My Poker Blog

Career Change

August 05, 2012

I've had a few people ask where I've been and whether I'm still playing poker.

I stopped playing at the beginning of this year. Poker just wasn't challenging or enjoyable for me any more. I felt like I was just going through the motions and my results were lacklustre because of this. So I quit.

There have been quite a few ups and downs since then. My wife is 5 months pregnant with our first child right now.

I have embarked on a new career as a freelance copywriter. I've always been interested in writing, and now this is an opportunity to help businesses and individuals with their communications.

If you're interested in finding out what it's all about, head over to my site. Also don't forget to connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn etc. All the links are on my site.

Good luck!

Relative vs Absolute Hand Strength

August 13, 2011 2 comments

Lately my posts have been giant walls of text and I have drifted away from a big part of my intent with starting a blog in the first place, which was to post interesting hands. So this week a few suitable hands came up and I thought I would spend this post mainly talking about one of them after a brief overall update.

I changed backers once again, it seems to be a monthly occurrence lately. I don't want to go too deeply into it for the sake of their privacy but I am now being staked by a family member. It's a better arrangement for me because I now keep 70% of profits rather than 50% and also I can basically choose what I want to play and manage my own bankroll. The first week under this arrangement has started off well with a 6th in the Stars Sunday nightly $162 (again, highest buy in I had played this year) for around $2600 and a few other smallish scores which ended the week in decent profit.

On a whim I listed a small four event WCOOP package on twoplustwo, I had hoped it would sell a bit faster and at this rate I will be lucky to sell enough to be able to play any of the events, although there is still three weeks to go before the first event so it might work out okay.

I have been watching a few training videos this week, most notably a series on Deuces Cracked by Vanessa Selbst where she final tables the Sunday Million. It's a three part series and I watched the first two parts during the week - I have had a head-cold all week so I took a day off in the middle where I just relaxed and did a little study. They were fantastic videos and I am really keen to see more MTT stuff by her (there's a long series called Tournamentality which I plan to watch after this series). She's a great example of thinking outside the box and being creative. There's just something extra about watching a predominantly cash game player, especially a higher stakes one, play MTTs, they have a great approach and they aren't afraid to do unconventional things for fear of looking stupid. If they believe something is +EV then they just go for it.

So anyway, onto the hand I mentioned. This was from the $3 rebuy early in the week. It gets a couple of thousand entrants and has $10k guaranteed, with around $2k for first. We were at the final two tables with 12 players left and I was feeling pretty good, there was deep stacks so plenty of room to play and it was my only table left so I could really focus. Most of the other players had fairly unimpressive results but seemed to be playing well. The villain in this hand had standard preflop stats, not particularly aggressive when it came to 3-betting but he was playing 22% of hands overall so he could be defending reasonably wide here.

PokerStars No-Limit Hold'em, 3.3 Tournament, 8000/16000 Blinds 1600 Ante (6 handed)

CO (t402829)
Hero (Button) (t541372)
SB (t483490)
BB (t954063)
UTG (t381160)
MP (t731789)

Preflop: Hero is Button with {9-Diamonds}{k-Spades}
3 folds, Hero bets t33469, 1 fold, BB calls t17469

Flop: (t84538) {3-Clubs}{k-Diamonds}{k-Hearts}(2 players)
BB checks, Hero bets t42269, BB calls t42269

Turn: (t169076) {7-Spades} (2 players)
BB checks, Hero bets t84538, BB raises to t169076, Hero calls t84538

River: (t507228) {j-Clubs} (2 players)
BB bets t294958 putting Hero all in

After flopping gin I'm basically trying to work out the best way to get stacks in, so obviously betting flop is a must, as we would be c-betting this flop with all our air. I'm hoping villain gets bluffy or tries to protect a weaker hand by raising. On the turn there is definitely a strong argument for checking back. I posted this hand on Two Plus Two where it generated a great deal of discussion, and I made the argument there that I think checking back the turn is good because we are either way ahead or way behind, and it's really hard for villain to call three streets with all that many hands we beat. We probably shouldn't be greedy and should just go for two streets of value, and the turn is a logical place to check back because it keeps his range for putting money in on the river as wide as possible. At the time I decided to bet the turn because I didn't really think that hard about it, I just thought about the absolute strength of my hand and that it was possible villain could spaz out on the turn.

But the problem is that people don't really float the flop with the intention of bluff-raising the turn out of position, especially not with 12 people left in a two thousand person field. If he was going to bluff he would have done it on the flop. It's also unlikely he is playing a weaker hand for value, there just aren't many worse kings in his range and even if he had one he would often just keep calling and hope we keep bluffing, as it's hard for us to continue with many worse hands. Nevertheless, it seems like we should call the turn because it's a min raise, so even if we're usually behind we're getting a good price to draw to the nuts and there is still a small chance he's raising something worse to see where he's at and will check the river.

In retrospect and in the cold light of day I really think the river is an easy fold, but our judgement often gets clouded by confusing absolute hand strength with relative hand strength. In a vacuum we have a strong hand, we have trips on the button in a situation where we are expected to have a wide range and to be playing aggressively. But villain's line shows such strength that it's almost impossible for us to be ahead, as I said he would virtually never take this line as a bluff and we don't beat any hands in his value range, whereas it's conceivable he has lots of hands in his defending range that beat us, such as KT+, 33, 77, k3s and K7s. But, with my thinking process being limited to "I haz trips, I call!" I did call the river and he tabled 77. This is a spot which I think requires some deeper on the spot analysis and some discipline, so hopefully I have learnt a lot from this hand and won't make such a crucial mistake in future. More updates next week.

Skill vs Variance

August 04, 2011 1 comments

I couldn't decide between the current title of this post or the alternative "Nit vs Spew" for reasons that will become apparent later. The thing with tournaments is that the variance is so huge it's really hard to know if you're playing poorly or just running bad, or playing well or just running hot. I was listening to the Deuce Plays podcast a couple of weeks ago where Bart Hanson was interviewing Tommy Angelo; it's one of the best poker podcasts around and one of the few I make it a point to listen to regularly. I had heard of Tommy Angelo but never heard him speak or read anything by him, all I knew was that he is someone with more of a mental game approach and focuses on helping people play the best they can by avoiding tilt. Anyway, I really enjoyed hearing him speak and it's obvious he has a great understanding of human nature in general and a really great approach to life. At one point they were talking about poker tournaments vs cash games, and the point Tommy made was that he used to play tournaments, but he couldn't handle the fact that you could play great and do everything right for the majority of the tournament, and then just lose one coin flip or 70/30, get coolered or whatever and have that all taken away from you. At least in cash games you actually have something to show for most of the times you do things right. He said he thought that tournaments were 90% luck and 10% skill whereas cash games are the other way around. Whilst I think that's a pretty big exaggeration, there is definitely some truth in the point he's making and I have been thinking about it a lot since hearing that interview. But the thing is, it's a double edged sword in that you can also do a ton of stuff wrong in tournaments and then just win a huge flip or get aces vs some guy's AK a couple of times and next thing you know you have a massive stack. For this reason, it's very hard to know if you're playing well or just getting the right cards at the right times. It's possible to get a coach or somebody to review tournaments with you and point out if you're doing something bad, but the problem is that if you're multi-tabling 50 hours of poker a week, going over hands with someone for 1-2 hours a week really isn't going to begin to cover many of the spots you're finding yourself in, and coupled with this is the fact that even if you're choosing hands that you think might be your weak spots or things you have trouble with, there may well be a lot of other things you do that you're taking for granted and that are actually quite bad, but are never seeing the light of day. You may well just be choosing things to go over that just made you think really hard, but that are fairly close and really quite inconsequential, whereas the hand before you folded BvB in a spot that is clearly leaking money over the long run.

