Get It Quietly

Football, bollocks and a bit of poker if you're lucky.

Location: Enfield, London, United Kingdom

Friday, January 30, 2004

Oops, changed my mind !

The very keen amongst you may have noticed that I have snipped out a paragraph from the “Get it quietly” piece below. This was the bit where, in a fit of pique, I forswore the festival circuit forever, pretty much. Given time to reflect I have reconsidered. That’s another great thing about having your own diary compared to posting on forums – not only is there no right of reply, you can change your mind and take stuff back as well :-).

That’s not to say I’m going to sell all my stuff and hit the road to Paris with all my money in a plastic bag. If you either have a big win and are happy to play with the profit, or just basically don’t care about the money, play the festival circuit as much as you like. If not, it’s much better to take the odd shot than to make a habit of playing tournaments for £200 and more. Even the best player will catch a very expensive downswing sooner or later (see Simon Trumper's article). Personally I don’t have a problem with putting £300 into a tournament, but I do have a problem with putting £300 into tournaments with 130 runners, 20 of whom are a bit too good. Especially on a regular basis.

What I figure is that if I get my head down for 6 months, festivals won’t go away in the meantime. If I pick the right games, make the right decisions and enjoy playing just for the sake of it then winning will take care of itself. Just like on the Internet, where I won’t be happy until I get my £1000 back, I won’t really be comfortable until I rebuild my bankroll to what it was 2 years ago. I could just take the difference from what I made on my flat – but I think that if I work to get it back over time then I’ll appreciate it more and take better care of it. Time, as ever, will tell.

Internet Tournaments for Fun and Profit (4)

Pot-limit Omaha Hi-lo. In the tournaments I have described below, the super-satellites and the speed tournaments, you shouldn’t be playing a lot of “poker”. By which I mean calling pre-flop, gauging the strength of your opponent’s hand, estimating the chances a bluff will succeed, all that rubbish :-). When you have a decent stack, you’re trying to get paid with a big hand ; when you’re short, it’s either pass or move in and let the other guy sweat. In fact, you are taking advantage of other players’ trying to play too much poker (that is any at all in the speed tournaments especially). Profitable maybe, but not so much fun.

It would be nice to play in some tournaments where we can take some flops and outplay our opponents. Well, all you have to do is play a different game. Instead of trying to play poker in a format which isn’t conducive, switch to Pot-limit Omaha Hi-Lo instead. In this game you are trying to commit pre-flop as little as you possibly can. Hands run quite close “hot and cold” when all the money is in pre-flop, but playing the wrong kind of hand will kill you when there is betting on the later streets. Opportunities to freeroll, three-quarter or completely smother your opponents will come if you wait for the right hands. Playing short-stacked is ok too, if you pick the right hands and make sure you’re raising to limit the field you won’t get scooped very often.

I was going to give a few tips here but coaches in the car park. Good advice can be found elsewhere, even via my own Links page. A little thought about exactly what you are trying to achieve with a hand will go a long way. Oh alright then, just one, don’t put all your money in trying to get it back plus half the blinds :-).

Spare me 10 grand for a holiday in Vegas guv ?

One topic I’ve noticed on the forums more and more lately is people touting themselves around for backers. Can’t blame them for trying but the only answer I can give is short and sharp : “Yeah I bet you’d rather play with my money than your own. Ain’t gonna happen though !”

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Get it quietly

There are certain phrases in poker which become even better when one particular person says them. Of course, no one says “you’ll be alright” quite like Francis. No one says “different gear” like Action Dave. And no one says “get it quietly” like Dr. Channing. I was knocked out twice in Luton this week when I could have used the sepulchral tones of the good doctor to effect.

I don’t want this to sound like bad beat stories, but anyway, on Monday I have the overpair, he has the flush draw, its all in on the flop and he makes it on the river. Cue clenched fist and shout of “Yes !”. On Wednesday it goes all in pre-flop with AKs (me), AJs and QQ. AJ, who believe me has no business putting a single chip in this pot, defies the odds to make his flush and treble up. As I am nursing the 300 I have won in the side pot he sits there with a face like a smacked arse and goes “Urrgh that’s the first pot I’ve won all evening”.

