Friday, December 30, 2005

Back to eight

I kept asking Clarence why our world seemed to be collapsing and everything seemed so shitty. And he'd say, 'That's the way it goes. But don't forget, it goes the other way, too.' That's the way romance is. Usually that's the way it goes, but every once in a while, it goes the other way, too.
-True Romance

Greetings from Hong Kong Harbor. This is one of my favorite restaurants here in Atlanta and it's known as a place where Chinese restaurant owners in the city come to eat when they want to eat Chinese food. It has a low-key kind of nature and the food is decent.

It also happens to be right next door to the apartment complex where the robbery happened, and I haven't been back this way in a while.

But I guess it's fitting I'm back. This morning, thanks to the shorthanded NL tables in the Crypto system I posted about last, I doubled up on two people and crossed $8,000 for bankroll/winnings. That makes it about a $2,200 month on nothing higher than $1/2 NL and $5/10 limit on occasion. And I haven't even finished the $600 Eurobet bonus yet.

I don't know what it's like where y'all are at, but it's a pretty sunny and warm day here in Atlanta. I ditched my Full Tilt jacket in my car and walked around in a long sleeve T-shirt (Capital City Half Marathon, in Olympia, Wash., a middle-reliever shirt) It's pretty crowded out, though, as Atlanta is hosting both the Peach Bowl and the Sugar Bowl this year because of Hurricane Katrina. Lots of people around and lots of drivers who don't know their way around. If only they played poker.

I made my way out, after the Crypto win, went to repair some glasses that flaked out on me when I was at the Stratosphere. Somehow I bent one of the screws on one side of it. Never seen that before. I thought it was toast, but the lady at LensCrafters just put it back together again, for free.

Then when I drove across the street to the chi-chi Phipps Plaza (mall) I happened to be just in time to get a parking space when tons of people were out driving around. Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket.

I did my business (finally bought a pair of running shoes at NikeTown) and resisted the urge to pick up another $100 tie from Saks, although I did look.

Well, now that I'm full and happy, I'm ready to head home and try out the tables. Won a few bucks playing just now during lunch on Eurobet. Thank you, broadband card!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Set phasers to frag: low-level shorthanded NL games

Months ago, I was in the same camp as PokerSweetHome, clearing bonuses at $1/2 6-max limit and generally liking what I saw. Lots of weak play, people who constantly overplayed poor hands. Lots of limping and checking.

As we all know, there's a bit of variance to these shorthanded games, although I believe it's worth having the experience playing them, as gaining experience in shorthanded play has been one of the most crucial elements to developing my poker game this year.

You learn the relative strength of hands that would be mediocre in a full ring. You learn a lot about hand reading and aggressive betting. Like the song, you know when to walk away and you know when to run.

Loose, shorthanded 6-max (or smaller) tables completely crowd the online poker 'verse. I think it's because there are players who crave more action. I also think, for novices, the smaller tables might not be as intimidating as full ring because they're about the size of card table home games. Of course, shorthanded games are anything but friendly.

I blame ScurvyDog for how I ended up spending a lot of my time at shorthanded NL tables. Forever chasing bonuses in the systematic manner that he's kindly revealed to the poker world, I found myself at lots of sites (particularly in the Crypto system) that just didn't have tons upon tons of tables with the limits that I wanted and/or played, like in the core worlds of the (former) Party system.

Invariably, I'd have to skip the long wait lists for full ring tables and settle down at the loosest possible tables at my limits that I could find, which were often shorthanded limit tables (many of these sites tell you right off the bat the percent of players who see a flop).

After my bankroll went up and down and up a little to the very often weak and inexperienced players, I wondered if the fishy play would be similar on the NL side of the world.

So one day I looked. And immediately loved what I saw. You had the same high percentage of people who saw a flop. Like in shorthanded limit play, this means likely profits for you if you typically rumble with them with the better hand. But I also found that instead of plinking at each other in a civilized way as in limit, you could simply vaporize people's buy-ins in one hand or force people to fold just with the threat of doing so in shorthanded NL.

In his Poker Essays volumes, Mason Malmuth is fond of saying that weak players just don't survive in NL. I think that's particularly true in shorthanded NL. You might as be the one to win all their money.

Another plus is that many of these weak players in the low NL games simply don't know how to play shorthanded games. They don't raise enough, they take the Gus Hansen TV style of play and think they can limp in with any two cards. Just like any other game, you often know what's up when they do happen to raise it up. Just get out of the way.

Same goes for betting. You're betting at them with very good hands, although just like in low limit games, they're still calling with terrible pairs, hoping to draw out on you. Only the price you're giving them at pot or half-pot makes this an extremely horrible mistake for drawing.

I took shorthanded limit charts, like this one and converted it for shorthanded NL use. As in April's excellent blog on shorthanded NL, shorthanded hold'em is a big card game. These low suited connectors just won't do it like in full ring.

It's helpful if you have experience in low limit shorthanded games before tackling shorthanded NL, but of course, obviously not necessary. I think my limit experience just helped me get used to the raise/fold pace of the 6-max beast.

I'll raise when I should and be wary of what I'm holding when others limp into the pot. As in full-ring NL, alarm bells still go off when you get raised preflop holding hands that certainly would be automatic 3-bets in limit. Any yokel can jack it up with AA in NL and you have to be careful.

Like April's blog, continuation bets are awesome. People don't like where they're at often times when they're just calling your raise in a 6-max NL game. It could be for all their chips, after all.

Even more important is game selection. When I'm burning bonuses in the Crypto system or at Full Tilt, I'll just look for the loosest shorthanded games possible. On both sites the lowest table percentage of players who see a flop that I will play in is usually around 65 percent. Sometimes these tables hover around 70-75 percent and there have been times people have tilted the table to 89 percent. They don't last very long in NL, though.

These uber-loose games often are overlooked on Full Tilt. You'll see people flocking to a pretty tight full ring NL $1/2 table just to play with a pro, but the waiting list will be empty for a 75 percent 6-max table. Fine with me.

I don't think $.50/1 or $1/2 NL 6-max is the future. Limit is the future. But if you're building a bankroll and already have a solid game, it might be profitable to check into this world and bag/frag some very profitable fish.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Limpin' into the New Year

Spc. Scroggins is a brother from the streets of Baltimore, Maryland, who just had a little baby girl.
In his old unit, back in Korea, he was also on a gun team, and he's been extremely helpful to me as a mentor ever since I've known him. He's taught me a lot about the machine gun. He'll break it down for me, without all the military jargon and textbook shit, and tell me exactly how it is, on the real. He told me that memorizing the training manuals is all a bunch of useless bullshit and doesn't mean a damn thing when it comes to pulling the trigger and throwing lead down range. He taught me that all I gotta do is just get behind that muthafucka and just fire it.
-My War, by Colby Buzzell.

