June 30, 2008

On Gambring

Recently I read a couple of poker books - The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King by Michael Craig, and The Biggest Game in Town by A. Alvarez. They're both exciting, well-written, and fun to read. The first describes the ultra-high stakes games that went on for a few years recently between Las Vegas pros and Texas billionaire Andy Beal. The second captures the world of Las Vegas poker pros circa 1980. There are a couple of characters that have roles in both books, such as Doyle Brunson and Chip Reese. 

One of the characteristics of most of these players that the authors strove to capture is that they are degenerate gamblers. They will gamble large amounts of money on almost anything. For these guys, they are the lucky few gambling addicts who managed to find a game they can win at: poker. But since they are gamblers at heart, they frequently play stakes they can't afford on their bankroll, and/or leak money by playing games in the pit such as blackjack or craps. As a result, they are all frequently broke.

Many of them, and sometimes the authors give this sense too, believe that such instincts are necessary to be a good poker player. They seem to turn up their noses at players who grind out lower-stakes games. Well, personally, I'm not too much of a gambler. I don't really enjoy playing craps at the casino. I don't really enjoy seeing the cards flipped over when I'm all-in on a coinflip for a bunch of money. I don't have a desire to play stakes that are out of the reach of my bankroll, even if I'm stuck on the day. Does this limit me as a player?

So far, I don't think so. I'm defiitely not scared money in the games I do play in. That's part of why I like to play games I'm very well rolled for: I don't want the stakes to affect my play. But I'm not sure yet what my eventual goals are in poker. Do I want to challenge myself to be the best player I can be, and play Phil Ivey heads up for $100k in a couple of years after making enough money to afford it? Or do I just want to build up to the 5/10 or 10/20 games and settle in as a regular there, eating up the buy-ins that the random donks donate to the game? 

I think a vast majority of people, with enough dedication and patience, could become winners at $1/2 poker games. But it takes a special kind of person to play with $10k or more on the table and succeed, no matter how rich they are. Not only does it require talent and knowledge of the game, but you have to be comfortable with the idea of losing a massive amount of money on what you know to be the right play. I don't know yet if that's something I'd really enjoy or thrive in or not.

I don't think it's a good idea, either for my game or my overall emotional health, to try and push myself to move up to higher stakes before I feel ready to go there. If that makes me a nit, so be it. I'd really rather not go through the boom and bust cycle that huge gamblers such as Doyle or Jack Strauss or others have undergone.

Both books talk about successful, big name players who are more prudent. Craig's book describes Doyle's son Todd Brunson as this type. Rather than always playing the biggest (i.e., highest stakes) game he can find, he'll just play the best (i.e., most profitable) game. To be clear, this means he'll play a $400/800 game with some bad players rather than a $2,000/4,000 game full of sharks. So it's not like he's playing for peanuts. But exercises some caution, invests a lot of his poker winnings in non-gambling endeavors, and generally behaves like a sane human being. He's also one of the most successful cash game players ever.

Anyway, I have now logged nearly 50,000 quite successful hands at $1/2 full ring, and feel like I'm ready to bump it up to $2/4 sometime soon, maybe within the next month or so. Hopefully I will win a monsterpotten off Brackchips and post about it for weeks.


June 27, 2008

Brack is Beautiful (Part 9)

I usually don't open suited connectors in early position, but I do it occasionally just so I'm not so totally predictable when I'm in early position, and also take advantage of a nitty table. If they're going to give me credit for a big pocket pair every time I raise UTG and set mine, great - I will win many pots from them when they don't hit a set. Also they might try to slowplay something since they think my range is so tight, and pay off when I have an unexpected hand, as here:

Seat 6: HERO (UTG+2) ($203)
Seat 7: MP ($398.15)
Dealt to HERO [7s 6s]
HERO raises to $8
MP calls $8

*** FLOP *** [4d 5c 8h] (Uhh...can you say NUTS???)
HERO bets $15 (Slowplaying here would be terrible)
MP raises to $41 (At this point, I thought he had a set. I almost thought about just calling and shoving a turn card that doesn't pair the board. But I knew he wouldn't be folding, and maybe if a 6 or 7 comes on the turn he won't call. Also I might have ended up folding the best hand. It's close though, I think either play is good.)
HERO raises to $195, and is all in
MP calls $154
HERO shows [7s 6s]
MP shows
[Ks Kd] (I guess he was hoping I was going nuts with QQ or 66/77?)
*** TURN *** [4d 5c 8h] [3s]
*** RIVER *** [4d 5c 8h 3s]
[Kc] (Good thing I didn't have a set!!)


June 26, 2008

Speak of the Devil (Sets Don't Always Win)

Today for like the 11th time in the last two days, I made a monster pre-flop raise, somebody called with a pocket pair, and hit a set to bust my AA. I can't claim I played the river very well on this one. At the time I thought I could get value out of KQ or maybe a very weirdly-played AK. When the guy limp-calls, and there's two tens on board, 88 is really the only hand he could have that beats me. Maybe JTs. I checked the turn with the intention of calling a shove in case he was just trying to float me on the flop, putting me on a pure steal vs. a lot of limpers:

Seat 1: HERO (SB) ($217.10)
Seat 3: UTG ($200)
Seat 4: UTG+1 ($200)
Seat 6: MP1 ($162.70)
Seat 7: MP2 ($200)
Seat 8: CO ($262.20)
MP2 posts $2
UTG posts $2 (donk alert!)

*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to HERO [Ad Ac]
UTG checks
UTG+1 calls $2
MP1 calls $2
MP2 checks
CO calls $2
HERO raises to $25 (Raise an amount that would seem to make set-mining an obviously unprofitable play)
BB folds
UTG folds
UTG+1 calls $23 (Either he doesn't realize that he doesn't have set-mining odds, thinks some of the other donks behind him will come along, or doesn't think I have a hand)
MP1 folds
MP2 folds
CO folds

*** FLOP *** [8h Tc Kd] 
HERO bets $44 (Standard)
UTG+1 calls $44 (Not loving it, but hoping he is trying to float and then bluff me off AQ or QQ on the turn)

*** TURN *** [8h Tc Kd] [Th] 
HERO checks (Let him try to execute his plan to bluff the turn)
UTG+1 checks (I'm hoping this means he has KQ/JJ/QJ)

*** RIVER *** [8h Tc Kd Th] [Qd] 
HERO bets $131 (Try to get value from above hands)
UTG+1 calls $131, and is all in

*** SHOW DOWN ***
HERO shows [Ad Ac] two pair, Aces and Tens
UTG+1 shows
[8c 8s] a full house, Eights full of Tens

Doh!!! Oh well...this guy paid $25 for a chance to see the flop and hit his hand...I don't feel that bad paying him off when it's the only set he could have had, and I gave him terrible odds to draw pre-flop. I dunno, do you guys check-fold this river? Comments welcome.

