KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the tag “poker tournament”

Ending Abruptly

Over the last few years, I’ve developed a strong preference for cash game poker over tournament poker.  When asked why I don’t like tournaments, the quick answer is “because they always end abruptly.”

I find that irritating.  Last night I made it to the final table of a private tournament that started with 33 players.  Seven remain.  There is a little extra at stake, as this is the final tournament of a year-long poker league.  The league winner is determined by points that are awarded based on each player’s finishing position in each tournament.  The points leader is also among the final seven, and I’m in second place overall.  If I finish two spots higher than him in this tournament, I’ll be tied for the points lead.  Winning the points title is worth a little over $2,500 (for larger tournament entry fees + travel costs), so I’m pretty motivated to win this game-within-a-game.

He’s trying to wait me out, folding virtually every hand and now severely short stacked with only two or three big blinds remaining.  I have more chips than he does, but also less than 5 BBs.

Everyone folds to the player on my right, who is on the button.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll refer to him as “Gary.”  He raises.  In the small blind, I have pocket aces.  Then we are all-in.

Then I’m out.  Abruptly.

Gary also is one of my best friends.  After he wins the tournament, he says “don’t be mad, I’ll buy you a beer.”



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Gotta Win the Races

In a few days, I’m heading to Las Vegas for my first trip ever (can you say… Bucket List?) to the World Series of Poker.  I will be playing in exactly one bracelet event, with a $1,500 buy-in, starting June 20.

So a couple days ago I switched from my normal cash game mode to a tournament mode.  I played an online tournament on Thursday, and played in live, private tournaments on Friday and Saturday nights.

Let’s get real here, very quickly, and acknowledge that these tournaments aren’t going to be representative of what I should expect at the WSOP.  But at least they involved more players who I do not play with regularly, and the basic issue that the blinds increase in scheduled increments, creating various inflection points along the way.  And when you bust out, you’re out.  Finished.  Over.  Done.

On Friday, there were 47 players in the tournament, with a $50 buy-in plus $10 bounty.  Blinds increased every 20 minutes.  The prize money goes to the last 5 players.  I did pretty well, played a mini-“Survivor” and made it to the final 4.  Then we negotiated a “chop” of the remaining money, giving a larger share to the guy with the biggest stack and splitting the balance equally among the other three.  I had the 2nd largest stack, although my lead over 3rd and 4th place was slim… no more than 3-4 big blinds.

On Saturday, there were 16 players, with a $60 buy-in, plus re-entry for the first hour, plus a $10 add-on at the end of an hour.  Blinds increased every 15 minutes.  The prize money goes to the last 3 players.  Again, I hung on for a good while, busting out in 6th place.

Here’s the thing:  in both tournaments, there are points where significant risks are required.  Let’s call a “big risk” any situation where you are going to commit all or a sizable portion of your chip stack before the flop.  This is when you have the least amount of information — only your two hole cards.  When you go all-in and another player calls, or another players goes all-in and you call, you cannot ever be assured of winning.  With pockets AA’s, you might be somewhere between 77-94% favorite, but never 100%.  And some additional times you’ll be doing the same on the flop, with two cards still to come.

Often times the odds will be fairly close to 50/50.  When this happens, we call it a “race” or a “coin flip.”  I suppose it’s fair to call it a race whenever neither player is a greater than 60% favorite (although I have not seen any semi-official definition).  Even at 70/30, the underdog is going to win often enough to make it pretty nerve-wracking.

Here are some of the hands from Friday and Saturday nights that stand out:

Friday – Coachman’s Trail tournament (format:  my cards, my percentage equity at the time we went all-in, “>” or “<” to indicate that I won / lost, villain’s cards, villain’s percentage.  (Percentages may be slightly off as I don’t remember the suits from every hand.  This is in the order they occurred to the best of my recollection.)

1.  AKo (45%) > 55 (55%).  Knocked out opponent.

2. JJ (50%) = JJ (50%).   Chopped pot.  Villain shoved over my opening raise, then picked up a flush draw on turn but missed.  Whew.

3.  A9s (30.5%) < AKo (69.5%).  Doubled up opponent.  I had raised first, he shoved, not too much more to call and I had the bigger stack.  Same villain as #2.

