Friday, February 19, 2010

Took a Small Break

I took a little break, although it wasn't on purpose. I didn't play a hand of online poker for 4 days straight. I played live a bunch of times in that span and was just not feeling like playing online when I got home.

However, I put in a nice little 1.5hr session today for a small profit.

I think we are nearing the stage in the challenge where it starts to get difficult to stay motivated. A lot of us are on some type of slump or downswing and after putting in over a month's effort, we are noticing that this isn't as easy as we thought it might be.

Hang in there gentleman, once we get up to the next stakes you can actually start putting in some nice wins that feel a little more significant than the ones we get now.

I am planning on putting in some hands this weekend, I hope to have a follow up post on those sessions after.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Grind on the Mind

After slipping greatly for a big session, I hopped back on the horse to grind back up.

The above graph was the next session after my last downswing. "Don't call it a comeback, I've been here for years" indeed. I had a fairly typical beginning to the session. Went down then up a bit, nothing major. Then I started taking some beats/coolers. Pretty standard stuff, but after the session before, I was feeling some urgency to bounce back.

Adam was sweating me and he saw some of the uglier hands. I could feel myself getting more frustrated but I didn't want to stop playing yet. I knew if I kept taking beats like that I would have to just wrap up the session, but I wasn't quite ready to yet.

I decided to notch back my preflop hands by about one level. I just tightened up a bit and tried to level out.

Over the next 1200 hands or so things leveled out a lot. I didn't take any unusual beats/coolers, but I wasn't really putting my money all in all that often. When I did, my hands were best and held up. Nice.

I really felt in the zone at this point. Not in the zone in the sense that I had all my tables figured out and was just soul-reading everyone. But just in the grind zone, where I had a good mental state, was playing at or near A-game, and wasn't bored.

I had a nice little run at the end of the session and actually pulled a profit out of it. I was super happy with this as having run fairly bad in the mid part of the session, I wasn't counting on cashing-out winner. I've stopped looking at my running total while playing also. I find it fairly distracting to be checking your total too often, so I just leave it aside now if I can.

Jumped back in for 2 sessions yesterday, ran slightly above EV, and crushed it for a nice $16.00 session. Put in another session after that, this one was about half the size hands wise, but I cashed +$15.00 on that one. There was lots of action and people were just shoving into my big hands.

I am hoping for a little while longer of no run-bad so I can get up to $200.00 and finally out of this level (even if it is temporary).

Rakeback coming shortly as well, and I have been really trying to put in more hands as I think I can grind more than I have been, so it should be good as well. Ended at $142.00 I think, pre-rakeback.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Down Again

I have more to write probably but wanted to get something up. Last nights session was now my 3rd brutal downswing. It was similar to my last, where my overall level of play was lacking and where coolers/beats made things that much worse.

I had one guy at a table who was really trying hard to give away his stack, but I kept failing at taking it. He played strangely, lasted for about 2 hours, so he wasn't just literally shoving ATC pre or anything. But he would make... questionable plays.



So we had dueled a bit already. I had KTo and flopped a K vs. him early. He snap called all in on the flop with Qd7d for a FD which he hit. A bit later I ended up all in with him when I had AX and he had AJ on an A high flop. The money had been flowing. After a long while, I had relegated myself to waiting on a good hand vs. this guy. I picked up AK in MP, raised it up, he pot-raised me back, I shipped pre. He tank-folded.

The very next hand was very similar, but he found a premium hand to call with. Well sorta anyway. Bleh

I hung in there for a long time, but wasn't the one who eventually got his money a while later. Ya free money would have been good, oh wellz.

So lets look at some suckouts/coolers why don't we? These are all pretty standard.

It wasn't all bad, but taking those hits repeatedly sure takes it toll on the roll.

I hit on the river here. Seasky is a pretty bad player a he makes a fairly absurd move here. He tries as hard as he can to make me fold my hand even though he has the nuts, but I just am too stubborn. He had made some really stupid overbets like this throughout the session and I was inclined to call him regardless. Thank goodness for getting there, as against his particular hand, my hand pretty much sucks.

This is a pretty standard line for a beginning player who is drawing and has missed. I pick up on this fact and hero call the bet for a reasonable pot. I think it's probably overall advisable to just avoid these spots, but when you know you are right, go with it.

