Sunday, December 27, 2009

I Mean It This Time!

New Year's Resolution season is here! First let me take a look at my 2009 list of goals:

- Lose 30 pounds by June 1st...didn't make the 30, but I am down about 20 pounds from my high in January...I'm proud of my progress.
- Become a winning player at $5/10NL by December 31st...yeah, not so much! Still at $.50/1NL, but running at about 3BB/100 over my last 4,500 hands or so...more work to be done here.
- Qualify to play in a major live tournament, no later than the WPT at Foxwoods in November...this one didn't happen, but I did cash in a $300 buy-in tourney at Mohegan Sun last month.
- Post at least once per it looks like I didn't post any less this year, either.
- Improve my position at work (or find a new job) by June 1st...10% unemployment rates didn't help me here, but I'm always looking around, keeping my ears open at work, etc.

And now for the 2010 goal checklist:

- Weigh 220 lbs or less by our next trip to Vegas (sometime this summer)
- Become a winning player at $5/$10NL by December 31st (not giving up on this one)
- Qualify to play in a major live tournament, no later than the WPT at Foxwoods in November (...or this one!)
- Grow our monthly live tournaments at the Lounge (we're averaging around 12-15 entries, I'd like to see this up to at least 20 by year-end)
- Plan three major vacations (Las Vegas, Ocean City (MD), and To Be Determined)

What I'm already doing to accomplish these goals:

- Reducing my carb intake by eating less bread, pasta, potatoes, sweets, etc.
- Reading poker books, blogs, and articles (already 75 pages into Elements of Poker, which I got from my brother-in-law Steve for Christmas...thanks!)
- Reviewing prior poker sessions, talking over hands with Todd, sweat sessions, etc.
- Collecting cell phone numbers & e-mail addresses from new players, and sending out messages reminding everyone of the next tournament.

What else I need to do to accomplish these goals:

- Get back on the low-carb horse after New Year's...I behaved during Thanksgiving, but there was just too much good, starchy, sugar-laden food around me these last couple weeks for me to pass up!
- Get back to the's at the end of our driveway...c'mon man!
- Buy and read Treat Your Poker Like a Business...and then another poker book, and then another.
- Look into buying a membership to a poker training site...I've got tons of FPP's on Full Tilt I can use to pay for one.
- Play more "main event" qualifiers...Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun, maybe even the EPT stop in my dad's birthplace of Dortmund, Germany.
- Send out e-mail recaps of the Lounge tournaments...I used to do this for the private tournaments we ran online, and I think it kept everyone interested...numbers went down when I stopped the recaps.
- Don't waste my sick/vacation days on so many Mental Health Days...plan days off & use them to play in live tournaments and for vacations.

OK now, let me hear a big 'Whoa Bundy' on three!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Taking It Seriously

Todd & I talk about poker every day at work, exchanging stories about our hands from the night before. We win some, we lose some, but neither of us have been making any solid headway. No progress.

We bemoan our bad luck, talk about the hands we should've raised or folded, but for me it always comes back to the same's easy to see now - after the fact - that I made the wrong play, but why can't I recognize that and make the RIGHT play while I'm in the hand? No focus.

I'm finally willing to admit this: I know I'm intelligent enough to be a winning poker player, but I haven't played with enough consistent focus to realize that potential. There have been times when I've done some studying/reading/coaching sessions, but it's been in spurts and usually ends after I've lost a few buy-ins. Sometimes I'll bring the laptop upstairs and play in the spare room without any distractions, but it's so much easier (and more comfortable) to plop down on the couch and fire up a couple tables with the game on in the background. No discipline.

While driving home from work today, I thought to myself, "OK, you're in your late 30' work full don't have the time to really dedicate the time needed to become a better kids in their 20's have the time & lack of responsibility, they're the ones that can make the big money playing poker...are you ready to admit that this isn't going to work out for you?"

I didn't like what I had just thought.

If I quit on this, then what dreams/goals do I have to achieve? I don't bowl competitively anymore, I'm pretty much locked into this career I've had for the past 10 years. Forty is around the corner, and who knows what the future will bring? Longer hours at work? Children? Nope, can't stop now. I quit my bowling leagues a few years ago to spend more time on poker..this is it, bro.

Day One of the new routine is over. After I got home from work, I chilled on the couch for a bit, watching TV, checking emails & whatnot. Had dinner, little more TV...then switched over to poker mode. Hopped on Jen's desktop & printed out some poker blog strategy posts I read before from Ed Miller and citizenwind, printed them out & put them in a three-ring binder. I then took the binder & laptop up to the spare room, read & highlighted key points from the blog posts, and then fired up PokerTracker. I scanned my last session hands and focused on three "tough spot" hand histories. Cut & pasted those suckers into a Word file, added notes where I made good/bad decisions, and e-mailed it to Todd for his we used to during our group coaching sessions.

Only after all that did I finally start playing some poker. Table selected (looking for high % of players seeing a flop, large avg pot sizes, and no shortstackers to my immediate left), found three decent tables, and started playing. No TV, no Internet Explorer...just poker. I told myself to stay calm, don't tilt, and keep thinking. I acknowledged that even though I had taken all of these steps and even hit the books, it wouldn't guarantee I'd have a winning session.

Fortunately, I did have a winning session:

Nothing spectacular, but a win is a win...and I decided to lock up the win after about an hour...good for the psyche. There were a couple of spots (which I'll review in depth tomorrow) where I actually took a couple of seconds, thought about if the villian's bet made sense, and made two profitable decisions. One was just a turn call in position with 7-7...we checked the river and I was good vs just two overcards. The second was a big check-raise from a fishy player when I flopped TPTK with the nut diamond seemed an easy enough decision - I'm definitely not folding the hand - but I took the time to check his stats...and sure enough, my man's check-raise flop stat is three outta four.

I figured his raise of half my stack had committed him, so I shoved hoping to get called by something like top pair with the Kd or Ax-Kd...if he actually flopped big (two pair/set/flush) then I'm still drawing live. Unfortunately he tanked & folded, but I still took down a nice pot. Maybe I should've just called & let him shove the turn? I guess we'll talk about that at work in the morning.

Now I just have to do this again tomorrow...and the next day...and the next...nope, that's Christmas Eve. But the trick will be to follow these same steps again on Saturday, or whenever the next time I'm able to study, THEN play some poker.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

I Love Me Some Mo in Momentum. The finals of my poker league were last night, with 14 of us freerolling for over $1,000. Oz didn't make the top 15 in the points standings, so he was the only one that had cough up a hundo to play. Someone from the top 15 was a no-show...not one of our regulars, and Luke even texted him earlier in the day, so too bad/so sad for him.

I played poorly in the first hour...very lazy, not paying attention, lots of limping pre-flop and checking/calling post-flop. The lowlight came when a couple people limped in front of me, and I decided to limp with 9s-8s. The blinds came along, and we saw a K-xs-xs flop. Lucky bet close to the pot, I think someone else called, and I called. Turn was a blank, Lucky fired a 2/3 pot bet, and I was the only one to call. I was pretty sure he had K-x. The river missed me but paired the board (sixes?), and Lucky quickly checked.

I thought for a while, playing with my chips while I thought: a) could I get Lucky off his King and b) how much would it take? I decided not to give up on the hand and bet 3/4 pot...he quickly called and I said "You win," as he was asking me if I had a King. Indeed, he showed K-2 and I was pretty disappointed with myself for spewing a third of my chips. Lucky and a couple others agreed that I took too long to bet; I was mad at myself for not being more aggressive earlier in the hand. Could've raised pre-flop and probably taken it down with a continuation bet (Lucky probably folds pre-flop). Could've raised his c-bet and probably taken it down on the turn with a decent bet. My river bet looked exactly like someone bluffing a busted flush draw...I know better than that.

Luckily I managed to not suck the rest of the hour, got Calling Station Pops to give me some chips when I was dealt Queens, and made it to break close to my 10k starting stack. I resolved to play better poker from that point on. Pay attention. Play smart. Apply pressure.

Early in the second hour I played a hand with pocket threes much better than I would've in the first hour. I started by raising pre-flop, and was called by just Oz in the big blind. The flop was a scary Qd-Jd-8d (neither three was a diamond), and we both checked. The turn brought a non-diamond 7, and Oz checked again. I thought about what he could have. He probably would've bet by now if he had the Ad or Kd, a Queen, T-9, 8-8, or Q-J. I decided that I could probably bet him off his hand, so I bet a little over half pot, and he called. After a very non-scary 5x hit the river, Oz checked again. No way he's checking a big hand there, so I made another half pot bet...and he folded fairly quickly. I was very happy with my aggression and hand-reading on that one...pretty sure I got him to fold something marginally better than my threes.

I managed to make the final table, but card-deadness and escalating blinds kept me at about 10k and one of the shorter stacks. I quickly doubled up when my A-J won a race against Evil Vinny's pocket eights. Blinds were now up to 500/1k, so there wasn't much room to make was going to be a shove-fest from here on out. But most of the others at the final table tightened way up; they were hoping to hang on and make the top 4 ($500/300/200/75). I took advantage of this and open-shoved many, many times...and didn't get a single call. I broke the money bubble when I busted the short stack to my left...he had let his top-3 stack dwindle down to 1 1/2 big blinds by employing the "hang on and make the money" strategy of Fold/Fold/Fold. Didn't work.

Evil Vinny (who's actually the total opposite of evil, probably the most soft-spoken, kindest guy of the bunch) knocked out Lucky in 4th and Billy in 3rd place, so he had a huge lead on me when we started heads-up. We took turns raising each other's big blinds until he raised my 7k blind to 21k. I peeked at an Ace and shoved for just 18k more...he thought for a couple minutes before folding. Must've had something like 7-6 where he couldn't stomach losing the chip lead if I had him killed. Sure enough, I peeked at my other card before mucking: I had Ah-Qh. That was my shot at taking the lead.

The Not So Evil One had a slight lead when I shoved 50k with the sexy 6-9 (blinds were 4k/8k), and he called with pocket sevens. I didn't flop any draws and blanked the turn and river...but was now $300 richer. Glad it was Vinny I lost to...he was gracious as usual (win or lose), and probably one of the top 3 players in the league. He was the first to win both the points title and the finals, so good job Vinny!

I'm satisfied with the recent positive cashflow to my poker bankroll, despite losing about $100 at NL100 online this weekend. I don't think I played badly online, outside of one hand where I cost myself about $40-50 by not betting the river in a big hand against a fish with over $1,100 (at NL100?!?!). I'm pretty sure if I bet that much with A-K on a A-K-x-x-x board, he would've called with his A-T. But I checked hoping he'd shove, and he just checked back instead. Short stack who shoved the turn with a set of nines took down the $110 pot, blech. I need to break my habit of trying to induce bluffs/bets by worse hands, and need to mix it up with more value betting.

But I'm glad that I got my head on straight after the first hour of the league finals...I realized that I need to play more focused than I have over the past week. I was paying much more attention during my 500 hand stretch than I have since, must get back to that discipline.

Which reminds me, I gotta get my ass back to the gym...tomorrow after work!