The Poker Game of Life

Poker and scotch on the rocks. Below are my reflections on life and poker. My journey from $4-8 as a past time to $30-60 for serious money and my life experiences in between.

Location: seattle, Washington, United States

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Clay Poker Chips

So I was surfing around and found a cool website if you're interested in buying Clay Poker Chips. Thought I'd spread the word.

Play for first

Lately I've become fascinated with tournament play rather than limit Holdem. I'm considering playing in bigger tournaments and getting away from the high limit games for a change of pace.

I played with my buddies last night over sushi and short ribs for a going away party. I caught a few breaks and took home first place but the sushi and new maps in Halo2 were just as if not more enjoyable. :)

So, we get down to the final table and there's 4 of us. 3 of us have about 300 in chips and chip leader has about 1,100. The blinds are at 15-30. At 15-30 you're losing 45 chips a round and since the action is 4 way I'm thinking that I'm liable to get blinded out if I don't start making any moves. I'm a little lucky in that chip leader is laying off the aggressiveness and not pushing us around.

I run into Ace, 9 and decide to push all in for 300. My philosophy here is that since I've still got about 300 in chips the 2 guys with approximately the same amount of chips will still have to fear me. However, a double or triple of the blinds won't really do much and leave me open to someone reraising me. If I were to say bring the action to 90 chips and then I get reraised I'd have a hard time calling and I'd be crippled in terms of chips.

My steal is successful. 345 or so in chips now.

I notice that nobody is really playing anything and the action is folded around to me quite frequently. This is where I think things get beautiful.

I just decide I'm going to play for first. That means I've got to get some chips and since my opponents are waiting for strong hands and chip leader is chillin' I'm going to start bullying everyone around. I start raising all in with nothing if the action is folded around to me. I'm successful as no one even calls.

Now I've got about 600 in chips, chip leader about 1000 and the other guys have about 200. Still not in the running for first but giving myself a shot.

Blinds are now 20-40. Chip leader raises out of the small blind to make it 200 to go. I've got Ace, 10 and I push all in hoping to make him fold. He contemplates for awhile and now I'm not happy at all with my push to all in. He says, "You got aces, kings, ace/king, a pair? I've got Ace/Queen." This is where it gets beautiful. So I say, "Ah, muck it and I'll show you." He throws away and I show him Ace/10. He gets mad.

Now in my mind no matter what the next time I push all in he's going to call me so I'd better have a strong hand. A few hands later I've got Ace, queen and sure enough he calls my all in. I catch a few more breaks and win. Good times for a lil home game.

A few months ago I wouldn't have been able to let loose and push all in trying to steal my way to a contender for first place. I'm pretty happy about that.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Caught a break

I finally caught a few breaks. My ankle isn't broken and instead I've got torn tissue damage. One week after I quit my job and lose my health insurance but at least it wasn't broken. Still got xrays so I'll need an extra check raise somewhere.

Also, I've been playing at Full Tilt for the sign up bonus which is pretty nice. They match dollar for dollar up to a max of $600. That's pretty huge, so after a few days of work there I'll have a nice little bonus.

They don't really have a ton of poker games going on there but they've got enough to make me happy with an extra $600 bonus. Whoop!

Ok, enough sounding like a stupid commercial.

Thank you to the player/bloggers who linked up to my new Texas Holdem Online strategy site which I've been working non stop on I'm still trying to spread the word so any help would be very cool. Also, any feedback (negative or positive) would be nice as well.

So here's the biggest break in a poker hand that I caught today. I'm playing in the 6-handed $8-16 game and I've got Ace-8 of spades one away from the button. I send in a raise, and the big blind calls me.

The flop: 9, 10, 2 with 1 spade:
The big blind checks and I check. Normally I bet here trying to pick up the pot but I've been doing that play all day so far. The players are starting to get a Good read on me and I want to mix it up.

The turn: 4 of spades:
Not a bad card for me giving me the nut flush draw. Unfortunately the villain bets and I decided to play this particular hand aggressive and I raise. I think this looks like top set of 10s since I've been pretty much betting every flop before this. I'm not very happy since he calls.

