Thursday, March 30, 2006

San Jose-bound

I have some days off April 21-23 and a free ticket on Delta through miles, so I started plugging away and out spit out a really cheap trip to San Jose, Calif. and Bay 101!
I'll probably drive up to hit Lucky Chances south of San Fran.
If anyone can tell me about these places (CC???), I'd appreciate it!

On the road again

What are they thinking, my brother and these American lawyers?
What are they thinking? They're thinking that it's running out. It's running out and ninety percent of what's left is in the Middle East. This is a fight to the death.

Only a few hours left of work and then I'll be free to get myself ready for Tunica with Sham and Drew.

It'll be a road trip, one of those things that seems like a luxury in an age when air travel is so common. When I drove to Biloxi from New Orleans just two weekends ago, I really was regretting not driving to New Orleans in the first place. (I flew because of a really cheap fare). I purposely did not even look on the Web for flights to Memphis this time around.

Of course, out of guilt, I asked Kelley if she wanted to go to Tunica and I was secretly glad she didn't. (Semi-bluff). Like many other bloggers, I've been thinking about CC's great series on relationships and poker.

Obviously, you're going to have varying degrees of the curve, from no relationships, plenty of poker to relationships with or without pokery turmoil. It seems like any other life issue that two people have to overcome.

That said, poker seems like an extremely solitary pursuit. Maybe pandas, who spend nearly an entire year apart before mating season, have it worse. I like it when my poker pals are with me on trips. But even then, I like leaving when I want to leave and hopping around to five different places in an hour if I have to.

Online play seems to exacerbate the problem because it can be nearly all-consuming. I couldn't see myself playing that much in live games. For one, live games at poker rooms aren't fishy all the time. But if you check six online sites, chances are you'll find at least one fishy game at nearly any time of the day.

It's not a crippling disadvantage but still a huge disadvantage if you're not able to see thousands upon thousands of hands a week. This is how we get better.

It's like how you're often better off by going to a surgeon who does hundreds if not thousands of the same procedure each year than seeing one who doesn't. Sure, the experienced doc will make mistakes from time to time but he's been around the block. If we could choose pilots, we undoubtedly would want the one who's seen his share of windshear and instrument-only landings. It's like tackling a language, total immersion is the best.

But it's not everything. I know few words of foreign languages and yet I love to appear in foreign cities and learn my way around in a few days. I just don't go around and pretend to be a linguist (although I love it when people ask me for directions in foreign cities anyways!).

Regardless of what your situation is, in poker and in relationships, you'll find your way through it. You might run into walls at times but you will find a way for both things clearly so important in your life.

It won't be without pain and discomfort, but if you take the time, you'll get through it. This is how we get better.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Is it in you?

Know what the difference between hitting .250 and .300 is? It's 25 hits. 25 hits in 500 at bats is 50 points, okay? There's 6 months in a season, that's about 25 weeks. That means if you get just one extra flare a week -- just one -- a gorp ... you get a groundball, you get a groundball with eyes... you get a dying quail, just one more dying quail a week... and you're in Yankee Stadium.
-Bull Durham

You just haven't earned it yet, baby
You just haven't earned it, son
You just haven't earned it yet, baby
You must suffer and cry for a longer time
-The Smiths

I recommend biting off more than you can chew to anyone
I recommend sticking your foot in your mouth anytime - feel free
Throw it down (the caution blocks you from the wind), hold it up
You wait and see when the smoke clears
-Alanis Morisette

So when I was lying face down on the carpet of the Emory Game when it was being robbed, I had an improbable thought: that I could be shot.

Yet at that moment I knew I was fine with my choice. I believe in the game of poker and it is my life. I felt like at that very second I had tested myself and had answered a question I'd always wondered. Would I really be willing to die for something I believed in?

Don't get me wrong. I also thought it would suck to be found dead in some random apartment in some part of Atlanta, my mom finding out the news. Although I've traveled like Qui Gon Jinn throughout the world, it's always been a concern, ever since I was little and stood on the beach in Hawaii where explorer Capt. James Cook was killed after the Hawaiians learned he was not a god. There's a certain chill to unexpectedly meet your death abroad, far from home. It tempers even the most intrepid of explorers.

As always, Scurvy has written one of the most heartfelt columns on poker I have read, this time he's examining how serious of a poker player he is, given his ability to stomach swings.

"The wins are bigger, but so are the losses," I recently IMed Mark after my ups and downs after hitting $10,000.

Poker is not for everybody and being a professional player, even being a winning player, may not be in the cards. Everyone reaches this crossroads at some point. Just think of what it took for you to embark on this pursuit. For me, had I not had some big cashouts early in home games where I didn't know what I was doing, I likely wouldn't have continued.

Even now, I think about that quote by Crash Davis in Bull Durham on how fine of a line it is between being a MLB player and not making the cut. It's the same for winrate in poker. Winning in poker could be as fine as not cold calling one or two times a week or not betting into a raised pot with A high or not calling on the river when you know you're beat but the odds say for you to call.

It's a game where the results of bet after bet after bet (or fold after fold after fold) are compounded at the end of the day. You could go on a winning streak that could set up your bankroll for life. Or you could have a downturn early, an economic Pearl Harbor that would end it all before it even began.

