Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Look Back...

Well, it's New Year's Eve. Traditionally, it's a time when people take a look back at the year that was. So I will do the same.

By The Numbers
Certainly the easiest and most objective way to examine 2008 is to check the numbers, and it was definitely a good year.

CPMG $3394
Cash games: 3064
Tournaments: (+330) 2270 winnings, 1940 buy-in, 53 tournaments, 4 wins

Casino $1383
Poker Cash games: 3340
Table Games: 758
Slots: 120
Video Poker: -1330
Tournaments: (-1505) 800 winnings, 2305 buy-in, 17 tournaments, 1 win

Are You a Better Player?
Another way to measure the success of a year is to ask yourself, "Are you a better player than you were a year ago?"

For me, I would have to say the answer is No. I think my Cash game has made some small improvements. But I feel that my Tournament game has deteriorated a little. I think I've lost some of my patience. I did make money in CPMG tournaments. But just $330 in 53 tournament is not good. I'm definitely not saying that I'm the best tourney player around, but I am good enough to have a better ROI than that.

New Year's Resolutions
- Get better against better opponents.
I think that I am a better player against bad/novice players than I am against good/experienced players. My hand reading skills aren't as good as I want them to be, and bad/novice players are much easier to read. When they raise, it's usually with a big hand.

I also suck at tells and sensing strength or weakness. Bad/novice players give off so many more than good/experienced players.

When I'm at a table of good/experienced players, I feel that I have to wait for a hand. If I don't get any cards, then I have no chance of making money. I'm not very good at 'creating my own shot,' to use a basketball analogy.

I am planning on playing more 2/5 this year, especially in Detroit. Hopefully, this will help to advance my cash game skillz.

- Game Selection in the 'Pit'
The better resolution would be to just stay away from the gambling, and stick with Poker. But that just ain't gonna happen. I actually enjoy it. I do understand that I'm not doing it to make money. I would be content to just break even, and earn comps for rooms and food.

I need to stick with games that are good to sit there and grind it out. Blackjack, Pia Gow and Texas Hold'em Bonus are good for this. I used to play Let It Ride, but have finally learned my lesson. The game is just too high variance to play. It's what I would call a 'Lightning Strike' game. Hit a big hand, then run for door.

Video Poker should be a grinder game. I do know the 'Basic Strategy' for many of the variation of VP. I even carry a cheat sheet for pay tables, so I know which ones to play. But I'm still losing big money on it. I just can't hit anything. I'm not gonna quit playing it (yet), I will do what I just did in Detroit. Play only with Profit, and don't chase my losses by trying to hit Quads.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ending the Year on a High Note

My last casino trip of 2008 was an overnighter to Detroit. Since I was off work Monday, I would usually go up in the morning. I decided to try going on Sunday afternoon, and spend the night. Hopefully I can get a more lively card game on a Sunday afternoon or evening.

I got up to the MGM Detroit poker room about 5 pm, and was seated immediately at a 1/2 table. There were definitely some action players at the table, along with some calling stations. Unfortunately, what was missing from the table was cards for me. I sat there for three hours, and saw just three pocket pairs, nines being the highest. There were just no opportunities for me. (-$191)

I left the poker room, and grabbed some dinner the food court. I then headed over to my new favorite casino table game, Texas Hold'em Bonus. To sum up the game, you play Limit Hold'em Heads-Up against the Dealer. It's a good game to sit for a while, and grind out some profit.

Fortunately, I didn't need to sit for long. After less than an hour, I had doubled up, and left the table up $550. On the way out the door, I did my ritual donation to a Video Poker machine (-$150), and head to the motel up $209 for the day.

On Monday morning, I headed over to Motor City Casino. I walked into the poker room about 9:30, and got seated at a 1/2 table. This table was very typical for a weekday game. Lotsa limping, and not much action. I couldn't get on any kind of run, with my stack floating between +$75 to -$75.

About 12:30, I raise two consecutive hands, get a couple of callers each time, and win about $300 total. First hand was a set of sevens, and second hand was top pair with open-ender that hit on the turn. I left the poker room at 1:30 up $268.

I decided to try my luck again at Texas Hold'em Bonus, and it turned out to still be good. I played about eight hands, and won all of them (+$525).

Headed over to the buffet for lunch. While gorging, i did a little math, and realized that I was up a grand for the trip. I was contemplating whether to head home, or go play some more poker. I decide to buy-in to the 2/5 game for half my profit and see what happens.

I go back to the poker room, and put my name on the 2/5 list. During my hour wait for a seat, I make another ritual donation to the Video Poker gods (-$100).

Once I finally got a seat, I only got to play about two hours before I had to head for home. I left the table down $174. Since it was a short session, i had to rely on catching some luck. As usual, there just was not many opportunities.

So I headed home from Detroit up $728. A sweet way to end the year.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

HO Down

On the last Saturday night of each month, Dave W and I do a variety night at our game. It's helps to break the monotony of playing the same thing each and every week. Some of the variety tournaments we've done are a $50 Deeper Stack, $40 Bounty tournament, and $10 Rebuy-mania.

