How not to play pocket Aces and why do I hear chips clinking when I am not in a hand?

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Image by Don Nunn via Flickr

During the last seven days or so I have been playing the micro limits while trying to build a bankroll from $10 to $250 as part of a challenge – see my previous post, “Update on the race to $250 and other thoughts” for more details.

Yesteday I shared my thoughts about not going all in just because you might have the best hand. You should also consider your stack size versus your opponents and if you want to gamble your entire tournament on just one hand early in the event.

Well, I was put to the task on the first hand of a “Sit N Go”. I was dealt a pair of Aces, the best possible starting hand.  I decided to play this hand in a reasonable and straight forward manner. I was the fifth person after the big blind. Four people folded behind me. I raised to 60, or twice the big blind. The big blind called my raise and the small blind folded and we saw the flop.

The flop was 8h 6h Qc – the big blind raised to 345 and I thought for a few seconds and decided “unless he has pocket Queens, I am good here”. I shoved all in and he called.

I turned over my AA while he turned over his 6s 8d.  He had two pair to my one pair. I was crushed.  The turn card was a Jh and the river card was a 5h. His two pair beat my pocket Aces and I was out just like that, in a matter of minutes. I did exactly what I said I should not do!

Did I listen to my own advice? No. I guess not. I should have done as I said – lol (laugh out loud).

During the evening I got involved in another Sit N Go and while playing I could hear the chips hitting the table as bets were made. I finished that tourney in first place and yet I could still hear the chips hitting the table. What was going on? I started to go through all of the programs that I had running at the same time.

Geek that I am, I usually have about 8 to 10 browser windows opened with at least 5 to 12 tabs opened along with Excel, Word, Notepad, Wordpad, Tweetdeck and whatever else I can think of to do at the same time. (No wonder my computer slows down from time to time!).

I found the culprit. I had an online table opened to PokerHost, an online poker site. Not only was it open, but there I was “sitting out” at a table, playing in a tourney. I had not even realized that I was registered to play and yet there I was putting in my blinds and folding when it came my turn to play.

I really did not want to play, but I changed my status to active and decided I would go all-in to get rid of my chips. But just to be fair, I would only do so with hands that contained high cards, tens or better such as J 10 or KQ, etc.

I ended up playing over 20 minutes as I kept winning hands and getting more chips. I was in the top five out of 290 at one point. But I really was not prepared to play so I kept going all-in until my chips were gone. Thanks for the freeroll but please do not auto register me into all of them.

Have you ever had this happen to you? You were registered in an event but did not know it? Has your computer done things behind your back that you were not aware of? Were you in the “twilight zone” but did not know it?

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Proper rest is another tool in the poker player tool kit. Tiredness is a drawback.

Belgium, Louvain-la-neuve: Piles of tiredness
Image by kool_skatkat via Flickr

Last night was the third event of Season Three at the Twitter Poker Tour. A Texas Hold ‘Em No Limit Tourney was played starting at 9 pm EST. Due to prior commitments to our home based business, Brogan-Arts.Com, I was also unable to play in Event 3 of the TPT Europe Tourney held at 7:00 PM BST or 2 pm EST.  By the time my wife and I got home we were both exhausted. When we go to exhibit our wares, we also bring our jewelry cases, lighting, tables, table clothes, miscellaneous supplies, gift boxes, gift bags, adding machine, charge card machine, just to mention a few items. It usually takes about three trips from our mini-van to bring everything in. We are usually at an Arts and Crafts location for about 4 to 6 hours, standing up and talking with our customers and prospects about 25% of the time. Then when the day is done, we reverse the process and pack everything up and repack it in the mini-van for our trip back home.

On the way home, we stopped to visit with some of our former neighbors in the town we lived in before moving to New Hampshire. We stayed and chatted for a couple of hours and then took off for home, stopping at a couple of stores on the way home to pick up some groceries.

By the time Diane and I had put everything away, eaten supper, and were starting to relax, it was about 7:30 pm EST. I had twitter up on my phone, clearing the 250 messages that I had accumulated during the day as I had forgotten my cell at home that morning.  I noticed quite a few #TPT messages after I had caught up to the 6 pm messages and thought that it would be fun to play in the #TPT, but then I realized just how tired I felt.

