Archive for the ‘General’ Category

ImageGrowing up as an athlete it was beaten into my brain that mental errors are inexcusable. If the sick feeling of screwing up wasn’t enough there was the inevitable browbeating quick to follow. No one ever wanted to be “put in the corner” so to speak; it was embarrassing and counter productive from a learning standpoint. I did, however, take something away from those encounters… even the best make mistakes.

When I decided to create Coach’s Corner, I wanted to keep with the spirit of singling out inexcusable mistakes; less the public humiliation of course. The first subject I chose to tackle is easily the most common mistake among competent players; playing on auto pilot. Whether it’s a marathon session, problems off the table, tilt, or simply being stuck, everyone can think back to a hand, or series of hands where they weren’t totally engaged in the action or decision-making process. This disengagement from the game leads to playing in a predictable manner with an absence of forward thinking, ultimately making us an easy opponent to target. Moreover, when we’re restricted to making decisions street by street we get led down a disastrous path that could have been avoided by executing a well formulated plan. In my own personal experience, I often fall victim to auto pilot when I’m stuck or when sessions run long (not surprisingly these go hand in hand). Session length plays a big role in my game; I’m generally driving the action, which equates to having to make a lot of critical decisions. In order to stay engaged and continually make crisp, calculated choices, it becomes important that I recognize when my brain has checked out. In my bonus pack I have selected five hands, three of which exemplify mistakes I made playing on auto pilot; the final two will demonstrate the deep thought process of our  A+ game.

Hand #1: Snowball Effect

I won’t overdo the detail of this hand, as our mistake is quite clear. A strong case can be made for squeezing preflop, and to be honest had I been fully engaged in the game it’s the option I would have been most likely to take. However, putting in a large three-bet here, out of position is a very high variance play and will require high level play on all future streets. In a vacuum calling is the correct play, and what I would recommend to anyone I was coaching. The flop is a clear check/fold situation. When we call we rarely have the best hand and have no idea which, if any, of our outs are live. Case in point, we were floating ourselves dead in this hand. Biggest point of emphasis is if when we improve we still do not have a hand strong enough to play for max value then folding is the correct choice.

Hand #2: Winning Isn’t Everything

One of the biggest mistakes made while in cruise control is overlooking obvious details. In hand two we see a raise from under the gun by a 60bb stack. Now let me take this opportunity to be clear, in a cash game I consider players with less than a buy in to be short stacked. This is obviously exaggerated as true short stacks are closer to the 40bb or less range. However, we must consider our style; we play large pots applying max pressure forcing multiple decisions. Shorter stacks take that leverage away from us. More to the point, in this case where we hold a small pair we’re calling merely to set mine. Given stack sizes we’re barely getting the proper price, assuming we stack him when we flop a set. Since our opponent is also tight, it’s much more likely he’ll get let off the hook when he misses with AK, has an over card flop when holding JJ, QQ, KK, or worst case set over set us. All these, very apparent, details are forgotten when our mind wanders elsewhere and we instinctually flick in a call. Afterall we are already invested a big blind, and we have a very playable hand. To most this hand becomes an afterthought, just another instance where we make a set and don’t get paid. But the astute realize, that despite winning this pot, we made a clear negative EV call.

Hand #3: Deer In Headlights

This image is a close depiction as to how I must have looked upon facing such an awkward flop bet in a scenario that I hadn’t anticipated. Had my head been in the game I would have realized two things: my stack is too awkward to flat preflop, and this old man has been getting out of line. Folding is fine as is three-betting and playing for stacks, at least at the $5/$10 level. At lower stakes I would suspect that no matter how out of line it appeared this man has been getting, it’s more likely that he’s just catching a solid run of cards, since people play true to their tendencies at $1/$2 NL. Ok fine, everyone makes small mistakes, at least we have position and a strong holding to compensate. Unfortunately, once we’ve mentally checked out it’s tough to reel it back in. The flop is an easy shove. We made a questionable call preflop, but now our hand has as much value as we could ever expect. We hold an ace so it’s less likely he has aces, his bet is quite large so I give him less credit for a set, and if we are unfortunate enough to have run into KK we have some equity. Sure it’s a gamble to shove, but we’ve put ourselves in an awkward spot and it’s certainly the most profitable play at this point (he can easily make a bad call with AK or JJ, as well as draws or KQ)… So I call. I imagine this is what it feels like as the deer realizes a car is bearing down on it. Since it becomes clear that we have either a queen or a draw, our opponent checking the turn leaves us in a position where now we are no longer playing our hand for max value, but instead to lose the minimum when beaten. We can’t really shove for value now as we’ve defined our hand and will likely only be called by better. Also, when we are being checked to it’s often one of two scenarios, a full house or a hand he’s given up on. Since we’re never paying when AK makes broadway, I elect to make at least one good decision in this hand and check behind. Much like an act of God keeping the deer from becoming another victim, the deck saves us with a rivered queen. Unfortunately, we will rarely make any money on this card. It now becomes easy for our opponent to fold ace high, JJ, KK or AA as well as busted draws. Tens full and eights full may make a crying call, but that’s our only glimmer of hope. Of course the old man shows a monster draw that I would have never given him credit for, which had he hit the ace I would have paid off. If nothing else this hand demonstrates just how thin the line is between playing as a high level pro and a breakeven amateur. The devil hides in the detail.