I think we bloggers put too much emphasis on winning. It's sick, but I think to continue forward you have to love losing. Having it all on the line when it comes down to the last shot and having the ball rim out. Years of living in Chicago and watching Michael Jordan play makes me appreciate the gamble in him. When he misses that last shot, he looks disappointed. But now I realize that he also loves it. He had it all on the line and wasn't afraid to shoot. He wasn't afraid to die in that moment.

I rarely feel sick after losing. It's kind of exhilirating for me. When you're down a grand one evening in Las Vegas, you start to learn more about yourself and the city than if you won Quartermania with your first pull ever from a slot. You're participating in the eons-old drama of gain and loss. This is your stage. Live in the moment.

I totally understand the supposed quote from Nick "the Greek" Dandalos -- "It's action, isn't it?" when he was found playing low-limit stud after playing some of the highest games in the world. Years ago, at a writer's conference in Maui, Barbara Kingsolver told us that to be a writer, you have to want to write so badly that you would do it with your own blood if you had to.

Yeah, that's kind of gory, but that puts you in her mindset. She would write without the prospect of money, she would do it to her last breath. She's been to The Show and this is what is in her.

I kind of feel like Neo's last comments in The Matrix: "I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end." I might be in the minor leagues for the rest of my life. A minor-league poker player. A minor-league journalist. A minor-league friend.

But I can tell you, when it was all on the line, all the times I thought I'm finally having a brush with death, all the times I was all-in as the dog, all the times I had tried to bring someone like the goddess into my life, I can tell you I wasn't afraid to take the shot. Everything else since has been bliss.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Chalk one up for consistency

Kuro checks his AF before playing in Sunday's WPBT circuit tournament

That I would be fine, even if I went bankrupt...
-Alanis Morissette

I'm all in, and when I see Joe Speaker's queens, I have "gg" already typed in the chat window, ready to go.

After a great start to the second WPBT circuit tourney, for some reason Full Tilt kicks me off of the Web site for the entire 80/160 round. I am furious. (No blogger can ever say Full Tilt "is the best online poker site." Just not true).

It's move-in time for me and my A8 of diamonds looks pretty good.

But the flop says otherwise: A5Q, and Joe has a set.

But then one diamond (the Q) becomes, two, and then three on the river for a flush and a crucial double-up.

I'm back in it, just like that. Another hand I flop aces full of nines.

Then I raise with JQs in the cutoff and hoyazo, the chip leader smooth calls.

Flop is 9KT and she bets it out. I reraise for just a little more than double with my str8.

I jump from 29th place to second in a matter of minutes.

The blinds are higher and I'm hovering between second and fifth. I feel calm, not superstitious, and more like one in a pack of runners in a long race. When you're running, you don't try to blow it all out at once. You carry your pace and see where it leads you and hopefully you have enough to kick at the very end.

Table_Max has been reraising me when I limp into his bb from the small blind, so I decide to set a trap when I have 66. I'm ready to put him all in to any raise. But surprisingly he just checks.

Flop is TT2 and I bet 1/2 pot and he raises all-in. I call and he has 24 for a pair, but I have the overpair, knock him out and have a nice chip lead.

But soon that's eroded after I lose half my stack to a medium stack who reraises all in with AK vs my 88. Hoyazo says "nh" to him, seemingly pleased but I can't help it when someone bets into your nut straight.

Last hand, A3 vs JT. I type in "gg" again in the chat, pretty sure where it's going to end up. A J falls on the flop and that's the end of it.

Out in 14th, same place as last week's WSOP satellite. Hopefully the circuit points board loves consistency.

Surflexus looked like he built a nice run near the end. Yay!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The swings are just so ... swingy

Biloxi, Miss. 3/17/06

I'm here at work today, having flipped through half of Bluff magazine's account by Michael Craig on the pros vs. Andy Beal that I bought in the CNN food court. I totally love it, it's like getting a sequel to his "The Professor, the Banker and the Suicide King" and I can't wait to read about how Phil Ivey completely uproots Beal. Not so much because I'm rooting against Beal but because good pokery things seemed to happen to me after Ivey's triumph.

I think I let my guard down a little after I hit $10K the other day. I went on this nasty $1,100 slide in two days, many of it at the hands of a brutal sucky room, including having AA cracked in a huge $15/30 pot (I would later tell Mark I was more surprised that sucky even had $15/30 going on) and one more time at a NL $.50/1 table.

But swings will be swings and I went on a crazy $1,000 run the last two days, including making one of the biggest pots that I've won online -- a 331.38 GBP pot in a 6-handed NL 1/2 (GBP) game in the Crypto system. I bet out a flop of AQJ with my pre-flop raised AQ and went all the way to the river. I bet my last 80-something pounds then, really not wanting to breathe. The other player had AK (smooth called pf). My biggest pot ever was more than $1,100 at the Bellagio's NL $2/5 game when my TT set broke aces.

I've also had fun and lots of luck picking off donks at 'Stars' NL $2/4. The betting doesn't scare me like it used to, although in one pot with a set of 7s on the turn, I bet $130 (pot bet) on the river, hoping that the other player would fold (he did). Bodog (or Bo-cat as Kuro and Clonie like to say) has also been particularly juicy. All these donks are certainly impeding my development as a limit player, but I'll take the quick and easy cash.

