Sunday, April 30, 2006

Ah. The river

Placed just out the WPBT POY ranking bubble -- 23/42 in the fun stud tourney (21st place I think was the border for points). Was rivered twice in inexplicable hands.

1). Me, with QQ, Q showing. Opponent keeps betting out his gutshot, I put him all-in, he hits on river.

2). Me, with AA, A showing. Opponent with QQ decides it's best to 4-bet his hand preflop and makes Q on river.

I'm rooting for the Lakers, but I was really impressed by the Phoenix Suns' Steve Nash tonight, who may (or may not) have been fouled a few times in the Lakers' dramatic Game 4 win in the playoffs.

He did NOT complain. He said it wasn't meant to be.

It wasn't meant to be.

A rag-tag fleet

Fleeing from the Cylon tyranny, the last Battlestar, Galactica leads a rag-tag fugitive fleet on a lonely quest... a shining planet known as Earth.
-Battlestar Galactica, original series

You know the difference between you and me? I still have my $10,000.
-me to co-worker, who once recounted tale of winning $10,000 in blackjack at Foxwoods and losing it the next day

In the new Battlestar Galactica series, the Cylons fire nuclear-tipped warheads at Caprica's last hope and the inbound missiles detonate.
But the battlestar takes the hits. (Much like how the USS Enterprise took a hit from a nuclear weapon floating in space in the original Trek series).

I've been cruising along this past month, no fireworks. I've taken super hits but have been amazed that the bankroll is still afloat, enough to jump in Bellagio's juicy $15/30 game and not have bloggers wondering why I'm overplaying my bankroll. LOL.

My bankroll really is a rag-tag fleet of sorts. A bunch of my profits this year comes from juicy blackjack bonuses. Another segment comes from picking off NL toasters in the Crypto system. A third comes from doing the same in coreward systems -- PokerStars and Bodog.

I think I do well in NL because it's easy to shore up your mistakes when you can take another player's entire buy-in. It's vampirism of sorts.

But I am constantly shaking my head at limit, a combination of my poor play and how to adjust for others' poor play.

Maybe that's why bankroll is so important, that you have to create a juggernaut so large that it can take nuke hits and live to fight another day.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Great Toaster Shoot

If you ain't got a gun/and you can't fucking run/I suggest you hit the deck, man.
-50 Cent

So while I was trying to finish off the sucky room bonus, 4-tabling on my laptop, I had three NL tables up on the WP. They were just up to humor me, to try to drain some 100 percent rake from the tight players there.

Then the unthinkable happened. A NL400 screen popped up with the action on me, $23 to go, two people in the pot. And me with 77.

So many tables were popping up that I didn't have any time to process it. I didn't even know that was a $2/4 NL table.

It seemed like a large raise. Well, fuck it, I call.

And then I flopped a set.

Flop was Q57 and all of a sudden one of the two callers is all in for $328.

Fuck! These people play so tight I am sure it means only one thing: overset.

But I push all-in anyway. The other guy folds.

The all-in guy has AA!

Yes! An $841 pot!!!

Soon all hell breaks loose and I'm unable to keep up with my sucky room tables, the tables I was meaning to play.

I flop another set in the NL$400 game and drag down $192. I force a player with $200 left to fold his $28 reraise of me because he's looking down the barrel of nearly $1,000 in chips.

On other tables, specatcular action. I make my gutshot straight and bust an NL$200 player. I flop another set of 4s and bust a player in NL$100.

It's about fucking time. These toasters have owed me.

Colma - Dances With Toasters

Ignacio the dealer: So back when the Omaha jackpot was $30,000 this guy says to me, "I'll give you my Rolex if you deal me the jackpot. So I deal him the jackpot and he pushes the Rolex to me. I tell him I can't take it and he says "I told you I'd give it to you." So on the third time I take it. I sold it later on.

Me: You like Casio? I'll give you my Casio if I win the $100,000 bad beat jackpot.

Ignacio: I don't want any more watches. But I'll take a car.

Me: You wouldn't want my car, either.
-$6/12 hold'em, Lucky Chances

You look like an angel of poker. Until you bad beat me, right?
-Toaster in seat 5 to dealer

COLMA, Calif. -- So I'm down about $200 in the $6/12 game but there are two toasters directly to my right who are stuck $1,000 each -- no lie -- and I am not going anywhere.

I'd only planned on staying an hour at Lucky Chances, enough to get some play in. But that hour became two, then three, and eventually seven as I saw this toaster who looked like Fidel Castro pull out $200 at a time -- a rack of chips -- every orbit or so.

The other toaster later on would show me his hole cards, 59s utg, J7s.

Welcome to California poker. Where, like in the tradition of the Gold Rush, you can strike it big with any two cards.

That's because everybody's in a pot. I had to jettison my QQ when I got check raised on the turn by Fidel. That meant two pair or better. I had about 1 for 17 in the pot. I folded. The river brought a Q for my set. Ugh. Still it wouldn't have been the right odds (1 for 22) for my 2-outer.

In two pots, I caught right back up, even jumped ahead $40. But I couldn't go until Fidel's dwindling stack was gone. That cost me 20 more bets because I was playing the right way and jumping in with speculative hands in seven- and eight-way pots preflop.

I left around midnight and drove back to San Jose, where I found the Garden City Casino. It was nice. Like in the 2+2 posts, it cleared its waiting lists quickly. But I just collected chips and came back to the Hyatt.

In the morning, I went running, over to Bay 101. No tables were open but it was good to see people playing. I came back to the room and thought I was going to just stay there for the next three hours to play online in my room. But I quickly doubled up with AA vs QQ on the WP and was ready to roll.

I drove back up towards the SFO airport to San Bruno, where Artichoke Joe's Casino was. I'd read about it in the 2+2 posts. It's a beautiful casino, with lots of old school brass and wood. The poker room is small but it would be a cool place to play sometime.

In two weekends of play, the most I've won in California has been $5. Except for the WP double-up.

Even that was shortlived. In the gate area at the San Jose airport, I had AA broken by a set of 5s.

