A tournament hand

Just a quick hand history from a tournament I played earlier this week:

We’re seven handed at the final table and everyone is in the money. The payscale is fairly flat through 3rd place, but there is a decent jump between 3rd and 2nd and a big jump between 2nd and 1st. The blinds are 2,000,/4,000, there is a 400 ante, and I am the chip leader with about 110K (28BB, 12.5 M).

An older player with one of the shorter stacks (20K) limps in. We’ve only been at the same table for an orbit or two, but so far he’s struck me as an intelligent person who is pretty bad at poker. He clearly doesn’t understand push/fold math, is weak/passive, and fairly easy to read. I’d imagine he has some sort of Ace high hand or two broadway cards, but he could have suited connectors or a low to medium pair. I’d heavily discount him having a large pocket pair or Ace King.

It folds around to the small blind, who makes a min raise to 8K. The small blind has the third largest stack, with about 60K. He is also an older gentleman, but has so far struck me as durdly and unthinking. He also doesn’t understand any of the tournament dynamics, and is likely a level zero player, only thinking about his own hand strength. He’s shown some aggression before, and has been open raising 3 to 3.5x the big blind, so his raise here, especially with a limper, is unusual.

I am in the big blind with 2c_e 2s. What’s my play?

If I were heads up against the limper the correct play is to move all in. I have some fold equity, which is significant, but I’m mostly interested in the overlay from the dead money in the pot. If I were called 100% of the time I would be risking 16K to win 28.8K, which means I need about 35.7% equity. I have 40% equity against the range of any pair and any two broadway cards. If we take AA, KK, and QQ out of my opponent’s range I go up to about 42% equity. If my opponent’s range is AJ+, KQ, and JJ-22, which is a pretty tight range here, I have enough equity for a push to be profitable without fold equity.

The presence of the small blind complicates things, however. I’m simply not comfortable going to war with one of the other big stacks with this particular holding – the table as a whole has been pretty passive and I’m confident that I can easily get to top 3 with 20% or more of the chips if I continue to play as I have been (avoiding confrontations with the other big stacks, stealing aggressively, putting pressure on the small stacks). If the SB had just limped in I would likely just check and hope to check it down all the way.

I have the odds to set mine here. There’s 18.8 K in the pot right now, and the SB has 52K back, and I only have to call 4 K, which means I am getting 4.7 to 1 in immediate odds and 17.7 to 1 in implied odds. A clear call if I were heads up against the SB.

But the presence of the limper complicates things yet again. If I call, the limper shoves, and the SB shoves I’ll have to call 52K to win 90.8K, so I would need 36.4% equity. If I’m facing a range of top 20% of hands from the limper and top 10% of hands I only have 27.5% equity. Against two random hands I only have about 31% equity.

If I call, the limper shoves, and the SB only calls I’ll have to call 12K to win 50.8K, so I’ll need about 19% equity, which I probably have. But I won’t always be able to realize all of my equity – sometimes the SB will bet the flop and I’ll either fold the best hand or I’ll fold when I would have made a set on the turn or the river. So while I probably have enough equity to call in this situation I will have trouble realizing this equity.

Finally, if I call and the limper simply calls then I have the correct odds to set mine once again, and I can simply fold on any flop I don’t connect with.

Given the nature of the limper I actually think that the majority of the time I call he’ll call behind or fold. But the frequency with which I get a favorable outcome from calling is so low (call it about 8% of the time, since I flop a set 12% of the time, but sometimes I’ll have to fold preflop to a shove), that it’s not worth the cost, even though the magnitude of the outcome is high (eliminate two players and get up to 190K in chips). If this were a table where I felt I didn’t have a skill edge this would be a good spot to take, but the variance isn’t worth it here, in my opinion.

In the tournament I folded and the small blind shoved on a fairly dry flop. The limper folded and the small blind showed Aces, confirming my belief that his raise sizing was unusual.


March goals

Let’s talk goals for the next month. I’ve been really happy with my progress so far on health related goals, and I think I can step up the difficulty on most of them. I’m already meeting or exceeding most of these goals, but I’d like to be tracking against them explicitly going forward.