Now neither of these qualifies as a full rubdown and I fully admit that when little things like this get under your skin it shows you’re not in the right frame of mind to play. Monday was the KO anyway and when I lost the 300 on Wednesday I upped and left even though rebuys were still going. But what happened on Wednesday put Monday into perspective. The guy was excited and happy he won the pot, and good luck to him. When someone puts his money in almost stone dead, trebles up and is still fxcking miserable it makes you wonder why he’s there at all. It certainly wasn’t to make money, based on his play up to that point.

Internet Tournaments for Fun and Profit (3)

The need for speed ! Given that my satellite / small (as in few runners) tournament plan is looking good for now, it might be fair to say that speed tournaments are more for fun than major profit. Nonetheless, especially if you don’t want to put a lot of money online, the speed tournaments on Poker In Europe are well worth looking at.

At first sight they shouldn’t really be any value at all. The blinds go up every 3 (three) minutes. However, a huge proportion of the players have no idea how to play a short stack. After 15 minutes in one of these, you’re usually on a short stack. After half an hour, everybody’s on a short stack. The mistakes people make at this point generally boil down to trying to play poker. No. Not here. You get it all in hard and you get it all in first. Take up the right attitude and become completely fearless ! Don’t sweat running into a hand or being outdrawn, just do it, and you will get caked up much more often than you would think. After all even if it goes pear-shaped on the bubble it was still only 45 minutes.

There is a parallel with the later stages of conventional tournaments when the blinds get high. If everyone knows what they’re doing then luck will decide the outcome. However I could say that about any stage of a tournament. When everyone doesn’t know how to play a short stack, when you can exploit their fear and play without fear yourself, you’ve got more of an edge than you might think. Get some practice in online and next time you can turn down that deal and watch them sweat.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Internet Tournaments for Fun and Profit (2)

Super-satellites. Having rubbished super-satellites, Hold-em and Internet tournaments below it does seem strange that the combination of all three proves a winner. Or I could just have been talking rubbish, that’s not so strange at all. Anyway the great thing about super-satellites is that you don’t have to finish in the top three. In fact if you do, you’ve almost certainly played it wrong and incurred too much risk.

On Pokerstars they have regular $36 multi-table satellites for their $200 NL thrashfest. Just recently though they have introduced the concept of “tournament dollars”. This means that if you win a seat, you can unregister and get $215 in Tournament Dollars instead. You can use this to enter any tournament or sit and go, and anything you win you get in cash.

I’ve haven’t played many of these yet but I think that it is feasible to win the seat at least 1/3 of the time, possibly more. That’s a profit of $33 in an average of about 1 ½ hours, or $20 an hour. In terms of hourly rate that’s miles better than anything I could (or think I could) manage before, and with lower variance. Plus the satellite itself takes up very little bandwidth, seeing as, while you aren’t short-stacked, correct play ranges from tight to very tight to click sit out and go down the pub.

Of course the problem is that you are winning tournament dollars, not money. You still have to take some time to convert these into real $. But while, as I said, it’s not easy to make money in Internet tournaments, it’s easy enough to break even. Sit and Goes are probably the best bet for converting into money in the shortest time.

So that’s the plan for a while, play as many of these as I can, use them for tournaments (often simultaneously) and basically get my £1000 back. I know that isn’t necessary logical but, contrary to popular belief, I’m not a robot and I want my £1000 back :-). If I get there I might do the same thing and freeroll in bigger tournaments with the profit, giving myself a chance of getting lucky and winning a decent score. Might as well while I’m at home, it beats watching TV.

Stop Press : after writing this piece this morning, I tried to convert some tournament dollars in a $50 No-Limit comp and I accidentally finished second for $750. How did that happen ?

Monday, January 19, 2004

Playing the Circuit

It’s only natural for people to want to talk about things that are going well, and not about less successful ventures. I think this means that a very false picture can be painted of the “festival” scene. You see the winners in Poker Europa, people talk about their wins on the forums and their websites, but how often do you hear about the losses ?

Well I am as guilty as anyone, after all I have posted a big trip report about the time I won £10K in the Vic (almost three years ago). To redress the balance, I’m going to talk about what’s happened since then. The hard facts are that since that win I have played 58 £100+ tournaments in the UK without one top three finish. During this run I have lost £12,600. Add another £1000 for satellites and £3000 for an abortive trip to Vienna in 2002 and that’s a lot of money don’t you think ?

Of course if I hadn’t won the 10K then I wouldn’t have played so much (particularly at £250 and £500). The total figures since day one for UK £100+ tournaments are played 74, lost £4,400. That’s £60 a throw which probably isn’t too bad considering I had some fun and excitement and learned a great deal.

