Archive for May, 2009

Variance turns

Posted: May 23, 2009 in Cash games, General
Calvin Argh

An early bird session at the Empire this morning, almost tag teaming Tom out of his seat after he’d played through the night. Good grief though, my strategy went out the window, I played relentlessly aggressively and was eaten alive. Seems that the pool of half asleep morning fishies have in the main been replaced by the sharks. Needed a little luck on my side to prevail against a strong crowd, and this morning just ran horribly.

Looks like it’s back to the early evening sessions as I guess that’s where the money is once more…


A Night at the Empire

Posted: May 22, 2009 in General

Had a fairly quiet few hours at the Empire post-Wing Tsun class last night. Hilarious comment early in the game that’s worth sharing.

£1/£2 no limit hold’em. With a few callers, button makes it £8, SB calls, I call in the BB, UTG shoves for £80, folds to button. He dwells for about 5 minutes, staring at me and the SB, eventually passes. SB passes, I pass, UTG wins the hand.

“You shoulda indicated you were going to fold man, then I’d have called”, the button yells across the table to me.

“That would be collusion buddy” I tell him before the dealer can reprimand him.

“Well, the SB gave me a signal.”

Dealer – “Really?! FLOOR”

It goes on.

Button (unaware why the floor has been called), “Yeah, I had Ace ten, I’d have called if you indicated you were going to pass”.

UTG flips up his ace-king from the muck.

Button: “F*ck you, I knew I shoulda called, we were RACING. Let’s do it again, give me back my cards!”.

Dealer – “I can’t do that, sir”.

UTG “Give him his cards.” Table vigorously nod their assent.

Dealer shakes his head and cancels the call for the floor, clearly the button is a complete muppet.

Button (to UTG): “F*ck you man, you’re a c*nt. I’ll run that a hundred times with you.” Button exits stage left in a huff.

Ahh, you couldn’t make this shit up…


Posted: May 13, 2009 in Cash games, General

After enduring a well documented train wreck at the poker table in 2008, I was looking forward to a turn in the tide of variance. With the antics of the last few weeks things are suddenly firmly going in my favour, and in a fairly significant way. Let’s hope it lasts!!

I finally took the Canines for a decent score in April, winning £880 playing Pot Limit Hold’em, a game that better suits my more controlled style. Went on to notch up a single session career best at the Empire on Saturday, winning £1,150 from a field of generally poor players. With an invite to the Baron homegame next door on Bankside last night for a few hours I fully expected the tide of variance to wash over me once more, and for at least a small portion of my recent winnings to be donated back to the community.

However, delighted to say that it was not to be. With a continued good run at the table, I managed to notch up my second ever four figure win, cleaning the boys out for a further £1,040.


Thought I’d take the opportunity to post an update to my career earnings for review. Although I’ve been playing for almost twelve years, I’ve only really been playing regularly and keeping records since 2004. The first few recorded years were comparatively small fry, but I was at least pleased to be one of the consistent winners in the weekly East London home game that we ran for about three years over 2005/06/07. By late December of that year I’d run my bankroll up to a three and a half grand profit, and with the waning of the home game started to migrate my regular play to the Loose Cannon. You’ll note the sudden and consistent downward turn in my bankroll graph, the majority of the big hits being at the hands of Tom ‘Baron Luckbox’ Spence, where it all seemed to go horribly wrong for a fairly prolonged period as I unsuccessfully tried to play his game for a period of a few months (see here, here and here for examples).

Well since the start of 2009 and a low point in the graph that was back in the triple digits profit, things have finally turned around properly. Certainly I’m playing better than I ever have, but I’m not going to delude myself into thinking that it’s all talent. Variance plays a huge role over the short term, and by the short term I mean 10,000 hands or so. That’s a good few days of multitabling online (which I don’t partake in); playing live it’s closer to a full year of poker!

With this in mind, I’d suggest that the measure of a solid player is as much their ability to minimise their losses during the bad patches, as to maximise their gains in the good. Easier said than done however, and while I’ve broadly lived up to this aspiration I’ve had my moments of madness, notably a £900 loss in a horrific weekend homegame in Cheltenham; where despite being the only player at the table grabbing some semblance of a night’s sleep, I still managed to bomb five buy-ins butting heads against some of the boys who played 25 hours straight, one of whom had drunk the equivalent of ten bottles of wine during the session!

Anyway, back to the present and really just one major hand of note from last night’s game, but there’s a little bit of yarn spinning in the preparation, so bear with me.

I joined the game late, after an extended work day spent on a conference call with Vancouver (should have been there in person, but all HSBC travel canned thanks to H1N1; pigs might fly, but fLukey cannot). Fortunately the boys had all bought in relatively sensibly, so my first £150 sit down was only slightly short-stacked. The Baron had been gracious with seating arrangements, and locked-up the chair to his immediate left for me. Honestly I can’t play an enjoyable game of poker with this unpredictable maniac unless he’s close to my right hand. I intend to stick to my plan of avoiding any No Limit game where he’s stacked, playing wildly, and has position on me. Although I can make a profit in those situations, the game is just painfully dull as I find I have to tighten-up to rock-like levels pre- and post-flop; it takes all the fun out of the game when you have to pass virtually all your prospective hands, and play big pairs so fast. Far too beginner ABC strategy, feels like playing scared, and that’s just not a mindset I enjoy.