  • 7,000 steps per day
  • Average a 1,000 calorie per day deficit and maintain a calorie deficit every day
  • Work out three times a week (currently 3x sets of squats, push-ups, and rows)
  • Drink 128 oz of water each day
  • Track weight, sleep, and calorie intake every day
  • Track other body measurements (waist, chest, etc) weekly and take semi-monthly progress pictures

In the general life improvement set of goals I’m mostly in maintenance mode with a little tightening of restrictions. I completed a bunch of small but annoying tasks this month, like getting my Good to Go pass set up and canceling the TV service I never use, that removed a bunch of friction from my life, which has been a big relief.

  • Call my parents every weekend
  • Improve the cleanliness/clutter level of my apartment every week
  • Once a week have an explicit cleaning task
  • Continue to organize my life along a task oriented methodology
  • Don’t have shut-in, depressive days

In the hobbies/income/creative categories of goals I’m running back most of my goals, adding a couple of things, and tweaking my blogging goal to make it psychologically a bit easier to achieve.

  • Get 120 hours of poker in
  • Set aside specific times to study poker each week
  • Write at least one blog post a week here
  • Go to one of the IRL PTQs (there are five PTQs on three weekends this month, but they are all 5+ hour drives from Seattle, so attending more than one is ambitious)
  • Play in at least one MtGO PTQ
  • Play more MtGO (30+ tickets worth of tournaments)
  • Do thorough preparation work for the SCG tournaments I am doing commentary at
  • Write a specification for my MtGO Agent project and do initial research

One of the problems I encountered with the blogging goal I set up for last month was that it was too easy to procrastinate, and then once I had procrastinated it felt too daunting for me to try to catch back up. I think by making this a weekly goal instead of a monthly goal I’ll be more motivated to keep up to date with it.

So, that’s my plan for this month. Let’s see how I do.

February goal tracking

February is almost over, which means it is time to measure my progress against my goals for this month. To recap, my goals were:

  • Take a 15 minute walk every day
  • Call my parents every weekend
  • Improve the cleanliness/clutter level of my apartment every week
  • Weigh myself every day
  • Don’t have shut-in, depressive days
  • Average 6,000 steps per day
  • Track my food intake
  • Track my sleep cycles
  • Get 120 hours of poker in
  • Continue to organize my life along a task oriented methodology
  • Write at least four posts here
  • Don’t skip any IRL Magic PTQs
  • Play in at least one MtGO PTQ
  • Play more MtGO (30+ tickets worth of tournaments)

So, how did I do?

  • I achieved all of my health and fitness goals for the month, and mostly exceeded them. I’ve lost 15 pounds since the start of the new year, I’m feeling a lot more energetic, and I am enjoying having a daily exercise routine. Since I started keeping track of calories I’ve been motivated to keep a daily calorie deficit and that has accelerated my weight loss.
  • I also met my “be a better person/don’t be an asshole” goals. Specifically, I’ve been talking to my parents regularly, I’m making an effort to keep in touch with friends and not be a recluse, I’m keeping my apartment clean (and making it cleaner each week), I’m continuing to organize my life, and I’ve gone out on a few dates with some nice women.
  • I completed half of my Magic related goals. I’m playing some MtGO (which I am terrible at right now because I keep on letting myself get distracted) and I went to a couple of IRL Magic PTQs. I skipped one IRL PTQ to go on a date, which I did consciously and don’t feel invalidates the goal. I did miss my MtGO PTQ goal – it turns out there was only one MtGO PTQ this month, and I missed it due to poor planning/obliviousness. Finally, I definitely punted my goal of making four blog posts here this month – this is actually the first one I’ve made.
  • I am currently at 90.5 hours of poker played for the month and I’m not likely to get an additional 30 hours in over the next three days. I’m probably going to get up to about 100 to 110 hours in (I am playing 4-5 hours tonight and 6-12 hours tomorrow but Thursday I am taking off to do errands, get lunch with friends, and go dancing). I think I am fine with this – I had a really bad start to the month, results wise, which led to me taking a bunch of days off to de-steam, and my weekends have been pretty Magic filled. I think 120 hours a month is an achievable goal, but probably a difficult one. I am likely to run it back for next month.

Overall I am pretty pleased with how the month went. The health and be a better person goals were the things I wanted to work on the most, so I’m really happy that I met all of those goals. I also had a lot of other good things happen this month, including convincing Star City Games to let me do coverage for SCG Seattle in April, training two new judges, and playing some pretty good Magic.