I had pulled up FullTilt on my notebook while sitting on the couch and opened up the tourney registration screen for the #TPT event. I watched as the registration numbers to the tourney increased from 17 to 32. I noticed that @coolwhipflea had not yet made it home to register and wondered if he would make late registration in time to play. According to his tweets, he really did want to play that night.

I struggled with my desire to play, but really thought over why I had decided to start playing in the #TPTE in the first place instead of the #TPT. I had made the switch because an evening playing at the #TPT was very exhausting, especially if I made it to the final table and the final thee. I am a person who really needs about eight hours of sleep in order to function properly. I have read that many of the top pros will tell you not to play if you are overtired. This is when you can make your worst mistakes as your judgment will be clouded. It is possible that you will not even recognize that you are having a problem until it is way too late to recover from your mistakes. From what I have read of many of the top poker pros, they will tell you that proper rest and exercise is the best tools you can have to help you in tourneys.

Are you well rested before you play a tourney? Does sleep enter into your pre-tourney plans? Have you ever played while extremely tired and realized later that you could have played better had you been more alert? What are your thoughts about getting enough sleep?

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No Patience – leads to a bad finish!

Image by bananeman via Flickr

Last night I finished 24th out of 25 players in the TPT: Tilt Event #11, sponsored by the TwitterPokerTour. After having two first place finishes in my previous two tourney events, this was not a good showing. This happened with my poker backer right beside me to watch my lack of patience and judgment. Good thing she is my partner for life. Diane was very supportive but probably still wondered what had happened to my previous patient playing style.

I ended up seeing just 26 hands last night. I did not wait for premium hands. My first hand was an AQ of clubs in the cutoff position and I raised an unraised pot to 90 or three times the big blind and everyone folded.

My next hands which were folded prior to taking action again were: 46 o, 4J o, 87 o, 48 s, 63 s, 72 o until I was dealt my next AQ suited.  I was on the button and called a raise of 90 and saw the flop of 9 8 7 of hearts. Not exactly helpful. I called one small bet of 30 to see the turn which was a K of clubs. I folded to a bet 450. Not even sure why I wanted to see one more card with a possible flush already out there, but I did.

My next series of hands were: Q5 s, 74 s, J4 o, J6 o, Q9 s, 67 s, 68 s, 35 o, 6T o, Q6 o, K4 o, Q6 o, 3 6 o before catching Ac Qd off suit while being in the big blind. The flop was 7 8 T of diamonds giving me a four flush Q high. I lead off with 160 and was called. A Js came off at the turn giving me both a flush and a straight draw. I bet 480 at the turn and was called. The river was a 10 making a pair of tens on the board. I checked, my opponent checked. I showed my AQ giving me a pair of 10’s and my opponent showed 96 of clubs giving him a straight Jack high for the pot. This left me with 620 in chips or enough for about 10 more rounds of play.

My next few hands were: 47 o, 35 s, 76 s, before catching a pair of 5’s. I called the blinds, and one opponent raised all-in and I called. He turned over AJ off suit to my pocket 5’s and the race was on. The flop was 4 4 A, giving him the lead. I needed a 5 to win. The turn was a 10 of clubs, no help to me. The river was a three of hearts and I was finished in 24th place about 18 minutes after the tourney had started.

AQ hands have always been problematical, and many pro players will tell you they should be folded due to all the trouble they cause you. Of course, some of these same players also call with these and lose big pots just as I did.

Have you every played AQ and wished you had not? Do you have hands you try to avoid playing regardless of position?

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Thoughts about having AK as a hand

Big SlickThroughout the last three years, I have seen many different players having AK as their starting hand and have been amazed at how some people value and play them. Otherwise known as “big slick”, AK are perhaps the two most misplayed cards that anyone can get. In some of the lower buy-in Texas Holdem tourneys, some players will go all-in if they have AK, suited or unsuited, it does not matter.

Even players that don’t go all-in may continue to bet, to call, and not ever give up on the hope that just having AK will be enough to win the hand regardless of what is happening around them, what cards came up on the flop, or how many people have called them. I have seen AK beaten by a pair of pocket twos and heard them complain about the bad beat they got.

For what its worth, AK is a good starting hand pre-flop, not as good as pocket Aces or Kings, but worthy of some value. In all the reading I have done, AK is a good hand that also has good folding equity. What is meant by folding equity is that a good sized bet might cause others to fold, allowing you to win a hand uncontested. Of course, this works better at No Limit and Pot Limit Holdem as opposed to Limit Holdem where you can only raise or bet in fixed increments.