Ugh! Like the Galactica fleet jumping away at the send of season two when the Cylons invaded New Caprica, the toasters have won this time around. But I'll be back.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Colma -- Drawing dead

COLMA, Calif. -- Driving up to Lucky Chances you start to realize this is a different kind of place.

There are wooden shops with handpainted Chinese characters. You pass by huge cities of the dead.

And then ... Lucky Chances!

Nobody told me about this. I've been to casinos on the water, in the middle of the desert, industrial zones. But not a graveyard district.

It gives you a kind of "six feet under" feel, that you're playing in a realm that is otherworldly.

The casino is about average. All around you is the hustle and bustle of an Asian gambling den. This could be Macau. Or elsewhere.

This morning turned into this afternoon because I overslept big time. I was a little mad to know that I finally was up around 3 p.m. EDT. Unthinkable. I got my running gear on and ran over to Bay 101.

I played $6/12 for a little while and then after a half-hour, moved to the $8/16. It was good. There were plenty of people playing poorly. I got involved in a 7-way hand with my QQ and had to ditch it when the betting went to three bets on the flop. I would have made my set on the turn. Oh, well.

"My objective is not to win; my objective is to drain your chips," this tilty Asian guy in seat 8 told this Asian girl in seat 4.

Unlike in Los Angeles, where there was a steady racial mix, it seemed like Asian players dominated Bay 101. Only here or there would you see some white guy trying to battle it out with serious gamblers.

California has given me trouble in fits and starts. I attribute it to what I call the "Lucky Asian Theory." I find my luck easily gets short circuited with two other Asians at my table.

But at Bay 101, like in Los Angeles, it's like Superman trying to fight on the planet Krypton. He no special there.

In fact, he might be "Number One Suck Player."

More later. LOL

San Jose -- "Just a little chop"

SAN JOSE, Ca. -- The doppler radar over Alabama was green and yellow with large portions of red, indicating the most severe of the thunderstorms approaching Atlanta.

That meant we'd have to fly through it, or fly around it.

"The captain says it will be a little bumpy for the first 45 minutes of the flight and because we'll have the fasten seat belt sign on the whole time, you may wish to use the bathroom before we become airborne."

Oh, great, I thought. We were going to fly through the storm in our likely aging 737-800.

Although Atlanta is a great southern port, I've frequently experienced bad weather for the first hour or so of the flight -- over Alabama, over Mississippi, on evening flights out to Las Vegas. But this is usually in June or so, when it's warmer and maybe there's more conflict in the clouds.

So we took off. At 10,000 feet I turned on my new DVD player that I bought to be able to continue watching BSG episodes on the road.

It was a little bumpy but not as much as you'd expect. I think we snuck through gaps of the storm, by flying a little more north than we normally would. Instead of a flight path that usually takes you over Huntsville, Ala., we were well into Tennessee.

Whew. I fly all the time but I still hate bad weather.

In the north Georgia mountains on Thursday, when I was covering the story of the plane crash of the legendary Mach 2 test pilot, it started to pour.

"Every time a plane crashes it always rains," the photographer said, pointing out his observation from years of covering these kinds of things.

When I'm in a plane I just have to think that if the flight attendants aren't too concerned, neither should I. Plus, commercial aviation, other than the Sept. 11 attacks, is the safest it's been in years.

San Jose airport is really small. You wind around in circles trying to get out of there, but once you do that, Bay 101 is really close. I checked in my hotel, right across the street and soon went over.

It was smaller than what I'd expected. There are two large playing areas, but unlike Commerce, only one is devoted to poker. I remember reading on 2+2 that there's a city ordnance against NL. So all the games are limit. You have 2/4 and 3/6 and 6/12 and 8/16 on one brush. The other brush had 20/40 on up to 50/100.

The lists were huge, I was about 40 down. So unfortunately, I haven't played yet. I went back to the hotel, trolled around online trying to find some games but couldn't find any and went to sleep (it was about 4 a.m. EDT).

Friday, April 21, 2006

Toaster hunting

I don't think the gods answer the prayers of toasters.
-Lt. Kara "Starbuck" Thrace, Battlestar Galactica

Greetings from the CRC. I have a few minutes left before my flight to San Jose so I'm playing my first cards since Sunday's WPBT tourney. On Littlewoods Poker. It's nice that the games are so fishy, or in BSG parlance, so toastery.

I've finished seven days in a row at work, including a little more than 10 hours of overtime. Time for a break! I planned this San Jose trip weeks ago, just several hours didn't want to go, but now I'm totally fine with it.

Bring it. Ship it.

It'll be good to go, to be so close to Bay 101. I'm going to play and play and play.

And then sleep in for a change. Yay!

Hope everyone else fares well this weekend against the toasters.

Good hunting.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

I am in the middle of nowhere, and I am going to play poker

RANGER, Ga. -- Today got whisked out to cover the search for the crash of the small plane flown by the first man to make Mach 2 in a plane.

He crashed in a remote part of the north Georgia mountains in stormy weather yesterday. It's amazing to me - he survived explosions and catastrophic failures in experimental aircraft for years, made a career out of it, and in the end, went out flying.

Anyway, I'm sitting in the back of our photog's very nice Volvo SUV and we're putting the lid on the day, IM'ing absinthe on why Giovanna hasn't called him. And losing my wireless connection. And bouncing on dirt roads. And not finding a convenience store or a Coke machine anywhere in sight.

It's amazing where you can get a signal. Looks like poker playing will happen after all. LOL

A singular focus

-World War II mural, Punchbowl National Cemetery, Honolulu, Feb. 15, 2006

Never create what you can't control.
-tagline, Battlestar Galactica series

For years the Punchbowl quote, scrolled out on the cemetery's fantastic war murals that depict all of the major Pacific battles, had stood out in my mind. I wrote it down once in my journal, years ago in 1992 before I crossed the rest of the Pacific myself and went to live in Japan.