I have good ideas about what I want to do in the next month and overall I am pleased with how this whole project is going.

January recap and setting goals for February

I didn’t feel to great about myself at the end of last year. I was in the worst shape of my life (and I’ve never been a particularly healthy or active person), I wasn’t miserable but I wasn’t happy, and I ended a lot of days feeling like I just hadn’t accomplished anything. So in December I made a decision to try to make my life a little bit better every day. I’m pleased with my progress so far, but I still have a lot I want to accomplish.

I know enough about myself to realize that while I’m very good at stopping doing something all at once (e.g. when I quit smoking), I struggle when I try to start something big or make changes to existing behaviors. So my strategy has been to introduce gradual changes to my life, set goals for my self, gather data frequently, and evaluate how well I am implementing these changes and whether the changes are actually effective at heading towards my goals. It’s a semi-Scrum type of project management, in that I’m breaking things down into small tasks, tacking a lot of problems simultaneously, and constantly measuring and re-evaluating against my goal burn down.

I’ve decided that I want to set new goals and evaluate progress on at least a monthly basis for all the things I’m trying to accomplish, and I want to have something permanent that I can point to and say “you made a commitment,” so I’ve decided that I’m going to publish my goals and my progress evaluation here on this blog. I may decide that I want to track things at a finer-grained level in the future, but again, part of my process is initiating small change that is easy to commit to and attempting to ingrain it as habit before introducing new change.

So where am I at? Well for January I wanted to do the following:

  • Take a 15 minute walk every day
  • Call my parents every weekend
  • Improve the cleanliness/clutter level of my apartment every week
  • Weigh myself every day
  • Don’t have shut-in, depressive days

I’ve accomplished all of these goals and they are all feeling pretty natural. Additionally, I’ve taken steps to really organize my online and offline life, post here more frequently, and try to be more social, all things that I wanted to work on but hadn’t set as goals for January. So yay so far!

For February I want to:

  • Maintain all of my January goals
  • Average 6,000 steps per day
  • Track my food intake
  • Track my sleep cycles
  • Get 120 hours of poker in
  • Continue to organize my life along a task oriented methodology
  • Write at least four posts here
  • Don’t skip any IRL Magic PTQs
  • Play in at least one MtGO PTQ
  • Play more MtGO (30+ tickets worth of tournaments)

So that’s what I’m doing for the next month.

Gatecrash Legacy Review

And I think that’s about it. Frown town.

Ok, ok, we’ll be a little more thorough, but unlike Return to Ravnica there are no format defining cards like Deathrite Shaman, staple cards like Abrupt Decay, or even powerful sideboard options like Rest in Peace. Instead we have a number of niche cards that are unlike to make the cut, the Nivmagus Elementals and Worldspine Wurms of this set. The potential Legacy cards in Gatecrash can roughly be divided into four categories: flexible cards that fit in existing archetypes, powerful cards that currently do not have a home, cards that only fit in a single archetype, and sideboard cards. Let’s walk through them:

Flexible currently playable cards

Dimir Charm is a lot like Izzet Charm – it kills a bunch of relevant creatures (Dark Confidant, unflipped Delvers, Deathrite Shaman, Elves, utility creatures), can counter relevant spells in all of the combo and most of the control decks, and has a marginal card filtering ability that can be used in a pinch. I think it’s a lot more likely to see play than Izzet Charm, however, because it is a better fit for the BUG decks than Izzet Charm was for RUG Delver and it shores up their weaknesses whereas Izzet Charm addressed issues that weren’t pressing for RUG Delver. Specifically, a 2cc reactive spell is much more palatable to BUG decks that run more lands, have Deathrite Shamans, and want to play a longer game than in the mana light RUG Delver decks. RUG decks didn’t need the flexibility of Izzet Charm because they use burn spells for removal, meaning that they don’t have to worry as much about their removal spells being dead in combo matchups, whereas BUG decks will appreciate having removal that doubles as a counterspell more. Additionally the disruption that Dimir Charm gives BUG decks is a better compliment to its existing suite of disruption, because it attacks from a different angle than the discard that BUG relies upon. I think that Dimir Charm has enough things going for it that it should see some maindeck usage in BUG decks.

