Poker Odds Calculator Pro Free for May 27!

I bought Poker Odds Calculator Pro for my iPhone for $2.99 a little while back and really liked it. It’s not a simple odds calculator, it’s like PokerStove, with the ability to calculate odds against a custom range of hands, random hands, and a set of pre-defined ranges. It was just updated; the new version speeds up card entry and lets you drill down into all the various permutations of winning hands. I can’t recommend it enough, because for May 27, to celebrate the opening of the WSOP, developer Richard Mullinix is giving it away for free.

The Big Play

Encore Club $10,000 Guarantee (10,000 chips)

Time was running out. If there was any chance of getting to EPT Prague for my 50th birthday, last weekend was pretty much make-or-break time. The second starting day kicks off at noon on December 6 (St. Nicholas’s Day); I’d have to catch a flight on the 4th to get there in time, which meant having the money and arrangements made the week after Thanksgiving at the latest. To do that, I needed to to get to an event (or series) with a potential prize large enough to cover the €5,300 ($7,125) entry fee and expenses for a nice little Yuletide vacation for Ms. Poker Mutant and myself (which only got higher as the date got closer). Not that I hadn’t been trying before.

I suppose I should have kept notes on what turned out to be the biggest win of my poker career so far, but I’m back in the mode of not being obsessive about it (plus my iPhone was low on charge). And after the whirl of the past couple of days, I’m not sure how much or how accurate my recollections of the event are.

I started off the night at red table 2 in seat 7; we were ten-handed, as usual in Encore’s $10K games (the same table was used for the final). My stack made its usual ups and downs, the first thing I can remember of any significance was when I’d managed to chip up to about 35,000 and a player in seat 1 pushed all-in from BB for the third or fourth time after raises in front of her. I stood to lose about a quarter of my stack calling her with K6 and she flipped over 9x9x, but got knocked out.

The older guy to my immediate left reacted with indignity with the usual cant about how it was a stupid call. I didn’t point him to my calculator. In a nine-handed game, a pair of nines is the best hand 17% of the time. K6s is good 13%. My “relative par” rating—comparing each hand’s win/tie percentage to that of a pair of aces—for K6s is 19.19%; it’s 26.87% for nines (for nine-handed play).

Before I knew that the player I’d knocked out was related to my neighbor, I tried to explain why I’d called: that she’d made the same move several times from the blinds, that I had her stack covered substantially, etc. but he actually flipped his hand at me and said something like “Stop talking. Phffft, phfft, phfft.” I had a hard time suppressing outright laughter at the performance.

My own feeling is that I had at least a 33% chance of taking out a player without losing more than a quarter of my stack. Not good odds in a cash game, but tournaments aren’t cash games. I think people forget that sometimes. Every player knocked out gets you closer to the money in a tournament. UPDATE: Essentially, this is the same situation described in this Card Player hand matchup between Pius Heinz and Phil Collins at the WSOP Main Event final table earlier this month, right down to the pocket nines, with the difference being that the player with the draw—Collins—was the one at risk. Maybe Mr. PhfftPhfft would like to take his point up with Collins.

I don’t remember exactly where the tipping point in the game came. Unlike some other games, I never seemed to be significantly stacked higher than anyone else; but somehow as the night progressed people kept leaving and we eventually ended up at the final table with more or less even distribution of chips. Play was exceedingly friendly, although one of the players to my right said almost nothing throughout the night.

Then, once we got to the final table, something kicked in. I think I play my best short-handed (naturally it helps if I’ve started to pick up chips). Action got down to me and the quiet guy, with us trading blinds back and forth without flops for quite a while until he was all-in with two high over cards (KxQx if I remember correctly) against my 2x2x. A pair of sixes hit the board but I wasn’t counterfeited and there was no chop.

I thought there might be trouble when quiet guy dropped a $20 on the table and asked where he got paid. He took the payout and headed for the door, leaving the volunteer dealers grumbling. I spread the love, gave something to the security guard for walking me to my car, and headed home to figure out how to try to capitalize on the win.

And the one time I forget to take a picture of the tournament screen…here’s one from earlier in the night that Encore posted on their Facebook page.

Eight-and-a-half hours. +568% ROI (including entry, door, add-on, tips). 1st of 75 players.

Four!

