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The Cold Hard Numbers

Downloaded from http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=78655800&size=oBelow you'll find a comprehensive list of my win rates at various levels of play in a variety of games. This page will be updated as I continue to play at my current limits and as I climb my way towards the higher stakes games available - that's the plan, anyway.

NB: I realize that I have very few hands played at most games and limits, so these numbers have very little statistical significance.

CURRENT NUMBERS (Updated: Mar. 5, 2007)

Here are my current stats for the last 10K hands played in each of: Full-ring limit (FL), short-handed limit (SHFL), full-ring no-limit (NL), and short-handed no-limit (SHNL).

$3/$6 FL:

  • (0.55 PTBB/100)

  • 7,233 hands

  • Money Won/Lost: ($239)


$2/$4 SHFL:
  • (2.45 PTBB/100)

  • 2,428 hands

  • Money Won/Lost: ($238)


$50 NL:
  • (14.77 PTBB/100)

  • 1,200 hands

  • Money Won/Lost: ($177)


$50 SHNL:
  • 10.27 PTBB/100

  • 2,011 hands

  • Money Won/Lost: $207


CAREER NUMBERS (Updated: Mar. 3, 2007)

Here's a list of all my win rates and wins/losses at each limit and game I've played since May 2005. Due to a database crash in November 2005, I can't account for the first 6 months of play. This list also contains only those sites and those games supported by Poker Tracker.

StakesPTBB/100Hands PlayedWon/Lost
$0.50/$1 FL2.8013,156$370
$1/$2 FL(0.23)10,606($49)
£1/£2 FL(10.70)160(£34)
$2/$4 FL1.652,262$149
$3/$6 FL(0.55)7,233($239)
$0.50/$1 SHFL(4.50)779($35)
$1/$2 SHFL3.183,349$213
$2/$4 SHFL(2.45)2,428($238)
$10 NL21.85951$42
$20 NL9.643,178$123
$25 NL5.351,171$31
$50 NL(14.77)1,200($177)
$10 SHNL33.101,281$85
$20 SHNL(7.46)1,239($37)
$25 SHNL3.358,622$145
$50 SHNL10.272,011$207

Keep reading "The Cold Hard Numbers"

Swimming...

The one thing thats holds true of any challenges or goals I set out to accomplish is this: things change. When I first set out on my Sink or Swim Challenge, I was enviously eyeing the large number of loose $3/$6 tables at PokerRoom and hoping to break into the game ASAP. Two months later, things have changed.

Since the anti-gambling laws came into place in the States, many poker sites have opted to exclude U.S. players from all the fun. Bad move, in my opinion: then again, I wasn't the one being targetted by the Feds. As these sites closed their doors to certain players, site traffic started to drop. If I look at the OnGame or Cryptologic networks now, there are just a shell of their former selves, glory of days past long faded, tables collecting virtual dust. Even Party Poker can't come up with a single $3/$6 full ring game during EST prime time.

However, there's still hope. No matter the network, no matter the stakes (within reason), there are always short-handed games going. Even Hollywood Poker has got a number of 6-max $3/$6 games going, and I'm betting that they're just as good as they've always been. One law does not suddenly make the crazy ass donkeys better players. I'm positive that there's gold in them hills.

So, once again, I want to improve my short-handed limit game. Last time I tried, I lost 40 BBs in three sessions of 0.50/1 SHFL at Party. This time, however, I'm bound by the rules set out in my Sink or Swim Challenge: $0.50/$1 is below any stakes that I'd consider meaningful or enjoyable in any way. So, what to do?

I'm going to play 5000 hands at $1/$2 SHFL. If I've got a winning record (0.01 BB/100 or more) after finishing up those hands, I'll jump up to the $2/$4 tables and start earning a living (figuratively, not literally). Once at $2/$4, I'll adhere to the guidelines that I've set for playing at other games and other limits: if I clear 10,000 hands with a win rate of 1.5 BB/100 or more, I'll move up in stakes.

And just in case I'm as bad at SHFL as I think I am, I will move down if I find myself 300 BB in the hole and if I find that my losses are resulting from poor decision making at the tables. At that point, I'll start all over at $1/$2 SHFL again or just give up poker forever in a bout of tilt-induced shame.

To recap this footnote to my Sink or Swim Challenge, here's what I'm playing right now:


  • $3/$6 full-ring and looking for a win rate of 1.5 BB/100 or more over 10K hands.

  • $1/$2 6-max and looking for a win rate of 0.01 BB/100 or more over 5K hands.

  • $2/$4 6-max and looking for a win rate of 1.5 BB/100 or more over 10K hands, if and when I've completed a successful run of 5000 hands at $1/$2 6-max.

  • $50 NL full-ring and looking for a win rate of 6 BB/100 or more over 10K hands.

  • $25 NL 6-max and looking for a win rate of 6 BB/100 or more over 10K hands.

I think I'll start tracking my win rates on my site. I'm hoping it'll take my focus off the money by forcing me to focus on the metrics of the game. I'll put some of those numbers up today and fill out the rest tonight.

Now that I've put up some more meaningless challenges for myself, I need some help from you. For the 6-max limit games, I'll re-read Matt Maroon's book, Winning Texas Hold'em, and King Yao's book, Weighing the Odds in Hold'em Poker, for the basic 6-max strategy. Like any good poker player however, I'm greedy and I really want more of an edge on my opponents and a much bigger kick start to my game. If any of you out there could provide me with any of the following, I'd appreciate it (and you'll get pimped if you care about that sort of thing):

  • Links to good 2+2 posts regarding 6-max limit poker (small stakes, if possible)

  • Starting hand selection advice

  • Standard betting lines to use and look out for

  • Good (and cheap) online video resources for 6-max games (and any other games, for that matter)

  • Any other books or web resources that I might find helpful
Basically, I'm looking for any information about anything that can get me as little as an extra 0.1 BB/100.

Am I asking too much? Sure. But there's no harm in asking. For now, I'll go over my books and keep hitting up the 2+2 forums looking for brilliant insight into the game.

Before I go, just thought I'd mention that I have another 3 books arriving in the mail today:











After reading Malmuth's book, I may want to give 5 card draw a try and PokerRoom or Eurobet. Even after a year and half of semi-serious poker playing, I can't believe I'm still into this as much as I am. Every time I know more poker books are coming in the mail, it feels like my birthday!

Anyway, I may not get the chance to play tonight: duty calls and such. But I've still got a lot of bankroll to donate to the other players at Stars and Full Tilt, so I'll try and play as soon as I can.

Have a good one! See you at the tables!

Keep reading "Swimming..."

Sinking...

A couple months ago, I posted a new challenge: my Sink or Swim Challenge. I was fed up with pissing around at the micro/low stakes games and wanted a real challenge. From that point on, $3/$6 limit hold'em has been my game of choice, with a few sessions of $2/$4 and $1/$2 thrown in whenever some easy bonus money was to be made. The question I have now is: am I swimming or am I sinking?

I very rarely post hand histories here, so I'm hoping you'll forgive me. I'd just like to verify that some of the hands that I've been losing have been due to normal variance and not solely the result of my poor play. I'm currently on a 100 BB downswing at the Stars $3/$6 games and I'm having a hell of a time turning it around.

When I sat down to play last night, I was really hoping to book my first winning session in a long while. That was not the case and I found myself down quite early. Here's a sampling of some of the hands that crippled me last night. Feel free to comment and thanks in advance for putting up with this whiny "why me?" post.

This first hand is pretty standard for limit hold'em. The following hand has occurred at least a million times to most players. However, this hand was one of the first I played last night and it just got the ball rolling in the wrong direction.

Poker Stars
Limit Holdem Ring game
Limit: $3/$6
9 players
Converter

Pre-flop: (9 players) Klopzi is MP2 with 9s 9d
3 folds, Klopzi raises, MP3 folds, CO calls, 2 folds, BB calls.

(99 is a good hand and I never limp first-in)

Flop: 5h 9h 7h (6.33SB, 3 players)
BB checks, Klopzi bets, CO raises, BB folds, Klopzi 3-bets, CO calls.

(I know I'm ahead at this point since most players will not play a flopped flush strongly. If my opponent's on a flush draw, I have redraws, as necessary. The CO's raise and subsequent call stinks of a position raise. If the turn is a non-heart, I'm coming out betting.)


