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Weekend Recap, Book Review, and Party Poker

I had a pretty good weekend at the tables. Judging from the amount of poker that I played versus the time I spent with my Xbox 360, I can say that poker is, once again, my hobby of choice. I don't have much time today so I'll just cover as much information as I can with very little filler.

First and foremost, I wanted to give a quick "Congratulations!" to Andrew "Foucault" Brokos (a.k.a. The Poker Philosopher). He finished in 35th place at the 2008 WSOP Main Event! He did an amazing job, banked a lot of well-deserved money, and really deserved to finish much higher than he did.

Please stop by Andrew's site if you'd like to give him your very own message of encouragement/consolation.

And Andrew, if you're reading this, you did great! It may hurt to think about what might have been had the cards fallen a different way. But I encourage you to view your run at the Main Event as something to be proud of, both professionally and financially. Mind you, you're the consummate professional in all things poker and I'm sure you've taken it all in stride and realize what you truly accomplished in Vegas.

And if it makes you feel any better, you cleared more bank in 6 days of poker than I have working over the past five years.

Now I feel bad...

Let's take a quick look back at the hand "quizzes" I posted on Friday. Thanks to WillWonka for his take on the hands. Let's see how things actually played out.

Hand 1: I'd picked up AJo in the SB. Button was pretty new to the table and somewhat short-stacked. When the button limped, I re-popped him to $5 and he called. I was prepared to go broke with top pair given an SPR (stack to pot ratio) of 5 ($11 pot, $55 effective stack).

I made a standard c-bet on an ace-high flop and the button min-raised me. Rather than try to get all the money in on the flop, I decided to call the Villain's raise. Given how many short-stacked players handle their stacks, I was pretty sure that I could get all the money in on the turn if I showed weakness by checking. A blank hit on the turn and I checked. The Villain committed himself to the pot ($38 bet into $39 pot), allowing me to check-raise him all-in for his last $3. The river blanked and Button showed JTo for a busted gutshot draw.

Hand 2: I ended up checking on the turn after hitting my gut-shot straight draw. My reasoning at the time was to let the Villain try to hit a second-best flush. I played this horribly. I should have bet the turn to inflate the pot and then made a value bet (or raise) on the river.

As played, I checked the turn and jammed the river when the Villain bet $7 into the $20 pot. This huge overbet on my part that allowed the Villain to make the correct play (after letting his hand timer count down to 2 seconds) and lay down his hand on the river. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Hand 3: In this hand, I'd made a loose call in position with QJo. The UTG raiser tended to raise a little loosely pre-flop but tighten up significantly on later streets. The flop was four-way (UTG, BTN, SB, BB); Villain bet $7 into a $12 pot. I decided to call on the button with my OESD and two overcards; I didn't mind pricing in the blinds given my hand.

When the blinds folded, I planned on betting the turn if Villain checked to me regardless of the turn card. I figured that I'd be able to get the Villain to fold his hand if a blank fell or if a third diamond hit the board.

Turn card ended up being a blank and Villain (predictably) checked. I made a bet of $18 into the $26 pot and he insta-folded, conceding the pot to me.

I have been trying to work on floating my tighter opponents in an effort to increase my win rate and mixing up my game. I guess that's one advantage of playing a 100 BB stack: I can play a little looser pre-flop in the hopes of hitting a big hand or putting enough pressure on my opponents to force them to fold on later streets when their hands fail to improve.

I finished reading Angel Largay's No-Limit Texas Hold'em. Although Largay does a good job of presenting his ideas in a fresh and interesting manner, I was mildly put off by some of his discussions regarding short-stack play and playing marginal hands against weaker opposition that showed up towards the end of the book.

Largay claims that good poker players should take advantage of the edge they hold over weaker opponents by avoiding coin-flip situations. Why put all your chips in as a 51/49 favourite when you could wait for a hand as an 80/20 favourite? Largay also advises waiting until the later streets to make a move because your opponent will be putting his money in as a greater dog if he is drawing to a hand. While these concepts all make sense on the surface, it's all utter crap. If you are even a slight favourite in a cash game hand, you really should be willing to stack off. What Largay fails to account for is that cash game players can purchase additional chips at any time in a cash game. Got stacked? Rebuy! It's a simple as that. In fact, he claims that poker professionals should "gamble" in rebuy tournaments because they can always win those chips back. But isn't a cash game much like a rebuy tournament with an unlimited rebuy period?

Largay continues to use tournament no-limit concepts when discussing big stack versus small stack play in cash games. His stance is that a large stack allows a player put pressure on shorter-stacked opponents. When feeling the pressure to play for his or her entire stack given the presence of a big stack in the hand, a short-stacked player is expected to fold in fear of getting stacked. Once again, this is pure poppycock! In a cash game, the shorter stack (a.k.a. the "effective stack") is the one that pressures all other stacks involved in a hand. Professional No-Limit Hold'em does a good job of explaining why this is true.

I believe the only advantage of playing a big stack is that you're able to win more money with your good hands. If a bad player is sitting with an $150 stack in a $1/$2 game, would you rather face off against him with $100 or $200 in your stack? You'd much rather have the bad player covered with your $200 stack just in case you happen to find a good spot to get all the money in as a clear favourite.

No-Limit Texas Hold'em is an average book with some very good tips and pointers - especially for newer NLHE players. However, many of the "advanced" concepts are either too conservative or just plain wrong to be of much value to most online or experienced players. I think this is typical of most books written by live cash game players. They come from a world where drunk tourists and rocky retirees dominate the landscape. Largay's book seems yet more proof that online poker players are gaining ground in the live vs. online poker player mad skillz category.

