Poker Cats

Monday, October 31, 2005

Vegas -- Like a Grand Slam at Yankee Stadium

Quad aces at the Bellagio helps Kuro cross $9,000 mark

LAS VEGAS-- The rock suddenly wakes up, three bets my raise and all of a sudden I know I'm in trouble.

It's my second appearance playing $15/30 at the Bellagio and already it was a lesson in tedium. I've won about two pots in the first hour and a half and at one point was down $200.

I won a couple of pots to put me back to even and now this hand. I limped with AJo in early. A few callers.

Flop is AQJ. Rock bets it out, another guy calls, I raise, rock three-bets it and the other guy folds.

I immediately think it's a straight but then think maybe he has AQ. Why tip his hand so soon?

Turn is an A. Rock bets, I raise, he calls.

River is an A.

"Somebody is a liar," I say out loud. The rock checks to me.

I bet and he folds. I end up with a mountain of chips, enough to put me up above $9,000 career/bankroll mark.

Crossing this poker milestone at the Bellagio, with quad aces of all things, is like taking a playoff game from the Yankees with a grand slam in late innnings in Yankee Stadium. It was like a validation of my poker efforts over 20 months. Going into tonight's session, when I was down $200, I thought, I'll be fine if I don't go home with any money or if I don't meet my goal to break $9,000.

This also was the final day to match my estimate from a previous post that I would reach $9,000 by the end of this month. Spooky as in PartyPoker Spooky tickets! LOL

Because I wanted to try to do well today, I again wore the Sabre-Toothed Lime T-shirt. It only had a day's rest but this was definitely like a playoff game. The young gun could handle it.

Going into the Bellagio session I needed to win $310 more. Early in the day I doubled up at Bally's $1/2 NL tables but later in the day, after eating at the Bellagio's Noodles restaurant, I returned to Bally's and lost $125 in a bad, bad beat.

Basically I reraised to $50 with KK. This guy to my left smooth calls. I push all-in blind from the sb. Flop is AxT. Guy thinks about it for a while, then calls with JJ. He makes a J on the turn.

So poor lime is up only $80 in NL play today. It's unknown how the young gun will perform in the limit/relief role. But I amble over to the Bellagio anyway.

Back at the Bellagio's $15/30, right after I win with quad aces, I immediately win the next hand with KJo under-the-gun. Flop is K77. I check-raise the bettor in late position. He calls. Turn is a K. I bet him again, he calls.

River is a K. I bet, he raises, I'm thinking it's a split pot, so I just call. But no! He had 72s. My overboat wins and suddenly I'm up $500.

The table was even more passive and weaker than last night's. There were a lot of gray hairs who I think had the money to play at this level, but certainly not the skill. They frankly don't have much of a chance. Internet players play hundreds of thousands of hands each year and have years of experience on the seniors.

I also looked very longingly at some of the $30/60 tables. More of the same. There were younger people here, but again the tables didn't seem so tough. We'll see if I can make that mark in the future.

But for now, I love it. I came here to do what I came to do. I'm up $1,350 for the trip and probably have found a new game to play on future Vegas trips.

I walk over to Bally's parking deck and head down the steep ramp that is directly across the street from the Bellagio. As if on cue, jets of water fly up in the air from the Bellagio's pond. It's a combination of fireworks and salute.

Sabre-tooth T gets the win.

Vegas -- Salvaging the day

It's all a setup. It's all a setup.
They are going to have all their chips in the middle with nothing and I'm going to have the stone cold nuts. It's going to be funny.
I may have had a few too mnay drinks, though.
--Seat 9 at a NL table at the Excalibur

LAS VEGAS -- So once again I'm high above the city in Binion's Steakhouse.

This time my folks are with me and so is my grandmother and my aunt. My grandmother points out the red-and-blue lights outside the Rio. I tell her about the Wynn, the place where Daniel Negreanu works, one of the newest and nicest casinos in the city.

"I'll have to see it on my next trip. But I may not come back," she says.

It's the end of an era of sorts. My grandmother's back hurts too much to travel well. I can't imagine not being able to meet her here again. The mini family reunions long have been a big part of my history with this city.

I loved being back at the Steakhouse for the second time, again being way up for the trip. Earlier in the day, however, I donked about $100 at the Excalibur and Bally's no-limit tables. The losses mainly surrounded getting raised on a good hand pre-flop and having to call because my hand was caught in the cookie jar. At Bally's, I called a guy's all-in for $25 with AQ and lost to a flopped card.

After dinner, I found myself back at the Excalibur, where I proceeded to lose a whole buy-in to a donk. I bet $15 under the gun with TT; this guy goes all in for $75. This donk smooth calls him; I think about reraising all in but then think well, this hand has been so good to me in the past, let's see a flop.

Flop is 9QJ. The donk, in the small blind, bets $100. That's pretty much my stack. I go all in for $7 more.

He catches a second J on the turn for his boat. I make my straight on the river with an 8.

Oh, well. I play two hours there but really can't make any money back. I drive to Bally's and walk over to Paris -- both poker rooms' no-limit tables are full. I walk over to the Aladdin and that's full, too.

At this point I've realized what a bad day my Spam shirt is having. It's like a 15-game winner getting shelled all day. I remember my Tunica experiences, though, and think that the Spam shirt is more of a limit hold-em shirt.

So I walk over to the Bellagio and sign up for a new $15/30 game.

Mind you, I've never played $15/30 before live and my bankroll is not quite there yet.

But limit has been the relief pitcher that has gotten me out of jams in the past.

I ask the supervisor what the standard buy-in is. It's $500, he says.

Crazy talk. People don't buy in for $900 (30 bb) I ask.

"You can buy in for a $1,000 if you want, but 99.9 percent of the time, this ($500) is the standard buy-in.

So I get my rack of red chips and go sit down.

Almost immediately I'm down about $100 as I end up calling into a huge pot.

But later I get T7s in the cutoff position. I limp in. Flop gives me a 7 and one heart. Flop is 873.

This guy with a ritzy red shirt bets and I raise him. He three-bets. I call.

Turn is a 6 of hearts. Gives me two hearts and a gutshot draw.

He bets it out. I immediately raise him. He calls.

River is the 9 of hearts. He checks to me, I bet, he calls and voila! my first live $15/30 winning hand.

"I have a flush and the straight," I say proudly as I scoop up a bunch of chips. I give a red chip to the dealer for my first win.

Ritzy shirt continues to get a black eye from me and two Yale kids at the other end of the table. It's like being a MLB pitcher. Sometimes I would check-raise. Sometimes I would bet it out.