Tunica is oh so close and Sham, Drew and I have finally decided on a method of transit, after debating whether our hobbled-together cars would make the trip. I was confident mine would, for the record, but Sham suggested we get a rental so as to not put more wear on our cars and to have extra room. So I'm renting a mid-size Seabring. Totally looking forward to the trip. I bought this Targus car adapter outlet so if I'm not driving I can be playing while on the road. (Love how cell towers go hand-in-hand with highways).

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The horror, the horror

Kuro (left) winces in pain after a donk with A2 makes a 2 on the river against his AQ late in a $65+5 WSOP qualifier on sucky room. Clonie (right) looks on, saying, "You thought that wouldn't happen?"

Oh yeah. Kitty, kitty. I'm in the middle of my weekend, with nothing much to do except eat, sleep and play. The play has been okay the last few days and reaching 10K was a barrier that was a huge monkey on my back.

The poker cats are back in action, enjoying the nice but cool weather and the fact that me being traveled out= 1). lots of cat attention and 2). lots of play.

That said, no really earth-shattering news yet. Maybe one of these days a donk will actually let me win a tournament! LOL Until then, I'll have to let the cats just run all over donks in cash games. Yay!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Make it $10K

Treasure Bay, Biloxi, Miss.

Finally, after two years of play and tons of swings up and down I crossed $10,000 for my bankroll tonight.

Twice this year I've gotten close -- $9,600 and each time have dropped about $600 or so the very next day.

Ten thousand dollars seems paltry compared to the $30,000 in winnings that Mark is working on right now, but I often have to tell myself that everyone's path is different -- the only thing that matters is to move the chains in the right direction. When I interviewed the publishers of Bluff magazine last year, one of them said we're all only a tournament win away from becoming a millionaire. Look at Jeff Williams. Or Greg Raymer. This is the gold mine we've inherited.

It's been a long way since Mark and I were playing $5 buy-in games in the ATL. I totally have to thank him though for helping me with especially the technological advances in the game -- I'm sure I'd be one of those people without Poker Tracker, PAHUD, 2+2 and even Scurvy's tips without his help.

Definitely I also have to thank Scurvy for his indirect help with his bonus guides to the outer rim of poker and casino web sites.

And I'm already grateful for the ever-widening community of poker players and bloggers I've come across through the Internet and my travels. Who knows where we'll all end up? This milestone is one reason why I don't quit my gambling addiction. It pays way too well.

May the cards run hot and rucky and unbreakable for all of you.

P.S: I'll be incredibly pissed if it takes this long to reach $20,000. LOL

Addicted to the mixed-game

So this "morning" when I got up at about 1:30pm I decided to head down to the Bellagio to play some live action poker.

When I got there the game was three handed, $4000-$8000 mixed. The games were:

Limit Hold'em
No Limit Hold'em (1k-2k blinds, 1k ante with a 100k cap)
Omaha H/L
Pot Limit Omaha (1k-2k blinds, with a 100k cap
7 Card Stud
7 Card Stud 8 or better
7 Card Stud Hi-Lo Regular
2-7 Triple Draw
2-7 No Limit Single Draw (1k-2k blinds with a 100k cap)

I probably enjoy this mix of games more than any other. It gives you a wide variety to say the least and also tests overall poker skill.
-Daniel Negreanu

Right now I'm waiting an hour after work to catch up with some co-workers to go to happy hour at McCormick and Schmick's downtown at CNN Center. I'm blowing through an InterCasino blackjack bonus, my feet propped up on the windowledge of our conference room, the new Georgia Aquarium below me and Stone Mountain in the distance.

I hope that the new game on Mondays turns into a mixed-game format. The only non-hold'em game I play with any regularlity online is PLO. I enjoy Drew's game or any home game with the crew because it's Dealer's Choice mixed game. That means no wild-cards. You can only call a game that is a bracelet game or a game that pros play.

I know very little about hi-lo games and Triple Draw and badugi. But I feel like my experience and knowledge of poker concepts and reads gives me an edge. Plus, I can jump right into "training" on any of those games online.

I hope that the world of poker becomes more than a hold'em slugfest. It's one thing to beat me with AA in the big blind; it's another to beat me in several different poker games. Cat likes the difference in strategy from one game to the next and the fact everyone playing has to stay on their toes.

Death by a thousand paper cuts ... and sweet cat revenge

So it's 4-handed, the very last hand of the night and there's a raise, re-raise, and voila, I have JJ in the big blind so I go right ahead and push all in for $30 or so.

It's a $.25/.50 NL game ($20 buy-in) at the home of one of the original Emory Game's fathers. A pretty sweet setup. A nice cover over a broad dining room table, chips similar to the old Emory game and pizza and beer.

Aside from Drew's $5 buy-in game in Tucker, I haven't played at someone else's game since the robbery. Live play is a nice recreational diversion, but is hardly worth it if you're a serious (and winning) online player.

There are serious dangers for playing poker in Atlanta, at least at limits that have worthwhile money. Josh Arieh recounts a story that may be part rumor, part true, of a group that got robbed and arrested the same night. He says the robbers of this game (he wasn't there) came downstairs and told the building concierge that they were robbed. The concierge called police, who arrested the naked and penniless players for gambling.

That's a bad beat.

This game was nice though. It was 6-handed and there was really only one aggressive player. In that last hand, this college guy calls me after thinking about it for a long while. He flips over 55 and of course, catches a set.

