Sunday, May 29, 2005

New Orleans

Jill: Will you be ok with not being able to play cards for a few days?
Me: Well... they have casinos there.
Jill: Are we going to any casinos?
Me: (very whipped) That depends on if you want to go.

That's why I play no-limit. It gives me the bankroll to play this game.
-Guy at Boomtown's 3/6 limit table

NEW ORLEANS -- It's the French Quarter, home of the hurricane, Cafe Du Monde, and ... heads up poker.
I'm with Jill in some bar across the street from Cafe Du Monde. She's just reraised me $8 and I'm all-in with 77.
She turns over 44 and lets out a small shriek when she sees my cards. She's just starting out and doesn't know she's a 1-4 dog, but she knows when she's behind.
It's the perfect vacation. I'm in New Orleans with a girl who looks a lot like Kate Winslet and have been teaching her Texas hold'em. I hope that I've taught her the right things -- what cards are good preflop heads-up, when to fold, when to push all-in. It's kind of like ol' Ben Kenobi showing Luke his first lightsaber tricks -- how much can that old guy impart?
Of course, I think I'm showing her the right things, without her knowing why. Always be aggressive with good cards. Show it if you win without having it -- then bet the same way with the nut later on. Fling 'em if your cards don't pan out.
New Orleans is the perfect place for gambling. The booze is already there. Harrah's New Orleans is an amazing casino for a place outside of Las Vegas. It has the presence of a flagship casino, but there aren't any others around. The nearest other poker room is the famous Boomtown (which poker dealers in Biloxi always talked about), about 15 minutes away.
The flop comes. She gets a 4 on the first card and the dog hand becomes the winner. Her eyes light up when I push the pot over to her.
Of course, poker is not all fun and games. I show her the rabbit after I bet her out of the pot. The river would have been a five, and she would have won with a boat.
"I would have won that -- if you didn't bet crazily," she says.
"I have a feeling I'm going to get kicked out of the hotel room," I say nervously.
The good news is that the lessons have taken hold. She asks if I brought the new pair of plastic cards that I bought in the French Quarter to dinner.
She also wants to head to the Gulf Coast -- Biloxi. I didn't even bring it up.
We are so going there. I think of the poker rooms there. And the rocky locals. I wish Mark also were able to return with me, the very first time in nearly a year that any of us have returned, but sometimes a wayward Jedi has to go it alone. I have revenge in mind.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Whisperings of a muse

What are you trying to tell me? That I can dodge bullets?
No, Neo. I'm trying to tell you that when you're ready, you won't have to.
-The Matrix

I won't fail you. I'm not afraid.
You will be. You will be.
-The Empire Strikes Back

"You should play $15/30."
Did she hear me correctly? Even though I'm doing pretty well right now at NL$100, I'm still rebuilding my bankroll. There's a lot of evidence that suggests that, losing streak aside, I can't play $3/6, let alone $15/30.
Undaunted, however, Poker Girl starts to make her case. Much of it is pretty contrary to everything I've ever read or learned about poker. As successful as she is, she uses terms like "system" and "money management."
Her philosophy is more Han Solo (good with a blaster) than the Jedi arts. She owns one poker book, a vintage copy of Sklansky's "Hold'em Poker." I have a better library on poker than most large bookstores here in the Peach City.
I think a lot of her success comes from tight and aggressive play, without knowing why. Like a cat who can scratch you before you can even blink. The cat has never read "Cat Scratching for Advanced Players" or posts on 2 + 2 when a mouse gets away on the river. It just fucking does it.
She did have some good advice though. Stick to one table and one site. Get to know the players there. Don't chase bonuses recklessly.
Logic aside, you need people like this in your life. To tell you that anything is possible. For example, I was good at getting myself into trouble before (i.e: "The Orange-Eating Incident"), but knowing the goddess has really helped me interact with women.
I think that before I met Poker Girl, $15/30 was the farthest thing from my mind. I was still in NL .10/.25 land. I never would have dreamed last year of playing $3/6 or NL$100 online.
Poker Girl is giving me the right advice for the wrong reasons yet, once again, she's opened the door.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

The Best of Both Worlds

You may get straight As in school, but there's a lot that you need to learn about poker.
-"The Best of Both Worlds," Star Trek: The Next Generation

