Sunday, March 30, 2008

March Madness Heads Up Tourney

Thanks to all who showed up for the March Madness tourney. To recap, the format was dual staged. First a round robin stage where all players played each other once. Second an eight person bracket where a best of three match determines who advances on to the next round of the bracket.

The objectives of the tournament were:
* Allow for plenty of play for everyone. The round robin stage was put in to make sure that everyone got to play a minimum of roughly two hours of poker. Regardless of heads up performance, no one was eliminated early.

* Correlate payouts with the best performing players. Players who did the best would not only collect game money from the round robin stage but would advance furthest in the brackets to collect the placement payouts.

* Balance the duration of the tournament with deep enough stacks to avoid crapshoot endings.

Overall, I thought the tourney worked out better than I thought. I was concerned about the format since I knew it was complex and unconventional. Elevating the blinds once per orbit is something that Sun and I had come up with for playing during poker breaks at the office and I thought it was appropriate for keeping all the games moving though I knew it certainly had the potential to be confusing. Marsh felt that the blinds were too oppressive at the end of the championship matchup and his opinion is good enough for me. After reviewing the blinds I would agree that the capped blinds could have been maybe 1600/3200 instead of 2000/4000 which would have been more inline with the first round. A rule of thumb for estimating the end of a tourney is when the BB equals 10% of the chips in play. Even though that estimating method is for full table tourneys it was the most applicable for heads up. I also thought that all the extra hands that were available in the later rounds would have gotten all the money in before the blinds maxed out but that wasn't the case.

I also don't think that everyone understood the impact of the game money. That was borrowed from Jeh's fantasy football league to prevent a player who might be mathematically eliminated from getting into the bracket from tanking their final games. The side effect of that was that there was less money for the placement payouts. For a $40 buy in, first place paid out $144 on top of any game money. Second place paid $72 and 3rd/4th places paid $36. I think part of the issue was that I was allowing for a few more players which would have boosted the placement payouts. As is, the first place winner won roughly 3.5x their buy-in which is less than a typical first place payout in a conventional format tourney. I think for the field we ended up with we could have gone with paying out just 1st and 2nd.

So NEXT time, I think what I would change would be:
* Adjust the blind caps down to avoid people feeling pot committed at the end out the blind levels.
* Adjust payouts so that the highest placements receive a proportion of the prize pool which are more similar to a conventional tourney. Maybe even have a stepped payout system depending on how many participants enter.
* Double check deck setups beforehand. How embarrassing! Clearly there was a breach in standard protocol for retiring setups since any setups which are short should have been pulled out of circulation. My bad.

Any other feedback for adjustments to make are welcome. Thanks.

Friday, March 28, 2008

1-2 NLHE Beatability Revisited

Martin- I have a project for you if you can find time during your busy week.

We have all talked at length about the beatability of 1-2 NL games in Vegas. I remain confident that good players can show a consistent profit at these games. (and the bet is still on for whenever the 4 of us can get down there) But while reading Martin's recap post, he put up some interesting numbers regarding rake and cost per orbit. Also, I was just listening to a podcast about cash games called Cash Plays, hosted by Bart Hansen, formerly of Live at the Bike, and PokerRoad Radio. The show is a little dry perhaps, but very good. Bart was talking about the low limit (1-2 and 2-5) games in the LA area, and if he thought they were beatable. His contention was that you could show a profit in the games, but that it would be really hard to actually make livable or good money at the games due to the rake. The casino he used as an example took 5.00 flat fee out of every pot, plus a 1.00 jackpot rake. If you tipped one dollar per hand, that would be 7.00 per pot, every pot. The maximum buy in is 200.00. If we are getting in the average 30 hands per hour, we are talking about taking one persons stack per hour in rake.. Ouch.

I know that on the Strip the rake is generally percentage based and not flat fee, and downtown the rake is even less. Marty, I was wondering if you could do similar breakdowns in hourly cost or how much rake money leaves the table from the players each hour (assuming 30 hands per hour).

