Saturday, 22 October 2011

Folding Kings pre flop

I've been taking it easy since Killarney and have only ventured out to play twice. Was a bit burnt out after a lot of weekends away so was looking forward to staying put at home for a while. Just had a look there, and I was actually away 6 weekends out of 7 from mid-August to the end of September. Throw in a few cash games along with that and you really do see the hours and the miles pile up. Obviously the fact that things haven't been going swimmingly does make the whole grind a bit tougher to deal with.

The first time playing since Killarney was the weekend after at the Octoberfest game in Limerick. It was a €225 tourney with 48 runners. I did manage to cross a major poker milestone in this tournament as I folded kings pre-flop for the first time in my career. A new player, Dom, had just sat down to my left. I played a bit of Omaha with Dom in Cork but I think it was my first time playing hold 'em with him. One of his first hands at the table, he 3-bet me to 1500 (blinds 100-200, we're both playing ~25k) and I decide to 4-bet to 4k. He instantly makes it 11k. At this stage, it's starting to look like he has aces. I think about it for a moment and muck the kings face up. He shows aces. All in all, it's not the most difficult fold in the world. The stacks are ridiculously deep and I feel I have a good table so really there's no need for me to put my stack in here when I think I'm behind. Thankfully, it was also a spot where it was all-in or fold. I have been in similar spots with jacks or queens where I've called having put my opponent on aces and thought 'sure if I flop a set I'll get paid off'. Usually the flop comes 9-high and I mysteriously change my pre-flop read and end up stacking off!

The theme of tournament definitely seemed to be aces vs kings. On day 2, with about 17 left, I pick up kings utg and raise to 3k (blinds 600-1200 I think). A tight player behind me makes it 7k. I can't remember exactly, but I think I must have been playing about 40k-50k. Whatever stack I had, I remember anything other than a min-4bet pretty much committed me. I really felt he was strong, but it never really crossed my mind to get away from the kings. It was a simple case of if he has aces, I'm going broke. That left me with the problem of getting all the chips in the middle. I didn't really want to flat oop so I decided to just shove it in. He calls with aces and they hold.

The only other time I've played during the last two weeks was in a pretty action packed ROE game. We were playing 5 handed and there was probably 4 or 5k on the table. I've made worse plays in my life, but I can't remember the last time I've been so annoyed at how I played a hand. It wasn't one of these marginal cases or one of these 'yeah it's bad, but it's not that bad', it was just a really, really bad play that is inexcusable. I had about 600 in front of me and called a raise of 75 pf with 9933. I'm okay with this play as the plan is fairly straight forward - flop a set and jam it (I was first to act post flop). The flop came 24X and it checked around. The turn came a 3 bringing a flush draw. I potted it for 300. It folded around to Pat on the button and he obviously sticks it in with the nuts. It's really just a terrible play on my part. When the 3 turned, my initial reaction was 'I have to protect my hand' and before thinking anymore about it, I had thrown my chips in the pot. It's just such an indescribably bad play. I honestly can't remember the last time I was so mad at myself for how I played a hand.
Other than those two sessions, it's been all quiet. There hasn't been much cash action in Limerick lately and I haven't been in the mood to do much travelling.

There have been some great results out of Irish players recently that definitely deserve a mention. Niall Smyth taking down Killarney is an absolutely epic achievement. I think anyone that gets a big score is always anxious to get another result fairly soon after to prove the first one wasn't a fluke. Niall definitely did that in style by winning one of the biggest tournaments of the year. Winning one of the biggest tournaments on the Irish calendar, along with THE biggest tourney, all in the same year is truly phenomenal stuff.
Dermot Blain also ensured Ireland went 2/2 for WSOP main event final tables in 2011. He finished 5th at the WSOPE in Cannes for €275,000. The quality of the field was absolutely sick and one look at the final table will show you how strong it was.

That's it from me. I played the IPO this weekend too, will update on that later in the week. Next up is the PaddyPower winter festival next week. I'm absolutely desperate to get a result and this is the one to get it in. It's been 15 Hold 'em tournaments in a row without a cash, so it's definitely time to change that!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


The trip to Killarney was probably the worst weekend financially of the year. I pretty much bricked everything and lost a load at the cash games aswell. All that said, for some reason I'm looking back on the weekend with somewhat fond memories!