Sometimes being the one pushing the action at your table is good. By the time he had called my preflop 4-bet, we had $6.44 in the middle, and it felt like any KK, QQ, JJ or TT type hand would just go with it on that flop, so I shoved. Turns out he had even worse.

So ya, good times. I know that at some point I got tilted because I fell into the mentality that everything was going to go wrong. I got it in with AK vs QQ, and just felt like I was going to lose no matter what (I flopped a K on an all spade board, and Villain hit a spade on the turn fwiw). This is a pretty inappropriate view to have while actually playing. I did stop once I became aware of my mental state, but a careful review of the session will review mistakes that I normally wouldn't make I am pretty sure.

Back on the horse..

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cliff Jumping Bungee Jumping

Sometimes your graph falls off a cliff. Then rebounds back to the sky.

The immediate session after that disaster session I posted looked like this:

I sat down to 9-table and just take a solid grind approach to things. You will almost never get a big downswing back right away, and pushing so that you do usually comprises good play. So I just said, well, it's gonna take some sessions to get back but if I just grind away all will work out.

Not this time. I ran really well and felt like I played well also, and got it all back in one (rather short actually) session.

I didn't track many hands for the session. Here is one:

How would you play this? Villain was fairly active non-nit, but was also not a maniac.

I am back up to ~120.00 now, but really looking for a nice upswing to get me out of the basement.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cliff Jumping

Sigh. For the 2nd time this challenge, the soul crushing downswing has reared it's ugly head.

Last night I hopped on to run a few tables after the football poker day at Adam's. I felt sorta tired so I didn't want to put up too many tables, I limited it to 3 or 4. I ran really good at one table for a minute, busted 2 guys, and the table broke. This was a nice start to the night.

I went on a couple of other tables, and things went awry quickly. Typical of downswings for me, I took a series of bad beats, followed shortly by mixing in bad play with the bad beats. This is bad.

These days I tend to avoid FBMT, but I can still slip firmly into C game play and just stay too long playing like that. If I run well, I dig myself out as at least I am giving myself a shot. But if I don't, it just makes the situation that much worse.

I ran -19.00 on the EV graph on HEM, but punted off 3-4 buy-ins myself with no excuse. If I had played really well but just had a sick downswing, I would be ok with that. This isn't what happened here however.

Here are some hands:

On this first one, it's limped to me on the BB, and I raise it up with ATo. This is close, but for me it's good enough to raise as these players limp/fold constantly and it's easy money. Also, AT is fine vs. most limper's ranges. I get a good flop, and not fooling around, lead out for full pot. I think I can get called by any flush draw and all aces call me as well (most of which are behind me). The turn is fairly benign. I decide to just shove here because I need to get the money in now vs. a flush draw (he won't pay any more on the river if he misses) and I figure that any Ace will call as well. Again, I don't have him on a stronger Ace as I figure he would be raising AJ+ from the button. False.

Nextly, we have this little gem. I am really not sure about this at all. I guess I can try to control the pot on the river, but I didn't really think it was warranted against this player as he was calling me fairly light anyway (my image was... suspect at the time shall we say). So I raise KJo up after someone has posted their blinds. I get one caller, and bet the flop when I hit top pair. I bet big, full pot, and he calls. Turn pairs the 2nd pair, and to me, this is a likely holding for him. I check, and he checks behind. I hit a J on the river, although it's not meaningful. I bet out, figuring I have the best hand after my opponent checked back the turn. He shoves, and I am committed. I am not sure I need to make this pot this big, but I don't think it's terrible either.

I found this next hand quite puzzling. Just nothing really made sense about it. I called a raise out of the SB with QJo. Not great. Completely whiff the flop, it checks around. Turn is a blank, I check, villain bets the patented $.04, get's one fold, but I am not folding for that. I pair the river. My hand feels pretty darn strong here. I bet out for value and get shoved on. WTH does this guy have? A ten is a distinct possibility, but there is really no hand except maybe flopped quads that tells any kind of story here. I decide to go with it...

