Thursday, April 28, 2005

They won't let me win

Yesterday was yet another of our biweekly friendly homegames, NLTHE.

Nope, didn't work out at all. We were seven this time, and I ended up on sixth place, being knocked out after the rebuy period was over. To make the game lively, we all start with 3000 in chips and 25/50 blinds and have rebuy possible for the first four rounds. Over time we've fine tuned the tournament parameters to maximize the fun factor and we're nearing an optimal setting.

Same guy won, third time in a row. There is a proverb "Never play poker with a man named Doc". In this particular case it can be tricky, because he is a doc. Yup, got his Ph.D. last year. And some of the other regulars have master's degrees or are on the way to getting them. However, all in Computer Science, not statistics, probabilistic analysis, game theory or such. Me? Just a diploma, but kinda sorta vaguely working towards a bachelor's degree.

And they're getting good too. Damn! They've grasped all the concepts, and my moves and plays don't work well anymore. When I do make a gamble, it's river suckout and goodbye Martin.

You know the worst starting hand in Hold'em? 2-7 off-suit? And how it's a special occasion when you still make it work? I did even better than that, didn't even have The Hammer (2-7 off-suit). I had J2o in an unraised Big Blind and the flop comes 2-7-7. Bet a thousand with blinds 100/200 and the remaining player folded. Ha! I don't even have to have 2-7, I only have to make people believe that. Bwahaha!

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Eight in the afternoon

Time for another live poker (NLTHE) tournament in the nearby city.

In the words of The Iggmeister, an ├╝berpost:

I leave around lunchtime by train and get there an hour and a half before the tournament starts, so I wander around. At a square there are some market stalls, and one of them sells jewelry. I'd kinda like a poker or gambling themed ring or ear-thingy (I have a piercing there that hasnt closed) but don't find any there. What I do find is a copy of The One Ring, to be worn on a leather cord around the neck. Gold plated bronze. I get one. A lucky charm to go with my lucky HappyPants that I wore two weeks ago when I won that tournament.

In my pocket I also have (for luck?) a coin I found in a little "collection" I have. A 1968 Kennedy half dollar. A large coin I might do knuckle rolls with instead of with a poker chip. Everybody has chips, many can do tricks, but not everybody have a big piece of silver to play with.

And speaking of rings, and of poker: How to make a coin ring

After a McDonalds meal, off to the place where the tournament will be held. On to the poker!

This time, it's a rebuy+addon tournament, instead of freezeout as earlier. There are twentysix entrants, six places paid. Some faces I recognize, and there's even one female player.

The playing starts. I'm careful and don't do much, only minor ups and downs in my stack. Getting a bit low. I flop an open-ended straight draw and go all-in, and get one caller who commits his whole stack. He has a (low) pair. Oops, maybe this wasn't such a good play after all... But it's my time to be a river rat, the eight I needed comes on the river and I get a lot of chips, he has to make a rebuy.

After the three first rounds, where you can make a rebuy, there is one addon opportunity. All started off with 1000 in chips. I have 1800 now so I'll make the addon to get 2800.

More play. If I remember it correctly, here's what happens. I get AA, American Airlines, pocket rockets. Only raise (substantially but not heavily), gets called by one (same guy that I river-straighted), the flop comes with low cards. He checks, I say "all-in". He ponders and ponders and then calls. He turns over a pocket pair of sixes and it's oh so sweet to turn over the Aces. No help from the turn or the river and he's OUT.

It's now after the rebuys and addons that the playing really starts. Only two out of the twentysix have opted not to continue after losing all their chips.

One minor move I made was to raise under the gun pre-flop when it seems like noone is going to make a big play, managed to steal quite some blinds with that. Hey, I'm getting the hang of all this poker terminology!

I have quite a stack now, 4-5000 sometimes, and according to the projection on the wall from The Tournament Director (a good piece of software for managing a poker tournament with four to many-many-lots players) there is 64000 in circulation. I pull of a bigger intimidation move: I very visibly look at another player's (across the table from me) stack, one of the shortstacked guys, and make as if I'm counting it (which I am). He notices it, and mentions it! "So, do you have intentions of getting my chips," he asks. (Well, duh!?) "Yup." Smile confidently, turn to look at the rests of the players and their chips. "And those, and those, and those." Talk about table image.

I'm moved to another table to keep them balanced. When doing that, I inadvertently make another sweet move that carries my table image over to the new table immediately. You see, when moving my stack(s), I have to make two trips! I don't fail to mention that. "Sorry for the minor delay, fellas, hadda make two trips to move all my chips."

