Poker Cats

Friday, September 30, 2005

Tampa bound

Just a short post here. Excited about getting away for the weekend to catch some of the poker rooms in Tampa, Fla., and St. Petersburg, Fla.

Not sure if I'll be used to their $1/2 and $2/2 play. Potentially excited about playing SNG's.

I'm sure the trip will be interesting nonetheless!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Taking Baghdad

Nine hundred and seventy-five men invading a city of 5 million sounded audacious, or worse, to the U.S. troops assigned to the mission outside Baghdad last April 6. Ten years earlier, in Mogadishu, outnumbered American soldiers had been trapped and killed by Somali street fighters. Now some U.S. commanders, convinced the odds were far better in Iraq, scrapped the original plan for taking Baghdad with a steady siege and instead ordered a single bold thrust into the city. The battle that followed became the climax of the war and rewrote American military doctrine on urban warfare.

On the afternoon of April 4, Army Lt. Col. Eric Schwartz was summoned to a command tent pitched in a dusty field 11 miles south of Baghdad. His brigade commander, Col. David Perkins, looked up from a map and told Schwartz he had a mission for him.
"At first light tomorrow," Perkins said, "I want you to attack into Baghdad."
"Are you kidding, sir?" Schwartz asked, as he waited for the other officers inside the tent to laugh.
There was silence.
"No," Perkins said. "I need you to do this."
-"The Thunder Run," Los Angeles Times

My friends worry about losing sessions. I worry about what lies ahead.

What happens when you advance too far, too fast?

Both Mark and I have been running good. But for me, it seems like an understatement. In less than three months, I've turned a -$500 year into nearly $5,000, averaging more than a post-tax paycheck each month for every two I receive from my regular job. That includes losses.

I've jumped from $2/4 to $3/6 (which I joke with Mark that I was afraid of the $6 bet months before) to $5/10. At times I've gathered the troops and have jumped straight into $10/20 games (live and online) and $15/30 online.

I could have the minimum bankroll for $15/30 within a month and my bankroll could cross $10,000 by Turkey day. Mark's too, I'm pretty sure.

Mark mentioned in his last post that he stops when he's winning. So do I, but for a much different reason. I have to take a deep breath. Can I still see the supply lines?

I know what I'm doing right. Thousands of hands of shorthanded $1/2 in the Party system have really honed my shorthanded play. More practice in Crypto system Web sites and on Full Tilt have turned the Big Black Kitty into a ferocious chip army.

I find the best games, and when those are far under the limits I'm used to, other players with marginal bankrolls and buy-ins don't have a chance. I'm not being bended out of my comfort zone if a bet or a raise isn't going to make me even flinch. Now I'm one of the crazies who can dump hundreds of dollars into a table.

So I feel like I'm zooming toward Baghdad, no idea what lies ahead, the kind of thing that makes or breaks bankrolls.

The only thing I can't do is turn back around. Cats' orders.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Being the Live One

Being a fool for a woman such as yourself is always the right thing to do.
-Kill Bill, Vol. 2

You lost today, kid, but you don't have to like it.
-Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

"Dude, you're losing all your chips," I say to the black guy at the MGM Grand, the live one who cracked my aces for a $900 pot.

"Shhh. He's going to get up and walk away," this Maui dude to my right says.

"I don't give a shit," I reply. I want the Live One to play even poorer than he's doing. No way he's going to make up that $2,000 deficit he created.

I've always wondered what it takes to be a real Live One, to be able to auto-blow $1,400 in 20 minutes.

Thankfully, I've never had to be a Live One at a table. But I'm pretty sure I've been one in my regular life, when it comes to love and job. It's been a bad year variance-wise in those respects but I cannot, I will not, be broken.

In some respects, being the Live One can be a blessing, if you realize it. It's the first step toward being better than you are today. I'm thankful that people have been tapping on the glass. It makes you realize, wow, this is my fishbowl and it can be a whole lot better than it is now. LOL

Just like telling a fish in poker what he's doing wrong, self-awareness in a real-life Live One prompts changes and self-evaluation. I'm running again. I'm thankful for Kelley and will do everything I can to make things fun and right.

