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Month in Review: February 2008

Over the past three years of playing poker, I've generally done quite well. When someone asked me if I got lucky at the tables, I'd usually respond that I ran about even.

After this past month of poker, I can safely say that I've been running hot. I moved from $.50/$1 NLHE to $1/$2 NLHE and have more than doubled my bankroll in the process. Not too bad for a guy who had all but given up on poker a four short months ago...

According to the plan I set out in January, I wasn't scheduled to start playing $1/$2 NLHE until mid-May. Thankfully, PokerStars and the Poker Gods smiled down on me.

In the first week of February, I put in 23.5 table hours at the $100 NLHE at Stars while trying to clear my $125 WCOOP 2007 bonus. I cleared the bonus after playing 2558 hands. More importantly, my win rate of 43 BB/100 (or 21.7 NOT PTBB/100) put me well past my required bankroll to hit the $200 NLHE tables.


(Running Total at $0.50/$1 NLHE - February 2008)


My luck has continued at the $200 NLHE tables though to a lesser extent. I'm no longer hitting every draw. I'm also getting punished more and more for my general donkery. But things are still going well. I couldn't ask for better results given that I'm still in learning mode. I've really come to appreciate my losses as well as my wins. I'd much rather screw up at $1/$2 than to bring a huge leak in my game up to the higher stake games.

I managed to put in a whopping 48 table hours and log just shy of 5300 hands. I'm currently running at 13 BB/100. I really hope to improve these numbers in March.


(Running Total at $1/$2 NLHE - February 2008)


I've still got about 750 BB to earn at the $1/$2 NLHE games before I can try my hand at the $2/$4 tables. I'd originally planned to start $2/$4 in mid to late November. I hope to be there sooner but I'll not start counting my chickens just yet.

I discussed my good fortune earlier. I thought I'd show my readers just how fortunate I've been.

First off, let's take a look at how well I was doing at flopping sets. If you look at the bell curve below, you'll see that I've faired slightly better than average when taking my pocket pairs to the flop. If you're wondering why I've seen so few flops with pocket pairs, remember that I play quite a bit of short-stack (50 BB) poker. There are many times that I'm forced to lay down my pocket pairs pre-flop due to lack of implied odds.



(Flopped Sets - February 2008)


I've been quite lucky overall. 'm surprised that I'm still in the black given the number of Sklansky Bucks that I've donked off in the last week. Looking at the graph below, you'll see that my expected winnings are about $1200 - $1300 below my actual earnings. Pretty brutal for a "student" of poker. I guess I've got a ways to go before I can call myself a semi-professional poker player.


(Expected Winnings vs. Actual Winnings - February 2008)

I refuse to feel ashamed or embarrassed by my good fortune. I made some bad plays and got lucky. That's poker, right? As long as I realize that luck, as opposed to skill, won the hand, I should be alright. I think the biggest help to my play has been sharing some key hand histories with my readers and with my poker-playing friends. MJ, in particular, has been very good for pointing out the things he thought I did well in some of my hands. He was also quick to point my less-than-stellar hands without making me feel downright stupid.

I'll post again today or tomorrow to discuss my goals for the month of March. In broad terms, I'm simply looking to put in a good amount of time at the tables. I plan to approach each session committed to playing my best. I've got to work on properly assessing my opponents' range and my hand equity. I'm getting my money in as a dog far too often and I have to fix that as soon as possible.

I'm going to start playing some more medium stack (100 BB) poker. I'll continue to buy-in for 50 BB but I plan to top up my stack once I've got a read on the table. I need a lot more practice using and applying the REM process (see Professional No-Limit Hold'em Volume 1) before I can consider myself ready for the $2/$4 games.

I doubt that I'll have the bankroll for $2/$4 NLHE by the end of March. But I won't say it's not possible with a little skill and whole lot of luck!

Keep reading "Month in Review: February 2008"

Session Review #17: Never Give Up, Never Surrender

I had a tough session a couple nights ago. My entire evening was spent flirting with tilt. I pushed some small edges far too much and I gave up on other hands far too readily. Rather than give up, I took the opportunity to put myself to the test.

My wife had gone to sleep and the buggers who'd taken my money were still sitting at my tables. So I hunkered down, chugged an energy drink, and set my sights on getting my money back. Although I was confident that I could outplay my opponents, there was also the slight chance that I'd overrated my abilities as a poker player. I gave myself a couple hours to figure out where I stood in the pecking order.