Orzhov CharmOrzhov Charm could see some play in Junk decks if we ever move to a point in the format where a Maverick deck splashing black became a viable choice again. A deck would have to want the third mode to be significantly useful in order to choose to play Orzhov charm, since the first mode is mostly useless and the second mode has to compete with Swords to Plowshares. Realistically the only 1 drops I would be willing to pay 2 mana to reanimate are Deathrite Shaman, Mother of Runes, and Heritage Druid/Nettle Sentinel/Wirewood Symbiote/etc. I’d want at least eight creatures I could get back in order to run this card, so either I’m looking at a combo Elves deck or a Maverick deck to play this. Unfortunately Maverick is not playable in the current meta and I think trying to play a double splash non-creature card in Elves is pretty ambitious.

I’ve heard arguments that Simic Charm is a card that RUG Delver decks would want, but I’m skeptical. I’d argue that Vapor Snag is a better card than Simic Charm if you’re in the market for an Unsummon, as two mana is much more than one mana in the sort of tempo decks that want an Unsummon and bouncing your own creature is almost as good a defensive measure as giving your guy Hexproof. Simic charm has the nice upsides of countering an opponent’s Wasteland activation and winning Tarmogoyf wars, but you’ll rarely realize the former since you would be leaving up two mana and you already have burn spells to realize the latter. Simic Charm just doesn’t match up well to with RUG Delver’s plan of attack.

Powerful cards without a home

Twitter’s been all aflutter with Boros Charm ever since it was spoiled, and with good reason – it’s a sweet card. Boros Charm is a great card for aggressive creature based decks that either have a few key creatures they want to protect or which exist in a format where Wrath effects are prevalent. Unfortunately there aren’t any viable decks in Legacy that would want Boros Charm and Boros Charm doesn’t match up well to the removal in the format. The first issue is that there aren’t any red white decks in Legacy anymore – ever since the demise of Zoo this color combination has been virtually non-existent as these two colors have been relegated, in creature decks, to splash colors that are both splashed primarily for removal (and thus are never splashed together). Neither of the two relevant red decks in the format, Burn and Goblins, would want to splash White for this card as only one of the modes is relevant to either deck (Burn is interested in dealing damage and Goblins is interested in indestructability) and splashing an additional color is a real cost for both decks. Maverick might have been interested in splashing Boros charm, but, as mentioned previously Maverick isn’t a deck currently, and if it were to become more viable it would be more interested in splashing black for disruption than red for Punishing Fire and Boros Charm. In addition to not having a deck that wants these abilities, Boros Charm simply doesn’t match-up well with the format right now. The third ability is only relevant in creature combat, as you’re rarely going to deal more than 4 additional damage to an opponent by giving a creature double strike, particularly in the fast aggressive decks that want the other abilities. Four damage for two mana is actually a pretty good deal, but the granting indestructibility to your permanents isn’t as relevant as we would like given that the only Wrath in the format is Terminus and that Swords to Plowshares and Liliana of the Veil are prevalent removal spells. It’s too bad Boros Charm was printed in the post Delver of Secrets world, as it would have been an awesome card in Zoo, but as it is it doesn’t have a home.

Domri Rade is another card that would have been sweet in the heyday of Zoo but doesn’t have a good home right now. I don’t think that the current Jund decks are creature dense enough to get card advantage with Domri and the format isn’t enough about board control for her -2 ability to be relevant right now, unlike two years ago when Zoo would have been interested in a card that helped you win the mirror and was good against Goblins and Merfolk. It’s possible that a Goblins deck splashing Green would be interested in Domri simply as a card advantage engine, but drawing cards is not something that deck really has a problem with, so I doubt it would be good enough to lower your Goblin count.

Crypt Ghast and Blind Obedience are both on the Legacy power curve but they don’t do things that make sense in the format right now. Crypt Ghast is somewhat in the Nic Fit wheelhouse of accelerating your mana in a significant way and then casting large threats, but so far that strategy has proven to be too slow and not disruptive enough to be successful in Legacy. Blind Obedience is the best Kismet ever printed, but I think we would need something more to make Stasis playable in the first place, and it’s been years since a prison style deck that didn’t interact on the stack was viable (the last one, mono-white Stax, wouldn’t benefit from playing Blind Obedience).

