Friday, November 13, 2015

Three Bluffs From My Last Session

I have been on my worst run of the year over the past month. Sometime when your results are way below average it's a matter of taking a lot of bad beats or just all around shitty play. I haven't been taking a lot of bad beats and I actually feel like I've been playing pretty well. What it feels like to me is I've just been getting a wave of frozen cards. I'm getting premium starting hands or favorable flops, turns and rivers way below expectation.

Either that or I have selective memory and I have just been running hot for the other 9 months of the year. That is always a possibility.

Anyway, I took matters in to my own hands and ran a few bluffs during my last session, because after all if you're bluffing it don't matter what ya got!

On the first hand I raised to $20 with some hand that is irrelevant. I got 3 callers and the flop came down all hearts. I had no hearts and there wasn't much reason to try to steal it vs 3 opponents out of position on a monochrome board so I checked. It checked through and the turn was a 4th heart. It checked around to the button who bet out $35 into the $75 pot. The bettor is an aggressive player who likes to make plays at pots and I knew there was no way he would have checked the flop with a big heart and I didn't think he'd bet the turn for value with a small heart. A raise here would seem a little weird, but I figured even if it felt off that didn't mean he was going to put me to the big test. I popped it to $125 and he quickly folded. When the flop came down I was done with it, and even on the turn I thought if I bet out it wouldn't look credible since I'd be unlikely to check the flop with a big heart. But I saw an opportunity on the turn, jumped on it and it worked.

The next hand had some similar elements. I called a raise to $25 with 55 and we took the flop 4 way. The board came out K 8 8 with two hearts and a club and it checked around. The turn was a J of clubs putting two flush draws out there and it checked to the last player who fired out $60. This looked really fishy to me. I didn't think he'd check a K or an 8 on the flop since he was last to act. On the other hand he could easily be betting a J or a draw. I raised to $160 and he thought for about 45 seconds before folding. Turn check raises look really strong and come with the added power of your opponent expecting a bet on the river to surely follow when you have it. I had the added bonus here of some showdown value if my opponent, called the turn, missed his draw and it went check, check (not super likely, but worth something).

The third hand didn't go quite as smoothly. I called $25 on the button vs a cutoff raiser with 98 of hearts and we took the flop 5 way. The flop was A J 6 with two spades and one diamond. It checked to the preflop raiser who bet out $35 into a $120 pot. This looked weak as shit to me and I happened to know the bettor was a little intimidated by me. I took a glance down the table at the other three guys in the hand and they were all watching TV or looking at their phones. It was clear they were done with it. So I made it $135 to go, the others quickly folded and to my surprise the main villain thought for a moment and then called.

When he bet $35 I was thinking that he could easily have a weak ace or just be C-betting whatever. When he called, my brain kind of shut down. I was surprised that he called and I got wrapped up in thinking about how I didn't really like my options on the turn rather than trying to sort out what he had in his hand. The turn came out a 7 of diamonds. This was a great card for me as I went from absolute total air to having some equity with a straight draw. He was sitting on about $325 and there was about $400 in the pot so we had less than one post sized bet in play. At this point I was not really sure what to do. I think the right move would be to just sit there for 30 seconds and tried to figure it out.

If I had done that this is what I may have come up with. I have 3 options: check it back, go all in, bet some smaller amount. There are 4 types of hands he could have: big ace, weak ace, flush draw, A6/AJ (AJ is a maybe as that would probably just move in on the flop as would sets - this guy is not tricky at all). How is he going to like facing an all in with those hands? He's going to hate it. Maybe I get called by AK, AJ and A6, but everything else is out the window and even if I do get called I have 8 outs. Can he lay down a good hand? Yes. OK it's shove time!

Here's what I actually thought. "Man, I can't believe he called. That $35 looked really weak. What should I do here? AHHHH! I don't know! AHHHHHHHH! Check and pray? Yes! That's what I'll do, Check and pray!"

