Archive for November, 2015

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Poker: Nasty November

November 30, 2015

Okay, so it wasn’t a total disaster. Thankfully I finished 3rd in the $225 Omaha 8 Or Better tournament at the Fall Round Up in Pendleton, Oregon for a career high $5800 score (for the full write up, click here). It was a performance that saved my month from the abyss. It’s the other 29 days of November that made me sick to my stomach.

Outside of that tournament win, the best day I had was for a mere +$370. In contrast, I had four days where I lost at least $780. In all, even with the big score, I profited less than $1000 for the month. Now, I know plenty of people would be happy to make $1000 a month playing poker, and I am grateful to turn a profit despite what felt like a terrible month, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a bit defeated after the past two months.

What’s really eating at me is how poorly I’ve been doing in my main game, which is the $8-$16 in Lakewood. I haven’t just been losing, I’ve been getting TROUNCED. After polishing off nine straight winnings sessions for a $6k profit, I have gone on a miserable and mighty downswing. Over my last 16 sessions, I’ve posted a loss 10 times and 6 of those sessions have been for at least -$750. To make things worse, of my 6 winning sessions, none of them eclipsed +$750. I’ve shaved 39% off my win rate for the year in the last 6 weeks, dropping from 2+ BB/HR all the way down to 1.21 BB/HR.

Now I can’t really say this is all that surprising. I never really expected to sustain a 2 BB/HR win rate over the long run in a medium stakes limit game in 2015 – it’s just not realistic. The average player is so much better than they were a decade ago and honestly, I feel like 1.25-1.5 BB/HR is a more realistic number for crushing the game.

So I was due from some negative variance.

But that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. In fact, it’s caught me quite a bit off guard. November is typically my worst month of the year as I tend to get lazier as the year progresses and my focus lapses before the new year kicks me into high gear again. So with my focus and my studying at its lowest point for the year, a monstrous downswing has played havoc with my psyche. I knew I was going to fall back to earth, but I wasn’t prepared to get my ass kicked – for weeks. There have been moments over the past two months where it felt like pure torture at the table… like the cards were mocking me, laughing at me. I’m just never going to flop a set when it gets capped multiway… or my huge draw is never getting there in the monster pots – and if I do get there, I’m finding ways to lose anyway.

I had a session last week where I flopped top pair with a premium kicker twelve times and every single time I got raised and every single time I lost the pot. It reached a point where I was expecting to get raised… and they never let me down. At the tail end of that session I flopped the nut flush draw, with a gut shot, after three betting an opponent who was opening a wide range, so even though he capped it preflop, I decided to take the point and play my ace high monster draw like it was the best hand. The board was 5323 and when I got check-raised on the turn, I felt it: a total loss of emotional control. My composure was entirely relying on the outcome of this river card. A brick… and I can’t fold…. and now he’s showing me the 63 of spades. I could feel myself boiling. Not because he beat with a trashy hand, but because I was fed up with the variance, annoyed that my aggression was getting punished to the max, and, more than anything, angry at myself for letting short term results affect me so much. Now I don’t cause a scene when I’m upset, but when you’re boiling on the inside, it’s pretty difficult to hide how you’re feeling on the outside. I might not say anything, but you can tell I am fuming. And that’s when it’s time for me to quit playing.

Fortunately, one of my strengths as a poker player is recognizing where and how my game is falling apart. I know I will get out of this funk – I have years and years of history that proves that I will – but when I’m blatantly struggling with my emotional control and letting results affect my mental state, I know it’s time to start holding myself accountable again. That means making studying a priority (starting with the mental game) and making sure I stay focused at the table. It’s easy to get lazy and go on cruise control when things are going extremely well, but I’m paying the price now for my lack of dedication. It’s not that I’m playing bad – although any deviation in your mental state is technically a form of tilt – it’s how I’m handling a series of poor results. It happens. It’s part of the game and I know that. So it shouldn’t be shaking me to my core. The variance will take care of itself eventually so I need to make sure I’m focusing on playing each hand as well as I can and making sure I have a game plan for when things go awry.

Bring it on December.