At the end of two hours, I was up $255. I had been up as much as $400 at one point but donked off some chips. I need to be a little better in getting away from bad hands, although I had at least one good laydown.

So I'm still up $740 for the trip now. It was a nice feeling to play in the most beautiful poker room in the world, advancing up in limits.

It was nice thinking that there really wasn't any tricky play at this table. Most of the people were tight-weak. There was this loose-weak guy who won some pots at first but we kept giving him black eyes. I'm pretty sure my AF tonight ranged between two and six.

I love being up in the city that I love. I love that Spam shirt was able to salvage the day. I love that in this city, women think that nothing=Halloween costume and being able to chronicle that for Victor. More later!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Vegas -- Long live the lime

LAS VEGAS -- The sabre-toothed lime has spoken.

I've had this new T-shirt, which has one of the familiars from the game Kingdom of Loathing, for a few weeks now but it had yet to go into the starting rotation.

In my early trips out here, I wore my "Sequoia" T-shirt -- that shirt, from Sequoia National Park in California -- was the one that I was wearing when I busted my first opponent in a NL game, at the Plaza last year.

Since then, I've been happy wearing a Nike T-shirt with "United States Postal Service" and another shirt that says "Spam: An American Classic" as part of my starting rotation.

Yesterday's basic "Kingdom of Loathing" T-shirt netted few results. So I thought this lime-green T-shirt complete with a picture of a lime with fangs coming out of it would do the trick.

And boy, it has!

I'm up nearly $800 for the trip on less than six hours of play. Most of this came from the Excalibur tonight.

I made a bit of money from this guy when I raised with KQs near the button. He called with J-something. Flop was JTx and he let me bet it out.

Then a K came and I bet some more. He called.

On the river, an A came and he later said I didn't appear to like it. So he bet out $83 and I went all in. He promptly folded.

I made some decent money against a guy who called my raise with QQ. My cards flew over the flop, so I pot bet. And he called. I wasn't sure what he had next, so I went all-in. And he was like "Oh, I have to fold."

So next time, when he was the only one who limped in and I was in the bb, I purposely didn't look at my cards. An A came on the flop and then I bet it out and he folded. I was like, "I didn't even look at my cards" and flipped them over QTs. A decent enough hand.

In between, I picked up what could be another lucky talisman from the Kingdom of Loathing game. This guy next to me had ordered a hot tea. It came with a few pieces of lemon stuck together with a tiny plastic sword. He busted out and left the sword.

I kept telling myself that I wasn't superstitious. But my mind kept telling me -- get the sword!

So I did. And then the last big hand also was against the same guy I had made the nut straight against in the previously mentioned hand. He raised with AA in late and I had 99 in the small blind.

I called and checked in the dark. Flop was K9x. He made it $40 and I went all-in. He reluctantly called for about $200 more.

My set held up and suddenly I had more than $700 in chips at the table!

I cashed out more than $550 and just made about $60 more at the Sahara in under an hour.

As much as I'd like to wear this shirt the entire trip, I think I'll go ahead and give it some rest days. Spam and USPS shirts are on deck for the rest of the trip...

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Vegas- Operating Inefficiencies

LAS VEGAS -- Sometimes I don't do a shift efficiently here.

I woke up at 10 a.m. and was a little hungry. Normally I'll just forage for food wherever I'm at, but this time I had a specific hankering for the great buffet at Main Street Station, which is back downtown.

So I drive there. On the way back, I stop by the Gambler's General Store to see if they have Matt Matros' new book. They don't.

I was headed to the Wynn along Las Vegas Boulevard (traffic still was pretty light) but at the last moment, I swing out to Interstate 15 to go around the Strip hotels to the far southern end to go to the Excalibur.

The Ex has what I consider to be a beginner's poker room but it is large and heavily populated. I barely missed getting onto a NL 1-3 game and rather than wait on the list, I walked over the pedestrian overpass to New York, New York and then to MGM Grand.

There, I was third on the waiting list for a NL game. $3/6 was their highest limit.

So I ended up walking back to the Excalibur and then driving down to Bally's.

I played in a $2/4 game for six minutes before finally getting in a new NL table.

"The Emory Game is more skill-based," I joke to Mark.

There are just these inexperienced people mixing it up. First was this old guy who quickly went through two $100 buy-ins.

Then this girl kept on raising people on the river with the second-best hand. She raised this guy with a king, only to lose to his three deuces.

Whoops.

Then the same guy pushed all-in when I reraised a guy who made it $15 to go under the gun -- that guy had 66. I had KK and the all-in guy had KQs.

Whoops.

After those people busted out, there wasn't much left for me to do. So I left, up $165 now, but only from three hours of play.

I walked to the nearly-next-door Flamingo, couldn't get in a NL game there. Then back over past Bally's and Paris Las Vegas in the other direction to the Aladdin. There they had all kinds of NL action. But I couldn't get in.

So I ambled across the street to the Bellagio. Just being back here made me extremely happy. As I rounded the corner on my way to the poker room, there was this asian guy playing with what I thought were $500 chips.

They were actually $1,000 chips. He had four of them on one blackjack bet.

The Bellagio's room was crowded. Humongous lines for $4/8. The $15/30 line was smaller but I didn't want to wait and I didn't want to risk my bankroll even though I'm nearly there. Those people playing it didn't seem so tough, though.

I walked back over to Bally's, got my car and then went to the Wynn.

They also were crowded. No chance of getting into $4/8 or NL $1-3. They had an open seat in the $15/30 and it really looked tempting. But I moved on.

Finally I came back to the Sahara. I deposited money in a Pacific Poker account to hopefully get a $20 bonus they offered me to return and play. I upgraded the new Party Poker version and put money there to play (I got this warning that if I don't play in a week, all of my player's club points will be lost).

And then I had to nap.

So it's 7 p.m., nearly a full day since I've been in Vegas and I've only played 3 hours.

At least I'm up, but that's ridiculous!

I guess a Vegas trip is not always poker, as the guy in seat 8 at Bally's told me.

"Have you ever been here for Halloween?" he asked.

No, I haven't.

"I was here last Halloween and I've never seen so many thongs in my life," he says, explaining all the "costumes" he saw. "My girlfriend said, 'Go ahead and look, since it's unavoidable.'"

Something to look forward to, I guess!

Vegas -- What I Love

I love football on TV
Shots of Gina Lee
Hanging with my friends
And the twins

I love burritos at four a.m.
Parties that never end
Dogs that love cats
And...and the twins

And I ... love ... you, too

-"Here's to Football," Coors Light Ad

LAS VEGAS -- I love coming out of the jetway from the long flight and knowing there are slot machines in the airport. Usually I don't immediately see them. But you can hear them ringing, offering chirps of support to their gamblo buddies.