4. AA (80%) > TT (20%).  Doubled up my stack.

5. QQ (80%) > TT (20%).  Knocked out opponent.  This was the very next hand after #4.  Mini-heater.

6. KJo (73.2%) < K3o (26.8%).  Doubled up opponent, who had gotten short stacked and made a “fuck it” call that was less than my pre-flop raise.

7. K9o (57.8%) > QJo (42.2%).  Doubled up my stack.  Villain open-limped in cutoff and appeared weak.  I shoved on button hoping to have just enough fold equity to get rid of him.  He called anyway.

8. KQs (44.1%) > ATo (55.8%).  Doubled up my stack.  Flopped flush draw giving me lots of outs, hit flush on river.

9.  TT (80%) > 88 (20%).  Doubled up my stack.  Villain was loose, aggressive, big stack.  Now at 5 players remaining.

In this group, I won 6, lost 2 and chopped 1.  Both losses came when I had a big enough stack to survive the beating.  4 of the wins came when I was the shorter stack (and 2 of these were 80/20 situations so not exactly races.  But still…).

My simple average equity in these hands was 60.1%.  My “win rate” of 6.5 out of 9 is 72.2%.  So without weighting for stack sizes or Independent Chip Model theories and such other fancy analysis, I performed slightly better than expected on this small sample of hands.  Most importantly, there were 5 times that a loss would have knocked me out of the tournament and I survived them all.  This is a must to go deep in a no limit holdem tournament, especially with the blinds increasing so quickly.  When we finally negotiated the chop, even the biggest stack had only about 15-17 big blinds remaining.

Saturday – John D.’s house tournament.

1.  KK (78.6%) > QQ (11.1%) < Q6s (10.3%).  WTF?  Villain #2 UTG min-raises,  Villain #1 UTG+1 re-raises, and I shove on the button with KK.  V2 has slightly less than one-half of her starting stack and we have not yet reached the end of the re-entry period, so she makes a tilted, “fuck-it, I’ll just re-buy” call with Qs6s and V1 also calls with QQ.  I love this spot.  Then a 6 comes on the flop and another 6 on the river.  I make a very tiny profit on the side pot and knock out V1, while V2 pulls in chips equal to about 135% of a starting stack.  OMG.

2.  8c 3c (44.2%) < Ks Qc (55.8%) after flop of Kc 8d 7c.  After 2 limps, I completed from the small blind (AND THEREIN LIES THE REAL MISTAKE!!!) with total garbage.  But I hit the flop pretty good, with middle pair and a flush draw.  We are 6-handed and the blinds are big, such that I begin the hand with 10.5 BBs.  I open shove into a pot of 4 BBs, a massive over bet designed to put maximum pressure on the villains knowing I have a lot of equity.  Guy on button calls (why did he limp and not raise with KQo on the button???).  Turn is another 7, pairing the board and eliminating some of my outs as now I cannot win by pairing my kicker.  River is a 3, pairing my kicker.

Trying to remember other races from this tournament and cannot think of any.  I know I didn’t knock out anyone else as I only had one bounty to cash in afterwards.  I cannot recall any other hands where I doubled up my stack.

Both of these hands were weird, and the first one doesn’t really qualify as a “race” other than how it illustrates what can happen in tournaments.

My simple average equity for these two hands is 61.4%.  I won the side pot on the first hand but lost the main pot.  So let’s just say I won 1 out of 3 pots for a win rate of 33.3%.  Performed worse than expected and finished out of the money.

Friday –> variance is my friend.  Saturday –> variance is my enemy.  Inevitably, gotta win some key races to survive.

On to the cash game.  A key hand there (see #1 again from the Saturday tournament) is where again I have KK and raise to 7 BBs pre-flop.  2 callers and then a short stack makes a “Fuck it!” shove for 25 BBs.  I go all-in to isolate him and he turns over 33.  KK (80%) < 33 (20%) after he spikes another 3 on the turn.  Sigh.

Tournament Curse

The last three tournaments I’ve played prior to tonight are starting to make me feel cursed.

Twice I lost to a 2-outer on the river and once lost when I flopped a set and the villain flopped a bigger set.

Another tournament about a month ago involved a villain hitting a 3-outer on the river.

Now comes tonight.  Again I flopped a set (of 4’s) in a pot where 5 players called a pre-flop raise to 3 BB’s, including me on the button.  It goes check, check, all-in for 10 BB’s, another all-in for 11 BB’s, and I shove for my last 15 BB’s.  The other two players fold, one of them announcing he had AK.  Angelo, the second to go all-in, turns over KK, and the case K comes on the turn.  A 1-outer this time.