There's usually a big Limercik contingent at this game and this year was no different. As usual we managed to cover ourselves in glory with the ole one min-cash courtesy of Ger Fitz. Limerick players only made up about 20% of the starting field (ok, maybe a slight exaggeration) so obviously we were delighted with the single min-cash. Thankfully it was somewhat made up for in the side events as Limerick player Pat O'Flaherty chopped the €300 side event and Shane O'Connor won the turbo. Shane had quite an interesting hand in the main event where he held AA on a K934 (with two flush draws) board. I'm not really sure how the action went but it ended with Shane shoving. Shane's opponent deliberated and eventually folded 99. I don't think there's much need for comment on that hand...

My own main event regrettably got off to a late start and even more regrettably an early finish. Nicky Power has been giving out to me for arriving late to tournaments and I think he's definitely right. I'm not the most punctual person in general, but I've been a bit overly disorganised with regard to making start times lately (between the usual traffic and getting lost, I've also gotten the start time wrong for something like the last 4 events). So to help me improve on this ridiculous leak, I'll make the following bet open to anyone. If I arrive at a tournament later than the end of the first level, the first person to say "O'Gara's better than Sexton!" to me will get a free 1% of my winnings in that tournament.

I arrived in Killarney at the 75-150 level. With a 20k starting stack it's by no means a disaster, but it is nice to have the 25-50 level or at least the 50-100 level to get a feel for the table. The tournament was short and sweet with only 2 real hands of note. The first hand consisted of me bluffing 3 streets with KQ on a 8d6x2xTdAd board and getting called by 99. It's really a bad play on my part as it was the type of table where there was really 0 point in bluffing. I seem to say it every single tournament, but most of the time, the most +EV strategy is to just wait for your spots and let them get it in bad against you. There obviously are plenty of people out there willing to make the hero calls, so I think it's time to let them make the hero calls against me when I have the nuts as opposed to nothing.

That hand brought me from 17k to 11k and I didn't really get out of line after that. I played fairly standard poker but never really picked up any hands. At the 150-300/25 level, I pick up 99 and raise to 750. The biggest rock to my left flat calls (he literally played two hands I think, one of which he had aces). The big blind also comes along for the ride. The flop comes 7h9sTh. The big blinds leads out 2k. I only have about 6500 total so I'm not sure what the best play is. I could flat and hope the rock comes along, but I think it's one of those spots where it doesn't matter what the rock has, he's either playing for it all, or he's not playing at all. If I shove, is he really going to fold aces? I wasn't really sure but it's marginal either way. If your not sure, it's better to just stick it in, I don't want to see the 8h on the turn and have to put my money in then. So anyway, I shove and the rock reshoves. The BB tanks it.

While he's tanking, I'm not really sure what to think. It is possible the rock has TT but that's about the only thing I'm worried about. The way the hand plays out, it's unlikely anyone has any draws so I'm feeling pretty confident I may only have to dodge a few outs to treble up. I am also preparing myself for the possibility that the rock does have TT and I'm drawing to one out. After an age, the BB finally calls. The button shows aces and the BB shows up what looks like 9T or something. To tell you the truth, it actually looks more like TT, but like, there's no way it could be TT. It couldn't take that long for TT to make that call.

Oh no wait, it is pocket tens. He did flop top set and take forever to call...

The turn actually came the 8h (I had the 9h) to give me a few outs but I missed on the river. I was quite shocked at the hand so pretty much just left the table straight away. It's absolutely shocking for him to have the TT there. I won't even bother getting into the strategic insanity of ever considering folding TT there, but suffice to say that the rock never ever has J8 or 86 there and my range includes a million hands that TT is a monster favourite over. Flopping middle set and running into top set is usually bad enough, but getting slowrolled when that happens, it is that extra bit annoying.

Getting knocked out of a tournament early on the Friday is tough as you do feel like the whole trip was a bit of a waste. My mind probably wasn't right to grind, but I still headed down to the cash room that night. It was definitely a case of my mind being in two places. I guess, I wanted to win money, but I didn't really want to wait and grind. Invariably, that combination leads to a disastrous session. I was playing PLO but I was more punting than playing. I wasn't buying in deep which tends to encourage the 'spin it up' attitude.I ran below expectation but I definitely wasn't playing my best poker. I did play a €250 winner-take-all SNG that night too. That was a short affair also. 6 handed, Fintan Gavin pushed from the button and I woke up with queens. Unfortunately the queens couldn't hold as an ace flopped pairing Fintan's A7.

