Thursday, October 28, 2004

Back to basics online

After my blog yesterday about online poker I decided to start playing Pot Limit Omaha again. So last night I sat down with $400 on two tables on Paradise Poker. I actually managed to concentrate and play well and ended up finishing with $1500 on one table and going bust on the other table. Still a $700 profit is a good start. One thing about playing Omaha online to playing live is the amount of stupid draws people chase down. The table I went bust on was through a complete miracle. I was up to $500 and on the flop hit middle set and the nut flush draw on a 5JK flop. Get called on the flop and the turn card is a 8. I bet out again for most my chips and get called. River card is an 7 so am now looking at a 4JK87 board. Of course the guy had hit a miracle 56 straight…. He had top pair and the K flush draw so was drawing dead on the flop and the turn gave him one out which he hit. That was a $1050 pot and it made me angry but I managed to keep calm and still manage a winning session. Also online in Omaha there is no point in betting with a bare A when a flush is showing as players always call with smaller flushes… which is great when you slowplay the nut flush. ;-)

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Online Poker.....

It’s only in the last year that I have really started playing online poker. I have to admit that I am yet to crack it. I have played at various times on Pokerstars, Partypoker, Paradise Poker, Victor Chandler and Betfair.

Looking back through my online records for 2004 I can see that despite gambling A LOT of money online I am only about 10/15% up on my entire stake. I am up on Paradise and Victor Chandler, even on Betfair (somehow) and down on Party and Pokerstars. A lot of this has come down to my game selection. My best game no doubt is still PL Omaha though I feel like I have improved my NL Hold em game a lot in the last year. My swings at playing the 2/4 Omaha on Party/Paradise/Pokerstars have left me to decide for the time being anyway that I will stick to playing Hold em online and leave the high stakes Omaha playing for when I go to the casino.

I can pinpoint exactly why I have lots of losing sessions online and here are the three most significant factors in order.

I play when drunk
Quite often when I have been to the pub or something I will play pissed. Whilst I can still play when drunk if I get unlucky my tilt is much worse than when I am sobre. I have been trying to find ways of stopping myself from doing this. Any ideas I would be extremely grateful.

I hardly ever play to the best of my ability
In my spreadsheet I decided for all poker I play…. Online/offline/cash/tournaments to give an honest rating of how I feel I played out of 10. Here are my results based on my average performance since June.

Online cash – 4.65/10
Live Tournaments 6.4/10
Live Cash – 7.1/10

I clearly have a problem playing well online a lot of the time. A score below 5/10 as an average is clearly shocking. With such a low rating its probably only the number of bad players especially on VC and Betfair that have kept me in profit.

My game selection
My two best games for making a profit are Omaha and Sit n Go’s. Due to the fact I play Omaha cash live I decided to not play big stakes Omaha online. Sit n Go’s I find quite frankly tedious. So I have recently been playing NL Cash Games where the swings are very big and I go on tilt a lot when players get very lucky against me.

I need to look at my game selection and only play when I am in the mood and to try and concentrate better. I think I will start playing the $100 Sit n Go’s as a starting point. If I play 2/3 at a time it should stop me getting too bored.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

European Poker Tour in London

I had been getting excited as this tournament came around as it’s the biggest by far that I have played in so far. I decided I was going to play my game and not too cautiously despite the entrance fee. I sold half my entry fee for this tournament so was hoping to make a few people happy with a good finish. I had “the camel” on my table but he is the only player I recognize. There are a few passive players but nobody particularly aggressive and a guy being photographed by Timeout. I’m feeling confident after my 5th placed finish on Thursday.

