David Chicotsky, in Poker Player Newspaper column, July 4, 2011 (vol. 15, #1), page 10.
It isn't hard to beat K-J with Q-J, as long as you take the lead by reraising before the flop.
[This column, which is worth reading in its entirety, was one of the proximal causes of me deciding to try the experiment described in the previous blog entry.]
Saturday, July 02, 2011
David Chicotsky, in Poker Player Newspaper column, July 4, 2011 (vol. 15, #1), page 10.
After you play enough thousands of hands, you tend to develop a rote system: I raise with this, I fold that, I'll call in that kind of spot. I have my default plays like everybody else, and they work well enough.
I have, of course, been having lots of anticipatory thoughts about the Main Event coming up next week. One of them is an acknowledgement that my ordinary, daily game is fairly passive. I turn up the heat in spots, but I very rarely three-bet pre-flop, for example. I'm enough better at post-flop play than most opponents that I consider it an advantage not to risk turning it into a shove-fest. I play cautiously because for the most part I can wait for spots in which I know I'm a huge favorite before getting the big money in. The marginal spots, those where I'm purely guessing what another player is up to, I tend to pass on. I may be ahead, I may not be, but there's no point in reducing it to a guessing game when, with a little patience, I can get it in as a definitive favorite.
It's a serviceable strategy for cash games against the stereotypical impatient tourist, but it has problems when trying to translate it to tournaments, where patience cannot be infinite--even with two-hour blind levels.
So I decided today to try an experiment. I entered the Golden Nugget Grand series event ($135), which has the slowest structure of any low buy-in tournament in town: 40-minute levels, and Level 6 has a big blind that is just 3% of the starting stack (that's one arbitrary measure I use to judge tournament structures against each other), compared to 5% for Binion's Classic and 4% for Caesars Megastack. My goal was to play with one notch more aggression than my standard, comfort-zone tendency. I wasn't going to turn from a rock into a maniac. But I had in mind that about once each level I would find a spot in which I would raise where my usual play would be to call.
And I did it. To my great delight, every single one of them worked. For example, when the blinds were 100/200/25, and I was in the big blind with the rather awful 3-7 offsuit, six people ahead of me limped in. My knee-jerk reaction is to leave well enough alone, be glad to see a free flop, and hope for a miracle. But this time, in accordance with my goal, I picked this spot to raise. I bumped it up to 1000, and was rewarded with a cascade of folds, and a low-risk profit of 1650 chips.
In another spot, there was a standard 3x open raise from early position followed by a call from the button. In the big blind I had AcJc. I was a big stack at this point. Both opponents were left with about 10 big blinds behind. My standard move in this spot would be to just call, first because I don't want to play a huge pot from out of position, and second because either of them could easily have a hand that has me crushed--AK, AQ, QQ, or KK. But I screwed up my courage, recognized this as a potentially good spot for a squeeze play, and moved all in. The first guy took forever to fold, and looked like he was selling his only child into slavery as he did so. Second guy was quicker, but did the same thing. As I was pulling in the chips, they said that they had folded a suited AJ and an AT, respectively. They also both agreed that my bet looked like I must have AK. Sweet!
In other situations, I check-raised where my baseline play would have been to either check-fold or check-call, or I put in a light three-bet before the flop. Like I said, every single time this worked, and won me the pot without a further fight.
I know that I can't expect such perfect results all the time. But it has made me realize that I have probably not been taking sufficient advantage of the TAG table image I usually acquire. I really can get away with more steals and resteals than has been my pattern in the past. Of course, it would be easy to overdo it, but one extra move every 40 minutes or so (which is about what I did today) is not enough for anyone to begin to suspect larceny. It is, however, enough to make a meaningful difference in the rate of chip accumulation.
I didn't make the money (went out in about 35th place out of 126 entrants, top 13 sharing the cash). Nevertheless, I enjoyed this eye-opening experience so much that I am feeling deeply tempted to do it again tomorrow in one of the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza events, which is an even slower structure than the Grand (though at a substantially higher buy-in, $350). Both Cardgrrl and Daniel Cates told me that they thought that would be a good practice event for me, given that I'm much more used to playing in shorter, hit-and-run sessions. I just might do it.
First I have to be clear about who I'm talking about. The number of pros sponsored in some form by Full Tilt is bewildering, and they use a system of different labels that makes sense to almost nobody outside the family: There's the CardRunner bunch, the Hendon Mob, something called "Team Limpers," then a whole raft of "pros" and nearly as long a list of "friends."