Aces Players Club 10pm Turbo (5,000 chips)

The night started off well. I was in seat three (BB) at the first table and was dealt Qx6x. I stayed in through the flop, hit two pair, and pushed the other players out on the turn. My second hand was A3 and I made the wheel on the flop, with several hundred in pre-flop bets in the pot. I checked, UTG2 opened for 400 and I raised to 1,000. He was the only caller. I bet another 1,500 on the turn and won. Ten minutes into the game, I was up 1,500 chips.

I won another 400 holding AxJx. The board double-paired itself by the turn as I was heads-up with another player and we were checking it down, then with an Ax on the river I made a bet of 200 and took the pot. Q4 made me another small pot when I caught the low pair on the flop and somehow made the best hand. “Pair of fours” became the catch-phrase of the night but it marked the turning point in my fortunes.

KxJx cost me 350 on one hand, then I dropped another 1,200 with JT and a board that went all diamondy. The winner hit the nut flush on the flop. Still, I had 5,975 at the half-hour.

My real turn-around hand was calling an all-in of 2,800 (about half my stack) with JT. It was a classic race with two over cards (suited, in my case) against a pair, but  when I went over the stats, I noticed something odd.

dyerware.com

Not only was the suited jack-ten combination favored over the pair of fives but it was the best suited connector hand overall against the lower pair, with an 8% relative advantage over even AK. According to the CardPlayer Poker Odds Calculator, something similar holds for 7x7x and lower, which is where the JTs combination has a better-than-even chance of winning. It didn’t in my case, however.

I went all-in on my next hand, holding KxTx and enough chips to get everyone except the guy to my immediate right to fold. He called and flipped AxAx and my initial buy-in was gone.

It was a turbo tournament, and we were already up to 200/400 by my re-buy. Raises were beginning to get even more aggressive. I called 1,600 with A6 and paired the lower card on the dryish flop, but folded to an all-in from three positions to my right. He took the pot, didn’t show, then announced it had been a “pair of fours”.

I shoved the rest of my second stack shortly thereafter holding 3x3x. Got called by a player two seats to my left, he hit his ace on the flop and I was gone. Even a pair of fours wouldn’t have helped me.

Fifty minutes. 16th of 16 players. -100%ROI.

 

Freeroll to Nowhere

Despite the fact that it’s supposedly now the top tourist destination in the state (and that’s a state where half a million people a year visit a bear-infested fish hatchery) I’d never been to the Spirit Mountain Casino in Grande Ronde since it opened fifteen years ago.

For one thing, I’m not much of a gambler. Despite the poker fixation, I have no interest in games of pure chance like roulette and slot machines, or card games where you have absolutely no control, like blackjack. I’ve built roulette and slot simulators, I’ve even worked with some of the people who design real electronic systems, and they just don’t interest me.

It’s a long drive down to the Mountain. Sure, it’s the closest real casino (sorry La Center, but “8 tables” doesn’t cut it) to Portland, but it’s more than half-way to the coast. Sixty-five miles by the shortest route, which takes you through the ugly traffic jam around Dundee; more than 80 miles if you go south on I5 to Salem and across.

And I’m not a cash game player. I really prefer tournament play, the bigger the field and the slower the blind structure the better. Without knowing more about the games at Spirit Mountain, there wasn’t any real draw for me.

But this weekend they are running their “Summer Showdown 2011,” a $440 buy-in tournament for 20,000 chips with $100 bounties. It was tempting with the money from the Champions game last week rattling around in my pocket. But it was too big a hunk. However, Friday they were running a $90 satellite tournament, and 20% of the field would get seats in the big game. Easy-peasy, right? I headed down there after getting some work done in the morning.

Spirit Mountain $1/$3 NLHE

Since I arrived more than an hour early (expecting more traffic on the I5 route than I ran into), I bought my tournament entry (getting a bonus of 500 chips) and then stood around a bit. Two tables of $3/$6 Limit Hold’em were running—not my game—but one of the hosts asked me if I wanted to join in a $1/$3 No Limit HE game that was starting up. I bought in for $100.

I picked up about $25 early on, then lost it a bit later after I had to lay down a straight draw to a re-raise. Then I got very lucky with a Q9 and a flop with two hearts on it. There was money from four players in the pot pre-flop, I pushed all-in when another heart showed on the turn and got called, hoping that the other guy didn’t have A or K. As it was, he apparently didn’t even have a flush and I more than doubled up. A little after that I left the table for a bite to eat and cashed for $241. I’d just paid for my satellite buy-in and gas and then some.

30 minutes. ROI: 141%.

