Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Quick Update

Not much time to update the blog this week as the Poker Barrister is currently focusing on the barrister aspect of life, working on getting brief filed by January 3rd, thanks to opposing counsel who, apparently, timed their opening salvo to insure that the Barrister would be busy over the holidays drafting a response.

In any event, I did manage to stop by Harrah's AC both last Friday on the way home for Christmas, and then again Monday on my way back to DC.  Only played a total of three hours of poker, due in part to a lack of action.

Last Friday I played a quick 2 hour session, which was prematurely terminated in order to prevent me from committing the felony of aggravated assault.   In short, I was slow rolled twice by some mouth-breathing 60 year old local.  The first time, I limped with K T and villian called.  The flop was 8 T 2 with two hearts.  I bet $12 and he called.  Turn blanked and I checked.  He checked back.  River was a 2 of clubs, which did not appear to change anything.  Donk mouth-breather leads for $25.  I call.  Then I wait for him to show.  He stares at me.  Table is waiting.  Finally, I say "f*ck it," and show my hand.  This clown then stares at my hand . . . at the board . . . back to my hand . . . and finally tables 8 2 for the rivered two pair.    OK.  Maybe this guy is new to the game and doesn't realize he has to table first when he bets the river.

Twenty minutes later, we play a similar hand, and this jackass again refuses to show until I do and then slow rolls me again.  I'm starting to become pissed off.  But, again, I tell myself, "ok . . . maybe he just doesn't know the rules..."  Then, 10 minutes later, some young kid string bets and mouth-breathing assh*le jumps on him, yelling at the dealer, and calling the kid out on his string bet.  OK.  Now I'm livid because this mouth-breathing douchebag clearly knows what he's doing.  I mean, if you are gonna call smeone out on a string bet, you clearly know that when you are the last aggressor you are the one who shows your hand.   Maybe I should not have let the guy get to me;  but I did.  I figured it was better to just leave than to sit longer and tilt off my stack.  So I left with a meager $41 profit.

After I left the table at Harrah's, I went over to the Golden Nugget AC (the old Trump Marina).  It was the "grand opening" of the poker room.  It was far from "grand," unless of course you are impressed with one table running with three players.  Still, the room looks fairly nice, and the overall renovations are coming along.  The Nugget may end up being a respectable casino, much like its counterpart on Freemont Street.

Monday's trip to Harrah's was worse.  Finally got a chance to hit the poker tables around 9:00.  I get seated at a $1/2 table and recognize a couple of the players.  At first, I could not place them.  Turns out, two were dealers at Dover Downs and another guy was a dealer at Delaware Park.  Rounding out the table were two dudes waiting for a $2/5 game to get off and two older women peddling the nuts.  I opened to $10 with QQ . . . got the blinds, tipped the dealer, and made $2 . . .  A few minutes later I open with AJ and get the same result.   Lost a few hands where I bet air and was raised by one of the dealers.  Knowing this was not a very good table, I opted to leave after less than an hour. 

Well, assuming I can get this brief to the client by Friday, my plan is to hit Delaware Park this weekend and play three straight days.  Should be solid action (I believe this Sunday's noon $65 buy-in actually has a $7,500 guaranty).

Happy Holidays,


Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Sunday $5000 Guaranty

Played the Sunday noon tournament at Delaware Park third week in a row.  Two weeks ago, I busted out with QQ against AK.  Last week, my pocket KK lost to villian's QQ when a queen hit the river.  This week, my luck was little changed.

The tournament drew 155 runners.  18 paid.  I met my fate shortly after the second break.  Blinds were $400 / $800 with $100 ante.  Average chip stack was $16,000 and I was sitting on $21,000.  I had been quiet for 15 minutes or so when I look down at KJ off in the hi-jack.  One early limper.  I raise to $2,200.  Button calls and blinds and limper fold.  Button has approximately $20,000 behind.

Flop comes 7d, 4c, Kd.

I lead for $4,100.  Button shoves for $17,000.  I call.

Button turns A Q diamonds and says, "nice call."  Always the kiss of death.

