trip reports

Colossus Freeroll

Thanks to Red Chip Poker I have bumped up my flight to Vegas from a flight accommodating a short family visit and a concurrent $1000 NL paper chase, to a free lotto ticket in the so-called Colossus reentry marathon beginning May 29.  The four starting flights of this inaugural tourney will be spread over two busy days without dinner breaks, with felted players allowed entry into any remaining starting sections, will have fairly short forty minute levels.  Day two, with the presumed bunnies consigned to the bin, reverts to a more typical WSOP hour long structure.  However, with its small buy in of $565, short starting stack of 100 blinds, its early placement on the exciting schedule of events, and the rapidly increasing possibility of up 12,000 entrants, this tournament will be a SNAFU no matter how it is organized.  No limit indeed; buyin beware.

Which is why I very grateful to have my ticket earned through a Red Chip freeroll two weeks ago, held on Pokerstars Home Games.  With this victory, participating in a WSOP crapshoot will only cost me about $1000 in planes, trains, automobiles and resealed water bottles.  Focusing more on the upside, the distinct possibility of having less than twenty five big blinds within an hour and half of play and less than sixty hands means my number one focus will be upon the most classic and wise of poker strategies: running pure.

A strategy, I will say, that got me to where I needed to be in the Red Chip freeroll.  I ran well even before the cards were dealt, in fact.  In misunderstanding of Pokerstars Home Games tournament limitations, a number of aspiring lotto winners were not allowed to participate, knocking out an unknown number of participants.  While minor blowback over customer service was swirling around the RCP bureaucrats, with blame briefly being knocked about in the forum, the real lesson seemed to be lost on the aggrieved parties.  Which is to say, nothing but planning in advance and knowing where you stand is right for poker players, that lonely bunch of plastic rectangle entrepreneurs.

My run good continued, fortunately for me, as the cards were dealt.  I was granted immediate position on Skors, a poster whose multiple hand histories left me in a very comfortable information position.  It was with this in mind that I started my run by trapping myself for my tournament life- but I like my play quite a bit.  With close to starting stacks it folded around to Skors on the button, whose 3x raise, fine for this level, I flatted with KK.  There are multiple reasons to commence the hand this way.  Most important among them, the chips at this stage of the tournament have little value compared to what they will be worth in about an hour of a fast tournament; I can set up a dynamic of stealing from him, but this is secondary, as I do not know if I will be even at his table in a level; in other words, my stack is more important than our interplay.  Third, the possibility of a flat from the blinds with a premium pair will generally escape the notice of both the button and the big blind, who is suddenly presented with a squeeze opportunity, which can yield yet another bet to capture at a stage where no one should be trying to give away too much.  In any case, the BB decided to squeeze my flat, and Skors responded with a 4bet.  For me, the pot was growing too large, too fast, and I realized that the possibility of being up against AA just increased significantly.  However, there was nothing to be done, having played my hand this way, so I moved in, the BB called, and Skors folded.  I was up against AA, but the flop was favorable, yielding me a gutter, and I binked the cleaner K on the turn to immediately take the table chip lead.

I immediately became very active, possibly too active for these early stages, but the table did not fight me until I let another player hang himself.  I had opened a weak ace, hit top pair, checked the turn, and river, letting him rip it in mistakenly.  I felt that the way the table was playing and hiding from my opens, someone was ready to self-destruct, and I became chip leader.

Within a level of this development, the last portion of my run good concluded with a resounding felting of a forum poster.  I raised min raised 99 from EP at 20/40 and was three bet by the poster JackofClubs to 200.  I felt this was a strong sizing from a player who seemed positionally aware and had at least fifty big blinds, I think, so plenty of tournament equity protect.  Everything added up to him holding a very strong hand, so I discarded the idea of four betting, and flatted the raise.  The flop came 9JQ.  While in a cash game I would prefer to lead, I decided to check raise and represent a possible pressure play with a pair and a draw, like tens or KQs, in hopes of playing for stacks.  He responded by shoving, I believe, and AA lost.  GG.