I'm not talking about any of these lesser folks. I'm talking about those at the top of the hierarchy. The official "Team Full Tilt" consists of Howard Lederer, Phil Ivey, Chris Ferguson, John Juanda, Jennifer Harman, Phil Gordon, Erick Lindgren, Erik Seidel, Andy Bloch, Mike Matusow, Gus Hansen, Allen Cunningham, Patrik Antonius, and Tom Dwan. See the list and bios here. (Interestingly, while all the other categories of FTP pros are listed alphabetically, this group is not. I suspect this ordering reflects something about power and/or controlling interest in the company, but who knows?)
Of those, I know that Juanda, Harman, Lindgren, Matusow, Cunningham, and Dwan have been playing many tournaments at the WSOP. Ivey is famously abstaining, while he sues his (former?) friends. I believe that Lederer, Ferguson, Gordon, Seidel, Bloch, Hansen, and Antonius have not made appearances, though I could be wrong about some of those; I'm just basing this on who I've seen news stories about, and maybe one or two of them are playing but without any success so far that would bring them to my attention. In an ordinary year, we would have seen all of them out in force, though some (e.g., Lederer, Gordon) typically play fewer events than the others.
My curiosity is about what distinguishes those who are playing in 2011 from those who are not. It could be nothing deeper than personal preferences--who is willing to endure the questions and criticisms and anger from a big room full of pissed-off former customers who all want their money back?
But there are other possible answers. Maybe what distinguishes the players from the non-players reveals something about the ownership structure of the company, and those with enough controlling interest to be worried about criminal indictments are laying low. Maybe it has to do with who had so much of their bankroll on deposit with FTP that they're stuck being unable to buy in now, like lots of other ordinary players. Maybe it depends on what advice they have each individually received from their attorneys and/or PR people.
I don't know the answer, but I sure would be interested in finding out.
Friday, July 01, 2011
Word verification for comments is now enabled. I hate doing this. I have resisted it for almost five years. I could handle it when the spam comments only averaged about ten a day, but this week some ass-clown has been bombarding me with about a hundred a day, and I just can't stand it anymore. It appears that a bot is going through my archives and trying to submit a comment (there's a rotating list of maybe 20 generic comments) on every single one of them, and it's driving me crazy. I'm really sorry to add to the difficulty of posting a comment for the rest of you, but I don't know of any other way to stop it.
Thursday, June 30, 2011
The other day as Cardgrrl and I were talking about the WSOP Main Event, and things like how long one had to play before hitting the money, she asked me whether it would be possible to just fold every hand and last long enough to survive the bubble.
The Poker Players Alliance has done some wacky things before (see Grange95's series of posts here, for example), but today they have added another whopper: They are supporting Shelley Berkley for a Senate seat. See article in the Sun here.
[Senator Dean] Heller hasn’t had the chance to prove his word on Internet poker: He wasn’t in Congress in 2006 when the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act — the measure that outlawed transactions of bets — was passed.
Berkley was, and sounded the alarm against it.
“I’m not a stranger to this issue. I stepped up very early, in the early part of my congressional tenure, and I’ve been working on this issue for a decade,” she said. “I was one of the few people who stood up during the port security debate and spoke out against adding this provision in — the ban on Internet gaming — from the start.”
I have heard a few people express the thought that whichever candidate for president in 2012 most strongly endorses legalizing online poker will get their vote.
“As President, I will do everything in my power to restore your right to play online poker, and ensure that such a right can never be taken away again.”
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Tonight I had the distinct honor of meeting the one and only Julius Goat. He and Shamus and I had plans to meet for dinner at the Rio, followed by Wednesday night pub trivia at McFadden's. So I decided to get in a couple of hours of poker before dinner.
Besides--and here comes the part for which you are free to mock me mercilessly--I had a feeling. Normally, when I hear players say that they made some decision based on a statement like that, I just roll my eyes and sigh at the stupidity, so I'll understand and forgive in advance if you do the same to me. But I had a rather strong premonition that if I folded this hand, I'd regret it. This is a distinctly uncommon kind of experience for me. It's not like I'm getting such impulses on every hand. It probably means nothing more mysterious than some random neural firing, but I decided to go with it anyway. Again, not my usual approach to poker decision-making, and I won't try to justify or defend it further. I'm just telling you what happened.
As expected, both other players called, giving us a $100 pre-flop pot.
Flop: 4d-6c-7d, giving me both a flush draw and an open-ended straight draw. Assuming nobody else had a bigger diamond draw, that meant I had two pulls at 15 cards that would make me a winner. Not bad. In fact, it's precisely the kind of flop one most dearly hopes for when playing suited connectors in a multi-way pot.