Spirit Mountain Summer Showdown 2011 Event 1 (4,600 chips)

It was supposedly an “event” but it was actually just a satellite to the big game on Saturday. The room filled up pretty quickly, a lot of the folks at table 12 where I was seated (table draw was from unlucky table 13) seemed to know each other and the dealer (with whom I discussed the relative “safeness” of the Encore and Aces; with her opinion being that she liked the neighborhood around Aces better—she’s the second person I’ve talked to whose car’s been broken into at Encore). Signing up over an hour early got me an extra 500 chip to go with my Coyote Club 100 bonus. I was feeling upbeat after my performance at the cash game, but I needn’t have bothered.

I lost a couple of smallish pots through the first half-hour of play. The levels were 30 minutes and we started at 25/50 but a couple of players busted out, with everyone looking their way in disdain. Just hold out, dudes! One in five gets through to the big game tomorrow! 20,000 in chips!

The last hand before the blinds went up, I was on the BB and drew 84. There were five limps and the flop rolled out 8x7x4x. One of the mid-position players raised to 300, got a call, and I re-raised to 1,500 with my two pair, only to get a check/all-in from the first actor. Everyone folded out of the way and I made a stupid call. She showed 5x6x for the flopped straight I hadn’t even seen. I was crushed and when the hand was over I had a single 25 chip which went into the small blind.

AxTx managed to quintuple me up, but a few hands later I was completely out.

So, a long drive to Grande Ronde on a sunny day, half-an-hour of good cash game play, and an incredibly stupid move in the first half-hour of a marathon tournament. Driving back to town I was kicking myself for the call but when I ran the numbers I saw that it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought it was. Oh, it was still bad—especially when my tournament life was on the line—but I had between a 27% and 30% chance of winning the hand, which was better than I thought it was on the drive back.

30 minutes. -100% ROI.

 

Advice

Portland Players Club Main Event (10,000 chips)

This was probably the most “interesting” game I’ve played lately, but not because of the cards. The field was small, about 20 players and I was at the middle table in seat 1. Seat 5 had a burly guy named B who everyone knew and  who had amassed a big stack of chips by a couple of hours into play. S was a woman seated down at seat 7. Seat 9 was a hyperkinetic kid I’d run into earlier in the day in another tournament who I could imagine calling himself a “baller” and who kept up a steady stream of patter meant to burnish his image as a man in the know.

Blinds were climbing, I picked up 9x9x in early position and three-bet with about half my stack after an all-in from seat 9. Action folded to B who moved all-in with more than enough to cover me. When it got back around to me I called and B triumphantly flipped over JxJx. Unfortunately for him, a 9x came on the flop and I doubled up with my set, carving a big chunk out of B’s stack. “You weren’t supposed to call me!” he bellowed. “Not with nines!” His friend S joined in the affirmation that it was a donk call. I half-jokingly mentioned that I was pot-committed and they proceeded to tell me I shouldn’t throw around terms I didn’t understand. Just to defuse the situation, I said that I’d meant it jokingly, but since when does having half your stack exposed not make you pot-committed? Then they started in on how far behind I was. I said I wasn’t that far behind, and they didn’t like that answer at all, claiming that I was a 4:1 dog.

Of course, that’s the truth if you look at the numbers in an absolute sense. At the time he went all-in, B didn’t know what I had. I didn’t know what he had when I called. He could have been trying to bluff me off and take my raise with a drawing hand. If I’d had KxKx, I would have made the same bet, but he didn’t know that. Where the conventional wisdom is wrong, though is that in terms of relative strength, with three players in the hand (as we were) JxJx loses 39% of the time. 9x9x loses 45% of the time. The relative differential between the two is quite small.

At the next break the hyperkinetic kid came up to me to offer words of advice about how B & S were big-shot players and I shouldn’t get them riled up disputing odds and poker terminology. That was sort of irritating.

B didn’t have a lot of chips left after that hand and was out before the final table. S and the HKK were there, with S seated next to me in seat 6 and HKK down at 3. I wasn’t keeping notes on this game but blinds were rising up and I picked up 7x7x in middle position. I made a large raise after a not-particularly-great flop, putting me heads-up with HKK who called and then bet in the dark. A 7x came on the turn and I went all-in. HKK called and lost to my set. I mentioned in passing that the bet in the dark schtick wasn’t necessarily a great idea and he went ballistic, saying I shouldn’t be telling him what to do. When I pointed out that he’d been “offering” me advice earlier it just seemed to irritate him further but I just didn’t really care.

