The downside of hope.

Hope is certainly a good quality, but in poker, it’s just another word for gambling. When someone shows you their two kings and you say, “I was hoping you didn’t have that”, and show your jacks, you missed an important step: the logical thought process that probably would have told you that an overpair was possible. People hope to win the lottery. They hope to win at slots. They can never sit back and say, “I should have played that lottery ticket differently.” It’s all hoping, i.e. gambling. Poker is different.. There are clues everywhere for the astute detective and options both in strategy and tactics for the experienced player. Hoping won’t win poker games. Skill helps.

Why won’t players adapt to new info, and thank you.

Three times recently, players have said to me, after a showdown and once a bust out, “That was so unlike you”.  Twice it was the same player at a different game.  When are these guys going to notice the “me” that they’re referring to is based solely on their profiling impression. At first I thought it would be a disadvantage to be playing so many of the same people much of the time, but since they never revise their impression, it doesn’t seem to be.

I always have the nuts

For example, in one hand, I made what was really a great 4-bet out of the BB against a loose player on a paired flop which would cost him 2/3 of his stack to call. He  could only call if he had one of 2 remaining cards in the deck for trips, which he did. Still , it was a good bet.  The table was shocked when I showed my hand (which had hit the unpaired card on the flop). I make a point to remember what I’ve shown i.e. nuts or bluff and when someone new comes to my table, what they’ve seen. This might be a waste of brain space given people’s lack of adaptability, but I can’t not do it.

And I thank everyone who refuses to adjust their evaluation of my play. In the meantime, I continue to be so unlike me.

Plugging leaks.

I think it’s beneficial to have goals in poker, no matter how good you are.

 Here are some of mine and where I stand on them:

Stop bubbling! I’ve come a long way on this one. One of the reasons is that when I’d get chips early or mid-way in a game, I’d tend to guard them, ending up at later stages very short and having to gamble.  I’m putting my chips in action sooner and frequently.  Consequently, I’ve been making lots of final tables, many in very big fields, between 200 and 1,600 in one case.

         Now my new goal is: Stop going out 10th i.e. first one out at final

Make more aggressive decisions. Some times this is as easy as listening to my instincts.  I frequently feel, based on running the hand back in my head, that I’m best at that moment yet I’d fold.  Now, rather than ask myself should I call or fold, I consider, should I raise.

-Don’t get sidetracked by annoying players.  People who used to annoy me, frequently into punishing them by giving them all my chips, are now barely on my radar.  While my notes used to include things like “idiot” or “asshole”, now they are more focused on “always raises button”, or “never continuation bets”.

In order to make one good decision at a time, I’m also plugging one leak at a time.  I’d be interested in hearing about your leaks and what you’ve done to fix them.

Loving Twitter for WSOP.

This is the first year I’ve used Twitter to follow the WSOP and it’s been terrific. Basically it’s like customizing your own poker channel with your favorite reporters.  I follow some people to see how they think about poker (Jimmy Fricke, Tom Dwan, Justin Bonomo and Shane Schleger), some for what’s going on in Vegas and the poker lifestyle in general (taopauly and brokeliving.), and some for kicks (Doyle).  Aside from good poker minds, these guys are very funny and intelligent and make terrific observations. I even got the name of a good doctor. I’ll probably keep following them even after the event.

If you want to try this, look for players you like, then see if they tweet a lot (you don’t want someone who tweets once a week..you want someone really into keeping up). Then follow them, and if you don’t like what you see (i.e. I just drank Gatorade), unfollow.  You can add to your list by checking out the retweets of players you like. I’ve discovered some people I didn’t know that way.  And at some point, if you have a good feed, you can join the conversation.

A poker month in London.

Same stuff, different currency

Sure it was cold. But it was also fun.  I wrote about my poker month in London for  Poker Pro Europe and it was also published in the June U.S. edition.

.LONDON poker scene

The true losing hand.

I’ve long believed that the  hand that takes you out isn’t the real killer. It’s the hand before that one.  Yes, your KK might have lost to 78, but if you hadn’t played the Q9 the prior hand and lost half of your stack, you would have survived the inevitable suckout. So when people tell me their bad beat stories, if I’m in a generous mood and we discuss it, I’ll always ask about the earlier hand. Do you agree?

Grinder charity event at Mardi Gras.

Made a last minute decision to try a charity event for the Hillel School sponsored by the Mizrachi’s being held at Mardi Gras.  Buy-in was $200 and it sounded like fun.  When I arrived, it looked pretty quiet, but as it turned out, the action for the moment was upstairs where a terrific buffet was underway.  After dinner, we all went downstairs to the poker room and chaos ensued.  There were 210 party-goers and poker just happened to be being played. Finally, everyone was seated. Well, kind of.

