Saturday, February 16, 2008

Online woe and Luton

It is somewhat traditional in the world of poker blogs to fall into the trap of singing only when you're winning, of chiping from the rooftops when things are going well and going dark when the blackness overcomes you. I am going against that today because I have had a bit of success recently, but it is an evening of frustration that draws me to the keyboard.

Played in four tournaments tonight and got good starts in a couple of them before running into big hands when I had slightly inferior holdings (QQ v AA twice). Also got knocked out of two by pushing with small connectors when I felt conditions were right. On one table I'd been ultra-quiet and pushed for 7BB with 56 and walked into AK behind me and in the other I pushed from the BB against a serial raiser (raised nearly a quarter of pots on a ten-handed table over 100 hands) who'd woken up with QQ on the button. All a bit frustrating, especially as I could maybe have got away from the two QQ hands (if I'm being ultra-critical).

The next GUKPT event is at the Vic in a couple of weeks and I really want to play in it. Got to chip leader in last night's Blue Square sat with 16 left (three seats) and went out in 14th. Had 20K in chips, called a 4k all-in with 77 which was no good against Q9, then lost 13K when I pushed against a raiser with AK and he called with AQ. A queen on the flop, plus a flush draw (killing two of my outs) left me with shrapnel and I was gone soon after.

I am tempted to buy straight in at the Vic for £1K using my winnings from my last live tournament. Last month I won a satellite on Blonde for the £750 main event of the last Luton festival (6-seat sat, winner plays event for 50% of themselves, 5 other players get 10% each). It was a double chance freezeout and I lost my first set of 7500 chips against Albert Sapiano. I've never played against him before but know of his reputation as not one of the finest players in the world. Sadly, this meant I payed him off with AK on a rather dry flop when he had K3 for two pair.

I got up to 12K when I flopped the nut flush from the SB, bet out and got 4 callers! One of these came along for the ride on the turn (Albert again, natch) before folding on the river. A double up followed with an odd hand. A player in EP limped for 300, Dave Courtney limped and I squeeze it up to about 1000 with AK from the small blind. The original limper folds and Dave goes all-in. Now, I don't think there's much strength here, I'm certain I'm racing and I have him covered, so he can't knock me out. I call and he says 'Oh, I thought you had AK', meaning he thought I would have folded AK. I know some people have an aversion to call-in for a lot of chips with AK but the comment surpised me. Anyway, I hit against his 77 and was up over 20K.

I then entered a big long phase of not getting any cards but was able to resteal myself enough chips to stay in. For those not familiar with the term, a resteal is when you re-raise pre-flop against someone who has already raised. In the mid-late stages of tournaments it has become a vital skill to have. Everyone now knows that they should steal blinds and raise with crap, so these players can be pushed out of pots, as they are raising light. If you resteal, not only do you get the blinds, but you get the raise as well (typically 3BB). Therefore one resteal every two orbits will mean you increase your stack. If you select your targets well then these will get through. At Luton I barely opened a pot for about six hours of play, surviving purely on resteals, and never once getting looked up. Other players commented on my uber-rockiness - one dealer even said I was the quietest player she'd ever had on a table.

At the end of day one I had 27K, which put me 12th of the 18 who came back on the Sunday. I continued with the all-in resteals and eventually went out in 6th with a push with 55, called by A6. First card out on the flop was a five, but I got runner-runner flushed. The prize was £2,340, of which I kept half and gave £234 to each of my 'backers'. I did have fun and it showed me that there's nothing to fear in these big money tournaments, even though there were a lot of name players (one reason I'm thinking of buying in at the Vic).

With Luton coming soon after a good result at the Empire (made the money, but went out in 6th with KK v QQ and AT all-in pre-flop for half the chips in play), and internet poker being a sea of pain, I have to fit more live poker into my schedule. Tonight, being Saturday, should have seen me at the Empire but I'm bunged up with cold (as I seemingly have been since Christmas) so I've stayed in to torch $500 online.

