Thursday 4/2/15 time 2:43 PM - PokerHelena
Recently I got a good laugh again at a poker table when one of my opponents realized that there is a woman playing against him. So guys, what's up with that?
I played in two tables during the same tournament.
At the first table my opponents were so convinced that as I am a woman I must be a very tight player. As they were commenting my possible holdings out loud after the situation was over they were convinced that I had the best possible hand. Well... I didn't. And at that situation it was great, because my semi-bluff worked awesomely!
At another table another guy kept raising me over big time when I was on blinds. That was until I reraised him all-in. He looked at me like I was the most horrible person in the world and then started cursing about how women want equal rights and how my behavior doesn't support that. He was convinced that I was too aggressive for a woman.
Oh well, again that was my win.
Guys, give us a break. There is a lady at the table. Your testosterone level is understandable, but it's just a game ;)
Thursday 2/26/15 time 10:17 PM - PokerHelena
Last weekend I visited Tallinn to attend Olybet Kings of Tallinn poker festival. I only participated in the Ladies Event, but it was great to meet the local ladies and get a small part of the tournament vibe.
Before going there I had never played in a Ladies Event before. Therefore I didn't quite know what to expect. I somehow thought that there would be many women from different levels - those who have been playing regularly, but also beginners who haven't played much yet.
Apparently I was quite wrong, as the players were all experienced players who often played together. There were only 15 participants and the atmosphere was more like local ladies gathering on a Friday evening than a serious poker tournament. It was pretty relaxed, although got more serious towards the end when the prize was more reachable.
The starting stack was 7000 and there were 20 minute levels. 20 minutes is quite a turbo tournament and I definitely would have liked to have the levels a bit longer. The blinds increased very fast and when antes kicked in it became quite a push/fold luck game. So I dropped out when put all in with A-x and unfortunately ran into A-Q of another player.
The pain of folding pair of kings
There was also one very awesome hand where I was forced to fold K-K. It was awesome, because I don't think I would have been able to fold pair of kings before and it also paid off.
So I had K-K and raised around three times big blind from beginning of the round. I got two callers. The flop was x-7-8 (x was 3 or 4). I was the first to go, so I bet around half the pot, which was 400. The second player reraised to 1000. The third player reraised all in (few thousands).
If I read this case from a poker book I would know what it said, but it is so bloody difficult to think straight at a poker tournament table. Sometimes you go through the whole tournament without getting a single pair in your hand. So how can you fold this pair of kings?
So all those thoughts went through my head. What does she have? Why did they call before flow, but reraise it now? How have they raised before and what kind of cards they have shown? Eventually I was pretty sure she had 8-8 and a set. It was bloody difficult, but I folded the hand.
The second player called the all in. She had pair of sevens and the all in reraiser had a pair of eights. You would think that the drama ended there, but no. Seven fell on the river and the 2nd player won with four sevens!
Monday 2/9/15 time 8:46 PM - PokerHelena
I signed up for Olybet Kings Of Tallinn Ladies Event on 20.2.2015! I have never played in a ladies event before, so it's going to be interesting. At the same time I don't expect it to differ much from general games.
I have asked some of my friends about how women play differently. Their response was that generally women tend to be play more carefully and tighter. So it might be that more aggressive game might be better at ladies event.
Why ladies event this time? As I go to Tallinn only for the weekend this was the only No Limit Hold'em event that can be played during one day, is not turbo and has right buy-in level for me. So I think I have given myself the best chances to succeed. Wish me good luck! ;)
Sunday 2/8/15 time 7:53 PM - PokerHelena
For the past couple of weeks I have been crafting the tournament plan for 2015. As I didn't manage to win anything last year I have put a lot of thought into what I should change in my approach. As a result I have come up with few things.