Hand #4: Fight or Flight

Very rarely will we encounter a blind vs. blind battle at the $1/$2 level; in raked games it’s both profitable and good etiquette to chop. However, once we get to the mid stakes we start paying time, in which chopping is now foolish. In this particular hand we have a dream scenario: heads up with a hand that flops well, in position against a decent player who is going to generally try too hard against us. The reason I consider his trying too hard as relevant is it will naturally take him out of his comfort zone, leading to a potential large mistake. Hence why we do not three-bet him, too often he’s going to try to play above the rim and find the courage to four-bet. Since our hand flops well we elect to call with the intent to take it away on favorable flop textures. The 10-6-3 rainbow flop is about as dry as it gets so we should suspect our opponent to hold no pair a large portion of the time. Of course we anticipated his continuation bet, and since we are playing our A+ game we are going to take this pot away with a raise. We have a draw to the nuts as well as a backdoor flush draw, should our flop plan falter we will have ample opportunity to take this pot away as the board texture changes. Unfortunately, we turn one of the worst cards in the deck, and are facing heavy aggression as our opponent retakes control. Since his bet/call range on the flop is mostly middling/top pairs, 54, and strong Ace highs (AJ-AK) this card will often strengthen his hand, it’s also a great card for him to bluff, assuming he had any intention of doing so. Since our stack-to-pot ratio is awkward we can really only shove (likely into a hand or strong combo draw) or fold. We correctly tuck our tail, lick our wounds, and move on.

Hand #5: Driving The Bus

When fully engaged in the game each play we make will be backed by a well formulated plan. Here we are dealt a premium hand out of position. Most of the time our hand strength alone would dictate a three bet, but against an opponent who has such a tight opening range we are much better served flatting. Our plan will be to keep the pot small preflop and either flop the best hand (we assume anytime we make a pair it will likely be best) or use our image of having a wide flatting range to take the pot away on bad flop textures for our opponent’s perceived range (pairs and AQ, AK). Here we have an unexpected caller from the big blind. Despite the flop (10, 7, 3 rainbow) being quite dry, we can take the lead with what is sometimes the best hand or otherwise a hand that has over card equity. Since we expect the big blind to fold every time he has nothing, and some of the time when he has only one pair (based on the pressure of potentially being raised by the player yet to act) we’re putting the big blind and original raiser in a spot where they must have a hand to continue. The preflop raiser’s call tells us one of two things: he either has one pair that we likely have outs against (assuming it’s not AA), or he has specifically top set of tens that he is slow playing. Either scenario is fine for us as we’ll slow down on turn cards that don’t improve our actual hand or our perceived range (what we are representing: set of 3’s, 7’s or T’s, 98 straight draw, or just a ten).

Turn: The turn is actually a monster card for both our real hand and our perceived range, however, it also improves our opponent when he has JJ. Since JJ and TT are only small  portions of his holdings, coupled with his likelihood to misplay both of those hands as well as QQ, KK, AA, and AT, we elect to bet again. The obvious question is why not check in a spot where we are clearly beaten? Two reasons: First we can’t win the pot if we check. In other words he’s never folding when we check, moreover he’s rarely checking behind. The second reason to bet is we are able to set our own price. Against an opponent that I thought was incapable of ever folding one pair, or an opponent who I thought would often check behind/bet too small, I would elect to check. However, this specific opponent will be very likely to make a bet large enough that we can’t call profitably. Since the jack strengthens our representation of JT, sets and 98 I believe our fold equity greatly increases against naked one pair hands.

River: The one thing I can say about aggression is that it is often rewarded. Once he calls the turn it’s clear that if we make a hand we are certainly getting paid. It’s crucial we earn the maximum when we hit such a long shot. If our range assessment is accurate we know that most of our opponent’s hands are sets. That being said this becomes a perfect spot to go for an over bet. Of course check/raising is an option, but he’ll almost always check down KK and AA (where he may call some % of the time)  as well as bet and fold to our raise a lot of the time, yielding us a lower profit than if we had just dictated the price. Analyzing the hand after the fact we see that our opponent makes numerous mistakes, the largest being never attempting to push us off our equity share of the pot. If he puts in a raise on the flop or turn we are forced to surrender. Instead, he allows the board texture to continually deteriorate; even upon rivering a card that improves him, he faces a huge bet and ultimately loses the pot. Here in lies the biggest problem with bluff catching, far too often when pots swell and there is a river bet,  it’s no longer a bluff we are up against.

It’s very easy to lose sight of the big picture while playing a game for a living. But, this isn’t tiddlywinks. We’re playing for real money; cold hard cash, often in excess amounts that most people wouldn’t dream of risking. When signing up for this lifestyle, this career, it becomes our duty to give our undivided attention to the game; that is if we hope to succeed. Eliminate the mental mistakes and results will surely follow.

Winning players, especially in the live realm, are fragile entities. They are hard wired to believe their ability is what sets them apart from the competition. They feed off the weak, rarely encountering resistance, especially from other grinders. Basically, the average winning live cash player survives in a comfortable bubble making a consistent living so long as he isn’t disrupted. My goal, as I set out to distinguish myself, was to ignore the weakest players in the game, and instead focus upon exploiting the everyday regular. The idea of giving capable opponents a pass under some pretense that there are easier spots didn’t sit well with my competitive side. Instead I sought to make the everyday regular a part of the target group.

Enemy Tactics: Small Ball
Given the trendy nature of the game, my task was simplified. Most amateurs mimic the play of those that beat them, resulting in some mix of tight/aggressive and loose/passive play. As I began dissecting the play of most grinders I realize they employ a style of small ball revolving around playing controlled, heads up pots, in position, against break-even/bad players. The strategy is extremely profitable and basic to the core. The goal is to keep pots manageable with small raises and occasional three bets, which are heavily weighted toward strength (QQ+ and AK). Earning one post flop street of value is where they define their earn. Any other bet is a bonus since pots only swell when they have a huge hand, likely pitted against another big hand. Despite this description fitting that of a random winner in a $1/$2 game, the grinders remain the same at all levels. As stakes increase and mistakes decrease, the everyday regulars adapt by tightening ranges and adding aggression. Since higher stake, uncapped games play deeper they also play looser, which allows the grinder to plug away. Overall their strategy remains unaltered; capitalize on loose action and win a little bit at time.