Oh, well. It was the right move on my part. The old me might have been content to have a $10 profit. But cat wants all the chips if the edge goes his way.

$20 here. $30 in the blogger tourney. Death by a thousand paper cuts. Where will it all end?

At Poker Stars, apparently. I get home and go on a nice $400 run before I go to bed, in 50 minutes.

That's the thing about skill vs. luck. With luck, a cat never knows where his next meal will be. With enough knowledge of the game and experience, you never have to wonder which direction the chains will move.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Birdi's and bloggers

DECATUR, Ga. -- So the beginning of the end happened when I received a long hug from a tall and skinny blonde.

I had been doing terrifically well in the blogger's WSOP satellite Sunday night at Paradise Poker. I signed up at the last minute (actually while driving down Atlanta's famous Peachtree Street) while on my way to Giovanna's birthday party.

Doug and his wife Carolina organized it -- we took up the top floor of this great place called Birdi's right off of Decatur Square. They invited some of Giovanna's Italian ex-pat friends and, working off of Italian time, we started a little later than the 7 p.m. time on the invite.

I don't know why I thought I could do this, but I thought ok, I can just go there at 7 p.m., eat dinner and be back at 9 p.m. by the time the tourney starts.

Wrong. I was in the middle of my second Sapporo when I looked at my cell phone and it was three minutes 'til 9.

I unloaded my kitty AWACS, found a corner with a power outlet and went to work.

Mark and I were placed at the same table in the 69-player tournament, which cost $30 and paid $1,500 to the winner -- enough for a WSOP buy-in.

Birdi's couldn't have been a better setting for a satellite with a dream buy-in on the line. The place had a lady acting as a DJ, the food was good, I was with friends.

But it also showed the disconnect poker can have with your friends. When the food was served, everyone was eating at a large table in one corner of the room, I was off to the side munching on a steak and a salad at a small table in the other.

My plan was to be as aggressive as possible. It's a freezeout, so winning is the only thing that matters. (There was extra money from the tournament, so it ended up paying cash to three more places).

After interviewing EPT Grand Final winner Jeff Williams last week, I decided to try a hyper-aggressive style -- I played four SNGs on Full Tilt and Poker Stars at the same time -- and won three of them.

"Loose call," I told Greg, a fellow reporter as I called a raise in late position with 66.

I flopped a set. The EP raiser is all in and I'm trying to type in "Can you beat a set?" but on Paradise you cannot type anything in when someone is all-in. I just call and immediately double-up.

Mark tells me via IM that people were mentioning how aggressive kurokitty is.

I doubled up again and built myself up to 7,000 in chips, third place.

Things were good for a while, but the party started to break up and we all had to file out of the restaurant. I had the computer on the whole time, trying to make decisions.

After Giovanna hugged me goodbye, I found myself outside facing a raise from early. I had AKs in late position and I thought- I want to knock someone out if possible.

The raiser had 99 and we went all the way to the river with him in the lead.

"K!!!!!!!" I yelled out with Doug next to me when it came on the river.

Only thing was, it completed the other guy's flush.

The next few hands I played must have been unusual to people at the table, since instead of raising I was just calling with hands I wanted to play. That's because I was driving over to Doug's house at the time. It's impossible to type in a bet amount while driving. I was lucky to just call.

A bigger stack then put me all in after I weakly called pre-flop. I called with 99 and my pair held up against his AJs to win the hand.

I got low, down to 1,000 but built my way back up to about 4,600. The blinds were 100/200 with a 50 ante.

Atticus, Doug's poker cat, kept on coming by, grazing my leg as if to say, "Play the K2o I've given you."

No way, cat.

Finally, at Doug's house, I get AK. It's folded around to me in the cutoff, so I raise it. But not just raise it. I'm all-in. I'm a little tired at this point (from having four hours of sleep the night before in New Orleans).

Will Wonka in the big blind calls with AA.


So I bounce out in 17th. I can't tell you how disgusted I was to bounce out in this manner, but I really didn't win the races that you need to win in order to win a tourney.

As I drive home, Mark has gone on an unbelievable run. He was third at the time with 13,000 chips. Now he has 54,000. I am so tired that I go to bed after midnight. I thought he would be a lock for sure.

It turns out that later he places second. Way to go!! Most of the tourney's longtime chip leaders bounced out of the money.

I had expected stiffer competition but the tournament really wasn't filled with fearsome players. The 50x buy-in first prize made it a worthy tournament to play in, if you go by T.J. Cloutier standards. It'll be great to see if more of these tournaments happen as the weeks lead up to WSOP. Maybe a weekly blogger WSOP tourney?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

New Orleans -- Third generation gambler

NEW ORLEANS -- After the wedding, all of us gathered on the porch of the historic hotel, The Columns, in the Garden District and my friend Julia wanted to know if my parents knew of my "gambling addiction."

"Well, I am a third-generation gambler," I said, not minding the question but not knowing how to totally respond to people who know nothing about poker and plus-EV situations.

