Thursday, September 29, 2005

Don't Call It a Comeback.

As some of you may know from an earlier entry, I haven't played online poker since I quit in March. The only exception to that being when they credited me 50 bucks as an incentive to start playing again. Woo-hoo. What they didn't tell me about that 50 bucks, though, was that they were taking it back in 4 days. Boo-hoo. Nice to see that loan sharking is still a part of legitimate gambling today. All I have left in there from when I cashed out all that time ago is about 3 bucks. But its Thursday night and the Yankees are up 8-0, so I decided to see if danny was at a table, since he caught the poker bug when we took a few trips down to AC last month. The protege has now made over 800 dollars through playing online poker in his spare time this month, and he is mentoring his own student down in Virginia.

Well no one was on but I found a $2 tournament and decided to play anyway. I didn't figure to grind out a cash or anything, since it paid only a few bucks unless you made the final table. Instead I decided to treat it like an infinite sit-n-go. In an article in Cardplayer, Scott Fischman said this is a strategy he uses to cope with the extremely large fields in tournament poker right now. Seeing as how he finished 2nd out of over 2000 players in the WSOP's first event, I think it served him well. This field too was large, about 2500, because the entry fee was so small. Well, friends, I didn't exactly get to test out this strategy, and something tells me I wasn't supposed to be playing in this tournament.

I started out folding everything in the first level, maybe a limp here or there but no further. Then I get dealt 2s2d and call in EP (early position) with about 900 in chips in front of me and the BB at 15. A guy in MP (middle position), lets call him Sideburns, minimum-raises. He gets called by MP2, LP (late position), BB (the big blind), and of course, me. Flop comes 2c 4d 6d. Typically this could be a dangerous flop for several reasons:

1) I've made a big hand that will be hard to get off of if a scare card comes off.
2) I'm in early position.
3) There are about a million and one draws on the board.
4) It's a 5-way pot.
5) I'm facing a min-raise, which could represent a variety of hands, especially at this blind level.

Typically I'd want to lead out here. I hate giving free cards and I'm in bad position. I'm pretty confident I have the best hand but a lot of cards can come on the turn that will make it very difficult to play if I face pressure from a player in position. For instance, any 3, any 5 (because of the BB in play), perhaps a King or Ace (possibly facing AA or KK from the min-raiser, you'd be surprised how often people play that hand this way even at such low blind levels), and of course, any diamond.

But in the last hand Sideburns (the min-raiser) check-called the flop and turn when MP2 bet the pot. On the river he checked and MP2 bet the pot again, which was most of Sideburns chips. Sideburns thought for a while and then folded. I thought he was steaming a bit from this, and if you're going to check-raise (for value, which I was) you want the person immediately to your left to do the betting. On my left was Sideburns (original raiser and possibly on tilt) and MP2 (who fired big 3 times at the last pot, so he has exhibited aggression and might use his new big stack to take a stab at this pot.)

So the BB checked and I checked as well with 3 more players to act. Sideburns thinks for about 10 seconds and checks, MP2 and LP check through as well. Great. Free card... Turn is the 9d putting a possible flush out there. After the BB checked I decided to put in a probe bet to see where I was at, so I bet I think 70 into a 160 pot. Sideburns thinks on it for about 5 seconds and pushes all-in for about 470 more.

The rest of the table folds around and it's back on me. First I figure out the pot odds and I'm not even getting 2:1 on my money, though this doesn't much matter because if I'm beat it's likely 4:1 or worse anyway. I don't love the all-in bet at first because if you're gonna make a probe bet and someone pushes all-in, then usually you've found out just where you stand.

But I tried to figure out what hands he would have that he would min-raise before the flop, check on the flop, and then push on the turn. If he had a suited connector like QdJd would he open with only for a min-raise in middle position? I think you either limp or push the action with a hand like that, not make a value raise. If he had AdKd would he only min-raise and risk getting outflopped by any weak hand that will call a min-raise? Even if these things were true, would he not bet out at the flop when he's favored against any single pair (with overcards and a flushdraw.) Especially considering the way people play flush draws on PartyPoker, I would doubt that he wouldnt have put some chips in on that flop, or even gone all-in as many donkeys on PartyPoker do. Finally, if he did check the flop and turn the flush, would he go all-in clearly representing the flush or make a smaller bet in an attempt to get paid off?

The only conceivable hands he could have is a big pair like KK or AA (possibly with the Ad or Kd) or a hand like 66 or 44 to make a higher set. Despite the fact that set-over-set on the flop is very rare, even if he did hit a hand like that I still have the 2d for 10 re-draw outs (nine diamonds + one 2) on the river. And if I lose the pot, I still have 300 and can wait for a big hand to try to double-up. Despite how long this thought process has taken for you to read, it was all done in my head in about 5 seconds just from having played so many hands in my life. It's not bragging, you just get to a point where all this information is processed and analyzed before you even realize that you're doing it.