Starting chips were 10000 and I played extremely tight and saw very few playable hands up to the break which was at 7pm after I’d played for 4 hours. I had 12,500 chips at this point so I wasn’t short stacked but knew I had to move up a couple of gears. With blinds at 250/500 I find QQ under the gun. I raised to 2000 to play and the guy to my left re-raises me to 4000. He has raised quite a few times pre-flop and though I am slightly worried about an over pair I move all in for another 5500. After he goes into the think tank I know that I am winning. Though he takes so long I am certain he has AK. He eventually calls and I hit a Q on the flop. I have a sweat on the turn when he gets a flush draw but the last card is a blank to double me up. I didn’t get any decent cards for a few hours then and found myself short chipped when we were down to 5 tables. With only 14000 and blinds of 1000/2000 I moved all in with 77 and got extremely lucky. One of the pro players has AA behind me and I somehow manage to spike a 7 on the turn to get me up to 30000 chips. I then started to get some playable hands and reached 60000 when we got down to the final 4 tables. This is when the tournament turned for me with the blinds at 1500/3000 I find 99, TT, TT, 88. Each time though before I get chance to raise a massive raise comes in before me so all of them get laid down. Maybe I should have played one of these hands? The raise was usually 15000 or 20000 to play so I would be committing a lot of chips and these are marginal in my opinion when faced with big raises. So in the last hour after laying down these hands and getting re-raised all in when I did raise with A9 on the button by the big blind when I folded I find myself reaching day 2 with 34000.

Day 2

With 34000 chips and the 19th biggest stack out of 21 I know that I need to double up pretty fast. The blinds are a massive 3000/6000 and running antes are 500. Still I am excited to have make the 2nd day of a European poker tour event. I had a restless night mainly replaying the last few hours when I should have maybe made some more moves and had allowed myself to lose half my stack. In my mind I decided that the first decent hand I had I was going to move all in. In retrospect (which is always easy) I should have passed this hand. First hand I find TJ suited and decide to lump all my chips in the middle. I know if I can pick up this hand I will be up to 50000 chips and be in a more comfortable position. Dave Colclough is to my left and is also short chipped. He thinks for 2 minutes and moves all in. The small blind also goes all in and now I know I am in deep trouble. Dave shows 88 and the small blind KK. Both make a set to send me and Dave out of the tournament. I guess I maybe shouldn’t have moved with TJ suited but I was big blind next hand and had no time to wait for a big hand. I gambled and lost. Overall I think I played very well. I look back and can only think of two mistakes I made throughout the tournament. On a general strategy note perhaps I played too tight at times and should have seen more flops.

Finishing on the bubble of the money is always nasty especially when 18th place paid £5000.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Pot Odds

Pot Odds and Playing Position

Learning how to work out pot odds will help you make the correct decision when faced with calling bets from other players. Pot odds are the odds when drawing to a hand. You can use 'pot odds' to determine if you should call or fold.

Firstly it is important to learn how to calculate your pot odds. To do this, one methodology is to count how many 'outs' you have to win the hand. An out is a card that will make your hand the best hand. There is a simple way to calculate the approximate percentage chance you have of hitting an out on the next card: multiply the number of outs you have by 2 and add 2. Favourable pot odds are when the percentage chances of winning the hand is higher than the percentage of the pot that your opponent has bet. Let’s take an example. Say you have 78 and the board is a 56AQ. You are sure that someone else has at least a pair and that you are losing. You need a 4 or a 9 to make the top straight, therefore there are a total of 8 cards (4 suits of 4 and 4 suits of nine) that would improve your hand so that you make a winning straight. Applying the simple calculation explained earlier, you multiply 8 by 2 (16) and add 2 to make 18. You have approximately 18% or 1/5 chance of making that straight on the next card. You now need to look at the size of the pot. If the pot is 900 chips and your opponent bets 100 chips, taking the total pot to 1000, you will have to bet 10% of the pot if you want to call. So you have 18% chance of hitting the card that will give you a straight, and only need to bet 10% of the pot. This is a situation where you have favourable pot odds, and therefore should call. Using this example further, any bet from your opponent below 180 chips would give you favourable pot odds whilst any bet above 180 would pot odds in your opponents favour.
Sometimes pot odds make it favourable for you to call when only one card will improve your hand. Look at the following situation. You have JQ, the board is showing AK4, the pot is 2000 and you are faced with a bet of 100. Should you call? By working out the pot odds yes. Although you know you can only win with a T that will give you the top straight TJQKA, the percentage chance of hitting that ten is 1/10 or 10% ((4x2)+2). Therefore you are getting odds of 10% by calling a bet that is 5% of the pot. As you become more used to understanding and using pot odds in your favour it will become second nature to work them out!

