Stragegy: Keep your head up!

Playing live for me is SOOOOOO much different than playing online. Having started playing somewhat serious poker online, I am often overwhelmed when playing live. Mechanically speaking, there's too much stuff I must remember playing live that I don't ever need to focus on while playing online (putting pants on, showering, etc.). Really, I'm just looking for a reason to talk about the "monthly game" from this past Sunday, but hey... its my blog, so I can do that.

A quick sidenote: I'm attempting to catalog the blog, but its gonna take some time, so bare with me here and just ignore the "tag" links below for the time being. For starters, they don't yet work and I do know that (you'll not make the mailbag by giving me the heads up on the tags).

OK, we got that note out of the way, and established my lucky boxers require pants over them to play live... I went into the "monthly" tourney with a few items on the agenda. First, I was THRILLED TO DEATH with the new and improved blinds structure. I'm not saying the old structure was "bad"... it just didn't cater to my play. Before, the blinds went 1/2, 2/4, 5/10, 10/20, 25/50 5 ante... I can stop right there, because that jump from 10/20 to 25/50 5 ante kills my M. Typically, I'm sitting "appropriately stacked" at 10/20, having taken my starting chip count from 410 to 650 playing in the green zone, to having an M of 6 in one level without moving my stack. I'd find myself having to be mindful of this jump, and would try (though not go out of my way) to get to a level where my M can be 20 for that jump. Never happened though.

This time, blinds progressed more naturally and deliberate... starting out with 2/4, 3/6, 4/8, 5/10, 10/20, 20/40, 25/50, 25/50 5 ante, etc. A much more natural and dileberate progression. Chip count also went up, so I knew I could "play" comfortably for quite a while. My "pregame agenda" was as follows:

  • Play my game with respect to the "Zones,"
  • Avoid situations where my ego was more engaged in battle than appropriate,
  • Vary my preflop raises, bets and overall play,
  • Show hands that improve or support my image,
  • Be mindful of my "posture" and the "posture" of others at the table.

The first four points are standard practice for me, but still something I remind myself constantly before playing any game. The last 2, however, are something new to me. I do admit though, it was far easier to pay attention to my "posture" and my oppositions' posture than it was to keep my head up. I've grown quite used to watching the monitor when the flop comes, seeing it... reflecting on it, analyzing it. What I am not used to doing, is studying the other player's reaction when the flop comes.

I'd watch the action go around the table preflop, studying them... looking for a sign of what they might be holding. I'd go through my routine, counting the chips in the center (even if I knew how many there were), looking at the stacks of those who are "in" already, sizing up the stacks of those who are yet to act, look at my stack. I'd then come to a rest and reflect (or at least appear to). THEN, I would look at my cards for the first time. Once I committed them to memory, I once again "check down" those who are "in" and those yet to act, appearing to be looking for a sign of some sort (regardless of my hand). It was then that I'd announce my intentions (usually monotone - "fold," "call," "raise," "re-raise," "allin," etc.). This routine, I find, is most effective for me. For one, typically a person or two who are on the table, will get caught up in my routine, which in turn takes them off their game. Second, if I go through this all the time, someone who "has something" might look a bit nervous, or excited, or give some sort of tell, tipping their hand. I like this advantage. And besides, it makes me harder to read. Though, I do think that it causes the people who are acting before me to think harder about what they intend to do. They might see me calculating, and think they have to do the same. I have no problem with that at all.

So anyways, I go through my motions, and act somehow. I continue to watch everyone else act, whether or not I am in the hand. When I see the last person to act, I tell myself "OK Mike, here comes the flop, keep your head up and pay attention." And of course, given how deliberate and specific my preflop routine is, you'd think this would come easy. BUT NO! Flop comes, and where is my head and my eyes, you ask? They're glued to the damn flop!!! Unbelievable...

Didn't I just tell myself two seconds ago to keep my head up and be mindful of my surroundings? Of the hands I saw all day, I counted six times... yes, EXACTLY SIX times that my head was up and away from the flop. It shouldn't matter what those cards are to me until it is my turn to act. What SHOULD matter to me, however, is how everyone else reacted to that flop, while THEIR eyes were glued to it. I should be paying attention to how hard they're staring at it. Did they immediately see the flop, reflect for a quarter of a second, then look at their cards? Did they appear interested, nervous, confused, happy, irritated? I'm leaving so many clues on the table by not keeping my head up. This is something I need to work on much more. I think when playing online for the next month, I am going to get into the habbit of looking away from the monitor... perhaps at a photo of my kids, until its my turn to act, once the flop comes down.

