Monday, February 1, 2010

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

Well, it's a New Year and I've just added up my figures for 2009. Did I get the absolute lot? Did I bollocks. I lost a little over 4 grand over the course of the year. Marvellous.

That is actually the first losing year I've had at poker since 1998. Man that really sucks. I hate losing! Oh well, what diff, eh? As long as you're still in action you always have a chance to get out of it.

I told the missus about my lacklustre results and her response was, "You're a really good technical player, but you lack oomph". Hmmm, thanks darling. Considering what she knows about poker could be written on the back of a stamp from Lilliput, it's probably a frighteningly accurate comment.

I went to the Vic on New Year's Day and another player I respect told me he too had had a losing 2009, so I immediately felt better. Pathetic eh? Just knowing that a fellow reg/nit/rock was also in the red for 2009 somehow legitimised in my mind that poker is tougher and that even good players don't necessarily win.

I then proceeded to sit for hours in a very slow 2-5 game waiting for my name to be called for the blinding 5-10 game that was going on the next table. At around 2.30 in the morning knowing that it was now too late for me to get involved in the bigger and better game, I checked the board to see that I was no longer on the list.

"Andy", I said, "My name is no longer on the 5-10 list, but you never called me for that game, why not?"

Andy gave the board a glance.

Kev piped up, "His name was on that list"

"Oh sorry, we made a mistake"

My form!!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Spotted Dick

Recently I've been lucky enough to get a gig spotting hands for the final table shows that PokerStars have been making for their WCOOP coverage (check out In case you don't understand that, I choose which hands get shown in the highlights show.

Now sometimes it's pretty gruelling; for instance, for the Badugi final I had to watch over 400 hands and choose twenty of them which would reflect the "story" of the final table. Just trust me when I tell you that that final table took a looooong time (remember, Badugi is played limit).

It goes without saying that I have watched some of the world's best online MTTers - players like SCTrojans, djk123, ElkY, BeL0WaB0VE, westmenloAA, Hoss_TBF, Jovial Gent and many others.

So you'd think I'd learn something right? Maybe pick up a few extra moves. Nah, not a chance. The other night at the Vic I 3-barrelled some French guy who had already shown a propensity for not letting go of his hands when I held the ol' K9c. That's right, the Sawmill.

It's like this y'see. I happened to be spotting the WCOOP Main Event and one of the hands that stood out was eventual winner Jovial Gent raising in the CU (standard) and then 3-barrelling his hapless opponent into submission with Q9 off (standard too, obv). Btw, his third barrel consisted of a huge all-in.

Notice that I went one pip higher with my late posish raising hand - being such a nit I can't help but feel like I actually have to "have" something. Also notice I chose to pull the trigger in a 2-5 cash game at the Vic instead of a major online final where there were large payouts and money jumps.

Also, notice that I chose to execute this fine manoeuvre at around 4.30am when I was stuck and buried from probably one of the worst plays I have ever made in the 5-10 PLO game earlier on.

Finally, notice that none of the players who would expect me to turn over top set at this point (ie most of the regulars at the Vic) weren't there to see me table king-high, so it was pretty much a waste of time and money.

One of these days I might get around to actually learning how to play this fucking game...

Friday, July 24, 2009

It's Good To Be Back

I played three events at this year's WSOP and got absolutely nowhere. Surprise, surprise I hear you say.

What was really annoying was that I got really ill and ended up lying in bed in my hotel room for the last two and a half days, so I didn't even get a chance to win back the tournament buy-ins in the cash games.

And when you're used to the cash games at the Vic even the bad games in Vegas seem super-soft. I played in two very good 2-5 PLO games at the Venetian, one good 5-10 NLH at the Bellagio and one good 5-10 NLH at the Wynn. I heard there were some blinding games at the Rio, but even though the running of the rooms at the Rio has improved I don't really like playing there so I gave it a miss.

Being the idiot that I am I kept playing the 20-40 Limit Mix game at the Wynn because I just love mixed games, but I was a definite dog in that game. Included in the mix were three games I had never played before - A-5 triple draw lowball, 2-7 Razz and Crazy Pineapple Hi-Lo.