This is where I think having people that you can regularly get opinions from in real time, about stuff that you take for granted (commenting while watching each other play) as well as stuff that gives you trouble, can be of huge benefit, so for that reason I am finding the skype group I mentioned starting in my last post really helpful. It's grown to over fifty people, which has brought some of it's own challenges with people trolling etc, but overall it's pretty self-regulating and people will just get from it what they put in. I guess the drawback is that by a group of people sharing their ideas about something as structured as poker, it can make everyone more or less play and think in the same way, but if that way is successful then that's fine. I suppose it's the same criticism in general that's often leveled at the TwoPlusTwo forums - it creates a bunch of people who all play the same and there is just this kind of top-down group-think, where people aren't really looking at the best way of doing things for themselves, but rather just trying to emulate the latest forum legend. There's a kind of leveling out process where the best players don't really get that much out of it, but inexperienced players can develop a cookie-cutter style that makes money, without ever really having to reinvent the wheel or think too deeply about trying new things. I don't see this as an inherently bad thing. After all, most of the good players are good because they went through this process as a beginner in the first place. If you read many great players' story, they will mention that fateful moment where they found TwoPlusTwo and everything changed. It's when they actually go beyond that cookie-cutter approach and start thinking more for themselves that they actually go a step above the majority, and in turn they pass that down the line, so it becomes part of the canon of communal knowledge. I could give tons of examples of this but I don't really want to take up too much space with it; the one most striking example I can think of is the legendary thread entitled Glorious shove by DJK in 1k on Stars. In the thread, the great DJK shoves 25bb BvB with QJo, something that was really pretty way out three years ago when this thread was posted, but which is incredibly standard today, mainly because of this thread! So this is an example of the trickle-down approach that things like forums and any group discussion medium where varying skill level is concerned embody.

Last week I had my biggest win of the year, taking down the nightly $109 $40K guaranteed last Sunday for $9K. The thing that made this extra sweet was that it was also the highest buy in I have played this year - the day before the tournament I asked my backer on a whim if I could play the big $109 on Sundays when it's extra juicy, which he agreed to. So I am one for one in $100+ tournaments this year, a strike rate I'm planning on maintaining Big Grin. If it wasn't for that tournament, however, in the three weeks since my last post, under my new backer, I would be down around $3k. That's over something like 400 tournaments (the middle week I was only playing at night because my wife had a stay in hospital), so in a way I consider this still something of a downswing. One way of looking at it is that I am outlaying something like $1200 a day so over an average of around 12 days play I would have been losing around 25%. But maybe I'm being too hard on myself, I mean success in tournaments revolve around big scores amidst steady downswings. After all, not many fields of endeavour have an expected failure rate of 80-90% (the amount of tournaments that even the greatest players won't even make it to the money in).

The thing is, I went over the tournament yesterday, and I couldn't really find anything I did particularly well. I could just as easily have been looking at this tournament played a year or two years ago, so it really makes me question my overall skill level and my constant striving to improve, when my biggest score in ages just amounted to me coolering people, winning flips and sucking out. Maybe I reached my ceiling two years ago and just need to accept that and play within it. On the flip side I don't think I did too many things wrong, I might have missed a steal or a good spot to 3b or two, but apart from one spewy bluff which wasn't risking many chips anyway, I don't think I made too many obvious mistakes. I just really didn't get into too many tricky spots and didn't get many opportunities to either spew or set up good plays. I think I'm trying too hard to be creative in most of my tournaments, I'm getting in lots of spots where I'm not comfortable, which I guess is a necessary part of improving - over time one becomes comfortable in those spots - but in the current climate of MTTs it's probably just not all that necessary. One can just nit it up and still have a good win rate ... I was going to write that playing like that just isn't going to win majors, but then I thought about it and realised my biggest ever win did come exactly like that, and it was a major, in fact pretty much the toughest major around, the Sunday Second Chance, around two years ago, against a final two tables that included aaaaaaa, jcamby, acehighdro, sketchy, Ben Lamb (!), and Thay3r amongst others. When I look over that tournament I see a similar pattern - nitting, coolering, winning flips, so maybe there's a really sustainable argument for just staying within one's natural comfort zone, doing what you do well within that zone, and surviving long enough to be able to do those things. That goes against what a lot of great players, much smarter people than me, think it takes to be successful at tournaments though. The sentiment in particular that springs to mind is that of Seabeast, arguably the best player in Australia, former top ten in the world, one of the players I admire the most and who has inspired me the most with things he says:

"... I strongly disagree with the prevailing sentiment that just because someone reads the forums and decides they want to be a winning player, they are automatically a winning player.

not being a losing player is not the same as being a winning player.

it's almost as though people think we are all equally good because we read the same threads and register in the same tournaments, and that some of us just have to wait longer for our heaters than others.

eventually we'll all be rich, because lucky us, we all found the same automatic cashcow!

poker is hard to beat. it takes discipline, study, and self control.

very few people ever really take a large amount of money out of the game. this doesn't change whether they are backed or not, or whether they play tourneys, cashgames, or back other players.

you aren't a winning player just because you show up, even if you never make a huge spewy embarassing mistake, or play table games, or tilt off money like other people you know... even if you read 2+2 for two hours a day...

all that is still not enough. it takes more. profit in poker is GROUND OUT, it's not automatically there. it's a privilege. it's earnt, over time, not by *avoiding mistakes*, but by actually becoming a tough player.
the difference in skill level between a gboro or a zeejustin or a lilholdem and the average HSMTT poster is way, way bigger than most people think.

ultimately there's the 1-5% of people *getting money*, and then there's the rest."

