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MarkT is a software engineer who lives in Campbell, California (right next to San Jose). He's worked in a series of software startups (it is Silicon Valley, after all) and is currently the senior engineer at a new startup.

He is one of the people brought in to pokerdom during the recent poker boom caused by televised poker. He watched the first episode of Celebrity Poker Showdown on a lark and found it fascinating, so he immediately found the World Poker Tour on TV and watched that as well. A year or so later, having watched every poker show he could find, he began getting involved in playing the game itself after a vacation in Vegas where he spent an entire week doing nothing but playing poker.

He's been playing only since 2004, but has been completely hooked since then and has already logged over a thousand hours of brick-and-mortar playing (his favorite; he didn't actually play online until after months of playing at physical casinos) and tens of thousands of online hands. Since he still considers himself a relative beginner, he usually sticks with Limit hold 'em, but has learned the basics of strategy in the six major variants of the game... though he freely confesses he did it just so he could play in a game as quickly as possible (whichever game has the shortest list, he signs up for).

Lately, he's gotten more into No-limit hold 'em.

You can reach him at thompson@coldcut.com, but since his public email is inundated with spam, it may take some time before he gets back to you. Or, post a note on the Talk page here and he'll get back to you quicker.

Recent lessons, and where I'm at Edit

(I hadn't thought about using our user pages for discussion about our poker games, but Philip's been doing it, so I thought I'd join in)

MarkT 21:57, 24 February 2007 (UTC)

Last week I had a revelation while playing poker: I'm getting better.

OK, so that sounds obvious, but it hadn't been obvious to me. I had a bad 2006 and was vacillating between the reasons of "I had a bad run" and "I suck at poker". And to be fair, it had probably been a combination: I had a bad run which had then put me on long-term tilt. In the lower limit games I usually played, it's easy to get sucked into playing all sorts of ridiculous hands, just because everyone else is doing it. But sometime in December I settled back down and started grinding. I was still somewhat loose, but my requirements had gone back up astronomically (I'm still not exactly a rock, but I lean heavily towards premium hands). I plodded along with a $40 win here, a $60 win there, a $20 loss, and so on.

But in January this year, things began picking back up. Sure, I had a "disaster day" where everything I played turned out badly and I ended up loser $600, but I got all that back within a week or two and am currently up for the year (OK, not enormously, but hey, what do you want?). Then last week I actually had a mental flash that told me I am definitely on the road upward, but still have a major hole in my game.

At least twice during the session, I knew exactly what my opponents had once we hit the turn, and I knew where I was in relation to them, and I knew what I could do about it. But both times, although I knew it, I was unable to pull the trigger (or, in one case, laydown). I don't yet trust my reads, even when they are crystal clear. OK, so often I get enough clues about a read to make smart moves preflop or on the flop, and I do so. But sometimes my brain overrides my intuition/gut and tells me either I'm not as behind as I feel, or not as ahead as I feel. I need to figure out how and when to let my gut override my brain, and I can elevate my play to another level.

Once, I had AK in the big blind and three-bet my sole opponent (middle position) preflop. He called, and we were heads up on the flop. Flop came A J 5 and I bet out. He raised, and he looked a bit odd while doing it. I re-raised, and he actually paused and thought. I could tell he wasn't Hollywooding, and he was genuinely sad/resigned as he called my raise. Turn came a queen, and I swear he perked right back up. He was trying to disguise it and look disinterested, but I could tell he was now leaning forward with a pent-up energy and a clearly painted on look of disinterest. I paused. Crap. The queen hit him, and hard. He is now a very happy camper. I think for a while and decide he probably has AQ. I'm behind. I check and he bets, again trying to seem casual, but clearly moving quickly and happily to put chips in the pot. Well, if he has AQ, I've got three outs. What's the pot? Hmmm. Not much. Certainly nowhere near the 15-to-1 I'd need to justify a call from pot odds. This is where I lose faith in my gut. My brain says "c'mon, what are the odds he has AQ? - not likely!" I check call him both on the turn and the river. He flips over QQ. I was drawing dead. I knew that he had me crushed, and I still donated two big bets to him. He praises me (admiringly, not sarcastically) for my "incredible read and check-calls". I grimace. I feel like a fool.

Then only about an hour later, the opposite happened. I pick up KQ in the big blind, middle position raises, button calls, and I call. Three to the flop, which brings A K 7. Hmmm. I check, and watch the preflop raiser carefully. He looks a bit unhappy, but only a bit. He bets. Action to the button who thinks for an unusually long time and then calls. Hmmm. Button is a relatively solid player and doesn't get too fancy. He must have either an Ace or King. Pot is big enough now and I'm suspicious enough that I call, too. Turn comes an offsuit 3. No help. I check. Preflop raiser thinks for a moment and checks. Around to button, who also thinks for a while, and bets. It comes to me in a flash: preflop raiser has a decent pocket pair below kings (Jacks?). Button has a king. If button had an ace, he would have either raised the flop (likely) or bet much more quickly on the turn. If button has a king, I've got him beat. In fact, I'm significantly ahead here. There's no way button is in this hand with K7 or K3. My gut says "check raise". Doing so gets middle position out (no more chances to hit trips) and maybe even gets button out, and probably doesn't lose me any bets, unless I lose button. But brain overrides gut again and says "be cautious, maybe you're behind -- what if he's slowplaying pocket 7's?" I just call, middle position drops out. River is a blank. I go ahead and bet now, and button thinks and calls. I turn KQ, he shows KT and then mucks it. Drat! I won, but I didn't play it right. I knew where everyone was, and I didn't make the right play.

So this is my mission for 2007: hone my reading skills (this doesn't happen often, this "I know what everyone has" thing, but I like it when it does!), and much more importantly, trust my reads when I make them. In that first case, if the guy hit his Q, don't mope and don't hope I read it wrong - get out! Save two big bets! In the second case, raise - for pete's sake, try running the table once in a while and stop being such a mouse! I knew I was ahead, so make the money!

In short, I'm up so far for the year, I think I'm playing well, but I have a long way to go to move up to playing excellently. And until I do, I'm unwilling to try anything over 6/12, which is my current regular level. My goal, though, is to move up to either 8/16 or 20/40 (the next levels in my home casino) for at least a "trial run" sometime before the end of the year.

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