Walking Back to Houston

Posted: October 21, 2010 in General

Lodged a rather tidy £850 loss last night in the Canine private game, not bad for 1/2 NL.

My main undoing was a strict inability to hit even one pair with a series of overcards, and having an assorted array of junk hold-up against my nut no-pair holdings. A few of the bigger hands of note:

  • With a nice TAG image, I 3-bet Ioannis’ open from late-position with KTs and take two callers to a flop of 34J with two diamonds. Racist and Ioannis check, and with just a little more than a pot sized bet left I shove for £160 more. Racist somehow finds a hero call with K3o and I lose the £400 pot, despite us running it twice.
  • I open UTG to £12 with AKs, Alastair calls. I c-bet an undercard flop, Alastair calls. I check a king on the turn for pot-control and to allow Alastair to bluff the river. He does bet indeed, but has rivered the gutshot I gave him a free look at and wins a £300 pot.
  • The straddles go 1/2/5/10/20/40/80 and I’m first to act on the button, WTF?! Squeeze out Ace … ten. Some thought given to passing to reduce variance, but this is such a +EV spot that I can’t bring myself to do anything other than shove for my stack of £250. It looks hopeful after a few folds, but Jody somehow finds a call with Q7s to chase the £20 he’s invested already and I’m toasted in an £850 pot  — to be fair, Ioannis also called in the £80 seat and his 55 left me in third place on a queen high board.
  • My last rebuy of the night has whittled down to £115 after I incorrectly pass JJ on an ace-high board to a Jody river-shove. Ioannis opens to £15 and I shove AKs. Two callers to build a pot of £350, Ioannis’ T6s holds up and I’m walking back to Houston…

Internet w**ker

Posted: October 17, 2010 in General

I enjoyed a rather hilarious retarded moment around 3am at the Empire last night, managing to mightily piss off a somewhat annoying woman who’d been winding me up with her nit prattle for a while.

I’d just come down from a rather ridiculous bout of hysterics, following a discussion with Snake about anti-tells and coming up with a plan to play-act tourette’s at the table – in between swearing and spitting, yelping out your actual hand (“TWO PAIR! COCK!”) in a series of small pots, showing to establish credibility as a genuine sufferer, and then putting an almighty slap on any big stacks with a fake (“W*NKER! I’M BLUFFING”) after a huge overbet with the nuts. Apart from Snake, the rest of the players had no idea why I was virtually under the table laughing my head-off like an absolute drunken buffoon – nothing but tea and lime-sodas all night, I was just delirious from almost five hours solid of unplayable hands.

Anyway, I decide to play one blind Baron style from the BB (yes, I know he normally does this from the button). UTG raises to £10, and with the woman in the SB and my call three of us take a flop. Both streets are checked all around, and on the river there’s a four straight out there, I think 32475 rainbow. Woman checks her SB, and I decide to look with a plan of betting-out anything. Somewhat bemused on peeking to note that I have 86s for the nuts. There’s only £25 in the pot, so I go for a giant overbet, shoving to £125 (I’m a little short-stacked at this point in the night). The raiser folds fairly quickly, and nit-woman starts complaining about what a ridiculous bet it is. In the hope of talking in a call from 2-pair or an improbable under-straight I decide to go for the “I’m a twat” line of shtick, and loudly tell her to ‘fold faster, love’. She bemoans my lack of grace and I stick a few more slightly out of order comments in. Unfortunately her nittiness is too much for me, and she folds AKo face-up, calling me an idiot for not “getting another £20 out of her with a proper bet”. She’s made a good fold, but her lack of understanding of why the overshove is a so much better line than the value bet is just too much for me, and I collapse in full-on hysterics right in her face. She fumes some more, calls both Snake and myself ‘internet w***ers’ (why he got tarred with my brush I’ve really no idea!) and after a few more hands unfortunately storms off to another table, presumably to tilt off her money to some other lucky punter.

Sometimes it’s fun to be a dickhead.

Passing the second nuts

Posted: September 2, 2010 in General

The action as best I can remember it from a hand at GQ last week (net +£525 over 6 hours of running broadly over expectation):

I limp in middle position with J7s, five other limpers including Joe in the cut-off who is playing tight aggressive and who has previously shown a fair degree of thought in his game. The rest of the table are passive donkeys.