I was back the next day for the €300 side event. For the first time in a while, I was pretty pleased with my play in this event and didn't make too may mistakes. Again, this was a table where it made 0 sense to bluff so I didn't. I waited for my hands and got paid off on them. I eventually busted 3betting QJ from the SB after the button raised. The push is marginal and one I definitely wouldn't make online because there's 0 fold equity, but in these tournaments, it is common for players to 3bet fold in these spots. Anyway, he made the call and his AJ held.

After the side event, the only option was to sample the bar facilities the Gleneagle hotel had to offer. It was a good night and the craic was what you'd expect from the Saturday night of a poker festival. There was one sequence of events that is definitely worth mentioning. I was at the bar and whatever happened, I overheard someone talking about rock, paper, scissors. I'm fairly confident in my rock, paper, scissors game and anyone that says the game is all about luck clearly does not know what they are talking about. So naturally this resorted to a rock, paper, scissors bet, first to three. I probably would have wagered everything I had on me but instead we settled on €10. I started out trailing and after 2 games I was 2-0 down. I'd adjusted to his game though and proceeded to claw back to 2-2. The final throw came and I choked. I went rock, he went paper. Immediately after this, another prop betting topic came up - arm wrestling. I was talking with Barry Foley at the bar and before I knew it, we were getting ready for an arm wrestling match. I knew I definitely had Barry in the weight stakes but I also knew that despite not looking like a weightlifter, he was still a fairly fit guy. What happened after this was not expected.

My plan was to sit at a table, get the match going and see what happened - without making too much of a scene. Barry had other ideas. Within seconds, his white shirt was ripped off and a navy brazilian tank top was his uniform of choice. From underneath his shirt also appeared lean, muscular arms with veins pumping. I was starting to realise maybe I was a bit of an underdog. The pre-match routine wasn't over yet as Barry started pounding the table (in the process knocking over my two drinks, rendering the possible €10 profit I could make from the match inconsequential). It was clearly not Barry's first arm wrestle and he clearly knew what the more favourable type of grip for an arm wrestle was. The match finally got underway and now the crowd that originally consisted of 6 or 7 people had multiplied to about 30. I was hoping to put up some sort of fight especially in front of this impromptu crowd, but I just couldn't handle the sheer strength of the beast.

The bar eventually closed at 6am, and with the Ireland-Italy match starting at 8.30am, bed wasn't an option. I decided to sit at an omaha cash table, and despite being at my drunkest point throughout the weekend, I still managed to book my only winning session of the weekend. I've been working on a theory with regard to cash games and drinking. In cash games, it's often important to just wait for a hand. But waiting can be so boring especially when you're playing a 10handed game that's moving quite slowly. If you introduce a few pints into the picture, all of a sudden, waiting becomes less boring thanks to wonderful effects of alcohol. This strategy may be not for everyone so use it at your own risk.

I headed to breakfast at about 8.15am and then onto the Ireland match. I haven't done much sports betting lately but I did think betting on Ireland at a big handicap could've been a good bet for this match. The stadium they were playing in had a roof which meant for the first time, they'd be playing on a dry pitch. Ireland's backs versus Italy's backs on a dry pitch I really felt could mean a good few tries. Unfortunately, I didn't place the bet, but I was still delighted to see Ireland run out convincing winners. It really sets them up nicely and gives us all permission to dream. A good friend of mine is currently living in New Zealand for 9 months, and I told him that if I win a tournament I'll go over. Winning the Sunday Million and heading over to see Ireland beat the All Blacks in the World Cup final, a guy can dream...

After the rugby, I got a few hours sleep. At 1pm, the cleaners were knocking to get us out of the room. I was wrecked so I rang reception asking if I could book another night. There were vacancies in the hotel alright, but the room we were currently staying in, was specifically booked. My theory was that it was an American couple celebrating their 50th Wedding anniversary and they were married on October 4th so wanted to stay in room 104. Regardless of the reason, staying in that particular bed for another few hours was not an option. Getting up and moving all my stuff to another room and then going to bed did not seem appealing so instead I just got up. Usually I'd just drive home at this stage, but upon the realisation that I had only gotten to bed 3 hours ago and was still drinking 6 hours ago, I decided it was better to maybe relax a bit before hitting the road. Thankfully the couches in the bar were quite comfortable and the sport on the TV was quite good.

