September 16, 2004

Magic Number: 6

I have a new column about the Twins and White Sox over at The Hardball Times, but in honor of the White Sox doing so much talking (and so much losing), I'm not even going to talk baseball here. Instead, here's a little poker stuff (I'll give a link to my THT article at the end, don't worry) ...

I was playing a $20 Sit & Go tournament yesterday afternoon and I had what was easily the best run of cards I've ever had in my (admittedly brief) poker career. With three players left and me as the short stack, I got dealt AA, QJ, AA and KK in the span of five hands.

I slow-played the aces before the flop the first time I got them, in the small blind, simply calling the big blind (which was at $500). The big blind, as he had been doing pretty consistently, then raised me all-in just like I thought he would. It worked for him a couple times earlier on, but it obviously wasn't working this time. I called and he had complete rags -- something like 10h8d -- and I doubled up.

I then took down a small pot with QJ, folded a hand, and found myself staring at AA in the small blind again. I again slow-played and this time he knew better than to raise me before the flop. The flop was a rainbow of undercards, so I checked. He bet out into me, probably figuring there was no way I had another high pocket-pair.

I re-raised, and he came back over the top. I thought about the decision for about three seconds, realized there was no flush or straight draw on the board, and took a chance that he hadn't made a set with a low pocket-pair or a lucky two-pair with complete junk. I pushed all-in, he called with pocket tens, didn't hit a set on fourth or fifth street, and I knocked him out.

All of a sudden I went from low stack to chip leader and playing heads up. I look down (I know it's on the computer, but I like talking like I was playing live) and find KK. I figure the other guy has seen me slow-play AA two times in the last four hands, so I decide to push all-in, in the hopes that he has something decent and thinks I'm trying to bluff him out of the money he put up to call the big blind (which was up to $600 at this point).

Sure enough, he calls with QhJh, I hit my third king on the flop, and he misses his straight and flush. I'll take the win, because my bankroll sure needed it, but I almost felt bad for the other two guys or somehow embarrassed. I wasn't really playing all that well, barely managing to make it into the money, and anyone with a semi-functioning brain should be able to go on a tear with AA, QJ, AA and KK.

After that, my confidence was sky high, which I've found is really important to my game. If I've played well earlier in the day, I have a lot more confidence that my reads are right and I have a lot more bravery when it comes to bluffing. I finished in the money in two more $20 Sit & Go tourneys, despite not getting a pocket-pair in either of them, and I went over-the-top more times than I can ever remember, all without being called (or re-raised) even once.

So I'm pretty pumped about my game right now, because after I played really well last month, I went through a very rough patch, but played well enough to live through it and recoup all of the money and then some. My bankroll is bigger than it's ever been, which is a good feeling.

Of course, I'm still a little worried about certain aspects of my play. For one thing, I think I'm definitely slow-playing far too often. However, it just seems to me that the only way to get maximum chips out of a high pocket-pair or a flopped set lately is to let someone else make a mistake in front of you. Still, I know that's a dangerous way to play.

Something that sort of goes along with that is the fact that I'm also probably not raising before the flop enough. I've noticed that I've been checking to see a cheap flop a lot more than I used to and, when I was running poorly last week, it led to getting out-drawn with inferior hands several times.

What I really need is a poker coach. Someone who really knows that they're doing who can watch me play and tell me (who sort of knows what he's doing) all the idiotic stuff I'm doing wrong.

Okay, now that I've got all that boring poker stuff off my chest, go check out my baseball article for today ...

The Hardball Times: Trash Talking From Second Place (Again)

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