Probability is an essential skill, when playing texas hold 'em. You should use odds to determine your actions. It is important to know your odds of making a straight or flush. Knowledge of the probability of you making your hand and pot odds are especially essential skills when playing online. Statistics should be a major factor when you decide whether to raise, bet, fold or call.

Another skill that you can learn and utilize to your advantage when playing tournaments is position. The person on the button (dealer) has an advantage because he can see what moves all the other players at the table make before making a decision.
The person to the left of the dealer is the small blind and the person to their left is the big blind. The player to the left of the big blind is first to act before board cards are dealt.
Here are some key tips regarding position assuming you are on a full table.

You must be much more selective when acting in early position before the flop. If you are first or second to act you must remember that there are 8 or 9 players who have yet to decide upon how to act. You should be far more cautious about what hands you call and raise with in this position. It is probably only worth playing if you are willing to call a raise and have a very strong hand. You must also take into account that you will be first to act throughout this hand giving your opponent a distinct advantage of seeing your decision first.

If you are the dealer or in a late position you can play with worse hands than if you have an early position because you get to see what moves your opponents make before deciding how to act. To illustrate the importance of position imagine you are dealt JA and you are first to act. If you look at the ranking of this hand by clicking here( you can see that it is ranked 20th out of all possible hold em starting hands. If you call the bet it is highly likely that one of the 9 players behind you will raise you with a hand ranked higher than this. Whereas if you are in a late position you could fold, call or raise with this hand because you will have the distinct advantage of seeing how other players act throughout the hand.

One of the most common moves in poker is by players in a late position stealing blinds. If all the players have folded and you are in a late position it is a very common poker move to make a raise to try and steal the blinds even if you have a bad hand. A lot of the time this play will be successful in picking up some chips. However, if you are on the big blind and you feel that the same player is constantly stealing your blind by raising it may be worth re-raising him. Firstly so he thinks twice before trying to steal your blind again and secondly he will probably lay down a weak hand and you will pick up some chips.

Friday, October 22, 2004

European Poker Classics 2004

I decided that I was going to enter all the tournaments in the Festival especially as it was on my home turf. I wasn't exactly full of confidence going into it as I had suffered a few really horrific beats in a big cash game a few days earlier. Sure enough for the first three tournaments I hardly saw any cards. Especially in the £750 NL Hold em freezeout on the Tuesday on the 5th October. I managed to play for 3 hours and the best hand I saw was AJ... what garbage. I was bemoaning my luck. I also seemed to be losing any coin flip that I was involved in. I decided that for the £300 freezeout on Thursday I was going to play more aggressively and see some flops. I was on a table with Joe “the elegance” Beevers and he soon found a few cards and tripled his stack. I was seeing alot of flops and hitting a few cards and getting beat a few times but at least I was having fun again after my torturous Tuesday. I got into a healthy chip position and made the final two tables to return the next day.

On day two of the tournament I continued to play aggressively and felt that I had good reads on a few of my opponents from either previous tournaments or cash games. I was feeling confident again and soon i had made the final table. The blinds were high and the majority of pots were won without seeing the flop. Slowly the table dwindled down to 5 and blinds were 3000/6000. I had 55000 chips and although i had the shortest stack i felt good about my chances due to the inexperience of the players remaining. I found A2 suited in position on the box and moved all in to steal the blinds and ante's. The big blind called and i though fair enough he must have a big hand. He turned over KJ. I hit my A on the flop and he hit a K. Of course he hit a K on the river to send me packing. I still think it was a bad call by him because he was behind to any A and he risked most of his chips on a very marginal hand. Especially as whenever i moved all in before that hand I had shown an A at least.