And I'm just going to go about my life. Just like poker is an enjoyable pasttime for fish, life is fun for me. I don't need LifeTracker to tell me who the serious playas are, I'll take people as they come and go. As a fish, I'll just follow my interests wherever they take me. My fishy friends will be with me when we earn bracelets and celebrate in the Winner's Circle.

As in matters of love, time will tell us everything.

It always does.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Vegas -- On the Bubble

LAS VEGAS -- Drew and I capped off our 5-day, 5-night trip to Las Vegas this morning with a freeroll at the Tuscany poker room.

It's part of a promotion the new poker room has. Sign-up starts at 8 a.m. and it's 40 people max. Winner gets $150, 2nd $100 and 3rd gets $50.

Tourney is at 10 a.m. You get 1,000 chips and for $10, get 500 extra. Blinds go up every 20 minutes, which is decent for that kind of tournament and the field was pretty weak.

Of course, I bounced out in 4th. On the Bubble.

Oh, well.

The tournament started out fine. Drew and I were at the same table in the beginning. I got transferred to another table and lost some chips.

When the blinds were $100/200 I only had $600 left. After the bb (who had $600) went all-in, I called with T7s. This old timer who was the big stack called.

I flopped a flush!

Later, when it was 2 tables, I was moved to the right of Drew. I had AA on the button and made it $1,200 to go (bb was $400). It looked like a classic steal raise.

Drew thought about it -- he had much more chips than me at that point and pushed all-in. The bb also called.

The AA held up and I had about $6,000 in chips, what I pretty much had the rest of the way. Drew later busted on a hand in the bb with T7. Flop was T22. This guy who was the chip leader at the table limped with JJ and called Drew's all-in. I folded my ATo. Drew went out.

When I got to the final table, I made a mental note to steer clear of the two big stacks and worked to aggressively punish the short stacks and rob them of the blinds, which were $500 and $1,000.

When it got down to 4, I was in the bb when the chip leader raised me to $2,000 with A3o. I had JTs, so I pushed.

Flop was nothing after he called. Turn was a J!

River was an A.

I was out just like that.

Later, we had lunch at Mr. Lucky's 24/7 at the Hard Rock Casino. Excellent wings (second to Binion's Coffee Shop) and probably the best club sandwich and best veggie burgers in Vegas. It was a great people-watching spot, as there were lots of hotties walking around, some in swimsuits to and from the pool.

The trip continued to be great -- they gave me an upgrade for my Delta flight and I didn't even have to request it! Cha-ching!

It was a great trip, a little long, perhaps, but I'm itching to go back soon...

Monday, September 19, 2005

Vegas -- Check in the Dark

LAS VEGAS -- I'm back at the MGM Grand, stuck $200 because of a terrible bad beat and looking at only a $300 profit for the trip.

This kid, maybe on tilt, pushes all-in for $73 in late position. The guy on the button slowly counts out $73 in chips and calls.

I look down and have TT in the small blind. I call. Fuck it. I'm here to gamble.

"Check in the dark," I say. The dealer is about the unload the flop.

I pretty much always check in the dark. Recently I haven't even bothered to look at the flop, preferring to not give any information at all.

So I look at the guy on the button. He moves all-in.

I look at the flop.

It's TTx. I've flopped quads!

"I call. Quad," I say, as I flip over my cards.

Suddenly I'm back up. I win a little more money after dinner to put myself over $800 for the trip. I'll take it.

The trip had been up and down after my poor showing at the MGM Grand.

I took out this granny who wanted to play NL at Bally's after I went back to the Sahara and napped.

Then I promptly lost $130 in a shorthanded NL game at the Imperial Palace -- I had AT, flop was Txx, 2 spades. This guy bets, so I raise him. The game only has a $100 max so I'm pretty much all-in.

He thinks about it and then calls.

"I don't have anything," he says, showing K9 of spades. A flush draw.

River is a K.

Today, Sunday, I'm up early, having gone to bed at about 11 p.m. last night and foregoing the night shift of games.