Last month, while in Maui, my grandfather casually mentioned the first time they came to the mainland to see me and my folks was on the tail end of a Las Vegas trip. My dad, of course, loves the video poker. My mom is the biggest fish ever. Casinos love sending her freebies, hoping that she'll come by. But she has fun doing it. Of course, I just roll my eyes and ask that she stake me instead of giving those random-number-generating bandits her money. LOL

Yesterday afternoon, I paid a visit to Boomtown New Orleans. I discovered that an old tracking card promotional "fun book" was still valid (I got it last May), so I went up to a $25 a hand blackjack table and tore out the $25 Match Play coupon and sat down.

A match play coupon means the house matches your $25 bet for one hand. If you win, you get paid your $25 plus the house's $25. If you lose, of course, you get nothing. These kinds of promotions are designed to get you to the tables, hoping you won't leave.

I had to wait out an entire shoe. Finally I got to play. I plunked my $25 down (I bought in for $100 just in case of a split situation where you have to double down twice) and tossed in my coupon.

I get dealt a 4 and a 2 against the dealer's jack. Great.

I hit. And get another 2. Then I get a Jack.

The dealer busts. He slides two green chips my way.

"That's all I wanted to find out," I say, grabbing my chips and tossing a dollar bill the dealer's way.


I also noticed the fun book gave you $5 to play at the slots. It turned out they just gave you a $5 bill at the cashier's cage. Once I grabbed that, I made a beeline for the door.

I drove back to my Green Zone compound, gave the valet my car and proceeded to go upstairs to play some real games -- online.

I love it when promos work your way.


POSTSCRIPT: It's been a great trip and I was so happy to reconnect with some of my old friends, many whom I'd last seen last April during my friend Elisa's wedding in Kansas City. Of course then, and without a Verizon broadband air card in my laptop, I was entranced by $3/6 games and spent a lot of my time that wedding weekend at the tables.

This time around I stuck around with my friends until the wee hours of this morning. It was totally worth it. And I knew that online, the games would be available. I have to see Elisa and her husband Jeff in St. Louis, especially since there are riverboats to explore there!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Do you know what it means to miss Harrah's New Orleans? (and other dilemmas)

Together we can rebuild. It's in the cards.
-Harrah's New Orleans sign outside New Orleans International Airport

NEW ORLEANS -- Harrah's New Orleans is the crown jewel of the chain, at least when it comes to casinos that have the Harrah's name.

It's a totally urban casino. You walk right in from the street downtown. It is a huge circular gambling space -- a nod to the Superdome?

A dance club/bar called Masquerade serves as its center, pumping out loud music complete with dancing white girls and a huge, glowing Hurricane glass that sort of looks like an orange version of the Enterprise-D's warp core in the Star Trek: TNG television show. Beautiful ladies in skimpy Mardi Gras outfits stand outside the buffet.

I've always thought that if Atlanta could have a casino, this is what it would be like.

But then I got to the poker room and was disappointed. And it's more of a "It's me, not you" kind of thing. Last May, I was excited to play $3/6. This time around, it's not worth it.

The room had a crowded list for $1/2 NL and $2/5 NL. Maybe I will play limit. They had lots of tables of $3/6 and had a small list for $6/12. They even had that Gulf Coast favorite, $1-4-8-8 (spread limit), that Mark loves to hate.

Ugh. Where have the higher games gone? Surely this room could pack in the whales and fishes who walk in off the street from the highly expensive hotels that surround the casino in a mid-limit or higher-limit game.

I don't really understand poker room philosophy. It's like the maxim is "Keep it small so everybody can play."

For nearly a year, I've missed the poker room at Harrah's New Orleans and have come back only to find that I've outgrown it. If I want to play $3/6, I can do that up in my 5-star hotel room across the street, a place that is so Green Zone it's not funny.

Only I can play four or more tables. NL? Sure. Can do that too. Well how about some blackjack? That's what I ended up doing, starting off an InterCasino bonus. With that at least there's the promise of incentives. I was given $10 just for playing a single hand and the bonus is $100.

I've read that Thomas "Thunder" Keller has the same feelings. Being trapped in one-table is slow and boring. Plus there are lots of other things that you don't have to do online- no jackpot drop if you don't want it, no dealer tip. It all adds up in the long run.

Sure, live games are juicy but I'd much rather be playing fish at $9/18 at Commerce or $10/20 at the Horseshoe in Tunica than playing $3/6 in New Orleans.

Oh, well. I love being here -- it's a magical town. It's just I know now I won't come here anymore as a gambling destination.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Greetings from Biloxi

Sometimes I suffer from distractions like/why does God cause things like tornadoes and train wrecks?
-Crash Test Dummies

BILOXI, Miss. -- "OK. Let's see what you have," I say to the deep stack at my $1/2 NL table at the Imperial Palace. "I'm all-in."

I couldn't have been more obvious with my aces. I reraised his $15 raise to $35, pot bombed on the flop. A ten fell on the turn, but I felt like I was committed.

We get to the river and he shows QQ. Whew. This city is finally not taking money from me.

It's been a good trip so far. I'm sitting in a rental car near Imperial Palace, a tranquil waterfront to my right, a house with still-boarded up windows on my left.

Many homes near the freeway in New Orleans still had blue tarps on roofs, still six months after Katrina and some shopping centers in the outlying eastern areas were vacant. All over the coast, McDonald's signs are warped and broken. It seems weird to have such a common sight -- a symbol of American life -- still be like that, 6 months after Hurricane Katrina.