1. I choose tournaments that emphasize on my strenghts
I live in Helsinki and Helsinki Casino is the only place where you can play poker for money. Unfortunately the casino doesn't make it very easy for newcomers to succeed. The rake is high compared to the tournament buy-in, all the weekly tournaments are turbo and the tournaments are full of regular players (as it is the only place they can play).
So I decided that to succeed I have to play more abroad and online. That's why my tournament plan includes now tournaments like Olybet Kings of Tallinn in couple of weeks, Estonian Championship in April and regular poker tournaments in Tallinn casinos.
I haven't been very successful in turbo tournaments, so I make sure that I won't get into any of those. That's why I chose Ladies Event over Turbo Freezeout event at Kings of Tallinn (main event was not an option due to too high buy-in).
2. I go for tournaments that are on the right level for me
As much as I would like to go to WSOP main event I don't think this $10,000 will be very well invested. So I have chosen more carefully which tournaments I should go to by considering what kind of crowd it will attract.
My tournament calendar has some regular weekly games, as well as bigger annual games. However, I have ensure that all of them give me a challenge that I believe I can meet.
3. Proper preparation and reporting
As I select the tournaments beforehand I will have time to prepare for them in a better way. For example, I can play some smaller sit&go's that help me to develop some parts of the game I believe will help me in the bigger tournament.
I have also promised myself and friends to report all the games, which forces me to analyse what went well and what didn't go that well. Putting a conscious effort into every game differentiates it from "I'll just go and see what happens" approach.
The next tournaments that I want to participate are the Olybet Kings Of Tallinn in couple of weeks and Estonian Championship in April. In March and May I will concentrate on more regular games in both casinos and online.
What do you think about my approach? Let me know in case there are some games I should consider or make changes to my apprach to my tournament plan!
Sunday 2/1/15 time 11:45 PM - PokerHelena
Yesterday I was at friend's birthday party which was in 1920s/1930s style. Among other things the friend had planned a turbo poker tournament. I haven't really played in parties, so it was kind of first experience with that.
There were some very good players there, as well those that had never played before. So people took it quite relaxed. Was awesome to have that kind of poker experience for a change! And yes, it was also a profitable evening for me :)
Wednesday 1/28/15 time 5:22 PM - PokerHelena
Year 2014 was an extremely important poker year for me for many reasons.
Whereas I was already used to playing in local home games, it’s a whole different things to go to a casino, pay much higher buy-in and hope there wouldn’t be any pros sitting at your table. And of course they did.
I have already previously said that I’m more of a tournament type of person and in 2014 I confirmed that all over again. Also I learned that I like freezeout games.
I am a pretty competitive person which has been good in sports, so I have taken poker tournaments a bit like a marathon – long trip to a rewarding finish. However, marathons and poker tournaments have a huge difference. In marathon you still want to get to the finish line as fast as possible, whereas in poker the goal is not the speed, but being the last one left. Thinking about it, it feels very obvious, but sitting at a table I had to remind myself several times that I have time and I don’t have to make desperate moves.
Competitiveness is good, impatience not so much.
I knew it, but I really felt it. In fact, I didn’t make it to money in any official tournament in 2014. Partly I blame myself for not playing enough to get the experience, as well as not improving my game enough to prepared for some situation I got myself into.
Partly I blame Finnish gambling laws. If there is only one place in the capital of the country where you are allowed to play poker for money then you can be sure that you can’t choose your opponents - all of them are there at one place from rookies to professionals. So the advice of “be aware to which table you sit at” or “choose the right kind of tournaments” hasn’t really helped me. The same players are in every damn tournament.
Friday 12/12/14 time 12:45 PM - PokerHelena
It's always great to notice that there has been significant progress in your play. That just happened last week when I played a weekly tournament in a local casino. It went all so well. I managed to gather three times of average stack during the first 45 minutes and used my big stack position to bully around. I felt like the poker queen of the day.
However, this led to the fact that I made it further in the tournament than I have ever made it before. And as I have never got that far before I have never also needed to face the new kind of challenges you get at the end of a tournament.
