Poker Cats

Thursday, November 30, 2006

That's money I'm talking about

What's a matter with you, Luke? Don't you know that's money you're talking about?

Yeah, well it gives me something to do.

-Cool Hand Luke


I was pretty tired on Tuesday but I made it up to Matt's home game. Doubled up immediately with a set-turned-boat against Bibb's OESD. He hit it on the river but was drawing dead.

Shorthanded Omaha reveals the futility of poker "nuggets" (as they would say in BSG) -- Ben raised with KKxx and although everybody pretty much knew what he had (novices routinely think hold'em hands carry the same gravitas in Omaha), they called his raise anyway. With four cards in the hole, you're not that much of a dog to a big pair hand preflop. And that big pair's chances get evened out if the raised pot goes four-way. He didn't win that pot.

Lost some money in Triple Draw. It's frustrating to bet for value pre-draw in very shorthanded games and then on the first and second draws only to lose by a slightly lower hand, but that's the way the game is.

In another hand, I had top two pair in a pot that I raised preflop. I had to fold when someone went all-in on the river with only one card needed for a Broadway straight.

Instead of being up a buy-in, I was 90 cents down for the evening. Oh, well.

POKER CATS NOTEBOOK: I crossed 100 miles for the month yesterday. The weather has been perfect for running. Later at Park Tavern I met up with my cousin, who I haven't seen in eight years. It was fun -- she totally is more of a degenerate gambler than me -- "I'll bet on anything," she said and even plays poker.

Closest thing I have to a sister. What I loved the most was how she said that going through junior high school and high school with me and her brother taught her how to be a terror to the boys, something that John Clark in the Tom Clancy novels would be proud of.

She is totally dangerous, too -- she uncrossed her legs once while we were outside for a smoke (her not me) and this frat Orc changed seats to get a better angle on her miniskirt. Oh, please. Would hate to give somebody a broken nose (or receive one, lol) on my home turf.

Monday, November 27, 2006

I hate ironing

I finally found a way to focus and sit down and play poker -- ironing for two hours. It's sort of like some anti-tilt device that makes you work off the tedious nature of systematically unwrinkling clothes.

Ugh. I really fucking hate ironing.

Thanks for the lift, toaster

That's how you're going to beat 'em, Butch. They keep underestimating you.
-Pulp Fiction

So I'm minding my own business down Virginia, just shuffling along during the tail end of my run, no gas in my legs, nothing.

Then this toaster, sort of a Phil Gordon build, passes me, fine. About 50 feet ahead of me, he turns around and looks. And then on the next 50 feet.

I don't know where people learn how to run, but the first rule is to never look back. For one, the person is already behind you, and two, you'll know if you're about to be passed.

Not sure how it happened, but it completely energized me. I crossed to the other side of the street so I wouldn't be running directly on his ass, and passed him and kept on going. My back-injury weakened hobbling stride suddenly found length again.

I dusted him but while I was waiting for the Monroe stoplight to change, he slipped across the street a few yards down the block.

I gave him a 30-second lead and then crossed against the stoplight on my own. From the other side of the street, he kept looking over his shoulder.

"Look one more time motherfucker and I'll come over to your lane," I yelled out.

It didn't matter. I passed him before the hill at the Charles Allen intersection.

And I didn't fucking look back. What had all the makings for a slow, shitty run turned into something a lot more invigorating. Thanks for the lift, toaster.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Pwnage of the day

Tech got pwned.
-Text message from Mark


Today I found myself in Blade Runner City, having dim sum with Sham at Happy Valley and then later passing up shrink-wrapped fish heads and pig uterus at a nearby Asian grocery store.

We wandered through the different shops/stalls at Plaza Fiesta, Sham looking for a giant belt buckle he saw once with the Confederate flag on it, passing up many with Mexican flags.

"You can't deport all of us," read a large sign that I think was for sale.

I started out the day thinking that I wouldn't have to get my run in until later in the day. It's 11:48 p.m. now and I just finished it.

After Dim Sum and wandering through the Asian and Mexican markets, Matt called us for kickball, soccer and ultimate frisbee -- all in the same session. Call it the sports version of the mixed game.

I scraped up my left calf after I ran past Drew at shortshop when he got the ball and then did one of those slides where you slide next to the base but tag it with your hand. The ball sailed wide over me.

Later though, I pulled my back -- I've never done that before -- while slipping in a muddy area near first while trying to throw Ben out. But the pain went away on the first run down the field in Ultimate. I didn't realize that game is so fast.

