Monday, December 06, 2004

Touched By Greatness

Iggy pimped me.

Moment of silence.

As previously mentioned, I was inspired to begin here by the poker blogosphere. The links show those who've been influential, from poker strategy (Iggy, HDouble) to drunken tales of frivolity and pictures of hot bartenders (Al) to some very good writing (Otis, Pauly) to The Hammer (Grubby). There are plenty of others I've passed through with varying degrees of interest and I will endeavor to add them to the links list as time goes by.

Which brings me to my next culture phenomenon. I admit it. I not only watch "The O.C.", but I love it to the point of distraction. Yes, I'm 37 years old. I am only able to admit this publicly, if anonymously, after seeing the show revered by at least two other poker bloggers. God bless you guys. With all this hulabaloo over "Desperate Housewives" being a guilty pleasure for male viewers, the strong allure of "The O.C." for middle-aged married guys has been over-looked. First of all, it recalls the very best of 90210 camp with its overwrought storylines and emotive acting. Second, Seth Cohen is genuinely funny. You could watch a year's worth of "Married to Jim" and get fewer true laughs than from a single Cohen soliloquy. Third, you get to hear some good music, though I wonder about the huge sell-out move of appearing on this show. It seems from the last two episodes that the club scenes are going to be a regular fixture and feature "new" bands (talk about pimpage). But The Killers? They're already all over the radio. What ever happened to artist integrity?!?!?! I know, I'm a dinosaur. Fourth, Summer, yes. Marisa, meh. Julie Cooper, passable. Kirsten, YES! I miss Haley, though. Not enough to watch that awful "North Shore," however.

My wife, "reality" show junkie, does not share my enthusiasm. In fact, she mocks it. At every turn.

"Are you going to watch your teen-ager show?"
"Yes. I'm also going to download Slipknot ring-tones and buy a Von Dutch trucker hat."

Eventful weekend at the tables. It occurs to me that posting hand histories isn't the greatest way to get people interested in reading the blog, so I'll refrain from that (for the most part). Still kinda feeling my way here, folks. But I did have a roller coaster ride on the SnGs the past few days and it got me to thinking about posting my evolving strategery.

Early on, and not only for the stock reasons, I decided to play ultra-tight on the SnGs, especially the first two levels/orbits ("Honey, what's that noise?" "It's my ultra-tight ass. It's squeaking"). Obviously, rigid starting hand requirements are part of this. Also, I like to get some sort of handle on what kind of players I'm up against before committing chips. But really, the over-riding fact of my early foray into the SnGs was that I didn't trust my post-flop play in the single-table format, one with which I had little experience. Not like the micro-limit ring gams which you can play on auto-pilot, or something close to it. So I'd stay away from suited connectors (unless cheap and in LP). Likewise, AJo, A10o and their Kingly cousins. I just didn't feel comfortable playing those hands post-flop against 6, 7 players.

So that worked just fine. Playing mostly at the $10 level, you see a fair share of maniacs and if I only saw one or two flops out of the first 20 hands, I'd probably seen two or three players out. Now, theoretically, I've got a bit of a read. And--again, theoretically--a tight table image. So, at this point, it's raise or fold poker. And that's the basic plan. That's when my tournament started.

The problem is I ended up short-stacked too many times. I'd get to the top 5 and with escalating blinds, I'd have to make moves. And, a lot of the time, I'd make impatient moves and get knocked out. Or, I'd get my big hand, move in and get called by a big stack who'd draw out on me. I was relying too much on coin flip situations. Or, my table image was so tight, that I couldn't get any action when I wanted it. Another problem is that there are a lot of chips to be had in those first 20 hands. Maniacs, while unpredictable, can be very lucrative. And I'd more often than not see those chips flowing to players not playing premium hands, players willing to see a flop. So I rarely got to dictate the action at the table by getting up early.

I'd say the above philosophy is still at the core of what I do at those tables. But I'm also willing to play a little looser early on. A little controlled aggression. I used to be hesitant about raising in late position in these games when 4 or 5 have already limped in. Most often, the raise doesn't get them out. The flip side, of couse, is more chips in the pot if my hand gets made. I'll do it now. Not automatically, but with the right hands and right players. One thing I'm not willing to do is to showdown weak hands. I find that building a loose table image isn't a good tactic for me. Later on, I'd prefer they fold to my bets, big hands or bluffs both. If they perceive me as loose, bluffing is out. I like to hammer people late with pre-flop riases, put them under pressure. The fewer hands I showdown, the better.

I also almost never slow-play. I don't entirely trust myself. I don't entirely trust Party Poker. Yeah, I probably let some people hold onto their chips when I can get them, but, for right now, it's a more comfortable play for me.

(I do have one hand from the weekend that deserves mention here: Five-handed at a $20 table. I get presto in the BB. Folded to SB who completes. Flop comes 522. I smooth call SB's 50 bet. Turn is K. I smooth call SBs 125 bet--I'm thinking he just hit one of his overcards. River is a 7. SB checks and I KNOW I have him beat. How many chips would he be willing to give me? I went with 300. He called. I won. What was he playing? AA. Three things. One, I fold presto to a significant (say, 4X) pre-flop raise, even heads-up. Two, I thought at the time he was slow-playing me (even as I was slow-playing him). But now I think he feared the duece, since I could hold any two cards sans the pre-flop raise. Three, he actually came out of it okay, since I couldn't put him on pocket Aces with the pre-flop call. If I had any idea he was holding the rockets, I could have hammered him. Those cards are tough to lay down.)

Obviously, the more I learn, the more hands I see, the more different situations that arise, the basic philosophy wil continue to evolve. What's so interesting about this game is how one problem presents itself, and while one works to find a solution, that solution opens up other avenues for questioning. It's brilliant. A curious mind never sleeps.


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