Friday, October 30, 2009

Change of Plans

I am not at Commerce, and opted for Hustler instead. Babar's report of "chippies freakin everywhere" is so far accurate.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

You Have a Pair? Really?

I don't really have a whole lot to write about, but hopefully this will turn out to be entertaining enough. I realize a lot of my posts lately have been bad beat stories, but there are a couple of good reasons for that:

1. It's therapeutic for me to write them down.
2. They really have been happening a ton.
3. They are often hilarious.

First for an example of (3). I raise with JTs after a limper or two with an extra blind posted and get a 5 way pot. MG, an older Chinese man whom I struggle not to strangle on a daily basis has posted between the button and small blind. MG table and seat changes more than any other human on planet Earth, and is also in the running for a lifetime achievement award for requesting new setups. His English is poor, which I've realized in the re-telling of this story makes it hard to get right, but here goes the flop:


I don't have any clubs, but top pair is a good start. I bet and collect 3 calls, including MG. The turn is scary


I bet again though, and get a vibe that MG wants to check raise but restrains himself. At this point it's worth noting that MG thinks I'm completely insane, as do a lot of weak tight players. He just assumes that I barrel every board relentlessly, hoping everyone folds. Truth be told that's a terrifying turn card, and for me to bet it into 3 people I have to have something pretty tasty. We're heads up now to the river


Wow. So basically at this point MG has one of a 3 things:

1. A missed flush draw that won't give me a bet.
2. A full house.
3. A ten, which may or may not have a kicker that beats mine.

Of these options the most likely seem to be either (1) or (2), with the full house being 3s full of 7s. He checks and I think for a minute then declare:

"I can't bet that river MG. Check" (the "check" is because of the aforementioned English deficiency).

MG: "I have a full house." He proudly turns over 63o, for the rivered 2 outter. I am proud of myself for saving the bet, but still a little frustrated.

Jesse: "Nice river there MG. What is that, two outs? Yup...two" but I don't turn over my cards, as I don't have to do so. MG is clearly confused.

MG: "What? You have a pair? Really?" He was proud because he figured he'd flopped the best hand and I'd just been barreling off again with Ace-high. The table gets a good laugh (again, it doesn't seem that funny when I write it now, but trust me, it was) and one player chimes in:

"No, he just bet the whole way with's like it never even occurred to him that you might have a pair!" I flash the ten while mucking and say "No MG, no pair had me the whole way"

This next hand was one of those moments after which all I could do was scratch my head and wonder. A very fat man was sitting in seat 5, with me in seat 6, and Igor in seat 9. I raised the fat man's limp preflop with AKo and Igor called in one of the blinds. The fat man called and we saw a flop of:


They both checked to me and I bet. Igor went all in for 5 chips (he still has two cards, is basically what this means) and the fat man just called. The turn paired the 9 and the fat man donked after being informed that Igor was all in (a fact that he apparently missed on the flop). I was obviously confused, but having no pair was left with no choice but to muck. The river bricked off and Igor showed A8o. Upon my request the dealer killed and then showed the fat man's hand of...QJo, for no pair, no draw, queen-high. Igor stacked up 30 chips that should have been mine, and the fat man was genuinely confused as to why I was upset (as an aside, the next day I walked into the casino and he was STILL THERE, in the same seat. I texted Hank saying "that dude is close to 20 hours" and not 3 hands later he vanished).

Moving right along, I took a few standard beats during a 40/80 shot. First I flop top two pair (aces and queens) and get it capped 3-ways on the flop. The turn bricks off, but I get check/raised on the river king by, what else, Jack-Ten for the nut straight. Two plus two dogma is clear on this subject; somebody usually has Jack-Ten. No biggie. The next hand, however, was one I was quite proud of.

I raise AA and get a 5-way pot. Remember this is 40/80, in theory where people know something about what they are doing. The flop comes down:


And I'm already getting nervous. There is a flush draw, and I bet, but when Carlos and Yelena both call (neither was in the blind...both cold-called the bet in late position preflop) I resolve for once not to over-play aces. The turn helps me slow down:


And I just check. That's right, with aces I just check the turn without getting raised on the flop. Carlos bets and Yelena pauses....then calls. I call, which was my plan the whole time.


Just wow, this is how I run. I check and Carlos bets. Yelena calls again and I fold my hand. Both of them show JTs and the dealer chops up my money for them to split.

The list goes on an on (these beats occurred over two days), but only two more stand out. Again at 40/80, and this time I 3-bet JJ in the big blind. A laggy guy (who caps it) and a fish both come along (in MP and the SB) and I flop and open ended royal flush draw (TQK all diamonds). To make a long story short the laggy guy had 99 and the fish had KJ, and I lost the minimum on the hand.

And in closing, back at 20/40 I 3-bet a guy with KK, bet/3-bet his check/raise on the flop of J42, then collected a call from him and one other player on the turn 2, and couldn't avoid paying him off when he check/raised the river 8, even though I called his pocket 8s. The pot was just too big, aided by Big Al calling all 9 bets on the way to showdown (3 cold preflop, 2 cold then 1 more on the flop, 1 on the turn, and 1 on the river....twice....the second time as an overcall....just wow).

So that's been my last few days. I'm going to LA tomorrow and will be playing at Commerce on Friday. Feel free to say hello; I'll be the one stuck 4 racks in the 20 game :)

Friday, October 23, 2009

1 Big Bet Per Hour

Yesterday started off fine. I took my car to Melody Toyota for an oil change and dumped 200 uneventful dollars at Artichoke Joes. Once the car was done I drove up to The Oaks and promptly won $240 playing 6/12 in 15 minutes. From UTG and then the BB I won back to back pots by flopping top two (JTs and K7o) against Ray, the resident 30/60 maniac. Both times he had me dominated and yet I won. I assure you this never happens at 30/60. Ever. It was just surreal, knowing full well I'd outflopped him for once from WOOPS (Way Out Of PoSition) with the worst hand and dragging two pots in a row with a silly grin on my face. Of course a rack at 6/12 is only $200, but at least at that level I've been winning lately (I'll discuss some random stats later, but as a preview...I've won $1100 in my last 13 hours of live 6/12). I then moved up to 15/30 when a new game was called and promptly won a rack in about 30 minutes. It would have been way more, if it weren't for the hand I'm about to tell you about. These two hands display the opposite ends of the continuum of events that can happen with your big hands in limit hold'em:

I open raise AA UTG (humorously The Grinder just came over and asked Norm and I to start a coup by getting up from the 15 and moving to the empty 30 table so The Oaks board would call it down...Norm declined and took his big blind. Had he not, this never would have happened) and Ray calls me with two napkins in middle position. Steven 3-bets me and Norm calls two more cold in the big blind. I of course cap it and they all call. This is a fantastic situation obviously, and for once I'm confident it's going to work out. The flop comes down:


I'm not even kidding here. The flop is K....7....2....with 3 suits. When you read a limit hold'em book and they need an example of a "dry" flop, one on which there are practically zero draws available, this is the one they use. It is impossible to even have a gutshot on this board! Norm checks and I bet. Ray calls, Steven thinks for a second, gives me one of his patented "I hate you so much I can't believe you're so lucky even though I win 2 racks a day by cold-calling twice an orbit" looks and folds getting 18:1 with long implied odds. Norm calls, and I'm already starting to count all my money in the pot. To the turn:


The fourth suit is now on board and nobody can possibly have a straight. Norm checks, I bet, Ray raises, and then shit starts to get funny. Norm says "What do you have over there Ray?" and since I'm in the hand I can't resist. "He has two pairs, and one of them is a five." Ray shoots me daggers. He and I are usually pretty friendly with each other, but at a slightly smaller game I feel safe rubbing him a little to see where it goes. The look on his face, however, is one I've never seen before. He's almost....angry. "I couldn't be slow-playing a big hand, Jess?" he replies. I respond in rhythm, "Two pair, probably Kings and Fives. Definitely fives though." Ray is furious and yet somehow Norm calls two more bets, cold. I call, since even if he does have K5 I have 8 outs to scoop the pot and am getting 15:1 closing the action. I could call two bets cold here, actually. The river bricks off and Norm and I both check. Ray bets, Norm calls, and I can't make the hero fold at 18:1. Ray shows the exact hand I called out, K5o, for two pairs. Norm has K3o, which had three (3) outs to chop the pot, and I quietly muck my aces.