With twice the chips of the rest of the field, I continued to try to bully this and next table I was moved to.  We were far enough along, as evidenced by the 99 hand, that I was using the min raise to steal and set up steals.  This may not be ideal according to the very latest poker theory, but it was better than most of the field’s strategy, who were continuing to waste precious chips with 3x opens and suspect flats.  While I was able to keep my exact chip stack for the next hour, nothing really went my way again, and the field eventually caught up with me, dropping me down to second, then third, and as the final two tables were set, as low as fifth, I believe.

It was around this time that the slight chip leader and the second position player played a giant pot of which I missed the preflop action.  However, somehow, in what is probably not the wisest tournament poker, the two big stacks got all the chips in the middle on a coin flip for the apparent tournament, with Valvejob1 downing QQ with AKhh.  I nearly congratulated him on the tournament win in chat then and there.  From this moment on, with three times the chips of the nearest stack, he played big boy poker and pressured much of the field into collapse.  Sets and broadway cards were long ago, and this card dead section was slightly trying, but it had the benefit of forcing me out of any confrontations.  I made several important light three bets apparently leveraging tournament lives very well, because all of them got the folds one needs to thrive in a freezeout; these were all the blinds I needed to survive three levels of inactivity.

At this point my memory is a little hazy, unfortunately.  I was tired.  I play cash games almost exclusively, though I follow and think about tournaments, and being forced to interact on someone else’s terms was little like accepting a roller coaster ride with someone who wanted to go far more than I.  I know I did not recognize any of the players at the table by their forum names.  I picked my spots well enough, and kept my twenty big binds intact. I watched a few drowning stacks suffocate, and coasted to the final table.  I had twenty bigs, and was comfortable.

Valvejob1 dominated the final table both in play and in showdowns.  I don’t think the other players handled him very well, and while the final table featured more aggressive play, I distinctly recall several third down punts.  I didn’t admire a lot of the bet sizing going on, a recurrent theme throughout the tournament, something for forum players to consider as they countdown to their WSOP effort.

All of which added up to what felt like a somewhat inevitable heads up match.  I had chipped up a little, and his lead started at about 2.5:1.  My strategy was to play pots, we did not engage in a folding war; however, I continued to see complete air pre and post, and Valvejob1’s chip lead grew to a dangerous 4.5:1. I could imagine an onlooker wondering why I was not playing for stacks, but I wanted to give my strategy a little more time.  After all, coming into this tournament, I had won the only three sitngos I’d played in two years, and the only other freeroll: heads up is not foreign to me. My monthly late night battles with the Lobster for real money was serious, if slightly ridiculous, experience with aggression.

In any case, down on the point of danger, I made my first hand, raising with Q5, a fine holding for heads up.  I flopped two pair, and checked a full house.  My opponent not only had a hand, he had shown what would ultimately be his undoing, an overly aggressive style.  I checked, nearly completely sure he would bet his entire range, which he did, and I doubled up.

From this point onward I felt very good about my chances- despite his tough play and even after getting him down to eight blinds and letting him actually retake the lead.  We played a lot of cat and mouse preflop, but the key to maintaining my control and never letting him finish me off was recognizing his overdone check raising strategy.  While I surrendered an appropriate number of times, I was able to bet/3bet all my marginal made hands and draws over the right board textures where he was representing very little, thus regaining all the blinds, and more, than he would steal from me preflop, justifying my strategy of seeing more than seventy percent of flops.

At one point exactly half way through the match I was able to claim a significant pot, maybe 15% of the chips in play and after a long series of preflop stunting, which was probably the tipping point for my confidence in winning.  After going with 65o pre, I was able to call with fourth pair a river bluff representing very little after a draw came in that Valvjob1 had not semibluffed.

