Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Grinding it out

Today I'm grinding it out at PokerRoom, belovedly called Sucky Room (a nickname penned because Mark hates the software there), working on the 10 percent to $100 Super Bowl bonus.

The $5/10 table I'm at is a complete dud, while the other, a $3/6 table, is weak-tight enough that I could stay all day. Which, maybe I will. I'm off today to allow me to do five days in the box starting Friday, leading up to my Hawaii trip. In the box like in Cool Hand Luke. Midnight to 8 a.m. graveyard shifts.

I love busting out short stacks in limit. I'm not sure what it is about ol' sucky room, but the tables are very gentle. I may have to re-examine playing here more often for rakeback at sucky's sister site Eurobet.

I'm happy to be playing more limit again, the L.A. trip really showed me where I was more than rusty. Recently I've been picking off easy prey at Full Tilt's NL .50/1 tables and any kind of game at Totalbet's NL tables in the Crypto system. Have also happily discovered there are some easy to clear WR sites from scurvy's blackjack site list. Money earned is money earned.

The other night I started to watch the first disc of the Plaza's Ultimate Poker Challenge from 2004, thanks to Netflix. I immediately liked the very natural way in which it was shot. You could tell that the chips were clay and, coming from a weekend of play in Los Angeles where most of the chips were plastic, that made me really want to be back in Las Vegas again.

It looks like I may get that chance to go back. Sham has some time off and, if my boss allows it, we may be headed back out to Vegas the first weekend in March. And/or going to Tunica the very last weekend. Whether I'll get to go is up in the air, as I'm already taking off days in the middle of the month for the wedding in New Orleans. We'll see.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Poker in 3:49?

So Lou Krieger mentions on his blog an interesting development that I hadn't expected would happen anytime soon: the possibility that Harrah's Cherokee Casino would be allowed to have live poker.

Currently they aren't allowed to have live cards and even the blackjack done there is on a video-style monitor.

He quotes an article from the North Carolina wire of the wire service I work for. The original article is actually from the Raleigh, N.C., News & Observer. Looks like so far, the North Carolina governor and the Cherokee Indians are working on an agreement.

Cherokee is the closest of gambling destinations from my house, being only 3 hours, 49 minutes away, according to Mapquest. It would certainly make a decision easier for me to jump in the car and drive out there if I was bored with the online tables.

Doug has a funny story of one of his friend's love of Harrah's Cherokee, that one day she was tired of being stuck in Atlanta's Interstate 75 traffic and instead of turning off on her exit, she made a beeline for the casino, three hours away. Maybe casino planners can say offering poker will add to Atlanta's traffic mitigation efforts???

That said, the real spice of a poker trip is variety and until other casinos are built in the area, Cherokee, N.C., won't have anything on the poker plexes up and running in Tunica and Biloxi, each more than 6 hours away by car. In 8 hours or so you can reach the Tampa/St. Petersburg area for plenty of more poker and dog track action.

Lou mentions that it's a sign that interest in poker hasn't declined. I think it also indicates the growing mainstream acceptance of the game, particularly in a Bible Belt state. I only hope we're not on the dog side of the poker boom bell curve right now.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Thinking like a CEO

So yesterday I was roped into having to listen to a rather dry conference call on the fourth-quarter earnings of a major company based here in Atlanta. Of course, everything goes into the poker lens, especially when I'm bored, so I obviously found quite a few parallels:

Maintain what's best for the customer: Just like everywhere else, the customer is No. 1 (unless you happen to be sitting behind the desk of one of the largest online poker rooms in the world. LOL). And what does that prime customer of yours -- the fishiest of fish -- want? They want to be loved when they suckout on you. Fulfill that drum major instinct they have. Stroke, stroke, repeat. DO NOT tap on the glass.

Focus on low costs: Your profits will be better if you don't have to spend a gazillion dollars just to get there. Aggressive is good. But over-aggressive play might be spending too much for the win. Tailor bets. Learn when to conserve bets.

Outsource: Why give all the bets to the Americans, many of whom are quite experienced at this thing called poker. Seek out business opportunities in faraway lands, such as the Europeans in the Crypto system and elsewhere. You know you're at the tip of the spear when a currency converter link is right next to your bookmarked blackjack strategy site, for quick reference. Doubling up in British pounds is a much better feeling than playing for Greenbacks.

Invest: Try new business opportunities. If you're a solid tourney player, seek out some cash games for a new revenue stream. Likewise, if you're a grinder, play some tourneys to mix it up. Who knows, your new investment may be your company leader by the end of the year. Seek out scurvy's myriad of casino bonuses if you haven't done so.

Divest: Sure, invest in good bonuses elsewhere but look through your stats and divest yourself of poker sites that aren't adding to the bottom line. It could be the sites don't have enough traffic for continually profitable, fishy play or the players there are more aggressive than you need to tangle with on a daily basis. Trim the fat and you'll see profits rise.

Keep real-time data: I was going to say here, you should have a quarterly earnings report just like the big companies do, but you should really at all times know what your profits and losses are and more importantly, where your bankroll is.

Have an outlook for the new year: Have a good estimate of where your bankroll will be this quarter, next, and even for the new year. You can warn yourself and others that your future projections in no way are indicative of your ultimate performance. But setting a goal is important and realizing potential shortfalls in profit that didn't happen last year (such as the possibility that some Web sites are trimming back the lucrative bonuses they've had in the past) will help you evaluate things better if your poker year this time around doesn't match what you did last year.

Keep your golden parachute handy: And remember, if things don't work out so well at one table, there's always another to exploit. After all, you're the friggin' CEO!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Avatars of action

They'd traded in their horses for helicopters, and went tear-assing around 'Nam looking for the shit...
-Apocalypse Now

AUSTELL, Ga. -- So as I pull up into the neighborhood of cookie-cutter houses -- I mean, every fucking one looked exactly the same - who would want to live this way -- and almost immediately I could tell the house I'm looking for.