Easter weekend will see me in Vienna for the APAT European Championship, and I should be playing at the GUKPT at the Vic so those are the next two things on the schedule for me.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


The next stop on my poker tour was Waterford for their Winter Festival. I'd qualified for their €500 main event which had a fantastic structure - 15,000 starting chips and a one hour clock.

I flew into Waterford airport from Luton and it's a brilliant place. Essentially a shed in field, it's a world away from the hustle and bustle of the larger airports I'm used to. If you've only got hand luggage, it takes you less than one minute to go from being on the plane to standing outside the terminal building. Even collecting check-in bags only takes five minutes.

Anyway, the poker. I made the end of the first day in 5th place with 60,000 chips. I don't quite remember how - things were quiet early on, but I must have outplayed people or got lucky (deciding which is left as an exercise for the reader). I increased slightly in the first level, but then took a dent without playing a hand. Snoopy was moved to beside me and asked me how many chips I had. '70,000' I replied. He stared at my stack - 'Looks like 60,000 to me'. I counted again and realised I'd been counting a stack of twenty 500 chips as 20,000...

My stack proceeded to dwindle as I'd had no good cards and stealing was impossible as Mike Lacey was two to my right. He was short-stacked and pushing all-in any time it was folded to him, so I couldn't steal anything. Eventually I judged KJ to be good enough to call and knocked him out.

With about 60 left I got moved to another table and quickly played a big hand. I'm in the big blind with 56K and Jen Mason raises to 6K from the button. Jen is near the chip lead and will be raising here with a lot of hands. I have T9 spades so call to see a flop of J92 with two spades. I bet out 8K and Jen quickly calls. The turn is a red 3 and I have 42K left, with the pot size at 29K. I know if I check Jen will bet, but I don't think she has a Jack as she would have raised the double-suited flop. Therefore she should fold a lot of hands to my check-raise. I do check and she bets 14K. I pretend to have a little think and push all-in, which elicts a look of anguish on Jen's face. She is quite clearly facing a tough decision, but eventually (and seemingly reluctantly) calls the extra 28K. It's a good call with A9 and I miss my 12 outs.

There is an argument for a) check-raising the flop or b) open-shoving the turn, as both have more fold equity than my line. The problem with a) is that it looks exactly like what it is (a flush draw), plus there's the chance she checks behind and the turn is a non-spade overcard. Betting out gives me a chance to win the hand on the flop and increase my stack.

The reason why I didn't go with b) was twofold. I didn't figure Jen for a strong hand at all (she's very aggressive when she has chips and she would surely have raised a good pair on the flop). Plus I just knew she would bet if I checked (showing weakness) which meant I could then drop the hammer, having got her to commit quite a few chips. I admit I didn't give enough thought to the size of my own stack, and what that would mean for fold equity. If I'd had a few more chips, Jen would have folded her A9. As it was, she felt my bet was too small to pass to, especially as she had lots of chips to spare if she lost the pot.

So, knocked out of the main event in 60th meant I could play the €150 tournament on the Sunday. I doubled up very early on when I cracked AA with A4 on an 844 flop. I then managed to dribble chips away, but managed to steal enough to keep myself afloat and made the final table. I finished 4th for €1250 after making a loose call with A9 when 5 handed against AK and getting lucky, before going out when I pushed with AJ and a Scandinavian made a big call with 66. That was a bit annoying as I was third in chips when we got to 4 with the Scandie short-stacked. If he'd have gone I could have done a deal to guarantee myself €2500 (after rejecting a ludicrous deal when we got to four).

Still, €1250 meant the trip paid for itself with plenty to spare. Plus it was my second Hendon Mob entry in two weeks.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Walsall the fuss about

Right, there's a lot to catch up on. Expect three posts in quick succession.

Went to Walsall for the APAT English Championship at the start of November. 200 players and I bumbled along for most of the first day. Up a bit, down a bit, but I made the money and the 2nd day with a mid-low stack. Began day 2 by knocking someone out when they pushed 88 into my AK then got a huge boost with a raise and a call coming into my Aces on the BB. Following my push the inital raiser got out of the way and Rich Offless called with Jacks to double me up to over 200,000 chips. I then gave most of it back to him when I pushed on a flop with a flush draw and missed.