I miss the river, he checks, I check and I....I win. Can you believe that? Since it's on full tilt I can't see what he has but I think he must have had Jack/queen and decided to bet his open ended straight draw. Nice little break there right?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The right read

So I may have broken my ankle playing basketball last week. I can't put any pressure on it. All this week I couldn't go to the gym, I couldn't walk to get a cup of coffee, I couldn't go out to the bars. It may be a surprise to most of you that this injury is really making me mad! It's making my life boring, annoying and cumbersome. Add this to the fact that I'm really running unlucky in poker and you guessed life is kind of in a mess right now both socially and work wise.

How do I feel about this?

I think it's like when you have a pair of queens and there's a king on the board in a heads up game and my opponent looks weak when he bets into me.

I can cut my losses short, give up and just be depressed. Mope around the house and watch TV. (ie. I can just fold the pot as it's not really that big yet).

Or, when my opponent bets into me I can raise, give it my all with an attempt to make him fold. Instead I can get off my ass do whatever I can to make my ankle and life better. Evaluate the situation and once I make up my mind really go for it.

I think I'll do the latter. Hopefully I made the right read.

Friday, April 22, 2005

What's a good game?

Do you know when you're in a good game? It took me quite awhile before I could recognize a good poker game and what I consider a good game is going to be quite different from what others feel is a good game.

What the hell do I mean? Quit jabbering? hehe.

Well, first off let's define a good poker game. A good poker game is one where you can make money based on your skill.

A chat w/ my buddy.

I was talkin' to my buddy who's actually a poker dealer at the place I grew up playing. So I asked him how the game is now and he said there was a great game the other night. Capped preflop, flop, turn and river almost every hand. 5-6 way action every hand. Great game. I said, "that doesn't sound like a good game to me." When I play poker I'm not in it to gamble. I'm not there to take my Aces up against 6 way action, how am I supposed to win money in a game like that? In games where there's too much action and too many players you're liable to have crazy swings. Sure if you can sit in that same wild game everyday you're going to win long term but the same game doesn't come up everyday. It's not '85. I was chattin' w/ my pops the other day and he was telling me how the game back in the day there were the same players everyday. You just sat and learned them, next thing you knew you were getting their paychecks every week.

So what do I think makes a good game?

Here's a list of my ideal game. A game where I'm likely to skip a party to stay in.

1. 1-2 bad players nothing more

2. I must feel that I'm the 3rd or 4th best in the game.

3. Not too wild

4. I need to be able to read the game.

1. 1-2 bad players and nothing more:

If there are too many bad players there's too much action. Sit back and think about it. If you've got Ace/king and the flop is Ace, 8, 6 with 7 way action. If they're bad players you might have someone calling with an 8, a weak ace, a gutshot straight or whatever. It almost becomes where any card can beat you. So, I recommend staying out of games with more than 3 bad players. There's tpp much variance.

2. I must feel that I'm at least the 3rd or 4th best in the game:

Obviously I want to be the best in the game but that doesn't always happen. I need to feel at least in the top half of the game in order to make any money. I've sat in numerous games and tried to figure this out. It just seems to me like if I'm at least in the top half I can make some money because the good players usually stay out of each other's way.

3. Not too wild:

I don't like a wild game with crazy action. I like a game where I can bet though weak players and control the tempo. If I raise w/ a flush draw I want my opponents to fold or just call on the flop so I can check the turn and buy that free card. Naturally i can adapt my game but a wild game puts too much variance in my hourly win rate.

4. I need to be able to read the game:

I need to be able to read the game obviously. This is obviously the most important thing to consider. If I can't read almost everyone at the table I"m out. :)

2 good post ideas

So i've got 2 great topics to blog about but i need some help first. I've worked my ass off on my poker strategy guide for the past 2 at the minnimum 2 hours a day and need links to it. (see post below). Once I get a few I realy want to post about.