There were at least four or five regulars in that game who were all strong players and at least twice I knew that it was my money they were carving up. Good game selection eh? But I kept playing because I wanted to learn and practise for the WSOP Mixed event which featured mostly limit games. Just watching this one guy Kendall, who I thought was the best player in the game, was an education in itself.

The $2,500 Mixed event turned out to be torture, mainly because that's when I started coming down with what may well have been Swine Flu for all I know. I had quite a good table draw as the only player I recognised on it was Clonie Gowan (nice and friendly btw). All around me were other tables that were pro-heavy with plenty of online and live faces.

The table next to ours was playing a lot faster than we were and at some point Clonie asked aloud, "Hey, how did those guys get to playing PLO already?"

I told her, "They all agreed to omit the Razz section on their table", and she believed me. Hmmm, I obviously need to try this bluffing thing more often...

Much as I love Vegas I have to say it was great to be back in the Vic the other night. In the 5-10 NLH game Frank Hughes was mercilessly taunting some young kid who, if he's not careful, could be the next Phil Hellmuth. By that I mean he was not only a bad loser, but a bad winner, at one point telling another player whom he had beaten in a big pot, "See how good I read you buddy? Maybe you want to borrow my sunglasses so you won't give off as many tells next time".

This kid also insisted on telling the whole table several times, "The only way you'll get my money is if you have the nuts and I have the second nuts or you hit a two outer against me - it's very hard to win my money".

You can imagine Frank's delight when he made a set of deuces on the river versus the kid's pocket kings. The ace-high flop slowed the kid down so you can see why Frank had a stab on the turn. Naturally on the river when he hit Gin, Frank made a nice value bet which had Hellmuth Junior muttering out loud, "Why does this always happen to me?". As he stormed off after being shown the outdraw Frank called out, "Thanks for the call on the river there kid. He's the future of British poker I tell ya."

Btw, did I mention that this kid was flopping sets left, right and centre and making 2-pairs on the turn Vs TPTK every other hand? He was hotter than a whore's drawers. As I moaned about him walking between the raindrops Frank consoled me with one of poker and gambling's profound truths, "Don't worry, he'll be selling the Big Issue in three weeks time... "

Friday, May 29, 2009

How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live?

We all know these are desperate times, but it was really brought home to me the other night at the Vic when I found myself in a rather moribund 5-10 PLO game.

Six of us were playing (alright, only two were playing, the rest of us were passing until we flopped top set, nut flush draw and the wrap all at once - hey it’s live poker and the Vic, you know how it is, right?) when the dealer asked for the half-hourly table charge.

At this point Dave Winston got up and said he was off; something about the game being not much cop and so on. A fairly common scenario in the card room at the Vic and one that happens often.

At this point, Lutvi said, “Don’t leave, you’ll break the game up. I’ll give you £100 if you stay”. He was serious by the way, this wasn’t an example of the famous witty banter one often hears about at the Vic.

It was somewhat similar to that episode of High Stakes Poker where the whole table chipped in $1,000 each to Mike Matusow to get him to stay in the game. I recall Matusow took up the “generous” offer and ended up doing his cobblers.

The thing is though, Dave Winston is a tight, solid winning player and Lutvi is more of an action player, shall we say. That’s how hard times are these days, a loosey-goosey was so worried that the game would break up he was willing to pay a granite player, whom he had very little chance of winning any chips off, to stay in the game! I guess I’ve seen everything now.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What Would Fred Do?

I played a crazy pot in the 2-5 NLHE game at the Vic the other night.

Effective stacks £1,600. Me UTG with KK - I make it £25. Two callers including Tore (sp? He's Norwegian - a very nice guy and guess what? He is a super-LAG. Has anyone out there ever met a Scandinavian player who was weak-tight? I know I haven't) who is the big blind.

Flop 9 6 4, two clubs.

Tore checks, I bet £75 and before the other player has a chance to act Tore goes all-in for £1,470 more!