I should have known there was trouble brewing when I picked up AK on my first hand of the evening. Sitting in the big blind, I decided to start things off with a marginally +EV play. Note: I already posted this hand here.


PokerStars, $1/$2 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 6 Players
LeggoPoker.com - Hand History Converter

Villain (BTN): $298.30
SB: $207.95
Hero (BB): $100
UTG: $831.25
MP: $260
CO: $429.60

Pre-Flop: A K dealt to Hero (BB)

3 folds, Villain raises to $8, SB folds, Hero raises to $100 and is All-In, Villain calls $92

(Why the hell would I jam with AK into an $11 pot? I didn't want to play a big pot out of position against an unknown player. I also figured that the Villain would probably fold most hands except AA-KK and possibly AK in this spot - so I had a lot of fold equity. All that adds up to +EV, though very slightly so.

Of course, when the Villain insta-called my push, I knew that I'd need a little luck to win the pot.)

Flop: ($201) 6 8 A (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

(Good. As long as the Villain wasn't holding AA, I had a chance of winning.)

Turn: ($201) 2 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

(Nice.)

River: ($201) Q (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

(Ugh. I was dead to the Villain's AA or QQ.)

Results: $201 Pot ($3 Rake)
Villain mucked K K and LOST (-$100 NET)
Hero showed A K (a pair of Aces) and WON $198 (+$98 NET)

(Real-world dollars in, Sklansky Bucks out...)


Although my somewhat-crazy table image allowed me to get a little more action, the table soon broke up and I was stuck looking for action elsewhere.

The Villain in this next hand was a thorn in my side the whole night across numerous tables. He was pretty loose but didn't raise or fold all that much. Imagine a slightly aggressive calling station.

I had no idea where I was in the hand but getting 4:1 on my money on the river, I decided to make the call. Probably not great since I doubt he'd bet with anything less than a King here.


PokerStars, $1/$2 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 6 Players
LeggoPoker.com - Hand History Converter

Villain (BB): $444.35
UTG: $200.80
MP: $193.60
Hero (CO): $100
BTN: $272.75
SB: $151.40

Pre-Flop: T T dealt to Hero (CO)

2 folds, Hero raises to $8, 2 folds, BB calls $6

(With a stack-to-pot ratio (SPR) of about 5.5 (pot is $17, effective stack is $92), things were looking good going into the flop. I planned to commit with an overpair or to fire off a c-bet in case an Ace or King flopped. In the latter case, I'd have to fold to pressure from the Villain and exert a little pot-control on the turn.)

Flop: ($17) K 2 A (2 Players)
BB checks, Hero bets $12, BB calls $12

(Villain called my c-bet quickly. With no apparent draws, I decided to shut down.)

Turn: ($41) 5 (2 Players)
BB checks, Hero checks

(Although I didn't want to give the Villain an opportunity to check-raise me off my hand, I could have bet the turn to continue representing the ace. And if the Villain called, try to check through on the river. But I decided to exert a little pot-control and check behind.)

River: ($41) 8 (2 Players)
BB bets $14, Hero calls $14

(I was pretty sure that I'd be shown an Ace or King by the Villain on the river. But I was getting 4:1 on my call and couldn't lay down my pocket pair. I didn't even stop to think about what the Villain could be holding in this spot.)

Results: $69 Pot ($3 Rake)
BB showed A J (a pair of Aces) and WON $66 (+$32 NET)
Hero mucked T T and LOST (-$34 NET)


I was still ahead in my session but I was starting to lose ground. Make enough c-bets on missed flops and the bill starts to add up. In this next hand, Villain was ultra-loose and I decided to float him. The Villain offered his opponents excellent implied odds on most hands and I wanted my share.


PokerStars, $1/$2 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 6 Players
LeggoPoker.com - Hand History Converter

CO: $346.15
Hero (BTN): $116
SB: $118
BB: $80
UTG: $267.50
Villain (MP): $202

Pre-Flop: 6 7 dealt to Hero (BTN)

UTG folds, Villain raises to $6, CO folds, Hero calls $6, SB calls $5, BB calls $4

(The Villain loved to raise and I decided to float him on the button. I was happy to see the blinds come along for the ride: the more the merrier.)

Flop: ($24) J 5 A (4 Players)

SB checks, BB checks, Villain bets $16, Hero raises to $32, SB raises to $112 and is All-In, 2 folds, Hero calls $78 and is All-In

(Nice! I flopped the flush and I just wanted to get all my money in as soon as possible. When the Villain raised, I went with the min-raise to entice the Villain to make a bold move at the pot. If he just flat called the raise, I planned to jam the turn as long as I didn't see another club hit the board.

