Tuesday, February 28, 2006

It all begins anew

Oak Park is a place of broad lawns and narrow minds.
-Ernest Hemingway

"Your momma show me how you move it, go ahead, put your back into it, do your thing like it ain't none to it ..." There's only a half-hour left in this month and I'm whittling it away by dancing in my apartment to 50 Cent.

What a month. I can say I did everything right. I made two grand this month to pull myself out of the red, playing everything from limit to no-limit to PLO and Triple Draw. But I never pushed it. If it didn't feel right, it was an early evening.

I won that crazy raffle. Now it's two days away from Vegas and my bankroll is loaded for bear.

I flew 9,400 miles (round-trip) and did the right thing by reconciling relations with my estranged grandmother. I drew strength from her grip of my hands, watching her break the chains of her stroke like an out-of-his-mind Morpheus making his way to freedom in The Matrix.

I'm feeling restless again. I'm originally from Oak Park, Ill., where Hemingway was born and his quote about the Chicago suburb always resonated with me. It criticizes the soft life, the unexplored, more fear than understanding. I sat through the dinner of a well-meaning friend recently who regaled me of tales of a Club-Med-style, a Green Zone-style vacation.

That's not how I roll. That kind of stuff eats at me like Neo realizing in The Matrix there's something more to the existence he's living. My vacations: Drop me anywhere in a country or a city and I'll core it out, know my way around, in two days. Sometimes I see people who are telling me about things like Ikea or The Gap and think, man, when I was your age I knew my way around a dozen countries, traveling like Qui-Gon Jinn.

I'll often travel by the worst means possible (dirty buses, a scooter with bald tires, a Russian airplane with chickens on board) and I prefer it if I can't speak the language because you're forced to learn something. I have an unbroken streak of trips in Europe where somebody always invariably asks me for directions.

When somebody who travels to resorts asks me how a country is, what do I tell them? It's like when people are amazed at what I eat. What do I say? They're not around to see me when I'm out on a solo swim far from shore in the ocean. Or that I'll run full speed up the most difficult hills on 4-mile runs after work, totally sore after the run. Or me trudging up seven hills to work on a bike.

With poker and work, my life is a little more sedentary than it used to be, but I've earned everything that I do in this life. If I'm going to eat a cheeseburger in front of you, I'm going to do it and enjoy your special meal.

It's unfair for me to slam others for all they know when I just know better -- there's more to life than the broad lawns of the city. Bring on the adventures, bring on March.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Basking in the aura of Mr. Ivey

The week three raffle winners are in! If your name is on this list you will be contacted by a CheckRaised representative within the next few hours with details on how to claim your prize.

$500 Prize:
-CheckRaised.com home page

SNELLVILLE, Ga. -- "My goal is to break 100," I tell Kelley at the bowling alley after she tells me she routinely scores 185s.

There's been something funny about this last 24 hours, eerily coinciding with Phil Ivey's $16 million win over Andy Beal that CC mentions in his recent post. It's like it caused shockwaves of poker goodness to spread through the 'verse.

(Oddly enough the last time I felt something like this was when Ryan won his tourney at the L.A. Poker Classic, causing such wake in the poker 'verse that at least four bloggers had immediate downturns at the tables. LOL)

There's something about the bowling alley's lighting that reminds me of the Bellagio. Perhaps it's the noise of the people talking and the bowling balls hitting the floor that reminds me of the action in the poker room. The whole time I was watching people throw strikes after strikes I was thinking of prop bets, even though I don't usually wager them.

We played two games. Both times I was behind and both times I won at the very end. One of the games I scored a "1" (yes, one pin) for the entire frame and came from behind to win. Every time I needed a spare or a strike I hit it. I made 100 in the first game and 105 on the second. (I don't know if the 185 was an exaggeration or Kelley just hasn't played in a long while). I shoulda prop bet her, at least a little.

I won't go so far as to say "the rim was as big as a hula hoop," but I've doubled up like crazy in NL hold'em and even Omaha, winning on hands that should be easy folds for most people.

And just a little while ago, at the very end of the day, I peeked at the CheckRaised.com site just to see if they had posted the results of their Wednesday raffle, the last of three weeks to promote their new forum.

And yay!!!

Here's to you, Mr. Ivey, for keeping the Earth safe for poker players everywhere.

(POSTSCRIPT: I forgot to mention that yesterday I also finally ascended, after 590 days, in the awesome free D&D spoof game Kingdom of Loathing. And today, when I came to work and got my pay stub, all of my overtime since the start of the year came in this pay check. Yay!!!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Out of the red, cat comes back

About two years before the XIII came out, my friends started calling me "Black Cat." They felt I was like a panther. I would sneak up on people and attack before they could react. ... I thought it was a great example of the way I played the game.
In the big games, I didn't attack the same way every night. I'm a poker player. I like to see the other guy's cards first. Early in the game, most guys are going to give you signs about how they are going to play. The hype is so high that they become overly aggressive. They end up showing their cards early.
-Michael Jordan, Driven From Within

The following sounds like a film noir. "It was late and I was at a 6-max NL table at Full Tilt. A few limpers tossed their $1 chips in and I made it $4. The button and two limpers called..."