It not too much later when I had him completely on the ropes.  He had adjusted his preflop raise sizing in an effort to end the postflop play, and I allowed myself to make one calling error before I again speculated with the 76cc despite it being a bad deal stack wise.  I felt the equity of the hand was good, and I was playing post well enough.  The flop came 8510, and when my draw bricked and he again failed to follow up his flop bet with turn aggression, I put him all in with 7 high, and he elected to save his tournament life and last few blinds, which turned out to be a great decision for him, because I almost immediately made my biggest mistake of the entire tournament.

With something like a 7:1 chip lead, I immediately forced the issue and gambled to end the tournament, which he survived.  Now with enough chips to play, he shoved over my min open with A6cc, and I snap called.  Whether you like this call for its equity vs. his range or not, my giant mistake was “snap” doing anything.  I did not even think for a second.  As it happens, he won for the second time a saving pot with AJ, only this time, he had doubled twice, and the match was nearly even.  Valvejob reverted to smaller raises, which I think was either for his stack size or a recognition that 3x was not going to help him; either way it was the right adjustment and he was still ready to play.

However, despite this error with the weak suited ace, I was still firmly in control of what I wanted to do, and I proceeded to wear him down some more, nearly certain of the result.  Further, the deck return to my favor, showing me QQ and AA, although Valvejob1 did not bite on either.  In fact, during this final fourth of what was over two hours of heads up play, Valvejob seemed to be saving himself for the right spot.  His frequencies modulated downward; I could see and sense his energy and confidence slightly tapering in short but costly sequences where he surrendered preflop, whereas before he would have raised his entire range.  I foresaw the end, and, after again regaining a near critical advantage, I picked up JJ, and shoved over his open.  After some consideration, Valvejob made the call with A7ss, perhaps an artifact of my dump with A6ss.  He flopped top pair, but I held for a happy victory over a valiant effort by my opponent. Hail and well met.

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The OOP Lexicon is a user-developed poker glossary.

Absolute Position
Being last to act (e.g. closest to the button) postflop.

Advancing Leverage
Aggressive actions intended to shift the leverage point closer to the current street.

A bluff or value hand which is a natural candidate for balancing another hand because of their shared qualities, such as AA and AK; usually helps planning range splitting and line construction.

Auto profit threshold (APT)
A bluff made with positive expectation resulting from the opponent under defending vis-a-vis bet sizing. The inverse of MDF.

Choosing to support either value bets or bluffs with their converse.

A bet is a proposition.  It’s the first offer on the pot with regard to the outcome of the game. Each player, in turn, has the opportunity to lay or change the price on the pot to the rest of the players. “The language of poker.” The bet, as opposed to the raise, is most often and most easily allied to the merged pricing construction.

To remove combinations of hands from a range based on cards in your hand or on the board.

Cards which influence our combinatorial assumptions. Ex: We face resistance on T76ss while we hold As7d. Both our cards act as blockers. Our ace of spades blocks (limits) a number of flush draws our opponent could hold, while our seven blocks a number of two pair and sets our opponent could hold. *See also Block and Unblock

Blocker Bet
A small bet made by an out-of-position player.

Board Texture
The available community cards and the set of conditions which inform its relationship to a logical range.

The worst hands in a betting range.  Depending on context this could be the worst hand in a value bet range or the bluffing section of polarized range.

A range descriptor indicating a range shape with a specific high or low boundary.  A range bounded high won't contain some number of the best linear hands ranked from the top down.  This is equivalent to a "capped" range.  A range bounded low won't contain some number of the worst linear hands ranked from the bottom up.  This is often useful to describe a range that doesn't include any air or very weak hands.

A strategic mode in which a player is attempting to deny their opponent(s) equity share of the pot through aggression. Often referred to as “denying equity” or “buying up equity”.

A range is capped when it represents little to no nutted combinations as confirmed by prior action.

A continuation bet. A bet made by the player with initiative as a continuation of their initiative on a prior street.

The ability to accurately range an opponent based on all available information at a decision point.  An understanding of your hands exact equity.

Closing Action
Acting last where no subsequent action is possible behind you.  For example calling a UTG raise in the BB or calling in position postflop with no players behind.