4 hours. Finished 5th of 21 players. -9% ROI (including buy-in, add-on, tip).

The Nines

Full Tilt Multi-Rush On Demand (1,500 chips)

I ended up entering this tournament twice. There were a total of 435 entries from 295 players. Looking at the payouts, it’s sort of sobering to see how the multi-entry format makes it possible to make it into the money but still be behind at the end. One ninth of the forty-five players who got payouts were anywhere from a couple cents to an entire buyin underwater.

My first entry came to a screeching halt fairly early with KA. I’d fallen to just over 1,000 chips and got some good cards in UTG+3, raising to 125, but got a call from the small blind. The flop was uncoöperative with 3T7 and I tried to push it with a 300 bet but got an all-in from the SB, who still had an inferior hand with their 89 but was in good shape with a larger stack. I called (obviously, or I wouldn’t know their cards) and a 6 made their straight on the turn.

I had a little better luck with the second entry (I don’t make them simultaneously) but it was AK that did me in after a bit longer session. I was in the small blind, UTG+3 limped in, I raised to 600 and it was down to me and the UTG+3 when he called. 4TT on the flop. I made the desperate move of going all-in and he called me—with more than 20K and 8T in his hand, who wouldn’t? I was out—twice!—first in 142nd place and then in 86th. 28 minutes total.

Full Tilt Multi-Rush On Demand (1,500 chips)

15 minutes. 140th place out of 264 entries.

Full Tilt Multi-Rush On Demand (1,500 chips)

7 minutes. 152nd place out of 223 entries. Not an improvement.

Full Tilt miniFTOPS Event #44 6-Max KO $350,000 Guarantee (5,000 chips)

Play started off slow for me in this game: at least, it felt slow compared to the Rush games. But I really do like the 6-Max format, and the fact that this had knockout bounties and a large purse made it very attractive to me, despite the rather ugly history of my previous miniFTOPS outing.

I’d only lost a hundred or so chips to blinds when I picked up my first win ten minutes into the game with KJ. There was 140 in the pot and a flop of K3K which three players checked around. Another 3 on the turn and I popped out 40 for a bet, getting one call from a player who’d already lost a couple thousand chips. The 9 meant nothing to my full house, so I matched the pot and got a callI don’t know why—from the other player, holding A7.

The same guy got into it with me on the next hand. I had A2 and I was heads-up after raising to 90 pre-flop. The flop was J77, and I bet 75 after a check from the other player. 3 on the turn and we both checked. I got a pair with the river A. He bet 105 and I just called. He could have had another 7x or an Ax with a higher kicker—it wouldn’t have been hard—but no, just T2. It baffled me but I took the chips. He was moved to another table shortly thereafter.

Twenty minutes into the match we were playing five-handed and, I got Q8 in the UTG+1/hijack seat. Sort of an iffy hand—not high enough to make a killer pair, tent ends of a straight—but it’s in The Grid for six-handed play. Blinds were 15/30, UTG folded, and I raised to 75. Small blind called and the flop made the hand iffy no longer: [1h]26. I bet 120 after SB checked, then he called. 8 on the turn and he led out with 180, which I re-raised to 360, getting a call. 4 on the river. He checked and I made a 300 chip bet hoping that seemed weak enough to lure him in. He called and showed 77. I was up over 6,400.

My first bounty came with a player who’d lost all but 600 of his chips half-an-hour in, most in a 3-way battle with him having AxTx double-paired against a guy who was playing a suited queen and drew to a flush (not me). I was in the small blind with 99. UTG and the small stack on the button limped in. I raised to 120, which was met by both the limpers. 386 was the flop and I figured I’d keep the gas on, fairly certain that the small stack was going all-in. UTG dropped out; the button raised all-in for 490. I called and he flipped over 77, which wasn’t good news for him. J and Q on the turn and river. Pushed me up to just about 7K.

More pocket pairs: JJ on the big blind. Button—big stack at the table—raised to 150 and I re-raised to 325. The flop was T67. I bet out 400 and got a call. 8 on the turn improved my hand to a straight draw, which I checked just for fun, provoking an 800 bet. Who wouldn’t call that? The river 3 didn’t make any difference, but I was a little concerned he might have a 9x. I checked and he did, too, but his A6 wasn’t going anywhere and I was the big stack at the table for the next hand, with over 7,600 chips.

