Saturday, January 30, 2016

Project Manhattan Session #2 - The Universe Won't Let You Cash In Bad Luck

The universe won't let you cash in your bad luck. You're never due for a win in poker. Every time you sit down your chances of getting any distribution of starting cards or good hands and bad hands during a session is the same. You can't save up your losses for a win. But you can save up your wins for a loss. After all you have the cash in your hand. While this little bit of universal unfairness is comforting when you've been winning, it's really annoying when you've been losing.

I saw down Friday night at the Oaks in a $2/$3/$5 game with $500 in front of me facing a group with two soft spots, 3 players who were solid, but predictable and 4 new faces (which is usually a good sign). The chips were moving and in the first 20 minutes I saw three or four guys get stacked in pots in the $700-$1,000 range.

In one of those pots the guy just to my right who I'll call Mr. Basic got dealt KK, ended up getting it in for about $375 pre-flop against AJ and lost. He bought back in for $500 and maybe 2 hands later got KK again and doubled up through the player to his right who I'll call Mr. Tilty.

"Damn it! Why can't I get KK and get action?" I lamented.

One or two hands later I looked down at KK. Mr. Tilty called $5 and I raised it to $25. Two players called and then the big blind went all in for $65. "Ah ha!" I thought. I wasn't thrilled about a 5 or 6 way pot with KK, but now I would have the chance to pop it again and get it down to 1 or 2 opponents. To my delight Mr. Tilty who was on tilt after losing a few big pots called the $65 (an abysmal call with just about any hand). I decided to go for a healthy raise and made it $200 to go. I figured I'd lose everyone and go heads up with the all in player, but Mr. Tilty being true to his name came along for the $200. The flop came down Q 5 3 which looked beautiful. Mr. Tilty checked, I moved all in for $286 and after some thought he slowly called. At this point I was about 99% sure I was good, but my heart was racing and so was my mind thinking of every possible way I could get fucked in this hand. Happily the turn and river bricked out, I showed my hand and both Mr. Tilty the all in player quietly mucked their cards. Huzzah!

Calling $5 preflop, and then a raise to $65 and then a 4-bet to $200 is just insane. It's a flat out awful play with any hand.

Now I was up $600 sitting on $1,100 which was enough to cover everyone at the table.

About 30 minutes later I was on the button with Q8 of diamonds and called a raise to $25. We took the flop 5 way and the board came out T 3 2 with two diamonds. The player who had been in the big blind - who I'll call Charlie Day because he looked just like the actor Charlie Day - came out firing with a bet of $100 into the $125 pot. I didn't think he'd do that with a set or over pair so that left a T or a flush draw. Everyone else folded to me and I considered my options. Charlie Day had about $500 left in front of him. He seemed like kind of an OK, but not great player. I thought about making it $250 to go as a semi-bluff, but decided it would be better to see the turn and either hit a Q or a diamond or at least get some more information. Unfortunately the turn was a 4. Fortunately Charlie Day checked and I knew I had him. I pushed $220 into the $325 pot. This was too much to call with a draw or a T. Part of the power of this bet is not just the $220, but Charlie Day knowing that if I have a strong hand, I'm going to put him to the test for his last $300 on the river also. After about 30 seconds he folded later saying he had a weak ten.

About an hour later I got dealt AQ, called a raise to $15 (I should have 3-bet here) and took the flop 6 way. The flop came down 8 6 4 with two diamonds and it checked around. The turn was a third diamond, but it was also an ace. Now the preflop raiser came out betting $60. I figured he had an ace, but more often than not my kicker would be good. The river paired the 6 and he bet out $80. Again I just called feeling like I should have the best hand, but any worse hand would likely fold to a raise, and many better hands would call. He proudly rolled over AT and I crushed his hopes and dreams with my Q kicker.

At this point I was up $950 and starting to have dreams of my own about a $2K+ night. Mr. Basic still had about $1,000 in front of him and I had such a good read on him (because he played so straightforwardly) that I figured I'd find some spots to take pots away from him or take him to value town.

Over the next two hours things very slowly went south. I won a few pots and lost a few pots. The game got a little tougher. I started to feel a little tired. Still winning about $750 I decided to play one more round and then pick up.

