Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Wynn Tournament and 5/10NL

My sleeping schedule is now such that I am awake at noon and can play in the acclaimed Wynn tournament. The tournament is $330, and you start out with an M of 40. M, named after backgammon and poker theorist Paul Magriel, is the ratio of the size of your stack to the size of the pot before the flop. A higher M generally means that more skill is involved. A lower M implies a lot of all-in bets, eliminating most post-flop skill. Thus, most good players prefer tournaments where you have a high M for most of the tournament. This happens when the stacks start out big and the blinds move up slowly - at the Wynn they move up every 45 minutes. For comparison, the Mirage tournaments on Tuesday and Wednesday start with an M of 15 an the blinds move up every 30 minutes.

Anyway, I played in the Wynn tournament for the first time yesterday. It attracted 88 players, for a pretty substantial prize pool. Unfortunately, a high percentage of the players were pretty good, due probably to the structure attracting better players. I was doing well until I got a little too excited with 55 in the big blind and reraised what I percieved to be a steal from the button, and ran into QQ. This took out half my stack, and I couldn't get anything going after that.

Later, I went to play the 5-10 NL game. This game is entirely beatable, although I failed to beat it yesterday. The game was looser than the average 2-5 NL game, which is saying something. I hope yesterday was representative of what can be expected at that level. If so, I'll be playing there more often in the coming months. For now, I'll be playing a mix of that and 2-5 NL.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Folding KK

The conventional wisdom is that, in a cash game (as opposed to a tournament), KK should practically never be folded before the flop. In Harrington on Holdem Volume I, Dan Harrington describes a time that he almost folded them, but then decided to call anyway. He claims to have never folded KK before the flop.

I've folded KK before the flop once in my life, back in college against my old roommate Ben. I now think it was a bad decision, although Ben insists that he did, indeed, have AA (I'm not entirely sure he's telling me the truth, though). Anyway, I almost folded KK again yesterday at the Rio, and after analyzing the situation more closely, I'm still not sure what I should have done.

Here's the situation. Playing 2-5 NL, I was in the small blind with about $800. The under-the-gun player, who had exactly $332 left, raised to $25. He was tight and rather passive, an I hadn't seen him do anything out of line in the couple of hours we had been there. So already I knew he had to have a premium hand.

The next player had over $1000 behind. He was loose and aggressive, and raised to $100. I figured him for AQ or better, TT or better. Everyone folded to me, and I looked down at KK. I decided that I very likely had the best hand, but that the UTG player also had to have an excellent hand, and was likely to put in the rest of his money if I just called. This was my best chance of getting the loose-aggressive player's money into the pot. So, instead of reraising, which is the usual play, I just cold-called the $100. The big blind folded, and, as expected, the UTG player went all-in for his last $232. He did this so confidently and uncaringly that I felt he very likely had AA.

The loose aggressive player spent a minute or so considering his play, and made the comment "I'm either going all-in or folding," essentially eliminating the chance he had AA... so at this point I was really hoping he pushes all-in. Alas, he folded, accidentally flashing two face cards that I thought were JJ (he confirmed this after the hand). In any case, he certainly was not holding an ace.

Now the action was back to me. I am reasonably confident the UTG player has AA, but can I really lay down KK? I was being offered 232 to 533 odds. This means I need to think I have about a 30% chance to win the hand to make calling correct. If he has AA I am only about 18 or 19% to win the hand. In my mind at the time, I was thinking that if he didn't have AA, I was about 80% to win. After further analysis, I think that if he didn't have AA, I was really only about 75% to win, but I was pretty close. (The 75% statistics was calculated with pokerstove, assuming the other possible hands he could have were 88-KK, ATs+, KQs, or AKo. Adding in a few hands like 78s doesn't change things much.) I decided to call, but expected to see him turn over AA... which is exactly what happened.

Anyway, doing the math shows that I needed to be 79% confident that my opponent was holding AA to make folding correct. Was I that confident? Uh... I dunno, I've always found it hard to put numbers on these things. I actually think I was about 80% sure he had AA. So, maybe folding would have been correct after all.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Is This Bad?

While playing at the Rio last night, I ordered I coke. When I was just finishing it off, I felt something strange in my mouth. What I removed was a tiny piece of broken glass - in fact, it pricked my finger, causing it to bleed for a few minutes. I wonder how long will it take me to notice if I swallowed any similar fragments.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Quick Update

Since the last time you heard from me, I've had a terrible losing streak (actually the 15-30 game at the Wynn was in the midst of this) and then a complete turnaround, getting me back into the black for the month.