I feel like New Year's is already here. I only have one more day of work before my vacation, and well, I'm glad for it.

Poker has been good so far. I've made about two grand this month to today and am pretty close to my old highs. I've just been playing the easy games, limit and no-limit, against people who really shouldn't be playing poker. When you're helping tilt a 6-max table to 75 percent sees-the-flop, then you may want to ask yourself why you're really playing.

I got a lot done at work today, although this co-worker kept telling me when her favorite commercials appeared on the banks of televisions we have up in the bureau. How the fuck would I know what that commercial is about? I rarely watch TV. You should be reading more books, I thought but didn't tell her.

Colby Buzzell's book, "My War" finally arrived today. He's the warblogger who wrote about his experiences in Iraq and the reason why the Poker Cats blog originally was in Minima Black, the same style as his blog. But I recently changed it, since I thought the black background was too hard to read. I also wanted to link posts of blogs that I do read as well.

I spent most of the evening reading it, although I spent a little time on Eurobet (about 800 more points to go to clear the $600 bonus) and Full Tilt. At the end of the session, I told myself I'd at least get out and run. My grandmother's condition is like a wake-up call for me. I have to tell myself there will always be good games online. That 75 percent table will be back.

It's been warm in the evenings (it's 51 degrees right now, after midnight) and all I needed was a pair of shorts and a windbreaker. I didn't go too far, about a mile, but it's a good start. Hopefully my legs won't be sore as they were earlier this week after I ran, my first time in about seven weeks.

During that time I've biked to and from work, but my sore legs really told me that it had been a while since I'd done any significant impact activity. I just need to make the time, jump out and run. Lots more often for this next year. The games will still be there.

Mark, Matt, Drew and I saw Cool Hand Luke on Tuesday night. It was quite decent and didn't seem like a movie made years ago. Loved the "50 eggs" prop bet. Every time Paul Newman's character would get caught from his escape attempt and get the shit beat out of him, Mark and I would say, "It's just variance."

I feel bad I'll be out of town on Monday when Mark has his going away bash, but it also doesn't feel like that'll be my last chance to see him. There's the L.A. trip and I'll likely be in Hawaii early in 2006 to help my dad with anything he needs to take care of his mom and to introduce Mark to the possible sources and expertise of the kurokitty clan.

I'm still thinking of getting out to Biloxi first chance I get, but I think I'll have to do more research on it first. Would be nice to know which hotels are available.

I hope in a few days' time, me and the cats will be sipping champagne, toasting the poker successes of 2005. Then Kuro and Clonie and I will shake it off and get down to business. A whole new year is ready for the taking.

Cats say play. And raise.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Headed to A.C.

OK. I swear that when I came to work this morning I had no intention to go to Atlantic City.

But I discovered that I have from Friday-Tuesday completely off. A.C. is too expensive for me to just go for the entire trip -- trying to get New Year's reservations at this point, anywhere, is nearly impossible.

But a three-day trip after New Year's isn't.

It all started when I realized I still had this vacation time pending. A few months ago, Mark was going to go to Vegas with his friend Ben and I decided I'd tag along. But the plan went by the wayside when we both entered our 15/30 downturn. Also, I kind of thought I'd had enough traveling, with three Vegas trips in six weeks. Plus New Year's anywhere is prohibitively expensive.

But I forgot to cancel the time off and it showed up on my bureau's schedule.

What to do, what to do... Well, there's Biloxi. I'd wanted to make the run down to Biloxi for a while (and still may sometime in January), especially to check out the new poker rooms at the Imperial Palace and the Isle of Capri. But it looks impossible to get a room down there for New Year's. So scratch that.

When I came to work today, I discovered I had Monday and Tuesday off. I thought I had to be back on Sunday.

So I looked around. I thought it would be nice to visit my ailing grandmother and my other relatives in Hawaii. Way too expensive for such a short trip and I'd rather be there when my folks are back, say in February. Flights to Vegas also were expensive, what, only three days off.

So were flights to Atlantic City and Philly.

But what about miles? Miles are a tricky commodity, because you can't always use them when you want to. But for some strange reason, I can fly to A.C. this time around. I don't intend to stay very long -- my main goal is to see these poker palaces and add chips to my collection. Who knows? Maybe I can face off against Johnny Chan, like in Rounders...


Speaking of which, I rented Rounders on Netflix. I saw it with Mark about a year ago, when I was just starting and really didn't pick up too much. I've read all the poker players' criticism about main character Mike McDermott's play but it really didn't sink in until now.

It's pretty stupid that McDermott would risk his $30K 'roll on a shorthanded $50/100 NL game, especially when that bankroll is more suited for $5/10 NL and possibly more for taking a shot at $10/20 NL.

The game is 4-handed and McDermott is up to about $48,000 in chips. On the button, he makes a raise with A9s and Teddy KGB smooth calls with AA. McDermott flops 2-pair and says he puts Teddy on a flush draw when Teddy calls his overbet of $2,000.

Hmmm. Teddy's getting the right odds for this "flush" draw. Makes sense to me. LOL. Unless Teddy's calculating the implied odds of the sucker across from him.

Of course, another 9 comes on the turn and McDermott is trying to set Teddy up, so he checks when Teddy checks and gets no information from him.

The third spade comes on the river and McDermott comes over the top of Teddy's $15,000 bet for $33,000 more, and of course loses to the higher boat.

Rounders is a classic poker movie, but it's sickening to see the poorly drawn up hand and to know this scene is part of the inventory of mainstream references (along with the WPT) for people who know nothing about the game, telling them you can lose everything you have in one hand in NL. Yes, that's true. But only if you're not careful and not taking your bankroll seriously.


Btw, I'm writing using a wireless keyboard and mouse! It's awesome. I've wanted one for a while, especially after seeing the profile on Phil Ivey in All-In magazine and the pictures where he's sitting on his living room couch with it and across the way a huge plasma screen displays a Full Tilt table.

The keyboard I had been using was a replacement that I had in my storage closet that I had to use when I accidentally spilled Diet Coke on the other one. The spare keyboard, however, was taking up too much space on my desk and made it a pain while playing three Web sites using my kitty AWACS laptop and my desktop.