It's the one completely four-corners wrapped in yellow police tape. "Caution: DO NOT CROSS," it says over and over, as if you would want to.

A suspected murder-suicide, where police believe this guy plugs his gf multiple times in the head, puts one in the head of a small kid in a high chair, then goes upstairs and shoots himself.

The SWAT team comes out. Not hearing anything, they breach the sliding glass door and then find the bodies and take the little kid to the hospital. No one hears a thing.

Of course, all this was long-since over by the time I get there. You can't tell this place is any different than anywhere else in the pop-tart community except for the police tape. And a set of plywood covering what used to be the screen door in the back.

I often wonder why I'm not a crazier player than I am. Many times I'm used to this, times where you're often way behind instead of being way ahead. It's a rush to make your way to the river, have your story, all the pieces needed, in by deadline.

Around the corner from the house the TV trucks are already there. They are avatars of action, wherever their giant towers are arcing up, you can guarantee something is going on. You usually don't want to see them in your neighborhood. Sometimes the fish try to eat each other. Once, I crossed a parking lot with Giovanna after lunch and got pounced by a local crew doing some man-on-the-street interview. We got to swim away after I told the TV blonde that we also were media. I can only imagine it's uncomfortable sometimes for the uninitiated.

After the Star Wars movies (the original trilogy), I read some of the books that followed and loved the concept of the Imperial ships with the gravity-well projectors, the ones that prevented renegade ships from making the jump to hyperspace. You see these trucks and you get the feeling that the same thing is happening here -- everything is being sucked toward them.

In one hour early, leave nearly three hours late. My day comes and goes. I sorely want to run but that's an impossibility now. The only thing close to poker is chatter, when Giovanna asks me "Is such a thing possible?" when I tell her about Ryan's big win.

Man, I'm only two days out from having left L.A. and the comforts of poker. But I feel like I never went in the first place. That's the second worst thing about a vacation. The worst is knowing that soon you'll have to come back, start plucking away at your job and join the rest of the On-Air cav and start looking for the shit.

Random thoughts at 1:45 a.m.

I know why you're here, Neo. I know what you've been doing... why you hardly sleep, why you live alone, and why night after night, you sit by your computer. You're looking for him. I know because I was once looking for the same thing. And when he found me, he told me I wasn't really looking for him. I was looking for an answer. It's the question that drives us, Neo. It's the question that brought you here. You know the question, just as I did.
What is the Matrix?
The answer is out there, Neo, and it's looking for you, and it will find you if you want it to.
-The Matrix

It's 2 a.m./The fear is gone/I'm sitting here waiting/The gun's still warm/Thinking my connection/Is tired of taking chances...
-Golden Earring

Slowly I'm crawling back up the hill. Pot after little pot. Completely took a guy's $17 buy-in after flopping the nut straight on a Full Tilt $1/2 table. I'm not embarrassed to play $1/2... OK, well it's a little embarrassing (but the table was fishy). Flopped the nut flush in 6-max $2/4 on the same site, betting out the monsters like Phil Laak always instructs Jennifer Tilly and still getting action.

Inexplicably, took a guy's buy-in on a NL $.50/1 6-max in Ultimate Bet. I had T7s for a pair of tens. He had Q4, for a pair of fours. I pot-bombed the entire way and he paid me off for $37 on the river. Not sure what that's about. Lost a bunch back when a shortstack raised me all-in when I had AK with a K on flop and he had K9 for two-pair. Couldn't tell if shortstack was running the 4-flush draw. Must learn to fold...

Saw the second half of a downloaded Tournament of Champions yesterday. Watching it made me wonder why the pros didn't like to raise in the sb when it was 3-handed and heads-up? I know we're only seeing part of the feed but still.

Was looking through my bookshelf for my old copy of The Art of War for a future post on bankroll. Why do so many people not have one? It's crazy to gamble without a chip army and when you're in the middle of it all, you should be going by the Powell Doctrine of Overwhelming Force. Taking a shot is what Custer did at Little Big Horn. I think there's an M and Q of bankroll, just as there is one in tournament play and what your M is affects how you'll play.

When I was in the auto shop, I got a call back from the editor in Portland. I don't know what my chances are, but I'll probably know sometime around or after the Hawaii trip. I think the interview went well. I was kind of taken by surprise by the call, in the middle of a stereo shop, so much of my answers were by rote. I'll make a good pr guy someday. If I get the job, I'm not looking forward to crossing the 6,000-foot Siskyiou Pass in mid-February along the Oregon/California border. And I will hit every poker room along the way. Tunica. Oklahoma. Las Vegas. Los Angeles. Trip may take two weeks.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

OTP (outside the perimeter) trip report - low content

STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. -- So as a city dweller who lives inside Atlanta's core neighborhoods, I ventured OTP, or outside the Interstate 285 perimeter, today to get a new car stereo.

Really no big deal. A more lived-in section of town outside the city. Lots of closed down businesses, including a Chevrolet dealership. Aren't those things typically money-making mints?

Anyway, they told me it would take about 45 minutes for my car stereo to be installed, so I decided to take a walk. I had intended to hole up in a fast food restaurant nearby and play poker but just wasn't able to.

Like any sprawling area, no sidewalks. But a well-worn dirt path alongside the busy road. First thing I saw was this scraggly-hair blonde walking toward me. She had a full on shiner below her left eye. I just walked past.

Next up, the strip mall where the fast food restaurant was. One of those malls anchored with a cineplex. But one that's no longer functioning. I walked into the Dollar Maniac, which seemed to specialize on little cheap figurines. A small shelf of Valentine's Day treats. There also was an automatic nose clipper, but that one was more than a dollar, $1.89.

