All-In: Confessions of a Chicago Poker Duo
Wednesday, April 14, 2004
Oh, I forgot to update the B&M Vegas stats.

Dave-O and I played the $25+$5 Luxor NL tourney on Friday morning. Took 4th out of 51, made $80. I'm really not a fan of those shotgun, short-stack tourneys, but oh well.

Sat and played some 4-8 at the Mandalay during the Final Four games. Got a little tipsy and rivered by quite a few guppies, lost about $100. Other than that, lost $900 to 3 strippers at the Crazy Horse Too.

Hey it was a bachelor party. What can a boy do?
Well, the bankroll has reached the $400 plateau. $401.72 to be technical.

It's been awhile since I've posted, with the Las Vegas bachelor party behind me, and the wedding a week away, I've only managed a couple of hours at the tables this month. That being said, they have been productive hours. I've started concentration on the $25 NL ring games at UB lately, and I haven't had a losing session for about 6 sessions now. Coupling that with my first $10 SNG in this newly rehashed poker stint of mine - in which I garnered a 1st place finish - the bankroll has been creeping upwards quite nicely the last couple of sessions.

I finally finished reading Super System, what a book. Especially the NL section. I'm not sure if there has been an in-depth discussion of this, I'm sure there has, but my personal playing style (ie, the style I'm most comfortable playing) is more akin to NL than regular limit games. I just flat-out prefer the game, and now that I've concentrated solely on playing the NL ring games and the NL SNG tourneys, I can feel an evolution in my game starting to occur. It's quite exciting.

That being said, the posts will remain slow until I get back from my honeymoon in Rio. But don't worry, I have plenty of great poker reading material for the 9 hour flight. The other half of this duo (Dave) has been out of town for a couple of weeks, and with his imminent return perhaps he can start moving our stacks up the ladder.

Sunday, March 28, 2004
Weekend update.

$100 buy-in has grown to $367.05.

Mark's $5 + $.50 SNG stats:

21 tournaments played:

1st Place - 7
2nd Place - 3
3rd Place - 3
4th Place - 4
5th Place - 2
8th Place - 2

In the money 62% of the time. Total profit to date: $134.50.

This has been a productive weekend for the Duo. Our one week totals approximate $267.05 of profit.
Friday, March 26, 2004
"In the poker game of life, women are the rake."

Well, as humorous as Ed Norton's quote from Rounders is, sometimes it just
hits the nose head on. With all of this wedding stuff going on around me,
things are a little bit out of control. With vendors calling, RSVPs
pouring in, it is a veritable cornucopia of unfinished business. My better
half is a combination of perfectionism and procrastination, as my best man
(Dave) would say. This makes for a combination of a whole lot of stuff not
getting done.

So I told my fiancee, "Honey, you can't play this wedding $hit weak tight
like you are. You need to get in there, finish off this stuff. Tell
people what you want and expect. Pick out your choices, get it done. We
have a month before this thing is here and there's still tons of crap to
get done." My fiancee holds on tighter to a bankroll than an 85-year old
at the 1-5 stud game in Vegas.

Yeah, when poker-speak gets into your normal every day conversations -
well, that makes you start to reflect a little bit.

That being said, last night's 3 games of $5 SNG's were another one for the
books. Some stellar play, some tough play, and some collusive play (not on
my end). Here's the update:

First match was a grind. Worst cards dealt to me to date in a tourney.
That being said, I'm a firm believer in cards only being 20% of what
matters in these 10-man round-a-bouts. After grinding and blind stealing,
I snuck into a 3rd place finish. I was satisfied at that point, in the
money was fine for me. After struggling with minor variations between
$600-$1,200 in chips, I really didn't mind when my JJ got bit by KK and his
$6K in chips. Sometimes, the cards aren't there...even if you just need
them to be there once or twice late in the game. Sometimes, you just have
to grind and pray. Not too fun, but it's part of the game.