The Mutant Jack showed up to propel me over 10K about 45 minutes in. I was in the cutoff position with JA at 30/60. Two players to my left had more chips than I did (both had been brought in from other tables). UTG raised to 180, hijack called, I called, small blind called. 780 in the pot when the 4QA flop showed. UTG bet 780, so I was guessing he had an Ax. I called (Did he have a Kx? Was he already double-paired?). T for the turn. He bet again: 420. I figured: “What the heck, it’s the Mutant Jack.” 7 river. A whole lot of potential double-paired kicker combos out there; he might not need to have anything better than the J. He bet another 600, I gulped and paid the price, but all he had was A2. I only had 10,017, so I didn’t stay above the line for more than a hand.

AT was my last hand before the first break, and I picked up about 500 chips with it, which got me back over the line by 50. I popped off a note to Tomer, who had just arrived in Austria for EPT Snowfest. At the break, the chip average was 6,900, there were 10,900 players (registration was still open), and I was in 1,188th place. Tomer wrote back that he was watching my table while he ate dinner. Yikes!

A quarter-hour after the break, I’d only won one hand—and that was just the blinds. I was down to about 9K when I picked up 7Q on the button. Everything I said about 8Q above goes double for this pair of cards, and it won’t even make the straight. But it is on The Grid for six players, so long as you don’t put too much faith in it. The blinds were 50/100 and hijack raised to 214. I called and the big blind came along. Both stacks were a good bit smaller than me. The flop was a semi-promising TJ4. BB checked, HJ bet 345, I called and BB folded. A K showed on the turn and HJ bet another 645. I had a straight and flush draw but nothing else. I called. 7 on the river, a bet of 1,245 from HJ. I folded and consoled myself with having an 80% win rate at showdown, but I was down to 7,900 chips.

I continued a steady, slow bleed of chips after that, at one point folding five hands in a row after putting out blinds or bets. I was down to 6,000 before I managed to turn things around with JJ that turned into trips on the flop. My real breakthrough came halfway through the second hour when I made the first of two big mistakes.

I was on the button with about 7,200 chips. Both the blinds (which were 80/160) had about 3,500. UTG and cutoff were both over 10K, and hijack had a few hundred more than I did. Both the big stacks stayed out of this hand, but HJ bet 324. With 99 in my hand, I raised to 560. Short-stacked big blind went all-in for 3,561. HJ folded but I thought BB was pushing with a strong ace. Calling would cost me half my stack if I lost but I did it, feeling very stupid when he flipped over QQ. The 653 flop was bleak, but the turn and river were 99 for some major suckage. Another bounty and I was up to 11K. I managed to get over 12K, but within 20 minutes I was back below the 8K mark.

Someone else’s nines didn’t fare so well against me just before second break. Blinds were 120/240/25 and I was on the button again, only with AA. UTG—with only about 2,500 chips—raised to 555. I re-raised to 1,080, the blinds got out of the way, and UTG called. The flop was K52, he checked, and I bet 480, fairly sure he was committed to going all-in. He did and I called. 99, but no miracle for him on the turn and river, just 24. That netted me 3K and put me back near 12K. I was falling further behind the leaders, though, with all of this up-and-down motion.

My last bounty came through no action of my own, shortly after the second break. I was big blind with A7, so I was playing, no matter what. Action folded all the way around to the small blind, who had only about 2,200. He went all-in and I called, with more than 9K behind. He flipped K3, the board ran out Q99A8, and I scooped his chips.

Another series of decent cards that didn’t connect followed that, and I’d slipped down to 9,200 twenty minutes after the second break. Blinds were 170/340/25, and I was on the big blind holding 43, which I would normally just toss. Hijack min-raised to 680, everyone else folded, and I thought I’d get fancy and play my low cards to see if they’d connect. We were almost evenly matched, with me having about 400 more chips. The flop was 223! I had a pair! I bet 1,680 (the pot) and got a re-raise for 8,090. I could have stopped there and saved my 6,800 chips but I called and he rolled over 44. If only my hand had been 2x3x. KJ on the turn and river. On my next and last hand I was one card away from a flush and a straight that would have ended in a split pot but my J8 was beat by a 5J that paired the first card on the flop.

140 minutes, 4 bounties, -38% ROI. Finished 6,311 out of 17,102 players.

It’s a busy week in the non-poker sphere but I’m watching Tomer’s progress at Snowfest today; tonight I’ll be trying to get my quest for the puffmammy POY back on track, and this weekend is one of our double-point quarterly events.