Cold Call/Cold Bet
An action is considered “cold” when it comes from a player entering into the pot has not previously put chips voluntarily in the pot. Ex: the UTG opens, the BTN 3bets. If the SB were to call or raise, it would be a cold-call or a cold-4bet.

The branch of mathematics the deals with finite number sets. Used in poker in determining the amount of combinations of certain hands in a range.

When a blind that is not the biggest blind calls the amount of the biggest blind. Ex: At $2/$5, action folds around to the SB and the SB completes. Meaning they just call. The BB can complete when there is a straddle.

A capped range that contains only middling value hands. A range without the polarized portion.

Logical advancement of combinations across streets.

Dark Side of the Deck
The large swath of hands, often off-suit, that fall outside of conventional playable recommendations. Counter-equity hands.

Dead Money
Money in the pot that is not being fought for.  A passive player creates dead money when they call a bet preflop and looking to play fit-or-fold postflop. Dead Money is often confused with the money in the pot.

Delayed Cbet
A cbet made on the turn by the preflop raiser when the flop checked through.

Delaying Leverage
Passive actions intended to maintain a likely late street leverage point, or possibly to avoid a leverage point entirely.

A strategic break from one’s standard construction as an exploit of a particular player’s profile or construction.

Diminishing Medium Value Category
A Seidman concept in which when one’s middling value hand range is too small and transparent to our opponent and thus either that range should be shifted into the top of a polarized range or the nutted portion should be shifted into the medium value range. Ex: AQo or TT being 3bet preflop.

A cbet that is less than the preflop raise. Ex: BTN opens to $25, we 3bet to $90 from the SB, BTN calls. On the flop we cbet $70.

Dry Board
A board texture that yields relatively few logical hands value. Often containing one medium or high card and disconnected low cards. Ex: Q53r, T622r.

Dual Mentalities
A Seidman concept in which when we decide to go postflop with a weak hand against a nutted range, we should either be looking to out flop it or steal the pot away. We base our decision against the player type we are up against and never go post with both mentalities at once.

Dynamic Board
A flop texture in which the runout is very likely to change the order of top ranking hands. Ex: 954tt, 742r.

Effective Stack
The smallest stack to VPIP in a given hand. Their stack decides the amount of money that can be played for or threatened before an all-in.

Effective nuts
A value hand that can be played for stacks as if it were the actual nuts.  This is a relative hand ranking based on range assumptions and opponent type.

A measure of how well the equity of a hand is deployed. Efficiency can also be used as a measure of what is risked vs what is gained for a given bet size.

Either/Or Philosophy
A Seidman concept in which a particular street can be a very good spot for value, meaning our opponent is never folding, or a very good spot to bluff, meaning our opponent is never calling, but that those spots cannot be concurrent.

Borrowed from economics, a measure of the sensitivity of a range or hand relative to the price offered.  Ranges (or hands) described as elastic will narrow, sometimes quickly, in response to increases in price.  Those described as inelastic will not.

The percent pot share of a holding or range on any given street if the hand were to go to showdown with no further betting action.

Equity Pusher
A analytic approach to the game in which a player views the correct actions only through the lens of their hands equity vs. their opponent’s range. Often this player type has a lack of understanding of overall strategy and plays their range face up with few bluffs.

Expected Value
The mathematical formula for how much a player’s action is expected to make with their hand vs. their opponent’s range. EV = ($towin * %ofwin) - ($tolose * %ofloss)

Face Up
A player is playing their range “face up” when their actions directly correspond with their desired outcome. Ex: A player bets half-pot three streets with a range that has no bluffs. A player 3bets to 7x with JJ.

False Polarization
Otherwise known as Faux-Po; a polarizing action taken with a merged range.

The result of losing your entire table stakes. All the way down to the felt.

A call of a cbet with a weak holding with the likely intention of taking the pot away when the opponent shuts down. Often done by an in position preflop caller.

The convergence of positions, stack depths, and preceding actions at a given decision point.