I don't know anything about soccer but I can tell you that the 5-mile daily runs have helped with the conditioning. I felt good enough, even with the back pain, to know that I would be running sometime this evening.

We all went to Mellow Mushroom to end up the day. I had two slices and then I went to Doug and Carolina's where they invited me for dinner for watching over their kitty. They invited Dorie, so it was a fun evening.

But alas. I had to return to get in the run before the day passed. I was surprised that many people still were hitting the bars along Highland Ave. If I didn't have to run I would be sleeping.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Even poker cats sometimes (hit their) draw

Call it a bet for information. I was sure I was behind. Sure I've been out with Sherri a few times. But I didn't know where I was at.

So I really, totally, plainly asked her out, drawing for sure. And she said yes.

I can't believe I finally hit a draw.

Reset the jump clock

So this morning before work I finished my second 30-mile week in a row, running on a street that I've been calling "The Flop," since all along a sidewalk for a few blocks on this one street in my neighborhood random playing cards are scattered about. The ace of diamonds here. The two of spades there. A six of clubs. The cards have been there for about a week now.

Saturdays are pretty anti-climactic for me. After all, on Sunday, the week starts anew, at zero miles, and it's back on the road to 30 or whatever miles. I'll feel better once I maybe get six weeks of good running under my belt.

Looked in on Atticus, Doug's poker cat, today. He let out the most sorrowful Chewebacca-cat wail. Poor kitty.

My poker cats aren't happy, I'm sure. I haven't played much poker recently and with the Sherri thing I'm as nervous as I am when I have a very good draw with lots of outs. You know, it's easy to lose a buy-in with that kind of hand. How large is the bankroll of your heart? Ready to get rivered? Does anyone really like playing this game or are you just a degenerate gambler?

I get to see her in a few hours. Ughhhhh. Can't fold now.

Right now the UBT is on. Now I know what non-poker players feel like when a poker show comes on TV. I have no idea what's going on. Don't really care, either.

Last night, Dorie and I happened to get into a showing (for free, we kind of snuck in) of the 1957 movie Funny Face, a movie created around two franchise players, Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire. We're talking lots of Fantasy Movie points here.

I shoulda titled this entire post "POKER CATS NOTEBOOK" because it's all over the place. Might actually stop biking to work for a while. Five miles a day running covers the exercise component, and I feel like I have more energy in my legs when I haven't just been riding a bike up and down the city's hills.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Back to Bond

So yesterday, having lucked into a last-minute reservation at one of my favorite restaurants in the city, I found myself watching Bond, villain and other toasters checking their way to their final hand in Casino Royale.

I went again to be social. I was curious what my impressions would be if I saw it again.

My impressions were the same, even in the part where Bond chokes the African terrorist leader. I thought for the second time how cool it would be if he had used a UFC-style triangle choke on him. It looked like it could have been possible.

Dinner was cool. With my parents in Chicago, I wasn't expecting turkey. Living for several years in Japan really took the holidays out of me. It was Dorie's idea to hunt out food. I like listening to Dorie -- at times she totally reminds me of Starbuck.

It was a perfect outing. I found a carmenere from Chile to drink, I really enjoyed that wine after visiting Mark there in 2004; the bottle I brought back quickly was consumed by me and Meg, the former flight attendant in my building. Man it was good!

I wasn't sure if I'd be able to get in another run after the movie, but I did. It was still 50 degrees at 10 p.m. Totally loved it.

But no poker. My social life is totally interfering with my poker play.

Before you know it I won't even be going to Tunica next week. That won't happen, will it?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Blind Man's Bluff-Pineapple

At Matt's home game last night, I was down two buy-ins with no hope in sight. But Chip Reese style, I created a suggestion that would give me a chance to win some money and generate lots of action on the very last hand of the evening.

You've heard of Blind Man's Bluff, right? We call it Indian hold'em. How about playing Indian Pineapple? You know, hold three cards to your head and then on the flop get rid of one of the cards and then play it down like hold'em. Only you can't look at the cards on your head, only the other players' cards.

Before any cards were dealt out, Brigid was all-in for .60. Everyone called for a total of $3.60 in the pot in our $5 buy-in $.10/.20 weekly mixed game.

At the time I was thinking, OK. I'll just try to make a run for the pot. Before the flop hit the felt, I went all-in blind for $6. Unfortunately, I got two other callers when the flop came.

The flop was A,8,4. By the way people were looking at my cards, I had total rags. Doug has x,x,A. Matt had J,9,x, three hearts on a non-heart board. So I wasn't worried about him.