I started that hand with 18 Big Blinds in my stack.  Not great, but definitely not desperate.  Winning would have put me up to 51 Big Blinds, making me one of the chip leaders and in position for a deep run.

So I did some research on curse removal, and found several interesting approaches, including these (enjoy!):

Option 1:

  • Establish a gold idol of Nāga and worship him according to the rituals followed in the native’s house.
  • Cow, land, sesame and gold should be donated according to one’s capacity for the expansion of one’s clan.

Option 2:

Get a piece of wax paper or another kind of strong paper.

Write on it carefully what you know about the curses/hexes, like who cast them, or where they came from, and/or when this started (the date). If you don’t know any details, just write “My two curses or hexes” on the paper so that we all know what this for and what it’s going to do.

Place three spoonfuls of salt (rock salt, or sea salt, or just ordinary table salt) into the paper and make a bundle out of it that you can tie to a piece of string.

Wear it over your heart for three days and three nights.

The salt will draw out the curses or hexes and take them into itself.

On the morning of the fourth day, open the package, and let water wash the salt away. You can do this in a river or by an ocean shore, scatter it outside when it is raining hard, or simply in your sink if you have no access to flowing water elsewhere.

Burn the paper and the string.

Wear a rose quartz pendant or a healing or lucky charm you already own over the heart for 9 days after that, so that whatever was damaged by the presence of the curse or hex gets healed and restored, and your defense systems grow strong again.

Option 3:

Be sure that nobody else can see you (close all curtains, doors, windows, etc.).  Now, get a bowl full of water and put 3 drops of green dye in it.

Now that you’ve done that, slowly tip the bowl over each candle allowing them to be extinguished while at the same time chanting:  “Juina Shelt Fonsed.”

You must do this very slowly and imagine the spell being lifted from your body and all the good luck and fortune that will soon come to you and the evil that will go to the person that placed the hex/curse upon you.

Daily Debacle – Root Cause Analysis

This hand was played in a live NL Hold’em  tournament last night.  I’ve played with this group several times previously, but only familiar with 2-3 of the other players.

This event starts with a relatively short stack for a tournament, with 50 BB’s to start, increasing every 20 minutes.  There are no antes throughout this tournament.  The room was packed, so they put 11 players at each table initially.  With these starting stacks, we typically starting seeing some all-in moves in the first level.  It only takes one or two raises before feeling pot committed.  There is a resulting tendency to feel a need to get involved in many pots early on (if one can do so cheaply) to maximize your chances of accumulating some chips early.

Barely one orbit into the tournament, I get Jh Th in the UTG+1 seat.  I’ll walk through what happened, and save the analysis for the end here.

I limp in – just calling the big blind.  A player in MP raises to 5BB’s and the button calls.  A few hands earlier, I picked off a river bluff from the MP player with a low pocket pair when he only had Ace-high on a scary board.

The flop is J-T-5, rainbow.  Top two pair for me.  I check.  MP checks and Button bets 15 BB’s.

I then check-raise and my stack is larger than both MP and Button (I started the hand with about 51 BB’s, MP had 32 BB’s and Button had 44 BB’s).  I shove all-in over the top of Button’s bet.

MP calls and after tanking a bit Button also calls.

I turn over J-T for top two pair.  MP shows T-T for a set of tens.  Button shows AA.

The turn is another 5, putting the Button ahead of me for the side pot, and the river is a total brick.

MP wins the main pot and triples up, Button survives with about 25 BB’s out of the side pot, and I’m left with only 7 BB’s.

A few hands later, I bust out of the tournament, when my 55 loses to 33 making a set on the turn by this same Button villain.

After busting out, I walked outside to get some fresh air, sip on a beer and reflect.  I wrote our my recollection of this hand on the notes app of my iPhone and tried to think about what my comments would be if a friend sent me the play-by-play and asked for my feedback.

After the flop, the hand basically plays itself, except the Button’s call after I shove and the MP shoves is a bit suspect.  But it’s so hard to let go of pocket Aces on the flop and had he done so he would have been left with just under half of his original stack.

I checked into the pre-flop aggressor.  This seemed pretty straightforward to me, as I planned to check-raise all-in as soon as I saw the flop.  Had I led out there, it’s possible both other players (of course me not knowing their cards yet) would sense danger and fold.