But this keyboard is awesome! I'm going to use my old optical mouse at work but I'm pretty sure I'm going to get another wireless keyboard and mouse and bring it to work!! Thanks Mark for the idea (along with all the other great ideas -- PokerTracker, PokerAceHUD, RakeTracker...)!!!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Passing thru the storm

Operative: Are you willing to die for your beliefs?
Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: I am. (Then fires at the Operative).
'Course, that ain't exactly Plan A.

This week and this weekend have really felt like one of those episodes on Star Trek: TNG where they are just going about their daily lives, making the required maintenance adjustments and sensor sweeps.

Toward that, I've gotten a lot done -- I've cleaned up my cold apartment, wrote out a series of donations to hopefully reduce my poker-induced tax burden for this year.

I've outfitted my second bike, the Cannondale, with fixtures for lights and blinkers for running at night (the past month I've had to go to work really early and it's not daylight yet during my commute). Gears on the Trek hybrid I usually take to work started to slip when I rode out to the city's landmark Fox Theatre earlier this week to pick up tickets for a viewing of the Nutcracker with Giovanna and crew.

The show was worth it (although not nearly as relaxing as the opera, IMO) and it's really helpful to have an Italian (or anyone knowledgeable about a certain area's cuisine) who can give you the seal of approval of a good Italian restaurant.

This week also I've seen a few examples of different kinds of variance, once again illustrating there's this side game called life that's important to pay attention to. Gv's car tanked on her, of course, after she paid $600 to keep it running. The whole time I'm standing there thinking that $600 is just three buy-ins, instead of what it really is. Just reminds me that I'll eventually also have to look for a new car. That may mean my bankroll.

The other life-reminder also came recently. My grandmother developed a stroke on three lobes of her brain last week and she is recovering, although from having to cover Coretta Scott King's stroke I know it can be a very long process of recovery.

I'm thankful though that my parents were able to be in Hawaii to see her, as they had planned to visit both my mom's side (Maui) and dad's (Honolulu) for Christmas. Of course, the one year I don't have to work during Christmas or the weekend around it and can actually go to Chicago to visit them, they are off to Hawaii!

Anyway, just reminds me that I gotta look after my health. A family history of heart disease is nothing to shrug off at the tables.

At the tables, it seems like the Poker Gods have opened the Christmas bag early and Kuro and Clonie have multi-table feasted through many Web sites: Eurobet, Full Tilt Poker, Interpoker and UK Betting in the Crypto system. I hope the guy from Oslo in UK Betting decided to return back to his Christmas celebrations early after I took his entire stack in two hands with consecutive sets. I never want to be on that side of variance!

As quickly as the downturn happened, I feel like I'm back on track. If things go as they have, I may have my $15/30 bankroll back by the time I go to L.A. next month. The second downturn just seemed like another test. I'm indifferent to the money and it's helped me succeed. I'll play for pennies, I'll play for Play Money if I have to, I'm willing to go broke if I have to, but as in the Serenity movie I just saw the other day, it's not plan A.

Plan A is to keep the poker cats happy and full of fish. Plan A is to continue to be able to shrug and tell doubters at work, "Yeah, well, I had a 200 percent return on my money this year in poker." Plan A is to continue to do all the right things, at the table and in life, and to not worry so much about times that don't work out so well. Plan A is to be myself.

Poker, like PokerSweetHome's blog name, is a pretty sweet home to be in. It provides you with money, gives you the tools to learn about and negotiate the myriad odds of life and tells you it's okay to try and live again. This reminds me of the last scene in the movie Serenity:

Mal: Know what the first rule of flying is? Of course you do, since you already know what I'm going to say.
River: Yes. But I like to hear you say it.
Mal: Love. You can know all the math in the 'verse, but take a boat in the air you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting before she keens. Makes her a home.
River: Storm's getting worse.
Mal: We'll pass through it soon enough.

Monday, December 19, 2005

So it goes

So I show up at our little heads-up tournament, only to find they had already paired up the matches. Mark and I were to play together, which made me think of Duke playing Carolina in the first round of the ACC Tournament.

As far as matches went, it was like an overtime game that lasted for 60 minutes. He definitely had much better cards, but the cat made do with betting out nearly every flop or raising without hands.

In the end, the better cards won. I just didn't have any. The way the format was, at the end of 60 minutes, the game was over and the winner would be determined by who had more chips.

So in this "sudden death" format, you really had to disregard your M and push way ahead of time. I had a slight lead into the last three hands, but quickly lost ground. I bounced out with AJ unimproved vs TT.

Because it was double-elimination, I had a second match. But I was pretty worn out and really just wanted to gamble. That one was over pretty quickly, even against a weaker player.

Mark went on to have a huge lead into the final match but lost two in a row to Drew, whose aggressive raises and over-the-top raises whittled away at Mark. It was pretty impressive -- I'm thinking "Get that dude a bankroll," he could probably do well in tournaments. I'm also happy that I'm Drew's PartyPoker affiliate. LOL.

Next time, I'm hoping we have a few small changes. First, no time limit. Let the escalating blinds do the talking. Second, all of the tables should have players facing each other (in the second match, I was at a coffee table where each player wasn't). Single elimination might be good -- it's exhausting to have to keep going back into game after game. Some semblance of seeding would be nice.

All was not lost though. I was down $20 from the tournament, but made more than $300 by playing $5/10 limit in Eurobet, loose 6-max games on Crypto and at loose NL games on Full Tilt, which I inexplicably returned back to, just out of curiosity more than anything else.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Heads up headaches

There were just a few hours before I had to go to the airport about a year ago when I visited Mark down in Chile. All week we had been sightseeing around town. The only time we touched cards was at the Casino Municipal in wonderful Vina del Mar, and that was blackjack (although I was eyeing their draw poker table game, thinking that any game not seen in a Las Vegas casino must be +EV somehow for the player).

"We've got to play poker," we both said.

So it was a heads-up match. I think for 10,000 Chilean pesos each, the table being Mark's stainless steel poker chip case.

We played twice and I won both matches. I don't remember how the first bout went (I only remember betting out a lot of flops when I didn't have anything) but the second one came by a horrible suckout. Mark was all in with A7o and I called with Q5o. I didn't really care at that point. Flop was rags plus two hearts, turn was a heart.

River was a heart. My 5 of hearts made the winning flush.

I crowned myself the "Inaugural Santiago Heads-Up Champion," pocketed the cash and fled the country.

A year later, the crew is planning to hold a heads-up tourney later on this afternoon. We'd all talked about it for months but now it's really real. We'll have 8 players, it'll be double elimination and it'll be interesting to see how it turns out.

When I was at work on the night shift, Mark and the crew laid out odds. Mark and I have the best odds of winning at 5-1. Most of the other people are 8-1 and one of their friends, who doesn't play poker too much, is 20-1.

