Beware the "isolation play", it can backfire if not executed properly…

Basement Isolation Booth
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In Texas No Limit Hold ‘Em the “isolation play” can be used in an attempt to get all other players to fold so that you are just heads up with one opponent.  When you think or know that someone has raised with a worse hand than yours and you want to play against him only, you try raising an amount that will cause the remaining opponents to fold.  There is an art to this and I ended up finding that out the hard way.

I was just two positions to the left of the big blind or UTG-1, “under the gun” minus one. I was dealt KsKc, a very good starting hand and I raised to $2 or twice the big blind, 2BB. Four other players folded and it was up to the short stacked player in the cutoff position to play.  As was the case most of the evening, he raised to $8 or 8xBB which he had been doing all night. I took this as an attempt to steal the blinds and my raise. The big blind called his raise. I knew that the short stack had been making moves all night and I decided that this was the time to put him to the test.

Generally, the isolation play requires that you make a pot sized or double the pot size re-raise in order to get other players to fold, but I got a little to0 fancy, and shoved all in. I expected that the short stack would call as he probably had a small pocket pair, but I failed to take into account the fact that the big blind had already called the $8 raise.  The short stack called as I expected he would.

My shoving in $98 into the pot was not such as good idea. The only reason I did not lose all of it was because the big blind called me with his remaining $40, leaving me with $50. I had started the evening with $75.

The short stack turned over a pair of eights, as I expected. But the big blind was an altogether different story as he turned over a pair of Aces, one of them being a spade.

The flop was 7d 2s 5s with two spades on the board. The turn was a 10 of spades. The river was a 9 of spades, giving both the big blind and myself a flush, mine King high and his Ace high, the best hand to win the pot. The short stack was busted and left the table, perhaps in search of other opportunities to double up with a pocket pair.

As for myself, I had not given myself a chance to fold pre-flop. I should have put in a pot sized bet and then if the big blind raised or called,  I would have been able to decide what to do next. As he was a fairly tight player, I could have folded to a raise and saved some of my dollars.

You can be sure that I will pay more attention to what the players are doing when I find myself in similar circumstances in the future.

Do you ever try to execute the “isolation play”? How do  you do it? What has been your success with this play?

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Pocket Aces in a cash game – there are many blogs talking about them!

Ace of spades
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It turns out that the discussion about how to play pocket Aces in a cash game is a very common one and a well discussed topic. I used Google Search and turned up over 43,00o hits on the topic. I have since read over a dozen of them and have digested what I have read to the point where I now know that I did in fact play the hand incorrectly.

The following paragraph was from my original post titled “Aces cracked on my first hand of the session!”

When it was my turn to be the big blind, I was dealt a pair of pocket Aces, the best starting hand possible before the flop. Two players to my left folded but the aggressive player raised by betting the pot, $1.75.  Everyone folded to him and when it was my turn to bet,  I raised the pot to $5.00 and the aggressive player called for $3.25. The flop was 8s,Tc,6h and I bet the size of the pot or $10.25 and the aggressive player called. The turn card was a king of hearts. Again I bet as much as I could, less than half of the pot, which put me all in for my remaining $14.75. The aggressive player called. He turned over an A6 off suit. He had only a pair of sixes against my pair of aces. The river card was a 6, giving him three sixes or the best hand and the aggressive player won the pot containing $57.25 which included my entire stack and whatever he bet, less the rake that DoylesRoom took from the pot.

According to the articles I read, where I went wrong was to continue to bet out as it appeared that my opponent was calling with some kind of draw regardless of the size of my bets. The rule of thumb about pocket aces is that you can win small pots with them or lose big pots with them. Even though I had the best hand right up to the turn, I failed to limit the amount of money I could lose if he hit his magic card on the river, which he did. That said, I had position on him and I had a good read on him and I hit a bit of bad luck when he hit the river card for three of a kind.

If I played hard only when I had the nuts, the best possible hand, I probably would not play many hands at all. In fact, for the most part, I fold almost 93% of  my hands. I even fold the small blinds if I have junk cards most of the time. I do not defend the big blinds often without good cards but on occasion will re-raise a cut-off or button raise as they often try to steal the blinds.