Anyway, here's the hand that justifies the title of this post, and it was pretty effing sweet:

Seat 3: BB ($245) (weak-tight set-miner)
Seat 4: UTG ($62) (donk)
Seat 9: HERO (CO) ($452.10)

*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to HERO [Ah As]
UTG calls $2
HERO raises to $10
BB calls $8
UTG calls $8

*** FLOP *** [6h Kd 8c]
BB checks
UTG checks
HERO bets $24 (I want to bet an amount so that BB will fold his un-connected pocket pairs. I will happily call the UTG donk's shove if he decides he wants to take KJ to the felt)
BB calls $24 (Smells like 88 or 66. Only POSSIBLE hand he could have that I beat is AK.)
UTG folds (This is fortunate. If UTG decides to shove, I'm in a tough spot. It would only be like $26 more to me, but it opens the action back up for UTG, and I'm behind his range.)

*** TURN *** [6h Kd 8c] [5s]
BB checks
HERO checks (No reason to bet here. If he has AK, he won't be calling three streets anyway.)

*** RIVER *** [6h Kd 8c 5s] [Ad] (BOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMM!!!!)
BB checks
HERO bets $75 (I want to make a very large value bet here. I think actually an OBFV would have been the correct play, since I had to count on him doing something really dumb to get the rest of his stack:)
BB raises to $211, and is all in (Dude, are you kidding? You think I'm going to call this with AK? I probably wouldn't even bet the river with AK, since again, I'm only hoping for a split. Just shows you, these weak tight set-miners really have no idea how to play poker. They're just counting on their nittiness and the inability of payoff wizards (admittedly, like me sometimes) to fold. But they will never be able to succeed at higher levels. Maybe 5/10 is as high as they can ever go, and that only in the juiciest games.)
HERO calls $136
*** SHOW DOWN ***
BB shows
[6c 6s] three of a kind, Sixes
HERO shows [Ah As] three of a kind, Aces

Suck on it!!! Ahh...nit money tastes sooooo good....


June 25, 2008

THIN! (Part 4)

Loose-passive players ("calling stations") are by far the most profitable type of player to play against. I think some players tighten up too much, especially post-flop, against these players and miss a lot of value bets, which is a big mistake. You do want to avoid hands that could be dominated and such, but when you make a good pair, just keep betting until your loose-passive opponent raises to inform you that you are beat. Here's an example of a hand vs. a station where I got max value out of my thin edge:

Seat 2: MP1 ($130.20)
Seat 5: CO($152.20)
Seat 8: HERO (BB) ($233.55)
CO posts $2

*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to HERO [Jh Ad]
MP1 calls $2
CO checks
HERO checks (Some aggressive players raise here to punish the limper and the poster. While I don't think that's a terrible play, I think it's probably not the best one. MP1 is probably not folding if I make it $12. Once he calls, the poster will feel priced in too. At that point I've created a pretty big pot where I'm out of position, with a pretty marginal hand, and if they get a piece of the flop, they aren't going anywhere. Also some of the hands they might fold - like A6 or J9 - I want to keep in their range so that I can win a big pot if we both hit a pair.)

*** FLOP *** [Js 7h 4d]

HERO checks
MP1 bets $6
CO folds
HERO raises to $20 (Check-raising here is unusual for me, but I did it for a couple of reasons: 1) MP1 has a tendency to bet pot when checked to in a limped pot, so I was pretty sure it wouldn't be checked around, 2) MP1 is willing to go broke with top pair weak kicker on boards like this, so I want to get the pot bigger. In a limped pot, you have to get in a raise at some point to get all the money in - bet, bet, bet won't get it done, and he won't raise me. 3) By letting MP1 bet, I can see what the CO will do. If he raises, I would probably fold. He posted and checked his option, meaning he could have any two cards. So while MP1 can't really have J7 or J4 or 74 - he's loose, but not a complete tard - the CO could. Also if the CO just calls, I will still be confident I have the best hand, and can trap his money in the pot when I raise.)
MP1 calls $14 (Loving this call. Putting him on KJ-JT every time.)

*** TURN *** [Js 7h 4d] [Kh]
HERO bets $34 (The turn card is not my favorite, obviously. Partly because if he had KJ, now he's ahead, partly because it might scare him off calling down with QJ or JT. But again, vs. the stations: keep betting until they tell you you're beat. If he raises here, I probably fold.)
MP1 calls $34 (Just calls = AJ is gold.)

*** RIVER *** [Js 7h 4d Kh] [8c]
HERO bets $75 (Straight draw gets there, but there was pretty much no river card that I wasn't going to set him all-in on. Checking down here and giving a weaker jack a free showdown would be a big mistake. And if you think you can't get value out of a worse jack here, you are wrong:)
MP1 calls $74.20, and is all in

*** SHOW DOWN ***
HERO shows [Jh Ad] a pair of Jacks
MP1 mucked
[Qd Jd] - a pair of Jacks


June 24, 2008

Don't Call 3-bets to Set Mine

So yesterday, as happens many days, somebody called my 3-bet and cracked my AA with 99 when he flopped a set. This isn't a bad beat post. But I do think that calling those 3-bets to set mine is a mistake.

Let's assume that I have AA EVERY time, and I'm going to put all my money in every time. This is as favorable a situation for set-mining as one could possibly imagine. Suppose the original raiser opens for 3.5bbs, I raise to 12.5 bbs, and effective stacks are 100 bbs. Often in this spot, faced with the decision to call 9 bbs, players think, "OK, I'm 1 in 8.5 to hit my set, and then I'll stack him, so I've got implied odds to call."

Even putting aside for the moment the fact that all the money won't go in every time you flop a set (we have assumed that away for the moment), the other problem is this: sets aren't invincible! It IS possible to lose with a set. The 3-bettor might set-over-set you on the flop, or two-out you on the turn or river. The chances of that are better than you might think. Given that you have flopped a set, the chances that your opponent hits a higher set on one of the other four cards is 1 - (45/47)*(44/46)*(43/45)*(42/44) = 16.5% (If you don't see why this is the correct calculation, comment and I shall exprain). Of course this isn't totally correct because you DO see the cards on the flop when the money goes in, and you'll know that you haven't been set-over-setted yet when you flop top set, but it gives you a good idea. And I'm not even considering here the other ways that sets can lose, for instance to a straight, flush, the board showing trips and AA having a higher full house, etc.. Even if you have 88 on a 8c3s2d board, AcAd has 10% equity. Chance the 2d to a 2c and it's almost 14%. So it's very rare you will be more than a 90% favorite on the flop, even with top set.

So how much should you be willing to pay for the 1:8.5 chance to win 100 - 16.5 = 83.5% of the time? Ignoring the blinds/assuming they go to rake, the set is worth .835*100 - .165*100 = 67 bbs. Divided by 8.5 makes 7.9. The other 7.5 out of 8.5 times, you're check-folding and losing the 12.5 bbs you put in preflop. Putting that together, 67/8.5 - 12.5*(7.5/8.5) = -3.1 bbs.

That is SLIGHTLY better than folding your original pre-flop open of 3.5 bbs. But remember, we haven't included any flush/straight possibilities for your opponent, AND we have assumed that he has AA and stacks off every time. In reality, if you hit middle set on a 987 all club flop, either you're not getting all the money in, or your opponent has a club draw as well. Also, he's not going to have AA every time. He could have KK or QQ and an A flops. He could have AK and miss. He could have been 3-betting you with suited connectors that missed or now have huge equity against your hand. Even against the tightest preflop players who will stack off with overpairs almost every time, I think it's pretty clear that calling the 3-bet to set mine is a bad idea.

