Sunday, February 13, 2011

Stack Management - Lucky or Good?

This is just a sample pic, not from our game
L is a poker league admin who hosts a weekly tournament 1.2 miles from my house.  In an upstairs room of their home that is generally a family's "great" room, L and his wife (who doesn't play, but makes a terrific lasagna) have created a poker haven unlike any I've experienced.  It can house four poker tables, has a great plasma TV well-centered and generally tuned to a sports channel, and the room's walls are covered with some of the best poker paraphenalia I've ever seen (along with a great collection of beer/wine bottles and steins).  Off to one side, they have a table set up with what seems like every known issue of Poker Player Newspaper, Bluff & CardPlayer magazines.  The majority of the players are men who, like L, love poker.  Many of them, also like L, are very good players who see poker as more than just a recreational hobby.

The goals of the league are pretty straightforward - we compete in these weekly tourneys to win the greatest percentage of that week's buyins.  A portion of our buyins, however, go to one large pot that, come summer and WSOP-time, the top few players who have the most points (i.e, have done better overall throughout the year in the weekly games) will have earned $1000 buyin seats.

I know the exact mileage to L's house because I made the decision to play yesterday at the last minute and needed to calculate whether I had enough time to get there.  I did, but just barely.  I had to scramble since one of the prerequisites to a bonus chip is that we bring a 12-pack of something to drink.  Luckily, we had a 12-pack, minus about 4 cans, of Root Beer in the pantry.  I was able to scrounge up a complete 12-pack by throwing in the odd Coke and Big Red.  Diet, of course, because, you know, we're healthy like that.

I wasn't planning on going because the weather has just been so nice - late in the day, we decided to BBQ and some good friends came over.  L's league games are a scheduled event though (I've only played it two other times and have had to cancel a few times), and so as I was talking with everyone about whether or not to go, my love said simply - "just go, we'll cook you a steak. If you bust out early, come on home and it'll be waiting." sweet, right?  My poker buddy Terry had been texting me, trying to get me to go, so with all that encouragement I did my one absolute ritual: had my daughter kiss my card protector (please don't call CPS because she knows what a card protector is).  I love this card protector (which she gave me).

Froggy, your standard PetShop toy
Anyway, remember the loving encouragement I received about - "sure, go ahead and play"? Well, last words: "you better win if we're here BBQing without you.  Don't come home empty-handed."  *smooch* HA!

That's a boatload of verbiage to basically get to the point of this post, working with whatcha got - or, taking care of your stack.  If you followed my tweets from that night, you know I had a pretty standard game.  Nothing too amazing, tricky, or spewy in the first few rounds.  The one thing I noticed was that I was just having fun.  I had no concern for my cards and/or worry about raises and/or the players in front of me or acting behind.  My mood was happy to be playing and trying to focus on betting patterns and any reads based on same (I was so happy inside when I put a guy on Js and that's exactly the hand he turned over. I wasn't in the hand).  A couple of times when folded to me, I played some hands I normally wouldn't open with and I called behind in MW pots with hands I'd generally raise with.  I had to lay down AKs once in such a spot, but J8s ended up being a nice winner.

By the time we'd made it to the final table, I'd taken a bit of a hit to my stack.  I was lowman on the totem pole and had some work to do, but oh did I have interference to my left:  cL directly to my left, then, my friend Terry, and next to her - a big stack who was basically a nit/spewtard (a lovely gentleman who on a previous table had raised 3x in a row.  3rd time he did it, I was on B and reraised.  He thought a minute and said, "ok, honey, I'll let you have my 3500 *this* time." I smiled sweetly and said, "thank you, honey."  I don't think he liked that, but I'm not sure.  He just said, "you're welcome.") 

My final table stack

With all that interference, I really had to pick my spots carefully.  When I'm in that position, I mentally talk to myself.  Normally, the poker gods listen and reward my positive self-talk.  This time, however, I kept getting dealt 92o, 84o, you know - the dreaded 72o.  With those holdings, what's a girl to do?

Raise it up!  You better chip up or go home, sister.  I knew my steak was long cold by now and we weren't yet even in the money so something had to give.  Over the next three-to-five orbits I pick spots and I shovey-dovey and take down blinds.  I'm back to fighting weight and we've lost a few in the process - ITM!

S, to my right, has played many events, including WSOPc events and I'd overheard him earlier telling someone that he'd chopped a recent one for first, taking down $7000.  I'd never played him before, so I didn't have much information.  All I know is that he and I were about equal in stacks.  He's two to my right...not raising every button, but almost (as he should), and I've folded each time.  The next time, I tell myself, if he min-raises, I'm raising.