Paired Off

Full Tilt Midnight Madness! (1,500 chips)

Another tale of amazing recovery thwarted!

You can see from the graph that every major loss in the match came from me holding pocket pairs (although my hand was not just pocket pairs in each instance).

I’d had the usual mixed luck in the early levels of the game. My stack had gone down to just over 1,000 chips then back up and I was at 2,245 and in the big blind at 40/80 when I got K7. There were eight players at the table and if the only action hadn’t been a min-raise from the small blind I might not have played that combo, but I called to see the flop, figuring the small blind had an ace. I got a great flop of AT6 and the small blind bet out 160. I raised to 320 and he went all-in for a total of 890. I had it covered, with 1,275 over, so I called. He flipped over A6 for a possible full house but no ace or six showed.

Three hands later, T9 came into my hand in the cutoff, at 50/100. Hijack raised to 275 and I called. The button called and the blinds folded. Full house on the flop: 99T. Hijack checked and I led out with a tentative-looking 150. Button went all-in for 1,900, so he could have the other two tens. Hijack raised enough to put me all-in if I called, which I most certainly did. There was just about 9,000 in the pot. The button was on a complete bluff with 32. The hijack had a legitimate—but superfluous—diamond flush draw with A5. He got his K on the river but I got the chips.

I hit a plateau at that point, not gaining or losing more than 1,000 chips at a time for nearly fifty minutes. I had decent hands but wasn’t able to capitalize on them at all. Then I picked up KK at the 120/240/25 level in UTG+1. I raised to 600 after UTG folded, got an all-in re-raise to 1,830 from UTG+2, and called after everyone folded. He had AQ, I was in relatively good shape. At least until the ATJ on the flop. Then I was hoping for another queen to show up but instead he got the A. No problem. Just a little setback.

My next hand was another pocket pair: JJ. I was on the big blind because a player had been removed for table balancing. UTG+2 with a short stack went all-in for 1,990 and got a call from the cutoff. I four-bet to 4,200 with 2,185 behind and then the cutoff went all-in for a total of 6,130. I made a rash decision and called, with 255 left. The short stack only had 99 but cutoff had AA. The board didn’t match anyone, and the aces took it.

That was Hand 126, by the way.

After the ante and the small blind on the next hand, I had 110 chips. The best thing that could be said about my T3 hand was that it was suited. The cutoff raised to 440. I went all-in, expecting elimination. Big blind called.

The flop was 8T2. Not only did I have top pair, I had a flush draw! 6 came around the turn, then a T dropped into the river slot. I had top set, at least. Cutoff revealed AJ, big blind came up with 3Q. I was suddenly back up to 865 chips.

I let 42 and my 25 chip ante go on the next hand. I knew that with barely more than 3BB I had to take a stab soon, though and on the next hand I got a sort of anemic ace that I might ignore under most circumstances: A8. UTG+2 was shorter than me and went all-in to 370. I went all-in for 815. Everyone else folded and left it to the small stacks. He flipped over 55, but the board gave me A on the flop, then added 8 and A on the turn and river for a full house. That put me up to 1,770.

K6 turned up a little later, after I’d let the antes eat at me for a bit and I was in the big blind again. The button raised all-in after all action had folded to him. He had both of us in the blinds covered and I got the impression that he was trying to steal. I didn’t have the best of hands but I figured he didn’t, either, and I needed to move up. The small blind folded but I called. He had K8. OK, so maybe my instincts weren’t perfect.

The flop was a scary 549. But 2Q came on the turn and river, giving me my flush and 3,535 chips. That’s why The Grid rates K6s as Playable and K8o as No Go in a 9-player game.

Another half-hour wrestling around the 4,000-5,000 range ensued, with blinds and antes wearing my stack back down to about 3,500 when I got TQ as UTG+1. Blinds were 250/500/50, so I only had a limited amount of time left and if I lost another 750 to the blinds in a couple more hands I’d be in pretty bad shape. I raised to 1,000 after UTG folded. The only caller was the button, with a stack about three time the size of mine. I got a 34T flop and pushed my top pair all-in for 2,485. The button called and showed middle pair: 54. We both made a full house, with 33 on the turn and river, but I had the better of the two and was over 8,100 chips, where I’d been 90 minutes earlier.