MP checked behind me and this was a bit of a surprise, but suggested either big unpaired cards like AK or AQ that would hope for a free card, or something like 99 or 88 that is worried about the over cards.  As it turned out he was just setting a trap with his monster flopped set of tens.

Button’s flop bet looked very much like a “both of you guys look weak so why don’t I just take this away from you” type of bet.  At least that was my interpretation at the time.  He had called pre-flop, so I was not suspecting he would have a big pair like AA.  Give him credit for deceptive play, and criticism for giving me odds to call pre-flop and make it a multi-way hand.

At the flop, the pot was 16.5 BB’s, and Button bet 15 BB’s.  After calling 15, the pot would now be 46.5 BB’s and I would have 31 remaining.  No reason to get cute – shove it!

So did I make a mistake on this hand?  Was this disaster avoidable?  Should I have had a read here that I was in big trouble?

I’ve been trying extra hard lately to accept and apply the basic principle in no limit Texas Hold’em that if your cards are good enough to play pre-flop, they must be good enough to raise.  If they are not strong enough to raise – given your position and the prior action – then you must fold and not call.  Calling is passive.  Calling is for dummies.  Calling is spewing chips.  Calling leads to death!  And I’ve been drastically reduced the number of limps and calls pre-flop.

Yet here I limped with Jh Th.  They look so good, these suited-connecting-Broadway cards.  Yet I know this is not a monster hand, and with 11 players at the table and I’m 2nd to act, I did not want to inflate the pot to a level that I could not call a raise.

That was my mistake.  JT suited is not in my raising range for such an early position.  Therefore I must fold, not limp.  At the time I was thinking about all the good things that can happen, and the importance of seeing some flops before too many other player built up big stacks.

But re-read the hand and think about two alternative scenarios.  The first is that I fold.  Easy peasy.  I still have 51 BB’s and can wait for a better opportunity to attack.  After all, this is still blind level 1.

Alternatively, I could have raised.  Surely either MP or Button (or both!) would have re-raised.  If MP calls, I cannot imagine Button flat calling with two other players and he has AA.  He can try to represent a squeeze play (a big raise after an opening raise and one call, which implies great strength, consequently this is used at times as a bluff) or just decide the chips in the pot are worth attacking.  Besides, one or both of us might call.  If MP re-raises, even if Button then flat calls (more likely he ships), I’m probably going to fold.  JT is no good against a re-raiser and caller and I’d be out of position for the rest of the hand.  So if I raise (say… to 4 BB’s), it is nearly certain that I’ll end up folding pre-flop and still have 47 BB’s left to play with.

Hmmmph!  That’s not so bad.

In hindsight, limping pre-flop resulting in setting my own trap, then walking right into it after the flop came out.

Either folding or raising would have avoided that.

I finish my beer and wait for the cash game to begin.

Year-to-date online results:  (- $1,787)

Month-to-date online results:  + $118


Daily Debacle – Way Ahead / Way Behind

Last night I played in a live tournament with about 65 players.  The buyin was $50 plus another $10 bounty.  The starting stack was equal to 50 big blinds.

I was pretty card dead and uber-tight for awhile, whittling away about 20% of my stack.  Then the most aggressive player, an older guy, was on the button, with me in the big blind.  Not only was this guy aggressive, he was irritating.  A couple of times he was doing business on his cell phone while in a hand, including once as the dealer, and seemed oblivious to the rest of us.

Another time, he made a fairly standard-sized open raise and I called with 9-6 suited.  Not a premium hand, but folding all the time was getting boring, the blinds were still small, and I had position.  Two of my suited cards appeared on the flop and the old fart shoved all-in, about 5x the pot size.  Of course I folded, and he showed AA and said he was just happy to win what was already in the pot.  I made a mental note for future reference.

So this hand he is the button and I still have about 10 big blinds.  Everyone folds to him and he raises to just over 3BB’s, and the SB folds.  I have KT suited.  Not great, not terrible, not something I want to play out-of-position, not something I want to fold.  My image should be very, very tight.  I shoved and he insta-called, showing KK.  As I’m starting to walk away from the table, the river card completes a gutshot straight for me.