The Counter Tactic: Long Ball
The actual profitability from small ball comes from exploiting common mistakes. Ultimately, in order to be a reasonable winner, we would need to exploit the mistakes our opponents make while making significantly fewer mistakes ourselves. I’d rather get a nine to five. I’m human, I’m flawed, and moreover, I enjoy the creative aspect NL Hold’em provides. To be creative and fight for pots we need to give action and sacrifice small edges to gain bigger edges later. After being fed up with dissecting each and every action, searching for the minuscule mistake where I could have saved a bet, I looked for another approach; one that would give these guys fits. In short, I widened all of my ranges through specific actions.

To most the mechanics of the game have stayed the same. Barring a drunk at the table, the standard raise will be somewhere between two and five big blinds (the latter only after multiple limpers). Three-bets will be infrequent and generally weighted toward premiums. The standard c-bets will be between half and two-thirds pot. Two and three barrels will be polarized to a monster hand or a busted draw. And finally range assessing will be a moot point as most actions directly define the hand. I decided that rather than exploiting tiny mistakes for marginal gain, I would employ a strategy that forced my opponents into awkward, uncomfortable situations; inevitably leading to major mistakes which can earn me players’ stacks. Long Ball was born.

That’s actually misleading, Super System was the first strategy guide on punishing opponents via big pot poker. Early in the boom the misapplication of what Doyle preached could be seen in any given game that consisted of a kid under the age of 25. Raising and c-betting was more profitable then than it ever will be again, which is why playing for stacks with weak draws against tight passive opponents was a big mistake. Other factors made the style unprofitable as well, such as stack sizing (most games were very shallow), misguided aggression, and most of all the inability to range assess. As the game evolved and players became more educated, gambling was reduced significantly. Pot control became a staple and big mistakes became a thing of the past. Most players built a game where they can’t lose much, but can’t win much either…very risk averse. Much like other trends in poker, power poker is prime for a resurgence.

The Breakdown:
Long ball, in it’s simplest terms, is big pot, maximum pressure poker. The focus shifts from having the best hand at showdown for small pots, to avoiding showdown all together in big pots. Much like Texas, everything is bigger. Standard opens are five to ten big blinds. Three bet-to-flat frequency is balanced and based mostly on table dynamics; three betting more often in loose games where pots are often multi-way. Continuation bets are large; ranging from three-quarters pot to twice the pot, all based around stack manipulation and desired pressure. Each bet made has a direct, as well as, expected purpose. My sizing will often dictate how many bullets I plan to unload, both for value and for bluff.

Ironically our overall strategy is similar to that of the small baller. We want to play heads up, in position. The difference is we want to do so for an inflated pot, and our image is maniacal, leading to much bigger payoffs. Those commonalities are crucial as they lead to the most important part of the entire concept, how our opponents react. Because the dynamics are similar, players counter the same as they would against a good small baller; they bluff catch. By taking passive, trappy, check/call lines they constantly allow us to control the two most important factors in any given hand of poker, board texture and pressure. It takes proficiency in post flop ability and range assessing along with seeing multiple moves ahead in order to execute long ball. But when implemented correctly we’ll be playing as if our opponent’s hand is face up while his stack is in jeopardy.

More important than poker strategy, or money we may incur through implementing it, is the bottom line…

Chicks Dig The Long Ball.

In 2003 something very profound happened to the poker world. A degenerate accountant, with a last name too ironic to be fiction, parlayed his last $36 of online money into $2 million. A perfect storm, that if pitched as a script would surely be dismissed as hokey. I’m a first generation product of “The Moneymaker effect”. I’ve watched poker transform from a shady backroom game to a sophisticated, calculated, battle of wits where only the strong survive. I grew as the game grew; taking my lumps in stride, receiving a crash course in business, life and responsibility. 

Those who helped blaze the trail for NL Hold’em to become the game of choice, speak as if the game is solved. A mathematical game dying due to readily available strategy content, far-less “dead” money, and young optimists with all the answers. However, NL Hold’em isn’t a mechanical game easily conquered by someone who employs a solid strategy. It’s a living, breathing organism that feeds off of short-sighted, small-minded, narcissists.

The fact is, most players create a ceiling through a flawed approach to how they think about the game. Given the dynamic nature of the beast, the game quickly passes them by. The fraction of players who keep their fingers to the pulse adapt. They creatively find new ways to exploit the human element, manipulating each and every variable, resulting in an undefined style that leaves opponents questioning every certainty solidified in their own play. The true innovators are the ones who don’t accept such terms as alwaysnever, and standard. They are the ones who are trashed for not falling in line; their out of the box ideas often dismissed as reckless and mechanically flawed. But this game isn’t conquered by execution. Game theory is the driving force of a world-class pro, willing to sacrifice fundamentals in order to challenge players of all abilities, rather than surviving on an all fish diet.They are the trend setters, hidden beneath a cloak of judgement.  

A close guard is kept on the method behind the madness, revealed in detail to only a trusted few. As eye-opening as my mistakes have been, the most influential asset at my disposal was the close group of peers I discussed the game with. I imagine very few have been privy to the diverse talent and intelligence as was in my group. We learned the game on the fly and our results grew in correlation to hard work and analysis. Most importantly we learned how to think.

Earlier this year I was presented with an opportunity to provide content for a poker app that aimed to make a competitive game out of hand analysis.  I couldn’t sign on fast enough. Insta Poker was the perfect format to provide that group-like environment to the masses; providing a road map with a clear starting point to anyone interested in studying the game. Once I committed to working with Insta Poker, it became clear just how enthralled I was with the learning process. My ideas for in-depth teaching quickly surpassed both my time and focus. I developed a structure; each pack would posses a unique lesson, yet collectively (much like chapters to a book) the packs complete a series, “The Playbook”.