When I saw the odds chart, I winced a little. I know that I'm more than a little rusty at heads-up play. When I did play it this year, it was all limit. I got into a phase where I loved taking on people at low-limit limit on Ulitmate Bet and Full Tilt. Just a phase though.

So like a student cramming for an exam, I went on the Internet for infomation and ammo. I found some mention of heads up strategy on one site, which urged me to play hands better than Q-7 because it is the computer hand and the median of hands against random ones. (Although I think technically Q-7 isn't the absoulte median).

Then I saw another hit -- Dan Harrington's Vol. 2 of No-Limit Hold'em. It's been sitting in my travel bag for months! I just haven't gotten to that chapter yet.

Like Vol. 1, the second tome is must-have, for this and all the other information it has. I don't think Action Dan would be pleased if I posted all of the tips here, but he basically creates a heads up starting hand chart based on a hand's success versus random hands and he points out what you should do in the small blind and big blind, when it's good to raise, what to react to raises with (regular raises and all-in bets).

What I thought was most interesting was that he says that on the button (the small blind), you should call with any two cards. I remember in the past I've gladly ditched many trash hands. I also like his advice to raise just double in the small blind (a big raise is not necessary here like it is in a full ring game because your'e not trying to chase people away). But a larger raise is critical in the big blind, because you'd like to win it right then and there because of your poor position on later streets.

So I tested his theories out tonight on Eurobet's $5 SNG. The first two times I was getting creamed. I think I was trying to take his advice too literally and frequently found myself not sure of what to do when I would limp in and get raised. Or reraised when I've alreday reaised.

So on the third try I put the targeting computer aside, just a little bit and listened to my instincts on how the game was going. At one point I got down to 287 chips (of 1,500) but then came back to win the game with my 55 vs AJo.

The fourth game, I completely dismantled a guy when I flopped a straight and he kept betting hard (I went all-in and he called) and then I took him out again with 55, flop was 2JJ and i let him bet it, the river was a 5 for my boat and I went all-in.

I was a little amazed at how the small sample of players tended to limp with their small blind (only the laast guy folded his sb at times) and how minimal most raises were.

The last two players I dismantled by making the same bets frequently with and without hands. They had to guess (and Amarillo Slim always says "Guessers are losers.") and I let myself have a better feel for what they had preflop and what they had postflop instead of relying on a chart.

The wins made me feel better about my play, but I'll have to see. I'm armed with new info and the same old instincts. It'll be interesting to see what happens next.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Do I need the jacuzzi room?

...Well, I don't think I do. Increasingly I'm seeing these rooms more and more when I make hotel reservations. For just a few dollars more, I could have at the Stratosphere and now the Crowne Plaza (Commerce Casino's hotel) offers it as well...

I said I didn't want to travel for a while after the Las Vegas trip, but I've been looking forward to going to Los Angeles for nearly a year now, when I heard that a friend of Mark and the crew is getting married, next month, in L.A. Owen came to visit us once when we were in Vegas a year or so ago, so I kind of know him. I'm mainly just planning to park myself at the tables for an entire weekend. Wedding? What wedding?

Very jealous that OTP (outside the perimeter, an Atlanta trem) blogger CC is in London playing at places like the Gutshot. I should have gone with my folks earlier this year.

Anyway, just a quick note. As soon as I say that I'm going to spend more time playing online again, I'm making war plans for next month.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Winter is here

I'm a changed cat when the air starts to get cold. I never thought I was this way but it must come from having a December birthday and having been born in Chicago's windy, wintry clime.

The cold air reminds me how much fun it is to be bundled up and running -- it's football weather, although I'm not much of a football fan. I put 500 miles on my old pair of running shoes at the end of October and had been meaning to replace them. Then November went by, and now it's the middle of December.

Things are going ok, thanks to a diversified bankroll. That is, looking for juicy NL 6-max games on the Crypto system, blowing through the blackjack bonuses of the month, chasing main system bonuses (Party, etc.) and working through rakeback, slaving through the Eurobet bonus.

All this while a good chunk of the bankroll is earning savings account interest. I asked my mom about Scurvy Dog's plan to get 4 percent from online savings accounts. She said you can do better with a money market account, so I'll look into that.

I'm still only about 3,600 (of 6,000) points into the Eurobet bonus and it's really like pulling teeth at this point. Sure, it's easy money. But it's boring as hell.

I've spent a lot of time also this month on random diversions -- episodes of the TV series Firefly, all of Bill Filmaff's videos during a dry shift at work, the movie Syriana, which made me think of a bunch of people interacting in a game that is too big. Glad Mark is back and that his Amsterdam trip included some poker (love playing for Euros, btw!).

It's the middle of the month and already I look forward to the end of the year. I'd like to go ahead and close it out. What else is there to prove? I've earned more money this year than last, I think I've learned a few things along the way. Would love a clean slate again instead of seeing negative numbers in some categories, such as "Atlanta live games" (negative because of the robbery).

Anyways, early Seasons Greetings and wishing everyone a happy turn of the cards.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Back in the ATL

I am soooo glad to close out the week, now that I'm back in Atlanta. Mainly because I'm still on the Las Vegas time schedule and that makes things difficult when you start out your morning at 7:30 a.m.

Had to replace my car battery today because of the cold weather here (or, cold weather for here). Nice addition to the Community Chest of new acquisitions (=bills). New wallet-$60. Cell phone-$200. Battery-$122. Merry Christmas to me! LOL

But I've been happy for a few things. Like Scurvy Dog's Casino list. Loove knowing basic strategy and making blackjack bonuses. Love loose Crypto system poker players, although Mark has yet to play there. Jump in, the water's warm!

Will be interesting to hear Mark's posts of life and poker in Amsterdam...

Yay! The weekend is here!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Dancing on the river in no-limit

"If you never call another river bet again in your life, I guarantee you'll be ahead."
-Antonio Esfandiari

DALLAS -- Let's say you're looking at your cards pre-flop and you see, say JJ, and you make a modest raise. It gets folded around to a guy who immediately pushes all-in. His hands are shaky and he has that come-hither, "call me" kind of look in his eye.

It's not too hard to think that he could have AA, the best starting hand preflop.

You may call or fold, depending on what you know of the player.

Having lots of time to think about live play at the tables in Las Vegas this past week, I now think that this same critical thinking preflop isn't applied on the river. Preflop, you may call with KK against the guy with AA. The difference between this and calling a huge bet on the river is that at least you have outs preflop. The hand is completely decided on the river.