As the blinds increased quickly and the stacks became relatively small compared to the blinds I was not sure anymore what my strategy should be. Most of the players at the table, including me, had 13-17 big blinds, so not much to play with. It felt like all you needed was one wrong move and you were out of the game. The wrong move came quickly, so I left the table on the 17th position out of 59 players. Now I know what to work on.
Sunday 11/16/14 time 12:43 AM - PokerHelena
I have always liked to play tournaments rather than cash games. However, once in a while it's good to try out the cash as well. Pitty that it never ends too well though.
Latest cash game became very short for me. After only about 10 minutes I got into my first real hand with an opponent who previously showed over the board aggression and bluffing. It didn't really scare me that he was very aggressive with me as well. So when he put me all in I didn't hesitate too much.
I flopped a straight with ace high. Unfortunately he had flopped a flush with some of the "not so premium cards". Premium or not, flush is a flush. And I was flushed.
Friday 10/10/14 time 10:29 PM - PokerHelena
I played an online satellite game for a live tournament recently. For the first time I felt that everything was going as it was supposed to. I was focused, I followed the players, I used the position, took moderate risks that payed off and ran decently good. After the first 30 minutes I had 4-5 times of the average stack and it lasted for few more hours.
Apparently you only need one hand to screw up everything. So I became too confident and when I got A-K in my hand it really made me miserable. I hit the ace on the turn, but in my blindness didn't even think that my opponent could have hit something better already before the turn.
Looking at the play now it makes a lot of sense - all the signs were there that I should have been careful. But nope - I was just too bloody confident with my big stack.
From the 2nd position I dropped down to 15th. From 15th position I dropped out. It only took few minutes to ruin few hours of great play.
It was couple of days later when I noticed this article on PokerNews about how to play big stacks at the beginning and middle stage of a tournament. I wish I had read it already beforehand. Great reminder!
I guess it had to happen one day?
Saturday 9/27/14 time 4:38 PM - PokerHelena
I went to play poker together with my brother for the first time in a casino. It was exciting experience, as he had not played in casino before due to his young age, although has been playing poker for years.
We played a weekly no limit tournament, which had around 50 participants. And by chance we were assigned to the same table. So we had the great opportunity to observe each other.
At the same time I have to say that it was annoying to play at the same table with him, as we have been talking about our strategies before and, although we didn't have any game agreement, some people at the table might not be happy with this kind of situation.
My brother played good aggressive poker at the beginning, but then lost his charm when his big bluff was paid. I played quite passively and poor poker, I have to admit. I don't know if it was because of my brother at the table or something else (excuses, excuses!), but I felt constantly distracted and couldn't get good chances with my bad run of cards, as the table was pretty aggressive.
So for the record, I dropped out first and he followed me only 10 minutes later. So we left with empty hands couple of hours into the game. It was probably my worst tournament result so far. But it's ok, because after the game we went to the casino bar and gave feedback to each other's game.
So according to my brother I looked somewhat vulnerable. Firstly, he has the stereotype of women being more vulnerable at poker table and it's doubled by my passive play in an aggressive table.
He has a good point. I'm not as aggressive as I should be. I should play more hands more decisively. There have been times when I have used that table image before pretty successfully when I have great cards in my hand. But you know, mostly you are not served with pair of aces, kings of queens. So have to think through my game plan for the next one!
Saturday 7/5/14 time 11:58 AM - PokerHelena
One of the key areas poker has developed me in is control of emotions. I'm quite emotional person, but I had no idea that emotions can have such physical influence on me until I sat at a poker table. In tough situation my hands started shaking and sweating, head started spinning and vision got blurred. And the worst things was that there was nothing I could do about it.
The only thing that has actually helped me is experience - playing as much as I can and getting into those tough points as often as possible. And it has worked not only for poker, but also in the rest of my life.
So I don't get all broken down anymore when I'm all in with aces and lose. However, I do get completely smashed when I have taken a step to a higher level game and get into tough situations there.