Shortly after this I do make it over to 30/60 and at first win for a bit. At one point I'm up a grand for the day and even contemplate going home early. Then I lose a pot and text Batman "The doomswitch has been engaged." I proceed to lose slowly for the next three hours, put myself on the 15/30 list after the game un-softens (I wouldn't want to say "got tough" because that wouldn't be true, but most of the players were not actively lighting chips on fire...or at least they didn't have any lighter fluid with them) and in my final two orbits before getting into the 15 I drop almost an entire rack running JJ into AA and AK into AQ (you'd think that second one would work out, but you'd be wrong).

So I go back down to 15/30 now stuck something like $1500 for the day and the game is just hoppin'. I still manage to lose $400 more, but not before watching Batman play the following hand. He opens in early position and gets about 5 callers, some limpers, some behind him, some blinds, I don't know, freaking everybody was in this pot except me. The flop is:


Remember that flop? Right, dry....The small blind check/raises him, then caps it after he 3-bets. I don't remember if there are any other opponents left, but if so they'll be dropping shortly. The turn brings:


And the SB leads out (not a donk, since he capped the flop). Batman raises, at which point I realize he has at least 77 and probably KK. The SB then 3 bets and I think "Oh how sad, Batman just got set over setted by a dumb ass who just cold-called with kings preflop." Batman 4-bets and I laugh out loud. The small blind calls, and the river pairs the deuce. The small blind checks, calls, and upon seeing Batmans KK tables AKs like it's some sort of cooler and we're supposed to feel sorry that he lit 6 bets on fire drawing dead, at least 2, arguably 3 more than necessary. So in short, I take AA to war and my opponents flop ten outs between the three of them in a 4-handed 8 big bet pot. They hit instantly and I fail to hit my 8 out redraw. Batman's opponent flops sort of a cooler, then proceeds to light an extra 60 to 90 dollars on fire because he's (apparently) completely insane. Them's the breaks I guess.

So after another rough day today I spent some time getting my spreadsheet in order and I noticed a few striking statistics:

1. In the last 6 weeks I have played 13 hours of 6/12 and won $1140
2. Over the same 6 week period (roughly) I have played 80 hours of 20/40 and won almost $120/hour.
3. Again in the same 6 week period, I have played almost 100 hours of 30/60 and lost around $100/hour.

If you do all the math on these three things you'll note that over about 200 hours I won about 200 big bets, but basically broke even (I also have 30some hours of 15/30 over that time period where I won a couple of racks). Of course my opponents are worse on average at smaller games, but a discrepancy this large is just dumb (bad) luck. Alas, tomorrow is another day, and, armed with a shot of fake confidence that I can crush 20/40 for absurd sums of money, I'll be for-going The Oaks 30/60 for some San Jose shenanigans.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

These past few weeks have been very trying. I was just starting to break out of my down swing (last month I posted a win large enough to pay expenses, taxes, and even keep some for myself), but three times this month I have posted massive losses ($2800, $2900, and $2200) which have basically wiped out 12 other winning days. I literally have won 4 out of 5 days for the month, and have basically broken even. This last week I kind of found another interesting way to run bad. For most of the beats I'm about to tell you I was actually winning. In fact, these hands come from 5 days of play, and again, I won on 4 of them. The point is that had I not taken at least most of these horrendous beats I would currently be on a massive heater, having won thousands of dollars in the past 6 days. I'd be happy with life, myself, and my choice to keep at this. As it is, I'm still just kind of grumpy. So now, without further adieu, we shall commence with a week's worth of beatings:

I find myself in the Oaks 30/60 game playing a pot against Jose. I have KJs and we see the flop 3 ways. The flop comes JK4 and he somehow check raises me to get it heads up. I 3-bet and we see an ace turn. He check/raises me again, and I have no choice but to call down. He even bets the river and I call, and he shows me AK. This isn't really a "bad beat", but it tipped off a series of hands that made me just want to cry. He was drawing to 3 outs on the flop, however, and hit his card to take $180 more away from me, not to mention the other $500 in the pot, so I feel I can count it.

Next up Jose plays a hand in the dark. I raise in early position and he calls from the big blind without looking at his cards. On the turn of A58-3 he looks at his cards after I bet and check/raises. I pay him off with my AK to find 53s. Of course I don't spike any of my 8 outs on the river, because otherwise I wouldn't be writing about the hand. Also, this pot was contested 6 ways preflop and had over $500 in it when he looked at his cards on the turn.

In quick succession now I am dealt black Kings and raise in early position. Again the pot is 5-6 ways, making it qualify as "big". The flop is J82 rainbow and Ray calls two bets cold. I 3-bet and he calls the 3rd bet, then raises me when the Ten hits on the turn. Just to make matters worse I river a 2, so calling becomes mandatory (honestly I probably would have called anyway). He of course has Q9o for the gut shotted straight. The final size of this pot was 16 big bets, or just a nudge under 1000 American dollars.

Ten minutes later I am dealt JJ in the small blind. Jose raises and is 3-bet by the button. I cap it and we see the flop 4 ways (Ray still had cards, of course). The board runs out A99-9-A. That's right, with JJ I am now playing the board. I bet the flop and turn and was never raised, and on the river am headsup with the 3-bettor. I check because if I bet he could bluff raise so I'd have to call. He bets, I call, and he shows 98s. So in an $800 pot where I had the biggest pair, nobody had an ace, and two aces came out on the board, I managed to call playing the board on the river and lose.

Next up I raise 88 in early position and collect 4 calls. Honestly in this game maybe I should have been limping 88, but it's hard to argue with raising a hand that plays so well short-handed and multi-way. Ray of course calls the two cold and raise/caps the 752 with a flush draw flop. On the turn I get a 5, a mixed blessing as it turns out. Ray could easily have just gotten counterfeited, and there is always the chance he's going batshit with a flush draw or some sort of combo draw. So I lead out and get raised again, at which point someone else goes all in. The pot is enormous and Ray could still be FOS, so I call down. He has 52o and drags all $1200. Somehow I leave the casino up a few hundred dollars, and only really upset about the last hand (and only that I lost $60 more than I should have, not $120). The next day at The Oaks brings more of the same.

In basically my second pot of the day (I'd won the first one against the same opponent and after this hand he said he had to "get me back" for it) I raise a limper or two with 99 in early position. John, who is just awful, cold-calls on the button and we see the flop like 5 ways. It comes down 764 (way to flop an overpair of nines, Jesse!) and he bet/3-bets me. We're heads up now and the turn pairs the 6 for a 764-6 board. I bet and he calls again. The river brings a fairly benign Ten and I bet and he calls again. I table my hand, fully expecting it to be good, and he turns over T7o. Not only did he hit a 5 outter against me on this river, but there were only two hands in my entire range against which his ten "outs" were even good. If I have Jacks or better here he makes two pair and still loses. But ship him the 12 big bets anyway, his reward for cold calling on the button with Ten Seven offsuit.

The next hand is really only interesting statistically. John limps and somebody iso-raises him. This is because his range is substantially weaker than any two cards, as he open raises a lot and doesn't fold too often. I 3-bet with AKo and we see the flop five (5) ways for 15 bets. The board runs out 743-8, and John and his iso-raiser both hold 87 (John's offsuit of course, the raiser was at least suited). Against their hands preflop I'm a huge favorite:
pokenum -h 8c 7d - 8s 7s - as kd
Holdem Hi: 1370754 enumerated boards
cards win %win lose %lose tie %tie EV
8c 7d 17640 1.29 962942 70.25 390172 28.46 0.155
8s 7s 75557 5.51 905025 66.02 390172 28.46 0.197
As Kd 887385 64.74 478079 34.88 5290 0.39 0.649
But still somehow managed to pay a big bet on the turn to draw dead (two bets went in on the flop 3 ways, so I was getting something like 13:1 on the turn call). Thankfully this time I didn't get there.

Next I get owned by an expert. John raises and Matt 3 bets in late position. I call 2.33 bets cold in the small blind with 99 and bakku calls the big blind. It gets capped, and in all we have a seven (7) way pot for 28 small bets. The flop if 965 is much to my liking, but alas it is not to be. Bakku has 87 for the flopped stone nuts and gets the flop AND turn capped against me. This pot totaled 35 big bets when all was said and done, and I flopped top set. I made a mistake on the turn by bet/3-betting instead of check/raising, since our last opponent was all in for 2.5 bets. Had I noticed this I probably shouldn't have even 3-bet, as the chance of bakku holding a smaller set is going down pretty quickly as the raises go in. I lost one bet more than I should have, I think, but my lead on the turn is still defensible, as there were two other players still hanging around and facing them with two cold is pretty nice. But once they fold and the last player calls with only 3 chips behind 3-betting MAY be spew. Anyway, 35 big bet pot for bakku.