The next store was a Chinese restaurant that specialized in "New York Style" food. I've never seen so many different variations of deep-fried chicken wings. At my count, there were 12 variations, from buffalo wings, to BBQ wings, to sesame chicken wings. You look at that selection and wonder about the country's obesity epidemic.

The nearby grocery store was stocked full of these Thanksgiving-style cured hams. The frozen food section had all kinds of biscuits you could buy. I wandered through the Valentine's Day candy section, but was a little confused when it seamlessly blended with the dog treat/food aisle.

I bought a few things -- grapes, bread, some cheese and was completely retarded at the self-check out aisle. I felt badly and apologized profusely to the grocery store lady who helped me, but everyone was in the same boat.

I trudged back to the radio shop where I'm waiting for my stereo. I've been hesitant to put any money into my 15-year-old car, but it's still running well and a working stereo is one of those things that helps with those 6-hour drives to Tunica.

I'm not saying this is one of those story of the Buddha life-changing experiences. But it's plus-EV to get out of your comfort zone once in a while.

Live from the Dragon

Very few people can be totally ruthless. It isn't easy, it takes more strength then you might believe.
-Enter the Dragon

Greetings from Peking Dragon, affectionately known as "The Dragon." It's the place where traditionally Mark and I would have a pre-game meal before the original Emory Game. You go with what works, so we were here quite often.

I'm glad to be back in Atlanta and even better is the fact that I brought some of that Cali weather here. It's 55 degrees right now, good enough for T-shirts and shorts and I did all my errands today on foot in running shoes and I just climbed on my bike for the short ride here.

One of my errands today was depositing my live game cash back into the poker account. With the Hawaii trip in two weeks, it's more than likely I won't be playing at any poker room until New Orleans/Biloxi in March. So it might as well be generating interest while the cat brigades sit.

Today's weather was unlike what we had yesterday -- a lot of rain and cloud cover that delayed my flight from San Francisco here by 3 hours. At the end of it all, through the rain and limited visibility, the United captain made a bad-ass running landing to the deck, probably the fastest one that I ever experienced, like she half expected to have to jump back up and do it over again. (One time, on my last night in the Portland, Ore. area, the pilot landed through the rain on the cross-wind runway, on his second attempt -- the first try wasn't right and we dove back into the air for another try).

I have mixed feelings about my recent downturn but at least now, on the third time around, I have lots of experience. All you have to do is grit your teeth and crawl, crawl, crawl. It's odd, though, like some kind of bad spell of weather -- looks like other bloggers are going through similar things right now.

One thing though is that bankroll-wise, I'm flying at a higher altitude than in the past. With the downturn, I'm definitely flying lower, but not worried about hitting the ground.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Los Angeles -- Poker Palaces

If I were a tenth as lucky as you, I wouldn't have to use three-quarters of my brain.
-Seat 7 to Seat 9, $9/18 hold'em, Commerce Casino

Everytime I see someone with a lot of chips, they're like 'I'm down, I'm down.' I'm like, dude, how many chips did you end up blowing to be that far down?
-Seat 3, $8/16 hold'em, Hawaiian Gardens

LOS ANGELES -- What happens when poker is the main gambling game you can spread in your state?

The answer is you have ginormous palaces of poker, huge flagships of places to play that dwarf just about everything Las Vegas has to offer.

This trip has been a great one -- the weather has been consistently warm (as soon as I got to my rental car, I was like 'Do I want to wear shorts? HELL YEAH I want to wear shorts!' and I went to change clothes).

At Commerce right now they have the L.A. Poker Classic (which absinthe won the first event for a more than $100,000 payout). So the tables have been pretty busy. The first room you walk into is purely high limit - $100/200 hold'em and up. We saw Cyndy Violette there on Friday. She looks a lot prettier in person than she does on TV or in pictures.

Then you walk into a whole 'nother ginormous room and that's the poker room for lower limits. Right away Sham and I saw differences from what we're used to. For example, the $1 fee for the jackpot each hand is taken out right away from the small blind. So if you "chop" with the big blind, you're automatically out $1 if you're the sb.

The service is pretty decent. There are servers with menus who walk around and you can flag them down for food. The prices aren't too bad (for example, Commerce has this overnite All American breakfast for $2 that lasts until 9 a.m.). And generally, I like being able to eat at the table.

For games like $6/12, $8/16 and $9/18, they are played with $2 or $3 chips instead of $5s and $1s like in Las Vegas. So you order up whole racks of $2s and $3s.

Commerce seemed to have the best game selection of all and the play everywhere was donktastic, although the suckouts vastly nibbled away at my bankroll this weekend. I also liked the Bicycle Casino for its game selection and general niceness (although Sham and I didn't like the Jade Garden restaurant -- buffalo wings with no buffalo sauce and looking like they were burned beyond recognition and no sane person should order a Club sandwich in what pretty much looks like a Chinese restaurant).

Hustler's poker room reminded me of the nice modern poker rooms in Las Vegas. I love the fact that Larry Flynt loves poker and has his own casino. I liked the general atmosphere of Hawaiian Gardens. Normandie Casino had that Golden Nugget/downtown Las Vegas look. The games were okay there.

This evening we had dinner with Ryan (who in a strange 7 degrees of separation knows Giovanna) and some of the other bloggers. It was great to hang out with them and makes me really want to attend a blogger trip to Las Vegas, elsewhere in the future.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Dim Sum in San Fran

SAN FRANCISCO -- I'm in the San Francisco airport now, having just completed a nice 5-hour leg from Atlanta here. Have a connection to L.A. of course. Reluctantly flew on an A319 (it was a free ticket).

A little bit of that swaying I mentioned in a previous post last year, but nothing to be freaked out about. (CC, at least you didn't have to see In Her Shoes twice -- it was one of the two airplane movies on the way over. LOL).

As soon as I got here, ate some dim sum here at the airport. The dim sum wasn't great by most standards but it was a break from the bagels, unidentifiable sub sandwiches, burgers, etc. that you find in most airports. I love my home airport, but the airport here seems so much nicer, a more user-friendly blend of shops and commerce.