A mathematical formula developed by Phil Galfond for calculating the expected value of one’s range construction vs. an opponent’s holding.

A computer programming term that means "garbage in, garbage out" which also applies to poker forums when a poster seeks an in-depth conversation about a hand, but fail to provide pertinent information such as stack sizes, bets sizes, table dynamics and player tendencies.

Game Theory
The applied science of combining mathematical models with logic to craft winning poker strategies.

Game Theory Optimal
A set of strategies is GTO if no player can unilaterally deviate and increase his average profit. ~ Will Tipton.  GTO does not mean best possible response, highest EV, or maximally exploitative play.

Implied Odds
Additional value likely to be accrued if you make your hand on a later street.

Sometimes referred to as the betting lead, a common situation in which the passive player yields to the aggressive player postflop, or the last aggressor continues betting on subsequent streets.

A bet or raise intended to force out the rest of the field in order to play heads up against a weaker opponent who has entered the pot through limping, raising, or posting the blinds.

Loose aggressive player type. Generally overused and inaccurate.

A bet made from out of position after a passive action. Often referred to as a donk bet on the flop.

He knows that I know that he knows I know.

A bet or raise that signals the hand will be played for stacks.  Within reason, it is accomplished by betting with a sizing that will create RSP equal to 1 on the following street.

Limp First In

A consecutive range of hands decreasing in strength from top to bottom; generally meaning value hands. Equivalent to "merged."

Lockdown Board
A board on which the nuts have often already been made.  More prevalent in PLO but sometimes useful in no-limit, for example on monotone flops and boards with available common straights e.g. JT9, T98, 987, etc.

1) A range of hands that includes both strong and medium value; 2) in reference to medium value; 3) the merged construction describes the natural representation of a wide range through a bet.

Mini Stop-N-Go
A Seidman concept, a line taken by a OOP PFR where flop is check/called and turn is lead.

Minimum Defense Frequency (MDF)
The necessary defending (calling/raising) frequency to prevent an opponent from auto-profiting.  The inverse of APT.

Natural Action
A check, bet, or raise which is exactly suited to a player's range and situation (e.g. a pfr's continuation bet on AK2r).

A player who will not put chips into the pot without a very strong and sometimes only nutted hand.

The best possible hand.

Nuts-To-Air Ratio (NAR)
In a polarized betting line, the ratio of value to bluff.  As used by Seidman, not limited to polarization but sometimes used to label general opponent tendency of value to bluff.

Old Man Coffee. Typically an older, retired player that likes to play bingo with ATC, but will only continue with the nuts.

The first voluntary action. The first action or bet to voluntarily enter the pot.

A bet that is more than the size of the pot.

Perceived Range
Refers to the range of hands that your opponent thinks you could have in a certain playing situation. This can be interpreted and thus misinterpreted from your playing style and position at the table.

A range consisting of very strong and very weak hands.

Post Oak Bluff
A small bluff on a late street that has little chance of winning the pot.  Generally interpreted as “gutless” in the past but now fulfilling certain functions as betting efficiencies are understood.

Positional Protection
When the strength of a range is perceived to be capped or uncapped based on which position an action is taken from.

When an action or player is perceived to have strong hands in its range.

Protection Bet
A wager which denies equity to hands which will only give action if they significantly improve; "a value bet which does not want a call."

The rejection of the offered price and the laying of a new higher price.  Raises represent a more narrow range of hands and trend towards polarization.

Range Advantage
Implementation or study tool that refers to 1) most basically, equity measurement of one range against another; 2) or also including a combination of further factors including availability of nutted hands, the nuances of the runout, and positional protection.

Range Manipulation
Deliberate line work/bet sizing made to narrow a range or keep a range wide.

Range Switch
A deliberate change in range composition made to thwart a player who is reading our range too accurately in any spot.  Reduces transparency, fights assumptions, and wins the leveling war if implemented correctly.

Ratio of Stack To Pot
RSP. The stack to pot ratio at any point in a hand, generally used post-flop as opposed to Stack to Pot Ratio.