When we get down to 11 players I suffer another dent, again to Rich, when he makes up the SB against my BB and we see a flop of 753. He bets out 15,000 into the pot of 20,000 but I've flopped top pair and so raise to 40,000. He thinks for a while before calling. The turn is a Queen and we both check. This was a mistake by me (and not only from a results-based perspective). More than half the deck are bad cards for me on the river and I have to take advantage of the weak check. However, I don't and the river is a 2. This looks a safe card for me but Rich bets 50,000. I really don't think he has a Queen and he is more than capable of bluffing here following my turn check. I call and he shows A4 for the rivered straight.

We're hand-for-hand as we have two tables of five and need to lose one more player for the final table. I have 130,000 and raise to 30K with QQ. The BB pushes and I call - he shows AA. The first four cards dealt on the board are insignificant but the fifth is a mightly female dagger in his heart and my rivered set doubles me up and I make the final table in joint second place with Rich (though miles behind the chip leader Darren Shallis who has nearly a million).

We get down to six and I am in 2nd place with over 300k. It's my BB and the action is folded to Darren (still big chip leader) on the button. He raises to 40K (2nd or 3rd time in a row he's done that). Before I look at my cards I'm considering raising no matter what I see, but when I find AK I want to make sure Darren puts more chips in the pot, so I start giving it a bit of chat. 'If I was in your position I'd be raising with any two cards here' etc. I reraise to 120K and Darren pushes. I instacall and Darren picks up his cards and confidently slaps down AQ. His demeanour was of someone who knew he was ahead (and he later admitted such to me). However, the Queen on the flop meant luck evened itself out pretty quickly after my set of Queens earlier and I left in 6th place with £600.

I was mostly happy with how I played in the tournament and if I'd won that final hand I'd have swapped places with Darren, been chip daddy and would have really fancied my chances to close things out as there was still a lot of play left in the final. As it was, it was a good result and my first ever cash on the Hendon Mob database (my only previous entry was my TV appearance on Sky).

Rich went on to win and there's a great interview with him at Blondepoker which includes a bit about me. It's APAT Manchester this weekend so I hope to go well again as I loved the structure and atmosphere, but first there will be a very boozy night of poker in Chester on the Friday night, where I will duel with Rich again.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Victory at the Empire, defeat at APAT

Still playing Oblivion, but now on a souped-up upgraded PC, so it looks utterly gorgeous. From the demo I've toyed with Bioshock looks even better, but I will have to hold off on playing that otherwise I may never play internet poker again.

So, no internet poker, but two live tournaments to report on. The first was a win! It was the £50 rebuy at the Empire, which makes it sound impressive. However, only ten people turned up, which makes it less so. And we did a deal heads-up. Still, £540 prize for a profit of £390 is good. Not really many hands to talk about. Lost a buy-in very quickly when it was folded round to button (steaming a little from getting outdrawn by the SB who was messing about in the rebuy period). He open pushes, SB calls without looking at his cards, and I call after seeing JJ. Button has AQ, SB has 85 and you can probably guess who won.

I never had a huge amount of chips throughout the tournament, but somehow managed to just plod along, picking up pots here and there. Doubling up with TT v AK when four-handed gave me the chips to force things, and when we got heads-up my opponent offered to chop it up. I had about twice as many chips as him, so suggested I give him £80 off top prize, which he seemed happy with.

I then sat in the £1/£2 cash game for a couple of hours and finished down about £50. One funny incident was when a hand developed between the button and SB from the hand above. The button guy (old fella) had done a small re-raise out of the BB (obvious monster). The other guy (young Chinese LAG) calls and they get it all in on a King-high flop. Old guy has AA and the Chinese guy calls with KJ ('I had top pair, good kicker and a backdoor flush draw'). Of course, the Jack hits and the old guy storms off in a huff. He'd been sat in the cash game for ages waiting for his Aces and then sees them get cracked by KJ.

