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Canada Day!

Tomorrow is Canada Day up here in the Great White North. I'll actually be taking a mini-vacation starting tomorrow and lasting until next Monday morning. I think this five day break will be one of the longest I've taken in a long while. I've never been one to take large chunks of time off work. I prefer to take a number of days off throughout the year instead. I'd much rather work twenty four-day weeks instead of simply taking a full month off work. But that's me.

If you'd like to know what I'll be up to over the next five days, read on.

My plans are pretty simple and include:

  • Sleeping: I'm very tired and could use a few extra hours sleep.
  • Eating: Diets and long weekends don't mix.

  • Drinking: Drinking and Canada Day go together like lamb and tuna fish.
  • Poker: Did I even need to mention this one? This is a poker blog and I like to play poker from time to time. My focus will be on 6-max NLHE, Badugi, and O8.
  • Video games: I'm getting my hands on a copy of the new Ghostbusters game for my Xbox 360. Looks pretty good and I'll likely spend some time busting ghosts when I'm not busting 'rollz.
It's a simple plan, I know, but this break is just what I need to recharge my batteries. I don't think they'll be any updates to the site during my vacation. But you never know. I may even finally get around to posting a video or something thanks to a fine tutorial that I watched at DeucesCracked. I think the only thing holding me back now is the fear of looking stupid while playing.

Have a great weekend everyone! Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians! And a happy Fourth to my U.S. readers!

Keep reading "Canada Day!"

Working and Waiting

I played a little O8 over the weekend. I continued a losing trend but the stakes are small enough that I'm not too concerned. Played a little more Badugi (roughly 8 hands or so) and managed to lose a good chunk in a short while. I'm a mediocre player at best - hence the title of this site. But I continue to work on my game, broadening my horizons, and doing my best to change with the times.

Despite a shift towards mixed games of late, I'm also beginning to rekindle my love affair with 6-max no-limit hold'em (a.k.a. the "unbeatable" form of online poker). I guess I'm a sucker for punishment.

I recently picked up a copy of Small Stakes No-Limit Hold'em by Ed Miller, Sunny Mehta, and Matt Flynn. I'm only thirty or forty pages in but I've come to realize something quite difficult. My no-limit hold'em game has, for lack of a better term, gone to shit. Whereas I used to be somewhere between a nit and a TAG, I now play an exclusively nitty game. I always fear that my opponents are holding the nuts. And then I snap, donk off a buy-in, and go home with my tail between my legs.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: poker is not just a card game. It's a constant challenge against your opponents and yourself. Many of the problems I face playing poker are personal and have nothing to do with anyone else who happens to be sitting at my table. I struggle constantly with many common issues such as playing scared money, playing long sessions when behind in an attempt to get even, quitting when ahead for fear of losing my winning session, folding when I think I may be ahead in the hand, and bluffing when I know that my opponents aren't folding.

Poker's one of the toughest hobbies you can undertake. I'm just glad that I have friends and family able to help me work through my demons as I continue to struggle at the tables. And I'm glad that I have this web site to use as a forum to work out my thoughts, strategies, beliefs, and anything else that pops into my head.

I still hope for that day when everything makes sense. When the countless hours of studying the game pay off and I can finally be proud of what I've accomplished with poker.

For now, all I can do is to keep working towards that goal and waiting to finally see that light at the end of the tunnel.

Keep reading "Working and Waiting"

First Impressions: Badugi

Last night, I decided to try something new. I sat down at a micro-stake game of Badugi. For those who don't know anything about Badugi, you can check out CK's Intro to Badugi post.

Being one to always over-prepare for any new game that I decide to try, I read CK's article a few times and watched the only Badugi instructional video that I could find at DeucesCracked. For the most part, the game seems to play a lot like triple draw poker. A lot of the betting patterns seem to follow from one game to the other - though keep in mind that I am a complete n00b at both games so I may be off in my evaluation.

I'm not sure how much money can be won at Badugi by a novice player. But I'm sure that it's beatable at the low stakes by playing a solid starting hand strategy with some disciplined play on the larger betting rounds. I think the real money comes when you can accurately assess the value of your own hand against that of your opponents given the action in the past and current rounds and your overall impression of your opponents' skill levels.

I think that I could try reading Malmuth's Winning Concepts in Draw & Lowball. There's got to be some good stuff in there to help me crush low-stakes Badugi and even beat the mid-stakes Badugi games. Then again, perhaps I'm spreading myself a little too thin and should continue to focus primarily on Omaha/8.