  THINGS WE TAKE FOR GRANTED THAT NOT EVERYONE KNOWS:

  • You can’t just sit anywhere and changing seats to be near friends isn’t cool.
  • Poker is a game where you act after the person on your right has acted.
  •  The $25 chips are still the green ones, just like when we started the game. They will remain so all night. The blacks are still $100.
  • A flush is not just when the two cards in your hand are suited
  • Posting blinds is not optional. We all do it twice in each round. You too.

I was ready to call it an evening before the first break when I started to chip up.  Like playing drunks, it’s hard to put people on a hand who don’t themselves know if they have one (everyone would turn over their hand and wait for the dealer to tell them if they won). And a nice lady who took your credit card earlier was nearby to give you a reload in case your hand wasn’t the best.  I did some math and think it was a very profitable event and I was pleased to be part of this successful fun effort.  I was also lucky enough to come in 3rd and actually, when it got down to about 4 tables, the remaining players pretty much knew what made a flush, including some Mizrachis.

A story told by liars.

Since the no limit cash games in Florida have been uncapped, I’m back at the tables.  One of the never-ending fascinations of no limit is that it’s a four chapter story told by bet size, frequently by liars. Your task becomes not only interpreting what the bet means, but whether the bettor is telling the truth. Are we facing an honest person, a liar, or maybe a idiot? I think about 5 years ago, in cash games bets  generally meant what they appeared to mean. But that’s no longer true. What makes the game (tournament or cash) even more fascinating is the ever-changing nature of the table.  I played for five hours at a cash game at the Hard Rock yesterday, and we had three totally different tables with extremely different styles. Noticing this quickly and adapting accordingly is an ongoing challenge. Also contributing to the constantly changing environment is stack sizes.  Once I think deeply about a session, I always wish I could replay it, but that can never happen since nothing will ever be the same. How cool is that!

Hard Rock cash.

This is always a great game and was even better on the 15th because the levels were 30 minutes,  instead of the usual 20 minutes. Also, lately tournaments have been run better with more oversight and rule enforcement which was much needed. That said, this particular game was a bit out of control by my standards.  Too much running around and people not in the game getting involved, etc.  I especially wished when it got down to the final, that a better floor person was there (when it’s Nick, he watches the final table which I think is great). Scot and Richard stay pretty on top of things too, but they weren’t there at the end. Also, at this final, we had one of the worst dealers which does make a difference. The Hard Rock has so many terrific dealers with a few duds, so that kind of sucked.

The game started on two floors, then moved upstairs, and finally to the small upstairs room with 3 tables…then down to one!  I had around 270,000 in chips which was very competitive and at many times during the last three tables, was the chip leader at my table.  Boy, things change so fast at a final table.

For example:

-suddenly you’re with all the big stacks, and in this case some really good players

-people are getting knocked out, so just when the blinds are huge compared to your stack, you’re somewhat short-handed and in the blinds more often.

I really had my eye on spots 1,2 or 3 which basically means part of a good chop, but was sick to be knocked out 8th.  Poker really is like race car driving, one miscalculation and you’re dead.  That analogy carries further  in that you’re always watching for a hole to race ahead  through.  Can’t wait to try again.

Final tables.

Running good, I’ve made 4 final tables this month.  The cashes were in some fairly big fields for weekly games (250, 230, 80 and 80).  This has given me a chance to think about some situations that come up after the bubble and near the final that we regular players just experience every so often.  Here are some thoughts:

Level time matters: Of course we all know this, but so many people continue to play bad format games.  I think a big reason for my string of cashes is that the Hard Rock (Florida) added 10 minutes to their Friday game levels (from 20 minutes to 30 minutes).This has made a huge difference to me in two ways: I play better in that time frame, and many people play worse.The other two cashes for me were at Dania where the levels are also 30 minutes but the blind structure isn’t as good as the Hard Rock. Dania skips many blinds so they go up much faster. This is true at the Isle as well. Gets very fast after the break

The worst, and critical time: You certainly have to play well the whole tournament, but when the game is down to say 3 tables with maybe 24 players and you’re playing short-handed at huge blind levels with the need to keep up but also want to make the final…that’s an awful time. The blinds are coming around way too fast and you can’t wait to break into two ten handed tables.  Luckily, at one of the games I had a huge chip stack at this point so I wasn’t in as difficult a position. However, a big stack is hard to play there too. You don’t want to sit back and miss opportunities, but you have more to lose and have to be super-thoughtful.

Suddenly at the big stacks meet at the final:  Or at least it seems sudden.  You’ve been the big stack at your table, then when you move to the final you see the real situation. You’re about average! Or at least there are several other stacks in your range. Again, a strategy adjustment, but now the blinds are astronomical.

Making these finals so close together has been a great chance to think about all the challenges that come up.  Can’t wait to make another one so I can put this experience to continued good use.

Let me know any “near the final” thoughts or tips you might have please.