Joe and I have been eyeing each other’s stacks up for a little while. He incorrectly believes he made a bad pass to me a while earlier, and I know (in a friendly / respectful way) that he’s looking to take vengence.

Flop comes 895 rainbow, I have a nice disguised double-gutter. First three players check, I put out a pot-building £8 bet and all call. Turn is a fairly blank 4, board still rainbow. All check (I don’t want to bet myself off of the hand).

River comes a lovely 6, giving me the second nut (one card) straight. First three check, I value bet £25 hoping to get looked up by 2-pair, and after a little thought and eyeing of my stack Joe makes it £110 to play (with £150 behind, I have him covered). Other players pass and I have to give some consideration to the situation.

I’m only beat by exactly T7, but the situation smells odd. My thought process (which I verbalise at the table) is as follows. Joe is quite TAG, there are lots of sevens in my range and so at best I think he can only believe he’s chopping. With just a 7 I think he has to play for the over-calls from the other three players. However, their lines suggest this is unlikely, so if he does have the mortal nuts he’s actually better raising it to get guaranteed value from my likely second-best hand (he’s has nothing to lose if we’re both chopping).

In the end I figure he has to have the nuts about 80% of the time. At the very best I’m calling for a chop, and so reluctantly I pass, face up. The table doesn’t comment on it, but I think Joe is quite surprised. At the time he claims K7 (chop), however later he admits to the T7. I’ll never know for sure, but I’m pretty convinced that he was being straight-up in the later conversation, and offering his grudging respect.

Just one more hand…

Posted: August 26, 2010 in General

After a reasonable but slightly slow session at the Empire this week I was just about ready to cash in a £400 profit, when the following hand came up. A new player had just been moved to the table and had my £700 stack covered by a substantial amount. I figured I’d just play out the last few hands and then split. Would rock-up, that way nothing could go wrong.

With a loose aggressive image, but one that newguy isn’t aware of having just arrived at the table, in my final hand of the night I raise AQo UTG to £6. Get four callers, inc newguy in the small blind.

Flop JdQsAd, seems like bingo, but I’m going to tread carefully as know nothing about the big stack. NG checks, I bet £20, fold, button calls, NG min raises to £40. I call for pot control, button folds and we’re heads-up.

Turn 8s. NG bets £75 into a pot of just under £100.  Is somewhat worrisome that 9T may have just got there, however I’m not prepared to lay-down top-two just yet so call.

River 6d completing the flush. NG bets £150! I’m baffled. Whatever he has, he seems to have played it bizarrely.

It’s definitely the end of night for me, so I talk this through aloud (to myself) at the table. With any of the sets he almost certainly has to raise preflop out of position in a 4-way field, so it’s not those. KT for the flopped nuts plays exactly like that, but the river bet would be extremely brave considering that diamonds are definitely in my range. Unless he’s either very dumb or very smart, I think he’d check-call when the third diamond arrived on the end. Kdxd I think has to either check the turn or bet it smaller – I have the queen of diamonds and the ace and jack are out there, so it can’t be a premium suited king, however people will call with all sorts in this game. Anyway, after I show some genuine strength by calling the flop raise, I don’t think he really wants to bet himself off the draw on the turn with these bad stack sizes.

However I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t go any further in my thinking than this. Slightly ashamed to note that I counted down my stack, noted that calling and losing would leave me with a tiny profit and calling and winning would be a big pay-day, so just stuck it in, hoping that he was on a badly played worse 2-pair or AK.

Obviously he shows KdTd, and I’m done. With just a bit more thought, I think I should have put two and two together to realise that worse hands than mine make just as little sense as all of the above, meaning that he can really only have the flush draw and a made hand (in this case the flopped nuts with the nut redraw). I guess I just didn’t consider the extra combinations of Omaha style hands…bad play me.

Just to note, I did consider repopping it on the flop and folding to a re-re-raise, however it’s a draw heavy board and I really didn’t want him to just call and then for me to still have no idea where I was in a massive pot when a diamond or broadway card came. Deliberately decided to take the safer line and try to sweat a street.


