Wednesday, January 31, 2007

January Summary

A true micro summary this month, as I was way too busy with household and admin tasks to do much of note.

Played very little, but ran rather well. Only got stacked once all month - KK v AA - and hit some very nice flops with speculative starting hands.

Which led to a profit of just over $500 from the $0.5/1 NLHE tables.

Decent start to the year!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Affiliate King Strikes Again

The Grandmaster of all Internet affiliates, Scurvydog, strikes again - with news of AGLOCO - the relaunch of an old get paid to surf the Internet scheme.

As he says, it probably won't make you rich like Bill Gates, but it should pay for a decent night out every now and then.

So go ahead and sign up now, and give yourself the chance to grab a few referrals of your own.

Altogether now, mmmmmm beer.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Playing Short At The Cash Table

Recently I've been running into a lot of people who buy in very short for No Limit games.

I've mainly been playing the Tribeca $.5/1 Hold Em tables, and most of them seem to be there to gamble in the hope of a quick double through.

Sometimes it works and they rapidly disappear with a profit, sometimes they change to a more conventional style once they have won a few all-ins, and mostly they lose and disappear - perhaps after a few reloads.

It's not a playing style that appeals to me, and I don't know how well thought through their strategy is.

As an example from the weekend, I made a 3BB raise from early position with KK and a middle position short stack pushed all-in for about 20BB, which led to the action coming back round to me and of course I insta-called.

He had A3. No suckout, and he was gone.

Now what is he expecting to happen here?

Every so often I'll have a very marginal hand (though rarely in early position) and his 20BB investment wins 4.5BB when I fold. (My raise plus the blinds).

Mostly he is going to get called as around a 70/30 underdog - by a dominating ace or a pocket pair - thus losing in the long run.

Surely the times he picks up 4.5BB can't compensate for all the times he gets it in as a big underdog?

I suppose for a recreational player on a very small budget there is a buzz from the times when A6 beats JJ, etc. but I'd have thought there would be more fun in buying in for the full $20 at a $.10/.20 table and playing lots of pots, rather than buying in short at a bigger table and lumping the lot in the first time an ace or pocket pair appears in your hand.

I know the Rolf Slotboom book on Pot Limit Omaha outlines a short stack strategy, and I'm planning to read it soon, so perhaps my views will change then.

For now, I'm quite happy to see a few of these guys at the table, as more often than not they leave empty handed.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Funny Old Game

Kicked off the weekend with a quite extraordinary session on Stars.

Four tabling the $100 NLHE cash games, I went on a probability defying run of cards.

AA in successive hands on the same table. KK, QQ, JJ, TT, AK, on multiple occasions.

Several times I was looking at a big pocket pair on one table, and just as I was thinking, I'll fold the other hands and focus on this table, I'd be dealt AA or KK elsewhere.

I finished the session $60 down to post my first losing night of the month.

Sometimes you just have to laugh.

The whole night was a succession of raise, everyone folds, take the blinds; or raise, get a caller, take down pot on flop.

Until I finally managed to get it all in with KK. Versus AA. Ho hum.

One thing I did notice that is different between Stars and Tribeca is that pre-flop raises into several limpers do elicit many more folds on Stars.

On Tribeca when I have several limpers in front, I tend to limp hands like AQ, AJ, 88. The reason being, people will often call off a good chunk of their stack with the likes of QJs, then get stubborn when they flop 2nd pair.

Which means if I fail to hit, I'm often unsure where I am if I get smooth called on the flop. Did they catch a pair they can't put down but won't defend, are they drawing, or slow playing a monster?

Remember the old sayings, 'you can't bluff a calling station' and 'you can't put a man on a hand, if he don't know what he's got'?

So I prefer to see cheap flops in the hope of catching a monster, then stack them.

Stars seems to offer many more opportunities for picking up small pots pre-flop, as a raise to 5 or 6BB into a few limpers was generally enough to pick up the pot.

Another small reminder that it's not just about having game, but also about adapting to the circumstances you find yourself in.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Selfish Perspective

There's been plenty written elsewhere on the fall out from the UIGEA, and obviously many of my American friends are going to find themselves increasingly restricted in their freedom to play poker, as the sanctions bite deeper.

Losing Neteller is clearly a huge blow.

That said, from a selfish perspective I'm not entirely convinced it will have a detrimental effect on my game. Recently I've been playing earlier in the evening and there seem to be ample supplies of European donks at the tables.