At Bally's NL $1/2 last night, there was this kindly Japanese guy sitting to my left in seat 6, who had to ponder a tricky river decision. The board had two 6s and there was a nine on the river.

The way he was betting strongly made me think he had a 6, with a big kicker, like an A.

The small blind in seat 1 was his opponent. He was short-stacked. When the river card came, he displayed not one but three tells: 1). He sighed loudly and studied the board, before betting. 2). He had that shaky hand thing when he pulled out his chips. 3). He was like "$42?" in the form of a question mark, like, "You want to give me $42 for the nut I just made?"

Sho (I'll call the Japanese guy that because he reminds me of a guy named Sho) quickly called and found out the hard way that this guy indeed had a boat with 96o.

The above quote by the Magician surely is the top nugget of wisdom I've ever heard from him and his magician-like ways. It's made me think before jumping into an often electric-current filled river in a no-limit game, and you know that poker cats don't like water in the first place.

But let's think about it: For bad players, such as the ones who will slowplay everything, the river is their last chance to bet out their monster. Same goes with solid players who want to get the most value for their hands - the river is the absolute last chance they have to get money from you.

Too often I've seen people calling huge bets on the river with the second-best hand. It happened to my friend Doug right before the robbery, in a similar situation. Both he and this other guy had trips, Doug had the A kicker and the other guy made a boat on the turn with his Queen-rag. The other guy checks the turn and is all-in on the river.

It's okay to occasionally fold the best hand and if you use Dan Herrington's maxim, you assume 10 percent of the time, someone is bluffing you. But all-in bets by players on the river need to be treated with caution, especially in low-limit NL.

I just don't see people planting monster bets, especially as bluffs, on the river at these small games without some kind of reason. I also feel that if the player is bad enough, you'll catch up with him eventually. No need to give him your stack first. It's no different in limit games that have no cap when it's heads up -- advice commonly heard is to not go all-in unless you are sure you have the nut.

So I tell Sho after he pulls out more cash and his notebook -- "If you had seen his hands (shaking), you would have folded."

"No, no. He was just lucky."

They use luck. You use skill, all of the information available to you -- how he entered and bet the hand, tells, history of bluffs -- and you won't have to worry about jotting down yet another missed read into your notebook.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Vegas -- Still a Screamer

Play the game with fear and arrogance, even when you're getting beat.
-Bull Durham

LAS VEGAS -- It's five-handed at the Excalibur and it's folded around to me on the button. I look down and I see JJ.

I raise, making it $13 in the $1/3 NL game. The bb, a local who's been tilty recently because of a flurry of bad beats, makes it $38.

I call.

Flop is all low cards. I bet out $20. It's a five-handed game, right. Tilty local makes it $50.

All of a sudden I don't like it. But it's five-handed, right?

I push the rest of my stack in, about $120 more.

He instantly calls and flips over AA.

Nice. Well, this will be the first time in my 5-day trip here that I've made a mistake.

I get up, and start to head for the door.

Turn is a J! I take down the pot and deliver yet another horrible beat to the tilty local.

I scream out loudly and wildly, like last Monday when my 1-outer set of Ks beat aces, right before the robbery.

I'm not sure what it is. For the last few years, I've mirrored the Phil Jackson reaction to things. The Zen coach of the L.A. Lakers doesn't show any emotion, usually, win or lose.

I'm a little embarrassed but elated at yet another win, my first double-up of the trip, on my birthday.

I tell the story of the last time my underpair won.

"Maybe someone will knock over the Excalibur now," I joke.

It's been a good -- and businesslike -- trip. I've done everything right, and like the Cat Series of Poker, I've steadily built up my chip stack over a series of days, only the blinds don't go up and I can leave whenever I'm at a bad table.

I sort of hate the fact that I'm playing well under my bankroll but I'm happy at all the easy money. And playing the right poker. I'm still in a rebuilding stage, after all, and having a tremendous bankroll for what I'm playing helps give me the confidence to play, even when I may be beat.

This likely will be my last poker trip of the year, although I would love to sneak back when Caesar's Palace's poker room opens up Dec. 20. Barring a catastrophic loss of chips, I'll end up something like 12-3, way better than how I did last year.

Hopefully I'll regain the confidence to play middle-limit again at the Bellagio, the Mirage, the Wynn and the new Caesar's Palace. I know my bankroll will get there once again.

But I'm happy of what I've been doing so far, in NL.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Vegas -- Birthday Straddle at Binion's

We goin' party like it's yo birthday
We goin' sip Bacardi like it's yo birthday
--50 Cent

LAS VEGAS -- No sooner than I sit down at Table 14, a $1/2 NL table at a jam-packed Binion's, than this drunk guy to my left urges me to straddle.

A straddle is making a $4 blind raise after the big blind. It is "live," which means you get the option to check or raise at the very end of the pre-flop betting round, instead of the big blind.

"I'm not going to straddle so you can re-straddle," I tell him.

But before the dealer finishes shuffling, I toss out a red $5 chip.

The drunk guy does nothing, so I needle him.

"I did that just for you, so you can re-straddle. What's up with that?"

I am in full Daniel Negreanu Party Day mode.

Why? Maybe because just about now it's my birthday, in the Central Time Zone.

There are four callers, including the drunk guy. The action comes around to me.

"You know what I have to do now. I have to raise, even though I haven't looked at my cards."

I throw out three red chips.

The drunk guy calls. Two people in the middle fold.

"Why are you folding?" I ask loudly. "I haven't even looked at my cards! Why are you folding?"

The guy on the button calls.

Flop is a 5 and two hearts.

"Out of respect for my callers, I check," I say.

It gets checked around.

Turn is a 5 of hearts, making three hearts on the board.

"I check again," I say. It gets checked around.

The river brings a fourth heart.

"I check my flush. I know there's a heart in these cards," I say.

They check.

I turn over my cards, seeing them for the first time. 75o. That gives me three of a kind, fives.

"Heart? Anyone?" A flush would beat my hand.

They muck and I take down the pot.

A few hands later, I get a respectable KQs (spades) on the button. The big blind makes it $10. Five other people call, for a nice $60 pot.

"You are an action maker," I tell him.

Flop is Ace-x-x, all spades, giving me the nut flush.

The first guy, a short stack, goes all-in for $50. Another guy, who previously called my straddle, calls.

I push my stacks into the middle and take down the pot.

All of a sudden, on my birthday, I've taken down $150, enough to put me at $650 for the trip -- the amount that I lost in the robbery.

It took me three days to make the money back. At Binion's, where I played my earliest live games. Where the biggest games in the world used to be.