Since my audience is vast in skill set and knowledge of the game, I wanted to develop from the ground up. Now that the first two packs have been released, solidifying the fundamentals of poker, I want to expand the learning process by creating a forum in which packs can be further examined/explained, while providing an open line of communication between myself and the audience.

The first major hurdle I aim to overcome is clearing up any uncertainties resulting from my writing style. I’ve received constructive criticism that my explanations tend to be convoluted to those not all that familiar with poker vernacular. I felt blogging would be perfect to further define the content as well as the language in each pack. Furthermore, I plan to address the desire for more free content by releasing a free pack each month which I will dissect both on Insta Poker, as well as in the correlating blog. Finally, I wanted an outlet where the debate can begin where the packs left off. Consider the comment box an open forum where any questions, thoughts, criticisms or general arguments can be posed.

I’ll end this entry with a two-part video series. It’s a commencement speech given by author David Foster Wallace. Amidst his well versed stories and witty quips, lies an eye-opening lesson on our flawed default thought process. In short, he explains the importance in taking the time to learn how to think. Enjoy…

 

Over the past few months there have been numerous incidents involving poker players/rooms/casinos being robbed. To be more specific I’ve heard of a high limit player being mugged in the Bellagio bathroom, taking a brick to the head. Two people I back were in a local game at the SunCoast casino when it’s poker room cashier was robbed at gun point. Shortly after the same person strolled into the Bellagio and stole 1.5 Mil from the craps tables. Finally, a few nights ago a local 2/5 player was followed home from Red Rock and cornered in his garage at gun point. Couple that w/myself being cat burglarized last March and I’m feeling less and less ok about living in this shady desert.

I take the necessary precautions and have had numerous discussions w/my peers only to discover that we are in an extremely exploitable position as professionals. That scares me that there isn’t anything/anyone out there looking out for our best interests. I mean this isn’t the wild west. I don’t want to have to fear for my safety every time I play a big game w/$10k in front of me. Take for instance the Bellagio mugging. Now they openly admit that they relinquish any responsibility for the money that THEIR customers play with. In other words, if you have $10k on the table, be it in chips or cash, and someone walks by while you’re in the bathroom and takes it, the Bellagio considers that on you. Furthermore, if you elect to take the money with you and you are mugged, again we assume all the risk. Now granted it’s not a complete solution, but simply adding bathroom attendants to these casinos would at least deter some of these crimes(I’ve heard of at least 3 incidents of people getting mugged in the Bellagio bathroom over the past year and half). Moreover why isn’t the casino protecting their customers? Are they really that arrogant? I mean they are insured, last I checked there is nothing we can do as individuals that can protect us from these incidents. Maybe I’ve found the business venture I’ve been looking for, insuring pro poker player’s capital against theft…?

Beyond feeling a little vulnerable while playing these big games, it’s very easy to take that insecurity home with you. Imagine the bull’s eye we put on ourselves playing these bigger games. These rooms are packed, the majority of the players being low-limit, lifetime losing players as well as a whole casino full of degenerates that I wouldn’t trust as far as I can throw them. Anyone of them would kill to be in the position to have 5-digit cash amounts in their pocket, and I don’t doubt the capability to do what it takes to make that happen is well within a lot of their personalities. Fact is this town is extremely small and ingrained with the concept of exploitation. It’s no wonder we spend so much time looking over our shoulders.

I never thought part of my career would be protecting myself from scum bags and deviants. This game is hard enough to excel at on its own. So what’s the answer? I can’t foresee me ever giving up playing live cash(unless it becomes unprofitable), so that option is out. Obviously valeting, getting a box and living in a gated community is a solid start(though I was robbed in a guarded community, and I’m certain people have still been followed home despite taking the precaution of valet). I feel that more groups such as the PPA need to be organized. Obviously they deal more w/the legal aspect of protecting us as players, but we as a poker community need to unite and form some sort of protective group in order to pressure these casinos to better serve/protect us as customers. I feel that traveling more will ultimately be the end all be all. When you are staying at a casino, keeping your $ in a box/safe, along with only being in town for a limited time, there is really no opportunity for someone to get the upper hand. That being said I’m finding less and less reason to continue to reside in Las Vegas. I hate that in my mind moving back to Pittsburgh is a financial step backward, otherwise I would have made the move long ago. I’m hoping this year better defines my future in this game and living situation. Until then I’ll continue to take the appropriate steps to ensure that I don’t end up another victim…

Main Event Reflection

Posted: July 23, 2010 in General, poker

I had an intro here but accidentally deleted it. Let’s cut to the action…

Day one was a little rocky, I actually lost a 60k where a guy spazz bet/called off his last 12k at 100/200 w/AK high vs my AQs on a 9776 two spade board and held. I ended w/25k, slightly below avg. but still 60bbs. I thought my tourney would end after I bled down to 9k on day 2. I ended up squeeze shoving over a utg open and flat with KQs at 300/600 for 8k. The button re-jams, folding out the first two players who claimed to have 77 and AK. He tables AK to dominate me but I was fortunate enough to make broadway. I would go on to end the day w/100k.

Day 3 I again find myself in a huge pot that will for all purposes cripple me. I limp KK utg at 800/1600 200 ante and play a 3 way pot against just the blinds. Flop is 877, I have black Kings. Sb leads 5k into 6400, bb flats. I flat. Pot: $21400. Turn 3. Sb leads 20k bb tank flats with 40k behind. I have both covered w/100k total in front and elect to jam. Sb folds, bb calls, tabling J8, the sb says he folded T8 so only the case 8 will save him, which he promptly found on the river. This happened to end day 3 leaving me with ~18bbs(44k) going into day 4, approaching the bubble.