1. how to judge if the game is good or not
2. why men are like pocket jacks - since all the women have been after me since i posted "why women are like ace something".


Checkraise poker strategy guide

For the past few months I've been working on a poker strategy website.

It has a wide variety of Texas Holdem poker tips and ranges from beginning thoughts such as Does a flush beat a straight? all the way to some super advanced strategy thoughts on playing Ace King.

Naturally I'll always post in my blog but I'm hoping that my readers will also enjoy my site.

Texas Holdem Online strategies:

Since it's brand new I could really use some links to help promote traffic. Can you guys link up to my new strategy site to help make it popular?


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

When you run bad

Hi guys,

thanks for the comments. I really appreciate the feedback, it would be great to get a few more links to my site.

Anyhow, so here's a few answers. I didn't 3 bet the preflop when I had kings because I wanted to mix it up a little bit. Do I think it's wise to slowplay big hands short handed most of the time? Absolutely not, but mixing things up a little is good.

The guy in seat 5 won that hand with Ace, queen just like I put him on. I've actually been getting a lot of these funny beats lately but hey that's ok.

I read the other day about a player considering quitting playing poker altogether. What does that tell me? Well that tells me he's probably been taking a lot of bad beats or he's not that good. In reality I think the players out there (especially online) are so bad right now that I'm pretty sure (based on this guy's blog writings) that he's just running bad. I've been running a little bad myself lately and every time I do I just sit back, take a day or two off and evaluate my game. I spend one day not thinking about poker at all, I go party and drink or whatever. In reality if I didn't need to play to survive I'd probably take a week off. So that's my advice and thoughts when you run bad.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Easy laydown

Ever lose a pot and still feel good about it?

Yesterday I lost a pretty big pot in $15-30 and still felt pretty good about the way I played. I was in the 6 handed $15-30 game on partypoker and a guy in seat 3 came in with a raise. I cold call with pocket Kings and so does the man behind me.

The flop is Q, 10, 4 rainbow:
Seat 3 bets
I call
Seat 5 raises
Seat 3 calls
I reraise
Seat 5 calls

Turn is a 7:
Seat 3 checks,
I bet
Seat 5 raises
we both call

River is a queen:
Seat 3 bets,
I fold
Seat 5 raises,
Seat 3 calls
Seat 5 wins with Ace/Queen

Even though I lost this hand I feel really good about my laydown on the river, even though the pot was big. I was pretty sure seat 5 didn't have me beat as he's pretty aggressive and would almost surely reraise with pocket tens of pocket queens. He's not so bad as to show queen ten.

Seat 3 was a weak loose cannon type of player. He ended up having queen, jack but I actually gave him credit for Ace queen or King queen. What an awful call on the turn on his part right?

At any rate I lose a big pot...$20 preflop, $30 flop, $40 turn so I lost $90. If that queen hadn't of come (or an ace) I make a bet on the end and win the pot for $330.

That's life I suppose. Back to the daily grind. Any thoughts? Differing opinions.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Easy money

My friend from Google asked if I wanted a job there yesterday and I proudly turned it down. My poker prowess calls and my long term goals are not within the walls of the corporate world.

So I'm back to making money the way I'm supposed to. I made my return to my bread and butter game...the 6 handed $10-20. Quickly beat the game up, some of these guys play so bad. Here's a prime example, one player limps in, I'm one away from the button and send in a raise with King/Queen. Flop is queen high and both check to me and i bet. The turn is another queen and this time the limp in guy bets. I know I've got the best hand and I smooth call to get the blind player to call. He does, and I raise the river and the player calls me down with....a pair of 8s. A pair of eights. How bad can you play?

Sometimes I almost want to type, "Why don't you pigeons just give me a couple hundred each, I'll leave and it'll save us all some time."

Think that'd be ok to say? :)

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Sit and go tournaments

I'm primarily a limit holdem player but lately I've become intrigued with the sit and go tournaments. Don't get me wrong...I've won a few casino tournaments but nothing more than 40 people and I have way less confidence in my tournament game mostly due to relatively less experience in the area.

