Thursday, December 2, 2010

Two weeks since my last confession...

Well, as Paul Quinn pointed out to me in the Fitz the other night, it's been over two weeks since my last confession so I'm due.

The sullen silence on the blogging front can mainly be put down to "you only blog when you're winning" syndrome I guess. For most of that time I've been struggling with the rare (for me online this year) experience of running really bad. After a couple of decent wins two weekends ago after the Cavan Open, I went into a 10K or so downswing. To be fair it was bound to happen at some stage the way I've been running this year, but knowing that doesn't make it any more pleasant when it does. This is one of the few jobs where you can work really hard, do everything right, and still have considerably less money at the end of the week than if you'd stayed in bed watching daytime soaps and reality rubbish.

Downswings are an inevitable part of the game though, and everyone has their own way of dealing with them whether it's an enforced break, a peeved rant or sullen silence. I just try to get on with it, keep doing what I normally do, focus on the process and each individual decision rather than the result. Downswings are much better learning experiences than upswings too: when you're running well it's just all too easy to just chug along not questioning what you're doing or looking for leaks. My situation is slightly different from the young Internet bucks doing this in that I'm surrounded by loved ones who depend on me. The last thing they need is me taking out my frustrations at repeated runner runnerings on them, or even to be told that Daddy/hubby dropped 5 figures online in the last few days. So yeah, downswings
(a) are inevitable
(b) must be dealt with as professionally as possible. There's no difference between less money lost in a downswing and more money won in an upswing at the end of the year
(c) make for a pretty dull conversation topic so the rest of this blog is going to focus on something else

My default approach to not just downswings but poker in general tends towards the sullen silence end of the spectrum. There's a couple of reasons for this: my basic attitude to the game is to take it on a decision by decision basis and I find it easier to do this if I'm not distracted. I also think total silence makes for a more intimidating table presence that suits my game better: it seems to discourage people from playing back or trying anything too fruity that complicates your life with trickier high variance decisions. However, I thrive at tables where for some reason most of the table are tilted and therefore doing all sorts of wacky stuff. My favourite kind of table is one where there's a Mark Dalimore/Dave Masters/Keith McFadden type acting as agent provocateur and I can sit back, maintain my discipline and react to how far people are diverging from optimal play because they're on monkey tilt. This begs the question should I not try to perform this function myself? Keith suggested to me once that I should use speechplay more as an information gathering tool (something he's a master of).

The reason for this ramble is the most interesting hand I played live in the last few weeks pivoted on speechplay, and I also used it successfully online in the last tourney I won two weekends ago before my downswing.

The hand was from the Cavan Open. After cruising through most of day 1 and getting up to 60K, I undid most of the good work with an ill timed moved that cost me half my stack. After raising pre with 55 and getting one call behind and two in the blinds, the flop came down 678r. Checked to the caller behind who fired in 5500 (pot was 5K). After the two blinds folded, I have a choice between folding (which I'd normally do) or shoving. The shove looked appealing for a number of reasons: I know I don't have the best hand but since he only had 20K behind I'm basically shoving 25K to win 10500 if he folds, and should have 8-10 outs even if called. So I think I have 32-40% equity in a 55k pot if called, worth 16-22K, so he doesn't need to fold very often for shoving 25K to win 10500 to be plus Ev. I also thought there was a decent chance he would fold as he could be protecting a fairly marginal one pair hand (all the ace rags were in his range). Also, after spewing most of his stack by playing too loose in the early going, he'd buckled down, tightened up and had just doubled up previous hand when he won a race. So psychologically I thought there was a better chance he'd fold rather than risk his entire tournament with A8/A7 or whatever. The fact that he took a little while to call rather than snapping (he had top set) suggests the read was right but the timing was wrong. None of my 8 outs materialised and I was left to rue the fact that while I rarely make these big moves live for a lot of my stack, on the few occasions I do they almost never seem to work out, which of course discourages me from making them more often.

Anyway, that's not the hand I wanted to talk about, it's just taking me a while to get there in my usual perambulatory fashion. The next day, I got back up to 60K in the early going, then bobbed up and down between 40 and 60k for a few hours of card death when the hand arose. Folded to me in the cutoff with blinds 800/1600/100, I opened for my standard smallball raise of 3300. A very good solid young player playing about 30K tanked for a while on the button and eventually called. An older guy then shoved in from the SB for 35K, and it's back to me. Here's what I was thinking:
(1) This is a marginal one. AK is a no brain reship, and AJ generally gets folded here without too much thought.
(2) With AQ I'm not even ahead of the button's range (he was very tight solid) and I'm only ahead of the shover if he's essentially bluffing. And even then we're probably talking 58/42 ahead rather than 70/30.
(3) The hand I'm mainly worried about is AK. I don't think the flatter ever has AK but the shover may have.
(4) Folding is the safe option but with the tournament speeding up I couldn't keep raise folding for very long or dodging races. AQ is near the top of my range so if I always fold it to a shove I'm very exploitable (it would be profitable for any 20 BB stack to shove any two every time I raise).
(5) Reshoving is ok if I have 45% equity against the shover's range and the flatter folds.