But I wanted to not look at the ace on Doug's forehead. I did a little wishful thinking and sure enough, he pulled down the ace and folded it. He didn't like seeing he just threw away top pair.

I thought Doug was looking at a card on the right side of my head. So I pulled down the card from the opposite side, it was a harmless three.

Matt discarded a card and soon was all-in with Doug.

"That's it then," I said, lowering my cards and finding a lowly 7,6.

But then the turn came: a 5, making my gutshot.

"Straight!" I said, clapping my hands.

Matt had J,9 for nothing. Doug had J,7.

I scooped up the pot using my ruckbox powers.

"For once, this is what it is like to be Asian," I later told Mark and Doug with glee.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Back to workie-workie

I have a date with a jump rope. I've lost half a stone already.

Keep jumping.
-Battlestar Galactica

Ugh. After a four-day weekend, I'm back to work. It's been pretty slow because of Thanksgiving. The hardest thing about today was deciding which pretty girl to have lunch with.

No fireworks in poker, so I'll have to talk about running. I've lost 10 pounds, I'm on pace to run 100 miles this month, something I haven't done in ages. This morning I was in a rush to get to work and I put on a pair of pants from a pile I couldn't fit in previously. No problem. Yay!

I'm hoping that in a few weeks when I'm in Tunica, I'll be able to wear my 15-game winner Sabre-Toothed Lime T-shirt without really embarrassing myself.

Running really curbs my desire to snack and reduces my portion sizes -- I didn't have the regular desire to take down an entire burrito at El Myr yesterday. But don't expect me to pass up a 48-ounce Porterhouse at the Horseshoe in Tunica in a few weeks when I'm there with Sham.

My theory is that the body in ancient times was used to handling sick amounts of mileage while on that Great Trek through the frozen tundra but used idle times to store energy in preparation for such a journey.

The body never considered online poker.

I haven't cashed in any tournaments or won any significant money recently, but I still have a kitty-kat swagger. I think life is the harder game to beat.

I think of a time this year when I was in Las Vegas and someone again asked me if I was John Juanda slumming it at a low-limit NL table.

"But Juanda looks like he spends more time in the gym instead of a poker table," a dealer said.

Maybe in the future there won't be much difference in comparision.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Catmoneymaker II

Yay! Mark placed 153rd in the FTOPS Main Event, giving him $1,102. I had 10 percent of his action in a friendly stake.

It's always nice to nearly double up your investment in just a few hours. So far, Double As is the only one I've staked who hasn't brought me back money this year (hint, hint, lol).

But seriously, it's great to cheer on other bloggers/players you know.

Independence Day

Mark has an interesting declaration on his blog -- he's telling his advertisers at the end of the month that he's no longer going to accept ads.

This is very admirable. As I mentioned in his comments, you should be writing just for the love of it -- not to seek out money from people. Of course, we all start out in this way.

But where does it end? Does having ads improve your life in any way? Mainstream print media has traditionally always sought to keep editorial and advertising separate, in order to maintain the integrity of the report. Of course, the lines are blurry in this web age.

While I haven't had the offers that Mark has, I've been wrestling with this recently. One affiliate site wanted me to go in on a 3-month deal. It sounded okay, but deep in the back of my head was a nagging thing. It was nagging enough to not have me go through with it.

I asked my friend Dorie, another full-time mainsteream media journalist -- she said she hates ads on blogs and that if she did, other people likely will too.

It was enough to delay my decision, but Mark came to the right conclusion first.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Blech, so close

You get nuthin' for nuthin'/if that's what you do...
-Guns N'Roses


I just placed 8th of 57 players in a $69+6 satellite to the FTOPS Main Event. When we hit the final table, I was in 7th and two smaller stacks had to make their move. But they both doubled up, leaving me as the short stack.

In the end it was me with 22 on the button vs. QQ. No good. I cashed, as 8th place paid out money (9th was the bubble) but no $500+35 seat for me (top 7 got seats).

I felt good about my play, though. Poker Ace HUD showed me there were four people to my left who would fold to any steal, so that accounted for a lot of my chips.

Anyway, so it goes.
-------------------------

POKER CATS NOTEBOOK: It's been a good weekend. I crossed 31 or 32 miles of running for the week, have dropped 7 pounds since I've been running for about a month, actually improved a notch on my prescription from my annual eye exam (that's never happened to me, nor did I know it could happen), made some money playing bloggers NL25 on Full Tilt while totally drunk, threw some mean frisbee with Empire and Brigid.