When the SB raised all-in, I happily pushed my chips into the pot.)

Turn: ($260) 3 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

(Terrible. I was 99% sure that I was cooked here.)

River: ($260) 6 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

Results: $260 Pot ($3 Rake)
Hero mucked 6 7 and LOST (-$116 NET)
SB showed K K (a flush, Ace high) and WON $257 (+$141 NET)

(Damn. Oh well, more Sklansky Bucks for me.)


That minor suckout set me on a downward spiral. I quickly found myself down about $150 overall for my session. But with my wife and kids sound asleep and with a dose of taurine, ginseng, and caffeine coursing through my system, I decided to keep playing. Many of the weaker opponents that I'd been targetting all night were still playing. I still had a chance to make some money.

Halfway through my session, I finally got the chance to bust one laggy prick who'd been sitting two spots to my left and making things a little rough for me.


PokerStars, $1/$2 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 6 Players
LeggoPoker.com - Hand History Converter

UTG: $403.90
MP: $195.90
CO: $230.75
Hero (BTN): $130.50
SB: $307.40
Villain (BB): $108.25

Pre-Flop: K J dealt to Hero (BTN)

3 folds, Hero raises to $8, SB folds, Villain calls $6

(With an SPR just shy of 6, I was willing to commit to my hand if I hit top pair against this particular Villain. He loved to play a lot of hands. He was also especially fond of check-raising my c-bets.)

Flop: ($17) 2 J 8 (2 Players)

Villain checks, Hero bets $13, Villain raises to $34, Hero raises to $122.50 and is All-In, Villain calls $66.25 and is All-In

(Bingo! I bet my top pair hoping that the Villain would check-raise me for the millionth time this session. He did and I followed through with my commitment plan and shoved my chips in as quickly as I could. Villain called instantly but I wasn't too worried.)

Turn: ($217.50) 5 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

River: ($217.50) A (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

(Now I was worried. Villain loved to defend his blind (i.e. call) with ace-rag hands.)

Results: $217.50 Pot ($3 Rake)
Hero showed K J (a pair of Jacks) and WON $214.50 (+$106.25 NET)
Villain showed Q 8 (a pair of Eights) and LOST (-$108.25 NET)

(Excellent. I let out a quiet "Nice!" and considered giving my wife a high-five. But I decided against it and let her sleep.)


Just when I thought that things had finally turned around, I found myself with a chance to double through another crazy-ass Villain fifteen minutes later. This particular Villain was one of the reasons that I'd stayed up late to continue playing poker.


PokerStars, $1/$2 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 5 Players
LeggoPoker.com - Hand History Converter

BTN: $396.90
SB: $210.90
Villain (BB): $198.75
Hero (UTG): $247.75
CO: $309.40

Pre-Flop: A K dealt to Hero (UTG)
Hero raises to $8, 3 folds, Villain raises to $36, Hero calls $28

(I was a little surprised when the Villain three-bet me pre-flop. But I'd seen him make similar plays against other players when out-of-position and then fold to c-bets. Although I could have jammed with my AKs, I decided to call the raise and see the flop. I figured to have more fold equity if I waited until the flop before making a large bet.)

Flop: ($73) 3 4 J (2 Players)
Villain bets $28, Hero raises to $211.75 and is All-In, Villain calls $134.75 and is All-In

(Villain's bet was pretty small but typical of his play thus far. With two overcards and the nut flush draw, I happily jammed on the flop. The Villain insta-called so I knew he'd actually hit the flop. Come on diamonds!)

Turn: ($398.50) T (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

(Damn.)

River: ($398.50) 5 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

(Crap.)

Results: $398.50 Pot ($3 Rake)
Villain showed A A (a pair of Aces) and WON $395.50 (+$196.75 NET)
Hero mucked A K and LOST (-$198.75 NET)

(Rockets? Oh well.)


The downward spiral continued as I found myself tangling yet again with a tricky opponent. This Villain was the same guy who held the AJ versus my TT in a hand above.


PokerStars, $1/$2 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 5 Players
LeggoPoker.com - Hand History Converter

Villain (UTG): $414.20
CO: $209.90
BTN: $394.50
Hero (SB): $200
BB: $309.40

Pre-Flop: 8 8 dealt to Hero (SB)

Villain raises to $8, 1 folds, BTN calls, Hero calls $7, BB folds

(Villain didn't raise very often pre-flop - especially from Villain. And with the BTN in for the ride, I made an easy call.)