This month we did the HO Down. It's a NLHE & PLO tournament, and it alternates each level. The buy-in, add-on and structure are the same as our regular tournament.

We ended up with 31 players, including three alternates. That's damn impressive for an Omaha tournament.

As for my night, it was a combination of bad play and bad timing (luck) that ended my Final Table streak. I ended up 28th out of the 31 players. There wasn't one particular hand that did me in. It was a combination of many screw ups. For example, and for no particular reason, I tried to bluff a player who flopped a set of K, and turned quads. Surprisingly, he didn't fold.

The cash game didn't go much better for me. I bought in for the max of $150, and my stack slowly deteriorated to around $50, where it stayed until it was almost time to leave at 4:30 am. I then won two generous Omaha pots against the same player. He even called out my cards in the second hand, a flopped Flush Draw and turned Top Set. But he still reluctantly called. Why? Because it was 4:30 am, and he was getting a steady flow of annoying phone calls from home.

It's happened to me a lot, especially when I first started playing with the CPMG. I would play on Friday night. Go home at midnight. Go to work on Saturday, and play on Saturday night. By 1am on Saturday night, I was a zombie. And zombies don't play poker too well. I would stay later than I should and start bleeding chips. It was either one horrific donk move, or a series of questionable decisions that quickly snowballed out of control.

So I ended the HO Down +$37 on a night when I had no business winning any money.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Double or Nothing

Even though I'm not a big fan of Online Poker, I have found one thing that seems to be quite profitable for me. Someone in the CPMG was kind enough to point me towards the 'Double or Nothing' Sit-N-Gos on PokerStars.

On the surface, they would seem rather pointless. Ten players enter a $10+$1 tournament, and five of those players 'double up' to $20. That doesn't seem too difficult.

Well, they're not. In fact, they can be rather brainless. Which means you can play more than one at time without much problems.

Ya see, the way you make money in this is volume. You need to win about 60% to make these worth the time. These are high variance games. You need to win some coin flips, and avoid the terrible play that people do, especially on the Bubble.

Here are my numbers:
PokerStars: + $190.80
Total: 59% ~ 71/120
($10+.80) 76% ~ 22/29
($20+1.60) 52% ~ 43/82
($50+4) 67% ~ 6/9

Cake Poker: + $271 (with 33% Rakeback)
Total: 59% ~ 57/96
($10+.80) 68% ~ 17/25
($25+2) 55% ~ 33/60
($50+3.50) 64% ~ 7/11

Here are a few tips from my own experiences:

- Play More Aggressive with Less Chip.
Contrary to common sense, 'folding to the money' is not the right way to play these things. Yes, it will work sometimes, but not often enough to be making any profit. The main reason is because that's how most of the other players are playing. As you know, one of the basic concepts of Poker is, "Do the opposite of what the other players are doing."

The best strategy, in general, is to play more aggressive with less chips, and less aggressive with more chips. At the third level (25/50), start stealing blinds every chance you get. When your stack gets over 2000, then you can ease up on it a little. Over 3000, you can do a little blind stealing just to maintain your stack size. If you're lucky enough to get over 4000, then just play premium hands to knock out shorter stacks. Don't ever hit "Sit Out." You'll be missing out on opportunities to end the tournament.

- Just Play Pre-Flop
Since you start with the standard 1500 chips, you can splash around a little in the first two levels, 10/20 & 15/30. Just don't commit many chips without a 'real' hand after the flop.

From the third level on, only play preflop, just like you would at a Final Table. Raise with your quality hands. Steal blinds in late position. Watch out for the very short stacks, and the players who want to play every hand.

- Bubble Play
Without question, the worst play that I see is at the Bubble. When you get down to six handed, look at who's got the short stacks. There are usually one or two under 1000. If you're not one of them, or very close to them, then wait to see what they do. Usually they will wait until they absolutely have to go All-In. If nobody is under 1ooo, then keep stealing blinds so you don't get short stacked.

If the short stack shoves it in, don't be afraid to call with any two cards under the following conditions. A) You are not the only player calling the All-In. B) Calling the All-In won't leave you as the short stack if he wins.

Remember: It doesn't matter who wins the pot. It only matters who loses. - Always check it down, even if you got a strong hand.

It's not uncommon for some schmuck to bet in to the dry side pot, only to be a bluff. The All-In player then wins the pot, and someone else gets screwed. It happened to me tonight. I would have won the 3-way pot on the Bubble with just A J vs A T, but some moron shoves All-In on the River with just J 3, no pair. I had to fold, and the short stack now triples up with just A high. I was left with a crippled short stack, and end up as Bubble Boy of a $50 tournament.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Off to the Races

At Dave's last night, we started with seven players, and ended up with 27 players. I made my 6th Final Table in the last 8 weeks. This time I took it down for $320.

I would love to say that it was my experience, and mad skills that propelled me to victory. But the main reason I won was dumb luck. I went 6/6 in Coin Flips, and four of those were at the Final Table.