Turn blanks and the river is the 2 of diamonds.  Out at 61.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I think I'm Behind . . . "I Raise . . ."

I was playing at Harrah's AC last month with a friend of mine.  We'll call him "Buddy."   Buddy flopped a set of 9's on an A high board with two hearts.  He bet and was called in one spot.  The turn put up the 3rd heart.  Buddy lead out again and was raised by his villian.  Buddy tanked . . . and tanked . . . and finally re-raised.  Villian folded.  After the hand, Buddy commented, "I thought I was beat . . ."

Play continued, and a while later, I found myself staring at Big Slick (a/k/a AK) in position.  It checks around and I raise to $10.  We go three to the flop and the board runs K, Q,  7 with two hearts . . . A $12 bet . . . a call . . . I call.  The turn blanks and first to act again leads out, this time for $20.  Second to act min-raises.  The action is on me.  Is UTG leading with a flush draw and MP raising to protect his pair of K's?  Did MP limp call with KQ off?   Or pocket 77?   I really think I'm behind . . . I think I'm beat . . .

"I raise . . ."

I three-bet to $120.  Both players fold.  UTG mucks, MP shows KQ for the best hand, and I rake the pot.

I acknowledge MP's hand and offer, "yeah, I thought you had me."  This makes UTG semi irate.  UTG asks if Buddy and I play together often.  Although we're friends, we don't.  UTG declares, "you both play the same -- you think you're beat, but you raise anyway . . . what the hell ???"

His comment got me thinking.  It's true.  Often, when I think I may be behind, and when folding just seems to passive, my instinct is to raise.  Calling just seems like a horrible option.  My thought process is this: if I call and I am indeed behind, I'm going to be facing an even larger bet on the next street and its going to be even harder to get away from my hand given the sizable pot.  On the other hand, if I raise, I'll find out quickly if my instinct is correct and I am beat (e.g., villian 4-bets, or flats and leads out on the next street).  But also, by raising, I'm putting max pressure on my villian.  I may get him to make a mistake and fold even if my instincts are correct.  

Maybe my play is simple, basic, poker -- execution of the semi-bluff.  Perhaps aggression is the standard in these spots.  But is there an argument to be made for flatting?  Will raising cost more money than calling in the long run?   Is just simply folding best?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dealing With A Maniac

Quick post today concerning a situation that arose recently at the table.   I was about 5 hours into a session.  I had gotten stacked early for a $300 buy-in and rebought.  I was slowly grinding back toward even.  My stack stood at about $475, meaning I was down $125.   At this point, a young-ish, self-purported $2 / $5 player sits down directly to my right.  He has clearly put plenty of time in at the tables, as evident by his chip-handling and general demeanor.  He buys in for $200, but appears to be just messing around, perhaps until a $2 /$5 seat opens.  He is straddling every hand and making some strange plays.  I've been playing TAG since his arrival at the table, when I look down at TT.  Although I'm in position on him preflop, he takes it away with his Mississippi Straddle (we're playing at Deleware Park where players can straddle from any position).  I'm first to act and raise to $12.  It folds around to Maniac who shoves all in for $186.  I narrow his range down to . . . any two cards.  This kid is smiling at me; basically mocking the Triple P.  Again, having already been stacked and having worked hard over the last few hours to grind back up near even, I'm not in the mood to flip for the pot.  I fold.  Maniac declares, "I knew you'd fold; you've been playing real tight."

Twenty minutes later I snag AT off.  Someone else at the table gets the straddle in first, so I maintain my position on Maniac.  It limps around with a handful of callers (including Maniac) and I raise to $10.  4 callers including Maniac.  Flop comes out J high and misses my hand completely.  It checks around and I fire out $27.  Fold, fold, fold over to Maniac, who again shoves on my bet.  I really think my hand is good here.  But at the same time, I'm again not willing to "gamble" nearly $200.  I fold and Maniac thinks its hilarious (fyi . . . he did not show either hand).  Not in the mood for this sh*t, I get a table change and move on with the session.