A bit later, the blinds are up again, I’ve won one more pot and now have 18.5 BB’s.  Everyone folds to me in the Hijack seat, and I have Ah 8h.  This is certainly good enough to raise, and I have to mix it up some or the blinds will begin taking their toll soon.  I raise to 2.5 BB’s, and the next two players fold.  Then the small blind 3-bets to 5.5 BB’s and the big blind folds.  The small blind made a strange play early in the tournament (first level of blinds).  On a monotone flop, he made the nut flush.  There was a bet and a call in front of him.  He shoved all-in and everybody folded.  He then showed his flush.  Really?  Why push everybody out if you have the nuts?  That seemed like such a perfect time to milk the pot for so much more.  Sure, it’s possible someone will have a draw to a full house, but you want to entice them to chase those draws.

On the other hand, I haven’t seen any 3-bets from this player.  His range seems fairly narrow, like JJ+, AQs+, AK.  For some reason I cannot explain, it seems that the JJ-KK pocket pairs are most likely.  He might call and trap with AA, might call with AK and evaluate the flop, etc.

Against this range, I have 30% equity.  The pot is now 8.5 BB’s and it will cost me 3 BB’s to call, so I have the proper odds.  My stack is 16 BB’s and I would have 13 BB’s after calling.  I will have position on this villain post-flop.

I hate giving up 20% of my remaining stack on a call here.  Any other ace will have me dominated.  Flushes don’t come around that often.  The size of his 3-bet is inviting a call.  Deliberately?  I don’t think so, as I am not very impressed by his prior play.

I decide to fold, but don’t slide my cards to the center.  Let’s think a bit more.  This is a short tournament.  There are only so many opportunities to accumulate chips.  I got a second life with my earlier suckout against the button’s KK.

TOO MUCH THINKING HERE.  “Fold!” I tell myself.

I call.

The flop is A-Q-4, with one heart.  Not bad, top pair with a backdoor flush draw.  He checks.  I check.

The turn is the 4h.  Helps my backdoor flush draw.  Otherwise, this card changes nothing, as he certainly doesn’t have a 4.  He checks again.

At this point, I’m either way ahead or way behind.  I’m ahead if he has KK or JJ – he would only have 2 outs.  I’m behind if he has AA, QQ, AK, AQ.  Against AA or QQ, I’m drawing dead as the turn card completed a full house.  Against AK I have 12 outs (hearts or an 8).  Against AQ I have 9 outs for a flush.  Based on my assessment of his preflop range, those are about the only options.

The only right play here is to check behind.  As I’m writing this, it is abundantly clear.  But last night I was tired, the result of a very late online session the night before (accumulating material for more blog posts!).  The flush draw got me excited, and I rationalized that the additional equity made it proper to shove.  Looking at it now, none of the hands that are ahead of me are going to fold.  Am I representing that I have a 4?  How silly.  None of the hands that are behind are going to call.

So I shove.  He calls and shows AK.  I have 12 outs, miss them all, and make the walk of shame, after starting this hand in perfectly good shape for a deep run in this tournament.

Anna Kournikova (again)

Last weekend I went with a friend to the Harrah’s casino at Cherokee, NC for the World Series of Poker Circuit event.  We both played in a 2-day ring tournament with $365 buy-in.

On the drive – a little over 5 hours – we talked about… (drum roll please) poker!

I mentioned that I won’t play a hand with AQ anymore, suited or unsuited.  Too many bad things have happened when I’ve gotten involved with AQ, such that I feel a certain kind of Anna Kournikova curse  whenever I see these hole cards.  As in:  looks good, never wins anything.

Click here to read my prior post about the Russian tennis playing beauty.

Anyway, I’ve decided not to play AQ anymore.  Not in tournaments.  Not in cash games.  Not under the gun.  Not in the cutoff or on the button.  Not in an opened pot.  Not as a caller, nor as a raiser.  I will not play AQ.  I was explaining this and my friend was rather flaggergasted, as this is one of the stronger starting hands.

For me, the issue is not hand strength.  The issue is tiltlessness, as that word is used by Tommy Angelo and others to describe the state of mind of a poker player playing optimally.  Your “A” game comes out when you are tiltless.  Conversely, when you go on tilt, you are (much) more likely to make mistakes.

Last summer in the middle stages of a tournament in WV, I had AQ in the big blind.  Several players limped in and my stack was about 18-20 big blinds.  I decided to shove and steal the blinds and antes.  The under-the-gun player instantly over-shoved.  Whoops!  Sure enough, he had AA and sent me packing.