On my second to last hand I got AQ with the A of spades. Mr. Basic raised to $25 and I just called (again I think this should be a 3-bet, in position, especially against a player I want to target - this was a significant mistake). 3 other players called and the flop came down Q T 4 with two spades. This was a pretty strong flop for me, but Mr. Basic fired out $125 into the $125 pot which looked like a serious bet. There was no way he'd bet so strong without something good. His M.O. was small bets with misses, big bets with good hands. But I didn't think folding AQ there made sense. I called and everyone else folded.

The turn was a really interesting card - the J of spades! Now the flush draw got there, and I picked up 9 outs to the nuts, and 3 more to a straight. Plus I still had top pair working for me. Given that turn card I expected Mr. Basic to check and he did. I also expected him to fold if I bet. Given that the Q and the J (along with the 4) were spades and I had the A of spades, he couldn't have a flush. With those cards accounted for there were just no hands in pre-flop his raising range that made a flush. He couldn't have AK because he wouldn't have bet so much on the flop. In the moment I was thinking if he can't have a flush, and he can't have a straight, and he can't have the A high flush draw because I have it, then he can't call here. He can't put all of his chips at risk to call down two streets when I could easily have a flush. He's Mr. Basic! Get out of there Mr. Basic!

I bet $175 into the $400 pot. This was a little lite, but it's how much I'd probably bet with a flush and it left enough behind that I could put in a big bet on the river as a follow up. To my surprise he called leaving him self about $475 behind. "SPADE, SPADE, SPADE!" I thought. The river was the A of clubs. Huh? Now any king would make a straight. I was trying to decide if my two pair were good or if I should shove for $475. My two pair might be good, but it would be really, really tough to call $475 in this spot without a flush, and certainly if he didn't have a K or a flush, even if for some reason he thought I was up to no good, it would be a sick call. While I was thinking this through and just coming to the conclusion that betting $475 was the way to go as he could easily have a set, he bet out $300! WHAT THE FUCK! HOW THE FUCK CAN THIS GUY BE BETTING INTO ME!? Didn't he clearly put me on a flush? How could he bet here?

With only $175 left he just didn't have enough left for me to buff him off a K. I considered the possibility that he was on desperate bluff and that maybe I should call, but quickly thew that out as there were no legitimate preflop raising hands, that would bet the flop hard that I could beat on that board. I showed the A of spades and folded. He said when I bet the turn he knew I didn't have the flush because if I had it, I would have checked? What? WHAT!? You don't have a clue what you're talking about you basic bastard!

Looking back I'm almost positive he had KK with the K of spades. Maybe he had KK with no spades or KQ, but I'd bet it was KK with the K of spades.

Looking back I'm not really sure what I should have done on the turn there. Maybe a bigger bet would have worked, or maybe a check was in order. I don't know.

I briefly considered staying, but I was all worked up and decided to just pack it in and book a win. I won $430 on the night over 4 hours which isn't a bad result.

After 8 hours of play I'm up $198 for the project. I'll be back in action next Friday!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Project Manhattan Session #1: Off to a Slow Start

I rolled into the Oaks on Friday with $2,000 in my pocket, full of resolve and looking forward to getting this project underway.

I have to admit that in a few of my late 2015 sessions I walked in the door hoping to get lucky. If that's your plan, you should just stay home. This time my plan was to take my time, think hard about every meaningful decision, pay attention, try to keep to simple, solid plays and take what the table gave me.

There were three $2/$3/$5 games going which is usually a good sign. I recognized about half of the players at my table and unfortunately two of them are among the best players at the Oaks. Happily they both quickly changed tables and were replaced with soft spots.

After folding a lot for 30 minutes I got my first hand of consequence. I got dealt 87 offsuit on the button and we took a flop 7 way for $5 each. The flop came down Q 8 8 giving me trips. My 6 opponents checked to me and I fired out $25. I got two callers. The turn was a K and it got checked to me.

This was a strange spot. There were no draws on the flop (other than 4 out straight draws) and I had a tight image. If someone else had an 8 we were likely going to chop the pot, unless they had Q8, K8 or A8 in which case I was in hot water. The other possibility is they both had QX, in which case they'd almost certainly fold to a bet on the turn given the K, but might check call a small bet on the river if the turn checked through. It felt really strange to check trips last in a small pot, but the logic was clear. I checked it back and the river was a 4. After one check, the other opponent bet $30 into the $80 pot. Again, putting in more action didn't make any sense. All worse hands would fold, and no better hands would fold. I called and ended up beating KQ, which is actually just about the only hand imaginable that I could have made more from. :(

That hand was the sole highlight of the first two hours. I wasn't taking beats, but I wasn't winning any pots of consequence either. Mostly I was folding. At that point I was stuck about $200.

