Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Back On Track

I hope!

Finally posted a winning session last night. A mighty $50 profit.

Which isn't great, but it's a start. Particularly when you consider:

I started the night losing a buy-in to a 2-outer when a known wildman/bluffer type tried to make a move on me.

I chopped a pot against Mr Cannot Fold when my set v his two pair was negated by the board making a straight.

Just a few hands later on another table, my AA fails to defeat JJ when the board makes a straight. Again!

ffs those last two felt worse than genuine bad beats. Once is bad, twice in a few minutes just makes you think it's time to give up and become a professional bingo player.

All of which made a profit - any profit - feel like a victory of Olympian proportions.

So I laid my $400 of missed opportunities to bed, and settled for what I had.

The other thing I noticed last night was the dramatic decline of traffic on Tribeca as their phased migration to iPoker got underway.

I'd imagine for a week or so the remaining Tribeca sites will become almost unplayable, but conversely iPoker will start to climb the Poker Site Scout rankings.

When the migration is complete it should be an even happier hunting ground - alas on a poorer GUI. I'm hoping the poorer user experience will be compensated by the old adage that good players hate bad software, so perhaps sharks will be even thinner on the ground.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Off The Rails

Kerrrunch. Yes, that was the sound of my NLHE profit express coming to grief in a manner not dissimilar to a Virgin Pendolino passing over some Network Rail maintained points.

Three days and five buy-ins down is hardly a catastrophe of Blue Scouse proportions, but it's still feckin annoying.

Just as well I play well within my bankroll.

Oddly enough, there's not really much of note about how the cash was lost. Only one real hand of doom, and a couple where I got big pairs in early position, got outflopped by legitimate calling hands, and suffered due to my positional disadvantage.

I might go back to NLHE tonight, or I might take a few days off and try some Stud-8 or the like. I'll see how the mood takes me.

Another consideration is the Tribeca network will be in a state of flux for the next few weeks as the skins migrate over to iPoker, so traffic could be well down.

I don't want to dwell too long on the past, so I'll exit now with the hand of doom. I'm not sure if my decision making here is good, bad, or indifferent. More info on the villain would have been useful.

In early position I find myself with

As first into the pot I open for a small raise and get called by the guy immediately to my left. He hasn't been at the table long, but it's already apparent he plays a LOT of hands - maybe 50% in total. Let's call him Sir Limpalot. The button also calls.

The flop is

Looks pretty good to me, so I bet $6 into a $10 pot. Sir Limpalot raises to $30 and the button, unsurprisingly, folds.

Hmmmm. I'm playing about $200 at this point - yes, I'd been winning - and Sir Limpalot has about $100 left behind, so if I call to see the turn it's going to be damn hard to fold if I miss and get paid if I hit.

This is one of those situations where I'd rather Tribeca had a Stars-type timebank.

My immediate reaction was it's push or fold time. The difficult decision is which.

As I went through the range of hands he could have, my thinking kept returning to the thought the raise just felt a bit too strong.

Flopped straight seemed unlikely.
A set or two pair felt plausible but would he have raised so much?
Perhaps he'd flopped top pair with something like 87 and wanted to find out where he was. Similarly it could be something like TT or 99 putting me on AK/AQ.
There was even a lesser possibility it was a lower flush draw semi-bluffing.

Having gone through the range, I knew I had a least nine outs, and maybe as many as fifteen, if my two overs were good. Equally I felt any hand like 99/TT/JJ would find it difficult to call a push, since I'd already established I had a good hand pre-flop.

So, with a fair chance of taking a decent pot there, and outs if I was behind, I pushed.

He called with 33 for flopped bottom set, and the case 3 on the turn put my nine outs firmly in their place. Bollocks!

Not a great way to prepare for the Monday morning return to the grindstone.

I'm not sure if my logic is flawed here. I'd not seen him play a pot that way in the limited time we'd been on the same table, so maybe I should have erred on the side of caution and written off $9 as a lost investment, rather than smashing $130 into the middle.