I love being in the rental car shuttle bus and pretending not to look out along with all the other tourists on the Battleship Row of the world's greatest casinos -- the MGM Grand, in its Wizard of Oz green, the laser shaft of bright white light that shoots out of the Luxor's pyramid and the Strip's flagship, the Bellagio.

I glance down the street and see the high needle of the Stratosphere. I am completely oriented.

I'm back again, for my millionth trip this year. It's a comfort to be here and know my folks also are in town. On my way to the Sahara's poker room, they call and want to know if I want to eat.

I suggest the Coffee Shop at Binion's. There's no place I'd rather be late at night.

So I zoom down the Strip to meet them. The horseshoes are still on the carpet of Binion's, even though Mark and I were told maybe even a year ago that they would have to remove the carpet becuase the trademark logo now belong's to Harrah's.

My mom gets this $2.95 breakfast special, which comes with a slice of ham that pretty much covers the entire plate. We snack on buffalo wings, the sauce so potent I don't even have to lean in too much before it hits me. And I split the famous club sandwich with my dad.

Las Vegas for years has been a second city to me, a place where I've shown more people around than any place I've ever lived.

Could it be my home? My outs have increased in recent weeks with the possibility of covering poker and casinos for my wire service. It would be challenging, but I couldn't think of doing anything else.

I love Atlanta and I really wouldn't want to move again, even to Vegas. I'm also a front-runner for the goddess' old job as supervisor.

It's about 1 a.m. when we leave Binion's. I check out the poker room but, even on a Friday, it's about half-full. There are two NL tables going but they don't seem to be very good.

So I high-tail it to the Strat and jump in the NL game there. There's this young Howard Lederer guy who is making it $50 (reraise) pre-flop with A4s. He seems pretty good. He pushes and value bets, getting this Irish guy to follow him to the river - flush is possible on board, so is straight. Irish guy looks at the board for a long time and I think he has it. He checks. Young Howard had raised him to $100 after he bet the turn.

Young Howard mulls it over and then pushes out $200. The Irish guy calls, for most of his chips, and flips over AQ, 2 pair that he flopped. Young Howard flopped a set of 7s.

This pudgy guy starts to make crazy raises with Q7s in early and I think I pick up a tell on him, he's pot-bombing when his overcards fly over the flop as a bluff.

But I'm way tired. It's 3 a.m. here, making it 6 a.m. back at home. I leave before the blinds hit me in the ass, up $5.

I love stumbling back to the room.

Sleeping until noon.

And I

love

you

too.

LOL

Friday, October 28, 2005

Back to Vegas

Greetings again from the Crown Room Club. Headed to Vegas. Man, was I ever tired today after coming home from work! It was about 4:30 p.m. and I could not get myself motivated to pack.

I slept (much needed) for a few hours and then finally started the process of getting all my stuff together. All my shit was all over the place. Poker books. Money. Clothes. It was seriously not fun.

I got to the airport just an hour before my flight, only to find out the flight had been delayed an hour. Now that I've cleared security, I find it's only 15 minutes late.

So I'm here with my old workhorse Vaio, a Pentium III that I bought a week before Sept. 11, 2001. It doesn't seem to like wireless cards, so I can't wait to get a new one.

Tried to log into Poker Room for a few hands but no joy. I also can't seem to remember my old Pacific Poker password. So it looks like this and a diet Coke is it.

Not sure what I'll play when I do get to Vegas. Hopefully I'll be up for it, though!

Wish me luck!

No stripper, no cry

So it turned out the stripper was a no-show at the new Emory game.

"She'll come by right after work," the host kept telling us.

I wonder what was worse -- a bunch of guys waiting for a stripper to show up or a bunch of guys waiting for their "A" games to appear.

The only thing that really was stripped was a whole bunch of people's chips -- including mine.

Nearly as soon as Mark and I got there, there were people raising over the top with Q6o ... vs KK. Nice move, sir.

Others would call with 24s and not make a hand. This Asian kid pushed all-in against this guy with no hand at all.

"I'd rather go home broke than go home with $60," he said afterward.

Nice move, sir.

That same spirit sort of came over me as well. I raised a straddle with AJs and then tried to take over the pot with a $50 bet on the flop in early position.

This pipsqueaky player reraised all-in, for about $50 more. I was getting about 5-to-1 on my money and I still had the overcards, so I felt like I had to call.

But he had a set of 9s. Previously Doug and I had seen him push all-in with nothing and AK preflop. I lost another $50 to him later while trying to steal his blinds with 74o. He made his flush on the turn though and quickly let me know he had a hand.

Another guy who did very well with random hands on Monday this time only had about $26 in chips before he busted. When Mark and I showed up, he had more than $600.

"My luck is NO GOOD tonight," he said.

If you count not getting to see the before-promised stripper, then, dude, you're right. Your luck is terrible.

Better luck next time, poker cats.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Forecast: Crazy game ahead

"I just wanted to let you know we'll have a stripper tonight at 8:15. We'll have a white girl on Monday," says the Indian host of the new Emory Game.

What???

This guy had always offered to provide one at the old game. I guess when you host your own game, you can do whatever you want.

Did I mention this game is crazy? It'll be interesting to see what comes next...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Positively Plus EV (Return of the Emory Game)

It's like being wrapped up inside joy.
--Star Trek: Generations

The weather is getting cooler. Monday Night Football is on again.

What's missing?

Well, the Emory game. One of the most famous low-limit NL games in Atlanta, the Emory game was a Mos Eisley cantina of players, mainly college kids from Emory University and nearby Georgia Tech.

The game was fantastic. Where did these kids get their money to play -- and lose -- week after week? It was a cash game that seemed built on television tournament poker strategy.

You know, all-in. And bust.

The Emory game is no more. But a new one has taken its place. It has different ownership and a different location.

But its spirit is the same. And the same classicly inexperienced play.

In a year I'm a different player. My skills are better and so is my focus. I maybe had a seventh as much of a bankroll as I did this time last year.

Doug and I went yesterday to check out this game. Doug suffered a flurry of random hands. But his downturn is just temporary. This game is positively +EV.

There were loose raisers, people who'd play and call you with any two cards, kids who would jump all in with big broadway unsuited. People who would obviously raise when they had it.

"You love the action," this loose guy in Seat 9 says. He saw me take down a pot early with AQ red cards when the flop was all clubs. Then I put him all-in when I knew he was on a flush draw. You want to gamble? Let's gamble.