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Mockingjay Parts 1 & 2 (2014-2015)

November 29, 2015

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Julianne Moore
Director: Francis Lawrence (Catching Fire, I Am Legend)

Bottom Line: Mockingjay, the finale of the film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games series, clocks in at a brutal 4 hours and 30 minutes – and it’s excruciating. I liked the first movie just fine and the second one I felt was okay, but this final film is 4.5 hours of not much at all. Katniss has escaped the Quarter Quell games and is now holed up with the rebel alliance, a group of people led by Julianne Moore’s President Coin looking for someone to rally behind as their poster child and Katniss Everdeen fits the bill perfectly. And that’s what Mockingjay part 1 is and very little else. It’s a total snooze fest. Part 2 might be worse. In that film, the rebels march towards the capital to take out President Snow, which seems like it might have a climactic end to it, but even Snow’s demise is a let down and so is the whole finale.

I love me some Jennifer Lawrence, but I’m grateful that her ties to this series are over. It’s just not that good. Katniss is a good character, but I’m not sure anyone else in this series is. I just hate to see Lawrence’s talent wasted on something so simple. I’ve never been a fan of the two main guy characters in this series. The Jacob-Edward love triangle is trite and takes away from Katniss’ real fight, which is with the Capitol. Honestly, how necessary to the plot is the character of Gale? How likable is Peeta? These characters only exist to provide side conflicts for the heroin. Mostly, Mockingjay was way too long and for a blockbuster popcorn flick, it seriously lacked action. This movie had two hours of material that could have hit the cutting room floor, but the new trend in Hollywood is to break the last book of a successful movie franchise into two parts. It was smart for Harry Potter, but it’s been utterly ridiculous for everyone else that has tried it.

I would only recommend either of the Mockingjay movies to someone that is already predisposed to liking them. Or maybe they won’t. My wife has been watching Harry Potter on repeat to wash the taste of this movie out of her mouth. If you like the concept of The Hunger Games, I’d recommend Koushun Takami’s novel Battle Royale or the Japanese film adaptation of his book; it’s way more interesting, violent, and action packed, with none of the silly love triangle filler.

Replay Value: No way I’d ever watch this last entry again.
Sequel Potential: Is it possible? The Hunger Games are a cash cow, so some sequel or spin off or remake will almost certainly surface some day.
Oscar Potential: Maybe some technical categories, but probably not.

Grade: 3.5/10 (Forgettable/Just Skip It)

SPOILER: How is Collins going to kill off Primrose after Katniss sacrifices her life for her and sets the whole series in motion? I can’t imagine how fans of the series would be happy with that ending.

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Wildhorse Fall Round Up 2015 Results

November 24, 2015

First off, I have to say that I’m quite pleased with my performance at the Fall Round Up last week. It was my first undeniably successful trip to Pendleton. Even taking expenses and time off work into consideration, I still managed to turn a hefty profit. I have previously cashed in the Main Event twice, cashed some other tournaments, and done okay in the cash games, but whatever meager profits I’ve managed to accumulate would always be wiped out by expenses. I’ve never experienced that 5-6 hour drive home with anything but bitter disappointment in my head. I think my first trip to Pendleton I lost my entire bankroll… To Cherish Andrews… who’s now a well known enough pro to get invited to Poker Night In America. On a separate trip, I had the worst 4/8 session of my career by a large margin. So booking a solid win was a nice change of pace and Wildhorse went from possibly being my worst all-time casino to becoming my second most profitable location in 2015.

In a nutshell, I did extremely well in the tournaments even though my end results weren’t exactly amazing. I showed up 45 minutes late to the Omaha 8 event after driving for 5 hours straight and I didn’t bust out of that tournament until there were three people left and I had a $5764 score in the books before I had even unpacked my car. So I was able to immediately cross two things off my goal list by setting a new career high for a tournament score and by making a Round Up final table. Clearly, a great start to my trip.

Still, this Omaha tournament was a testament to how influential variance can be in tournament poker. There was a moment with two tables left, when we were already in the money, where I got scooped by an unlucky river card and I felt like my final table chances were all but finished. And then I went on a Joe McKeehan-like heater and entered the final table with the undeniable chip lead. It was a testament to the concept of never getting discouraged because good things can always happen. I stayed hot at the final table, knocking out multiple players and by the time we were down to three, myself and the other big stack had 80% of the chips in play. It looked like a guaranteed payday of $7000+ and a chance to play Steve Stencil, #2 on the Round Up’s all-time winner’s list, heads up for my first bracelet and a shot at a $10K score. And then variance struck again: I opened on the button with AK62 and the small stack raised me and we got four bets in preflop before getting the rest of it in on the K76 rainbow flop. I had two pair with the nut low draw; he had AQJT for… nothing. No pair, no flush draw, no low draw, NOTHING! Obviously he was committing himself preflop, so he had to go with it, but it’s hard to imagine a hand I could have more crushed than his… and then a 9 hit the turn for a sweat… and then the Jack on the river gave him the nut straight with no low on board for the scoop and the full double up. I never recovered from that hand and busted third while that kid went on to win the tournament. As they say, that’s poker.