That doesn't mean it's never a good idea to call a 3-bet with a pocket pair. But you should do it when either you're deeper than 100 bbs, the 3-bet is small, or you're in position and you think you can win on a lot of flops where you don't hit a set.


June 23, 2008

Toning Down the C-bets

Recently I've been experimenting a little bit with checking a few more flops behind. There are a couple of reasons to do this: 1) I have a decent hand or draw but I think there's a good chance I'll get check-raised and have to fold, and 2) I think checking the flop allows me to get more value later in the hand.

In both cases, of course, the danger is that you let your opponent hit some gross two-outter he would have folded on the flop, but here are a couple of hands where checking behind worked perfectly:

1) In order to draw:

Seat 3: BB ($190.55)
Seat 7: HERO (MP) ($213)

*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to HERO [Ad Kc]
HERO raises to $8
BB calls $6

*** FLOP *** [3h Jc Td]
BB checks
HERO checks (The standard play here with overs and the gutterball would definitely be to bet some where between 3/4 and full pot. But I decided to check because against this fairly tight but not too creative player, there aren't that many better hands I fold out (ATs maybe, 44-99 probably, but they would check-fold most turns too), he could check-raise some of the hands I'm ahead of like KQs or 98, and I lose out on a chance to catch a Q and stack him if he has flopped a set.)

*** TURN *** [3h Jc Td] [Kh]
BB bets $12
HERO calls $12 (Here, too, I think it's a good time to just call. If he has a massive draw, and there are many of them out there, it will be hard to push him off it, and he could easily shove over the top and I'll have to fold. It's also just creating a big pot with a hand that's not that great. He could also have turned the nuts.)

*** RIVER *** [3h Jc Td Kh] [6c]
BB checks
HERO bets $30 (When he checks, I am about 95% positive I have the best hand. The only better hand he would even think about checking is JT. I'm betting to get value out of KQ mostly, or maybe QJ or AJ.)
BB calls $30

*** SHOW DOWN ***
HERO shows [Ad Kc] a pair of Kings
BB mucked [Ah Jd] - a pair of Jacks

I think his call on the river is pretty bad. The only hand he can beat is a complete bluff, I guess with missed hearts. But he has the Ah, making it less likely I hold two hearts. If I had bet the flop, I'm pretty sure he would check-raise and I would be forced to fold.

2) In order to get more value later:

Seat 3: BB ($277)
Seat 7: HERO (MP) ($305.85)

*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to HERO [Ac Kd]
HERO raises to $8
BB calls $6

*** FLOP *** [7h Kc 5h]
BB checks
HERO checks (The villain in this hand had even tigher stats than the the villain in hand #1. I think I had him at like 10/5 or something, which is just ridiculous. A lot of players like that are just terrible post-flop. They rely on their tightness, and therefore much stronger cards than their opponents, to win them money on average. When this guy calls me in the big blind, I'm putting him on a pocket pair that's set-mining. In that case, either he hit this board or he didn't. If he did, he'll raise my bet and I'll have to fold, especially this deep. If he didn't, he'll just check-fold the flop.  He's pretty much never got KQ. If he does, it's suited, so there's a 1/4 chance it's KhQh, which he'd check-raise with too. But if I check here and bet a blank turn, he might get suspicious and look me up...I thought with pocket pairs above the 7. The only danger is the hearts on board, but with stats that tight, he's not calling with too many suited connectors. AhQh is the only heart draw I think he'd have. I'll just take my chances and see what develops.)

*** TURN *** [7h Kc 5h] [5d]
BB checks
HERO bets $12 (Beautiful turn card. Makes it less likely that he has a set, and wouldn't seem to help me at all. How could I have a 5 in my hand if I raised pre-flop? Wouldn't I have bet the flop if I had a Q? I must just have A-high, right?)
BB calls $12

*** RIVER *** [7h Kc 5h 5d] [5c]
BB checks
HERO bets $24 (Even more beautiful river card. His check-call on the turn and check on the river means I have the best hand almost every time. The only hand I think he could have that I lose to is AA. I bet to get value out of 88-JJ).
BB calls $24

*** SHOW DOWN ***
HERO shows [Ac Kd] a full house, Fives full of Kings
BB mucked
[4s 4h] - a full house, Fives full of Fours

Again, I think his call is really bad. I guess he could reason that I wouldn't value bet QQ-88,66, or a 7 for value, for fear that he has AK and has just been playing pot control, and maybe I would check the flop then fire turn and river with AQ or AJ but...I don't think he is actually reasoning that way, I think he just got confused by my flop check and then his curiousity got the better of him on the river.

It's easy to take this checking-behind-on-the-flop waaaaay too far. Doing so might get you a case of what's known as FPS (Fancy Play Syndrome). Most of the time you want to be just keeping up the aggression and forcing your opponent to come up with a hand. But I do think it's a good way to mix up your play sometimes, especially against certain opponents.


June 20, 2008

Art of the Min Raise - Part 10

Aporogies for not posting the rast coupre of days. It has been a rough run at the tables for me recently, and I have been grinding really hard just to kind of stay even. Tonight was a nice sesh, so hopefully that's the start of a nice upswong :)

With all of the preflop min 3-betting ("the donk method of playing AA and KK"), you might think that's the only time donks use the min raise. You would be wrong. Here's one donk that put in the smallest raise possible with his set on this very draw-heavy board and then gave me all his chips when I hit on the turn:

Seat 7: MP1 ($285.25)
Seat 9 (CO): HERO ($201.75)

*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to HERO [Ts Qd]
MP1 calls $2
HERO raises to $10 (This is definitely a little loose, but the limper is a donk, and when donks limp, I raise. Often. Even with Q-high unsuited.)
MP1 calls $8

*** FLOP *** [7s 9h Jc]
MP1 checks
HERO bets $18 (This is defintely not a great board to c-bet. Almost all his hands have either a pair or a straight draw or both. But I have a strong draw as well, and I don't think he'll raise a hand like JT, so the bet builds a pot so that if I hit my draw, I can stack him. I'll also fold out 22-66 as well as maybe some A4s type of hands.)
MP1 raises to $36 (Donk alert!! His min raise on this board usually means a pretty strong hand, one that he will stack off with. I guess he wants to raise just a little bit so that I'll call down with some hand like AA that's drawing almost dead? I don't know. But I am more than happy to pay just $18 more to draw to the nuts. I would love it if he had T8 or a set.)
HERO calls $18

*** TURN *** [7s 9h Jc] [8s] (Bingo!!!)
MP1 checks (He's worried, the board looks scary now.)
HERO bets $70 (Bet enough so that he won't be able to resist putting in the rest on the river)
MP1 calls $70 (He's not worried enough to fold)

*** RIVER *** [7s 9h Jc 8s] [2s]
MP1 checks
HERO bets $85.75, and is all in
MP1 calls $85.75 (He can't resist)

*** SHOW DOWN ***
HERO shows [Ts Qd] a straight, Queen high
MP1 mucked [9s 9c] - three of a kind, Nines

The post-flop min-raise has all the same elements of its donkish cousin, the pre-flop min re-raise. First you put in as little money as possible with a very strong hand (in this case, the third nuts), and then give all your money to your opponent when it is obvious you have the worst hand. Now if I could just make nut straights more often....