Last Saturday I played in the APAT event at the G Casino in Luton. £75, 10,000 chips, 40 minute levels - a lovely tournament. For the first three levels I (very) gently increased my stack, up to about 12,000, even though every single chip I put into the pot was a bluff. I had no good starting cards and missed every flop. My biggest pot was winning after two-barrelling on the turn with AK on a all rag board.

Not long before the dinner break (level 5, blinds 200/400) I had my chance to get going. Player immediately to my right raised to 1200, I called with TT. The flop is three rags, but I'd been watching him as the flop was dealt and he clearly didn't like it. I think this is the first time I have ever managed to pick up on a physical tell whilst playing poker. He made a continuation bet of 1500, and I pretended to think for a couple of seconds before going all-in (I don't want to let him see any more cards as my TT is vulnerable to overs). He had at least 6000 chips left and had a little moment of contemplation before calling for his tournament life with AQ. It was a truly dreadful call, which was rewarded when the Ace fell on the turn. This left me with just 2500 and I went out soon afterwards.

It was an amateur event, and this was an amateur call. Unless he thought I was bluffing with AJ he had obviously given no thought as to what he could be beating - he certainly wasn't getting pot odds for the call.

After this I played one SNG before noticing a dealer's choice game had started up. Now, I've never played this before, but there were a couple of drunk guys who were chipped up so I sat down with £200. Over the course of the next two hours all that money dribbled away. We had quickly got down to 4 players, and 6 card Omaha had become the game of choice. This is such a sick game it's untrue. Every draw I had missed, every time I hit the flop I had no redraws (if you have no redraws in 6 card Omaha you are dead). Twice I had full houses which were no good, and one hand early on I nearly forgot that you can't play the board in Omaha. I won about £30 simply on betting whether the flop would be red or black, but that went as well. I just don't think I have the necessary recklessness to play such a game, as much fun as it was.

The evening was rounded off by not managing to find the guy I was supposed to be sharing a hotel room with, thus spending two hours at Luton railway station waiting for the first train back to London, not making it to bed until 8:30am. How I wish I'd left the casino and got the last train back the night before.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Two Kinds of Oblivion

I never managed to win a WSOP seat and, to be honest, I never got anywhere in any satellite. The sums are in and I spent $2200 on sats for Vegas, for no return.

Time then to rebuild the bankroll at the cash tables. Did quite well initially but then the profits stopped. Thankfully, this wasn't because of a bad run at poker, but because I started playing Oblivion instead, which is ace. It is also one hell of a resource-intensive game, even though it is over a year old. I bought a new widescreen LCD monitor over the weekend, finally ridding myself of the CRT behemoth which was testing the structural integrity of my desk. What I had failed to take into account, however, was that whilst Oblivion just about went along OK with the resolution at 1024x768, the widescreen's native resoultion of 1680x1050 makes it crawl to a halt when five goblins are attacking me, rendering my attempts to kill them useless in the face of one frame per second stuttering.

I was planning to rip the heart out of my computer at the end of the year, but I've decided to bring that forward to now - new processor, motherboard, RAM and graphics card will be ordered this week. This is the great thing about putting your own PC together - I essentially can build myself a state of the art new PC for £550, simply by changing the core components. Case, PSU, hard drives, DVD drives, mouse, speakers etc all remain in place.

In light of all this time spent battling skeletons and trolls, I went down to the Casino at the Empire in Leicester Square for their £50 rebuy on Saturday to get out of the house. I'd been down once before a few weeks ago and not really got anywhere in the comp, so decided to have another crack. The afternoon £10 rebuy had attracted 77 players and was still going when I arrived, which meant the cardroom was much busier than I was expecting.