This is from a thread about backing, and I've left out most of the stuff he said about backing, which is interesting in its own right and which has helped shape my own opinion on backing as expressed in my earlier blog posts. You can see the entire post, and indeed the entire thread here. It's a great read if you have a spare hour or so to read the whole thing.

So anyway, I guess I need to keep experimenting and work out what really is going to best work for me, how much I want to try new things at the expense of immediate (and possibly long-term) gains, and how I can best find out what's working and what isn't. My backer returns from overseas in the next few days so I'm looking forward to weighing up some coaching options with him. I'm also pretty keen to start playing some live stuff, I really miss playing live, although every time I do I come home to my wife saying "never again", but that may well be that I just didn't have the patience and the passion to do well live in the past. I think I do now. Either way, it looks like an exciting time ahead. Hopefully next time I will have some room to talk about non poker things and maybe post some interesting hands, I really need to get in the habit of marking interesting ones so I can easily retrieve them. I will try to update next week.

A New Deal?

July 17, 2011 2 comments

I haven’t played poker at all this week because I’ve been doing some casual work for my father-in-law. It’s worked out well because the work is mostly available in the school holidays, which coincides with my decision last week to find a new backer after going it alone and having Full Tilt close down a week later with half my bankroll on board. So all week during the times I’m not at work I’ve been negotiating with potential new backers trying to secure myself the best deal possible. It hasn’t been easy, precisely because I’ve been working so many hours (a pretty standard week for most people) and it reinforces for me how much the standard 9-5 lifestyle just isn’t for me. It’s as if one’s life is just consumed by work and there is no time for anything else. I’m more one of those people who wants to work in order to have a way of life, not as a way of life, which I guess probably sounds a bit spoilt or naive, considering how many people in the world would give their right arm to be able to do a good day’s work for a good day’s pay, and wish they had the luxury of working in order to have a way of life whilst here I am turning my nose up at it. I just feel like once one is on that treadmill it’s very hard to get back off, and I’m at a point in my life now where poker represents an opportunity to bypass that altogether, albeit by being on a different kind of treadmill, but one that’s a lot more stimulating and moving a lot faster.

Anyway, leaving home at 7am and getting home at 5-6pm hasn’t made it easy to get in touch with the people I’ve been discussing backing with, who are all in North America and Europe and operate on a different enough schedule to me without the work complicating things further. However the money is very good and it’s coming at a time when it’s needed most, and also I guess it’s been good to have some time off poker, step back and think things through and freshen up. It’s now Saturday and I am really keen to play a session. I have been listening to lots of poker podcasts during the week while driving around for work, and watching the odd video or two – something I haven’t been doing nearly enough of lately.

The backing discussions have been stressful, convoluted and exciting all at the same time, so I’ll try to give a brief summary of how things have panned out over the last week or so. I should mention at the outset that my goal was to be able to play up to $55fo and $11r across around 3-4 sites, preferably with some kind of coaching included. Within a day of posting my advertisement on two plus two I got a message from someone saying they are “very” interested, are in the process of relocating from the US and are about to resume their very large backing operation, they pointed me towards a thread where they advertise which had hundreds of applications in it. I replied to them and gave my skype details. Basically I have spent all week trying to catch them online, it took about two days and three emails for them to even add me on skype, then there were a few back and forths where they basically said it sounds like I want to multi-site but they are only looking at one or possibly two sites, and is it possible that would work for me. I replied a couple of days ago that in order for that to work for me I would need to be playing fairly high or else a 70-30 split. That message has not yet been read. I was being fairly patient despite my eagerness to lock something in place, but as my wife pointed out, if this is how they communicate with prospective horses then it might be a nightmare trying to get anything from them once a deal is in place. In their defence, the WSOP is in full swing and a week probably doesn’t seem like a long time for anyone but me in this situation right now.

Two other guys contacted me a little later, but one stated up front that he doesn’t have the resources for what I’m hoping for, and the other spent a few days trying to catch me online before eventually asking what my “ideal” arrangement would be. I already had a few other irons in the fire so I thought screw it I will just go all out, and I said up to 109fo and 20r on at least 3 sites, 60-40 split my way with coaching. He actually said “ok, awesome” after my spiel and that he needed to get in touch with his partner and would let me know within a day or so, and then I’m pretty sure he blocked me on Skype, a sequence of events I find mildly hilarious.
Another party who also has a fairly big operation contacted me too and had a ton of questions: why had my last two backers only put me in at $55 maximum if my overall average buy in was $56 (I explained I had had a few months off and wanted to start at the bottom, and hadn’t shopped around for a deal because I wanted to play with a couple of friends). What were my references, why had those deals ended, how many games a week could I play, could I send some hand histories of recent tournaments? I had already answered these questions in my original advertisement, and I would have thought that a solid win-rate over 10,000 tournaments, more than a million hands of poker at a tougher level than I’m seeking now and in a far tougher climate than exists now, would negate the need for him to review random hand histories. Anyway at the end of all this, without looking at the HHs he offered a start at $33fo and $8r, which would be a big step backwards from my last deal, where I had consistently won at higher limits and had never been in makeup. I pointed this out, and he said he’d review the HHs and get back to me. This was a couple of days ago and I haven’t heard back, despite chasing him up a few times. This whole exchange was quite frustrating, remember he approached me, after I had laid out all the pertinent information in a transparent way. And it was as if I had no prior history or was asking for some big shot way above my head. Once again, it made me wonder if I’d actually want to enter a business relationship with someone who did business this way.

The final two parties to approach me were people with whom I had an existing relationship. One was a guy I used to play with who has since moved up to high stakes and live tournaments. He said he was keen to back me but that he’d want to split the investment with a mutual friend as he didn’t have quite enough funds online for a $15k+ investment. The stakes I was looking for wouldn’t be a problem as long as the friend came on board, and I could draw upon both their knowledge at any time regarding strategy (the mutual friend is now a very successful live pro). He was quite concerned about what time my sessions would be though, as ideally I would play at times to take advantage of the soft new euro schedule, but that’s mainly on weekends and late at night for me so I explained that wasn’t going to work. He was still moderately keen with the schedule I laid out but had to talk to our mutual friend, with whom he had done some backing before. The latest news this morning is that the friend isn’t interested at this point (I’m trying to find out why) but he still wants to go ahead with the support of a mid-stakes cash player he knows.