The following are just a few of the links that I found regarding this topic and the articles that I have read on this topic.

http://www.rakebackriches.com/unfoldable-aces.htm

http://poker-info.com/tips/playing-pocket-aces.html

http://www.hollywoodpoker.com/green-room/poker-lifestyle/poker-stories/poker-coach-pocket-aces.html

http://www.ehow.com/how_2256053_play-pocket-aces.html

http://www.towergaming.com/online-poker/school/strategy/pocket-aces-howto.html

http://stonecoldbluff.co.uk/articles/how-to-play-pocket-aces/

And these are just online resources. I am sure there are poker articles about playing pocket aces out there as well.

Where do you go to learn about playing pocket aces? What has you success been with the approach you take?

Being on personal tilt – how that affects you!

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Wednesday, an indirect personal interaction took place that left me on emotional tilt for the last few days. Initially after it happened, I tried to play in a cash game but did not have the ability to focus on the game. I was unable to play my game in the tempo and manner in which I normally play. After being dealt about 27 games, I clicked first on the “sit out” button and then clicked on the “leave table” button.

Thursday, I was still on tilt when it was time to write my blog so I did not even bother. Personal tilt ended up affecting both my poker game and my blogging.

By Thursday night, I had calmed down enough to try playing in the cash game. I wanted to try working through the personal tilt, recognizing that some day I might be at an event or tourney and I would be required to play regardless of what my emotional state might be.

Overall, I played about 280 hands of poker and lost over $45 in the process of trying to work out playing on personal tilt. I know that some hands were played poorly but overall I had accomplished what I set out to do in spite of the bad results.

Have you ever been on personal tilt? Did you try to continue as though nothing had happened? How did that affect your game, let alone your life at that moment?

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December poker goals

m nHarry Truman's poker chips
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I believe that goal setting should be done using attainable goals. But I don’t mean that I should set the level of my goals too low, making it easy to obtain them.

It has taken me over three months to recoup my early losses at DoylesRoom.com. I was  playing Limit Hold ‘Em trying to avoid the exact same losses that I sustained. Since that time, I have switched over to playing  No Limit Hold ‘Em.  I have had winning sessions that have grown my bankroll with Doyle’s to within $25 of what I had started with three months ago.

Having said that, my December goal is to increase my account with Doyle’s by $62 in winnings. At that point, I will move up from the .25/.50 cash games with a $30 buy-in to the .50/1.00 with a $50 buy-in. I realize that by moving up, the games will be a little harder as the players tend to be a little better and more experienced.  In the event that my account dips below my November level, I would step down a level or back to .25/.50 until I rebuild my account.

My 2010 goal for playing at DoylesRoom is to steadily win and move up to the $2/$4 by the end of the year at the least. My ultimate goal is to be able to generate a steady income by playing poker, a game and a challenge that I enjoy.

My tournament goals for this year are being limited to mostly Twitter Poker Tour and Railbird events until my tourney playing skills improve.  Yes, I will take an occasional shot at a satellite tourney but knowing that I still have a lot to learn, I will be patient until my skills catch up with my ambitions.

Do you set poker goals? How do you define them? Do you have a fall back plan to keep you from depleting your bankroll?

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Jacks set me back – oops….

141/365 - Discipline
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I like to think that I have a lot of patience and discipline at the tables. In playing No Limit Cash games, I usually wait for good hands. I even fold A 10, KQ, KJ when I am first to bet, UTG, under the gun or UTG+1. In middle position I might call or raise with these hands. I will admit to occasionally misplaying AQ, UTG, but for the most part I stick to my plan.

Last night I played two separate cash game sessions. The first one, I ended up ahead by taking back more than twice what I started with. In between the first and second cash session, I played a Step 4 session and left in fourth place, winning another ticket to a Step 4 session. My last cash game session was not as good as the first.

There were some new players and I did not take the time to see how they play. In the hand that I had pocket Jacks, I was in the small blind and a middle position player raised to 4BB, big blinds, or $2.  My initial thought was to call and fold if I did not hit a Jack or fold if I did hit a Jack but an Ace, King or Queen also showed on the board.  I called the $2 bet. The flop was 6 2 10, rainbow, no flush draw likely. Instead of checking I bet $5 and my opponent raised to $10. Instead of folding, I called and now was pot committed. The pot size was such that I did not want to lose to a bluff, which I doubted. The turn was a 7 and my opponent bet all-in and I called. He turned over QQ for the best hand and won the pot.  My lack of discipline in that one hand had cost me my buy-in and had cut my gains for the day to just under $5.00.  In No Limit, all it takes is one badly played hand.