A player I thought was a nit open raises and I 3-bet him with AKo. We go off 4 ways for 10 chips a piece (someone is all in...again). The flop brings Kc Tc 4s and I manage to bet/3-bet the thing three ways. So already we have 11 big bets in the pot, and turn brings, of course, the worst card in the deck. Kc Tc 4s - Qc. I bet, the player behind me calls (he actually probably has the same hand that I do) and the nit now raises. I fold, as does the other player, and the nit produces J9cc for a straight flush to drag the main pot. I guess he's not a nit, 15 big bets for him.

And our last hand of the day sees me go to war with AA. A tightish regular named Gary opens and I 3! AA. Abbey, another regular, calls 3 cold OTB and John (he of T7o cold-call fame above) takes 2 more to the face in the big blind. This is not surprising, since the only way for him to fold would be if the dealer stole his cards before he looked at them. Gary calls only and we see a flop of:


They check to me and I bet, Abbey calls and so does John, Gary now raises and I 3-bet. Abbey finds a fold but John soldiers on in the face of impossible odds, calling two more bets. Gary just calls, and we have ourselves another 11 big bet pot. The turn is a somewhat concerning 9, but at least it puts out the 4th suit. Nobody will beat me with a flush here. Gary obviously has like JJ or perhaps ATs and isn't a threat. John though...John's never out of it because he can have any two cards. I bet and they both call. No raise means that I have the best hand and am fading at most 10 cards on the river. The river pairs the 9, for a final board of T65-9-9. John checks and so does Gary, and I promptly fist pump bet for value. John pauses and says "Do you have TT?" and I almost shit my pants. He can't...he can't have a nine. It's not possible. How on Earth can he have a naked nine? He calls and Gary over calls. I table the aces, but once again they're no good. John has J9 of spades, with which he saw fit to put 3-bets into the pot on the flop. 17 big bets....all his.

Day three in our masochism series took place at Garden City, and our first villain was TG. TG is just a miserable human being, berating the dealers constantly, yelling at other players, and bitching constantly when he loses. I smile when he loses chips. I complete my small blind with A3o and we see a flop 5 ways. It comes out J93dd and I can't fold because nobody bets. The turn brings a non-flush 3 and I get excited for just a minute. I make an expert check and a player on my left bets. TG calls and starts bitching already asking why the guy is bluffing. The other two players have folded and I now raise. TG now goes off on the bettor, yelling at him for betting as if this is some sort of team sport. He then puts his second big bet into what was a 5 small bet pot starting the street. After he raises the river Queen and I call to see his KTs with no flush draw, I can only surmise that the poker gods are out to get me. Seriously, how do I lose $160 in a $100 pot by flopping bottom pair? Just how?

And now for a monster. I limp with 66 in the CO and "The CEO" raises the button. We see the flop about 6 ways and it is a picturesque:


A horrible regular donks from the big blind and gets two calls from two other not great players. I raise, The CEO folds, and the bb 3-bets. The two other players call and I get out of line and wait til the turn. It's a perfect spot. He's going to lead no matter what and the two sandwiched players are pretty much going to have to call. If I get a good card on the turn for once I can raise, trapping them all for multiple bets on the big street. Capping of course has merit now, but I think this is a spot where just calling with a set closing the action is actually correct. And for once I get the brick I so desperately deserve:


That's right. The card is a total blank. It might as well be face-down on the board. The BB leads and as predicted both players caught in the middle call. I now raise, putting the 16th and 17th big bets into the pot. The BB 3-bets and I must now accept the possibility that he only called The CEO's raise with 99. Both other players fold and I call only. The BB only has 12 chips left anyway, so the decision to raise isn't even that important. The river....


I am stunned. He leads and I call. He tables K9o and drags a 22 big bet ($880) pot. His 3-bet on the turn is just horrendous spew, and once again I am cooler-ed out of a month's rent.

A few hands later I have the good fortune of posting my small blind on the button. This happens after a player goes broke in the blinds and isn't present to receive his next hand. It's the best deal in poker, as you get to post your small blind in the best possible position instead of the the worst. It folds around to me and I complete with T5o. The CEO is in the small blind and he doesn't chop. Perhaps raising would be better, but in this case calling is so cheap (2 chips) that it seems a viable alternative. The CEO raises and the BB calls. I call again, standing on my position and 5:1 odds to see the 3-card flop soap box. Both these plays are marginal, but had I raised first I'd most likely be in the same spot, except the pot would be even bigger. The flop is:

987r and The CEO leads out. The BB calls and I start a 3-street semi-bluff aimed at getting him off all of his two over-card hands, which make a huge portion of his range. Both of them call me, and I get some help on the turn:


If I was entertaining thoughts of taking a free card, they are gone now. The CEO would be very unlikely to slow-play a big pair on this board, and he almost can't call this turn with overs. He's drawing dead too much. So I bet after they both check, and The CEO tanks. He looks at me, looks at the board, and calls. The bb mucks. The river brings a Ten. "Wow, a pair!" I think. But my excitement is short-lived. The CEO bets and I decide I have to call, since he's capable of turning AK into a bluff here. I call and he shows me AJ. He was ahead the whole way, but he can only win the pot if he spikes a Ten or an Ace on the river. Otherwise there is no way he can call me again. $400 pot for The CEO's kid's college funds.

Back to The Oaks on day four. A player string raises in early position (he throws out 4 chips, then goes back for 2 more). Nobody, including me, calls it, since it was obvious that he was trying to raise but technically he screwed up and we can play the hand for 1 bet if we want. A poster calls and for my good deed I receive AA in the small blind (I honestly hadn't looked yet when I didn't call the string raise). The bb mucks but the raiser and the poster both call. The board runds out:


After betting the flop and turn and collecting calls, I now pause and check the river. Can I really check/fold aces on the river in 9 big bet pot? What do I beat that would only call the flop and turn? AK seems impossible. Ace Ten? Maybe? What else? My opponent quickly bets and I go into the tank. He claims to have QT, which is just so silly I almost believe it to be true. He then offers to show one card (lord knows why) and I pick...the queen! For a moment I feel great, like I saved $60 bucks, until I realize that my aces just got cracked by a guy who raised QTo (he showed the ten also) under the gun + 1.

The next hand I limp T9hh in early position. The previous hand had been 10 ways limped preflop, so I think it's safe to say I can play T9s up front for one bet. We see the flop five ways of A53 and it checks around. This is a catastrophe, as I'm now guaranteed to lose money. The turn of course brings a 9 that puts up a flush draw and the SB bets out. The BB calls and UTG folds. I call figuring to have the best hand a lot, and a player after me calls also. The river brings a 2 that completes the flush draw and it checks around. The SB has K9, the BB mucks, I show a 9 and muck and the last player shows Q9 before mucking. There was one card in the deck that could come that would cause me to lose money. And it did. Two hands later, and this is practically an aside side now, I raise with TT and get 6 callers to see a flop of AKQ. After putting in one bet on the flop I fold the turn meekly, not getting the odds I need.

For my next trick, after four limpers I raise QJss in the small blind. The BB folds, but we still see the flop 5 ways of:


I bet and UTG raises. Abbey calls and the player who talked shit to Danielle a week ago (known from this point on merely as fat fuck) calls two bets cold. I 3!, UTG calls, Abbey caps all in, and fat fuck takes two more to the chin. The Ace of Spades hits on the turn and I lead out anyway. UTG calls and fat fuck now raises. I call instantly as he does hate me. UTG calls and the river 5d brings me no help. I fold, as does UTG, and fat fuck tables Ad 3c, which wins not only the side pot but the main against abbey, in total over $1200 American. At this point he has $6000 on the table.

And in closing, I return to Garden City for one last round of ass-whoopings. I raise a limper with QQ and the bb comes along. The flop is 542 with two diamonds and I bet. Both call. The turn brings a King and I bet again. Once more, both call after checking. I let the river ace check through and they show K9o and KJ0, for a total of two outs between them on the turn. Small pot, yes. But two outs. Between them.

Next I raise the button with KJdd and get 7 way action (mainly because there were 5 limpers in front of me). The flop comes down K94 with one diamond and I bet and get 3 calls. A 2 of diamonds hits on the turn and I bet, once again collecting two calls. That's 12 big bets. The river black 8 looks harmless enough, but I get check/raised by the biggest fish at the table. He's spastic and bad and I can't make the fold at 15:1. He shows me K8, for the rivered 2-outter (the 8 of diamonds would have resulted in me getting like 3 bets from him).

And as a final insult....Two limps I raise AQo on the button. We go off 4 ways and flop Jh 7h 3c. I collect only one call with my c-bet and see the 2c peel off on the turn. My lone opponent donks, a line that just screams "I picked up a flush draw and don't know what to do." He only has 11 chips left so it doesn't much matter what I do and I just call. The river is a harmless 9 of spades and he bets. I call, 95% sure he has 2 clubs in his hand. Sure enough I'm correct, except that his clubs are the Ten and the 9. Nice hand sir, nice hand.