I decide to shove the turn here as I am thinking that quite a few draws are in this guys range and I don't want him to wiggle free if he misses. Apparently bottom pair no kicker was also in his range. I am ok with my play, but these are the type of hands that can add up pretty fast when you are on a downswing.

I certainly wasn't short on action for the night, at least I had that going for me. Again though, these are the types of hands that can add up and be really annoying. Interestingly, villain is 36% on the flop here, so he is far from drawing dead.

Sigh. I guess it's just a product of how I play that these downswings will happen. I'm not really worried about it, it's just lame to look at the graph and see a couple weeks worth of efforts erased.

Friday, January 22, 2010


My talented and charming girlfriend got me a new monitor some time back, a 24 incher. This means that I can now fit 9 tables fairly comfortably on the one screen, more if I want to spread them out onto my other monitor. Before I used to 8-table at the maximum, and that would take the better part of my mental capacity.

But I realized something after getting this monitor. On my old one, at 8 tables, they would overlap, so the table would pop to the front when the action came to you. This meant that if you were dealt 7 2-off in the CO, you couldn't just click the "fold to any" button ahead of time, because you probably couldn't see that table until the action was actually on you.

24 inches of Apple glory changed all that(the cut off picture is clickable):

Being able to see all the tables at once makes it more manageable. Now I won't lie, playing 9 tables still takes the better part of my attention, but I can actually IM with Chuck or check an email with no issues.

Here are some hands I saved out:

Tricky Value Line

On this one I am not 100% sure that I took the best line here, but I think I like it. Villain was not nitty, gave some action and I figured might try to take me off my hand on the turn. Also, I thought that checking here might get a river call out of a bad diamond since my line looks very much like I have given up on the turn, but changed my mind on the river after he checked back the turn. Being ROTTY, it worked fine. What hands do you put villain on and what can call the turn? Can I get all in if I hammer this turn very often? Highlight below to see villains hand:

Q9 with no diamonds (!)

Eye Arr In

This is a place where I played the hand differently than I normally would, but with a good result. I was fairly new to this table, and was playing on lots of tables at this time. I raised all in from the BB vs. a player that was raising basically all of his buttons since I sat down. I had also seen him show down a weak starting hand, and he seemed like a station. I didn't envision him folding too many "good" starting hands, most of which my hand plays well against. Also, the table limped, he raised full pot, and I viewed it as a very possible steal attempt. I don't mind picking up that pot preflop with no resistance, and if I don't I am likely in a good spot. So I ship. The button folds however, which wasn't a big surprise, but the CO calls, which was. Oops. This is usually AA-JJ in my experience, where the player got tricky pre and now just snaps me off.. OR, this guy picked up QJo and was like EYE ARR IN. It might have been that too ;) DNR baby.

Hangin' Tough

This is a hand that looks silly on paper but in actuality is probably pretty correct. I will keep this one simple, people just never play an overpair hand like this. I am value betting the flop and turn here which is pretty obvious. But when he jams the river, it is hard to figure out a situation where he does this and where we are beaten. If I have literally no read on this guy, then I would expand this to include a random bottom pair call on the flop and turn. But this guy had been playing fairly straight up. I expected to see more of a missed clubs type hand here, but this works too. The key here, is that this guy virtually never shows up with AT, KT or QT here. So much for keeping it short.

I am still finding my rhythm at these stakes. My VPIP etc. stats have been changing quite a bit since the beginning of the challenge. I will get it figured out properly, but frankly I don't have it all sorted quite yet.

Things I am however happy about are that I have taken some pretty harsh downswings but recovered just fine. I have been able to put in a fair amount of hands, trying to max out on rakeback to get me to the next level that much faster. I am really just trying to brute force my way out of the bottom tier, as I think the money really gets better about 2 levels up. I have to get to $200.00 before I can go up, and even then, I might have to drop back down in between.

Grind on the mind as they say...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Up and Down, All Around

Ah yes the Cake Challenge. What a gnarled beast it is. I have built my swing tolerance back up pretty quickly, but that is largely because I have been swinging like an 8-year old on the first day of Summer vacation since this began. Adjusting to these downswings (and upswings) is a big part of success for this type of thing, but it ain't easy..

Let's look at some hands from my last session.