The second match I looked for redemption. The card gods had to look to me
this time to make up for the lackluster hands I was getting the previous
game. Well I got the hands early on, went up big stack to $2,500 chips and
waited. Worked the table down to 5 players, and found the Rockets under
the gun. Typically under the gun with Rockets and 5 players or less, I
choose the slow-play / re-raise to isolation maneuver. Well, you know how
this story ends. All in my AA versus K-Q suited, I lose to top two pair.
Happens. Another 4th place. Argh, the rub of the situation is being so
close to the bubble. The reality of the situation is I had the best hand
in the game. Tournament cards are a different breed. Stack management is
key. I don't doubt I made the right play, I obviously did. However, my
knowledge of the players at the table was pretty solid. Chances are I
could have won the tourney based on that knowledge and throwing away AA
after that flop (K-Q-4 rainbow). The reality is, when I feel I have the
top hand, I ram it. Sometimes, things just don't work out.

So with a 3rd and a 4th place behind me, my fingers are itching. So I give
myself one more tourney - and this tourney was a REAL doozy. I get dealt
NOTHING once again. I played 1 hand of the first 55 dealt. At that point,
the table is down to 7, with both big stacks on my left. This does NOT
look good. The good thing about the stacks to my left is they are very
weak-passive, they found a lucky hand each, won the pot, and they were
sitting for the final 3. They weren't making ANY moves - and the moves
were there for them. But nothing. So finally, I get 4 boobies (QQ) and
I'm in for 2/3 of my stack. I get cracked by K-4 offsuit (yeah, let's not
even go there). So I'm down to $255. I have the table pegged left and
right, every player. Weak-passives on my left with big stacks,
loose-agressive mid-stack to my right, and 3 weak-tights across all in a
row. "Christ!" I think to myself. I'm at the easiest table I've possibly
ever been, and I've had no ability to play these people the right way due
to K-4 offsuit Blue Marlin sitting on the 4 spot. So I pray. I catch J-10
(hearts) suited in late, go all-in, and get 5 callers. Whew, odds look
better now I think.

Flop comes A-K-Q (2 spades, 1 club). Bingo. I go up to about $1,250, and
now I have a chance.

The next 30 hands take out 2 of the weak-tights across. The weak-passives
with stacks to my left don't play any hands. We are down to 5. I get KK
under the gun, and again, I get cracked. This time it's by 7-7 to the
loose-agressive on my right. Damn! I'm down again. I have about $650 and
blinds are $75-$150.

Finally, the passive stack-boss to my left plays a hand, and knocks out the
remaining weak-tight across from me. We are down to 4. Stacks are me at
$650, power-stack to my left of $4,500, power-stack to his left of $3,700,
and stack of $1,150 to my right. Play continues. The big stacks play each
other a number of times, and NEVER bet more than a $100 towards the other.
They refuse to put pressure on anyone, refuse to steal blinds. WTF? I
think to myself. Finally, I go heads-up versus the loose-aggressive and
take him down. He's low, I start to blind-steal, he gets put out for good.
I'm in the money.

Now I rarely type into the chat window in a game. But I couldn't resist at
this point.

Me: "You guys are freaking hilarious."
Powerstack: "What?"
Me: "You guys are really funny."
Powerstack: "What's your problem?"

We start to play, I become aggressive. Blind steals, all-in's are my
moves. These guys fold 80% of the time. They play each other, and check
things down the whole way. They own me about $4,000 - $4,000 to my $2,000
and the are "checking it down.".

I check hand histories, and verify my thoughts. These guys are completely
colluding. I see KK folded (after taken to the river with rags). I see
similar play by the other. Absolutely irrefutable evidence.

So I start to type again...

Me: "I like you guys."
Powerstack: "Huh?"
Me: "You guys are such bad cheaters you don't even know how to cheat
Powerstack: No response.

So then I start to play. These guys are playing together, and they have no
clue how to even collude against me to win.

So we keep playing, I become aggressive once again, stealing blinds,
placing feeler raises, and I move my stack to $4,000. Finally, I get a
monster A-K suited and I limp, I get re-raised, we go all-in. My A-K
versus JJ, but I win this time.

One punk-ass colluder down.

Me: "I'm taking you down next, you better stay on the phone with your
buddy so you can hear my stacks in stereo." As I raise to steal blinds

5 hands later, I win the tourney.

Moral of the story: Online collusion is around us. Who knows how
prevalent it is. It exists.

2nd Moral of the story: If you decide you want to collude, you better
learn how to do it. Two bad players cheating doesn't raise your stock.
Anybody playing $5 SNG's at UB can drop me an email and I'll give you a
heads up on the ID's of these jokers. But to be honest with you, their
money is easy if you see them together.