Turn: 8c (6.17BB, 2 players)
Klopzi bets, CO calls.

(Well, I don't like the fact that there's four to the straight on the board. Given my read on the CO, I don't think he'd cold-call pre-flop with any hand containing a 6, other than 66. However, given the flop play, I doubt he'd raise on the button with a pair of sixes in the hole. So I stick with my flush draw read and bet the turn: no free cards here.)

River: Tc (8.17BB, 2 players)
Klopzi checks, CO bets, Klopzi calls.

(Good stuff! The flush draw doesn't come in but if my opponent was holding the Jh, he just hit his straight. If I bet out here, my opponent will only fold if he missed his flush draw: otherwise, he'd raise with a straight. I'll check and induce the bluff, make the call, and hope that I'm ahead.)

Results:
Final pot: 10.17BB
CO showed Ac Jh
Klopzi mucks 9s 9d

(Fuck me...)


(On further review and a comment from Michael, I've removed the hand history where my Ad9s lost to my opponent's 8d3d. Nothing out of the ordinary at all. I played as well as I could and my opponent got lucky with a speculative hand from UTG.

The hand still cost me 3.5 BB, but I'm cool with that...)


Moving on...

In this next hand, I misinterpret an opponent's bet as a last ditch effort to lose the last of his chips, instead of reading them for what they were (a last ditch effort to make me lose all my chips).
Poker Stars
Limit Holdem Ring game
Limit: $3/$6
8 players
Converter

Pre-flop: (8 players) Klopzi is UTG with 9h 9s
Klopzi raises, 4 folds, Button calls, 2 folds.

(This is the same table where I had the 99 vs. AJ match-up earlier. My table image was crap and I felt like the button would make a loose call against an apparent donkey.)

Flop: 8h 4d Ah (5.33SB, 2 players)
Klopzi bets, Button calls.

(I raised pre-flop and I've got to represent the ace here. His call may mean he's got something or he could be trying to make a move on the turn given that he's got less than 2 BB remaining in his stack.)

Turn: 8c (3.67BB, 2 players)
Klopzi checks, Button bets, Klopzi raises, Button calls all-in $4.5.
Uncalled bets: 0.25BB returned to Klopzi.

(Good turn card for me. I'm either way ahead or way behind here. Although I'd normally lead out and let the betting dictate where I stand here, I figure that I can induce a bet if I check, at which point I can put my opponent all-in and see a slightly-discounted showdown.)

River: 8s (7.17BB, 1 player + 1 all-in - Main pot: 7.17BB)

Results:
Final pot: 7.17BB
Button showed Ac 9d
Klopzi showed 9h 9s

(Damn...)

I had high hopes for this next hand. Unfortunately, the Poker Gods had other plans for me.
Poker Stars
Limit Holdem Ring game
Limit: $3/$6
8 players
Converter

Pre-flop: (8 players) Klopzi is Button with Qc Ks
UTG calls, 2 folds, MP2 calls, CO folds, Klopzi raises, 2 folds, UTG calls, MP2 calls.

(Oops! I'd failed to notice that UTG had limped into the pot and I was trying to isolate the somewhat fishy MP2. Still, not that bad a play: I'm in position and in control of the hand.)

Flop: Qh Kd Ad (7.33SB, 3 players)
UTG bets, MP2 calls, Klopzi raises, UTG calls, MP2 calls.

(Bingo! Two pair! Given the action to me, I can put one or both of my opponents on an ace and/or possible straight or flush draws. Once again, I was hoping that UTG's bet meant he had a hand strong enough to re-raise me and knock out MP2. Yet again, I put too much faith in the desire of my opponent's to 3-bet a hand. Still, given that I was most likely ahead in the hand, I don't mind building the pot if my opponents are willing to oblige me.)

Turn: Ts (6.67BB, 3 players)
UTG bets, MP2 raises, Klopzi folds, UTG calls.

(Two pair is a good hand, but not that great when there is 4 cards to the straight on the board. I have four outs to the full house; unfortunately, MP2's raise has killed my odds here: had MP2 not raised, implied odds would have allowed me to call.)

River: Kc (10.67BB, 2 players)
UTG checks, MP2 bets, UTG calls.

(Damn you river card! Nothing like making a good laydown on the turn, only to find out that a big pot would have been yours had you just played a little more like the other donkeys at the table. Seek them out but do not emulate them, right Sklank?)

Results:
Final pot: 12.67BB
MP2 showed As Jh
UTG showed Ah Jd

(What a great feeling to know that both your opponents manage to hit their gutshot draw on the turn on the one hand where you've picked up a monster...)


That's it for the hand histories. Feel free to comment and call me a donkey.

I hope that things will turn around for me soon. Otherwise, I'll have to force myself over to the NL cash game tables and brace myself for the inevitable stackings coming my way.

Have a good one!

Keep reading "Sinking..."

High Five!

BoratBy now, most of you know that I'm not a tournament player. I've never been a fan of putting in a lot of my time in exchange for a small chance at hitting it big. In the grand scheme of things, hold'em tournaments have always held the appeal of buying a handful of scratch tickets and hoping for the best.

Today I find myself reconsidering my opinion, having now joined the ranks of my fellow players who've managed to attain a sizable MTT score.

(Update November 28: I got my hands on the tournament hand history, so I've updated any of the hand histories to reflect what actually happened as opposed to what I think happened.)


Last Thursday, Mr. V. asked me if I'd like to play for him in yesterday's $5K Party Poker Snowball Freeroll being hosted by RakeTheRake (ref. code RTR03302). Although both Mr. V. and I knew I was not the best MTT player around, he couldn't play the thing himself and we figured a chance at free money shouldn't be passed up. The field was set at 72 players and the top 30 spots paid: a nice flat structure favours players like me who are willing to play a solid (read: tight like a man's ah-noose) game and squeak into the money.

So with my son in my lap and recorded episodes of South Park playing in the background, I hunkered down for what I assumed to be a ten or twenty minute bump in the road of my everyday routine.

The very first hand, I pick up AK in MP. With 2 limpers in the pot, I make a 5x BB raise and all but UTG+1 fold. When the flop comes Ace high but all hearts, I decide to check-through after my opponent checks. I was suffering from FPS and wanted to pick off a bluff from my opponent on the turn.

When my opponent bet $400 into the pot on the turn, I figured him for a pair or a flush draw and called. As long as the river did not complete any draws, and assuming my opponent didn't push on the river, I was sure I could pick off a bluff. However, the river brought the Ten of Hearts, putting a four-flush on the board and completing the straight if UTG+1 held a KJ. When my opponent bet $1400 into the $1300 pot, I had to fold: I wasn't about to throw away the tournament with a crappy TPTK on a scary board. Looking back, I really wish I'd bet the flop and defined my hand early.

(In my original memory of the above hand, I played far more aggressively and with a hell of a lot more confidence. It's funny to go back and realize that I played like a donkey.)

For the next hour, I manage to chip up by making a few steals here and there and grabbing as many of the blinds as I can. By the first break, I'm sitting in pretty good position with a slightly above average chip stack. By this time, I'm usually fairly short-stacked and playing the all-in game, so I'm quite happy with my performance so far.

Once we get back from the break, I really started to focus on what I've heard many times from Harrington, Lindgren, and Mr. V.: leave the short stacks and big stacks alone and pick on the medium stacks. For the next hour of play, I mercilessly raised and re-raised the medium stacked players, forcing them to make the decision to fold or play for all their chips. Except for a snag here or there (the two players to my left would push all-in if I tried to steal their blinds), I managed to put myself in the top 20 with 31 left in the tournament.

Finally, we were on the bubble. One more player to go and then everyone was guaranteed at least $25. Although I was happy earning $12.50 for my efforts so far (50% of the winnings belonged to Mr. V.), I figured Mr. V. wouldn't mind if I tried to make a push for greener pastures.

And then it happened: the Hilton sisters paid me a visit in UTG. With my stack sitting at $11K and with the blinds at $600/$1200, I figured I could make a big raise and induce an all-in bluff from one of the two sheriffs sitting to my left. I made it $4000 to go and everyone folded to the big stack on the button.

After thinking for thirty seconds, he pushed his entire $21K stack into the pot. Awful...