So recently I was a in a poker tournament, which is probably the biggest one I have been to so far. As much as I tried to keep my sanity and took time to feel comfortable at the table it just didn't work. I was not thinking rationally and my body started reacting again quite strongly in every tougher situation. I dropped out within the first couple of hours.
Although I was completely devastated after the (very short) tournament and kind of embarrassed leaving the table in such state I know it was a good experience. I needed that next level of game to get to next level of my emotional control.
It looks like for some people it comes naturally - they never look emotionally down even when they later tell you that they were having a nervous breakdown. I'm not one of them. And I guess you can say that I'm not natural in the game. However, also this is something that can be practiced and developed, as everything else in the game. So I'll just keep going.
Wednesday 6/11/14 - PokerHelena
This week I played in the final game of the local bar poker tournament. The final ended the five month season of weekly games and tournament will go on break now until fall (what a hell am I going to do all summer?).
I have to say that I didn't play the best poker I could. There were couple of good pots that I won, but as the blinds increase super fast and every move can end your game my stack size changed a lot during the game.
The most amusing moment of the whole event was that I actually got to the final table from semi-final table with only 25 point chip in front of me. Blinds at that point were 400/800. I survived the last small blind when I still had 425 in chips left. K-10 was not hopeless, but I decided to skip it and was glad doing it after I saw a completely missed flop.
The final table went a bit better. Eventually I finished the game on 3rd place when my pocket JJ was not enough. I was not the only one who lost in the game with high pocket pair, as the 2nd place owner through his last chips in with AA and was pretty surprised when they didn't hold. Well, as I have said before I have never trusted aces anyways :)
Tuesday 4/1/14 time 10:29 PM - PokerHelena
As Mr Harrington promotes tight-aggressive play he has a strong opinion on which cards you should get into a pot with. To my surprise Ace-Ten is not a hand to get into a play with from an early position. In fact, he stresses on it quite few times in his first book.
Today I played a live tournament in a casino for 2nd time and A-T became the fatal hand for me.
Ace - Ten, a.k.a The Huge Loss
I was the first to act. I checked my cards and saw A-10. I would have played it before, but this time I acknowledged the situation and gracefully threw away the cards. It was painful. However, the pain was not even nearly as big as it was couple of minutes later.
Tight player on the button raised and small blind called, whereas big blind folded. So there were two players in the hand. The board brought x-10-x (x being some small and meaningless cards that I don't even remember anymore). That's when I felt for the first time that perhaps throwing away the A-10 was a mistake.
There was a raise and a call, so 4th card was dealt and it was... tadaa... another ten! One player went all in, another one called. At this point I was almost crying. None of them had tens.
As I already saw that my A-10 would have won the hand, the 5th street brought and ace. I would have had full house. Ouch.
I know that the chances were small for this to happen. I know that as I was the first one to act there was possibility that a bunch of people with raise, reraise and go all in after me. However, this kind of losses are just soooo painful.
Ace - Ten, a.k.a A Little Bit Smaller Loss
Not long after the big loss I got A-T in my hands again. And again I was in early position. I thought "The biggest mistake I can make is to think based on my previous experience that it's correct to play A-10 from early position". So again I threw the cards away.
This time the board ran full of small cars, 10 being the highest card and pot was taken with Ace high.
True, not that clear case, but it also didn't give me back my much needed confidence.
Ace - Ten, a.k.a The Final Crush
When blinds increased and my stack started getting smaller I became to the "all or nothing" point. For quite some time I had to settle for nothing, as my cards or situations were not in my favor.
Eventually I thought I had a good chance. I was in the middle position, nobody had entered the pot before me, I looked at my cards and voilį - I had A-10 in my hand. I can't say I wasn't hesitant, but I thought this was my chance to double up (or at least steal the blinds) before the blinds would catch up with me.