I played my normal, patient game. I wasn't even stealing blinds. There are a few players in our group that I don't even try to steal their blinds. They will defend just because it's me. One of them was at my table, just a few seats to my left, for most of the second half of the tournament. So I just sat there and waited for the few hands that I got during the night.

When we got to the Final Table, it was stacked with talent. Sometimes, the Final Table has some new players who are just catching cards. But all five players who cashed this week have been in the CPMG for a while, and the play showed. Since I had a chip stack due to a few coin flips, I did start to step on the gas a little, and steal a few blinds.

Heads-up was against Pyxis. I started with a 4-1 chip lead. We played for a full level. There were a few hands where some chips got moving. Finally, I'm in the SB with K5. I put her All-In. She called with A6. I flopped Two Pair, and my lucky night came to a happy ending.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ice Ice Baby

The snowstorm that was forecasted for Thursday night wasn't that big of a deal for me. There wasn't much snow, but there was some freezing rain. I went down to my car on Friday morning, and found a thin covering of ice all over the car. There was also about 3/4 inch of frozen slush on my windshield.

I decided to go back to Four Winds casino. I wanted to get some more time on the PokerPro tables. With the weather being a small factor, the casino is just around the corner and down the street from my hotel. The $283,000 Bad Beat Jackpot was also a small motivation.

I got to the Poker Room about 10:45am. Nobody was there. There was only one player on the list, and he was playing Blackjack. I ended up playing Pia Gow for two hours (-$15), before they finally got a game going.

This was the second time that I had to wait two hours for a seat. I want to be pissed about it, but the weather was definitely a factor. The casino was slow all day, and the Pia Gow dealer mentioned that they had 32 dealers call off.

I sat down at the .50/1 table, and then moved to the 1/2 table when it started up. Later in the evening, the poker room finally got some full tables. They had three .50/1 tables, my 1/2 table, and a .75/1.50 table that they just started spreading. I don't get the point of the .75/1.50 game, and neither do most of the players who are regulars.

I walked out of the Poker Room at 12:30 am when the 1/2 game broke up. I lost $100 at .50/1, but finally caught some cards at the 1/2 game (+$467).

Overall for the three day trip, I lost $95 + expenses. For the number of hand that i played, I was fairly card dead. But it's only $95, and I can make that up at my Saturday night game.

Hand #1 - .50/1 Four Winds
Lady UTG raises to $6. Five players call. I'm the SB with two red Kings, and makes it $25. Lady shoves All-In for about $120. Everyone folds to me. It is vividly clear the she's got AA, so I fold my KK face up.

Laying down KK vs AA is not why I posted this hand. I've done it two other time in the last 18 months, and they were all this easy.

The reason for this hand is the $283,000 Bad Beat Jackpot, Aces Full of Kings beaten by Quads. When I showed the KK, about half of the players at the table were pissed off at me. "How can you lay that down? Don't you know about the BBJ?" "I had a suited connector. I could have seen the Flop." "This is .50/1. I didn't know we were playing real poker."

This is one of many reasons that i HATE any Bad Beat Jackpot. Yes, if any of the five cards on the board ended up being A K K, then I'm a very happy person today. But the pot odds of hitting a 1/million board just don't add up to chase a two outer when I know I'm beat.

"I didn't know we were playing real poker." Geez.

Hand #2 - 1/2 Four Winds
Six limpers. I've got 99 in the BB, and check.

Flop: Ah 9h 5d - Cool! I check. The Cutoff, an action player, bets $15. It folds to me. I've learned through experience in low limit games that nobody folds a Flush Draw on the Flop. If I try to bet them off of it, they just have a bigger pot to chase. Wait for the Turn, and then hammer the pot. I just call, and so does UTG+1.

Turn: (Ah 9h 5d) 5c - Well, that changes things. Check. UTG+1 Checks. Cutoff bets $20. Looks like he's got an A. I'm not sure what UTG+1 has. I decide to just call. If no Heart pops on the River, I will fire a large bet to look like a missed draw. UTG+1 folds.

River: (Ah 9h 5d 5c) Ad - Are you serious? I just slow played my way into a lost pot. I check. If he bets, I will fold. He thinks for a moment and says, "You planning on check raising me?" He checks and shows 5h 3h, a flopped Flush Draw with Bottom Pair. We both assumed that the other player had an Ace. I told him that I was folding if he bet the River, but he didn't believe me.

So I won a decent pot, but I left money on the table again. Last time, I overplayed a Set against Two Pair and the guy folded. This time I underplayed my Boat against Trips with a Flush Draw. I could have gotten another $100 or more off this guy.

Hand #3 - 1/2 Four Winds
Many limpers. I'm in the SB, and look at Kh Kc. $12. BB calls. UTG calls. Two others call. Five players are going to the Flop, and I'm out of position. This should be fun

Flop: Qh 9c 3d - I bet $40. BB calls. Player A (Mid position) calls.