I don't believe in streaks, but I love milestones. I would have made back the money anyway, eventually, but I love that it only took three days (and five days previously to make up the grand that I lost in my last trip here).

Maybe it's not as exciting as quad aces at the Bellagio to hit $9,000. Or the time last year I was $660 in the hole and I won the money back in 24 hours entirely playing low limit hold'em in Las Vegas.

But it's up there.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Vegas -- In search of a bracelet

I've gotta ask you for a favor. Let me go my way here. This truck's my responsibility, and now that the car's hooked up to it it's my responsibility too.

Do you think I'm stupid? Just answer that question first.

Look, I don't know nothing about you, you don't know nothing about me. I don't know if you're stupid, or some kind of genius. All I know is that I need to get out of here, and you got the gun. So I'm asking you for the second time, let me go my way here.

I'm gonna grant you that favor, and I'm gonna expect you to remember it if we ever meet again. But tell me this, are you asking me as a sign of respect, or are you asking because I've got the gun?

Man, the world ain't supposed to work like this. I mean, maybe you don't know that yet. I'm supposed to be able to do my job without having to ask you if I can. That dude is supposed to be able to wait with his car without you ripping him off. Everything is supposed to be different than it is.

So what's your answer?

You ain't got the gun, we ain't having this conversation.

That's what I thought, no gun, no respect. That's why I always got the gun.

--Grand Canyon

LAS VEGAS -- I began my day looking for a WSOP bracelet.

Yeah, yeah. This year's WSOP events were over. But the Dec. 13 issue of Card Player tells where one is available -- Pioneer Loan & Jewelry. Someone likely very much in need of money pawned his vintage-1999 World Series of Poker bracelet.

The article wouldn't say which of the 13 event winners that year pawned it, but it did mention that Mike Matusow has his. Didn't Josh Arieh win his limit bracelet that year? (He's previously told me during an interview two years ago that he has his in a safe deposit box).

So that's two down. The pawn shop is a little bit of a hike from downtown, so lucky I had a rental car. I finally found it, parked my baby Grand Am next to two run down cars with "For Sale" signs in the windows (someone pawned these??) and went inside.

I would say my only real "leak" is memorabilia. Not that I own much of it, but I was hard pressed to come up with reasons why I shouldn't own a 1999 WSOP bracelet. I even came up with a thought that I would gladly sell it back to its original owner, provided I get first rights to buy it back if the owner had to pawn it again.

I even thought it out that I would be willing to divert future bankroll earnings to it, maybe a few hundred a month, until the $2700+ price tag is paid.

But alas. It was not to be. Someone bought it two days earlier.

Two days ago, I still had a chance. I picked up the new Card Player Wednesday night but typically I like to save new issues for the airplane ride home. I just happened to be reading one when I was in Binion's Coffee Shop last night...


Today I donned the young gun, the Sabre-Toothed Lime T-shirt. Not wanting to make any mistakes this time around, I wanted the future Hall of Famer to be playing during a peak time. He's performed well so far, in both limit and NL, winning at the Excalibur, Bally's (twice) and the Flamingo. The Bellagio was too crowded to even attempt playing in this afternoon, but I saw Scotty Nguyen and Men the Master posing with some dude for a picture inside the O's excellent "Snacks" snack bar.

I'm up about $500 for the trip, nearly what I lost in the robbery, which seems so distant now that it's nearly washed away from my mind. The fact that it's so easy to make money playing poker proves to me it's no good to fret over spilled milk. Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, or whoever has the gun. No need to die over something that you can make back if you had three more days to live.

The robbers could have helped themselves by putting away their weapons and learning their starting hands. They could have taken those terrible Emory Game players for months, earning thousands in the process. You know, like Amarillo Slim always said: "You can shear a sheep many times; you can skin it only once."

PS: In about 2-1/2 hours, I'll be 35. Wish a cat a Happy Birthday and throw a chip my way.

Vegas -- Downtown Lights

The town will never be the same. After the Tangiers, the big corporations took it all over. Today it looks like Disneyland. And while the kids play cardboard pirates, Mommy and Daddy drop the house payments and Junior's college money on the poker slots. In the old days, dealers knew your name, what you drank, what you played. Today, it's like checkin' into an airport.

LAS VEGAS -- A pink neon flame flickers and advertises prime rib for The Flame restaurant. Nearby, the Nevada Hotel says it has vacancy.

Only problem is, both the restaurant and hotel have seen much better days. Only the neon signs remain.

It's part of the Neon Museum, an open-air exhibit to Las Vegas' fleeting past, and one of the many things that I love about downtown.

For one thing, it's walkable. Probably nowhere else in the world do you get this kind of density of casinos all on one strip. There's Binions. The Golden Nugget. The Fremont, the Four Queens and on and on.

I love the way Binion's has that saloon-kind of atmosphere. When I first came to Las Vegas, it still had mechanical-reel slots. And I'm not talking about the Double Diamond slots. I'm talking about the old bar-bell-and cherry machines.

I wandered around to the poker room. I didn't find a game but I was happy that it had lots of activity. $2/4 limit was open. No thank you.

I wandered down to the Coffee Shop, which is one of my favorite places to eat in Vegas. I loved how I could get an entire meal for just under $10. On the Strip, my meals have run about $24 a pop.

At the Lady Luck, a bank of slots have replaced the "good" video poker machines that I used to play, right next to the sportsbook, which consists of a giant whiteboard with handwritten notations on it, unlike the ginormous "Mission Control"-style banks of television displays and electronic game readouts.

These days, I spend most of my poker time on The Strip, as that's where most of the traffic is and that's where the fishy games are. But downtown is where I won -- and lost -- my first money. It will always be dear to me and I'm looking forward to the time when it gets its chance to dust itself off and present itself anew.

Friday, December 02, 2005

A digression - The Theory of Hotness (or why I love Impressionism and poker)

Dontcha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?
-Pussycat Dolls

Remember Sammy Jenkins.
-Tattoo in the movie Memento.

LAS VEGAS -- So in the Bellagio's art gallery I finally figured out why I like Impressionist paintings, and perhaps why they have had such appeal over dozens of decades now.

The painters have found a way to present the world, but they've taken the edge off. I mean it's the same arched Japanese bridge, wheat field, or even an image of little girls picking flowers, only a little different.

They're presenting an escape over the rigid lines that dominate the world, at least the way our bodies have been made to collect and interpret data. Everywhere you look, your eyes see harsh, straight lines, doled out as if by ruler, according to the Theory of Nature. (Of course, gravity may have a defining role in this).