Day 4 was easily the softest day of the tourney for me. I was actually extremely fortunate w/all of my table draws throughout, day 7 included, but day 4 was a cake walk. The first hand of the day I opened AQ utg and was flatted by a loose passive older man to my left. Jason Mercier was the bb and someone I consider a good friend, one way or another that is relevant as he squeeze jams his 60bb stack. I would be calling off this spot against most randoms but I’m pretty confident he’s never squeezing light as he knows the only hands in my opening range that I would ever consider laying down in this spot, w/this stack, is AQ and TT(both of which I would usually limp/jam had it not been the first hand of the day). I fold and he later tells me he had TT. It obv worked out as I go on to run AA into QQ to double, KK into JTs on Txx to double again. Upon chipping up to 225k I opened QQ utg+1 at 1500/3k. The button is a younger kid who has stayed totally in-line all day and has me covered. He 3 bets to 21k, I flat. Flop 956 two hearts, I ch/call 25k. Turn 6s I check, and he over jams ~175k. I fold face up. Later I take the same line against the same kid, I open AK same spot as before he 3 bet to 26k at 2/4k. I flatted, Kxx I ch/c. Turn paired middle pair, I ch/c his over jam. He has KQ and I hold. He later told me he had A7hh the hand I folded QQ. I was fairly certain I was folding the best of it, but the table dynamics were so soft I thought better spots would present themselves. Also I was somewhat sure that if I showed the QQ I would come off as semi weak attempting to avoid awkward spots and that he would attempt to put me in the same situation again. After that hand Jason and I basically ran the table over finishing w/400k and 600k respectively.

Day 5 started off great w/a super soft table. I more than doubled w/o being all in and had about 1.3 Mil once the dynamics changed. 4 guys I have experience w/in 10/20 NL games sit down all w/over a mil (blinds were 4k/8k) as well as Theo Tran and JP Kelly to my left, also with above avg. stacks. I feel like every pot was 3 and 4 bet, seeing flops was tough and for the first time all tourney I was forced to play very TAG. I chipped down to about 800k when a misclick gone good happened. Duey Le, who was the CL to start the day and now has well over 2.5Mil, opened the hi-jack at 5k/10k to 27k. I’m in the 1 seat and think the action has folded to me, so I elect to flat TT, that is until the dealer alerts me to the fact that the button has yet to act in the 9 seat…dammit. He’s completely competent and has over 1 mil in chips. He 3 bets to 75k which I assumed was to force me out w/a hand that isn’t going to play very well 3 way, as well as AA and KK. So I tank and decided I hate a 4 bet, but an over call isn’t going to hurt me as I play post pretty well in these spots. Duey folded. Flop QT9 two diamonds. I led 125k into 200k. He called. Turn 6h I over jam 550k into 450k assuming he has either AQ, KK, AA, JJ or AJ/AK that I can’t get any more value from, as well as QQ or KJ that I’m going broke to anyway. He snap calls w/KK. I go on to end the day w/1.8 Mil which is about double the avg.

Day 6 went extremely smooth. I had Bryn Kenney to my right and that’s about it. I chipped up all day just flatting him in position and woke up a couple of times in good squeeze spots where he was driving the action. I ended day 6 with 5.5 Mil and was finally creeping on the leader board at 12th.

Day 7 was a nightmare far as the mistakes that people were getting away with. I won the first hand I played w/K high vs The Grinder, who w/in an orbit dusted off his top 3 stack from 7 mil to below 3 just never folding. First major pot I play was a very straight forward player opened in mid pos and got flatted by the sb who had 25bbs. I squeeze to 10bbs from the bb w/AQ both players flat. We checked around on a KQx board. Turn K sb leads 1/5th pot leaving himself 600k behind(25/50k blinds) I flatted, player behind folded. 7h was the river, which completed a back doored flush. He snap jams, which I planned on paying off but if ever there was a card for him to check hands I beat(i.e. non king or non flush) that would be the one. I decided he can’t be bluffing and I fold face up, he tabled K7s for a full house. It was so frustrating to chip down in that manner against such a huge pre flop mistake.

I hung around 3-4 mil until I moved to the second feature table. One of the first hands(I anticipate this being one of two hands I make it on tv for) I flatted a c/o raise w/ATo from the sb. flop: QJ7r and I ch/r to 800k leaving myself 2.5 behind. He flatted. We check a turned J and I elected to check the river upon improving w/the Ac. He checked back and I scoop the pot. That line was somewhat important for my essential bust hand. With just over 4 mil to start the hand at (40k/80k) I flatted a c/o raise of 200k from the bb w/T6dd. The flop was 636r and I chose to take the exact same line as the AT. This should show close to max profit I can gain here as I doubt he ever folds to my ch/r and could be floating dead w/a hand like AK, AQ, KQ etc. I ch/r his 245k c-bet to 650k. He called. Turn 8d giving me a fd also. Ch/Ch. River 2c. I tanked and decided to lead big as I think he’s never folding a pair and has room to both hero call w/A high or bluff jam random floats. Only problem w/this mentality is that I’m paying off the random 45s and houses he may have made. I bet 1.2 of his 3.1 mil stack. He jammed. I just couldn’t really find too many folds here, though w/1.9 behind I would still have over 20bbs. I called and saw my dreams dashed as he rolled over the 88 for a house. I was all in w/42o in the sb to bust the next hand…

I’m not sure if this game has just jaded me so much or if I just managed to keep perspective, but I honestly didn’t have one negative emotion upon busting. It was really one of the most physically/mentally draining experience of my poker career but emotionally, aside from the KK one outter, I remained extremely even keeled. It was an amazing experience I hope to relive in the future.