I realize this post probably wasn't that interesting to a lot of you, but it was therapeutic for me to write, so I thank you for reading. Private Joker once said, accurately I think, that nobody, no matter what, cares how bad you run. Nobody believes that you're running that badly, and even if they do, they simply don't care. I find this to be true, and I find myself feeling the same way about friends who claim to be running bad. It's just hard to fathom that luck can play such a huge roll in the results you see over the course of 500 hours of play, but it's painfully true. Tomorrow is a new week, and pretty soon I might be one step closer to "run-bad" proofing my life. Details next week.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Math; It's Not Just for Eighth Graders

Something I hear very often from people is that I must be very good a math to be good at poker. This is half true, in that you have to be "not terrible" at math to be good a poker. All the math you need, however, was taught to you in eighth grade, and my 5 years at MIT were really not necessary (although 6.041 did help quite a bit....I got an A+ in that class). But you do need to be really good at that eighth grade level math. This hand happened recently in The Oaks 30/60 game, and is a pretty good (and rare) example where you can basically figure out exactly where you stand in a hand and use arithmetic to decide how to proceed.

I find myself in the big blind with 64 offsuit. There is a limper and then a raise, followed by an immediate cold-call from Steven. Steven is one of the better players in the game, but he still has some flaws, for example cold-calling raises first in or in the small blind with very speculative hands. Another player calls the raise, the small blind calls, I opt to call (playing any two cards here at 11:1, basically closing the action with only the very, very slight chance of the first limper re-raising, would be defensible) and the limper only calls. We see the flop 6 ways for two bets a piece. The board comes out:


I have flopped a very clean pair. When you flop bottom pair there are a ton of factors that go into whether or not you can proceed. Obviously the number of players left to act, and their likelihood of raising, is important. But board texture also is very important. Is there a flush draw? If so, would any of your "outs" complete a possible flush? What about a straight draw? Would making two pair put a straight on board? Are you likely to be dominated? That is to say, if you make two pair or trips, is it possible that someone will make (or already hold) either a better two pair or have trips with a better kicker? All of these questions are answered correctly (the way that helps me) in this hand. I have bottom pair, it's unlikely anyone else has it, and if I hit a 3rd 4 or a 6 for two pair, I'm probably going to have the nuts. The flop action goes:

SB checks, I check, the limper checks, the preflop raiser checks (this is super important obviously), and Steven pauses and bets. The cold-caller folds, the small blind folds and I face my decision. Getting 13:1 calling is pretty much automatic. Only two players are left to act and both have already checked. The preflop raiser check/raising would be an extreme rarity, and the other guy...well there's a chance but paying two bets wouldn't be the end of the world. So I call, the limper folds and the preflop raiser calls (his hand is basically face up as AK here). For those of you keeping score there are 15 small bets in the pot, we're 3-handed, and the turn brings:


All four suits are now up on the board, and I still have a 5 outs to make what rates to be the best hand. I check, the preflop raiser checks and clearly doesn't like his hand, and Steven bets. I run through the math quickly in my head and decide I have a very thin call, so long as the preflop raiser isn't making a huge slow play. I glance left and his cards are almost in the muck already, so I call, getting 8.5 : 1 and praying for another pair but planning to fold unimproved but to execute a donk of death if I do spike some help. Alas the river bricks off and I check. Steven checks behind and I declare "a pair of fours." He rolls 98s and drags a nearly $600 pot.

So why is this hand interesting? It's interesting because the turn decision is razor thin and because I had nearly perfect information about what my opponent held and what I needed to win.

First, Steven's holding:

There is almost no draw available on this flop, other than a straight draw with Jack-Ten. He can't have two pair, as he wouldn't call with any of those hands preflop, and he can't have a set of 9s or Queens, as he'd 3-bet those hands preflop. So unless he has the last two fours, which is extremely unlikely, he has exactly one pair (either 9s or Queens) and all my outs are clean. He also can't have Q6 or 96, from the preflop action. Basically if I hit, I win.

Next, my equity:

Against his actual hand, or any other one pair hand that doesn't also have a 6 or a 4 in it, my equity is 11.36%. 5 cards will give me the winner and the other 39 will send the pot to Steven.

Then, the pot size:

Once Steven bets the turn, there are (8.5*60) - 6 = 504 dollars in the pot (the subtracted 6 is for the rake and a tip). I can either fold or call.

If I call:

There will be 564 dollars in the pot and my equity will be .1136*564 = 64.09.

The only fly in the ointment is the slight possibility that he holds a set of 4s (which is only a single possible hand combination against several dozen suited 9s and Qs), which is more than offset by my positive implied odds (if I hit, I plan to donk, and he's going to pay me off some of the time). But ignoring the implied odds and the set of 4s possibility, folding would be a $4.09 mistake. Small, no doubt, but I was quite pleased with myself for not making it.

In Which I Bet Jack-High, For Value

I spent Wednesday this week at Garden City, and for my decision the poker Gods did smile upon me. I was a bit concerned that my early arrival time would cause a problem, since Garden doesn't usually have more than a single 20/40 game going before 11am. But at 10:10 I walked in the door and beheld the site of the ages. Me, second up on the 20/40 list (not even listed as a call-in) and Neal sitting in seat 5 of the only game going. Not only that, but Ned approached me and asked if I'd play in the 30/60 if they started it. I didn't lie to the man, and told him that I'd sit in it only until I got a 20/40 seat. Lo and behold, as is the custom nowadays, a 30/60 game get's called down, forcing Magic and Frank to vacate their seats in the 20/40 game in an attempt to get it going (as an aside, this 30/60 game lasted for about an hour, finally dying after the one customer who was playing with the 3 props decided he'd had enough and they converted it to a 20/40). This is a coup for me though, as I get called into the 20/40 game and sit with the two racks of chips I'd pre-bought from the cage in the Jesus Seat and post immediately so as to make sure nobody tries to claim the seat.

Things are going about as usual, except for one thing. Neal is being quiet. He's been playing at Garden City more and more of late, and the thought is that he's trying to avoid the crew of guys that always seem to show up at Bay 101 30 minutes after he does. These guys wait for hours to play in his game and, upon getting seats, engage him in constant vulgar banter until he eventually leaves, at which point they also leave and his game breaks. These guys aren't here today, however. It's just me, and I'm only here by chance. Neal is still playing like 80% of his hands and betting every time the flop gives him any hope of making any sort of hand that has a name (for example "one pair"). The Garden City folk don't really know how to deal with this, and I'm particularly blessed that a couple of hyper-nits were sitting at the table as well. Eventually I played a hand where Neal limped and I raised ATo. Only the super nitty big blind called, so we went off 3-ways to a flop. To make a long story short I raised the turn with Ace-high on a paired board, getting the big blind to fold top pair. Neal, unfortunately, had bottom pair, not a straight draw (on a board of Q75 lots of hands can make "straight draws" for Neal) and dragged the pot, but the big blind couldn't really believe what had happened. I knocked him off the best hand in a pretty large pot, and all I had was ace high!

So after a few hours I'm up about a rack and it folds to Neal in the small blind. He chops selectively, but knows full well that I stopped falling for it a long, long time ago, and completes the small blind. I check with J4 of hearts, unaware of the awesomeness that is about to unfold.

665 with two hearts

Aiyah! A flush draw. Ready the cannons! Neal leads out and I raise. He 3-bets instantly and I 4-bet almost as fast. He 5-bets and I start to get concerned. I call time for a minute to gather my thoughts. On this flop Neal could have almost anything. Total air, two pair, trips, a flush draw, really just about any two cards. But his preflop call.....he doesn't have an Ace. Or a King. Actually he probably can't have any face cards whatsoever. Alright then, I just call the 5-bet.

665-K with still two hearts

Neal checks. In all my days playing with Neal I have never seen heads-up screw play (where by you put in the last bet on the flop, then check/raise your opponent on the turn). After only a second's pause I bet, figuring that either I have the best hand (very likely just from my preflop deduction) or have a ton of outs to make it. Neal just calls, basically eliminating the possibility of him having a pair.


I missed and have Jack high. To make things more interesting, Neal bets! I pause for a second, not for the reason one might think, but instead to contemplate a raise. There is of course still a small chance that Neal has an Ace or Queen high hand here, but the problem is that he won't fold it if I raise. He'll call for sure with either one, as once he bets on the river he is committed to showdown like 99.9% of the time. So I call. Neal declares "good call" and turns over....a deuce and seven, suited. Diamonds. Not A small fist pump is in order, but I restrain myself and merely table my hand. The aforementioned nit (who folded top pair in the ATo hand) all but shrieks "You call with Jack high!" and there is a general murmur from the table.