Thursday, March 25, 2004
First, I want to begin the post by giving a shout out to www.guinnessandpoker.blogspot.com for such kind words on his blog.

Second, the more enterprising half of this Duo, Mark, keeps kickin’ ass at the $5.00 + $0.50 No Limit ten-player table games. In fact, he has done so well, I could not even bring myself to play tournament last night. What was I going to do? Win three in a row and almost tie my best-friends results? Hell no. I am going to wait until I am more comfortable (i.e. his ass loses), then give it a go. That way I will not feel so bad, if I crash and burn. And if I win, I can talk immense trash (ubber-trash for you more contemporary folk).

Well, I guess it is all moot now, Mark apparently slid off the bubble into 4th last night. Thank God. I really hate being on the rail.

On a more marginal note, an ideal to marginal (you decide) poker situation came up last night. Admittedly, I am reluctant to talk about these types of plays, but I’m sure no one reads this anyways. Here is how it went down:

About seven laps into a ten-person $0.25 - $0.50 limit game I found myself in the big-blind with 8-2s. Two solid early position players call. A reasonable player raises from middle, and Mr. I like to see the flops when I am in late position, and call with any pair flat calls two bets. Usually, this is rapid-fire fold time, but several factors start bitch slapping me while screaming, “Easy money.” So I call getting implied odds of 9 to 1 on my shiny red cards.

Here is the play I had in mind: The first two players have big cards, the raiser has a big pair, or big cards, and the button guy is a moron. If the flop comes rags, I should be able to take it down, because of the position of the good players, the position of the raiser, and the position of the bad player. My biggest enemy would be the bad player. If the raiser has a big pair, he will signal to me and I’ll get away from the hand. My ace in the hole is the raiser, because he has good control over the late position player, and he is not willing to go all the way with high cards.

After calling the raise like a kid with a gambling addiction, the two early position players call (so far so good). The flop comes rags rainbow, and I have an 8 high-three-flush that looks more like pocket eights against this field. I check, the two solid players check to the raiser (a common mistake), the raiser throws in his now obligatory bet (another common mistake), and the bad player folds. My competition in this hand (the other guy with crappy cards) is gone. Yes!!! If he had called, I fold, but since he folded, I raise. The solid players know better than to chase when possibly stuck in a sandwich (after all, I’ve got great table image [fear the two pair]), and the preflop-raiser hesitates. In my mind I am thinking, “You better raise punk-ass, or I have got you beat.” After a long pause, he calls.

Here is what a call says. One, I don’t have a big pair. Two, I think you only have a small pair, and were probably trying to protect your hand. Under this logic he is getting 13 to 1 to call and try and catch, if he has to big cards, so the play is reasonable except for the fact the I know exactly where he is at in the hand. The turn comes garbage, but another heart falls. I can now semi-bluff with confidence. Since he is a 9 to 1 dog to make his hand with one card to come, and the pot is only laying him 8 to 1 to call, my biatch kindly shows me AJs (as if I did not know) before correctly folding.

Now, I know what you are thinking. All the stars had to align for you to take down that pot. You just got lucky kid. Maybe, but I sure felt like a pimp making this play. Ahh, the power of betting patterns. It is really all you have got, when you can not see the weakies.


First off, I'd like to give a big-up to Iggy for his mention of our blog on
his site. As everyone else knows, Iggy's site is a real gem in this world.
I look forward to his insights every couple of days. Thanks again Iggy.

Before I rant and rave about why I play poker today, I'll get down to the
stats from last night.

I played 3 $5 SNG's at Ultimate Bet last night. I finished 1st, 3rd, and
4th (bubble). My 3rd place finish was actually quite hard-fought, as I was
sandwiched between two $3,500+ stacks, and they were working size against 3
of us smaller trees. Luckily, I took the weak-passive out across the table
with a sweet full-house double-up, guaranteeing me money. I finally went
all-in about 15 hands later with K-Q suited on the button. Unfortunately,
A-10 routed me out and held up.

The 4th place bubble finish was also disappointing, as I seriously worked
that table hard. I went big stack early, had AA cracked by KK all-in,
halving me and making me reduce my tension on the weak-tights (of which I
had gauged 5 at the table). Back and forth, back and forth, finally had QQ
busted by A-K (how typical - the typical pre-flop raise fest to all-in) and
had to settle for blowing bubbles.