Post WSOP the boys and I have escaped into the mountains of Tahoe. If you haven’t done it yet, book it. This lake is one of the most amazing places I’ve had the privilege to visit. The activities available are endless, from boating to fishing to jet skiing to playing NL at Harrah’s. The only disappointment this trip has been that we don’t have anywhere to build a fire, but there are other ways to make smores. I haven’t really spent much time thinking up what my plans will be for the rest of the year, aside from going to Borgata for the WPT in Sept. All of my goals have been met so I guess step one will be to start a new list.

Thanks to everyone who kept a close eye on me throughout the WSOP, it was unbelievably humbling to see such over whelming support. I did a couple over the phone interviews for Pittsburgh papers/magazines so I’ll be sure to post them if they run…

WSOP Wrap Up

Posted: June 30, 2010 in General

This month absolutely flew by. Easily this has been the most dedicated I’ve ever found myself to all forms of poker. I don’t really recall more than 2 or 3 days where I didn’t play cash or both cash and mtts. I had set some really lofty goals for the series. I wanted to play 5+ events on my own as well as have at least half of myself in the main event. I actually ended up playing 12 events, cashing in 2 for about $13k as well as a 2nd in Venetian for ~$30k. I have all of myself in the main as well as a big piece of one of my boys. The major goal I failed to meet was profiting 100k for the series. I know it was a big figure and I still have the main to play, but i really felt like it was obtainable if I had played as well at cash as I had been(especially considering I picked up a score in the Venetian). I only made 20k in cash which was about a third of what I expected, tho I didn’t play much 10/20 and I’ll be missing the next 6 days due to a wedding I’m going home for.

All and all this has been far and away my most successful series along w/the most volume. I’m excited for a short break and really looking forward to seeing some college friends and seeing my old roomie tie the knot. After that it’s all eyes on the main event in what I hope to be a deep run. Now that the hustle and bustle of the WSOP is concluding I am looking to get more involved in studying the game again which will in turn lead to more blogging

WSOP State of Mind

Posted: May 27, 2010 in General

I preach that preparation ultimately is the biggest key to success. That being said I don’t think anyone can be fully prepared for the mayhem that is the World Series. It’s so incredibly easy to get lost in the lure of tournament poker, fame and success. Moreover overwhelmed by the never-ending games to choose from. It’s like online variety meets the poor play of live poker, thus heaven and hell all in one mixed bag. I’ve gone over a 100 different plans of attack, but none seem that optimal aside from the “play the first 1k and the main event, stick to cash games.” Optimal bankroll control, maybe, optimal equity noooooooo way. Anyone who knows me will be quick to say that BR considerations are probably the last thing I look at when playing poker. I’m trying to be more conscious of it, but cmon it’s the WSOP I’m gonna bang around a little. So w/that my tentative schedule is as follows:
Event #3b $1k – 163rd $2870
Event#11 $1500 –  bust early
event #13 $1000
Event#17 6-max $1500
event #24 $1000
Event#26 6-max $2500
event #36 $1000
Event#39 $1500 shootout
Event#42 $1500 (tentative)
Event#45 $1500 (tentative)
Event#47 last $1k
Main Event -$10k

My plan is 1 tourney/week. I still may revise this schedule, skipping the 6-max’s in exchange for 3 or 4 1k’s pending on how cash is going. Also $20k toward Tourneys is out of my BR so if I stick to said schedule I’d be selling off or sattying into the Main. I hate the thought of Tweeting so getting a twitter is so close to out of the question in my mind, but if I keep getting bugged about it I may make it happen. Thoughts?

Now on to the real problem of the next 45 days, burnout. I have tremendous anxiety about being able to maintain my focus while putting in the hours and still leading a balanced life. In the past I’ve gone into ubber grind mode playing 24/7 and it’s just not that profitable. It’s impossible to keep a healthy state of mind and maintain a high win rate when you are all work, no play. Besides who wants to spend summer that way. I’d give anything to fly one of my boys in from home who has no involvement with poker whatsoever just to keep me grounded. Force me to hoop/workout daily, take a break and go out from time to time, basically embrace/enjoy the series rather than loathe what should be the most profitable time of year. On my computer desktop are both my poker and life goals for ’10. Hopefully looking at them daily will be constant reminder to take a deep breath and perform to my ability consistently.

Upon further review

Posted: May 17, 2010 in General
For the past few weeks I’ve been helping a friend improve his live cash game skill set. In doing so I’ve had him really explore his strengths and weaknesses. Seems like an easy task, but I dare you to find a poker player who can set his ego aside and self actualized in an honest manner. Always looking to improve, I decided what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. So this blog is going to be an inside look at what I feel my biggest flaws are and how they relate to my poker career.

-EGO: This could just as easily fall on my list of strengths, but just like any other competitive person I have an ego. It only becomes a flaw when it weighs in on the decision-making process. I admit I’ve passed on smaller soft games to play the biggest game in the casino. I admit I’ve played a bad game because I didn’t want to walk away a loser. Granted these aren’t really applicable any more, but my ego does get me into trouble at times when I hero call in a clear fold spot, or when I begin jawing w/a fish that has a big mouth. The more I’m able to remove ego and emotion from my game and rely upon skill, game theory and thought process the more profitable I’ll become.

-OVER ANALYZE: There are times I put myself into bad spots because I’ve over adjusted to a lineup or player in general. I’ve become very good at assessing players’ capabilities and there are a few situations where I make bad pay offs just because I think this person has to balance their play against me at some point. Just because a person is capable of developing a line to neutralize me doesn’t mean they are capable of following through. I need to realize the difference and force them to follow through rather than playing defense against the level of giving them credit for something unproven.