Turn: (Qh 9c 3d) Ks - I hit Top Set, but JT just hit their Open-Ender. Good thing nobody would every play that hand. I think for a moment, and decide to check and see what happens. I'm not slow playing my Set. I just have no clue what everyone else has.

BB checks. Player A pauses, then bets $125. Now I go into the tank. I've only got $230 left, and decide to shove. If he's got me, then he's got me. BB folds AQ. Player A calls the $105 and shows 33 for Bottom Set. He misses his one-outer.

So I more than doubled up, but I really hate playing out of position.

Hand #4 - 1/2 Four Winds
I folded preflop in this hand, so the amounts may be a little off. Player A (UTG) raises to $7. Player B (UTG +1) calls. Player C (Button) re-raises to $25. I'm the SB, and eject quickly. Player A calls. Player B re-re-raises to $60. Player C calls. Player A thinks for a while, then folds.

Flop: Jh Jc 7h - Player B bet $75. Player C thinks for a while, and folds QQ

So far, this is nothing special. The reason I am telling this hand is Player A, who folded preflop. When the Flop showed on the screen, he turned as white as a ghost, and had that "deer in the headlights" look on his face. I've never been good at noticing tells, but even a cocktail waitress would have caught this.

After Player C folded, Player A said he just folded Quads (JJ). We then got into lengthy discussion about the hand. It was obvious that his JJ were behind, so folding is understandable. But the fourth raise was only $35 more. So the pot odds were good to call and hit your two outer, or both of them in this case. Of course, the $283,000 Bad Beat Jackpot was also discussed.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Chicago Poker

Day 2 of my trip took me an hour West to the Chicago area. I visited three casinos in Gary and Hammond, IN. Ameristar Casino and Majestic Star Casino are just around the corner and down the street from each other. They are fairly small riverboat casinos. I played a little poker at Ameristar (14 tables). Majestic Star only had open seats at the 3/6 Limit table, so I played little Texas Hold'em Bonus. Only nine hands, and made $65, along with a chip for my collection.

Horseshoe Hammond was my main destination today. It's the 'Big Money' poker room for the Chicago area, and it is a beautiful room. 34 tables total, with a high limit area, and a private room with two table called Benny's Room. It's similar to Bobby's Room in the Bellagio, and is named after Benny Binnion.

I got a seat about 3pm. There were about 12 tables in use, including 2/5 PLO and 20/40 Limit. It was much busier than any of the rooms so far, but players said that the room was not crowded. Probably because of the snow storm forecasted for the evening.

I was planning on playing here until at least 10pm, but ended up leaving the room at 6pm, +$201. I've got an hour drive back to my hotel, and my Toyota Prius sucks in the snow.

Hand #1 - 1/2 Ameristar
I've been sitting here for an hour, and will be leaving soon. It's been a bad session and I've got $65 left. Tight player raises to $6 in early position. Two other players call. I'm the SB, look at T9d, and call. BB folds.

Flop: Kd Qd Tc. Sweet! Bottom pair with a Gutshot Straight Flush Draw. I see a check-raise in my future. Tight guy bets $20. One player calls. I check-shove my $59. Tight player makes it $100 with KQh, and other dude fold.

Pot size: $163 ($98 profit, if I win)
Tight Guy: KQh - 53%
Me: T9d - 47%

The board ends up as (Kd Qd Tc) 6h 4h. I crapped out, but it was a great spot for a short stack to get back in to it.

Hand #2 - 1/2 Horseshoe Hammond
Early position player makes it $10. Old guy in Mid position calls. I'm the SB and look down at Ac Ah. I doubt the BB will jump in, so I just call. If anyone else had called, I would have raised, but I was willing to see the Flop out of position with just three players.

Flop: Kc 5c 4d - Since I'm out of position, I just check to see what happens. Initial raiser checks, and Old Guy bets $15. I am positive that he's got a K. I want to trap him, but there is the initial raiser still to act. There is a Flush Draw on the board. It is unlikely that he would have two Clubs, but I have the Ac if I need a re-draw. I just call. First dude folds.

Turn: (Kc 5c 4d) 2s. Sweet, a brick! I just check. Old guy pauses for a moment, stacks up the rest of his chips, and pushes for $78. I can't say "Call" fast enough. Neither one of us show our hand yet.

River: (Kc 5c 4d 2s) Kd - "NO!" I say loudly when that ridiculous card hit the felt. I flip over my AA in disgust. Old geezer shows KQ.

Preflop, I decided I was willing to play a big pot with this hand, and I got my wish. I read the situation properly, and got the old fart to put his whole stack into the pot drawing to five outs.

Nice hand, sir!

Hand #3 - 1/2 Horseshoe Hammond
A few limpers to me. I see 97d in the Cutoff, and limp. Button raises to $7. Four players go to the flop, including me.

Flop: Jh 9c Js - It checks to the Button, who bets $18. It folds to me. I call the $18. I'm fairly sure he doesn't have the J. He's seems to be a solid, no-nonsense player, so I decide to make a move. I'm gonna try to represent the J.