How could a war happen that was so brutal, an uncapped slugfest where the odds of winning were never completely clear? I feel that once again we are in similar times, the world is spoiling for a fight.

I've also turned that quote toward myself. For the last two days I haven't played any poker at all, instead popping VCD after VCD into my computer of the new Battlestar Galactia series. It's good.

When I was little, I saw the original BSG series on TV, when they actually aired in 1978 and parts of that show have stayed with me all these years, even when I didn't realize it. I remember being in awe of the "Turbo" button of the Vipers, as "Turbo" was a new thing then.

But my childhood love for it doesn't explain why I'm up past 2 a.m. night after night, spent episode VCDs piled one on top of another at the base of my computer tower, like the discarded casings from artillery rounds.

It's clearly obsessive behavior but one that I wonder was created over generations because it has its uses -- you can reach your goals very quickly when you deprioritze everything else. It's how I can plow right into poker for weeks and weeks at a time. It's how, when I put all my energy into running, I could eke out miles under 7:30 for miles at a time and how I would even run twice a day if I had to. (I actually miss those days and am trying to find a way to come back).

Sometimes I wonder if this behavior is why I don't worry about bankroll being up or down. Simply doing the task, playing through hand after hand after hand, is enough.

But you wonder if even then that's too much after a while. I've been out a few days already this week, the latest being tonight dipping into my bankroll taking Giovanna, Doug and his wife, Carolina, out to dinner. Man, some days spending a little green seems money so much better spent than having it disappear somewhere on a less than fortunate hand.

I always find it interesting when people stop because the engine has run off the rails. I stop because the singular focus has turned elsewhere. We should be taking more breaks anyway. I wonder if I kid myself to think that I can walk away from it all at anytime.

I feel fortunate that I'm starting to understand these things about myself. And lucky that at the end of it all, when I'm ready to take a break, Kuro and Clonie are always ready to play.

But not poker. The old games, that involve chasing string and toy mice and being scratched behind the ears.

I'll be back for poker. Just not right now.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Did video (NL) kill the radio (limit) star?

In my mind and in my car, we can't rewind, we've gone too far.
Pictures came and broke your heart, put the blame on VTR.
-The Buggles

So yesterday on the 2+2 forums came a post. The poster was lamenting how the limit games near his home casino are drying up and all over the place, NL games have popped up.

"Am I an old fogey already for wanting to play mid-limit, just like I used to look upon the 7 card stud players a few years back?" the poster laments, wondering if the NL players will come back to limit once they bust out.

Add to that a recent essay by Mason Malmuth, who clarifies his thoughts in his books, "Poker Essays" that thought that NL would soon die off (and that limit Omaha also would go the way of the dinosaur). In that recent essay, he points out that the advent of capped NL games keeps bad players from donking away their money all at once.

Why do we fear change so much? It totally makes sense to be adaptable, to play the games that the fish want to play. If NL is not your game, you may want to gain more experience playing it. If you have a solid foundation in limit hold'em mechanics and poker theory, then it shouldn't be too much of a jump. Of course, NL is not for everyone.

It's hard to tell when the pendulum swings enough that a vast change has been made in the game. Just like the 2+2 poster, I wonder if any 7-Stud player realized what would happen when the NL hordes were on the other side of the mountains. What will the game of the future be? Omaha? Badugi? If we trust Star Trek: The Next Generation, the game of the 24th century will be 5-Stud. LOL.

But if we're adaptable, and flexible, there will always be fish to eat. It just might not be the fish you're looking for.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Consistently consistent

I placed 14th in the WPBT tourney yesterday, pretty much par for the course with all of my bouts. I like that kurokitty still has an aggressive reputation and I'm thinking of tweaking that a little more in the future. Still, it was a fun time.

I hear more than $1,000 was raised for the American Cancer Society (which is Atlanta-based, yay!). We can continue to help them in other ways, namely by eating right, exercising, avoiding smoking and passing on the word. They have a great web site here.

Two days of having to show up at 4 a.m. for a 12-hour shift to help spell an injured co-worker on the Nebuchadnezzar has left me totally exhausted. Still, I limped into work today and was surprised that I was hitting all cylinders (even though exhausted).

Anyway, hope all is well with everyone and I'm totally looking forward to some R&R this weekend in San Jose/San Fran.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Another $216 entry

Yay! I entered another $24+2 on Full Tilt and won another $216 seat, this time to this evening's Winner's Choice ($12,000 package to a WPT or WSOP Circuit tourney). Of course, this time I had to flop a set with QQ vs KK and actually was a chip leader for a long while.
Hopefully I'll have better luck in that one...

Friday, April 14, 2006

Seattle -- Just like I remembered it

So I'm at the airport now, waiting to leave. The trip, although short, was awesome. This area was just like I remembered it -- driving places in the rain, the friendliness of people, really lush trees. I love driving around and seeing Interstate 5 signs for Portland. My old area.

I'm not from here so I don't know why I'm impartial to it. It just seems like a very natural way of life.

Last night, after bouncing out of the WSOP qualifier, I went and played at the Muckleshoot -- $4/8 while waiting for a $10/20 game, which didn't happen. I drove around and picked up a casino chip at a poker room in Des Moines, Wash., and another couple near the airport on Highway 99. Then made my way back to my hotel room, played a little $10/20 at WP and Full Tilt and then went to sleep.

Today I had an hour before having to go to the airport, so I hunted down three more casinos. I had so many chips in my bag (each casino I picked up four chips, one for myself, Sham, Drew and my uncle) that it was blocking out the x-ray machine!

I hope to be back soon. Next time I'll have to play at the Tulalip Casino. And more Muckleshoot.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Seattle -- A Mercy Killing

I bounced out in 61st of 125 people. No real fireworks. I was crippled from before the break at 76th place yet people kept bouncing out all around me. Finally, with a stack of 540 and 120 in the bb, I pushed all in with K6o. The button raiser called with A6o and made his ace.
Oh well. At least this frees up my evening!