But what I saw near New Orleans was nothing like Biloxi. Here, many places are still left asunder. Churches, shops, parts of hotels. Everything looks like (and probably is) it's waiting for the wrecking ball.

I took Interstate 10 to Gulfport, like I usually did, traveled down Highway 49 to get to the coastal Highway 90. Right there at the intersection is a road leading to nowhere. I remember that road as the entranceway to the Copa Casino. To the west, you can see a Grand Casino Gulfport, still with some damage in its hotel.

The badly damaged shell of the ship of Treasure Bay is still there, a few hundred feet from the little fortress-like entranceway.

The Grand Casino Biloxi still has its great arching entrance. Only no boat on the other side of it.

I played today at the Isle of Capri next door. Nice but small room. Across the street, the Palace Casino used to have a poker room but does not right now while that casino is working on renovations (I suspect that slots pay the bills).

And later today, I went to the Imperial Palace's room. It's nice, on the third, no-smoking floor. A medium sized room, with noisy slots.

The play here in the two NL games have been really terrible. The Isle had a really loose-passive game. But if someone raised, usually it was $15-25 and four other people called.

At the IP, there was a huge calling station, another guy who liked to raise and commit himself with trash like A9o and JTo in early. Another guy who just pushed his short stack all-in when he had a hand. We battled in one hand with a K on the flop. I had KQo in late so I raised his flop bet. But when a T came on the turn, he moved all in. I threw away my hand.

Too bad the Grand Casino-Biloxi's $10/20 and $15/30 limit games are nowhere to be found. I'd like a chance to get my money back. But not this time. Maybe someday soon.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Georgia's newest millionaire (Jeff Williams interview)

Some people might start calling Jeff Williams a bully. Marc raised from the small blind and Jeff came over the top all in. Marc didn't like his hand well enough to call and laid it down.
-Narration of final table of EPT Grand Final at

Jeff Williams is only 19 and can't even enter a U.S. poker room yet, but he's Georgia's latest millionaire as the champion of the European Poker Tour's Grand Final in Monte Carlo, where he won 900,000 euros.
He's back in the Atlanta area, where the late Andy Glazer once sarcastically called a "hotbed of poker" in his write up of 1999 WSOP limit hold'em champion Josh Arieh. Well, add another Atlanta winner to the list of champions!

Q: We talked before you entered the final table about your strategy. What did your strategy turn out to be?

A: I kept being aggressive, I got lucky. I just raised a lot, used all my chips as an advantage.

Q: Were there any particular key hands?

6:10pm--Well, as Mad once told me, some said it would end in tears. In this case, it didn't necessarily end, but I have to think Thierry (Cazals of France) is thinking about crying. It appared the action went: Jeff came in for the standard raise, Thierry re-raised to 190K, Jeff moved all in, and Thierry called. All in pre-flop with AJ suited versus Jeff Williams AQ suited. Thierry failed to improve. His slide from the chip lead continues. Jeff, who had taken some serious hits is back on track.

A: I lost a couple pots and was down to 400,000 chips. I raised with AQ and got reraised with AJ. I went all-in. Lucky for me the guy had AJ. It was a turning point.

Q: Champions such as Chris Moneymaker have said that there's no way you can win a tournament without getting lucky in it. Is this true?

A: There's no way that anyone can win a tournament like that without being lucky. You can't just outskill people. You have to have a couple times where you hit that miracle card.

Q: Were the rest of the people at the final table exasperated by your play? You were all-in nearly every hand.

A: I don't know if they were exasperated -- I think they were a little bit frustrated by my rather unique style of play. I try to run over the table -- that's how I play online. I employ the same strategy.

Q: How significant will AT be for you from now on?

Jeff called Arshad's all in. Arshad (Hussain of the UK) flipped A8o. Jeff celebrated and turned over ATo. The board came out 597/7/3. Jeff wins it.

A: For the rest of my life. It's a magical hand.

Q: When did you feel at the final table you felt like you were likely to win the whole thing? Was it when you became chip leader with a million chips and five players left?

A: It was when I took out Marc (Karam of Canada, eliminated in fourth). I got down to four or three (players left). I had half of the chips in play and really had momentum. I was feeling good, the first time I thought I might be able to win this.

Q: Did you ever think, wow, I could win a million dollars?

A: The money? Never. I never was thinking about the money. I looked at the prize pool, if came in the top 4, I'd be happy with my results.

Q: What will you do with the winnings?

A: I definitely will invest at least half. I haven't decided whether it will be in real estate, stocks... I'll put $100,000 into my poker bankroll and try to increase like that.

Q: Will you be playing higher?

A: I really like $5/10 NL and $200 and $500 Sit N' Gos. I think I can be a consistent winner -- if I went higher, I don't think I can win.

Q: Have you taken shots higher, then?

A: (Laughing). Oh, yes.

Q: What do your parents think of it all? I imagine they were supportive if they flew out to see you on the last day.

A: They're really happy. I won't play as much anymore because i won't need to -- I'll concentrate on experiencing a lot of other stuff. Now there's not as much concern on the money side.

Q: Anything you'll do with the winnings in particular? Any way you'll celebrate?

A: I'll probably look to buy a nice watch. There's nothing that I really wanted.

Q: What did you think of being compared to (WSOP World Champion and now Bellagio executive) Bobby Baldwin?