Turn: (Jh 9c Js) 2d - I bet $30. He calls. It looks like he's got an overpair.

River: (Jh 9c Js 2d) 5c - I bet $50. He thinks for a while, and plays with his chips. He reluctantly calls. Crap! I tell him that he's got it, but he doesn't show. So I turn my hand up, and he shows Qc Qs.

This is why I rarely make a big bluff. I don't know if he can't lay down an Overpair, or I just suck at bluffing. If I did have the J, I would have played it the same way.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Blue Chip and a Chair

On Day 1 of the tip, I visited Four Winds Casino and Blue Chip Casino. Overall, I didn't catch many cards. I ended up winning a little at Poker, and lost a little more at gambling. That is a sentence that use way too often, and is something that I really need to fix.

Four Winds Casino is huge. Someone told me they are the second largest gaming area in the country. (Foxwoods is the largest.) The poker room has 14 of the PokerPro electronic tables. They have a Bad Beat Jackpot which has ballooned to over $280,000. I assumed that the room would be busy with old geezers playing low stakes poker trying to fund their retirement accounts. But when I walked in at 11am, there was only one full table of .50/1 with a small waiting list for 1/2. It took almost two hours to get a seat at the table. The 1/2 game didn't get started 'til a few hours later. When I left at 8pm, there was only two tables of .50/1 and one 1/2 that wasn't full.

Blue Chip Casino is much smaller, but they are going through an expansion. The poker room is just 10 tables. When I got there at 9pm, they had two tables of 1/2 and two with the evening tournament.

Here are three hands of interest.

Hand #1 - $1/$2 @ Four Winds
I'm the Button with 6h 5d. A few limpers see a Flop of As Tc 6h. Everyone checks.
Turn (As Tc 6h) 5s. BB leads out for $7. One other player calls. I raise to $20 with Bottom Two Pair. BB calls, and other player folds.
River (As Tc 6h 5s) 2s. BB checks. I figure I got the best hand and bet $30. BB check-raises All-in $21 more. I make a crying call, and he shows K7s for the Flush.

I'm such a donk for making the River bet. All I had was Bottom Two Pair. Anything that calls the $30 probably has me beat. The call of the All-In was also bad, since he obviously had the Flush. But it was the River bet the started the mess.

Hand #2 - $1/$2 Four Winds
66 UTG. Table has been passive with not much raising, so I limp in. Someone raises to $6. A few players call, and so do I.

Five players see a Flop of A 9 6. Sweet! I check. A real short stack bets $20. The Cutoff raises enough to put the bettor all-in ($62). The Cutoff is a solid, no-nonsense player, so his raise probably means Two Pair. It fold to me, and I decide to raise to $125. Short Stack calls All-In. Cutoff goes into deep though. He finally says, "I'm not good enough to fold this," and calls.

Turn (A 9 6) 4. I bet $153, which puts Cutoff All-In. He thinks for a bit, and says, "I don't know what you got, but I fold." He shows A 6. The River card is meaningless, and I win a nice size pot.

In hindsight, I think I overplayed my hand. Being a solid, no-nonsense player, he may not be willing to dump his stack on the table with Two Pair. He showed aggression on the Flop. I think I should have just called, and then check-raised the Turn, when he would be more pot-committed.

Hand #3 - $1/$2 Blue Chip
I just sat at the table a few hands ago. UTG+1 raises to $7. Two callers to me. I'm the Cutoff and look down at Ts Th. I don't want to play this hand with a lot of callers, so I raise to $20. Button cold calls. UTG+1 calls. Player A thinks for a bit, and reluctantly calls. Player B calls. Five player go to the Flop of a +$100 pot. This is gonna be fun.

Flop: Ah 7d 4d. Yuck! I hate the A, and since the Td make the Flush, only the Tc helps me. I mentally click the 'Check/Fold' button. All five players check.

Turn: (Ah 7d 4d) Tc. Holy Crap! I just hit a one-outer. UTG+1 bets $10 into a +$100 pot. Player A calls. Player B fold. I grab a stack of chips, and shove it forward. It ends up as $60. Perfect. Button folds. UTG+1 pauses, then folds. Player A, who reluctantly called preflop, goes into the tank. He's only got $55 left, and finally pushes it in.

River is a brick, and I show my Set. He doesn't show, but I can assume that he had a weak Ace.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Road Trip

On my days off from my real job, I often go to my second job by heading to a casino for a day trip. Occasionally, I'll take a couple of vacation days around my off days, and make a road trip out of it. Past road trips have included Las Vegas, Tunica, upstate New York, and southern Indiana.

I usually go alone, but I have also gone with others. Either way is fine with me. It's cool to hang with some people, especially for the long drives. But going solo give me the freedom to be on my own schedule and do what I want. I also have a bit of Lone Wolf in me. It's one of the reasons that I'm still single.

