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My Everest

July 13, 2009

If you haven’t read many of my posts, let me get you caught up.  I’ve been playing poker for money for around 18 months now.  My records indicate that I’ve lost several hundred dollars playing very low stakes (usually $.10/.25) online and won a few thousand playing $1/2 live.  If you haven’t taken time to read my About Me page, you might not already know that it all started innocently enough with a visit to a Bozeman Montana poker room.  Since then, I’ve played a lot of poker and done okay.  I’ve also been back to Bozeman a handful of times.

Here’s the problem.  I haven’t been able to win in Bozeman for some reason.  I don’t know why, but every trip to Bozeman leaves me feeling unsatisfied with my poker-playing.  It might be because the people in Bozeman play a lot of poker (and are therefore very good).  It might be because they play spread limit a lot, which I find hard to play for some reason.  It might be that they are big fans of the dealer’s choice and you end up playing hold ’em, omaha hi, omaha 8, stud hi, stud 8 or even a variant of hold ’em called Tahoe that I’ve never seen elsewhere within just a few hands.  It might be that when I go there, I play several days in a row and end up losing to the rake.

Either way, one of my personal goals has been to beat the game there and come home with some extra money in my pocket.

A couple weeks back I did it!  I was there for 3 days.  I played $2/5 NL Omaha (both Hi and 8) the first night.  I booked a nice $150 win.  I played $1/2 NLHE the next night and booked a $200 win.  I played $1/2 dealer’s choice (only hold ’em and omaha hi were options) and booked a $100 win.  I took $450 out of the Bozeman poker economy and couldn’t be prouder.  Not only that, but I had a lot of fun (I always have fun playing Bozeman poker, but winning+fun >>> losing+fun).

A couple interesting hands

June 25, 2009

Played at the Grand Victoria Casino near home in Elgin, IL last night. Had two interesting hands. Sorry about the first, its a bad beat story.

Normal $1/2 live NLHE live game. Tons of limping. I was playing my normal semi-loose aggressive game. I was limping occasionally and raising more than anyone. In this hand I had raised in early position to $8 with TT. A newer player at the table raised in late position to $16. The button called and so did I. The flop came A A T rainbow. I was very pleased. I checked, the older guy bet $16, the button folded and I flat called. The turn was a jack. I checked, he bet $40, I shoved and he insta-called. The river was meaningless. I showed my tens and he shook his head slowly turning over his jacks. Luckily, he was playing a shortish stack with only $100 or so.

Much later in the night, I’ve been moved to a new table. There is a lot of money on the table. Several players have stacks around $500-700. I’ve built my stack to just around $280. In this hand, UTG has bet $8, 4 people have already called and I see 2c 3c on the button, so I call to see the flop. The flop comes 2d 4d 5h. Check, check, check, tight regular in seat 7 bets $15 into the $50ish pot, next guy folds, I call, fold, seat 4 calls, fold. The turn comes Ah. Seat 4 checks, seat 7 shoves for $55. The pot is roughly $150. I put seat 7 on a high pair or a set. Seat 4 has been playing pretty conservative. I haven’t seen him play anything crazy like 3 6 (the only hand I’m worried about). I want to make sure he doesn’t have odds to chase the flush, so I bet $125. I’m surprised when seat 4 calls. The river is a harmless 7s, he checks. I shove the rest of my stack in, around $125 and am very surprised when he calls. Seat 4 had Ad Jd. Seat 7 had QQ. I rake a pot around $580.

Still Playing…

June 16, 2009

I’m not sure what happened but I kind of ran out of blogging steam.  As I’ve commented before, part of that is that nothing surprises me in poker anymore.  People hit 2 outers on the river (I did it the other day).  People call down with flopped gutshots to big bets and catch on the river.  They don’t seem like bad beats as much anymore.  They seem like the way I’ll eventually make money at this game.

But, don’t take the lack of posting for lack of playing.  On the contrary, I’ve played a lot in the recent history.

I’ve made a couple of trips to the Horseshoe in Hammond (my favorite Chicago-area location to play, though a long drive).  I’ve played a couple times at the Grand Victoria (snagged a $600 $1/2 pot when pocket aces held up to two callers).  I’ve played a lot online (lately, I’m one of the many weak players trying to win a WSOP main event seat).  All that said, I’ve hit a couple of milestones.

I made my first trip to Vegas.  It was like a poker bender.  I think I played 40 hours of poker in 3 1/2 days.  I had several big-win sessions and a few small losing ones.  I cashed in a multi-table tournament and won another one.  The best part is that my poker-playing paid for the trip (with a profit of $82, woo-hoo).  Short trip report: the nicer the room, the harder the competition.  So, in order of descending niceness or descending hardness, I played at: Venetian, Bellagio, Caesars, MGM, Hard Rock, Harrah’s, Excaliber and the Flamingo.