It certainly shows once again the value of position, which is a lesson which bears repeating.

If I go back to the NLHE, I think I'll tighten up my game for a few sessions at least. One of the problems of playing against a group who are on the whole pretty poor is that my thinking can get a bit lazy, since I just assume I'm going to win.

It's fair to say the last few days have erased that complacency from my thought processes. Time for some analysis and self improvement!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Clearing The Decks

Just wanted to put up a quick post before commencing battle tonight.

The last couple of nights that I've played have been a real downer. I've left nine successive tables in the red.

Which has been enough to erase a decent monthly profit, leaving me precisely $1 to the good for February.

It's fair to say I can now conclusively draw a line under a pretty good streak that lasted from December until last week.

Looking back on the losing sessions has been quite instructive. I didn't get stacked once across any of the tables. It's just been a succession of missed flops and outdraws leading to a steady bleeding of chips.

Having spent half an hour looking at the biggest pots I lost, there is only one where I think I made a bad move. I 'floated' on the co-ordinated flop - having missed my hand - with the intention of trying to win the pot if a scare card fell on the turn.

The perfect scare card did indeed fall, but my attempt to steal was met with an all-in reraise from an obvious big pair. So, not a terrible move, but clearly the wrong opponent to try it on.

Which also goes to show the value of flopping sets against big starting hands. So many people cannot fold an overpair in any circumstances.

Other than that it's just been a case of flopping draws that miss, not hitting sets with middle pairs, and being the victim of a nasty sequence of flush draws hitting for opponents.

Nothing too drastic, but cumulatively enough to have me in the doldrums to an extent.

Back to the table tonight, with a faint hope the poker gods owe me a few decent flops.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

How To Make Money From Party Poker

Trade their shares!

Quite a ride Party Poker shares are on right now.

A ride fuelled by rumours from the US of an opt-out for poker from the UIGEA; rumours from Gibraltar that the financial results announced on 1st March will be better than expected; and the inexorable fact - courtesy of Poker Site Scout - that Party is gradually overhauling Stars in the race to be biggest online site.

When I started playing on Party the peak time was very late for UK players. 3a.m or so on a Friday night/Saturday morning was a good time to be doing business.

Now the geographic profile is dramatically different, and the tables are not yet as bustling, but are moving in the right direction.

Instead of Americans, the tables are full of Scandinavians, French, Germans, Italians, and many from the former Soviet States - Latvians, Belorussians, Ukranians, Kazakhstanis (yes, the land of Borat!) etc.

The Americas still represented by Canadians, Mexicans, Brazilians, and more.

Ironic is it not that residents of those ex-Soviet states now have the freedom to play online poker? Recent news stories suggest even the Chinese will soon have a taste of those same freedoms.

All of which perhaps explains a recent 60% surge in the Party Poker share price; albeit from a very low base.

It also means a more reasonable 'working day' for UK players as the geographic profile moves east. So perhaps we can win big, and still get a decent night's sleep now.

On the downside for the amateur - though perhaps an upside for the share price - it seems logical that the 'big rakers', the multi tablers who would have followed the US dollar to Stars and Full Tilt, will now migrate back to Party as liquidity in those sites decreases and Party numbers increase.

All of which suggests those March numbers from Party should make interesting reading!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Table Chat

Quite an entertaining weekend at the tables.

Played a big session on Friday and had one of my best ever winning nights. Followed up with a short session and smaller win on Saturday; before rounding off with a big losing night on Sunday.

Sunday actually brought a new experience for me.

The guy who was so bad I had to delete a player from my Tribeca buddy list in order to add his name - they only allow 30 on the list - was merrily relieving me of my cash through a succession of horrific flush chasing calls that never missed.

After losing two big pots on successive hands to him, I noticed he was being berated by another player. Don't tap the tank is my motto - I hadn't said a word.

I checked to see if the other guy had lost a big pot to him previously, only to realise the berater wasn't even at the table!