Niche cards

Cards that only go in one deck can still be powerful and format altering, but unfortunately most of the niche cards in Gatecrash are either less effective than existing cards, or are doing something that isn’t really relevant to the current Legacy metagame, and thus I don’t expect any of these cards to make waves.

Prime Speaker Zegana is the niche card that I think is most likely to see main-deck play in Legacy, as part of a Hypergenesis deck. Hypergenesis and Eureka are somewhat different from other cards that put multiple permanents in play at once in that they put cards in play in an order instead of simultaneously, which means that Prime Speaker Zegana can see the creatures you put down before her, and will get her +1/+1 counter bonus. So as long as you have another fatty the Speaker will also sport some muscle, and, more importantly, she will draw you a bunch of cards so you can either protect your goon squad or go off again.

Everyone loves gigantic, flashy spells, but the truth of the matter is that it is a lot harder to cheat in big Sorceries than it is to cheat in expensive permanents. Additionally, Enter the Infinite is not super exciting if you expend all of your resources to cast it and then don’t have enough resources left to cast the spells you just drew. I think a lot of the ways we have for cheating spells into play, like Fist of Suns, Mosswort Bridge, or Windbrisk Heights are just not viable as you can’t guarantee a win just by drawing your deck, so we have to look to a shell with Dream Halls, Omniscience, or High Tide to use Enter the Infinite. High Tide doesn’t need an expensive kill card once it gets it’s mana engine going – it’s perfectly able to win using Cunning Wish and the cards it uses to go off in the first place, and since Enter the Infinite can’t be wished for it would have to be in the main deck, clogging up our ability to go off in the first place. Omniscience seems like a good fit, but we already have a compact single card win with Burning Wish that we can use with Omniscience, and Burning Wish also helps us find the pieces to go off with Omniscience. Dream Halls also seems like a good fit – we have an enabler that lets us cheat out Enter the Infinite and it lets us cast the spells we draw off of Enter the Infinite. That said, casting Enter the Infinite off of Dream Halls seems like it’s just as good as casting Conflux off of Dream Halls. In both cases you win as soon as you assemble Dream Halls and the card in question, and your in deck kill condition is super compact. Given that Dream Halls has not been a winning archetype in the past year, I doubt that adding Enter the Infinite, either as a supplement to or a replacement of Conflux, is going to make Dream Halls a viable archetype.

Like every other Goblin card ever printed Legion Loyalist has been suggested as an addition to the Legacy Goblins list by dozens of forum posters. And while Legion Loyalist has a great rate for the effect it generates, this isn’t an effect you really want in your Goblin deck. Giving a bunch of 1 and 2 power guys trample isn’t super effective, nor is the first strike. We may see this guy as a one of sideboard card in Goblins, especially if Goblins swings back to a more aggressive posture in the metagame, but that’s the best I would expect of this card.

Hellkite Tyrant may see some play in the sideboards of Dredge and Reanimator should the Welder MUD deck have a resurgence. Both Dredge and Reanimator are able to benefit greatly from singleton reanimation targets in the sideboard, as witnessed by the use of Aura Thief a few years ago in Dredge sideboards when Enchantress was on the rise. As far as I can tell Hellkite Tyrant is the best “artifact deck” trump card printed for these types of strategies, and so it has a potential future walk on role.

Skullcrack is probably the second most likely card to see play among these niche players. Like Searing Blaze and Smash to Smithereens, it seems like a viable anti-strategy burn spell that will see sideboard and maybe even maindeck play in mono-red burn. I don’t think red decks have a need to fight lifegain right now, but it’s a good tool to know you have in your arsenal for when you want to sleeve up 21 mountains.

Giant Adephage looks like it might be a good fatty for a Sneak Attack/Natural Order deck, but Worldspine Wurm is miles better than this card and currently sees zero Legacy play.

The obscurely named Pact SI, a RGB storm deck that boasts a low land count, Summoner’s Pact, Diabolic Intent, and Culling the Weak already runs Wild Cantor and would probably welcome the ability to get your mana back and get a warm body to sacrifice to one of its black sorceries in the form of this Gruul Emissary.

Speaking of weird Storm decks, while Whispering Madness doesn’t seem to fit into any of the current Storm decks, a four mana Windfall is probably still strong enough to play in Legacy and therefore may end up turning into a building block of some new Storm combo deck.