I want to see the viewpoint here not of one player vs. the other players at the table like we normally think of poker, but instead of all 9-10 players at the table vs. the house. Maybe just of the top few casinos we play at down there (MGM, Caesars etc), maybe one downtown casino like Binions, and maybe even throw in Full Tilt and even Cake just for perspectives sake.

I think that this topic speaks to Jason's point about the games being unbeatable more than his assessment of the play at these tables. I still think that one can turn a profit, but seeing these numbers laid out in front of you regarding rake and tips, as Martin said, can be quite sobering.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Las Vegas wrap up

Well it's been a busy week since I got back but I'm finally getting around to doing a wrap up post.

First of all, thanks to everyone who was reading along. It's good to know I have the crew back home looking over my shoulder while at the tables and giving me feedback. We are used to the technology now but really even just a few years ago there would be no way that you guys would be getting near real time updates with the ease and convenience of just checking your browser/RSS reader/phone. As suspected a quick review indicates a more content rich blog this trip than in the past. Odd since as I mentioned before it was almost exclusively thumb typing instead of my external keyboard. What really helped for me was to break down the session into smaller bites. I tracked more hands that way and keeps my typing workload down to more manageable smaller bites instead of slogging through a whole session afterwards. Also gave me something to do while folding a la Ryan's DS play.

Overall I was fairly pleased with my play. All of the bankroll management discussion has put poker in LV into a different perspective and I treat my buy ins with a litle more respect than in the past. It was also a bit of a renaissance for me as well. I went back to basics and even had to relearn a few things. Shifting out of the Marty Farha wide open mode that I've played in the past in LV, I went back to basics of folding a lot of hands...maybe too many even. I also found that the vast majority of my decision making was done on the Flop. I have a limited amount of hands I'm starting off with and based on the flop my decisions end up being fairly easy. Fit or fold. Very little chasing and definitely none without reasonable odds.

Once I got the hand selection and Flop decision thing down then I took the step of getting my money in when I thought I had the best of it. It was pretty much brute force betting and as pointed out in the comments I could have likely massaged another bill out of the weekend if I had been more surgical (assuming I didn't get drawn out on). Most notably AQ versus KK, AK vs K9 on AK9 flop, and nut Flush versus two pair. For whatever reason, betting that would be second nature to me at WNP just fell out of my head down there. Maybe due to a different crowd or being out of my element but either way I just wasn't playing as optimally as I could have. It also took Ryan yelling through the tubes to slap some sense into me to either a) stop showing cards or b) use my image to bluff more. Totally reasonable but just not what I was doing at the time. Made the adjustment though and it may well have netted me a call on my last big hand of sucker Straight versus top two pair though she may not have gone away even if turned my hand up since I think she over-estimated her position in the hand.

I know we joke about the 1/2 games being unbeatable and I made a post earlier about crunching some numbers so here's the math comparing Caesars to MGM to Binions:

* Caesars is a 1/3 game so you are paying $4/orbit and since they play nine handed that comes out to .44/hand or $13.33 for an hour of play assuming 30 hands/hour. Assuming to win a $40 pot in that hour, it is going to be raked a full 10% that maxes out at $4 plus the extra $1 for the HHJ and BBJ bonuses. Bottom line: $21.67 net for winning a $40 pot in an hour of play.

* MGM is a 1/2 game at a full ten handed table so it is only .30/hand or $9/hour. Taking down the $40 pot will still get max raked but you save on the bonus. Bottom line: $27 net, almost 25% more than Caesars.

* And just for comparison, we'll throw in Binions. Same as MGM but with only a 5% rake so you net out $29, best deal of all.

The tax paid is substantial as we all know but actually running the numbers is a little sobering. This underscores the strategy of playing big pots in No Limit games even more since you minimize the effect of the rake that way. Game selection is also important as we can see since where you play can have a big effect on how much you bring home.

