Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It's been a fun, if not short, ride!

I have come to be keenly aware that maintaining this blog is unrealistic given the life circumstances I face right now. For those of you who read on a regular basis, please do not be concerned. I am well, and the circumstances mentioned all point to more positive things in the future. I just need to address them appropriately.

I will be contributing in some ways to a brand new site with an accompanying blog: and/or I invite, nay; request, that you add it to your blog rolls. I will be the primary blog writer, but entries will be scheduled and slightly more formal than casual. Hopefully they'll read more like a column, based on my experiences as a floor person and dealer more than as a player.

I appreciate all the readers I know have enjoyed my writings, and especially the new friends I've made through this medium. It's been worth it for me, and I hope for you.

"Have Fun, Be Gracious, Keep Learning, Play Your Best and
Manage Your Finances. You will find Success in Poker and in Life!"

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Some Ideas for Quick Notes

I now believe that taking notes on opponents is critical to a consistent level of success, especially when playing poker on-line. One of the keys to making this work is to be able to make those notes very efficiently so that you don't miss any of the action!

One of the first things I do when I sit at an on-line poker table is set myself up to make quick notes. Thanks to a small notepad file I keep on my desktop, I can copy/paste my framework right into the notes field for each player. Here's what that framework looks like for five-card-draw:

5CD -- 6/11/09
SB: ()
BB: ()
UTG: ()
HJ: ()
CO: ()
Bttn: ()

The first line is fairly straightforward; the game and the date. If I'm playing Hold-Em it might look like LHE (Limit) or NLHE (No Limit).

Players I've never played before are dated today. However, if I have notes on a player already, I'll leave the date unchanged for a few orbits. Notes that are more than a few days old require some observation to determine that they're still accurate. While styles don't usually change much, sometimes we run into a serious player who's been studying, getting coaching, etc.

The rest of the framework is the table positions. I find that awareness of position can tell me a lot about a player, so I want to know what their range is based on where they are in relation to the button. By making my notes position-specific, I can look at them and form a pretty quick overall assessment of that player.

Since I play mostly Draw, and it's offered six-handed at PokerStars, that's what my master is set up for:

- UTG is first to act
Note: If I'm playing 9-handed I add lines between UTG and HJ labeled M1, M2, M3
- HJ is Hi-Jack
- CO is Cut-Off
- Bttn is the Button, or last-to-act

Once I've made sure the outline is in every player's notes, I start keeping track of what's going on. In the interest of efficiency, I usually only note sub-par activity, but I will note an advanced play as well, just in case.

I use single or double letter codes whenever possible in my notes, trying to keep them as obvious as possible:

S) Straight
F) Flush
R) Raise
reR) reRaise
C) Call
CH) Cat Hop (three cards to a straight flush)
Ck) Check
L) Limp
SP) Stand Pat
GS) Gut-Shot Straight Draw
woi) without improving

I use parenthesis () for two situations, the first to indicate what I've seen a player limp with in that position; HJ: (66, 4S) means I've seen them flat-call with a pair as low as sixes (I only note the smallest, replacing as necessary) and an open-ended straight. If I saw this player limp with fours in the same position in a later hand, I'd change it to HJ: (44, 4S) and if I then saw them limp with a gut-shot straight draw it would look like: HJ: (44, GS). I'll cover the other use of () below.

Occasionally it's difficult to determine from the hand history what the player had before the draw. In this case I use a slash / to indicate 'or'. If the player drew two cards, and his hand then has a pair of tens but three hearts, he might have been drawing to a three-flush OR trying to make his hand look better (three-of-a-kind) than it really was. The notes for this hand would look like: Bttn: (TTD2/3F).

When hands get more involved, I note the action after the limp notes. For example; I see player HitMe call a raise from the button and then draw two cards. Rocky777, who raised, stands pat (doesn't draw any cards) and then bets. HitMe reraises, and is called. At the showdown, Rocky777 has a straight and HitMe has two pair, Aces and Jacks. The notes on HitMe would be:

Bttn: () - CR w/AA, D2, reR SP(R) w/AAJJ

Interpretation: Called raise with AA, drew two, reraised stand pat (who was the original raiser) with AAJJ. Here's where that second set of parenthesis come in; they indicate the pre-draw action of the other player(s).