Meanwhile I was contacted by a friend who I know in real life, who read my last blog entry and saw the advertisement, and said he would be willing to back me as he’d hate to see me have to go and get a real job Laugh. This guy lives in the same city as me and mainly plays online high stakes HU SNGs, as well as some tournaments. We met at a live tournament a couple of years ago and have been friends since then, chatting online from time to time. Anyway he said he would be willing to go up to $55fo and $33r, which seems like a weird balance, but he believes that rebuys up to around $33 are pretty soft at the moment, which I wouldn’t really know as I haven’t played anything above $11r in almost a year. He seemed quite casual about the whole thing, which was good in a way but also a little worrying as I wondered if he was serious and if he knew what he was letting himself in for – backing someone at those stakes could easily become a $20k investment fairly quickly – but he was aware of the swings and still okay with it. So at this stage I have a good feeling about this arrangement and am 90% sure this is what I will go with, unless one of the other guys pulls out a spectacular offer. It allows me to play higher than any of the others, and I’m confident I can do well at that level, so it will allow me to achieve the most in the shortest time possible. Also the fact we know each other and live in the same city helps (we might also work some live stuff in, possibly including cash games, down the track or something). The one drawback is the lack of a team chat kind of environment where one is able to bounce ideas off other people playing at the same level. But I guess if that’s important to me I should be pro-active and try to get my own chat group happening. At the time of writing I am pretty sure this is the arrangement for me so barring anything out of the ordinary happening in the next day or so, I will be kicking off next week with a new deal. My father-in-law has also expressed interest, although I would feel a bit weird using a family member’s money and I’m not sure how it might affect my play psychologically, but it’s good to know there’s that to fall back on if everything else goes pear-shaped.

One thing I have learned from this is that I should have spelled out exactly what I was looking for in the original advertisement; that way I wouldn’t have wasted anyone’s time and vice versa. I suppose I just assumed people would realise what level I was looking to play at, but I think people just see what they want to see a lot of the time, and it was silly of me to expect people to just work out what I was looking for without me actually expressing it. The other thing to come out of this experience is an even stronger desire to stake other people, an idea I have toyed with in previous posts, and had dabbled in a little when I was winning more money than I knew what to do with, but at the time I didn’t take it very seriously. If I were a backer I’m pretty sure I would snap me up in an instant! But who wouldn’t back themselves I suppose. Anyway, that’s something to add to my list of poker goals: build enough of a bankroll to be able to begin staking others, starting with a handful of micro-stakes guys and moving up from there.

So right now I am itching to play a big Sunday night session, I will be spending this weekend relaxing and watching some training videos to prepare. I created a spreadsheet to chart daily buy-ins under this likely new arrangement, and over a 4.5 hour registration period it added up to a hefty $1700/day in 42 tournaments across 3 sites. I’m not sure how many tables I will potentially have going at one time, but if it’s too many I will have to tweak things, maybe taking out some of the highest or lowest buy ins. There are also a lot of rebuys in that schedule, which will have variable buy ins on any given day, depending on how many times I need to rebuy, so it may vary between $1500 and $1900 on any given day I suppose. I had hoped to talk about some non-poker stuff in this blog, like the new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm which has just begun, but I've rambled on enough for now so hopefully there will be more room for that (and hopefully to post some hands) next time!

N.B I wrote this a day or two before publishing it because I didn’t want to influence the outcome of anything for one reason or another. As suspected, the deal with my friend has gone through, and I’ve also started a skype chat group with some guys from the midstakes MTT forum on twoplustwo.

Not Good

July 07, 2011

It's been almost two weeks since my last blog update and a lot has happened. In my last post I was about even from when I had left my backer. A couple of days after that post, Full Tilt had it's licence revoked and stopped operating. Unfortunately I had around half of my bankroll on there. The latest news is that the site is being bought by investors and all monies will be refunded to everyone, including US players, and the site will begin operating again. That all sounds a bit too good to be true, so I guess we'll see what happens.

Coupled with this, I have gone on a bit of downswing, and everything seems like really hard work at the moment. I have still been messing around with cash games, and lost a few buy ins at $50NL before dropping down to $25NL, where I am a lot more comfortable and have been winning a little over the short sessions I have been playing at that level. Meanwhile I am trying to put in enough MTT volume on Stars and Party to make it worthwhile playing, and I have had to drop my buy in level after my bankroll has been cut in half and has also been shrinking with standard variance. Lower buy ins mean bigger fields, which once again means more variance, and even though I feel like I am playing as well as or better as I was during the last few weeks of winning a lot, I am struggling to put in a winning session.

Just now I final tabled the $11 $10k guarantee which was paying $2200 for first, and as I was saying to my friend zachjackdad on Skype, every pay jump was huge for me at the moment. Yet I managed to bust in 7th spot for around $270 after losing AQdd < JT on JXXdd flop for 90BB with 25 or so left, then I ground back up from 10 to 30bb before shoving BvB with 11 left and getting called by a really tight guy with 12bb and QTs (my Q8 failed to suck out). I had only shoved on him bvb once previously in quite a few orbits together so the mind really boggles at his call. Then at the FT with around 20bb I was kind of card dead and just watched as every short stack seemed to find amazing ways to get lucky and stay in the tournament, then I min raised KQo in MP with about 14bb, expecting to get a lot of respect because I hadn't raised a hand the whole FT (also expecting to get flatted a lot because the players at the table were awful, with around $3 abi), got shoved on by a 5BB stack with A6s (lol), had to call, and managed to lose the flip despite a Q44 flop. Then finally a few hands later I reshoved QQ, got called by A6 and lost to bust out.

So that finished my week in suitably depressing fashion, and now my bankroll is a grand total of around $800, which is not really enough to play with. To top things off we are really short of money in real life, my wife has had to cut back her work hours because she's been ill and we have had a wave of bills and car expenses etc over the last couple of weeks, so without me winning for a couple of weeks, we have next to nothing to live on right now, and yet our mortgage repayments, insurance costs etc etc are due every week without fail. As if this weren't bad enough, my wife's health is really poor at the moment and she is feeling terrible, basically in constant pain, and the doctors are not really able to help her, which is very frustrating. The stress of having no money and large expenses really isn't helping her. I did a couple of days of work for my father-in-law this week for some extra money, and it looks like I might have to get a full-time job so we can live. I'm not sure doing what, maybe stocking shelves at the supermarket or something.

At the start of today I made a thread applying for staking on two plus two. I'm yet to hear anything back, but with my results over the years I would be surprised if nobody is interested in staking me. At this stage I just want to play as high buy-ins as possible and as much volume as possible to try and make some fast money, so I'll be accepting whichever offer lets me play highest. I really feel like having played some cash games has me playing very disciplined and solid, and going over my stats and comparing them, asking for help on forums etc., I think it's rubbed off onto my MTT game, which i think is rock solid right now and I just need to put in tons of volume to start realising some expectation. I approached my previous backer about taking me back, but unfortunately he too had a large amount of money on Full Tilt so is unable to take me on again.

