Saturday, December 30, 2017

Paying Attention

This is a "True Confessions" blog.  My confession is that I don't always pay attention to everything that is happening.  I suspect that we all are guilty at times but I KNOW that I certainly am.

It usually happens when you put your opponent on a straight draw after the flop and concentrate so fully on what cards would complete his straight and whether they fall that you miss the board flushing or you put him on a heart flush draw and concentrate so completely on whether or not another heart falls that you fail to notice the board straightening.
A similar but different lapse happened to me the other day.

It was mid-tournament and I was running low in chips.  I found myself on the button with pocket sixes.  There was an early position raise indicating a pretty good hand.  The action folded around to me and the question was:  "Just how good is his hand and will he fold to me if I push?"

The early raiser was a good aggressive player and we all know that it is easier to get a good player to fold than a poor player.  He certainly fit the mold.  I was concentrating on him to the exclusion of all else around me.  I payed attention to his body language when he made his bet and then I watched carefully as he showed increasing relief as each person folded toward me.  By the time the action folded to me I was convinced he had raised a bit light and would fold to some pressure.  Since I had about a dozen big blinds I could exert said pressure.

So, I pushed all-in.

He immediately tensed up and I knew he was going to fold.  He went through his required Hollywood routine then reluctantly folded with the comment:  "I have you beat but I don't want to be the bad guy."

This comment confused me but all that mattered was that he had folded so I started gathering chips.  That's when it happened!

The guy immediately to my right said "Well, I guess I'll have to do it" and shoved his stack.  He had quietly called the early raise and I missed it while concentrating so fully on the early raiser.  He turned over pocket queens and they held.  I was done.

I said something to the effect of "I didn't realize you were in the hand" and he actually apologized.  I told him he needn't apologize because the fault was all mine for not paying better attention.

I knew the guy to my right that made the stealth call.  He was the type player that would not call an early raise without a big pair or AK and would certainly call my all-in push.  If I had known he was in the hand I would have definitely waited for a better opportunity to make my move. 


I'll try to do better next time.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Tournament Series at the Beau

Disclaimer:  My home casino is the Beau Rivage in Biloxi.  I play there more than all other venues combined.

Like a lot of you, I have played in quite a few tournament series in numerous locations including WSOP and WPT events but I want to take this opportunity to applaud the Beau Rivage for the excellence of their tournament series and for the courteous and professional way that these tournament series are run.

The Gulf Coast Poker Championship started last week.  I arrived early on Friday for the start of their opening "Monster Stack" event.  I was greeted by the tournament director, several officials of the tournament, a couple of dealers and, of course, numerous players.  I was also welcomed by several of the Beau poker room staff, including the director of poker operations.  I received numerous handshakes and even several hugs.

You'll notice that I'm not dropping names here.  Nor am I trying to make myself seem important.  In fact, quite the opposite is true.  I am strictly a small fish in a large pond and I know it.  No self adulation nor illusions of grandeur here.

This not to bad mouth the other tournament series that I have attended.  Most of them have been run pretty well and I can't say that I've had any real problems with rudeness or inefficiency with the notable exception of the WSOP Main Event Series in Vegas.  (See my earlier blog "My First WSOP Adventure")  It's just that I feel like a number at most of these other events.  Also, the juice seems to be higher at most of the non-Beau events.

I'm writing this on Monday after the completion of the first full weekend of the Gulf Coast Poker Championship and, to prove that I don't consider myself a major player, I'll go ahead and admit that I'm a paltry $135 ahead as of this writing.

The gentleman that has been running these events for years has moved on to greener pastures and turned the operations over to his longtime assistant.  I have seen no drop off whatsoever in the professionalism, courteousness, and efficiency of the tournament operations.

One of the tournament officials greeted me last Friday with "and there's my favorite player".  I don't kid myself--I'm surely not his favorite player but he goes out of his way to make me feel welcome and important.  No doubt he is equally welcoming to many other players.