My prayers were not answered. A small diamond came out completing the back door flush draw and the villain checked again. I was back to the same 3 options: check it back, go all in, bet some smaller amount. I fired out $200 immediately. If you have absolutely no hope of winning at showdown and your opponent could have also been on a draw, I think it makes sense to put something out there. What I really didn't want to happen was to check it back and lose to a hand like KQ or KT of spades or Jx or something like that. $200 may have been overkill for that scenario. I think something like $100-$125 or going all the way all in are better options in hindsight.

What I was hoping to do was make it look like I'd checked back a good ace on the flop for pot control or to avoid getting stacked against a set, but now after two checks from my opponent I was sure that I was good and betting for value. My opponent was also maybe the type of guy who could worry about me having diamonds even though that made no sense whatsoever with the action. Sadly my story was not bought and I got quickly called by A9 of spades.

There are some guys who would never in a million years fold for a close to pot sized bet on the turn with a weak top pair and a flush draw and other guys who would lament folding it, but would fold it every time with that flop action and an all in on the turn. I think my opponent is more of the latter, and regardless, against all of his other likely hands I really like bombing the turn. Honestly I think if I'd been winning lately or even up a fair amount on the day that's what I would have done, but I talked my self out of it.

I'm hoping to play Friday and Saturday of this weekend to take advantage of those sweet sweet weekend games.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

What Day Should I Play and How Long Should I Stay?

I have continued to get drubbed at the tables lately. In the last month I've played 46 hours of $2/$3/$5 over 9 sessions and had 7 losers and only 2 winners. I've dropped $3,685 during that stretch. This undoubtedly sucks. Luckily if I zoom out a bit farther I'm actually $1,644 to the good over 74 hours since the end of Project 10K, but even with that in mind this is still a very disappointing run.

In my record keeping during my poker career I've often noted the date, but I just recently starting making a quick note of the day of the week. It turns out that since the end of Project 10K I've played 5 Fridays and 11 sessions on other days. I'm +$7,808 on Fridays and -$6,164 on the other days. This is a tiny sample size and I'm not going to jump to any conclusions, but holy shit! That is a major disparity!

Another thing I've been tracking is my results by the hour (i.e. how much I'm ahead or behind after every hour). Thus far the data is all of the place, but I'll be writing a future post about that once I can draw some conclusions.


Thursday, November 05, 2015

Can I Make the Big Lay Down?

I've been all juiced up to play poker lately after watching a bunch of videos and making a few posts and comments on the forums at crushlivepoker.com so I was excited to go play Wednesday night. I ended up sitting in maybe the worst $2/3/$5 game I've seen at the Oaks and I think if I wasn't so amped to play I might have left early.

I got involved in two tough spots against tough competition.

The villain in the first hand was late 20's slightly hipsterish looking white guy who I hadn't seen before. I didn't know what to make of him because on one hand he looked like he was super high and on the other he seemed like a really strong player. He did a lot of check raising and just by looking at his bet sizing in every spot where he showed a hand I felt like he was a strong player.

In the hand in question, I had A8 of clubs in the big blind and he open raised from earlyish position to $20. I was the lone caller and the flop came down Q 8 3 with two spades. This was a pretty good flop for me and given that I was in the blinds I expected him to bet close to 100% of his range on that board. I was all set to check and call, but he checked behind me.

The turn was a bingo card for me - another 8. It might be right to bet here, but I decided to go for a check raise. Either he checked back a big hand on the flop or had air and I think in either instance I make more with a check raise. I checked, he bet $25, I raised to $70 and he called. At this point I considered that he could have checked back QQ on the flop, but there were plenty of other hands he could have.

The river was the 4 of spades completing the front door flush draw. I decided that I thought there was no way that he'd check a flush draw last on the flop heads up vs the big blind so there was (almost) no way he could have a flush. I bet $100 hoping to get called by a hand like AA, KK, AQ, 98 or 87 or some hand trying to catch a bluff. Then he raised it to $300! GAH! I figured it had to be QQ. That was the only hand that would make any sense at all. Competing with that was the fact that this guy was either a very good player and thus capable of making a legit river bluff, or super high and just running good and thus capable of anything, or both. I called, got shown QQ and kicked myself a little for not folding.


The villain in the second hand was a mid 20's Asian guy who seemed sharp. He was limping a lot of pots and running a lot of bluffs on the turn and river. I know he was running a lot of bluffs because he showed a lot of them and got snapped off on a few as well.