Would have liked to have played in an ATL blogger home game with Surf and friends, though. Also would have liked to have secured my seat in the FTOPS ME.

Friday, November 17, 2006

High-stakes Toasters (Casino Royale)

Does everyone have a tell?
Yes. Everyone. Everyone except you.
-Casino Royale


At least in this hand history, the hero is really a hero and the villain really a villain.

I'll spare you the details. Hero has AK and makes Kings full on the river. He bets it out.

High-stakes villain: Thinks about it. Then min-raises.

Hero thinks about it. Then min-raises villain back.

That's right! Min-raises, the bane of bloggers, are all about high-stakes poker, baby. If you hate them, you're obviously not playing high enough. You're obviously not ready for a $10 million buy-in, winner-take-all-freezeout. The villain needs to raise $150 million to make up for what Bond spoiled earlier in the movie. Luckily for Her Majesty's Secret Service, Bond is the "best player in the service."

So I saw Casino Royale this afternoon, the latest installment in the Bond series and the latest poker-related movie.

It takes a lifetime to master the complexities of Texas hold'em on film.

Le Chiffre, the villain, is playing three-handed on his yacht. He suddenly pushes all-in.

"I have two pair. You have a 17.4 percent chance to make your straight," he says and gets a fold.

Obviously he's never read Sklansky and Miller's No-limit hold'em: Theory and Practice. Otherwise he'd manipulate the betting to make the call incorrect but at least get some action against a drawer.

Unless Le Villain with cheese has played a lot online. It's hard to keep Vipers in the air against Eurotoasters.

What did I learn about all this? Well, I need to get to the Bahamas, where shorthanded No-limit is all the rage among the jet set. I also learned it's pretty cool to toss out those europlaques instead of chips. And that a $100,000 chip is just as cool to play tricks with than those punier chips the real pros play with on High-Stakes Poker.

I also learned that if I want to watch poker, I'd better not stray too far from my monitor. LOL

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The return of Catmoneymaker

On the afternoon of the start of my 4-day weekend, I received a great e-mail: Ryan, aka Catmoneymaker, was seeking backers for the round of tournaments in January and February at Commerce Casino in Los Angeles.

Hell, yeah I'm in.

It turns out the slots filled up quickly. Do you see why? (as David Sklansky would say). This is the guy who pulled down about $200,000 in tournaments last year, including a win at last year's Commerce series and a money finish in the WSOP Main Event.

OK. It's a longshot. There's no guarantee there will be any return. But like I mentioned this summer before the WSOP Main Event, this is also about supporting a friend, a fellow blogger who happens to be very good at this kind of thing. Thank you for offering. You could just go on and win a bunch of money like you did last year, and in a well-earned way, keep it all for yourself.

Sometimes you dream. Sometimes it's even better to follow somebody else's dream.

---------------

It turns out that for nearly a year, ever since my cell phone was stolen in the robbery of the old Emory game, I had the goddess' phone number programmed wrong by a single digit. It was my mistake.

Imagine Jennifer Tilly two decades younger, with similar raven hair and, um, other attributes. She is spectacular, and, previously, a wonderful friend. I am as nervous seeing her again as I am having a date with Sherri. Thirteen months. I can't even imagine what she looks like.

I think the world is filled with plenty of people who scoff at longshots - why risk anything for a friend, a piece of a tournament?

But I don't mind risk -- it is my business, it should be yours. Cheering on Catmoneymaker to a win, reconnecting with a long-lost friend, they are totally worth it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A perfect day in Portland

How do you prepare yourself? Mentally, each man must prepare himself to make that jump.
-Maj. Richard Winters, Band of Brothers


It had been raining for nearly 24 hours straight, since the end of last night's home game. All day today, I couldn't wait to get out there and run.

Any toaster can run in good weather. It's a special kind of day to run in the rain. There's not going to be many (if any) people around. Plus you get to gear up. I picked a reflective Nike windbreaker with gray reflective strips that remind me of the old jackets the Viper pilots used to wear on the original Battlestar Galactica. Most jackets these days are billed as water resistant but there are very few that I own that actually are.

I learned this from living in the Pacific Northwest, just north of Portland, Ore. As one of my old sports writers said (about golf) -- If you don't play in the rain, you'll never get to play. I had a 6-mile (round trip) trail course on the edge of Lacamas Lake. It was a beaut.