Yes, I totally love the action.

Internet poker really is a solitary sport. Live play is fun and social. It's entertainment, even if you are stone killer who is set on making money. Casino poker rooms are like MLB stadiums -- something to admire.

But a good home game is like having a neighborhood park where you can knock balls over the fence.

It's been a long time. The Emory game ended about eight months ago. Since then I've been all over the country to play, refining my game and spending time online.

But now I'm home again. And it's something to cherish.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Blogs playing poker- Update

I made it back in time for the tourney. Yeah!
But I busted out in 203rd place out of 1,473. Cat didn't have nine lives, but he had several as I survived a bad all-in call (on my part) with QT and a pair of tens vs A4 (pair of aces). I made my T on the turn.
I survived another all-in when I was low -- I fortunately was given QQ and beat out AK and something like 45- the guy had an open-ended str8.
But later on, when the blinds were 300/600 plus a 25 ante, I got used to stealing blinds and with $6000 in chips left, went all in in early/mid position with AT. Everyone folded but the BB, which had JJ and made a set.
End of story.
Mark placed 683 -- better than half the field -- and he didn't even play -- he was still in Montreal!
Victor of The Poker Pilot was doing extremely well when I busted out-- he had 15K in chips or so, easily putting him in range of money and prizes. Hope he continues to do well!

Tunica -- Cat makes it 10 in a row

TUNICA -- So I started off the day with promise, I played $3/6 at the Gold Strike and then quickly jumped into the NL table.

There, I didn't make many mistakes but really didn't get any good opportunities, either. I made my first live straight flush, K to 9 of spades with KJs. I had an open-ended straight flush draw on the flop and made the hand on the turn. Another time I flopped quad 4s. But after 3-1/2 hours, I ended up down $55.

I went to the Horseshoe and jumped into a $10/20 table. I made $81 in an hour there and was happy to be back in some kind of contention for a plus-side trip.

At about 8 p.m., I came up to the room and watched some of the World Series game (Go Sox!) and was happy that I was down only $57 for the trip.

I felt it was like a pitcher's duel -- I'm only behind a little bit, so if I just grind it out, no problem.

At about 9 p.m., I wandered up and jumped into a $3/6 game at the Gold Strike. I had no good cards for the first hour or so and had to rebuy another rack of chips. The game seemed good enough- it was filled with a guy who I called "Random Card," because that's what you'd be facing if you played against him. He played 100 percent of his hands.

There was some blond lady from St. Pete who was drunk and she had this loud and irritating laugh.

And there was some young guy who just wanted to carry on and blow chips.

At the very end, I finally got a good hand -- AA. They held up but I was ready to leave.

I went back to the Horseshoe, down $128 for the trip. It wasn't my intention to jump into another $10/20 game but I did because it was open. And I was in Seat 10, the Sham Seat (but not at The Sham Seat on Table 13).

This one hand I had 99 on the button, this guy raises in early with AQo, I call, the small blind makes it 3-bets and then the early guy raises again!

I'm like fuck it. It's a bad call to do but I'll just throw it away if I don't flop it.

Flop was Ax9. It ended up putting the small blind all-in with AK and the early guy couldn't let it go.

I won with another hand against the early hand, with K9s in the small blind and I made a flush on the turn.

After two hours, I left the game with $322, enough to put me nearly at $200 for the trip and making this my 10th trip in a row that I've made money.

It wasn't my intention to have to make money on this trip but I'm glad that I don't have to struggle now and stay up and play.

Hopefully I'll get a decent enough sleep to be able to get up early and make it home in time for the PokerStars Blogger tourney, which is at 4 p.m EST. Why is this stupid thing so early??

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Tunica overnite

TUNICA-- "You've got to 'know when to hold'em, know when to fold'em,'" this skinny drunk guy in a pink shirt and a Yamaha visor laughs, telling this white haired guy next to him at the Horseshoe's $4/8 table.

Poor white-haired guy. He's wearing this leather vest and some kind of long-sleeved shirt underneath and to a T he looks like the country singer.

But he must get this all the time.

"I'm told that about five times a day," White-hair says to the young guy, no hint of irritation in his voice. This guy is a saint.

"I saw you in concert earlier this year," another frat-boy looking guy to his white says.

I'm doing the overnite shift in Tunica, mainly because I'm hoping I'll be able to capitalize and bring myself closer to even.

Tunica overnite can be a pretty weird place. In what was like a scene from a Tarantino or Rodriguez movie (in which characters from one scene are seen in a separate one), the dealer at the Horseshoe table with the Kenny Rogers-look alike was playing against me about two hours later at a $3/6 table at the Gold Strike.

Boy, was he terrible. He must have run through a few hundred dollars just sitting there. Of course, it didn't help his variance that there was some grey-haired lady who turned into a maniac, straddling and raising every pot, like she was possessed. When she finally burned through her second buy-in, she was gone.

That was at about 4 a.m. At the same table was this older black guy who got really frustrated after I made a flush against him on the river. He started complaining that everything was fixed.

"I lost $1,500 seven months ago and now I've lost $300," he said to the dealer. "The dealers just deal to the regulars."

It was really strange. He was utterly convinced he was being set up.

Actually this whole trip so far has been surreal. The lady I beat with the flush-vs-straight earlier in the NL game was in her 50s and from Turkey. She sounded like Penelope Cruz. She got in this fight with this taxi driver from Conway, Ark. who called her "Zsa Zsa" as in Gabor. She called him a redneck.

And she wasn't shy about letting her feelings be known.

"Whheerre were you beeetches earlier?" she yells at two Queens on the flop.

She "takes care" of some young guys who want to eat at the buffet -- not by getting the poker room supervisor to cut them comps, but by giving them her in-hotel restaurant and shopping pass, which is like a paper version of a hotel credit card, so they can eat. And she gives them her drivers license just so the waitress knows it's legit.

This other guy at the table was like a Louisiana Jeff Foxworthy. It wasn't noticeable until he talked about it, but all five of his fingers on his right hand were amputated at the second knuckle.

The strangest thing that happened was around 5 a.m., when I pulled a 2-hour shift at Sam's Town's $3/6. This was the game that you dream about.

There was a guy who was like a younger (30s?) Sammy Farha, with the cigarettes, sunglasses and blazer. He kept straddling and raising every pot. He won a good bit and had about $600 in chips at one point. The locals would follow him in!