The real question, however, is what I would have done with 9-high.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Do You Have a Gambling Problem?

I've actually played at The Oaks 5 days in a row, which might be a first for me. Friday I got absolutely blown up, losing about 3 racks/thousands over the course of a very long day. Saturday I basically broke even, and Sunday Danielle and I went over and played for a few hours after we finished watching the Steeler's game at Kilowatt. That was pretty fun, as I decided to put her into the 15/30 game and take 80% of her action (so that she was effectively playing 3/6 limit hold 'em with her own money and 12/24 with mine). We played for two hours and won about $200 a piece, which isn't a bad result at all for an "off" day for me. The only interesting that happened was me finding out that this dopey looking fat 40 something regular apparently hates me with the passion of a thousand flaming suns. He ran a ridiculous bluff against me, then made fun of my laugh (which is pretty common) after attempting the same idiotic thing against Danielle. She had AK and he had QT, and the board ran out AQ7-T-Q. He raised the flop and got 3-bet, sucked out on the turn and raised again, then got absolutely owned as Danielle made a ninja-fold on the river. After he showed his hand to drag the main pot (as usual, somebody was all in) he made some comment that I half heard about "where's that laugh now" or something. I looked at him and said "You know, most people just take the pot quietly after they runner-runner someone like that" and nothing else really came of it. Yesterday I posted a smallish win over the course of a long day spent getting 3-bet by bakku, and today I won about a 30/60 rack in 8 hours of play. More to come in my next post about the ridiculousness of the last two days, but first a hilarious story from Friday.

So I'm getting pummeled mercilessly, taking beat after beat, getting check/raised on the turn every time I step into a pot, and in general not having much fun. There's a guy at my table wearing a shirt who to this point has spent the entire day basically doing and saying the things you aren't supposed to do and say at a poker table if you are actually a professional. He's using words like expectation, as in "Your expectation is higher over here" in reference to the 15/30 table, equity, variance, and even standard deviation. He's basically acting like a big tool, and sadly I'm sitting right next to him and having to listen to most of it. He's not an awful player, but after he drags pots with Q2s ("There were 2 limpers!") and J7o ("Pot odds!") it becomes pretty clear that he's not exactly an expert. Eventually he winds up in a large pot that gets capped preflop, with him putting in the 3rd bet, the initial raiser capping it, and two more players coming along for the ride. The limper isn't important, but the small blind has a critical roll to play in this hand. He is known to me only as "uncle" and is a lag-tastic middle-aged Asian man capable of rolling over any two cards at almost any time. So anyway, 4 ways to the flop for 4 bets and it comes off:


Uncle checks and so does the limper, the raiser bets, hemp-man raises, uncle calls, the limper folds and the raiser just calls.


Uncle and raiser check, hemp-man bets and Uncle springs to life with a raise. The initial raiser now folds, and hemp-man stands up from the table and makes a speech about Uncle always having a king and his equity being horrible or some such. He then calls.


I don't remember the river, but it was small and not interesting. Uncle fires almost in the dark, and hemp-man is still standing up from his 8 seat. He slides 6 chips forward to call and Uncle tables K5 for flopped trips. Hemp-man is beside himself and clearly agitated. Instead of mucking his hand (or tabling it) he starts digging in his pockets and pulls out the pamphlet pictured above. "He did it!" he cries. "He has King Five, right?" After a moment's confirmation hemp-man tables his aces and tosses the brochure to Uncle. "Do you have a gambling problem, Uncle?" is the last thing I remember hearing before I pulled a muscle in my stomach laughing.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Lucky Quarters

Cousin Abe is a dealer at Bay 101. He's a really nice guy, Etheopian if I'm not mistaken, who for some reason refers to everyone as "cousin." He also is a dead ringer for Obama. Many moons ago I was at his table and was let into the family just after Stockton Thunder and Cousin Abe became cousins. Since that fateful day, every time I see Abe the greeting is the same "Cousin!" "Cousin!" and so forth and so such.

So one day a couple of months ago Cousin Abe walks past my table with his tray and for some reason I have a couple of quarters in my hand that I'm trying to put in my pocket. He says something funny and nonsensical and basically asks me for a quarter. I figure what the heck, Cousin is a nice guy, and so I give him a quarter. He says "Thanks Cuz!" and walks off. Later that day as he's dealing to my table he tells me "That was a lucky quarter Cousin!" Turns out he used it to play Ms. Pacman and set his own personal high score. Since then nearly every time Cousin Abe sees me he's asked if I have any lucky quarters and, if I do, I give him one. Once I even gave him a quarter and a penny, to which he responded "I'll put this one in my checking, this one in my savings!"

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago and Cousin Abe is sitting at my 20/40 table making a little gambool. He raises on the button and I defend with Q5 suited or some such similar piece of cheese (Cousin Abe has been known to take some liberties on his button, especially with a member of the family in the big blind). We're heads up and the dealer puts down the flop, which is a king-high rainbow with one of my suits. I check and look at Cousin disapprovingly as he's about to bet. "You got a quarter Cuz?" he asks? I dig into my pocket and quickly toss him a quarter. He checks. The turn brings me no help whatsoever, and again I check, digging into my pocket for another quarter. Cousin Abe pauses and I toss him over the second quarter. He picks it up and says "Well, I can't argue with this" and checks. The river is a beautifully hilarious queen. I check, and Cousin Abe looks at me confused. "Got any more quarters Cousin?" he asks. "Nope" is all I can muster without cracking up. He checks and I table my hand, which is of course good against his Ace Ten.

"That's a lot of quarters Cousin!" Abe cries. "What's that, $90? 360 quarters?"

"That's a lot of Ms. Pacman" is all I can muster as a response as I quickly stack up the $85 pot. A player from the other end of the table chimes in.

"Abe, you're so cheap!" to which Cousin Abe can only respond "That ain't cheap. That's just plain dumb. There's a difference."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Does Anybody Not Read This Blog?

I suppose I'm asking the wrong group of people of obvious reasons, but seriously? I figured there were like maybe 100 people who read this thing and that a lot of them were people I'd never have occasion to meet. Turns out like half the serious players I sit down with have it book-marked on their phones or something. Bakku? Kit? Grinder? How long have you guys been reading?

Anyway, I figured an entire post could be written out of the 8 comments that have gone up since yesterday, so here goes:
Blogger cherish4herish said...

So, is everyone who plays differently from you stupid, or just those of us who take your money?

- "Grinder"

October 6, 2009 4:00 PM

Nope. Actually the people who end up with my money tend to be very competent. You're one of the best players in that game, and I suppose we just drastically disagree on how to deal with Jose. To be honest the theory includes me; from every single other point of view out there (yours, Jose's, everyone) at some point in the past or future I'm going to do something that makes you think I'm a complete idiot. Perhaps that moment happened yesterday actually. A lot of what everyone else said on here is very true and in agreement with my thinking. Everybody makes mistakes, and I'm not going to categorically label someone a bad player because they did one silly thing.
Blogger Oren said...

I think your theory is a bit off.

Its not that peoples skill deteriorates over time, its just that most people (read: basically "all people") cannot constantly play their "A" game. There are a ton of reasons for this but it comes down to the fact that we are dealing with human beings here.
Tommy Angelo wrote that working on minimizing the time we play our non-"A" game will bring more profit than sharpening our "A" game.

** I really like the blog - and good luck at the tables **

October 6, 2009 4:18 PM

I'm not saying people deteriorate over time, and I'm not referencing people getting off their A-game here. My theory is that if you watch somebody long enough, they are going to do something that makes you question their fundamental understanding of the game and that therefore your opinion of their competence is going to deteriorate. At that point you'll have several choices about how to move forward. You could dismiss them as a bad player and not think about it any more. This would be silly. You can question if your own understanding of a specific piece of the game is off. Not doing this would be silly. You could try to figure out why the person did what they did, so as to diagnose the root cause of the problem instead of just the symptom, so as to more effectively play against them in the future. This would be very hard. All I'm saying is that if you watch somebody long enough, they're going to do something that makes no sense.
Blogger Kit Cloudkicker said...

everyone who plays LHE is stupid

most players flat out suck

there are a few who are good but in HU pots against you they will take lines that make seemingly no sense and thus you will become convinced they suck

the is another minority that is also good but spends most of the time convincing you (and everyone else) that they suck.

thus, everyone else sucks.