Sorry to my loyal readers for not posting for a week. I've been working on a couple of other projects, and not much interesting has happened. Here's the best I can do to try to interest you:

- In the lobby at the Mirage this past weekend there was an enormous crowd for the new Jet nightclub. Nearly naked models painted with the Jet logo sprawled on sofas on a stage and also stood on platforms amid the crowd, which included photographers and celebrities, of whom I could only recognize Shannon Elizabeth (who, by the way, is a very good poker player - I learned today that she won the "Nicky Hilton New Year's Eve Poker Tournament" at Caesars. Hey Nicky, why wasn't I invited to play in this??)

- Luck in the Mirage tournaments has been eluding me recently, as has wakefulness during the noon Wynn tournaments, which are supposedly the best under $1000 tournaments in town. I swear I'll get up in time for one at some point.

- The Rio still has the best 2-5 NL game in town, as far as I can tell. However, most of their card shufflers have broken, their comp system makes no sense, and they persist in using cards so old that they have worn out splotches on the back. "They're not marked if they're all like that!" Um... right. I'm not going to complain too much as long as their poker room continues to attract drunken tourists.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

15-30 holdem at the Wynn

On the strength of my strong showing at the limit tournament earlier this week and the suggestion of FJDelgado when he was here a few weeks ago, I decided to play some limit holdem at the Wynn. I'd played the 15-30 game there a few times before (while waiting for a no-limit seat to open up), and done pretty well. I decided to watch the game while waiting for my seat to open up. One guy in his late twenties was talking about how he comes to the poker room to drink, not really to play cards. Supposedly, he drinks every day, and he said that he had taken two days off and he couldn't digest his food and that he basically needs to drink just to get through the day. He was the flashy, talkative type of drunkard, and among the wildest players I've ever seen, and that includes many hours of 2-4, 3-6, 4-8 and 8-16 games. He was playing more than 50% of his hands and winning a lot of pots on miracle turn and river cards.

Things got even more ridiculous once I got my seat. The flashy drunkard started putting in his $30 for a raise every hand before the cards were even dealt. While he was not required to leave the money out there (he could have taken it back before the action got around to him), he was quite faithful in leaving it there, except sometimes putting in another $15 if someone had raised in front of him. Obviously, this made for a strange but profitable game for the rest of the players. It also meant that the game demanded an unorthodox approach. Playing "by the book" in this situation was clearly not the optimal strategy. This made it all the more interesting that Mason Malmuth, one of the well known authors of "the book" was sitting at the table at the time.

Malmuth, author of Gambling Theory and Other Topics, Hold'Em Poker for Advanced Players, and many other books on gambling and poker, is notorious for being a very tight and inflexible player. He sat down just a minute after I did. A somewhat tall and chubby guy, he, like his collaborator David Sklansky, looks like a computer scientist from the 1970's, the type who only went outside 2 or 3 times a month to buy more chocolate bars so they wouldn't starve to death. When I looked at him I thought "hey, that guy looks a lot like Mason Mulmuth." Then I saw that his shirt said "Two plus Two Publishing," which is the company he owns with Sklansky. A minute later "Mason" was called for the 5-10 NL game, and he looked around for a few seconds, so at that point I was pretty certain it was him. I thought it was kind of cool to be playing with him, as this was the first time I'd ever actually played with a well-known poker player. Because of his reputation of "playing by the book," I was very curious to see how he would react to the unusual circumstances caused by the maniac at the table. For instance, if he had AA or KK, would he raise, as the book suggests, or would he just limp in and then reraise when the bet came around to him again?

Well, Malmuth basically just folded every hand, looking somewhat perturbed. I couldn't tell if he was annoyed about the maniac at the table, but I got the sense that he was just normally nervous and fidgety, and it probably had nothing to do with the maniac (who, by the way, caught an incredible run of cards and won several hundred dollars while I was there). Malmuth got into a discussion with me and some of the players around me about how badly run some of the cardrooms in Vegas were, especially criticizing the new Caesars room for being put completely out of the way (I'll give my own opinion of Caesars in a future post). Then he abruptly stopped himself, saying, "I used to care about this stuff, but not any more. I actually used to do some consulting on poker room management, but nobody ever listened to me."

Malmuth only played one hand that I can remember, and his straightforward style made his hand extremely readable. I hesitate to describe the hand because I didn't play it well myself, but this is what happened... An early position player raised and I cold-called from middle position with 77 (probably should fold here, right?). Malmuth, two to my left, reraised in late position. The only hands I think he would do this with are AA, KK, QQ and AK, maybe AQs. Folds to the EP raiser, who reraised again. I coldcalled again (probably should have folded again here due to the high likelihood Malmuth has AA or KK and will re-raise), and Malmuth just called. This call pretty much eliminated the chance Malmuth has AA, as he would reraise with that hand. Probably also KK. Now the most likely hands he can have are QQ, AK, JJ, KK, or maybe AQs or AA. The flop came KK4. EP player checked, I checked, Malmuth bet, EP raised, I folded, and Malmuth just called. At this point, it's still tough to say which hand Malmuth is holding, but I would still guess QQ. Turn was a blank, EP bet and Malmuth just called. At this point, he almost certainly had QQ. He would have raised with any hand that had a K. He might have AA or JJ, but those hands were unlikely to begin with. The river was another blank, EP bet again, and Malmuth called again. Sure enough, Malmuth turned over QQ, while EP had only JJ. My guess is that EP had no idea who he was going up against, as there was almost no way he had the best hand on the river.

Incidentally, the maniac drunkard caught two huge hands against me and I lost several hundred dollars. Limit poker isn't as easy as I was led to believe.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Limit Tournament

As I've mentioned before, I like to play occassionally in the 7pm weekday tournaments at the Mirage. On Tuesday and Wednesday it's a $130 no-limit holdem tournament with unlimited $100 rebuys. Thursday, it's $230 plus a single $200 rebuy (which I won a few weeks ago). I had never played their Monday tournament before, and as it turns out, it's a limit holdem tournament. Although I've never played in a live limit tournament before (I've played a few online), I figured I would play in it anyway.

I know for a fact that young people play limit holdem, but it seems that they do not play limit holdem tournaments. The median age at the final table other than me was probably 55; there was only one other player under 30 and nobody looked like he was between 30 and 45. I don't know why this is. I guess the young players who play limit don't waste their time on small tournaments like this one.

Anyway, I came in 4th and cashed for a few hundred dollars. This was the second time since my big win a few weeks ago that I just barely clawed my way into the money in a tournament. The other time was in the 2am tournament at Binions when Aaron and Joe were here. In that tournament, I knocked out Aaron with my KK after having advised him to play more aggressively, and Joe bubbled out one hand before me. Sorry guys.

Bobby and others tell me that the $300 noon tournament at the Wynn on weekdays is the best tournament in town. If I ever get up early enough I'll probably try it out.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Back to the "Routine"

My brother and girlfriend left town Wednesday night. Lots of low-limit holdem, as expected, and also two trips two Red Rock Canyon and one to Valley of Fire. We also saw Munich.

Before I went home for the holidays, my friends Aaron and Joe were in town. When I got back, I had my girlfriend and brother in town. So, it's been a couple of weeks since I've lived in my normal lifestyle. What is "normal"? I'm not quite sure, since I don't really have any sort of routine. Basically, I try to exercise and get one or two other things done each day, as well as playing at least a few hours of poker. Besides that it's pretty much just watching tv, playing video games, reading (mostly online news or books about poker), writing occasionally in this blog, and sleeping. The best part is that I rarely ever have to do anything on any given day if I don't want to, so I rarely have anything really to worry about. It also means that I have to be self-disciplined, something which I am not particularly good at, but I could be a lot worse (eg Aaron). My efforts to become more self-disciplined have been quite valuable to me personally. Up until my move to Vegas I had always been in school or had a job (like almost everyone else in the world), and my free time was generally geared towards trying to de-stress. Now that all of my time is essentially "free time," I am forced to evaluate what my personal priorities and try to set goals for myself - all those things that in the past had essentially been decided for me. I recently heard a quote from TomMcEvoy where he said he considers pro poker players to be "the last of the true free spirits." I don't know exactly what he means by that and it's almost certainly not quite true, but somehow that quote fits what I am trying to say here. Pro poker players truly are free-spirits; we have chosen an unorthodox means of supporting ourselves and we need not answer to anyone.

Observing what one chooses to do with one's time when one has no responsibilities is very revealing. Regardless of what I may be doing a year from now or ten years from now, I feel like this time is extremely valuable for purposes of self reflection... something that is probably particularly valuable for someone who found a normal 9-5 office job intolerable, despite the fact that it involved almost precisely his chosen field of study, and thus should presumably have been a satisfying career.

Other lifestyle improvements that have occured since my move to Vegas include flossing, exercising a bit more, drinking much less, and sleeping much better. Also, I'm better at poker now.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Low-Limit Again

I'm back in Las Vegas after a nice, relaxing week back in Massachusetts with the family. With me are my girlfriend Brigid and my brother Max. Brigid is now a casino poker veteran, but this will be the first time for Max, so we'll probably be starting at 2-4, maybe 3-6. In any case, this means a lot of low-limit holdem for me this week. Since I haven't played any form of poker for over a week, it should be a nice way for me to ease back into the Vegas poker scene.