On the bright side, there is a chance that Full Tilt will come back and I will get my $1300 back, and also it's tax time in Australia and I did several months work late last year and early this year, most of the tax from which I will get back, so that should help make ends meet. I guess we will see what pans out over this weekend, but I'm hoping to start next week off with a new backer and having withdrawn my current roll for life expenses. I'll be working for my father-in-law at the start of the week, so that will be at least three days off poker (unless I decide to grind some cash games which is a distinct possibility) and from there we will see how it goes. I really feel like I'm teetering on the edge of my last shot in poker. If I lose my momentum now I may never get another chance at it, and it will be time to give up and try something more conventional and stable, which would be a shame after putting so much time into this and really loving what I do right now, although not on weeks like this!

George Calombaris, Masterchef judge and owner/chef of Hellenic republic, among other restaurants.
George Calombaris, Masterchef judge and owner/chef of Hellenic republic, among other restaurants.

Tonight I am catching up with some friends for, ironically, a poker night. It's really just an excuse to get together and have a few drinks and a good meal though, as nobody really has any clue how to play and they learn the rules as we go. It will be great to have a boys' night and relax though. Then tomorrow night my wife's good friend is having her 30th birthday at Hellenic Republic, which I am really looking forward to. I hope my wife is feeling well enough to go. The guy who owns the restaurant, George Calombaris, is a judge on our favourite TV show, Masterchef, which is really hotting up now, down to around 8 contestants (one was just disqualified for having a smart phone in "the house" - very Big Brother), they just had a tour of Sydney food spots with Anthony Bourdain, and soon they will all be going on a food trip to NYC. It just gets better and better!


June 27, 2011

I haven't been in the best state of mind poker-wise lately. I've now played seven sessions un-backed and it's been a bit of a roller-coaster. I got off to a good start, building my bankroll from $2700 to $4k (the amount that I had been aiming to have to go it alone, and the most I had needed during the whole time I was backed) within the first couple of days, but then a couple of patchy days later in the week brought it back down to close to where I started, although still in profit from when I started on my own. The main problem was Friday, and my mental state in reaction to it, which carried over to this week. It was just one of those days where I couldn't seem to win a significant hand, and despite getting a few decent stacks in things got very unlucky in crucial spots to finish the day poorly, down $500, which is about as bad as it gets for me. Days like this are going to be common, so I really shouldn't let it effect me, but I just wasn't really looking forward to Sunday night's session (Monday morning for me) the way I usually am after having a relaxing weekend.

I think part of the problem is that I have been thinking very seriously lately about switching to cash games. My wife and I are thinking of having a baby, and cash games would provide a much more stable income as well as more flexibility with playing times. I have always preferred tournaments because of the changing dynamic, and the excitement that comes with getting deep, and have found cash fairly boring in comparison, even though cash games are more complex because of the deeper stacks. I just couldn't imagine grinding away at cash games for hours on end in the same way I do tournaments because it's always so static, you can only win one or two buy ins in any given hand, no matter how well you play. But lately I've been re-evaluating and imagining some ways to make cash games more interesting, mainly by thinking of attainable goals and ways to achieve them. So with that in mind I have started working a few cash games into my schedule, when i don't have very many tournaments going. I prefer full ring because that's what I'm used to, having played quite a lot of live cash and after playing so many tournaments. I just haven't felt all that comfortable at 6-max in the past.

So during Sunday night's session I had a few cash tables going along with my tournaments, some 6-max and FR 50NL. Then I started going really poorly at the tournaments, it was as if Friday hadn't ended but just carried over. Every time I was all in I lost, no matter how big a favourite I was, and it just kept happening. I got pretty upset and unregistered from all my tournaments about an hour into the session, and decided to just fill my screens with cash games until I had busted my remaining tournaments. So in the end I played 1200 hands for a net loss of 3 buy ins ($150). I actually enjoyed the 6-max a lot, there were a lot more terrible players at 6-max and it was a lot more lively. I'd like to say I lost during the session because I got coolered or lost some big flips or whatever, but the fact is I ran quite well and I think my losses came from a lot of small spots where I just didn't really do the right thing. So that's really not encouraging for a future in cash games, although as someone advised me a little while ago, when one goes from MTTs to cash, it's a very different skill-set so one is expected to lose at first. I have played quite a lot of cash online on and off over the years though and all up am losing, although I've only played about as many hands as the average grinder plays in a week, and a lot of those hands were played way over my head - I was playing 400PLO and 400NL a couple of years ago when I was a true tourney nit/donk and had lucked upon a few decent scores, so needless to say I was way out of my depth there.

Anyway I feel like I got the cash-game bug out of my system for a little while and today ran back to tournaments with my tail between my legs. Again I didn't do very well, and am now truly back to where I started when I left my backer, so I'm going to have to take a look at my play and make sure I haven't drifted too far in some of the things I was doing that were working so well for me. Most likely it's just variance though and I will be back to winning form tomorrow (fingers crossed!).

I'm still considering cash games, but I'm thinking to make it worthwhile one needs rake-back or Supernova status on Stars or something at least, so maybe I'll aim to start next year and have a big shot at going for Supernova Elite (supposedly worth $30k+ even if you're breaking even at the games) and in the meantime focus on improving my skills enough to be able to beat 100NL. I think that would be the lowest level one could make enough money from to live off. I was doing some calculations, and at 50NL if one were beating the games at 8bb/100 hands (a very solid win-rate that not many people are able to achieve), if I were playing 20k hands a week (what I am playing now at tournaments), I would be making $800/week. Not exactly setting the world on fire there! So when one weighs up how easy tournaments are in comparison, I think i just need to HTFU and focus on trying to log as many hands as possible and keep improving my discipline level, and not go on tilt every time I lose a few 80-20s in a row. I really need to get hold of Jared Tendler's book on tilt control, I think it will help me a lot.

Away from poker, it's very sad that Game of Thrones has wound up its first season, it's going to be a long wait for the next season. But the good news is that some other great shows are just starting up again, most notably Curb Your Enthusiasm next month, but also Louie, of which the first episode of season two aired the other night. It didn't disappoint and it seems that the eponymous Louie has really nailed the bitter-sweet dark comedy thing he seemed to be only grappling with in the first season. He manages to make the show hilarious while at the same time dealing with serious moral questions, like in this episode where he has to decide whether or not to leave his kids with one of the two gay strangers from next door when his pregnant sister falls ill during the night. Here's the opening scene:

Check out his stand-up routine after the opening credits too, it's pretty brief. More updates later this week.

Going It Alone

June 17, 2011

They say a week is a long time in politics, well I guess it's an even longer time in poker because after saying in my last blog update less than a week ago that I couldn't foresee being able to get off the backing treadmill any time soon, I had an amazing week and am ready to give it a shot. I notched up four wins in as many days, including my two biggest scores of the year.