Everone folded until the small blind who after a pause decided to call. When he showed 2-5 I first thought "What a hell was he thinking?" and then "I think I'm back in the game".
But oh boy how wrong I was. The board showed two fives and I was out of the game on 21st position out of 47 players.
Ace - Ten is a difficult pair of cards to play. Based on the latest experience I will definitely give this hand some more thought in the future.
Sunday 3/30/14 time 10:25 PM - PokerHelena
When last week I wrote about getting four of a kind for the first time then this week my friend Mike made it better.
We were playing in the same game when I witnessed him getting royal flush of spades. According to his own words he had lost his hope of winning this hand when eventually cards on the turn and river made the best hand you can have in poker. Everyone was quite stunned, as apparently it was the first time any of us had seen it, including the dealer.
Mike played pretty well, but I still managed to catch a victory after a long heads up with him. This time I even got pair of aces that helped to win a large pot (not like most of the times lately). So the track of great games continue!
Monday 3/24/14 time 10:56 PM - PokerHelena
In the last game I got my first four of a kind experience. It's the best hand I have had so far!
The dealer gave me pair of tens. After several people raised and called before me I didn't feel as good about my pair of tens as I would have liked to. However, I decided to call. I was also happy to stay the last player to act.
I have to say that for a second I was slightly confused when I saw two 10 on the board. I just thought "oh, I thought I had a pair of tens. So what did I have?" and looked at my cards again. By the time I realized I have four tens in my hand first player went all in saying "I wonder who has the other 10". I was even more delighted when also another player went all in.
For once I didn't even have to do much to win a big pot. Sweet!
Friday 3/7/14 time 10:17 PM - PokerHelena
Besides my first casino tournament experience I also played in the usual weekly bar poker tournament this week. It has become a great routine and something that I look forward to every time.
In the bar tournaments players are in very different levels. It's easy to join the table as a beginner, but it's also a great place to try out new tricks and strategies as more advanced player. And of course it's a lot of fun to meet the people every week.
I remember that it took me months to be in the top three. These days I'm highly disappointed if I'm not in the top three. This week I played two games - first I was second and the second time I won the game.
The development has been quite good. So although I love the weekly bar tournaments I really need to get more challenging experiences next to that. I think casino will see me more often in near future!
Recently I wrote that aces are overrated. I have just lost with aces too many times lately. So I was especially thrilled to win with pair of threes this time. Three threes made the day!
Wednesday 3/5/14 time 10:53 PM - PokerHelena
Yesterday I played my first tournament for real money in casino. It was also the first game I played after I started reading Harrington's wisdom on poker. The first chapters provided so much good insight that I was sure I could use them immediately in practice.
At the beginning of the book Harrington mentioned 11 basic things that you need to consider when deciding if you should play a hand or not. I'm pretty good in following some of the things and taking them in consideration (e.g. the position, stack sizes, number of players at the table). However, I have had hard time profiling the players and adjusting my play based on that. The game at the casino was perfect to practice that - I didn't know any of the players beforehand and players in the table changed.
There were quite many loose/aggressive players in my table. Unfortunately all of them were to my left, so I felt I was in quite uncomfortable position and most certainly felt their presence. I remembered Harrington's advice "Against aggressive players play fewer hands more decisively". However, it didn't seem to work. Every time I had a good hand they never hit the table and aggressive players went out of their way to make me suffer.
It was a slow death on a poker table. After I lost with pretty good hands I was afraid to play any "just good" hands. The problem was that I never got any great hands. The only pair I got was deuces. The best hand I received was the last one I played in the game - AK off suit. I was pretty happy when an ace hit the table. Unfortunately my opponent had AA (see? Pair of aces don't always lose, as it has happened to be lately). I finished as 24th out of 58 players.
I was a bit disappointed, as I felt that I didn't play my best. However, I did learn a lot about player profiling and will definitely put the experience in use in the next game. Bring it on!