Typically I play $1/$2 and sometimes $.50/$1 ring games as well. Lately,
I've been dancing with the girl that likes me in these SNG tourneys. So
for the time being, my focus has been tournament based in my limited time.

That being said, I've now finished 10 $5 SNG tournaments. I've placed in
the money in 7 of them, with 5 first place finishes. My 3 non-money
placements were 2 4th place finished and the 8th place finish. I've vowed
to D-Dub I would play 50 of these, assess the results, before moving up in
stakes. Which brings me to my next discussion concerning why I play poker.

I know a lot of people play poker for the money. A smaller amount play it
for entertainment. Another amount play for the competition. Some play for
a combination of all of these points. The simple fact of the matter is
poker's score is the money in your gangsta roll - and that's what players,
ultimately in the long run, get gauged by.

Someone emailed me and said "If you are doing so well, why don't you move
up in stakes?" Well, several reasons. To start, we all know poker is a
game of swings. I consider a poker experience a learning experience every
time. When I enter a $5 SNG, I enter it with the philosophy that I can win
it every time. It doesn't matter what cards I'm dealt. If I lose the
tournament, I constantly try to re-evaluate at what point I may have made a
mistake. Sure, I don't win tournaments all the time. But 9 times out of
10 I can pick the 1 hand, sometimes 2, that I could have played differently
had I interpreted a signal differently - or if I had interpreted signals
better. The analysis of performance in hindsight, to me, is the most
effective tool for getting better.

So my point in this discussion is simple. I play the lower limits now
because I'm honing my experience and skills in the game. I've played $50
SNG's before. I've done ok with them. But the point is, I want to see my
results over a longer period of time, as I graduate through higher stakes
again, to really get a feel for my game evolving. I'm lucky to say poker
is a hobby for me, in that I have a relatively lucrative career outside of
the poker world. Could I afford to play $20-$40 every night? Probably.
But at this point money isn't important to me in terms of playing to make
money. Money is important to me for keeping score.

Today, with the vast amount of information available via poker, be it
television, internet, blogs, whichever...there are immense opportunities
for the serious player to adapt new skills, put them to practice, and
really customize his or her game to their specific style. The most
important thing I try to remind myself is to constantly give myself new
viewpoints to analyze, read books, test theories, and analyze results.
Poker has affected other areas of my life, it really has. It is amazing
the type of enhancements to your perception you gain in normal life
activities, especially the business world. Calling a bluff in business has
become a little easier these days. The ability to read and infer is an
immensely powerful skill.

Next up on the list: Super System by Brunson. Yeah I know, I should have
read this years ago.

Alright, that's it. In 8 days, bankroll of $100 has grown to $246.25
playing $.50/$1 ring games, and $5 SNG tourneys. Iggy, I'm signing up for
Party this weekend, and I'll gladly give you the bonus.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004
Any serious player can tell you countless things you need to be assessing while involved in a poker game; but face it, on line, once you have folded, you are often headed to the fridge for a soda or sandwich.

During my last few No Limit $5.00 + $0.50 buy-in, 10 person tournaments I have begun the annoying practice of thinking about the game (not my game, but the game in general) and actually writing out rules to help reinforce them. Here are some of the commonly known ideas that I waste paper writing down:

I. The smaller the ante, compared to the amount which can be wagered/size of your stack, the tighter you play. Example: If there is no ante, you only play AA.

II. Semibluff good players and tight players more frequently when you have position.

III. In a No Limit tournament, you must be aggressive when you play; make your opponent guess; you are never pot committed – Have good judgment. (This was obviously written to make my timid-self play as if I had a pair.)

IV. You must be caught bluffing, or doing ridiculous negative expectation plays, so that you can be paid off on your big hands. Example: Try doing it with a middle/low suited one gap/connector—giving you 18 outs to bet on plus ridiculous draws—position is not necessary here.

V. Picking up the blinds is the game in short handed limit games. Therefore, you must take chances (loosen up your starting and raising requirements and shift gears more often than in a ten person (look I’ve got beautiful starting cards) game). Example: Raise in middle position (blind, blind, UTG, You, player, player) with cards from tip IV after playing establishing a tight table image. Example 2: Raise heads-up vs. a player you have great control over, then pick up the two small bets (SB) when the flop misses them.

