have been two pair or a smaller set or even AA or KK on a massive slowplay.
The only thing I might have done differently would be to check the river to induce a bluff. If I was in your shoes I would have thought he had KJ. That's hand where it makes sense for him to call before the flop (I'm not saying you should call early position raises with KJ - in fact you shouldn't, but people do it frequently), call the flop and the turn. If that's what he has then he's just going to fold on the end. But if you check he might make a desperate bluff and then you can nail him. If he has something else (like maybe AT) he might decide you don't have much and bet for value.
On to the hand with KK. It seemed in this one like you over bet it a little since you were worried about getting beat. You can't be afraid that someone is going to out draw you and start betting 1.5 or 2 times the pot. All you'll do is drive off the hands that you want calling you and get yourself totally stuck against the monster hands that have you beat. 99.9% of the time you don't want to bet more than the pot and rarely do you want to bet less than 1/2 the pot. Whether you're bluffing or have a made hand or a draw, somewhere in that range is almost always the optimal bet size.
If fact when I play NL cash games I always raise to three times the big blind if I'm going to play before the flop and I'm first in, no matter what my position (If I have one caller in front of me I make it 4X the bb, with two callers it's 5X the bb and so on). If I get 1 caller I bet 3/4 of the pot EVERY time on the flop. If I missed or hit, or the flop is 3 5 8 or AKQ all suited, it doesn't matter. I'm betting 3/4 of the pot. That way my opponents don't have any information about my hand. All they know is I chose to play before the flop. It make it really tough for them to read me.
Another thing is you want to be careful about always putting your opponent on the only reasonable hand that can beat you. There was really no reason to think he had JT and when the river came with an 8 there was no reason to think that helped him. Checking hoping he's going to bet a worse hand or a miss is fine, but I like betting again (about 1/2 the pot) in this spot hoping to get called by a ten. On the river you can go under the 1/2 pot bet size much more often. If you think your opponent has just a little something you might bet 1/4 of the pot hoping to get a call from second pair or maybe a missed draw that hit a weak pair.
Let me know if that made sense or if you have questions about my comments.
Nice work running that $5 back up to close to $100! I'm sure that was satisfying.

Monday, October 06, 2008

40 Days of Pain - Day 15

I started the 40 days of pain on September 22nd with 645,000 points (or base FPPs) for the year, needing to make it to 1,000,000 by December 31st. Clearly I was behind schedule. My goal has been to work for 40 consecutive days averaging 5,000 points a day.

To give you an idea of how hard that is, if I'd earned 5,000 points a day 22 days a month I would have been at a million by the end of September. Most of this year I've considered 3,500-4,000 points a full work day.

So far I'm just a little behind pace to meet my goal. After 15 days I've earned 71,000 points which is 4,000 short of where I wanted to be at this point. I'm definitely getting tired. It's tough working every single day all day, but I feel maybe a little better than I expected.

The good news is I've been winning steadily. I'm ahead about $6,500 not counting the value of the FPPs I've earned. It's much easier to play when you're winning!

I tried something a little different today. I have been playing a combination of 4 $10/$20 6-max games and two $114 SNGs all at once. The SNGs don't require nearly as much attention as the cash games, but they don't earn as many points either.

Today I decided to ramp things up a bit. Well, quite a bit actually. I played NINE 6 handed $10/$20 games at once for about and hour. That works out to about 1,000 hands an hour or 16.6 hands a minute or one hand every 3.6 seconds. If you were to play in person it would take you about 29 hours (with no breaks) to get dealt 1,000 hands. It was not easy!

Amazingly I managed to show a profit of a few hundred dollars over that stretch, but it left me feeling a little overloaded and pretty brain dead. I spent a few more hours playing 6 cash games at at time which was also very taxing, but very productive.

I did manage 6,000 points today though so I'm feeling like playing an insane number of games at once might be my ticket to success in the 40 days of pain. The only problem is if I start running bad, money can fly out the window in a hurry! Hopefully I'll keep playing well and running good!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

40 Days of Pain - Day 10

All of this effort is starting to catch up with me a little, which I expected to happen. I lost a little momentum today when my wife Jen woke up not feeling well. I took our son Peyton for a few hours so she could sleep. Happily when she woke up she was feeling better and Peyton and I had a good time playing, but I didn't get to work until 2 or 3 hours later than I normally start. As a result I had kind of an off day points wise.

So far I've earned 48,600 points in 10 days and I've won $3,300 during that time period. This is great news since I was thinking it would be OK if I just broke even or lost a little bit during the 40 days.

In other good news pokerstars in effect gave me a little raise today. I'll try to explain in as unconfusing a way as I can (I do use the acronym "FPP" 24 times in this post!). What I call "Points" on this blog are what pokerstars refers to as "Base FPPs" (with FPP standing for frequent player point).

One of the great benefits of being a supernova is for every base FPP I earn I get 3.5 regular FPPs while the players with the lowest level of VIP status only get 1 FPP per base FPP (poor bastards!). Everything in the FPP store as well as tournaments that you can buy into with FPPs are all listed in regular FPPs.

Another of the great benefits of being a supernova is I can trade my FPPs in for cash at an excellent rate. Players of other levels of status are forced to buy merchandise in the FPP store or trade their FPPs in for cash at an absurdly poor rate.

For example if you are a "silverstar" player you can get $50 in cash for 5,000 FPPs or 100 FPPs per dollar. If you're goldstar you can get $285 for 25,000 FPPs or 88 FPPs per dollar.

As a Supernova I've been able to get $1,500 in cash for 100,000 FPPs or 66.7 FPPs per dollar. Those of you who are super quick at math will have figured out that the 48,600 points I've earned in the past 10 days translate into 170,100 FPPs which at that rate are worth $2,552.22.

Pretty amazing huh? Seems like pokerstars is pretty generous doesn't it? How can they stay in business just giving out thousands of dollars like this? Well I've paid them about $9,000 in fees in the past 10 days and there just giving me some of my own money back! Can you belive it! $9,000 in 10 days! It means I've actually beaten the other players out of $12,300. Amazing.

Back to the point. Today I noticed that they had a new FPP for cash deal in the FPP store. Specifically, I can now buy $4,000 for 250,000 FPPs which is 62.5 FPPs per dollar. It might not seem like going from 66.7 per dollar to 62.5 per dollar is a huge deal. But it means that the 170,100 FPPs I've made are now worth $2,721.60. That's a free $169! That's like finding a pile of money that has 8 twenties, a five and 4 ones! It feels like I should go out and buy myself 8 DVDs and some KFC!

More importantly over the course of all of next year (I won't run you through all the math on this one) it will be an extra $4,282 in my pocket! It's pretty amazing how that small difference makes a big difference! Thanks pokerstars!