After watching Arsenal lose 2-1 to Tottenham, I decided to log one more session before heading home. This session went a bit better and I was definitely playing better. That's how it started out anyway. I had built my stack from 350 to about 600 and then I lost two decent flips and also made a move that didn't work out. Being left with 250 I decided it was time to bust or go home. I took the probably slightly -EV proposition of playing a 4way all-in pf with As2s6h7h. The gamble didn't pay off and despite having a straight draw and nut flush on the turn, I only wound up with two pair good for a small side pot. I ended up getting my remaining stack in with top set vs a straight and didn't hit.

That was that and when all was said and done it was almost midnight on Sunday. Financially the weekend was a disaster, but aside from the huge loss of money, it was a good weekend. Thankfully there's a bit of a break from travelling, and I'll be at home for at least the next two weekends. There's been an awful lot of tournaments recently and the mileage really is raking up on the car. I went up to the cash game in Naas for the first  time last Wednesday (winning session thankfully) and if there's any travelling to be done in the next two weeks, it'll be to that.

Aside from that, the next tournament is the Octoberfest tournament in Fitzpatrick's casino in Limerick. It's a €220 tournament with a great structure. I find it strange that not many people decide to travel to this while they'd happily travel to other similar tournaments. If there's anyone out there in doubt, I'd highly recommend playing it. Obviously since it's my local club, I am more likely to say that, but I genuinely think it's a good tournament. You also have a €100 side event which Fitzpatrick's are adding €1000 to. That's not an overlay or a guarantee, it's a 100% added extra €1000 in the prize pool. It's very rare to see stuff like this these days so I think they deserve a bit of praise for that. There's always a bit of action too when these tournaments are on, so there should be lively enough cash action both nights also.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

My short time in France...I mean Dublin

I was debating whether to give this it's own blog entry or just throw it in at the end of the last blog or the start of the new one. Due to my slight OCD I decided to just keep things proper and give it it's own entry.

I headed up Thursday and arrived 2 hours late (I thought it started at 2pm, it actually started at 1pm, I arrived at 3pm) which was not ideal. I thought I'd arrive about 40 mins into 25-50 but between getting the start time wrong and it taking slightly longer than expected, I arrived 5 minutes before the start of the 75-150 level. I bust in the 150-300/25 level and headed back home.

My first table was full of French players and it actually took me a while to realise they actually had no clue what they were doing. I knew from the off it was a soft table and they weren't great players, but I literally hadn't seen hands like this in a looong time. The best example was a hand where the board read something like T4387. It was checked and the player in position bet 3k. He got check raised to 6k and instantly called the min-raise with bottom set. The min raiser turned up JJ with the "hey, they hand plays itself" type of expression. There really was no method to the madness which is a tougher style to beat than the obvious bad players. I got moved just as I was starting to get a grip on the table and I had drifted back to my starting stack (20k) having peaked at around 35k.

My bustout hand was avoidable but not horrible imo. The blinds are 150-300/25 and the CO makes it 750, I make it 2k with T9 and he makes it 4.2k. There was some history between and I just felt he wanted to make a move. I was quite comfortable playing in position post-flop and felt I had a good read on him. I'm sure some will disagree but I can't see how you can fold for 2.2k in position when there's already 7k out there. So I call and the flop comes Q33. He leads for 3.8k. I really feel he is weak here so the plan is to call the flop and bet 5k on the turn. The turn comes a jack and he checks. I pick up a straight draw and now all of a sudden bet-folding seems really unappealing. In retrospect, I strongly think the 5k bet is the right play here. If you bet 5k and fold to a shove, you're losing out on drawing to (possibly) 8 outs. The board is paired so you could be dead already. Basically, picking up a straight draw here is not enough of a factor to deviate from the play that I originally thought was the most +EV. As it played out, I bet out 10k effectively committing myself to the hand. The guy tanked it and eventually stuck it in. I had slightly miscounted his chips (no jokes please, I know counting is not my strong point) and thought he had about 18k total. He actually had 20k total which meant it was 10k more for me to call. There was 47k in the middle so I need 17.5% to call. Thank God that is just about what my equity is against his range. I call and he turns up the AJ. The 5k turn would have looked less suspicious but I assumed he still would have called. The other obvious advantage to the 5k bet is that it probably would have only cost me 5k as opposed to 20k if I was wrong.

I can understand if people don't like the play but I don't think it's the worst play. My thought process was pretty spot on and the turn bet does work if it doesn't come a jack. The fact the tourney is 6max also means you have to make slightly more moves than normal. There is the little voice in the back of my head saying "you're in a field with a bunch of crazy french donks, don't bluff your chips off!!!!" but other than that, I think the particular play on this hand is ok. It would be very tough to win the tournament without ever making any bluffs!