Do you play no limit? Do you give your opponents credit for better hands than yours based on their betting patterns? Do you have losing sessions at No Limit and how do you handle it?

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The effects of getting tired hit me again while playing poker.

sleepy face
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Since October 18 I have played in 12 Step Sit N Go’s and my progress is as follows: 5,4,5,5,6,4,4,4,3,4,5,5,5 and I am currently back to having an entry ticket for Step 4 again.

Yesterday was a busy day for us. Besides doing some work for Brogan-Arts.com, we volunteered to do some grandchildren watching for Chis and his wife Katrina while they went out and enjoyed a date. He is only home a few days a month since the book he co-authored, “Trust Agents”, was released.  While the children are very well behaved, they are demanding in that they want to do things with Poppy and Grandma. Harold wants me to help him with WII games, and Violette likes to have Grandma help her with her projects. We only had the children for four hours or so but by the time they were picked up to go home, I was very exhausted.

So what did I do? Why I fired up DoylesRoom.com online poker site and registered for a Step tourney. I was the second registrant and I knew it might take an hour or so before enough people were available to play. I saw that a satellite for the Wednesday night bounty was running a late registration and I entered. I am not sure what I was thinking because I ended up busted out of the tournament in 20 minutes or less, 47th of 53 players. I absolutely was not rested enough to think properly about tourney play.

So I decided I would find a cash table and play there until my Step Sit N Go tourney started. I found a .25/.50 No Limit table that had a high dollar per pot average and sat in.  Over the course of the next 90 minutes, I was able to increase my buy-in from $25 to over $70. This was because I am conditioned to playing only premium hands or drawing hands in position. I was very satisfied with my results and my hand selection even though I did play in more than 16% of the hands dealt to me. I find if I fold at least 85% to 92% of the hands that I am dealt, I win more and lose less overall.

Just as I was dealt another hand, a second table opened up on my screen.  The Step Sit N Go #5, just started. I quickly exited from the cash game after folding my inferior hand and proceeded to play the tourney.

For the most part, I was doing well. I was always at least average or above average in chips. At some point during the session, my wife Diane asked if she could rail me so I set up my Netbook to display the Sit N Go on our large screen TV in the living room area of our house.  As I either folded, called, bet or raised with a hand, I would explain what I was doing and why.

At one point we were down to five players so all of us would get something for our effort. We would either advance to the next level, repeat this level or go down one level. I was the small blind and I was dealt an A7 off suit. I decided to bet out and see if I could take the pot right then. I bet 500 which was five times the big blind of 100. The chip leader called and all the rest folded. The flop was A 8 2 and gave me top pair. I bet out 200 and the big blind called. The turn was a Q and I bet out 200, hoping that my opponent would fold. The river was a K and I gave up betting and just checked. My opponent bet out 500 and I folded. Because I allowed myself to play a poor hand poorly, I gave up over 700 of my chips and now was in danger of falling from third place to fourth.  I knew that I should not have gone against the chip leader without at lease two pair or better in this case.

My final hand was a J 3 off suit, when I was in the big blind. The small blind called and the flop was J 8 2. I had top pair and bet out a pot size bet. At this time, the blinds were 100/200 and the bet took over a third of my stack. The small blind raised and I went all in only to face an A J. He also had top pair but with a great kicker. The only thought I had after the flop was that I had top pair. I had failed to even consider that my kicker was too low to be of any value. This was because I really was overtired and was not thinking about all the possibilities.  I ended finishing in 5th place and will have to start again, just one level lower than this one.

The whole point of this post is that I know or should know better than to play when I am not rested. Or I should be more careful, taking into account that I am not playing at full capacity. Except for the cash game win, it was a very frustrated end of the day all brought on by myself.  Sometimes I am my worst opponent.

How do you handle tiredness? Can you adjust your play to make up for how you feel? Do you just wait another day? What are your thoughts about playing tired?

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

A picture of a texas hold'em poker table, with...
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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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