Here's the point:  I realize I'm just one of many players.  Not a VIP by any stretch of the imagination.  But the guys and gals at the Beau Rivage poker tournaments series go out of their way to make me feel welcome.  They act as though they're truly thrilled to see me.

These series at the Beau are a real joy to attend and kudos to the courteous and professional ladies and gentlemen that make it so.

Keep up the good work.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Right Decision Wrong Result

Before you get your hackles up......this is NOT a typical "bad beat" story.  No, I mean it, it really wasn't a bad beat!  Nobody "sucked out" on me.  Let me explain:

I was playing in a small tourney at one of the local casinos.  We were about four or five levels into the tourney and I had about twice starting chips with still about 80% of the entrants still alive.

The under the gun (UTG) player limped.  Now, this makes me nervous.  A lot of times when someone limps UTG they have a really nice hand and may be waiting for someone to raise so they can re-raise.  I was in UTG2 position and found myself with KQ suited.  I just called.  Several more people just called and we went to an unraised flop.

The flop was 5,6,8 rainbow with one of my suit.  UTG checked and so did I.  The last person to act bet the flop.  UTG called.  I figured the late position bettor was just taking a stab at the pot so I called in the hopes of getting a K or Q on the turn or possibly another of my suit or maybe even stealing the pot if the late position bettor checked the turn.  I called.  Everybody else folded.

The turn was another six and didn't hit my suit so I was probably finished with this hand if someone put in a bet.  If nobody bet the turn I was considering trying a steal on the river.  Nobody bet so we saw the river.

The river was a Q.  At this point I figured I was probably ahead.  Then the fun began.  UTG moved all in  for about 1 1/2 times the pot.

I recapped the action in my mind as follows:

1.  The all in bettor was UTG so I would expect that he at least had some big cards.  If any of these cards on the board had hit his hand it was probably the Q on the river.  Unless he had AQ I had him beat under this scenario.
2.  He had checked both the flop and the turn so I was unconvinced that he had either two pairs or three sixes.
3.  I concluded that he either had AQ or was on a total bluff since the turn was checked all the way around.
4.  There was something about the way he bet the river.  I can't explain exactly what was strange about it but something about the way he bet made me think he was bluffing.

While I generally won't call an all in bet with just one pair I was convinced he was bluffing so I made the call.  The late position bettor quickly folded.

UTG threw his cards down face up and said "You got me.  All I have is nines."  I thought he meant he had pocket nines since I knew there was no nine on the board but looked at his hand and saw only one nine.  It turns out that he thought the eight on the board was a nine giving him a pair of nines.

He had misread his hand and thought he had a pair when, in fact, he didn't have a pair.  I was dead on right......he was bluffing.

This is where the story should end, right?  I made the right call.  He was, indeed, bluffing.  He thought he only had a pair of nines but in actuality didn't have a pair at all.  I should be reveling in making a good call and starting to stack chips, right?

Of course by now you know there's a catch.  Well, here it is.

What he actually had was 7,9.  He had flopped a straight and didn't know it.  He had been ahead all along.

I'll never know for sure but like to think that if he had known about the straight I would have seen it in some sort of subtle change in his behavior and wouldn't have called off most of my chips on an all in river bet.  I'm gonna believe that whether you do or not.

See you at the tables.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Poor Strategy or Poor Results??

I have a question.  I don't have an answer, just a question.  As I've earlier stated, if you're looking for professional poker advice you might want to go to a professional poker player's blog.  Here you'll only get "food for thought".

Last week I was eliminated from tournaments on successive days in exactly the same manner.  Almost the exact fall of the cards.  The first question you're surely asking is:  "Didn't you learn from your mistake the first time?"  Well, here's the quandary:  Did I make a mistake by repeating my strategy?  Was it poor strategy or just poor results?  I'll give you some of the details and you can make your own decision.  Remember this exact scenario played out on successive days.

I was playing in a tournament.  All parties relevant to the scenario had plenty of chips.  An aggressive player raised from early position before the flop.  I called from position with a good hand.  After the flop I was fairly certain that I was ahead and, as it turns out, I actually was ahead after the flop on both days.  The original raiser bet the flop.  (A continuation bet?)  Now here comes the moment of truth.