Flop: ($24) 4 T T (3 Players)

Hero checks, Villain checks, BTN checks

(I considered betting but decided to wait for the turn if the flop got checked through.)

Turn: ($24) 2 (3 Players)
Hero bets $15, Villain calls $15, BTN folds

(Another blank on the turn meant it was time for me to bet. I figured a $15 bet would exert enough pressure on the Villain and force him to reveal his hand's strength. When the Villain failed to raise me, I decided to fire another bet on the river as long as I didn't see an ace, king, or queen.)

River: ($54) J (2 Players)
Hero bets $30, Villain calls $30

(The Villain hadn't shown any strength throughout the hand so I figured to be ahead here on the river. A check would have probably been alright but I was afraid that the Villain might take my check as a sign of weakness and put in a large river bet that I couldn't call.)

Results: $114 Pot ($3 Rake)
Villain showed J K (two pair, Jacks and Tens) and WON $113 (+$68 NET)
Hero showed 8 8 (two pair, Tens and Eights) and LOST (-$53 NET)

(I should have bet less on the river than I did. Although I believed I was ahead, I couldn't be completely sure. A $15 or $20 bet would have have accomplished the same as a $30 bet in that spot. As it stands, I'm still unsure how the Villain flat-called me on the turn with his unimproved KJ.)


Two hours into my session, the tables were getting a little short at times. But I was still playing with some loose and fairly weak opponents. I just couldn't seem to pick up any hands pre-flop and I was not connecting with any flops. I was down $250 for the session. I still felt good about my game though so I kept at it.

Fifteen minutes later, things started looking up.


PokerStars, $1/$2 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 5 Players
LeggoPoker.com - Hand History Converter

Hero (BB): $223.40
UTG: $200
CO: $466.40
BTN: $62.80
Villain (SB): $573.50

Pre-Flop: T A dealt to Hero (BB)

3 folds, Villain raises to $6, Hero raises to $20, Villain calls $14

(Villain was pretty loose and not very strong. Any time you see a player simply call a re-raise out-of-position, you can be fairly confident that he or she is not the greatest player at the table. I was happy to pick up TT in the big blind and even happier when the Villain decided to flat call OOP and see the flop. With an SPR of 5, I planned to commit if I hit the flop.)

Flop: ($40) 4 J K (2 Players)

Villain checks, Hero bets $24, Villain calls $24

(C-bet with a couple scare cards and a gut-shot draw.)

Turn: ($88) Q (2 Players)

Villain checks, Hero bets $60, Villain folds

(Although a flush draw came in on the turn, I wasn't too concerned. I was hoping that the Villain might call or check-raise all-in.)

Results: $88 Pot ($2 Rake)
Hero mucked T A and WON $86 (+$42 NET)


I was quite happy to take down a sizable pot against that particular Villain. Loose opponents with big stacks and lots of confidence can be a real pain when you're trying to work your way back to even for the session. I had to continue being patient and try for that elusive big score.

I didn't have to wait very long as I soon found myself tangling with the same loose Villain an orbit or two later.


PokerStars, $1/$2 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 4 Players
LeggoPoker.com - Hand History Converter

Hero (BTN): $244.40
SB: $277.95
BB: $485.75
Villain (UTG): $511.50

Pre-Flop: K A dealt to Hero (BTN)

Villain calls $2, Hero raises to $10, 2 folds, Villain calls $8

(I love playing AK. In this case, I couldn't really jam pre-flop against the Villain. With less fold equity against this particular type of player than against a tight-player, I decided instead to play a strong hand in position. With an SPR of 12 and less than 5% of my stack in the pot, I hadn't yet formulated a commitment plan for this hand.)

Flop: ($23) 7 9 6 (2 Players)

Villain checks, Hero bets $15, Villain calls $15

(I wasn't surprised by the Villain call here. Could I narrow down his range here? Pocket pair, two overcards, and straight/flush draws.)

Turn: ($53) K (2 Players)
Villain bets $25, Hero calls $25

(Ah. The delayed donk-bet. I was pretty sure that I was ahead of a pocket pair here but didn't want to play a big pot. I was prepared to call a pot-sized bet on the river with TPTK against this particular Villain. If he had two pair or a set, so be it.)

River: ($103) K (2 Players)
Villain bets $100, Hero raises to $194.40 and is All-In, Villain folds

(With trips on the river, the game was up. If the Villain was of sound mind, I might have just called the river bet. However, I was so sure that I was ahead and simply jammed. Strangely enough, the Villain insta-folded. Nice play...)

