Refreshing to play at a civil table. Makes poker more fun to play.

Flopped Quads
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While playing at my never ending Steps tourneys at, something unusual happened. While for the most part, there was no chatting going on, when there was, it was civil in nature.

In one hand that I played,  I had AQ suited on the button. I was short stacked with less than 2,300 of my original starting 3,000 in chips. The average stack at that point was 6,000 and the blinds were 200/400.

I went all in and was called by a larger stack player who turned over AJ off suit. Neither of us were helped by the flop, turn or river and I won the pot and doubled up with my AQ. I can imagine my opponent smiling as he typed his chat message to me. He said “NICE HAND”.  “YOU KNOW DON’T YOU THAT DOYLE DOES NOT LIKE AQ?” I replied “lol” to which he said “WHAT DOES LOL MEAN?”.

I think that he was new to online play or he would have known that it is bad online etiquette to use caps when chatting. Caps usually means that the person is SCREAMING at you. His not knowing what lol meant seemed genuine as well.

The next to last hand that I played with him was another all in confrontation. I was still short stacked and went all in with A5 of spades. He instantly called with AK off suit. The flop was no help but I hit a 5 on the turn that held up and I won the hand. That left him extremely short stacked with less than 600 in chips.  I typed  “sry” for sorry and he said “THAT’S ALL RIGHT – I ALREADY HAVE AN ENTRY TICKET FOR STEP 6”.

By the next hand he was gone. I finished in 3rd place and have to repeat Step 5 for the third time. I hope I see that opponent again. Just not at a final table. He was good, but just got unlucky.

Have you ever had a pleasant playing experience where you enjoyed the poker session even if you did not accomplish the goal of winning? Isn’t it more fun to play with friends even if you are playing to win?

In spite of my best laid plans, I busted out of Step 5 in last place – Duh!

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In my last post, I described that I was playing in a Steps series on DoylesRoom.Com in the hopes of securing a seat at a WPT event being played this December.

I said how I would only play great starting hands in position and would be careful not to get busted out. My goal was to finish Step 5 in no less than 5th place. Places one and two would advance me to the next level. Places three and four would keep me at Step 5. Fifth place would send me back to Step 4. Anything lower and I would have to start over again either at Step 1 or buy-in at a higher level.

However, I did not follow my own carefully thought out plans. I was going to fold all but premium hands unless I had position or could limp in. I was only going to play monster hands aggressively.

We started with nine players, each with 3,000 in chips. There were still nine at the table with the average stack being 3,400. I was in last place with 2,600 in chips. I was trying to be careful with what hands I wanted to play.

I was in the small blind and I had K8 off suit. There were five who called the flop including myself. The big blind checked. The flop was K78 – rainbow. I made a pot sized bet. The big blind raised it again pot size. I was thinking perhaps AA or AK or a similar high pair.

I shoved with my top two pairs only to be called by the big blind with pocket 7’s for a set. The set held up and I was out in ninth or last place.

So much for planing and playing according to the plan. Now this brings me up to my next question and answer.

Do I go back to “Step 1” and work my way back? Do I jump back into Step 5 and pay the $17.00 fee? Do I take a small step back (no pun intended) and start over at Step 4 with a buy-in of $5.85.

I don’t feel the need to punish myself for bad judgment this time. Heaven knows even the top pros do not follow their own advice. How many times has Doyle Brunson played AQ, a hand he totally hates and says should be folded. But even he has played hands he says are real trouble and he has lost with those hands.

In any case, yesterday I bought in at Step 4 and won. So now I look forward to replaying Step 5 and moving forward.

Have you ever made plans prior to entering a tourney and then lost focus and not followed them? Have you ever busted out early when there was no real reason to? What has been your experience with Step type tourneys?

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My strategy for playing a "Steps" tournament

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I am currently playing a series of  “Steps” single table tournaments at DoylesRoom. com in the hopes of winning an entry to the “Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic” being held December 14th – 19th at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

I have already survived playing in five steps but am replaying step five as I came in fourth place. The way the steps work is that you win entry to the next step if  you win in first or second place. You win an entry to the current step if you win in third or fourth place. Fifth place wins you an entry into the prior step. This is true for all but the first and the last step. In step one, if you do not advance, you have to rebuy. In step ten, first prize is an entry to the WPT tournament in Las Vegas. Second place is an entry back to step 10. Third place is a $250 cash prize.

I almost always play extremely tight, only pushing with  hands such as AA and KK. In position, I also will play QQ, JJ TT, AK. If I can limp in without fear of being raised, I will also play suited connectors and small pairs hoping to hit sets and good flops to win large pots. My hope is that by playing that way, I will finish in the top five and not have to start over at “Step 1”.

Do you play in “Step Satellites”? What are your plans when you do so? Would you consider buying into a higher step to avoid having to start at the bottom?

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There are times when you know that you are losing?

Jack of clubs.
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Last night at the #TPT, Twitter Poker Tour, I lasted only 40 minutes finishing in 25th place out of 33 players. It just was not my night.

Of the 53 hands I was dealt, I had pocket pairs four times.  66, 44, 77, JJ. My pocket sixes did not improve on the flop and I folded to a raise on a board that had two cards higher than my sixes.

With my pocket 4’s, I opened the pot for a raise, was re-raised by a good player and just called. Again the flop, did not help me with all three cards being higher than my fours. With small pocket pairs I am looking to hit a set,  three of a kind. Facing a raise and having only two outs, I folded.