So, the question is this:  how do you handle this situation?  Is it as simple as being patient and waiting for your spot?  Is there a better tactic?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Delaware Destroyer

Another horrible weekend at Delaware Park:


Saturday, I dropped a full buy-in in less than two hours.   Really only got involved in 5 hands:


Hand one takes place about 5 minutes into the session.  I limp from late position with JJ (its early, and I decide to play my jacks small).  Flop comes out T high, with 4 players.  Call $15 on the flop and pick up an open ended straight draw when an 8 hits the turn.  First to act bets $50 . . . one caller . . . Cut off shoves for $250 . . . folds around and cut off shows JQ for the str8t. 


Limp in with 97 off from the small blind and go five ways to the flop.  Flop comes 885.   I check call $12 on the flop hoping to catch a miracle 6 on the turn for a well-disguised straight and crazy implied odds.  Turn is . . . . 6 of spades - JACKPOT !!!!.  I lead out for $20 and get two callers.  River is . . . . another 6.  F*CK ME.  Board reads 88566.  I check.  Middle position bets out $45 and gets a call frm the hi-jack.  I fold.  Bettor shows A high . . . hijack has the 6.


I have 88 in middle position.  Raise to $10 and get three callers.  Flop comes T 4 7 rainbow.  UTG donk bets $15.  I repop to $45.  Last to act (an old regular) calls $45 and original bettor folds.  Turn is another 4.  I check to the old man who bets $50.  I give him credit for the T and fold. 

Down $100 at this point.


JJ (again) on the button . . . it limps around 6 ways and I raise to $17.  UTG +1 limp raises to $50.  Fold.


I look down at QQ in early position and raise to $12.  Three callers.  Flop is J high with two diamonds.  I bet $45 and get two callers.  Turn is an A.  Here's a spot where position kills.  Second to act is young and aggressive.  I know if I check, he will bet regardless of his hand.  I have about $116 behind.  I decide to shove.  Kid snap calls and last to act folds.   Kid shows AK and I'm stacked.  I really thought I was good on the turn.  Not sure what this kid was thinking callling $45 on the flop with two overs and no draw.  But, he hit is outs and that's what counts.

Hours Played:    2;    Hands Won: -0-;    Damage ($300)


This morning (Sunday), I attempted to shake it off, and signed up for the noon $5,000 guarantee.  Busted out during the second level, apparently unable to wash off my Delaware curse.

I had chipped up from 7,500 to 9,000+ when I looked down at KK in middle position.  I raise to $300 . . . folds to the button who three bets to $1,000.  I re-pop to $3,600.  Villian shoves and I snap call.  Villian shows QQ . . . and rivers the Q...  I'm crippled down to $1,600.  I shove 4 hands later with JJ and get called in two spots.  K falls on the turn and AK takes the pot and I hit the rail.  My earliest tournament exit of the year.

Long drive home back to DC this weekend . . .

Monday, December 5, 2011

Delaware Redux (Part 2)

Woke up Saturday and, after a quick drive by Dover Air Force Base, headed back to the Crown Royal Poker Room.  Played a quick three hour $1/2 NL session, and could not get anything going.  It was one of those days where every hand I folded would have hit monster, every hand I played whiffed, and the hands I actually hit did not get paid.  Started the session down $65 almost immediately when I called a $12 raise in position with 99.  Thought about re-popping, but opted to flat in position.  Flop came out J high and Villian (a young guy) fired $25.  I think an autofold here is just too soft, so I called.  We checked the blank on the turn and he fired $30 on the river.  I called and he showed a J for the pot.

Played very few hands over the next 3 hours . . . .  Folded KQ diamonds to a $20 pre flop raise.   Had I called, I would have flopped the str8t and turned the str8t flush (would have been my first ever at a live game).  Original raiser won the pot with a set of T's, so I likely would have gotten paid off.   Later, I turned 4's full K's after limping from the small blind with K4.  I won $6 on the hand.  Yep, that's the way it goes some times.