In ring or cash games, a recommended bet size of either 3 to 5 times the big blind in No Limit and a pot size bet in Pot Limit will usually be enough of a bet to take down or win the pot.

If you are called by one or more opponents, you need to consider what they might be holding to warrant a call from them. If called, you need to get a good flop for AK to survive. A flop containing either or both of your cards would be helpful but you also need to consider what your opponents might have as well.

They could hold pocket Aces or Kings, either of which will spell doom for your AK hand. There is always the chance that your opponent had a pocket pair of Queens or lower and the flop may have made them a set or trips (three of a kind). On a coordinated flop such as 7-8-9, you might be up against someone who always plays their J-10 suited or unsuited and have just hit their straight. Even though a flop of A-K-Q would give you top two pair, the J-10 opponent would have hit their straight again. You would only have four chances left to catch the remaining two Aces or two Kings to fill out with a full house.

Even a flop of two or three uncoordinated cards but all of the same suit could be a problem for you if neither of your two cards contained that suit. If your opponent had only one card of that suit, there are enough chances left that they could make the flush either at the turn or on the river. Of course you still might have the best hand so how you play it might depend or your stack size versus your opponents.

If the flop did not hit your hand but contained low uncoordinated cards, a continuation bet equal to the pot size might be enough to get your opponents to fold holdings of all but AA or KK. In a limit game, it sometimes is not even possible to drive out a player holding a pair of twos.

In either a cash game or tourney, I always have to consider folding my AK if I am faced with a re-raise, which would indicate a strong hand help by my opponent. I would also have to consider if I was being bluffed. But with AK, I still don’t have a made hand, just a good draw and faced with a re-raise I would have to have good pot odds before I would consider calling. I would lean to folding before committing more of my chips to the pot.

What are your thoughts about AK? Does it matter if they are suited or unsuited? Do you win well with AK? Have you overcommitted with them?

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Playing a hand too strongly with a bad kicker … costly ….

Flop, turn and river in community card poker v...
Image via Wikipedia

Definition: Kicker – A kicker, also called a side card, is a card in a poker hand that does not itself take part in determining the rank of the hand, but that may be used to break ties between hands of the same rank

Last night at the Twitter Poker Tour tourney, I managed to avoid the tendencies of  getting into fancy plays. I played my good hands strongly, my drawing hands cautiously and my bad hands occasionally.  I did this in such a way that opponents would not be sure which hand was what. The way I played my final hand, however,  was not sound.

I was in the big blind with my hole cards being a Q3 off-suit. The flop came down Q 7 Q. There were five other players already in the pot. The pot total was around $340 and I had a chip stack of $1,650. I thought for a moment and then put in a pot size bet of $340. That got rid of all but one player. His stack size was about double mine and he made the call. There was now about $1,200 in chips in the pot and I made a quick decision to shove all in – thinking that by doing so he would fold.

You can see where this is heading. He had a larger stack, he called the pot size bet. He was probably worried about my having made a full house. But with my over bet, he realized that he probably had the best hand with the better kicker and that I did not have a full house.

He called the all-in raise, and showed an Ace Queen to my Queen three. The turn was a five, the river card was a two and I did not hit my three outer (there might have been at least three three’s left in the deck that could have made a full house for me).

I was out of the game in 30th place from a starting field of 43 players. I could have avoided being elimiated by taking the time allowed to think about what had happened prior to my going all-in. Why had he called my pot size bet? I should have realized that he was calling because the flop matched his hand as well.

At that point I should have just checked the hand down or folded to a raise. That alone would have left me with $1,300 in chips. The bottom line of this explanation is that if you don’t have a strong kicker, you need to play differently perhaps more slowly or faster. If I had gone all-in after the flop, my opponent would have had no way to figure out if I had a full house or not. Plus he would not have been getting the right pot odds to call. Had I made the full house, I might still have had a problem in the event that he made a larger full house, so I still would have had to proceed cautiously.

I wish to congratulate the top five finishers of the TPT Tilt # 9 event for their fine finishes.

1: thatslife1969
2: ffcowboy76,
3: Shackedin06
4: rhoegg
5: Zonetrap

I am looking forward to next weeks #TPT Stars Event #9.