With Largay's mediocre piece of work digested, I've moved on to Harrington on Cash Games (Vol. 1). I've read about 20 pages so far and everything seems pretty good. I'll write more once I've finished the book.

Last Monday, Party Poker depostied a restricted $50 cash bonus into my Party account. I had seven days to clear my $50 bonus at any poker tables or casino games before the bonus expired and was reclaimed by Party. Here's a breakdown of how things went:
  • Tuesday: $50 NLHE (6-max), +$25 = $75
  • Wednesday: $100 NLHE (6-max), +$5 = $80
  • Thurday: $100 NLHE (6-max), +30 = $110
  • Friday: $100 NLHE (6-max), +70 = $180
  • Saturday: 2x $100 NLHE (6-max), -$20 = $160
  • Sunday: 2x $100 NLHE (6-max), +$323 = $483
  • Sunday: Cashed out $433 leaving $50 restricted bonus in my account
  • Sunday: $100 NLHE (6-max), +33 = $83
  • Sunday: Cashed out $33 leaving $50 restricted bonus in my account
  • Sunday: Blackjack, +$50 = $100
  • Sunday: Cashed out $50 leaving $50 restricted bonus in my account
  • Sunday: Blackjack, -$50 = $0
It was quite a ride and I have Party Poker to thank. I love the fact that they are one of the only sites out there that will stake their players with cash bonuses. All told, I made $520 in less than a week. Party Poker did alright as well by raking in just shy of $100 in rake.

I hate to say this since most of my readers are U.S. based but it's got to be said: Party Poker's games are the best around. I'm going to give Titan Poker and Poker Stars some of my business over the next week. But if I fail to meet with any great success, I think I may make a deposit at Party and continue playing there.

How juicy are the games? I was sitting at a 6-person $100 NLHE game yesterday. Four of the six players had VP$IPs well over 40%. While some of the players were aggressive, most were calling stations willing to pay off with any piece of the flop. Of course, Poker Stars is not very far behind in the fishy game category...but they are behind.

I'm having a good month at the tables so far. More importantly, I'm finding poker to be quite fascinating and fun. I'm really working hard on my tilt-control. My wife has also been helping me to deal with tough sessions and gross hands as they come. She's very good at getting me to snap out of my funk and re-evaluate the situation at hand. And my friend MJ has also done his share by reviewing my hands and letting me know when he feels that I really screwed up or when I did a good job of extracting the most value out of my donkey opponents.

My goal for the rest of the month is to put in as many hours as I can regardless of the ups and downs I'll experience. I'm doing my best to view my bankroll as a video game score (much like the Xbox 360's gamerscore) as opposed to a quick and easy means to buying myself a new home theatre system. Only money can buy cool stuff and my bankroll is most definitely not "money"; it's just a number that dictates what games I can play.

For those who care, I've now lost a total of 14 lbs. since June 2. I gained a pound over the weekend thanks to a rather lively poker session that saw me win $100 at the cash game tables, drop $20 playing SNGs (three more played without a win), down five drinks, and greedily devour my own body weight in assorted candies and snack mixes.

Have a great day everyone! I'll be back this week with lots of poker hands and other poker-related discussion. It's good to be back!


joxum (Denmark) said...

Harrington is of course The King, with Ed Miller coming in a close second. I'm reading book two on cash games at the moment, but I think I'll lay it down. There's still too much info from book one that needs to be digested.

However, I don't think that uhm...forgot-his-name...is too way off when he says to push against a weaker player with marginal hands.

At least not online. Why? Because in my experience many weak players will ditch the game as soon as they double up, especially if they feel outplayed by a stronger opponent. I certainly know to evaluate my opposition and will leave if I'm up against someone considerably stronger than me.

The other night (well, a few more nights than that), I was hit and run no less than six times in a row - I played well and pushed my margins, but I ended up with a big fat lip because I never got a chance to win the money back.

Eventually I got the message and called it a day.


PS: Thanks for alerting us about Falstaff. Because of him, I missed several hours of sleep over the past days. What a fantastic run...

Klopzi said...

joxum -

Harrington's book seems to echo quite a bit of the stuff said in Professional No-Limit Hold'em. This is, of course, a good thing as I believe PNLH is the best no-limit hold'em cash game book around.

Now - pushing marginal edges. I'm a big fan of gambling for my whole stack when the pot odds dictate it. Sure - there may be better spots to make a stand. However, if you've got twenty or thirty buy-ins at your disposal, why not take a chance when things favour you? Maybe I've got a little too much gamble in me? But you give me a definite 51/49 edge in a hand and my whole stack is going in.

You can't worry about hit and runs. It'll happen from time to time; however, don't forget those times when you bust the quick hit artist. It all just one long session, right?

One last point: I was cheering on Andrew "Foucault" Brokos and not Falstaff - though I'd whole-heartedly cheer Falstaff on if he ever made a run at the Main Event.

joxum (Denmark) said...

wow sorry - Dunno how I got one mixed up with the other there...did Falstaff even play the ME? Must be the time of day...

Anyway, I see your point on pushing small edges. Mathematically it's okay, I just want something more than numbers before I commit my stack. But in the end it depends on the situation I guess.

Good to see you're back to playing. Perhaps we should arrange a match sometime.