June 17, 2008

Art of the Min Raise - Part 9

Ok so as you can tell right now…this hand should technically fall under the Art of the Min Raise series. The 3b made by the villain was not a min raise…but it was in fact a VERY small raise…the standard here with full stax should be to 120ish. Nevertheless, let me get into this hand further.

Is my UTG preflop raise possibly a bit too aggro? Possibly, but I felt very in control at this particular table and opted to play this hand for an open raise. Open limping is pretty much exclusively for gheys and donkaments so if I’m going to play this hand, I’m raising…and if I get 3b, I wirr muck or proceed with caution.

So after opening to 35, superdonk makes it 94. I opted to make somewhat of a roose call here…but I definitely had my reasons.
a) this player had not 3b me so I figured his range to be polarized to a big pair
b) he had me covered for 100bbs
c) he was a donk

Ok when I flop pretty the best possible hand for my holdings (2 overs and a FD), he comes out and bets ¼ pot. Uhhhh, ok. Are you serious? I decided to CR here with no intention of fording...and virrain smooth carrs.

Turn compretes my frush and I decided to just ship the rest in for a pottish sized bet…no use in waiting for a scare card or allowing my hand to get beat. I end up getting INSTACARRED by a hand that is drawing STONE dead for 100bb’s on a grossly draw heavy board. Every POSSIBLE draw gets there on the turn. Diamonds, A5, 56…the works.

Hands like these (and the villains that play them) are what makes onrine poker so fawking juicy. Thank you poker gods!

Thanks For Not Stacking Me, Bro! (Part 3)

Well, just after my post a few days ago about keeping your ego in check, guess what? NOT a good day yesterday. Some of it was just some gross spots, but I also played a little impatiently. I realized later that a lot of it was due to two factors: 1) the AC in my apartment is broken, and 2) I couldn't find my wallet earlier in the morning. These two things had frustrated me and put me in a bad state of mind to play poker. It's a constant battle to keep accurately assessing my state of mind until you can focus and keep things like that from affecting my play.

To make matters worse, something unexpected happened on Friday. I was coming back to my apartment, and all of the sudden just had an urge to have a smoothie. I don't know exactly why. It's probably been a year since my last smoothie. But I followed my instincts and went to Jamba Juice for some kind of mango whatnot. I was walking back home, listening to music on my iPhone, and "Flake" by Jack Johnson came on. So there I was, walking down the street in sunny SoCal, listening to Jack Johnson and drinking a smoothie. Don't get me wrong, all of those things can be acceptable, on their own, in certain circumstances. But taken together, at that moment I had to consider the possibility that I am a giant douchebag. At least I didn't have my hair dyed with blonde highlights. Yech. Luckily, the next song was a nice Nas song, so I felt better. But I'm going to have to be on the lookout for similar situations in the future. You gotta keep yourself in check.

But, on the bright side, here's a hand from the weekend where I didn't lose nearly as much money as I should have because of the terrible play by the villain in the hand:

Seat 6: SB (HERO) ($274.80)
Seat 7: BB ($134.60)

*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to HERO [Ac Ad]
folds around to me...
HERO raises to $6
BB calls $4

*** FLOP *** [6h 6c Kc]
HERO bets $10
BB calls $10 (Pretty good flop, and a call. At this point, opponent's range is KQ-K9, 77-99, crubs, and maybe a 6, so I'm pretty happy about this call. If he had raised, I'd absolutely by putting it all in.)

*** TURN *** [6h 6c Kc] [Ks]
HERO checks
BB checks (Bad turn card, as now the Kx hands are ahead. I don't think the flush draw or middle pair hands would be calling a bet, so I'm just going to go for a cheap showdown.)

*** RIVER *** [6h 6c Kc Ks] [2s]
HERO checks
BB bets $10
HERO calls $10 (2s changes nothing, I just go for the check-crying call to turn my hand into a bluff-catcher from the missed flush draws. Occasionally people try to "value bet" 88 here to get a call from A-high I guess. He could even have ATo or something really dumb like that.)

*** SHOW DOWN ***
BB shows [6d As] a full house, Sixes full of Kings (Way to get full value when you outflop AA with A6o, buddy!!)


Smoothie/Jack Johnson/Frake...sure rooks rike someone is coming out of the croset...suprised you made the announcement pubricry. ROR.


June 13, 2008

Level 1, Level 2, Level 3...Level 4?

First off, a big thank you to Alan for pimping us in his post today. We've already got his Recess Rampage blog linked over on the right, but if you haven't checked it out yet, do so as it's a must read.

I'll try to live up to Alan's description of our blog as having strong analysis. Here's a hand I played the other night against a very solid regular whom I had running at 12/10 VPIP/PFR. It looks really weak-tight, and it's possible I made a bad play by checking the flop and then just folding the turn, but I'll try and explain my thoughts afterwards:

Seat 5: CO ($210)
Seat 6: HERO (button) ($225.90)
Seat 9: UTG ($196)

*** HOLE CARDS ***

Dealt to HERO [Qs Qd]
UTG calls $2
CO raises to $10
HERO raises to $35
CO calls $25

*** FLOP *** [2c Jd Td]

CO checks
HERO checks

*** TURN *** [2c Jd Td] [Ac]

CO bets $60
HERO folds

Pre-flop, I'm very happy to see queens on the button. The CO's raise doesn't scare me too much. There's a player limping UTG, and he could be isolating with a non-premium hand. Even at 12/10, he is a good enough player that this would definitely be in his arsenal. My re-raise is definitely for value. If he had 4-bet me, I would probably have to stack off and hope he has AK or JJ. But he just calls me. This is something solid, tight players do not do very often out of position. I THINK the hands he'd be most likely to do this with are JJ, TT, and AKs. 99-88, and QQ might be possible. He might slowplay AA this way. AQs, 77 and lower, or KK I really can't see.

The flop comes JT-high with two diamonds. Thinking about this in a level-1 way, my hand looks great. It's an overpair to the board. I have 82% equity vs. a random hand, and this is basically what level-1 analysis is. But now let's go another level and think about my equity vs. my opponent's actual range. If his range is JJ,TT, and AKs, my equity is 35%. If I add in 99 and 88, I get up to 65%. The problem is, if I bet, 99 and 88 will fold, while JJ,TT, AdKd, and maybe even AcKc will check-raise all-in.

So what if I bet 60 and fold to a check-raise? JJ-TT and AKs represent 10 total hands (3 combos each of JJ and TT since there's a J and a T on the board, and 4 AKs combos). 7 of these hands check-raise me. Betting risks 60 to win 75. The EV of that play is 75*(3/10) + (-60)*(7/10), which is less than zero. So betting would be incorrect, if I've got his range right. If he check-raises with the other AK hands, too, then it's obviously even worse. If AA is in his range and he check-raises that too, then I get a fold only 12/28 of the time, and that's where this starts to be a losing play. If he were a bad player and I thought I could get value here against AJ, then I would bet. But he really has AJ pretty much never.  Betting would be +EV only if 88 and 99 are in his range and AA is not. Then JJ-88 and AKs would represent 22 total hands and he would be check-raising 7-10 of them, depending on whether or not he check-raises his non-diamond AKs hands. 