We had 31 players spread over the four self-deal tables (only the final table was dealer dealt, and that was at a self-deal table, not a kidney one). I was sat opposite Kevin Daly, whom I recognised from having played against him in a £100 rebuy at the Sportsman last year. He'd had some WSOP success last year so I knew he could play and, indeed, he was quite active early on. I was getting rubbish cards and had noticed that most of the other players were, quite frankly, as bad as my cards, so decided to sit tight rather than bluff off to the calling stations. Got through the rebuy period by just about doubling up over the 90mins, thanks mostly to an AK v 99 race against Kevin late on, without disturbing my wallet further until the add-on. So, I'm in for £100. Interestingly, we had 24 players left at the break, and only 7 took the add-on - always a sign of a novice field.

Kevin bit the dust early after the restart, betting out with AQ on an AQx flop, and getting called down by a novice's KJ, which sent him packing when the Ten hit. With Kevin gone, I opened up a bit and gradually got some chips. I was about average when I got moved to another table.

With only an average of one rebuy per player, and seven add-ons, the blinds started to bite rather early as there weren't that many chips in play. My new table was passive, with a mix of new live players, and 40-something players who had no notion of pot odds and M etc. I pushed one 40ish guy off a couple of pots pre-flop and it clearly annoyed him. The third time I did it with JJ and he immediately called with A9, seemingly fully expecting it to be ahead. My Jacks held up and I was in pretty good shape. It would have been even better had my all-in with KK not come up against an identical hand for a split pot.

We're on the final table bubble of two 5-handed tables (though the money didn't start till 7th) when the crucial hand of the night happened for me. I'm on the SB with QT. It's folded to the button who min-raises (we're at 600/1200). He has about 12K and I have 19K. This guy was a new live player and I'd seen a previous hand when he'd ummed and ahhhed for ages before calling an all-in against a player who'd re-raised him. He well covered the re-raiser and yet still nearly folded AK. I thought that a player like that would be almost certain to fold almost anything in the current situation when I could knock him out on the final table bubble.

I pushed with my QT and, right enough, he put his thinking hat on. Eventually, he called with AQ and I doubled him up. That knocked me back to about 5BB and sent me into 'push in any unopened pot' mode. I made it onto the final table and was surprised to see two stacks smaller than mine. The first guy (who had under one BB at the start) doubled up about four hands in a row, then the new shortstack won the two hands he played. I'd previously made a bad error when I min-raised to win some blinds(these were getting through) but forgot the blinds had increased so was forced to put in 3200 at 800/1600, instead of the 2400 I'd bet. There was an all-in behind me for a little bit more and I had to call another bit with my KT, which missed. This left me with exactly one big blind and, after two hands of filth in early position, I was all-in blind on the BB. Two players saw the flop and checked it down. There was an Ace on board, and when one player revealed his JJ, I turned over my previously unseen cards to reveal AJ and I stayed alive. Two hands later someone busted out and I made the last payout place of £150 with some mighty relief.

I still think I played the QT hand right and if he'd folded, I was in great shape to bully the other players. I'll definitely try and play in this more often, as I have to take advantage of a moderate buy-in tournament which doesn't take place on a schoolnight.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Everyone knows not to bluff muppets - don't they?

Yesterday was a frustrating day. Played two tournaments on Blondepoker - the WSOP Super Sat ($375) and the $250,000 Guaranteed ($430). Bought straight into both, so what did I have to show for my $800?

Came 40th of 85 in the WSOP satellite. Managed to get up above average and then dribbled away a bit. Played two hands badly. Raised with 77, get a call from the behind me, creating a pot of 1300. Flop is A66, he has 1800 left so I decide to represent the Ace and push. Ridiculous decision. These guys love to call raises with Aces and aren;t going to fold. He has AJ.

Ten hands later I raise with 22 and get a call from a Frenchie in the BB (pot is 1100). Flop is JJ9 and he checks. I push for 1500 and he instacalls with 88. Another bad decision from me - why do I keep trying to bluff these guys?

The $250K was very annoying. Huge overlay ($90K) thanks to the network messing up and closing registration ten minutes before the start - sweet. After a quiet start I managed to get up to the top five simply through hitting some flops and getting paid off by the fools. Maintained my position in the top ten and then got moved to a hugely tight table. A ten-seat table which went fold-fold-fold-fold-fold-fold-raise-fold-fold-fold every single hand. I managed to grab some blinds every hand but had absolutely nothing so didn't want to risk any resteals, as these guys were only raising with good cards, and would be liable not to fold to a push.