Earlier in the night he bet $30 into $50 on a 6 4 3 flop and when I raised him to $75 he three bet to $210. I called and he check folded to an all in of $270 when an T came on the turn. He said he three bet the flop with air and that's about the only thing that make sense when you consider he check folded the turn rather than moving in when all I had left was half a pot sized bet.

When I say this guy was running a lot of bluffs I mean I've never seen anyone put in so many turn or river raises or $100+ bets as bluffs. But, he was also playing very in control and like I said he was sharp and not just a wild player.

To his right there was a woman who was a total novice. I mean, she didn't know how much the blinds were supposed to be and got mixed up a few times as to the denomination of the chips (there were only two colors - blue =$1, yellow =$5!). She absolutely had no clue.

On the hand in question, Mr. Bluffy limped for $5 and I raised to $25 with QJ of spades. Ms. No Clue called as did Mr. Bluffy. The flop came down Q 8 4 with two clubs, the both checked to me, I bet $50 and Ms. No Clue called. I was trying to sort out how much I could get her to call on the turn when Mr. Bluffy raised to $155.

We both had about $900 to start the hand and this is where a lot of players start to think "Well if I call another $105 here, I'm going to have to call $200 on the turn and $400 on the river and I don't want to basically go all in with one pair with a medium kicker, so I can't call here" and this is exactly why Mr. Bluffy has been bluffing so much and it had generally been working for him.

I decided that given how tricky he was I couldn't fold top pair here. I figured he'd expect me to bet any Q x x flop given the action, and could easily be taking a shot at the pot. So I called. The turn was a red 9 and he bet $250 into the $435 pot. At the time I was thinking that it was a bigger bet, more like 3/4 of the pot, but I guess it was a little less. Still a serious bet though.

I was pretty close to folding here, but four things stopped me: 1) there was a flush draw on the flop so he could be semi-bluffing with that 2) I picked up a gut shot which wasn't much but was something 3) he had run so many naked bluffs that I just couldn't give him full credit for a hand 4) I didn't have to commit the rest of my stack to calling him down - I could see the river and see what he did and then use that information to decide.

I called and the river came out a Q which although it greatly improved my hand, I didn't really think it changed anything. Either I was good with one pair of Q's because he was on a flush draw or total air or he flopped a set, and now had a full house. I didn't think there was much in between. Sometime around the time I was calling the turn bet or as the river came out I was thinking that I would not call an all in for the last $500 or so on the river. But then the Q came, sure enough he went all in for $500 (I actually had $470 left)  and I thought "That doesn't change anything. Either he flopped a set and I've been totally fucked this whole hand or I was good all the way. I should stick with my plan to fold to an all in. Fuck that, I can't fold trips to this guy." I called, he showed me pocket 8's, I did a quick check to make sure he had me covered and I headed for the door.

I ended up losing $665 on the night which is a pretty moderate loss, but I was really kicking myself on the drive home. One of the huge things that separates the 1 in 10,000 top notch players from the 1 in 1,000 and the 1 in 100 very, very good players is the ability to make big lay downs. That has never been one of my key strengths and lately more than anytime in the past 6 or 7 years, I've been walking around dreaming about playing in big games for big money. So I felt discouraged that two of the better players in the game got the best of me on two big hands. I felt like I'm doomed to be a very good, but not great player.

After sleeping on it I felt better about it.

Looking back on the first hand I think there may have been enough uncertainty. And what really were my alternatives? Checking the river would be total paranoia. Once I bet and get raised I have to be up against a full house, an ace or maybe king high flush or a bluff. Against an average player this is an easy fold as they'd never raise the river without the mortal nuts, but against a strong player getting 3 to 1 on my money I think it's an OK call.

Looking back on the second hand, there is something to be said about not being afraid to get it in. I have no doubt that Mr. Bluffy is capable of a three street bluff. That's totally in his range. The fact that a river is a Q actually increases the chances that he'd bluff one more street as it's a scary card if I don't have one.

But seriously, fuck these Q 8 x flops!