But I am also almost sure that I can wait until the turn to fold out 99 and 88 (which, again, I'm not even sure are in his range at all). Being in position will allow me to play the turn pretty well. If that's the case, then checking the flop and betting the turn if a blank comes and he checks again has all the advantages of betting the flop and less of the disadvantages, as I don't think he would check again in order to check-raise with a set or straight flush draw. If he checks again on the turn, I can bet without more confidently.

The turn brings an A and he bets. This is a spot where I think Level 3 analysis (what does he think I have?) is important. When I re-raise before the flop and then check this flop, I think my hand looks a lot like AK or AQ. Yet he bets an A on the turn. That leads me to believe that he's looking for a call or a raise, because he's got a set. Once I am pretty sure I'm beat, there's no point in peeling and hoping he checks the river or I spike a K or anything like that. Time to pitch it.

It's possible he was on level 4 and went ahead and bet 99 on the turn, but 1) I really doubt it, since we don't have much of a history and you can't trust many random players to fold anything, and 2) if he did, it's a great play, and I've just got to give him credit.


June 12, 2008

Avoiding Anti-Tilt

I enjoyed the great weather today by taking in a day game down at Petco. Jake Peavy cruised in a win over the Dodgers in his return from the DL. Unfortunately I also had to watch the scoreboard as the Mets blew yet another late-inning lead. I think we're pretty much at the nut low for the Mets this season right now. Wagner has been terrible recently, but he's not the reason the team is 3 games under .500 for the season. Only the Nationals have scored fewer runs than the Mets in the NL East this year. Part of that is because Shea is a pitcher's park, but the Mets have given 50+ ABs already this year to players like Fernando Tatis, Endy Chavez, Marlon Anderson, Angel Pagan, Raul Casanova, and Damion Easley. And at power positions, like LF and 1B. That's inexcusable for a team with such deep pockets. You can blame injuries, but with a roster full of oft-injured players, how could you not see them coming and be ready? I've said it before, and I'll say it again: SIGN HIM.

One of the things I'm really trying to work on this summer is staying on even keel over the course of a session, and even several sessions. Obviously that means not tilting when I've lost a couple big hands or keep getting re-raised, but that also means not getting overconfident when I've won a few hands.

I've noticed recently that when I've made a couple of nice bluffs or value bets, sometimes I will get too confident in my postflop ability and start calling raises and re-raises pre-flop with some pretty crappy hands because I think I can outplay my opponents post-flop. Certainly sometimes this is the case, and I think there's a time and place for calling those bets pre-flop with speculative hands, especially in position, but it is to be used sparingly. In addition, if I've been outplaying somebody a few hands in a row, they will start to get very suspicious and be less likely to fold.

Poker, like baseball, is a humbling game. No matter how good you are, you are headed for a downswing at some point. All that "play the man, not the cards" crap seems to imply that the great players have the power to just make their opponent fold at will in a big pot, which is obviously not the case. Sometimes the cards will cooler you, or your opponent will make a play you don't expect. If you get cocky and think you're going to win every pot, the downswing will tilt you that much more. The games have been very good to me recently, but I've got a long way to go with my game, and it's good to keep that in mind even through the fieriest of heaters.


June 10, 2008

ATs goes to showdown, plus tales from conversations with undergrads

Thanks to the commenters who guessed at our donk villain's hand in yesterday's post. Fortunately, I will not have to be shipping any of my bankroll to you guys. Here's what showdown looked like:

BB showed [Jh 2h] and lost with two pair, Threes and Twos
HERO showed [Ts As] and won ($56.80) with two pair, Tens and Threes

That's right, he check-called twice on a K33T rainbow board with Jh2h. And then "value bets" his bottom pair on the river? Definitely one of the weirder lines I have seen in quite a while. I guess he was planning to bet any river and try to rep a 3? I guess it would have worked if I had held 66 or something like that...very odd, though. Reminds me of a limit hold-em hand I remember Ali Nejad talking about on Poker Road radio a while back. I don't remember exactly which show it was from, but the hand went something like this:

Ali has AQ in the BB, folds to a hyper-aggro player in the small blind, and they cap it pre-flop (for those of you who are unfamiliar with limit hold-'em, there's usually a maximum to the number of bets that can go in on a given street. When that limit is reached, the pot is said to be "capped"). Flop is something like 773 rainbow. Three or four bets put in again. Turn is an 8.  Small blind checks, Ali value bets his A-high, small blind calls. River is a deuce, and the small blind leads. Ali calls and the guy shows 9h2h FTW! ROR!!!

Since I proctored the exam for the undergrad class that I TA for today, I thought I might do a short "Best Of Conversations I've Had With Undergrads"

1) Undergrad: "I think I should get partial credit for my answer on this question."
Me: "It's a multiple choice question."
UG: "Well I answered D) None of the above and the answer was A). Can't I get some credit for knowing it wasn't B) or C)?"

2) Me (trying to go as slowly as possible in explaining a problem): "OK, so here we've got x/8 = 4. So what's x
UG: Blank stare.
Me: "We want to get to where we have JUST x
on one side. Let's try that...what happens when we multiply both sides by eight...what do we get then?"
UG: "x
equals eight times four??"
Me: "Great! So what's eight times four?"
UG: Blank stare.
Me (in disbelief
): "OK, imagine I have four CD holders, and each contains eight CDs. How many CDs do I have?"
UG: "36?"

3) UG (trying to grub for points on an exam): "On this question, I was just confused."
Me: "Yes, I can see that from your answer."
UG: "I mean I just didn't understand the question. Can I get some points back for that?"
Me: "You want points because you didn't understand the question?"
UG: "Yea."
Me: "No."


June 9, 2008

Hand reading by process of elimination

Often times you can eliminate hands from a player's range, either by what's on the board, in your hand, or your opponent's actions. This leaves you with a smaller range to put your opponent on, which helps you make better decisions. Here's one hand where I used what was on the board and in my hand to make a bluff:

Seat 1: HERO (BB) ($110.75)
Seat 3: MP ($50)
Seat 5: button ($44.85)

*** HOLE CARDS ***

Dealt to HERO [7s 7d]
MP raises to $1.75
Button calls $1.75
HERO calls $1.25

*** FLOP *** [Qs 2h 9s]

HERO checks
MP bets $3
Button folds
HERO calls $3 (I thought this was a pretty ghey bet and even out of position I thought I could continue in the hand profitably)

*** TURN *** [Qs 2h 9s] [As]

HERO checks
MP bets $6
HERO raises to $18 (OK, here's the interesting part of the hand. This is like THE scare card in the deck and I check-called the flop. If he's even half-way decent, he will be bluffing this card with most of his nothing hands, all of his very good hands, and checking behind only decent made hands that he doesn't want to get blown off, like AT or AJ, maybe with a spade. Now notice - this guy raised from MP, there are three big spades on the board, and I have the 7s in my hand. What other spade hands could he have raised with? KJs certainly. JTs almost certainly. KTs and T8s possible but less likely. Basically, there are somewhere between two and four SPECIFIC hands in his range that just hit that card, mixed in with all his nothing hands that he's now bluffing. The only other hands he could really continue with are sets and AK with the K of spades, both of which he might have checked for fear of the flush. Anyway I decided to raise - which I probably would not have done if the turn were, say, the deuce of spades because then his many Ax of spades hands are still possible - and he instafolded.)
MP folds

Here's one where I had a river decision vs. a donk:

Seat 5: BB ($50.80)
Seat 6: HERO (UTG) ($138.45)

Dealt to HERO [Ts As]
HERO raises to $1.75
BB calls $1.25

** FLOP ** [3s 3d Kc]

BB checks
HERO bets $3
BB calls $3 (Standard so far...I c-bet, he calls, I put him on some middle pocket pair, a weak king, maybe a slowplayed 3.)