But it's these same harsh lines we seek out, in, say, hot women. The neon lights, billboards and magazine pages here are full of these women here in Las Vegas -- they have the longest, straightest lines that can be delivered. Even attractive faces are made up of those lines (think the computer triangles in the analysis of Elizabeth Hurley's face)

With Impressionist paintings, you get a break. The beauty is there, but softer lines have replaced the harsher ones. Your eyes get a break from the rigidity of life.

It's a refreshing result.

I guess it's the same with having a beer or a glass of wine -- the outer peel of life is pulled back and the result is a more refreshing one.

What if your life is too rigid? Then there's a little push-back in our brains that kicks in. In movies I think of Memento, which I just saw with Drew and Mark recently and it was recently explained to me that Leonard the narrator is Sammy Jenkins, the insurance client who develops short-term memory problems and ends up killing his wife with too many insulin injections.

"Remember Sammy Jenkins" is a tattoo on Leonard's hand.

Leonard may remember the old Sammy for all he wants, but that push-back in his brain has kicked in and he chooses not to lead the old, rigid life he used to have. The one that led to the death of his wife.

Instead, his life is a free one, always on a quest: To find and kill the real killer of his wife. It's like he leads a Bluffer's Paradise, subverting even the Theory of Poker by being creative and living in-between the well-defined lines of his world.

I've seen this push-back recently in blogs where people have written that they feel confined in their current Mr. Corporate World existence. Poker, for them (and me) takes the edge off.

In the real world, with its harsh lines of making money to survive, the Job has all kinds of importance. You are what you do, they say. Having a lot of money means you're successful and a great person.

But the push-back in our brains can help counter that. I think of Paul Gaughin, who never was really successful in painting during his life and few contemporary critics even realized his contributions during that time.

But he went against the grain and just did it, did what he loved, day in and day out. Time has since honored his field of work in the history of art.

So remember the Sammy Jenkins in you. It's OK, it's correct to heed your limitations and all the theories with a capital "T." But don't let it suffocate you. Remember also to be yourself. In your poker play and life.

Vegas -- The Cowboy Wore a Fur Coat

Think Garth Brooks as a lemur.

LAS VEGAS -- "Make it $300," the cowboy with the blurry eyes -- eyes that looked like how fish eyes do in a grocery store freezer -- said to the Asian guy to my right.

Then he proceeded to stare directly at him.

Three hundred would have been the Asian guy's entire stack. He thought about it for a while and folded to what I thought was an obvious bluff.

The cowboy raked in the pot at the Bellagio's $2/5 NL game.

"I'm in Las Vegas, bitch," he said on the cell phone before the dealer told him he had to go. "I'm in trouble, bye."

I hadn't intended on sitting at this table. I had wandered up to the Bellagio in the morning -- there was some kind of horrible road construction blocking off lanes on Las Vegas Boulevard near Flamingo and causing tremendous gridlock. So I wasn't able to park in the Paris Las Vegas parking deck like I like to and instead had to "settle" for the Bellagio.

Walking through the Bellagio's lobby always is exciting. It's like that scene in Patriot Games where Jack Ryan is walking through the lobby of the CIA. This is the best and most beautiful casino in Las Vegas and you, you work here.

The poker room only had a few tables going, so I wandered over to the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. They had this Impressionist art exhibit on that the posters said would end on January 8. (Of course, after I paid my $15 admission fee they said it had been extended to April. They do not know yet what's going to replace it in May, all you art lovers).

The exhibit was short and sweet and had many of the masters -- Monet, Gaugin, Pissaro, Renoir and Van Gogh. I wandered through the small gallery thinking this would be a great place to come and untilt. The $15 fee would be much cheaper than a $900 facial any day.

Afterward, I wandered out of the gallery and across to the pool area. Man, it's fucking amazing! I counted at least three pools in the pool villa area. I was tempted to go down and play and post from right there (how cool would that be?) but it was windy and cold.

So I went to play poker.

The cowboy had amassed about $1,000 in chips -- he kept coloring them up to black chips in the $200 max buy-in game. His dead fish eyes were bleary from the drinking.

He kept chasing down hands and eventually lost all his red-chips and got up. But not before spying a blonde with a rack of blue chips headed for a $4/8 table.

"Honey, what game are we playing?"

She said, "What?"

"You and me, what game are we playing?"

Later, she came by and showed off her wedding ring, saying "My husband probably wouldn't like that."

He caught her hand and started talking to her some more.

Anyway, he asked this other cowboy dude to watch his coat when he went to cash his chips and then when he came back I noticed the coat had a nice furry collar.

He put on the coat and I noticed the entire thing was made of fur. Think Garth Brooks as a lemur.

Nobody said shit about the coat, and he wandered away.

I've been pretty much holding my own today, making just a little money at the Excalibur before zooming down the highway back to downtown.

Although the Stratosphere had $25/night rooms, this was only for the weekday. For the weekend, the prices shot up to $80. I found much cheaper rooms downtown.

I haven't stayed in downtown Las Vegas since the early part of the year and it's been a long time since I've been in the Lady Luck. My room is no-nonsense and pretty spacious. I think downtown is the place to be. "Welcome Rodeo Fans," reads a Bud Light banner draped next to a statue of Benny Binion. There are lots of cowboy hats. Hopefully some of them looove poker.

Vegas -- Hunting Cowboys

"It's not so much gambling as it is hunting."
-My mantra to anyone who calls poker gambling.

LAS VEGAS -- I round the corner to Table 24 at the Wynn on Thursday morning and I see ... cowboy hats.

All of a sudden I feel giddy -- the rodeo is in town. I'd feel just as giddy if all of Las Vegas' conventioneers were required to wear shirts that proclaimed they are conventioneers.

Why? Well, it's a matter of practice. Just as I would be dead money trying to make a lasso or ride a bull, no way these guys in hats have as many hands in and plain poker experience as I. They're all fantastically fit doing their jobs; I'm working on my poker belly, doing my job of fish hunting. They have to train, train, train in the ring or else put themselves in danger of being hurt badly. I do the same at the tables.

I'd much rather play poker with guys in hats looking to have a good time than with Internet kids who talk to me about rakeback and $2/4 NL. No, no, no, no, no. That won't do. If I'm going to make money, I'm going to do it the easy way.

"Know why I'm so calm?" I told this guy at the office named Johnny about the Emory Game holdup. "It's all the same to me. Except I don't use a gun."

Unfortunately, I didn't have much time to be giddy at the $4/8 game. Not too long after I sat down, the three cowboys got up.

"Was it a good game?" I asked someone at the table.