Your gear really only helps you buy time in the rain. You're going to get wet. The hope is that it'll be warm enough for your body to keep warm. You're going to be warm running and water heats up pretty fast. I had my normal running shorts, a running hat (and I hate wearing hats while running), my old running shoes (because it'll take more than a day for them to dry) and short socks. The socks were laughable because they're the first things that will get wet.

You try not to get wet but when you do, that's when the fun begins. Running through puddles, no problem! You don't pay heed to all the assholes in their masculinity-challenged trucks that try to spray you with water -- it's like water on a duck.

I don't know what other people think about when they are all wet. It sort of centers me, there are few distractions except for running and the thoughts of the reward a hot shower and dry clothes will bring at the very end.

I didn't think much about poker during the run. I thought about how droplets of water would drip from the brim of my hat at a stoplight yet I felt warm. I thought about the date I'll have with Sherri this weekend, how I'm not really ready for it yet but I can't not go.

Shoot. What am I doing? I need more poker in my life.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Home game theory and practice

I'm losing Easy Company?

The war needs you elsewhere.
-Band of Brothers


In a perfect world, those with the chops to lead other men would do so. I'm winding down the evening by watching an episode of my favorite series, "Band of Brothers" on HBO. It's the first episode, "Currahee," in which it depicts Easy Company's training under the micromanaging Capt. Herbert Sobel (played by David Schwimmer).

It's painstaking to watch Capt. Sobel mislead his men, to let his ego drive his management style and to have the same ego blind him to his capabilities. I think of his 1st Lieutenant, Dick Winters, often as he follows Sobel's orders but then accepts the threat of courtmartial rather than take the blame for Sobel's miscommunication. You respect the rank, not the man.

I often think leadership is comparable to moving up in limits. If you have the dough (can't play with napkins, as Daniel Negreanu tells Mike Matusow in High Stakes Poker), you can play any limit you want. But it doesn't mean that you're any good, or have learned anything. You may be so blind to reality that you're chunking thousands of dollars in a session repeatedly.

Same goes with leadership. You can advance as much as you'd like but at the end of the day the barometer of whether you're any good or not is whether people respect you. Maybe you don't give a shit. But people who respect you will do lots of things for you, beyond just paying you lip service.

Maybe you don't give a shit. But I'd rather know that people respect me at the end of the day than just plodding around adrift all the time. You can even ask someone if they respect you, and they can say yeah until the cows come home but you can tell. It's a lot like love in that way.

Anyway, that's just TV. Earlier in the evening, after I did my four-mile run, I went up to Tucker for the home game. I took a different tact in the four- and five-handed game. I played nearly every hand, letting the flop determine what I would do next and being confident in my shorthanded, post-flop game. Oh yeah, and I three tabled on Full Tilt (NL) at the same time.

I limped in nearly everything. I straddled, made blind straddle raises and blind straddle continuation bets that forced folds. I got my money in with the best hand and did ok.

It's difficult though judging the relative strength of your hand in 2-7 Triple Draw and Badugi when it's shorthanded. In a TD hand, I lost money with an 8-high against a made 7. But in Badugi, I won a bunch of money with an 8-high badugi, against a 9.

I guess it's just the nature of shorthanded games. It's like gambling for a reason.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Running good

Man, I'm spent. I'm using Clonie's cat bed as a footwarmer as I sit back on the couch and watch Tampa Bay help extend my Fantasy Football lead. I was up 12 points before the game and I have Joey Galloway. My opponent has the Carolina kicker. Outside the realm of Fantasy Football, I'm impartial to the Panthers.

Couldn't wait to run after work -- I ran back up the old route up to Manuel's, actually a little bit past it, over Freedom Parkway to North Highland Pub. From my house, there's a slight uphill grade the entire way. Near Manuel's is The Carter Center, built upon a hill that was the vantage point that General Sherman used to oversee the Battle of Atlanta.

This is the streak I should have been focused on. Things have been going good. My shoes are properly broken in (about 120 miles on them), my feet are hitting the pavement right, the weather perfect -- you don't overheat, no matter what the exertion.

It's like taking a plane up to 30,000 feet to see if there are engine problems. You'll find out pretty fast. I've reached a level of training that's like a $5/10NL bankroll -- basically, you can do whatever the fuck you want. The cycling has really helped. I'll climb hills on the bike and feel my heart pitter-patter at a stoplight. I'll come back from a run and the engine just revs normally.

During the run I thought about Mark's recent post on continuation bets out of position, a move only good against the weak-tight, but then, any bet is liable to scare them off.