Note that I'll move this entry to it's own line when/if I have the chance, so it would look like:

Bttn: ()
Bttn: CR w/AA, D2, reR SP(R) w/AAJJ

A simpler example would be the small blind player who draws four cards:

SB: () - LD4

Here are my notes on a player I see all the time, with an interpretation after each entry:

5CD -- 6/11/09
SB: (55, 4S)

[I've seen this player play pairs as low as fives and four-card straights in the small blind]
[Note that I only list the straight draw if the player did NOT have the pot odds to call it!)
SB: CR w/AA33, CB by D2(R) woi
[Called raise with AA33, called bet by draw two (pre-draw raiser) without improving]
SB: CR w/TT22, CB by D2(R) woi
[Called raise with TT22, called bet by draw two (pre-draw raiser) without improving]
[I'm sensing a pattern here!]
SB: R w/QQ, D1, CB by D1 woi
[Raised with QQ, drew one and called bet by draw one without improving]
BB: ()
[It might seem odd to have limp notes in the BB spot, but I want to note if a player just checks with a raising hand!]
BB: R w/4S - CR w/TT - CR w/4F
[Raised with a four-card-straight]
[Called a raise with Tens]
[Called a raise with a four-card-straight]
[Note that I keep these three hands on one line because they're short.]
BB: CR w/QQ, CB by D1(R) woi
[Called raise with QQ, called bet by draw-one (pre-draw raiser) without improving]
HJ: () - R w/4F

[Raised with four-card-flush]
HJ: reR w/KK, D2
[reraised with KK, drew two]
[Note, I've observed a trap, good to know!]
CO: R w/4F
[Raised with a four-card-flush]
Bttn: (4F)
[limped with a four-card-flush]
Bttn: CR w/KK, CB by D1(R) woi
[Called raise with KK, called bed by draw-one (pre-draw raiser) without improving]

What I've learned about this player, based on these notes so far, is that he'll generally call my raises with drawing hands, even if I make the pot odds wrong for him to do so, which adds value to my play. I also know to use extreme care when bluffing him with a missed draw as he's likely to call even with an unimproved pair, which saves me chips.

Finally, I eventually add a general observation to a player's notes, once I've seen and noted many hands. I place it after the date, so if they come to an active table, I can just read my first line and I don't have to assess the whole collection of entries. The first line for the example player above will probably eventually look like:

5CD -- 6/11/09 -- Draws oblivious to odds, bluff with caution!

Again, note that I'll watch the date. Even this player could evolve, and I don't want to run into a tiger when I'm expecting a kitten!

This system may seem a little awkward at first, and I'm sure there could be refinements. If it helps you, as-is or with your own customization, then it was worth sharing. If you see an opportunity to improve it, or you have suggestions for adapting it to Hold-Em, Omaha, Stud, etc. I'd welcome them!

"Have Fun, Be Gracious, Keep Learning, Play Your Best and
Manage Your Finances. You will find Success in Poker and in Life!"

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Note Taking...

I do not read a lot. Despite being a voracious reader as a child and young adult, I find that I don't make the time to do it now. Much like setting meeting planners and regularly updating my calendar, it's something I should do, but rarely get to consistently. Another thing I've not done as well or often as I should, is keeping notes on my on-line poker opponents.

Ironically, one of the most common themes in the poker-related reading I have done is the importance of taking notes on opponents. It has been stressed repeatedly that this is of even more value when playing on-line due to the limited amount of input.

Although I've always made a note when I've seen something I consider unusual, I now consider myself a true convert, and I make some level of note on at least one player for almost every hand I play or observe. I may be preaching to the choir with most of my readers, but I'm going to anyway, as the newly converted often will.

I've been playing relatively little poker the past few weeks, a couple hours in the late evening most nights. The majority of my time has been spent at $.25/$.50 Limit 5-Card-Draw, 6-Handed, on PokerStars. During a fit of clarity early in May, I had resolved to be a better note-taker and throughout one session, I was. I noted everything everyone played, often getting hit with the clock as I tried to keep up.

It didn't take long for me to get completely frustrated, not to mention getting my table-mates ticked off. After that session, my note-taking went by the wayside yet again.

At the beginning of June, I was playing my usual game one evening, when a new player sat down to my immediate right. We cruised along for a couple of orbits, when she limped and then called my raise. She drew two cards, and then bet into my one-draw. Usually this is a quick fold for me, but just before I hit the fold button, I clicked on Notes, and there it was...