Very eager to get to L.A. and play a little. Will be great to hang out with Sham. Ironic that I'm more likely to hang out with him on the other side of the country than back in the ATL.

It'll be good to get this past week behind me. I've pulled out of Martins poker, having lost about $550 in just a few days. I made it to the 200 Euro bonus (600 points) but will not stick around for the whole 3,000 points needed for the $600 bonus. There are hardly any games. This is not a bad beat blog, but you'd be amazed how many times a 2.5 percent chance to win can bite you in the ass. Did I say skullfucking? It really was.

Scurvy mentioned you should have an anti-flak vest. It was about as useful as having one in Tal Afar. Sometimes you do lose Abrams tanks to IEDs. But it doesn't make you feel very good when that happens.

Yesterday I spent my day in an old black church, part of a pep rally of support for the former mayor who is now in federal court on corruption charges. It was a very simple building -- whitewashed cinderblocks, four ceiling fans right out of the box, wooden paneling behind the pulpit, a wrought iron welded cross right on top of the roof. Painted over instead of expensive stained glass windows. Black students in the 1960s would meet there to discuss civil rights issues.

People sang and clapped and prayed for this guy, who I talked to later in the day (such is the power of the wire). No idea how it's going to turn out, but the feds win a lot of their cases out here.

But all of that is behind me. Man, it is so beautiful out here. Wish I had time to slip out and find a card room. But soon enough, soon enough.

Congrats to absinthe for ending yesterday 18th in a 1,000 person tourney at Commerce. Play continues tonight. Now he can buy us a drink!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

L.A. Bloggers assemble?

Hey- just a word out there. Mark from "The Surly Poker Gnome", Sham and I will be at Commerce from Friday to Monday. Dude has a wedding he has to go to Satty and I'm going to be playing the tables the whole time.

We've both heard from people wanting to meet up, one guy told Mark he could meet up Sunday night. Anyway, let either of us know if you'd like to meet up. My email is kurokitty@gmail.com.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

New Orleans bound ....

... but first, a trip to L.A.

Only one more work day to go -- I'll complete seven days in a row tomorrow -- and I'll be free to go to L.A.

It's been one of those months where it seems like the trip would never come; it seems like forever since I started off the year in Atlantic City.

But now I'm going.


Yesterday I nailed the lid on my New Orleans trip to see the Girl-With-the-Strawberry-Blonde-Hair get married. I'm glad she's still having it there, with her family, it's good for the city. It should be interesting to go back -- last time I was there was at the end of May, when I had my first large downturn. I was up only $475 for the year, which put my bankroll around $3,100 or so. How time flies.

I'm ready for Harrah's New Orleans again, where I'm -$77 career (Biloxi/Gulfport is the only other area that I'm down money career in live casinos). Last time I stayed in the Garden District, way too far away from the action.

This time, thanks to great prices on Expedia (and shy tourists?) I've booked a room at the 5-star Windsor Court Hotel, which is nearly across the street from the casino. Lessons learned: When the city you're in reverts back to Deadwood, it's best to be as close as you can to the city SWAT team's command post.

I'm going to fly there over St. Paddy's Day weekend, as soon as I land, I'm going to point my rental car in the direction of Biloxi and check out the newly opened poker rooms there. I thought about staying the night there, but New Orleans is New Orleans.


Have been playing PLO, sometimes shorthanded recently. It can be pretty profitable, because I think a lot of people don't really know how to play and shorthanded PLO seems nothing like shorthanded hold'em. For starters, nearly 1/2 the deck is dealt out in shorthanded PLO table. Even in full ring hold'em, you're only looking at 18 cards dealt out.

At times, I feel like the game is much more boring than Hold'em, because by the river, many times it feels like a game of the mortal nut -- either you have it or your opponent, who's raising into you, does. I feel like I might have to start playing people heads-up to start getting more ambiguity out of the game. With hold'em that's never a worry.

So maybe it won't be the game of the future, after all.

Monday, January 16, 2006

That work thing that I do

And every now and then I think about my own death and I think about my own funeral. And I don't think of it in a morbid sense. And every now and then I ask myself, "What is it that I would want said?" And I leave the word to you this morning.

If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. And every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize —- that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards —- that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school.

I'd like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others.

I'd like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.

I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question.

I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry.

And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked.

I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison.

I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.
-Martin Luther King Jr., excerpt, "Drum Major Instinct" speech

It's one of the best free things to do in Atlanta.

When I first moved here more than three years ago, of course, I didn't know anybody but I had a pair of running shoes that weren't afraid to travel. I'd park on the grounds of The Carter Center and run a few miles on the bike path over to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. It's always good as a runner to know where there's restrooms and ice cold water, especially in Hotlanta's summers.

Across the street from the NHS site is the King Center, where King's tomb is, outside in the middle of a shallow reflecting pool. Next door down is his church, Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he did all of his sermons.

You can go inside and sit on the plain wooden pews, admire the stained glass and listen to his sermons, piped in through speakers.

It's like being in an old ball park and being instantly connected to the past.

Today I had that same feeling at work, helping cover the MLK observance there. We had a reporter on site, I was in the bureau, entering in quotes and helping file the reporter's story. An ability to multitable, er multitask, is a prerequisite.

One of the perks of the job is that you get front seat to all kinds of oratory. Unlike what's on TV, most of the stuff dished out by attorneys in courtrooms is pretty boring.

But following in the tradition of King, the preachers here can sing. And much of it seemingly off the cuff, without a lot of preparation. (That's one of the interesting things of Bill Clinton, btw. He can fly in from the other side of the world, maybe scratch out a few notes and give rousing, complex talks without depending on much at all).

