Monday, April 22, 2013

Poker Content for a Change

I’ve been playing quite a bit of poker in the last couple of months, but have neglected to write up any post session recaps here.  I’m not the type that takes notes on hands after I’ve played them so if they’re going to wind up in the blog it will be based on my admittedly fuzzy memory.
About a month and a half ago I took $600 out of my income tax refund and set it aside to try to start a poker bankroll.  I hadn’t regularly played no limit poker in quite a while.  The first few sessions were unremarkable. I generally either broke even or lost or won about $100 or so. The roll stayed pretty much right where it began for about a month. Then two weeks ago the variance pendulum swung in my favor.

I had a really good weekend when the Heartland Poker Tour was in town. All of the poker degenerates that follow that tournament paid off my TAG playing style and I profited about $1,200 in just that weekend. 

A week or so later I had one of those nights where it seemed like everything broke my way.  My big pocket pairs held up. My suited connectors turned into well-disguised rivered straights.  My middle pocket pairs turned into aces cracking sets. The game basically played itself. Yes I made a few big lay downs and stole a few pots, but most of my profits came from just good old-fashioned run good. I cashed out about $600 in profit from a session where I was up almost $800 at one point.

The following weekend I played both Friday and Saturday night. Friday night I had about $100 profit and Saturday night I had about $650 profit. I decided to take a day off from work and play a mid-week donkament to see if my run good worked in tournaments too.  

The donkament often fills up and the only way to ensure you get a seat is to play in a cash game in the 2-3 hours prior to the tournament. If you are in a cash game two hours before the tournament starts they give you a line pass that allows you to sign up for the tournament before tournament entry opens to everyone else. I should mention that the tournament structure is really terrible. You start with 1,500 tournament chips. It has 20 minute levels and blinds start at 25-50 and pretty much double each level with no antes.

I had bought into the pre-tournament cash game for $300 and my stack had dwindled to about $175 when the floor came over and told our dealer to deal one more hand before breaking the game to setup for the tournament. LAG player straddled and the player immediately to his left raised to $22 preflop. I’d only seen him raise that much one other time and at the showdown he showed two jacks which he had stubbornly played all the way to river with an ace on the board. (He lost that hand.)
I called from middle position with pocket eights.  I was set mining or looking for a chance to bluff him off his hand if a scary card hit the board. The straddler called, but I knew that was going to happen no matter what. The flop was 6-7-8 with two clubs. I had hit my set of eights, but it was a very wet board. I didn’t like it, but I decided I needed to play the hand aggressively to get rid of any drawing hands. It checked to me and I made a bet of $40. Straddler min-raised to $80. Original raiser shoved for about $200. I made the crying call for the remainder of my stack and the straddler also called. 

The board ran out without completing the club flush draw and we all revealed our hands. Original raiser had unimproved pocket kings. I had a set of eights. Straddler had called $18 more preflop with 4-5 off suit and flopped the eight high straight. I was less than pleased.

I made my exit to the hallway outside the poker room to wait for the tournament to start. I was sitting texting my bad beat story to my wife when the guy walked up to me and started trying to explain his call and re-hash the hand with me.  As politely as I could I told him to I wasn’t really in the mood to break down the hand where he had just taken my whole stack and suggested perhaps he should move along. I think my exact words were, “Dude! Not right now. I would just keep walking if I were you.”

The tournament didn’t go much better. I shoved with about 10 big blinds left in the fifth level with pocket aces and got called by pocket tens. Ten on the turn and buh-bye JT88Keys.

This past weekend I was only able to make it out to the poker room on Saturday night. I almost didn’t go, but boy am I glad I did. I got called for a set at table 4 about 5 minutes after putting my name on the list. I walked over to the table and started to set my chips down at the open seat when the dealer stopped me saying the gentleman in seat 1 was moving there after the current hand ended.  I was annoyed, but waited for the hand to play out and took my spot to the dealer’s left.

The very first hand I get dealt pocket jacks. I raised to $12 and got three callers. The board contained an ace and I folded when there was a bet and call ahead of me. Both players had aces, so no big deal and a pretty easy fold on the flop.  My stack is now down to $188 of the $200 I bought in for.

About 3 hands later I look down at two red aces. The hand was straddled, so I made a slightly larger than usual raise to $18 and wound up getting four callers. Add that to the couple of other limpers that folded and there is now a little over $100 in the pot and I get to play my aces against four opponents. Yippee!

I was right in the middle…two to act before me and two to act after me.  The flop was 8-6-3 with two diamonds. I bet $55. The next guy to act shoved for about $225. The next player to act folded and the one after that shoved for about $110. The next player folded and now it’s back to me. I thought for a minute or so. It felt to me like the guy that shoved may have hit a set, but it seemed equally as likely that he had some kind of combo straight/flush draw.

I didn’t like it, but I resigned myself to rebuying if I lost and made the call. Nobody revealed their hands and the board ran out with another 6 and another 8. At this point I’m thinking, “Great…one of these guys probably called with just top pair on the flop and just went runner-runner for a boat.” I turned over my aces and the other two revealed pocket nines and pocket kings. As I was staking my approximately $550 in chips one of the regulars at the end of the table said, “I’m guessing that turn and river put a scare into you.” I replied, “I’m not gonna lie…my butthole was firmly clenched.”

The next big hand I called a preflop raise to $12 on the button with AK of diamonds. There were five players in the hand. I hit the nut flush when a 2-4-10 of diamonds flopped. It checked to me and I bet out $20 into the approximately $60 pot. I got two calls from the SB and the player in the hijack. The turn card was an inconsequential card. It wasn’t another diamond and didn’t pair the board. The SB bet $25 and the player in the hijack just called. Now I had a decision to make. Do I pull the trigger on the big raise now or just call and try to get more value on the river. 

I opted to just call after thinking it over for a few seconds for dramatic effect. I fully expected the SB to bet the river blank, but he surprised me by only betting $20 into what was now a $235 pot. The hijack of course called. I raised it to $100. The SB shoved his remaining $50 or so and the hijack confirmed that it was $100 total and made the call. I flipped over my flopped nut flush. The SB mucked and the hijack showed A-10 of spades. I guess he thought his top pair, top kicker was good there.

The only other big hand I won was another with pocket aces. The guy who had originally had the one seat raised preflop to $12. He is a pretty active player who will raise with lots of different hands, but usually has at least a little something. I raised to $30 with my pocket aces. A younger Asian kid who had played relatively conservatively all night shoved for his last $91. The original raiser tanked for a minute or two before finally folding.  I confirmed I was the only person left to act and called while turning over my aces. He revealed pocket sixes. Neither of us improved and I won another $100 or so. The original raiser said he folded AQ of spades. I wish he had called. Knowing his very aggressive style he probably would have gotten it all in on the turn when the board was queen high.

I left pretty soon there after. The kid I busted who had the pocket sixes left along with two of his buddies that were also at our table. I didn’t feel like playing five handed against a bunch of regulars I didn’t feel I had much of a skill advantage over. I cashed out exactly $953. I tipped 3 bucks to the cage and left with $750 profit from my original $200 buy in. My goal is to run my poker bankroll up to around $5,000 by the end of the summer and then use a big chunk of it to book a Christmas cruise to the Caribbean for my family.