Friday, September 26, 2008

He was my boss, he was my friend...

...but, unfortunately, "was" is the operative word.

Michael J. Castlebury passed away on Wednesday, September the 24th, from complications related to Stage IV Melanoma. He was diagnosed with the condition, which manifested in his shoulder, while he and I were on a business trip to New Orleans together in June.

The aggressive chemotherapy proved too much for his relatively young (62) body.


Between that and the stresses of getting my Las Vegas trip together, I have little heart to write until I return next week.

See you all then.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

POKER DRIVEL: Playing Position

I try not to simply regurgitate things I've read from other sources in my poker travels. I prefer to put a personal spin on the topic and tell my readers how I, personally, have had success with the topic at hand. I know you all know about playing position, so it's entirely possible many of you will consider skipping over this particular post... Well, here I am, asking you to stick around and see what I have to say... I think I might be able to shed a unique light on the subject that perhaps you haven't considered before.

I spent the early portions of my poker hobby not paying too much attention to position. It seemed that pure position bets were always called and I was just throwing money at the loons in the name of a concept best left for professionals. So I played hands like AJ and 55 exactly the same UTG as I would on the button. With the rest of my game being pretty solid, it worked okay, but sustainable profit was elusive to me in ring play.

That all changed a few months ago, partly due to all this blogging myself and my dear Poker Academy friends are now doing. In my reading, someone said something I hadn't considered before. They said playing position against the typical (not very good) ring game player had more to do with maximizing profits than with taking stabs at a pot when everyone else has checked. You see, as my last article pointed out (Foiling the Lazy Post-Flop Bet), mediocre (and worse) players are far too fond of betting without enough information and without a detailed plan or explanation for why they're putting money on the table. That fact alone adds value to your flopped sets, flushes, and top two. Because you act last, or close to it, more people have a chance to bet into you when you have a solid hand. Moreover, if you react properly to these bets (more on predatorial betting / checking / calling later), it's entirely possible you could get the donk feeling like they are the one on the prowl - eager to put money into a pot you've got dominated.

Ever since I read that, I've been playing a little differently, and has paid off extremely well. Around half of my upswings are a direct result of playing position and letting players make bad decisions in front of me. Case in point, from last night on Full Tilt:


25NL (.10/.25)

I have 55, one off the button. I like to play pocket pairs, but 5's are awfully small... So I'll generally limp with them if I can or call a small bet, but I don't like to get in for too much with a hand that's gonna be complete crap after the flop 85% of the time.

A few callers, then the guy two seats to my right raises it by $1.25 to $1.50... With a SB, BB, and three callers, it was a pot of $1.10 before the raise, $2.60 after. It's $1.50 to me, better than half the pot, and I'm tempted to lay it down... I don't know how many are going to call behind me and 55 is extremely likely to be in horrible shape.

But... I think to myself... If I can get two more players to lay it down, I get to act last. This is also an opportunity for more information gathering. It can be hard for me to throw money on the table with a hand as weak as this, but the more I think about it, the more I like raising here. If nothing else, it sets up a bluff in case he's got something like AK and misses the flop.

I raise to $3.00, just over the minimum but still a raise. Let's see how they react to that.

Everyone folds around to the original raiser, who calls. I've just bought position and some important information. He's probably not on a monster hand and may be vulnerable to a bluff after the flop.

Ad 5s Ts

He gets to act first and leads out with $1. It's a strange bet for this pot. Narrows his hand down to nothing that I don't have dominated at the moment, a set of T's, a set of A's, or two pair. A total of two hands have me beat right now and I'd put serious money that he didn't have Aces preflop or he would have pounced all over my reraise hoping I had Kings or something that I wouldn't lay down. But there is a flush draw out there and this bet could be consistent with a pot control / fishing / hoping I completely missed the flop sort of stab...

I am 99% certain I have his hand crushed and I really think this particular player would either bet more or check the flush draw, then probably call anything short of a full pot bet. He'd call that, too, if he had the nut flush draw and the Ace pair - even with a crap kicker.

I decide to reach into my bag of tricks and pull out one of my "crap poker" stunts... The annoyance raise. I bump the bet to $2 to gauge his reaction. He immediately bumps it again, laying out a pot sized bet (right around $10) with another $15 behind.