"No, they'd call you down with anything. If you had a good hand, they'd pay you off, but they'd see every flop."

Sounds pretty damn good to me.

Give me my KK or give me (real) cowboys.

I've been just a table away most times -- the NL game at the Excalibur. Hopefully this weekend, I'll get a chance to play against some at Binion's downtown. Or I'll have to seek out the Orleans, like I did last year.


On another topic, I think I've found a car that I want to buy. My rental is this sleek, gray Pontiac Grand Am. It is so fucking fast, it's like Clonie kitty. You can be going 75 down Interstate 15 here and punch it and it will practically leap over cars. The acceleration is so smooth.

I'm used to fast cars -- I drove this 6.6-litre Pontiac Trans Am in high school. Sure it was redneck as all get-out, but there wasn't another car in town that was as fast. Big-block cars like that just aren't made like that anymore.

In addition, I have super-quick reflexes and great hand-eye coordination and I've often wondered in another life whether I could have been a race car driver. In the years before the improvised explosive device, I also thought my dream job would be as an embassy driver.

There is nothing better than to be driving at night down The Strip, all the neon lights and casinos whizzing by.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Vegas -- Tell me without sayin' it

For guys like me, Las Vegas washes away your sins. It's like a morality car wash.

LAS VEGAS -- The river comes with an A, making the nut straight a real possiblity against my big blind-special flopped 2 pair with T5o. It's the Bellagio's $4/8 game.

I had been betting the whole way, with the small blind calling and the button, which I immediately had put on a flush draw.

I reach over the table to bet it out after the small blind checks and look at the button. He glances at the A and knocks over two red stacks of chips right onto the floor!

Seriously discouraged, I clench onto the chips and check, waiting for him to bet his straight. I have to wait a little while, because he's picking up a few hundred chips right off the floor.

He checks. I take the pot down, happy that his blunder was accidental and not indicative of a straight.

Playing online often is like playing with blinders, because you can't see how people are reacting to their cards. But in live play, those blinders come off. You can glance ahead of you and behind you and take in tons of information. Who's already selected "Fold to Any Bet" in their minds? Who has a hand and is going to bet it, saving you the trouble of betting it out with nothing?

It's nearly a crime if you haven't read Mike Caro's Book of Tells. So many things in there are still pertinent today.

Here's just a smattering of things I still see in Las Vegas tourist games. Sometimes these observations, just like in my Bellagio story, aren't indicative of anything. But they are good things to pay attention to.

The shaker: You see this a lot with old timers, but young players sometimes display this -- shaky hands when they are about to bet. Usually means a pretty strong hand.

The heartbeat: Also in the strong hand category, you can sometimes see people's necks racing with blood. Older players and especially the not-so-fit can't keep from breathing so heavy that their chest moves up and down.

Gotta go: "OK. I've gotta go home," a player says as he pushes his (usually short) stack all-in. I want to throw up every time I hear someone say this. Once in a while it is a gotta-go hand, like xx. But it's usually a decent hand, if not a monster. Today at the Stratosphere's NL $1/2 game this loose player made the announcement with TT. Some guy called him with J9s and caught a J on the flop.

But tells can be subverted. One time, one of the Sahara's shift supervisors jumped in the NL $1/2 game there. He put in a hefty raise and I called with 88. Flop was x82. He bet it out, I smooth-called.

Then a 2 came on the turn, giving me a boat. He bet it out, then I reraised him all-in. I turned and stared at him as an anti-tell. Typical tells run with the premise that "strong means weak" -- or you act strong when you're weak. Often bluffers will just stare at you, trying to intimidate you.

He thought about it, glanced up at me and called for all of his chips.

UPDATE: It's been a pretty good day for the US Postal team shirt. I'm up about $130, from $4/8 limit play at the Bellagio and Wynn and NL $1/2 at the Stratosphere. I'm also up a few dollars having spent the last hour composing this and 4-tabling NL $1-1 on Eurobet. The rake is lower and there's no tips needed.

I also had an unexpected online windfall -- Gaming Club Poker finally cleared a withdrawal -- actually a series of several -- that had been withdrawn months ago. It had been so long I thought the money was already in my Neteller account and hadn't taken account of it for my bankroll. It was a little more than the amount I had lost in the robbery. Just like the saying goes, the Lord works in mysterious ways.

Vegas- Room with a view

LAS VEGAS -- I'm here at the Stratosphere, the first time I've ever stayed in this Space Needle-like hotel. For $25/night (weekdays), why not, I thought?

And so far, it's pretty pleasant. My 15th floor room overlooks the strip. The Wynn is right in the middle of the view, you can see the Stardust and Circus Circus. Even the aging Sahara looks very pleasant. You can see the ring of low mountains that surrounds the area.

Appropriately enough for this desert area, the hotel windows have a moon-mission foil tint to them, which I like. No need for others to see the yokel (me) amazed at the view and typing away on his laptop.

I was so tired by the time I checked-in (after midnight) that I just went to sleep and woke up, eight hours later. Not the most optimum poker-playing schedule by any means. But it's a vacation and I'll make it work.

I did make some money on Eurobet last night at the airport, however! Yay! Mark likes to have winning days. I deal more in volume and (hopefully) winning trends. All the stuff that has happened is like losing yardage. But I'll get there, past the robbery, past the downturn, just by moving the chains.

I think that's why you'll never hear me talking much about "being on a run" or "in a zone" or "on a streak." I am -- and you are -- just at a point in a curve and the only meaningful thing to me is that I'm continuing to go up or -- going down. I think of that old board game "Chutes and Ladders." No need to expressly celebrate when you've rolled a shortcut. There are plenty of times you'll have to move your marker back and the only time you can safely cheer is when you've won.

On most of the flight I was flipping through Matt Matros' book, "The Making of a Poker Player," which Mark lent me. I think I'm enjoying it a lot more than Mark did. Pertinent to me was the part about how he lost $900 in a session in the fishy Bellagio $15/30 game and it took him a while to recover his bankroll before he went back to play it. But the message is he was able to go back. I'll return too, in MacArthur style.

Here's Mark's review of the book from his old blog. Also here is another related blog on Mattros and game theory.

I like his thoughts on tournaments and NL play. I like reading about his poker journey. I don't agree when he compares the Bellagio's poker room to Wrigley and Binion's to a minor league field because there's so much history at the former Horseshoe.

Binion's is like playing in an old, great stadium. Sure, the "major league" games are no longer there or at the Golden Nugget, as Bobby Baldwin talks about in the original Super/System, but playing there really connects you to the deep, modern history of poker.