What do you guys think of the sit and go tourneys? What limits do you like? I've played in the $50, $100, and $200 so far and it seemed like an awful big time commitment for the potential payout. I feel like I can make that hit playing $10-20 or $15-30 in a much easier way and in less time.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Runnin' bad

I've been running pretty bad lately (down $2,000) in the last 2 sessions. One session was a brutal $30-60 game where I just seemed to get outdrawn. The rest was lost in the 6 handed $10-20.

It's times like this that I take a break, hit the gym hard and come back clean. The toughest part of the game for me is the discipline to know I'm doing the right thing.

What do you guy's think of the sit and go tournaments on partypoker? I played in a couple yesterday ($100 and $200 placing 3rd and 4th, respectively). It's a lot of time investment but it seems like decent practice for the final table at tournaments.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Poker draws - Free ride

Yesterday I split a pot with a player and feel great about it.

Amazing right? Splitting a pot is the equivalent of kissing an unattractive girl, it's just ok at best. So, why did I feel great about the hand? I was really happy about the way I played it.

I raised preflop with Ace, nine of hearts intending to steal the blinds in $15-30. They both called and the flop was, 8, 10, jack with 2 hearts. This gave me the open ended straight draw plus the nut flush draw for a total of 15 outs.

As an aside, people often calculate this incorrectly. They think they've got 9 flush draw outs plus the 8 cards for their open ended straight. They fail to recognize that 2 of their 9 flush outs are also used for their straight. Effectively, they're double counting their flush and straight cards outs. The real outs are 15, 9 give the nuts and 6 likely give a tie. But I digress, back to the story.

Both blinds check to me, I bet, the small blind calls, and the big blind raises, I reraise (I'm 50% to win this pot even though I have nothing right now) the small blind calls and the big blind calls.

The turn is a queen giving me the straight. The only hand that can beat me now is King, 9 which I have a hard time putting either of these guys on since they're not that bad. Both players check to me, I bet, the small blind raises and I reraise. He calls. The river is a 2 and it's checked to me and I bet and am called. We both split the pot with Ace, 9.

I was happy with the free flush draw ride I got with the straight. There's no way he can beat me in this hand on turn and I can only improve. In retrospect I think I could've checked the end since it's pretty obvious we had the same hand. I like the 3 bets on the flop because I think it helped me get paid off in future hands. It's funny to me how if you show a little aggression players start paying you off with all sorts of funny hands (mid pair, ace high).

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Poker, Tiger Woods, & the Masters

Anybody see the master's golf tourney today? It was absolutely amazing. Tiger Woods had a 1 stroke lead and the other guy was gaining on him then suddenly Tiger hit an amazing unbelievable shot to go up 2 shots with only 2 holes to go. Then, Tiger blew it. He bogeyed the next 2 holes and allowed his competition to tie him for a deciding playoff round.

Has the equivalent ever happened to you while playing cards? It happens to me on an occassional basis. I make a great move, whether that's an extra raise without the nuts because I know my hand is strong enough or that great lay down with a decent hand. Next thing you know I get my adrenaline rushing and I'm in there sending in too many bets losing a few pots. All of a sudden, the greatness of the play I originally played has been negated by that adrenaline rush and I'm back where I started or even worse, behind.

Naturally, this needs to be removed from my or anyone's game for maximum success. I just was thinking about how beautiful it was that even though he fell behind for a minute, Tiger still pulled out the win with 3 consecutive beautiful shots. This is the attitude I believe is necessary for a poker player to really reach that next level.

Super intense competitiveness, the drive to never give up, and the will to push yourself to greatness. OK, just a few thoughts on a great golf tournament.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Poker - Playing Fast vs. Slow

I've had many requests for my excel tracking spreadsheet which I'll load up onto the site by the end of next week, so please keep checking back. Sorry about not posting more but I wanted to finish strong at Microsoft. Now that I'm no longer working and playing full time I have more time to post. :)


Lately I've been thinking a lot about the bet on the turn and the implications of it when deciding to play your hand fast or slow. In Limit Texas Holdem the turn bet is double the preflop and flop bet. This is really the bet where you shake those pigeons in that small limit loose game (if you can shake them at all :) ) and where the real money comes into play.

