This past weekend I played in several tournaments at Wild Horse Casino in Pendleton, Oregon. I played a $200, a $300, and a $500 buy-in. I had some pretty bad luck, but I also did some stupid stuff that probably contributed to my lousy showing. For one thing, I had scheduled a 30-minute phone interview right in the middle of the $200 tournament, which caused me to be blinded and anted down from above an average stack to significantly below one. I should have just postponed the interview, which I could have done, but I don’t like to cancel on people when the scheduling is my fault. So that contributed to me not doing well in that one and also threw my mood off a bit for the $300 tournament the next day.
There was one very interesting hand from a poker tells perspective, where my read on an opponent helped me survive getting a full house beaten.
I recently quit a full-time job I was working for the past 9 months in order to focus on some personal projects, including playing more poker and working on a video project related to my book. I’m trying to sell some pieces for a WSOP tournament package (6 tourneys) I put together, which you can read about here. (Update: I’ve sold this package out.)
I won’t exaggerate my tournament experience; I have been mainly a cash game player and I’ve only played about 40 live multi-table tournaments, although my results are good and lately I’ve felt very confident in these events. I am of course aware that this is a very small sample size. To offset my far-from-proven MTT track record a bit, I’m not charging the 10-20% mark-up that more proven people charge on selling tournament pieces. I’m charging no mark-up, so a piece is a piece.
What else? I’m going to playing in a few tourneys this weekend; $200, $300, and $500 tourneys in Pendleton, Oregon. Apparently they get good turnouts there.
In preparation for the WSOP events, I’m also going to be playing some MTTs online, which I’ve never done, and reading more 2+2 forum strategy talk. I’ll try to post some questions on 2+2 about any interesting or troublesome hands I have in the next few tournaments I play.
I received an interesting email from Daniel Steinberg, who’s an ex-poker-pro with some very good online and live results. He’s obviously got a lot of poker experience, so his opinions are worth listening to. I’ve included some of my responses to him in-line with his email.
A reader, David Monath, sent me an email about my book Reading Poker Tells yesterday, pointing out some inconsistencies in the “Speed of calling” chapter, specifically what I say about immediate calls and what they mean. I wanted to address the inconsistencies here for the benefit of people who read the book.
This past weekend I played a $215 tourney at Chinook Winds, put on by Deepstacks Poker. Out of about 280 players, I got third for $5,700. I feel like I’m playing my best tournament game I’ve ever played; I can literally only point to one hand of the entire 22 hours of playing where I believed I’d made a mistake. That’s a big step up for me; in most of the few bigger buy-in tourneys I’ve played ($200-400 buy-ins), I’ve frequently felt like I butchered several hands, no matter how well I ended up doing. This time I felt like I played near flawlessly, had great focus, and picked my spots really, really well.
In my previous blog post I talked about what immediate calls (snap-calls) of significant turn bets in NLHE might mean. Some responses let me know that I hadn’t made it clear that I was just talking about significant turn bets, as opposed to flop bets, so I wanted to reiterate that. I think some of what I said can apply to flop bets, but flop bets and calls are usually not as meaningful, just because they’re usually smaller in size. In other words, a player could snap-call a regular pot-size flop bet with a wide range of hands, but he is unlikely to snap-call a significantly larger turn bet with a wide range of hands. As with all behavior, the more significant the situation is and the bigger the money at stake, the more meaningful it can be.
I wanted to add a couple factors that affect an immediate call.
The last post I wrote talked about immediate calls and what they might mean. (I called them “quick calls” but I should say “immediate calls” or “snap calls” because “quick” could be interpreted as someone moving their bet in with a quick motion.) I had talked in my book about quick calls for a short bit, but I’ve never felt happy with that section, because I felt there was much more to say on it. After writing that last blog post, it got me thinking long into the night and I came up with some (hopefully-logical) ideas.
This hand is from a $2-5 NL full ring game. Long story short: my opponent called a substantial turn bet very quickly, and I should have thought more about what his action meant. I should have come to the conclusion that his quick call meant that he was most likely drawing, which means I should have bluffed the river.
I played three sessions of live $1-2 NLHE in the past couple weeks, with the purpose of studying what poker tell information was the most important to look for. It’d been a while since I played $1-2 (mostly just been playing occasional $100+ tournaments lately), so I was curious what I’d see.
The length of time first looking at hole cards can be meaningful
I got heads-up in a NLHE tournament the other night and noticed that my opponent had a very common poker tell: when his hole cards were weak, he’d stare at them for a couple seconds on his initial look at them. This can be a useful tell at a full table, but I’ve found it’s especially common when in a short-handed or heads-up situation. Instead of posting this story here, I got permission from CardsChat.com to post it in their forums.
In September, I was in France for my honeymoon, so like any good new husband I wanted to get out and play some poker while I was there. After researching some Paris poker rooms, I ended up playing just a few hours at the Cercle Cadet poker club. This post will contain a few tips it might help you to know if you plan on playing there and my general impression of the card room and players.
Laliberte quickly pushing chips forward & leaning back in his chair when bluffing
This is the third post in a series about Guy Laliberte’s poker tells. This one will include a short analysis of Laliberte’s bet timing tells. It’s admittedly a small sample size, but what stands out is that when Laliberte chooses to bluff in a significant spot, it seems he is more likely to bet or raise quickly, within a few seconds. When he has a big hand, he is more likely to take a long time. I’ll also look at a physical movement he exhibited a few times when bluffing.
Laliberte after making a large raise with top full house.