The flop came and, just like that, I pulled myself out of the red for the year. I flopped the nut straight and after my pot bet was raised, I couldn't keep from putting in all my chips fast enough (like a novice). Fortunately the other guy thought and thought about it and then called me with his AJ. But my nut straight held up and I'm now in the clear!

It wasn't any big deal to be in the red for the 3-1/2 weeks that I was. It's so early in the year and it kind of felt like I was just in a sand trap. Only a few swings to be free!


I've loaded Absolute Poker onto my computer and I'll try to play in the CheckRaised.com $5K freeroll from Vegas. It seems like such a good deal -- there's only 309 people registered in the forum right now and no way everyone will play. Plus top 27 places pay. Sounds like a good deal to me.
Stealing a line from the movie Syriana, bankroll is what keeps us from fighting for scraps of meat in the street. Someone told me recently how they were going to play $50/hand blackjack at a casino in an upcoming trip. Dude, you gotta have a bankroll.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Cats' paws

Have just been plugging away at the Empire poker bonus and mentally getting ready for the Vegas trip, next weekend already. Thought I'd just post some odds and ends related to poker:

Poker freeroll: The new forum CheckRaised.com is offering a $5,000 freeroll 5 p.m. (EST) March 4 on Absolute Poker. Twenty-seven places pay, from $1,000 for 1st place to $100 for 27th. All you have to do is register on the forum and make a post. Sham and I will still be in Las Vegas then, but maybe I can sneak away to my room and play!

The forum is growing and has been fairly decent so far. I'm enjoying making posts and would love to win some of the $2,700 in raffle money they are giving away to posters on Wednesday.

Poker V-cast: I'm just noting this because it's a great way to convey poker Web site information to players who usually are -- playing. Many times I hate getting the junk promotional emails from Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker. But last night I actually clicked on the Absolute e-mail and just let the video newsletter run while I did other things. The female announcer just runs through all the topics and I just listened to them. Maybe this is how it will be in the future. The format reminded me of job ads listed in the old sci/fi video game Privateer.

Taxes and losers: There have been some articles related to taxes recently in Card Player and Bluff magazine about taxes and two things have struck me: that having $10,000 in foreign bank accounts (I presume they are alluding to accounts like Neteller) could be a flag for an audit and the fact that winners are able to deduct gambling losses up to the amount of their winnings, but losing players are really shit out of luck.

Once and current 'Shoe: I finally have made my room arrangements for the Las Vegas trip (March 3-6) and Tunica (March 31-April 2)- both relate to the Horseshoe. For LV, I'm staying in Binion's, the former Horseshoe, and in Tunica, the Horseshoe. Can't wait!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Too much poker to play

TUCKER, Ga. -- "I'm going to laugh if I win with this," I say to Drew, showing him the 72 of spades.

Early in the morning, Drew has pushed all-in with A7o. Bibb shows me his TT and says "Should I call with this?" It's 4-handed and Sham, who's already tripled up, has already passed out.

Bibb calls and makes a quad on the river, busting both of us of our $5 buy-in ($.10/.20 mixed games). I called because I had only a few dollars of my original buy-in left, and I had to get out of there soon to work today.

I like the texture of our home game when it gets late and shorthanded. It's like a poor man's version of Ted Forrest or Phil Ivey burning the candles to see more cards and have a chance to break even.

The mixed games are good because I usually don't play 2-7 Triple Draw or badugi online and I feel I'm gaining good experience on learning the relative strength of my hand versus an opponent's. I kept raising Drew (who kept raising me) when I had been dealt two A's in A-5 Triple Draw. I ended up winning with a 6-high to the ace.

With Bibb, I had a 9-6 in 2-7 Triple Draw, but felt he really had a strong hand, given his inexperience to the game. He ended up having a number three, or the third-best hand (2,3,5,6,7). Just calling him to showdown felt right.

I felt the same way in the heads-up H.O.R.S.E. freezeout with Mark earlier this week. All the while I felt my hands were just strong enough to bet and win. Of course, I made my draws much of the time! LOL

Back in the ATL, the Cryptos have been very juicy, keeping me from even starting my Empire bonus, although I only have about 8 days left of the original 10 to clear it. I've been on steady burn on Full Tilt, too, and am about a tenth of the way through that bonus.

Man, so much poker, so little time.

Friday, February 17, 2006

There and Back Again

I am going where I please, and in my own time.
-Frodo Baggins, in J.R.R. Tolkien's Return of the King

Yesterday I arrived back in Atlanta, where I brought back the Hawaii weather just for a day (it was 71 degrees that afternoon). I was so glad to be back, after spending 11 hours flying and in airports. The 5-hour, 30-minute ride to Seattle from Honolulu was full of clear air turbulence.

At the airport, Northwest promised me a middle seat (yay with sarcasm) but was able to convert that to a window seat at the gate and it just so happened that an older couple on my row moved to a seat behind me, giving me the entire 3-seat row to sleep on. The SeaTac airport was beautiful but I really had to hoof it to the Delta concourse to get on my plane. A layover in SeaTac is so unnecessary when you're just trying to get home.