Today there was the Rev. Floyd Flake, a former Congressman, who had this little side-to-side action that reminded me of Jordan in the zone. There was Charles Steele of Southern Christian Leadership Conference, announcing (again) that King's old group
is not dead and talking about his plans for the world.

Even our mayor, Shirley Franklin, went on a tear, imploring Atlantans and Georgians to step up because we are the keepers of King's legacy. There was some talk that Shirley is working the public up to higher offices. A good mayor is even more special, though. She is the leader, the captain of a ship called Atlanta. As Kirk said in Star Trek: Generations, never get promoted.

Working in the news is so interesting, it's like a backstage pass to the world. You're embedded with soldiers (a predecessor of the company that I work for was embedded with Custer at Little Big Horn), with society.

I've enjoyed talking to Josh Arieh about his table image, Matt Hilger on why he hates Tunica and Greg Raymer's thoughts on badugi and his impropmptu bashing of the rock 'n roll lifestyle of poker and Antonio Esfandiari.

Only Arieh's comments ever saw print, but I think I'll try to turn this blog in the future by interviewing these people who I have on my speed dial, and others.

This weekend I was called out to an emergency news conference at a certain federal health agency headquartered here in Atlanta. As I was escorted around the campus, a funny thing hit me -- the difference between government facilities and casinos is the guns. In Las Vegas, in some of the richest casinos in the world, I'll see plenty of security people who weren't armed. But every single person I saw at this agency who could reasonably carry a gun was packing. The gub'mint does not mess around.

The last time I was at this place, it was a roundtable with the agency's director and her boss, a cabinet-level secretary. It was his first time to meet the beat reporters and being at the small table was like a scene from Rounders. There was the accomplished doctor-turned-director. A former governor now secretary. There was a colleague who had just released a book on this agency and next to me was this another great reporter who looks like a soccer-mom but once listed a fellowship application's line for "Awards" with simply: two Pulitzers. Those things are harder to get than bracelets. Hmmm. I wonder who the "sucker" was at the table? LOL.

I guess I'm writing this because I've read lots of stuff from people who play poker and don't love what they do at times. Certainly my job is not the perfect marraige, either.

But there are times like these, today, that being paid to pay attention to what's happening in the world is priceless. It certainly isn't for money (which makes me think is why I have a hobby that is totally focused on money).

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a time for reflection and when I put everything out on the table, I find things aren't so bad as I think they are. My bankroll is good. I love what I do for a living. I love this city that I live in. I'm running again.

And I'll be in Hawaii in three weeks. What else is there???

Saturday, January 14, 2006

In dire need of a hobby

So I'm just sitting here, three or four tabling on Martinspoker, working off the three Euro bonuses that ScurvyDog mentioned in one of his recent posts. After lots of shorthanded NL play in the Crypto system, I'll jump at any chance to play European players online.
Like many new sites, Martins doesn't seem to have a great deal of traffic. The 6-max NL games are so-so (not like the virtual fish bins you can find spread throughout the Crypto-verse) and it's been great fun playing Omaha with people who come from places in Sweden that I only recognize as names of products in my nearby Ikea store.
That said I don't recognize anyone from the core systems and I wonder if having "Atlanta" pop-up beside my name is like having a target placed on me. No matter. If you want to call me down with 83o when I have AA, I highly encourage it.
Today I've also been prepping the final details of the L.A. trip. I can't believe it's less than a week now. Yay! Really helpful has been Card Player.com's map-based poker room directory. Their old one just gave a listing of places underneath the state, which was not helpful for states like California full of cardrooms.
I'm looking at eight places I'll hit for the chips. CC had a great recent review of the Bicycle poker room and I can't wait to play some no-limit there.
But I'm really looking forward to playing live limit. It's what I missed the most about not going to Tunica and it'll be neat to see Mark and Sham in action.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Was it ever in doubt?

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

So, on this drizzling day, I've decided I won't go to Tunica after all.

I have the next two days off and I'd really entertained the thought of jumping in the car and going to Tunica, just to see what the craziness is like. Mark, Sham and I are going to be in Los Angeles near the end of the month when the major tournaments happen in Tunica.

In the end, I couldn't justify spending 13 hours in a car (round trip travel) for one night of play. I thought about going to Biloxi, but I'm pretty much going to combine that visit in March when I go to see the girl-with-the-strawberry-blonde-hair get married in New Orleans.

That should be fun and I'm glad she's still getting married in her hometown, as planned before Katrina. Plus it will be good to exact some revenge on the poker rooms there. I played poker in six different cities last year and New Orleans was the only place I lost money (-$71).

Like Mark, the money has just been falling off the online tree, especially at Ultimate Bet, a site that I traditionally have not associated with fishiness. But the NL shorthanded tables are something to be seen. Last night a guy bet half his stack in a .50/$1 NL game with a board of K73. I reraised all-in, considering I had top set. He didn't even blink about calling. Later, when I dissected the hand history, he had JTo. Go figure.

I don't consider it running good, because to me that implies that it's not normal to do so. Instead, I don't even think of it at all, more like that famous Josh Arieh line "Was it ever in doubt?" It's nice to see the online roll accumulate.

Yesterday afternoon, when my new Air Pegs were severely contorting my right foot, I sort of felt like there was a parallel between running pain and downturn. Pain usually is a good thing in athletics, because it often is a warning signal to pay attention to. In this case, it takes about 70 miles before I break in a new pair of running shoes and those 70 miles are always painful. (Kind of like the "Check Engine" lights that always appear, but are ignored, in Mark's cars. LOL)

Anyway, the pain is like a poker downturn because, despite it, you really have to stay the course. If you alter the dynamics of your stride to avoid the pain, you can really fuck up your legs or feet because overcompensating is one sure way to get injured in a totally different way. You have to ask yourself if the pain really bothers you and if you can just concentrate on what you are doing. If so, like in poker, you'll do fine. If the pain is too severe, or you're distracted as hell, it's better to pull over to the rail.