Friday 2/21/14 time 8:05 PM - PokerHelena
Couple of weeks ago I was invited to join a private cash game. I knew that the players would be much more experienced than I was, so I was a bit hesitant before going. But as the saying goes - if you want to become better you have to play with those that are better. So all I had to decide was what would be the price of my learning this time.
The buy-in was 50€, which I considered to be quite a good price to pay for a good learning experience (and tons of fun!). The beginning didn't go well at all. The game was definitely much more aggressive than in a casual bar poker game. I froze, made few rookie mistakes and slowly started losing my chips.
I tend to take every game very sersiouly. I'm definitely not one of those players who go to table and then bluff big time until I'm rich or broke. But I did realize I should loosen it up a little bit.
After an hour or so, however, I started to get into the game more. I guess on one hand I relaxed a bit and on the other hand learned more about how the other guys were playing. First big bluffs were revealed, first painful losses were made. So bit by bit I started winning my money back.
Confidence obviously plays a big part in poker. I was way too careful at the beginning, but it's better than playing in an unconfident manner and losing it all. Eventually I finished the game with 85€ on the plus side, which makes it my biggest win in a cash game so far. I think I was 2nd or 3rd in terms of winnings, which was not bad at all. Not quite a millionaire yet, but it's a start :)
Sunday 2/16/14 time 12:08 AM - PokerHelena
I started playing poker in a local bar in Espoo, Finland. Apparently it was part of the Finnish bar poker tournament series, kept in bars all over Finland. Winners from all the bars gather together to the finals once in a year and the winner would get a trip to poker players dream destination Las Vegas.
As a beginner I didn't think I could actually win the game in my own bar (yeah, I have also heard stories of the lucky beginners who win them all, but apparently I'm not one of them). But I sure did want to give my very best. So unlike probably any other player there I actually prepared for the game.
I think I actually played pretty well. It might be that it was actually the best I have played since I started with poker. Quite soon after we had started with the final table I took the chip lead and held it until the heads-up.
That's when it started getting difficult. They wanted to close the bar, so dealer decided to increase blinds more aggressively. That's when I started feeling helpless. When blinds take a huge part of your stack and you're in heads-up there's not much you can do. We were close to the end of the game few times because one of us lost most of the stack to the other one. But then you needed to win only one hand to make it back to equal situation.
And then I got the magical 9 pair. According to my humble rookie poker knowledge 9 pair is a pretty good hand to have in a heads-up. I went all in, he called with K3 and (snap!) the King hit the board.
Oh well, you can't always win, can you? But oh boy did it hurt. At the same time I realized more than ever before that poker is a game where you have to get used to experiences like this. You can prepare and play your best, but sometimes it's just not enough.
Tuesday 2/11/14 time 10:39 PM - PokerHelena
Although I have been playing actively for the past six months I first tried poker one year before that. I still remember my first live game as clearly as it was yesterday.
I had played few games online just to understand how it works. You know, to get the basic rules. I have never liked to read rules from a book, but through practice (yeap, sometimes there are heavy consequences involved, but luckily not this time).
At the same time I noticed that one of our neighborhood bars was organizing poker tournaments every Wednesday. It had free entrance and you could win drink coupons. Perfect! I knew that this was a good place to start. However, it took me weeks before I actually went there.
Eventually I went there and I was nervous as hell. There was a bunch of very serious looking guys waiting for the game to start. After I managed to sign myself up and took a seat I was completely frozen. Slowly I was losing my chips.
Then something magical happened - pair of queens! Even better, third queen appeared on the board. My heart has never raced faster than that. I had no idea that pair of cards can make be physically feel so unstable. Obviously I was too frozen to make a raise, but luckily slow game worked this time. My opponent raised like crazy and I just paid. I was hoping that nobody would see my terribly shaking hands, but I don't think I could really hide it.
That hand was the first one that I won. And last one in that game (oh well, long way to go). Nevertheless, it felt great! And I knew I would go back.