A: It was pretty funny - Bobby Baldwin was a really good player back in the 70s. I never knew much about him. A lot of people keep telling me about him. I think the comparison is very funny.

Q: Although you can't enter U.S. poker rooms yet, do you look forward to doing so in the future?

A: I think it will be really exciting to play for the World Championship. The World Series is the greatest thrill ever. I can't wait for that time.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Greetings from the Underground

Hi there, I'm at a Johnny Rockets in the Atlanta Underground, pretty much where I go for a good malt and turkey burger whenever I have to be at the courthouse to cover a story or for jury duty.

There's an all-day hearing and it's allowed me to pretty much catch up on all my blogger reading. It also has allowed me to find a wedding gift for the girl with the strawberry blonde hair. Yay!

I can't wait to go to New Orleans and especially Biloxi and am especially looking forward to prying loose some of the money I've left in those areas previously.

I won a small heads-up HORSE tourney on Full Tilt, which made me happy. I feel like my understanding of the games is improving, although I wish the format wasn't so 7-Stud oriented (razz, 7-Stud, Stud Eight). I guess there will have to be a new acronym if I want 2-7 Triple Draw and Badugi thrown in. LOL.

My Party account has been frozen, presumably at my request and I hopefully have begun the first step of Party Ascension. Yay!

Anyway, more later. Am looking forward to clearing the next two trips (New Orleans and Tunica) and then not doing any traveling for a while!

UPDATE: I wonder if the Web sites are targeting all the spring break students -- check out all the bonuses in the core systems: Party, Poker Stars, Poker Room...

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Hell no you can't have my shirt

So I'm walking today with co-worker Errin by the smoking area in front of CNN Center and this guy says "I want your shirt!"

Naturally I think the guy is talking to her, since 1). she is pretty and fashionable and 2). she has these custom-made Neighborhoodie shirts made with different sayings.

But it didn't even dawn on me until later that he was talking to me, about my 15-game winner SPAM shirt.

This shirt is so awesome, I love talking about it like ScurvyDog loves to show his rat pics.

Of course, it got shelled at the Bellagio at the end of last year at $15/30 but triumphantly returned there last week to go on a can't-miss heater to put me up for good for that trip.

It also makes for good poker talk. Early last Sunday, I was playing at Bally's at a NL $1/2 table and this guy said he had a shirt like mine. But his was blue (mine is red), which I told him was the road jersey.

"Do you wear it for poker?"


"Well, you should, because it creates action," I said.

Later on that evening, I returned with Sham back to that table and sat right next to him. The very next hand, he decides to put a $550 bluff on a guy who ends up calling.

"See?" I tell him as the dealer passes all his chips to the other guy. "I told you my shirt creates action."

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Sailing smooth

I took some time Friday off from poker (after I'd played two hours already in the morning) on my day off to have lunch with Kelley and some of her co-workers at Front Page News in Atlanta's trendy Little Five Points neighborhood.

It was perfect weather and so good to be sitting outside, in a T-shirt, shorts and sandals in early March. I could tell right away that the three co-workers didn't think much about gambling when Kelley told them that I had just been to Vegas and again won money.

"I never bet on sports but I really wanted to put $20 on Carolina, you know, as a show of support for my school" (tapping my fist to my chest) "when Carolina played Duke. The line was 6-1," I said. Of course that kind of fell on I-don't-know-why-you're-telling-me-this ears.

At the risk of super jinxing myself, things have been running smoothly, an upturn that I've had since Feb. 8, or 30 days. It's kind of scary. I'm making the right calls most of the time and not getting sucked out too badly in the process (although on Full Tilt recently a guy reraised me on the flop when I had QQ over the flop and when he bet it out on the turn, I put him all-in. He reluctantly called with his K4o. Of course, he reverse dominated me and made 2 pair on the river). I'm picking off bluffs.

Surprisingly, I've found PokerStars' cash games, particularly the NL ones to be full of fish. It's totally amazing what PokerTracker can tell you.

Right now, Jeff Williams, a 19-year-old from UGA, has made the final table of 'Stars' European Poker Tour Grand Final in Monte Carlo and continues to tear it up. He started out today in third place, would make at least more than $100,000 if he ended up in eighth place. But looks like eighth is not going to happen, since he just busted some guy out with TT. He previously won a $35,000 tournament online in December.

I'm grinding it out and am happy to just be moving the chains while there are people who are making serious money at this game where any two cards can win.

UPDATE: That dude won the tournament, ending up with more than a million for first! Yay!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Detoxing and flashbacks

From the beginnin' to the end/losers lose, winners win/This is real we ain't gotta pretend...
-50 Cent

So I'm driving OTP on assignment and the suburb vaguely reminds me of the last leg of the drive to Tunica. I see these pinkish blossoms and they immediately remind me of the great decorative blossoms that line the little mall of shops in the Bellagio heading out toward Caesar's, or Bally's.

I'm totally detoxing (a term the goddess used to always use, coming off of hard weekends of chili cheese fries and who knows what else) after the Vegas trip. On the last night there, Sham and I ate at the Bellagio's buffet. But not before going back to the poker room after we cashed out in an attempt (my idea) to bluff a comp there, as I don't think we played nearly long enough there to have qualified this trip around.