I finished 19th in the H.O.R.S.E. tournament the next day, but only 16 players cashed. While bubbling may sound brutal, I never really had any momentum in this tournament – it was a grind the whole way as I was somehow able to take a stack that was never above average and almost crack the money. My starting table in this tournament was amazing and full of terrible play, but I was never able to take advantage of it.

After taking a day off tournaments for a successful session in the $10/$20 Omaha 8 game, my first NLHE tournament of the series looked to be a thing of destiny. I was running absurdly hot. Every break I had more than twice as many chips as the last break. At dinner, with about 55 people left, I likely had the tournament chip lead. My buddy Vince was telling me how he had one big pair the whole tournament. I had already had Aces four times and I had KK-TT maybe 8 times total and they were all holding up. My big pot to that point, I had flatted the second big stack at the table with AA on the button and we got to see a K97 with two spades flop heads up. He made a strong bet into me and I decided this wasn’t the kind of board I wanted to let him barrel into, so I raised him on the flop and he jammed it on me. It gave me pause because he had a ton of chips, but since my hand was so disguised and the player was aggressive, I didn’t think about it too long before sticking my stack in there. Fortunately, he had AK and my hand held and I turned my above average stack into a monster stack.

And then I did something stupid. A new player had arrived at the table, two to my left, and he was already giving me problems. I had already lost three small pots to him and we had built up a history of him playing aggressively and me giving up routinely. So when he made a small raise from early position and it folded around to me in the big blind, I decided to take the attractive pot odds and see a flop with the K6o. The flop came all clubs and I had the K of clubs and I decided to continue taking a passive line against this overly aggressive opponent and planned to throw him some rope if I turned a king high flush… which I did. I check-called a decent sized bet on the turn and I made it look like I was strongly considering folding because a) I wanted him to keep betting and b) if he did happen to have the Ac I didn’t want him to think he could get maximum value from me. Unfortunately, when I checked the river, he jammed on me for more than a pot-sized bet of 36K. It’s a great move. It polarizes his range into either a) I have the nuts or b) I am bluffing – and given our brief history so far, my image of him was that he was totally capable of shoving the river with air to try to get me to fold a flush. Even though the river shove was for more than half of my remaining stack, I didn’t give it a ton of thought on the river because when you try to manipulate an opponent into doing something and then they do it, you probably shouldn’t second guess yourself. Unfortunately, in this case, he did have the ace of clubs. Although I think my postflop line is fine and that, against this villain, I will win a monster pot on the river picking off his bluff a good portion of the time, I’m having a hard time forgiving myself for defending the hand in the first place. I have K6 offsuit, out of position, against a good LAG with a big stack. Is this really a spot where I want to put my big stack at risk? Playing the guessing game against a good player? It’s one seemingly small error that lead to a huge loss.

A few hands later, I called an 11 big blind shove with AQ and lost a race to 66 and suddenly I had a below average stack. Just like that. My momentum never picked up again and eventually I jammed a small pair into Aces and somehow didn’t even make the money of a tournament I had the chip lead in at dinner. Gross. However, any time you can learn from your mistakes is a chance to improve and get better and next time I have a huge stack in the late stages of a tournament, I’ll remember to be a bit wiser about the spots I pick to get involved in.

I made the dinner break of both the $330 NLHE event and the Main Event, but never really got the ball rolling in either tournament. I just kept grinding in both events waiting for something good to happen and the rush never arrived.

I wrapped up my series by dominating the Last Chance Turbo event until I lost a huge chunk of chips 10 off the money with AQ to KK against an opponent that was showing a very wide jamming range. I did manage to quadruple up when I was down to less than two blinds and found a way to get another cash for the series, ultimately finishing in 16th place.

All in all, I cashed 2 of 6 events, made a final table, secured my biggest cash ever, made the dinner break in every tournament I played, and felt really good about my play overall. Having made deep cashes in the last two Muckleshoot Classic series and now making a Round Up final table, I feel like it’s only a matter of time before I really arrive with a huge win.

Now if I could just figure out how to beat that 8/16 game again!