WTF!!!???!!! Jeez, that is a highly aggressive check-raise. Most likely a draw, but having played with Tore a little bit I also know he could do this with two-pair, maybe even a set, a small percentage of the time.

As I'm thinking about it, Tore even names my hand -"Maybe you have pocket Kings?" - which is always unnerving.

After a long dwell I make the call - turn 7, river 10, no club. I turn my hand over and Tore tells me it's good.

Tore later tells me that he had 7c5c, "It was a sick raise, but you made an even sicker call".

In other words, I was a small dog and made an iffy call. So how did I, one of the tightest poker players to ever walk the planet, call such an insane all-in raise?

Thinking about it, I realise that many roads led me to saying, "I Call", closing my eyes and pushing my chips into the middle.

1) I was losing - that should be obvious. But, believe it or not, I wasn't really steaming even though the very first hand I sat down I'd lost a big all-in pre-flop coup with aces Vs kings (K on the turn). After this standard bad beat I'd pulled up and won a nice pot with pocket queens against Ron Seymour, so I had recovered a little and was not feeling tilty.

Having said all that, I was still thinking about a big pot I had lost the previous time I had been to the Vic - once again with aces, where I felt I had misplayed them on the flop, so I guess deep down I was trying hard to not make another mistake.

But that's not all! Another hand from probably two weeks ago was on my mind too. This particular coup was one where I dogged it on the river when I knew that a bluff would have had a decent chance of succeeding.

So, yes, a couple of hands now lost in the swirling mists of time were having an affect on me, and yes, I know that sort of stuff shouldn't have any bearing on the pot you're in at that instant, but it's amazing how all the poker one has played over the years does have a bearing on what you're about to do. I mean, think about it, if you actually are trying to win you have to have learnt something somehow from all the previous times you have played.

In other words, I was trying to make up for past poker sins.

2) As soon as Tore said all-in I kind of knew I was going to call. I guess because I know he views me as a tight player, probably even a total nit, so, for purposes of the meta-game I have to let him know I can't be pushed around. In fact, it would have been even better to insta-call because that's what I felt in my heart of hearts I was going to do, as that would have blown him away ("Wow! How the fuck could you call so quickly?!?").

3) I really believed I had the best hand, and I guess old habits die hard, but back in the day you would put the money in if you thought you were winning. I realise nowadays you work out your equity in the pot and your opponent's range and all that shit (actually, I did think about Tore's range and had decided, perhaps wrongly, that he wouldn't play a made hand like two-pair or a set this way). I decided to not let the fact that I was probably flipping - something I'm not really that keen on usually - distract me.

4) I had the king of clubs in my hand.

5) Finally, if in doubt, ask yourself, "What would Freddy Carle do?"

Monday, March 23, 2009


What is it that sets the great tournament players apart from the rest? Knowing when to change gears? Knowing the right spots to squeeze? Knowing when not to flip?

I realised the other day that all of the above, whilst useful, is not really the answer. No, the answer is knowing who to swap %ages with. I remember noticing that the Camel and Channing (Neil not so much these days as he tends to just put players in) always seemed to have little percentage savers with 4 or 5 out of the top nine in every tournament they played.

Yes, true, it's the old fashioned way of "getting out of it" as these days any player worth their salt has hustled up some kind of backing/sponsorship (Neil can be found most days at the Vic, table 21, in case you're wondering).

Anyway, I must be getting the hang of it as it's the second time in a row I have managed to recoup about 80% of the £550 buy-in that I had laid out in the triumph of hope over experience that is the Vic's bi-annual PLO8 tournament.

Somehow I managed to persuade the Champ, JQ, Shoreman and Paul Parker to swap 5% with me. In fact, Paul Parker insisted on swapping with me even though the last time he played it he barely got the buy-in back after winning it and paying off his make-up to Neil and then a 5% saver we had agreed on late in the tournament when we both had similar chips. At the time I had no idea he had been "put in" and probably wouldn't have asked him if I had known for fear of him laughing in my face.

