Heating Up Like The Weather

Posted by Expired Potato On May 24, 2017 0 comments

Riding That Heater

The desert heat is starting to kick in. And I've been super blessed at the tables this past week to be running hot like the weather! Several times I've had nights like this. It's ridiculous. I've definitely been playing better than when I first got here but really I'm just super lucky. It does take luck. Without a little luck even the best in the world can't win.

Here's what just shy of $1500 looks like racked up and ready to be cashed out. It's definitely a leak that racking up this amount makes me so happy. I'm supposed to emotionally disconnected and not really care if I win or lose, just if I played well. But I'm not emotionally disconnected. Not yet anyways.

Last week I reflected on what I was doing wrong and identified two major leaks in my game. Number one was losing way too much trying to bluff people off hands when they can't fold pairs. Number two was not folding enough on turns and rivers. I've been reading The Course by Ed Miller and he says that you should run to the hills when facing big turn and river bets at 1/2. I still make the mistake of not folding sometimes. Just about every time I look up a big turn or river bet they have a big hand. I need to fold more. I need to fold more. I need to fold more! And there's another leak that's more away from the table - getting cocky when winning and not studying. I haven't opened CREV since last Wednesday. It's time to do so again and go over more flops and see which ones I can continuation bet aggressively and which ones I need to check more. Once again, I need to remind myself that these towers of chips were mostly luck. Had I been on the flip side of these coolers, I'd be the one with an empty stack and would have to throw down three Benjamins to reload.

So how did I win so much? Well first of all I got lucky in a bunch of key spots. If you've played some poker, you're probably familiar with the term cooler. Flopping top set when other people flop sets. All the money is going in. Turning a straight when someone flops a set, getting it all in and the river not pairing the board? I'm taking all his money. But what if the river paired instead giving him a full house? Then the $900 pot is his. It's that sick. A single river card determines where a $900 pot is shipped. I flopped a flush? Bet flop bet turn bet river! They call flop call turn call river and I get paid. What's the common theme here? It's simple. Make a big hand and get paid big. That's where most of profits from 1/2 come from. I was an idiot when I first came to Vegas thinking I could play like a loose aggressive maniac and make money at 1/2 from bluffing. Especially due to my stereotype. Mid 20s Asians have the most aggressive stereotype and I need to take full advantage of that to get paid for the maximum. Ed Miller is an absolute genius and I'm super glad I stumbled onto his book.


Imagine yourself hitting up the casino with your friend. You guys head to the poker room, sit down at the same table and agree to bet tiny or just check it down if it's just you guys left in the hand. Nice harmless way to keep it friendly right? Wrong! Wrong wrong WRONG! By doing that you guys are hurting everyone else at the table. It's a subtle form of cheating. You are giving yourself and your friend a bullshit advantage over everyone else. When you guys check it down, you guys get to fully realize your pot equity (percentage of the time you win the pot if there's no more betting) while everyone else has the chance to be bluffed off their pot equity. Here's a clear example. You're in a three way pot holding AQ with a husband and wife. The flop is J95. The wife bets, the husband calls and you fold. The turn is an ace. The river is a 3. Despite the husband turning top pair, they check it down cause they agreed to not bet against each other. The wife has JT and the husband has AQ just like you. You folded your pot equity but the husband called knowing that if you fold he will not have to pay another dollar to see the turn and river. Does this sound fair to you?

Unfortunately, unless collusion is super obvious (checking back the river with a hand like KK on a K88 5 7 board), it is usually impossible to prove it and get them kicked out. In tournaments it's usually even worse. A friend will soft-play another friend trying to protect them from busting so that they make the money or move up a spot on the payouts. It fucking happened on Sunday. We were down to 16 left with 15 getting paid and this motherfucker was soft-playing his friend to protect him from going out. I go into details here.

And by the way, I probably will get asked to shut up again. Like my next downswing, it's statistically just unavoidable. ;) Maybe next time it'll be funnier.

Weekly Hand Analysis

I talked about making a big hand and getting paid big. Let's go over a spot where I flopped a big hand, the river improved my hand even more while likely also improving my opponent's hand which makes it way more likely for me to get mucho dinero.