Onto the "good stuff"... The actual tourney play. For the second straight month, I avoided drawing the same table as "SuperDonk." In fact, second month in a row, most of the LAGGS and Loose passives were on one table, and the TAGGs, and tight passives were all at my table, generally speaking. The hostess and I were pondering how this happens, considering we "draw" for tables. My best guess is that the cards don't get mixed up as well as we think when drawing. And thus, all the type-A's generally get grabby first, and grab from the top of the pile, or the top left corner, thus they all end up together. While I'm a type-A as well, I prefer to make "an enterance." I'd rather be the person who the players are saying "oh shit, here comes so and so" as opposed to already sitting at the table and being the person saying "oh shit, here comes so and so."

I didn't win or hit the money in this tourney, and quite frankly, with the cards I got... I am embarrassed. I had aces once, kings twice. I had queens, jacks, eights, sixes, twos once each and nines three times. I had AKs, AKo... Basically, my cards couldn't have been better, and I lost. Such is poker, however.

I was doing well early on in the tourney, as I should have, given the cards I was getting. I knocked the last month's winner out early with the "sharky" limp reraise move from early position. Near the middle of hour number three, I was in the big blind, and the host of the tourney raises to allin preflop. I looked at his stack, knew his M was low. I also knew that he is well versed on Zone play, as he is the one who put me onto the Harrington series (i also knew he knew how I'd interpret this move). Action folds around to me, I look down and see 8's in the hole. My thoughts are as follows:

  • Pot odds "justify" a call here, especially being last to act,
  • He "could" have anything in this position being in the Red Zone,
  • He knows how I will interpret this "move" of his,
  • He's comfortable making this "move" knowing that I am a factor, being in the BB,
  • His hand is probably stronger than the average minimum "requirement" to make this "move" (read: allin'ing 10-8 with first in viggorish is profitable, but its more likely he is taking into consideration my stack size, the fact that I am partially vested in the pot, could be last to act, and likely to call with correct odds if I have so much as 1 live card)
  • If I call and lose, I am in the low end of the green zone, if I win, my chip lead is far superior to the next closest stack.

I call. He flips over A-Q, which is not surprising. Flop misses, turn comes ace, river comes queen. Great move by him. I'm definitely not disappointed with this, as my expectations were in line and we were both "correct" in our plays. I'm not crippled, though no longer the chip leader. Nice hand and well played.

My cards get cold just as there is an incoming player from the LAGG table. He sits down and proceeds to raise, raise, raise, raise, raise... Had every hand during this raise fest not included a duece, I'd have likely played ball with him, however, I could not.

Blinds begin taking their toll on me, as they're increasing and my unplayable hands continue. I find myself sitting just above red when we move to the final table. It took 1 hand for me to be ousted from the final table. I'm in the BB, holding 7-3s. Three handed and blinds unraised, flop comes down K-7-8. SB checks, I check, and the cutoff checks. Turn card comes a ten, giving me third pair, and a flush draw. SB checks, I think for a second and decide to try for a steal via the semi-bluff, convinced that the cutoff will try the same if I check. I'm also pretty certain that only two hands (9-6, 9-j) "can" call me here. However, I think that both of these guys would have bet out with these hands, throwing out at the very least, a value bet or something. So, I push allin. Cutoff folds. SB calls (oh shit). He turns over the 9-j, river misses me, nh gg.

Looking back, I probably should not have made this move, though I'm not irritated at myself for doing so. I knew that pushing like this would result in a steal ONLY if I was not against either of those two hands. I understood that and made the move. I got a call, which came from one of those two hands. That being said, I got what I expected and lost (probably negative EV on that move).

Sidenote: CheckRayz member jack40 went on to win the tourney, taking down his first "monthly game" victory, making an amazing comeback heads up. He had about 25% of the total chips when he sat down to heads up play. Congrats jack!!!

CheckRayz free poker tourney at Titan Poker is tonight. Tommorrow is the $200 added $5+.50 event at Titan. Anyone depositing in anticipation of that event should use the deposit code CHECKRAYZ.

More tommorrow!