I think while we try to break down hands and put ourselves in other players seats, we often fall into the trap of expecting that player to act similarly to how we would. This is not always the case. I take a value line here because I don't think this guy has anything at all. I min-raise the turn to try to induce a call or bluff, and get the call. He checks the not too terrible river, but calls my value shove. You have to factor in the Random Donk Factor (TM) at these stakes still it would seem :)

Continuing along that theme, we have this little piece of work. Royal and I decided that given this guys stack size, he was just playing ATC and running really hot(?) Maybe he thought he had some soul read on me or something, not sure. The minbet->call on the river is classic.

I wanted to show this example as a great spot where overbetting the turn makes a lot of sense. This guy flats in the SB with AQo. (Again with the nitty behavior from the players at this level). He flops top pair, and does the most popular move at these stakes currently: the $.04 minbet lead-out. I raise him up and of course he just passively calls. The turn brings a 2nd club to go with the 2 spades on the flop. Now he weak-leads again, this time for $.16. This is a spot where on a different board I might just go for a value type raise. I don't want him folding here. But of note is that this is *not* a way ahead/way behind situation. He could have a whole lot of hands that have a reasonable amount of equity but that we are beating. Some examples: Any of the 2 flush draws, any Q, sometimes a J, KT, and 9T. All of the previous hands with the exception of a Q, would likely fold the river unimproved. That means that we will do well to put as much pressure on him as possible to give him the worst odds and get as much money as we can get in right now. Being a passive donk he is likely to just not pay attention to the amount and just do the old "i haz draw, i arr in" play. Anyway, great spot for a shove imo, keep your eye out for these.

This next hand is more for entertainment purposes, but it is sorta interesting too. We have 77. Imagine at home the sheer range of joy to distress one might feel here lol.

I hope that we all understand how important it is to play in position by now. This hand is a great example of one of the overlooked reasons why not to play OOP. I call a raise from the BB with AJo. I flop top pair with a ~good kicker, but I have no clue where Villain is at. I do the standard check to the pf raiser. He cbets $.20. I don't really feel great about raising here, as AK, AQ, AA, KK, 99 are all part of his range, even if his range is wider than this. The turn brings another scare card on two fronts. The flush comes in and its a big broadway filling type card (but also improves us to a gutshot..) I check-call again, but I am not in love with this spot. River is another Q, and I check. I still don't have a great idea where this guy is at, and find myself somewhat relieved when he checks behind. The point of this whole thing is that it's very difficult to extract value from OOP. I had a relatively strong starting hand and had a decent flop for it, but had to let this guy decide how much money I won this pot.

I wanted to post a small hand like this just to show where I pick up probably the majority of what I win at these levels. It does not show what I had here but I am not going to post it either. I had air, so put any two cards in your hand and see if you just would have folded that flop or not. Once this guy gave up, I stabbed and took down a reasonably sized pot. This is your reward for knowing that the flop is dry enough that it missed this guy the majority of the time. And after he checks the turn, it's just a white flag to run him over. Don't pass up opportunities like this.

Along the lines of the RDF (TM) hand above, this hand shows that you don't always know where you are at. I raise with TT from the cutoff, and get 2 callers. On a very dry flop, both check and I bet half pot. I would probably bet this amount with an Ace as well. TheCouch100 calls and other guy folds. I hit a great card for me on the turn, giving me a boat. Now I am hoping that he has an Ace and that he is willing to go to the mat with it. He checks, and I bet $1.12, not holding back now as this has become a question of "do you have an ace or not?". He calls. I found this strange at the time because I expected a check-raise from an Ace. I thought he might have a small Ace and be playing it weakly. The river is a K, and he checks again. Well I have signifinantly less than a pot bet behind, so I just shove in there. I am still hoping he is just playing an Ace passively. I was wrong.

This one again shows that RDF(TM) strikes often and it strikes hard. Don't be a victim. (Took a relatively sick beat here, but the Sklansky bucks are piling up) Same dude as the previous hand too fwiw.

Those are all the hands that I wanted to share. I hit my first heater of the Challenge last night and had a decent upswing. Being down though overall to start the session meant that it didn't exactly propel me to the stars, but it was nice nonetheless.

And the grind continues..