After a quick dinner and an hour of the "Devils Game" (a mix of 10-handed Joker Poker and Dueces Wild), returned to the poker room at 7:00 pm and sat at the softest table I've ever played out.  Pre-flop raising was nearly unheard of, and any piece of the board was apparently worth seeing the hand through the river.  Of course, I started out by digging a quick $55 hole three hands in.  After two limpers, I looked down at A9 in the hi-jack and raised to $10.  Got one caller -- a woman in her 60's who, as it turned out, may be the worst live NL player the world has ever seen.  The flop came out 9 high and I bet $15.  She called.  Turn was a 4.  Board still dry.  I bet $25.  She called.  River blanked and she checked a third time.  I checked back.  She tabled KK.  Okay, so that's how the game is being played . . .

It quickly became obvious that this woman would play any two cards . . . always limping.  If she hit the flop (or had a draw to virtually anything), she would call any amount.  If she hit the flop, she would bet, and if she crushed the flop, she would bet big.   About 30 minutes in, I lost my second big hand to this poker guru.    I raised to $10 out of position with AK diamonds . . . she called . . . and we saw a flop of 5d 4d Ac.  Jackpot.  I bet (because I knew she would call anything); she obliged.   Turn was another 4 and I checked.  She bet $45.  Her bet sizing caught me a bit off guard, as she had been continually betting $10 to $15 regardless of potsize (she had no concept of bet-sizing).  Slightly suscpicious, I called.   River blanked (flush did not come in) and I again checked to her.  Again, she fired $45.   I laid down my TPTK and she showed 54 for the turned boat.  Mental note -- $10 preflop raise not enough to get old lady to muck 54 off . . .  An hour in, I sat back and wondered how I could be down over $100 at this particular table.   Perhaps I'm worse than I think.   

But, things returned to the norm, as they often do at the poker table.  I later got three streets of value against my new Villian with JJ preflop (she had flopped a pair of 5's, which, of course, warrants three calls).  Still later, I flopped a Q-high flush (holding JQ) and let her bet into me for three streets after she flopped a garbage two-pair.   Old Lady Villian ultimately rebought -- $100 at a time -- 6 times over the course of 5 hours.  She commented at one point, "I was doing so well last night; not sure what's happening tonight."  Um.  I have a thought . . .  Old Lady Villain also drank progressively heavier as the night wore on, which sort of made her awesome.  Old Lady Villian also had the good fortune to catch "cowboys" (pocket KK) five times over the course of the session.  She lost 4 of the 5 hands (her lone win being against me early on, as described above).   She lamented about her poor luck.  Now, I know the rule about "feeding the fish."  But after her 4th loss, I couldn't help myself.  I suggested, "ma'am, perhaps you should consider raising with KK pre flop?"  Her response: "yeah, but I don't want to scare people off; I want to suck them into my web."  OK.  I did my good deed for the night.  I was done helping.

Hand of the night:  I call $8 from a local rock with JQ hearts in position.  One other caller.  Flop comes T(h), 9(h), J(s).  Bingo.  Rock bets $20.  I call, as does other the guy.  Turn is T(c).  Rock bets $35.  I call.  Other guy calls.    River is a beautifull K of hearts.  Other guy leads out for $50.  Local Rock calls $50.  I repop to $175, praying someone hit the A-high flush.  Other guy folds and Rock calls.  I fast roll the nuts and he tables KK's full.  Surprised he didn't re-pop me.  Perhaps he was trying to be nice; or, perhaps that's why he's a Rock....  In any event, it was a profitable hand in what was a very profitable session . . .

Sunday morning, I decided to make the drive north to Delaware Park and play the Noon $5,000 guaranty.  I got to The Del at 11:00 and made a straight line for the sportsbook.  Time to christen Delaware's sports wagering:

Bet looked better on paper than on the scoreboard.