What's all this talk about "moves" then? Well, I know how to play poker - the rules of the game - and so does the other players. A full house, threes full of sevens, beats three big aces. Four deuces beats five spades.

So you can't just play the cards, you have to play the stacks and the players too.

As when I showed my flopped king-high straight even after noone called. Then they'll associate me with strong hands ("Ooh, that guy gets good cards." or "He only plays great hands.") So when I play aggressively with second-rate hands, they'll be less inclined to stand up to me.

I also try to alternate my appearance so that I hopefully don't give away any tells. Mix it up a lot, so I don't for example subconsciously protect my cards with a chip only at those times when I'm going to play. If I'm going to fold, why not count my chips as if I'm going to bet them? Or doing just so when I really am going to call/raise? Depending on what the situation requires. Do I want the opponents to waste their chips, do I want a bet?

And being meek when raising or going all-in with The Nuts. But I don't go for the "acting like a beginner" style. You know, asking lots of questions and being uncertain about how and when to act.

It's nice to be the chip leader :-D

Now let me tell you about how I got knocked out.

As always in no-limit games, there are one or two hands that make or break you.
First one. I have King-8 on hand and flop a pair of eights. There are two diamonds on the table. A guy goes all-in and I call (I have more chips than him). For now I have him beat, because he has "just" a flush draw, with two diamonds on hand. Turn is no help, but a diamond comes on the river. But it was only half my stack...

Second one. I get snowmen, 88, pocket pair of eights. I raise, same guy as before goes all-in, I call. As I suspected, he has nothing, JQ on hand. The flop, no help for him. The turn, no help for him. The river... A Queen.

And I'm out at thirteenth place out of twentysix. Being sucked out on the river makes it easier to bear.

This was an afternoon and early evening of eight. The eight-high straight that boosted me up. The pairs of eights where I lost. It's karma coming back to bite me in the ***, see! An Ace can be worth 1, and there's seven cards in Texas Hold-em (seven plus one = eight, see!?) out of which you make a five-card hand. Cut an eight in half and you get a 3 (five plus three = eight, see?!). Divide eight and you get four (four plus four = eight see!?!?). It all adds up! It all comes together!

With conspiracy theorist greetings, this is Martin signing off.

Wookies don't live on Endor

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Getting busy

Well, yesterday's little homegame (of our biweekly kind) didn't go well. We were only four; me, last time's winner, P (the female player from last time) and J. But, we played at the home of J and P instead of an unused room at work. Much more cosy. I finished last, maybe I played to aggressively. Last winner won again. He, J and me made one rebuy each, P who finished second did not. I made my rebuy after my all-in shortstacked with a flopped pair of nines didn't work, I thought the caller had nothing. But... He had three aces and the river gives him four of a kind, aces! P's success will maybe entice the other grillfiends girlfriends to play.

In other news: The live poker scen in my region seems to be on the rise.

I got an invitation from the same bunch that arranged the one I won last Sunday to another tournament on May 1.

And the folks who have arranged a few other tournaments and a poker club (but it's been on hold for a while) in the neighbouring city have started up again and will have a tournament April 23.

Both will be rebuy+addon.

And I'll participate, and aim to win. Time to make the rounds. Grind it out. Raise the stakes. Flop the nuts. Shoot the angles. Infuse alligator blood.

Poker is booming here in Sweden, a while after the U.S. Internet poker is large, but for legal reasons no casino can be run from Sweden other than the state-run Svenska Spel, who's planning Internet poker. But there are lots of entrepreneurs who sell equipment; chips, tables, decks, paraphernalia (the guy who's involved in my home town sells T-shirts with poker themes, like with the print I'M ALL IN (with 2-7 off-suit)), especially chip sets where they either try to underbid each other or go for luxury chips.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Rounders or ovalers

To continue on an earlier theme, the theme music for today is No Doubt's "Sunday Morning".

Because it was a Sunday Morning when I had had breakfast and by phone approved my self assessment tax for 2004 and around ten-elevenish decided to connect to teh Intarweb and surf a little. At a Swedish poker forum I checked out some postings and then noticed I had a Personal Message. Hm?

It was a guy I had met at other live tournaments, wondering if I was interested in a freezeout tournament this afternoon. No-Limit Texas Hold'em poker of course. Oh, yes, I was. Called him and told him I was interested and got directions for where it was to be held, at approximately one o'clock.

Went by bicycle there, in my new jeans. It was in a house just outside or adjacent to my home town. Fourteen other players, including the host who apparently had wrangled chairs from the neighbours and sent wife and kid away :-). And made coffee.