It's hard to catch a game in the day, so I drive out to the suburbs to collect chips for my collection -- the Silverton, the Green Valley Ranch, the Fiesta and Sunset Station, all in or near Henderson, Nev.

I also stop by Boulder Station and Sam's Town to get chips for Drew and Sham.

I made a little money at the Excalibur and it isn't long before I'm back at the MGM. I get Q6s in the bb and the flop is AQ6. I checked in the dark, so this lady in early position bets out. She hasn't played much poker before.

I raise it. She calls.

Turn is a blank. Nothing left to do. I shrug and go all-in.

She calls, turning over A3o. A3o!!!

The river is an A.

"That's hurtful," I say out loud as I lose my buy-in.

The lady, a rather heavy-set woman, is raring to go. She has $600 in chips at the $200 max buy-in $1/2 table and leaves with her friend shortly later.

I roll my eyes and wait. Then some kid on tilt pushes all in and I call with TT and flop quads.

:)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Vegas -- Toothpick Time

So long as you remain a big favorite, you should stay, even if it means using toothpicks to prop up your eyes.
--David Sklansky, The Theory of Poker

LAS VEGAS -- I push $100 into the middle of the table at the MGM Grand. It's all that this well-dressed African-American guy has left.

"Bring it," I mutter under my breath while he looks down at his cards.

The guy is a complete live one. He came in about 2 a.m. after I found a table there. I came there after eating a good meal but losing $110 at the Stratosphere. I had QJ and tried to isolate a guy who was raising with a 4-flush. The guy after me went all in for $13 more with Q4o, 2 pair. His hand held up.

The live player is drunk and has a stack of $100 bills in his pocket. He says he lost $1,000 playing $100 a hand in Casino War and is trying to make his money back. So far he's just pulling bill after bill out of his pocket.

"Just because a black man loses $200 he has to go?" he yells at us jokingly but not so much. "I have $500 left. I'm staying to the end."

Buy-in. Bust. $100 buy-in. Repeat.

"There's never been truer words than what David Sklansky wrote," this guy in seat 9 tells me. That's the thing in the Theory of Poker where he says you should prop open your eyelids with toothpicks if the game is good.

It's that good. I'm also that sleepy. I bend my head down in between hands. The dealer's cards hit me in the hands.

"Let's see if you have a J," he says as he calls. Board is JJ66x.

"I have two of them," I say, as I hold up my hole cards, fan-like, facing him and showing my quad.

He just has an A and then reaches in his pocket to buy more chips. It sucks. He was like, "How much extra do I have to call," thinking that he'd have to match my bet. I say "I'm fine if he wants to put more money on the table," but the other players quickly dash that, since I'll be the one with all of his money.

"I'll bust you," he says.

The game is good. The guy is erratic and a terrible player. Over the next seven hours, he's sobering up but still terrible. Some overeager players help him build his stack. They rebuy, exasperated.

"Don't worry," I tell them. "It's the Galaga Effect."

That's the term I coin for the special part of the arcade game. You have a fighter that can be captured by the enemy spaceships if they turn on a tractor beam. They fly back and hold your fighter ship hostage. But if you shoot the enemy spaceship, your fighter comes back to join the one you are using and you can shoot double.

But little did I know, it would be reverse Galaga Effect for me.

I had about $450 in chips when I raised with AA. Some people called, including the live one.

Flop was 279, all diamonds. I have red aces.

I bet the pot, $50. The live one calls.

Turn is a 2. Immediately the live one pushes all-in. I'm like, fuck.

Do I risk it?

I am probably beat, but I have the A-high flush draw. Guy has been calling down big hands with just 2nd or 3rd pair.

I talk to him. He's not nervous and is even chatting with others while I wait. Mike Caro's Book of Tells says that's a bad sign. Bluffers usually stay silent.

I can't lay down this hand. It's going to be costly.

But then I think -- If I lose this hand, I will only be down $200, as I've only lost my initial $200 buy-in and I've lost much more playing online in a day. But it's nice to be up $1,100 on the trip.

Greed sets in, too. I want to be the one who busts this guy, the live one, and jumps up to $1,500 on the trip.