It was great visiting Hawaii, but when you live so far away, paradise is just a forward operating base nearly 9,000 miles away from home. I was happy to see Clonie and Kuro (who, like good poker cats, told me to immediately update my winnings and get back to work) and was happy to sleep at home, in my little apartment.

Lots of stuff to do when you get back. It may take me weeks to unpack. Of course, my luggage didn't immediately arrive with me when I landed, so I had to pick it back up at the airport nine hours later late yesterday evening. Bills and thank you cards to send off.

Poker has been good. It has been if the fish of the sea had promised me a British pound for every pea I gave them at Camp Kitty. People were calling my good hands with such junk on Crypto this morning I wasn't sure if I was being trapped or if I was the trapper.

Plus I'm happy to see that Full Tilt finally has a new bonus (50 percent to $300), as I missed the last bonus and had been playing them solely for the sake of playing on that site (and the fun and fishiness of it). And I'm soon to embark on Empire's 40 percent to $200 bonus. Just in time to pay for the trip, perhaps.

I'm off today but it will be busy with trying to nail the lid on final arrangements for rooms in Vegas (in two weeks) and Tunica at the end of next month.

Can't wait. But for now, am so happy to be home.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Hawaii -- H.O.R.S.E. victory at Pearl

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii -- We had an hour before we could enter the tour for the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, so we settled down and looked for a chance to play some cards.

There were great cards with pictures of the Pearl Harbor attack in the gift shop. I bought a second, smaller deck that we could use as chips, like I did when I taught Jill hold'em in New Orleans last May.

The game was H.O.R.S.E., heads-up, sort of live game, sort of freezeout (no escalating blinds though). We found a nice bench right by the water and divided up the deck of small cards for chips.

One blind of one small card. We'd play one game for four turns and then go to the next.

The hold'em part was interesting. I took a bunch of cards early on and then lost a bunch back in another hand in which I flopped two pair and Mark flopped a straight.

I tried to not put on my sunglasses as long as I could, but the sun was too bright. In the middle of our contest, I put them on. "Now I'm ready for the $2/4 game," I said.

Gradually, I began to take small pots. Many times the showdowns went like this: Mark would have a pair of 6s. I had a pair of 7s.

I took a pretty big 7-stud hand with a pair of Qs vs. his jacks and on the final 7-stud hi/lo hand, he made trip 9s on fourth street but I made trip Ks on fifth. He was all-in at that point and didn't have enough for a low.

It was a good way to pass the time while waiting for our tour to start. I hadn't been to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial in about 10 years, but it's good to visit every now and then.

It is a clear reminder of the evil of war that was unleashed on our country between 1941 to 1945 and you can see the senselessness of the attack when you put it in the context of the entire war. Millions of people were hurt or killed stemming from this. The fear that was brought to the islands was real.

I can't help but wonder if we're seeing another lead-up to a giant war in the future. If so, I can't help but think sinister forces already are making the same mistakes Japan made: Never fuck with the big stack.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Hawaii -- Whale(s) in town

KULA, Hawaii -- "Look there's a whale!" the man said and regretfully I looked down at my pockets.

I left my wallet at my grandparents' house.

Of course, this whale was not the high-roller kind but rather the sea-loving kind. You could see how massive it was, as it took a few seconds for its entire body to complete the arch it was making over the water.

Later there were more -- you could see geyser-like plumes of mist rising out of the sea. Others whacked their tails against the water -- somebody said it was a sign of aggression, like check-raising the hell out of a crowded pot. Others leaped straight into the air, something I likened to diving into a pool -- if you live in the pool, you sometimes might enjoy diving into air. The whales come all the way from Alaska to spawn. The female whales return back to Maui to give birth.

My uncle and I took a snorkeling trip today, a half-day boat excursion. In the end, I liked my pool of fish better at Camp Kitty but the whale sighting and the boat ride were worth the price of admission. You also could swim with these giant sea turtles, who cruised like jumbo jets in the clear blue water.

I came back relaxed enough to totally run over a .50/1 NL table at FullTilt this afternoon, causing people to drop out. Some guy re-raises me when I have AKs? Well, I put him all-in and flopped an A. Sometimes death equity is way better than fold equity.

As always, the Maui trips are short and I'll have to come back again soon. Worth every penny of overlooking Vegas just this once to fly halfway across the Pacific.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Hawaii -- Coming down the mountain

KULA, Hawaii -- Greetings. I should already be at the beach, but a juicy .25/.50 NL table at TotalBet and a $2/4 limit table at Full Tilt are keeping me here. The bastards.

I'm pleased to report today that I am not sore nor sunburned from an hour in the water. Last night at dinner, my uncle served up some white pineapple -- this stuff was really sweet and totally delicious. Even the "regular" pineapple was good but I've never had anything like the white pineapple. This stuff comes right from my uncle's farm out back, so it's super fresh.

Later Mark and I settled in at the tables -- he was playing five-table NL$200 on Party and I was playing various sites, from Paradise to Full Tilt, Eurobet and TotalBet. But these smaller sites don't have the fishy selection that Party does and many times I was not at a table.