According to Harrington and many other tournament players, this is an easy fold. You're on the bubble and the only player at the table who can bust you is putting you to the test for all your chips.

However, E-Dog says that bubble-time is the perfect time to build your chip stack (I wonder if authors and pros cringe when they have their teachings misinterpreted). If you go broke and bubble out, so be it. If you can build up a big stack at this point in time, you'll be in position to knock out a number of short stacks who'd just managed to squeak into the money and will be desperately looking to double up with any two cards.

I knew the chip leader to be a solid player. On a number of previous occasions, he'd shown a willingness to push people around if he thought his fold equity was high enough. From his perspective, I could see him looking at my bigger than average raise as a sign of weakness, an attempt to steal the blinds as the money grew closer. And I'm sure he thought that I would most likely fold on the bubble with most hands rather than risk making it into the money.

After considering all this and going into my time bank, I figured that the time had come to make a call that would make or break me. the chip leader turned over KK, I was crushed. Of all the times to be cold-decked, I couldn't believe it was now. Two hours of work down the drain, nothing to show for my efforts except for the Queen on the river and holy shit I just won the hand!

Just like that, I was the chip leader! The bubble burst and people started throwing their chips around like they were going out of style. For the most part, I sat back and let the chips come to me. Although I lost the chip lead a few times as some of the others at my table played the all-in game and won (one of whom was sherriff to my left), I managed to find myself sitting at the final table solidly in first place with $60K in chips.

All of a sudden, I was guaranteed to win at least $80! Not too shabby for a couple hours work.

As I sat there looking at the payout schedule, I noticed a couple guys at the table pushing a lot of chips around. It only took fifteen minutes to find myself in the final three! And unfortunately, my $58K stack put me squarely in third place. The chip counts at this point were: Klopzi ($55000), Chip Leader ($96000), and Other Guy ($65000). It was deal-making time...

When the other two players suggested a deal, I was happy to start negotiating. I'd just seen these two guys rip through a field of solid players and I didn't like my position. If I could secure an extra $100 or $200 on top of the normal third place money, I'd be pretty happy.

The chip leader came right out and suggested a payout based entirely on chip percentages. Although the Other Guy in second place was happy with that, I wasn't that enthused. If we were going to play it out after we finished dealing, I wanted some money on the line for the winner and second place players. Also, the blinds were pretty big and our stacks could easily swing one way or another pretty quickly.

After another minute or two and we decided to distribute 80% of the prize pool based on chip counts and leave 20% (or $500) up for grabs, with first place paying an additional $400 and second place paying $100.

And just like that, I'd locked in $585 for Mr. V. and I! I tried to call Mr. V. and let him know the good news, but he wasn't home. Oh well, there was still some poker to play.

I expected it to end pretty quickly after the dealing was done and the chip leader didn't disappoint.

The first hand back, the Other Guy takes a large chunk , $45K, off the old chip leader.

The very next hand, the old chip leader makes it $9000 to go on the button (blinds at $1500/$3000). And unfortunately for me, I had picked up KsQh in the BB. The other guy folded in the SB and I called the extra $11K.

By the way, in this spot, the old Klopzi would have just pushed all in gotten it over with. However, after reading Making the Final Table, I heeded E-Dog's advice yet again: pushing all-in takes all the skill out of the game and can force you to put your entire tournament on the line with a less-than-optimal holding. Although KQo is a great hand three-handed, I figured calling was better than raising because:


  1. I had zero fold equity here. The busted up ex-chip leader would definitely call the extra $40K, having just secured a $900 payday and definitely tilting from the previous hand.

  2. The old chip leader had only shown down quality hands thus far and I wasn't too sure of the showdown value of my hand against his range. Instead, I was hoping to hit the flop or get out.

  3. I still had plenty of chips to play with after calling his raise. Why risk my tournament life with KQ when an AA could be just around the corner?
Flop comes [Kd Ad 9d].

Second pair and not much else. I checked, fully intending to fold if the chip leader bet. With just under $20K in the pot, the old chip leader decided to bet $10K. Given the bet size, I sensed a little weakness on my opponent's part. I was pretty sure that he'd hit the Ace on the flop, but I also felt that he wanted me to go away.

That's when I decided to make a loose call in and try to take the pot away later in the hand. Although I was ready to bluff at the pot regardless of what hit later in the hand, I was really hoping for another flush card or a card that would complete the straight.

The turn is the [Td].

Ok - I made the float call on the flop and the chip leader may be putting me on a flush draw. If so, I've just completed my draw and have a monster hand. Most players in this spot would check the made hand. And since I don't have the made hand and I figure my opponent to be fairly straight-forward, I might as well do the expected play and that is to check.

Unsurprisingly, the old chip leader checks behind me. Unless he's extremely tricky, he does not have the flush. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that he doesn't have a flush draw:

  • There's no way he's betting the flop without 4 cards to the flush or a pair.

  • When the fourth diamond hits the board, he definitely bets if he hit his flush. If I was representing the flush or a strong draw on the flop, why not bet with a made hand and knock out the third place player?

Going to the river, I still put the chip leader on Ax or one of 88, JJ, or QQ.

The river is the [Tc].

Perfect! The river is a blank and I'm pretty sure my opponent puts me on a flush or straight (or an ace if he holds something other than Ax). With my fold equity quite high at this point, I need to bet and try to take the pot.

From my opponent's perspective, what hands to I call with on the flop? A flush draw? Sure. Two-pair? Yep. A set? Ok. Gut-shot straight draw? Maybe. Now - how big should I bet on the river in order to get my opponent to fold? If I push all in, he'd be getting slightly better than 2:1 on his call with the chance to knock out the third place player and lock in another $100 to his winnings.

And then I remembered something the ex-chip leader said while we were making the deal: "I'm the chip leader and you're leaving me with less than $1000." How important was that $1000 to this guy?

If I push all in, he may call feeling that I was buying the pot. Plus, people on tilt do strange things at the table.

If I check, he's checking behind and I'm left with $30K if I am behind in the hand.

What if I make a value bet on the end? Let's say I hit my flush on the flop or the turn and was planning on check-raising when the chip leader fired his second bullet at the pot. Would I not take a stab at the pot on the river? But I wouldn't want to try to take too much, just in case I scare off my opponent. So why not make a smallish value bet? A small bet says "I want a call here" that also leaves me pot-committed if he tries to push me off the hand?

After a few seconds, I pushed $10000 into the $40000 pot, just begging for a call. The ex-chip leader thought for about 15 seconds than let the hand go. I was up to $70K and in second place.

(In my original memory of this hand, the chip leader was sitting at his full $95K and the pot was much larger. I also had the sense that he had a good hand, although looking back, I fear the ex-chip leader had simply missed the flop and was going to lay down his hand no matter when I bet or how I bet. It's nice to be a legend in your own mind...)

The second break rolls around and I'm happy to sit back and relax. My son is still sleeping quietly in my arms, South Park is still playing softly in the background, and my wife is downstairs baking chocolate chip/peanut butter muffins. Five minutes passes by very quickly and the action ramps up rather quickly.

Once we return from the break, it only takes a few hands for the new chip leader to finish the ex-chip leader off. Ex-chip leader pushes all-in with AKo pre-flop and new chip leader calls with QQ.

And just like that, we were heads up.

Since I started watching poker on TV, I always imagined what it'd be like to play heads up at the end of a tournament. I know the field was only 72 players and the prize pool was only $5000: still, I was playing for the lion's share of $5K and I wanted to make it count.

I was sitting at $60K in chips and my opponent held the other $166K: not the best spot to be in, but all was not lost. With the blinds at $2000/$4000, there was still lots of poker to be played.

Within five minutes, my opinion of my opponent had changed. Where once stood a smart, aggressive player, I now found a tight, weak player unsure of how to handle the change of strategy required for heads up play.

If I called on the button, he'd check behind. If I raised on the button, he folded. And yet, it was post-flop where I could really take advantage of his passivity. If he checked to me, I could usually take a stab at the pot and take it down. If he bet, I could easily fold knowing that I was most likely behind.

Ten minutes into heads up play with the blinds at $3000/$6000, I picked up AKo on the button. Rather than raise, I decided to throw a curve ball at my opponent and instead, I limped into the pot.

The flop came Ac 4d Th rainbow. My opponent checked and I checked behind. I figured I'd appeared weak up until that point and there was little harm in giving a free card to my opponent. I wanted to make this hand count.