This time I'm going solo to Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan. I leaving on Wednesday morning, and returning on Saturday in time for my weekly game. It's my first time in that area, and I'll be checking out five different casinos:

Ameristar Casino Hotel - East Chicago, IN
Blue Star Casino & Hotel - Michigan City, IN
Four Winds Casino & Resort - New Buffalo, MI
Harrah's Horseshoe Casino - Hammond, IL
Majestic Star Casino & Hotel - Gary, IN

I will spend a lot of time at some of these properties, and others I will just stop by and check out.

The one that I'm most looking forward to is Four Winds. They have the first poker room in the country to have all ProkerPro tables from PokerTek. I know that many players think that electronic tables are evil, but I haven't played on them yet. So I'm gonna spend some time there, and get an objective opinion of the tables.

I feel that over the next five years, about half of the poker rooms in the country will switch over to these tables. Not the big name rooms, nor those with big money games, but the little rooms with 6-10 tables that just spread $1/$2NL or $3/$6 Limit, and maybe a daily tournament. It's just more cost effective to have the PokerPro tables, than to have the extra dealers and floor people. Both Las Vegas and Atlantic City have rooms with PokerPro tables.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mountaineer Review

UPDATED: 3/23/10

Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort is located in Chester, WV, just over the border from East Liverpool, Ohio. They have a full casino, poker room, hotel, horse racing, and concert arena.

Poker Room:
The poker room has 40 tables, and is very open and spacious. The room is only three year old, so everything is fairly new and clean.

The games that are spread daily are $1/$2 NLHE and $2/$4 Limit Hold'em. They might get a $2/$5 NL game in the evening. On weekends, they might get a $5/$10 NL, an uncapped $1/$2 PLO, and $3/$6 Omaha H/L with a full Kill.

The rake is 10% $5 max. They do have a Bad Beat Jackpot. Aces Full of Kings beaten by Quads is the qualifier, and you must use a pocket pair of the Full House and Quads. Their website has an updated current value of the BBJ. Only half of the BBJ drop goes to the Jackpot. The other half goes to various promotions they do. Check out their website for more information, as the promotions change from time to time

Even though there are 40 tables, the room is usually half full or less, and they don't even use the area where they used to hold the $2/$5 or larger games. The last time I was there on a Thursday night 8pm in February '10, and they had 2 $1/$2 tables, 4 tournament tables, and an interest list for $2/$4. Weekends are usually busier, especially in the evenings but I never get down there due to scheduling conflicts.

The dealers and staff were terrible when they first opened, but have improved over time. On the other hand, the players have not improved. The word I would use to describe the players at Mountaineer is passive. Some are tight & passive, and some are loose & passive, but most of them are passive. They do a lot of limping preflop, or calling standard raises. They bet small, and raise the minimum. I have heard stories about players playing wild, crazy aggressive, but I rarely sit at a table with them.

Tournaments at Mountaineer are actually decent. They have two daily tournaments, 12:15 & 7pm, for $55. It's a fast structure, but what do you expect for $55. On weekends, the tournaments are deeper, but more expensive. Once a month they have a two-day tournament for $1000, and a 'Ladies Only' tournament.

Mountaineer does offer comps for poker players, sort of. They have the 'Bravo' system which swipes your Players Card at the table, and tracks your hours of play. I haven't been able to get a straight answer as to how much a player can earn, but it seems to be in the neighborhood of $.10 - $.25 per hour.

The Casino is in a separate building from the Poker Room. Although, upstairs from the poker is a small gaming area with slots, a few table for Blackjack and and a Craps table.

Mountaineer offers most of the usual table games except Pia Gow and Baccarat. Table minimums are between $5 and $10. They even offer $5 Blackjack all day long.

The Video Poker is terrible. They have only a few machines, and the pay tables are tight (under 95%). I can only assume that the slot machines are equally tight.

As with the Poker Room, the comps are terrible. They don't even offer a free room at the Hotel. Just a discount depending on how many points you've earned recently. I think the main reason for comps is to get free Fries with your overpriced hamburger. This is what happens when there is no nearby competition for this casino. With Pennsylvania getting full service casinos this summer, hopefully Mountaineer will start to give back to their customers.

The food options are not good. They have a few snack bars, one by the Poker Room, and another in the Casino. There is a regular sit-down restaurant, but it's overpriced for the quality. I believe they have a fancier restaurant, if you're into to those things, but I've never eaten at it.

They did have a Buffet in the Casino. It was the worst Buffet that I've ever been to. As of March '10, they relaunched the new Buffet, but I haven't been there yet.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Ringleader

As I've mentioned before, I run a Saturday night tournament & cash game at Dave W's home in Lorain. My official title is 'Tournament Director', but I prefer 'Ringleader' because this place can be a circus.

Over the last few months, attendance has been between 15 and 35 players for the tournament, and a few extra show up for the cash game. Only a few players actually show up before the start time of 8pm. Last night, we started up with 10 players on two tables. Before the first hand was over, eight more players walked down the steps, so I opened up the third table. Players kept walking in over the next 30 minutes, and I ended up opening up the fourth table. The final player, #35, showed up about 9:15.