Favorite hand in Vegas: I have to leave Harrah’s to catch a plane in 3 minutes.  I decide this is the last round of the table and and UTG+1 with 2s 6s and bet $8.  CO calls as does the loose BB.  Flop comes 345 rainbow.  BB bets out $15, I re-raise to $40, CO folds, BB calls.  Turn is irrelevant except that there’s now a potential flush draw.  BB checks and I bet $75 and he shoves and I insta-call.  River is a blank and I scoop a $250+ pot, play two more hands and fly home with a smile on my face.

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When I get back, work sends me to Lansing, Michigan to work with a customer.  I’m less than thrilled, until I realize 2 things.  Lansing has a poker room in it and I’m driving right by the Horseshoe, the Blue Chip and the Four Winds casinos.  The Blue Chip is newly renovated (by the same people who own the uber-nice Borgata in AC) and looks very nice.  The Four Winds advertises in Chicago all the time.  The poker room in Lansing is at a bar called Tripper’s.

I get to Tripper’s on Wednesday night in time for the $50 hold em tourney.  I get to the final table and bust out in 7th (they paid 4 spots).  Oh well.  I play cash for 3 hours or so and end up with $2 more than I started.  Oh well, that’s entertainment.  Tripper’s is one of many local spots to play cards.  Apparently they have a poker room at the Days Inn.  They have a place called Club on the River (clever name) and a couple other places.  Tripper’s is #2 in niceness according to the locals.  As with a lot of places like this, it is populated by just locals and they are mostly decent players.  Though the college town does make for a little more action than most locals-only poker rooms.

On the way home, I stop for 2 hours (just to avoid Chicago rush hour) at the Four Winds.  First off, this casino is very nice for being in the middle of nowhere.  The poker room, which is in the back corner, is the biggest all-electronic poker room in the world (according to the floor woman).  They have around 25 PokerTech tables.  This day two of them were full playing $.50/1 NLHE.  I sat with another group of regulars who were all very friendly and ground out a $200 profit in my short stay.  I had some fun insulting the regulars who did their best to pretend they didn’t play that often, while the waitress asked about their families and they recounted stories of tournaments from weeks past.

Tangent: I’m finding that I can’t stop myself from making fun of anyone at the low-stakes cash tables I play at who wear sunglasses at the table.  My favorite line is something like “man, do you think we could get them to turn down the lights in here, my eyes are killing me.  Oh, it probably isn’t bothering you with those sunglasses on.”  $1/2 is not the WSOP main event.  Sunglasses make you look like you’re trying too hard.

Anyway, I’ve been playing and playing and my results are the same.  I’m a consistent winner live and small loser online.  I can’t seem to become a winning online player.  I’m not sure what I do wrong.  I’m afraid that it might be that the stakes don’t matter enough to me, but I’m not going to play much higher online unless I can consistently eek out a profit.

No Poker in Washington D.C.

April 3, 2009

I was asked to travel last minute to the D.C. area and so I followed my normal ritual of searching the web for card rooms where I might be able to get into a game. Sadly, I didn’t find any. It seems that people from D.C. are forced to make the long drive (3+ hours) to Atlantic City. As much as I love AC, I can’t drive 6 hours to play for a few hours.

If anyone knows of a cardroom close to D.C., I’m going back in a couple of weeks and would love to find a game.

Poker at the Grand Victoria in Elgin, IL

March 13, 2009

The closest casino to my house by far is the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin. Its a big riverboat on the Fox River and is about 20-25 minutes from my house. I called them shortly into my poker playing foray to see if they had any tables. Sadly the answer was “no”. I decided at that point that I would call at least once a month and ask again. Perhaps they’d think there was a crowd looking for a game and open a room.

About 3 weeks back they agreed and opened up 4 tables in the back corner of the lower level of the boat. Apparently all 4 tables have been full ever since. They spread 2 tables of $1/2 NLHE and 2 of $2/5 NLHE. I went to play last night and the plan was to add 2 more tables today, one $5/10 NLHE and one $10/20 LHE. In the end, they plan to have 9 tables and they are open to potentially even spreading PLO.

All that said, last night was my first chance to play and I had a good night.

To start, let me say that the sad thing is that the room is already populated by regulars. There are already some people who have made those tables their home. They seem to have a long waiting list all the time and that seems to be because people are playing there a long time. The second thing I’d note is that the room isn’t run too smoothly yet. The dealers are terrible, the lists are managed strangely and the rules are a bit odd. I swear we were getting 12 hands an hour with one dealer.

When I got there, I put my name on both the 1/2 and 2/5 lists. When they put me on a 2/5 table, I asked to stay on the 1/2 list. But I sat down and played tight. I only had $1000 in my pocket and I’m just not rolled for 2/5. So in the first 2 revolutions of the table, I think I limped into one hand. I know the other players noticed. On the third revolution, I got dealt TT on the button and I called 2 players for $20. The flop came 9-high rainbow. The table captain, a large aggressive middle-aged blond woman, put in a bet of $35 and I re-raised to $100 which she considered for a long time before she folded.