A couple of small wins put me up to 10,000, then another unlikely off-suit combo got me a big bump. Blinds were 300/600/75. UTG+1 raised to 1,200 and action folded to my AT. I called and everyone else folded, so it was heads-up. The flop was 725. It seemed unlikely that he’d raised with even 46s, so when he bet out 2,600 I made another gamble and went all-in for 8,620. He called and showed 9A. If I could avoid a suck-out, I’d be in great shape. Nothing came, another player was gone, and I took a pot of 20,935 (I’d have had 140 left if I’d lost).

My peak was 27,900 after picking up nearly 6K with  85 in the big blind (400/800/100) and making middle pair on the flop. Then came the plunge.

I was on the button with 88. Usually, I try to play these cautiously, per The Grid. But for some reason, when UTG+2 went all-in with 9,323 chips I called, and we were heads-up. The flop made me look like a genius: 8JJ. I saw the hearts first and though it was over before I realized I had a full house. Then a 7 on the turn. Still good for me. Then 7, giving him a full house with a back door. Hey, I still had 18K, right?

Of course, at 500/1,000/125, 18K isn’t so much and ten minutes later I was down to less than14K when I got 66. Not in my usual wheelhouse, as they say, but about the best I’d seen for a while (although the K7 I’d had five hands earlier was better according to The Grid). There was a limper in UPG+2, the flop was 57T,  and I made a pot-sized bet of 3,625 which got a call. The turn was 3. I checked and there was bet of 5,000 from the other player, who had another 24K. It seemed like an attempt to buy the pot to me. I raised all-in and he called, showing two over cards—QJ—but nothing made. Nothing until the Q on the river, anyway.

That put me out in 185th place of 3,115 players. ROI of 98% after 173 minutes.

Queue Seven

So I realized where pokerterms.com had gone wrong in their evaluation of the so-called “computer hand” of Q7o.

As the legend has it and my own evaluator showed, Q7o is the hand just above the 50% mark in heads-up matches. Q7o has a very slight statistical edge (winning 50.56%) against random hands when the board runs out to the river. The entry for “Computer Hand” at pokerterms.com, however, claims that the Poker Stove application “Q-7 shows 51.77% equity versus a random hand.”

The problem arises from a misunderstanding by the folks at pokerterms.com of what Poker Stove calculates. As the Poker Stove FAQ itself states (emphasis added):

What does PokerStove calculate?

The values generated are all-in equity values. This is not the chance that a hand will win the pot. Rather it is the fraction of the pot that a hand will win on average over many repeated trials, including split pots.

So what we’ve got here is a sort of apples and oranges comparison. The “computer hand” specification is precisely about how often a hand will win. Poker Stove is making an entirely different evaluation.

Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

The Internet Hand

In the last couple of live games I’ve participated in, the “computer” or “internet” hand of Q7o has been mentioned. The pokerterms.com definition discounts the idea that the conventional explanation that a simulation showed it was the hand with the smallest positive win rate in heads-up play of the 169 hand combinations. In their section “Real Statistics,” they claim that Poker Stove shows Q2s and Q5o between Q7o and the 50% mark and that J5s is just under the mark.

I hate to differ with the venerable Poker Stove but I have my own sets of statistics, run for between two to twelve players. Each set is based on 500,000 hands of No-Limit Hold’Em. And the conventional explanation is right. Q7o will be the best hand 50.56% of the time in a two-player game. I don’t know what pokerterms.com was feeding their copy of Poker Stove but Q2s only wins 47.74% heads-up and Q5o is 48.51%. J5s is 47.35%, also on the down side.

Of course, that’s not the entire story. Poker isn’t just a binary win/lose proposition. There’s always the possibility of a tie, and some hands have relatively high possibilities of doing so. While a hand like AA will only tie 0.42% of its appearances, J5s will tie 5.13% of the times it shows up.

One way to evaluate a hand’s strength isn’t how often it wins but how often it doesn’t lose. If I don’t lose any chips, if I can split whatever other money might be in the pot, that’s acceptable. On that basis, Q7o looks marginally better. I wouldn’t normally play it, but in a brute-force statistical race, it only loses 46.02% of the time. It’s in the top 40% of possible hands, ranked on how often they lose. If you look at the range between a hand that loses 50% of the time heads-up (J6o loses 50.05%) and the best possible hand pre-flop (AA loses 14.02%), Q7o rates 11% better than statistical average. Q2s is at 5%, Q5o is 6%, and J5s is 7%.

Lots of ways to slice and dice statistics. Just a matter of making them useful.

Cut Off

The last couple of days have been a mixture of frustration and a feeling that maybe I’m breaking through a couple of barriers.

