Saturday, December 1, 2007


I wrote Holdem Notebook to help me with my own game. I started playing poker seriously almost one year ago - I bought Poker Academy in December 2006, when my neighbors and I started a regular home game on Friday Nights. I've probably played 60000 hands this year overall - not a ton to be sure, but enough to feel like I've become a better player than I was a year ago.

This past Friday night was something a bit bigger than our regular home game - a neighborhood tournament that gets anywhere from 35 - 70 players. For some reason, I always end up being busy the night of this tourney, but this week I was sure to make it. The final turnout was 49 players this time around - a good turnout. With a $50 buy-in, the people who money in this tourney stand to make some nice holiday cash.

My plan going into the tourney was to start tight, even painfully so, at the beginning of the tourney, and loosen up later and try and steal some small pots. That plan changed a bit in the very first hand, when I won the deal and the table folded around to me. My preflop cards were A-6 offsuit, and, while not a premium hand, seemed good enough to try and swipe the first blinds. I raised to 40 (10-15 blinds) and took the first pot of the game.

The tourney went along without too much drama for a few rounds. I was playing good hands only and won a pot or two. Then I lost 2 close pots, and a few blinds, and found myself getting short. Then a memorable hand came. I was under the gun and the next two blinds would bring me down to "all in or fold" mode. I turned over my cards - a pair of 8s in the hole. I could try to limp in and flop a set, but there were other short players besides me and I figured I might get reraised all in and have to make a tough decision. Since its preferable to make the other players make the tough decisions, and since I was short but not desperately so, I made a standard 3x raise.

The table folded around to the big blind, he thought for a second and called. The flop came Queen (damn, an overcard) - Ace (uh oh, I'm dead) - and 8 (yes! yes! yes!) giving me my set. As soon as the last card turned over, my opponent went all in (he didn't have much left), I apoliogized and called, and my set held up to his AJ.

A similar play happened a few hands later. The player to my left, in the blinds, went all in with a very short stack. The table folded around to me, and I somehow woke up with KK. I called his AT and dodged an A to bring my chips to 3000, about double the starting stacks.

Then, something odd happened to my game, and I have no explanation why. To this point I was doing pretty well, playing some good cards, getting lucky once or twice, and was on my way to a pretty good night. About 30 players were left, our table was 7 handed, and I got dealt ATo in early position. Not a great hand, but the table wasn't very aggressive, and I thought maybe I could take the blinds with a raise. I got not one but 2 callers, and the flop came A 2 3.

Pairing that A was my downfall. I lead out with a decent bet, thinking I had the best hand, and both players called. Here's where my radar should have gone up, but for some reason my brain blanked out. Both these guys had something, or they didn't believe that I had anything, and they were willing to play the hand to the end.

The turn came (to be honest, I can't even recall what it was, but it didn't seem dangerous to me), and, in full donk-a-rama mode, I lead out again! Here I was, building a big pot with a small hand, out of position to boot. Again, both guys called me. To make matters worse, my turn bet was big enough to leave my stack smaller than the remaining pot- I couldn't even make a pot sized bet on the river to show any strength at all.

Well, the river came, I already knew I had blown the hand, my stack was tiny, and, even though my little voice was telling me I was beat, I put in the rest of my stack. Again, both guys called- one shows AQ, the other A2. He had flopped 2 pair on the flop and called me down all the way to the river, letting me donk my whole stack off to him. I shook some hands and skulked off.

It was an odd feeling, almost like I wasn't controlling my actions once I saw that A on the flop. I honestly can't give my reasoning for why I lead out on the turn and river. Did I get caught up in the moment (other than my home game, I don't have much experience with live play yet), did I think my opponents were both idiots (they weren't), what the hell?

Obviously, I've got a lot more work to do on my game...

Two bits of good news on the evening - the first was that a "dealers choice" game started at one of the side tables with more of the knocked out players, and I was able to win back a decent chunk of my buy-in. I ended up down $19 on the night. The second was that one of my home game buddies took 2nd place in the big tourney. I hit him up for a loan the next day but he wasn't budging...

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