Seattle- Live from the Muckleshoot

AUBURN, Wash. -- Greetings from the Muckleshoot Casino parking garage. The traffic is way heavy out here in Seattle so when I landed I didn't want to try to risk being stuck in rush hour traffic from Auburn, where Muckleshoot is (southeast of Seattle) to Bellevue where my hotel is (a little northeast of Seattle).

So here I am. I found a pylon with a wall outlet and now I'm just waiting for the tournament to start. I've never played in a $216 tournament before. Should be interesting.

Anyway, after I landed, I drove here, put my name on a list -- they had $10/20 and $4/8 games but they looked full. So I drove back a few miles to the Iron Horse Casino and Restaurant, which I noticed on the way in (and wasn't in my Card Player poker room directory).

And immediately was reminded of why i enjoy the Northwest. There were dudes in vests, there were even chicks in vests. People were enjoying this $3/6 kill game -- there were only four tables in the entire place.

"I'm playing blind poker," says this one guy in coveralls who says he's only looked at one of his cards. When he gets raised, he looks at the other one -- and shows me a pair of aces that he has underneath his .45 bullet that is his card protector.

Of course, he takes down the pot.

It is no fold'em hold'em at its finest. We have family pots and when somebody raises, everybody calls. Yay!

A big change from the extremely tight and aggressive games on the WP.

I'm typing this stretched out along the back seat of my car. I hope the casino security doesn't mind. I'm just trying to play a tournament. My laptop adapter/extension cord is outside the window of my car, like a bad cat tail/tell.

Wish me luck in the tourney, all! Details soon!

Almost there

DENVER -- I'm here in the airport, playing (or was playing) the WP until the program froze up on me.

Had a chance to read Card Player on the plane (got my upgrade again yay) and thought Alan Schoonmaker had a good comment in his column about playing tougher games for your education. Because of the WP, I've probably been playing more limit than ever before and certainly much tighter and tougher games. I still am often not sure of how to proceed preflop when every single hand is raised. I need to trust my instincts a little more when I get raised, too. It's just so easy to hit the call button.

So thirty more minutes here and then another couple hours to Seattle. My plan is to drive directly from the airport to Muckleshoot, play there for a little while and then end up at my hotel room in Bellevue before the Full Tilt tourney. (I had a horrible scare when I got here to Denver. I opened my bag to pull out my extension cord/power adapter for my laptop and was shocked to discover it wasn't there! I had visions of only being able to play the tournament for an hour until I realized I stashed the cord in a side pocket. Whew).

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Taxed out cats

Whew. I finally put the lid on my 2005 taxes. It took forever to separate wins and losses for the gazillion poker and casino sites I played at last year, thanks to Scurvy's Guide to the Galaxy.

Btw, you should check out Mark's kitty R2 unit, Poncey. That Poncey is 10 times more charming than that rat on Sound of a Suckout.

I've been troubling over sending the required quarterly payments to The Man but then my mom came up with a good idea -- why don't you have more taxes withheld from your regular job?

Awesome. Will totally do that. Hopefully I'll increase my charitable donations as well.

This Full Tilt tournament Thursday means I'll have very little time to actually go out and play at Seattle cardrooms. Hopefully I'll get to hit a couple. And I guess there will be time afterward as well.

And there's a new Poker (sucky room) Room bonus, 30% to $150. Always good playing there.

Lots to do, so little time!

Monkey off my back

So I've been subbing at work as the night editor, which means I get home right around 12:30 a.m. or so, just in time to play in Full Tilt's donkish $24+2 tourneys. These things are so donkish they must be the replacement of the $4+.40 Peep Sex tourneys. Most of the 49-50 player field bounces out in the first hour.

Monday night I was doing OK in a $24+2 tourney where winners would go to Sunday's $200+16 $200,000 guaranteed tourney. I was in 8th place of 25 people, five would advance, when I received AA. I pushed when this guy made a standard raise and he called with QQ. And flopped a set. I was totally crippled and bounced out later in 11th.

A few hours ago, I entered a $24+2 WSOP tourney qualifier. I really was minding my own business until the chip leader min raised and I called in the big blind with 97o. And made trips and doubled up against his AK.

Then I noticed later on he was calling all-ins. I received KK and pushed all-in. But another chip stack called me with JJ. She flopped three clubs, made a fourth with a K on the turn to make her flush...

And then a fourth K fell for the sloppy quad! Yes!

That gave me a bunch of chips. I had to fight to stay within the top 5 to advance to Thursday's WSOP $200+16 qualifier (including stealing blinds against two big stacks on the button with the hammer!)

After the 6th place person busted, it was an all-in fest. It got down to me and one other person. I was all-in on every hand, and then I got the hammer again. I thought this surely was a sign, I would actually win a tournament.

But no. I didn't. I lost that hand. Finally I got bludgeoned later with jacks full of kings against my 93s. It didn't matter since the top 5 all got the same prize. I sort of feel like how Chris Moneymaker felt when he won the online tourney to go to the WSOP- that he really hoped for the money instead. I wouldn't be crying if I had $216 in cash right now instead of a long shot for a $12,500 WSOP package.

But that won't happen so it looks like I'll be online in my hotel room Thursday evening in Seattle. Yay!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Having the technological edge

Suddenly the enemy that Blue Team thought could be read like an open book was a bit more mysterious. What was Red Team doing? Van Riper was supposed to be cowed and overwhelmed in the face of a larger foe. But he was too much of a gunslinger for that. On the second day of the war, he put a fleet of small boats in the Persian Gulf to track the ships of the invading Blue Team navy. Then, without warning, he bombarded them in an hour-long assault with a fusillade of cruise missiles. When Red Team's surprise attack was over, sixteen American ships lay at the bottom of the Persian Gulf. Had Millennium Challenge been a real war instead of just an exercise, twenty thousand American servicemen and women would have been killed before their own army had even fired a shot.
-Malcolm Gladwell, Blink

If you know the enemy and know yourself then you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.
-Sun Tzu

Before the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, the U.S. military held a series of war games, chronicled by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Blink.