On my first trip to Cherokee, I limped with AQ in late position, no one raise and the flop was Q-8-6.  Value town!  I bet the flop and the big blind player check-raised all-in on the turn.  My bet sizing was not proper in those days and I had left myself very little behind, such that his shove gave me over 8-to-1 to call.  I did and he turned over 8-6 for two pair, then binked another 8 on the river just for good measure.

About a year-and-a-half ago in Las Vegas, I raised in late position with AQ.  No more limping… I’ve learned my lesson about letting the blinds get a free look at the flop.  One caller and the flop is Q-J-6.  It’s already late and I’ll be quite happy to take down this pot, fold a couple of hands after that and head off to bed.  I make a standard continuation size bet and the young guy at the end of the table makes a huge check-raise, grabbing a stack of chips without counting them and placing them emphatically and menacingly on the table.  I’m no dummy, though, and after quickly dismissing the possibility he has QJ, see right through his “let’s intimidate the c-betting tourist” act.  So I ship it all in.  He insta-calls.  Whoops!  He turns over J-6 suited.  Really?  You called out-of-position with that shit?  He binks another J on the river for good measure.  I TILT, stay at the table until about 3:00 a.m. and blow through another buy-in before sulking off to bed.

Then there was the low straight draw that made a back-door flush in an online game when I had AQ, hit a Q-high flop and bet the flop and turn for value.

Actually I decided to quit playing AQ a couple years ago on a trip to Atlantic City.  At the Borgata, I folded AQ in early position when I had a short stack and was sitting at a very aggressive table (another mistake, but I digress).  Anyway, the hand limps all the way around.  Dang, I could have seen this flop cheaply.  The flop comes out Q-Q-Q.  Seriously.  Knowing that no one has quads, I watch several players stick chips in the middle to take a stab at this pot.  After this hand, I reneged on my commitment to fold AQ always and forever more.

Until recently, that is.  So we’re driving to Cherokee and I spend about an hour reliving these nightmares and explaining the importance of tiltlessness.  The opportunity cost of missing out on a winning had by folding AQ is less important to me than remaining tiltless, of not having to come home with another AQ bad beat story.  Another friend – who reads this blog and feels the same way about Anna Kournikova as I do – went to Atlantic City for a WSOP Circuit last spring and was doing pretty well in a tournament until he got AQ and the flop was A-Q-9.  This looked almost disaster-proof until the villain turned over pocket nines.

There is one exception that I agreed to allow myself.  Inevitably, I’ll reached a point in every tournament where the blinds have increased and my stack is getting shallow (less than enough chips to fold for 5 orbits of the button around the table, considering the blinds and antes).  Now the only plays are to shove all-in or fold.  I cannot be toooooooooo picky here, and agree that I should shove with AQ.  If I lose, I’ll probably be out of the tournament (unless the villain has an even shorter stack), so any tilting effect won’t matter.  If I win, I’ll either take the blinds and antes – at nice enough pickup in these situations – or double up, and definitely won’t tilt.

There were 411 players in the Cherokee WSOP Circuit tournament.  The very first hand of the tournament I look down at AQ, smile and fold.  I made it to the first break in good shape, with about 30% more chips than the starting stack.  The next couple of hours were pretty tough, with multiple dealer errors and trouble winning any decent pots.  Right before the next break I knocked out a very short stack, winning a JJ v. AK showdown, but still about 10% fewer chips than 2 hours earlier.

Shortly after we resumed play, the blinds went to 500 / 1,000, with antes of 75.  The total investment in one orbit of the button around the table is about 2,200.  I count my stack, and have 8,300 left.  I’ve got enough to fold my way through less than 4 full orbits.  It’s “shove or fold” time.  Peeking at my cards, I see the queen of clubs, then slide that over to reveal the ace of clubs.  This is no time to be timid.  After the first two players to act both fold,  I slide all my chips towards the center.

The next player folds, then an even shorter stack with just 6,000 remaining also announces all-in.  At least I can survive.  After one more fold, a bigger stack seems to be mulling it over carefully.  Finally he says “I guess sometimes you gotta gamble” and also goes all-in.  Everyone else folds.  I do not like this, not one little bit.  I’m expecting to see one of them have AK and the other have a pocket pair.

Show time!  I show my Ac Qc.  The short stack laughs and shows Ah Qh.  All that excitement and we have the same hands.  The bigger stack now frowns and tables Ad Jd.

Wow!  I cannot believe I’m tied with one of them and we both have the other guy dominated.