Cloudpost decks have occasionally done well in the Star City Games circuit, but they’ve been held back from widespread adoption by the high price tag of Candelabra of Tawnos. The printing of Glimmerpost a couple years ago was a significant addition to this deck, but I’m somewhat skeptical that the clunkiness of Thespian’s Stage isn’t going to be a big enough barrier to adding it to this deck …

Sideboard cards

All three of these cards are highly situational and probably too narrow and underpowered to see play in Legacy, but they’re worth mentioning in passing.

  • Illness in the Ranks is a potential answer to both Lingering Souls and to Empty the Warrens, but it’s probably worth it to pay the extra two mana to get the versatility of an Engineered Plague.
  • Serene Remembrance is pretty low on the power spectrum for graveyard hate cards, but I can imagine there being some iteration of a grindy deck like 43 Lands that might want to maindeck a card like this to have graveyard hate in game 1.
  • Shattering Blow is a pretty excellent answer to Painter’s Servant/Grindstone decks (which run Goblin Welder) and to Sword of the Meek/Thopter Foundry decks (which run Academy Ruins). Being a hybrid Red/White spell means that virtually every deck in Legacy can cast it, and while the card lacks the versatility of a Disenchant, it does its job at the best rate available. Neither of these artifact based combos are prevalent in the current Legacy metagame, but if they become relevant in the future this is a valid way to attack them.

Folding big hands when action gets heavy

Today was a good day. I had a nice brunch at Blue Star, my favorite breakfast place in Seattle, then spent the afternoon and evening playing poker. And while my results were disappointing, I feel pretty good about how I played throughout the day.

I started out in a 1/3 game while waiting for a seat at 3/5. Early on I had a hand where I picked up AsKs in the big blind after four people, including the small blind, had limped in. I made it 18 to go and, as sometimes happens at these stakes all four of them called. Frown town. In general I’m pretty happy when my preflop raises get called as I find there’s a lot of money to be made getting one or two callers pre that will play fit-or-fold post flop and fold to a continuation bet when they don’t make top pair or a strong draw. I’m less happy here because I am both out of position and I have a ton of callers. The flop comes Qh3h2c, which is a fairly good flop for us to continuation bet. I bet $40 into $90, which is smallish as a percentage of the pot but it’s a big looking bet at these stakes, and three of my opponents fold. Unfortunately John, the loose calling station in the small blind, decides to continue. After mulling it over, talking about how he probably shouldn’t be in the hand but how he can’t just call with this hand he raises all in for $58 more. I expect his range to mostly consist of bad queens, flush draws, and some weak combo draws, and after doing a little math I figure out that I’m getting about the right odds for a call (my post table calculations determine that I need 20.6% equity and I have between 23% and 24% equity against single paired queens) and make the call. I’m rewarded by finding out that he has Q5 off and while I bink a King on the turn he hits a 5 on the river to redraw on me. I’m happy enough with this hand, however, as both my initial instinct and my at the table math came to roughly the same conclusion as the post-fact calculations.

Shortly after I move to 3/5 where I play for a couple of hours before joining the 7 PM tournament. My 3/5 time is fairly uneventful, although I was involved in three separate 3+ bet pots, which is fairly high for these stakes and is definitely high for me. In the first I was 3 bet fairly small ($50 over $20) when I opened in early position with AhJh. I took a flop given the small 3 bet size and my confidence in playing against this opponent, and was rewarded when I was able to extract another $15o from my opponent’s KK on a AQT flop. The next two times I get in small raising wars preflop with the two players on my right with AK and take down each pot on the flop when they show weakness.

The tournament starts of auspiciously when I double up on the very first hand. The guy on my immediate right opens it up to 150, I flat with Ad7d, and the guy on my left makes in 500 even. It folds around to the original raiser, who folds, and I decide to take a flop mostly on the strength of my Ace, as I expect his range to be heavily skewed towards pocket pairs. I need 29% equity to make this call, which I have against every hand except AA, and I am fairly sure I can outplay this guy post flop, even though I’m out of position. The flop comes out fairly dreamy: 3d4d5h, giving me a double-gutter and a flush draw. I check planning on check-raising and jamming the turn, but I’m able to get it all in on the flop when my opponent bets 600 and then jams 5,500 on my raise to 2,000. He asks me if I have a set and I get to calmly tell him “no, I have an 18 out draw.” I run bad and he has the two red diamonds, which means I have to correct myself and proclaim I have a 17 out draw, but then I run good and hit a deuce on the river to make a straight and double up.