Each pot was 3-bet, 4-bet and capped at 5-bets preflop. I was hoping that I could just hit one pot and be way up. I'm not really even sure what the correct strategy is here. Same as for loose games? Small pairs and suited connectors versus unsuited big cards? There were so many people in each pot but it was also expensive to try those hands at 3- and 4-bets a pop.

Young Farha must have been a little drunk or out of it. I ordered a diet Coke and he told the waitress "I'll have the same," but when she brought him the soda, he was like "I didn't order that."

He also had a little bit of ego. He finally lost his last hand on the river and he got up and told this guy wearing an appliance company hat, "You got me at the river. We both know who's the best player, right?"

After he left the game was shorthanded and it seems like nobody really has the right experience. I was down nearly $100 from playing with the maniac and I finally got up to even. I should have left.

My next to last hand was JJ in the bb. I three-bet it, Appliance Guy raised (with AK) and this silent black guy called.

Flop is xJA, two hearts. I get it 3-bet on the flop. But the silent black guy makes his flush with 69s on the turn.

I say nothing.

It always amazes me now when people get upset being sucked out on. It's going to happen. The way I think now is if you get emotional about it, 1). You don't have enough experience in and 2). You don't have the bankroll to shrug it off.

I finally got back to the Gold Strike at 7 a.m. I'm down now about $75. But the Tunica overnite was one of the best gambling nights I've had, just for all the characters and the different slices of life.

You certainly can't get that (or see that) online.

Update

TUNICA -- After an hour or so of play at the Horseshoe, I'm down now $37! Basically it all came from a few lucky hands playing $10/20 in a loose game before it broke up. I checkraised the preflop raiser in the CO seat. He was on the button and bet out a flop of AQA. I had KQ. He and this other guy who bet folded.
Then in the very last hand, I had AQo in the bb. One guy raised, sb called and I 3-bet it. It was a 5-handed table at this point. Flop was Axx and I got action to the river!
Love making more than $100 in 25 minutes!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Journey to Tunica

Whether or not what we experienced was an According to Hoyle miracle is insignificant. What is significant is that I felt the touch of God. God got involved.
-Pulp Fiction

TUNICA -- Five hours of poker, one calling station and one RPG, and I'm -$144 already into my trip. But I feel like I lucked out majorly in one thing that likely will save me hundreds of dollars in the years ahead.

So I was driving along Interstate 20, making good time just across the Alabama border. I'm in the slow lane, going 80 mph in a 70 mph zone and am approaching an 18-wheeler.

There's this Cadillac SUV behind me in the fast lane, approaching. I don't want to have to slow down and get trapped behind the 18-wheeler when the SUV finally comes by, so I go ahead and get in the fast lane. I speed up so the SUV doesn't have to slow down.

We just cross over this hill. In the rearview mirror, I notice that the SUV has slowed down a bit.

Fine with me, I think. I continue on. About 91 mph at this point.

The hill jogs slightly and as we round the curve, I notice this state trooper parked in the trees, the front of his car aimed at me.

Fuck! We're about 50 feet away at this point, so there's no way I'll be able to just slow down and not get a ticket.

Resigned to defeat, I get into the slow lane and slow down.

Funny thing is, one mile passes. Then five. And 10. I'm waiting for the flashing blue lights to appear in my rearview mirror but it never happens.

Reminds me of that scene in Pulp Fiction when John Travolta and Samuel Jackson get shot at and later find bullet holes in the wall behind them, although they were not injured.

The ride was good enough -- Sham said it wouldn't be that great of a drive. But six hours and 14 minutes after I leave Atlanta, I pull into the parking lot of the Gold Strike.

The country was beautiful and it was nice not seeing the hordes of cars and people that you see all the time in Atlanta.

Also nice was the fact there are no huge grades in this part of the country, like in California or the Pacific Northwest.

You just have to watch out for cop cars.

After checking in, I plunged into a $3/6 game at the 'Strike to start working off my 5 hours of play requirement for the hotel room's poker rate.

Almost immediately I get bored of the limit play and begin spying the two NL tables open. After about 20 minutes, I jump into one of the tables.

I was rusty and unlucky. Right away I get AA and lose to a guy who called with KQo and made trips on the flop. He was a check-call kind of guy, so
I was the only one who was betting and my position let me check the river. Still, it sucked.

Later this calling station called me down with QT with a flop of AQK. I had AK and bet through the river, even though a J showed up.

I remember thinking at the time, "This guy seems solid, there's no way he has a T."

He stared at the board for a long time then raised me to $50. I should have thrown my hand away but didn't.

Later another AA was broken by a set of 5s. The guy bet $15 on the flop of low cards and then pushed all in after I raised to $50. I wouldn't have called him if he had a regular stack, but he had $47 more.

I did flop the nut flush against this fishy lady who thought her straight was good and called her after she reraised me all in on the turn.

But it wasn't enough. I'm down a little bit, but no more than bad limit spells at the Gold Strike have presented me in the past.

Ugh. This is the third time I've written this. Twice already, I end up hitting some kind of key while in Blogger and it kept erasing and wouldn't come back to my post.

So I'm typing this in Notepad and will cut and paste. I'm wasting valuable Friday night playing time!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Tunica bound

You are about to embark on a most delightful journey.
--fortune cookie I just opened today!

Can't believe in just a day I'll be jumping in a car and headed off to Tunica. Hopefully will not have to deal with rain --going or coming-- because of Wilma.

A road trip. Haven't really had one of those in a while.

I've been whoring through the bonuses and right now they're all stacked up like planes trying to land here in the A-T-L. I finished the Eurobet bonus, am working on the puny $25 bonus, I have the Gaming Club $25 bonus on deck and next week I'll deposit into the Poker Room (what I call "Sucky Room" because of its software) bonus.

In other news, I got my first chip set yesterday! I ordered it after clicking on a link on AllVegasPoker.com and saw this great deal -- a 1,000 chip set with an aluminum case for $125. I also bought a double deck of Kems.

They arrived at work yesterday and boy, 1,000 11.5 gram chips are heavy! I cracked open one of the Kem packs. There is nothing like a Kem card. Just shuffling them and looking at them reminded me of those first days playing at the Horseshoe in Las Vegas, all the subsequent moments of holding Kems at the Bellagio and having my heart pound like a jackhammer, all-in at the O's $2/5 NL game.

Anyway, can't wait to travel and play and eat free comped food. Hopefully there will be time because of a windfall to sneak into the Horseshoe's pool next door and enjoy living in the moment.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

No limit, no foolin'

Serious sport is war minus the shooting.
--George Orwell

The no-limit cash game at Harrah's in New Orleans had this nasty reputation.