Mail bag:
I do get your comments on the blog but I cannot reply to the comments from my phone. I tried from my browser but I think due to some JavaScript issue or something I cannot submit comments in response so here is some catch up.

* Bad beat hand with guy calling off his stack with bottom pair. Yeah, I know I want this guy in the hand. I have no qualms about it. I know I'm stacking that guy 90% of the time so I welcome his action, just don't like those 10% times but nobody does. He actually lucked into another two outer an orbit later when he called off his whole stack with a random 9 on a 922 flop to a guy who flopped trips then he caught a 9 on the River after all the money had gotten in. Even elicited a comment from a guy at the table who noted that he'd been catching lucky.

* Slowing down my betting to get callers. When it comes to trying to isolate down to one player in a multiway limped pot, I am fine with taking down the pot versus risking getting into a multiway pot and some hard decisions. When there are enough blinds to get me a few more orbits I would rather err on the side of just taking it down right there. I also have the chance of opening the door for someone who thinks I'm stealing and wants to re-steal or someone who wanted to limp/pop with JJ or QQ. If the field is small enough then I will throttle back the bet amount to try to get one caller.

* "Pro" playing 1/2 at PH. From everything I saw I have no reason to not believe that this guy can grind out a living playing ABC poker everyday at those tables. There is enough d0nk play to feed a solid player who is disciplined enough to manage a bankroll. Some who can average clearing one bill a day, as Marsh himself has, is netting out a livable wage especially considering that it is tax free.

* KK vs AQ. Agreed. I should have flat called and let him fire again on the Turn which would have been for the rest of his stack. Sub-optimal.

* Ryan's official challenge to not show another hand: accepted.

* Value bet on the end with trip Sixes. I actually misplayed this one too. The 15 on the end was actually almost the rest of my stack. If I had planned it out better I would have made a slightly larger bet on the Turn and then a shrug shove with a the rest of my stack which would have been smaller than the Turn bet so I could get paid in full. As it was I think an "all in" might sound more intimidating than it ended up being since those words often connote a big bet even though it was only a few bucks more than my River vbet.

* Did I actually jump around like Beth Shak and shove my pair of bullets in the faces of everyone at the table? Of course not. I actually did more of a Hevad Kahn "oooh haaa" type dance and picked up my chair and pumped it over my head instead.

Miscellaneous side notes:
* I was talking to one of the dealers at Planet Hollywood about their Chinese Poker tournament and she added a tidbit that hadn't come up before. She described how dealing actually took less down time than in a Hold'em tournament since they would use two decks and deal out the next hand while the players were setting their hands from the opposite deck. PH does not have auto shufflers and in a standard Hold'em tourney everyone waits for the deck to be made between hands.

* The gate that US Airways uses at McCarran is totally ghetto. The bathrooms are trash and the wing looks like it hasn't been updated since the airport was originally built. Half of the area was actually drywalled off and it looks like that half was getting a makeover but our side was not pretty.

OK, that's a wrap for this trip. Thanks again to everyone for reading. I hope everyone enjoys reading as much as I enjoy blogging. Until next time (prolly another couple months or so).

7c4c in BB ftw?

Jeh and I had an interesting discussion today. I am curious how you guys would vote on this.

Last night Jason, Jeh and I had an intriguing hand, where Jason played 7c4c from the big blind. The hand itself was really cool, and deserves it's own post, but I will concentrate on the discussion that it spawned here instead.

Jeh and I were going over the hand, and I realized that one mistake made in the hand by Jason (not picking on him, I don't have a problem with how he played it) was that he flat called a standard raise, out of position with 74s. It didn't occur to me until later that this may have been a key point in the hand. I asked Jeh what he thought, and he said he is calling there 10/10 times. I said that you would lose a lot of money doing that, and posed this situation to him.