I call. The hand plays out. The river is a black card. I have to press the guy to even show his hand.

A2o. Trip twos.

I stay the next four or five hours trying, hoping that I'll benefit from his bad play. But everyone else is the recipient of his poor poker skills. I leave $200 more down, for -$399, kicking myself the whole time. Entire shifts change. People start eating breakfast at the nearby cafe. Tourists start to roll in mid-morning.

This is what isn't always mentioned, the Dark Side of Vegas. You can lose and it can hurt.

I crawl back to the Sahara, happy that I'm still $500 up on the trip but sad I made such a poor call.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Vegas - Sunset on the Strip

LAS VEGAS -- The sun is slowly going down over the Strip right now and all of the lights of the city are starting to kick into high gear.

You can see the Stratosphere's high Space Needle-like tower, Steve Wynn's signature on his own building, the latticework of new construction at the Palms that reminds me of the construction of the second Death Star.

We're at Binion's Steakhouse, somewhere above the 24th floor of the venerable gambling hall. It's the place where the poker pros ate when the World Series of Poker was held at the Horseshoe. I've always wanted to eat here, but somehow rooftop restaurants are not on my radar when my stomach is rumbling.

But we get in and are quickly seated, even on a Friday night.

It's a terrific reward, to be eating $32 steaks after breaking $1,000 for the trip. Things are completely good -- the baked potato, even the water. I hope I can bring my folks and my grandmother up here when we all meet in Vegas next month.

Update

LAS VEGAS -- Just a quick update. Up $730 now, thanks to busting a weak player with my nut flush vs. his J-high flush last night at the Stratosphere. Includes a little bit of being whittled down at NL tables at MGM Grand and Excalibur.
I don't have exact details but I think I've crossed the $7,000 mark for the first time!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Vegas -- Bluffing with Aces

It's strange what desire will make foolish people do.
--Chris Isaak.

I'm a hustler homey, you a customer crony
Got some dirt on my shoulder, could you brush it off for me?
-Jay-Z

LAS VEGAS -- "I have two pair," the Canadian says to me, to no one in particular, as he dejectedly looks at his cards and his chips.

He has more than $100 left, what he would have to call for my all-in on the flop, his $50 bet looking suddenly stranded in a pool of loss.

Me, I'm sick to my stomach, as I misread the hand of the Canadian -- who has never played poker before -- and I'm all-in with aces.

Flop is Q,4,2 and I put the inexperienced guy on some pair of queens. He bet out $50 on the flop, to my right, just like that.

I didn't put him on two pair.

I'm shuffling, trying to keep the same speed I've been doing, trying not to spill the chips. I look at the felt while he ponders and think, I'm going to lose $100 on this hand.

He turns and asks, "Will you show me if I fold?"

"Of course," is my reply, fearing that even my response will tip him off.

He folds his cards, flashing 42o.

I turn over my cards. The AA. The table breaks out in oohs. I had been beaten on the flop and they knew it.

"You had the best hand," I say, as I scoop up the pot. Why do novices want to lose money so bad not knowing how to play and conversely, why are they so afraid to lose money. I wonder if he thought he would have to call all of my $400 in chips on the table, instead of just the $100 he had left.

It's good to be back in Las Vegas. Already, two hands from the Canadian have put me up +$380 and I'm glad to be playing poker.

The other hand was a rough call -- the Canadian reraises a $12 entry raise to $62. I'm to his right and call. This rockish guy reraises $93 more all-in and the Canadian calls.

I have AKs of diamonds. I think and think and think -- I have the rock on AA -- and the dealer says "You have one minute."

I call. The pot was too big not to. As I reach for my wallet to get my next $200 buy-in, I think of what Mark says "You always say, 'I think I'm beat but I'll call.' And then you win the pot."

I can only hope.

Flop is Q9T, two diamonds. Canadian checks. I bet my last $14.

Turn is a diamond.

Ace on the river.

I have a flush. The rock has JJ and yells at me for calling. I yell back, "You want to see all five cards with AK," I say, parroting a recent column in Card Player. The Canadian has 77.