Yep, some random railer couldn't bite his lip and was verbally pounding on my latest buddy. I was annoyed and amused in almost equal measure.

Rather than dwell on the negative, lets accentuate the positive with a hand I enjoyed from Friday night.

Some time ago I read a post by Peter Birks about the language of poker. Raise = 'I have aces', Reraise = 'No, I have aces', etc.

On Friday I had one of those conversations where, as Peter says, the other guy must have heard me but just wasn't listening.

There's no great strategy in this hand, and the only difference from several hands I played on Sunday is the river, but it's worth recalling the good ones when those nasty rivers fall at other times.

Let's join the conversation...

Hand Start.
Seat 1 : 77east has $8.50
Seat 3 : PatStewart has $64.87
Seat 4 : Villain has $49.88
Seat 5 : RECTUM21 has $121.25
Seat 6 : DonkSniper has $98
Seat 7 : engy has $98.75
Seat 8 : Deeky has $142.63
Seat 9 : Hero has $107.50
PatStewart is the dealer.
Villain posted small blind.
RECTUM21 posted big blind.
Game [89468] started with 8 players.
Dealing Hole Cards.

Seat 9 : Hero has

DonkSniper folded.
engy folded.
Deeky folded.
Hero called $1 and raised $2
I say: 'I like my hand'
77east folded.
PatStewart called $3
Villain called $2.50
He says: 'I like mine too'
RECTUM21 called $2
Dealing flop.
Board cards

Villain bet $2
He says: 'I have a draw'
RECTUM21 folded.
Hero called $2 and raised $9
I say: 'Gonna cost you more than that to hit it'
PatStewart folded.
Villain called $9
He says: 'I got money'
Dealing turn.
Board cards  

Villain bet $2
He says: 'I STILL have a draw!'
Hero called $2 and raised $32
I say: 'I know'
Villain has 10 seconds to respond.
Villain called $32
He says: 'I feel lucky'
Dealing river.
Board cards   

Villain bet $1.88 and is All-in
He says: 'You missed a couple'
Hero called $1.88
I say: 'Cheers'
Seat 9 : Hero has

Seat 4 : Villain has

Villain has Two Pair: Jacks and 8s
Hero has Two Pair: Aces and 8s
Hero wins $102.76 with Two Pair: Aces and 8s
Hand is over.

To be fair, he did catch enough of a hand on the flop that I can see why he didn't want to let it go easily, but once that raise comes in, and out of position, I'd reckon he has to make a push/fold decision right there.

I'd push against all but the rockiest - and I wouldn't have bet into them.

Equally, I don't always go that crazy with TPTK, but there's certain players and certain betting patterns that make for a very clear conversation.

The difference between the good players and the bad players is that good players pay attention to what the other guy is saying, and don't fall in love with the sound of their own voice.

Remember, it's not just your iPod you should be listening to at the table. If the other guy is giving you a warning, perhaps you should heed it.

Then again, maybe he's bluffing. Deciphering THAT conversation is where the real fun starts!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Automatic 30% Rakeback On Tribeca

Quick bit of pimpage...

Blonde Poker just announced a new loyalty scheme which gives automated 30% rakeback payments for all players.

Blonde is a Tribeca skin run by UK poker enthusiasts, and well worth supporting in my humble opinion.

Disclaimer: There's no affiliate deal in this for me. Just supporting a decent bunch of people.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

When I Die

I'm going to donate my body to medical science.

Yes, another week, another illness. At some point in the last 12 months my body appears to have evolved into a highly productive culture vessel for common ailments.

K had a winter vomiting virus towards the end of last week, and having suffered this myself a few years ago, I was hoping to avoid catching it.

As my Tuesday lunch began to bubble uncomfortably, and I felt the first shivers rippling through my body, I decided discretion was the better part of valour and headed for home early. Being caught on a crowded commuter train with this virus advancing on my system was not an attractive option.

Sure enough, by 6pm my head was in the toilet bowl, and my abs were getting the best workout they've had since - well - the last time I had the damn bug.