With my pockets sevens, I re-raised a bet and saw the flop which was 8, K, 10. While all of these cards were higher than my 7’s, I called a raise on the flop and got to see the turn which was a 3. We checked again and the river was a 3, making a pair of threes on the board. My opponent turned over his 9’s and I mucked my 7’s. He later told me that he would have folded if I had raised on either the turn or the river. Oh well. The reason I had hung on to my 7’s was that I had seen him make similar raises with pocket 3’s, 4’s, and 5’s.

My last and final hand of the night had me all in preflop as the result of aggressive raising by three players including myself. I was heads up against a pair of pocket Queens and my Jacks did not improve. I am told there are only three ways to play Jacks:  call, raise, or fold. And all these ways are wrong.

Getting back to my title for today – you know that you are beaten when at least one person calls your all-in bet and another is still considering it. There are times when you want to be called but I would have been happy to just take what was in the pot and have the rest of the players fold.

It was fun while it lasted. Congratulations to the winners:

Street 3

How did you do in your last tourney? Are there hands you wished you could have played over? How do you play small pocket pairs?

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Balance – life is not always simple

An old two pan balance.
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Off topic today. Life is a balancing act. There is family and friends, chores and poker. There are a lot of things that I need to integrate in my life of becoming a poker professional.

I need to tend to my family; my wife Diane, my sons, Chris and Thom and their families. I need to tend to chores around the house. Painting the shed before the deep freeze settles in. Raking the leaves before they freeze to the ground. Grouting the stones on our walk before the snow hits and it becomes impossible to shovel.

I need to exercise on a regular basis. I need to plan my poker playing so that I get a good mix of cash games and tourney like games. I need to continue to take the opportunity to play satellites in the hopes of advancing to a major poker event.

Right now our new kittens, five months old, require more attention as they have just returned back from surgery. They are in-door cats and were de-clawed in order to protect us and allow them more freedom around us. They need to be cuddled and held. They both try to sleep on my lap at the same time. They each weigh over 7 pounds and are growing each day.

How do you coordinate your life style? How does poker fit into your life? Is it a pastime? A hobby? An avocation?

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Thinking thoughts versus saying them out loud

hellmuth at wsop 2006
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In my short poker career, I play mostly online games at various sites throughout the poker domain. I vary from Limit Hold “Em to No Limit Hold ‘Em. I even try Pot Limit Omaha Hi/Lo and on occasion will play 2-7 Triple Draw.  I even have played some live, face to face poker at the local poker room in Seabrook NH.

In the thousands of hands that I have seen or have been involved in, I have seen the plays of a poker donk. These are the types that will limp in with very weak holdings or call big bets in the hopes of hitting their hand either at the flop, the turn or the river. It might be a flush draw or two connected cards like 87 suited or even the dreaded 7 2 suited.

You know the scenario, you have made a 6 big blind bet pre-flop with AA, KK or QQ. You get called. The flop does not improve your hand and does not improve your opponents hand.  You lead out and bet the pot. You get called and a 7 hits the turn. You bet 2/3 of the current pot and get called and the river is a 2. You either check it down as the opponent has been calling all your raises or you pop up the pot with another raise only to find out you are beaten by someone who called all of your raises with a 7 2.

You know the drill. If you are online, you type “nh” and move on. Face to face, you fix a smile on your face and say Nice Hand” in the most pleasant voice that you can muster.

Internally, you are seething. If this is an online game, you are probably ranting and raving until the next hand is dealt. You begin to appreciate the rants and raves of Phil Hellmuth whenever he suffers a bad beat by someone who should have folded his hand instead of playing poker bingo.

It is like all your hundreds or thousands of hours of playing, studying, learning, and discussing of poker is all for not. After all, the opponent (donk) won didn’t he. Therefore he was not wrong to play wasn’t he. He was supposed to play poorly (in your eyes) but hit his hand once in awhile. That does not make him a bad player does it?

How do you handle situations like this? Do you ever make donk plays? After all, isn’t this just a game?

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How does one get ready for a major tournament?

Antonio Esfandiari & Phil Laak - World Series ...
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I am starting to wonder just how do the professional poker players get ready for a tournament? I have read a lot books about playing in a tournament. I also have read a lot of blogs written by professionals on how they played in a tournament. I have even read the tweets (messages sent via Twitter.Com) of the pros as they get ready to play or are playing in a tourney.

Not all of what I have read says what you should do to get ready before playing in a tourney. So I am going to attempt to break down a list of what I think I should do prior to entering a major event — just in case I do.

A. Prepare physically: I have heard that some tourneys have very grueling schedules, sometimes players will sit at the tables for over 20 hours at a stretch with just a lunch and a dinner break. Prior to the event, I would have an  exercise routine that would build up my strength and endurance. During the event, I would take advantage of what ever breaks I was given to stretch to move around to get my blood circulation. If healthy food was not being served, I would make sure to take a small cooler with the foods that I require so that I would not have to go off my diet by eating improperly.

B. Prepare mentally: I have heard that the physiological aspects of the tourney are very tough. You have to be prepared to handle set backs and bad calls and keep on going for as long as you have chips in front of you. Just because you lose half  a stack or more does not mean you do not have a chance unless of course you lose all of your chips. You need a certain mental toughness and confidence that is needed to play and win in a major tourney. Reading inspirational books could be helpful.

C. Prepare strategically: You need a plan and a goal other than just an overall goal of wanting to win. You should know before you get your cards just how you want to play your hands.  Try reading books about playing in tournaments that have been written by successful professionals and by amateurs that have won big and have proved that they are not one day wonders. Talk with your successful poker friends and listen to what they have to say. Playing with a plan will take a lot of the stress off what to do.

How would you prepare for tourney?

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