I didn’t play much on Wednesday. A $1K guarantee on Cake that didn’t last long, a bounty tournament where I fell out short of the money after making it to chip leader (but where I mitigated somewhat with a couple of bounties), and a shot at an Irish Open Quarter-Final Satellite that went bust.

Then, Thursday, I was atypically playing two tournaments simultaneously: another Irish Open QFS and a $1K guarantee. Personally, I like to concentrate on how the hands play out—even if I’ve folded—so that I can see what the other players are doing, and having two or more games running is too distracting.

I was managing to hold my own, though. The satellite had been running for 45 minutes and I’d been nearly busted out but worked my way back into the thick of things. We were 19 hands into the guarantee and I was about double my starting stack. Then Cake froze up. I left the client open for more than an hour, tested connectivity from another computer (in case it was my internal network, but I had no problems with Full Tilt or PokerStars). Even the web site was unavailable for a while. Once things got back up and running, my two games were gone, but there were a couple of small tournament awards in my cashier history and it looked like my buy-ins had been refunded. No announcement of what they’d done to resolve the technical glitch in Curaçao.

I switched over to Full Tilt for a bit and entered a Super Satellite to the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star Main Event, which had a qualifier playing last night. I didn’t do any better than 13th of 32. Going directly to a satellite was even worse: 15th of 18. Then again, I realized after I’d started playing that I’ve got a pretty big commitment the weekend after the tournament and in the very unlikely event I was to win a seat, I was going to be flaking out on something important just to play poker. And you wouldn’t ever want to do that.

I lasted about an hour in The Ferguson, but was somewhat distracted because I was—for the second time in a day— playing dual tournaments. Half an hour in I entered a $10K guarantee Rush tournament. The last couple of times I’d played the tournaments I’d seemed to have gotten a feel for how to play it, not using PokerTracker or my own tools. For a while, both games were running relatively well, but I ended up all-in in The Ferguson with A2 on a board of 342 only to run into a flopped straight with 56 (which also surprised the original all-in who had 33). No backdoor aces on the board for me, but 1,001st (of 2,159) place let me concentrate on the Rush game with a bit larger buy-in.

The game progressed more or less on a steady build. There was one big chunk taken out about hand 170 when my TA made top pair but pocket kings took the day (the third player in the hand, with AT was surprised , as well, but I wasn’t all-in). A graph of my chip total shows a couple of sharp notches in the line at hands 260 and 280 as well but in both cases I recovered to nearly my previous position within a few hands. KA tripled me up at one point against QK when two players called my all-in and a K was the first card on the flop. Another time I caught A2A on the flop to trip up my TA against KK, which doubled my chip stack.

A min raise at 300/600/75 from a player in the UTG+2 position in hand 325 prompted me to call from the big blind with K2 after everyone else had folded. The flop of 278 gave me at least a pair, and as he’d had several stacks of equal or greater size following him when he raised (with 21K to my 17K) it seemed unlikely that he’d have gone with anything in that range. I bet another 1,200 and he called. A 3 turned and I checked to see what he’d do, still thinking he was probably unconnected to any of it. He bet 2,400, I called, and the river rolled out K. No flushes or straights possible. Nothing that could make a full house. I had the top pair and bottom pair. He didn’t seem aggressive enough to have been holding kings himself or a pocket pair that matched the board. I checked to see what he’d do and he went all-in. I called and won 34K when he showed JQ.

I couldn’t have gone out on a better hand, although it would have been better not to go out. It was 400/800/100 on hand 354. I got AA on the button. UTG+1 made the call and I min-raised to 1,600 (I should really have pushed harder). The blinds dropped out and UTG+1 called, putting us heads-up. The flop was 7Q2, there was 5,300 in the pot, I had 27K against his 43K. He checked; I bet 2,500. He raised to 5,555, I went all-in, he called. He shows QJ for the lower pair. 58,808 in the pot and the turn card’s 5. He needs one of the jacks or another queen. And that’s what shows up on the river: Q. I go out of the tournament in 41st (of 1,062) with an ROI of 170% (he makes it to 16th).

Another $1K guarantee at Cake rounds out this account. No steady climb this. An hour into the tournament I was back at “GO” (i.e. 1,500 chips) but then things took off an in about 20 hands I was over 12K and racing down to the cash. Some laydown I made to avoid getting knocked out before the bubble took me down but a couple of helpful ace hands pushed me back up. A set of threes beat pocket fours to put me back in long enough to take 11th and an ROI of 176%.