As always in this scenario I have three options:  raise, call, or fold.  Since I believed I had the best hand at this point folding was obviously not the best option so I was left with raise or call as my options.  I chose to call in both cases based on my belief that my opponent would continue to bet if I just called but would fold if I raised.  I was betting on his aggressiveness to contribute more chips to the pot.

On both days the turn card was a five and it matched both the five already on the board and the five in my opponents hand giving him trips.  I didn't give my opponent credit for having a five in his hand since he had raised from early position before the flop.  The results were devastating to my chip stack on both days.

Obviously, in hindsight, I would have been much better off to have raised after the flop.  My opponent would almost surely have folded and I would have won a modest pot instead of losing a really big pot.

The question remains.  Was my strategy wrong or was I simply the victim of the same bad luck on consecutive days?  I believe it was Einstein who said "Continuing to do the same thing expecting different results is one form of insanity."  However, a case could be made that one shouldn't change from a proper strategy simply because that sound strategy yielded poor results on consecutive days.

I have an opinion.  What is yours?

Friday, January 15, 2016

To Thine Own Self Be True

The title of this particular blog is one of my wife's favorite sayings.  It certainly applies to poker.  If you're not honest with yourself you will miss many opportunities to improve your game.  We all make mistakes.  Are they random or do they constitute a pattern or a trend?  If there is a pattern or a trend it must be recognized, acknowledged, admitted, then action taken to change the trend or pattern.  One of my favorite sayings also applies here:  "Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn"--Benjamin Franklin.  If I am not honest with myself then I am willfully remaining ignorant about my shortcomings.  Again, this philosophy applies directly to poker.

In November of last year my cards were running really well.  I won or placed in several tournaments.  Then I placed second in the $20K Guarantee at the Beau the first weekend of December.  Notice I said the cards were running really well for me?  I didn't say I was playing particularly well.  I wasn't!!  And I knew it.  Obviously I was playing reasonably well or the results wouldn't have been so good but I knew I wasn't playing so well as to deserve my results.  My game was in need of some improvements.  If I hadn't been honest with myself by recognizing and admitting that my good results were largely due to some good luck rather than my brilliance, then I would have settled into a pattern of substandard play that could have haunted me for months.

My string of good luck ran out on me for the rest of December and so far this month and my results were what would be expected--not so good.  However, the results are, again, deceiving.  My game is a lot better now.  I corrected some things, improved in a couple of areas, and made a major change in style.  I truly believe my game is the strongest it has ever been.  It seems strange to say this since my ultimate results certainly don't reflect any drastic improvement in my game.  In fact, based strictly on results, my game was better in November than it is now.  But I know better because I recognized in November that my game was in dire need of repair despite indications to the contrary based on results.  I have made adjustments accordingly and my results will reflect my improvements over time.

Just to be clear, if your results are poor over a long stretch then your game is in dire need of improvement.  Luck can only be blamed for a short while.  I've heard people talk about "a bad year".  If you've had "a bad year", it's your game.  Have no doubt.  However, short term results can be deceiving.  A run of good luck can easily be mistaken for better play and, conversely, a run of bad luck can be mistaken for a deterioration in you game.  You have to recognize the difference, admit it to yourself (To Thine Own Self Be True) and act in accordance with your honest assessment of the state of your game.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Missing Poker Player

One of my poker buddies is missing.  Yes, I happen to know his name (first and last), from which city he hails, and even his college football allegiance.  I won't call his name here for his own privacy.  I know he reads this blog from time to time and maybe he'll comment and let me (us?) know what's going on.

I've talked to several of our mutual poker acquaintances and they don't know what happened to him either.  They all know the same thing I know.........we haven't seen him for quite a while and he was one of the regulars at my home casino.

My buddy's disappearance got me to thinking.........we poker players really don't know a whole lot about each other in general.  I know a lot of poker players by their first name only.  No idea what their last name is, where they live, or anything about their lives.  I call them my "poker buddies" but that's not quite true.  I never see any of these guys anywhere other than a poker room.  Some of them I play against on a regular basis.  Several times a week.  But I don't really know them.  And, conversely, they don't really know me either.