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An Overdue Update

November 2, 2015

Just when I was starting to show some consistency with my posts and get some steady traffic to my blog, things have gotten so hectic that blogging has fallen way down on my priority list. In July, my wife and I moved to Tacoma and my part-time job (playing poker) started to take up a lot more of my time with an $8-$16 game always in action a mere 15 minutes away. In late August, I was hired by the Palace Casino in Lakewood and what used to be an easy, part-time job in a one table poker room where I spent most of my time on the clock playing poker has turned into a mentally and physically exhausting, frequently intense, and often difficult 30 hours a week of running the floor of a poker room with never-ending traffic and few moments to catch your breath after noon. Needless to say, when I finish my work day now, I just want to go home and try to relax a little before I fall asleep far earlier than I ever have in my life. So, aside from my time at work, Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays result in basically no productivity from me. I literally come home and do NOTHING. On the bright side, I’m guaranteed to work all my hours and to have multiple games going every day, so while my hourly wage remains similar, my net income has increased dramatically. I also have Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays off, which is optimal if your primary goal is to play poker.

Speaking of poker, August was the best month of poker I’ve had in years and September was also considerably profitable. I spent the vast majority of my time in $8-$16 and saw my win rate for the year climb to over two big bets per hour, thanks to nine straight winning sessions that resulted in pretty large upswing. While I feel like my results are a testament to the hard work I’ve put in towards mastering the game of limit hold em, I don’t think anyone is beating low stakes limit for 2 big bets an hour long term, so even though my sample size is pretty substantial, it’s important to recognize that luck has played a large role in my success. While I personally don’t feel like I’ve been overwhelmingly lucky (others would disagree), one thing is for certain: I have definitely not had many extended periods of bad luck this year. I did, however, end my winning streak with an incredible -$1800 session, the worst I’ve ever had in any limit game – in terms of big bets lost – by a mile. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to leave a game because I was no longer emotionally equipped to sit in it. I mean, I’ve had bouts of anger, frustration, even tilt – that’s normal – but after I was already stuck $1600 and flopped top set in a capped 7-way pot and lost to 65 on the 942J3 run out and a few hands later I was shown the 53 on the AK2A4 board, I no longer felt like I was fit for being in public. My internal dialogue was screaming so loud I felt like everyone at the table could hear it. So I made a swift exit. That happened in early October, which has turned out to be a difficult month of poker for me, as I’m in danger of having my first losing month of 2015 if things don’t turn around over the next few weeks. Still, I can hardly complain, as poker has gone amazingly well since I relocated to Tacoma.

(Note: since I started writing this, October has passed, and while I did mount a serious comeback, I still fell short of the black, resulting in my first losing month of 2015.)

I played three events in the Muckleshoot Classic Series in September. I felt like I was playing really good poker, but I lost every flip I was involved in during the first two tournaments and hit the rail earlier than I wanted to. In the third event, I got my 99 in against an overpair and turned the miracle set and then finally started winning some flip situations, which I was able to parlay into a 13th place finish. I felt like I was freerolling after spiking that set, so it was nice to make a deep run, but it was still ultimately a frustrating finish, as I lost two critical pots with two tables left where I was a heavy favorite and I’m still yet to final table a major tournament at Muckleshoot. Next week I’ll be heading to Wildhorse Casino in Pendleton, Oregon to play five events in the Fall Round Up, another poker room where I’ve struggled to break through. Despite multiple cashes and deep runs, I haven’t final tabled at the Round Up either and variance has never been on my side in the cash games when I’ve been there. In fact, if I had access to all the data I’ve ever compiled, I probably would discover that Wildhorse Casino is my worst location lifetime. So needless to say, I’m looking forward to finally doing some real damage on Oregon soil. You can only hold me down for so long.

I was really enjoying the consistent movie reviews I was posting and I plan to get back in the zone of posting them again, but aside from being too busy to post, I’ve also been too busy to watch any movies. Since I started my new job, I haven’t seen a movie in theaters or at home. It’s been nearly two full months since I last watched an entire film. All of our TV time at home has been dedicated to watching the entire series of “Parks And Recreation,” which is a great show, but I prefer a bit more variety in my entertainment programs. I suppose this is a minor downside of the streaming services as you can “literally” watch 100 episodes in a row without having to wait for a new disc or the next one to air on TV. Meanwhile I’ve had Interstellar at home since June and The Drop and Ex Machina since late August. It’s getting to the point where I probably would have been better off buying these movies rather than paying my Netflix subscription the last few months. We are on season six of Parks & Rec though and I’ve never been so excited for a show I actually enjoy to end. Sorry babe!