Indeed the geographic reach seems to be moving east with more Poles, Russians, and Israelis appearing to supplement the Irish, British, Scandinavians, and other Western Europeans.

So, the loss of US fish maybe isn't such a crushing blow. What's interesting to me is whether the new entrants will bring a similar proportion of good players to bad, or whether there will be a period where there is a higher proportion of newbies, and fewer good players.

Clearly there were a large number of US players playing a serious amateur, or semi-pro type game, who are now unable to access all the sites I can.

It's a question of whether there are now proportionately less sharks than fish in the pool I swim in. At the moment I have no clear opinion either way on this, but it's a point worth considering.

Something else I'll be interested in is just how far the UK government goes in meeting US demands for information. The international financial services market is ultra competitive and London guards it's position jealously.

The UK government has been keen to bolster London by marketing it as a financial centre for online gaming companies, due to their anticipated growth rates.

So, how will Gordon Brown - current Chancellor, and Prime Minister in waiting - react to the howls of protest from the mega institutions who have been hit with DOJ subpoenas?

He will realise there must come a point where many of these companies will choose to up sticks and head for more accommodating regimes, be they in Germany, Switzerland, or the Far East.

The US is developing quite a reputation recently for trying to impose their will on other financial markets, without providing reciprocal arrangements.

I'm sure the likes of Peter Birks will cover this in greater, and more knowledgeable, detail than me, but the thought does occur a lot of nations, and mega corps, must be getting to the point where, in the immortal words of Father Jack, they tell the DOJ to 'Feck off'.

Writing anything about the US at present is a fraught subject, since it's easy to be tarred with the anti-American label.

I like America. I've only been twice, but I had a great time on both visits. I liked the people, the cities, the attitude.

What puzzles me, and many other Europeans, is that such a powerful nation chose to elect such a fundamentally flawed regime.

At a time when the draft dodging, coke snorting, drink driving, company wrecking, chimp impersonating, miserable excuse of a president is sending yet more troops out to die in a pointless and unwinnable war for democracy - whilst simultaneously driving a coach and horses through the US Constitution - the economy is faltering, the currency declining, and the new economic powers of the Far East steadily buying up American assets, one might imagine politicians had bigger fish to fry than online poker.

Because let's be serious. Online poker is a big thing to those who play it, but in the grand scheme of things it pales into insignificance beside rigging elections, and possibly sentencing people to death on the basis of coercive evidence and hearsay!

So while we might all hope that the City of London, the WTO, and the UK and other governments finally grow sick of the current shenanigans in the online poker world, ultimately they are a small part of a much bigger picture.

One which only the American electorate can restore to something approaching normality.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Off And Running Good

Just time for a quick update to keep the site alive.

I've not been playing much at all this month so far, due to a combination of yet more ill health, and a majorly time consuming clear out of the family home.

I've been unpacking boxes that we moved from our last home, only to deposit them straight into the loft in the new residence, where they've lain for several years.

In the process I've unearthed a few gems, but 90% of the stuff falls into the 'why didn't we just throw that out when we were moving?' category.

Many trips have been made to the local waste dump, with at least one more still required.

The ill health is nothing serious. I'm still in an unbreakable cycle of minor cold/flu/throat bugs. Which is extremely -EV for a freelance worker, and which might at first glance seem like an opportunity to replace the lost revenue with some 'working from home' on the virtual tables.

That doesn't work for me. Apart from the sneezing, coughing, and runny noses, the other symptom tends to be a debilitating lack of energy. On several occasions in the past few months I've slept for eleven or twelve hours straight, only to wake up still feeling fuzzy headed and lethargic.

In this condition, putting my bankroll on the line doesn't feel like a wise move.

It would probably be different if I had something less trivial like a broken ankle. Indeed I can distantly recall a week off work when I had my tonsils removed, during which I was glued to the PC playing computer games to pass the time, and distract from the incessant pain I was experiencing.

If only I'd known about online poker then!

Fortunately, in the few sessions I've played this month I've been running very well.

Not just winning a few big pots, but not losing any either - I can't recall being stacked at any point throughout January.

I've also hit a couple of big flops with speculative hands, and got paid off.

Probably some of my starting hands that I've raised, or called a raise with when in position, look very donkish to a casual observer. They'd be missing the point.

Sayings like 'you shouldn't call a raise with KJ because you will often be dominated' are fine for ABC poker, but I'm not calling with KJ - or 97, or 64, etc. - to flop top pair. I'm calling to hit a big flop that an overpair can't get away from.

If I can see a relatively cheap flop in position against a weak player with a deep stack then I don't see a risk of domination. I see a chance to invest a few BB and win 100BB or more.

So far this year - touch wood! - it's working for me. Albeit the sample size is very low.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Wattie, Justin , and Jambos

Just kicked off a big weekend with a few beers, a family size pack of Walkers Sensations, and another winning session on Tribeca.

I called it a night early, as I've had a bit of a frantic week at work and could feel fatigue creeping in. Plus I've got other stuff to do tomorrow so need a decent sleep.

It's always nice to post a relatively short 100BB+ session without ever being significantly down, or feeling under any pressure.

I suspect my win rate suffers slightly from an unwillingness to make 'big calls' with decent, but far from the nuts, hands.

I'm sure I'm letting a few players pinch a cookie or two, either deliberately or simply from a lack of awareness that 2nd pair top kicker is not a long term winner.

However I am getting better at controlling pot sizes, which helps to reduce variance and enhance my edge over weaker players.

This style is also better suited to my temperament, and any EV sacrificed is probably compensated for by the more stable bankroll progression.

That said, it's something I am monitoring through PokerTracker and note taking to see if I can push up the win rate without sacrificing stability.

Clearly I wasn't playing against Justin Timberlake tonight. Would anyone seriously contemplate playing that boy for money at cards? With his luck he'd probably hit a straight flush on every hand.

From Britney in the cute'n'sexy pre-trailer trash mom phase to Cameron Diaz at well, any phase, to (if rumours are to be believed) Scarlett Johansson. wtf!?

No wonder the press over here call him Justin Trousersnake.

As we say in Scotland, jammy bastard!

Saturday is housekeeping day. This week I've been on something of a blitzkrieg against the accumulation of household junk, and tomorrow much of it will be off to the dump.

There's also some shopping to be done - including a widescreen LCD TV scouting mission...

The clear out is part of a wider change we are planning presently, of which I expect to be posting more soon.

The other big news this weekend is the return of a couple of past heroes to scenes of former glory.

I'd imagine many Celtic fans will be rubbing their eyes in disbelief as Steven Pressley takes to the field at Tynecastle clad in the famous green-and-white hoops of Celtic - possibly as captain!

The inevitable vitriol that will pour down from the foul inhabitants of that miserable stadium will probably do more to cement Pressley's status within the Celtic support than anything he could do himself.

Much as there's been many misgivings about the signing of a previous foe, I'd expect most Celtic fans will be relish rubbing Jambo noses in the dirt. I'll probably be cheering them on from the local pub.

The other big return is that of Walter Smith to Rangers.

An eloquent and persuasive article over at eTims admirably dissects the hypocrisy and bias within the Scottish sporting press that has characterised their coverage of Walter walking out on the national team.

Much as this coverage gets up my nose in the short term, just like in poker there's a longer game to be played. One in which I welcome the continual fawning and grovelling of the Scottish press at the feet of Sir 'Dodgy' David Murray.

Was he really knighted for services to Celtic!?

The longer the press allow Murray a free ride in the papers, the further ahead Celtic will surge. Leaving our previous rivals as mere wannabes scrabbling to catch up.

All of which inspired me to seek out a precious clip from Walter's previous managerial reign at Ibrox, in which he snaps under questioning from the nonentity that is Chick Young, when asked to explain another Rangers humiliation in Europe.

Cheer up Walter. Never mind justifying losses to the likes of AEK Athens. This season it's more likely to be Motherwell spanking you.

Finally, a big up to Andy Ward - whose articles on SNG and tourney strategy are always instructive reading. He jetted over from rainy England and took down a WPT Event in Tunica.

Nice work if you can get it.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

In The Thick Of It

After my near $1000 December profit, I made my triumphant return to the tables last night - having taken a week off over the new year period.

I momentarily allowed myself the worry that the maniacs who had padded my bankroll in December may be in shorter supply after the festive period, but my fears were without foundation.

At times like these my vocabulary and creative talents can fail me, as I struggle to communicate just how dire some of the play is at the $.5/1 tables.

So, as time is short tonight, I'll be concise. Some of these guys would struggle to spell their own name.

It's that bad. Really.

Last night's gold standard example. Two guys all-in pre-flop with not insignificant stack sizes. One has AA - understandable. The other - KK? QQ? AK?

No! Try T8o. Beyond comprehension.

At some point surely Malthusian theory must kick in, and the fish will be over exploited by the sharks to the point where returns diminish for the winning player?

This is one of the worries expressed about the replacement of Limit Hold Em by No Limit Hold Em as the game of choice for the 'less strong' players. They can go bust a lot quicker at No Limit.

Fortunately that point seems to be a long way off. Which must be indicative of the continuing strength of the world economy.

People who probably struggle to tie their shoelaces are still finding enough cash to fund their losing poker habit. Hallelujah!

As is traditional in these circumstances I started with a series of outdraws and missed flops, to be rapidly down $100.

Much to my relief, things turned around in the space of a few hands, culminating in a draw that hit, and an opponent who couldn't fold an overpair. Profit for the evening $10.

Well, it all counts, and it was good to get back in action with a winning session of sorts.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Between Iraq and a Hard Place

Is anyone remotely surprised at the diabolical mess the Iraqi government made of the execution of Saddam Hussein?

They had him under their control for one hour, and that was enough for him to be abused, filmed, and the film leaked to the world media.

In an instant transforming him from oppressor to oppressed, and actually giving him a chance of achieving his goal of going down in history as a martyr rather than a dictator.

It takes a special brand of incompetence to make a murderous despot look good - but they managed it.

In a few frames of grainy camera phone footage, we were treated to a concise summary of why the entire Iraqi campaign has been a pointless waste of lives and resources.

The Iraqis are incapable, and unwilling, to form a democratic government. They may say that's what they want, but clearly it isn't.

Instead of a totalitarian regime headed by a single tyrant, we will soon have a shambolic oligarchy, which in time will likely subdivide in the manner of The Balkans, into smaller states arranged along religious or ethnic lines.

Which will contribute further to instability in the region, and strengthen the hand of Iran and Syria.

Meanwhile Turkey will hardly thank The West when the almost inevitable Kurdish state is founded on their border.

No wonder Bush and Blair are so reluctant to expose themselves to direct questioning. They are likely counting the days until their respective escapes from responsibility.

Were they to be questioned, would they find it within themselves to state the unstateable? Things were better with Saddam than without.

Which is not for a second to deny the enormity of his crimes; but are those of his successors any less?

Some countries are incapable of governing in a democratic manner. Evicting Saddam from power was like firing Super Nanny as head of your local nursery for being too strict, and replacing her with Michael Jackson and Bubbles.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire, in a conflict which will continue to claim many lives for a long time to come.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Feck Off Festive Season

Back to work tomorrow, for the first time since mid-December. I'll be lucky if I can remember my password.

This hasn't been a festive season to fondly recall, for a number of reasons.

In the space of three weeks I managed three hospital visits - including one full on flashing lights and sirens episode - and two visits to the emergency doctor.

The cause of two of the hospital visits is already well documented. The third came last Saturday, when my dad called from the local post office to say he was feeling unwell.

When I got there he was out-of-breath, dizzy, and had the complexion of Pete Doherty after a week long bender.

'Just take me home for a lie down', he said. 'Call an ambulance', I told the lady behind the counter.

This is typical of my dad. With a severe heart attack, and a triple bypass on his medical record, you might imagine he'd err on the side of caution, but he won't be told.

Last Christmas after experiencing chest pains, he drove my mum to work and sneaked off to the local Accident and Emergency Department without telling anyone - thinking he could have a quick check up and be back home before we realised he was missing.

When he got there, his symptoms resembled another heart attack and he was soon hooked up to an ECG - necessitating a gruff phone call to me to go and collect mum when she finished work.

Fortunately they were able to confirm he hadn't had another heart attack, and he was released twelve hours later.

This time, he was kept in overnight. It seems he reacted badly to a recent change in his medication, causing his blood pressure to plummet.

Prior to this I'd already had one visit to the emergency doctor with K after she started experiencing severe neck and head pains. A call to NHS Direct had them covering everything from meningitis to possible post-op complications, and they booked her in for a visit.

Much to our relief if turned out to be nothing too serious, and she was soon on the mend.

The final visit came on New Years Day. E had a very restless night and by early morning was running a very high temperature - so hot she was visibly reddening like someone with nasty sunburn.

When I checked her temperature it was showing 39.7C which put it in the top band of 'high fever' on the chart. Another call to NHS Direct, and another visit to the emergency doctor, who diagnosed a viral infection and prescribed some medication to get her temperature down.

So, again nothing too major, but scary nonetheless.

Which leads me almost to be relieved to get back to the inevitable backlog at work.

Three weeks off work should mean rest and relaxation, instead it's been sadness and a fair degree of stress.

2006 couldn't end quickly enough for me. I'm already formulating plans to ensure 2007 and beyond have better things to offer.

Monday, January 01, 2007

2006 Poker Review

In my 2005 Poker Review I set myself six targets for the year to come.

Some very clearly defined, others less so.

  • Learn new games

  • Play live more

  • Move up limits

  • Take some shots

  • Meet more bloggers

  • Clear $6,000

So, how did I get on?

Learn New Games

This went about as well as I could have hoped for.

Early in the year, I dedicated an entire month to Pot Limit Omaha Hi/Lo and followed it up with a month of Stud Hi/Lo.

I built on this as the year progressed with some 7 Card Stud and even a smidgen on Triple Draw.

Additionally, I spent periods of time focusing on different aspects of my Hold Em game.

Intense bursts of multi-tabling on PokerStars has given me a SNG game which I am confident I can rely on.

My No Limit Hold Em cash game has also come on in leaps and bounds with a positive effect on my bankroll.

On the whole then, I can confidently tick this off as a target hit.

Play Live More

The same cannot be said for my live game.

I don't keep concise records of where or when I played live, but it was certainly less in 2006 than 2005.

The home game disappeared - primarily due to time constraints such as expanding families - and I rarely made it into Glasgow to play at any of the established venues.

Poker is an unforgiving hobby when allied to a 9-5 day job, and limited weekend time.

The one achievement I can claim is cashing at the Stanley £50 freezeout.

This goes down as a target missed, but let's call it a glorious failure rather than a tragic one!

Move Up Limits

This is looking like a 50/50 to me, though as in many poker situations the 50/50 is perhaps more 54/46.

In limit Hold Em I'd hoped to be routinely playing $3/6 or beyond, which has indeed come to pass.

In big bet games, I'd been aiming for $1/2 at least. That hasn't quite happened yet - though many people on my bankroll would already have made the move - but I'm optimistic it is not too far away.

Take Some Shots

An abject failure. Simply I don't seem capable of finding the time to devote to playing big MTTs, hence shot taking is not an option.

Just about the only shots taken accompanied an IM chat with Al.

Meet More Bloggers

Adding another member of the bloggerati in Joe Speaker to the list was certainly a big plus. I thoroughly enjoyed his visit to Glasgow, and even the unreliable Scottish weather cooperated. Just a shame Ryanair and ScotRail didn't!

I had high hopes of making it to Vegas in December, but alas work demands got in the way. As it happened, this may not have been a bad thing.

So, quality over quantity was the motto here.

Clear $6,000

Two years in a row I've posted this aim, and twice I've missed by a wide margin.

This year the numbers were:
Starting Bankroll:$3,469
Ending Bankroll:$6,305

At least I am consistent!

Looking at those numbers shows that in theory I could be playing higher already, but my approach to bankroll management is quite conservative. I seeded my online accounts with a couple of hundred dollars and have never had to reload, so it's all profit to me.

As I said last year, not many hobbies are self funding.

On the whole then, I can hardly characterise 2006 as an unrestricted success, but it was hardly a disaster either.

At the half-way stage I gave myself a C-. My first live cash, and a late rally in the bankroll, have persuaded me I can upgrade this to a C+.

I'm not entirely happy, but at least I didn't go bust.

I'm going to apply the lesson learned from 2005 and 2006 when setting aims for 2007, to make them more achievable given my personal circumstances. Thus the aims for 2007 are primarily progressions on those for 2006.

Perhaps there's a lack of ambition in this, but poker to me is a hobby, not a profession.

The 2007 targets:

Deepen Experience of Other Poker Variants

It has been exciting to see PokerStars and Full Tilt in particular expand their mixed game offerings. I want to spend more time at these tables, playing for meaningful stakes.

Clear $6,000

I'm not giving up on this! One year I shall succeed.

Do Some Interesting Poker Related Stuff

A deliberately vague target. This could mean that long anticipated Vegas return. It could be satelliting into a decent size UK event. It could be a trip to one of the EPT events.

Much as I have no desire to live the life of a poker pro, I am envious of the travel opportunities it affords. Doing something along those lines would be a nice segue between poker and my wider ambitions in life.

I think that gives me enough to work with, without setting unrealistic aims. As always it's not a roadmap for the year ahead, but gives me a few points of reference on the journey that awaits.

Two years down the line, I'm still enthused and challenged by this game, and looking forward to discovering what 2007 holds for me.