I thought about the goddess, who mysteriously after 13 months came back into contact with me the day I broke up with Kelley. I left a message on her cell, since a bunch of the crew was going to play trivia in her (old?) hood tonight.

I thought about whether I would win Sherri, the new girl that I met. It's too early to tell, it's such an awkward dance at first, part chess, part stumbling around with your shoelaces tied together. I've seen aces lose to the most awkward of draws, I've bought into the most incredible of relationships with the lowest cards possible.

You can't ever tell how it's going to turn out. I guess that's why you play with a sufficient bankroll of the heart.

Yay, rakeback

So today I got an e-mail that some money had been transferred to my Full Tilt account. It's rakeback! Yay! It's like found money.

Another e-mail said that Casino Domain was shutting down in light of the UIGE law. I've received plenty that said they were banning U.S. players but this is a first for me for a gambling Web site to close and use the Internet Gambling act as a reason.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Getting there

If there's magic in boxing, it's the magic of fighting battles beyond endurance. ... It's the magic of risking everything for a dream that nobody sees but you.
-Million Dollar Baby


Today before hitting the tables, I ran from home over to Manuel's, where I got to see the first half of Atlanta being dismantled by Cleveland. The run, about four miles total, is another barometer of my running. I'll feel like my running has come close to where it should be when I'm doing five-mile loops around the Georgia Tech campus. Soon I'll be running twice in a day; I feel like doing it now but would like my weekly mileage to go up gradually instead of exponentially. I've never been injured but I'm not stupid. LOL.

Daily running is a lot like playing cash games. You can run when you want to, how far you want, what kind of intensity. A road race is a lot like a tournament -- the time is pre-set and instead of blinds you have the remaining distance and time itself.

Generally speaking, you have to play a lot "faster" in a race than you would in a poker tourney; at just about every distance a race is nearly like a sprint. Sure, there may be spots where you bide your time, but say, in a 5K, you attack early and often until there's no more road left.

Anyway, that's what I was thinking about when I was running earlier.

I've also been thinking of how I was very glad I didn't go to Tunica this weekend. I made the same amount of money in a single session last night that I typically make on a Tunica or Las Vegas trip, I could stop whenever I wanted to, I didn't have to eat bad food that was free (lol) or make the 6-hour drive twice.

Next month, I'll gladly go to Tunica to meet up with Sham, but I've sort of decided for the time being that if the games are good online, there's little reason to go to a B&M. You don't have to tip, you've paid for your own food and drink already and online you get rakeback and bonuses to burn.

Plus, there's Poker Tracker. I've said before that I didn't like to use it for NL, but I've found that it's such a good reference -- just how often does that toaster bet the flop? I found a toaster who had an AF of about .9 but was 11 for 11 for betting out the river, no matter what. I kept calling him and totally had his number.

If you haven't yet read this month's 2+2 magazine, I totally recommend it. There's an interesting article about keeping pot sizes small in NL in situations in which your overpair may be beat by a caller. There's also interesting stories by Ray Zee on his memories of the Stardust (very interesting in the days of free love) and another on the very last hands at that venerable casino's poker room.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Finally, a lucky pull



Binion's Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas 11/5/06

So the river comes, bringing a fourth heart on the board but pairing the board, making my boat. I bet the river out, 3/4 of the pot but directly half my stack at a NL$1/2 table at Full Tilt, the kind that Fuel55 says is as easy as pie.

The toaster reraises me all in. I happily call against his nut flush.

Finally, a nice pull. I'd been treading water the last few days but was in between a 40 percent VP$IP toaster and a 70 percent one. I had to stay in this 6-max game.

But what I don't understand is why not just call the sizeable bet on the river, instead of raising? OK, the toaster misread the board and only saw his nut flush since the A and K of hearts were on the board.

But still.

Later on I'd make a straight flush -- 8-J of diamonds, against a toaster. Unfortunately when the fourth flush card came the toaster did not have the ace of diamonds.

A few more hands and I'd take a 60 percent toaster who decided to re-raise me in the sb with KJs when I raised from the button with AQo. Flop came a Q, he bet it out, I raised him pot. He called.

Turn was a blank, he bet out 1/2 pot, I went all in, my heart beating furiously while I waited for him to make his mistake. He called and missed. Yeah! Love tripling up.

All this kind of makes up for mental mistakes made earlier in the day. That great computer of a brain somehow deduced that Kelley was back in town, so I sent her a text, "Let's have lunch," when I woke up. I got a quick text - lunch would be good but I'm not in the ATL. Later I dreaded making the txt.