Eventually you'll find some medium that will keep you going -- running a little bit less, going back to your uncool old shoes. But it's hard to imagine you'd ever stop walking completely. Same goes for poker, I think.

And when I'm running good, I hardly ever think of it that way. I'm too busy trying to pass the guy in front of me. :)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Hawaii bound

I find I'm so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it's the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend, and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.
-The Shawshank Redemption

Looks like I'm staying put in Atlanta for the time being. I learned on our union's listserv that there's an opening in our Milwaukee bureau because one of their staffers is being transferred to Las Vegas.

Oh, well. I'd been excited because I had received an email Friday that the boss out there in LV had been trying to get in touch with me. We'd already met and talked in person, so I was wondering what he wanted, of course hoping for a job offer. Guess I know now...

Seemingly to prove there is some kind of cosmic balance in the universe, so far (knock on wood) it's like the Poker Gods are trying to make it up to me. Thanks to the newly replenished bankroll, I played my first online $2/4 NL (6-max) today on Full Tilt. I really wasn't used to the betting limits and was playing terribly. Yet voila! I made a nut flush on the turn and took away a $120 pot to end up for the session.

I'm not sure if that position, covering casinos for the wire, was the best job for me. All I feel is I will end up out there.

As another example of cosmic balance, I'm headed out to Hawaii next month on one of the cheapest fares I've ever seen -- $318 r/t from Atlanta to Honolulu. I just checked on Travelocity, and a similar trip now costs $1,500.

For all you Miles Whores out there, that's about 28 frequent flier miles per dollar spent on fare, which is like getting a $200 bonus for a 5x WR burn. At the going rate of $.02/frequent flier mile, the cashback equivalent is $180, or more than half the price of the 9,000-plus mile ticket.

Plus, it's cheaper than many of my trips to Las Vegas! My cheapest Honolulu fare was from Little Rock a few years ago -- $360 r/t.

But it all makes sense. All I needed in the end was an excuse to fly back to my personal retreat. Not getting the LV job qualifies. I'll be thinking of that when I see how many times I can make up that fare busting fish between now and then. And when I'm sipping Mai Tais on the beach.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Cruisin in his 5.0

In a world full of people, only some want to fly/isn't that crazy?

Just taking a break right now. Finished up a day full of cat makes hand, cat loses hand and then cat makes nut, busting all yokels in the process. Made two boats on the river after flopping sets, getting raised by straights on the turn. Also flopped a straight and then made a straight flush on the river, getting plenty of action in the process.

Went running, still is a pain starting back up again but I think all the biking helped strengthen my legs. Have way more endurance than I should. Plus it's fun to run in new running shoes.

Am so glad the weekend is here, I'm kind of getting over a cold that I'm pretty sure I got from someone seated next to me on the plane. Happened to me going outbound on the last Vegas trip and this time to A.C. Oh, well.

Mark arrived OK in Hawaii, found out that broadband cards do work there and bought one. His desktop computer arrived as well. And he's living in housing provided (temporarily) for him and driving a rental Mustang. In Hawaii of all places!

Talking to him has brought back lots of stuff about Hawaii that you know pretty much when your entire family is from a place, ala Bourne Identity (pidgin as a second language, LOL).

I've never thought of living there, though. It's mainly a retreat for me, a place 4,000 miles away you can disappear in a farmhouse, in a redwood forest, on a volcano, amid growing numbers of tourists and traffic.

It's a place that contains some of the most spectacular things I've ever seen in my life, lava flowing into the ocean two feet away from you, creating dramatic steam and knowledge of the danger -- if the hardened crust you're standing on ever collapsed, you'd be so fucked.

And places that are retrospective for me -- the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor and the Pali Highway Tunnel, which I ran to on a 14-mile whim after hearing my uncle's brothers once did it in high school. And on the Big Island, the place where Capt. James Cook was stoned to death when the locals found out he was less than a god. It's always impressed upon me that you might end up somewhere you'd never expect, such as on a foreign island far from home, outside a hotel in Memphis, on a street in Iraq. Nothing is guaranteed.

The good thing about having friends who live where your retreats are is that it's more likely you'll retreat more often. I'd like to eat again in those great Japanese restaurants on Waikiki, re-read the inspiring mosaic mural depicting the Pacific's great World War II battles at Punchbowl, basically the Arlington National Cemetery of the West. To walk through that strange redwood forest high on a mountainside in Maui, to eat a plate lunch on the shore of Hana Bay and to see another million-dollar sunset from my grandparents' home in Maui.

Can poker wait? I hope so.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Clapping in the Crown Room Club

CINCINNATI -- OK. I know Delta's Crown Room Club is all about decorum, but sometimes I can't help myself.

I'm playing NL $100 6-max on PartyPoker, using the Poker Player's Alliance bonus, just waiting for my flight to Atlanta. In the old days, I'd have to hole up in the Crown Room's cubicle farm business area and use dialup. But now with the broadband card, I can play anywhere.

My back is to a big set of windows overlooking a beautiful Boeing 767 (Tail number N373DA for the curious). I'm four-tabling Party right now. I just call this guy's raise to $5 with my QQ and flop is:

Q73, all black.

Guy bets out $5, I make it $15. He makes it $50 and I'm like uh-oh. This is not good. But at the same time, it's shorthanded and what are the chances he's made his flush?

So I'm all in for $201.

He thinks and thinks, then calls with his AA. I don't say anything, but I'm a bit embarrassed by my clapping. I don't look up at all and just continue playing. The world continues as if nothing happened.

Online play is a curious world. During this brief stopover, I was down $90 right off the bat, losing hand after hand to yokels who just had better cards. Then I doubled up off a guy when I flopped the A-high flush and he had 62s. He kept raising and eventually he was all-in.

