Archive for March, 2008
March 30, 2008
Filed Under (Challenge 2008) by crumble on 30-03-2008
“I get knocked down, then I get up again!” sang Chumbawumba in their monster hit, “Tubthumping”.
As you may remember, the green line shows my actual winnings while the red one shows what would have happened if I’d had average luck when the chips were all-in. But even just at a glance it’s not a pretty sight.
For one brief moment at around 6800 hands the poker gods had smiled on me enough to let me get back above the probability curve. That was at about the time of my last post (here). But as you can see, it was only temporary respite and it triggered a series of evil outdraws to put me $130 or so below my rightful balance.
But it’s worse than that – you can see that the red line turned down as well, which seems to indicate I was compounding the problem by playing badly. Lesson: I’m not immune from tilt; if the cards turn against me I should stop the session and come back when I’m feeling luckier.
Oh well, at least I’m now back above the zero line again, even if the poker gods do still owe me $130! Better get back to pissing the night away…
March 28, 2008
Filed Under (Tournaments) by crumble on 28-03-2008
Poker is a game of decisions.
When I’m playing well, it’s because I’m making good decisions. Sometimes, though, I get into a fuzzy, indecisive frame of mind, delay decisions and get poor results because of it.
I played a tournament last night. This hand is typical of what can happen when I’m in that indecisive frame of mind.
It’s level one of a NLHE MTT, blinds 10-20…
Cutoff and Button are both sitting out. Villain is tight and predictable, BB is a bit looser. I see no reason not to make a standard raise…
Well this is nice. Villain’s calling range is most Aces up to AJ, pairs up to 1010, two broadway cards, suited connectors, J9, not a lot else. My TPTK is miles in front of that range. The slider lets me choose between a slight underbet of 100 and a slight overbet of 200. I’m happy for action from most of Villain’s holdings so I choose the slight underbet…
Now then, this is interesting. Villain knows that I play a wide range of hands from the button (which this effectively is) and that only a third of my hands have an Ace in. Villain also knows I will be continuation betting most of the time.
However, I know that Villain will never checkraise on an out-and-out bluff. I am up against at least one pair here. The good news is of course I beat all the other one pair hands. The only set to fear is 99, the only 2-pair in Villain’s range is A9. So, decision time. I could push, but I probably get called only by hands that beat me and I probably don’t push off any hand better than mine. The flop doesn’t look dangerous, it’s actually unlikely either of us is going to improve. A flat call might tempt villain to slow down with a raggy Ace, which would suit me fine. I’m happy to check it down and see whose kicker wins. I’ll call and see what happens.
Now there’s a surprise. Villain has bet out for half stack and is certainly now pot-committed. This is not a bluff: Villain thinks he has the best hand here. Would he do this with a bare Ace? Many players would, including me sometimes, but I don’t think this one would. Do I want to risk it? No.
At least I’m still alive to fight another day.
The trouble with my turn decision is that it’s so dependent on the particular villain. If he’s going to lead out with top pair for any significant fraction of the time, the fold is a huge error. Even if he only leads out one third of the time he has top pair, I’m still giving up about 1000 chips on average by not calling (says Pokerstove).
The problem really started with my flat call of the checkraise on the flop. This only makes sense if I’m going to get more chips from a worse hand through making it, by calling on the turn if they lead out. I think (now) that if I’m not prepared to do that I’m better off just pushing all-in over the top of the flop checkraise. At least then I might get A9 to fold.
How can such a simple hand be so difficult? Suggestions welcome…
March 24, 2008
Filed Under (Challenge 2008) by crumble on 24-03-2008
In an earlier post, I explained that I’m using a modified version of the Cardrunners 6-max starting hands chart for my 5-max cash game play.
You’ll see it over there in the Pages section. ——->
One thing I particularly like about this chart is that it is particularly well balanced.
To see what I mean, take a close look at the permitted hands containing an Ace.
On the button, I can raise with suited Aces down to A4. You may wonder why I can’t play A3 and A2 as well; after all they aren’t appreciably worse? Similarly, the break point on the cutoff is A7 suited: why not A6 or A5?
The answer is in the balance. The card is set up so that if I raise, I have an Ace about a third of the time. In any position. If I play more junk Aces, I should either loosen up by playing two more junk hands from that position. Otherwise I become easy to read and the opponent’s post-flop decisions get much easier.