With his usual charmed timing, the Baron picks up AA in the very first hand I sit down to. However with the two of us in the blinds, and Devski (seat 3) doing the betting, he elects to slowplay, and I’m able to take my KQs to the flop, hitting top two pair and getting it all-in good. The board doesn’t pair to counterfeit me, and I instantly double through to £300. Same orbit I succeed in stacking another player to very quickly run my starting stack up above £500. An excellent start!

All is controlled and quiet for a few hours, although in general I’m running rather good (thank you Gods of variance). Tom and I had already recently tussled at the Empire game on Saturday, where I made a point of passing a number of big hands to his wild raises (Jacks preflop at one point (erroneously as it turned out), and top pair big kicker a few times). After I had an opportunity to make what I assessed to be a similarly good but quite big laydown in the homegame, I decided to show. Had another opportunity against the Nit mid-evening, mis-playing a flush on the turn and letting in a fourth club on the river. With only two overcards to my jack, I elected to pass to the Nit’s £75 raise into a £100 pot, a move I’m not certain was correct once Devski claimed to have passed the ace. However nonetheless it was another excellent advertising opportunity for my ‘weak’ game, preparing for an opportunity to take on Tom’s bullying tendencies later.

Having built my stack to £800 with a continuing rather lucky run of cards complemented by a few quiet steals, I finally found my opportunity to make a big score against the Baron in the final 30 minutes around 3am.

On ‘the magic stealing button’, the Baron made it his usual £8 to go. Holding 99 in the small blind, I raise to £26 to isolate. Baron called in position, and we took a flop of T32 rainbow. I didn’t necessarily fear the ten, so opened for £25, not expecting a fold. However rather than simply calling behind as I expected him to do with the majority of his range on a safe board, Tom raised £93 more. I know he’s capable of either raising or limping his huge hands, but really AT/JT are his most likely hands, certainly more probable than two pair or an overpair – although at this point in the hand he could have any of those, or air.

I’ve not shown down a bluff for quite some time, several sessions in fact, which according to Sklansky means I’m not stealing enough. My own view on this is that a lot of the time you just don’t need bluff. Apart from simply winning a pot you’re not entitled to, a key benefit to bluffing is to disguise your strong hands later; however if the table are calling you down regardless of previous playing tendencies, it just feels a bit unnecessary. I’ll semi-bluff when the time is right (although possibly still not often enough), but it’s fairly infrequently that I’ll run a complete steal – and if I do it tends to be in rather judiciously selected situations.

I know Tom is very aware of this playing tendency of mine, and so having been the out of position pre-flop raiser, I make a conscious decision to play my image and try to get all my chips into the pot in a convincing manner. It’s a safe board, so I play my nines the same way I’d play my aces, and flat call rather than three betting.

The turn is a suited jack, putting a few draws on board. I check my ‘aces’, and Tom bets £250. However I’m suddenly alarmed that his bet is too big! He’s got me covered, and I now only have £375 more to raise into a pot of what will then be almost £850. If I shove he’ll have odds of 2.5:1 on his call, pricing him out of a one-way draw (he needs 4:1 with either a straight or a flush draw, but if he has a multiway hand he’s likely to think he’s priced in). However thinking it through properly, I eventually realise that the situation does work in my favour. If he’s drawing I’m actually fairly likely to still be ahead with my one pair. If I shove the turn as planned, my line looks incredibly strong (I’m out of position, am the pre-flop raiser, bet the flop and check-raised the turn). Combine that with my deliberately setup ‘weak’ image, and my tendency to play straight-forward poker betting when I have it, and I don’t think Tom can put me on any less than an overpair to the jacks, all the sets are also in my range.

Anyway, I stick to my guns and shove for the last £375, and Tom makes a fairly quick pass with Q8o, for the gutshot and overcard. As it turned out he was drawing pretty thin with just five outs (I had two of his nines), so I’d actually have relished the call. However at the time I just remember being relieved that I’d got away with taking a big pot off of him. We wrapped soon after, nailing me a second consecutive four figure for this week. Verrr nice.

High tide

Posted: May 11, 2009 in Cash games

Joined the Baron and the Nit for an evening session at the Empire on Saturday. Ran rather well all night, coolered a stacked Spence, and put a horrible beat on a Hungarian guy to score a £1,150 profit. Pleased to note that I am now officially back to my previous bank roll high point, last seen in Dec 2007 shortly before I started playing regularly against the Canines.

Having unrolled itself, I can now presumably expect the tide of variance to wash over me once more.