Talking to the poker room manager in the back office is a lot like going to the principal's office. The manager didn't really mind us getting a comp. Only thing is he was going to give them out later on in the evening. But we wanted to eat right then, so we just got a line pass and scampered past the long line of would-be diners who are not gamblers and ate our fill. Sham says I was not a good bluffer. Only a really tight player would say that. LOL.

One thing about Sham: He really knows his fucking way around food. He is to diners what an engineer batallion is to the Deuce Four. I followed his lead in one of the city's best buffets -- green light on the Chicken Wellington and the roast turkey, staying clear of the buffalo sirloin. He even munched on the Hawaiian Ohno, a fish I'd never heard of. "Oh, yes!" -- unlike the phonetics of its name, it's good.

That was only part of the problem. I ate so much other great food last weekend! There was this really great steak I had at the Sherwood Cafe in the Excalibur, one of the best that I've had. Sham and I ate brunch at the always dependable Main Street Station buffet, which has these great Hawaiian dishes. And, as always, we had meals at the Coffee Shop in Binion's, which is always must-do on any visit there. I previously mentioned Mr. Lucky's at the Hard Rock, which is on my heavy rotation list.

But now I'm trying to be good, at least until New Orleans and the wedding of the Girl-With-the-Strawberry-Blonde hair. I am so not ready for the trip, as I should never be allowed to have nice things. At this moment, I know where exactly one of my $300 Bally tassel-loafers are. I should buy a new suit but I likely will make do with what I have. I'm really going to be down there to gamble, after all.

On the plane to Vegas I convinced Sham to play in one of my patented do-anywhere H.O.R.S.E. freezeouts. We went more than six rounds before I beat him. It was more an endurance match than anything. At one point, in the Stud Eight portion, I made a runner-runner-runner-runner royal flush. How about them apples? I was sad that I typically only get a royal flush once a year and this was for a $1 buy-in freezeout. Loved winning, though.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Vegas -- Going home

LAS VEGAS -- Greetings from the airport. Man, I am so tired but am totally happy to be leaving.

It's been a good trip, a profitable one. The last two days were nice and excellent. I enjoyed being back in the O's $15/30 game. I went on a heater in the first 10 minutes of play there -- winning with marginal hands like T4s in a blind, etc. -- and that was all she wrote.

Sham and I had a 5-hour session at the MGM Grand's $4/8 (1/2 kill) last night, me sitting directly to the left of this guy who looked a lot like Count Dooku. And like the evil Sith Lord from the Star Wars movie, he had all of the Dark Arts working for him. He amassed nearly $800-$900 in his all-day session, mainly on a fluke.

But like any good Jedi, solid players wore him out and took him down. Of course, that's not hard to do when the Count is playing with hands like Ax vs premium hands, calling any kind of raise and folding for a bet on the river.

It was a good exercise in staying with a donator, no matter how tired you are. I miss multitabling and always finding the limit you want online, but it's good to get the live play experience in.

This morning, though, I am totally paying the price. All I want to do is get on the plane and sleep. I'm not even playing poker in the airport, I'm so tired!

It was good to be back in Vegas and good to win.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Vegas- "A good beat"

LAS VEGAS -- I'm sitting here at Mr. Lucky's 24/7 Cafe at the Hard Rock Casino, drinking a shake and eating some wings with Sham.

Ordered my favorite -- a veggie burger corrupted with bacon. Perfect for this city, right?

After being stuck for a day, made about $400 and pulled myself back over the top, thanks to a gross donator at MGM's $4/8, in heavy loose-aggressive trading. I played pure Sklansky and made 4 of 5 people fold in a 22+BB pot that had paired 9s on the board. The gross donator thought about it and was like show me the 9. He had QQ to my TT. Still, I was up ahead.

After telling Sham all weekend that the police here don't care about giving people traffic tickets, I got pulled over on LV boulevard near Monte Carlo. I was trying to get past a "slap card" truck (those guys who hand out the porno cards on the Strip) and a cop pulled me over for going 50 mph in a 30 mph zone.

It would have been my first speeding ticket ever, but he came back and said "You know what? I don't feel like giving you a ticket. Have a nice day."

The weirdness of it kind of gave me another Shepherd Book/Alliance feeling. I wonder how I'm listed in the system. LOL.

Anyway, as Mark later said, "That's a good beat!" (As in the latest Bill Filmaff video when he sucks out on Amy Puke to win his hand).

I wish I had remembered to say that. I'm sure then the officer would have ticketed me for sure.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Coreward? Rimward?

Poor cat is at a crossroads. With his rebuilt $15/30 bankroll, he is not sure where to turn -- to the Core systems (the largest sites, such as Party, 'Stars, Ultimate Bet, Absolute) or out to the rim (the Prima system, Doyle's Room, etc.)...

If anyone has any expertise in this matter it would be greatly appreciated. Like, is it still +EV to play on Party without rakeback as opposed to another site out on the rim that offers it?

Anyway, trying to finish up the day, get packed and head to Vegas. At least I can be assured of finding a decent mid-limit game there...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Waiting for an interview... and the weather is so nice!

I'm pretty sure Sham and I are already in Las Vegas! I learned yesterday that the National Heads-Up Poker Championship will be at Caesar's when we are there, as will a UFC bout. Yay!

Of course, the real Heads-Up title was at Pearl Harbor last month! LOL