I know I’m not the best player in these tournaments but I’m sure as hell not the worst. By a long way. I think I’m a lot better player than I was 3 years ago but it’s hard to be sure in this game, damn hard. The real point is that because I’ve been making in the small games and more importantly because I have a job this £16K downswing hasn’t killed me. If you want to play poker for a living, these tournaments will break you sooner or later, no doubt. Especially if when you do win, you blow half of it.

As for me thanks to my records I was able to keep good track of this, and in fact I only played 8 £100+ tournaments last year. I am playing Luton this week (for £100 and £150), but just to take a shot. The money, £1500 or so, is put aside and considered gone. If I get a result I might spin it up throughout the year, if not I’ll forget about it for a while. If you want to play at this level, it’s up to you. But I can assure you that one of the easiest ways of going broke is to spin up your small-tournament profits in the festivals, miss out, then hit a downswing in the regular comps and end up with nothing. Happens all the time. Be aware.

Internet Tournaments for Fun and Profit (1)

I have been playing on the Internet for a couple of years, mostly tournaments, mostly breaking even. I am about £1000 down, mainly due to a brief spell of trying $100/$200 comps and some poor cash play. In a nutshell it is not easy to make significant, consistent money in Internet tournaments, especially playing the most common form, NL Hold-em. I have detailed the difficulties with HE tournaments below. On the Internet there is an additional problem which is that there are so many runners. While 10% of the field gets paid, sneaking in the money (B&M and online) tends to minimise your losses or at best keep you afloat. You make your profit by finishing top three, and preferably winning. When your tournaments have anything from 100 runners up, you can go a long long time in between making the big scores you need. By the way the same argument applies to playing festival tournaments on a regular basis.

However I am on an upturn online recently, having cleared $500 this week. Of course I had some luck along the way, but I’m now much more sure that I am playing in games which have significant positive expectation. These games are : super-satellites, speed tournaments and Omaha Hi-Lo. As I have the week off I will (probably – no promises) post a little bit about each one and why it’s more profitable than a standard Internet NL tournament. Without giving away too many secrets – coaches in the car part after all :-)

The Poker Press

Another month, another issue of Poker Europa. Well, I haven’t seen the latest issue yet but I have read this on the Internet :

Ban Sunglasses

And what utter nonsense it is. On a par with the issue of taking drugs in athletics my arse. The problem with performance enhancing drugs is that they are extraordinarily bad for you in the long term. Florence Griffith-Joyner for example (Flo-Jo as you may remember her) dropped dead before she reached 40. If drugs were allowed (as some people propose), you would have to say to teenage athletes “well son, you’ve got all the talent in the world but if you want to win anything you’re going to have to shorten your life by 30 years”. And that’s why they’re not allowed. To compare that with perching sunglasses on your nose in a vain attempt to make yourself unreadable you would have to be either six years old or insane or both.

There’s a lot else I don’t like about that article which mostly boils down to TV saying “jump” and poker being expected to say “how high” instead of what it should say – either “no you go and jump” or “only if you give us lots of money”. But although this article is stupid, it’s not actually insulting (except to our intelligence). There have been other instances where Poker Europa has, I think, stepped over the line. When pressed on this, Nic Szeremata and the poker operators for whose benefit the magazine is published fall back on three arguments : it’s free ; it was just a joke ; and it’s someone’s opinion not mine. It’s hard to decide which of these defences is the lamest. I’d have more respect for them if they just said “so what” rather than coming out with these piss-poor excuses.

It’s not all bad. Nothing’s all good or bad in the end. I am told there is an excellent piece in the latest issue by Simon Trumper which talks about the downside of playing the tournament circuit. And they printed a review of my software for which I was, and still am, very grateful. But it could be a lot better if the publishers took a bit more responsibility for the quality of what they print, and for the effect it might have on the game. Just someone’s opinion – mine !

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Forget Everything I Said

Over Christmas I had a good 2 ½ weeks off work to large it, catch up with some sleep and play some poker. The best laid plans of mice though … my car was off the road and I couldn’t get it fixed until the New Year. So I ended up playing a bit online and that was mostly it. Given some time to think instead of just play, play, play it finally dawned on me that I have been playing Hold-em like a twat for at least the past year.

