Archive Mar 2008: Possibly too level-headed

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Like sand through the hourglass, these are the 60 Minutes of our lives

Poker content here

The lack of entries in the blog this week is largely because, for the first time all year, I'm playing a ton, including a very belated attempt at learning to 8 table MTT's. It's been a mixed bag - I think I'm still running bad when it comes to important pots - but although I don't have much to show for it, I've gone deep a few times and have a bunch of lost late flips for chipleads to point to, in addition to improved hand reading over more tables. I also have hands worth posting on 2+2 for the first time in a very long time; usually, I put in little enough volume that I very rarely have a hand with more than 1 tough choice in it, but lately, there've been some fun ones.

Actual important stuff here

But hey, none of you guys care. The major thing: 60 Minutes looks like it's happening, pending one or two snags that will likely work themselves out in a day or two (can't really talk about it, but there's nothing unsolvable). With Gary Wise (who originally wrote an unreleased article that started the whole thing) on board as a consultant and an executive producer that understands poker, this is gonna be our best chance to put a positive face on this profession that doesn't involve the usual bedraggled suspects. I have to admit I'm not sure how I got to be one of the impromptu industry spokespeople given the fact that, well, nobody's paying me and I'm not exactly the olivert of poker pros, but given most of the other options have already had gigantic picture-filled threads over on Neverwin's (To my upcoming 60 Minutes audience: Trust me, you don't want to know), I guess I'll take it.

Sooner or later, assuming this piece isn't terrible for poker (if it is, please don't kill me) I'm gonna have to sit down and look at where to go with this from there. We still have a legalization effort to sustain in Congress in '09 (hint: vote "not McCain")(To roughly half of my 60 Minutes audience: Sorry, I'm typically better than that, it's simply that he's anti-gambling)(To the other half: I did vote for Obama in the primary, though!), and at some point, I'm going to have to figure out whether the PPA, which has managed to ignore this entire affair in truly impressive fashion, is worth bothering with. Full disclosure: A few months back, I asked them to hire me and/or somebody else as a PR guy because I hated everything about how they were handling things. Further full disclosure: I wasn't really serious, and/but/because I still hate it. Way to drum up all that extra Ron Paul support, folks! Argh...the poker community badly, *badly* needs a voice that doesn't suck, and to get back to the actual point I was trying to make, if you're wondering why I feel the need to be on 60 Minutes admitting that a site was actually rigged, blame the fact that we've got nobody speaking for us.

Hint to certain quarters: This would be a *really good* time to start.

Running bad, playing better

I've finally returned to playing a full (for me - bond and shaundeeb leave me in the dust four times over) schedule; it feels good, even if I don't have much to show for it so far. Last night, I only played 3 tourneys (so much for a full schedule, right?), but took 19'th in the UB 200K after a big blind vs. blind hand went bad late; last week, it was a 10'th place in an FTP 65K in another ugly blind vs. blind spot I couldn't get away from. If either of those goes anywhere, I have a really nice month, but that plus a whole lotta overpairs getting cracked = poker. A successful tourney graph basically looks like an insane artist's rendition of an inverted Egyptian pyramid, so this isn't anything out of the ordinary...besides, judging from the news this week, anything I win is quite likely to be worthless after the apocalypse forces us all to scrounge for gas while fighting off Australian biker gangs near the world's last remaining fuel refinery. It'd certainly be nice to win something to not quite make up for what my bankroll used to be worth in USD from last month, though!

On the other hand, no matter what happens, I'm pretty sure I'm never losing 800 million dollars in six months, sooooo...

PS: No word on 60 Minutes so far - I'll update when I know it is/isn't happening.

60 Minutes

I wasn't going to post about this until after the taping and/or when we had an air time, but since the story apparently already broke, Nat's blog pretty much covers it: we're likely (assuming they don't kill the story now!) going to be on 60 Minutes in a few weeks.