That's all I'll say about Badugi for now. If I divulge any more information, I'm sure that I'll come across sounding like a complete buffoon. Just know that I'll be dabbling in Badugi from time to time. And if you feel like giving Badugi a shot yourself, it runs 24/7 at PokerStars!

As for Omaha/8, it's coming along. I dropped another chunk of change last night but I think I played okay. I think I missed an obvious value bet spot in one hand where I held the nut low. But my opponent was playing so aggressively that I was sure that I was quartered on the low and not quite ahead with my wheel on a double-paired board. In the end, I scooped but I had to check the hand history afterward to see just how I managed to pull off that minor miracle. One thing I have to remember about Omaha is that a double-paired board is not quite as scary as it is in hold'em due to the fact that an opponent must hold a either a pocket pair turned set or two board cards (with at least one instance of trips)to have the boat.

In another hand, I folded my third/third in a 3-way pot on the river when there was a bet and a call to me. I wasn't getting great odds so I chose to take the safe route and fold. In the end, my third nut low would have been good and my two-pair would have been good for the high. I'd flopped draws to the nut-high and nut-low (or second nut-low), got double counterfeited on the low, and missed my flush. Sometimes you just can't win.

I also misplayed another hand in a small pot when I called a river bet with the fourth nut low and no high. I'd correctly ascertained that the bettor did not have the nut low. But I also thought that I had the second nut low. I was guilty of counting from low to high instead of high to low. In case you're curious, the board showed 2c-4c-8s-7s-Ks and I held Ac-Kh-4d-Qh. I was in BB and got a free look at the flop. Flop and turn checked around. SB bet out on the river, I called, and MP called. MP held the ace-high spade flush and SB held A-6-x-x for the second nut low. O8 can be a hard, confusing game sometime...

Plans for the weekend are to play a little poker, a bunch of Prince of Persia, and try to get over the cold that's taken hold of me. Anyone know how well Badugi matches up against chicken soup for curing the common cold?

Have a great weekend!

Keep reading "First Impressions: Badugi"

A Penny Saved Is A Penny Earned

I played a solid session of Omaha 8 at Full Tilt last night. After re-watching some of Joe Tall's limit O8 videos from DeucesCracked, I was better able to bring my A-game (or my mid-to-high B-game) to the tables. If you want to be a winner playing split-pot games, it's important to remember that a tight pre-flop and a tight flop strategy focused on scooping pots is the easiest way to beat the low-limit games. Hopefully I can maintain the discipline at the tables that I showed last night and keep rolling along.

I looked over my PokerTracker stats after my session last night. Over 1,150 hands, I find myself down about 28 BBs at the $1/$2 fixed-limit O8 games. While 28 BBs is not that big a number, it may take me a while to recover. The most I've ever won on a single hand of O8 is 10 BBs ($20) and that hand occurred last night. I picked up the nut low draw with a backdoor straight and a backdoor flush draw. But I was playing in a 4-way pot and called a flop bet getting roughly 12:1 (or 6:1 if I count only the low portion of the pot). As luck would have it, I picked up the nut low on the turn and also picked up a 13 card wrap draw to the straight. The river gave me the straight and the scoop.

The one thing that I have to constantly force myself to remember is that Omaha 8 or better is not hold'em. Another important lesson to remember is that a bet saved is a bet earned. It's very easy to call off bets on earlier streets to justify loose calls on the later streets when the pot gets big.

Here's a hand that I played last night that makes the hold'em player in me shake his head in disbelief. The only read I have on my opponents is that UTG is very loose passive and UTG+1 seems to be a standard tight/passive O8 player over a 100 hand sample.

Full Tilt Poker $1/$2 Limit Omaha Hi/Lo - 7 players
The Official DeucesCracked.com Hand History Converter

Pre Flop: (1.5 SB) Hero is BB with JJ of clubs KK of hearts 66 of hearts TT of diamonds
UTG calls, UTG+1 calls, 4 folds, Hero checks

(My hand is crap but I'll take the free look hoping to flop quads, Kings full of Jacks, or the broadway straight with redraws to the nut flush in hearts.)