But oh, well. The chains continue to move and that's what counts.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Update -- who's the fish anyway?

Reminds me of our friends at $5/10.
--Mark after snorkeling.

LAHAINA, Hawaii -- So I jumped in the water with my 200 PB (pea bet) buy-in and soon the entire table welcomed me.

Why? Well, most of the time, tourists just sit down just for the pleasure of watching the professionals work.

Today, they were loving me, with my big bag of frozen peas from Costco. I threw some peas out and then there were swarms everywhere. Nice bet, sir.

I'm not sure who the "fish" was. I'm certain it was me. The swarms of tropical fish couldn't contain themselves. Here was a live one who was just ready to give up his bankroll.

I tried to tell one fish I would feed just him but she couldn't explain to me that it's a public ocean and if I tried to feed one fish heads-up, swarms of fish would be swimming over themselves to sit at my bit of coral reef. (You know, like when Jennifer Harman tried to tell Andy Beal in Michael Craig's book "The Professor, the Banker and the Suicide King" that he couldn't just play her heads-up in the Bellagio because everyone would want to sit down).

After a few minutes, the fish were sad to see me go. I jumped out of the water and handed the corporation's pea-roll to Mark, who eagerly went in to feed the fish.

While I was drying out, of course, I loaded up the computer and played on ... where else but Paradise Poker? I immediately bet out a flop of 433 with two clubs. When the third club came, the early caller checked and so did I... Enough to allow me to make fours full on the river. Cha-ching!

In a later hand I had 94o and had top pair and bet it out. Got callers in the 5-max table. The nines held up against the same guy in the previous hand. He had 2nd pair.

Poker in paradise! Yay!

Hawaii -- Camp Kitty

LAHAINA, Hawaii -- Greetings from Camp Kitty, a makeshift beach landing on the side of the road to Lahaina. It's my favorite snorkel spot -- a PartyPoker assortment of fish in water only a foot or two deep.

My Verison card is giving me two-bar here, so I'll be able to play, but not the dicey sites like Full Tilt Poker. LOL

Mark, my uncle and I went up to Haleakala Crater this morning to see the sunrise. It was great, waiting for the sun to break out over the clouds hovering over the crater. I heard someone talking on his cell phone right before sunrise and was amazed that someone could get a reception up there.

That made me think ... Well, no, I didn't try to play poker at 10,000 feet.

We're both completely geeked out with our laptops for play but battery life here on the beach will be limited. Don't want to be an easy target for thieves, too.

But I did totally want to post that I'm on the beach, ready to play poker... after I check out the real fish first.

Poker on the mountain

KULA, Hi. -- It's getting late, I'm sitting in the den of my grandparents' house in Maui playing 3 $1/2 tables on Paradise and a .25/.50 GBP NL table on Totalbet. Cats go where fishies are.

It's been the end of a great day -- I finally got my luggage (yay!), the flight over here was fine -- I was happy to see Hawaiian has these pretty new Boeing 717s - nice thinking the old Northwest 757 that brought me to Honolulu reminded me of a Klingon Bird of Prey -- and Mark and I drove up the mountain to my grandparents' where they had a great meal of teriyaki chicken, rolled up sushi, fresh tuna sashimi, chicken wings and beer.

Tomorrow, early in the morning, we'll be going up to see the sunrise at Haleakala National Park. It's one of those have-to-do-at-least-once kinds of things, although I've been up there several times in my life with family and girlfriends and now Mark.

Tomorrow morning I'll open up the blinds here and the picture windows will reveal one of my favorite views -- a rich blue sea, the Kihei coast and the road to Lahaina.

Oh yeah, the money I've won tonight at Paradise and TotalBet will be in my account, too. Yay!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Hawaii -- An unbreakable spirit

HONOLULU -- So I'm sitting here on the outside porch at Mark's eating a plate lunch. "Winter" here is what fills Piedmont Park back home -- a nice 68 degrees with the trade winds blowing through your hair. Through the buildings you can see the water, shimmering, beckoning. I'm more or less home.

By USDA nutrition standards, this meal is off the charts -- two deep fried chicken cutlets, three scoops of rice and a scoop of macaroni salad. I'm going to take a stab and guess that the fat content is about 200 percent to 400 percent of what the average U.S. citizen needs.

And I'm going to fucking eat it all. It's food from the homeland and it's pretty delicious.

OK. Take that back. I physically can't eat it all. But I intended to and it's the thought that counts.

Today I made my way to the rehabilitation center today where my grandmother is. I wasn't sure, based on spotty intel from my parents, whether she would recognize me, or anyone. But she did. She cried when she saw me, the only way she could express her feelings as she cannot coherently talk. I was happy that she was better than I had imagined.

Still, it was a little awkward. I hadn't seen her in nine years, when my grandfather was laid to rest, and we had locked heads so many times growing up that I had vowed to my parents that I would not see her until she was dead.

Why? I thought her fundamentalist Baptist upbringing (in Hawaii? It's because of the missionary influence here, I think) was too extreme and I would find my own way spiritually (which I believe I have). As matriarch, she wanted me to be a doctor because we didn't have enough of those in the family. She was never afraid to say her opinion, even lighting up preachers on occasion when their sermons strayed from the verse.