Some of you might think this is bad for online poker. I disagree. In the short term, yes, this could be a little ugly (although if the scandal itself and having people chat about it on every single table didn't drive down those AP numbers, this story, released to an audience that largely has no interest in playing poker in the first place, certainly isn't going to.) In the long run, however, stories like this, packaged properly and with an undertone of "regulation would be great for the industry", have the potential to keep the game vibrant. I, personally, do not want games full of half-baked innuendo about rigged RNG's, site owners with backdoors in the software, and the overall shadiness that comes from a marketplace that, by necessity, operates in a gray legal area; I want them full of people that, whether they win or lose, do not doubt that the operator is standing behind the integrity of the deck of cards, something that, except in one case :P, I can't physically prove at this point. Does the tennis match fixing scandal reflect badly on the integrity of Betfair? No - because it's a fully licensed European site with a reputation to uphold, stories like the one I linked have largely exculpated it from any blame and, in fact, shielded it. Compare this to the stories that have been printed about online poker and you will understand why I think we need regulation ASAP.

Do I guarantee the 60 Minutes piece will be fair? No, but I'll do my best to make it that way, and for what it's worth, everyone that I've talked to clearly understands the game. That's as much as I can ask for, and given where we are in Congress and where we will be following this election year, the need for good stories outweighs the risk of bad ones.

3 betting early on or the lack thereof

In the last few days, I've returned to playing more or less full time (and running terrible - I think I'm ~25% with overpairs since Sunday - but that's generally how Murphy's Law works). Aside from the runbad, life has been pretty good; whenever I'm not distracted by video games, movies, books or some other shiny thing that comes along, I've been occupied by some business idea or other, and a lot of these seem like they're going to pay off within the next year to two years. Of course, given my attention span, there are far too many shiny things in the world to keep that going for long, but hey, I try.

So, right, hey look a bike...umm...yeah, this blog. I feel like I've been writing a lot of shorter entries instead of a few big ones. There's a reason for that; when I started this project, I had half-coherent plans to use some of the strategy entries in a future book or article series. Most of that didn't go anywhere (at least for now), and instead, I've started using this page as a simple way to broadcast my results, thoughts about poker in general, the AP scandal, and other poker-related stuff that came to mind. Given that there'll be way more of that type of thing coming in the near future, I think I'm probably better off with this format than an exclusively poker strat-oriented blog, but I do occasionally wish I had a Bond18-type ability to sit down and write 3 pages on playing AK whenever I felt like it. (In fact, I've done that before - it just isn't something I could repeat for 18 entries and counting. Major props to Tony for making that work for him.) For that matter, I wish I had a Bond18-type ability to sit down and play poker, but then again, if I had that, I'd probably have the ability to sit down and work for a living/never have discovered it in the first place. It all evens out.

At any rate, today, I'm gonna take a page from Bond and write about something that's been a big deal in HSMTT the last couple of days - 3 betting light early in tourneys. If you've read my posts there, you'll know I could honestly go through a thousand tournaments without ever 3 betting a known decent player with anything but JJ+/AK, or, for that matter, without ever 3 betting period, before the antes kick in. Frankly, even vs. tourney regulars who put in a few hundred hands with you per week (or month if you're me), I don't think metagame matters nearly as much as the strength of your hand, simply because most regulars aren't opening that light from EP/MP and tend to play ABC postflop (which gets you in trouble if you're bluffing because getting an ABC player off a real hand is gonna involve putting in a huge chunk of your stack.) Once the antes kick in, it's a different story, but prior to that, the tighter opening ranges should dictate tighter 3 bets, not looser ones, and certainly not cash game-style ranges. The exception to the rule is if you (think you) play way better than everyone else, but everyone I know who plays LAG in the early stages of a tournament tends to spew off stacks on a regular basis.

This is not the case in live tourneys (where your reads are way better and you can pretty much do anything you want against the worse fields), and it's not the case in 6 max tourneys where, much like short handed cash games, you'll just get slaughtered if you give your blinds away. Early in deep stack, full ring tournaments, however, 3 betting light seems to cause more problems than it solves, especially out of position and especially vs. competent, regular players that will adjust to your perceived loose range after they see it once or twice. (Quite simply, you won't get enough big hands against them in particular to make their lighter calldowns a net plus for you, especially if their perception of you persists when the antes kick in and they call your shortstack shoves light, too.)

This brings up the question "how do I get paid off on my big hands if they know what I have when I 3 bet?" One way is simply not to 3 bet early on in HU pots vs. regulars - they aren't going to happen that often, and deception in those pots, where you can have any pair, suited connectors, AQ, etc., has a lot of value. Another is to take unorthodox lines; checking instead of cbetting some flops after you 3 bet (although this has its own problems, such as the ones in the HSMTT thread), calling preflop and then c/c, bet, bet, or just outright betting into the PFR, and the good old PF call/flop checkraise (as long as you do it with a wider range than exactly an overpair) all have merit and will all win you plenty of chips with your big hands.

Bottom line: At the end of the day, like I say in my Cardrunners vids, the important thing is that you somehow get there, and in full ring games, getting there vs. people who don't suck and have tighter opening ranges than they would in cash games isn't that simple. For that reason, I prefer to simply play a TAG game (granted, with lots of little tricks to maximize the chips I get from my monsters) until the ante rounds; it's probably not optimal, but it's also the game that gets you the closest to it with the least amount of detailed reads on your opponents, something that's a big deal in tourneys where you'll never have [insert tourney regular] on your immediate [right/left] in [insert blind level] again for a few months. It also prevents unnecessary spew, a big deal for a lot of people these days.

Of course, poker is cyclical, so a lot of the tendencies described herein and in HSMTT will be totally different a year from now. Nevertheless, unless you're literally one of the top 10 players in a given tournament, you'd probably be okay 3 betting 0% of your hands until 100/200/25.

This is what a bad tournament day looks like

Sunday:

109r: I didn't have time to rebuy on the first hand, so when I picked up aces, I naturally shoved (I love shoving monsters on the first hand of a rebuy), got called and lost. Later, 2 big suckouts (I admit it!) gave me a top 10 stack with 100 to go...then JJ ran into A9 for half of it. That guy later went on to slowroll someone else with kings and become chip leader. I had JJ run into KK on the exact money bubble with a 1.5x stack in the BB (who folds obv) so I got to be the bubble boy.

240 bounty: QQ ran into AA, sucked out once to get a decent stack again, lost something else, busto. I won a bounty, though!

Bodog 100K: Built up a (very) big stack, took TT vs. 88/AT for the CL with 100 left, and lost half of it. Shoved an 8x stack with 55, got called by A5 for a bunch of it, lost that. Eventually busto 70th (63 paid).

Stars Mil: Built up 35K stack on the best table ever, then lost most of it in 3 consec hands. Not done yet, I built back up to 30K when I shoved over a guy who liked making 4x raises and then folding with AJ for 15x on the bubble. This time, he turbocalled with 53 sooted. Board A2xx4. The good news is, by this point, it was getting so routine that I pretty much shrugged it off.

FTP: Built up a decent stack until running JJ into a bigger pair on a 7 high board that I did actually fold on. That helped get me shortstacked, at which point I shoved 10x with tens. QQ overcalls, and, in turn, is picked off by kings.

This leaves...

200K: Sucked out once (I admit it) to get an 11K stack @ 150/300, pretty big in that tournament. Shoved KT in the SB into SirWatts' 10xBB big blind, he tanked and called with K8; it was good (the call's fine, but it's the principle). With 8K left, I raised QJs in MP and Q4o called in the SB for 1/4 of his chips; the flop was 643 with my FD, he bet/called and won. AK chopped with AQ in here somewhere, too. Eventually, I lost a flip, was at 5 BB during 300/600, (re)stole 80 billion blinds to make the money in decent shape, promptly ran A4 on the button into the 5xBB's A7 to lose a bunch of that, then pushbot the resulting 7-8 bet stack into tens to finish 81'st (extra bonus because 80'th got paid more, obv.)

So yeah, that's what a very bad session looks like. I think I've had about 3 days this bad in the last 3 years. Kinda goes to show poker isn't for people who like breaking things, though.

The good news: some very cool stuff that I can't talk about yet is happening very soon. Keep an eye on this blog closer to the end of the month.

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