VI. Do not call raises; do the raising!

Obviously, this is not etched in stone, but in the right situations, they can be reasonable, and profitable guidelines. Remember, poker is a game of situations. If you can recognize the situation, then you will make the play that has the higher expectation more often. This is why the same hands are played several different ways from the same position. (As if you didn’t know, the players mattered.)

Finally, I wrote Roy Cooke of Card Player Magazine an e-mail asking him to explain exactly what he means by, “…the recurring sum of volume times edge will equal expectation, and over the course of time will equal earn.”

Here is what he replied: “What it means is if you continuously add the amount you bet times the edge bet at into a field that that number will equal your expectation over the time of the equation.....Assuming luck to be a neutral factor over time...the recurring field will equal your earn.”

I think it is important to remember that we do not play cards against random hands. In general, when our opponents play, they will tend to be holding something reasonable, and this should be factored in when trying to determine your edge. Logically, you could use software like poker tracker to work the equation backwards to find out exactly what your edge is over particular types of player, or just in general.

Now you can run around telling your poker cronies they are only a 0.08, or that you were playing in a tough 0.01 game!

Enough for today, I'm out.

Well, yesterday was another positive result for the Duo. I went by to visit Dave and head out to the Madchester, Brit-Pop, New Wave night at Neo, and as we downed a few beers beforehand I decided to take up another $5 SNG at UltimateBet with Dave in attendance. That being said, it ended up being one of the best SNG experiences I've had at a $5 table. I mean that in a "good level of poker skill players" kind of way, if you catch my drift.

The games started well enough, with myself going up to big stack early on, and 4 or 5 of us weighing down the weak tights in about 15 minutes. However, once the table got down to 5, it stayed that way, for almost 20 more minutes. In fact, the blinds went to 150-300 before the 6th player was finally bumped out. A tremendous game in my opinion, as the combinations of blind steals, all-ins, and bluffs were quite impressive for a $5 table in my estimation.

With 4 players left, I took K-Q to the end with Q-5-7 rag flop. Ended up being chewed by A-Q, which happens, and my stack disintegrated to $295. A few double-ups later, I was back at $1,500 and still in the race for the money. A few hands after that, I had worked QQ and A-10 suited hands into a $5,000 stack and at least a 3rd place finish. Suffice it to say, I ended up heads up and made an aggressive post flop move that I paid dearly for. That being said, I finished the 55 minute tournament in 2nd place. That puts my 7 tournament total for NL $5 SNG's at 1st, 1st, 1st, 4th, 1st, 8th (they happen), and 2nd.

The Duo coffers have inched up to $220 from $176, with an initial buy-in of $100 since we started back a week or so ago.

I've been reading lots of poker blogs lately, and I'm very tempted to start up on Party. With 40,000+ on there, I can only imagine how active the lower limit online games must be.

Well, hopefully we'll get a chance to play some poker tonight. With the impending bachelor party in Vegas and the wedding a month away, it's a miracle I'm even getting time now to squeeze in 1 tournament a day.

I've almost finished Hellmuth's Texas Hold'Em section in his book. I've always sort of implemented raising for information previously, but I've concentrated more on it lately to see the effects in some of the $.50/$1 ring games I've been in. I think the limits are just too low for that technique right now...it occassionally works...but it can't suck out more $ than the fish do taking that junk to the river. I'm still playing about 10% tighter than I would in a live game during my online ring exploits, and it seems to be working.
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
I suppose we should let the readers know exactly what happened last night. See, D-Dub and myself play under the same Ultimate Bet ID. While there normally isn't a problem, I went back in to check our account balance and when I logged-in, Ultimate Bet placed me in D-Dub's game and locked D-Dub out.

After a minute of looking at Dave's hand not getting played, I realized what had happened, so I filled in, and got Dave on the horn.

"Just try and break back into UltimateBet and maybe you'll bump me off so you can finish" I said, as I raked a $900 straight-pot.

"I can't...Just take it down man, you've won the last 4 of 5..." Dave says.

Bammo. Closer time.