October 6, 2009 5:04 PM

Ah, Kit. As usual the first time I read what you have to say it sounds like complete rubbish. The second time I read it you're a genius, and it takes til the third reading for me to realize you're mocking me. Nice hand sir.
Blogger Captain R said...

Too much negativity, IMO. Everyone makes mistakes, that's true. And it's easy to characterize any play that someone makes that is different than your own perceived correct play as "bad" or "stupid".

I think you judge players by their mistakes while I tend to judge players by the good things they do when rating how good someone is.

October 6, 2009 9:23 PM

One fundamental difference between you and I, Captain, is that you are inherently a nice person and I was once inherently a nice person. This poker trip has weakened greatly one of my more positive personality traits, the ability to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and assume that people are nice/smart/good until proven otherwise. There's a reason BBB said you were the nicest person he'd ever met, until he went to EG's house that night. I'm working on toning down the negativity and general anger management, but losing for 4 months didn't really help.


Blogger Burg said...

Finally some stuff I understood. But you probably learned it in High School physics so still not sure your Boston sojourn was necessary.

October 7, 2009 3:56 AM

Well hello Dad. Glad you're still reading.

Blogger Steve said...

I love the post, Jesse. If the "grinder" is mad he should explain his thought process. I thought putting Fish on 76 was a fine read.

October 7, 2009 6:27 AM

I was a little too tough on the grinder but I was trying to make a point and a humorous blog post all at once. Also, I didn't think he read the blog. Specifically his play on the flop really isn't as bad as I make it out to be, especially if he missed the fishy 4-bet tell. I don't really know how else to explain other than to say that when people call 2-cold then back/cap the flop, they always have a big fat made hand or a truly monstrous draw. An OESD on this board really just doesn't cut it. As I said, 76 of hearts could make sense, but since the grinder had the 6h he could rule that out.

Blogger DK said...

Wonder what Jose had that hand? Flopped bottom set, top two?

October 7, 2009 12:26 PM

He claimed to have flopped a set, and I'm pretty sure he flashed the grinder his cards.

OpenID bakkubakku said...

monday was the first time i ever played with any of the 30/60 regulars at the oaks so my reads aren't as refined as yours, but i think "grinder's" flop play is ok. the flop raise i'm kinda indifferent about (from the short time i played with jose i think his flop donking range is huge and you should be folding overcards here if you don't have a heart) but folding to your 3bet would be ridiculous (especially if he didn't notice fish was going to 4b). if he did notice, it's still not that bad but i'd like it a lot less. i do agree that this is a really easy 3b on the river, though

October 7, 2009 6:04 PM

No strategy on my blog please, sir :)

Seriously though, I have folded a lot of hands to the "Jose bets grinder raises" pattern and it seems like a very common outcome at showdown is jack high and 3rd pair. You're correct that for two bets I should probably at least consider mucking unimproved high cards, but in a pot of that size (getting around 10:1 immediate) I just don't think I could do it.

So in closing I'm glad to see that I have a large audience here, but at the same time am a little intimidated by it. For now I'm gonna keep blogging, but eventually I might have to make a decision about it's potential impact on my long term viability.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Half-Life of Competence

In poker, just as in life, it's helpful to develop theories, test them, then apply what you've learned or seen to either confirm, deny, or modify the theory until you have a piece of information that is useful. From time to time Pete and I will espouse new poker theories, such as his fairly reliable "Purple chips are winners" theory. Pete's basic claim is that people who play poker at Bay 101 and buy in with purple ($500) chips instead of benjamins tend to be long term winners in the game. Otherwise, why would they have accumulated purple chips? A corollary to this theory is the more controversial "WTK beats the game" theory, which follows directly as he more often than not buys into the game using purple chips. There are flaws in this theory of course, the primary one being the "California Side" of the casino (the games used to be known as "Asian" games, but somewhere along the line somebody decided that wasn't quite PC enough so now they are "California" games) and it's ability to inject large numbers of purple chips into the poker ecosystem. But all things being equal, a more general theory makes sense; the larger denomination thingy used to buy into a game, the more likely the player is a winner. $20 bills? No chance. Benjamins? Maybe. Purple chips? Perhaps. $5000 chip (yes Bay 101 has these)? Ninja.

There are other famous poker theories. The Fundamental Theorem of Poker is the most famous, but many others exist. The Clarkmeister Theorem, for example, postulates that when heads up on the river and first to act, if the 4th card of a suit hits the board you should bet. No matter what. The Zeebo Theorem states that nobody will ever fold a full house in texas hold 'em. Ever. I could go on and on here, but the point is that it's helpful to distill knowledge into easy to understand concepts, then figure out how to apply those concepts. Here then is my next poker theory.

In chemistry (really just "in science") the term half-life refers to the length of time in the future at which point half of a substance will have decayed. It is not concrete, however, as most people think, but instead is a parameter in a probabilistic process. Technically what it means is that for a single atom of an unstable substance with a half-life of N seconds, after N seconds there is a 50% chance the atom will have decayed into something else, often releasing some other particles or radiation in the process. Since atoms are super duper tiny and any measurable amount of a substance has an unimaginably massive number of them, the law of large numbers, central limit theorem, and a bunch of other stuff state that if you have some stuff with a half life of N seconds, after N seconds you'll have half as much stuff.

I used to classify players into fixed little sets, with some of them just being "good" and some "bad", with particular leaks assigned to everyone (things like "misses value on the river" or "bluffs hopelessly" or "cold calls way too many hands"). Then I was introduced to a basic theory of poker that most professionals seem to believe quite firmly; everybody sucks. Basically if you haven't watched a player for a very, very long time and seen him play very, very well, it's nearly a lead pipe lock that the player sucks. Recently I've come to believe that a more accurate version of this theory is possible, and I present to you here. I believe that a poker player's apparent competence, like most chemical elements, is inherently unstable. I believe that from a given observer's point of view (in this case, mine), if you watch somebody play limit hold 'em long enough, their apparent competence will decay over time. The better the player, the longer the half-life of competence, but only for players who are extremely better than the observer is the half-life infinite. Eventually everyone will do something incredibly stupid that makes you question their fundamental understanding of the game. Even if you happen to have a player in your game who is in fact extremely better than you, he is likely to do something stupid for one of two reasons:

1. He's not actually much better than you, because other wise he'd have moved up twice by now.
2. He's in the wrong game and likely won't adjust perfectly or will play the game as if it's for play money.

When a previously seemingly good player's competence decays, tangible energy can be felt. This energy is just like that released when an element decays. New particles are also emitted, which I have dubbed "stupid-ons." This event can happen at any moment; in fact, since everyone sucks, it's incredibly common. Many players sit down and emit stupid-ons by way of a decay of competence in their very first hand. Other player's competence, however, can hang around in an unstable state for a very long time. The decay of several player's competences recently gave birth to my new theory, so a few hands are in order.

"Baldy" is an Asian player who could always show up at any Bay Area casino on any day. He often plays at Artichoke Joe's and is part of the "collusion team" that everybody seems to be terrified of, and can often be found at any other casino with some of his buddies. I've played in a lot of games with Baldy, starting nearly two years ago when I first moved up to 15/30 and recently at Garden City, Bay 101, and on the day in question, in the Oaks 30/60 game. Up until just a few weeks ago I thought that Baldy was a pretty good player. He was tight, aggressive, read hands well, and in general just didn't seem to fling chips into the pot when he didn't have the best of it all that often. Then it happened, suddenly and without warning. Baldy's competence decayed.

I open-raise under the gun at a full 10 handed table, which as we all know is a very serious sign of strength. Baldy cold-calls in the very next seat, under the gun + 1. This is absurd. There is absolutely no hand that he should do this with. His post-flop position is not only terrible in an absolute sense, but also in a relative sense, as the action will most likely be driven by me on his immediate right, forcing him to act next, before he knows what anybody else will do. Cold-calling first in after a raise is almost always a horrible idea. Note that this is a little different that cold-calling first in after a raise when a few limpers had already entered the pot. In this case you've got some assurance of a multiway pot, and therefore you can take some liberties. But cold-calling an under the gun raise under the gun + 1 at a 10 handed table is just ridiculous. It gets better. 3 other players call the raise (which I suppose is what Baldy wanted) and the big blind come along as well, so we take a flop 6 ways and see the board come out:


The big blind checks and I bet. This is the point where the rubber hits the proverbial road. Baldy is stuck between a rock and a very, very hard place, which is what was going to happen pretty much on every single flop. The big blind was going to check and I was going to c-bet more often than not, and he was going to have to act basically before the other 4 players in the hand. But let's take a moment to think about his decision here. Our hero, Jesse, is betting into 5 players on this board after raising under the gun. What does he have? There is not a draw in sight, and even Jesse isn't suicidal with his c-betting. Survey says? Ace-King. That's the hand I had, and honestly when I bet this flop into the entire world an ace is towards the bottom end of my range. But since Baldy is in a bad situation and has basically no information (I could just be c-betting with KQ and everyone else might not have anything) so he does what a lot of players do when faced with an information vacuum. He calls. Now let's take a peek at Baldy's hole cards here. Baldy has:


Wow. Just wow. First of all, he's crushed against my preflop raising range at a full table. He called preflop, however, which honestly isn't that uncommon. Lots of players basically won't fold any pocket pair from any position for 2 or fewer bets. But now look at what he's doing. He's getting 13:1 immediate odds, which isn't even close to enough to draw at his full house. On top of that he could be drawing dead to running quads if I have aces or someone else holds 76, and there are FOUR PLAYERS left to act. This pot is going to get raised a lot, and what's worse is that if 3 or 4 players call one of them is almost certainly making an expert slow play with a 7, and when Jesse bets his ace on the turn what exactly is your plan? Moving right along....