The biggest hand that went against me happened when I called $5 and then called a raise to $20 in the cut off vs a button raise with T9 of hearts. We took the flop 5 way and the preflop raiser bet $60 into the $100 pot on a K 3 4 with two hearts flop. One loose passive player in the field called and I called as well. The turn was a 5 and now the loose passive player bet out $100. There was $380 in the pot and the bettor had about $150 behind. In the moment I was thinking I was getting a little better odds than I actually was and that it was almost certain given my opponent that I'd get the rest of her stack if I hit it. I decided to call. For a minute I was worried about the preflop raiser behind me. But Ms. Loose Passive looked like she made a straight on the turn perhaps so I couldn't see him raising, but I could see him calling which would help my pot odds and implied odds greatly. Sadly, he folded, I missed the heart on the river and folded to an all in from Ms. Loose Passive. Looking back this one is right on the line between fold and call on the turn.

After that hand I was losing about $400 on the night.

On my next hand of note, I got dealt A4 of diamonds. I called $5, we took the flop 7 way and the board ran out T 9 6 with two diamonds. I was in the middle of the field and decided to fire $25. I got one caller. The turn was a black K which was good and bad - It was an overcard to the board which could be scary, but all of the JT, QT, J9 type of hands picked up a gut shot to go with their pair. I decided to keep on firing and bet out $55 into the $80 pot. My opponent called again. The river was a black J which missed my flush draw, but also put a one liner to a straight out there. Normally I'd fire something like $120 or even $140 into the $190 pot as a bluff, but I went for the "make it look like I want a call" size and instead opted for $75. My opponent thought for 20 seconds before making a reluctant fold.

A little later I went for another bluff. I called a raise to $25 with 22 in late position and we ended up seeing the flop 5 way. The flop came down A T 6 missing me completely, the preflop raiser bet $25 into the $125 pot and got one caller. This bet looked like total bullshit to me. There was some small chance it was AA or TT, but more likely this guy just got lost and put $25 out there. I slid $125 into the pot and both players sighed, looked at their cards and mucked them. It's so easy to just toss your deuces and move on to the next hand in a spot like this, but risking $125 to win $175 in this scenario has a huge expected value. I felt really good about that one.

There wasn't much else to report. I got KK and QQ each once and won both preflop uncontested and had one hand where I called $15 with AQ and then folded to a $400 all in, but other than that I was pretty dry preflop all night. I got 12-15 pocket pairs and never hit any sets. It was a slow night.

I put in 4 hours and lost $232. Given that my average win and average loss were both in the $800-$900 range for project 10K (I won twice as often as I lost) this is a pretty inconsequential loss. I'll give it another go next Friday!




Thursday, January 21, 2016

Project Manhattan - Preview

After a solid two month break from poker I'm ready to get back at it with a new project - Project Manhattan! The project name generator told me that I should go with Project Maroon Furious Snake, but I decided to go with project Manhattan for 3 reasons: 1) Like the Manhattan project (where they developed the first nuclear bombs) I'm going to pull out all the stops do everything in my power to succeed 2) I'll be drinking Manhattans either in celebration or defeat at the end of this thing 3) I think it sounds cool.

Doing everything in my power to succeed will entail the following:

- Focusing on Fridays when I know the games are always softest
- Getting to sleep early the night before I play
- Eating right and exercising on Thursdays and Fridays
- Limiting both stress and boredom by playing 1 day a week instead of 2-3 (I might violate this one if things are going well)
- Staying when things are good and leaving when things are not so good (this one is harder than it sounds).
- Changing tables if one game is better than another and changing back if I need to
- Attempting to pay attention to the action on every hand even when I'm not involved.
- Having strong discipline when it comes to which hands to play and when to fold

I'm also going to have more cash in reserve so hopefully I can play without sweating the money too much. I'm putting together $15,000 this time around with some money coming from me and some from a group of a half dozen backers. My intention is to win $5,000 over the course of the project.

Once again my plan is to play 100 hours, and post about every session. Session 1 will be tomorrow!