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...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting

I've played and witnessed a few interesting hands at the Vic recently.

Hand #1.

2-5 NLH. I limp UTG with 33 and a few others follow suit. Flop 3 8 7 badugi, £30 in the pot. I lead for £20. Next guy folds and now the villain springs to life with a raise to £50. Everybody folds back to me and I call.

The villain in question is a regular at the Vic who I have played a fair amount with, not a lot, but enough for me to know that he is a super-loose passive calling station. A typical move by him would be to cold-call a raise and a re-raise out of position etc.

As far as I know, he never raises on the come (unless he is going all-in with his last bit of scratch) or makes flairy raises because he thinks he can push you off a hand and so on. In fact, I would argue that this guy (a very nice guy btw who loves his roulette) is the epitome of a loose-passive calling station.

Turn 8. Hmmm, I check. He now gives it the dwell and checks too.

River T (putting a backdoor flush out there). I now bet £75. He fiddles about with his chips for a bit (jeez, I wonder how much he's gonna raise?) and makes it £250. Marvellous. I fold.

Great, the first full house I've made in about 100 years at Holdem and I feel I have to fold it. The thing is, I'm pretty confidant that the villain in question would not raise there with just trip 8s. If he had a straight or a flush he would just call me down. On the flop he is not raising me with just top pair - ok, maybe he was raising with an over-pair, but if so, these too are hands that he would just call on the river with as opposed to raising.

I know you're supposed to assign a range of hands that your foes can have these days, but I have to say that when he raised me on the flop I immediately put the villain on top two (i.e 87 in his hand) and I have to say that further action down the streets only strengthened that belief. Of course, I could be wrong and I was totally outplayed in which case kudos to him and I'm an idiot (we know that already, so that's no big deal).

As it happened there was a pigeon-y kind of player (that's more original that fishy, isn't it?) who was incredulous that I folded such a strong hand and was convinced that the villain had a straight (he might be right, we'll never know). As we discussed it, a young player on my left who seemed pretty solid to me agreed with my analysis of the situation (confirmation bias FTW).

I told Panni about the hand too (he knows the villain in question) and before I even finished the story he said, "87, definitely 87" - without a doubt I respect his opinion so in my mind I really feel I made a good fold there.

Hand #2.

2-5 NLH. A strong, solid TAG player limps UTG, another player limps and I raise to a pony with AhKh in the cutoff. One of the blinds call, the TAG calls as does the other limper after him.

Flop T K 3 badugi, about £100 in the pot. Checked around to me and I bet three farmers' daughters (that's £75 to those of you who can't speak cockney poker jargon - far superior to young american collegiate poker jargon imo). The BB folds and now the TAG check-raises to a bottle (£200 - alright, alright, I'll stop). The other player gets out of the way and now the action is back on me. I neglected to mention the stack sizes - approx £1,300 for the TAG and I had him covered.

Hmmm, what to do? This particular villain is a super-solid player who really knows the game. I've tangled with him before and I know he respects my game (as he knows that I respect his etc). What I haven't mentioned is that in this particular game he was getting beat up pretty bad. Not that he was on tilt or anything, he's too good a player to have serious steam issues, but he was having one of those sessions where he just could not win a hand no matter what he did.

As I pondered my next move it struck me that I was only really worried about a set of 3s or top two (i.e KT in his hand). Also, that check-raise was kind of small, pretty weak-looking when you think about it. Also, my bet just looks a standard c-bet. Fuck it, I've got the best hand here. Raise! £500 to play.

Of course, if I think I have the best hand there is an argument for just calling - I am in position after all - and letting my foe bluff off a few more chips. But I think if I call it could lead to a tough spot further down the line, especially as I'm up against a good player.

Anyway, as I said, I raised and after not too much thought the TAG folded.

Hand #3.

I wasn't in this one, just happened to eyeball it firsthand. 5-10 PLO. There's been a raise and re-raise and somehow four players have all put in £395 before the flop. Incidentally, the stacks were quite shallow in this hand apart from Mike Ellis who had about 3 or 4 grand in front of him.

Flop 9 9 5 (badugi again, I think). Vach, who I think was in the BB now leads out all-in for £685. After longish dwells both the raiser and re-raiser pre-flop fold and now the unbluffable calling station star.....folds too. Unlucky Vach, no action for your 9TJK or your 5s full.

Vach now turns over his hand. KJ87!! Wow, now that's what I call luck. To bluff pure air (apart from the gutterball straight out) with a bet of a bit less than half the pot into three players behind you in a lively PLO game and get away with it means you must be living right.

In case you're wondering about the title of this post - last night I went to Neil's unveiling of his new business/web site which looks like it could be the nuts. It was a really good presentation and considering that Channing can talk the hind legs off several mules he was really concise and to the point. I wish him the best of luck with it and suggest you check it out (they're going live in early April).