This, of course, was before the hurricane. I first heard of it from this young guy in Las Vegas. He claimed that if the locals, who had thousands of dollars of chips in front of them, didn't know you, they'd put you all-in on every hand.

He never once told me it was unfair.

I never thought it was unfair, and neither did Mark, when we sat down at the (also now defunct) Grand Casino-Biloxi's $5/10 NL game with our ATM-maxed out $500 minimum versus guys who had a few thousand dollars in front of them.

So forgive me for my callousness (as a TAP is very apt to be callous to you) when I don't think anything of people criticizing Daniel Negreanu for his recent play at a $5/10 NL table at the Wynn.

"Seeing as it was a $5-$10 blind game, I calculated that the appropriate buy in would be ... $125,000! I did it for fun and figured the others might get a kick out of it," he writes.

Anyway, as his next blog indicates, he received criticism for buying in that amount at the Wynn.

He responded with an argument about how it doesn't matter if a horrible player buys in for an uber-stack if you, the short stack, are a good player.

But I think his argument was deflection, as it has to be dangerous to be playing short-stacked against the uber-stack of one of the top players in the world. Of course, you could think of it in terms of T.J. Cloutier's tourney advice, to steer clear of large stacks, except to double up through them.

The expert player, whether it's Negreanu or the locals at Harrah's in New Orleans, will be doing their best to wield that stack to make you uncomfortable and to force you to make poor calls. You should be doing the same in a similar situation.

It's Theory of Poker at its best. Make others make more mistakes and you'll come out on top in the end.

It's like that scene that is recounted by Doyle Brunson about a guy who always wanted to play Bobby Baldwin. So they sit down and get to playing and Baldwin reraises the guy $36,000 on the river. The guy nearly falls out of his chair, never been challenged like that before. The guy almost folds -- they both had the nut straight.

Fair? Unfair? That's life. Someone always is going to have more money than you. In poker, your goal is to extract as much of that money for yourself without going broke in the process.

It's war without the shooting. You either have your first-rate army or you spend years developing it. Use it to destroy the short stacks, as in Mark's last post, or run away from a larger force.

But don't ask if it's fair. Your opponent will be busy assimilating your chip army by the time you figure that one out.

Update

Quad Jacks on Eurobet just now pushed me over $8,000 career (and $8,000 bankroll)!!! I had about $50 to go this morning and only needed $3.78 when I hit the quad!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Update

Chasing the Eurobet bonus continues to be profitable so far. Early Tuesday morning, I ended up $800 above my previous $600 buy-in, mainly by chasing fish up to NL$200 and busting a few others who were in the way. I've jumped up to more than $5,200 in profits for the year and am within $80 of $8,000 career. So close!
I still have about 550 hands to go before clearing the $200 bonus.
Looking back, on Aug. 8 I had marked $2,500 in profits for the year (about $5,100 career) and crossed $7,000 career in Las Vegas on Sept. 16.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Future is Now

Are you saying it's from the future?
One possible future. From your point of view - I don't know tech stuff.
Then you're saying you're from the future, too, is that right?
Right.
Right.
-The Terminator

And you know what they call a... a... a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?
They don't call it a Quarter Pounder with cheese?
No man, they got the metric system. They wouldn't know what the fuck a Quarter Pounder is.
-Pulp Fiction

What if you were back in the 80s with your super-huge shoe-sized car phone and you saw some guy with a Motorola Razr? Only you don't know that the super-sleek cell phone is even a phone at all. It looks like a business-card case or a shiny bar of soap. You might shrug and move on. You might even laugh at the yokel, point at him and say, "What the fuck are you talking into?"

I mention this because I think of a hand last year at The Orleans. I made a typical raise with AKo. Had two callers, including the big blind. I made a continuation bet on the turn when my AK flew over small rags.

Then a K came on the turn. I bet, the Vietnamese guy raised me a little bit and I went all-in. He immediately called and flipped over 64o -- he flopped a straight.

Of course I was mad. How could he call my pre-flop raise with that hand?

Only now do I realize I was looking directly at the future.

No, I don't mean the future means calling raises with 64o. But occasionally this may be a playable hand, if the circumstances are right and if you know your opponent will be unable to let go of his premium hand when you hit. If you understand the texture of the table, any two cards can be deadly. A poker cat just has to know when to run away and you'll do it often with crappy cards.

Trash hands have been deadly for me as I pursue Eurobet's $200 reload bonus. I doubled up off a tight-aggressive guy with my 32s -- I was actually gunning for this 64 percent VP$IP player who also called. Flop was 22x and that was basically end of story.

Pot was large enough in another hand when i had 35o in the small blind and all these people called an early position player's raise. Of course, flop was 33x and it was enough to take all of a tight-but-inexperienced player's chips.

I made a boat off of 49o in the bb when I flopped 2 pair, let this guy with top pair of 9s bet. Then on the turn when the second 9 hit, he check raised me the minimum, and I went all-in. He called with J9 and was extremely upset when I showed the boat.

In all of these cases, players were extremely upset. What? You don't play total predictable poker like I do? My premium pairs should be respected! Bow, bow low to me!

I'm now thinking that if some play by another player who is not a total fish looks strange to you, think about it and mull it over. You may be looking at a future that you'll eventually get to.

I'm not a trash-hand player. But I have come to a place in which I know when to gamble and take chances. My stats are the same, tight-aggressive, stats as always. But my bankroll is a lot thicker, thanks to inexperienced players.

Another example -- I used to think it was strange that Mark would 3-bet re-raise to isolate a raiser in limit. Surely an easy way to blow extra chips. But now it makes total sense to me. The future is now, all among us. I just wasn't ready for it at the time.

And we often ridicule what we don't understand.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Opera and poker

fortunato nel gioco, sfortunato in amore.
(Lucky at cards, unlucky in love.)
-La Traviata, by Giuseppe Verdi

There was a mean woman from Italy who didn't think much of American journalism, but she was nice to me and I liked her. She pinched me on the cheek once and said, "Ciao bello," which even I knew was something nice.
-Rick Bragg, "All Over but the Shoutin'"


The lights go dark and all around you are the beautiful sounds of voices in a strange tongue. I'm sitting so far back in the orchestra level that the characters on the stage are as tiny as the third row of letters I had to recite at the eye doctor's the other day when I had my contact lens prescription renewed.

I sit up, crack my neck and focus with that John Juanda stare.

No, this has nothing to do with poker. It has more to do with the rooftop pool at the Horseshoe in Las Vegas after my big win at the Bellagio last year. Instead of water, I'm immersed in sound.