Flop: (3.5 SB) 88 of clubs 77 of diamonds 99 of diamonds (3 players)
Hero checks, UTG bets, UTG+1 raises, Hero folds, UTG calls

(Technically, I flopped the nuts but I have a few problems with this hand: I'm out of position, I have no redraws to a better hand, and I have no low draw. I think this is an easy fold when a passive player bets and a tight regular raises. I imagined that I was likely up against a nut low draw, a flush draw, a set, and/or another nut straight with redraws.)

Turn: (3.75 BB) 44 of clubs (2 players)
UTG bets, UTG+1 calls

(When UTG bets here, I'm putting him on the nut low. When UTG+1 calls, I'm putting him on a straight with the second or third nut low or a made hand with a flush redraw and a possible 2nd or 3rd nut low.)

River: (5.75 BB) 33 of clubs (2 players)
UTG bets, UTG+1 raises, UTG calls

Final Pot: 9.75 BB
UTG shows JJ of spades 22 of spades KK of diamonds AA of diamonds (HI: Ace King high; LO: 7,4,3,2,A)
UTG+1 shows 55 of clubs TT of clubs AA of hearts AA of clubs (HI: a flush, Ace high; LO: 7,5,4,3,A)
UTG+1 wins 4.75 BB
UTG wins 4.625 BB
(Rake: $0.75)

According to ProPokerTools, I had about 33% equity in the pot on the flop. Still, calling a raise from UTG+1 with the betting still open is not that great a proposition. While I'm sure certain O8 players might say that my fold on the flop was a little tight, I still think I made the right play regardless of the actual results in the hand. Had the pot been bigger on the flop, I might have considered peeling one street to look for the non-diamond turn card. Then again, I would have folded my hand pre-flop to any raise. Crazy game...

Have a good one!

Keep reading "A Penny Saved Is A Penny Earned"

A Weekend of Highs and Lows

I had a great Father's Day weekend save for two things: an unexpected illness and some horrific O8 play. Other than those two minor items, my weekend was a great success. My wife worked her ass off to make sure that I had all the right drinks, all the right food, and enough time to relax and rest up.

More about my weekend after the jump.

Let's get the bad stuff out of the way before going any further.

First off, I played some awful poker this weekend. I took a winning O8 strategy, threw it out the window, and tried to play tricky poker. How well does tricky play work at the $1/$2 Omaha Hi-Lo tables? Quite poorly. I lost sight of my one goal when playing playing O8 (i.e. winning money) and tried to outplay the bad players at the tables. This worked quite poorly as I found myself getting scooped and quartered by the solid players who were content to sit back and peddle the nuts. I'm in the process of re-focusing my efforts on solid play and hope to get back to my winning ways shortly.

As for my mystery illness, it hit me like a ton of bricks on Father's Day. I woke up on Sunday morning feeling dizzy. Imagine having bed spins while laying down or standing up and you'll understand how I felt. The entire world kept shifting and snapping back into place on me for a twelve hour period starting at 6 AM on Sunday morning and lasting until around 6 PM that night. I didn't throw up and had no other signs of sickness: all I had was a bad case of vertigo. The fact that the vertigo occurred without any other symptoms is a little odd. I'll definitely keep an eye out for any other strangeness.

And now for the great parts of my weekend:

  • Watched a couple movies with my wife.
  • Play a ton of Prototype on my PS3 (not a great game but not bad either)
  • Drank a bunch of Banana-flavoured alcoholic lemonade (quite good)
  • Had a fantastic Father's Day brunch that was still quite good despite the aforementioned vertigo. The meal consisted of a ton of bacon, some cajun-style homefries, and a maple-glazed sausage sandwich served on an "everything" bun with swiss cheese and ketchup.
  • I also had a tremendous Father's Day dinner last night (postponed from Sunday due to the vertigo) which included: a half-pound burger stuffed with blue cheese and topped with more blue cheese, bacon, and sweet-spicy mustard glazed caramelized vidalia onions; a warm German potato salad made with tons of bacon, new potatoes, bacon grease, olive oil, and beef broth; Skor bites to help cleanse the palate and deliver the necessary sweet finish to an incredible dinner.
All in all, it was a great few days for me despite losing money at the tables and a brief bout of illness.

My plans for the week are to continue fighting my way back to even at the $1/$2 Omaha 8 tables. I'm about 30-40 BBs down right now, I think. If I can rein in my urge to play aggressive poker and start making solid pre-flop and flop decisions, I should be able to break out my O8 funk over the next 5-10 sessions.

Have a great day!