Finally got AA on the button. I'd been frustrated in the WSOP sat earlier by getting AA UTG and only winning 90 chips so I was praying for some action before me, as I knew I'd get paid off. Early position Frenchie limps (excellent - he's trapping with something), so I raise a little bit and he pushes. Happy days. He has QQ and flops a Queen :(

This knocked me back but I was still above average. However I was still on a very tight table, getting no cards, and with no opponents prepared to bleed chips. About half an hour goes by. I have the exact same stack (one blinds steal per round) but am now below average, due to the other players getting knocked out. A mid position player open min-raises. I'd seen him do this a couple of times before. I'm on the button with 88 and decide this is the time for my first resteal - if I wait much longer I'm not going to have enough to make anyone fold.

I push, and he has AA. I am sadly lacking in snowman magnetism so go out 98th of the 399 starters. What annoyed me so much was that I'd got off to such a great start in a tournament with a $65K first prize and then simply didn't have any chance to capitalise on things. There was definite frustration in the push with 88 - it's -EV against a raiser on this table's likely raising range, and I'd already noted how bad the players generally are (these are the ones who won't let go of A9 in this situation). Did I go too soon? Could I have waited? Maybe, but it's making decisions like this which lead me to win tournaments and rarely cash small. Overall it's probably more profitable, but the variance is a killer.

One funny hand from earlier. At 15/30 a short stack (who'd lost a big pot with AK v AQ two hands ago) goes all-in from under the gun for 180. I have JJ in mid position and about 3000 chips. I raise to 400 to signal my intention to the other players to step aside. The SB re-raises to 1200. In my less disciplined past I'd ship it here and lose to QQ+, but here I took a little while and decided there'd be a better spot. I hadn't given much thought to what the all-in player had, thinking it was a bit of a steam push, but he had a genuine hand in AQ. The re-raiser though, had the monster of A5 soooooooted. I nearly fell off my chair. A five on the flop, and another on the river meant I made the right choice from a results based perspective, but really, A5? The next hand was quickly folded so a note could be written about Mr A5.

I simply must, must, must play more straightforwardly against these guys. Maybe I should have a night where I simply play every single MTT - four on the go at once should keep me honest.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The novelty of a green month

Blogs are supposed to be updated monthly, aren't they?

Blondebash was fun. Played in the regular £75 freezeout on the Friday night. Lost some chips on the very first hand when I had to pay off the nuts on the river when the Ace that fell gave me top pair against his nut straight. Lost a big chunk of chips doubling up Flushy when I got cute with AQ pre-flop (deciding not to raise a few limpers), and finding that the seemingly trouble-free Q92 rainbow flop fitted his Q9 quite well. An AK/JJ race didn't come off which left me happily ensconced in the rather fabulous bar area at the G Casino in Luton (the whole place is superb). Didn't really get anywhere in Saturday's tournament but did win three out of three in the heads-up to take my team to the semi-final.

In the online world, I've played MTTs this month. Got off to a cracking start when I won the $15,000 Double Stack freezeout on Blonde for $6000. I had the day off work so played a qualifier in the afternoon and got through that to the big evening tournament. Good tournament this, there were only 44 people and I much prefer those type of events than three-figure runner donkaments. I also won the Blonde tournament on Thursday for $1000 - a thirty runner affair.

Had a couple of goes at winning a WSOP seat - got my money back in one thanks to the strange payout structure in sats on Blondepoker. There'll be however many seats available, and then the rest of the prize money is paid out as entry fees back to the next however many people, instead of a declining payout. So, for example, in one I played in there were 4 seats, then the next 28 people got their money back. Effectively there are two bubbles, with a crazy period as the shortstacks try to double up in between.

As for the writing, I've done a few player profiles for the new Blondepoker player database but still no actual stuff off the top of my head. Been too busy playing STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl instead. God that game is good.