So for years I would island-hop Honolulu, even when good fares would take me there, and flee to Maui, where my mom's parents live. Even in the tables of life, I would always seek soft over tough.

But that was then. My grandmother's stroke has taught me that the links to my family's past are slowly eroding, that family, many times, is all you have.

And I realized what she and I have in common, what she helped develop in me -- an unbreakable spirit. It's the type of thing that gets you through five days in the box, untenable orders, or a 24 mile run up old logging roads. It helps you endure the 1-outer when you've just sat at the table and all of your money's in the middle on the very first hand. It's never gambling when you know, deep down, you're going to win in the end.

I sat down next to her bed, tried to understand what she was saying, and immediately put her on a hand: You never called, you never visited, and all of a sudden, after nine years, you're sitting here like the cat who finally came back?

Yes, I thought. It was wrong but now I'm finally here. I am my father's son and we don't let people down like that.

And then I came around. You can't just put a person on a hand. You have to put them on a range of hands. I don't think she was saying that at all.

In poker, they always tell you to play the person, not the cards. But first, you have to get past playing yourself.

Hawaii -- That thing called luck

HONOLULU -- Greetings! I got in here in the evening. It was starting to get dark but already you could see how beautiful it was -- the water, the green island mountains.

Trip started out on a predictable note -- the Kitty Mir II capsule didn't want to come to Hawaii. Delta didn't load it onto the Northwest plane, although the two gates were nearly across from one another, and it supposedly will come tomorrow on a Hawaiian flight. Wasn't that much of a loss, though. Everything I needed I hand-carried, such as the poker computer. Have gun, will travel.

Met up with Mark and his nice car! Drove to a Korean restaurant near his place -- had the familiar staples of Hawaii cuisine -- the ice cream scoop of rice, a similar scoop of macaroni and salad with some grilled beef and chicken cutlet. Then caught a few beers at a bar in Ward Center, all the while talking about poker play.

That's about it for now, though. Will be excited to report on the days ahead...

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The hardest place to play

SAN FRANCISCO -- I have about two hours before I catch my codeshare flight on Northwest.

When I first got my ultra-cheap ticket ($316 r/t from Atlanta) on Travelocity, I groaned because the flight would be on two airlines. Which usually means hoofing it to different terminals, usually a mile apart.

When I deplaned here in SFO, I asked the Delta lady where Northwest was. "Right across from you, sir," she said. Sweet!

If I can only swap this luck for poker luck. You know, the kind you'd walk for miles for.

I'm back in the Crown room (downside, you have to walk through security. upside: the chairs are way nicer here than in ATL). And quickly, I've realized it's the hardest place to play. It's so easy to look like a jackass.

I pump a 6-max pot with a K on the flop after I raise preflop with AQo. The caller thinks. And thinks. And then he folds. I clinch my fist above the table.

I react fine when I take down pots -- on another table, I take down this multiway with a J on the turn, 9.5 BB and everyone folds on the river, which is a Q. Good thing no one saw me wince as I bet out the river, throwing into traffic. (That may be why I sucked up a storm in Cali. LOL)

A pot later, I three-bet a guy with my ATo and get called by the button and the original raiser caps it. I don't type "tiltcap," like I normally do.

Flop is AAK and I'm going wild. The original bettor bets it out, I raise him all in ($3/6 limit), the button calls. Turn is a J, river is a 9. The button takes it down with A9 and I'm slumped over my keyboard like a kick in the stomach.

Still, I've taken down $100 in Crown room play today. I should fly more often...

Smilin' like Kaylee

Greetings from the Crown Room Club. It's just me and two hours of poker before I catch my flight. I'm eating a smuggled bannana nut muffin from Atlanta Bread Company -- you aren't supposed to bring outside food in here. Which makes it all the better.

I am in such a good mood today, everything has been working like clockwork, that I've been smiling ear to ear like Kaylee in the old Firefly series. I woke up on time, after four hours of deep, perfect sleep. The last time I smiled like that was on Groundhog Day, covering the honorable Gen. Beauregard Lee out in the suburbs. He called for an early spring, after crowds of people rang bells and yelled for him to get up in what is most likely THE WORST ALARM CLOCK EVER.

I lugged my hardcase (containing the "Kitty Mir II" package from Mark's folks for him) up to the MARTA station, then jumped on a train, which only took a half hour to the airport. Normally I budget an hour to ride the train and devoted even more time after Giovanna was telling me of her experiences with train delays.

When Mark was in Chile, he lived so far away that I told his folks I'd bring anything they wanted to send him. So they gave me this old suitcase, which reminded me of the Soyuz capsules that would get sent to resupply the Mir space station. Same goes for Hawaii, which is just as far away and way more expensive.

But no, everything was perfect. I got to the airport, checked in at the Delta counter. It's a Northwest codeshare flight but the SkyMiles will transfer over. I'll be getting 9,000 miles for this and at least 1,000 more bonus miles for Medallion.

I gave the Delta counter lady my SkyMiles number and immediately got an upgrade. Now that's service! It's like when Shepherd Book gets scanned by the Alliance officers and immediately gets whisked away to medical attention.