After those two hands, I'm sitting at the $200 max buy-in $1/2 NL table with more than a rack of red chips, dominant over the table like the goddess over a table of men. Or rather, a table of lesser women.

"You should come back -- there are easy games here," a dealer tells me after I cash out.

I certainly will!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

First Redeye Out of Town

We're all scared. You hid in that ditch because you think there's still hope. But Blithe, the only hope you have is to accept the fact that you're already dead. And the sooner you accept that, the sooner you'll be able to function as a soldier is supposed to function. Without mercy. Without compassion. Without remorse. All war depends on it.
--Band of Brothers

Peace, through superior firepower!
-Point Break

Ugh. I'm sitting here, wide-awake at 3:30 in the morning, drinking diet Coke and munching on cocktail peanuts like I'm on some redeye flight. Of course the great difference is I have (free!) wireless and I've been munching up European players at NL tables, demonstrating to them the possibly American pastime of pot-bombing. Smart bombing? Some Brit reraised me $35 with KQo and called my subsequent I-don't-give-a-fuck-about-you reraise all-in with AA. (And he lost). Nice. Then I busted him out with RPG 3s.

A few days ago, also way too early in the morning, I stole a few pots (small ones) from Clonie Gowen when she played at her NL table at Full Tilt. It beat the last time I played her. She bet then, I raised and she reraised all-in. Kitty had to slink away... I know someday I'm going to have to tell her I named my cat after her! Hee hee

All I have to get through is one day. Then I'll be on a plane with Drew to Las Vegas. There's opportunity cost this time around, as I'm sacrificing a trip to Virginia with Kelley. Oh, the things I do for England...

I'm eager to see some places that weren't up and running last time I was there -- the new poker rooms at Paris Las Vegas (my favorite casino outside of the Bellagio and home of the $16-a-pop marzipan that the goddess loves) and the Hilton. Can catch the Tuscany's room as well, didn't go there because I was too busy workin' the $4/8 salt mines at MGM Grand, Bellagio and Wynn.

We'll also probably catch a lot more NL play, something Drew has a lot more experience in than the no-fold'em hold'em limit games he's played the last few trips here. I'm looking forward to it. Gone is the bite from last December when I lost huge chunks of money to a 1-outer and a 6-outer. I'm baaack, as Louise wrote to us and I'm not afraid to put chips on the line.

I think my friends and I worry too much about the little short-term swings when we should be looking at it in a macro kind of way. With one exception -- April 4 -- things have continually gone up from the first day I held hold'em cards in my hand. Being fixated on loss is only going to hinder our progress up the limits. Giiivvvee ussss the precioussss, no matter the cost!

This will be a fun trip. And a profitable one, I hope.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Tunica -- Back to My Used to Be

Stop, look and listen -- I hear somebody calling me.
It's the voice of the blues calling me back to my used to be.
-- Irene Scruggs

TUNICA, Miss. -- I'm swimming again.

It's something that I haven't done in a while. Last time I was in a pool was three months ago, swimming in the little wading pool at the hotel in New Orleans with Jill. We'd come back, split a bottle of wine poolside, feed crackers to the little birds that came to sip out of the pool.

All of that a very distant memory. What will New Orleans be like if I ever return?

The water feels nice. I'm in the Horseshoe's pool, a rare moment during a poker trip where I've stopped to just enjoy what's out there. I brought out Greenstein's Ace on the River, which is appropriate because the title comes from a hand that he got in a Tunica WPT tournament that knocked two people out of the final table.

It's appropriate that I'm swimming in a Horseshoe pool. Last year, after my $1,000 pot at the Bellagio, I took a break and went back to swim in the Horseshoe's rooftop pool. It was 103 degrees out. I still remember that afternoon.

I had a hard time finding a game today. Made a little bit of money at Sam's Town $3/6 and then came back for a little swim. Then I was hungry, so I came down to look at the 'Shoe's poker room. I've accumulated a few meals at Sam's Town, but I didn't want to drive out there again if I didn't have to.

