Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Stack Size or Position? Or Both?

A lot of times I will use my stack size to determine the cards I play pre-flop in a cash game.

Lately though, I've been thinking more about how the people at my table are playing while still taking their stack size into consideration.

Here's the thing.

I don't think most people I play against are very skilled. That is to say, the more I observe them the more I notice that a lot of these guys never change the way the play in regards to their stack until they get so low that their only move is to shove pre-flop.

That led me to believe that it's not going to be that profitable to open up my range a lot against people who are not competent enough to fold something like AJ or A10 suited out of position when I three bet them with suited connectors.

I think I'm going to play about 10,000 hands and play according to how my opponents are playing without turning the aggression up with a big stack if they're going to simply call anyways - common sense, no?

This post is basically a reminder to myself to exercise some of that at the tables.

I feel like I have a pretty solid poker mind with occasionally turns into total fluff when I sit down in front of a computer to play.

So, stop doing that.

I mean it.

Monday, November 12, 2007


At this point in my poker evolution I feel like I have to make a big decision - cash games or tournaments?

The two are so different from each other and I still have so much to learn that I feel like I'm doing my poker mind a disservice by alternating between the two. Instead of learning each in moderate increments I'm probably taking a half step forward in one and a full step back in the other.

I like cash games because I'm already a solid player up to and including 5-10 NL but the appeal and excitement of tournaments has me hooked. You have to focus on every single hand and basically play mistake free in order to stand a real shot - whereas in a cash game you can take some hands off or switch to autopilot because of the static blinds and not really run into any kind of trouble. In a tournament, you need to be on your A game from beginning to end or you're done for.

Plus, I haven't had a really big tournament score yet and I feel like I'm fully capable of one - $2500 is my largest ever cash and that was for winning the Bodog $8500 Guaranteed last winter.

For me ... cash games are like the cute girl two floors above you. You pass her all the time and she laughs at your little jokes and gives you that smile each day. In other words, you know it can be had when you want it. All it would take is a few drinks, some attention, and selling her the best version of you that you have.

Tournaments are different. Tournaments are the hot girl at the bar who won't even humor a dude by letting him by her a drink. She'll talk to the smoking hot bartender who's probably her roommate and then she'll flirt with the muscle head at the door who's getting paid $10/hr under the table to act hard and wear a black shirt that's two sizes too small for him.

But you know what? If you have the confidence to take a shot and if luck is on your side, you have a chance. Maybe she glances at you for longer than a second and you get the balls to walk over there and make her laugh a few times. And you stay focused. No wasted words because she's heard every line there is and shot them all down with better comebacks. You know what you want and so does she, but you come with the right game and a few hours later you're drunk kissing in the elevator all the way up to her loft and it ends in the two of you catching your breath on the floor, completely spent and smiling a stupid, blissful grin.

That's what I want. I want to fuck the hot girl.

I want to win the tournament.

Monday, November 5, 2007


Not only do massive downswings make me want to throw a kitten into traffic ...

... Specifically, the kitten pictured to the left ...

But they also make me wonder if I know anything about poker.

After continuously getting set mined and flopping top two pair or thinking I am pricing someone out of a draw on the turn and still seeing them get there on the river ... there just comes a point where I say, "Ok, what the fuck am I doing wrong? I should be able to win one of these, or at least make a fold."

The reality is, when I go back and look at the hand again I still can't think of a way to play it differently. Example ...

With a full stack in a 2/4 NL 6 Max game I raise to $14 UTG with AdKd and receive one caller - the big blind.

The flop is Ac Kh 4c. With $30 in the pot and him expecting me to c-bet, I bet $24 when it is checked to me. He smooth calls. At this point his range is really wide so I plan to see what the turn brings before trying to narrow it down.

The turn is 7d - completely safe card 99% of the time. He checks and I bet $60. Again, he just calls. Now I'm a bit concerned but he could be drawing to a fifth club or he could have something like AJ or AQ and he's afraid I have him crushed or outkicked.

The river is 7h and he thinks for a few seconds before leading for pot.

I'm thinking it's a missed draw or a weaker Ace like I originally suspected. I call and he has 4's full.

I'm 99.99% sure it's a complete cooler when you don't have a long standing history against the villain in this hand, but I've been running into this stuff a lot lately and it has me seriously questioning everything about my game so I've decided to take a break for a little bit rather than play scared money or in a way that leaves me open to get drawn out on constantly.

Hope you guys are running a lot better than I've been running.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Deep Stacked Tip of the Day

This one might seem kind of obvious to some but I'll say it anyway.

In a cash game where stacks are deep it can be highly advantageous to 3 bet your speculative hands early on.

It's a tournament concept, too (just remove the "early on" part).

If I am going to 3 bet someone when we both have alot of chips, I'd much rather be doing it with a hand that plays itself such as 89 suited or 9-10 suited rather than a hand that could get me into a ton of trouble on the flop such as KQ, KJ, A-10 suited, etc.

Of course you'll also be 3 betting with your premium hands, but initially 3 betting light can result in a couple things which work in your favor:
  1. You take down the pot preflop a couple times when you are given credit for a big hand
  2. You make a strong and well disguised hand on a raggy board and get an overpair to commit a lot of chips.

The goal in a cash game is to maximize your wins which means if you 3 bet with a hand like KJ and get called, you're going to need to stick a sizable amount in the pot with a c-bet if the flop comes Jack high. Now if you are raised, you potentially face going broke with KJ which is not typically going to win a lot of hands when you face an all-in bet from an opponent who knows what he/she is doing.

I used KJ in my example because it is one of the biggest trouble hands in poker, but I could have used 88, 99, or 10 10 in my example as well.