The results were:

Monday: 1st in Party Turbo $11r for $1780 (yearly best), 6th in Stars Nightly $55 for $1220.
Tuesday: Double FT Full Tilt Big Doubles, although 3 other people did it the same night (!) so it ended up only netting around $500 total.
Wednesday: Equal 1st in Stars $13.50 KO Turbo for $1440 (chopped HU for 10% less than 1st place money)
Thursday: 1st in Party $99 for $2320 (yearly best) and 1st Party $11 for $590.

The Stars $55 on Monday was a little disappointing, it was by far my biggest final table for the year, paying around $5400 for 1st place. This was the bust-out hand:

PokerStars No-Limit Hold'em, 55 Tournament, 2500/5000 Blinds 500 Ante (6 handed)

MP (t290198)
CO (t362622)
Button (t211202)
Hero (SB) (t136149)
BB (t560995)
UTG (t157834)

Preflop: Hero is SB with {J-Clubs} {A-Spades}
2 folds, CO bets t11000, Button raises to t26500, Hero raises to t135649 (All-In), 2 folds, Button calls t109149

Flop: (t290298) {Q-Clubs} {8-Diamonds} {3-Hearts} (2 players, 1 all-in)

Turn: (t290298) {2-Diamonds} (2 players, 1 all-in)

River: (t290298) {7-Hearts} (2 players, 1 all-in)

Total pot: t290298

Button had {A-Hearts} {Q-Spades} (one pair, Queens).
Hero had {J-Clubs} {A-Spades} (high card, Ace).
Outcome: Button won t290298

There was a very aggressive dynamic between the two players already in the pot, so AJ should be in quite good shape here, as the button will be light a high percentage of the time, we have some fold equity, and we have an ace for some card removal, making hands like AK, AQ and AA somewhat less likely. We're also in decent shape vs some of his value range like 88-TT. Until I dug up the hand just now I hadn't realised we were in last place at the time, so I feel a lot better about it now. With the stacks as they are I think this would be a pretty bad spot to pass up, given the dynamic at the table. It would be a different situation if there were two or three stacks equal to or shorter than us, where we could mount an argument for passing up this small chip edge in the hope of improving our actual money edge, given the relatively high pay jumps between the remaining places.

One thing about my game at the moment is that I seem to be getting it in with the worst of it an awful lot. But Shaun Deeb's famous saying keeps ringing in my ears: "If you're not getting it in bad, you're not getting it in enough." This sentiment can apply to many aspects of poker and it's really just about balance. It's the same with value-betting: if you're never value-betting the worst hand then you're not value-betting thinly enough. So too with bluffs: if you're never getting called when you bluff ... well, you get the idea. So I guess this is one aspect of my game which I had been neglecting, and which comes back to stuff I had written in earlier posts about my (and probably the vast majority of people's) inclination to avoid risk, and without trying to sound too wishy-washy, there is a paradox in that it isn't until we let go of that fear of loss and failure that we actually start to overcome those things and reach our true potential. I shouldn't get ahead of myself though, I've run red-hot this week and I'm sure there's a ton of room for improvement, but I definitely feel like I've turned a corner in terms of putting myself in a position to get lucky, rather than what happens to a lot of tight players where they are always the one someone else is getting lucky against. I just hope that not being backed and not having an unlimited well to keep going back to doesn't change this state of mind. But I guess that's something that is in my control!

So this morning I have told my backer my intentions, and am just waiting to do a final audit with him and transfer his money back. I will definitely miss the chat room with this bunch of guys, which seems to be the hardest thing about breaking away (the last group before Black Friday was great too and amazingly that chat room is still going, although not much poker talk ... ), not to mention the weekly training sessions - I think we were about due to go over one of my tournaments again - talk about bad timing! I think I'll have to find a couple of new poker buddies to commiserate and celebrate with during sessions, as I find it definitely helps to keep focused. One of my goals is to be in a position to start my own backing enterprise, something I dabbled in when I was at the peak of my poker success but never really put too much energy into or took too seriously, despite the fact that it was relatively lucrative. Back then I had never been staked and hadn't seen the possibilities in terms of team support and things like that, so I'm grateful to have had this opportunity to learn what's possible.

Even though I don't have the ideal amount for a comfortable bankroll, I figure with the fields so much smaller than before meaning lower variance, and some game selection I still have enough to give it a go. I will need to juggle some money around at first between the sites, but thankfully Neteller should make that fairly easy. I think at first I will stick to the two sites I do best on: Stars and Party, and either leave Full Tilt out entirely or else just play very few tournaments on there until I have enough to distribute between the sites comfortably.

I have been playing a lot of chess lately on Gameknot, which is a chess website I joined a couple of years ago. I had some time off chess but int he last few months have been getting back into it, and right now I have about 35 games going at once. the average time control is around 3 days per move, so one can play at any pace they like. As long as you log in and make your moves every couple of days it's fine, and you can play as many games or as few as you choose, although with free accounts there's a limit to how many games you can play at a time. I think chess has been helping me think more clearly about poker, the two games share a very similar skill-set. I've also been trying to recruit some chess players to poker, with a spiel in my profile about poker and chess. This week I have had someone express interest in learning, so we'll see how it goes. Feel free to challenge me to a private (unrated) game.

Well that's about it for now, again not too many interesting hands to post, I think I'm just getting into a lot less tricky spots lately, which I'm not sure is a good or bad thing. There was this hand that I posted on twoplustwo, but it's basically a math problem rather than a logic one, although it has generated some interesting debate, most notably fueled by my friend PageUp, who is in Vegas for the World Series right now and I wish him all the best. More updates next week.


June 12, 2011

I awoke to play my session today to discover that there was a rumour that Pokerstars was withdrawing service to Australian players, effective August 1st. This was obviously pretty devastating news, but after some investigations on various forums, it turns out that the rumour is unsubstantiated and was started by a person who has a dubious reputation within the Australian poker world. A Pokerstars rep on TwoPlusTwo stated that the rumour was untrue and that Pokerstars has no plans to withdraw its service to Australian players. For a little while there I thought I might actually have to become a live cash grinder, an idea I've toyed with before but never had to resort to. The rake is pretty bad here so one would have to be beating the games solidly to make a living from it, although having said that the live games up to the $5/$10 level at Crown casino are a joke in terms of skill level, and it's just a question of whether one can survive the boredom while 80% of the table limp/calls every single hand. It's kind of a killer paying $10-$20 time charge (as well as a % rake from each pot!) when there are only 1.5 orbits per hour or so.

Today's (Sunday night US time) session ended with a slight profit. I evenly chopped a $22 on Party for $1k while sitting 2/3, and was sitting 1/10 in the $11r on party with 300k chips at the 1250/2500 level, second place having 40k, but somehow I managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, finishing 4th versus the worst players on earth. I didn't do too much wrong, it's just hard to win a tournament when one loses every all in at the final table.