Small blind bet $55--surely a big pocket pair, to be have reraised from out of position, then lead out into three opponents. Pot was now $150, after the rake. I had about $250 left behind. I spent maybe 20 seconds deciding whether to flat-call or shove. I couldn't get any read on what the other two were planning to do. I finally decided to risk losing customers with a shove, primarily because if any of my desired cards hit on the turn, it might then be hard to get any further action. I declared myself all in.
Middle-position guy was taken aback. He was visibly ambivalent about what to do, but finally said, "OK, let's do it," and pushed his stacks forward. He had me covered. Late-position guy, who had around $175 left, likewise shrugged, said, "OK," and moved his chips in. Small blind quickly folded, saying, "One pair is never good in that situation."
Middle-position guy had 6d-3d, for middle pair, baby flush draw, and gutshot straight flush draw. However, he groaned when he saw my cards, because the 5 to make his straight would give me a bigger one, and any diamond for his flush would also give me a bigger one. He had to hope that neither one of us improved and that his lowly pair of 6s would hold up, or that he got some runner-runner full house or his miracle 5d for the straight flush. The other player never showed.
The turn ended the drama quickly: 10h, giving me the nuts. The river was the ace of clubs.
The pot totaled $828. I don't keep track of individual pots, so it's possible that I've forgotten something bigger, but I believe it's the biggest pot I've won so far this year. It also gave me a win rate for today's session of $352/hour, just a tad above my average. I'll take it!
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
"Top Gear" from the BBC is one of my tippy-top-favorite TV shows. In fact, it's perhaps the most popular TV show in the whole world. Yesterday they started a new season. Of course, I immediately downloaded a bootleg copy of it and watched. Jeremy Clarkson said that they would be visiting Las Vegas during this season! Maybe they've already been here for filming, but if so, I didn't hear about it--and I think I would have, what with daily reading of Vegas news blogs and gearhead blogs. This leaves me with some hope that they are yet to arrive, and I can get all geeky and fanboy-y to a truly embarrassing degree when they're here. I like James May the best. Quiet, deliberate, smart, witty--my kind of guy.
There was a recent New York Times piece written about Jungleman, before Black Friday, where the interviewer went to great pains to infer that Cates was completely out of touch with real people and the real world. While it’s true that Daniel does have that weird genius way of answering questions much like Isaac Haxton, where they are liable to take as long a pause as they deem necessary and then answer in a way where they are actually interviewing you and if you haven’t thought your question through in the first place you just end up mumbling around and staring at a place three feet to the left of their head. Because Daniel Cates is piercing you with unblinking eyes from behind his thick unrimmed spectacles and raising the bet. And if that makes you uncomfortable so that you want to claim he’s out of touch with real people and the real world, then fine. But what the New York Times journalist surely left out is the thing that should immediately strike anyone most about Daniel Cates, especially in an arena where huge egos are part and parcel for the course and arrogance is assumed like eyes and ears. The plain fact about Daniel Cates is that he’s unfailingly polite. He’s earnestly polite. He’s polite in a way so that he must actually believe that the world doesn’t revolve around him, and if I say that makes him the only one in Las Vegas right now then it’s not nearly as much of an exaggeration as the other way around. That, right there, is more than something.Maybe I'm reading him wrong, but my impression is that he's kind of embarrassed that his gesture is being considered a big deal, and his publicist has to collar him to get him to extract some PR value out of it.
I was just browsing the Yahoo news stories of the day, and was curious about this headline from a Reuters story: "A Little House of Secrets on the Great Plains." It turns out that inside this residential address is a company that exists to set up and operate shell corporations for other business entities. OK, that's mildly interesting. But I was greatly surprised to find inside the story a nugget about poker's Black Friday:
Among the entities registered at 2710 Thomes, Reuters found, is a shelf company sheltering real-estate assets controlled by a jailed former prime minister of Ukraine, according to allegations made by a political rival in a federal court in California.
The owner of another shelf company at the address was indicted in April for allegedly helping online-poker operators evade a U.S. ban on Internet gambling. The owner of two other firms there was banned from government contracting in January for selling counterfeit truck parts to the Pentagon....
In 2008, Rubin fled to Costa Rica to avoid arrest for contempt in the civil case. Authorities allege he went on to run another payment-processing operation from abroad: This March 10, he and 10 others were indicted in New York for allegedly running a massive scheme to hide payments made by U.S. customers to the three largest online-poker websites, in violation of a ban passed by Congress in 2006. He was extradited from Guatemala the same month. On June 8, a New York judge denied bail for Rubin.
Stuart Meissner, an attorney for Rubin, said his client was not available for comment.