After Baldy calls two more players call, which is extremely suspicious. I mean, there aren't any draws out there, right? And there are only so many aces in the deck. The turn brings:


And I bet again. Baldy again calls. At this point he's entered "big pot I has pair I call" mode. I mean, what exactly is going on his brain here? There are two players left to act behind him and not a draw in site on this board. His hand can't beat ANYTHING that ANY of his 3 opponents can have, yet somehow he's still in there calling bets. I'm personally very confused here, as last time I checked there are only 4 aces in a single deck of cards, and between the one I have and the one on the board, my opponents can only have two more between them. But the last two players just call, so I have to assume that Ace King is the nuts. Here's where it gets hilarious.


Bingo for Baldy. I bet again (because remember, I have the nuts), and now Baldy raises. The next player....calls! The fourth player and I both fold and then watch Baldy table the goods. Except....he's made a Chinese movie. No good! The last player in the hand inexplicably tables 76 for the best hand the whole way (how on Earth he played the hand that badly is beyond me, but his competence had decayed months ago from my point of view so it wasn't all that surprising). Baldy is stunned, but only about as much as me, as I can feel the radiant warmth of the stupid-ons emanating from his shiny, shiny head. Remember this is player I've known for over 18 months, and up until this moment I thought he was "pretty good" and "beat the average line up" and all the like. This single hand, at show-down, shattered that entire belief structure. It turned out he was pretty good, but eventually he competence decayed, unmasking him as just a fish of a slightly different hue.

While seeing Baldy blow up like that was unsettling, I didn't exactly have a ton of respect for him. This lack of respect probably stems from a number of factors, some reasonable and some not so much, but the point is that it existed. The half-life of his competence was just a little longer than most. Watching The Grinder's competence decay, however, was much more jarring. The Grinder plays in The Oaks 30/60 game all the time, and for a long time I really thought he had his act together. The Grinder has a kid. As far as I can tell, he doesn't have a job. The Grinder is a full time pro, or at least trying to be one. He and I talk about hands from time to time and he seems to get it. He's self taught, and has some bad habits, but until this hand I believed he was quite solid and understood the big stuff completely.

A terrible fish limps under the gun, and I raise next in (I'm in the Jesus seat as usual) with black kings. A not awful and somewhat tight player calls the two bets cold almost next in (he's bad....just not awful...he's at least tight) and it folds around to Jose who calls in the small blind. The Grinder calls one more bet in the big blind, the fish calls, and we're off, 5 ways. What hand does The Grinder have, you ask? Pocket 6s, apparently a strong catalyst for bringing about the decay of competence. The flop is:

852 with two hearts

Let's have a look at The Grinder's cards again. Does he have the 6 of hearts? Yes....just to be clear. Jose donks. This is super danger Will Robinson level bad, as Jose is aggressive and likes to put the peddle to the floor right away with his big flopped hands. The Grinder turbo raises because he feels like he can iso-raise Jose on any street at any time regardless of the size of the pot or the number of players left to act. Does he have top pair? No. Is it a draw heavy flop? Not really, given that The Grinder is holding two of the sixes, cards that are almost required to make a straight on this board. Sure, it's possible Jose has a heart draw and two overs, and that none of the remaining three players has an 8 or an over pair between them. Possible. But even if that is true, facing a gigantic fish, a solid tag who raised almost UTG, and a tight player who cold-called a raise from a solid tag in early position isn't the way to win the hand. The fish is going to call with just about anything. I'm not folding ANY HAND in my range for two bets in an 18 or 20 bet pot. Nothing. And the tight player who called two cold? What's his range look like? He's pretty likely to have a pocket pair actually, as tight players love to call two cold with like 77-TT in spots like this. The "correct" play, and I use the term loosely, if you feel you just have to win this pot, is to simply call on the flop and evaluate the action behind you. If nobody raises, you can plan to raise Jose on the turn, facing the three of us with two bets cold and forcing us to make a somewhat tough decision. If it goes raise/reraise/cap or something similar, you can just fold. Raising on the flop basically bloats the pot when you're out of position with a weak hand that has no outs.

But you're The Grinder and you have a pair and Jose bet so you raise. Now is where it starts to get funny. The Fish calls two bets cold (like I said, with anything...I've seen him get to the river with QT on a board of K87-4), and I 3-bet. Now my 3-bet suffers from some of the same problems as The Grinder's original raise, with one big caveat; I have a real freaking hand. I could still be winning. The decent player behind me says "I was gonna do that!" and folds (after the hand he told me let go of 99 fold on his part I guess). Jose calls sheepishly (which is what he'd always do and how he'd always look...he would NEVER give away the strength of his hand by capping here on a small street when there's a good chance it'll get capped anyway) and The Grinder, now faced with a single bet, opts to call. This is absurd. He has two dirty outs in the entire deck and can't possible be planning to get to show down unimproved. But it's worse. Before he calls The Fish telegraphs a 4 bet! The Fish, who is seated immediately between The Grinder and myself already has 6 chips ready to go into the pot. As soon as The Grinder calls, The Fish makes a speech "Well, we might as well cap it!" and does just that. I'm usually not super on top of tells like that, but this one was so obvious I can't understand how The Grinder missed it. Heck, maybe he saw it and decided he could call two bets anyway, I don't know. So now I'm looking at 30:1 on a call with pocket kings and am unable to make the fold. The King of Diamonds would still save me, it it is POSSIBLE that The Fish only has two pair (extremely unlikely, but possible....honestly I should fold here, but if you never fold an over-pair on the flop at 30:1 in your entire life you'll could still play limit hold 'em just fine). I call, Jose and The Grinder call, and we see a turn of:

852-4 still with two hearts

Now this street The Grinder actually gets right. Jose donks and The Grinder calls with his now double-gutted hand. Of course it's entirely possible that Jose has just turned an 8-high nut straight and that The Grinder actually has 3 outs to chop, but still folding is unthinkable in a pot of this size, even though you almost KNOW The Fish is raising. And raise he kings hit the muck and Jose again looks sheepish and calls. The Grinder calls, preparing to put the final strokes on his masterpiece.


Jose throws up his hands and checks and The Grinder bets. This bet isn't truly terrible, as The Fish obviously flopped a set or two pair and cannot under any circumstances whatsoever have a straight here. He probably sees the straight and being a fish is probably horrified of it, so he's probably not gonna bet. I repeat, however, that it is impossible for The Fish to have a six here, no matter what. He back/raised the flop and raised the turn. No hand with a 6 can do that, given that The Grinder has the 6 of hearts (only 76 of hearts would be possible). Even if The Fish does, somehow, some way, have one of the two remaining 6s, he absolutely, positively, without a doubt, cannot have a 9 to go with it. The Grinder has The Nuts.

The Fish raises.

Jose mucks his hand in disgust, and The Grinder says:

"You see Fish, that was a bad bet, because we could have gotten one more bet out of Jose there" while just calling the raise. This is an exact quote save one word, Fish, which I've used to replace The Fish's actual name. There is a moment's pause while The Fish digs out his flopped set of 5s, and I shake my head disapprovingly at The Grinder. His competence just exploded all over the table and I can tell he's not sure what to do about it.

So there you have it, my new theory of The Half-Life of Competence. The next time you're playing with somebody you think is good, watch out for the decay of competence. It might not happen that day, or even the next, but eventually it will. And when it happens you'll be shocked and relieved all at the same time, because you'll know that a fundamental truth is still intact. Everybody sucks; eventually.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Live Action Blogging

This hand just happened in the Garden City 20/40. We're 4 handed and Doug the prop opens on the button. I defend J7o in the big blind. This is probably a breakeven play but I can't let him just take my blinds 4 handed...we played a huge pot half an hour ago where I turned top two with K9 against his K8 two pair with a 3rd player drawing dead to the river. He's probably still mad that I 3-outted him.