I'm keener than ever to get my own bankroll happening and go it alone. It's really hard eking out a living when I'm playing small stakes and having to give away half the profits. The other day i worked out how much money I had given to various backers since I started playing seriously again and it was kind of sickening when one considers how short of money we are in real life with our new house and mortgage. I feel like a mouse on a treadmill though in that I need to keep taking my share of the profits to put towards living expenses, rather than saving for a bankroll, and the only way it looks like I'm going to be able to break away is to get a big score, say $10k plus, which is hard enough to do at the best of times, but all the more so now with the small field sizes since Black Friday. I'm tempted to ask some friends and family to all put in some money and back me for a smaller share of profit than conventional backing, but still with a far more lucrative expectation than any normal investment, but I'm worried I might go on a downswing and lose all their money! I suppose I just have to put up with it for now and look at the long-term picture.

There haven't been any post-worthy hands from the last few sessions, hopefully there will be some interesting spots this week for me to post. Probably going to check out our local cinema for the first time tonight, we're planning on seeing Super 8, which sounds like a lot of fun. It's been a while since I went to the movies, one of my favourite pastimes, so hopefully it will be enjoyable. Will post my thoughts on the film in the next update.

It's Okay to get Bluffed Sometimes, Right?

June 07, 2011

Keeping a blog is a great way to vent and de-stress after a harrowing session, like the eleven hour session I just finished. There were a few deep runs and close shaves, and I think it ended profitably with a 5th in the Full Tilt $26 $10k multi-entry for around $800, another 5th on Party for around $300, and a bunch of final two tables in stuff that was paying really well for the win. Gotta win flips late though and that's something I wasn't doing today.

Since my last blog update I have been going pretty well; last time I wrote about narrowly missing the double final table in the Big Double on Full Tilt. Well the next day I went one better and actually did FT both, with a win in one and a 5th in the other. Unfortunately two other people final tabled both on the same day so we had to split the $1500 bonus three ways. Then the day after that (Friday my time) I won a small turbo on Party, which meant that I had notched up 4 wins in the space of three sessions. So I feel like I'm playing great and incorporating a lot of stuff into my game that I've never really tried before, with good results.

There have been quite a few interesting hands lately, most notably from today, where there are a couple etched firmly in my mind, and I'm going to exorcise them by posting them here! But first, I want to talk about what the title of this blog alludes to, and that's an article I read some time ago which was something of an "aha" moment for me. Andrew Brokos has a website called Thinking Poker, which I discovered a couple of years ago and which I found a very valuable resource. (As an aside, I was lucky enough to have a few sessions of coaching with Andrew last year when I was still playing mid-high stakes on my own dime, and I felt they were a worthwhile investment despite the $300/hour price tag.) In the article Defending Against Bluffs, he talks about the necessity of folding to bluffs some of the time insofar as that if we're playing well we should be folding to bluffs in many situations, because versus an opponent's overall range, calling a bet has a negative expectation, it's just that there happen to be bluffs in that overall range. Of course we don't know they're bluffs at the time, but when our opponent shows us their hand after we muck and we see we got bluffed, we get upset that we folded the winning hand and gave up all that equity. But the fact is that if we've evaluated that they're rarely bluffing in that spot, we're not actually giving up any equity at all, in fact we're gaining it, even when we got bluffed. It's the equivalent of folding 72o preflop and seeing a huge pot get played on a 777xx board and getting upset that we folded the winner (something beginning players do frequently) - of course in the long run our expectation of playing 72o in the hope of flopping quads is disastrous - so too is calling every single bet because it's possible our opponent is bluffing us.

Having said that about being bluffed, here are two hands that came up during the last couple of sessions. This first one was at the final table of the Big Double, the opponent seemed okay and fairly straightforward. My image is aggressive.

Full Tilt No-Limit Hold'em Tournament, 600/1200 Blinds 150 Ante (5 handed) - Full Tilt Converter Tool from http://www.flopturnriver.com

BB (t61830)
UTG (t31716)
MP (t34629)
Button (t52573)
Hero (SB) (t65252)

Preflop: Hero is SB with {10-Spades} {10-Diamonds}
3 folds, Hero bets t3000, BB calls t1800

Flop: (t6750) {8-Spades} {10-Clubs} {7-Clubs} (2 players)
Hero bets t3600, BB calls t3600

Turn: (t13950) {3-Clubs} (2 players)
Hero bets t5656, BB raises to t15600, Hero calls t9944

River: (t45150) {J-Hearts} (2 players)
Hero checks, BB bets t39480 (All-In), Hero folds

Total pot: t45150

BB had {K-Spades} {Q-Spades} (high card, King).
Outcome: BB won t45150

Ordinarily I think I'd be getting it on the turn versus most opponents, but with my read on this guy not being tricky, and it being the final table with fairly even stacks, I decided to do some sort of weird out of position pot control when he raised the turn. I'm not too upset with the fold because I expect him to be bluffing so rarely in this spot, I guess I just underestimated him and also didn't take into account how much people spew vs the weak turn bet.

The other hand was from final table from the session I finished just now. I didn't know that much about this villain but his HUD stats made him seem competent. He had 3-bet me BvB the previous orbit so I felt it unlikely he would 3-bet me light twice in a row.

Full Tilt No-Limit Hold'em Tournament, 5000/10000 Blinds 1000 Ante (5 handed) - Full Tilt Converter Tool from http://www.flopturnriver.com

UTG (t174823)
MP (t301011)
Button (t317324)
Hero (SB) (t272957)
BB (t283885)

Hero's M: 13.65

Preflop: Hero is SB with {4-Clubs} {J-Clubs}
3 folds, Hero bets t22345, BB calls t12345

Flop: (t49690) {10-Diamonds} {3-Diamonds} {4-Hearts} (2 players)
Hero checks, BB bets t30000, Hero raises to t66777, BB raises to t110000, Hero folds

Total pot: t183244

BB had {K-Hearts} {3-Hearts}
Outcome: BB won t183244

I pretty much decided to go with my hand on the flop and my main decision was the best way to play it for value. If he shoved over my check-raise I was calling, but when he made the small 3-bet, I talked myself out of going with the hand. Again, even though he happened to have a bluff this time, I assessed his range as being mainly top pair or better made hands, or flush draws, with a small amount of air or stuff like what he had, and versus that range we're not in great shape. I guess he played it well and it's interesting to wonder if he actually would have called the flop if i shoved.