I only really contested 5 hands in the whole 3 hours I sat at that table. The biggest pot I’ve ever played came later in the session when I raise 4 limpers to $40 with Ac9c on the button. Two callers. Flop comes Jc 9s 4c. Checks to me. I bet $85, one fold one call. Turn is 2c. He checks. I bet $120 and he calls. River is 3d and I shove for about $150ish more, he calls and he has me barely covered. He has top 2 pair. Pot was over $900.

I lost another pot later when I complete the SB with 22 with 5 limpers. The flop come A29 dual suited. The way the table was playing I expect someone to bet out with the flush draw or an ace so I check. Unfortunately it checks around. The turn comes another ace. I go ahead an lead out a bet of $20 into a $30 pot. The BB calls as does another player. I suspect each has an ace. The river comes a harmless 7. I bet out $45 and the BB raises to $100, the middle player folds and I decided I can’t fold. He turns over A7 for a rivered better full house.

Soon after I moved over to the $1/2 table. I won a big pot when I flopped a set of 9s and got paid off, but otherwise couldn’t get anything going. I played a couple of hours there and then decided to go home a winner. I left with $749 in profit for the night.

Poker is fun.

—-

Addendum: Played again the next night.  Made $550 in 3 hours or so playing $1/2NLHE.  Game can be soft.

My New 25NLHE Observation

March 11, 2009

For today, I have a simple observation. Online 25NLHE is a very hard game. I know, I know, there are lots of people who are going to disagree. Yes, there are some very soft players at this level, but that’s not the point. 25NLHE is hard because you can’t count on anything. I think there are a lot of really bad players at this level, but I think there are some very good players at this level. Because it is the online game, players move around a lot. Because it is this low level, there are a lot of tables and it is very hard to gather notes/stats on any significant percentage of the players. What this means for us is that it is very hard to tell when someone has the nuts or just thinks they do. For instance, MP limps, HJ raises to 5X and I call with TdJd on the button. BB and MP call. The flop comes 9c 8d 3d. BB and MP check, HJ bets 1/2 pot, I re-raise about 3X his bet. BB and MP fold but HJ calls. The turn comes Qd. HJ checks. I bet 1/2 pot. HJ shoves.

What does he have? This is the problem at 25NL, some players are really good and see the flush potential of my hand and worry about it. Others think their K9o is the nuts or they just decided to protect their set. But maybe this player has Ad 9d or even Kd 9d. At this level, this could be any of those holdings. Heck, at this level, this could be someone with pocket aces or kings.

The hard part at this level is that reading the betting is hard, since the player with pocket kings isn’t trying to run a bluff…he still thinks he has the best hand. The player with Ad 9d expects a call because he thinks I might be overplaying pocket kings.

If I fold this every time, I think I’m losing money by folding the best hand a lot. If I call this every time, I’ll lose money by paying off the good players who know better. Which loses me less money? I don’t know.

Reflections on one year of poker.

February 23, 2009

I’m not sure how long ago it was when I first played poker in Montana.  But on February 23, 2009 I took my first real step into playing poker for money by depositing some money on Full Tilt.  Since then a lot has happened.  The first phase was a prolonged period of about 10 months of poker obsession.  At this point, I’m over the obsession, but I doubt I’ll ever be able to give up the game.  Either way, here are the highlights of this year:

  • Online, I’m still a $.10/.25 player where I’m pretty much a break even player.  I can’t ever seen to prolong any kind of winning streak.  Currently I’m probably down roughly $250 online with most of that lost over the first 4 months of playing.
  • Live, I’m a solid $1/2 player.  I’m way up playing live, though my recent foray into Florida poker did wash away a significant share.  I believe I’m up around $1000 playing live.
  • I’ve read around 20 poker books, most of which I’ve reviewed on this blog.
  • I’ve played live in around 15 different places including: Atlantic City, Tunica, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Florida and Oregon.
  • I’ve still never been to Vegas.
  • I’ve written a little over 60 posts on my experience.  This blog gets very few visits (which isn’t terribly surprising because I write more for me than for anyone else).  I get most of my visits thanks to a single post I made about playing at a Rockford Charitable Games event, a night I didn’t really enjoy.
  • My online tournament ROI is positive.
  • I’ve determined that I prefer the cash game to tournaments a lot.
  • I can’t decide whether I’m ever going to be very good at this game, though I am still very hopeful.  I suspect my discipline it my main problem.

Here’s an interesting observation for the starting player.  Early on, you’ll see a lot of posts about bad beats and unfairness.  Now you see very few of those.  I think this is for 2 reasons: because I’ve learned how to bet to push people off of draws when I want and because I want people to commit a lot of chips in situations where they are behind.  More often than not, they will lose.  When they don’t I just remind myself how many times it has come out in my favor.

Anyway, thanks for reading and offering any thoughts you’ve had along the way.  I appreciate the support and encouragement.