The Blue Team, which largely represented the U.S. military and particularly its technological advances, had its fingers on the heart of the Red Team. With the flip of a digital switch, it could instantly knock out Red's power grid. Its real-time satellites could keep in touch with Red's troop movements and communications. Red's military obviously was no match for Blue's.

But what Blue Team didn't have was the leader Red Team had. The military selected a retired Colonel, Van Riper, who had experience fighting the Viet Cong decades ago in a different war.

Van Riper saw first hand how an impoverished force could take on a first rate military.

When Blue Team attacked, he was ready. He threw away his cell phones and moved instructions via soldiers on motorcycles. He launched planes at electricity-deprived airports using a primitive signalling system last seen in World War II.

In short, he outplayed Blue's technological edge.

I think of this when I think of Poker Tracker and its accessories -- Poker Ace Heads Up Display, GameTime+, etc. Don't get me wrong. I have these things and use them. But I try to never let the data take control of my decision-making.

A strange situation has popped up in the poker 'verse recently with the introduction of 100 percent rakeback at the World Poker Exchange. It's prompted throngs of 2+2 posters practically begging for the Web site to make the necessary changes so PT can be brought to that part of the 'verse.

I play at a lot of rimward sites that do not have the necessary software innovations to make Poker Tracker work. Plus I've played at countless live poker rooms -- 64 and growing. So a lot of my development has been without PT.

So last week when I embarked on the World Poker Exchange no rake tour, I felt there weren't bumps in my play. I went about finding the fish based on how they were playing, what they were doing with raises and how they would bet. Anything interesting I'd jot down by hand in the Notes box.

In short, I wasn't in the dark when the juice to the PT was left off.

I try not to overrely on PT data because I feel that it isn't very complete at times. It doesn't tell you whether someone is inexperienced or not and I think that many people who show up as "tight" players could easily be uncreative types that you can outplay or those who know so little about the game they only play with the very best of cards. Either way, these kinds of players are just as valuable as your 49/3/0.39.

PT data can also be disastrous if you don't know how to interpret it. How do you explain a fish who suddenly makes a 3-bet bluff on the turn or a rock who shows up with J3o and all of your chips on the river?

When the day comes (and already there are developments toward it) when PT is finally running for the World Poker Exchange, I'll be there like everyone else. But until then, I'll be fine with having the current edge, which is not relying on a technological edge.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Cats are pleased

Right now I'm at work, with a suspicious red hue on my nose, my forehead and my arms. I can't believe I'm nearly sunburnt, as I don't burn that easily and, I don't really get out that much.

Especially with the lure of 100 percent rake back at the World Poker Exchange. It's been an interesting experience. The games are possibly among the tightest/hardest I've played. Limited players means limited tables and I'm pretty sure the people I'm playing against at the $5/10 and $10/20 tables play higher. Well, I do, too, but it's really been an education.

I've become a check-raising fool, trying to keep people from running over me. Plus I've had to make all kinds of decisions what to do with medium pairs, AKs that don't go anywhere and steal situations.

That said, I've been happy with my play. I'm not afraid of the games. I like being able to multi-table for long hours at a time. One player even asked me if I was a prop after seeing me at three tables. A laughable concept.

The weekend was great, starting with a cookout and $5 poker at Drew's. Bibb beat my KK with 64o but the games are always +EV because people will call you down with anything.

Saturday I was back on the WP online and then met up with Empire and his girlfriend Brigid, who were back in town from Baltimore to attend a wedding. Sunday I attended an orchestra concert that Kelley was in and then settled down at a $5/10 table in the evening just to find x Absinthe x there (Eurobet). He was locked in some chatting war with a donk. Ryan, sir, even your retorts are literary. LOL.

Today I spent a lot of the day with Empire and Brigid again. We had lunch outside with Drew and a few of his Georgia Tech co-workers then later on Empire and Brigid and I threw frisbee in Piedmont Park. Kuro and Clonie got a double heaping of attention from them, as they also visited Saturday.

All your rake back plus double attention, cats? You must be doing something right!

Friday, April 07, 2006

"Free at last"

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last."
-Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

It's not often when we're around to see something happen that potentially could be historic. Perhaps months from now, perhaps in a year, you'll read in The New York Times about the day PartyPoker shares rose because potential legislation against Internet gambling stalled out in the U.S. House, another gambling site was already making its first steps towards the demise of the Party system.

What could be so momentous? How about full reimbursement of poker rake at the World Poker Exchange. If it takes root, it could signal the start of drastic changes across the online poker 'verse.

I know, I know. Alarm bells still are ringing in my head even after logging a two-hour session 3-tabling $5/10 limit hold'em there. Nobody ever believed Dutch Boyd's dream would come true, that the world one day would play online poker without rake.

Rake. The thing that makes low games unbeatable. The kitty that sucks the marrow right from your bones. Without it, poker is like a home game. There are all kinds of reasons it's worthwhile to play. If you're making $1,000 on rakeback every month at $20 percent, guess what could happen at 100 percent rakeback?

But it's happening now. I don't know how this will turn out, how long it will last, but it's exciting to see right now. Already from that short session, I've logged $73 that will be paid to me on Monday. It has to be the easiest kind of bonus available.

Pass the word and jump in some tables. It'll be interesting to see what happens with the site.

Poker belly and health

After adjusting for socioeconomic and demographic variables, adults who watched more than 2 hours of television per day consumed 137 calories more than adults who watched less than 1 hour of television per day. Assuming that the energy intakes and expenditures remain constant throughout the year for the adults who watch more than two hours of television per day and that they consume more calories than they expend, these 137 excess calories per day would translate into a gain of 14.3 pounds per year.
-"Television-Viewing Characteristics of Adults," Preventing Chronic Disease (journal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), April 2006

When I'm at a casino, I always try to be watchful for Internet players, those who are more likely to be far more experienced than any recreational player (due to Lee Jones' speeding up of time) and more aggressive than usual.

