Saturday, January 28, 2006

If The Cat Was Around, He Could Have Been In Trouble

The road to poker success is strewn with a thousand fender benders.

This week has not been a success financially. I've had more wrecks than Mark Thatcher. Yet I actually feel I am playing really well.

After my aberrations at Big Laz's, I really knuckled down to online play.

This has involved some modifications to my Omaha cash game. I had a think about how I was playing, and decided I was being too gung ho on the flop.

Cash games demand a certain willingness to get all your money in when you may not even be favourite to win the hand, but will make a long term profit. For example if you are 40% to win a hand, and there's a 3-way all-in, that's a big long term winner.

However I felt I was giving up some of the edge I'm sure I have over a fair percentage of the players in the games I am playing.

Too often all the cash was going in on the flop and then it was a matter of trusting in the even fall of the cards to produce a successful outcome.

Now, I am trying to slow things down on the flop, see an extra card, then make a decision on how best to proceed.

I've been trying to keep the pots smaller on the flop, leaving more ammunition to fire on the turn. It's amazing how many people still can't get away from a bare flush draw with one card to come.

This strategy should, I hope, lead to lower variance, and a better return when the marginal hands lose their value.

For example, let's say I see a free flop from the big blind with

and along comes

Boy is that simultaneously tempting and scary! Top set (the nuts!) but so many ways to lose the hand. I could actually be a dog to someone with a wraparound draw and diamond flush draw.

Previously I'd be betting and raising here. Quite often getting all the chips in the middle.

Now if the field is big, I'll check-call and see what the turn brings.

If the turn is a horror card like say


it's time to wave goodbye to those four cards.

On the other hand, a total blank is the cue to spring into action.

That's been the plan in the latter half of the month, and on the whole I've been quite successful in finding lots of ways to get my money in ahead.

I've been making disciplined folds, playing good starting hands, and paying attention to the table.

Unfortunately all too often my cunning plans have gone awry, with some brutal defeats which send me scuttling back to Cardplayer to seek solace in the fact that 'I was 85% to win it when the money went in dammit!!'.

These words uttered to those most sympathetic of ears - my own.

It's thoroughly dispiriting to take assiduous notes on players - commenting on their tendency to overplay aces, draw to idiot straights, willingness to give free cards when they hit the flop hard, call down with bottom set when the whole table can see they are beat, etc. only to meet disaster at their hands.

Such as the guy tonight - a maniac if ever I saw one - who came to the table and on his first hand made a big raise, picked up a bunch of callers, and managed to get all his chips in on the flop with nothing but a gutshot straight draw. Which of course hit and doubled him through.

I already had notes on him which included his penchant for making raises with absolute crap pre-flop, then trying to bulldoze it through. Of course, I was eagerly anticipating tangling with him in a few tasty pots.

Oh how I was to regret that!

How we got to the situation matters not. What is important is that on the turn, we are in a big pot and I've just made the nut straight, plus potential improving straights.

First to act, I fire a pot size bet, only to pick up a caller and a reraise all-in from the resident maniac.

It was so screamingly obvious I'd just made my nut straight, whilst he was holding top set. Only for the case jack to come on the river making him quads.

In the cold light of Cardplayer, that wasn't quite so heinous a beat as it first appeared, though his reraise was quite wild.

Three players all in on the turn...

Me - nut straight made, plus redraw to higher straight, and medium flush draw (not perfect but it's a big hand, plus my two flush cards reduce the chances of anyone else hitting)
Maniac - top set, redraw to full house, or quads(!)
Calling Station - king high flush draw only (gotta love that play)

So, three players with all the chips in the middle. I was roughly 60% to win the hand. Not a massive favourite, but it was a big three way pot which well over half the time, I'm walking away with.

The EV in that is very lucrative. It just means that four times in ten one has to sink to the floor groaning, whilst grasping tender genitals.

Or, alternatively, stomp off to the fridge cursing wildly, and seek the numbing relief of several beers.

At which point Mrs Div enters and enquires as to my condition, and I can only reply through gritted teeth with a few vague utterances about luck and morons, culminating in the not entirely true summation that 'If the cat was around, he could have been in trouble.'

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