Exponetic poker night

Last night we had the first ever Exponetic poker evening. In attendance were (in clockwise order as we were sat around the table):

  • Me
  • Lucja Wszola
  • Chris Sainsbury
  • James Bebbington
  • Nick Grimshaw
  • Ben Isaacs

This was the practice hand and it’s difficult to tell from this shot whether James is bluffing or not:

James bluffing

Chris was inscrutable despite James’s steely gaze:

Chris being inscrutable

The poker was all taken very seriously, as can be seen here. Motivated by James and his dealer’s cap we all chose headgear of our own to distract the opposition:

Poker's serious

More hats with Nick, myself and Lucja caught admiring ourselves in the mirror:

Nick, Lucja and me in the mirror

Lucja seemed convinced that she was on holiday in the Bahamas, though, which makes her second place finish all the more impressive:

Lucja thought she was on holiday

James shows off his evil eyes:

Evil James

As well as some gambling, a small amount of whisky drinking also went on:

Whisky bottle

Chris thought long and hard over every move:

Chris thinking hard

And even Ben did some pondering which usually ended with something along the lines of “I’ll see your 50 and raise you 1”.

Ben thinking hard

Although Ben did try replacing his right eye with a dealer button to see if it would give him any special insight:

Ben with dealer button

Nick ponders what James’s raise could mean, which is especially interesting since Nick was out of the game by this point:

Nick pondering what to do

This kind of sums up the losing money theme of the evening:

Nick's wallet loss text message

Roll on the next poker evening, I say.

888.com unveils float price range

888, which owns Pacific Poker, is planning to float on the stock market, probably following the succes that Party Poker’s owners (Partygaming) have had. They’ve set a price which values the company at between £546.1m and £714.6m, although there are rumours that it’s cut its valuation following Partygaming’s profit warning.

For anyone looking to invest in them, I’ve pretty much cashed out, taking out $400 of the $530-odd I have in there (pure profit, at least), and have gotten tired of playing the really awful players that seem to frequent there. It was just becoming too random (being called all-in with a pair of queens and having half a dozen king- or ace-rag callers limping in, and then being beaten by someone calling with 10-3 suited making two pair or some such rubbish). I think I’m sticking to Party Poker from now on, except for perhaps the odd venture with my last $100 at Pacific.

Anyway, 888 are now worth $400 less than they were yesterday so I hope they’ve taken that into account in the valuation.

BBC NEWS | Business | 888 unveils float price range

Pacific Poker

Party Poker

Review of ‘Harrington on Hold’em, Volume 1′ by Dan Harrington

I’ve just finished Dan Harrington’s book on Texas Hold ’em, called “Harrington on Hold ’em”. It’s actually the first poker book I’ve read, although I’ve been playing almost entirely online for a few months now. For anyone who doesn’t know, Dan Harrington is a very succesful poker player with a reputation for very tight, solid play. Although not being one of the games agressors, he has had a lot of success having reach a number of World Series of Poker final tables. I’ve seen him play on television a few times now and, although we only get the highlights televised, he’s also quite capable of making a move if he senses weakness in an opponent. You don’t get to be that succesful in poker just by playing the cards you’re dealt and there’s obviously a reason why some players make it to final tables more than others.

Harrington’s book focuses on no-limit tournament Hold ’em play, which is my favoured game (as opposed to cash games, limit or pot-limit), and certainly appears biased to a level just above beginner (i.e. someone who knows how to rank hands and has some idea of what makes a good starting hand), and the fact he talks about online play quite often makes this quite a targetted book. It makes sense to market a book like this at the sector that so many amateur players are joining. The format of the book is to take different stages of the game and different betting concepts (good hand/early position, late position facing an early raiser etc) and to examine the possible pitfalls, upsides and pot odds. (Pot odds are a key factor in most of the decisions made.) Following each chapter there are many good examples that give real world examples plus an explanation of what the ‘best’ play would be (where there is an obvious best play).

Although I haven’t been playing very long, I’ve found it fairly easy to make money at low entry fee tournament games. Reading the book, I found that a lot of the points Dan makes are quite familiar from experience. The game Dan plays (more often than not) is quite tight, meaning he will bet only on good hands, and that is the style of play he recommends throughout this book. Honestly, I think that by adopting everything he says (and understanding the meaning since, after all, poker can’t be played easily by rules) anyone could easily become a better than average online player. This is merely because the quality of online players is often poor. Since it seems to be at this market that the book is aimed (the hobbiest who would like to make a bit of cash on the side) the conservative style is perfect, especially for playing against weaker players who will not understand many of the game’s subtleties.