It's not hard to find these people. Months and possibly even years of sedentary play has created in many (including myself) what I call "poker belly," that unwanted badge of lack of exercise. Sure, some players are skinny, but finding players who look like they've spent years in front of a television/computer monitor/video game screen isn't too difficult.

For a while I've been interested in what prolonged poker play does to your health. Just out is an article in a journal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that examines length of time watching television and obesity. It found that those who watched more than two hours of TV each day typically were overweight or obese.

"Television viewing is a popular leisure-time activity and promotes a sedentary lifestyle by infringing on the time available for physical activity," it says. Sound familiar?

The study found a correlation between those who watched more than 2 hours of TV each day with having health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even heart disease, such as heart attacks and strokes.

In addition, those who saw less than an hour of TV each day consumed the least calories each day. The long TV watchers consumed less fiber but ate large amounts of snack foods filled with calories, from pizza to sodas.

The study doesn't mention poker, but it's easy to see the correlations.

"Individuals from all socioeconomic backgrounds would benefit from reducing their television- or video-viewing time or time spent in similar sedentary activities," it says.

The fix? Simply to do more exercise, even possibly using treadmills or stationary bikes at home. It also says people should make sure they know that it's easy to gain weight by snacking in front of the TV.

Alan Schoonmaker, in "The Psychology of Poker" says that tight-aggressive players usually don't live that long, for reasons similar to those discussed in the study. We simply spend too many hours at the tables, eating terrible food and never get the exercise we need.

But it doesn't have to be that way, given the knowledge we have. Sure, exercising 20-30 minutes each day might make you miss a juicy game or two. But think of the rakeback and winnings you'll have by extending your life extra years, hopefully health problem-free? It seems plus-EV in the long run.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Impulse and the Blink impression

The people who can binge, gamble or try hard drugs and get away with it have a native cunning when it comes to risk, this and other studies suggest. They are prepared for the dangers like a mountain climber or they sample risk, in effect, by semi-consciously hedging their behavior -- sipping their cocktails slowly, inhaling partly, or keeping one toe on the cliff's edge, poised for retreat.

"These are highly self-directed people," said C. Robert Cloninger, a professor of psychiatry and genetics at Washington University in St. Louis and author of "Feeling Good: The Science of Well-Being." "They have goals and are resourceful in pursuing them."

Those who are upended by their own impulses, by contrast, are more likely to trust their first impressions implicitly and absolutely, the studies suggest.
-"Living on Impulse," The New York Times, April 4, 2006

At least in the gambling context, this seems very suspect and the reasoning is very back and forth. It points to the general preconception that gambling is a bad behavior. Of course that applies to negative-EV games but also to losing poker players, one of whom, a self-described losing player, wrote an interesting article in this month's 2+2 magazine.

The concept of the tight-aggressive player pretty much torpedoes these three paragraphs. First there might be a "native cunning" in people, but the tight-aggressive player, the most likely to be able to "gamble ... and get away with it," is largely self-taught, as Alan Schoonmaker points out in "The Psychology of Poker," primarily for the difficulties in being aggressive and having control over it at the same time. Most people are passive and the aggressiveness is not second-nature. The natural professions of tight-aggressives -- fighter pilots and police officers -- are trained to be this way, he says.

We're only "prepared" for the dangers by experience -- absorbing other people's knowledge from books and forums and by thousands and thousands of hands online. The only "hedging" we do is in the form of not betting when we don't have the edge. Hedging is way too passive for us.

I don't think it's true that trusting your instinct will result in upending ruin. For weeks I've wanted to write about Malcolm Gladwell's book "Blink" and how it relates to poker.

The book is about the mysterious processes of the subconscious and how we're quickly able to size something up when that same process might take us hours or even days if we tried to figure the same problem out rationally.

It's a condition that I'll call the "Blink impression." How exactly do you know that a guy is bluffing when you have no other evidence otherwise? How do you know the small bet is one with the nuts? It's similar to when Doyle Brunson and others implore us to "trust your instinct" and that the first impression is usually the right one.

In the book, a lot of how we develop this instinct is from our daily lives and our development. Gladwell points out that this instinct, if not nurtured properly, can lead people astray, such as not hiring black people because they're not the same ethnicity as you or not thinking a female lead orchestra player is qualified, because she is a woman. It's catastrophic to fold to a huge bet just because your instinct is he or she has the nuts. Mark and I have a running joke from the old Emory Game because once I put a big semi-bluff on a player who said "I have to fold because I don't have the nuts." Well I didn't either, but it still was a nice pot.

But like poker players, Gladwell says the instincts can be honed through constant training and experience. By practicing all the time, police officers are able to make correct decisions of when to shoot at a suspect when he or she may only have a second to decide. Gladwell talks about a time when a firefighter was able to call his colleagues out of a building seconds before it collapsed because "it just didn't add up." Doyle and the pros can trust their instincts because they have years of experience. Their subconscious runs the numbers and probabilities for them. They've pretty much seen it all.

Gladwell calls this the "mind-valet." The mind allows you to focus on a problem by figuring other things out for you. Your experience keeps you on track and lets you decide whether the instinct is an appropriate one for you or not.

It may make total sense to fold if something doesn't add up to the way the weak bettor makes his move. I see it as similar to how Howard Lederer tells you to work the hand back to the beginning -- does the end move make any sense to the way your opponent was playing the hand preflop?

Another important thing the book conveys is why practice is so crucial -- once the heart rate starts to speed up, the body naturally starts to shut down in order to provide blood to critical body systems. You end up with tunnel vision and if you're heart is pumping fast enough, soon your options are to fight or flee.

Gladwell implies this may be a reason why police officers end up beating up a suspect after catching him. There are no other options left once this tunnel vision sets in. I think being too excited or worried in poker, especially in NL when all the chips are out on the table, can lead to rash decisions you'd otherwise not make.