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Fixing My Leaks

Every poker player has leaks. Leaks are plays you make that are not major errors, but are small mistakes that leak the profits out of your metaphorical money bucket. The more leaks you can fix the better your results will be.


Here are a few leaks I have:

- I don't pay close enough attention when I am not in a hand
- I don't closely examine my opponents for physical tells
- I don't focus hard enough on not giving off any physical tells
- I act too quickly sometimes
- I sometimes make calls with draws when the pot odds are not there
- I play too many suited connectors and suited gappers in early position (the combo of this one and they previous one is a actually a pretty big problem).
- After I've called $5 pre-flop I'm too willing to call a substantial raise with a hand that doesn't justify it

- I chicken out on some bluffs
- I don't three bet enough pre-flop
- I slow play the turn too often with huge hands hoping to induce bluff or otherwise encourage bets
- I give my opponents too much credit

The main ways I work on fixing my leaks are:

- Doing analysis away from the table (this is one of my major strengths)
- Talking over key hands with other skilled players
- Reading poker books and articles

Recently I've added a new tool - I've joined a subscription poker training website www.crushlivepoker.com. It's $30 a month which feels like a lot for a bunch of web videos and articles (i.e. the kind of stuff we're all used to being free with ads), but I'd read a few dozen articles by the owner/main guy (Bart Hanson) and they're all filled with solid advice.

Equally important is that just about the entire content catalog is geared towards in person no limit cash games and Bart's main experience comes from games in the $3/$5, $5/$10 or $10/$20 games in Southern California which are very similar to the games I'm playing. Many of the training sites are focused on how to beat online 6-max no limit games where the players are much, much tougher across the board or tournaments which doesn't really appeal to me at this point.

I had one pot that I won Friday that I would not have if not for watching the few videos I have thus far. I had AT suited and called a raise to $20 in the cutoff that came from a player just to my right. The big blind called as did the one limper. The flop came down K 8 3 with three different suits and the preflop raiser bet $30. With two players left to act and having missed the flop completely this could easily be a simple muck.

But one of the videos I'd watched touched on how K X X dry boards hit late position preflop raisers range way less often than A X X board because most players are folding anything worst than KT or K9s, but will play any Ax in late or middle late position. This is actually a pretty simple thing. You can explain it in one sentence to anyone who is not a novice. But I don't think it's something that I've explicitly thought through before. I have not been on the lookout for K high dry boards. But in this instance I did have it top of mind. I raised to $75, both other players folded and when it got back to the raiser he thought for a moment and mucked. From his perspective my raise looks really strong - I called raise preflop and then raised the preflop raiser with two other players in the pot. It's hard for him to put me on worse than a strong K.

In the end I picked up $90 I would not have so I figure Bart Hanson is going to get at least three months out of me before I cancel.

I had another big hand where I corrected an error I've made previously. There was one $5 caller from a very loose player and then a raise to $20 from a tight passive player. Mr. Tight had $95 in front of him and Mr. Loose had about $600. Mr. Loose had just called an all in of $140 with Q3 suited after calling $5 preflop and won. I looked down at QQ and raised to $50. Normally I'd probably go to $60 here, but I intentionally made a smaller raise so that if Mr. Tight went all in, which I fully expected him to do given his stack size, I'd be able to hit it again against Mr. Loose who I figured very well might call my raise to $50. In the past I've made the mistake of raising just a little too much vs a short stack, leaving myself in a spot where I couldn't put the heat on a third player because the short stack all in was not a full raise.

Like clockwork, Mr. Loose called, Mr Tight went all in for $95, and I pumped it up to $225. Mr. Loose called and I hoped for a favorable flop. When the board came out I was looked at T 7 4 rainbow and to my surprise Mr. Loose shoved for $375! I really had no idea what kind of hand would limp for $5, call $45 more and then call another $175, but I figured that any hand that could beat me would probably check the flop so  I quickly called. The turn was a K and the river was a 9. When the cards got turned over Mr. Loose showed JJ and Mr. Tight had AK. So I lost the $300 in the main pot, but won the $750 side pot.

In the end I won about $700 on the night over 6 hours and had a lot of fun playing.