I already had quite a tight style, especially compared to many of the players I meet online. Knowing not to call a big raise on a full table with Ace 5 seems obvious to me, but apparently not to many other people. I was hoping to get something more out of this book, some more insights into some of the ‘moves’ a professional might make. Although there weren’t a huge number of these here, there was more than enough to make me feel that I got more than enough value out of this book. For most of us online players, the only experience we get of ‘real’ play is through televised tournaments. It’s easy to assume from these that check-raising with top pair is normal, and then to mis-play it early in a tournament, as is going all-in with an 8 5 off suit bluff. Dan makes the point that much of a poker tournament is grind, and it’s good to have some of the television myths dispelled by someone who’s been there.

Especially useful for me was a chapter on table image. A key point here being that other players judge you on the cards they see, not necessarily just the cards you play. I hadn’t really thought about this (although, now, it seems obvious) but, as someone with a tight game, I would often play cards like Ace Q and, if top pair hit, bet it heavily enough for the other players to fold and take the pot there and then. If it happens that you get a hand like this two or three times in half a dozen rounds, it doesn’t matter how good your hand is if no-one sees it then they start to assume you’re bluffing. I’ve found keeping a track of how I think other players perceive me as a way of stopping from losing money and also for winning a few hands: fold on the flop a few times, and the next time you bet everyone’s more likely to believe you have something when you steal with a check raise. Exactly the way Dan would play… (okay, I’m flattering myself now).

All-in-all, this is a useful book for anyone who believes they’ve stepped up from the beginning levels of poker. If you’re playing in a tournament with a few quid at stake each day then it won’t be long before this book pays for itself; it’s certainly done it for me many times over. The lessons in it suit anything above absolute rock-bottom (5 dollar) tournament play. (At that level decisions are too random, and bad beats too common to realistically apply some of the more advanced concepts of table image, gap theory etc.) I’m looking forward to getting my hands on Volume 2 where the latter stages of tournament play are covered.

This is a book with a lot of information that’s also very easy to read. It’ll take time to absorb all the lessons in there but I know my copy has already paid for itself and you can’t ask for more than that.

Information on Dan Harrington

Another review of “Harrington on Hold’em: Volume 1”

Buy “Harrington on Hold ’em: Volume 1” on Amazon

Buy “Harrington on Hold ’em: Volume 2” on Amazon

Warming to PartyPoker.com

Writing Trying out PartyPoker.com I wasn’t too happy with the interface and a few other things about the way the game plays there

A day or two later writing In defence of PartyPoker.com I felt a bit better towards it.

Now, after only a few days of playing there, I’m starting to think that I’ll be making more use of it than I have of Pacific Poker. This may have something to do with doubling the money I put in in a few days, of course. But then, I site’s game being more suited to my style is as good a reason as any.

I do think it comes down to the slowness of the blinds increasing. It’s easier to wait for a good hand and there isn’t quite the rush that I find at Pacific Poker. Although, I have generally been playing at a slightly higher level on Party Poker so taht might have something to do with it as even the $5 tournament I entered there was bit random. e.g. losing with K K to 8 6 off because so many people called a 4x big blind raise.

The other advantage is being able to play more than one game at once, although keeping track of them all is another matter…

In defence of PartyPoker.com

Yesterday I tried out Party Poker, and honestly didn’t take to it as much as I have Pacific Poker. (My initial experiences are here.) Playing for longer last night I did notice some improvements, though. (Note that my experiences may be coloured by winning a 54 person satellite to get to a Poker Den satellite.)

The quality of the players seems higher, for one. Not so much initially where people were calling any bet with a weak top pair, but later in the game it became quite tight. The reason for that could be that Pacific Poker have been advertising so much recently that virtually everyone signs up to them first (like I did).