Middle pair. I can work with this. I check raise and he calls only. On the turn he will likely raise or fold.


Gin! I bet and he hollywoods a minute and raises. I 3-bet without much delay and now the funny shit starts hitting the fan. First, he moves his sunglasses to his forehead, then:

"He could be bluffing....I call"

At this point I'm SURE he has AA or KK and is making a crying call down. The river brings an ace of clubs, completing a backdoor flush. I bet anyway and he tanks. He hems and haws and says:

"Well, I can beat a bluff"

And calls. I table what by my reckoning is the 3rd nuts. More action goes in with any boat, so really Q7 and K7 are it. MAYBE his testicles shriveled up with 44, but even for a prop that's unlikely.

"Or that. I can beat that" is what I hear as Q7s flys forth.

"Wow" I say. "You started slow rolling me on the turn!" The table laughs and I smooth it over with a nice hand nice hand and we have a little laugh. But I mean seriously....

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Babar Comes to Play; Hilarity Ensues

I've spent the last few days showing Big Bad Babar around the Bay Area poker scene. We've done The Oaks, stopped in at Artichoke Joes, and then played at Bay 101 and Garden City before and after doing In 'N Out for lunch. The Oaks was the most fun though.

So it's Tuesday and I've been playing in the 30/60 since 1:02 pm (according to the records I keep in my phone). It's now 6:45 or so and I'm up something close to a rack, which is not much for the game but still close to 1000 American Dollars and plenty for me to happily call it quits and enjoy my evening. I glance towards the Asian Games side of the casino and see Bravos strolling around aimlessly with his phone pressed to his ear, clearly looking for me but clearly in no rush to succeed. Babar has spent "the day" (which for Babar starts at the comfortable hour of 2pm) in San Francisco playing tourist with his college buddy (Berkeley grad student at present) and according to Bravos will be here in "20 minutes". I declare this to be false, stating that if Babar had cell phone reception he could not already be on the BART and therefore couldn't get here in 20 minutes and that it'd be at least 40. Turns out I was wrong about one thing; he wasn't taking the BART. 60 minutes later he arrived in a taxi.

Thanks to excellent planning on my part (and zero thanks to Babar) when he arrives Bravos is already seated in a 6/12 game and he and I are first and second up. I quickly get a seat and within seconds a black man at the table is bitching. "They came together I don't want to be playin with people that know each other it's just not right" yada yada yada. My first hand passes without incident, but on my second I raise and Bravos 3-bets (he has excellent position on the table fish, me) on this man's big blind. He bitching ratchets up another notch, and he check/folds the 9 high flop, with me calling a bet. I tank for a minute before mucking my Ace Ten suited face up on the turn, hoping that Bravos can show like pocket kings and the man will be more at ease (even if you're not doing anything shady at all, which we of course weren't, nobody likes to be called a cheater). Instead he flips over Ace Jack off and the man's mood does not improve. It should be noted however that I play good.

At this point they call Babar for a game and he just sits there like the live casino fish that he is. The kid plays online like it's his job, but his experience with brick and mortar casinos is limited. Lists, floor men, and table changes are a little outside his comfort level. I stick up a fist and say "he wants it" while Mrs. Davis looks at me a little confused from the 30/60 table. He eventually makes his way to table 8 (Bravos and I are on 16) and tell him to "Put in for a table change" to which he responds "Yeah, OK". Ten minutes later (after Bravos and I have ordered our first beers), I realize that leaving Babar alone to deal with a table change is like hoping my dog will take himself for a walk and get the mail while he's out. It's just not gonna happen. I tell Bravos as much and walk over to Babar's table. I return defeated, declaring "Can't ask him now, he has a hand." Bravos nods politely and takes a sip of Sierra Nevada. Note that if Pete were in a hand here I'd ask away, but Babar might overload from too much stimulation and I can't risk it. 60 seconds later, after taking and mucking my next hand, I walk over and am once more defeated. "It's worse. He's check-raising 4 people on the turn," I report back to Bravos. I muck one more hand and walk over once more, this time greeted by Babar sans cards and, curiously, not stacking chips. "What'd you have?" I ask. "Aces" he says. "I played it like I would online, and then I got 3-bet on the turn." Note that there was no Ace on the board....and Babar check/raised 4 opponents with one pair in a live 6/12 game on a big street.

Moving along, I ask him if he's put up for a table change. His simple response is "No, how do I do that?" I cringe and ask Janice to list him. 5 minutes later they call him over the loud speaker and I'm forced to lock it up for him when he doesn't hear his initials (not fake ones either...his real honest to goodness initials). Eventually we get him seated in the one hole at our table (bravos and I are in the 4 and 5) and the real fun starts. I declare that we should order 3 beers and pot for them. After explaining what this means to Babar (my god, you've played poker full time for 3 years and don't know how to pot for beers), he agrees whole-heartedly. I flag down a waitress and order 3 Sierra Nevadas and her response is "Wouldn't you rather have a pitcher?" Now, has anyone ever said no to this question? I know I haven't. "Yes! Bring us your finest pitcher of Sierra Nevada!" I declare. A good while passes before the beer comes, and in general Babar makes a mockery of the game and me by calling out my exact hand not once but twice over the course of 5 minutes. On a board of A52-X-Y I donk the flop into like 5 people, lead the turn and get raised by one of my two remaining opponents. I call and check/fold the river, and Babar says "Nice hand Mr. Ace Four suited." My only response is "Yeah, but which suit?" He doesn't know, and I feel somewhat better. A few hands later I open aces and he 3-bets from one of the blinds (with the customary 4 or 5 callers stuck in between). I declare "No cap heads up sir," which honestly I was just saying because online there is a cap even heads-up (probably to prevent money laundering) but Babar responds in rhythm "Aces! He's got Aces over there!" and I can only laugh. My aces fail to win the beer, however.

So now laggy player opens and a few people call, and I glance down at the Ace-Three of clubs in the small blind and call 1.33 bets (it's a 2/3 blind structure at The Oaks). Bravos calls in the big blind and the waitress arrives with the pitcher of beer. We haven't yet decided who will pay, and I ask her "One sec please" while tidying up my poker space and preparing to check/fold the flop against like 5 or 6 opponents.

9 7 4

I donk with my right hand, pay the waitress with my left and ask Babar "Is that a tell?" Bravos turbo mucks his hand and looses a little beer out of his nose and fist bumps Babar from across the table. Meanwhile somebody is calling my bet and someone else raises. I 3-bet and the caller somehow goes all in (I thought he folded) and the other guy 4 bets. I attempt to 5-bet in rhythm but am informed that I cannot do that since another player is in the pot. I shrug as the dealer pushes my 5th bet back to me, add 3 more chips to it, and dark bet the turn, which is actually a 4th . "Ruh Ro!" I hear from Babar's general direction, which translated means "I hope you just lost a little action and not the whole pot." My opponent calls and also calls the river, and I table my nuts.

Right after this a guy walks over to the table and says "Does one of you work for Deuces Cracked" and all three of us instantly put our heads down and are like "No, not us" "unh uh" and "Nope, never heard of it" and the guy walks away scratching his head. Then Babar realizes "Wait, I work for Deuces Cracked!" and hunts the guy down. Apparently he wants some coaching. Babar lobbies for his full two orbits and returns only after they

1. Call the lobbiers back.
2. I tell him he should come back.
3. They call the lobbiers back again.
4. He's done talking to the guy.

To close the evening I raise Ace Jack off and play a pot 5 ways. The flops KQ7 and I let it check by me and the other players check through. The turn is a deuce or some such and I check, but this time the nutty Asian LAG can't help himself and bets. Two players fold and I realize that I can't muck. I call, as does the last player. The river pairs the 7 and I can't believe what is about to happen. I check, the other player checks, and the nutty Asian LAG fires once more. I tank for a minute to confirm that our opponent is telegraphing a fold (he is) before calling with Ace High. The nutty LAG shakes his head and says "Nice call" and does the thing where he picks his cards up and wants to muck them but can't quite bring himself to do it. It's his turn to show first (I called him) but I decide to go for the jugular and fast roll my hand. He looks across the entire felt squinting and says basically "wut?". "Ace High, jack kicker" declares the dealer, who knows me from 30/60 and is desperately fighting back laughter. The LAG is beside himself....he's probably never been called by ace high at a live 6/12 game. Babar declares "ship it!" and a good time is had by all.