Then I saw another $10/20 table. I sat in a nearby chair and just watched the game for a little while, drinking rocket fuel the entire time. No need to put a brigade at risk if it wasn't a good game.

But there was this Indian or Middle Eastern-looking guy in his 50s who was playing every hand. I remembered Mike Caro's comments in Super/System 2: "The answer to the question of 'Why didn't I leave when I was $14,000 ahead' is: Nobody ever asks me that when I make $50,000." The troops aren't here for R&R and pool leave and neither am I. After a few moments I jumped in.

The guy was a complete Sith Lord, though. He was chopping up people's aces with raggedy rags and adding their lightsabers to his expanding red chip collection. I got the better of him with KQs in early position, which turned into quad queens. Soon I was up $200 on him and things looked pretty good.

"How quickly can you fly here?" I called Mark on the cell. He was at a Braves game.

But the Sith Lord even got the better of me, once calling with Q5s under-the-gun and making a higher straight than my straight with T8s in the big blind. He had to move to another game. I made $100 again off of another guy who just sat down. I had AJo in early, he raised pre-flop. Flop was an A and I check raised him. He called me down to the river, when another J appeared.

When the fishy guy left, it was my signal to leave. Already I was at two hours, the amount of time you need for a comp. And I was still hungry. So I went to eat and later ended up at another fishy $3/6 game at Sam's Town. A win there puts me at $515 for the trip.

Limit poker is so interesting. On this trip I realized all the mistakes I made and I tried to write them down or remember them. Greenstein writes in his book that he makes about 20 mistakes in a session, so I don't feel too badly. But hopefully I'll be able to shore them up in the future.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Tunica - In the Sham Seat

Now look at them yo-yos, that's the way you do it
You play the guitar on the MTV
That ain't workin', that's the way you do it
Money for nothin' and your chicks for free
Now that ain't workin' that's the way you do it
Lemme tell ya, them guys ain't dumb
Maybe get a blister on your little finger
Maybe get a blister on your thumb
--Dire Straits

You must protect your bankroll.
--Barry Greenstein, Ace on the River

TUNICA, Miss. -- Anywhere else, the number 13 is most unlucky.

But not here, at the Horseshoe in Tunica, not at Seat 10 at Table 13 -- the Sham Seat, where Sham stayed up all night playing $4/8 and cashed out $640.

Only today it's a $10/20 limit game.

Entering this evening, my previous profits plummeted to -$74 after four consecutive losing sessions -- -$17 after an hour at Sam's Town, -$46 after an hour playing $10/20 at the Horseshoe and -$99 after 2:15 at the Grand in Tunica ($4/8).

I came back to the 'Shoe. After a few minutes, they had an opening at $10/20.

Where was it?

Nowhere else but the Sham Seat. The game looked fishy, so I jumped in.

I only had $500 on me and I quickly bought-in. (I would have liked to have $600, or 30 BB).

And the next few hours were just a joy. To my left, there was a woman who kept on trying to draw and draw. Most of my profits came from her.

After two hours, the fishy elements were burned out and I left with $400, the most I've made in a sitting in Tunica.

Sham made $640, but that was after an entire evening playing $4/8. I was happy with my 20BB win after two hours.

In the past, I would have been scared to play that game. I mean, I had played $10/20 at the Orleans in Las Vegas and at the Grand Casino in Biloxi. But that was before I knew anything about bankroll, or really even had one.

But with the right bankroll, you can play those games. And weather the ups and downs without going broke and having to call Gamblo Anonymous.

The play in the $10/20 game really was passive. Nobody raised unless it was the nut. So when I raised to get information or to protect the hand, it worked like a semi-bluff. People folded and $100 pots (only 5BB!) were mine.

And building experience in the game will give me the confidence to continue playing at that level, and, hopefully, to continue to win.

Labor Day in Tunica

My name's Anita. What's yours?
They call me Bruce.
Bruce? Like Bruce Lee?
Of course.
Then you must know kung fu.
Yes, I stepped in some yesterday.
--They Call Me Bruce? (1982)

TUNICA, Miss. -- "Are you a professional player?" the guy in the nine seat turns and asks me.

Huh?