Keep reading "A Weekend of Highs and Lows"

Father's Day Weekend!

I have two great kids. I put in the time, day after day, to show them that I love them and that I'd do anything for them. And for the next three days, I will bask in the love and praise of my family as they show me how much they appreciate it! Unlike Mother's Day, I don't need restaurants, chocolates, or flowers. Instead, my wife has planned a weekend of good food, drinks, and time to play poker and video games!

Festivities kick off tonight with some Omaha Hi-Lo at Full Tilt. I'm slowly digging my way out of the red and I hope that that trend continues this evening. Of course, I will be drinking so one never knows.

I also plan on picking up a copy of [PROTOTYPE], the newest superhero-style video game to hit the PS3 and Xbox 360. I find that these pick-up-and-play superhero sandbox games work really well at relieving the stresses of the workday and the poker tables.

But the main focus of the weekend, aside from spending time with my family, will be on poker. Heck, I might even play a little Badugi thanks to CK's Badugi 101 post. Then again, maybe I should continue to focus on dominating the O8 world before I set my sights on draw poker.

Happy Father's Day to all father's out there! I'll be back on Tuesday because it takes a long weekend to celebrate the greatness that is "Dad"!


Bonus: Here's a micro-stakes O8 hand I played last night. I tried to be fancy and still managed to scoop...

Poker Stars $1/$2 Limit Omaha Hi/Lo - 10 players
The Official DeucesCracked.com Hand History Converter

Pre Flop: (1.5 SB) Hero is CO with AA of hearts QQ of hearts 44 of hearts 44 of spades
UTG calls, 5 folds, Hero calls, BTN raises, 2 folds, UTG calls, Hero calls

Flop: (7.5 SB) 55 of diamonds QQ of spades 77 of hearts (3 players)
UTG checks, Hero bets, BTN calls, UTG calls

(I bet out hoping for the button to raise me and push UTG out of the pot.)

Turn: (5.25 BB) KK of diamonds (3 players)
UTG checks, Hero checks, BTN checks

(I think I'm supposed to bet here but I don't.)

River: (5.25 BB) KK of hearts (3 players)
UTG checks, Hero checks, BTN checks

(And when the top card pairs, I think a value bet and a fold to a raise has some merit. But I'm still learning and playing it safe until I get better at hand reading - which may be a useless skill at these low limits anyway.)

Final Pot: 5.25 BB
Hero shows AA of hearts QQ of hearts 44 of hearts 44 of spades (HI: two pair, Kings and Queens)
BTN mucks 22 of hearts 88 of clubs AA of clubs 66 of spades
UTG shows 33 of hearts 44 of clubs 22 of clubs 33 of spades (HI: two pair, Kings and Threes)
Hero wins 5 BB
(Rake: $0.50)

Keep reading "Father's Day Weekend!"

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I played a few tables of O8 last night and noticed a disturbing trend. Many of the hands that I won were the result of pure luck. I'd get to the river after having backed into a solid high-hand or two-way hand and scoop. As an aside, scooping a pot in Omaha 8 is one of the greatest feelings in poker.

But for every miracle hit on the river, I was able to screw up other hands and put myself in absolutely miserable spots. I've included a trio of hands from last night's session that do a good job of demonstrating the big hands that I won by getting lucky (The Good), lost by getting unlucky (The Bad), and lost due to questionable play on my part (The Ugly). Comments are welcome from any of my seasoned O8 readers.

Full Tilt Poker $0.50/$1 Limit Omaha Hi/Lo - 7 players
View hand 156310
The Official DeucesCracked.com Hand History Converter

CO posts a big blind (1 SB)

Pre Flop: (2.5 SB) Hero is BB with 22 of hearts KK of hearts 88 of spades AA of spades
UTG calls, UTG+1 calls, 1 fold, CO checks, BTN calls, SB calls, Hero checks

Flop: (6 SB) 44 of diamonds 33 of diamonds 44 of spades (6 players)
SB checks, Hero checks, UTG checks, UTG+1 checks, CO checks, BTN bets, SB folds, Hero calls, UTG calls, UTG+1 calls, CO calls

(6 players in, nut low draw, so I'll peel.)