Posted: July 30, 2010 in General

Hilarious example of outrageously poor dealing at our local cardroom’s private game this week. Just had to share. Note that this is a RAKED game, we pay almost a thousand pounds a night for the privilege of being looked after in this manner…

Having called an 863 rainbow flop and checked the 5 turn, Devski shoves the 2 on the river. The Baron has been the aggressor in the hand, but clearly doesn’t have much – however he’s contemplating the crying call anyway. Devski tells him he has a monster and should fold. Baron’s about to do so when suddenly the dealer’s hand flashes out to stop him, “WAIT A MINUTE, DON’T SHOW THAT HAND” he yells at Dev. “If you have the nuts I’ll give you £100, you would definitely have bet the turn”.

We all look at each other like the dealer is bonkers, clearly Baron hasn’t folded yet. If he had done so I imagine Devski would have immediately flipped up his 79s, and we’d have had a right laugh at the £100 rakeback.

After reprobating the dealer, pointing out what a lose/lose situation he’s created, eventually the Baron goes through with his planned fold. The dealer sheepishly tries to explain his thinking in the hand, which quite honestly is basic level 1 (I have the nuts therefore I raise), and the game continues.

Ahh, you couldn’t make this shit up.

Saucy behaviour

Posted: June 24, 2010 in General

Snake, aka Sauce (his drunken alter-ego) made another appearance at my now regular mid-week Empire poker session last night. True to form he made a dramatic entrance, his bright red England t-shirt only just outshining his beer induced bright red nose, marching up to me to express his love and give me a hug from behind.

Straight out of the ‘Sauce guide to poker ettiquette’, he immediately launched into 100dB praise aimed at the chap with the largest stack, a few seats along from me at the table. ‘Mate, you must be like brilliant at poker or something, no really mate well done.” With his name at the top of the list, he went on to further compliment the randomly poor play of a few hands he barely paid attention to, turning down a seat at a nearby table in favour of joining us “fine gentlemen”. With his reputation as a muppet of the highest calibre firmly established, by 11pm or so the opportunity presented itself for our man to pull-up a seat and a stack.

I think Snake’s approach to poker can best be thought of as solid level 3 TAG. He’s tight aggressive, but aware of his own image and willing to exploit it with well timed balancing plays in position to maximise his EV and keep his opponents off balance. He compliments this with a habit of verbally stroking the level 1 players, encouraging their poor play and sub-optimal lines. I’ve always found it amusing, and despite the fact that some of his comments can frankly be completely ludicrous (“unlucky mate, I was sure you were going to hit that, it felt like it didn’t it” to someone drawing at a gutshot to the ignorent end of a straight), it does seem to work. He does genuinely seem to be able to get away with petting the fish.

Sauce’s approach to poker follows a very similar theme to the above. He persists in the stroking, although admittedly in a drunken mock stage whisper that can be heard by the majority of seats at the table, causing great amusement for those who are aware of what he’s up to. His play however tends to degenerate to level 2 LAG, and this got him into trouble on a few occasions last night, two of which were rather magnificent slowrolls and well worth a write-up.

Slowroll – To wait until the last possible moment to show the winning hand, in an effort to get your opponent to believe he has won the pot when he has not.

At the poker table, a deliberate slowroll would normally be considered poor form, however when performed correctly it can also be a thing of great beauty. I was lucky enough to witness two such moments of artistic flair last night, both induced by Sauce’s own drunken behaviour, and I guess a desire for the opposing players to ‘get even’ in a small way.

Slowroll 1
Sauce and the tightestest player at the table get it all in on a flop of Ad5h5d, Sauce exclaims “come on you diamond!”, and indeed it hits the turn in the form of a six. “Yessss, sorry mate!” he claims flipping up his mid-position 9d4d (level 2 LAG stylee). The other player shrugs at Sauce but looks like he’s still drawing, he’s very focused on the river. A black three, it seems to have blanked out for this tight player, but no – after at least a five second further pause the chap flips up a beautiful As5s for the flopped nuts, and led by me the table breaks into guffaws of laugher at poor Sauce’s dejected look.