The Noon tourny started out well.  I doubled up during the first level when my set of 7's held up against a Villian who over-played a flopped top pair with A9 on a 9-high board.  Made it to the break with $15,600 in chips.  I then went card dead for most of the fourth, fifth and sixth levels, until, with 1 minute left before the second break, I looked down at QQ on the button.  A short-stack opened the action by shoving his last $1,500 or so.  I raised to $3,500 and got a call from the big blind -- an older player who was solid.  Flop came out K 7, 4 rainbow.  Action came to a halt while the dealer messed with the side pot.  Apparently, when he was done, he assumed the action had checked around and burned and turned, putting out another K.  The floor was called, and the K was removed (according to the floor, if we reached the river, it would be reshuffled into the deck).  When order was restored, the big blind led out for $5,000.  Ordinarily, this would probably be a fairly easy fold.  But, I talked myself into sticking around.  Specifically, I convinced myself that AA would have re-popped pre-flop from the big blind.  And given the fact that I had seen two K's (thanks to the dealer's error), I thought it was less likely that Villian had flopped top pair.  So, I shoved all in.  Villian flipped AK; I didn't hit my two-outer; and it was back on I-95 South with another weekend in the books.

Delaware Redux (Part 1)

Spent the weekend in Delaware playing a mix of cash and tournaments at Dover Downs and Del Park.  Started the trip Friday night with the 7:00 pm $5,000 guaranty at Dover.  Buy-in was an even $100, with $7,500 starting stacks, blinds starting at $25 / $50 and no antes.  The tournament pulled 68 runners, with 7 spots paid.  I tried playing good TAG poker at the outset.  Played very few hands (had QQ twice in the first two levels and was outflopped both hands, losing the minimum).  Used my position to outplay AK with my AQ when I re-raised on a dry flop.  Built my stack up to $12,000 at the first break, and then $32,000 by the second break (breaks were every three levels).  Hit a rough patch between the second and third break.  I was totally card dead, and didn't find any good spots to make a move.  Hit the third break just barely holding on with $17,000, and 23 players left in the field.

Made a nice move between the 3rd and 4th breaks.  I tried hard to maintain a nice TAG style, and apparently choose good spots to take down flops regardless of my hole cards.  Coming out of the 4th break, there were 11 players left . . . one spot from the final table and 4 to the money.  I had chipped up from $14,000 to $46,000:

I don't have much tournament experience, and even less final table experience.  I know people say the bubble is the time to get aggressive and to steal pots from the short stacks who are just trying to hold on to the money.  While this strategy makes sense, it's hard to implement when you are one of the short stacks.  With $46,000 chips and blinds at $3000 / $6000, I found my play limited.   Being card dead did not help.  About half way through the round, with 8 left (one from the money) I woke up with TT UTG+1.  Under The Gun opened for $14,000.  I thought about shoving, but folded.  Too weak?  Maybe.  But the play worked out as the bubble burst shortly thereafter.  I then promptly busted two hands later with AT spades in the Cutoff.  I raised to $15,000, which virtually pot committed me (in retrospect, perhaps an open shove would have been the better play).  I got one caller, whiffed the flop, and shoved.  Got snap called by A 4 diamonds . . . hit my T on the turn, but lost to a rivered steel wheel.   Finished 7th and in the money.

I think playing the tournament may actually have been good for my cash game.  The structure, and my deep run, made me refocus on strength of hand and position.  I think its too easy, particularly in a fairly soft cash came, to start playing mediocre hands out of position and to not realize the mistake.  But, in tournament play . . . in middle position with KQ off . . . . and blinds at $3000 / $6000 . . . and the imminent threat that someone may shove . . . well, it tends to bring you back into focus . . . at least for me it did.      

I stayed at Dover Saturday and played two sessions, one of which included the softest table I've ever sat at . . . but more on that later . . .


Friday, December 2, 2011

Dover Downs

It's Friday afternoon and I'm ready for some poker.  Off to Dover Downs tonight.  I just checked the poker room website and, apparently, there is a $5,000 guaranty on the 7:00 pm tournament.  $100 buy-in, $7,500 in chips.  Seems they need to pull at least 60 to 70 runners to avoid a healthy house overlay on the guaranty (the buy-in includes the fee and "dealer bonus").  Its hard to imagine Dover pulling anywhere near 6 or 7 tables full of competent players.  While I don't play many tournaments (mostly because I suck), I think I may shoot to get into town in time for this one. 