About an orbit later this was my bust-out hand versus the same guy, zzzz:

Full Tilt No-Limit Hold'em Tournament, 5000/10000 Blinds 1000 Ante (5 handed) - Full Tilt Converter Tool from http://www.flopturnriver.com

UTG (t204823)
MP (t306011)
Button (t312324)
Hero (SB) (t173835)
BB (t353007)

Preflop: Hero is SB with {K-Spades} {A-Spades}
3 folds, Hero bets t23455, BB calls t13455

Flop: (t51910) {9-Hearts} {8-Clubs} {9-Clubs} (2 players)
Hero bets t25666, BB calls t25666

Turn: (t103242) {7-Spades} (2 players)
Hero checks, BB bets t302886 (All-In), Hero calls t123714 (All-In)

River: (t350670) {10-Spades} (2 players, 2 all-in)

Total pot: t350670

Hero had {K-Spades} {A-Spades} (one pair, nines).
BB had {9-Diamonds} {Q-Hearts} (three of a kind, nines).
Outcome: BB won t350670

I snap called the turn so fast I nearly broke my mouse, much to the villain's (and table's) amusement. I guess it looks dumb when he has what he had, but after the dynamic established in the previous hand, I think he's going to turn up with air here an awful lot. I was kind of gutted after the hand, but my backer, who i was chatting to on Skype at the time, said he would have played the hand exactly the same, which was reassuring.

Anyway, I have to go and eat dinner now so I will wrap this up. Game of Thrones is up to episode eight now, I think it may only have one or two to go for the season, so I'm really going to miss it after becoming totally hooked. I guess I will finally have to devour the books instead. This guy is my favourite character in the show, he's really a great character and a great actor:

If you haven't seen the show, check it out! (More updates later this week.)

Double Bink

June 01, 2011

I haven't been too motivated to blog lately after five losing sessions in a row. It's funny how we start to question ourselves and can go from feeling like we're on top of our game one week, to feeling like we're doing something majorly wrong the next. Five sessions for me is close to a couple of hundred tournaments, which is a decent downswing, so there is a good chance that I actually was doing something wrong, although once again it's most likely variance, but it's hard to say.

Then today it turned around somewhat with two wins in small-field affairs, a $22 turbo on party for around $900 and one of the Big Doubles on Full Tilt for $1400, which combined barely made up for the losses of the last five sessions. It was looking like it might be three wins in a day when I was sitting 1 of 4 in another $22 on party just now, but then AA < A3s, button vs BB, he flatted with around 40bb, flop came 338 and he led all 3 streets, shoving the river. That took me back to 10bb and 4/4 and I busted soon afterwards. The Big Double was interesting because I was still in both with about twenty people left, and there's a separate prize pool for stuff like getting highest combined finish in both or final tabling both etc, so I really tightened up when it looked like I might be able to final table both. I miscalculated and thought it was worth $4k for the double FT today and that I was the only one left in both, but my backer pointed out that it was only about $2k and I would have to split it because someone else looked set to do it. So it turns out i can't read or add up! Anyway I practically blinded out in one with 11 people left and got to the FT in the one I went on to win with 10bb. It's hard to calculate the right thing to do when so much extra equity is up for grabs, but it's safe to say with only $1k there I should have just played my natural game and tried to win both.

There haven't really been all that many interesting hands over the last few sessions, but there was one today which was pretty good; it's from 3-handed in the Big Double:

Full Tilt No-Limit Hold'em Tournament, 600/1200 Blinds 150 Ante (3 handed)

SB (t70661)
Hero (BB) (t47290)
Button (t92049)

Preflop: Hero is BB with {9-Diamonds} {K-Diamonds}
Button bets t2400, 1 fold, Hero calls t1200

Flop: (t5850) {4-Hearts} {9-Clubs} {10-Hearts} (2 players)
Hero checks, Button bets t2800, Hero raises to t7890, Button calls t5090

Turn: (t21630) {2-Clubs} (2 players)
Hero checks, Button bets t10555, Hero raises to t36850 (All-In), Button calls t26295

River: (t95330) {5-Spades} (2 players, 1 all-in)

Total pot: t95330

Button had {A-Clubs} {7-Clubs} (high card, Ace).
Hero had {9-Diamonds} {K-Diamonds} (one pair, nines).
Outcome: Hero won t95330

The villain in the hand is a decent Aussie mid-high-stakes reg who I don't know but have played with before deep in this same tournament, I think it was last year some time. I had thought he was a bit nitty then but I noticed in the later stages today that he had opened up his game somewhat. There's not much to say about the hand really, it all comes down to how often he thinks I have air on the flop and how likely he is to float my flop check-raise with the intention of taking it away later. My intention is to get it in on the flop because I think he'll stack off with some stuff that we beat, but mainly I'm expecting him to fold to the check-raise or do something like he did. My backer commented that he thinks we can't profitably check-raise the flop with the intention of getting it in, and that we're better off check-calling, so I'll have to put some thought into that. I think the hand will be hard to play on later streets OOP when we take a check-call line, and with the aggressive dynamic between us I think we'll get it in with decent equity on the flop. I posted the hand on Two Plus Two, so hopefully it will generate some discussion because I think it's a pretty interesting spot. It may be pure spew on my part and we might just happen to have run into the bottom of his range for playing the hand this way, but I'm not really convinced one way or the other.

It's a pretty good time to be playing some higher stuff online now with everyone at the WSOP so starting next week I'm probably going to register for an extra hour, now that I have some "match fitness" after playing for a few weeks straight, which will take my daily block to five hours of registering as opposed to the current four, and will allow me to play some juicy $55s that start around 9.30pm server time. I figure if I'm ever going to get out of this grind of being backed/playing small stakes I'm going to need to take some shots at bigger stuff, and working more larger field $55s into my schedule is a good way to do that.

In non-poker stuff, my wife and I are totally addicted to Masterchef, which I think is the Australian equivalent of Top Chef, but way more awesome! It's on TV six nights a week and we have taken to watching it religiously. It's also a lot of fun following the Twitter conversation that goes along with it, there are some damn funny people watching TV while tweeting about shows like this. I mean, how can a show that has this guy as a judge not be great?:

Also really psyched about new seasons of a couple of my favourite TV shows starting this month, including Louie (by comedian Luis CK) and Curb Your Enthusiasm, which if you haven't seen is really a must see show, this will be the eighth series and for my money it's probably the best TV comedy ever produced, which coming from me is pretty high praise because I watch a lot of comedy on TV. It has the co-creator of Seinfeld, Larry David, playing a sort of weird misanthropic version of his real-life self. Also really enjoying the HBO series Game of Thrones, which is about seven episodes in at this stage and just keeps getting better. I started reading the book in the hope of getting ahead of the show, but it's kind of boring after knowing what happens from the TV show, so I guess I have to admit to losing that battle for now, which I'm not too fussed about because the show is good enough in its own right that it doesn't just compliment the books but is perfectly capable of standing in its own right.

Anyway I had intended this to be a brief update and it's turned into walls of text as usual! More updates early next week.

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