This could seem like I may want to slow down, but I really don't think so. I see this behavior all the time and think he would have made this exact move with AK or two pair. I'm nearly confident he would have played Aces and probably Tens harder preflop, so I figure the odds are even more remote than math would indicate that he flopped a higher set. I've got him in the AK hand range.

I also think I've got him off balance and assuming he's ahead and I'm trying to steal the pot from him. I love luring these guys into that situation... They're in love with the predatorial aspect of the game and the sharper predator can sometimes get them to walk into a trap by engaging their ego, confusing them, or both.

I decide it's time to get the rest in the middle and re-raise all-in. I've got him covered by a couple of dollars.

He calls nearly instantly with AhJd - worse than I had figured and entirely dominated.


The river no longer matters. He's done.

Assuming I called his bet before the flop, I was going to win this hand. But the reason I played it like I did, and the reason I made as much as I did, was because position helped me leverage the situation into a maximum profit.

Sure, his willingness to completely overplay a semi-weak Ace (figuring I re-raised pre-flop) had a significant amount to do with it also, but the two factors put together amounted to a knock-out punch and very nice bankroll bump for me.

Friday, September 12, 2008

POKER DRIVEL: Foiling the Lazy OoP Post-Flop Bet

I have to admit, I learned poker all wrong the first time around. I learned how to play "right", how to play solid players, and I experienced a great success rate against other players who were also trying to play right. I was feeling pretty proud of myself until I stepped out into the real world (Vegas, what Poker Academy has become) and got my posterior handed to me time and again.

To that end, I am now learning how to play "real" poker... That is, the kind of poker I'll need to play against all the donks and luck-monkeys both online and at B&M tables everywhere. So I hope you'll forgive me if this article stinks of mediocre poker - because it does. But I've been having a great deal of success with it versus mediocre players, so I wanted to share it with my friends... Do not attempt this at home, or anywhere, against solid players. They will eat you alive.


You're in late position. You look down at AQs. Not bad. Factor position and it's definitely worth a solid raise. Depending on how well isolation is working at the table, maybe 4x - 8x the BB.

Button folds, blinds fold, limper from middle position calls. This seems to be the way it works at least 50 - 70% of the time. If his cards were better than mine, it's almost guaranteed he would re-raise. But he calls. Because he has something like TJ or K9 and he's just DYING to see a flop.

The flop...

4d 7c 2d

He bets between half the pot and the full pot. There's information hidden here. He would generally check a set, trying to trap - the mediocre and worse players seem to love this tactic more than they should. Yes, even with two diamonds on the board. So he's likely to have a flush or straight draw, a small pair, or nothing at all.

I call.

The turn...


Okay, the plot has thickened somewhat, but we've already got a plan for that. He checks, which could mean just about anything. He bet on the flop, so he could have a 4. Neither the flush or the straight came, though.

He checks. I don't hesitate to lay out a pot sized bet.

Generally he folds here. His post-flop bet was a lazy attempt to steal it, figuring I hadn't hit the flop. He now "knows" I've got him beat and lays it down.

Sometimes he raises. Whether or not I think he's lying, I generally lay it down here. Nice play. You've either got it or you made a nice bet at the right time. I need to get out while it's still not horribly expensive.

On rare occassion, he just calls. This is a sticky situation, because he could be a trapper who was a little more clever than you gave him credit for... Or he's still on a draw and isn't doing the math. Hit the brakes a little bit and pay real close attention to his demeanor, remembering that crappy players are usually quite predictable... Acting weak means they're strong, acting strong means they're weak.

Assuming he calls, there's a river. Exactly what it is doesn't matter much to the core of this article. The tactic I'm pointing out here is the use of position to call the post-flop stab and lead out with a bet when he's checked the turn. I've noted a great many situations where they give me exactly this setup then lay it down to my bet on the turn.

On some nights, it's cheap tricks like this that represent the majority of my winnings. Try it out. I think you'll find it works surprisingly well. Just be careful. A decent trapper can take a good amount of chips away from you if you don't smell danger in time.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Still Kickin'

Just wanted to make sure everyone knew I'm still kickin'. Actually playing a whole lot of micro ring (25NL specifically) and doing fairly well. Between that and handling a bunch of database migrations to new hardware platforms, I've been pretty busy lately.

Hoping to get back to blogging and blog-reading soon.