So what hand did Mr. Sideburns have? KhKc. Outside of an absolute bluff with no diamond, this is the best possible scenario. With me holding 2s2d and the board reading 2h 4d 6d 9d. He could only win with one card in the deck, the King of spades (since the Kd would give him a higher set but I would have him beat with a flush.) For those who don't bother with poker odds, that means he has roughly a 2% chance to win the hand. The fast-paced nature of the PartyPoker program does not include time for suspense like on TV, so as soon as I call the river card is dealt like a bullet. Thats right. King of Spades. As the program ships over 1000 chips to him, I am instantly moved to a new table. Great, now I can't even complain to the people who saw that horrendous beat nor can I berate the player for being such a lucky douchebag!

Now I'm lookin down at 300+ chips and the BB is comin around, but before I can even gather myself, the power goes out. No that's not a poker euphamism, though maybe it will be one day. The power in my house went out. Good times. Now I'm getting blinded off until I can get back on. I just sit in the darkness waiting as my family rummages around lighting candles or something. Luckily its back on in about 10 minutes and I figure to still have some chips.

I re-join my table with about 295 chips, in the small blind with Kd2s. The big blind is 20 and there are 3 limpers in the pot. Now I haaate playing weak Kings and I haaate playing out of position, but I guess I'm kinda defeated mentally at this point. I rationalize that I'm getting 9:1 on completing my call and that it might be an opportunity to double up, if I hit something, seeing as how you get a lot of weak calls on PartyPoker. The BB checks his option and the flop comes 10h 10d 2d. Something tells me I have the best hand since the board is paired and I caught a piece. Surprisingly, not many hands have me beat with only 3 limpers considering the blind level. I am first to act, though, and decide to check it. If there's a big bet or a bet and a raise then I'll muck. I don't really wanna go broke with K2o out of position, and if I fold I'll still have another round and 285 chips to try to pick up a big hand and double up. It checks around. Free card. Awesome. Did I tell you how much I like giving free cards?

Turn: 8d. Now theres 3 to the flush on the board. At this point I figure I have the best hand. The hand I have to worry about is trip 10s, if someone decided to check the flop and slowplay, which they always do at low limits. Its possible someone got lucky and paired an 8 in their hand, but there is no way for me to put them on whatever hand they might hold with an 8, so I'm not that concerned with that. Or if someone is holding the Ad, they are probably gonna call anything I bet, or anyone bets for that matter, as the nut flush draw can never be folded on PartyPoker, even with only one card to come. Truth to be told this would be a horrible call in this pot because you are getting terrible odds, you're not even sure if you're drawing live (e.g., if you make your flush, that it will be good, meaning someone doesnt have a full house.) Moreover, it's very unlikely that I'm gonna bluff off all my chips through 4 players onto a board that is paired with 3 to the flush for a small pot. But I do expect the call if someone is holding the Ace of diamonds anyway, because thats just how it is on PartyPoker. And even against trip 10s, I have the Kd for 9 flush outs. Plus there's a pretty good chance that I won't even get called, so I push all-in for 285 into the pot of 100.

It folds around to the last player and I think I might take the pot, have 385 in chips, and be a little off life support. But the last player makes a relatively quick call. Ugh. I expect an 8, a 10, or a flush draw? Not really. Jd4s. WOW. Not sure what to say about this call really. Many things perplex me about this. Why even play this hand in the first place, especially just limping in. Its absolute junk, in fact, the nickname for this hand is a "flat tire." And then he calls 285 on the turn with nothing but Jack-high and the 4th nut flush draw with one card to come. If I wanted to give him a justification, I could say that at least he had a big stack (around 2000) that it wouldn't hurt him too much to call. But this call is just throwing money away. Naturally the real reason for this call is that he's a horrible player. So now that the diamonds are locked up by my King of diamonds, he must draw to a pair, 3 Jacks and 2 fours (not the 4 of diamonds) in the deck. With one card to come he has 5 outs making him about 11% to win. I'm sure you can guess what hit. An ugly little 4 of clubs. 670 shipped to him and I'm felted.

Not the best showing of my "career," but I think I still played well. If I had to do it again, I might have bet the flop with the set of 2s. Of course this is since I now know that the guy slowplayed KK on the flop and then jammed it on the turn. In hindsight I'm pretty sure Sideburns checked because he wanted MP2 to bet in order to take back some chips from the previous pot, not because he was scared of the flop. If that were the case then he wouldn't push all-in on the turn when the board only got scarier. I believe my thinking behind my plays was correct, though, which is more important than results. Those unfamiliar with or new to poker might argue something along the lines of "whatever wins the pot is the best play," but that kind of results-oriented thinking doesn't hold water.

For those bored by this entire post, that's just too damn bad. I'm getting a bankroll together again, and I'm gonna be back at the online poker. I have too many bills to pay off by only working a 9-5 job. I need my supplemental income back so I can do nice things like eat, go out to bars, and visit the love of my life in San Diego. Also, the amount of poker players is only growing, and most of them are getting a bit too big for their britches. My competitive side has been kick-started and I miss that feeling of complete satisfaction from consistently breaking the game. Plus it would be really embarrassing for the protege to surpass the mentor.

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