The other important improvement is that the blinds don’t go up so quickly. I think this promotes tighter play as there isn’t quite as much a landgrab for chips at the beginning of a tournament. As a result, I saw very few bad beats (and none were inflicted on me or by me) whereas over on Pacific I had a couple whilst I was playing during the same time. (This included being called with A Q off by A J spades, fair enough. The flop came Q J junk with two clubs, one spade. I bet, the other guy went all in and I had him covered and had top pair with the big ace kicker so called. The turn showed a spade, then the river, and I lost two those two running flush cards.) There have been discussions on other forums about there being a lot of bad beats on Pacific and I can’t honestly say whether it has more to do with the players, the rate the blinds increase, or the algorithm. It does seem odd, however, how often a pocket pair loses to a straight that was never really there for the drawing.

So maybe I will give Party Poker a bit more of a chance…

Try out Party Poker with a 25% first deposit bonus

Try out Pacific Poker

Trying out PartyPoker.com

I’ve been playing on Pacific Poker for a while now but, spurred on by a visit to the Poker Den today I thought I might see about trying to win myself entry to that. It looks a slightly bizarre tournament, to be honest, but does have the advantage of being less than 5 minutes walk from where I live.

So, I downloaded the Party Poker software and deposited some funds. Not wanting to go straight to a real money table I went into a no-limit pretend money one. No good cards came along, until I got pocket Kings. I raised a decent amount, just about everyone called. The flop came – all low cards, no flush draws, no straight draws, no pairs – so I reraised, and just about everyone called. This went on for the next two hands and then someone on the table won with an 8 6 off suit. My conclusion: the pretend money tables were even worse than the Pacific Poker ones for quality players.

The interface itself I didn’t really like. I don’t see the point of having little pictures of people around the table – it just takes up space that could be used for the cards. The chat window is also incredibly small and so much goes through you can’t really follow it. The other thing it could really do with is keyboard shortcuts. On Pacific, you can raise with the cursors and press ‘C’ for call or ‘F’ for fold (these keys are a bit close together for my liking…). Not so on Party Poker, it’s mouse control all the way, and it can get a bit tiresome. The only thing you can use the keyboard for is entering your bet in figures.

I decided I was familiar enough with the interface and joined a $10/$1 no limit tournament. There were ten players around the table. First hand was nothing, then second hand I was dealt poket queens. I raised a little over twice the blinds and had one caller. Perfect for that kind of hand. The flop came up: A Q 9. Even more perfect. I checked, he bet, I raised, he called. Excellent, so he has got an ace, and probably a strong one at that.

Time for the turn: another ace. Even better. He’s on a set, I’m on a full house. As long as the board doesn’t pair, or he doesn’t have a nine or a queen then I’m made. I made a smallish bet, he raised, I called. The river: junk. I bet again, he went all in, I called. Second hand and I’d doubled up and knocked my first player out. We were down to 9, with the first 3 places paying.

There wasn’t much else for a while. I bet a few hands, bluffed a few, and seemed to win every pot I was involved in (which were all small). Then, pocket kings. I raised the blinds, a decent raise, a short-ish stack re-raised, I put them all in. They called, and I saw I was up against aces. Bugger.

The game went on, I had a few cards, and somehow ended up down to the last two. We were on level terms after I called his all-in on the flop with some decent pot odds of a queen high flush that didn’t come off. A couple of hands later and I was ahead, then I looked down at pocket 10’s. Pretty good. I raised from the small blind, he went all in, I called and saw he had A K off. Luckily, my 10’s held up and I was the winner of the $50 first prize.

Winning my first money game should really make me feel warm towards Party Poker, and if I was the suspicious type I would be thinking there was a conspiracy in favour of me as a new player. The only thing that I liked about it that I don’t see on Pacific, though, is the way all-in’s are handled. On Pacific it’s shown in the same way as any other hand i.e. first round from the dealer, so you don’t see later mucked hands. On Party Poker, as soon as someone’s all-in and no more bets can be made the cards are turned over and the flop, river and, very dramatically, turn are dealt. Much better.

The other thing I didn’t like was that I couldn’t find out where I was in a tournament. First, it was hard enough to get into the next tournament. (It was a scheduled event, I was typing, something popped up, whatever key I was pressing at the time closed the window and I had to find my tournament again to get back in.) Then getting back to the lobby was hard enough, and once there although it shows the chip size of each player, I couldn’t find a way to rank them so I didn’t know where I was.

All in all, I can’t see Party Poker pulling me away from Pacific Poker. There are just too many things about the interface I don’t like, from the way you get into tournaments to the tables themselves.