Slowroll 2
Sauce and if possible a player drunker and looser than himself get it all in on a turn of JsJhKd 6s. Sauce flips up one card, the jack of diamonds; the drunk flips up the six of hearts. The river blanks again, Sauce turns over his offsuit five, the drunk shows the case jack. Sauce’s bottom lip quivers, hilarity ensues…

Snake pays for his beer

Posted: June 18, 2010 in General

It’s just a usual Thursday night at the Empire, I’m playing off a stack of about £200 with another £200 in my back pocket and a willingness to grab another four should the table dynamics demand it. Receive a text from the Snake – he’s drunk and on his way; this might normally be a ‘yum yum’ moment, but admittedly the boy does play very good quality poker even when sozzled.

I pop him on the list and a few minutes later receive a second text, he’s in the bar, do I want a beer? “I don’t drink and drive I reply, have a lime/soda right here.” I do have the motorbike parked outside, but the drink and drive comment relates more to the poker game.

I play another hand or two when suddenly a gollum-like paw dips into my stack from behind my back to grab a red off the top – “sorry mate, they don’t accept cards, just need this – back in a minute.”, and off he scampers with £5 of my profit in his mitts. He’s back soon after with two bottle of Budvar, both for himself – the cheeky scoundrel!

Two more hands pass while we shoot the breeze, the Snake about 20dB too loud for the table, and I notice people at the other end of the felt are wincing at the random drunken gibberish he’s spouting at top volume. Meanwhile I’m dealt A4o in the big blind, and flash it to my face so he can get a peek and play along. There’s a raise mid-table, and I call behind, five of us to a flop of … A49 rainbow, beauty. I trap-check on this nice dry board, there’s a bet of £15, two callers and when it comes back around I pop it up to £40. The original raiser slips out a £25 black to call, the others fold.

“I can’t believe you got that through, you jammy fucker!”, the Snake suddenly loudly exclaims. The boy’s a genius, and I instantly play along trying to put some genuine sounding annoyance into my voice as I reply “that guy called you twat, can it already.”

The turn is the 3h, putting out a flush draw and a possible straight – so with no more time to dilly dally I spin out £50, trying to make it look like a last desperation bluff at the pot. Seat 4 considers this for all of 15 seconds and shoves. I insta-call and stack his unshown hand for a rather nice £450 pot. Thank you Snake!

Weird situation

Posted: April 11, 2010 in General

Dragged the Snake (née the Nit) along to one of the Gala’s on Friday night for an evening of TAG poker, away from the lagtard mentalists in our usual game.

Nothing exceptional to report, however there was one very unusual situation that came up and is worth recounting.

Snake has been playing too tight for the table for the few hours pre-dinner. In this game he needs to loosen-up moderately and play a little more aggressively with a wider range of hands to increase his win-rate. I mention this to him over dinner.

Post-dinner he seems to do so, at one point opening three hands for a raise in a row. Perhaps a little too wild, but it’s working and his stack is building.

My hole cards have been garbage all evening, literally two pairs (8’s and 4’s) and one AQ, none of which could make a winning hand. However my raggedy cards are hitting flops left right and centre, so I’m nicely in profit. At the start of the hand in question I’m sitting on about £400 from a starting stack of £150, and Snake has £350 in front. We have the table covered.

UTG I finally find a top-ten hand, AKs, and limp for £2 (this is a 1/2 NL game). Snake in seat 4 to my immediate left raises to £12, two players call and I call, deciding to take a flop. Despite his recent earlier aggression, Snake is still fairly likely to have a somewhat decent hand to open from EP. Deciding not to build a big pot out of position with a hand that’s only likely to make one pair, I elect to limp and take a flop, disguising my hand.

The flop comes a fairly encouraging AQ8 with two clubs, I have spades. Snake likes to c-bet, so I check to give him the chance. He does so, betting £40 into the pot of £51. Chinese guy in seat 5 calls fairly quickly, leaving himself with a little over £100 behind. Other player folds, and I decide to stick to my plan and spring the trap, making it £140 to play. Chinese guy is extremely likely to call, I’m fairly certain I can beat the majority of his passively played range, a lot of which is two random clubs. I figure Snake can only continue in the hand with about a quarter of his range.