... I had noted her doing this with upper pairs at least six times during that short session in May. I called, and my Aces-up did, in fact, have her Queens beat.

Needless to say, it took me a couple days to work up a system that's quick, and to identify what information I really need to capture. I still find myself refining it a little each day, and now I'm working on adapting it to Hold-Em.

At the draw tables, I've got notes on everyone I've played in the last ten days. When I join a table, I immediately know who I've played before, and before the first orbit is complete, I know who will chase straights and flushes without pot odds, who will play every pair and which raises to respect.

In April and May I averaged less than 1BB/hour. So far in June I'm consistently averaging a win rate of over 7BBs per hour. Maybe seven isn't a great rate, and I'm not getting rich at $3.50 per hour, a couple hours a day.

But I'll take a 700% increase in my rate of return any time!

My next entry will be a tutorial on the basics of my 'speed notes' system.

"Have Fun, Be Gracious, Keep Learning, Play Your Best and
Manage Your Finances. You will find Success in Poker and in Life!"

Friday, May 15, 2009


If you have pocket aces in the big blind and nobody calls to see them...

Do you really have pocket aces?

I played the league final event last night. I had one point from before I started working there, so the GM allowed me to play. I started with one of the two shortest stacks and did fine for an hour, doubling up after I'd payed a couple rounds of blinds.

Then I got stupid. Miscalculated odds, a weak kicker and a completely uncharacteristic move from an opponent I know well sealed my fate. Home early, but I had a good time.

It did reinforce that I prefer to play than deal. I really enjoy dealing, and it's setting the foundation for a leadership role in the organization, but I'm much more comfortable as a player than a dealer.

Have a GREAT weekend!

"Have Fun, Be Gracious, Keep Learning, Play Your Best and
Manage Your Finances. You will find Success in Poker and in Life!"

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Quick Observation from a Dealer...

I'd seen this occasionally as a player, but have seen it a LOT more often recently as a dealer, especially with newer players; Counting outs that don't exist:

If, after the flop, you believe that pairing your overcard, OR hitting your nut flush draw OR hitting your gutshot straight draw will win the hand, then you do not have sixteen outs. (Three to your over, nine to your flush and four to your gutshot.)

You have three to your over.
You have four to your gutshot.
You only have SEVEN to your flush.

This is because one of the nine suited cards has already been counted in your overs, and another has been counted for the straight draw.

This may not seem like a lot, but it can make a big difference if the pot and/or implied odds are not that great to begin with!

"Have Fun, Be Gracious, Keep Learning, Play Your Best and
Manage Your Finances. You will find Success in Poker and in Life!"

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Life getting in the way...

Life seems to have gotten in the way for a while. I've been so wrapped up in getting up to speed at work, looking for additional income, and finding a buyer for the house, that I've neglected the blog.

I'm hoping that a daily reminder and setting up 'mobile blogging' will change that, and that it's not 'the best laid plans...'

The bulk of my game has been limit 5-card-draw, and I'm continuing to find a little success at it. Nothing that's going to pay the bills, but more positive sessions than not. is readying a program to sponsor players for major events. While there will be a cost for players to participate in the selection process for any given event, it will be a small (less than $100) amount and is specifically intended to identify serious candidates. I like what the team is putting together; It will be based on a variety of criteria, including playing ability, which will be evaluated during up to three one-table on-line events. No huge fields of wild play, just 5-8 other players at a time. There will be more details at the site soon.

There's also a new version of one of our fun poker shirts available; 'Are you sure it's not the POCKET ACES talking?' has been updated.

"Have Fun, Be Gracious, Keep Learning, Play Your Best and
Manage Your Finances. You will find Success in Poker and in Life!"

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Maybe someone who has been playing 5-Card-Draw longer than I can explain it...

I have REPEATEDLY seen players in the small blind calling, and then drawing 4 cards, with the high card in their hand AFTER the draw being as low as a Ten. Note that these players have been at the table, and seem to be aware of draw counts, etc.

At BEST, 6-handed, they're getting 11:1 on voluntary money. In most cases there's only one or two limpers so they're getting more like 5:1 or 7:1.

They're barely 4:1 to pair the card they hold and if that's not an A, they're already probably behind. The odds to hit ANYTHING else are so long that even 11:1 pot odds are bad.

On the face of it, 7:1 pot odds on a 4:1 draw seems great. But assuming at least one of the players limping plays solid Draw, loosely meaning AA or better UTG, KK or QQ in hi-jack or cut-off and JJ or better on the button.