I finished 5th out of 198 runners which was a good result all in all and set me up nicely for the EPT £3000 event the following day.

Pretending to be a fish :-)

I have many poker memories but one that will always stick in my mind is a visit to the Rainbow Casino in Birmingham. I was 21 at the time and anyone that knows me will tell how young I look now. I decided that as I was visiting a friend in Birmingham that I would go up a night early and try my luck in the Rainbow. I sat down with £350 at the Omaha table. I could see there eyes light up and I decided to pretend that I had hardly played before. I think they were competing to see who could skin the fish first. I decided to play a little trick on them. I called a £30 bet on the river when there was a flush and one other caller with a 7 flush. Of course I knew I was losing and probably to both players. This was part of the grand plan though. A few hands later I flop the A flush and slow play it all the way to the river as one guy was betting. I moved all in on the river and he called without hesitation and looked at me in disgust as I turned over the nuts and I was quickly up to £700. I think the other players are even more excited as there is now £700 to take off me. I then hit a monster hand which is probably one of my favorites of all time. I have 7789T and its 5 card Omaha. Its flops 567 so I not only have the nut straight but have straight improvements and top set and there is no flush draw. One guy bets £50 another raises to £200 and there are 4 callers including myself. The turn is a rag 2 and there is still no flush draw. I move all in for £500 and get 3 callers. I can't lose this hand unless someone hits quads though I know I may be in a three way spilt at the moment. Last card BANG a 7. I have hit quads and I scoop a pot of around £3000. A year or so later I bumped into one of the players that I played with that night and he was amused at my "I'm a newbie tactic."

My age has always been a major advantage to me playing poker especially with strangers. I have used this to my advantage many times. I'm sure players have played looser against me because they think I am just out of school. Poker is about edges and this has always been a significant one for me.

My biggest poker win comes when i don't even play?

I went down with one of my poker mates Adam Matusiak to play in the Main Event of the summer breeze festival in Brighton. We decided to go down on the Friday and go out for some beers the night before the tournament. BIG MISTAKE. We both get so drunk that i decide i am too hungover to play in the competition. So i played a cash game instead that included Marcel Luske and pay £200 of Adam £500 entry to keep an interest in the tournament and perhaps even get 40% of his potential winnings. Well despite little sleep and a hangover Adam managed to outplay a strong field of 115 players to pick up a first prize of £20,760 of which i got £6000. As it was his first major tournament this was an excellent result and i'm sure there will be more to come. The tournament in Brighton seemed extremely well run and it was a nice location. I am sure to go back and visit again sometime.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Why a blog?

I like writing about poker and have written a few articles on poker some of which will appear on my blog. Also I have a fair bit of time on my hands in work so when I’m bored I can just write something about poker. It’s also a good way of keeping track of thoughts about different games and what’s hot and what is not in the poker world.

My poker History

Despite the fact I am 26 years old I picked up the poker bug back in 1990. I happened to be friends with the son of the 1990 WSOP champion Mansour Matloubi. I think the fact that someone won over a $1000000 activated something in my brain that has been with me ever since. I started playing way back when I was 11 years old. I grew up with friends playing Omaha which is why I still probably consider it my best game. I entered my first tournament which a £5 Texas Hold em NL rebuy tournament where I grew up in Cardiff. With over 40 runners I managed to win it. Though the players that I spent the next 3 years playing with claimed they let me win it to hook another fish. We shall never know :-)

It seems ages ago that I used to play in those £5 and £10 buy in tournaments in Cardiff. Even now I think I must have been an extremely lucky player back. I would rarely think about position, blind structures, other player’s styles and all the other Intricacies that now enter my head when I play tournaments and cash games. Once I managed to win 4 tournaments on the trot which was particularly nice when I was a struggling student.

I now play in London at the Vic and sometimes Gutshot. I can normally be found playing the £250 or £500 Omaha or Dealers Choice cash games. I have started to play in some big tournaments of late as well with some success. My profile can be seen at