Snake goes into the tank. For about three minutes he’s thinking and thinking, and really looks genuinely unsure of what to do. I’m now certain that I’m ahead. He’s most likely to have the same hand as me, possibly AJ or KK. I can definitely get him off of AK by shoving any turn that doesn’t give him a club draw. I decide that the hand is mine.

Chinese guy now starts to get irritated with the wait. “How long can he think for?” he asks. However the dealer is inexperienced, and doesn’t know the standard rule for calling a clock. I don’t want to explain it, as that’s going to put additional pressure on Snake – it’s a big hand and I’d rather he had the chance to make his decision unimpeded.

Out of turn, Chinese guy then just throws his hand into the muck!

Snake now has a far easier decision, as it’s suddenly down to heads-up. I’m exasperated at this, as a lot of my fold equity has just vanished, and demand the floor be called. While the cardroom manager explains why this is incredibly bad form, Snake continues to dwell on his decision.

“This hand’s a mess, do you want to just chop it?” he asks me after a few more moments.

“No. Make your decision.” I tell him quite sternly. I’m slightly tilted by the Chinese guy’s fold, and am now sure I’m ahead. Having been card dead all night, TPTK looks like a monster versus Snake’s wide range and prolonged delay.

“I’m ahead. ” I tell him. “Fold, and let’s get on with the next hand”. I actually think I’m doing him a favour. The Chinese guy has screwed-up the hand. I just want to claim what’s rightfully mine so far and get on with mugging the other players at the table.

Snake continues to dwell.

“Mike, I’m ahead. Fold already. I’ll show”.

Eventually, he does and I show my AK. Snake curses and claims AQ for top-two, explaining that he was 90% sure I had 88 for bottom set, and to be fair that hand makes absolute sense with my line.

Barring a vicious outdraw, Chinese guy saved my stack with his impatience.

AQ is definitely in Snake’s range, but should he really dwell sooo long initially. Obviously he’s entitled to take as long as he likes, but if he’d simply been a little more decisive and made his play before Chinese guy could do anything stupid, I guess a big pot would have been his.

An interesting situation. I was honestly certain I was ahead, so wasn’t making a verbal play for the pot with my insistence that I had Snake beat. However I guess that does push my range up significantly. That sort of talk at the table is going to be more likely to induce a call from a stranger, but against a mate you play against regularly I guess it does look far more genuine.

Lucky me I guess.

Reflections on Pro Week

Posted: February 16, 2010 in General

So what of the lifestyle metrics and success criteria I’ve been tracking throughout the pro week experiment?

Game selection is the most important decision any poker player, amateur or professional, will ever make. As a real pro (i.e. unemployed as far as the govenment are concerned), I really wouldn’t expect to make a great deal of profit from the much nittier afternoon casino games, which are in the main populated by other folk making their living from poker. The easiest money by some margin is available in the core boozing hours of 9pm through 1am mid-week; later on a Friday and Saturday. Effectively the life of a poker pro appears to become a vampire like existence, endless nights spent hovering in the shadows waiting to pounce on the wallets of the unwary.

I imagine that there would be advantages to working a nightshift of 7pm through 3am, however maintaining a family and social life isn’t one of them. To balance the health aspects of a sedentary ‘career’ you’d definitely need to make firm use of a gym membership, and I do have to admit that my health and diet suffered as a result of so much time at the poker table during this experiment. Although a daily intake of sushi for lunch goes a long way towards maintaining a glow of health, I only managed to cook and eat properly one evening during pro week, the rest of my nights powered by either casino restaurant dining or snack-and-go tableside eats. Fine for a week, but hardly the definition of ‘living right’.

What of the enjoyment factor? Despite that I grumble about it from time to time, I do take moments of pleasure from my day job – the occasional glimpse of satisfaction at achieving something worthwhile, even if only in the pursuit of wealth for my company’s shareholders. Apologies to any readers who hold the role, but I’m afraid I can scarely think of a less worthy job than professional gambler. To be fair I guess this lifestyle choice could be balanced with voluntary work; and perhaps the ability to choose your own hours would make it easier to compress the working week into three or four days, yielding a weekend (but not the golden nights of Friday & Saturday) and an extra day to spend in pursuit of charitable causes? It’s a nice intention, but is it something you’d be able to follow-through with consistently during a patch of extended bad variance? I doubt it.