Some days, for variety, I play A3 and fold A5 from the button. I really shouldn’t mess about, but it’s probably harmless enough.
March 23, 2008
Filed Under (Challenge 2008) by crumble on 23-03-2008
Right back at the start of the year, I promised myself I would spend time learning and watching, not just playing.
I’ve not been doing enough of this so far, but since my last couple of cash game sessions haven’t been too successful it’s time to go and watch another video.
So this morning I popped back to the Cardrunners site (see Blogroll over there —–> ) to see what’s new. Although most of the instruction sites cost money to sign up, they do from time to time put free videos up to entice people to have a look. Cardrunners is no exception; last year they had a tremendous short-handed cash game video that made a big impression on me.
It was worth a look – they have a different free short-handed video up there now. This one is from someone called Brystmar and it is the first in a series of 6. Okay, so you have to pay for the other 5 and I’m too cheap to do that. But it’s always good to have someone run through the basics again: bankroll management, table selection, discipline, etc. And it’s always good to watch someone good play at the kind of table I play, because I can see what they do vs what I would have done.
I have two takeaways from this particular video:
It’s noticeable how straightforwardly the guy plays. He has what he thinks is the best hand: he bets it. He thinks the other guy may fold: he bets it. There’s a chance the other guy is bluffing on the end: he calls. No fancy stuff just good straightforward poker.
He remarks in passing how aggressive the tables were, more so than he was expecting for this level. I have found the same thing – no-one ever calls a raise any more, they either fold or, more usually, they 3-bet with position. It’s something that I’ve been struggling with; I often seem to pick the wrong moment to fight back! Unfortunately we don’t get to see Brystmar deal with this – he just folded to the re-raise every time. Maybe if I shelled out for the full series I’d get some help with this…
Anyway, that was generally encouraging that I agree with all of his decisions on this small (100 hand) sample. I might play later today and see if I can turn my graph round in the right direction!
March 18, 2008
I’ve neglected my blog a little the last few days, apologies to all my regular reader.
One of the problems with working in the city is that every now and again things get a bit frantic. This is one of those times. Actually this is quite exceptional; often city volatility isn’t noticed by the mainstream media but this time we’re headline news.
It’s looking like quite an “interesting” year in prospect, while the various bubbles that have been slowly inflating over the last 15 years or so start to wobble…
But I don’t want to talk about that, I want to tell you how I got on with the bridge game at the weekend. It was great to see my old partner, it’s about 15 years since we last played and his hair isn’t the same colour as it was then. Neither is mine, of course. But we had a pleasant lunch and settled down to an afternoon game in the “newcomers” tournament.
There were 8 other pairs in the tournament, so we played 3 hands of bridge (“boards”) against each pair, 24 boards total. The great thing about bridge tournaments is that everyone plays the same boards but against different people, so that the scores on each hand can be compared like-for-like. You score 2 match points for every pair you outscore and one point for every pair you tie with, on each board. Add them all up and convert to a percentage.
In theory this takes most of the luck out of it; in practice it just means the luck is recharacterised. On a good day you get the straightforward hands against the skillful opponents, negating their skill, but the complicated hands against the donks, maximising their cluelessness. On a bad day it’s the other way round.
Anyway, on Sunday we played pretty well and were quite disappointed with our final score of just over 52%, 4th out of 9 and no prizes.
However, this particular tournament is scored nationally – clubs all over the country were playing the same hands against each other. So later that night, when we checked our national score, we were actually on 58.9%. This is a very respectable (although not winning) score, although surprisingly it’s actually a higher score than the pair that won in our heat.
It was great fun anyway and we’ll be playing again soon.
City crises permitting, of course!
March 14, 2008
Filed Under (Tournaments) by crumble on 14-03-2008
On Easter Monday last year, EMS held a money-added freeroll tournament, an Easter Special.
They say you have to be lucky to win a tournament. But just how lucky do you have to be?
Good players, such as myself, need less luck than the fish, right? So, how much luck did I actually have in winning this tournament?
Here’s how to find out:
Here’s the results:
As you see, except for the very last hand I was in pretty good shape: in front every time. I was feeling pretty smug until I multiplied them all together.