One of our "poker buddies" was murdered a couple of years ago.  I only knew Jake by his first name, his card cover (a miniature Tobasco bottle) and the unique hat he wore.  I also knew some of his poker tendencies.  He was a really nice guy.  I enjoyed being at the same table with him.  I didn't go to his funeral.  Not sure if any of us did.  Yet I refer to him as one of my "poker buddies".

As I said, I know a lot of poker players by their first name only.  I really know almost nothing else about them other than their poker tendencies.  Is he married?  Any children?  Grandchildren?  Retired?  What is his/her profession?  Hobbies?  Religious beliefs?  Political leanings?  Aspirations and dreams?  Regrets?  What do I know about most of them?  The truth is I know almost nothing about them and they know about the same about me.

Most of these guys/gals that I know from playing poker seem to be really nice people.  Sure, there are a couple of jerks in the bunch but, for the most part, I enjoy being around my "poker buddies".  A lot of them have a pretty good sense of humor and most of them are polite gentlemen/ladies.

Why are we poker players so non-social?  I have a theory.  (Mind you, it's just a theory......I'm not claiming that I'm right.)  Maybe it's because poker is such an individual sport.  At the poker table it's every man/woman for himself/herself.  We compete AGAINST each other.  Most of the time we spend together is in an adversarial role.  I would like some comments on this line of thought.

In any case, I hope my missing poker buddy is OK and he turns up soon.

See you at the tables.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Cause, Effect, or just plain Superstition?

I'm not a superstitious person.  I don't believe in rushes.  I personally have no doubt that the card distribution is as random as possible and, therefore, the cards that came last hand or in the last hour either to me or to the board have absolutely nothing to do with what is coming next.

Just because I'm not superstitious that doesn't mean that I'm blind to the fact that some of my opponents are superstitious.  For instance, I take into account that other people believe in rushes.....both their own and mine.....and sometimes adjust my play accordingly.

Throughout history superstitions have been borne out of a failure to understand cause and effect.  Did the solar eclipse really cause the crops to fail that year?  Said another way, did the solar eclipse CAUSE the EFFECT of crop failure?  Was the "Sun God" really hiding his face out of shame for whatever happened to be going on at that time?  Said another way, did the shameful actions of mere mortals CAUSE the EFFECT of the solar eclipse?  We, of course, now know better but whole civilizations altered their lives based on some of these superstitions.

Sometimes we confuse cause and effect with superstition.

At other times we confuse the cause with the effect.  This all too common phenomenon reveals itself often in the evaluation of statistics.  Statistic:  Poor families have a higher divorce rate.  Cause/effect or effect/cause?  Statistic:  Country music fans are more politically and socially conservative than fans of rap.  Cause/effect or effect/cause?  Statistic:  Unemployed people generally have lower self-esteem than gainfully employed people.  Cause/effect or effect/cause?

Sometimes we are certain of the effect but the cause is up for discussion.  There are unlimited examples of this.  A quick one:  Sports cars are involved in higher rates of high speed accidents.  Is that because sports cars run faster or because younger and more aggressive people tend to own and drive sports cars?  Here we know the effect but which is the cause?

I have been keeping records of my poker playing exploits for quite a number of years now.  I just yesterday noticed a trend.  I won't tell you what trend I've identified because I don't want you to alter your play against me as a result.  The trend exhibits itself in every year I have recorded with only one exception.  Is this a statistical anomaly?  Would altering my play be tantamount to being superstitious?  The old saying is that "statistics don't lie" but another famous quote is "There are lies, damned lies and statistics".  How much creed should I put into this definite trend?  Should I alter my play as a result of this revelation or not?  I am not entirely sure of the answers but have learned one thing from this exercise:   Keeping records is a valuable tool in determining trends and the more data points the better.

Maybe solar eclipses really DO cause crop failures after all!!

See you at the tables.