"You're playing a marginal hand," I told myself out loud when I was on the return end of my 4-mile run this afternoon.

Even still, it's easier than explaining your gambling self all over again to a new girl, which I have been doing. I hope this works out. I'll take all the good cards I can, but I am hopeful for a good beat in my outside life.

A different place

Sam, I'm at a different place now. I don't know how else to explain it to you, but I got out of that cell and it's like someone else painted the world in different colors.
-Battlestar Galactica

So I'm minding my own business, BSG is about to come on and I'm playing like a fool on two NL tables on Full Tilt and the IM window comes on.

It's the girl. She blinked first.

I've never spoken to an ex-girlfriend, but I'm going to be honest with you, there were many times in the last month that I wanted to pick up the phone and call her. But each time when the phone was in my hands I'd call Dorie at the last moment. (Thank you, Dorie).

How are you, I just wanted to say hello.

Oh, coo. Hi.

Up until this moment, there were many things I thought, many things I could have said. Las Vegas wasn't the same without you. When I saw Stranger Than Fiction last night with Doug and Carolina, my hand would drift over to the empty seat next to me.

But it's not the girl that I miss. I didn't realize until the IM that I am in a different place. For one, I fit in my old jeans again, the same size I wore in high school. Four mile infantry runs nearly every day will do that for you. I'm finally reversing my sedentary poker life, although I've yet to find the right balance between sufficient play and exercise and socializing.

I'm sorry, Kel, I made a world-class laydown and moved on. I don't play in the past. My life is plus-EV and not everybody knows the value of what they hold. And when to avoid the showdown.

This is life. It's not meant to be comfortable or cookie-cutter. I'm not always going to know whether I'm way ahead or way behind, whether I'm blowing my money by playing suited connectors in the hopes of busting people.

But I will figure it out. On my own if I have to.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Happiness is being far from the front

Hopeful for one last shot at the tables, I went by the Venetian, the Mirage and the Wynn before deciding I wasn't going to get much Monday morning action and returning to the airport.

Happiness is being home again. This trip was the first time in eight years in which I thought I wouldn't like to live in Las Vegas. Sure, the games are good and I admire the casinos/palaces along the Strip. It just doesn't seem very liveable to me.

It wasn't one of those winning trips that I've heard about. But it happens and that's why there's bankroll. I can't imagine playing -- and losing -- without one.

I caught an early flight and saw about four more episodes of High Stakes Poker. It's horrible to think how much money you can lose in a 12-hour session, as Daniel Negreanu lost.

Used to Las Vegas weather, I deplaned in a T-shirt and shorts. The sun had just gone down, so I wasn't freezing but those clothes didn't cut it later on when I met Empire and Doug at Manuel's. It's gotten much cooler here in Atlanta but I'm glad fall is here.

When I got home I settled in to watch Friday's BSG that I missed (Thank you, DVR!). I was about to order a pizza when I discovered I had a frozen one in the freezer. Sweet! I like Kat and her Katitude on the show, but Starbuck was so hot when she cut off her hair at the end of the episode.

I'll have to decide whether I go to Tunica this weekend. I'd like to get more practice in at the tables and even a shot at getting some of that money back via much softer action.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Vegas -- A Binion's revival



Binion's Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, 11/5/06

LAS VEGAS -- It's the big hair that I notice first from across the room while I'm sitting at a $1/2NL table at Binion's.

Then as she turns to the side, I notice her face -- it's Brandi Williams, one of the hosts of the Ultimate Poker Challenge, which Binion's has taken over from the Plaza.

Sometimes TV and real life aren't good friends, but this girl is totally beautiful.

She's there to film an episode of the TV poker show. Crew members have to tell poker players not to stare at the camera while she walks down the poker room's aisle to introduce a segment.

Just beyond the poker rail, several people are seated at the bar stools of the snack bar. Nearby a gift shop kiosk sells T-shirts, poker bears (no cats??) and postcards. A bunch of guys are watching the NFL games from plasma TVs above a refurbished stage.

I don't know about you, but this is no longer the old Binion's, which until very recently had a very dark and worn-out flavor. This is a remodel that wants to be relevant in 21st century gambling.

This, of course, totally makes me happy. Binion's, the former Horseshoe, is the Old Course. It's where the first World Series of Poker champions were made and the best players played the highest stakes poker in the world.

Every time I walk under downtown Las Vegas' lights, I feel its history behind me. I don't feel that among the newer palaces along the Strip.