At about the same time, I committed my KK to a tight player who reraised me. I knew he had AA but I couldn't fold. And now this.

Yay! Back up again! And all the Diet Cokes and snack mix I want. LOL.

Atlantic City -- Saving the best for last

I don't know how people make a living off of this. It's way too stressful.
-Seat 7, $6/12 limit hold'em, Borgata

ATLANTIC CITY -- It goes without saying that I would make my way to the best casino out in A.C. on my very last evening in the city.

After running back to the Madison Hotel, I took a shower and then set out on foot along the Boardwalk to the Tropicana and the Atlantic City Hilton, all the way on the other side of the A.C. Strip.

Walking does you good, too. I learned from historical signs along the Boardwalk that the properties ("Atlantic Ave.", "Park Place") in the game Monopoly all come from streets along the Boardwalk. I halfway expected Baltic Ave., one of the lowest-rent properties in the game, to be crappy, but it turned out to be just another street there.

Signs also warned you against feeding the "Atlantic City Cats." Very approrpriately for a town that makes its money off of "fish," stray cats apparently took up residence along the sandy areas just off of the Boardwalk. Despite the sign, there were none to be seen.

I made it to the Tropicana, which was all lit up in small white bulb lights, kind of like the "Golden Nugget" effect. Like the Taj, it had huge areas for baccarat. I went up to the poker room, and although it was crowded, it was really chaotic. All kinds of people were waiting with chips next to the brush and there was no sign of what games were playing or open. So I just bought some chips and left.

Nearly next door was the Hilton. It has a brand-new poker room, so much so that the chips are all new and players were complaining about the rookie mistakes of the dealers. I settled down in a NL game and played for an hour, down about $20 or so.

I started my way back, and finally saw one of the A.C. cats, a small tabby hovering around the base of a boardwalk platform. He just gave me a knowing look and then went about his business.

In the evening, it started to rain and at night I made my way to the Borgata, a cylindrical tower that sort of looks like the Wynn. But I didn't go there first, choosing to check out Harrah's, the eighth of the nine poker rooms I planned to hit.

Harrah's has a really nice poker room, and I played NL $1/2 for about an hour before moving on. I lost $8 there.

One thing about these casinos is they want you to pay for parking. Oftentimes that fee is waived if you show them a player's card. So I had to wait in line for all of them.

When I left Harrah's, they gave me a receipt for parking. I almost threw it away but later was glad that I didn't.

The Borgata is stunningly beautiful and the only A.C. casino, IMO, that rivals any of the new properties along the Las Vegas Strip. It is a sister property to the Bellagio, which explains its interior, which looks like a cross between the Bellagio and the exquisite Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa, Fla. It also is, as Jennifer Tilly wrote in a recent Bluff magazine, "complete with the requisite Chihuly sculptures" in the lobby.

Downstairs, the poker room was awesome. Like the Horseshoe in Tunica, Miss., there's a grill right next to it so players won't have to go hungry. And as you tilt back and forth in your swivel chair, you can actually sip a drink from a glass, instead of the plastic cups you get at the other A.C. poker rooms.

The only downside was its Noah's Ark selection of middle-limit and higher games, basically only two tables a piece. The room seemed dominated by $1/2 NL, but I was in the mood to play some limit. I played $6/12 for an hour, about as long as I could stand, waiting for a $10/20 seat to open up. When it didn't, I made my way back to the Sands.

As I was driving back out of the parking deck, I was greeted with a sign that demanded $5 for parking. At the last moment, I remembered my Harrah's receipt, which I obtained for free, and pushed it into the parking booth attendant's hands. I remembered in a previous 2+2 post that you can use a previous parking receipt once a day at another casino. Score!

In the evening, I had the choice of making my way back out to the Taj, which I wanted to do, but it was rainy and windy and I had no umbrella. So I stayed in my room and finished up Eurobet's $50 blackjack bonus.

I ended my trip up $43 in live play but added $667 in online play, including poker and casino bonuses. So I'm happy the year has been running smoothly at this point.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Atlantic City -- Running is good for you

Worm: You know what always cheers me up?
Mike McDermott: No, what's that?
Worm: Rolled up aces over kings. Check-raising stupid tourists and taking huge pots off of them. Playing all-night high-limit hold'em at the Taj, "where the sand turns to gold." Stacks and towers of checks I can't even see over.
McDermott: Fuck it, let's go.
Worm: Don't tease me.
McDermott: Let's play some cards.
Worm: Yes!

ATLANTIC CITY -- "You can all-in if you want," the young Asian woman says to me.

It sounds like dirty dialogue at a seedy "I love you long time" massage parlor, but it's not. She's a dealer at the Taj, the famous Taj from Rounders, and I'm seeing what my options are.

See, I raised from late at this loose $5/10 table with four other callers, then flopped a set of Js. Flush drawers folded, then I get raised on the turn. We get to six bets on the river before the young Italian kid, complete with maroon track suit and 70s-issue brown rose-tinted sunglasses flips over his cards.

"I've got the straight," he says triumphantly, turning to his friends.

"Well, I've got the boat," I say, motioning to the paired 5s on the board and raking in a decent-sized pot.

Another hand later (AK vs a woman who called me down with Kx), I'm up $230 in less than an hour and back up for the trip.

All because of running. Running is good for you!

This morning it was plenty bright out and I couldn't pass up a chance to run on the boardwalk. In high school in North Carolina, Coach Brayboy used to wax poetic about the virtues of hardwood.

"You can run all day on it and your legs still won't get tired," he would say as he made us do laps. Of course, I never saw him do much running.

But it's true. My goal was to make it up to Showboat/House of Blues Casino and the famous Taj, pick up chips and play a little.

I cut over to the ocean and dipped the tips of my shoes in the water, crunching on seashells along the way. And thinking it's cool that in just a few weeks I'll be doing the same thing at the Pacific Ocean.