The tournament starts with 5000 chips & 20 minutes levels with a fairly standard structure starting at 25/50. I offer an Add-On of 3000 chips for $10 anytime up to the first break. They can use it as a rebuy, an add-on, or they can start out with 8000 chips. This has been a big success because it adds a bit of strategy to the tournament. Most players use it as an emergency rebuy. This means that after the late buy-ins have finally arrive, players start going busto and shouting, "Rebuy".

Between the late buy-ins and the rebuys, I don't get to play much poker before the first break. I don't stop the clock when I have to attend my TD duties. I don't feel it's fair to the other players. I even have a standing order to the players at my table; "Always fold me if I'm not here, even if I'm in the Blinds." It's not uncommon for me to miss an entire orbit during Level 1.

In addition, I also have to balance tables, break tables, color up chips during breaks, get up when someone yells 'Floor!', count the money, figure out payouts, and occasionally Bank for the cash game.

This happens every week. This week was even more hectic because 35 players showed up, instead of the 15 we had a few weeks ago.

Does it affect my play? Probably, but not much. I've adjusted. My basic strategy here is, "fold to the Final Table." That doesn't mean that I only play QQ or better. I just don't force the action, and I wait for my opportunities.

In the last seven tournament, I've made five Final Tables, with three cashes and two bubbles, including last night (6th place). When this 'job' started on September 6, I had the goal of make half of the Final Tables. So far I'm 7/15 with a win and three other cashes.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Overnighteer at Mountaineer

Wednesday night I went to Mountaineer, and spent the night at their hotel. They sent out some coupons for discounted rooms, so I thought I would give it a try. I usually just make the two hour drive in the AM, and head home in the PM. Overall, this was a good experience, and I will do it again.

Profit between the Casino and Poker Room was -$10. I really didn't have any big wins or losses. I just couldn't get any run going. There was two hands that could have made this a very profitable trip if things had played out a little different.

Hand #1: Wednesday night $1/$2
I've been sitting at this table for a few hours, and I'm up a little. A Kid raises to $12 from UTG. Kid has been very quiet, and not playing many hands. He seems like a no-nonsense player. One caller when it gets to me in late position. I look down at AA.

I decided to raise to $30. I'm not a big fan of being over aggressive preflop. But if I just call, I would be the 3rd player in the pot, and others may jump in for pot odds. Also, I'm hoping that he's got a big pair, JJ or better, and re-raises me.

Everyone but Kid folds. He just calls.

Flop: Ac Qc 4c. Kid thinks for a bit, then checks. I bet $50. Normally, I would just check Top Set in a Heads-Up pot. But with an all-Flush board, I can't risk a 4th Club on the Turn. I would either be chasing my Boat, or have no chance of getting any more chips out of the Kid.

Now he goes in to deep thought mode, and so do I. I'm not sure if he's really thinking, or just hollywooding AxKc. I decide that if he moves All-In (looks like $200-$250), then I would call. I don't like gambling in a cash game, but this hand is just too strong to fold.

Instead, he folds his hand face up. Two red Kings. "No!", I said, as I show my hand. It was the right play for him. That is a very ugly board for Kh Kd out of position.

Yes, I won a decent pot, but it's still frustrating. AA vs KK is so rare for me. If the flop had been different...

Hand #2 Thursday afternoon $1/$2

I was at the table for a while, and down a little in chips. Just not many opportunities so far. I look at T8h in the SB. There are many limpers, so I just toss another white chip on the table. Seven players see the Flop of Qs Ts 8s.

I hit Two Pair, but that's an action board, so I bet $11. Player A in Mid-position calls. Player B on the Button raises to $30. Since I'm out of position, I just call the $30 to see what happens. However, Player A raises All-In for about $65 more. Player B just calls.

At this point, I'm not sure what Player A has, but Player B seems to have a Flush. Since I'm looking at hitting a 4-outer, I fold. Player A shows QJ for Top Pair with a Gutshot. Player B shows 65s for a Flush.

Of course, the Turn is [Qs Ts 8s] Td, giving me the Boat. I know that folding was the right decision. But sometimes I feel I need to let my inner donkey out, and get lucky making some bad calls.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bad Beat Stories

Now that I've been playing poker for a few years, I have found that I hate bad beat stories. I don't want to hear them, and I don't like telling them. I think they all sound the same, "I had the best hand, but I still lost." There is a reason they show the Win% on TV. Sometimes the % doesn't work out the way you want. AA only win 4 out of 5 times, and that's if they're played properly.

Lately, I've been noticing something about my 'game'. When I bust out of a tournament, or donk off chips in a cash game, I can usually find a reason that I busted out, rather than just saying it was a bad beat. Something that I screwed up, or could have done differently. I still would have lost the hand, but I might not have lost as many chips if I had played it differently.

I think this means my 'game' is growing and evolving. Or maybe I'm just screwing up too much. I'm not sure.