*** TURN ** [3s 3d Kc] [Th]
BB checks
HERO bets $6.50 (I'm now ahead most of those pocket pairs, and I usually get little credit in these spots, so I need to value bet thin.)
BB calls $6.50 (No raise here means I'm pretty confident he does not have a 3. He could still have a K. I will probably check behind if the river is a blank.)

*** RIVER ** [3s 3d Kc Th] [2d]
BB bets $18.50 (WTF? This bet definitely surprised me. I would be really surprised if he would lead out big with a K like this. The donk line with a K here is to check-call again. Once we've eliminated a K, what's left? Pocket 2's? He slowplayed 3's until the river? Those hands are just too rare...plus he would have had to call down with 22 or have slowplayed 2 streets with trips, and I'm not willing to give him credit for having done either. His story doesn't really add up, so I'm gonna call.)
HERO calls $18.50

Guesses as to what he had? Like my call? I will personally ship $5 to you on FT if you can nail his hand down. I'll post the answer in the next couple of days....


June 8, 2008

The Summer Ahead

Some of you might remember the prop bet I have with Brackchips regarding my poker play this summer. I'm definitely looking forward to grinding some serious hours at the felt. Now that I've turned in my big paper for the year, and only have grading responsibilities left to go, it's time to look ahead to a summer vacation filled with Hold 'Em.

The purpose is not just to build up the bankroll, but to improve my game. I hope by the end of the summer I will be a much better player than I am right now. I have some monetary goals that I won't reveal until I do a summer recap, but here are some things that I'm going to try and work on as a player:

1) Tilt control: Usually I play only 1 or 2 hour sessions, and I can usually avoid tilt. But playing longer sessions, the frustration can build up more, and I'll have to be able to keep my cool and stay on top of my game. I have improved a LOT in this area since I first started playing. For a while I would go on monkey tilt after a bad beat, which was bad for my win rate and my overall happiness.

2) Move up the six-max levels: You've probably noticed that my 6-max hands are all from $0.25/$0.50, which is kind of dumb given my bankroll. Now that I've put in some 6-max hands and gotten the feel of it, I think I can move up a little. Hopefully by the end of the summer I'll be playing some decent stakes. I think overall the win rates per 100 hands for good 6-max players are better than those at full ring, and there are usually more games available at the higher stakes. Add on the fact that more hands per hour are dealt, and 6-max becomes a mandatory part of the arsenal of any serious hold-'em player.

3) Adjust my play to my opponents: I do a pretty good job of this, but sometimes I get a little spewy trying to bluff guys off one pair that just don't fold very often.

4) Learn some new games: This is way down the list, but I'd like to get decent at PLO or maybe even some Omaha Hi-Lo. Those games are a good distraction from NLHE, and there is plenty of action to be had there.

Good luck on the felt this summer, all. Of course with thousands of hands to choose from every day, there should be a few interesting ones for me to post and discuss.


June 5, 2008

Life Changes

I recently got laid off from my job and last week I officially joined the ranks of the unemployed. While this is obviously -EV for my cashflow/financial stability...so far it is def +EV on life. I feel much more relaxed, less stressed, and just more positive in general. You might be asking how this relates to a poker blog...well here goes.

a) I am playing less - this probably seems counterintuitive to most because I have more time on my hands since I'm no longer 9-5ing behind a desk, but I just don't feel the need to play as much now. Don't get me wrong though, I still love and enjoy the game more than ever - the obsession/addiction has not subsided.

b) Playing my A game more - partly due to the fact I am playing shorter sesh's...this obviously should have a +EV on my winrate. Kudos to Gnome's post on focusing on the importance of bringing your A game. Do you want to put in an hr or two of your A game or end up in some gross length sesh where yer game slips unconrollably? Recognition of when your game is slipping (and quitting!) is paramount of success.

c) Not tilting as much - I think this is a product of being in a better state of mind with the rest of my life now that I'm unemployed. I'm relaxing, spending time doing things I want to which is awesome2themax - and this has def translating to tilting less.

Here's to pwning the tables!


June 4, 2008

Brack is Beautiful (Part 8)

Always sad to see brack on brack crime:

Seat 5: UTG ($141.30)
Seat 6: HERO ($240.10)
Seat 7: SB ($301) (<-- megadonk)

*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to HERO [Qs Js] (spades!!)
UTG calls $2
SB calls $1
HERO checks (no need to raise, just check and watch the brack magic unford)

*** FLOP *** [Jc 8s 3d]
SB checks
HERO bets $4 (Pretty good frop, with top pair and backdoor frush and straight draws)
UTG calls $4 (His range is now something like JT-KJ, TT-99, T9s, and 89-87. Not too worried about this call. If he had raised, I'd probably fold because it would represent a set or AJ)
SB calls $4 (His range is basically any random hand. Top pair plays well against that range)

*** TURN *** [Jc 8s 3d] [As] (Spade me one more time!)

SB checks
HERO bets $14 (No reason to stop betting...possible UTG has KJ and will now fold, also possible SB will call me down with a worse hand)
UTG folds
SB calls $14 (Ideal)

*** RIVER *** [Jc 8s 3d As] [4s] (Giving me the 2nd nut frush)

SB checks
HERO bets $220.10, and is all in (A few reasons I decided to overbet for value here: 1) The virrain is a donk and hates to fold. 2) My hand is well disguised since the frush came through the backdoor. 3) There are a bunch of possible second-best hands here. He could have a lower flush, J4, A4, 34, even 52 for a straight. Whereas there aren't that many hands that will call only 40 but not 220. If he has T9 or KQ for a busted straight draw, he's not calling anything. Maybe with a lower jack like J7 he'd call just 40. But he doesn't have exactly one pair that often here, I think.)
SB calls $220.10

*** SHOW DOWN ***
HERO shows [Qs Js] a flush, Ace high
SB mucked [6s 9s] - a flush, Ace high (Nice call on the flop, buddy!)


June 3, 2008

Exploiting Light 3-bettors: What NOT to do

I've been experimenting with some different lines in dealing with light 3-bettors. Here's one that almost NEVER works: calling pre-flop and then floating or raising a raggedy flop. You will get zero credit. If you had an overpair to the board, why weren't you re-raising pre-flop? Sets don't come around often enough to be scared of. AK will be 3-bet shoving pretty much every time. Incidentally, this should tell you that it's a great way to get value out of big pocket pairs is to just flat call a 3-bet, hope the board isn't too bad, and then raise a c-bet. You will get re-shoved by air many a time. Here are a couple of examples, all against players I'd consider very aggressive. The $1/$2 hand is at a full ring game, while all the $0.25/$0.50 hands are at 6-max tables.