-BALANCING: This is much more of a life flaw that leaks into my poker game. When I’m winning I want to play 24/7. When I’m losing I want to focus on life activities 24/7. Where my work ethic is never in question with things regarding poker, I tend to half ass everything else going on in my life unless I’m losing. I have other commitments and I’d like to see myself give 100% to them during the time I spend involved w/them. Working out is a stellar example. Too often I put forth a mediocre effort and ultimately am disappointed w/the result. I remember what it took to be both physically and mentally successful, it’s draining but the end result is well worth the effort.

-TEACHING: I’m like a kid w/a big secret when it comes to knowing something others don’t, I can’t wait to spill the beans. I’m getting better at biting my tongue when I hear guys talking at the table, exchanging inaccurate information, but I still too often add my two cents. If nothing else this tips my hand to them as to just what it is I’m capable of which if they have even half a brain will lead to an adjustment. It’s like pulling $100 bills out of my pocket and lighting them on fire.

-COMPLACENCY: Too often I get comfortable. Be it a certain game, lineup, bankroll, even a $ amt to a win, far too often I find myself content. And generally it will take a big loss to open my eyes and drive me all over again. I’d like to skip the ass end of this cycle and work on being complacent while enjoying a vacation rather than in the middle of a win streak.

-WSOP: I’ve yet to have a stellar series, even from a cash game perspective. It’s the Christmas of poker and this year I’d really like to stay focused and earn a good portion of my yearly income over those couple of months. I think scheduling and bankroll management has been my biggest flaws in the past. This year I have a tentative list of events I’d like to play w/$5k set aside for sng’s/satties. The rest of my time will be spent between 5/10 and 10/20 pending on the lineup. The action in the right games is fast and loose leaving room for a bundle of money to be made, even if a big tourney score should elude me.

-PROCRASTINATION: Doesn’t directly apply to poker, but when I put things off it puts a lot more pressure on me to get things done hurriedly which ultimately can cut into session time or at worst leave me in a rushed mindset when beginning a session. It also does nothing for the task at hand as far as quality goes. Sometimes making unnecessary mistakes in life can be more detrimental than the ones made on the felt.

-PATIENCE: This is more directed toward live MTT play, but can be applied to all aspects of my game and life. I’m general a very patient person but something about being short in a live event lends itself to my impatient side. Generally speaking if I make a big mistake in any aspect of poker or life it’s because I didn’t take my time when making a decision.

-GETTING TOO THIN: I guess this is kinda like a lefty’s pickoff move in baseball,
if you never get called for a balk then you aren’t trying hard enough. That being said when I’m losing I’m getting called for too many balks. Getting thin value whether through a bluff or value bet is a tremendous asset to have in your repertoire, but going to the well too often will blow your cover leading to a major strength becoming a difficult leak to plug.

-NEGLECTING LIFE: It’s easy to get lost in the grind and forget that the best part of this career choice is the freedom it provides. I need to spend more time enjoying myself. More days playing ball, weekends w/friends and family, nights out w/a group of friends. The time spent doing so needs to be w/full effort too. Just like poker, putting the hours in isn’t enough; they need to be quality hours. Just makes the ship run so much smoother.

Balance. It’s something we take for granted in our everyday lives. Some people have more of it than others, but in order to perform even the most mundane activities in life we are required to maintain balance. As a teenager into your college years most posses a ridiculous ability to balance family, friends, sports, school, fun, sleep, etc. all with a giant smile on their face. It’s no coincidence that the majority of us look back on our youth as the best time of our life. I promise a lot of that has to do w/balance. Buddhism is practically centered around this philosophy of living a balanced life. Unfortunately into adulthood responsibilities become concentrated and hold so much more weight that they take precedence over leading a balanced life. Quickly we all become part of the rat race focused on the big cheese rather than what once made us happy, balance. It’s like attempting to walk a tight rope w/only one leg…unhealthy.
That philosophy has many times been lost on me throughout my poker career and adult life. This week after a long period of life getting in the way and complacency setting the tone, I decided to make some changes. I’m a firm believer that if you get life right all the details will fall into place so I went back to the basics. I’ve been up at 8-9 am everyday, working out by noon. My diet is simple and functional w/no room for garbage. I’ve talked to some combination of my family and friends everyday. I’m also committing myself to playing ball, even if it means sacrificing a few Sunday sessions. I’ve rediscovered my love for baseball on and off the field.

After watching about 10 hrs of ball this week I was reminded both how far we’ve come technologically(easily the best sport to watch in HD) and how much I enjoy studying and picking apart the intricacies that make up my two biggest passions, baseball and poker. That being said I’ve always followed the mantra of “If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.” There’s no room to take steps back and find success. I spent a lot of hours playing, no different than usual, but I was certain to ensure they were quality hours of play rather than just grinding for the sake of grinding. I also have been doing a lot of reading when I get a spare minute. I’m currently getting through a book called, “Treat poker like a business” that is really cementing home a lot of things I began to tweak and touch upon since the new year. My results have been mixed as far as a success standpoint is concerned. However, my mindset couldn’t be any more on track.

On to a little poker analysis. I was proposed what from the surface seems to be a pretty trivial question. I guess there really are no bad questions, though, as this ended in what I feel is a pretty important/overlooked understanding of variance and how it applies in our career.

“newhanddealt wrote:
If you believe in variance over luck…
is it possible some people’s positive/negative variance is greater than others?”

 

Now when you say, “If I believe in variance over luck” you are implying it’s a topic up for debate. It’s a mathematical fact, simple statistics. Technically luck is what is the made up term, and is very rarely observed in everyday life. Luck is the equivalent of a statistical anomaly or outlier that is associated w/good fortune. So drilling a 1 outter isn’t lucky. 5% of the time w/2 to come you’ll find that case card you’re looking for, that means it will in fact happen, period. However,drilling a one outter in the most important pot of your life, say to win the WSOP main event, that would be lucky as now you would have to factor in the odds of making to HU’s w/the odd’s of needing a one outter along w/the odds of getting there and it’s an isolated incident so the “long-term” has no effect in this scenario.