It's a real Blitzkrieg illness - from apparent good health to puking, crapping, fever, delirium, and fatigue, all within a few hours.

At least it wasn't as severe as my previous attack which happened when I was working away from home, and had me literally crawling around as I was too weak to stand.

Possibly famous last words, but mightily relieved E hasn't caught it.

The impending assault on my system perhaps explains - though I fear it is merely an excuse - an outbreak of extreme donkitude on my part during Monday evening.

Net result being a near $200 loss for the evening - after several weak calls, poor bluffs, and general imcompetence.

The root of my poor play was, I think, impatience and frustration due to extreme card deadness.

If I was a 'poker pro' it would have been a good session to quit early since I could sense all the symptoms afflicting my play; but as a hobby player there is definitely an element of knowing it might be my last chance to play for a few days, so wanting to 'make the most' of it.

Even when making the most means donating $200 to the biggest calling stations since BT.

On the plus side, I've managed to catch up on some good poker reading. Comments to follow.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sublime Symmetry

'Be careful what you wish for', as the saying goes.

Poker conversations have become quite a feature of our trips to the football over the last couple of seasons. It was no different yesterday, as Celtic dismissed Hibs to move within touching distance of a second successive SPL triumph.

With less than scintillating football on display, I spent a fair bit of time discussing my recent good form (and luck) at the cash tables, whilst acknowledging the amazing number of completely hopeless players who still manage to keep their Tribeca accounts well funded.

Many of these players have found their way into both my buddy list and player notes.

Settling down for a decent Saturday night session, I was delighted to find many of the usual suspects already in place, including one guy on whom my notes are becoming quite voluminous.

For a No Limit Hold 'Em opponent, possibly the most pleasing note to add is 'cannot put down any half decent hand', and this guy is squarely in that grouping.

When we managed to get heads up in a twice raised pre-flop pot - none of the raises mine - with me in position holding KK on a ragged board, I knew that I was getting paid.

And I was, until he called my reraise all-in with JJ, and the turn delivered the cruel eight percenter to send me reeling.

A bad beat for sure, but probably the baddest part of it was that on my very first hand after reloading I flopped an OESD, turned OESD plus a pair, and tilted off another buy-in against someone who flopped bottom set.

Leaving me $200 in the hole before my seat was warm. Bollocks! But not to worry, the night was young.

At this point I could picture the other eight players positioning their sights squarely on my stack, as frustration seeped from my pores. My disgruntlement growing as the villain bled away his entire stack without any of it returning to it's rightful owner. The deck rendering me impotent.

This is where mental fortitude comes into play.

Much as I was doing my usual McEnroe with Tourettes impersonation, internally I was having one of those dialogues which goes 'Self, you are better than these guys. Bad beats come from bad players. You either need to walk away, or get a grip of yourself and earn back that $100 you just blew.'

After that little chat I laboured for an hour or so with little happening across three tables. Winning and losing small pots but generally not getting heavily involved, as equilibrium was restored.

During which time I discovered a new addition to the buddy list - a push-monkey who played every flop like it was the final table of a WPT with the average stack holding 20BB.

'He's gonna pay me off', I thought. So imagine my delight when he limped UTG+1, and called my raise from the SB, to see a J98 flop with me holding QQ.

As expected, he insta-pushed over my continuation bet, and while against some opponents that sort of flop would give me cause to pause, with him it was an easy call.

Cards on their backs and I was ahead - though not quite as far as expected - of his KTs. Until the unlikely Q on the turn made my set but gave him the straight.

Not a bad beat really, since he could easily have pushed a lot of hands off that flop, and he had lots of outs, but a real irritant in the sense I knew exactly how he would play the hand and successfully got all the chips in ahead yet again, only to lose out.

All of which left me in a pretty deep hole, but I wasn't ready to lay down the shovel just yet.

Fortunately I managed to keep the tilt monster behind bars, and after much scratching and clawing recovered to a $131 deficit for the evening, which by now was early morning.