The playing starts. Starting stack 2500, blinds 25/50 increasing every twenty minutes. We have two tables, seven and eight players and they will be balanced when people are knocked out. So, it's

Phase 1: Stay alive, don't get knocked out. (Only play strong hole cards)

I do marginally well, stack going up and down but mostly down and I'm down to 1500 when I'm moved to the other table. Suddenly I'm back where I started, at 2500 in chips. And here's the thing, I think I'm in a good position. After a while we're seven players left and all are moved to my table, meaning I'm at the final table but shortstacked. Immediately to my left is a lucky rookie. He has a large stack, from what I hear from getting lucky when calling all-ins but he is unsure of playing, constantly asking how to do what he wants to do ("so if I want to call, I have to...?" and such). Immediately to my right is a good player but he seems to be buying pots.

This is

Phase 2: Build a stack.

I have luck in making or calling all-ins and start to get a decent stack. One or two have been knocked out (hey, I'm on a rush and it's all blurry, can't recall the exact sequence of events). I flop a seven-high straight as Big Blind and manage to milk the guy to my right for quite a lot. There was three spades on the board but not until the river, that was the only hand that could beat it. I get a good read on another big tattooed guy, who was the one who arranged the very first live tournament I went to. He is tight-aggressive and somewhat verbal about it. Another seems to still be in "Sklansky" mode, or Phase 1, or only play strong hole cards, but here you have to play the players and the flops and the draws and the outs.

Fun comment: I don't know if it was intentional, but one player was asked "what were you thinking?" after pulling off a check-raise where I and others folded. His answer: "I was thinking about fishing season which starts soon."

Time to enter

Phase 3: Win this sucker. (Coin tosses, all-in with any high cards in a good poistion, play any strong made hands)

What. The. F?

All of a sudden I'm a massive chip leader and I'm "in the money", we're three players left and the payout structure is 50%/30%/20%. First one to go is Big Guy, I don't remember how.

What. The. F?

I have a massive, hella massive stack, my one little stack of yellow 500-chips next to the dozen other lesser denominations that I hardly have room for is worth more than the other guy's three little stacks. I can wrangle and muscle him like a tai chi/jiujutsu/aikido master, and I should and I will.

Pulse? High. Wry smile? Under control. I am gonna win this.

Finally the other guy only has about 2500 left. He goes all-in with that without even looking at his cards. I look at mine and see a ten and a three off-suit. What the hey, I call.

He turns the cards over, a king and a ten (I think it was a ten).

I deal the flop. There are two threes there... No help from turn and river and...

Wow

I've actually won a live tournament for the first time. Handshakes all around. Grunts from the adjoining room where a cashgame is going. I get a WAD of cash. Actually not that thick, but it seems so to me at the time. And they'll let me know when the next game is on, then maybe with even more (24 or 32) players hopefully.

I bicycle home in the sun, about four hours after I arrived. Occasionally erupting in smiles but not in song, wearing my new Lucky HappyPants™.

I celebrate with a pizza, Guinness and watching Rounders on DVD, still smiling and emitting small "Whoohoo"s. You know the very beginning when Mike rummages around his apartment collecting his stash for the "three stacks of High Society"? I do that, but for now I only have enough bills for one wad to put in a hiding place. Oops, I'm now out of Guinness but I have some Kilkenny (medium brown instead of Guinness black). Wheee, happy happy.

And on Wednesday it's back to my regular biweekly low-stakes homegame. Rumors have it that maybe even more grillfiends girlfriends will attend plus I will have a good poker story to tell. Of course I'll embellish and make things up, in reality I was quite nervous until I had that massive stack at the final table.

How very fortunate that I checked teh Intarweb this morning!

But I've made that "Big Win". And I mostly play tournament play, not cashgames, so there's not that big risk of that Big Loss, at most you lose the entry fee and can't chase. I don't play much cashgames and I'm not particularly fond of limit games. Straight to no-limit for me, baby! (But with moderation.)

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Another find

Busy day, checking off items on my todo-list.

  • Get a haircut (oh sweet relief).
  • Buy wine and beer to restock.
  • Was looking for a new pair of jeans. Found exactly what I was looking for: Button fly, boot cut, looking a little worn (but not frayed, ripped or torn). On sale of course. Mine! And a V-neck tight t-shirt.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Hyped to the gills

GinsengGuaranaCaffeineGlucoseFructoseSucrose

and heavy doses of Gwen Stefani, primarily the blippettyblopp of her solo album but also the No Doubt compilation The Singles 1992-2003 and the perfect and epic Beacon Street Collection

makes Martin a very twitchy boy.