It is WNP. But things are a big different. Every single time you are in the big blind, you pick up 7c4c. Every time, for an indeterminate amount of times, but spanning several sessions. The rule here is that you will most likely limp, or call a standard raise from anywhere from one player to a family pot. You will fold if it has been 3bet ahead of you. My question is, are you going to show a profit here over a long period of time? How would you handle this situation?

Sub-question: Does this exercise show us anything or is it irrelevant?

I started out the exercise as you are on the BB permanently, and always pick up 7c4c, but the other players play how they normally would and don't notice that you have the same hand every time. But the above example is a bit easier to get your head around, and incorporates a few other factors, so we go with that.

My contention is that you would get destroyed, losing lots of money, but I want to know what you guys think. Or even if the exercise has merit as a learning tool.

Mike Matusow folds to a call on PAD

As mentioned at Tuesday Night Poker last night, here is the footage of Mike d0nking out in a hand with Eli Elezra. Please note the extreme backpedaling after the fold to both justify the fold and explain how the 10K straps are pure evil. You will be treated to a bonus Beijing Olympics commercial before the hand starts so sit and watch it, for Jeh's sake.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ferguson vs. Gold

I was watching some Poker After Dark the other day, with a lineup of former WSoP World Champions: Hay-soos Ferguson, Johnny "The Orient Express" Chan, Barry Johnson, Jaime Gold, Phil Hellmurth, and Huckleberry Seed.

An interesting hand ended the 3rd episode. It's not a mind-blowing hand or anything like that, but it was a nice contrast of styles, and you can see the gears turning in both player's minds as the clip progresses. The sideline analysis is fun to witness too. And the way the hand ends is the *best* part.

Keep in mind, up to this point, Jaime is playing super solid (!) and Hay-soos is playing his normal style. Jaime is the chip leader goin into the hand and Ferguson is in second. Both have about 30k each at this point, so it's the two big stacks goin after each other.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Gus Hansen: What was he thinking?

Good ol' Gus has seemed to have lost some steam since he landed on the poker scene a few years ago with big WPT wins. One of the times I was down in LV I saw him during what seemed to be a pretty bad mixed game session in Bobby's Room. His body language, dwindling stack, and continued folding looked like a shell of the former Great Dane image that he had procured with his T high call of Esfandiari the a WPT Bad Boys of Poker tourney. I later read that he had put Antonio on a small pair and he felt he was priced in to call. Well he seems to have gotten some of his mojo back with a win in the 2007 Aussie Millions Main Event. And if you have wondered what he says into the little voice recorder that you see in the TV coverage then wonder no more. He is releasing a book, Every Hand Revealed that dissects all 329 of his non-folded hands including the 21 most critical hands of the tournament.

Supposed to be out in May and I'm sure I'll at least look through it when it shows up on bookstore shelves and will probably throw it into the library as well.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Get your twitter on

A bunch of us WNP people have joined Twitter. You should too.

If you don't know what it is, it's a way to stay in touch with people in your life passively throughout the day. Think of a cross between IM and a blog. It's web based, and you can have it sent to your cell phone or IM client. There aren't comments, and each "tweet" is limited to 140 characters. You can post about anything you want, from funny one off comments, to serious thoughts, to poker hands (you can post URL's for people on Cake), to random happenings, or whatever is in your head.

My name on there is Marshall_

Check it yo

Monday, March 10, 2008

When does the Cake Challenge end?

I know. I know. I shouldn't even be talking about how it ends until I start but the Challenge seems to have morphed into different things. Jason wants to write a book. Marsh said in his blog that this is now more of an online career exercise instead of a bankroll management exercise. Will looks like he went cold turkey. Royal is still getting started. Ryan seems to be the only one who is still on relatively the same course.

I've been wondering a while about what the goals are for people. For Jesus it was the 10K mark. I guess we never set a specific dollar amount goal for the TNP Cakers. But in general what is the goal of any poker player? Keep moving up stakes until they are playing at the highest level? Make it to the WSOP? Win a WSOP event? Do it for a profession? I figure that there is a point at which you can decide to turn into a grinder and find a game that you can beat and just play for income and not necessarily to grow your bankroll. Kinda like a retirement portfolio that you move out of stocks and into bonds.