A loose fish limps on the button. His range is super wide there since he's probably limping all sorts of trash like T5s or 86o to try to see a cheap flop. I look down at 99 in the small blind. No brainer raise. I make it $12. Unfortunately the big blind reaches for more than two red chips. He re-pops it to $35. The button folds.

He started the hand with $350 and I have him covered, so we're effectively $350 deep. Against most 1/2 players who 3 bet QQ+ and AK only, 99 is crushed against that range and is a snap fold, since I'm out of position and not deep enough to get paid off enough the times I do flop a set. But I've played this guy before. He's a tight aggressive player who is definitely capable of 3 betting a hand like A4s or 87s as a bluff. He knows I'm raising a wide range versus a button limper and probably made the correct assumption that I will have to fold many hands to a 3 bet. However, not defending a hand as strong as 99 would be a mistake versus him. I don't like this spot but I have to defend. 4 betting would be silly. I call.

Flop is A93 with two spades. BINK! I do my absolute best to contain my excitement as I tap the table indicating a check. He snap checks it back. Turn is the 8 of spades. Check raising here would give away too much information about my hand. I have to bet. I bet $50 into $68 ($72 - $4 rake). He calls. River pairs the ace. Pretty much the best card I could've asked for. Even better than a 9. Now I have a full house and if he played AK tricky he has trips top kicker. If he was 3 bet bluffing with a hand like A4s he also has trips. The pot is $168 and he has just over $250 behind. I have a key decision here. I can bet a standard size, maybe $100 to $125. Or I can over-bet shove and try to stack him. To figure out which is the better play, we need to first figure out what range checks back the flop and calls my turn bet. Sometimes he will have slow-played AA and I might run into quads. But there's just one combo of AA since there's only two aces left in the deck. Less often, he might have 3 bet bluffed A9s or A3s and slow-played it on the flop. Again, due to card removal there's so few combos of those hands and also he's very unlikely to have 3 bet bluff those SPECIFIC hands preflop while ALSO slow-playing them on the flop. A8s is more likely but still very unlikely due to card removal. So to simplify calculations later, let's assume he doesn't have those and that I effectively have the nuts (the best possible hand on a given street).

Here is the range I think he gets to the river with (in blue). Dark blue means he doesn't have every combo due to card removal. For example, he can only have two combos of A5s since there's only two aces left in the deck (ace of hearts and ace of diamonds). The board was As9h3s 8s Ac so he can only have the two A5hh, A5dd combos and not A5ss or A5cc. I've also removed some combos of AK and AQs from his range since he's not slowplaying those all the time on the flop. But he's probably checking back A5s and A4s on the flop for pot control since it's top pair no kicker. 99 is greyed out since there's only one 9 left in the deck so he can't have 99 (I doubt he 3 bets it anyways cause it's a little weak to 3 bet for value).

Here's the range I think he calls a standard sized river bet with. For argument's sake let's say it's $120. The assumption here is he calls JJ-KK with a spade blocker and folds the combos without a spade blocker. He's also not folding trips here ever. So he calls 18/27 combos which means he calls 2/3 of the time.

Here's the range I think he calls an over-bet shove for $265 with. He's probably folding all combos of JJ-KK and calling all combos of trips. I could be wrong. Maybe he folds some of his worse trips combos (A5-A4s) or maybe he calls JJ-KK with a spade blocker some % of the time and especially KK cause it blocks both a flush and AK. It probably averages out to this assumption which is he calls 9/27 combos or 1/3 of the time.

So do I bet a standard size or go for his stack? Let's find out with some simple math! We just have to calculate the EV of both options. Our zero point is the $168 in the pot. We've assumed that I effectively hold the nuts and can't lose. Based on that assumption the $168 is already mine. So what's left is to calculate how much additional EV each bet size generates.

EV (standard) = (2/3) * ($120) + (1/3)  * ($0) = $80
EV (over-bet) = (1/3) * ($265) + (2/3) * ($0) = $88.33

It's close. What did I end up doing? What do you think I did? ;)

Of course my greedy ass went for his stack. :) I obviously couldn't count the combos in his range this precisely in the heat of battle, but that's what my gut told me to do. We've played before. In his eyes I'm an aggressive mid 20s Asian who is capable of pulling a big bluff. Except almost always when I stick in huge amounts of money, it's not a bluff. But I love how people assume it can be a bluff when the last time I over-bet as a bluff was probably 2015. After I said "I'm all in", he said "hmm...", thought about it for thirty seconds and called. I flipped over my 99 and triumphantly said "full house". He said "nice hand" as he showed the ace of diamonds. Got real lucky there.

Dancing in Bars, Studios and Hopefully Not On The Street

Found a place that teaches salsa, bachata and kizomba Thursdays as well as having social dancing after. Pretty legit looking place. Was nowhere as lit as Firefly but definitely good to have a lesson and be taught new moves. Salsa is taught weird here compared to back home. Back home you step forward on one, step in place on two and bring your feet together for beats three and four. Here you do some weird shit where you step forward on one, step forward again on two and step in place on three with one foot forward. Salsa's already confusing enough with your feet together on three and four! This is next level. Venue looks pretty legit though. They even have a live band. There's a place downtown on Sunday as well but I'm not really sure about going there. Sunday is a very profitable day to grind.

I also really should look into taking a martial arts class and working on that street "dancing". Violence is a very immature way to solve a confrontation, but this isn't Canada. It's not safe here 24/7 like it is almost everywhere back home. Even in downtown Hamilton I'd stumble around drunk at 2 am and not worry. I never really had to worry about whether it's safe to walk home at night. Here there are places where I need to be alert as soon as the sun goes down. I just opened a bank account here to keep my winnings safe. I don't like to fight, but if I'm unlucky I might find myself in a situation where it's not up to me. I might be cornered, I might not be able to run fast enough. If I'm real unlucky, I might encounter thugs looking to beat the fuck out of me instead of just being after my money. As long as I'm not shown a gun I'd be forced to stand my ground. Knowing a few good street dance moves could be the difference between having a working arm and a broken arm or even life and death. 

The sick thing is I might actually be living in a run down piece of shit place like this just cause it's walkable to the gym and more important The Strip and it's cheap. Walkable during the day at least. I for sure am not gonna try to save $5 - $10 a night by walking home.

Getting Stacked For $550 by a Fish I'm Targetting...Can I Maintain My Composure?

I got a table change cause there were too many decent aggressive players at my table. That's one of the benefits of 1/2. There are many tables to choose from. At 2/5 I certainly won't have this luxury but I will take it while I can. I noticed this one guy at my new table limping way too many trash hands. And he's deep stacked. When a seat opened up on his left I took it immediately. What happened next was a disaster. I got set over set for $550. And it was on my mind and hard to let go so I had to go for a walk to get my head back in the game.

Didn't manage to repair the damage fully but I'm glad I was able to keep playing my A game after going for a walk. Back in my first and second week here when I wasn't doing so well, one sign that I was tilting was I would lose my aggression. Bluffing is in general not a good idea, but when players are showing clear signs of weakness, not attacking that weakness is a crime against humanity.

Two limpers to me and I'm in the small blind with QT of spades. It's a suited broadway hand which is a decent hand that flops well enough for me to bet a lot postflop. I raise to $14 to try to get a heads up pot. The big blind calls and both limpers call. Shit. Flop is AJ4 two diamonds. Can't really bet my gutshot (four out straight draw) in a four way pot. I check and it gets checked around. Turn is the 6 of diamonds completing a possible flush. I don't see a bet getting through so I check and it gets checked to the guy in position who bets $15 into a pot of almost $60.

This is a clear sign of weakness. First checking back a wet flop like AJ4 with a flush draw means he usually doesn't have strong hands like AJ or 44. Second, he wouldn't bet 1/4 pot if he had anything that can withstand a check raise. Finally, the ace and jack were diamonds. That cuts MANY combos of flushes anyone can have. KQdd, KTdd, K9dd, QTdd, Q9dd and a few diamond connectors/one gappers are all that remain. If someone's limp calling some random trash like K5dd, well...they got me here but it's good for the game. Also why would they not bet their nut flush draw on the flop? So I raise to $50. I'm risking $50 to win almost $75 so if it works more than 40% of the time it's +EV. I can also hit a king if he calls and win  a big pot most of the time if it's not the king of diamonds. The other two players checked twice and are likely weak as well.

Everyone folded. I resisted the urge to show the bluff. Here's another leak I have - showing too many bluffs in an effort to tilt my opponents into calling me when I have a hand. Showing some is definitely important. Showing every bluff is just giving away too much information. Sometimes it's better to plant a seed of doubt by showing just one card or nothing at all.

Back to the hand, I'm happy with the result, but also I'm happy that I was able to clear my head and continue playing my A game even after taking a huge L as opposed to losing focus and missing spots like this. Getting stacked for almost 300 big blinds will happen again. And again. And again. Especially in more aggressive games at higher stakes where I'll be forced to call huge bets to not be exploitable. If I can't learn to not care, I can't be a solid poker player.

Plans For Playing Higher Stakes

The beautiful thing about poker is that with a bit of luck, a good work ethic and a good attitude, it is relatively easy to move up stakes even in 2017. Moving up the corporate ladder takes years or even decades. Moving up the poker ladder can be done much quicker. A reasonable end goal for most people is 5/10. I'm sure if I dropped out of school and I had the two qualities I just mentioned, then with a bit of luck a year from now I'd be a winning player at 5/10. I know I have the potential to one day be a winner at 10/25. MAYBE even 25/50 if I nerd the fuck out everyday and study my ass off to be a world-class poker player. But that's just way too high. Waaaaaaay too fucking high. And unless you have natural talent for poker, it would require a lifestyle that is way too heavily weighted toward poker and not much else.

How would I get to 5/10? There are many many steps. I've only been playing 1/2. First I'd have to take a shot at 1/3 on when it's most profitable. So Friday/Saturday nights and Sundays. Then if I'm not getting my ass handed to me I can slowly phase out 1/2 and play just 1/3. Then I can try the 2/3 with a $1000 max buy in at Rio. That's an optional step though. The next real step would be transitioning to 2/5. Again, I would start out taking shots on profitable nights and slowly phase out 1/3 and 2/3. But I would only play the $500 max buy in 2/5 game at Bellagio to start. Then I would play the $1000 max buy in in most other Vegas rooms and eventually the $1500 max buy in games.

The money is serious shit at this point. A -$3000 night can easily happen. A $10k downswing can happen here. Or worse. The guy who was supposed to come to Vegas with me went on a $20k heater then hit a $8500 downswing at 2/5 and changed his mind. He's a good poker player though and can easily grind it back if he hasn't already. Ed Miller recommends having $20k set aside just for poker for 2/5. I doubt I can grind out $20k this summer but I've started with a few thousand and I'm up a decent amount currently. So during the WSOP (World Series of Poker) if I'm doing well I'll take a few shots at 2/5 with less. The games will be softer than normal anyways during the WSOP.

And eventually...with a bankroll of at least $50k I would take shots at 5/10. Less if I have a good software job that pays well. Those games are crazy. The max buy ins are probably $3000+ or even uncapped. People bring $10k to the table in some of those games. And people who play 5/10 are way more aggressive than people who play 1/2. My win rate would be lower there (in terms of big blinds per hour). The variance is also gonna be huge not only cause the stakes are five times higher but also because those games play deeper and way more aggressively with a lot of betting, raising and stacks going in the middle.

That's not gonna happen this summer though. Maybe a future summer. Even if I jump into 2/5 right now (which is a horribly reckless and stupid thing to do) and crush it for $50/hr for the next 400 hours that's only $20k. And I'm still at 1/2. :P 5/10 is a distant dream.

So here's the plan:

--> 1/2 uncapped (optional)
--> 1/3
--> 2/3 with $1000 max at Rio (optional)
--> 2/5 with $500 max Bellagio
--> 2/5 with $1000 max
--> 2/5 with $1500 max
--> 2/5 uncapped (optional)
--> deep fucking breath
--> 5/10
--> deeper fucking breath, big balls
--> 5/10 uncapped

Goal is to be at 2/5 before I leave so that when I'm back in Canada I can play 2/5 confidently. I will for sure be coming back to Vegas, although next summer is the last summer before I graduate and I'll have to do co-op otherwise my future as a software developer is gonna be severely crippled. There's always Reading Week twice a year and Christmas Break though. :)


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