This is just what I needed. Funny, I didn't realize the opera would relax me. Funny, I didn't realize by being so relaxed how stressed I previously was.

It's a good thing to keep in mind. When we play poker, we fight for hours on end. Then add to that all the other stress of a daily job and regular life. We have to find ways to relax and take the edge off.

And especially if you fit the poker cat mold of a tight-aggressive player.

From Alan Schoonmaker's "The Psychology of Poker": "The TAP is the most dangerous player ... They do not come to play. They come to win. Poker is not a game for them, at least not in the sense of relaxing recreation ... Almost the only other place you see that tightly controlled, aggresive people is in professions such as fighter pilots and police officers."

Of course, a poker cat doesn't just think, "Hmm, I'll forego about 4 hours of online poker and catch the opera." This took days of persistence by Giovanna, the Italian girl, to make sure I bought a ticket and showed up on time.

Oh? It'll be good? Oh? You're this cute Italian girl? Oh? My excuses are drawing dead?

So of course I went.

"I didn't think I would enjoy it," I tell Giovanna later.

"I didn't think you would, either," she says, with a stone-cold seriousness.

La Traviata is the opera that Richard Gere and Julia Roberts see in "Pretty Woman," likely because the opera's main character, Violetta, is a former mistress who is torn between love and her past as a mistress.

A nice issue for poker cats who dabble with the Dark Side of gambling -- once you cross the line, can you ever come back again?

Card-playing is even part of a scene in La Traviata, linking today's electronic card players with centuries of fortune and chance.

I wonder what the opera schedule is like in Las Vegas -- I can't imagine how this trio would be, to enjoy sunset at Binion's rooftop steakhouse that overlooks The Strip, followed by opera, followed by tearing up the Bellagio's poker room.

Tonight, I had to settle for a burger with Giovanna at Midtown Tavern, followed by a few hours on Eurobet. The relaxation paid off handsomely -- I made more than $300 on their NL tables!

Ah. The opera. And fortune. And kindhearted Italian girls.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

How far will I go to find a game?

It's settled. Miraculously, the Gold Strike in Tunica has rooms open for the $25/night poker rate next weekend. I had called the Horseshoe a week earlier but could not get a room, so I thought it would be no different.

So I'll be making the 6-hour-plus drive next weekend. I'm pretty excited, given the fact that online play is just not the same after the Party implosion. I love road trips, too. At the end of this month, I'll clinch Medallion on Delta so I don't need to do any more flying for the rest of the year.

Alas, a lot of this last-minute stuff is my fault. I had my eye on a $240/round trip ticket to Philadelphia and then planned on taking a rental car for the hour or so drive to Atlantic City, N.J. But the rooms there were so expensive! $250/night was the cheapest I could find online at the Tropicana.

I procrastinated until the ticket price was too expensive. At that point, it would have been cheaper to go to Los Angeles ($248 round trip on Frontier). But when I checked last night, that price had gone up as well.

I tried lots of other places. I didn't want to go to Las Vegas, since I'll be going the weekend after to see my folks and grandparents, but I looked it up and it was $560. Reno was $750. It was cheaper for me to fly to Costa Rica ($349) to play poker than to go to Atlantic City. Even flying to Memphis was out of the question.

I could have gotten a free flight using miles on United. But I'd have to leave Philadelphia at 6 a.m., which I thought wouldn't be a good thing Sunday morning after staying up until 3 a.m. or likely 4 a.m. playing in A.C. So that was out. I couldn't get a free ticket anywhere else.

If I didn't get the poker rate, I was willing to get a hotel room on expedia at the Strike for $144/night. Sam's Town was a little cheaper at $120/night. The Grand/Tunica also had rooms at $150 a night. So this poker rate is a really good thing.

So it's back to the Gold Strike. That poker room is so ugly! I hope they renovate it soon. Wonder if I'll see the Kid and other characters again. Wonder if they still have my UltimateBet.com hat that I lost there?

Only drawback is, Gold Strike has no pool. The Horseshoe next door does. But you have to flash your room card-key to the guard for him to let you up. But I just now noticed that, stuck in the pages of Dan Herrington's Vol. II of No-Limit Hold'em is... a Horseshoe room key!! I must have forgotten to dump it in the drop box last time I checked out.

Cha-ching!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Playing for little, winning a lot

I play to win, whether during practice or a real game. And I will not let anything get in the way of me and my competitive enthusiasm to win.
-Michael Jordan

Hey, it's action, isn't it?
-Nick "the Greek" Dandalos

The turn is a 3, pairing up the board. Baze pushes all of his paper clips into the middle of our perfect heads-up table.

I look at him. He called my bet on the flop -- I had J7o and a J was on the flop. Two hands before, before we thought of using paper clips, he made a second 8 on the river which annihilated my black Jacks.

It doesn't matter if I'm playing for paper clips or for wads of cash.

I look at his eyes, the way he's held his cards. What he's looking at on the board. I look at the ceiling and do that playful bounce of the head that Negreanu does when he's thinking and trying to figure out a hand.

"You got a 3?" I ask.

But then, I think, this is a friendly game, I'm not going to go in the tank.

So I just do an abbreviated analysis: It's just for paper clips.

"I call," I say and flip over my top pair.

"I have nothing," he says, flipping over 82s. I win the pot and scoop up all the clips.

"Come back when you want another drubbing," I playfully taunt the Baze.

Things have been good lately. I think I've really figured out my game, figured out which games to chase.

I've made my run through the Crypto system, working my way through the bonuses and for better or worse, PokerStars.

"It's the Bellagio of the Internet," I tell Mark. I love that site.

I played everything from $10/20 to $2/4 limit and $1/2 to .25/.50 NL. I feel my skills in both are interchangeable, like Kuro or Clonie feeling equally confident taking a bat at you with the right or left paw.

On the lower limits in NL, I felt like a MLB pitcher. All of my moves were variable. I understood most of the reasons why someone would raise. I had the distinct feeling they didn't understand the reasons why I made mine. Value bets would be called. It was heavenly.

I think the difference is taking the game seriously, whether it's for paper clips or clay chips with big numbers on them. It's like what Mason Malmuth always says. If you can't beat the easy low-limit games, how on earth are you going to survive the higher limits?

I know that Doyle says you have to "play to where it hurts." But playing for lower than that is a gift. You're numb to the betting. There is no pressure. Your chump change may be where it hurts somebody else. You win their money, you just toss it in the pile for the bigger games. You lose some, it doesn't matter so much.