Does anyone have any solid goals in mind for their Cake Challenge?

Suit domination in Omaha

On the DNR blog, Ryan posted about how he ran his KKxxds into AAxx and got his money in behind. I noticed in the HH that Villain had his Heart outs covered with a superior suited Heart which got me thinking: What are the odds of being suit dominated when you run KKxxds into AAxxds? Anyone?

My knee jerk reaction was the proveribal 50/50 of having one suit dominated, as in really 50/50, not just "it happens or it doesn't" 50/50. Well I ran the numbers and surprisingly enough the news is even worse for the KKxxds. It has a 2/3 chance of having a single suit dominated, a 1/6 chance of having both suits dominated, and only a 1/6 chance of having live Flush outs at all.

Friday, March 7, 2008

No messing around at the WSOP this year

The WSOP is finally cracking down on idiocy at the tables. There is now a rule specifically prohibiting "excessive celebration," though personally I think that Hevad Kahn's antics were already punishable as a player conduct code violation. They are also rescinding the rule about "show one show both" after the hand is over - you now can flash a single card. Those rule changes and others are covered in a two part story on

Futhermore, the WSOP seems to be laying down the law early by ejecting the chip leader at the final table of a satellite event.

I fully support the efforts to squelch the over the top shenanigans at the table.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Jeh's Visit to Commerce Casino

Here I am with another Casino review. I had a day in L.A. to kill, so what better to do than play some poker? I headed down to Inglewood (Swingin') to the world famous Commerce Casino to play some No-limit-Texas Hold Em. Inside is a room with tables as far as you can see... they had a good spread of all games, including Stud and Omaha.

For No Limit Hold Em, they had two games: $200 Max buyin, $3-5 blinds and a $400 Max buyin, $5-10 blinds. Rake was $1 for jackpot, $4 for any hands that got to the flop. Both offered a max buyin of 40 big blinds, so once you entered a pot with any raise, you'd better be prepared to go to the mat with the hand. Normally I'll sit and assess the table, and then base my style according to the play. But with only 40x big blind as the buy in, I was committed to playing TAG all the way.

Luckily, most of the table was Loose-Passive. I was fortunate to sit down at a new table. As we sat, I sized up my opponents - four of them were obviously regulars, and knew each other well. 2 seemed to be semi-regulars - the regulars didn't know their names but acknowledged their presence and some referred to past tables or histories. That left three of us as the n00bs.

Action got started and things were pretty normal. No showdowns, some preflop raises and some flop bets. I sat there and waited patiently for awhile. Preflop raises were around the range of $15-$30, depending on how many people were in the pot. I picked up two hands in a row after about 30 minutes and took down both pots after a preflop raise and flop bet. At least these players were paying attention to my tight play and made comments as such.

I built my stack up to $280 when my first big hand happened. I picked up AsAc on the button with two limpers ahead. I made it $20 to go and had the 3 seat and the guy to my right calling. Flop came K-10-5 with 2 hearts. Checked around to me and I make a bet of $40. Guy in the three seat calls, and the guy on my right pushes all in for a full rack. The whole table has shown willingness to go to the mat with any top pair so I insta-push all in myself. Guy in the three seat folds.

Guy on my right tables Kd5d for top and bottom pair. Gross. I brick the turn and river and hand a rack over to the guy. I made a mental note to myself about the guy and think that I'll have my chance to get my chips back from him later. Unfortunately, 15 minutes later, he runs up against the other big stack and loses all his chips when he goes broke with 6-2 vs. K-2 on a 8-2-2 board and they get it all in on the flop. As the guy leaves, he criticizes the winner for being involved in the pot in the first place with K-2 suited, who merely limped on the button with 5 callers ahead of her. THIS from a guy who called a preflop raise of $20 out of position with only 2 others in the pot.