Until a J shows up quickly on the flop.  A few seconds later, I’m headed for the exit, teased again by Anna Kournikova.

Later that night in a cash game, I get Ac Qc again in the cutoff and decide to limp in.  On a flop of A-7-9 it checks all around.  Maybe I’ll win a small pot and break this curse.  I bet at it on the turn (a 6, not completing any flush draws) and get one caller.  The river is another 7, and the caller leads out with a bet of slightly more than the pot.  Aack!

Fortunately, I decide that tiltlessness should be the dominant factor in deciding what to do here.  I might think he’s bluffing when the board pairs here, but it doesn’t matter.  NO MORE ANNA KOURNIKOVA STORIES.  I fold.

Year-to-date online results:  (- $709)

Month-to-date online results:  + $497



Play to Win, Not the Other to Lose

This is a guest entry submitted by a good friend and poker buddy.  Some background – the author and I have both played multiple times in local, live tournaments with a player who can most charitably be called a jerk.  Many of you have probably played with someone like this:  a very good player himself but chirping constantly (and not in a friendly or social manner); always telling you how you misplayed the hand you just lost but how he got sucked out on if he loses (and by the way, what a terrible play it was for you to make that call in the first place) and sometimes outright guaranteeing that he’ll have all of your chips before the tournament is over.  The more he drinks, the nastier he gets.

Here goes:

The setting – halfway through a live tournament with 50 starting players that only pays out the top 3 (with first place paying $1,200, second place $800 and third place $500).  The average stack is about 52K chips with me holding about 55K and the blinds at 1/2K.

The jerk limps in from UTG+2 and is called by the SB and the BB (me) holding 6s-8s.  The flop comes 3-5-7 rainbow, giving me an up-and-down straight draw.  SB and BB both check and the jerk goes all in with just over 38K chips.  Small blind folds so it’s my turn to act.  As I’m going over the hand in my head, the jerk is chirping that he could have a big pocket pair or two over cards or it might be a stone cold bluff.  This is really irritating.

Going over the possibilities, I see three likely alternatives: high pocket pair (I’m behind 65/35); pocket pair that hit a set (behind 75/25); two over cards (coin flip).  I just don’t smell bluff, and putting his obnoxious behavior aside, this jerk is too strong of a player to make this big of an overbet on a bluff.  At this point in the tournament, I have an above average chip stack and reasonable blinds so there is no need to pick two cards to risk 70% of my stack on what I believe to be a coin flip at the very best.  The obvious, no, the only move to make is to fold my cards and continue to play solid poker.

Unfortunately, what came out of my mouth was “Call.”  The jerk turned over pocket 10’s and after neither the turn nor the river made my open-ended straight, I had less than ten big blinds left.  I exited the tournament a little later after a particularly brutal hand on which a non-jerk hit a full house on the river to take down my flush.

It wasn’t until thinking about it afterwards that I realized that it wasn’t the 38K chips that I was after on that hand – it was the opportunity to knock the jerk out of the tournament.  I ignored my gut, math, skill and everything else I know (or think I know) from a lifetime of poker and took my eye off the prize (winning) because I was distracted by another small, petty and stupid goal.  I will try never to do that again and will be a better player and person because of it.


KKingDavid’s note:  Jerk made the final table of this tournament but did not cash.

Year-to-date online results:  + $8,462

Month-to-date online results:  + $1,378

Bad Luck Heads Up

Here is a series of hands that spelled my doom in a live tournament last night.  This was a $50 buy-in, no limit Hold’em tournament that started with 30 players.  I ran pretty good and played well, so this is all about heads up play for the win.

The other player is a young kid, looks to be barely 19 but probably 22 or 23, and plays a very loose, aggressive, attacking style typical of many tournament players his age.  He has stolen many pots, made some huge hands, been caught in huge bluffs, and sucked out several times.  Early on, he busted out and re-bought.  Not long ago he was way behind to a made straight on the turn when the river card filled an inside straight on the board, resulting in a chopped pot and his survival.

These were not consecutive hands, but they are the key hands that determined the outcome.  We entered heads up play with him holding about 65% of the chips.

#1.  Pocket Aces – No Action.  On the very first hand heads up, I am dealt AA.  My maniacally aggressive opponent folds his small blind.