"You look really familiar," he says.

Nice. Here it goes again. The John Juanda thing over again, like at the Ameristar in Kansas City. I explain to him I'm not, that I wouldn't be playing NL $1/2 at the Gold Strike.

"But Scott Fischman plays $11 + $1 tournaments!" he protests.

Oh, ok. Whatever.

"Well, I hope you don't play like him," he says.

I'm back in Tunica and it's great. I'm up about $76, mainly from NL play and blackjack and a couple of lucky $5/10 limit pots. No thanks to a $4/8 cold deck at the Horseshoe in which I didn't have a playable hand for two hours.

The weather is great here and the Labor Day crowd can't be beat. Especially when they're all playing random cards! Yuk, yuk.

I really haven't seen the throng of Hurricane Katrina refugees like some had said. In fact, I've only seen a single license plate from Louisiana so far. There are a lot of non-casino refugees from Shelby County in Tennessee (where Memphis is).

A few points before I go to bed: Gold Strike still seems to have decor problems -- the walls surrounding the poker room are still bare, ever since they took out the slot machines that lined the walls. At least with the slots, it added light to the room. Their cards seem to stick together. New cards, please! Like at Sam's Town.

Had to deal with a couple of unpleasant dealer errors at the 'Strike today. At one $3/6 table, I was dealt KK in mid-position and I raised. It was a welcome sight after being cold decked for two hours at the 'Shoe. Guy next to me says, "I have three cards." The dealer dealt him three cards, likely two sticky cards and another card. A misdeal. Wonderful.

So I fled to the $5/10 table when it was open. In the middle of that, this guy comes in between the button and the blinds and wants to buy the button. Fine. But the dealer never told us blinds that he did that, and never had us take back our money. I had to get the floor, which refunded our money.

But all, in all, it's been great. I've been eyeing the 'Shoe's $10/20 game. I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Rise of the Machines

Listen. And understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.
-The Terminator

So what do you need, besides a miracle?
Guns. Lots of guns.
-The Matrix

It was just a fleeting worry, when I first started playing online, at PartyPoker and Ultimate Bet, that I could be playing a robot, who was much better than I.

But back then, almost anything could have been a better poker player than I, as I quickly lost my entire NL25 buy-in on the first or second hand. All-in. All gone.

A year and a half later, I've left those NL roots behind. Today, I play NL100, 200, or even 400 (if the fish are biting) and have risen up the limits to Poker Girl's $15/30 if I'm feeling it and my bankroll currently is larger than all of my friends' poker funds combined, even Mark. (I'm not buying beer for anyone, btw! hee hee!)

Along comes a new article in Wired, "On the Internet, Nobody Knows You're a Bot," which is interesting, and I'm sure scary to newbies.

Basically the article talks about this programmer from Atlanta who has created this poker bot and already there are a proliferation of other bots out there. The article really doesn't talk to regular players, at least not of the likes of those who regularly share tips on the 2+2 forums. And those people don't seem very scared.

What's there to be scared of? A tight-aggressive robot that you can easily step away from? Or a robot who plays the exact opposite of how you play? In that case, bring it. I'd love for a robot to start dumping money to me in the loosest, weakest way possible.

They say the poker bots have a long way to go before they can really take on us humans. I say human players have a long way to go in plugging our leaks before we can really start worrying about bots affecting our game.

No matter how good a poker bot's play, the truth is that most of the leaks in the poker game are human in origin. It's like that now-cliched Pogo quote "We have met the enemy and he is us." No poker bot is going to make us blow off our bankroll to women or to place bets in the sports book. The bot is not going to cause us to misclick a bet when we're trying to play 11 tables or to call a bet on the river when we know we are beat.

The truth is, there's room for humans and bots to co-exist, given the sheer numbers of weak fish out there. The fish are just swimming up the rivers. I don't care if that tight-aggressive guy setting up a trap upstream is a human or a computer, for the same reason I don't care if someone can track me on a poker site's Buddy List -- I know I'm not going to be targeted.
Just like real fishermen, solid poker players look for the best places to fish. You throw a line in. And move on. Until you hit a good spot.