Consider the fact that calling one bet on the turn is the same as if you called a preflop bet and a bet on the flop. That's quite a difference. So now you're thinking, "Where the hell is Trav going with this, I already know that?" Well, let's look at how this affects the total amount of bets you can get into a pot.

Scenario 1 - Strong play early:
Preflop: Call
Flop: Bet, get raised and reraise
Turn: Bet and get called
River: Bet and get called

The total amount of big bets in this pot is 4.

Scenario 2 - Check raise on the turn:
Preflop: Call
Flop: Check and call when your opponenet bets.
Turn: Check and raise the turn. Your turn raise gets called.
River: Bet and get called

The total amount of big bets in this pot is 4.

Both of these assume your opponent likes his hand enough to raise and/or lead the betting and call you down. Notice that if you play your hand strongly in the beginning of a hand and if you wait until the turn you get the same amount of big bets into the pot (4 big bets in both scenarios).

However, in scenario 1, you give the strength of your hand away early on (when you push 3 bets on the flop). But because you pushed it early in 1/2 bet increments you may be able to get your opponent to call you down. For example, let's say that your opponent raised preflop and you were in the big blind with a medium pair and flopped a set. In this scenario you may be able to stick your opponent in the pot the whole way if he has an overpair (aces or kings). Many opponents (even good players) have a hard time getting away from a pot that gets pushed on the flop where the bets are in 1/2 bet increments when they have a strong hand.

In scenario 2, the strength of your hand is revealed on the turn. Many opponents, myself included, have a hard time calling a check raise on the turn. A lot of opponents can't check/raise on the turn unless they have a really strong hand. Thus, many of the same players who would've called you down if you had 3 bet on the flop in scenario 1 would fold their overpair if you waited until the turn to check raise. This can also work the other way as well, some opponents feel that the pot is big enough on the turn so they will call the turn and the river.

Naturally, every opponent is different as is each scenario. I was just thinking about the differences between playing my hand fast in a straight approach manner and waiting until the turn. Thoughts?

Monday, April 04, 2005

Sunglasses & Poker

Ok, one more post primarilyfor entertainment value and then I'll get back to serious high stake poker strategy thoughts. :)

So, ever notice how everybody wears sunglasses at the poker table nowadays? I, myself am one of these players and became one when I entered the $8-16 and up limits. As with everything I've developed a strategy guide that you can use as a player to put some analysis into the player who wears sunglasses based on the type of glasses. (Note this is entertainment only and not serious).

Before I go to the strictly for amusement section I will note that any player who's wearing clear sunglasses where you can still see their eyes really has no clue about being a poker player. They don't understand that you're wearing the glasses so you can stare at a guy w/o him being bothered or noticing and simultaneously hide what you're looking at in terms of reactions.

On to the fun:

1. Black Gucci sunglasses: A high maintenance player. If he's a guy, he's got some dough. Likely a pretty boy or young overly aggressive player. You got a shot at the waitresses and dealers.

2. Red clear sunglasses: A player without a sense of style. The red indicates a need to be noticed and simultaneously shows that he/she is not cool. Try not to hangout after the game with this person. No shot at even making friends.

3. Blue clear sunglasses: Same thing as red. I will give light blue sunglasses a break...they're not that bad.

4. Clear sunglasses: A stylish player who cares about image but not much about concealing their hand. Not much shot at picking up the dealers since they know you can't play unless they're new and can't play themselves. Excellent chance of picking up on the waitresses.

5. big Aviators: Cool and functional for cards. Enough said. Good for both groups of girls.

6. Dolce & Gabana: These glasses rock. :) Good for both.

7. Basic plastic black glasses: Definitely functional and all you really need for the game. Not necessarily helping you pick up on the girls though.