I was randomly picked for the security check but to my luck there was no line at all! I've been in there once before where the line was huge and it is slow because they have to frisk everyone.

One thing I did realize -- I forgot my running shoes! I was meaning to have them on this morning but I wore my regular work shoes taking out the trash and just forgot to change them before I left. I guess I'll have to buy some new ones with the money I'm saving by not parking at the airport ($80 vs. $1.75 fares on MARTA). Most of the time anyway, I'll have sandals on.

I'm going to Hawaii!! I'm on vacation!!!

Have to work on my mantra: I will swim in the ocean.
I will drink fruity drinks.
I will not think about work (except poker).


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Five in the box

Risk is part of the game if you want to sit in that chair.
-Capt. James T. Kirk, Star Trek: Generations

I'm rounding the corner again on my fifth night in the box in a row. Incredibly, because I've been working the graveyard, I've missed a lot of the coverage of Coretta Scott King's death. When her funeral service was going on today, when presidents spoke and crowds gathered, I was deep within the world of feathers and pillows and sand. Just after Coretta was laid to rest, I woke up. And went running.

I had lots of chances to pack last night, but didn't. So I'll have to find the time today/tonight to do so. I guess I won't need much. Some sandals and shorts. Goggles. My camera and computer.

Poker has been good and it'll be interesting to see how much of a break I'll take. Probably not much. The last time I was there, I spent my afternoons on the beach reading Phil Gordon's first poker book and my evenings clearing a PartyPoker bonus.

It's a multi-way trip, with visiting Mark and my grandparents in Maui. I dread the most visiting my grandmother in Honolulu, who is recovering from a stroke. Coretta's death -- partly from the complications of a stroke -- didn't give me high hopes. My grandmother is the matriarch of my dad's family. I've always been used to her being so vibrant, even if we didn't always agree. It means that time is passing, an uparmored kitty is not as invulnerable as he thinks.

But I promise to take some time for a vacation. I will swim in the ocean every chance that I get, hopefully stopping off at the great snorkeling place right off the highway to Lahaina. I will eat lots of great food, including the plate lunch. I will drink a fruity drink or two. And I will run.

Tonight I hit the button on the Las Vegas trip next month with Sham. It will be great to be back. I can't wait to hit the new poker rooms at Caesar's, South Coast and Hooters. This will be a fun time. It's looking like we'll be staying at Binion's or the Sahara. But maybe Bally's.

Kelley surprised me today by saying she wants to go to L.A. this spring or summer. It's funny. Just as I thought I was out, away from the insurgents, they pull me back in. Yeah? I say. I know a great hotel...

But first I have to clear the next 240 minutes. And then I'm free.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Uparmoring yourself against tilt

A guy told me one time, "Don't let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner."

Wow. It's 8 p.m. and I'm up for pretty much the first time today (at about 1 p.m. I did manage to wake up briefly, score some money on FullTilt and Paradise before returning back to blissful, +EV sleep). Eating a slice of pizza that Giovanna brought to Bernard's Super Bowl party. Note to self: Always accept any food from an Italian girl.

I've played lots of blackjack, and now only have two of the seven monthly bonuses that I regularly play remaining. I knocked out the others really quickly, including having a long, sort of anti-social session Saturday while watching UFC at Drew's after his cookout. (Note to Drew: I hear you owe me for the result of the final bout. Thanks Mark for the tip! LOL).

I believe every card game teaches you something new. For example, PLO taught me about the wisdom of not drawing willy-nilly like the insurgents do but drawing to the nut.

In blackjack, you get to experience over thousands of hands what can be impossibly horrible variance -- the dealer making blackjack four times in a row after he's already taken the last 13 hands.

This game is an interesting way to look into variance and how you react to tilt because many of the variables are more controlled then they can be in hold'em poker. You can easily use basic strategy (as the Wizard of Odds provides) to play nearly perfectly. If you play for small stakes, you're betting only $1-2 each hand. The dealer is limited to what he can do.

And yet, you get to see and experience the roller-coaster ride of variance. But the more you play, the more you realize that although you get dropped 1,000 feet upside down and backwards to your seeming doom, eventually you'll right-side up again. It would be no fun for the Card Gods if they killed you instantly. (Even in NLH, see how they created max buy-ins???)

But I think there's a purpose in all this. Instructions: Hold ol' kuro kitty over the river Styx. Dunk. Repeat. And again, until you have one river-uparmored, invulnerable cat ('cept for the tip of one of his ears).

You have to understand where you are on the variance roller-coaster. But you have to make sure the conditions are right. You have to make sure that you're not the sucker. You have to make sure you're playing your A game.

Otherwise you walk away.

If you're good at gettting yourself unstuck in a long session, then you may want to stay, as you're fulfilling the conditions of the Tilt Checklist: 1). Are the game conditions good? 2). Are you playing well? "No" to either means you walk away.

For example, during the last night last month at Commerce Casino, stuck a bit of money, I had a decision to make. I went through the checklist. Answers: 1). Hell yeah, toothpick time. 2). No. I feel very rusty playing limit and I'm not reacting well at all when my monster hands continually get broken by the river.