Necessity having dragged me into work today, and still suffering from a combination of illness and lack of sleep, I wasn't particularly aiming to play tonight.

Desire to put right last night's losses spurred me on, and I found myself back at the tables where the Tribeca seat assigner kindly placed me to the immediate left of the aforementioned push monkey at two of my three tables.

Within 20 hands, the tables were turned. My AA; his KK; Q high flop; no suckout, and after sixteen minutes of play and a few small pots picked up elsewhere, a quick count across the three tables showed that I had exactly recouped last night's losses.

A sign if ever there was one!

So, I logged out, and set my sights on a much needed early night.

Poker, sometimes you just have to laugh!!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Gotta Love YouTube

I found this on YouTube via a link from a stock market website. I like this guy's style. A very nice precis of the UIGEA fiasco..

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Life Plan

This is a post I have been planning to make for quite a while. The delay in doing so, perhaps symptomatic of the reasons for making it.

In modern jargon K and I are doing a bit of what might be termed 'downsizing'. A financial advisor might describe some aspects of it as 'retirement planning'.

Neither of those terms sits comfortably with me. I don't see it as some sort of retreat from modern life, nor is it about plotting a comfortable descent to the grave.

Rather I see it a life plan. One which structures our priorities in a manner that will give us quality time with E - and any kids to come - whilst ensuring we are not shackled to the grindstone until our twilight years.

Last week K left her job, having handed her notice in soon after the New Year. We are a single income household for the foreseeable future.

This was not a spur-of-the-moment decision, though the timing is more rapid than we had previously planned.

She will be devoting more time to bringing up E, and simultaneously removing the burden from my parents. My dad's episode at Christmas a reminder that we sometimes place unfair expectations on them - which they would never dream of refusing to meet.

K and I have never been the most ostentatious of spenders. I can recall numerous occasions when my gadget and car oriented techie workmates have teased me for my unwillingness to splurge on the latest must-have item.

I was called 'tight' long before I took up Limit Hold 'Em.

Yet we can hardly be counted as frugal either. We've got a nice house; two cars - albeit very much from the sensible range; and we do like to travel and have fun.

Thus our plans are more a formalisation, or evolution, of our existing lifestyle, rather than some sudden Damascene conversion to a new lifestyle.

Work-to-live, not live-to-work, has always been my approach.

Coupled to a pragmatic grasp of how finances work, I have generally been relatively cautious with debt - avoiding running up big credit card bills, whilst accepting the inevitability of the mortgage payments.

This attitude no doubt influences my conservative approach to bankroll management.

We now find ourselves in the position that the mortgage is the sole remaining debt on our balance sheet, and as I said previously, killing it off is financial goal number one.

Progress has already been made in that area, and I expect more to follow later this year. All of which has laid the foundations for K's early withdrawal from the workplace.

Whenever friends or family seek financial advice from me, I tell them that reducing debts in order of expense should take priority over investment.

While shares may go up or down, the bank will always expect their payment at the start of the month.

Investment returns are uncertain; interest charges are certain. I continue to maintain that philosophy.

So far, no real change then. Where the life plan comes in is in setting more definitive long-term goals.

One area that has attracted much attention in the financial press recently is the pensions crisis.

As people live longer, birth rates decline, final salary pension schemes disappear, and a culture of instant gratification and cheap credit overpowers more traditional values such as moderation and saving, the nation is heading towards an economy where people will carry their debts far beyond traditional pensionable ages.

Working into your seventies will be the norm, rather than the exception. Already the government has set in motion the raising of retirement ages in the UK, and this trend will certainly spread across the rest of the old economies of Europe and the US.

That is NOT my plan.

I've always been somewhat of a contrarian when it comes to financial planning. When others were fleeing the stock market as it languished in the lower 3000s, I plunged in with a big lump sum contribution to my pension. I saw it as a chance to make my money work harder over the next thirty years.

Now as many of my fellow citizens resign themselves to an extra ten or fifteen years of work, to pay for their current excesses, I am again aspiring in the opposite direction.

While K looks after family business, I have set myself a target of transitioning out of my current lucrative but time-consuming and unfulfilling job within roughly ten years.

The aim being to replace it with some as yet undefined work that will be less stressful and time-consuming, whilst paying whatever bills remain.

To put things in context, I recently turned 36, and the broad-brush plan looks something like:

- mortgage cleared by 40
- current job ended by 45
- part-time by 50
- effectively retired by 55

All of which does sound awfully like a terribly dull retirement plan at first glance.

Where I see it differing is that what we are aiming for is to reduce our fixed and non-negotiable outgoings rapidly, to give us more freedom to expend as we see fit in the future.

It also gives us the freedom to make more time for ourselves. As a contract worker I am very much a slave to the demands of the current customer.

We are not plotting a comfortable path towards the grave; we are planning on enjoying life to the full.

I want to be in a position where deciding to spend a long weekend in Barcelona or Rome is something we can do on a whim, not something that necessitates three months advance planning.

Where attending school sports days, and the like, is a given - not a big ask.

All of which means surrendering a few frills and luxuries now, in the expectation of more rewarding pleasures a few years down the line.

In the more immediate term, I'm also making some other changes for the better.

Over the last year I've been aware that my health and fitness isn't all it should be.

For the first time since I was a teenager I've moved up a waist size. Much as I was never any good at sports, I was generally active until the last few years. Whether it be hacking shins on a 5-a-side court, shifting some weights in the gym, or even just walking to work.

I'd hate to be too infirm to enjoy my kids growing up. There are things I didn't do when I was young that I'd like to learn with them. Skiing for one!

I'd love to take them to interesting places. K and I honeymooned in Africa, and went on safari. That was an incredible experience that I'd love to share with them.

South America and the Far East are still on our list of places to visit. They aren't trips I'd inflict on a toddler but it would be great to take them when they are old enough to appreciate the experience.

While I don't ever see myself existing on salad and lentils, I will be making a more conscious effort to eat healthily, and I'll be aiming to get more value from my gym membership - presently my most wasteful investment.

K is already well ahead of me on this path, so hopefully her success will spur me on.

From a psychological perspective, discussing the above with K, and even writing up this post, has made me feel more content than I have for quite a while.

I'm happy that I've regained a sense of purpose in life, and can see some rewards coming from the pressure I've put myself under over the past ten years.

At one point I presumed my career would be a gradual progression through the ranks of some firm to the point where I was a manager or executive.

That isn't going to happen now. I'm happy pursuing my narrower motivations as a contractor without becoming embroiled in the office politics of promotion and empire building.

This realisation is relatively recent, and if I'd been told that ten years ago I wouldn't have believed it. People change. We adapt to circumstances, and get on with things.

My first serious job application was to the RAF. I wanted to fly fast jets.

I passed the aptitude tests, and failed the medical due to dodgy eyesight. So I've undergone a fairly dramatic switch of career ambition already.

All of which means I've managed to knock off over a thousand words with barely a mention of poker. Which is as it should be.

I don't see poker as playing a great part in these plans. Rest assured that is not the career change I have in mind!

Which isn't to say there won't come a point where any surplus winnings are reinvested towards the life plan.

For now I still see my aim as building bankroll to let me play higher, but I suspect there will come a time that the sums get so large, and the quality of opposition improves, to the point where I feel uncomfortable playing any higher and will be happy to cream off any excess profits for reinvestment elsewhere.

Wouldn't it be nice to buy some boring high yield ISA shares, or raise the deposit on an investment property, from some steadily accumulated poker winnings?

Though there would have to be one hell of a property crash before my winnings equated to 15% of a house!

For now I think that's enough of my manifesto for a happy life.

K and I won't be changing our names to Tom and Barbara; our eggs will still come from the supermarket; but hopefully there will be fun and rewarding times ahead.