I even won a $12 6-handed SNG. I was the short stack, then was third of three. And then capitalized on my opponent's mistakes and inexperience. I stole pots with abandon. I let them try to bluff me, letting them flub off their chips.

Then I was in the lead. Heads up, I made a minimum raise with AT, got reraised a little, then pushed all-in. The other guy had Q9s. I made a T on the turn, but it didn't matter.

This was the same guy who burned up precious time when it was 3-4 handed and he was the chip leader and I was the short stack. When the tables were turned, I thought about doing the same back to him but decided against it.

"I thought about fucking with him, but I knew he couldn't hit my fast ball!!" I tell Mark.

It was nice to win, even though it was a small little contest. You always love winning the ones you should have lost.

The last few days have been great. I don't mind playing for lower limits. It frees me up a little, since my potential losses will not threaten my bankroll.

I look forward to playing live -- a variant of the Emory Game has popped up. It'll be interesting to see if the college players have improved. Hopefully they'll have been saving up.

I also look forward to spreading the love of the game. I tell this Italian girl that I'd be happy to teach her poker.

"I know nothing about poker," she says in those accents that are always easy to listen to.

I bounce my head from side to side. "It's easy to learn."

The goddess who? LOL

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Party over

Has your luck run out? she laughed at him. Well, I guess you must have known it would someday.
-Bob Dylan, "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts."

So right now on Eurobet there are 8,301 players grinding it out. I'm wondering how many of these are rakeback players.

At the same time, there are 34,822 people playing on Party Poker right now.

The reason: Party yesterday separated itself from its "skins," or sister sites such as Eurobet. You can't play with its players if you're playing on a skin.

Ugh. The future is right now. Mark had mentioned this day might come, that Party would cut its ties with its skins, but I didn't expect it to happen so soon.

Here's what PartyPoker posted on 2+2:

Historically, PartyPoker players have shared the same poker-only system with players from each of the Group’s four white label poker clients or “skins” (being Empire Poker, Coral Eurobet, Multipoker and Intertops). Following today’s move, PartyPoker players will now play on their own private tables and benefit from a number of new and exciting products that are exclusive to the new platform.

It'll be interesting to see what happens. I guess the overall impact for me won't be that dramatic, as I have a pretty much "diversified whoring platform," getting bonuses from many different sites.

But now that I'm playing $10/20, I was eagerly awaiting the rake back payment for this month!

Just another reminder of the short-term window we have to enjoy the softness of poker right now and to scoop up as much of it as we can!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Blogs Playing Poker

Poker Championship

I have registered to play in the
Online Poker Blogger Championship!

This event is powered by PokerStars.

Registration code: 7103848

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Tampa -- Sit 'N' Go

TAMPA -- "I think you've got it, Johnny, I'm going to fold," this guy in Seat 4 says to me.

I shrug as I rake in the ever so-large amount of chips. "I'm getting some pretty good cards."

Pure lie.

On Saturday I finally decided to tackle a sit-n-go at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino, the cheapest they offer, $100 + $20, probably the largest amount of money I've ever ponied up for a tournament.

Just about everyone at this table was pretty weak. Except Mark, who also played.

I had some good cards early. I think I was equally ridiculed -- and excellently typecast -- as a very tight player when I limped with AA in early and checked the river against this Vietnamese woman.

The next hand I had KK, which I raised. Two callers, including Mark. Flop was an A and I bet $400 into the pot, but this other guy goes all in. Mark folds and I have to make the laydown, showing. The guy later said he had AA.

It was a lot of fireworks early on. Next hand, Mark reraises this guy on the button who makes a token raise. Mark is all-in with JJ but the other guy (same guy who calls me "Johnny" later) has KK. Mark is the first to leave.

When it got down to six, I knew I would just dominate the table. Stealing blinds, which I desperately needed, was so easy.

The guy who called me Johnny was the short stack, but he kept on surviving. It eventually was me, him and this tight-weak guy to my right who was the chip leader.

I made a huge mistake after I made the money, I had 87o in the bb and the chip leader limped in. I should have reraised him all-in!

But I didn't. Flop was a Q7x, he checked and so I went all-in. He thought about it for two minutes then called. He had Q8o.

I was in third place for $200. Second place was $350, so that hand was a $150 mistake.

But I was happy to place, equally happy to make some money and get that $120 back.

I ended the trip up about $160, the ninth poker trip in a row that I've brought back money. I've been happy about my tourney games recently 2/5 in the money, including one bubble finish last month at the Tuscany.

But I think my heart's more set on cash games right now.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Tampa -- Land of the Fish

TAMPA -- "No way that eight helped you," Seat 8 says to me in the smoky Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa as he raises me on the river.

Let's see. Well, I was representing the 8 on the flop and the turn with my pocket 9s.

Only thing is, a 9 is on the river.

"Reraise," I say. He calls. I show my boat and win the pot against his 85o.

Mark, Sham and I are in Tampa to try out what we had heard (from Sham, who's played here once before) and read in Card Player as some of the fishiest poker on the planet.

It's all true.

"I may never play $10/20 again," I text message Mark in the card room.

We're playing $2/2 at different tables. It's as loose as anything you've ever seen. Six, seven, eight players per flop. If you're lucky, you're at a table like Mark's where it's capped nearly every betting round.

I cash out $74 after just under two hours. Two hours for Mark nets him $207.

Florida law prohibits any bet from being more than $2. It's like a political measure intended to prevent people from becoming gamblos.

Only thing is, $2 bets makes it affordable for people to become gamblos. They're dying a death of a thousand paper cuts.

"Play to where it hurts," Doyle Brunson always says.

This doesn't hurt the fish. It might not even sting some. They just keep rebuying for $20 and keep charging the electric dam turbines.

"It's a really sick law," Mark says.

After a few hours, nearly five in the morning, we leave the Hard Rock -- a glittering TV-set of a casino -- if there ever was one, not sure of what we just experienced.

It was a true hatchery of fish. This may be where they all come from.

"They'e completely ready for Party Poker and to be playing $5/10 within a year," I say with glee.

On another note, it's been great to be away, after having to spend seven consecutive nights on the graveyard shift at work. My sleep schedule is all messed up -- even after the all-night casino play, I've only had an hour of sleep.

I got up early this morning and ran through the neighborhood where Sham's folks live, ending up at this beachy canal park. Real sand was under my feet and there were bits of shells everywhere. Signs warned canal boaters to be careful for the manatees, but as long as I waited, I saw none of the sea cows anywhere. You could see Tampa's skyline across the water.

R&R at its finest. A weekend that will include a baseball game, and, of course, more poker.