For example, this hand happened a few weeks ago at my Saturday tournament. Being a home game, we've got a lot a players showing up late. Chan arrived in Level 2 (50/100), and was seated at my table. Chan is what you might call a 'Crazy Asian'. He's a good player, and I respect his game, but he does some crazy aggressive stuff.

In his first hand, he's UTG and raises to 450. The player next to him calls. I'm the Button, and also call with 97o. Flop: 8 6 5. Yahtzee! Chan bets 700. Next player calls. I raise to 2000 with the Nut Straight. Chan thinks for a moment and calls. The other player folds.

Turn: [8 6 5] 6. Chan bets 1500. This confused me a bit. I showed strength by raising the Flop, and he leads out when the board pairs. I just call the 1500.

River: [8 6 5 6] 7. Chan 'hollywoods' for a bit, and shoves All-In for just over 5000. In frustration, I say, "I flopped the Straight. I call." Chan flips over 86s for a boat. I'm left with just 400 chips, and was eliminated shortly after.

Now many players would consider this a Bad Beat, and they would be right. I flopped the Nut Straight, and Chan turned a four outer. There was no way I could have won this pot. But did I need to waste 5K in chip by making a crying call on the River?

After the 7 hit the board, it counterfeited my Straight. So what could I beat? An Overpair, or A6s is about it. As I said before, Chan can be crazy, but he's not stupid. He wouldn't overplay AA this badly. Even if he had 99, we would be chopping. It's always possible that he's bluffing, but I've played with him for a few years now, and this is not a place that he would do this, especially on his first hand.

He played his hand straight forward (except for raising UTG with 86s). He flopped Two Pair, and bet. He turned a Full House, and bet. He figured his hand was good, and pushed on the River. Had I taken a moment to think this out, I would have realized all this, and hung around in the tourney longer.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dave's Saturday Night

I belong to the Cleveland Poker Meetup Group (CPMG). It's a large group of people from the Cleveland area who get together to play cards at the homes of various players. All games are rake-free, and perfectly legal. We've even had cops play in some of our games.

Every Saturday night, I co-host a game at Dave W's home in Lorain (about 30 minutes West of Cleveland). We hold it in his basement, which is very large and open. We've got four tables, with room for more, if necessary.

My role in this partnership is Tournament Director, or Ringleader, as I call it.

The tournament is $20 for T5000, with a $10 AddOn/Rebuy for T3000. Fairly standard structure, 20 minute levels. Lately we've been averaging in the mid-20s for players, but have had as many as 40.

The Cash game after the tournament is $1/$1 NLHE ($20 min - $150 max). We usually get two tables running. The 2nd table sometimes is a mix of NLHE & PLO

This week I placed 3rd out of 23 in the tournament for $110. I was able to get a chip stack early, which is unusual for me. Since I'm the Ringleader running the show, I've got to handle the late buy-ins, the AddOns/Rebuys, and table balancing. It tends to be a bit of a distraction from my poker game.

The cash game was also good for me, thanks mostly to one mega-trainwreck. I had flopped an Open-Ended Straight Flush Draw vs Middle Set vs Overpair. All the money got in quickly, and I rivered the Straight to take down a pot of around $275. Pretty good size for a $1/$1 game.

Overall, I walked out of Dave's +$324. Sometimes these games seems like a job to me that I've got to do every Saturday night. It's really nice to get a paycheck for it.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Since this is my first entry, I'll introduce myself.

I've been playing poker for a couple of years , and I am now playing it as a second job. I would rank myself as 'Above Average' as both a Tournament and a Cash player. I've got some skillz, and feel that I've got a good understanding of the game. But I've still got some things that really need to improve before I would consider myself a 'Good' player.

I play mostly No-Limit Hold'em, because that's what the cool kids are playing these days. I really do enjoy all forms of Poker (PLO, HORSE, Chinese, etc...), but it's hard to find games, even at the casinos in this part of the country.

I play mostly live, both in Casinos and Home games. I belong to a group that is a network of home games, and I run a regular home tournament & cash game every Saturday night at someone's home in Lorain. I also make regular day trips to either Mountaineer or Detroit, as well as the occasional road trip to nearby casino cities. I've been to Vegas twice, but never to Atlantic City.

My bankroll isn't that large, so my main game is $1/$2 at the casinos. I will dip my toe in the $2/$5 water occasionally, and need to start doing it more regularly to improve my game (and bankroll, I hope). Home games are from $.25/$.50 to $1/$2.

I do play a little Online. 'GregDude' is my screen name on PokerStars and Cake Poker (I luv Rakeback). I don't play that often, and have only about $500 between both sites. I know I could grind out $100-$200 per week if I put in the time, but Online poker just bores me. It is a different game than Live poker, and Live is such a more enjoyable game. I really prefer the social aspects of playing cards, and shooting the bull, rather than just staring at a screen of 2 or 3 tables.

I've been thinking about doing a blog for awhile now, and have finally gotten around to it. I'm not sure how often this will be updated or what direction it will go. Procrastination is not of my better qualities.