Results: $303 Pot ($2 Rake)
Hero mucked K A and WON $301 (+$151 NET)


With the end of my night fast approaching, I was just about even for my session. I'd managed to get through the flood of mediocre hands and build up my stack thanks to some dubious play from my opponents. Of course, that's not to say that I was playing perfectly either...


PokerStars, $1/$2 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 6 Players
LeggoPoker.com - Hand History Converter

Hero (CO): $375.40
Villain (BTN): $280.95
Unknown (SB): $94.65
BB: $40
UTG: $374.65
MP: $206

Pre-Flop: J T dealt to Hero (CO)

2 folds, Hero raises to $7, Villain calls $7, Unknown calls $6, BB folds

(The Villain was your typical LAG and the Unknown player in the small blind was only playing his second hand of the night. I was hoping to steal the blinds with my raise. I wasn't too happy having the Villain float me. I hadn't tried to steal for a while and was hoping that the Villain would give me a little credit for a hand. Oh well...)

Flop: ($23) 9 2 K (3 Players)

Unknown checks, Hero bets $13, Villain calls $13, Unknown calls $13

(King high flop meant I had to make a c-bet here given fold equity and my gut-shot straight draw. The Villain's call didn't surprise me and I planned to fire again on the turn to show him that I had the King. But when the Unknown called, I was very worried.)

Turn: ($62) K (3 Players)

Unknown checks, Hero checks, Villain checks

(I think I should have fired one more time on the turn. With the club draw on the flop and a loose Villain, I should have at least tried again. I was just worried that either of my opponents held a set or a flush draw that couldn't be laid down.)

River: ($62) A (3 Players)

Unknown checks, Hero checks, Villain checks

(Ugly. I hate playing out of position. I would have bet the river but I was too worried that the Villain might raise.)

Results: $62 Pot ($3 Rake)
Hero showed J T (a pair of Kings) and LOST (-$20 NET)
Villain showed 8 8 (two pair, Kings and Eights) and WON $59 (+$39 NET)
Unknown showed T J (a pair of Kings) and LOST (-$20 NET)


My last hand of the session ended up being a little exciting. . Villain was super loose. He never raised pre-flop and was super-aggressive post-flop. I'd only seen a few of his hands and he'd overplayed his crap hands on those few occasions. The Villain's favourite move was the all-in push and none of my other opponents had been brave enough to call him yet.


PokerStars, $1/$2 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 4 Players
LeggoPoker.com - Hand History Converter

Hero (BTN): $243.65
Villain (SB): $197.35
BB: $216.35
UTG: $402.85

Pre-Flop: 9 J dealt to Hero (BTN)

UTG calls $2, Hero calls $2, Villain calls $1, BB checks

(No point stealing the blinds. The Villain generally folded his blinds to most raises or simply pushed all-in. I wanted to play a pot in position against the Villain. My implied odds against the Villain were incredible and I was hoping to make a big score.)

Flop: ($8) 8 9 2 (4 Players)
Villain bets $10, 2 folds, Hero calls $10

(I thought that the Villain's bet meant that he'd hit the flop. But the Villain seemed to fit into the "strong equals weak" mold and I figured to be ahead with my top pair.)

Turn: ($28) 9 (2 Players)
Villain bets $6, Hero raises to $25, Villain raises to $185.35 and is All-In, Hero calls $160.35

(I believed the Villain's underbet to mean one of two things: he'd hit the flush, he had trip nines, or he had a pair with the A. No more fooling around: it was time to get the Villain to commit to the hand or fold. When the Villain instantly jammed, I called and hoped for a non-diamond river card.)

River: ($398.70) 5 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

(Damn...)

Results: $398.70 Pot ($2 Rake)
Hero showed 9 J (three of a kind, Nines) and WON $396.70 (+$199.35 NET)
Villain showed 9 7 (three of a kind, Nines) and LOST (-$197.35 NET)

(Nice!)


I did my best not to tilt over the course of this session. I tried to stay focused. I did my best to think my hands through. And though I'll admit that I lost focus here and there, I stayed the course and I'm happy with the results. And most importantly, PokerEV tells me that my expected winnings were far higher than my actual winnings...for once.

And don't forget that PokerStars is offering double VPPs and FPPs today! If only I had five hours to spend at the tables, I'd be able to reach GoldStar VIP status. I guess I'll have to settle for SilverStar...

Have a great weekend!

Keep reading "Session Review #17: Never Give Up, Never Surrender"