Monday, March 03, 2008

The Search for Unambiguous Proof of Poker Playing Prowess

Poker cards & chipsHave to say, am getting along real, real nice with poker at the moment. Both playing & following the pros’ adventures.

As far as playing goes, I ended up with a decent February (by my short-stacked standards), and a have enjoyed a good first couple of days of March, too. Once again had a fun time donating over at Saturdays with Pauly, this time finishing 16th of 38. That makes three for three making the final table before the final table. Whazzat prove? That yr humble servant needs to sharpen his tourney skills, probably. (Am gonna plead small sample size.)

This time around I played some with super-blogger-tourney-creator AlCantHang, Amy C, Change100, among others. Couldn’t get anything going early on, and ended up just folding a lot and taking a couple of small pots for the first hour. Then shortly after the first break, I had slipped down below 900 chips when I picked up K-J-T-8 double-suited and decided to go with it. Managed to double through there, then chip up to 2,200 or so by the middle of Level 6. That put me close to the middle of the pack -- 13 of 23 remaining.

Then came a hand in which a short-stacked player UTG pushed his last 700 in the middle. I was in MP with 2sAhAs8h -- another nice PLO starter -- and went ahead and reraised pot to isolate. No one else came along, and so before the flop our cards were turned over. He held KsJdTc2h -- a pretty nice match-up for me. The flop of 5hQd4s made things even nicer. I was a huge favorite -- like 86% (according to the CardPlayer Omaha calculator). But a jack on the turn and a deuce on the river gave the hand to my chip-challenged opponent. I was back down to 1,500 or so, and with blinds at 100/200, time was running short.

Saturdays with PaulyWas forced to fold a full round, including both blinds, and so was down to 1,180 when I picked up JsQdKh2d on the button. With one limper in (plus one of the blinds who had started the hand with 105), I decided just to limp in as well to see what the flop brought. Flop came Th4d9d, and the early limper bet pot (705). Didn’t need much time to know what to do. Besides the diamond draw, I’d flopped one of those nice wraps where any eight, jack, queen, or king would give me the nut straight. If I’m adding ’em up correctly, that means 19 outs altogether. I pushed my remaining chips in the middle, got the call, and our cards were flipped over.

Was hoping not to see a better diamond draw, and I didn’t. Indeed, only one diamond appeared in either of my opponents’ hands -- that of the early limper who held Ah9cAdQc. (The tiny-stacked guy in the blinds had 6-J-3-7, no diamonds.) I’m about 67% to win this sucker and get back into contention. But none of those 19 outs came, and I was done. Nice to be getting my money in good, but I have to start accumulating some chips earlier on in these things so I don’t have to win everytime I do.

Meanwhile, I have been motoring back and forth between PLO25, H.O.R.S.E., Razz, and Stud/8 (the latter three at $0.50/$1.00). Moving around from game to game has really kept up my interest and enjoyment. And I do think playing the other games regularly is helping me make better reads at the PLO tables. Not completely sure why, but I think it has to do with the way frequently switching games forces me to concentrate a little more.

As far as following the pros goes, it’s been an especially interesting few days with the conclusion of the WPT L.A. Poker Classic and the NBC Heads-Up Championship. I give CardPlayer a hard time here from time to time, but I’m going to go ahead and echo Pokerati Dan and commend CardPlayer for its coverage of the goings-on over at Caesar’s. Good stuff.

Orel HershiserWas surprised like everyone else to see Orel Hershiser mow down Forrest, Cunningham, and Deeb like so many light-hitting shortstops. Saw them starting to fret over on 2+2 about what the “general view” -- of the non-poker playing public, I guess -- would be if Hershiser were to have gone all the way.

I personally don’t think these things mean a whole heck of a lot, ultimately -- not being “good for poker” or “bad for poker” or anything, really. If Hershiser had won, I suppose we might've heard Frank DeFord wax poetic on NPR about the Cy Young award-winning pitcher’s inordinate acumen helping him make an easy transition to a less-athletic, more-cerebral (?) realm. (Actually, we still might if DeFord can’t find anything better to yammer on about this week.) But most of the world probably wouldn’t have noticed.

Meanwhile, for those who want to view Hershiser’s accomplishment as proof that heads-up tournaments are all luck, Chris Ferguson’s run to a third final in four years (and finally winning this time) seems like it would disprove that thesis. Of course, I could be wrong. Heard Haralabos Voulgaris on Big Poker Sundays yesterday restate how the luck factor in heads-up tourneys outweighs all. As he put it, “these are like regular tournaments on a hundred times steroids in terms of luck.”

I ain’t gonna spend too much energy challenging the idea that luck is involved in these things. Still, for a guy to win 16 of 19 matches (as Ferguson has done over the past four years) is pretty remarkable, ain’t it? Of course, like my brief Saturdays with Pauly career, we’re still talking too small a sample size to “prove” anything . . . .

Even so, I’ll go ahead and say it: Jesus is more than just all right.

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Blogger OhCaptain said...

I agree. Ferguson either has something special going on or he is just the luckiest guy in the world.

I'm thinking something special.

3/03/2008 12:01 PM  
Blogger WillWonka said...

While luck does have something to do with HU, it sounds like "Bob" just doesn't know HU and therefore he criticizes it as he does with most things.

3/03/2008 2:05 PM  
Blogger Dr. Pauly said...

Thanks again for playing!

3/03/2008 3:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoy this blog enormously, I thought I'd stop by and say. I only discovered it recently but it has whiled away several hours at work so far and promises may more. I play similar stakes and have found plenty of relevant goodies on these pages so yeah, thought I'd stop by and say.

3/04/2008 11:20 AM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Much thanks, anon.!

3/04/2008 3:09 PM  

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