I've been meaning to write about Paradise Poker for quite some time, namely because they have a couple games you're not likely to see anywhere: 5 Stud and Draw Poker. I always think of how Star Trek: The Next Generation included 5 Stud as the game of the 24th century when 5 Stud barely made it out of the 20th century.
I'm back today playing on the site, chasing the "MayDay" bonus (20 percent of your reload deposit up to $100, good May14-15) and have noticed something quite new on the site, which I haven't seen in any other. At the upper left corner of each table screen is an icon with the ace and jack of spades.
It's blackjack, on demand.
I think it's part of a trend in which you'll start to see poker sites coupled with other kinds of gaming, including sports bets and other casino games. UltimateBet recently sent me a survey asking me which other kinds of games I would play in addition to online poker, so the tide definitely may be turning
For some (including myself), it's the best of both worlds, the perfect thing to break the monotony of multi-tabling and bonus chasing. Want to take the edge off? How about a few $2 hands? It's a way of seeking different action.
I first dabbled in this kind of distraction while chasing a very lucrative bonus at PokerRoom, which has a sister casino site. Every now and then, I'd jump over to the casino and play $2 blackjack. Sometimes while I was pokering.
Some of my friends viewed it with suspicion, especially because the house still has a huge advantage. But I was just there to try something different, make a few bucks if I could and jump back.
In a similar way, I've enjoyed how my friends and I have really diversified our poker knowledge this year. We used to play straight up no-limit hold'em. Now, omaha is a regular part of the game. People throw in Omaha-8, 7 Stud, 7 Stud hi-lo, razz, triple draw deuce-to-seven from time to time as well. We've just started playing pineapple and have added the old favorites, 5 Stud and draw poker.
I'm not sure how proficient any of us are in these games. But our experience level is growing and now the e-mail hand histories that I share with my friends increasingly include these games, which I also now play online. It's also helped me have the confidence to jump into live 7-Stud games in Las Vegas and Kansas City, something I never would have dared do a year ago.
And part of the fun of trying something new that you may not be good at is just playing, growing with the game and helping develop action beyond Texas hold'em.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Valkyrie of Poker

The valkyrie at my side is shouting and laughing with the pure, hateful, bloodthirsty joy of the slaughter... and so am I...
-Sin City

A guy who came to Fight Club for the first time, his ass was a wad of cookie dough. After a few weeks, he was carved out of wood.
-Fight Club

Poker Girl is back in country and already I can tell the difference. I'm not superstitious and don't believe in luck (Sklansky: "Expert players don't rely on luck. They are at war with luck."). But how do I explain this? -$2,700 when she's gone. Up a grand in the two days that the four-tabling, $15/30 valkyrie of poker is back.
I can't explain it. But I can feel the difference.
Having someone on your side who made $20,000 in one month on Party Poker is like staring down a yokel who's betting into you and knowing that nothing will get past your rolled-up aces.
Playing the little games that I've played (NL$25) in the past, I've had $1,000 weeks before. But never in two days. It was pure tank battle in the Iraqi desert, M1A2 vs anything Soviet-made that could be thrown at you. Me and Mark and some others e-mail the after-action reports (hand histories) to each other. Between 18:16 on 29 April 2005 and 22:44 on 30 April 2005 I sent six of these hands, the kind you'd like to get once in a week. Today I didn't even bother sending them.
"It's a fucking slaughter," I repeat over and over to Mark via IM.
The results were always the same. Fish slowplays with AK, lets me make flush on river. All-in. Insurgent destroyed. Fish flops nut straight, allows me in with baby straight and, oh, a 4-flush. Flush on river. All-in. Insurgent destroyed. Fish has overpair and gutshot straight vs my RPG. All-in. Fish makes his daisy-chained straight on turn. RPG turns into 120-fucking-mm howitzer, a boat on the river. Another time: Fish goes all in on the turn of a coordinated board. Fuck it, I call. Fish has KK to my AA.
As Mark would say, "It's an easy game."
Half the time, though, I was scared shitless. Everything happens so fast, it takes you a few minutes to figure out what happened after the dust would clear. And like the real vets say, "If you weren't scared, you weren't there."
So what do you do when you make a grand in two days? I went to see a movie.
The last time I took a break like this was after I cashed out a grand at the Bellagio. You always remember these days. It was a little after 2 in the afternoon, and with nothing better to do, I swam in the rooftop pool of the Horseshoe. I did laps and took breaks, admiring the skyline. The digital sign above the pool said 103 degrees.
I missed seeing Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy on Saturday with Empire and Sham so I could go on this run. So I thought I would go and see it. It had been a while since I had seen a movie in a theater, the last time was with fountain of red hair seeing The Life Aquatic. Being in the theater brought back great memories. Fountain shedding all over my coat. Making out in the parking lot before the show.
And now I was here by myself. Another memory- catching a matinee with the goddess, as friends. The most beautiful woman in the theater giggled and covered her mouth through the trailers. Such a wonderful and happy image that it's up there with flying up front in a plane, curled up in the extra large seats, HFAP in my lap, looking out the window and letting the noise of the huge turbofans put me to sleep. Or walking with purpose under the Chihuly glass of the Bellagio, on my way to work in what is one of the best poker rooms in the world. You take those images and keep them tight, in a place, as Rick Bragg says, away from hurt.
The phone rings before the trailers begin. It's a sleepy Poker Girl. "Sorry. I got your messages. I slept the entire time."
"It's okay," I say, as the trailers begin. You've done your part.