Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Circuit Shorted

CardPlayer's 'The Circuit'I just heard a couple of days ago that CardPlayer’s The Circuit is no more. As we know it, anyhow. Host Scott Huff recently announced his decision to leave the show. Co-host Gavin Smith and Joe Sebok have also separately shared their intentions not to continue with the popular podcast.

Unclear at present whether CardPlayer intends to continue a similar show with different hosts, try something different, or perhaps abandon podcasting altogether. Seems likely they’ll keep some version of the show around. Call me cynical, but when I consider the magazine’s propensity toward filling its pages (and covers) with paid advertising, I wouldn’t be too surprised if the show became the new venue for “Full Tilt Poker’s Tips from the Pros” or the like.

One hopes otherwise. Whatever The Circuit does become, I do hope CardPlayer gives some energy to trying to fill the void left by Huff. Besides being an able traffic controller of sometimes frenzied discussions between ego-driven pro players, Huff was a smart, witty host who always ensured the show would speak to the interests of non-professionals. Nearly every episode, Huff would redirect discussions toward the interests of that group he referred to as “most of our listeners” -- namely, short-stacked types like myself. As much I liked Smith and Sebok, I have to agree with what Smith himself says on his “MySpace” page -- Huff “was the glue that held [the show] together.”

Perhaps CardPlayer will find someone else with Huff’s talent and perspective to take over the mic. Of course -- as I posted over on the CardPlayer forums -- the next hosts surely face a post-Shana Hiatt-level of difficulty to produce something half as good. (Click here to read the thread. Scroll down to the third page and you’ll see forum moderator Shronk’s hilarious rejoinder to my comment.)

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

AIPS Event No. 9 -- H.O.R.S.E.

HorseplayThe Ante-Up Intercontinental Poker Series event no. 9, the H.O.R.S.E. event, took place yesterday afternoon. Only 36 signed up to play, meaning the top five spots paid.

Not only does Full Tilt Poker feature those silly avatars, but one can change the “mood” of the avatar as well. I figured a H.O.R.S.E. tournament -- where changing games really does tend to affect one’s mood -- would be a good place to employ this here option, and so early in the tourney I announced to the table my strategy. During Hold ’em, I would play “Happy.” During Omaha High/Low, “Normal.” During Razz, “Angry.” And during Stud & Stud High/Low, “Confused.”

Talk about horseplay. Not much of a “strategy,” I know . . . except maybe for soliciting a few grins around the table. These AIPS events have been a lot of fun for that very reason -- while we’re all certainly doing all we can take our opponents' chips, everyone is also supportive of one another along the way. Really makes for a fun time, win or lose. In the end, my mood-changing chicken was able to limp his way to a modest 15th place finish. (Or her way . . . there was some discussion at the table, actually, concerning the sex of that there animated bird.)

Never really accumulated any chips to speak of. But I was able to keep ahead of the blinds and antes for a good while, anyhow. There were a couple of key hands for me that ultimately decided my fate. One occurred when I was up around 1,800 chips in level 7 (Omaha High/Low). The blinds were 120/240, and I had been dealt 4dAc8sAd in the small blind. A player in middle position raised and it folded around to me. I decided to reraise it in order to push out the big blind. The BB indeed folded and the original raiser just called. The flop came 5d7d3c. This was a nice flop for me, giving me the nut-flush draw as well as a playable low. I bet and my opponent just called. Then came a turn card I really didn’t want to see, the 4c. If my opponent held A-2, he’d made the wheel here. (Bill Boston says in a full-ring Omaha game, at least one player is dealt A-2 about 50% of the time; the preflop raise made it even more likely in this spot, of course.) I was down to 835 chips, so a bet of 240 here meant I was probably playing this one to the end. I checked and he bet. I decided that since I was very likely chasing only half the pot if I called, I had to let it go.

Soon we had reached level 8 -- Razz -- where the stakes had risen to 150/300 (with a 25 chip ante) and I was down to a measly 715 chips. I stole a couple of pots, but as we neared the level's end I was still the table's short stack with 965. Finally I picked up a nice Razz hand, 5c6sAh. Interestingly, two other players also had aces for their door cards, including Columbo (author of the Poker Wannabe blog & those terrific "One-Minute Mysteries" now featured on Ante Up!) who sat on my right. The first player completed to 150, Columbo called, and I also just called.

The way things turned out, I can see now that I probably should have raised it up here. I should have noticed that all three of us were severely short-stacked going into the hand -- the first player had only 1,134, and Columbo only 1,533. Chances were pretty good I had the best ace here prior to fourth street -- in fact, looking at the hand history later, I see that I did -- and I might well have gotten one of the others to fold his hand had I raised it. But I didn’t.

Then came fourth street, where the first player picked up a 3, Columbo a 9, and I drew the last ace in the deck, pairing my board. The first player bet out, Columbo called, and I instinctively gave up the hand, typing “case friggin’ ace” as I did.

I’ve now second-guessed my decision to abandon the hand, but at the time I felt I simply couldn’t go on with a pair on board like that. Another brick on fifth and there would be no hope for me. Someone who knows how to play Razz could instruct me here whether I was right to take my 790 chips and hope to pick up a playable hand sometime down the road. Razz was nearly done, and the antes for the next level (Stud) were only 30, so I did have some time. Still, I’m pretty sure I screwed this hand up -- perhaps by giving up on 4th, but certainly by failing to raise on 3rd street.

As it turned out, the first player had bricked as well -- he had a 3 in the hole and so had also made a pair on 4th street. Meanwhile, Columbo hardly had much at that juncture -- J-8-A-9! To his credit, Columbo hung in, and ended up knocking out the first player with a nine-low. After winning another Razz hand or two, Columbo rode his rush all the way to the final table . . . and to victory! Don’t know if he considered this particular hand as an important one for him along the way, but it definitely helped position him (and not me) for future success in the tournament.

[EDIT (added 10/31/06): In an email exchange with Scott Long, co-host of Ante Up!, Scott reminded me that Full Tilt reorders the down cards at showdown in Razz. That means I can't know precisely what my opponents had in the hole by looking at the hand histories. In this hand, the first player's down cards were ultimately 7c3h2c, so he had at least a seven-low on third street, and in fact may not have bricked on fourth -- if he had 7-2 in the hole. Meanwhile, Columbo's down cards were Js8c7d. That means Columbo probably didn't pick up that jack until seventh street, and almost certainly held 8-7-A on third. All of which tells me that a raise on third by me wouldn't have driven out either player.]

The way I played both of these hands probably proves that I made a good choice when picking a chicken as my avatar. Columbo also uses a chicken as his avatar, but for him the choice appears ironic. Not much that's timid in his tourney play, I'd venture to say.

I probably won’t play the final AIPS event no. 10 -- the deep-stacked No Limit Hold ’em event. The buy-in -- $20+$2 -- is a little steep for me. And while I enjoy NLH tourneys, they ain’t exactly where I feel most confident. I do have a whole week to change my mind, though. As we know, over on Full Tilt us chickens are able to change how we feel with a simple click of the mouse.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

AIPS Event No. 8 -- Limit Hold ’em

Fear the ChickenPlayed in my third Ante-Up Intercontinental Poker Series event last night -- event no. 8, Limit Hold ’em. As I mentioned before, I finished 23rd of 51 in event no. 5 (6-handed No Limit Hold ’em) and managed to make it all of the way to 3rd of 55 in event no. 7 (Pot Limit Omaha High/Low). There were 71 entrants in last night’s tourney, so the top eight places paid. At nine p.m. I hopped onto Full Tilt Poker as my alter-alter-ego, "babaghanoush" the angry chicken, all fired up to check-raise & value-bet my animated feathers off.

Had a slow start, winning a couple of small pots early but finding few spots to enter hands for most of the first hour. By level 3 I had slipped to 1,045 chips (from the 1,500 chip starting stack). By level 6 I had fallen all of the way down to 755, with only a few of the 58 players left having less. Finally, I managed to flop two pair from the SB and it held up. At the first break I had 1,510 chips, placing me 28th out of the 55 remaining players. Still okay, I figured. Anything could happen.

Picking up pocket rockets the second hand back from the break seemed like a good sign, but everyone folded to my early position preflop raise. I endured a few more rounds of bad cards and bad flops, and found myself in level 8 with only 1,225 chips (31st of 37). One round later I had spent three big blinds (worth 150 each), and I was clinging to dear life with a miserable 775 chips. A level change made the blinds 100/200 (with stakes 200/400), so when I was dealt AdTc in middle position, I knew it was do or die. Ended up all-in before the flop against AcQc, and fortunately spiked the 10 on the river to survive. Three hands later I won a medium-sized pot with big slick, and was back in the comfort zone (relatively speaking) with 2,700.