Trying a raise:

Seat 3 (CO): HERO ($200)
Seat 5: SB ($223.55)

*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to HERO [Qh Kh]
folds to me...
HERO raises to $7
SB raises to $26
HERO calls $19 (Third time in a row he had 3-bet me, I decided to call this one in position and play aggressively on the flop)

*** FLOP *** [3s 9d 5d]

SB bets $36
HERO raises to $80 (This is a terrible play. He reads this small raise for what it is, an "I hope you have nothing and fold" raise, and shoves over the top)
SB raises to $197.55, and is all in

Well played by him, but again, I'm not doing a good job of repping a hand here, and he can shove with A-high, thinking it's either the best hand, or he at least has some outs.

Here's an example of trying a float:

Seat 1 (button): HERO ($52.35)
Seat 2: SB ($72.65)

*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt toHERO [Qh 9d]
UTG calls $0.50
2 folds...
HERO raises to $2.25
SB raises to $7.50
BB and UTG fold
HERO calls $5.25 (UTG was a donk. The SB was an aggressive player and probably realized I was trying to isolate him so I called. But this raise is big enough compared to the stacks that there's not really enough room for me to outplay him after the flop enough, and my hand just has very little value. So this is just a bad call. I would definitely not recommend it in this spot. I should have waited for a better one. But on to the rest of the hand...)

*** FLOP *** [8c 2h 4c]
SB bets $12
HERO calls $12 (A float's not going to work here either. There's nothing scary on this board. I was thinking "it looks like I have a pair that wants a showdown, maybe he'll check-fold A-high on the turn hoping that I'll accomodate him and go for the cheap showdown". But if I had AK, or really any hand, I'd be shoving pretty much every turn, hoping to get this calling-station donkey to fold his dogshit one pair hand that looks like it wants to take not just any showdown, but a CHEAP showdown. Also note how the shallowness of the stacks comes into play here. If he bets the turn, he's either already putting me all-in, or he's committed to calling my raise with ATC. He can't bet-fold as in the hand from the earlier post on defending vs. 3-bets.)

*** TURN *** [8c 2h 4c] [4d]
SB bets $33 (sure enough, he follows through and shoves)
HERO folds

Just because I don't want to make a post that consists entirely of me making dumb plays and losing money, here are some better spots to raise (notice the difference in the flops):

Seat 2: BB ($49.25)
Seat 3 (UTG): HERO ($83.15)

*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to HERO [Js Ah]
HERO raises to $1.75
BB raises to $6
HERO calls $4.25 (This guy had a 3b percentage around 20...I was absolutely ready to stack off if I hit a pair. Also note the preflop betting is a lower fraction of the effective stack size than in the Q9 hand.)

*** FLOP *** [6h 8s Kd]
BB bets $8
HERO raises to $77.15, and is all in (Reasons for making this play: 1) No matter how loose-aggro he is, VERY difficult for him to call this bet without a King or a hand that beats a King, and there just aren't that many of those in any 20% of hands. 2) His bet size is weak...I think if he had a king, he'd bet more like $10. 3) I raised UTG, which means I would be more likely to be slowplaying AA, KK, or AK. Weaker hands I could have, but that he still probably can't beat, would be QQ-JJ or KQ.)
BB folds

Here's another one against a tighter player, but I went with it because stacks are deep:

Seat 2 (button): HERO ($113.40)
Seat 4: BB ($64.50)

*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to HERO [5d 6d]
HERO raises to $1.75
BB raises to $6
HERO calls $4.25 (We're deep enough that I can call this normal-sized re-raise)

*** FLOP *** [Js As 6c]
BB bets $8.15
HERO raises to $21 (Again, really hard for him to continue here without an ace, and even for a relatively tight player at a 6-max game, there aren't enough aces in his range. He's gonna fold KK-QQ, TT-99, plus some of his re-raising range I'm actually ahead of, like KQo or 89s. It's hard for me to rep AK here having just called pre-flop, but hands that he'd be scared of would be a set of sixes, AJ, maybe A6s, and some combo spade/straight draw like KsQs. But really, I thought for a tight player like him, he just wouldn't even consider 3-betting all-in for 130 bbs with KK or QQ on an ace-high board.)
BB folds

These hands are just examples to make my point. Obviously, SOME of the time in the 65s hand, he will show up with a set of jacks and shove over the top and I'll have thrown away $21. And maybe occasionally in the KQs hand, I will get a fold on 9-high board. But in general, I think these examples are representative of what you'll get in each situation. To raise c-bets from a 3-bettor (or even in a normal raised pot where you called in position), I need to consider the board texture at least as much as my own hand or how aggressive or loose my opponent is.



Had our 2,000 hit sometime last week and I was able to get a screenshot of it...SHIP IT! Thanks to all our loyal and non loyal readers for getting us to this milestone!

June 1, 2008

MLB Prop bets, revisited

Werr, we're about 1/3 of the way through the baseball season, so time to take a rook back at how our prop bets are progressing. It's a very long season, and a good month or two from anybody could change things around, but it's an excuse to talk baseball, and maybe get a Met-hating comment or two from Gnome.


Our picks (batting avg./on base pct./slugging pct.) :

David Ortiz (.252/.354/.485)
Miguel Cabrera (.275/.355/.460)
Arex Rodriguez (.289/.364/.526)
Vradimir Guerrero (.246/.308/.424)
BJ Upton (.306/.412/.439)
Grady Sizemore (.255/.368/.472)

Current leaders:

Josh Hamilton (.326/.370/.604)
Carlos Quentin (.293/.396/.571)


Offense has been way down in the AL this year, so it's no surprise that our MVP picks aren't exactly lighting it up. Josh Hamilton is the only AL player slugging over .600, and there are only 7 players slugging over .500. Last year the numbers were 3 and 14, respectively. Brackchips's pick of BJ Upton is actuarry rooking pretty decent, as he has really improved his BB/K ratio (now 38/47, compared to 65/154 last year), an excellent sign, and the Rays are out in front  of the AL East. If the Rays do win the AL East, voters will be looking for someone to reward. If BJ can up his HR total (he's sitting at 3 right now, hit 24 in 474 ABs last year), he'd be in a good spot to benefit. Of the other guys here, Sizemore, Cabrera and A-Rod would need a turnaround not only in their own stats but also in their teams' records. Ortiz has heated up recently, but as a DH, he would need mammoth offensive stats to take down the MVP award, and it's tough to see him ending up with those kind of numbers given how his first month went.


Our picks:

David Wright (.284/.390/.531)
Albert Pujors (.369/.490/.652)
Mark Teixiera (.271/.356/.440)
Matt Horriday (.321/.407/.545)
Prince Fielder (.274/.363/.448)
Chase Utrey (.311/.392/.653)

Current leaders:

Chipper Jones (.413/.498/.653)
Lance Berkman (.385/.471/.751)


Definitely a different picture in the NL. Do not adjust your screens, those are the correct stats for Jones and Berkman. Those guys are mashing. The MVP race will probably end up coming down to which teams get into the playoffs. If the Mets turn it around, I think Wright gets back in the conversation as well. What has happened to Fielder and Teixeira?? These guys are both beasts, yet they're only 8th and 9th in slugging in the NL. Among first basemen. Yikes.