OK. Go call it a night.

Your bankroll is your stop-loss. As long as you are playing well and correctly, continue to play even if you're a fish punching bag. If you're still depleting funds, there's no shame in stepping down to rebuild and collect your thoughts.

You'll protect yourself even more if you're playing within your bankroll. Your bankroll is your uparmor, your protective bubble from the meanest, trickiest, dirtiest of insurgents around the world. You're making the best decisions because you know that when you're playing within your bankroll you can't possibly go bust (although you can if you don't step down when you should). If your bankroll is a knife, don't take it into a gunfight.

The better games will be there. The higher games will be there. You'll be there, too, when you're ready. And when you are, you won't be thinking like Hellmuth "I can dodge bullets, baby!" but you'll be thinking like what Morpheus told Neo in The Matrix:

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

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Another utility for game theory: The Potluck

TUCKER, Ga. -- "I was thinking of bringing salad."
"Yeah, I was thinking of bringing salad. But I thought somebody would bring salad."
Ah. We go OTP for a cookout and already let our game theory skills slide. No friggin' salad.
It's like the prisoner's dilemma: It's not helpful if everybody brings salad. But then, you may end up like us and have no salad.

Everything has been good since my tourney. I tried to go running, but I was way to tired. I spent my entire afternoon in the tourney, so I really didn't have time. I brought some potatoes to bake and some chicken wings. Drew had some tuna and made steaks. Sham, our resident culinary artist, made some stuffed jalapenos with shrimp and cheese inside, surrounded by bacon. Everything is good with bacon.

I played $2 blackjack while waiting for the potatoes to finish in the kitchen. If I knew cooking was this fun, I'd be in the kitchen more often...LOL

Spanked kitty

I busted out at 43/682, for $25. Last two hands. I made deuces full on the turn with a flop of AA3, river is a 3 and was forced to fold to a big bet on the river. Then I had 11K in chips left. Raised on the button all in with KK, only to find one of the limpers had AA.
Oh, well. A good way to spend the afternoon!

"If I can't do it...

...homey, it can't be done/Now, I'm a let the champagne bottle pop/I'ma take it to the top..." 50 Cent rings in my ears to dull the boredom. I'm also trying to burn off an InterCasino blackjack bonus.

30K chips, I'm in 13th place of 52 players... Guaranteed $25 woo-hoo! LOL

A test of your patience

Now sucky room is trying to reward the patient. The money placers left now have won at least $15.
This guy raises to 1600 when blinds are 400/800. I'm sitting in the bb with KK. I re-raise all in to 5400.
He calls. He doesn't care. He has KQo. I cripple him.
A hand later, he's all in for 2100. I have AJs spades on the button, so I raise it to 3400, knocking the blinds out.
He has K9s, also spades. Flop brings a 9, river an A. 13700 chips, baby! LOL

Passed the bubble

After several rounds of hand-to-hand combat between tables, we finally passed the bubble. Yay!

Near the bubble

Play has, of course, dramatically slowed as there are 125 players left and it pays 120.
I've lost several hands since then and am down to 6000 chips with 300/600 blinds....

With a kitty yell ...

...After the break. I have 5600 chips and blinds are now 100/200. I get JJ in the bb and this new chip leader (10K chips) comes to the table. He raises minimum. I think about jacking it up (no pun) but I just call because I don't want to be fucking with a big stack if I can help it right now.
Flop is ten high, 2 spades. I bet half the pot to tell him I have something. He calls. Turn is a blank and pot is 1800, could be str8 possibility. I bet half pot and he reraises me all-in for 3880 more. I think about it and then call.
He has Q8s, spades. River is a blank and I double up, crippling him and putting me in 5th place of 263 people!

Some knockouts

So the guy who previously bet 400 with AK went all-in for 280. Being charitable, and wanting to play loose, I called with A7o and the other guy from the previous hand with AKs, called. Flop was 7xx, so I put the other guy all-in for 710. He has an open-end str8 draw, which doesn't come. The original all-in guy wins the main pot, however, but I still knock my first person out.

A hand later, I call in late with JT and flop 2 pair. This guy who's the 2nd biggest stack at the table bets it out for 100. Another guy makes it 225, I put that guy all-in for 1100 more. He thinks, thinking that the new chip leader is trying to bully him, so he calls with his pair of Ts, K kicker. And loses. Yay!

Yes, kitty!

Update- It's only the third round, 25/50 and I'm down to 895 of 1500 chips. Some guy suspicously bets out 400 in early and I raise all-in with AQo. Another guy calls.
Flop is ATx, 2 spades. First guy bets 550 and the other guy raises all-in. They both have AK, the second caller having the 4-flush. Turn is a Q! I win the main pot!!

Midday Rising

One problem with staying up all night is that the next day I always wake up right in the middle of the day. You should be sleeping now and in subsequent days, I will sleep straight through until 6 p.m. or so. In doing so, I'll just trade the times that I'm up with the times that I normally sleep and in a weird way, I'll always have my evenings free.