I pondered the numbers in (4) for a while and eventually did reshove. I thought the flatter's most likely holding was a medium pair he wouldn't feel happy committing with in a three way pot for all his chips, and I thought there was a good to decent chance the shover was on a move. For one thing I try not to make the mistake Mick McCluskey is always telling me the young guns make against him (assuming anyone over the age of 30 can't recognise a good spot to squeeze). The guy seemed sufficiently clued in to be capable of turning up with ace rag or KQ here. What really tipped it though was some speechplay from the last hand we'd played. I'd raised from the hijack, he defended his BB, and after check folding the flop he remarked "you like to play small pots, don't you?". My response was "Yeah, the big ones are too risky". I took two things from this. My opponent was an aware thinking player who had correctly categorised me as a small ball player by preference. And my response made it a lot more likely he was going to look to exploit my apparent reluctance to commit a lot of chips without a very big hand.

He had JTo, I held, and from there I motored up to 200K, near enough to chipleader. I then lost a bunch of races/coolers which I'll spare you the long dull description. Great tournament though and Mick McGuane deserves a lot of credit for the games he runs and his new club (the Side Pot in Cavan town).

My second tale of speechplay comes from the online tourney I won the next day just before my downswing started. It was on Bodog, where I generally do the night shift as that's when they have their bigger buyin games and you have the sports bettors chasing losses. A lot of poker players think they're better at sports betting than they are, and the reverse is certainly true. When the final table formed, it was the usual mix of regulars (pros) who also grind those games and that particular night's few lucky randomers running like God. I had a medium stack for most of it that was tricky to play as if I busted before the clinging short stackers or the randomers just waiting to blow up I lost a fair bit of equity, but if I sat too tight I'd surrender most of my chance of winning. By the time we got 4 handed the situation was clearer, I had a reshipping stack (20 big blinds), and was the shortest of the four stacks so this was no longer a time for sitting back. I pick up 33 in the BB, it's folded to the SB who is the one remaining randomer, he makes a donkish looking raise to 4 BBs, and in my mind this is a totally standard shove now. My hand is to strong to fold headsup, and calling is unpalatable. Most of the time I'll be looking at three overcards on the flop while deciding whether to call for the rest of my chips. Anyway, I shoved, and he used almost his full timebank before calling with KQs. Amusingly enough, the flop came 33x. Cue the chatbox monkey tilt.

"You ***** piece of ***** ****. How could you **** shove **** threes? Not like I've been **** raising your **** blind every **** time".

I normally pay no heed to the chatbox. I used to see it just as a good way to quickly spot the fish (they're the ones talking about outs and pot odds in the chatbox and complaining about beats and donks) But these days I can spot them a lot more quickly just from their general play, and anyway, when you're playing 8 or more tables, who has time to even read the chatbox? However, this was my last tourney of the night so I was paying attention, and decided to experiment a bit.

"I was ahead. Bad call by you imo"

After a bit of toing and froing over the merits of the call (obviously it's standard: I was on the windup here), he seemed to think he might actually be in the wrong so he changed tack.

"Keep those min raises coming out of position, donk"

This one surprised me. The min raise open is more or less my trademark but out of position? It turned out he thought an utg raise raise 4 handed was "out of position". He tried to argue that out of position meant first to act preflop. Eventually he appealed for support to the other reg (we were three handed by now).

"Under the gun is out of position, right Alienface?".

The reg maintained a stony silence but he kept pressing and eventually got a response.

"Under the gun is under the gun".

By now, the tilt monkey had tilt spewed most of his stack off and after I put him out of our misery, he hung around to verbally support the other guy in the chatbox. Which somehow made the win all the sweeter.

Then I ran bad for 10 days. Evidence for poker karma?

Anyway, I'm finishing this blog up in my hotel room Galway. The start of the IPC/UKIPT has been postponed until tomorrow but there's a 10K freeroll to look forward to in a couple of hours. Now that I've made my confession, I expect the run good to start again. Plan for December (aside from winning this) is to concentrate on online. I was originally intending on hitting Normandy for the next FPS and Prague for the EPT but now I'm looking at either Deauville EPT or PCA as my next major live outing.


Nike blog mate and excellent analysis of speechplay and the game in general. A big leak in my game is that i dont have a poker circle so i dont get into anyone's head except my own. That is why i watch a lot of poker and read a lot of blogs to help with that. Your insight and grasp of the higher concepts is refreshing and as a similar aged player i like your style. Heading off to Casino to play Event 3 APPT Sydney Six handed Semi shoot out :) later

Nice blog post. I have only started using speech play in my live game and I am mostly needling players when I'm doing it!! Would you be able to add my blog to your blog list. I have already added yours to mine. Here's the link. Tnx

Thanks James, hope you had some luck at the APPT.

Cheers Goat, added your blog


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