People think it's moxie or luck when it comes to gambling and winnings. But like in "Rounders," it's skill. It's not "native cunning" but education, knowing how to walk the tightrope and making it look easy. No wonder those who spend little time on gambling or the game are easily confused.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A cat in disguise

The proverb says, "Born lucky, always lucky," and I am very superstitious. As a small boy I was notoriously lucky. It was usual for one or two of our lads (per annum) to get drowned in the Mississippi or in Bear Creek, but I was pulled out in a 2/3 drowned condition 9 times before I learned to swim, and was considered to be a cat in disguise.
-Mark Twain

I've been pretty happy with my play the last few days, in live games in Tunica and online. I feel like the quote from Izmet Fekali on an old Guinness and Poker blog:

"Optimal hold'em strategy is a defensive one. You make yourself unbeatable, you let your opponents bang their heads & weapons against your fortress walls. They are not playing optimally against you (they are either trying to find cracks in your armor and are zigging and zagging around or they are simply stupid and don't have a clue how to play) and must therefore be losing money to you."

There are few cracks in the armor right now.

Don't get me wrong -- I've learned I can turn surly (like Bellagio dealers say Jennifer Harman gets sometimes?) when the largest win in a session is $5 for an entire weekend (as in my L.A. trip) but I've learned to take the losses in stride because I nearly always find a way to ride out of it.

And losses are part of the game. We need to get out of this mindset that winning is everything in poker. You can't tell where you're at until you combine the wins with the losses. Make the proper plays and it shouldn't matter that the fish ran you down with 83o and cracked your premium pair. I felt sad in Tunica when I saw this kind of play. It's like watching somebody eating five pounds of hamburger every day. It might be fun for that person in the short-term but you know it's going to end up badly.

That said, I'm really trying to shore up mini-leaks. I found myself calling last weekend in Tunica after I'd been raised on the turn by very obvious players. And then calling on the river. It was only $6 after all. Add all of those little calls up and I might have been looking at a winning trip.

I'm also finding I have to get rid of my default programming, all the still sound advice from Lee Jones and Lou Krieger books that I shouldn't just blindly follow.
There was another instance in which I limped with 99 UTG at the Horseshoe's $4/8. It got called twice before it got raised and then another call and then a 3-bet. My old programming told me to get out of there and I folded. But later I calculated there were 22 small bets in the pot! Of course I would have flopped a set and the winner took down the huge pot with a set of 3s.

I'm not saying that either of the authors would have made my mistake -- they obviously would have calculated the correct pot odds. But many times my instinct is still set to "factory default" where I'll just think that 99 is not worth a 3-bet.


In other news, the WPBT tourney last night was fun. But it wasn't as fun as the first WSOP satellite a few weeks back. This one had a strange tone of seriousness combined with either joking or serious snipes at other players. Either way, it created a different atmosphere. (I didn't say a word and nothing was directed at me). As WPBT players we should be professional, especially in our own tournaments in which other people may be observing. This is the only way we'll get the right respect as a group. Bounced out in 45th place, enough to gain points in the POY standing.

Lou Krieger mentions that the Grand Casino-Biloxi will be reopened this summer. I'll have to make a trip to play there. I can't wait until the Beau Rivage opens up what's supposed to be a huge room in September.

Am also looking forward to this Seattle trip. There are about 20 poker rooms in the Seattle area and the trick will be going to the ones that will make the trip worthwhile. I have divided up the chips in my collection, arranging the poker rooms I've played in chronological order, from The Plaza in Las Vegas to Biloxi's Imperial Palace. Doing it that way helps me bring back memories from each place.

Monday, April 03, 2006


Call me crazy. I have another free ticket on Delta and a chance to see some friends in the Pacific Northwest. I'll be in Seattle April 13-14, so if anyone's been to Muckleshoot or whatever they call cardrooms out there, please let me know!

From dusk 'til dawn

We were driving down Route Tampa when all of the sudden all hell came down around us, all these guys, wearing all black, a couple dozen on each side of the street, on rooftops, alleys, edge of buildings, out of windows, everywhere, just came out of fucking nowhere and started unloading on us. AK fire and multiple RPGs were flying at us from every single fucking direction. IEDs were being ignited on both sides of the street. I freaked the fuck out and ducked down in the hatch and I yelled over the radio, "HOLY SHIT! WE GOT FUCKIN' HAJIS ALL OVER THE FUCKIN' PLACE!!!! They're all over goddammit!!!"
Bullets were pinging off our armor, all over our vehicle and you could hear multiple RPGs being fired, soaring through the air every which way and impacting all around us. All sorts of crazy insane Hollywood explosions were going off. I've never felt fear like this. I was like, this is it, I'm going to die. I cannot put into words how scared I was.
-Colby Buzzell, My War

So the sun starts to set and we're stuck close to the Alabama-Georgia border in the mother of all traffic jams. How the fuck can the best country on earth fuck up the little things so routinely? World of the 21st century, observe one of man's great achivements -- the interstate system, now a parking lot.

For a little while you sort of just humor it. Stop, creep forward, stop. Over and over until one hour becomes two and then three. The only entertaining thing is this guy who I've dubbed "Old Jalopy," who keeps on trying to pass these trucks in the emergency lane. Only, these trucks are having none of it. They honk at him and get in the lane. He skirts by them on the grass, only to have his car stall out later. It's amazing what people use to get on the open road.

It's close to 9 p.m. now and the possibility of me finishing up my 1,400 raked hand Empire Poker bonus, which expires at 9:14 a.m. Monday, is looking really, really slim. For one, it'll take me about 7 hours to do, at an estimated 50 raked hands per table, 4 tables max. That's 200 raked hands an hour.

Finally we get through to a rest area. Sham finds a map that at least gets us around the jam by taking the next exit through local highways. Tons of trucks are already on these side streets, possibly having told each other of the way to go.

I drop off Sham and Drew and then finally get home at 10:30 p.m. I'm beyond tired. I only slept maybe three hours the night before, since I uncharacteristically stayed up until 6:30 a.m. playing at the 'Shoe and Gold Strike. What a mess.

Plus I have to turn in the rental car at the airport at 9 a.m. If I can't leave here by about 7:30 a.m., Atlanta's rush hour traffic will make the return trip a complete mess.