But my overall chances of winning all those races comes out at just 0.0095: that’s 105 to 1 against.
What a lucky fish I am!
Back to the cash games I think. At least until the next EMS Freezout League on Sunday…
(An earlier version of this article was published last year in my old blog.)
March 12, 2008
Filed Under (Bridge) by crumble on 12-03-2008
An old friend of mine contacted me last week and persuaded me to partner him in a bridge tournament this weekend.
Bridge … now there’s a game I haven’t played in a long while.
It’s a bit like poker in many ways:
But it’s also completely unlike poker:
It’ll be interesting to see how I get on – my main memories of playing with this poker are of being told off a lot. Deservedly I might add; my bridge has a tendency to veer randomly from outrageously tight passive to maniac, which isn’t great for developing a partnership understanding!
The game is on Sunday, so I will be able to avoid being outdrawn in the Freezout League this week. Wish me luck, I’ll let you know how I got on!
March 10, 2008
Filed Under (Tournaments) by crumble on 10-03-2008
Today I present a cautionary tale in three acts.
It’s a normal Sunday evening and the EMS Freezout League is in full swing …
Act 1: Fold Equity
Our hero is cruising nicely, playing well, active, mixing it up. A few chips down from the starting stack due to an unlucky hand or two but still dominating the table. Then an opportunity presents itself…
Says our hero, “mmm, a pair of babies. A nice little hand, especially in a rock garden like this. A chance to nick from early position, or to hit a set and stack someone. Let’s play poker!!”
“Ah! A victim! MP3 has been calling everything to see if he can hit something. I’ve got every chance of pushing him off the pot on the flop or turn after he misses, getting some chips back. Nice!”
“So, what’s happening here? Victim is nitty but a bit tricky. He’s read all the books, so there’s two possibilities:
“I could just fold now I suppose, but what if I push all-in?
“I’m all in!”
Act 2: Ahead of his range
Meanwhile, another hero is pondering his choices…
Says our new hero, “Ooh, look what we have here! An early position raise from someone who has been playing far too loose and already paid the price with a good chunk of his chips. And a call from another loose calling station with any 2 cards!! And I have a great hand on the button, it’s a classic squeeze position and I’m pretty likely to get action!!! BRING IT ON!!!!”
“Better and better!” chuckles our hero to himself. He’s only gone and made it heads up, him and me. This is where I get to reap the benefit of a tight table image. Frankly I wouldn’t have minded playing a smaller pot, but this is great value. I may be behind to AA and KK but I’m ahead, usually miles ahead, of literally dozens of other holdings.”
Act 3:Playthings of the gods
So now, dear reader, it is time for the poker gods to stop playing dice with each other and crank up the RNG. Cards on their backs, let’s see the board!
So there it is. I struggle on for another half an hour but fail to find anything much in the way of profitable situations. Eventually I straggle out pushing with live cards and 7 big blinds.
The point of this post is twofold:
So, no more tournaments for me.
(Until the next EMS league game that is.)
March 09, 2008
Filed Under (Challenge 2008) by crumble on 09-03-2008
One situation I am not very good at yet is the decision making process when an out of position player calls my pre-flop raise and leads out at the flop.
Here’s one from early in a recent session where I doubled up a shortstack:
Now it might be that this turns out the same whatever I do. But I can’t help feeling that either folding or raising on the flop would be better choices than the flat call I actually made. In this particular hand, a re-raise would have to be or all his chips, which might even make him fold this time. I’m interested in opinions here, so comments particularly welcome!
March 08, 2008
Filed Under (Challenge 2008) by crumble on 08-03-2008
Here’s another update on my progress at the online cash tables in my 2008 personal challenge.
Since my last update, it’s been a bit of a roller-coaster ride…
It’s become clear to me that I need to do more work. Most of the hands I lose big on are not very well played. Maybe I need a coach? Or maybe just post more hands for feedback on EMS.
Still, at least the luck has evened out now. Here’s the expected value graph from PokerEV:
This graph shows what actually happened (green line) alongside what would have happened if I’d had average luck in my all-in hands (red line). The turnaround in fortune at the end was down to the bit of luck with the pocket Aces I wrote about yesterday. Which was nice.
But the most important conclusion is that it’s too early to say yet whether I have an edge in this game. Too early to panic, especially since I’m $300 up just now…