These are decent hands, but the flop is usually going to bring an overcard to them and you don't want to start building a very large pot in this situation unless you know your opponent well.

You'll also need to adjust your play after the first time you show down one of these speculative hands you 3 bet with preflop since any opponent who is paying attention will start giving you a lot less credit going forward.

It will also take them a long time to re-adjust to you switching over to a TAG style of play once you've shown them a "reckless" play.

I love doing this against table captains and people who use the chat box because they are almost guaranteed to use their player notes to label me a maniac when in fact I'm just being selectively aggressive at the beginning of a session to set them up down the road.

Good luck.

Short Stacks versus Full Stacks

I read other poker blogs for a couple reasons. The first one is for enjoyment. I like hearing other people's thoughts on the game and some of these writers are pretty talented in that they can make a fairly standard hand into an entertaining read.

Another reason is because I myself am not a very good writer so much like railing a 25/50 game to learn some new tricks, I will read a blog like Dr. Pauly's to pick up some tips for making poker more entertaining in the written form.

And yet another reason is to pick up ideas for my next post.

This time credit goes to Recess Rampage and his post about buying in short.

I think that buying in short becomes more profitable as you move up in stakes - and I mean this in terms of how many BB's you can win. Here's why I say this: The higher you move up and continue to buy in short, the more likely it is that bigger stacks will call you light just to try and bust you.

The higher you go, the more psychology is involved in the game; especially short-handed. Deep stacks are constantly 3 and 4 betting light. For a good example of this, download JMan's Cardrunners video. He talks about it in depth. Back to my original inspiration for this post ...

Recess Rampage said he feels like buying in short takes away your ability to play, and he is exactly correct. That should be the purpose of buying in short if that is what you elect to do. Small pairs and suited connectors lose most of their value. You're looking to get all the money in the middle pre-flop with your mid to high pairs as well as AK, AKs, AQ, and AQs. You can add some weaker holding like KQs and AJs if you find your opponents are willing to call you lightly.

And ideally you want to be shoving versu deep stacks if they come in for a raise because their raising standards should be fairly liberl if they are good players.

Here's an example ...

Let's say you buy into a 5/10NL 6 Max game for $200 and you have folded your blinds a once and then get dealt JJ on the button.

UTG+1 opens for $35 and has $1600 behind. The CO flat calls and you shove your $185.

That means there is $270 in the pot and the original raiser only has to call $145 more. That's almost 2 to 1 meaning you will get called fairly often as the favorite in the hand making this an easy +EV move.

That's a pretty straightforward example of a hand that plays itself given the circumstances.

Another example would be limping with something like nines or tens from early position when aggressive players are to your left, then re-shoving over the top of their isolation raise since you are ahead of their hand range. That's another +EV play.

Hero: $185
Villain: $1200

Hero limps for $10 UTG
Villain raises to $40 from UTG+1
Blinds fold
Hero shoves for $175

Pot contains $240 and Villain needs to call $135 more. Again, almost 2 to 1 odds but he could have raised to isolate with a small pair or a weak ace thinking you'll fold, and now he really should not be calling you. If he folds, you just increased your stack by 30% without having to show a hand. And if he calls ... again, you are probably ahead of his range given these odds.

Here is a quote from RR's blog and this is where I think he misses the mark:
In a cash game, I'm not looking for a 50-50 race. I know a lot of people easily call off their chips with AK or even AQ. In a cash game, I'm not eager to do that because quite frankly, if I just want to flip coins, there's no reason for me to play poker.
You try to avoid calling to put yourself all in, first of all. As you move up, good players will know what you are doing and they will not put you in this spot if they don't have a good hand. You're looking to do something like the two examples I laid out above where you are the pusher and you still have some fold equity, but the reality is you'd prefer a call since you're getting your chips in with the best of it more times than not.

This post has gotten to be longer than I'd like, so I will probably address my deep stack strategy in a post all its own.

Good luck at the tables.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Some People Really Do Run Better

Anyone who has played poker for a while has gone through the following situation ...

Let's say you're playing a tournament. It's the money bubble of the Bodog $100,000 Guaranteed and you shove with Queens versus a raiser who has you covered because he's been pushing his stack around as he's supposed to. Even though he has enough chips behind where a fold is correct since you've been playing super tight, he calls off a lot of chips with Ace-7 offsuit, spikes an Ace and sends you packing. Frustrating, no? Obv.

Then you vent to a poker buddy or make a blog entry about it - whatever. Inevitably you are going to receive the reply, "Don't worry because you'll win against that call in the long run."

My usual reply is something to the effect of: No fucking shit. And I say this for two reasons.
  1. I know what hand ranges and odds are. I don't need to be told right after I bust out as a massive favorite on the money bubble.
  2. It's a stupid thing for someone to say.
Because just how long is this "long run" that people are so fond of referencing?

How many times in your poker life will you be on the money bubble in this spot? The answer is: Not many. You're far more likely to be flipping than to be massively ahead and if this happens in the WSOP or a WPT event, or even an FTOPS event - well, that's probably the only time it's happening in your poker life. So guess what? It doesn't work out in the long run.

That means running this hand through PokerStove 5,000 times to show someone that they will in fact come out ahead in the long run is retarded.

The fact is this may happen a few dozen times in a tournament and you could be unlucky enough to lose more of those than you are supposed to if the math works out in the long run.

Also, the times where it will work out could be during inconsequential stages of a tournament whereas the couple times you get sucked out on could be at a Final Table of a big event, or on the money bubble where winning would have put you in great position etc. etc.

The short version is this: "In the long run" is a bullshit term that doesn't mean as much as people think it does.