Our picks (ERA,K/BB,IP):

Josh Beckett (4.30, 75/14, 67)
Justin Verlander (5.16, 44/31, 75)
Fausto Carmona (3.10, 23/38, 58)
Erik Bedard (4.08, 48/23, 53)
Daisuke Matsuzaka (2.53, 55/38, 64)
Roy Harraday (2.93, 71/11, 89)

Current leaders:

Cliff Lee (1.88, 57/10, 72)


Incredibry, this rooks rike Criff Ree's race to rose right now. We could have picked 50 guys and not gotten to Criff Ree. But his K/BB ratio shows that his success is for real. For those of you who don't know, Voros McCracken showed long ago that there are basically 3 determinants of a pitcher's success long term: walks, strikeouts, and HR allowed. The rest is due to random variation, baseball's version of the suckout. You can see in the stats who the biggest luckboxes of the first third of the season are: Dice-K and Fausto Carmona. They haven't been pitching near as well as their ERAs would suggest, Carmona especially. Dice-K has now landed on the DL. Carmona, as a sinker-ball pitcher who gets a lot of ground balls, can be effective with a somewhat lower K/BB ratio (same goes for other sinker-ballers like Chien-Ming Wang), but 23/38 is just ridiculous. Beckett and Halladay have sparkling ratios, however, indicating that they should be dominant for the rest of the season, and make a run at the Cy if Ree falters.


Our picks:

Johan Santana (3.41, 65/17, 74)
Jake Peavy (2.91, 60/20, 59)
Brandon Webb (2.69, 72/20, 84)
John Smortz (2.00, 36/8, 27)
Carlos Zambrano (2.33, 55/24, 81)
Dan Haren (3.75, 60/11, 70)

Current leaders:

Tim Lincecum (2.33, 76/28, 70)
Edinson Volquez (1.46, 83/36, 68)


Lots of starters pitching well in the NL this year, including all the guys we picked. Smoltz is the only guy who's pretty much out of the running, and that only due to injury. Peavy is on the DL as well, but if he misses just 3-4 starts with his elbow problem, and comes back strong, he's got plenty of time to make up ground. The guy who's the most fun to watch is Rincecum. He's about 5'11 160 and throws a 96 mph fastbarr with a firthy curve and change.

AL HR reader:

Our picks:

Arex "Pay-Rod" Rodriguez (7)
David Ortizzre (13)
Carlos Pena (10)
Jim Thome (10)

Current leaders:

Hamilton (14)
Quentin (14)


A lot of improbable names atop the AL leaderboard. The top 6 are Hamilton, Quentin, Adrian Beltre, Jason Giambi, Jhonny Peralta, and Ortiz. Craziness. All of our guys certainly have a shot at finishing the year with the most bombs, although they'll need to stay healthy.

NL HR reader:

Our picks:

Ryan Howard (15)
Prince Fielder (8)
Ryan Braun (15)
Matt Horriday (8)

Current leaders:

Utley (20)
Berkman (17)
Dan Uggla (16)


Again, a lot more slugging going on in the NL. I'm well out in front on this bet. Howard continues to strike out a lot, but he still hits bombs. Ryan Braun has recovered from a little bit of a sophomore slump to start the season. Brackchips might want to trying taking Prince out for some burgers.

AL K reader:

Our picks:

Scott Kazmir (38)
Erik Bedard (48)
Josh Beckett (75)
C.C. Sabathia (74)

Current leaders:

Vazquez (77)
Halladay (71)


Really all about health for Bedard and Kazmir. They're doing fine in terms of strikeouts per inning, they just haven't thrown enough innings. But the guy really lighting it up is Beckett. Although Beckett missed some time at the beginning of the season, he's still second with 75 K in only 67 IP. He's gotta be the favorite to win it right now.

NL K reader:

Our picks:

Jake Peavy (60)
Johan Santana (65)
Carlos Zambrano (55)
Brandon Webb (64)

Current leaders:

Volquez (83)
Lincecum (76)


A couple of young guns leading the NL in punchouts. Zambrano's strikeouts are down a good bit this year, but he has stayed effective by limiting his walks as well. Peavy has been as good as ever, but given his injury, he probably won't get enough innings to compete.

AL Pennant:
Creverand Indians (25-31)
New York Yankees (28-28)
Boston Red Sox (35-24)
Ros Angeres Angers (33-24)
Detroit Tigers (23-32)
Toronto Brue Jays (31-27)

Current leaders:

East: Tampa Bay Rays (35-22)
Central: Chicago White Sox (30-26)
West: LA Angels (33-24)
Wild Card: Boston Red Sox (35-24)


The AL is just crazy this year. The Rays and the ChiSox? Again, we would have drafted pretty deep before we got to those teams. And who's nipping at the Sox heels? Not the Indians. Not the Tigers. The Twins. It's apparently no fluke, either, as the Rays and Sox have healthy run differentials. The team that's most fortunate to hold their current spot is instead the Angels, who are only third in the AL West by Baseball Prospectus' third-order wins. So look out for the Athletics to take charge down the stretch, especially if they can get Harden, Chavez, and Thomas healthy at the same time.

NL Pennant:
New York Mets (27-27)
Phiraderphia Phirries (33-25)
Chicago Cubs (36-21)
Atranta Braves (29-28)
Ros Angeres Dodgers (27-28)
Cororado Rockies (20-37)

Current leaders:

East: Phirries
Central: Cubs
West: Arizona Diamondbacks (31-25)
Wild Card: St. Louis Cardinals (34-24)


The only team really out of it here is last year's champs, the Rockies. The Braves have played much better than their record suggests. They're actually ahead in the East by third-order wins. The Cubs have been looking great. I doubt the Cards and 'Stros can end up contending for the Wild Card, much less for the division crown. The Cubs definitely have the strongest hold on a playoff spot.

WS Winner:

New York Mets
New York Yankees
Creverand Indians
Boston Red Sox
Chicago Cubs
Ros Angeres Angers


Well, the first step to winning the World Series is getting into the playoffs, and the Cubs and Sox are the only teams here that are virtually guaranteed to do that. Once you get into the playoffs, it's kind of a crapshoot, but it's hard to bet against the Sox with Beckett at the front end of their rotation. In a short series, having starting pitchers that can dominate the other team is a definite advantage, and though Zambrano has pitched well this year, I'd take Beckett. However note that anybody on this list, as well as the lists for pennant-winners, immediately gets probably 3-4 wins added to their season total if they sign Barry Bonds to either DH or play in their outfield. That could easily be the different between making the playoffs and not. You're telling me that's not worth a few million bucks and a media circus?

Random props:

A's wins vs. Nats wins (A's: 29-27, Nats: 24-33)

Two words: SHIP IT.

Padres attendance (avg. 28.630) vs. Nats attendance (avg. 29,142)

Brackchips as got the read in this one...I thought that the Padres might be in the thick of things towards the end of the year, and this would boost attendance, but it doesn't look like that will be the case. With the weather warming up in DC, this will probably be an easy W for Brackchips.

Enjoy the games, folks. Try to get out to your local ballpark as many times as you can. It'll be offseason before you know it.