Then, just before the second break, I found myself back down to 2,150 and on the button with 3d3s. It folded around to the cutoff who raised it to 800. Well below the average stack size, I decided to reraise it up. The blinds folded, and my opponent capped it. I’m already committed by this point, and call. There’s 3,800 in the pot. I’ve got 550 left in my stack. And the flop comes a wonderful 3c4h9d. The cutoff bets 400, I put it all in, we flip our cards, and I see he’s all but drawing dead with big slick. An ace on the turn gives him top pair, but actually guarantees me the 4,900 chip pot.

I take one more decent pot before the second break. After two hours of play, I’m up to 7,300 chips (10th of 13). The average stack is 8,192, and the leader has 13,220. Frankly I’m starting to think more here about limping my way into cashing than winning the tourney. I bided my time a bit, then had a nice bit of luck with AA vs. AK (and the case ace flopped). I had 10,800 chips (4th out of 12 left).

Despite my intentions to play it safe, I somehow experienced a nasty three-hand stretch where I lost 1,800 (with AK), 600 (in the BB), and then 3,000 (in the SB after flopping a flush draw and straight draw, then chasing to the river where neither hit). Suddenly I’d blown exactly half of my stack -- down to 5,400 -- and was in danger of bubbling. In a bit of a panic, I brutally played a hand where I was dealt a suited ace and ended up trying to bully the chip leader (who had nearly 20,000 chips). After failing to connect with the board at all, I had to lay down the hand and now sat with a measly 2,000 chips. There were 10 players left, and I was in 10th.

The next hand I’m dealt KcTd and preraise to 1,600. I get one caller. The flop comes 2h3dJh and I have to put my last 400 in the pot. My opponent waited about ten seconds, telling me he probably hadn’t hit that flop but still could very well have me beat. Finally he called, and showed his 8cQd. I’m ahead, but in danger. The turn was the Ah, which took away three of his outs (any queen now gives me a straight). The river was a heart-stopping 9s (close!). "Fortunately," as Foghorn Leghorn likes to say, "I always carry a spare set of feathers." I was still alive with 4,400 chips.

One hand later we were down to nine -- the final table! There were a couple of super-short stacks, and I decided I was essentially done until one of them bowed out. Didn't take long. On the second hand of the final table, the shortest stack was eliminated and I had made the money. I ended up folding about a dozen more hands before finally picking up an ace and bowing out myself in eighth place.

AIPS Event No. 8, Final ResultsPretty cool to cash -- a modest $10.65 (minus the $5.50 entry fee), plus some more AIPS P.O.Y. points. Had some serious luck along the way, though . . . much more so, really, than seemed needed in the Pot Limit Omaha High/Low tourney. You’d think I’d have felt more comfortable playing my usual game, but that was rarely the case last night.

Am planning right now to try the H.O.R.S.E. event no. 9 tomorrow at noon. My skills in the five games deteriorate precisely in the order they are played, with Hold ’em being my best game and Stud Eight-or-better my worst. (Of course, that statement probably describes most of the field.) So we’ll see. Again, big thanks to the Ante Up! guys for coming up with the AIPS idea. As I said last week over on their blog, this tournament series has been a real nice bright spot here amid the otherwise gray skies of online pokery.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Twenty Wild Hands

Kamikaze Keith flies in to another pot . . . Had a nice, sedate session of Omaha High/Low yesterday. Fifty-odd hands’ worth. Only took an hour (lol). Am playing the limit variety -- for only $0.25/$0.50 -- sort of feeling my way. For all of the flaws in Bill Boston’s book (enumerated mercilessly in my review), his main thesis is inarguable. Show some prudence in your starting hand requirements, as well as in your decisions whether or not to proceed beyond the flop, and you just about can’t help but do okay.

Before that, though, I did stop in on my regular 6-max limit Hold ’em game ($0.50/$1.00) over on Absolute Poker. Talk about night and day. Only spent 15 minutes there, playing 20 wild hands. Had to sit at the Omaha tables for an hour afterwards just to get the heart rate back down in the normal range . . . .

In truth, I’m trying to be cautious with my moneys as I’ve only a limited stack on Absolute. I wrote before about how Poker Source Online deposited $50.00 for me over there, and I’m hoping not to have to add to that. While I’ve been doing fine overall (also pluggin' away still on both PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker), on that particular site I’ve found myself up nearly $30 and down as much as $25. Such is the variance one should expect, of course. (I’ve played 460 hands there, all told.) Theoretically speaking, $50 is hardly the correct bankroll to be playing at such a limit. (Simon had an interesting post on his blog recently about “standard deviation” & bankroll matters, if yr innersted.) Currently I’m up about $15 on Absolute. We’ll see how that lasts . . . .

Probably not damn long if I have a few more sessions like the one I played yesterday.

Before posting the big blind, I noticed the player to my left, KamikazeKeith, had just won a fairly large pot having only made top pair with K6-offsuit. I’d also seen him preraise the previous three hands in a row, and so had already developed a certain prejudice about his play before I’d even been dealt a hand.

In Hand No. 1, I was dealt a pair of eights. It folded around to KamikazeKeith in the SB and he raised. I decided to duke it out, and so reraised. He three-betted, and I capped it. The flop came Jd5dJh and he bet out. Having decided he’d missed the flop with ace-rag or king-rag, I raised him again. Again he three-betted, and again I capped. The turn was the 4c and damn if he isn't betting again. Going with my initial read, I reraised, and when he again three-betted me I finally slowed down and just called. The river was the Ac. He bet, I called, and he showed JcTd for trips.

Boom -- first hand and I’m down 7.5 big bets. About as much as one can lose in a hand of limit, practically speaking. But when I witnessed KamikazeKeith again preraise three out of the next four hands, I knew if I was patient I might well get it back.

I’ve written before about these “Moose Malloy”-type players. Moose Malloy is a hulking brute who plays a prominent role in Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely. Chandler’s hero-narrator, Philip Marlowe, describes Malloy as looking “about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food.” That was KamikazeKeith, all right. Couldn't miss him. Played every single pot, usually hyperaggressively. And usually lost.

On Hand No. 6, I called his preraise w/KT-offsuit, then after pushing back and forth with him through a board of Ac5dAd8d5s, ended up winning the hand versus his 49-offsuit. I was back to less than $2 down. Two hands later I won a ridiculously-large pot ($21.50 total; $11.50 net) against him with 8hKh versus his pair of fours when the board came 7dKd5h6d4s. I’d played eight hands and was up $8.75. Three hands later I got AJ-offsuit and was up against KamikazeKeith yet again. By the showdown, my trip aces had obliterated his pair of tens. Eleven hands played, and I’m up $13.30.

I should probably leave now, I think. Naw . . . . Of course, the very next hand I lose a big one to him when he turns a flush (after preraising again, this time with 95-suited). Two more crazy beats and I was suddenly back down below my starting stack -- 18 hands played, down $0.70.

On Hand No. 19, I was dealt 3hKh in the small blind. Again KamikazeKeith preraised from the button, and this time three of us called him. The flop came QhTs5h, giving me the second-nut flush draw. It checked around to KamikazeKeith who bet (because that's what he does). I called, then one of the mid-position guys check-raised. This subterfuge helped cause the betting to be capped on this round -- with all four of us still in the hand. The pot was now $12.00.

The turn was a pretty Jh, giving me my flush. I bet out, and more wildness ensued. We capped it again, with three of us still in (including, of course, our friend KamikazeKeith). The pot was up to $25.00. The river was the 6c. I bet, the remaining middle position player surprisingly folded, and KamikazeKeith called me with Ah3c. Hey, Ace-high might still have been good . . . . I end up with a $26.50 pot (giving back $0.50 for the rake), netting $18.50 on the hand.

Twenty wild hands (Click to enlarge)I folded the next one, then ran screaming from the table, having scooped $17.80 in twenty hands. Meanwhile, KamikazeKeith -- with his VP$IP of 100.00% and Aggression Factor of 4.05, according to Poker Tracker -- was $14.55 to the bad.

Of course, had he sucked out a heart there on that river, he’d have been up about $4.00 (and I’d have been down nearly $9.00)!

And limit is supposed to be boring.

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