But one benefit -- I woke up 14 minutes before Sucky Room's weekly $6,000 player freeroll that I qualified for last week while playing the Super Bowl bonus. Sweet! I've never played in this tournament, I always end up forgetting about it (like I did this past Wednesday with the site's weekly $3,000 limit freeroll). It's the opening round, there are 655 players left of 681.

I also notice that Sucky has left a little present for me - a $13 award. Last week, the day of my "Grinding it out" post, I earned 1025 Sucky points, enough to place in the Top 50 of players that day.

As I often tell Mark (to his chagrin, he hates the site) - I love Sucky Room!

Groggy at Four

The first indication that I have when I'm really tired is in my legs. They start to feel sluggish even when I don't think I am. I first realized this a year and a half ago while in Biloxi/Gulfport. It was 5 a.m. and I was walking to the Copa Casino, thinking I would jump in a game. I was like, "Man, what's up with my legs?" And then decided I should go to bed.

But not now. I've rounded the corner on this shift. Only 3-1/2 more hours to go before Giovanna comes in to spell me. How often have I been greeted by a blonde so early in the morning? A lot of my life. LOL

"I don't know what you heard about me," 50 Cent croons across the floor. I'm way too tired to dance, but the music helps me stand up and stretch. On my desk: pocket aces. The name of my freshman roommate, Karleton Fyfe, who was on Flight 11, when my uncle, who regularly flew the route, wasn't the pilot that day. Giovanna's sundial. Part of MLK's "Drum Major Instinct" speech. A picture of the statue of explorer Capt. James Cook at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

I walk around our office floor, my legs dragging. There are great views of the cylindrical tube of the Westin. There's the lit spire of the Bank of America building on the other side of our conference room's windows. Outside it is a gallery of famous shots from our photogs in the past. The Iwo Jima flag. The Hindenburg fire. The guy standing before the tanks in Tiananmen Square. There's the classic picture of Marilyn standing over the air vent, and I realize that she's impossibly standing on the grate in stilleto heels, reminding me of the time when the goddess lost a shoe, her heel became completely stuck in one of downtown's many grates. I ran back, dislodged the heel with a twist and then presented the shoe to her. Way prettier than Norma Jean, any day, decade or century.

I'm only halfway through some rocket fuel (diet Mountain Dew), which is pretty good considering my drowsiness. I've been thinking of poker all evening, living vicariously in the updates of the second Andy Beal/Corporation bout that CC has linked from Bluff magazine's play-by-play.

I've just realized that this may be the strangest way of acclimating to jet lag. Honolulu is 5 hours behind, so by having to force myself to stay up for the next 5 nights in a row, I'll likely fly right into Hawaii on island time.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Prepping for the long-haul

I'm that cat by the bar toasting to the good life.
-50 Cent

So a meal at the Dragon and I'm in long-haul transit mode. In a few hours, I'll have to work the graveyard shift, eight hours of me, myself and I. And darkness outside.

Eight hours will put you over the middle of Europe. Or, going the other way, nearly to Hawaii. In an office, you don't go anywhere. But there's plenty of legroom, you don't have to worry about people reclining a chair on you, you don't have to sweat out a bumpy ride.

So it goes. Five days in the box and then I'm home free, on my way to Hawaii. It's been two years for me. It's easy to not cross the Pacific if you're always trying to hunt out the best games in Vegas. It's easier when your relatives want to meet you there. LOL.

But there are times, especially at places like LAX, when the plane takes off and flies high over the ocean and I wish it would just keep on going. To Hawaii, or all the way to Japan. But then the plane banks around and heads for home.

Although I am full of nervous energy (I've spent a lot of this last hour shuffling a stack of 12 chips from A.C. and L.A. that I need to give Drew tomorrow for his collection while listening to music, one foot propped up on my desk at home) I've been right on target at the tables and in life in general. I've won back half of the money I lost in L.A. My aggression is back. The river is going my way.

I'm looking forward to a cookout and playing poker with the crew tomorrow. It will be good to see everyone again. It's so much easier to play poker when you're not afraid of anything.

Mainly because of the Hawaii trip, but also because of other factors (such as I was notified that I didn't get the Portland job, although I was one of the finalists), I went out and finally went digital. I bought a Canon EOS 20D, these cameras are so good that our staff photographers swear by them and these cameras aren't even the uber-pro models.

These are the best photographers in the world who put their equipment to the test day in and day out. They already have a lot of cred from their endorsement of the Verison broadband card, which has transformed the duration and frequency of my poker play. Anywhere, anytime. Anyway, be prepared to see photos for the first time on this site. Expect lots of cat photos. LOL

I hate overlooking Hawaii, but March will be awesome. I'm to hit Vegas again (for my 17th poker trip there) the first weekend of that month with Sham. It'll be great to play in Caesar's and be back in the city that I love. Will the Poker Gods allow me a 15/30 bankroll by then? No promises.

Then in the middle of the month, New Orleans and Biloxi. It will be nice to be back, to support the city and see the girl-with-the-strawberry-blonde-hair get married. But I'm ready to play again.

Finally, the last weekend, Sham and I will take a road trip to Tunica. I have it in me, I'm ready for a road trip and the best kind of R&R to me is the Mos Eisley of Mississippi.