So I log on and play. I can't even begin to explain how surreal the experience was. There were plenty of hands that I would just push all-in because I didn't have time to do anything else. Playing four tables at the same time means there is action every few seconds. I couldn't believe how many times I was getting premium cards. It seemed like I'd broken a water main full of QQ.

For one, it took me way longer than seven hours. According to Poker Tracker, I played 2,935 hands, getting credit for less than half of them. Now I figured out why that was. My strategy for the last two Empire bonuses has been to play NL$25 6-max, a game that makes it an understatement when I say I absoutely dominate. Of course it helps when you have 400 times the required buy-ins for bankroll, instead of the requisite 20.

Hands, 2,935. VP$IP: 21.29. PF Raise: 11.41 AF: 5.37

I am a total maniac at these tables. It was my fault that I didn't get raked hand credit for a lot of the time -- basically I raised nearly every time I played a hand, prompting others to fold constantly, no matter where I was -- big blind, small blind, UTG, sitting out. LOL.

I only remember some of the details. I played at 30 tables, cashing out money in 17 of them. I lost my buy-in at least twice from RPGs. I made quads three times, including one hand in which I open raised with TT only to find a set and lots of action. The other guy reraised me all in. Fine. I call, only to quad up on the turn, beating his set of jacks.

"That's a good beat," I tell Mark via IM.

Two times I took a buy-in from a calling station who would call me on the river. Once I figured this out I was doing this all the time to her.

I missed out on one straight flush chance, with 73d. I boated up five times, won with flushes 15 times and had trips nearly twenty other times.

At around 4 a.m. I didn't really feel tired. But the raked hand count was going so slowly. I was only around 950 hands in. I figured it would be 8 a.m. before I even would finish.

At 6 a.m. I panicked a little bit. The NL $25 tables were drying out. In order to keep it going, I jumped it up to the NL$50 tables, which were weak but still had die-hards playing. It was a little more aggressive, too. Unlike NL$25, sometimes I was faced with massive re-raises to my open-raise bid. I would just fold and move on.

Finally, around 7 a.m. I finished my last required raked hand. I made a small profit from the regular play (like during the previous Empire bonus in February). I was pretty happy because last year I hadn't figured out how to cut my variance at this site and was in the red.

That wasn't the end of it. Although I swore to Mark I would just fucking go to sleep and take the rental car penalty, that's not how I roll. I drove the rental car to the gas station, rain now pouring all over the place, and then made my way through the early-morning rush hour traffic. I dropped the rental car off around 8 a.m. and then made my way back to the airport's MARTA station, where I blissfully slept most of the 11 stops back to Midtown station.

At around 9 a.m., more than half a day since I was stuck at the Alabama border, it was bright out but drizzly and windy. I trudged back the four and a half blocks back to my apartment and blissfully, finally got some sleep.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Tunica -- Big Red

They're playing bingo and I'm winnin'.
-Seat 9, $4/8 hold'em at Horseshoe Tunica

TUNICA, Miss. -- "You're too strong for them; they can't take your raises," the dealer says to the very drunk mid-50-year-old woman who has become known at the table as Big Red.

"You're beating them up," I say from the four seat near her, motioning my boxing fists in a furious cat trying to stand up on back legs kind of way.

Big Red just laughs. She keeps getting drink after drink and her AF is through the roof. Jennifer Harman would be proud. You raise her? She'll four bet you on the turn with 83o.

"They don't know what I have," she says to the young man in seat 3 wearing the athletic jersey who she's been flirting with.

"She doesn't know what she's doing so it's hard to tell what hand she has," the older Asian guy to my left says.

All I know is they're calling my name for a $10/20 seat and I'm not going anywhere.

"Little? Would you call these little?" she says back to a new dealer. About an hour earlier, this older dealer who apparently knows her took to calling her "Big Red." True she was wearing a red shirt and lipstick.

"Little BLIND. Please post the little blind," he says, without any emotion in his voice. This guy is a pro.

I'd have to say that the Horseshoe is my favorite cardroom of the 67 poker rooms I've played in. I like it because the newness from last year has worn away, revealing it for what it is -- a place filled with a lot of energy and substance. It's not too crowded, as Sham says, and I totally feel at home.

Big Red joins the historic pantheon of Tunica poker personalities we've encountered, from Mark's Ms. Pat (who famously uttered the words that sounded a lot like "You look like dog" to Sham, only later to say "No. No. I say 'You look like doll'" to Sham himself building up $640 at a $4/8 table overnite to the jovial gambler Mr. Kid.

In Las Vegas, I like playing at the Bellagio because of it's prominence as one of the most beautiful casinos in the world and because it has the Yankee Stadium of poker rooms -- if you're at the top, there's no way you can't play here. It's one of the few Las Vegas poker rooms that matches the bottom all the way to the top action of L.A. rooms such as Commerce and the Bike.

The MGM is a sleek and comfortable room, but it's way too loud. I love playing at the Excalibur becuase it's a treasure trove of money (I've made the most money there in Las Vegas, followed by the Bellagio). The Wynn is a very comfortable and stylish place to play -- backless dresses should have been the style for cocktail waitresses long ago. But it's a crowded place to play.

There have been a lot of changes since last September when I drove to Tunica by myself. The tables at the Gold Strike's room now have luxurious ruby red felt. Sam's Town is now a non-smoking room and they've added about ten more tables.

Back at the Horseshoe, our current dealer jokes that Big Red isn't concerned with money. She gives him a look, but it seems to be true. Chip by chip, either by over-aggressizing a pot or calling people down with possibly the 10th worst hand at the table, she $200 stack of chips and cash become a few stacks and $20s and then her last twenty.

I've stayed longer than I would have because drunk or not, if I peg you as someone who is a chip bleeder, I'll stick around for a little while.

Big Red's last chips go into the pot. She looks off, her gaze far from the poker table as she gets up, disappearing into the casino in the manner of thousands of equally unfortunate players before her as the dealer pushes another player the pot.