It's next time. I'm overjoyed because the poker gods have gifted me with a beautiful big blind of J4o.  S min raises his button.  I reraise and, for the most part, am AI.  He tanks and shoves.  I made my decision, it's now time to follow through, "I call."  He has Axo and I flop a J.  GG (I just had him covered).  

Ah - a little breathing room.  I'm not cL but I'm also not SS anymore.  We've lost two more and are now 5-handed.  Finally, just when I needed it, the poker gods pay me another visit.  I look down at a glorious Q4o.  It was the typical blind v blind battle.  I'm SB, cL (who by this point had taken a hit or two but still had me well covered) is BB.  I raise it up.  He calls.  Flop comes x7x - I shove.  If he calls, he's left with 2500 (about 1.5bbs).  He tanks.  He knows how to play this game...he tanks and tanks and tanks.

Now generally when I'm in this position, I'm in turmoil inside.  I am so competitive that I want to win everything.  It's such a huge leak because there can be no emotion in this game - you either make the best decisions you can with the information you have and chalk the outcome up to experience or you make yourself miserable with all the bad beats you're going to experience when you do get it in good and lose (which was obviously not the case here).

In that moment, I truly didn't care what happened.  Sure, I wanted him to fold because I had squatcha nada, but I knew in my heart that I'd played my A-game.

cL made an excellent call.  He had A7o.  And I turned a Q.  Down to what was effectively one big blind, (former) cL proceeded to rally over the next few orbits with some excellent holdings (Ks and As) and began what he hoped was a come back.
Now that I am cL, I am exerting pressure. I'm still not really getting any great cards, but whatever I have, it's doing the trick.  Finally, we're 4-handed (my friend Terry played a helluva a game but got unlucky when SB woke up with a hand against her average stack and B raise).  Former cL is still hanging at 10-15bbs. Nit/spewtard is making some raises a few times but is folding to AIs from the Guy To My Right (GTMR).  Finally, I'm B, former cL is SB and N/S is BB.  I look down at A4o and raise it up.  SB folds and N/S goes AI.  I've got him well-covered and call.  He flips up A8s.  Ugh, I'm dominated.  Until...until the flop brings me a 4.  And the turn brings me another 4.  Wheeeee!  He was so mad.

Can you imagine what those three gentlemen were thinking?  Here's a gal showing down hands like Q4, J4, A4 (seriously, those were my showdowns.  I told Terry later, the only pairs I got all night were 2s, 6s, 7s and Js and the only hands that did anything for me were the 7s) - I'm a total luckbox, right? ;-)


Former cL and I were BvB again - he had 2bbs.  I had 94o, "I'm AI"  What am I gonna do?  Fold there?  He turns over 84o.  GG

Poor GTMR.  Important note, however: when we sat down at FT 9-handed, someone made a comment about chopping.  He and former cL both averred with much (and deserved - they are the top two on the league's leader board) confidence that they play to win. GTMR added, after expressing purposefully pointed surprise at seeing two women at a final table, "you've got to have GANAS to play this game."  So, when we're heads up and he asks me, "what do you want to do?"  I responded, "don't you want to keep playing?"  So,, we're not going to chop, Mr. nice GuyToMyRight (with ganas).

I think we played 7 hands.  It was a very fun night.

$435 - ship it
So here's my question - do you think I "just got lucky" or do you think I played poker?  Let me have it - and be honest.  

If you've read this far, thank you!  And if you railed via twitter last night, BIG TIME thanks!  It's so fun to have a rail, even more so when it's a good night.  You guys made it truly fun-ner.

I hope you're chip stack ninja-ing it up in your own games, peeps.  Good luck at the tables, my friends.



  1. So here's my question - do you think I "just got lucky" or do you think I played poker? Let me have it - and be honest.

    You are finally playing poker, not your cards. To win any tourney you have to get lucky.

  2. These guys were tough. It was not an easy game, and I know before Poker Lawyer got to my table (final table), I was their prime target. It took several times of going over the top and shoving to get them to back down. But it was pretty funny to see their big stacks shrinking(as were their GANAS) as we slowly knocked out one after another.

    She was playing incredibly well, and is impossible to read, so I just got out of the way when she raised. I was in a good seat being on her left.

    Yeah she got lucky in a few spots, but it takes more than luck to take that game down...I was pretty happy about 4th place myself. Of course taking 1st and 2nd would have been pure heaven...


  3. Lol, great blog!! Abit of luck and well played!
    Suzi x


  4. You def play poker in my book hun! You had fun and for its all that matters. When Im playing live and having a blast everything comes together but making a good read and knowing you were right takes your confidence very high!

    Having support from the ones you love its priceless, I dunno how that feels cuz I aint getting any :(

    Best of luck and keep getting those points :)

    Villa aka Colombian Grinder

  5. Big Red? Wow, haven't thought of that drink in years -- I never could stand it but my little sisters went thru a spell of loving it. Even finding a 2 liter of Dr. Pepper is hard in Boston, believe it or not.

    In cash games, I'm pretty much always focused on my equity versus villain's range (i.e. Galfond-bucks), and I don't think you even got it in way behind, especially if you thought you had fold equity to boot, although binking that Q was definitely lucky. I think you played it well.

  6. Hey Jose - you bring up a really great point. Because family is important to me, I very much value their support. It sounds like you do, too. Personally, I know I couldn't play if I didn't have the support of my loved ones.

    Here's my take, for what it's worth: Poker, especially tournament poker, is such a time suck. For that reason, I found it very important to be as open and honest as possible about loving this game and really wanting to give it a go.

    Sure, I'd been studying and working on it and playing as much as possible, but for someone who does not play the game, if they're just seeing you in front of the computer (and especially if they're not seeing huge paychecks as a result), there's no way they can truly understand just what it is you're doing. I mean, for all intents and purposes, online poker can certainly LOOK like you're just sitting around playing a video game, right?

    And, if there's no open communication, there can be fear. Explaining what you're doing, how and why, helps. Once they understand that you're not gambling or playing with the monthly mortgage payment, and you're having open, honest communication about your plans and goals, that fear, if any, can be resolved. Plain and simple - it helps to have a plan and communicate that plan. Such as - I'm going to play online Monday-Wednesday and on Sundays from x o'clock to y o'clock and during that time, it's just like I'm at work and that time should be treated that way. Once everyone knows the boundaries and it's clear what you're doing, then you can concentrate, do your best, and the rest will follow.

    I also actually sat down with my loved ones and we read through some really good passages from Treat Your Poker Like a Business, by Dusty Schmidt. I think that book is great for not only your own perspective about getting into the right mindframe, but it helps your loved ones see just how seriously you're treating this.

    Anyway, those are just some of my thoughts. What do you think?

  7. I couldnt agree more with you there. At the beginning when I lived with my parents they didnt like me playing a "video game" all day long in front of a computer and I remember mom saying "Im good with it as long as you are not on the streets looking for trouble" but then I started to talk to them about it and explaining them what I was doing and everything behind the poker world. At first they understood then I moved to another city and started living with my sis (Im still living with her) but I aint getting any support from her or my parents. Now they have this thing in wich they believe I have problems with gambling and stuff. It kinda sucks but they dont even want to hear my site of the story. In Colombia saying you play poker is like saying you life is fucked up and you spent all day long in a casino, drugs, alcohol and I can go on and on about it so bottom line here saying you are a poker player is bad.

    At one point I was mad at this but one day I talked with mom and dad and told them I was gonna play for the rest of my life, a decition was made and it was mine to decided so I dont care what ppl say about me. I have a college degree and I take poker very seriously.

    Hopefully Ill move this year to my own place so I can grind peacefully with no one talking behind my backs.

    Thats my story lol

  8. You did well in the tournament. That is exactly what I was wanting or needing to hear from someone. No problem playing premium hands but you still need to grow chips. You just told me what I needed to do. I have to play the hands that are not premium. How many times do I get 93,82,73, 105 etc. I keep throwing them away and my chip stack goes along with it. I have read the book making it a business by Dusty and really enjoyed it. I am looking at getting his new book and hopefully that will help me as well.
    Keep up the great work......

  9. Tough to tell from the hands you posted, but an SnG, especially the home variety has a whole set of variables that affect it. Sounds like a tough crowd, but you stuck with your game and pulled it out. You need luck in these types of event I've found, but good play is frequently rewarded with good luck. You can't count on a 3 outer all the time, but that's what it comes down to sometimes. I like to give a bad beat with a crappy holding sometimes especially when the outcome doesn't affect me (i.e. I have them well covered). It makes other players' reads on me all the more suspect. (I'm typically tight aggressive.) The goal of the game is to make them make the wrong decision and for you to make the right one. VGG

  10. Hey guys - I appreciate the comments, thank you!


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