And, the best players are practically cyborgs -- half human, half machine -- anyway, with PokerTracker, Game Time+ and PokerAce HUD. Poker is monetary war and its best soldiers have the best equipment -- and the best training, thanks to the gamut of poker books and the 2+2 forums.

Fishy players should be in an uproar -- and have more to fear -- over players who can tell their opponents instantly how many times he's likely to see a flop or to check-raise a turn than some bot. I imagine it's also unpleasant for a fishy opponent to instantly be told by a player what his mucked cards are the second they disappear. (Thank you Poker Ace HUD!!).

Plus, one of the most useful tools is available to all -- the percentage of players who see a flop, which is commonly listed right next to the table name, number of players at the table and betting limits on a poker Web site. There, you can be guaranteed of fishy play when the flop percentage is high, say 50 percent to even 80 percent at times.

In addition, as tournament play or even playing a fishy $1/2 6-max table shows, you can be the best player and still be sucked out on. I'd like to be around to see a poker bot's wheels churn as its aces get cracked by J3, runner-runner boat.

In that situation, however, the one thing going for the bot is that it's not as likely to complain and whine that it got sucked out on. It'll be closer to battle-hardened human players, who just suck it up and move on.

And in that case, the bot will just be another brother-in-arms.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Why we fight

Crazy people walkin’ round
With blood in their eyes
And all she wants to do is dance, dance
Wild-eyed pistol wavers
Who ain’t afraid to die
And all she wants to do is-And all she wants to do is dance.
-Don Henley

There's not some other world out there where everything's gonna be okay. There's just this one, just this rock.
-The Thin Red Line

So last night I'm sitting upright in an office chair of some luxury high rise in Atlanta's trendy Buckhead neighborhood, peering down, peeking at my cards, tossing some chips out or throwing the cards away.
I'm warm and happy and winning money at the not-so-aggressive game. Mark is at the other side of the five- or six-handed NL table. It's the first time he's been out at a live Atlanta game since he's been back from Chile. And the first one I've been to since the lucrative Emory game petered out in February. It's good to be going to games with him (and soon others from our crew), a pair of wayward Jedi taking on all.
Nearby on the TV is FOX news. It's New Orleans, looking every bit as appealing as war-torn Iraq. Table talk was of all the chaos there and I'm thinking how can this be? Harrah's New Orleans -- the place where I enjoyed playing $3/6 in May when I went there with Jill -- I read, is now a police command post.
But I know how it can be. We've dealt with chaos abroad in some areas of Iraq and it was only a matter of time before something like this caused similar mayhem on the homefront. A nuke. An earthquake. A hurricane.
"Don't say this wouldn't happen in Atlanta," someone says. Oh, yes, it would.
Already, the hurricane's after-effects caused a ripple in Atlanta with spiraling gas prices. On Wednesday, it hit about $4 a gallon at the gas station near our watering hole. And then the gas was all sold out by the time we finished dinner. I was a little worried about driving to the poker game out of concerns about fuel but I guess my fears were unfounded -- there was plenty of gas available. It was just $3.30 a gallon.
It's such a fine line between the warmth and coziness of civilization as we know it and the chaos and violence that makes for good cable news spots. The blog title is from one of the episodes of HBO's awesome Band of Brothers mini-series.
Why do we fight?
We fight for security and stability. Or else atrophy sets in. What happens when the works of man are left to their own devices? You get Rhyolite, the old mining town in Nevada filled with the decaying buildings of yesteryear, instead of its Nevada cousin, Las Vegas.
It's a fight against time and Nature. A fight against ourselves, our needs and aggression. A fight against our complacency -- we can win by better planning and preparing for the things that can eat at our very civilization.
We fight for the ability to do this -- hold a friendly poker game in the middle of the week, where the only thing you have to worry about is the rocky gray-haired man two seats to your right slowplaying you. To compete without battle or guns. And to find a way to have fun on this rock where we spend our entire lives.
New Orleans, more so even than the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, has taught me to be grateful for what I have, where I live and why it's important to support the things that provide upkeep for that way of life.