The Taj isn't what I expected. I mean, it fits the well-worn look of the Atlantic City casinos. But I expected more glitz and glamour after seeing that famous scene in Rounders where Mike McDermott plays Johnny Chan.

It's a large room, one of the biggest I've seen. But it looks like it could use some new paint and maybe a refit, like what the Bellagio did.

At least the players haven't gone to the trouble to upgrade. I see some gray hair limp in early with T8s, he flops a str8 on somebody and I just wince, thinking, how do you think that's a good play? Like Lee Jones mentioned once in Card Player, we online players, we see so many hands, we have speeded up time. Making a habit out of trash cards is not going to help you in the long run.

But I can see why people want to be up in the short-term. It's a rush. I'm up about $100 now and I have that kitty-kat swagger back. Making the jog back to the Madison Hotel (the lobby completely looks like a set from The Matrix) is easy.

Atlantic City -- A different atmosphere

Every time I try to use logic in this game, it just doesn't work.
-Seat 4, NL $1/2, Bally's Park Place

ATLANTIC CITY -- "YEAAAAH - TRIP SIXES - TRIP SIXES - I'LL CALL ANY BET ANYTIME," erupts from this pudgy-looking guy wearing some kind of factory hat at Caesars Atlantic City.

I kind of keep quiet, given my recent outbursts of emotion (when I suckout to win a hand) at the old Emory Game and at the Excalibur in Las Vegas, but the guy is really a jackass. He's all the way across the room at some tourist $1/2 NL table (like the kind I play in), pacing around, holding his Mario Bros. biceps in the air.

His antics spawn all kinds of mocking from various tables in the noisy room. One guy stands up and says "I just won -- THE WORLD SERIES OF POKER!" It gets crazy enough that the floor has to ask everybody in the poker room to tone it down just a notch.

Meet Atlantic City, a place that has a different feel than any other place I've been. I like its grit and urbanness - I swear when I was driving up to the Sands where I'm staying, two guys were in a vacant lot doing a drug deal right in front of one of the roads. Or they were talking very close in their parkas.

I'm staying in an annex of the Sands, a place called Madison Suites. It's very old school. Like its name, you get a suite of sorts. I'm typing in an old school kind of living room -- it kind of looks like a place that you would jump in to use the telephone and connect to the Nebuchanezzar in The Matrix. Only here, my broadband card is giving me fits -- Full Tilt keeps on going on and offline.

I like how everything (or most of the casinos) are situated along the Boardwalk and you can just walk along the wooden planks to get to your casino. It's probably even nicer in the daytime. There are even people who will push you in a plastic-covered (to keep the wind out) cart. I just preferred to walk myself.

Also different is how they keep the rake. They collect the rake (usually 10 percent up to $4 like in Las Vegas) and put it on a little circle to the right of the dealer, in front of the drop. But this drop isn't for rake -- the rake is put back in the dealer's box, almost like in (an illegal) home game. The drop has one of those acrylic pusher-thingys like in blackjack tables. It's for cash when people reload. They somehow do a count of what's missing from the box (from the cameras?) and then come by later on and bring a huge mound of chips out to the dealer in an acrylic box. They also change out the setups every four hours or so.

Bally's Park Place was the first place where I played -- I tried the Sands' own poker room but they had three tables and their $1/2 NL was full ($1-5 Stud and $2/4 limit were the other choices).

Bally's poker room is right at the back of the sportsbook, of course, and it is very smoky. The play at the $1/2 NL game was horrible. People raising with absolute trash hands, maybe thinking they were John Juanda or something. These people must bleed hundreds of dollars, because no $200 double-up can shore up that kind of leak in your game.

One guy made it $15 with AJo and called the guy to his left, who had pushed all-in for $500 after making 2 pair. Of course that guy's 2-pair was counterfeited on the river and the original raiser's J played. The original raiser kept on saying "No way I could get away from that." Hmmm.

I basically was card-dead for two hours. I played one hand -- some guy raised it to $10. I called with TT and this other guy made it $30 with 35s. I check raised that guy when I made my set, making him pay $108 more after he bet $50 for his 4-flush. But he called and caught his flush card on the turn. The funny thing was his cards were so low that I had a redraw for a higher flush with one of my tens. But that didn't happen and I was out $200. Oh, well. That's why there's bankroll.

I made a little of it back later on playing $5/10 limit at Caesars. I wish they spread that in Las Vegas because I generally like that game. Perhaps to make up for the nonexistent cards against the superfish at Bally's, I got AA on my first hand, and then went into a raising war against a guy who somehow called two bets on the flop with KK when an A was on the board and then caught his set on the turn.

So I'm down about $130 so far on the trip but am loving the different atmosphere that I've seen so far.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

A good start to the year

CINCINNATI -- Whew, I finally did it. I finally finished the 6,000-point Eurobet bonus, by grinding away at the last 200-or so points here in the airport on my way to Atlantic City.

It is so nice to see that chunk of change in your account! I've moved on to Eurobet's blackjack bonus (they have $50 instead of the usual $25 this month, $750 WR, or 15x). And I'm up a little in it.

I barely made it this morning for my 9:30 a.m. flight. I was not happy to learn my flight to Cincinnati had a stopover in -- St. Louis! But it was a free ticket and little cat beggars can't be choosers. So I climbed aboard and rode the CRJ (Canada Regional Jet) bus to Missouri.

My late morning start came because of a relatively late night out at Doug's for his New Year's party. Most of the crew was there -- Drew on crutches because of his ankle, Matt, Ron and Mark. It was awesome as always to talk poker strategy and general Internet poker topics. It's sad he's leaving for Honolulu! But I know I'll see him again. And the IM really helps, just like when he was in Chile.

Because of poker and blackjack, I feel like I haven't been here too long -- it was a 3 hour layover! Soon I'll be boarding. I'm not sure what to expect in A.C. but I hope it will be fun.

More later!