So I sigh and push on with a full rack, knowing there were plenty of loose-passive d0nks at my table who were stuck. There was one crazy Asian gambler (you know the type) who was stuck 4 buyins in the course of an hour and a half. Callin STATION (even more than me at WNP). Got a few pots from him with some standard preflop raises and c-bets. Took down a big pot bluffing with 10s5s after raising preflop to $25 in position with 4 limpers, having ALL call, flop coming all diamonds with K and Q on board, checked around, diamond on the turn, checked all the way to 4th to act, who bets merely $15 in the pot of $120, and I raised to $70. Folded all around, and the crazy Asian gambler takes a minute to decide and folds his Jack of Diamonds, claiming that I *definitely* had Ad. I decide not to show my bluff and take down the pot of $135.

Went on a mini-rush there, picked up a set, got calls from one guy all the way to the river, and found myself up $35 again, with about half hour remaining in the session. Made the decision to tighten even more up as I was happy with climbing my way back... but then ended up with Jc9c in the big blind on a limped pot and flopping a gutshot straight flush draw when the board came KcQc-x. I bet it all the way to the river, but my lone caller shoved on me on the river, and I never made any part of the hand. Was down $80 again...

... but then I picked up AdQd on the button. Standard raise to $25 with 3 limpers. One caller, same guy who had beaten me on the previous missed straight flush draw. Flop comes black A-10d-5d. YAHTZEE. He check calls my $40 flop bet. HMMM.

Turn comes Ah. Even better. He checks, I fire out $60, and he calls. HMMMMMMMMM.

River comes a non-descript heart. He checks again, I fire out $60 again, and he sighs and folds. I show him my hand, and he remarks "good thing the diamonds didn't get there. I would've gone broke". Damn... wish the diamonds got there!

I dinked around in a few more hands and then left to pick up the wife. Ended up down a whole $3 the entire session. Figuring in rakes and tips and getting my Aces cracked, I was rather pleased with the outcome. I highly suggest the Commerce as a place to play. The staff was knowledgeable, the players nice and loose-passive, and the food was pretty decent. Plenty of parking, and easy to find off the freeway. The only thing I didn't like was the blinds-to-buyin ratio, as it encouraged a lot of shove poker (I saw super-tilting crazy-Asian go all-in preflop with A-J off, into a pot of $15, IMMEDIATELY after rebuying the full $200, got called by A-K, and crazy-Asian spiking a J). However, this can work in any TAG player's favor, as the players consider themselves pretty committed in any sizable pot.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Two "heads up" heads ups

Results are in for NBC's Heads Up tournament. If you want to watch it on TV you are going to need to avoid the poker media until April/May when it airs. Results are most likely going to be getting most coverage today and over the next day or two since the tourney was over this past weekend. I don't want to spoil it for anyone but the person who won it all has played poker before...that's all the hint I can give you.

The other heads up news, as Ivan briefly mentioned, is that the March tourney is going to be a heads up format. Mano a mano (with the occasional womano thrown into the mix) in a fight to the finish. Assuming the normal sized field in the low teens, we will be playing a round robin format where everyone gets to play everyone else first. Then the top eight players will be seeded into a bracket and play head to head in March Madness fashion until there is one. Round robin matches will be an accelerated blind schedule one game per match. Bracket matches will be best of three with the final matchup being best of five. There will also be game money paid out for the opening round, every win in round robin play will pay out a tbd amount while the top four finishers get the balance of the prize pool distributed like a standard tournament. I am working with the T&I Card Room to secure a evening in late March. More info as it becomes available.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Jesus's update (sort of)

I got this email from Full Tilt today linking me to one of they Pro Tips articles. This one was by Jesus and he outlines his rapid descent from building his stack up very high to losing over 2/3's of it in 3 months. He doesn't go into too much detail, but basically just claims running bad as the culprit. Weird.