I made my fair share of mistakes during pro week, almost certainly halving the profit I could have made (and therefore potentially doubling my ‘salary’ should I ever achieve the unreachable nirvana of a consistently error-free game).  I poo-poo’d a poker book I recently read by Tommy Angelo, dismissing it as vacuous nonsense (my purchase prompted by this post over at the rather well written Thinking Poker), however on further reflection perhaps there is something to Angelo’s suggestion that it’s of paramount to ‘quit right’. To learn to stop playing and go home at the point where you no longer believe you can maintain your A game. I played beyond this point on at least two of the five pro week sessions, trying to push the envelope and seek out an end-of-the-night gamble to parlay a small win up to a big score or a loss. My two biggest errors of the week were as a result of super-lag lines played in pots that should been kept small, or even folded. Were I ever to go pro for real, I’d need to kill this tendency dead. Life is all one long game, and the same players will still be there tomorrow. It’s unnecessary to throw away chunks of bankroll simply because some arbitrary end of session milestone is approaching.

One of the metrics I said I wouldn’t assess for pro week was profitability (or lack thereof). Despite that I wasn’t judging the success of the week based on money, it is still interesting to consider how this tiny sample week might scale-up to an annual salary.

Over the course of a modest working week of 33 hours, I made a £605 profit. In fact I locked this up entirely on the second night, spending the remaining four days flucutating up and down by small margins. However that’s the nature of variance, and as a professional player I imagine all you can do is to minimise your losses on bad days, and maximise your wins on good days. I’ll say it again, this is far too small a sample to be considered representative, however were we to extrapolate this result we could estimate a win rate of £18/hour; in poker terms a fairly modest 9 BB/hour. A good rate would be considered to be more like 20 BB/hour, so either I played badly or I ran badly (net – sorry again Dev!) over the course of the week.

Multiplying that up by 45 weeks to a working year yields a salary of just over £27,000 after tax (as in the UK at least, gambling income is untaxed). Approximately equivalent to a pre-tax salary of £40,000 pa. Not bad, but honestly not really sufficient to keep me in the luxury to which I’ve become accustomed, let alone to support a wife (recently acquired), new house (imminently about to exchange), two cats (yet to be purchased); oh and ideally some sort of retirement plan.

As a live poker pro there’s no opportunity to increase your win rate by multi-tabling, so all you can practically do is to work your way up the levels. Soft £1/2 games are easy to find any night of the week in a metropolis like London, but it may get a bit trickier to reliably locate easy money at £2/5 or £5/10. Is not something I’ve tried yet, however I think it would be necessary to be averaging ~10BB/hour at £5/10 (pre-tax equivalent of a six figure salary) to support a good lifestyle in London. I’ve no idea whether it’s possible to find enough games to get in 40 good hours a week, but were I to be considering going pro for real, this would be another of the prerequisites.

So in summary, while life as a poker pro might work well for a man of leisure, having taken the life decision to marry and one day have a family it’s not something I feel would suit me well. Perhaps once the kids are (conceived,) schooled and sent out into the world I’ll come back to the idea, but for now I’m more than happy with the balance of no more than two nights a week.

Glad I undertook this experiment nonetheless. It’s been an interesting experience, albeit not one I’d recommend nor repeat any time soon.

Pro Week

Posted: February 14, 2010 in General

With a full working week of poker behind me, I intend to share some final summary thoughts on pro week.

Not today though.

It’s finally Sunday and my day of rest – I’m looking forward to spending the afternoon having absolutely nothing to do with poker. There’s a good book and an unwatched Park Chan-wook blueray to bury myself in, I might pop out for a run while there’s no snow on the ground, and perhaps get experimental in the kitchen this evening.

It’s been a fairly heavy week, one that was enlightening if not extremely profitable (albeit profitable nonetheless). I think there are definitely some life lessons to take into my future game, however I’ll leave distilling them to another day.

Bon soir regular readers. Oh, and by the way, according to my web stats apparently there are 500 of you now – mostly courtesty of the excellent and highly trafficed Magical Mystery Poker Tour).