Thursday, December 1, 2011

December 1st - Reflecting on 2011's Results

It's December 1st.  Time to reflect briefly on this year's poker play.

2011 was my first full year playing poker.  In January, my goal was to turn a profit on the year.  With four weeks left, my goal is certainly within reach; yet I can't help but feel disappointed in my results:

Clearly, $5 an hour is not going to pay the bills or allow me to escape the world of billable hours.  I'd hardly even consider it "supplementing my day job."  Less than $900 total profit thus far on the year is laughable -- hell, you could win that amount during an hour heater at the blackjack table.  I'm barely beating the rake . . . But, I suppose it beats losing. 

I'd like to think my results are largely a product of variance.  I actually feel pretty good about the progress in my game.  Looking back, most of my big losses came in hands where I got my money in good and suffered from a bad turn or river card.  My biggest losses of the year seemed to come on days I actually felt I was playing my best.  Perhaps the easy explanation is that 165 hours is no basis on which to meaningfully evaluate play. 

I also think it has taken some time to adjust to the $1/2 NL brick and mortar game.  One lesson learned this year -- the knowledge gained from reading Harrington On Cash Games or Gordon's Little Blue Book doesn't always translate well in practice.  Just the same, moves that seemed to work well at a $25 NL table on Stars or Tilt often prove costly when attempted at live $1/2.  Perhaps players adjust their games so quickly that "book strategy" becomes dated almost instantly.  But, to a larger degree, I just don't think you can play a skillfull game against a table of level 1 thinkers, calling stations and otherwise bad players.

One particular hand comes to mind.  It took place during a Friday evening at Charles Town - the "Chuck" for the uninitiated.  Charles Town attracks a lot of players from the DC metro area.  While there are some decent players at the table, the Chuck is generally known for its crazy play and resulting high variance.  Prior to this hand, I had been at the table for over an hour, but had barely gotten involved in the action.  Anyone paying attention would target me as a tight player.  I'm in the Cut-off and have 9 5 off.  I'm bored; anxious to play, and have already paid $12 in rake (the Chuck currently charges $6 half hour time rather than pot rake).  Two limpers and the action gets to me.  I raise to $12 (anything less than $12 gets 7 or 8 callers at the Chuck).  The blinds fold and the two limpers come along.  Flop comes 2, 7, 4 rainbow.  It checks around to me and I follow up with a $23 bet.  One fold and one caller.  Interesting.  Turn brings another duece.  Villian again checks to me.  Not ready to give up on this pot ($75), I fire out $45.  Villian thinks for a brief minute and calls.  River is a T.   Villian checks for a third time.  No draws have come in.  Hard to imagine he would have limped pre-flop and check called three streets with an overpair like JJ's.  Still convinced Villian has nothing or can be moved off a mediocre hand, I fire the third street - $65 -- about 1/3 the pot, dressed up as a value bet.   In my mind, I've adequately represented an over pair or, perhaps even a set of 7's or 4's which boated-up on the turn.  I raised preflop and fired flop, 4th and 5th street, and it would take a fairly strong hand to call my river bet . . .

. . . or, as it turns out, a guy holding a 7 . . . That's right.  Pair of 7's takes down a $300 pot.  A soul read if ever there was one.  Guy scooped up the pot and proudly proclaimed, "flopped top pair . . . had to call."  He was serious.  I was furious.  Now, my play for the pot may be debatable.  But the lesson learned was this:  books and strategy may serve as a nice foundation for the game; but on any given day, you have to be able to adjust your play to the table.  Some nights tricky lines may work well.  But, many days, fit or fold, ABC poker, is the path to profit.  You can play your cards "face up" -- it don't matter, because half the table ain't even looking.

One more month left to the year.  Going to try and get another 25 hours or so in during the weekends, starting tomorrow with a trip back to Dover Downs.  Then, come January 1st, I'll reevaluate and set a new objective.  I doubt I'll be shooting to tackle the $2/5 NL game in 2012; but a goal of $15 / hr seems about right.