Unless our SB is drawing to an A or K, they're probably behind. The possibility that they're already up against two-pair or a set makes their odds almost infinitely long, and they haven't even considered the other players likelihood of improving. Then there's the BB, who might have the opportunity to draw to his three-flush or straight for free.

There's also the UTG player who limps with the 4-flush or 4-straight. I love this play! Rarely is there a combination, so they're drawing to 8 or 9 cards. They're only guaranteed 1.5:1, on a draw that's at least 5:1. Even an open-ended 4-card straight flush draw, drawing to 15 cards, is at least 3:1.

Please understand that I'm not complaining. I definitely appreciate them, and do my best not to laugh at, or educate, them. Nor do I NEED to understand them. But I am curious...

"Have Fun, Be Gracious, Keep Learning, Play Your Best and
Manage Your Finances. You will find Success in Poker and in Life!"

Monday, April 6, 2009

Monday Morning...

It's Monday morning. What more really needs to be said?

Actually, a lot. It's been a good few days on all fronts:

Cashed in two out of three FullTilt 180 person SnGs. At the $2 level, these play a lot like freerolls, so making it to the money is (in my mind) an accomplishment.

Busted out of the live freeroll on Saturday, but I'd only done one $20 add-on. I didn't have enough to push out a smaller pair with my K K, and lost to a set. I can't complain; she was right to be in the hand, and at least I didn't get busted by Q 2 or similar crap this week.

I went to $2/$4 limit. I got half the add-on back and was increasing my stack when they broke the table because they needed the dealer for a big tournament. No more cash tables open so I was done for the day.

My on-line cash game of choice the last few days has been 5-Card-Draw. Its the game I learned to play as a child, and the action on-line is very good. 7 of 9 sessions have been +ROI and the overall net is well positive.

I've also found it humorous. I've seen donkey plays in Hold-Em, but they just seem more blatant in draw. TWICE, in just two days I've seen a player call a RAISE, draw FOUR cards and then call a bet by a PAT hand. I nearly sprayed my monitor with coffee once because the showdown was right as I took a mouth full.

In other news:

I begin my new job on Wednesday evening. My state license came through, so I will be dealing poker at The Lodge at Belmont. It's not great pay, but it is great experience, and underemployed is better than unemployed!

The house is seeing activity, with a showing yesterday, an open house in a few weeks and we've seen a couple people stop and take brochures from the sign out front.

We're not out of the woods by any stretch, but at least we feel like we're pointed toward a clearing!

"Have Fun, Be Gracious, Keep Learning, Play Your Best and
Manage Your Finances. You will find Success in Poker and in Life!"

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Training Progress

Quick update...

I've been studying the procedures, and practicing my shuffle, box, cut, deal, etc.

I attended last evening's training session and was told I'm now ready-to-go! Hopefully my state license will come through this week!

"Have Fun, Be Gracious, Keep Learning, Play Your Best and
Manage Your Finances. You will find Success in Poker and in Life!"

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Out of the Blogging loop...

I've been out of the blogging loop for a bit. I've been focusing on trying to get some income going and keeping the house in condition to show potential buyers.

I spend most of my time reviewing the various job sites, cleaning, and trying to figure out how we're going to pay the mortgage when the money runs out.

Things are not as bad as they seem though; The freerolls I've been playing continue to strengthen my game, and I'm getting into the top 25% of the field almost EVERY time, and in every format I play (HORSE, Badugi, 2-7 LoBall, 5-Card Draw, etc.), with most of my finishes being in the top 10%!

We made the decision to drop the price of the house a little last week, and we now have an open house scheduled for next month. Mortgage rates continue to drop and local brokers are saying they're starting to see the beginnings of 'a flurry of activity'.

Finally, I begin training tomorrow evening for a part-time job. They're not sure how soon I'll be on the schedule, but it's not a matter of 'if', it's a matter of 'when'. The better part is...

...I'll be dealing poker.

Yup, the local charity gaming establishment is adding some staff for the summer, and I'll be getting some hours. The GM knows about my background in Customer Service Management, and I'm hoping that will lead to some additional opportunities!

Maybe, just maybe [knocking earnestly on wood] Goddess and I have touched the bottom and pushed off.

"Have Fun, Be Gracious, Keep Learning, Play Your Best and
Manage Your Finances. You will find Success in Poker and in Life!"