All that being said I do believe variance can affect people differently. See we’re human thus do nothing to perfection. So no matter what people say, variance plays a specific role in affecting our play. Positive variance makes people play better, strategically press every edge worth pressing, make less mistakes. Negative variance can do the opposite, force people into small hidden mistakes that seem fine but actually increase their variance significantly(which when positive goes unnoticed but when negative sticks out as what seems like a statistical anomaly.) The best players will ride the high of positive variance as far as it will take them, maximizing profits along the way. And when experiencing the down side minimize their losses through passing on small edges w/high risk which is 100% indicative of their play and how they adjust to variance. No one has an endless bankroll nor even keel emotions, so as pros we tried to stay w/in our means and close to neutral emotionally. You approach each situation uniquely and take the appropriate lines that will yield you the highest return w/accurately calculated risk. A lot of guys raised in this game via online would argue that point, saying to never pass on a plus ev spot and to always take the most optimal line yielding the highest return regardless of the risk. However, those guys aren’t as good at accurately calculating risk thus what seems like a slightly plus ev situation, given all the factors rather than just strictly applicable math, becomes much more neutral. It’s profitable, but in my experience impossible to maintain a career barring an endless bankroll(hence why the majority of MTT grinders are backed; high variance game w/high variance styles = small edge if any.). Being that the “long term” has never mathematically been quantified it’s easy to believe that in one’s lifetime they may not run to their truest equity. But to think that someone can be “so lucky/unlucky” that they experience the vast majority of positive or negative variance is mathematically unlikely.

I do, however, believe that someone can be lucky or unlucky in the moments that can define a career. Some people are just blessed. Since there is no mathematical equation to determine when you will experience you up and down swings, it’s more than reasonable for player A to run bad in spots he needs it most and player B to run well in the same situations. But generally that’s because career defining pots are usually few and far between. You don’t hear about the guys who come up short, it’s the ones who win a big flip for life changing money and then go on to use that money to further their careers that get the magazine covers. To coincide w/that I’m a firm believe in creating your own luck. If you play better than your opponents, time and time and time again you will constantly be in a position to take the best of it, ultimately succumbing to some good fortune. Those guys are on the covers for a reason, they are good. And even if they weren’t good when they caught their break, in order to become a staple in this community they have to become good…Most do, the rest fade to black; ala Moneymaker, Moon, Gold etc.

So in short, yes I believe some people are lucky or as I like to say blessed, but I don’t believe variance should ever play a big role in one’s poker career. If you can’t beat the game it has nothing to do w/luck…

Passing on the April Fools prank this year, due to a lack of motivation which has sadly hit all aspects of my life. Things have been pretty hectic the past month and a half culminating in not one but two moves. Wasn’t real thrilled w/either move, but ultimately I ended up in a set up that is pretty sweet for what I’m looking to get out of it. However, for the first time in my life I find myself living on my own. I’m an extremely independent person so the it’s not really a lonely factor that has put me in a funk. What I’m actually struggling the most with is self motivation. Not that I really got much aid from my previous roommates, as we didn’t exactly share much in common far as lifestyle and extra curricular activities go, but having 4 other guys around the house if nothing else kept me ambitious. When you only have God and yourself to answer to its very easy to succumb to complacency.

I went through a similar adjustment period playing ball in college. Going into that level I expected everyone to have the same goals as me, using college ball as a stepping stone for furthering a career in baseball, regardless of how unlikely that may have been. I was used to having someone along side me, pushing my limits. Sadly I saw a lot of wasted talent and mediocre effort. People worked hard, but never really outside of the requirements of practice and game time. It took me a red shirt freshman year where I ultimately would get cut to realize in order to reach my goals I would have to put in the time and work w/o being pushed to do so.

It’s never easy to grab life by the reigns and go beyond the call of duty to get what you want. Yet I don’t see any other way to get what I want out of life. That being said, I’ve spent some time reflecting over the first quarter of this year in comparison to my resolutions. So far I’ve done fairly well to stay on pace. I’m about $4.2k/mo behind my goal of +$250k/yr. Chalk that up to lack of live play due in part to a hectic couple of months mixed in w/a minor down swing. I hope to remedy sooner than later. I’ve failed to get away from my online backing deal, but have had some success staking/coaching one of my good college friends. I’d love to get away from being backed, but playing live events mixed with $5/10+ live cash along w/dabbling in backing puts me in a spot where playing on my own dime online would spread me a little too thin. I don’t think I’m giving up too much equity w/my current situation as I still see live play as my bread and butter. Playing 10/20 and midstake live MTTs on my own dime is more important to me than having 100% of myself in online MTTs. I’ve read and reread my blogs of the past year and a few really stood out as informative and self-motivating, others seemed written for the sake of writing. I’ve fallen a little behind my 2/mo. quota, but mainly to avoid writing fluff that is mostly a waste of everyone’s time. I’m thinking writing a solid poker blog once a month alongside a solid life blog will prove to keep the content both interesting and informative all while providing me an outlet to routinely empty out my brain.

Far as life goals go it seems like they directly reflect my poker goals, though generally taking a back seat. I question my priorities often and hope to avoid poker getting in the way of life as much as it does. I’ve done well with staying in touch w/family and friends, but need to get on the ball w/making plans for a big trip w/the boys. The health reform has passed so looks like I’ll be obtaining health insurance in the near future. I’ve done a better job balancing Sunday baseball with Sunday poker. Hopefully as my arm gets closer to game shape this task will become easier.