What I was doing was playing a short-stack strategy that was based on the assumption that my all-ins would only get called by sensible hands like 99, AT and better. In real life that’s not what happens though is it ? This was finally brought home to me when I went all in with QJ in early position only to find the small blind going into a dwell-up and then calling for 2/3 of his chips with A4. And that was in a £100 comp !

If someone wants to make this move with A4 it’s his money (for the moment). If they are going to though, then my assumptions are way off the mark. And if your assumptions are wrong, your whole strategy can go in the bin. So, given some time to work some things out on my computer, I have developed a completely different short-stack strategy which feels a lot, lot better.

It feels better on-line, even in satellites. Especially in satellites. Pokerstars have a cool deal which I have only recently noticed. If you win a $200 seat in one of their multi-table sats, you don’t have to play the million runner up till 6 am on a Monday morning slugfest, you can get tournament dollars and play, for example, four $50 comps instead. So after rubbishing Internet multi-table comps and super-satellites generally for six months, when I actually play them they’re looking nicely profitable.

It also feels better in live tournaments. Cut off from Luton , I have played a couple of No-Limit tournaments in the Vic instead. And contrary to what I said below, these play exactly like Internet tournaments. People check-raising with hopeless hands because “I thought you had AK”. People losing half their chips and promptly shoving the rest in on the next hand out of sheer tilt. People calling big reraises with AT and saying “I know you’re winning” as they move the chips in.

So forget everything I said (if you haven’t already). I’m going to give a few Hold-em comps a spin. Especially the Luton festival in a couple of weeks, three juicy looking £100/£150 tournaments. I’ll let you know how it goes !

The Poker Gazillion

Apparently Ladbrokes have now "clarified" the Poker Million structure. There won't be any "best runners up" making the semi finals because this would "encourage collusion". Hmmm. Could it in fact be that some bright spark in marketing thought that "best runners up" would be a good idea until three months later someone who actually knows something about poker tournaments pointed out that it is impossible to define a "best" runner up ? Plus the revised semi-final structure looks wide open to collusion to me, but what do I care.

I have though finally figured out what really bugs me about this competition. It's not open. Most poker tournaments are totally democratic. Is there any other sport in the world where you can turn up for the showpiece event, the World Cup, the Olympics and the Masters rolled into one, plonk your money down and play ? None that counts I reckon ! And that's the great thing about it. The World Series is open. The first Poker Million (which John Duthie won in such style) was open. The WPT is open - anyone who rolls up to a WPT event with $5K or $10K as required is in. Of course you have to make the last 6 to get your mush on TV in each of those but that's fair enough.

Even the previous Poker "Million" (how do they get away with that ?) was kind of open, at least until the 36 seats were snapped up. This isn't. Don't start off about satellites on the Internet either. I played in one of these for a laugh. Just because it would be so funny to qualify :-). But I didn't. No surprise there because there was 1 seat for each 100 runners. Not 10 (as is the norm, more or less) but 100. So nuts to it. Don't forget that the prime beneficiary of this competition is Ladbrokes, by a mile. Coming up a strong second is Barry Hearn, and in the far distance bringing up the rear, poker players. I'm not going to say I hope it dies on its arse audience wise, because in the end that wouldn't be good for poker. But it doesn't matter that much one way or the other, and I honestly, independently believe that it is very likely to do just that.

How to put me on tilt (Part 2) - Moan and Win

Or really that should be "win and moan". OK, poker players like a moan. Bad beat stories have a lure that is hard to resist, when you're the teller. I try my level best not to do it but even so the odd one slips out now and then. What I can't stand is people doing it when they're winning (and I'm losing !).

Vince Burgio mentioned it on Poker Pages recently which is what reminded me. There is little worse than making your way to the rail on your tournament exit and being stopped to have your ear bent by a bad beat story - from someone who's still in ! Luton of course have some world champion moaners. Every now and then you'll see one of them get lucky, win hand after hand, and look more and more uncomfortable as they stack more and more chips. Now what can they do ? This doesn't stop the real champions. This won't last, don't give me any more hands will you - then they give back one of the 20 orange chips in front of them and off they go. In essence, shut the f*ck up moaning WHEN YOU'RE WINNING.

My favourite instance of this, although I wasn't amused at the time, is a Stud comp where I find the Aces, reraise all in, Queens call the reraise and win. Fair enough. I'm making my way off, minding my own business, but as this guy is raking in the chips he's going "bloody Queens when I get them someone's always got Aces". I could have cracked open his head and feasted on his very brains. If I could have found them.