Taking a hand to showdown and realizing its full equity.  Generally used with regard to passive actions.

The mutual exchange of chips resulting from similar play and ideas.  Reciprocity is a common bi-product of group-think.  A true edge by definition cannot be reciprocal.

Relative Position
A player’s position measured against the aggressor's position.  Generally this is used going to the flop.  For example, if UTG raises and several players call behind, calling in the big blind would give you the best relative position.  You will act after seeing how the field responds to a likely continuation from the preflop aggressor.  In the same scenario calling immediately after the preflop aggressor results in the worst relative position.  You will have to act immediately after a continuation without seeing how the remaining players will respond.  Strong relative position confers an information edge.

The ability of hand to maintain equity across streets against a betting range or as part of a betting range.

Reverse Implied Odds (RIO)
Hands that often win small pots or lose large pots suffer from reverse implied odds.

Popularized by Mathew Janda, a descriptor for how well a hand retains equity over streets of play.  Hands described as robust have equity that does not suffer as an opponent's range becomes stronger.  Often these hands are currently both strong and invulnerable, or have the ability to become very strong by the river, relative to the opponent's range.

Fourth and Fifth Street cards following a given flop texture.

Scale of Protection
Poker theorem which states that the more protected or strong an opponent's range is, the higher the degree of denial or retention a counter will require.

Sklansky Bucks
Dollars won (or lost) in expected value regardless of actual hand result.

Any one of many possible poker archetypes found at low stakes games.

A reraise made after a player has raised and one or more players has called in-between.

Static Board
A flop texture in which the runout is unlikely to change the order of top ranking hands. Ex: AK7r, KK4r.

A passive action followed by an aggressive action, out of position.  For example, a call followed by a lead on the next street.

Streets of Value
A crude shorthand measurement for how much betting a hand can tolerate and still be best at showdown more often than not.

Tight aggressive opponent type. Generally overused and misapplied.

TAG's Dilemma
The paradox created by having a top-heavy range played so aggressively that it misuses equity vis-à-vis position and holding.

The Great Range Fantasy
The common idea that we know our opponent’s range and frequencies precisely; most commonly seen in post-hoc analysis to justify microedge decisions.

Thin Value
A bet that is only slightly more likely to be called by worse than by better. Associated with the merged pricing construction and bet-fold lines.

Three Fundamentals
The most fundamental variables for decision making: position, stack size, and community cards.

The best hands in a given range.

Two-Way Bet
A bet that expects calls from worse hands and incorrect folds at the same time, a simultaneous value bet and bluff line.

The psychological effect of feeling like you’re losing because your stack size isn’t as large as it once was during a session, even though it’s more than what you’re in the game for.

(e.g. You bought in for $100, ran it up $450, but now only have $175 in front of you.)

A hand that has no negative card removal effects on the target range.  Bottom set, for example, unblocks top pair top kicker.

A range that is perceived to contain the nuts in any given line.  Capped ranges may become uncapped during transitions for example from preflop to flop, or flop to turn.

A turned nut straight after raising flop with a gutter.

Value Owning
Making value bets with a hand that has less than 50% equity when called.

Voluntarily Put Money In Pot (VPIP)
The frequency at which a player limps, calls, or raises preflop.

Volatile Board
A flop texture where equities will often shift on the turn and river.  See “dynamic”.

An illusory cooler where one player makes a massive mistake equity mistake and loses his stack with a strong but second best hand; also known as a Jam Basket.

Wet Board
A board texture that allows for a lot of logical hands to continue. Often made up of medium rank connected cards. Ex: KT9tt, Tc8c6s-7c-Ac.

“Walk In, Fuck Shit Up, Walk Out” a hashtag used by instagram poker players.

Winning Player
A forum poster who offers reciprocal advice under the guise of questionable positive low stakes results. A weak player or fish, in general.

Young Man Coffee. Is very much an OMC, but younger.  They usually only continue with the nuts, often under the illusion of playing a GTO style.