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Steve takes a bad beat by Doyle Brunson (actually it was by Doyle’s Room and not Doyle directly)

Doyle Brunson in 2006 World Series of Poker - ...
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Doyles Poker Room used to be a favorite site of mine back about three years ago until they stopped letting US players on their site. Last year I found out that they were accepting US players again.  I signed up again, deposited some money and starting playing.  I later found out that some players were blocked by the request of various states in the US.

Doyles Room blocked players by using the IP addresses of that player’s states. This has happened to a couple of my “buddies” at Doyles Poker Room.

Now Doyles Poker has upgraded their software as a result of joining the Cake Poker network. This site also accepts US players.

The transition did not go smoothly for me. I lost my $15.62 balance during the transfer and Dolyes Room was not very helpful in resolving the issue. It is the principal and not the the amount of money.

From January 30th until February 2nd, I sent them four emails requesting that they resolve the issue. They  answered me twice and both times with the same answer. “Log in and you will see your balance”.  Well, I have logged in at least 10 times since then and each time I see a zero balance. So much for service and dependability. I can take a hint.

Several years ago when Doyles Room blocked US players, they locked me out and took away my balance. I never got it back.
I don’t know why I thought things would be different this time. In spite of having Doyles backing, they have done it again.

What was I thinking?

Even Doyle Brunson said in a book about internet poker, that you should be very careful about the sites that you join. He further said that a player should make a modest deposit and then in a few days, request a modest withdrawal to see how the sites respond. This way, he said, you could protect your mini bankroll at that site.

Well, I bought and read the book a few years ago. A lot of good that did me. It did not cover what can happen when a site joins another poker network.

But from now on, when signing up on a new online site and before depositing any large amounts, I will take the time to make a test deposit of say $50 and a test withdrawal of $25.

In any case, my plan is to maintain no more than three sessions worth of money in any one site at any time. When I earn more than that amount, I will withdraw it to protect myself from these types of challenges. Also, whenever I learn that there is a major change such as what happened to Doyles Room, I have decided that I should request a nearly total withdrawal, leaving $1 just in case. This is a case of do as “Doyle says” and not what I did.

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Quick thinking can be costly

The poker tables in the Trump Taj Mahal
Image via Wikipedia

Quick thinking can be costly especially when playing No-Limit Omaha High/Low Poker.

I was involved in a game with 9 other players. This was a fairly active group with players going all-in many times during the session. As long as you did not make a single mistake and thought things out, you would be okay.

Folding unless you had AAKK, AA22, AA23 was usually a good idea with this group. You also wanted to make sure that your AAKK or AA22 was double suited as well, meaning that the AAKK should be AK of one suit with the other AK another suit. While this might seem to be unreasonable, you get hands like this more often then you might imagine. Playing Omaha High/Low, these hands are  definitely worth waiting for because they can win you the entire pot. The actual number of good starting hands is much more than just the two examples but I will save that for another day.

When playing Omaha High/Low, your object should be to win both halves of the pot, the highest hand pot and the lowest hand pot. If your hand is not strong enough to win both, you should fold. It can get quite costly trying to win only the high end or the low end of the pot. The reason it can get costly just trying to win one side of the pot only is due to the fact that the pot can be split up between two or more individuals;  two or more could share the high hand and two or more the low hand.

The tricky part about Omaha High/Low is that you can misread your hand and cost yourself a lot of money. Since you have four hole cards and can only use two of the hold cards with three of the five common cards, it is easy to mistake what you have for a hand. You might quickly think that you have a full house and instead have three of a kind or worse, two pair. It gets even worse when you get three queens as part of your hole cards and a queen flops giving you only three of a kind while you might thinking – wow – four of a kind.

Typically in Omaha High/Low, the winning high hand is usually a full house or better. At the minimum a flush. Only occasionally will top pair win the high end of the pot.

So anyway, what this is boiling down to is that I had a hand that gave me a low straight and a low hand, with the possibility of the best high and best low hand. I was thinking scooping. And without thinking what my opponent had, I called my opponent’s all-in bet with just one click, in just one second.

And guess what, that quick thinking cost me $20.00 as I had the second best high hand and the second best low hand. The second best hands however don’t pay anything and that cost me my entire $20 stack that I had brought to the table with me. Lesson learned the hard way. Think before you click.

If I had taken the time allowed, which is 10 seconds, and then requested additional time, which is 60 seconds more, I could figured out that my hand was not the best possible high and best possible low. Then I would have made the appropriate decision and folded.

Moral to the story:  Take the time to think about what you have for a hand before committing any or all of your chips to any hand.

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