In my last post I talked about some possible poker tells Guy Laliberte might have had during the One Drop. None of it was very conclusive, just because there were so few hands involving Guy, and only one where he made a significant bluff. In this post I wanted to look back at some old hands from a few years ago, to see if we could spot some of the same behavior. To summarize my last post, the things I felt were probably significant about Guy’s behavior (and they are common indicators) were:
Being much more still after bluffing or after betting when vulnerable
Putting chips out more confidently and quickly when bluffing or betting when vulnerable
Facial expression more confident/alert/neutral when bluffing or betting when vulnerable
Laliberte staring at Antonio Esfandiari after going all-in with a large bluff.
I spent the last couple days studying footage of Guy Laliberte playing poker. I started out studying the One Drop $1 million buy-in tournament final table footage, with the goal of picking up significant patterns Guy might have in significant hands. There were quite a few hands where Guy had strong hands and obviously wanted action. The problem was that there was really only one significant bluff Guy made; the crazy, huge all-in bluff he made against Antonio on the flop. So although I had some guesses as to Guy’s likely behavioral tells, there just wasn’t statistically enough information for me to make any good conclusions. Even just one more significant bluff from Guy would have made me feel better about my ideas.
So read this post, and the next two about Laliberte, just keeping in mind that you’re accompanying me on a learning expedition, not a trip where I claim to know right from wrong.
I haven’t analyzed this much yet, but if I do, my analysis will involve finding more footage from that event that led up to this string of hands, to get more history on what Moneymaker might have been seeing. I’d love to get feedback from anyone who thinks they know what it is that Moneymaker might have been seen from Oliver.
I’m posting an old piece piece I wrote, from two years ago, about the emotional stress of the game for me specifically. I wrote it right after I’d been knocked out of a tournament by playing a hand very badly, and while I was very frustrated with myself.
I’ve been planning on reading and reviewing Jared Tendler’s The Mental Game of Poker as soon as I get some extra time, because I’ve been hearing good things about how it helps with tilt and frustration issues. I kind of wonder if it will help me, because I think I have some specific emotional challenges that most people don’t have. For one thing, I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety most of my life. Things have gotten better for me in the last few years (as they say these things often do with age), but I still occasionally suffer from frequent anxiety and very dark moods. That’s one major reason why I’ve never really considered myself cut out for a high-stakes poker lifestyle, and it’s probably why I have such a love/hate relationship with the game (as some readers of my book have noticed and commented on). If anyone can relate to such feelings, I’d love to correspond with you through email.
I think it went really well. Prior to the interview, I consumed half a milligram of Lorazepam and about a shot of Grand Marnier and that seemed to put me in a really good spot. Derrick asked some really good questions and I think I came off pretty well.
Amongst other things, we discussed:
The value of poker tells
Some common tells I see
How tell-reading ability is underappreciated by a lot of people
The role of psychology in poker
How Phil Hellmuth might use people’s anger with his image as a way to read people
All in all, it was a good interview and I recommend listening to it.
I’ve finally got the Reading Poker Tells e-book up for sale here. I’ve got it available as a zipped file that includes all three major formats: PDF, EPUB, and MOBI. This is what I’ve seen several other sites do. I’ve been told it offers the most convenient way for people to view the e-book on any e-reader or device they may have, whether it’s the Kindle, the iPad, the Nook, or whatever else they’ve got.
Any feedback is welcome on how I’ve bundled the files, how the checkout process works, how I’ve priced the book, and any formatting problems you see. I am relatively new to all of this stuff, and have been learning a lot about it, so I am always welcome to a conversation and different points of view.
My email acquaintance Michael Blinder pointed out something very awesome in the movie Rounders. Both Teddy KGB and Mike McDermott (Matt Damon’s character) exhibit a few poker tells besides the infamous Oreo cookie one. Both of them exhibit a kind of poker tell I call “disclaimers”, which are verbal statements designed to explain away (in other words, disclaim) the meaning behind an action. It’s like when an amateur player moves all-in with the nuts and says “I’m pretty short, might as well go all in.” (Here’s a link to a previous post about disclaimers.)
A guy emailed me about a hand where he tried to give a false poker tell of strength (showing his neighbor his cards) to get a guy to fold to his all-in flop bet. He described himself as playing in a high-stakes home game. His email led to a discussion about how smart it is to try to influence your opponents in such a way.
Immediate calls tell you a lot. In my experience, they polarize someone’s hand range to either super-strong or a vulnerable hand like a decent draw or top pair weak kicker. Most often, though, it will be a draw. In this $15-30 limit hand, the guy’s immediate call lets you narrow his hand range a lot.
and raise UTG. I get one fairly tight player calling me in the BB. He is pretty straight-forward, although a tad too loose pre-flop (likes to play stuff like QJ too much). He knows I’m decent and has respect for my game. He is capable of tricky, aggressive moves but not too often.
A few of us in the $15-30 game had been talking about the local school systems, with most of us even talking while we were playing hands. It was a kill pot, so it became $30-60, and this one guy who had been talking a lot, raised it under-the-gun. There was a slight confusion about something, and the floor was called to figure it out. In this interim, the raiser was completely quiet and seemed uncomfortable, which I thought was very unusual for him, considering his previous patterns. This made me think he was raising either with a low pair or with something like AT or worse, which would be pretty light in this game.
Sure enough, he ended up folding and showing AT. This would have been useful info if I was in last position; I would have felt pretty comfortable raising him with a wide range of hands, knowing he was on the lighter side, and also knowing he was a fairly predictable player post-flop.
This post and the next few posts will be an assortment of behavioral poker tells that helped me in my last $15-30 limit session. I wanted to share them and also write about them in the interest of helping me use them better in a session. Sometimes I get good tells but I don’t fully know the best strategy to make the best use of them.