The turn brought a harmless 3d. When my opponent checked again, I decided to bet the pot - $12000 and I'm insta-called. I wasn't going to let the Other Guy hit his flush if he was on a draw.

The river brought the Kc, giving me top two pair. And now, the interesting part. My opponent checked to me and I figured that the best way to make money in this spot was to make it look like I was buying the pot. I bet $45K, my entire stack, into the $36K pot. Maybe he'd figure me for a busted back-door flush draw?

My opponent called immediately and showed QTo for a pair of tens.

(I originally thought that my opponent had played the hand better than he did. I can't believe he doubled me up with third pair, no kicker. Goes to show you: it's dangerous to rule out some of your opponent's hands based strictly on the pre-flop betting pattern, especially heads-up. My limping in with AK was the key to winning this hand.)

Just like that, I held $125K and my opponent held $90K. I hammered away for a few minutes until I picked up A3o on the button. I had my opponent out-chipped by 3:1 by this time and was ready to play for his whole stack on any given hand. In recent hands, he'd started to push all-in quite a bit and I gave him enough rope to hang himself by simply limping in on the button.

He instantly pushed all in for his last $50K and I called: he showed A8 and won a large pot to regain the chip lead. I was now sitting at $70K and well behind. Luckily for me, my opponent went back into his shell having regained the lead and I soon found my self ahead $114K to $112K.

And that's when I found myself in the BB with AJo. With my opponent slightly ahead 108K to my my 106K, I was ready to move with this hand.

Without a thought, my opponent pushed all in on the button. Having watched him make this move at least twenty times in the past 6 or 7 minutes, I figured my AJo was probably ahead at this point.

I called and my opponent showed J7o.

Just like that, I ahead $214K to my opponent's $2K.

On the next hand, my 98o finished it off when I sucked out on my opponent's A6o. At that point, he would have had to double up six times to get back into the game again, so I don't feel to bad about the finishing the thing off in true luckbox fashion.

(Again, my memory remembered the past two hands as being more dramatic. It's funny what the mind will do to your memory of actual events when given the chance. It's almost embarrassing...)

Just like that, I won my first tournament to the tune of $985. When Mr. V. arrived home last night and checked his e-mail, imagine his surprise to find out that I'd taken down the tournament and made us both a tidy sum of money. Sure, not life changing money, but this is still the biggest win of my career so far.

Mr. V. did not go Jamie Gold on me and promptly paid me $500 for my services. There are not many days where I can say that I earned $200/hr.

More than that, though, is the fact that I finally won a tournament. For so long, I wondered what the hell was wrong with me. I'd read the books, I knew the basics of the game, but just couldn't bust through and pick up the "W".

This tournament played out differently than others.

First off, I only had all my money in on two occasions: once on the bubble with my QQ (way behind) and the other time was heads up with my top two pair (way ahead).

Other than that, I simply stole as many blinds as I could and ignored the fear of bubbling out of the tournament. Instead, I put others to the test for all their chips as the bubble drew ever closer. And the rest, as we say, is history. I have never been the chip leader in a tournament before and I'd have to say that it's a nice feeling.

Anyway, I'm going to attribute my win in this tournament to a couple books.

Harrington's books (Volumes 1, 2 and 3) taught me the basics of tournament poker and tight play early on is a solid strategy.

As for Erick's book, Making the Final Table, it taught me to "Play to win and not to survive": this is the single most important thing I've read about tournament poker ever! Pick up E-Dog's book and let him teach you how to play these MTTs. He's definitely made a believer out of me!

That's it for me! I'm gonna savour the flavour of this win for a while, then get back to grinding it out at the PokerStars $3/$6 tables.

Have a good one!

Keep reading "High Five!"

Turkey, Stuffing, and Fish

After eating a full Thanksgiving dinner last night and getting home a little late, I wasn't feeling up to playing any poker. Throw in the fact that the wounds from my last two 3/6 sessions were still fresh and I'm glad I stayed away from the tables. Instead, I started the painful task of reviewing my online persona's financial status: entering sessions into my PokerDominator records, verifying my account balances at various sites, checking my overall bankroll levels, and evaluating my play in the big winning and losing $3/$6 hands.

My career earnings and bankroll have both taken considerable hits lately. Much to my dismay, I've lost well over $500 in my past two 3/6 sessions. It's a little disheartening after running well for a little while, but again, it's all about the long-term, right?

I'm currently sitting at (0.26) BB/100 after 6.4K hands. I guess that's not too bad considering that the competition can be a little tougher and more aggressive at the 3/6 tables. I've definitely been holding my own, matching aggression with aggression and folding when I know I'm beat...well, most of the time, anyway.

Without sounding like a clueless fish, most of my losses have come at the hands of being cold-decked and/or smacked around on the river. Most recently, I've had a real problem with overpair vs. overpair confrontations and top two-pair vs. bottom set. I've also taken a sound beating in many of my heads-up confrontations. Throw in a few TPTK hands versus funny raggy two-pair hands and you've got a recipe for disaster.

For example, TPTK, sets, and two-pair are generally very good hands heads-up: you're willing to play them hard to the river as long as the board doesn't look too bad. Unfortunately, sets, backdoor flushes, and bizarro straights have really crushed my ability to win hands. I believe the few tough breaks that I've had here and there are giving me a major case of "monsters under the bed" syndrome.

On the positive side, my position stats are very good so far. I make the most money playing from the button and I'm in the green for all positions at the table, except for the dreaded SB and BB. For all my wins in other seats, the $1900 lost from the big blind are awful. Mind you, most of the terrible second best hands that have crippled me have come when I was in the blinds.

I picked up KK in the SB when up against MP's AA. I picked up AK in the BB and UTG's flopped set of threes crushed my top two-pair. I picked up 99 in the BB when MP had TT in MP; my TT in the BB was no match against the CO's AA.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not complaining - I just find it odd that I've picked up such good cards in the blinds and have nothing (or less than nothing) to show for it.

I'm going to stick with my 3/6 game plan for now and see if things turn around. I'll make a conscious effort to lay down my big pairs when overcards flop and I get that feeling that I'm beat. At worst, I'll lose a small pot rather than playing hard till the river and losing a big one.

Other than that, my bankroll is still sitting pretty for the games I play. The 'roll has taken a pretty big hit in the past few months, given my Xbox 360 and PSP purchases. I've also spent a little bit on poker books; however, I believe that all these purchases can only help me improve as a poker player and as a human being.

I think I'll be checking out the 3/6 tables at Full Tilt this weekend and playing a number of Turbo SNGs at PokerStars. Mr. V. may also get me to play in the Party Poker snowball freeroll, thrown at the end of each month by Rake The Rake.com (referral account number RTR03302, if you're interested). If I make the money, I know Mr. V. will throw some of the money my way (unless he pulls a reverse Jamie Gold on me - not likely though given that Mr. V's a classy guy). I'll let him dicate how he'd like me to play the thing: squeak into the money or try to win as many coin tosses as I can and take down the whole thing.

Before I finish off, I have a few more things to say.

--

First off, congrats to my friend Marl who's proving that Mr. V. is not the only friend I know who plays poker. It may be low stakes, my man, but it all adds up! Casino whoring will have to be next on the agenda...

--

Please welcome Michael from Counting My Outs to my blogroll. He seems to have a good head on his shoulders, given the quality of his posts. Michael's stuff is all-round solid and worth reading. Go over and take a peek at this site - I'll wait for you to get back...

... Cool? Moving along then...

--

I've also finished reading Pressure Poker (Scott Gallant a.k.a. Doubleas). If you're brand spanking new to online poker and don't know where to start, Scott's book is a must-read. Some of his talk about specific poker rooms and bonus offers is a little out-dated but you'll get the general idea. The Poker Tracker stuff is invaluable for new players and some of the general interest topics from Scott's contributors are a good read if you haven't spent time reading any other books.

The real meat of the book comes in the strategy section. This is the section that I found the most valuable. Many of Scott's strategies are his own creation and this comes through when he explains key concepts and presents example hands.

If I had to put a number to it, I'd give Scott's book a solid 5/5 for new online poker players, 4/5 for new poker players looking beyond the confines of the Internet, and 3/5 for the rest of the players out there wanting to learn and use Scott's concepts of pressure points (although I might bump this up to a 4/5 if I make lots of money using his concepts).

Just go buy the book: you won't be sorry!





--

Lastly, if you own a Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) Entertainment Pack, you really need to go out and buy yourself a copy of Lumines II PSP. All I can say is that it's extremely addictive and great in all ways!



And if you own an Xbox 360 Console Includes 20GB Hard Drive, go out and buy yourself a copy of Gears Of War.



The game is supposed to be the absolute shit! I'd play it now but my wife and son need me around right now: getting addicted to yet another game is probably not a good idea. As my wife undoubtedly suspects, I will buy the game at some point and play it like a crazy bastard!

By the way, if you haven't seen the newest ad showing on TV for the game (and if you haven't, you must not watch TV), you watch it below. It features the song "Mad World" as sung by Gary Jules: the contrast of the scenery and the music is very cool (and I'm normally not the type of person to care about shit like that)!



--

Have a great weekend (or keep enjoying your long weekend)! See you at the tables, assuming enough pieces of the puzzle fall into place here and there.

Have a good one!

Keep reading "Turkey, Stuffing, and Fish"

I'm a VIP!

Last day of training today, but I thought I'd put out a quick post to say that I've hit my Silver Star VIP status at PokerStars.

Sure, for those of you out there playing 8 hours a day, this may not seem like that big an accomplishment. Given the fact that I have a 6 week old son, I think that it's pretty unbelievable that I managed to squeeze in the hours at the tables required to become a VIP.

Unfortunately, in the month that I played in becoming a VIP, I dropped just over $200 at Stars' juicy $3/$6 tables. In fact, I dropped $400 in my past two sessions. What can I say? I'm really that good a player.

Actually, last night was a carbon-copy of my previous session a few days back. I lost the bulk of my money on the following hands:


  • My overpair (TT) lost to my opponents overpair (JJ).

  • My overpair (TT) lost to my opponents overpair (KK).

  • My rockets (AA) got bitch-slapped by my opponent's hammer (72o).

  • My cowboys (KK) got tagged by my opponent's Canadian hammer (73o).

  • Three flush draws that missed.

  • Two OESDs that missed.
Luckily, I did manage to win one large pot when I hit the nut flush on the turn and had a maniac trying to represent the nut flush by betting into me and raising like a mo-fo. I also managed to chip up by making a few well-timed stabs at the pot.

All in all, I don't think I'm playing terribly. However, I know for a fact that I'm not playing all that well either. I pay off on the river all the time, usually set up by some poor Turn play on my part. That's the problem with playing aggressively: I pot-commit myself, in LHE terms, by my earlier play. Either that or I miss a bet and fail to define my hand, making it very easy for my opponent to lead out on the river and put me in a difficult spot.

Take heart, though: I'll keep reading my books and playing when I can. In time, I'm sure the money that I've lost will come back to me as I continue to improve as a player.

On the MTT front, I'm hoping to take part in the next five VIP freerolls that take place each Saturday afternoon at 3:00 pm at PokerStars. I say "hope" because my availability is subject to the whims and desires of my wife and son.

I've been looking to play at Hollywood Poker for their $3/$6 games (which, according to Bonus Whores, are still pretty good): earning bonus money and rakeback at the same time should help me as I work out the kinks in my limit game. However, PokerStars remains a solid stand-by because I'd like to earn enough FPPs to buy something nice from their store.

Lastly, the NL cash games are on the horizon again. Now that I typically win or lose $50 or more on any given pot at $3/$6, the prospect of pushing all-in at the $50 buy-in NL tables doesn't scare me all that much.

Happy Thanksgiving to my U.S. readers! My wife and I are also having our Thanksgiving dinner tonight since we spent our Canadian Thanksgiving weekend in the hospital welcoming our son into the world.

Have a good one!

Keep reading "I'm a VIP!"

Training Day

Not much to report right now: I'm attending a training course until Thursday. No fun at all. And my nights this week? Jam packed full of screaming baby and no poker.

I did manage to finish off a $75 reload bonus at Party Casino. However, as has been the case, I ran bad and ended up taking home only $30. I was up at around $105 with only $600 WR left, but I managed to get pwned by the RNG and dropped like a mofo. I was down to my last $11 at one point, so I guess I shouldn't complain too loudly.

Other than that, I'm really looking forward to hitting the tables yet again. I'm very close to getting my Silver Star VIP status at PokerStars. I'd better get something nice for becoming a VIP member: I cringe whenever I think that I've been playing without an overlay. Actually, I cringe when I recall my last disastrous 3/6 session...

Although I've been far too tired and busy to play poker, I have been thinking about it. I'm probably going to give the NL cash games another go. I'll start with the $50 full ring and see where that takes me. I may give the tables a go tonight, assuming the following:


  1. I'm not too tired...although I did buy a variety of low-budget energy drinks.

  2. My mom doesn't stay too late after coming over for dinner.

  3. My son isn't too "screamy": I've determined that playing poker as he screams into my ear and contorts his body in a desperate attempt to be dropped is most definitely -EV.
For those of you out there wondering whether my blog is going to fade away, don't count on it just yet. Poker's still my number one hobby (although my PSP has definitely put video games in a solid second) and I plan to keep writing about it, for better or worse.

Ok, class is starting...

Have a good one everyone! See you at the tables? Hopefully...

Keep reading "Training Day"

Change of mind


If I had to choose the one leak in my game that I feel is the most detrimental to my sanity and my bankroll, I'd go with my inability to look past my results. After reading a post by Stoxtrader, I decided to make a couple changes to the way I play poker in the hopes of changing my trend of results-oriented thinking.

Lately, I've started to play around with my buy-in when I sit down at a table. Rather than always buying in at $200, $300, or $400, I'll pick some hard-to-remember number somewhere in the range of 40 BB - 80 BB. Once I've got three or four tables going, it becomes almost impossible to tell how I stand, results-wise, when taking a peek at my stack size.

This procedure has worked quite well for me, although one thing does hinder its effectiveness. I use PokerAce HUD and unfortunately, this software lets me know how much I've lost if I happen to take a look at my own session stats. For example, if I'm trying to figure out why everyone at the table's playing back at me, I'll take a look at my VP$IP and PFR% for the session and see if my opponents are justified in their actions. In doing so, it's pretty easy to take a look at the BB/Won stat and let it affect my thinking (especially when the numbers in red and it's a biggun).

The second change I've made to my poker-playing routine was to stop recording my wins and losses each night in at PokerDominator.com. I used to sit and play for an hour or two, record all my numbers for the night, then review my bankroll and win rates. By doing this I was forcing myself to overlook one important point: poker is just one long session. Results recorded on a nightly basisforced me to break down my game to minuscule pieces and try to evaluate my overall success or failure based on too small a sample size.

Poker is not a game won or lost over the course of a few sessions - it's all about the long run. Although I'd like to be able to save myself from viewing my results for a couple years, that's not feasible. Instead, I'll be entering and reviewing my play on a weekly basis. Hopefully, I'll be able to objectively identify the good and bad things about my game and correct any issues that I feel are serious.

As it stands now, it's been just over a week since I've taken a look at my results. After last night's session at PokerStars, I'm most likely down for the one week period; however, I shouldn't really care about that. What I do care about is that I make the best possible decisions in most of the hands I play and that I make less mistakes than my opponents.

I feel like I've been playing alright for the past little while, although I most definitely overplayed a couple hands last night. Don't you hate overpair vs. overpair heads-up pots when you hold the lower overpair? Happened to me twice last night: once with my 99 vs. TT and another with my KK vs. AA. The KK vs. AA hand was the worst of the two: playing against an aggressive opponent, I ignored my gut-feeling that I was behind to AA and kept re-raising when I should have perhaps called.

Still, it felt good to ram n' jam after playing weak-tight for so long...

Have a great weekend everyone! I may not be back until next Friday because I'll be away on training. However, if you're looking for me, I'll be playing at the $3/$6 tables at PokerStars and Full Tilt (fyi: these tables seem as loose and crazy as Party's tables used to be - guess yesterday's post was a little hasty). I may even throw in a little NL cash game action if I find that my limit play is actually crap.

See you at the tables!

Keep reading "Change of mind"

Something wicked this way comes...

In the world of online poker, there are three categories of players: the big winners, the big losers, and the rest. But have recent changes to U.S. law sealed the fate of online poker and its countless players?

Looking at my stats for the past year and a half, one thing jumps out at me immediately: I am a break even player. My stats for fixed-limit ring games show me sitting in the -1 BB/100 to 0.5 BB/100 range across various limits. What's wrong with that? Given the way things are going, I'll need to shape up or I'll be shipping my chips over to the better players at my table.

When a good player sits down at a table, he cares only about one thing: finding the weaker players and grabbing all their chips. These players will keep playing until the table's no longer good, moving on to the next table in a search for more cash.

The big losers sit at any table and play just for fun. Sure, they'll get lucky from time to time; inevitably, they lose all their chips to the big winners. When the big losers run out of money, they give up online poker and move on to another hobby du jour.

As for the rest of us, we're the break-even players. Wins and losses offset each other as we struggle to compete with the big winners for the big losers' chips. Although we may come out slightly ahead or slightly behind, there are a number of ways to stay ahead of the game for us "Even Stevens".

In my case, you can break down the $9000 I've made in the past year and a half as follows:


  • Poker Winnings: $900
    This money counts only the money I've actually won at the poker tables. This is a measure of my true winnings.

  • Gambling Winnings: $4500
    This money counts all the blackjack and blackjack bonus winnings over the past 8 months or so. And let's not forget that $462 of this money was garnered from a single hedged bet on an NFL game earlier this year.

  • Rakeback and Bonuses: $3600
    Although not as high as my gambling winnings, this is the one stat that shows why I've been a midly-successful online poker player. Every time I sit at a table, I have an overlay to pad my stats. Lose 5 BB/hour at the table, make 6 BB/hour in bonus and rakeback. Grind out enough hours and I'll make a decent amount of money.
However, all this may change quite suddenly for us bonus-whoring, rakeback-hungry, middle-rung players. And for this, I can only blame Frist and the other politicians who pretend to think that online gambling is harmful and immoral.

My ability to survive online is precarious to say the least. While I don't necessarily rely on the presence of fish to carve out a decent win for myself on a nightly basis, I need them in the game to provide the necessary boosts to my stack when I find myself down after having tangled with one of the better players. As the big winners continue taking chunks out of the big losers, I need the losers to be replaced with other losing players.

If that were suddenly not the case, I would find myself facing players who are equally skilled or far more skilled than me. In this scenario, us break-even players would continue to trade money back and forth, eventually losing our stacks to the rake and to the little nibbles taken out by the better players.

This last scenario, while still somewhat fantasy, is not an unforeseen consequence of the current issues facing online poker. With all this talk of online poker being illegal and with the realities of credit cards no longer supporting deposits to online poker rooms and casinos, the fish may begin to dry up.

I'd even put forth that this very thing has occurred at the limit hold'em tables at most online poker rooms. Many of the LHE fish are gone and have instead been replaced by a newer breed of greedy fish. This fresh batch of big losers is being poured into the no-limit cash game arena and this is not an altogether agreeable outcome either. No-limit cash games favour only the big winners: those players good enough and experienced enough to really cripple the weaker players at the tables. As a bona fide bonus whore, I like my tables to provide me with a big average pot size and very little stack variance. No-limit games offer very little in the way of financial security: one too many unlucky cards and any hard earned bonus money is gone.

The ability of players to bust in the space of one or two hands means that more fish are being busted at a faster rate. And unfortunately for us, the rate of bad players coming into the system won't be as fast as that of the fish leaving online poker behind forever. In the end, given the choice between playing high-variance no-limit poker with sharks or spending time with my family, there is only one possible outcome.

I hope that I'm being overly pessimistic here. I'd never considered the online poker economy to be so fragile; however, I believe we're starting to see signs of this. Even Tuff_Fish went broke, leaving online poker and the increasingly sharky waters behind forevermore.

Will things get better or is this it for online poker? For better or worse, we'll find out soon enough.

Have a good one...

Keep reading "Something wicked this way comes..."

Brought to you by: ReviewMe

I know: it's one hell of a shock that I've jumped on the "free money" bandwagon. The bandwagon I'm referring to is ReviewMe. Why should you care about ReviewMe? Read on.

ReviewMe is setting out to offer a simple solution to a number of advertisers looking to get in on the whole blog-vertising scene. Although it's quite possible for newer companies to contact individual blog owners and ask for product reviews in exchange for money or merchandise, the entire process is quite time consuming and tedious. At the very minimum, a week long e-mail conversation is required; in the worst case scenarios, e-mails are followed by further documentation and haggling over advertising fees and Google page rankings.

This is where ReviewMe steps in. Any and all bloggers out there are invited to sign up with ReviewMe, assuming you meet the minimum traffic and subscriber criteria. Once you've signed up, ReviewMe assigns a dollar value to your site: this value represents the cost of one review being written and posted on your blog. And for each review that you write, you get paid 50% of your site value.

The advantages of ReviewMe's system to advertisers is obvious: low cost, highly visible advertising with very little administrative overhead. Advertisers can pick and choose which blogs they'd like reviewing their products while knowing the up-front cost of doing business. On the blogger side of things, once contacted regarding a review, it's the blog owner's prerogative to accept or decline the offer to produce a review.

I'm a big fan of slick new ideas. I'm a big fan of making money. And I'm a big fan of sites that do all the work for you.

So if you have a blog, go submit your site at ReviewMe now and get started. You'll get paid right off the bat by reviewing ReviewMe.

If you're an advertiser, tap into this overlooked (and very affordable) method of Internet advertising. Trust me: banners and sponsored links are good, but having a review for a product or service posted on a number of blogs is much better way of generating interest and site traffic. If you need proof, check out the number of reviews for ReviewMe that have popped up in the last few days.

This post was brought to you by the fine folks over at ReviewMe.

Keep reading "Brought to you by: ReviewMe"

Vice, Poker and PSPs

Just when you thought I might be getting back into poker, I had to go out and pick up a Playstation Portable. It's a sickness, I guess, and I'm sure my bankroll hates me for it.

On Monday, after spending the afternoon holding my son and four-tabling the $1/$2 tables at Will Hill (I know, I know...but I didn't want to four-table the $3/$6 tables at http://www.pokerstars.com/?source=klopzi.blogspot.com while holding a crying baby), I decided to make another impulse purchase.

I popped out to EB Games and picked up a brand new Playstation Portable (PSP) and a couple games: GTA: Vice City Stories and Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee. The reasoning behind this purchase still seems fairly sound, even two days after making the purchase:


  1. With the PSP, I don't need to seclude myself to play.

  2. I can take the PSP with me into my son's room when he's fussing: this allows me to play to my heart's content while my wife can sleep soundly in our bedroom.

  3. I can play the PSP on the bus to and from work.

  4. The extra video game time should free up a little poker time on many nights.

So far, this all seems to be holding true. Although I didn't get the chance to play poker last night, I should be able to get an hour or two in at PokerStars tonight. I managed to clear my $120 WCOOP reload bonus on Sunday and I'm very close to becoming a Silver Star VIP member. How a good a thing this is remains to be seen: if I get a reload bonus and I'm clearing FPPs at a 50% faster rate, then it's all good.

All in all, the poker I played last weekend wasn't all that great. I had my best night ever, purely from a money point of view, on Friday night. Although I only managed to play for 56 minutes, hitting some big hands on four $3/$6 tables at PokerStars has its advantages. Unfortunately, variance hit me back on Sunday when I had my biggest losing day ever at Stars' $3/$6 tables. The funny thing is that the amount I won is exactly the same as the amount I lost.

Playing break even poker at Stars did net me $120 for about 7 hours "work", so I'm not complaining. My only concern is that I'm sitting at 0.08 BB/100 after having played just shy of 6000 hands of $3/$6. Looks like I'm still quite a ways from hitting my magic 2 BB/100 over 10K hands mark. Oh well, I've got time...

Finally, as I mentioned above, I did hit up Will Hill for their £25 monthly pay to play bonus. Being at home on a weekday allowed me to take a look at the Cryptologic network during its "peak" hours.

  • Number of $1/$2 LHE tables: 5

  • Number of $2/$4 LHE tables: 0

  • Number of $3/$6 LHE tables: 0

Thank you Cryptologic for banning U.S. players: looks like that decision is really paying off...

After sitting at four different tables with the same 9 opponents, all of whom were TAGS, I managed to walk away $20 poorer. However, my 75 minutes of play had earned me $48 worth of bonus money. And since $48 > $20, I was happy enough. I honestly felt that I was playing a solid game and holding my own against an incredibly tight and aggressive field of players.

So happy, in fact, that I decided to go out and buy myself a new toy.

For those of you only interested in poker, stop reading now (if you haven't already done so). For those of you interested in the PSP or video games in general, read on...

--

The Playstation Portable: is it worth it?

I'd gone many times to EB Games or BestBuy with one goal in mind: buy the PSP and a couple games. And on each of these occasions, I'd have everything in front of me, money in hand, and I'd suddenly reconsider and back out. I felt that the PSP was too expensive or that the games weren't good enough and these concerns forced me to make an about face out of the store.

Well, the GTA: Vice City Stories was released, my interest was peaked again. You see, GTA: Vice City is probably my favourite game of all time. I don't think there will ever be a game that will compare to Rockstar's best and brightest game of all time. So, when Vice City's younger brother came out for the PSP, I decided to do a little snooping.

I checked into the real cost of the PSP. The system itself is $229 CDN. Then there's the cost of memory sticks ($15 for a 32 MB stick up to $200 for a 4 GB stick) , a case for the system itself ($20 - $60), earphones ($30 - $60), and games ($30+) as well. Adding it up, it would cost me just over $400 CDN for a PSP, a couple games, and the other essentials.

I stopped by EB Games twice: the first time I walked out when confronted with actually forking over money for a system that many would consider childish and frivolous. I went home, grinded out a $27 profit, and then revisited my earlier plans of buying the PSP. And that's when I came up with four good reasons that clearly justified a potential purchase of yet another gaming system: I posted these reasons above.

That was good enough for me! I fed my son, jumped into the car, and made another large impulse buy.

All things set aside, is the PSP worth it?

Damn right!

The graphics are crips and clear. Sound is great! Games are fun. Battery lasts a long time. Controls are really intuitive if you're used to the PS2. And it's portable! Ask me how my bus ride to work was this morning and I couldn't tell you. I remember getting on the bus, turning on the PSP, then getting off the bus.

If you're one of my lucky U.S. readers, why not take advantage of Amazon's low prices on the PSP, accessories and games. I recommend the following:







If it weren't for shipping and customs, I would've purchased my PSP from Amazon.com. Given the current exchange rates, maybe I should have...

--

That's it for today!

Have a good one and I'll see you at the tables!

Keep reading "Vice, Poker and PSPs"

Books, bonuses, and a baby

Besides working, taking care of my son and wife, and reviewing a crap load of books, I've still managed to slip in some time for poker. In fact, I've managed to clear about 60% of my $120 reload bonus still outstanding on PokerStars.

This weekend, I'm hoping to finish off my bonus. After that, my options are pretty limited if I want to continue playing limit hold'em:


  1. Continue playing at Stars and try to earn Silver VIP level by the end of the month.

  2. Make a big deposit at Full Tilt and go back to the wonderful world of rakeback and bonus clearing (since that shit ain't happening at Interpoker anymore).
Option 1 above is probably my first plan of attack. The tables have been very good at Stars lately and I think it's worth getting up to the Silver VIP level if it means the possibility of more bonuses coming my way. I think I'll only have 600 FPPs (or is it VPPs?) to earn at Stars before I earn my VIP status.

On the other hand, I keep hearing that Full Tilt actually has some good, loose games. Is this true? I know that PokerSiteScout.com has listed that Full Tilt is seeing some good traffic during the evening and weekend hours for those of us in the EST.

I guess it's a moot point since I honestly believe that all sites are dead other than Stars and Full Tilt. I have to say: I'm really happy that both these sites are experiencing a well-deserved level of success! If you haven't signed up at these sites, sign up now! You're not gonna find any two better sites out there that provide better service for their players or that provide more in the way of bonuses and other incentives.

So, these sites are gonna get the bulk of my play for the next few years as long as they keep up the good work (which I'm sure they will).

Anyway, it's a long weekend for some of us up here in Canada so I'm getting ready to head out. This weekend will see me spending time with my family and a chunk of time at the tables too!

Have a great weekend! I'll be back on Tuesday!

Keep reading "Books, bonuses, and a baby"

Book Smarts: Part Two


Well, I'm back and ready to finish off reviewing the rest of the books I've read (or, in some cases, ordered). Enough small talk, let's do this:

Mastering No-Limit Hold'em (Fox)
Although some may say Fox's book is too simplistic or presents too conservative a strategy for NL cash games, I find that his advice translates well to online full-ring NL games. Fox starting hand advice, flop play, turn play and river play seem carefully selected to minimize variance as much as possible. Get your money in with good hands and good flops, play it cautiously otherwise. This book helped me become a winning player (3 BB/100 over 653 hands!) at the $25 full ring NL games and I will probably re-read prior to sitting back down at a $50 NL table. All in all, a good book from a little known author.

Score: 4/5

The Mathematics of Poker (Chen)

I'll admit it: I'll blindly follow the suggestions of better, more successful poker players. In the case of this book, I ordered it simply because Matt Maroon mentioned it in his blog. Recently, I've started to turn my cash game focus more and more towards the "math" side of things in an effort to better my day to day results. I haven't read Chen's book yet, but it's been ordered and I'll be reading it as soon as possible.


Middle Limit Hold'em (Ciaffone)

I remember purchasing this book as I prepared to make the jump from $0.50/$1 limit hold'em to $1/$2 limit hold'em. In my mind, I considered $1/$2 to be a middle limit game. Boy was I wrong! The advice in this book, while most likely sound for middle limit hold'em, did not translate well to micro-limit stakes of $1/$2. I lost so much money so quickly that I almost gave up poker for good (see this post). This book contains a number of hand quizzes and sound advice; however, I find this to be one of the most boring books I've ever read. I may read it again in the future, but not without first chugging a can or two of Red Bull.

Score: 2/5

Caro's Book of Tells

For a live game player, this book is pretty good. Caro does a great job of outlining different tells and some probable interprations of their meanings. In an effort to make things seem more scientific, Caro also breaks down the value of spotting a tell in BB per hand. These numbers seem spotty at best, but whatever: I'm not a mad genius.

One disturbing trend in this book is that all the guys have 70s porn star affros and moustaches. All the women are dressed like hippies or like that lady in Rosemary's Baby. Oh, and everyone smokes! In fact, I seem to recall a string of 5 or 6 tells that all deal with smoking. Old school...

In my opinion, the reasons for me not finding the book useful boils down to one simple fact: there is no live poker being played in any casinos within a 400 mile radius of Ottawa. I also have a wife and a brand new son which means my chances of going to Vegas are sitting squarely at 0% (my chances were probably only 2% before my son was born anyway). So you tell me: what do I care about physical tells? That's right - nada! And if you play online poker, you'll agree that this book is not for you.

Score: 2/5 (extra point docked for excessive use of Ron Jeremy look-alikes)


No Limit Hold 'em: Theory and Practice (Sklansky)

The Sklank throws his hat into the NL cash game arena. The results? Same as always. Experienced players will love it! This book screams "Show me the money!". If you have a number of hours under your belt, love math and game theory, and are willing to apply yourself, this book will undoubtedly turn you into a killer NL cash game player. If you're a useless card monkey like me, this book only causes lots of head scratching and an uncontrollable urge to fling feces.

I'll have to re-read this book after I've got another few hundred hours of NL cash games behind me.

Score: 2/5 (for n00bs), 5/5 (for experienced players with a solid NL track record)

One of a Kind (Dalla)

Stu Ungar is probably the greatest natural talent player to ever play the game of poker. With his great abilities came a number of fatal flaws, including his love of nose-candy and other drugs. If you haven't read this book and really like poker, the WSOP, Vegas, or Stu Ungar, go ahead and pick up a copy.

Score: 3/5

Phil Gordon's Little Green Book

This book is one of the greatest books ever written on the subject of poker. Phil's writing style makes the book an easy read. However, beneath it all lies a wealth of knowledge that can only mean more money for you at the tables.

If you don't own this book, you need to pick it up now. Read it, re-read it, then read it again. Each pass through will give you a better understand of the game of hold'em and will undoubtedly make you a force to be reckoned at the tables.

Score: 5/5

Phil Gordon's Little Blue Book

Everything I said about Phil Gordon's Little Green Book is doubly true for his Little Blue Book too! This time around, Phil expands the area of discussion to NL cash games. This time round, Phil's primary teaching tool is hand histories. Phil takes you through a number of hands, from start to finish, and gives you an insight into the thought process underlying every decision he makes at the tables. It took me a few bus rides to finish this book, and I'll most likely read it two or three more times before the year's up. It is really that good, trust me!

Score: 5/5

Play Poker Like the Pros (Hellmuth)

Phil Hellmuth is great! Unfortunately, his book is not. As an autobiography, it's ok. As a poker reference book, it's all fluff and no substance. Leave it to Phil to keep his secrets closely guarded.

Score: 3/5 (from an entertainment point of view), 1/5 (as a learning tool)

Positively Fifth Street (McManus)

Lots of people love this book: I didn't. I found the prose to be overly verbose. I found the story deviating too much from poker, which I like, to the trial surrounding the murder of Ted Binion. If I want court room drama, I'll watch Law & Order.

Sorry Jim - nice try, though.

Score: 2/5 (+1 point given for solid poker content)

Pot-Limit & No-Limit Poker (Ciaffone)

Much like the other Ciaffone book I read, this one was a little tough to read.

First of all, the writing is quite dry at times.

Secondly, each page is packed so full of words, it takes a good two or three minutes to get through each page.

Lastly, there is a lot of discussion about games that hold no interest for me, including London Lowball...whatever that is.

Still, the book is quite sound and I'm sure that I'll read it a few more times as I grow as a player and look to better my game.

Score: 3/5

Pressure Poker (Gallant)

I've finished reading Pressure Poker (Scott Gallant a.k.a. Doubleas). If you're brand spanking new to online poker and don't know where to start, Scott's book is a must-read. Some of his talk about specific poker rooms and bonus offers is a little out-dated but you'll get the general idea. The Poker Tracker stuff is invaluable for new players and some of the general interest topics from Scott's contributors are a good read if you haven't spent time reading any other books.

The real meat of the book comes in the strategy section. This is the section that I found the most valuable. Many of Scott's strategies are his own creation and this comes through when he explains key concepts and presents example hands.

Score: 5/5 (for new online poker players), 4/5 (new B&M and online poker players), 3/5 (for everyone else)

The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King (Craig)

This book was awesome! It's the perfect balance of poker, psychology, and just plain entertainment. In the beginning, I found myself cheering for Andy Beal in his attempts to beat the pros. By the end, I found myself cheering for the pros as they struggle to keep it together mentally and financially. Seriously, this is one of the single best books I've ever read: if you like poker, buy it! This another book that I guarantee you'll love, assuming you're a fan of the poker.

Score: 5/5

Psychology of Poker

Schoonmaker's book does a great job of outlining the different personalities you'll meet at the tables, both live and online. If you find yourself having difficulties beating a particular player type, a quick look at a section of this book will have you back on track and winning.

Unlike other books, however, Schoonmaker also outlines the pros and cons of your very own playing style, whether you're a fish, rock, calling station, or TAG.

I've only read this book once, but I'll be revisiting it soon: I'd like to continue to be a winning player and this book is a necessary stepping stone towards that goal.

This book is a great read for anyone wishing to be a successful poker player.

Score: 4/5

Small Stakes Hold'em (Miller)

This was the first good poker book that I read. In it, Miller outlines a solid set of starting hands and strategies that can be effectively used by any student of limit hold'em. One warning though: this book should not be read by fresh-off-the-truck beginning poker players since many of the suggestions require a little experience to understand and apply properly at the tables.

Although I believe that Hilger's Internet Texas Hold'em is a slightly better book in terms of outlining appropriate play at the limit hold'em tables, Miller's book is tremendously important to any and all aspiring poker players.

Score: 4/5

Super System (Brunson)

Good book. Bible of poker. Lots of good stuff, lots of useless stuff. It doesn't matter what I say here because most of you will read this book regardless of what I write here. So read it, digest those parts that are not too obvious or outdated, then move on.

Score: 2/5

Super System II (Brunson)

This update to Doyle's earlier work, Super System, is a much better learning tool. Not only is the NL cash game advice given by Brunson still solid and quite applicable, but the other sections of the book are great.

Jennifer Harman's Limit Hold'em section is solid, though a little light on content. Negreanu does a great job of detailing the winning strategies for Triple Draw poker (available to play at Ultimate Bet). Todd Brunson does a great job with 7-card stud 8. And the list goes on for some of the other games as well, including Omaha O/8 and PL Omaha.

Buy this book, read this book, then go back and revisit the appropriate sections as necessary.

Score: 4/5

Tales from the Tiltboys (Tiltboys)

I ordered this book and I have a feeling I'm gonna love it! I have yet to read anything by Phil Gordon or about Phil Gordon that I haven't liked. Honestly, how bad could a book about a poker-playing giant (literally and figuratively) and his friends be? I'm guessing this is a winner. Plus, reading about others going on tilt makes my own tilty feelings seem less "tilty" somehow.

Texas Hold'em Odds (Barboianu)

I just got this book in the mail and have yet to read it. The book is big. Not big on the Z scale, but on the X and Y front, you're not gonna get a book much larger than this one. It's gonna feel like I'm reading newspaper when I finally crack the spine on this one.

Why did I get the book? Because it was cheap and talks about math. And as a limit hold'em player, first and foremost, I'd have to say that math is pretty damned important.

Texas Hold'em Odds And Probabilities (Hilger)

I've got this book with me right now. I read a few pages on the bus this morning just to get a taste, but I'll need to finish Lindgren's book before I continue with this one. Actually, I may first read Doubleas's book too. Still, if Hilger's second book is as good as his first, I'd say we have a winner here!

The Theory of Poker (Sklansky)

I get that everyone loves this book. I also get that I hate this book. It's boring and so overly theoretical that I find it unbearable to read. Do people actually find this book useful? Do I really need to know that my EV is 2.13 BB when I bet on the river against a player 47% likely to be a calling when I hold second pair on a paired board on the eve of the harvest moon and the dance of the Ewoks?

Sklank: could you please write me a book that I understand? Just one...please?

Score: 1/5

Weighing the Odds in Hold'em Poker (Yao)

I really liked this one! It's a good combination of math, hand examples, and solid advice. Although not much of the content is new in this book, Yao's method of calculating outs and pot odds is unique and easy to apply at the table. I'd give you the formula here, but King Yao needs to get paid for his solid advice. Go buy the book now!

Score: 4/5 (+1 point added for cool odds/outs calculation)

Winning Low-Limit Holdem (Jones)

This book is a great book for absolute beginners to read as they first step into the world of limit hold'em. No bells, no whistles: just solid advice that will make you money.

Score: 4/5

Winning Omaha/8 Poker (Krieger)

I've read two-thirds of this book and have, so far, found it quite dry. Omaha seems to boil down to one thing: wait for a great hand, wait for a great flop, hope for a great river. I though Omaha was supposed to be an action game?!

I'll hold off on giving this book a score until I've had a chance to hit up the Omaha O/8 tables.

Winning 7 Card Stud (Adams)

Adams' book make 7-card stud quite accessible. Easy to read, good hand examples, and well thought out sections.

However, I'll again wait on giving this book a score until I've had the chance to throw my hat into the 7-card stud ring.

Winning Texas Hold'em (Maroon)

Some critics slammed this book, but I'd have to say they're on crack. Matt's book turned around my entire limit hold'em game and is responsible for me breaking through to the $3/$6 games. Although a lot of the book is standard fare, the section on starting hands is very good. Matt's thoughts on becoming a professional poker player and bankroll management are quite interesting. But the real gem of this book is Matt's section regarding short-handed limit hold'em play. Great stuff that I hope to apply in the future.

I've read this book about six times and I'll read it many more times as I close in on the higher stakes games.

Score: 5/5

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Well, that's it for my book reviews. Since I have very little time to actually play poker and very little card sense, I really think that reading as much as you can is one of the most important steps in becoming a successful poker player.

You could do a lot worse than to go here and buy as many of the books I've reviewed as possible.

Read up and I'll see you at the tables.

Keep reading "Book Smarts: Part Two"