#2.  Counterfeited Kicker.  We get all in pre-flop and I have him dominated with QJ off suit vs. his QT off suit.  The board comes out K-2-Q-7-2.  The river card pairs the board and my kicker advantage is negated.  I yhought I would double up, which would have given me the chip lead.

#3.  Pocket Aces again.  Less than ten minutes after the first hand, I look down at AA again.  And once again this hyper-aggressive youngster folds the small blind.  Grrrrr…

#4.  Two Outer on River.  Again we get all in pre-flop and again I have him dominated with T-8 vs. his 8-6.  He raised from the small blind, and I jammed all-in over the top, which he insta-called.   Jeez, if he is so willing to call a shove with 8-6, why couldn’t I get ANY action for my Aces?  The flop is K-6-K, giving him the lead.  The turn is an 8, canceling his 6 and giving me a kicker advantage.  A river A, K, Q, J or 8 will result in another chopped pot – a total of 15 outs for a chop.  I will win this hand and take over the chip lead with a 10, 9, 7, 5, 4, 3 or 2 – a total of 27 outs.  But the river is another 6 (2 outs), giving him a full house and ending the tournament.


Time for bed.

Aces full loses to quads at final table

This actually happened last Friday night.

I was playing in a tournament in a local private neighborhood clubhouse.  I’d been hearing about this game for several months.  The buy-in is $60, which includes $50 to the prize pool and a $10 bounty.

My buddy Greg called me Friday afternoon to ask if I knew the details of this game.  I suggested he call either Mike or Larry as surely one of them would know.  And please let me know what you find out… I might be interested and don’t have any plans tonight.  Greg dutifully called me back, said to show up between 7:00-7:15 and I decided to play.

The setup was pretty good, with 47 players to start.  The noise level was pretty high, as they had rolled up the carpets to protect from spills, and had a bunch cheap plastic top folding tables with no covers on them, so the chips made quite a bit of noise when splashed into the pot.  But rookies should never complain.

I started off pretty well.  (There were a couple of hands I would describe in detail if this was a place to brag or provide poker instruction and coaching, but that is not the point of this blog.  This is my place to vent and to try to learn from my mistakes, which are many.)  They formed a final table of 10, and the chips moved around pretty fast but without any quick knockouts.  I played really tight there and the blinds were getting to me.

With 9 left, and knowing only 5 would get paid, it was clear that I had to make a move.  Starting stacks were 10,000 chips, or 50 big blinds.  At this point, blinds were up to 2,000 – 4,000 and I had 17,500 remaining.  After posting and folding the BB, blinds went up to 4,000 – 8,000 and all-of-a-sudden I was down to 9,500, barely enough to cover a single BB.

Three hands later in the hijack position, everyone folded to me and I looked down at A-7 off-suit.  Easy decision to shove, only the blinds called.  I flopped another A and tripled up to 28,500 chips.

On the very next hand I looked down at A-A.  What a great world we live in.  I haven’t seen A-A all night and here it is at the final table just after tripling up.  A younger guy under the gun goes all in for about 40,000+.  He was a pretty good player, aggressive, and young enough to wear his baseball cap backwards.  At my age, I’d just look silly doing that.  Obviously I’m going to shove and everyone else gets out of the way.  The pot is 69,000 chips – my 28,500 plus his 28,500 after pulling back the excess of his bet plus the 4,000 & 8,000 blinds.

He flips over 6-6, and I flip over my aces.  The first card turned over is another ace.  Cha-ching!  Then a king and a six.  The dealer comments that both of us made sets.  The turn is a jack and someone declares that there is only one out remaining.

Mathematically speaking, there are 52 cards in the deck.  8 of them are now turned up, including his 6-6, my A-A, and the board of A-K-6-J.  That leaves 44 cards that we haven’t seen.  The odds are 43-to-1 in my favor.  Yeeee-hah!  Start the par—   uh oh.

When the dealer lays the last six down on the table for the river card, half the room is stunned and the other half is going crazy.  Much to the other guy’s credit, he didn’t get up and dance or strut or yell or whatever, but was humble and apologetic.  Since this is my first time playing at this game, clearly a neighborhood-oriented social game, I have the good sense not to pitch a hissy.

One second I’m starting to calculate the chip average and thinking that first place pays $1,000 tonight.  Bam!  The party ends abruptly and I’m driving home.  Before leaving I take a picture on my iPhone of the kid with my chips and tell him it’s going on my bulletin board.

Went home.  Didn’t sleep well at all.  Decided to start a blog.

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