I feel kind of bad stealing the win like that, but yes, the inevitable shifting of gears may have adeptly been the causitive force. Who knows. All's fair in love and war.
Monday, March 22, 2004
After Mark finished taking down his table, he called me to fill me in on the details of his victory and the smack talk that accompanied it. Little did he know I was engaged in my own ten seat, No-Limit $5.00 + $0.50 buy-in table. I was in 3rd place out of the remaining six, with an approximate 2 to 1 chip lead on the last three spots. My only problem was that I was sandwiched between the two big stacks, which were correctly being overly aggressive, since the smaller stacks were playing weak tight without effectively shifting gears.

A tree falls in the forest, and there are five players left.

I decide to shift into maniac mode for a few hands when the track I am listening to, “The Ghost of an Unkissed Kiss,” ends. Then it happens…blip.

Suddenly, I am out of my game. I am disconnected. I cannot log back in to my game! I am dumbfounded. In a panic I begin closing all the applications open on the computer, and vow to never again listen to music while playing cards. This does not work, and it now dawns on me that I do not even know which of the hundreds of tables I was playing.

How do I get into these situations? I have good karma. What’s the problem?

The phone rings. It’s Mark. Somehow, he is playing my tournament. Five minutes later, he has the whole thing wrapped up, and cashes out another first place. Turns out he was the ultimate shift in gears, and none of the players could adjust.

I could speculate why, or how, it happened, but who cares? At the end of the day, we play poker for money. All is well that ends well.

Well, work wasn't too bad today. That being said, I came home, noticed the fiancee wasn't home, so what better way to start a nice evening at home than with another $5 Ultimate Bet Sit'n'Go? My history since coming back to online poker has been pretty solid in these no-limit tournaments. Since I've come back I've played 4 of these, and I've won 3 of them. The other time I finished in 4th place, just out of the money due to a bonehead play on my part. What's a boy to do?

A boy is to step up to the 5th tourney and take it down. And that's just what I did.

I was small-stack with 5 left, holding about $1,100 in chips, when I caught a pretty good miracle on the river. Now my odds were looking relatively okay for my pre-flop call, but a couple of the heavy stacks thought it was the sign of a sure fish and made comments to let me know as well.

"Don't worry I'll keep you in the game." Said one.

"If he doesn't, I will!" said the other.

I smiled. Nothing like knowing your table image.

Fifteen minutes later I take the crown, and I ended up heads up against the first gentleman who gave me the fish reference. Since I was $3,500 up against his $6,500, I think he felt pretty confident. But if there is one strength to my No-Limit Hold'Em game, it's heads up. I've played countless games of Heads Up against many players over these last 6 years, and it's a part of my game that I feel confident with in these lower level No-Limit roundups.

I took him down in 6 minutes, 31 hands.

I wonder how he liked those apples. Add $20 to the Duo coffers.

That's the starting point. With a $100 buy-in, a few $1-$2 games at UltimateBet and three no-limit $5 sit-and-go tourney wins, that's where the Duo stands.

In nine days, the Chicago Duo heads to Vegas for Mark's bachelor party. With the lovely combination of booze, broads, and big bets on the horizon - the Duo is looking for some online action all this week to hone the skills up.

So with that being said, $176.05 is the official starting point for the duo. Here's to hoping we start off on the right foot!
Here we go, the inaugural post of All-In. Since this is the beginning, perhaps a little history is in order regarding the two gentlemen involved in maintaining this blog.

David (we'll call him D-Dub for short) is a Texas Hold'Em player, who's been playing the game consistently for about 4 years now. D-Dub made his living the last couple of years playing the cardrooms in the Bay Area in California, earning his keep mostly at the 3-6 limits. Along with the California card rooms, D-Dub played some pretty consistent online poker at UltimateBet.com. D-Dub currently is residing in Chicago, looking for that first career while honing his online and brick-and-mortar skills at Hold'Em. D-Dub has been a regular at Harrah's Casino is East Chicago, regularly beating the 5-10 live game on a pretty consistent basis.

Mark has been playing Hold'Em live for about 5 years now. Playing mostly 4-8 and the occassional 5-10 limits. Mark's played pretty consistent online poker at UltimateBet.com for the last couple of years. With recent renewed interest in the game, D-Dub and Mark have vowed to work up a small bankroll of their own, and wax philosophical on their experiences via this blog.

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