Turn: (5.5 BB) 99 of spades (5 players)
Hero checks, UTG checks, UTG+1 checks, CO checks, BTN bets, Hero raises, UTG folds, UTG+1 folds, CO calls, BTN calls

(I raise with the flush draw and nut-draw. I was worried that I might be splitting the low with another player. But I should have just called, I think, to keep more people in the pot and give myself better odds on my high draw. I'm probably too concerned about quartering against these micro-stakes players.)

River: (11.5 BB) 88 of hearts (3 players)
Hero bets, CO calls, BTN folds

(Missed the flush but I bet the low for value and hope that I'm not quartered or sixth-ed.)

Final Pot: 13.5 BB
CO mucks 22 of clubs 77 of spades 55 of diamonds 22 of diamonds
Hero shows 22 of hearts KK of hearts 88 of spades AA of spades (HI: two pair, Eights and Fours; LO: 8,4,3,2,A)
Hero wins 6.5 BB
Hero wins 6.5 BB
(Rake: $0.50)

Full Tilt Poker $1/$2 Limit Omaha Hi/Lo - 8 players
View hand 156312
The Official DeucesCracked.com Hand History Converter

Pre Flop: (1.5 SB) Hero is CO with AA of clubs 77 of hearts AA of hearts 66 of spades
3 folds, MP2 raises, Hero 3-bets, 3 folds, MP2 calls

(MP2 is a loose-aggressive (VP: 84%, PFR: 22%) player.)

Flop: (7.5 SB) 22 of diamonds AA of diamonds KK of clubs (2 players)
MP2 checks, Hero bets, MP2 calls

(Good to hit the flop with only one low card showing.)

Turn: (4.75 BB) 99 of hearts (2 players)
MP2 checks, Hero bets, MP2 calls

(No low possible - time to keep betting for value.)

River: (6.75 BB) TT of spades (2 players)
MP2 bets, Hero calls

(Villain is LAG enough to bet with two pair. While it's possible that he has QJ for the straight, that's only one possible hand that he bets in this spot. My hand's too strong to fold and some better players might raise in this spot. But I'd hate to raise and have Villain 3-bet in a spot where I've played my hand transparently and would likely have to fold. I'd rather see what Villain is holding.)

Final Pot: 8.75 BB
MP2 shows 44 of diamonds QQ of diamonds JJ of spades 44 of spades (HI: a straight, Ace high)
Hero mucks AA of clubs 77 of hearts AA of hearts 66 of spades
MP2 wins 8.375 BB
(Rake: $0.75)

Full Tilt Poker $1/$2 Limit Omaha Hi/Lo - 9 players
View hand 156313
The Official DeucesCracked.com Hand History Converter

Pre Flop: (1.5 SB) Hero is CO with 99 of clubs 88 of hearts AA of spades AA of diamonds
4 folds, MP2 calls, Hero raises, 3 folds, MP2 calls

Flop: (5.5 SB) AA of clubs 66 of diamonds 55 of clubs (2 players)
MP2 bets, Hero calls

(MP2 is pretty aggressive and LAG. It' s a good flop but not a great flop given that my low-draw is crap and my top set is vulnerable to the flush. )

Turn: (3.75 BB) 22 of diamonds (2 players)
MP2 bets, Hero calls

(Villain might be thinking that I'm counterfeited here. I've still got a draw to the boat and I've got a low albeit a crappy one.)

River: (5.75 BB) JJ of clubs (2 players)
MP2 bets, Hero calls

(Crappy low, flush draw hits on the river. If Villain were a solid player, I might have folded in this spot. But I chose to make the call based on the Villain's image. Yuck...)

Final Pot: 7.75 BB
MP2 shows 99 of diamonds 44 of clubs 33 of clubs 44 of hearts (HI: a flush, Ace high; LO: 5,4,3,2,A)
Hero mucks 99 of clubs 88 of hearts AA of spades AA of diamonds
MP2 wins 3.75 BB
MP2 wins 3.625 BB
(Rake: $0.75)

I'm not a good enough O8 player to know whether my losing hands are standard or not. When you lack experience and knowledge, it's easy to be results-oriented because results encompass the bulk of your feedback on any given play or hand. I still think the last hand is probably a fold on the river but it's hard to say given the Villain's style of play. Thankfully I didn't go crazy and start raising at any point in the hand.

More of the same tonight, I think. As soon as I've worked my way back to even at the $1/$2 games, I'll start playing some $1/$2 - $2/$4 games. For the record, I'm about one scoop and a few more hours of experience away from taking a half-step up in stakes.

Keep reading "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly"