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Monday, May 10, 2004

A Cheap, Thrilling Weekend
I got in quite a bit of poker this weekend, and I've been meaning to blog about it all but I got distracted by 1) playing poker this afternoon, and 2) getting sucked into the Survivor All-Stars finale this evening. That latter is ever-so-slightly poker-related because during the "reunion special," the host at one point compared Survivor to poker. Something about "when you bluff in poker, no one gets angry," but when you lie in Survivor, people get pissed. Yup, it's a stretch.

It was a real hodgepodge of poker for me this weekend. First, the small potatoes. Well, actually they're all small.

Social Poker

Saturday night I played at a home game up in Boston. Strictly "social poker": Me, B, and 3 other couples. We started playing poker together every few months as an alternative to getting together and bar-hopping every few months. It was a blast as usual, but the poker was about as un-competitive as it gets, much more so than the home game we hosted the previous Saturday.

With our college buddies, we used to play nickel ante, max bet 25 cents, dealer's choice with every crazy wild-card game you can think of. And all was well. But then there was a movement toward Hold'Em, for a few reasons. First, Rounders, the WPT, and the WSOP have made Hold'Em so cool. Second, some of the real non-poker players said they enjoyed playing one game all night rather than having the rules change every hand as in dealer's choice. Along with the move to Hold'Em we threw in blinds rather than antes, and structured betting, since we had mostly bet the max anyway. The problem is that me, B, and my buddy "Odog" play Hold'Em online and we had a significant advantage over the casual players.

So for a while now our compromise has been to play H.O.S.E.--one orbit each of Hold'Em, Omaha Hi-Lo, 7-Stud, and 7-Stud Eight or Better Hi Lo. Last night we changed it to H.O.S.E.D. and threw in a round of dealer's choice.

Well, Omaha Hi-Lo went over like a lead balloon. Everyone found it too confusing, which in retrospect is not surprising. (But it's hard to make cool acronym without the "O"! S.H.E.D.? C'mon, that sucks compared to H.O.S.E.D.)

Not surprisingly, the most fun was had with dealer's choice. The most popular choice among dealers was Anaconda. Boy I had forgotten how much fun that game can be. (Plus it gives us an "A" for the acronym--S.H.A.D.? S.H.A.D.E? Still not as cool as H.O.S.E.D.)

As I said, a blast was had by all, but I had that most wonderful of problems: I couldn't lose for trying. My friends know B and I are very into poker, and I think there's that little worry in the back of their minds that we are just working them over. So throughout the night I remind everyone just how low the stakes we're playing for are. As in, "OK, I raise 10 . . . PENNIES." But the stakes don't matter so much; no one likes losing their stack. So B and I also don't play as well as we could. Mostly I try to play more loosely (although I have problems toning down the aggression--raising is just too much fun).

I actually managed to lose about $4 in the first orbits of Hold'Em and Omaha, but won it all back and more in the two orbits of 7-Stud. Mostly I got lucky cards, but I was also raising with any decent hand, like starting pair or 3 to a flush, just so that it wasn't a call-fest. The interesting thing was that a raise in Stud was actually driving people out, leaving me with fewer people to beat and thus improving my chances of winning. In Hold'Em and Omaha, of course, no one was folding and you actually have to have the best hand to win. But in Stud I was even winning pots uncontested. This should never happen in a .10-.25 game!! I won a whopping $8 on the evening.

Anyway, the point is that that small amount of tension was there: The non-poker players don't want to feel like suckers losing to "the couple who plays online," and B and I did not enjoy playing less than our best. Next time we get together I'm going to push for a move back to more wild-card games, or perhaps even try to get a trivia game or something like that going. I doubt I will be successful though; even "social poker" is a pretty damn fun way to spend an evening (cheap thrills!), and everyone does love Hold'Em . . .

$1 Big Buck on Paradise

I played the $1 4pm tourney on Paradise on Friday and Sunday (today), finishing 252nd out of 655 on Friday and 119th out of 721 today. In Friday's event I played too tight and weak, and pretty much just got blinded down. I had been reading PokerSavvy's series of articles on online tourneys, and then I read Matt's post critiquing the article. Somewhere in thinking about the two points of view I got it in my hand that I have been playing too loosely in tournaments lately. Today I went back to playing more by instinct, and although my finish wasn't all that much better, I had some good momentum for a while and really thought I was going to at least make the money.

My tournament play is still very much just based on my own experience and instinct; if I think about close decisions too much, I tend to err on the side of caution, and that ain't good in a multi-table tourney. Trusting my gut is good; what's bad is evaluating and tinkering with my usual style caused me to veer from what works so badly. I don't want to be too hard on myself though: Of the three Hold'Em formats I play--limit ring games, NL SnGs, and NL multis--NL multis are the format I have the least experience in.

I also played a $2.50+.25 multi at Pacific today. Didn't enjoy that at all--they start you with $800 and the levels increased every 5 minutes, which wasn't enough for an orbit in some cases. Ugh.

Ring Game Wins

Continuing my theme from 2 posts ago, I have been doing well at the $1/$2 tables at Pacific Poker. Up $60 at the ring games since I bought in. Had a session from 7pm to 7:40pm in which I won $39. Woo-hoo! I was at a great table--average pot $17, % players seeing the flop 49. When you have it, bet, and they will call. If they raise, fold. After playing on Party it still feels weird (in a very good way) to take down pots with top pair.

SnG Losses

Now I hate to use an unattributed quote, but I know that one of the poker bloggers I've been reading said something to the effect of "Bad poker blogger--blogging my wins but not my losses." I just surfed around a bit and I can't find it. Dang. That quote stuck with me because I feel the same way. It was my "big" win tonight that put me in the mood to write. For the sake of truth-in-blogging, I should mention that I lost 2 $5 SnGs on Pacific and 1 on Absolute. The Absolute loss I came in 4th and I don't know how I could've laid down my AQo given the circumstances, so I don't feel too bad about that. I'm going to give up on the Pacific SnGs; as with Party, it's a quicker blind structure given your starting stack, and I don't care for it.

Bigger Potatoes Next Weekend

Next weekend I'm hosting a more competitive game with some fellow board gamers. I get to show my poker table off to some folks who haven't seen it yet, and hopefully it may be the start of a new regular game for me. The format's gonna be $25 buy-in dealers choice for the first half of the evening (but I suspect standard casino games will be chosen most), followed by a NL Hold'Em tourney, buy-in still to-be-determined.

Lots of Poker Blogging

I added several more links on the right. The brand new ones include Burt Fu and Stay Away from the Dice. Fu has a post about magnetic (??) chips at the Borgata, and "The Foz" has a funny post about the Poker Stars micro-limit tables. Cool--there's a poker blogger out there who played lower limits than me this weekend :)

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