I make another 2.5K over three streets with QQ against AJ an orbit later, but then things dry up for a few levels. Sometime in the third level our table breaks, which was nice since it was filled with competent opponents, and I get moved to a new table next to my buddy Joe. We chat a bit while watching the unpredictable donk two to my left run over the table while getting smashed by the deck. I make a little money before the break on a resteal-into continuation-bet that has my heart going pitter-patter as the donk is in the hand and is capable of anything, but I survive and chip up to about 18K.

The fourth through sixth levels go fine – I’ve got enough of a chip stack that the chip leader at our table is staying out of my way (he even folds AQ when we’re 75 BB deep when I raise UTG and get a caller between us), I pick up good cards in a few crucial spots, and I make two judicious 3-bets. I’m at around 45K when we go into the second break with three full tables.

After the second break I get into it with a 35K stack at my table in this hand:

  • With 1K/2K blinds and a 100 ante I raise it up to 5K under the gun with black 7s and get one caller.
  • The flop comes Q86 with two hearts, and I make a continuation bet of 7K into the 14K pot. My opponent tanks for 15-30 seconds and then makes the call. From his body language I’m pretty sure he was deciding between folding and calling. If that’s the case I expect his range to mostly be flush draws and underpairs to the queen. Since I expect that he would mostly 3 bet me with JJ, TT, and the like I expect him to have mostly flush draws.
  • The turn comes an offsuit 5. I tank for a bit here, which is probably a mistake. The 5 changes things a bit in that I now have 10 outs if I’ve misread my opponent and he has a pair. I had been planning on firing a second bullet on any non-heart non-paint card, but I paused here to reevaluate, which I think my opponent took as a sign of weakness. I then bet 14K into a pot of 28K, leaving my opponent about 10K back, which is also probably a mistake. Given that I expect my opponent to mostly have draws I really want to project an aura of confidence here – I don’t want to give him the sense that he might have any fold equity and I don’t want him to call me since he’s probably got a 12 to 15 out draw and has enough equity that folding would be a mistake given our stack sizes. I think the correct play here is to simply go all in.
  • My opponent raises me all in and I snap call. He has AhKh for the full 15 outs and he gets there when the Kd comes on the river.

This is basically the end of the tournament for me. I’m able to pick off a small stack and steal the blinds once, but I’m fairly card-dead for the rest of the level and the tight non-folders in front of me keep opening the pot so I can’t steal. Once the blinds go up to 1.5K/3K with a 200 ante I’m quickly blinded down to 5 BBs and get it in bad with Ad3d against QQ and AA to go out in 18th.

I’m pretty happy with how I played, however, and I left the casino feeling satisfied. Most of the hands I played throughout the night felt fairly standard, but there was one hand that someone else played that I thought was actually super interesting:

  • In the 3/5 game we have a six way limped pot with a flop of Ah2h5d. The first four players check and the guy in the hijack bets $15 into $25 (after rake). The button, who is a kind of crazy old guy (very aggro, loose, willing to make plays at the pot, and a frequent over-bettor) who I think is actually an above average player, makes it $30. It folds around to the hijack and he calls the $15.
  • The turn is the 2c and the hijack checks. The button snap bets $45 and the hijack makes it $145. Then the button snap shoves! The hijack has a little over $200 left and the button has him well covered. The hijack thinks for not too long and then says that he simply can’t imagine that he is good here and folds the 3d4d face up!

Initially I was floored that this guy was able to fold a straight here – you just don’t see that at this level. Then I started to wonder whether that was actually a good fold. So, let’s do some hand analysis and figure out whether we like this fold or not:

  • The preflop action leaves villain’s range really wide. On the button facing three limps villain really doesn’t have a bottom to his range – the only question is whether we can eliminate any hands that the villain would have raised 100% of the time here. We can probably eliminate KK and QQ from his range, but paradoxically I don’t think that we can rule out AA. Most players feel like they have to raise KK and QQ because they are afraid of an Ace flopping, but they will feel secure in “slowplaying” AA here because there isn’t the potential for that feel bad moment where an overcard flops.
  • On the flop we have to interpret what a min-raise to $30 means. This raise, to me, looks like it is about making sure that there aren’t any other callers (or that other callers are going to be charged enough). Raising to $30 isn’t going to chase off the original raiser unless he had complete air but $15 is a small enough bet that the villain may be concerned about a waterfall effect if he just calls.
    • We can eliminate complete air from villain’s range – he knows he’s getting called by the hero.
    • We can also eliminate strong flush draws from villains range – if he had a K, Q, or J high flush draw he’s going to want to keep things cheap both so he has better implied odds and to keep in smaller flush draws that will pay him off if he hits.
    • Villain could have a weak flush draw that he’s raising to knock out other flush draws and to get a free card on the turn. I don’t think this is super likely as I don’t actually give villain that much credit for thinking deeply about the spot, but it is a possibility.
    • A gutshot and a pair, something like a 54, could be played this way to get a free card on the turn and knock out draws and other weak made hands.
    • We can probably eliminate weak Aces, pocket pairs other than 33 and 44, and random 5s and 2s from villains range – these hands are all likely to simply call and either try to see showdown cheaply or make a play at the pot once we’ve made sure the other 4 players aren’t doing something crazy.
    • Strong aces could definitely be played this way, trying to get value from weaker aces and other pairs.
    • Similarly two pair, sets, and straights all could be played this way. In these cases the raise is building a larger pot and charging other hands (mostly flushes) more to draw against villain. I tend to discount sets and made straights here since villain is going to feel more comfortable slowplaying and is probably happier if the $15 gets called in a couple places as it makes the pot larger while still allowing a raise on the turn.
  • The turn bet doesn’t narrow villain’s hand range too much, but the reraise all-in probably does.
    • Villain’s range was weak flush draws, pair+gutshots, strong aces, two pairs, sets, and the straight.
    • The turn bet eliminates the flush draws and the pair+gutshots that don’t include 2s.
    • The snap reraise all-in probably eliminates strong aces from the villain’s range, as well as A5. While I think these hands could be 3bet on the turn, I think the snap 3bet is indicative that the villain feels that he has a nutty hand. He doesn’t need to actually have the nuts here, he just needs to have a hand that he feels like he would never fold here (and thus doesn’t need to think about getting it in).
    • I think this leaves full houses (A2, 52, 55, and the improbable AA), quads, trips (23 and 24), and straights in the villain’s range.
    • Based on the flop play I think we can discount flopped sets and straights a bit, simply because villain is going to slowplay these hands some of the time and isn’t going to feel the need to make a “protection” raise every time.
    • There are eight combos of 23, eight of 24, three of 55, three of AA, one of 33, nine of 34, six of A2, and six of 52, for a total of forty-four combos. I think we can discount five of the seven flopped set combos and six of the nine flopped straight combos, giving us thirty-three combos.
    • Of these thirty-three combos we are ahead of sixteen, tied with three, and behind against the remaining fourteen. We have 0% equity against the hands we are behind, have about 76% equity against the hands we are ahead of, and have 50% equity against the hands we are tied with.
    • That gives us an average equity of 41%. We’re calling about $200 into $575 ($25 preflop + $60 on flop + $290 of called turn action + $200 raise), which means we only need about 26% equity.
    • If we assume that the villain has all of the non-AA boat combos, all of the straight combos, and Y combos of trips or Ax, villain only needs to have 4 combos of trips or Aces for us to get to 26% equity.

Based on this, I think this is a bad fold. I think it’s pretty unreasonable to exclude straights from villains range, and I think we need to discount the number of flopped sets he could have. In order for this fold to be correct we need to be able to exclude trips from the villains range and we need to be able to exclude any sort of air, combo draws, etc. While the villain is unlikely to have hands that we beat, only a small percentage of them need to be in his range for this call to be correct. Most of this is a function of our small stack size – the more money we have behind the worse this call gets.

A non-post

No real updates today – I had a nice evening hanging out with the boys playing poker at Jeh’s house, shooting the breeze, and chatting about magic. Marsh and I spent some time talking about Magic coverage, which is a topic I’ve been thinking about a fair amount recently. I think I have a post or two that I’d like to write, but I need to mull things over before I put pen to paper.

In the mean time, you can see me doing some coverage, if that’s the sort of thing you’re into: