27 August 2005

Wilson Turbo Upgrade Review

I've purchased the upgrades for my Wilson Turbo Hold Em (v. 6) and for Turbo Tournament (v. 5). I'll discuss the Turbo Tournament as I've played it more often. First, the negatives. They've provided animation, I assume to compete with the video games. All of the player faces look like they are cavemen. It is a major distraction which also slows the play down, so I turned it off.

The positives:
  • Play is significantly more realistic than the previous version. Previous version would act predictably, allowing you to check around, then take down a pot with a bet on the turn. Now, you have better quality, more varied play.
  • There is a fourth difficulty level, which is the only level I've played.
  • There are now limit, no-limit, and pot limit tourneys with re-buys optional.
  • There is a WSOP Main Event setting as well.
  • The history feature remains, which keeps track of your financial history/success
There still are some weak areas of the game. Some other simulators provide statistical data to aid in decision making, which would be helpful. The Turbo Hold Em will keep track of your finances, as well as an analysis of starting hand results. I'm not too familiar with Bob Wilson. I assume he's been at this prior to the boom of poker, as James McManus mentions the simulator in his Positively Fifth Street book. It definitely provides stronger quality practice when preparing for a casino trip or a tournament. As with any package, probably alot more functionaltiy that I don't know about. I would recommend it as a standard part of any poker player's desktop or laptop. For a Closet Poker Player, it is indispensable.

25 August 2005

Foxwoods Part I: Overview of Trip

Upon arrival at Foxwoods, I bought into a NL tourney, $120+30. I didn't realize it was a re-buy tournament (which I probably wouldn't have signed up for). I got knocked out, re-bought for $60 (received $500 in chips to start, then got another $500 for the re-buy). Waded around until the add-on period, which was another $120 for $1,000 in chips, so my investment was $330 (didn't know about the add-on until it was happening).

I was able to double up with an overpair, then our table broke. I built my stack up much better to about $5,000 with a flopped set when I played a hand poorly with QhJh (called a bet of $1,100 with the blinds to act, then a guy went all-in for another $1,200). Eventually misplayed AA when I got down to $1,400 with blinds at $150/300 with $25 ante. Was trying to quadruple up, and the small blind flopped two baby pairs, and that was that.

Shouldn't have played this tourney, I don't think, due to not understanding the structure, as well as never playing or practicing a re-buy tourney (as well as not allocating the funds). I debated playing more but passed for the night. Definitely saw the value of patience as many folks were fairly aggressive at pots.

Yesterday, I worked all day (no meals until 5:00). Started at $10/20, and gave up $300. One of the risks at a place like Foxwoods at a medium level like $10/20, I think, is that you have the same players basically playing there all the time. Not as much problem with collusion as knowing everyone at the table, as well as very solid players. I caught the nut flush on the turn to a flopped Q9 full house, which hit my stack hard. I decided to pick up my last $97 in chips and head to a $1/2 no-limit table. I was on a list and started at a new table. Minimum buy-in was $40, and maximum was $100. I don't recall all of the hands, but several of the players at that level were newbies, as well as others who just weren't very good. I was able to build my stack up through a ton of patience (most players would limp in, so 6-7 players was the norm through the night). I was able to build stacks through either good hands, monster catches on flop or turn, or good bluffs. Didn't play many pots at all (probably 15-20%). Ended up winning big pots with sets, a nice gutshot straight that I bet, turned flush, and a few other nice ones. Lost $225 on one pot by re-raising a raised $15 (re-raise was $50). I had KK on flop with nothing on the board, I bet all-in, guy calls me with Ad5d (no draws on the board), turn was the ace. Lost $250 or by re-raising with JJ (pushed a guy off of AQ), one caller (I had re-raised $75). Flop came Qc9cX, I bet $100, and the guy had $112, he calls me, Ac comes on the turn (the last ace), and I put him in (he turns over AK), one of my Jacks was a club, but a blank on the river. I decided to leave after the hand, down $100 for the night.

In the long run, the lower limit NL may be a good thing to play. both of the latter plays were very poor plays on their part. I had only shown one bluff all night and played very few hands, so both of these guys were way behind when they made their decision to call. One guy outplayed me for a medium pot when I laid down top pair from his busted straight draw. Poor decision on my part with poor thinking on my part (he bet the river after checking to me, and he bet $61 into a pot of $180 or so).

For the trip, down $100 in cash games plus the tourney of $330. That takes my bankroll down precariously low (under $1,000). I'll write more about lessons learned from the trip. Had planned to play today, but I need to move on to Maine, so I'm leaving in a bit.

20 August 2005

Very Special Tourney

Horrible traffic with construction. Tourney started at noon, I went two miles in thirty minutes, barely getting there at 11:50. Hardly anyone was there (it was held at Velocity Sports, a training facility for athletes). Finally started at 12:40. 38 players, four tables. Prizes were: 1st $500, 2nd trip to Vegas or Bahamas (probably worth more than first), can't remember third, fourth was two green fees plus dinner for two at Prime. $10,000 in chips, blinds $100/200.

Hand 1: I'm in small blind, three limpers come to me when I look down at AdKd. I raise $800 to make it $1,000 to go. UTG calls (chatty guy in his fifties, just happy to be there). Flop is A63 rainbow. I bet $2,500 into the pot of $3,000, and he calls. Turn is Q and I push all-in. He sits for a minute, then says, "Well, I guess I can re-buy and it is for charity, so I call." He flips over A7. Someone says, "You need a seven," then 7s gets flipped on the river. I get my iPod and say good-bye.

Now, I don't consider that a bad beat story, more of a pure donkey play by a beginner. I don't think you can get too upset by that play. I mean, I would fly that guy anywhere in the world to play at a poker table with him.

On a related topic, I still don't understand why these local bar and charity tourneys let people raise the big blind vs. the previous bet/raise. I've heard people say the theory is to keep people around more (just as the no side pot until the final table). Still, very weird.

My brother-in-law won a tourney at his house yesterday, seven handed. Congrats to the poker marshman.

18 August 2005

Upcoming Charity Tourney

I just signed up for a charity tourney for the Special Olympics. Josh may be there (autographed photos are in the marketing). $3,000 for first if there are 100 entries. It was in the AJC today, so there might be that many. We'll have to see. It's this Saturday at noon on Holcomb Bridge, so pretty convenient.

I showed one of my friends my poker table/room. It's been frustrating not being able to get a home game started, but we're all parents in our 40's so our time is not our own (plus I'm not too connected regularly with the neighbors). I hope he can help get something organized as I'd really like that to be part of my life, the home game. I've got all of the materials, just need to find guys willing to fork over cash. I think that's really the challenge, how to find the right people that will play the right stakes.

I've just been playing my Wilson Turbo simulator software. My brother recommends another program, but I've been pleased with this. I just need more live action. I've been able to use different blind structures/starting chips/number of tables to practice different types of tourneys. I'll be boning up for the Saturday tourney after I find out what the structure is.

I'll probably be playing at either the Borgata or Taj in Atlantic City next Monday and Tuesday. I thought I could also squeeze in Foxwoods, but I don't think that is too practical due to my schedule. We'll see. I'll make sure and keep notes for my first trip report.

15 August 2005

Home Game

I was at my brother-in-law's house Friday night for a tourney. 12 people, two tables with re-buys the first four rounds. I ran into major hands and had to re-buy. Don't remember too much how I got knocked out, but I lasted quite awhile after my re-buy (but went to the rail with 8 folks left). They played forever seven-handed when my brother-in-law raised all-in in bb with four callers in front of him. Newbie calls to his left, then big stack calls, then newbie's girlfriend calls! Brother-in-law had A5 suited, newbie had AK suited, big stack had 55 (absolutely horrible call), and girlfriend has AQ off. Of course, 55 held up, which I was glad (freed my brother-in-law up for cash game). I talked him into playing heads-up freeze-out for $5. First hand we re-raise each other until he's all-in, and I relucantly call with ATd (he has AJ). Then I convince him to play again for $10 and take him, then we get a third to play and I take that. We finally get a five-handed freezeout game, which goes to 3:30 in the morning. I get knocked out with bottom pair heads-up vs. 2nd pair (I bet on flop, turn, then all-in on river). I don't drink, but there were shot flowing, so everyone had a great time.

It seems that local police busting games is becoming more prevalent. There was an article in the Sunday Greenville (SC) News about a bust of a game in a subdivision clubhouse. $100 buy-in with $10 for the house for refreshments. Apparently, they publicized the game on the web. I assume it is fairly easy to bust these games for the police, but it seems like a poor use of resources to worry about evil poker players. This seems like the most innocuous bust to date. No real organized rake, just pooling funds together for refreshments. I would submit some simple ways to prevent these sorts of problems:
  • If possible, invite a member of your community's finest to be part of the game
  • No rakes for home games--bring your own refreshments, or pitch in to buy something specifically
  • Don't keep any written records, as well as anything in the computer. My brother-in-law has a tournament director on his computer that allows you to compute payout, but something similar was quoted in the Greenville article
  • Keep the cash on someone, maybe in a specific money clip or something
I'll try to research any state history/movement in Georgia for legalizing poker. I'm not sure of the groundswell regarding this, but the base is definitely here to make it successful.

11 August 2005

Post-Cash Tourney III

Played bar tourney last night with five tables/35-40 players. Played really well most of the night using my bar-game strategy early on (playing tight aggressive with larger than normal raising). Most of these bar tourneys have an unspoken coda where alot of folks limp in alot early on. $5,000 in chips started, with blinds starting at $100/200. After the first hour or so I built up to $6,500 (up and down a bit). The guy that organized this particular tourney sat at our table two to my right with blinds at $300/600, he raised to $1,500 with his first hand UTG, I looked down at 77 and moved all-in, he counted his chips out and we had an identical stack. He called with AK and didn't hit, so I doubled up there. Caught black KK then red KK the next two hands to get some monster pots. Was in great shape down to the final table when this hand came: I was UTG with KJo and called $2,000. One other guy had a very large stack and had bluffed me out of a couple of raised pots. He called small blind, and flop comes KKJ. He bets $4,000, and I smooth call with two other callers. A on turn, he bets $8,000, I raise another $15,000 guy, big stack immediately moves all-in and I call, he never showed his hand when I flipped over the KJ (he had me covered and was left with about $7,000). Another weird final table deal: alot of folks were chopping the blinds (which I've never seen in any tourney, just in cash games). Well, there was one guy to my left who would chop sometimes after studying his hand. I look down at AA, folded to me in sb, I ask him if he chops. He says no, I call, he raises, I move all-in, he calls with something (maybe KQ or something, I can't remember). Now, I am of the school of thought that you either always chop or never chop, so I didn't particularly like his play. Down to four players, one good guy across from me raised me, I re-raised a big stack with AdKd, he calls. I move all-in before the flop (I was bb), he says, "Hold it, you can't do that ), and I tell him I'm all-in. Flop was 974, he contemplates awhile, then folds.

I had a monster chip lead then pissed it away on two marginal hands when we were down to four players (I knocked out two players all-in with KK). Played TV poker with KJo and KhQh (guy across woke up with AA in bb). I was down to $12,000 with blinds at $2,000/4,000 and three other players left (two who had my chips plus one decent lady). I was able to hang in there, tread water with solid play, then double up a couple of times to get heads-up with the guy across from me. We started pretty even in chips, and I gave half of my chips away playing pretend poker with 86o (pretend poker is when you pretend you have something good but the other person has something and won't go away). I had patience problems when we were down to four and didn't play my best. Heads-up, he played well early on, raising me off of pots and calling down with not much when I had less. He had about 75% of the chips when I finally got all my chips in with AJo to his AT. J97 on flop, K on turn, Q on river ended it. All-in-all, I was pleased with most of the play, although I definitely didn't focus as well for a period with a monster stack.

These bar tourneys are a good sign of the continued strength of poker. I won $25 Derby bucks for second place, spending 4 hours there. It is a good incremental revenue generator for the bars, and I would guess there are 20,000 people playing in Atlanta weekly at these things (I think that is a fair number). They are getting more creative to generate traffic, with points systems getting you various things. I don't know anyone at these, but it seems like a decent mix of folks, most of which I wouldn't interact with during my normal day-to-day life in suburbia. Except, of course, for the smoking. I have to immediately shower and wash clothes when I come in, so my wife normally hopes that I get knocked out immediately.

08 August 2005

Post-Cash Tourney II

Have been practicing on my Wilson Turbo software with 45 players, low starting chips, quickly escalating blinds. Key learning is there is more luck, you can't play early hands indifferently, you have to bet bigger to maximize chips and/or to cause lay-downs. Last Tuesday, started with roughly 55 players I think, I got down to last 15 or so (hard to tell as there were other tables starting back up). I have $5,500 in chips, blinds are $100/200. I'm UTG+1, look down at AA. I raise it $750 to go, sb calls, bb raises all-in (another $3,500 or so). I stall and call, then sb calls (I was trying to suck the sb into calling, and they have the same goofy rule of no side pots). sb has KK, bb has QQ and immediately starts whining and complaining. Flop comes JTx, turn comes Q, river comes x. I get knocked down to $600 or so. I check the bb a few hands later with Q6o, flop comes Q54 with two clubs, sb bets $200, I go all-in with $350 (raise of $150). She calls with her 7c2c and catches the club on river.

My brother raised a good question over the weekend regarding the fad of poker. Let me put it another way:

  • What is the growth curve of poker?
  • Where will the total players peak at/when will this be?
  • Where will the total players settle at/when will this be?
  • Where is the secondary money to be made; i.e., stocks, revenue generation, etc.
Poker has had several negative stories in popular press after the ghost-like acquisition attempt of World Poker Tour Enterprises by a group supposedly led by Doyle Brunson. On a broad scale, supplies seems to be too fractured to make much money, television is still a struggle (we'll have to see how ESPN does with WSOP this year, but WPT is flat in viewership), PPT has yet to land a television contract, and there has been a flood of programming that offers low prize pools and less flashy play. Poker fantasy camps are major small potatoes. Casinos are rushing to build poker rooms, creating a glut of supply. Casinos know the profitability of each slot, so I doubt under-utilized poker rooms will last very long. I would assume online poker has little growth left, and this will be a real challenge for those companies going public. There is huge customer acquisition cost, even among the biggest sites (see 20% reload for party as an example of this). I haven't seen an analysis of the economics of online poker, but once the fixed costs of programming are built in, I would assume the next significant cost is player acquisition/player loyalty. So a big question is what is the break even number of players with what level of player turnover/churn needed to make a nice profit? There is potential that the number is fairly low after the initial investments are made, which may limit industry consolidation.

I received my August reload code for party, and I have to decide if I'm diving back in. It is 20% up to $100, but do I want to get involved again. My brother is right in that it is a very time consuming venture, with some similarities to golf. I may wait for bricks and mortar. I have a trip to Jersey and Maine, so I could hit Borgata/AC as well as Foxwoods. Have to figure out a plan for getting to Bellagio, but no luck yet.
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