This time it wasn't Paul, but international luckbox Shoreman who did the business. Cheers Jon, one of these days I'll make a final table or something...

I guess I feel pretty honoured that those four players would want a saver with me - although if they'd seen the way I was playing sometimes, I'm not too sure they would want to do it again.

In his infinite wisdom, Jeff saw fit to change what is usually quite a fun crap-shoot into a two day tournament. That meant a slower structure and thus more skill and thus.... - I suppose it would seem churlish to complain about getting a tournament with a higher skill factor, so I'm not going to, but, god, at times it did seem excessively s-l-o-o-o-o-w.

I started off playing terrible, impatiently raising with J89Q (did I mention that it was HiLo?) and then betting a board of T 7 7. Yep, you guessed it, I was drawing dead and paid off some random stranger who held TTA2 (just for shits and giggles he made the nut low too; turn 8, river 4).

I make a point of telling you my opponent was a random stranger because the field in this two-day event, about 54 runners so you can see why they needed it to be extended, tends to be every face that's been on the London poker scene for the last ten years or so.

Somehow I managed not to donk off the rest of my chips and even got a double up courtesy of Chufty. Things were looking ok further down the line when another wierdo stranger decided to raise all-in on the river when he had second best both ways Vs me and Surinder Sunar - sweet.

Things went downhill from there and I played a pot badly against Shorewoman opening the door for him to bluff me (doubtless you'll complain about weighing in, but you owe me you bastard - if it wasn't for this hand you might not have won, fucker).

I had tons of marginal hands where it seemed like the best play with my stack and the slower structure was just to chuck 'em away. At one point I made an overly tight fold against Andy Ward who had raised early. I was in the SB with A2TK (single suit) and deciding that Andy had been playing fairly snug plus the fact that I was OOP I threw the hand away. In retrospect I think this was a pretty poor fold. I mean, jeez, wtf was I waiting for?

I think my mind was harking back to one time years and years ago at the Horseshoe in Vegas when a good player I know was sitting in a $4/$8 limit O8 game with his case money. He was getting down to the felt when I watched him fold A2xx to a raise. I had only been playing for about 3 years (that's roughly the equivalent of about two weeks online for you young 'uns out there) so I was astonished that he could lay down such a "good" hand. I distinctly remember him telling me that he could wait for a better hand, one with three low cards in it.

Of course, that was a limit cash game and I was playing a tournament where you don't have the luxury of time, so fuck knows why I was thinking about that. A2KT is like the crown jewels in this sort of tournament - I must have been out of my fucking mind. I did have some weird head cold that I'd caught off my daughter, so I was feeling super-tired, but still...

The funny thing is that I told Rob Sherman who was sitting next to me what I had folded and he was perplexed and appalled that I could make such a terrible laydown - rightly so - and told me.

Not too long after I came in for a pre-flop raise with A36K and he re-raised me. Knowing that he knew that I had made such a horrible tight fold earlier I stuck it all-in. I'm sure in his mind he had extra fold equity against me now - I probably would've re-raised all-in anyway so how much difference that little tidbit of knowledge made to the hand I don't know, but there were plenty of oohs and aahs when the rest of the table saw my hand - "A3? Fucking hell, he's stuck it all-in with A3?!?" Especially when Rob turned over A2K4. Naturally we ended up splitting the pot anyway.

I also blew JQ's mind when he sweated me after he got knocked out and my stack had dwindled down to about 5 BBs. UTG I threw away KK5T (was it sooooted JQ?). Personally I feel this play is ok and would rather take my chances in the blinds, but he was clearly horrified. He's a better player than me so maybe he's right.

But, I think the problem with going all-in there with these dodgy kings is that, assuming you don't run into a good hand, both blinds are likely to take you on which means they'll do the ol' check-it-down-to-the-river-let's-see-if-one-of-us-can-knock-this-cunt-out-routine. Plus you have no way of making a low, so I'm pretty sure it's a good fold.

As it happens I ended up going all-in and getting knocked out with KK89 double suited which isn't much better so I'm clearly talking total bollocks...