It's an interesting thing. I wonder what could have happened had Harrah's kept the Binion's property instead of selling it off and just keeping the WSOP and Horseshoe brands. It would have said that Harrah's is interested in the revival of an important gambling area in Las Vegas. You would think the location will be very desirable someday.

Maybe it's some bean counter's loss. For me, Binion's and the new poker room at the Golden Nugget have moved downtown up several notches in my impressions of places I want to be and play in Las Vegas.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Vegas -- Changes in the air



New carpet pattern at Binion's, Las Vegas, 11/3/06

LAS VEGAS -- What a difference a month makes. After a couple years of almost rebelliously not changing the horseshoe-patterned carpet as part of Harrah's requirement after it purchased the Horseshoe brand and sold the old downtown casino to a group that renamed it Binion's, the carpet is finally changing.

The famous old poker room that used to be the home of the World Series of Poker finally is getting a makeover. It looks like the casino is trying to literally lighten things up there and permanently change the poker room's previous dark atmosphere.

The carpet has gone from black to a beige/brown color, with a "B" logo and in some places, a brown silhouette of a cowboy.

Right after Harrah's bought the property a few years back, this Binion's employee told me and Mark that Harrah's was making the casino remove the old Horseshoe carpeting. It almost became an inside joke between us over the months as we continued to walk across the same old carpet on our visits to the poker room.

In addition, nice wooden floors are going into the aisles and every table is really well-lit because of an almost schizophrenic, obsessive-compulsive, series of track lighting from the ceiling.

I guess this is for the TV crews, as banners before the casino say that Binion's is sponsoring the Ultimate Poker Challenge (which once was at the Plaza). But for a player, it's difficult to sit under those lights. I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt and I was sweating before an hour was up under those heat lamps. LOL.

Across the street, the new Golden Nugget room is absolutely beautiful. It occupies a small alcove just off the main table games area and it gives off this poker parlor kind of feel. You can tell the quality is just there, in the tables and wall decorations. The only other room that gives off this kind of sophistication and coziness is the Wynn's poker room.

The Stratosphere's poker room also has been moved off the main casino floor into an alcove, this time on the opposite side of the sportsbook where it was before. But unliked the Nugget, it's pretty plain on the inside and has a purely utilitarian feel to it.

Even the Excalibur has changed in the little more than a month since I was here last. The convenient parking lot directly behind the casino has been blocked off for construction parking to build a nightclub.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Vegas -- Mistakes at the Wynn



Stardust Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas 11/3/06

LAS VEGAS -- You look like a "Sugar bear," the cherubic woman in the Sham seat tells me.

"Heh," I say, not really knowing what to say. Now if only the blonde in the Nine seat had told me that...

Being two seats down from the blonde is what attracted me to this $2/5NL table at the Wynn. After I left the MGM Grand, it was daylight, so I came back to the Sahara and changed into my running clothes. There was a nice breeze out, so it was quite optimal.

I went by the Sahara for good measure (no NL tables open) and then went out to the sidewalk to start running. I made my way up the Strip, past the Riviera and Circus Circus and up to the Wynn.

I'd never entered the Wynn from the front door, as I'm usually entering it from the parking deck and the poker room is right inside the parking garage entrance.

"I can't decide which table I want to sit at so can you pick for me?" I ask the brush. There also were two $1/3NL tables open.

He picked $2/5, which I was happy. There was the blonde, the cherubic woman, this passive Asian guy in the One seat and me. To my left were some uber stacks but I hoped that I would be in their way as the money from these passive players flowed clockwise.

It didn't work out that way. I lost a pot when I called a raise by this tight guy on the button. I had QJs. He bet out the flop, I called and another guy called. He checked the turn and then bet $100 on the river. I was about to call, since checks on the turn followed by river bets doesn't always represent a good hand. But I looked at him and the young guy was breathing heavily. I folded and this donk to my right called with a pair of sixes. The other guy just had A high. Oh, well.

I then got in a pot with the cherubic woman. There were three in the pot and on the button I made a set of 4s. It got checked to me and so I made what looked like a button steal bet. She called.

She min raised me on the turn and I put out $100 but didn't say "raise." So the dealer took that as a call and I shut up so I wouldn't give away the strength of my hand. The woman had AJo, for a pair of Js.

The blonde had long since busted and the table was no longer fun. After an hour I started back up again, down now $20 for the trip, making it to The Venetian (didn't want to wait on a list for a game) and The Mirage, which had a bunch of old people playing.

So I made my way back down the Strip to the Sahara.

Vegas -- That little sick feeling


Shopping arcade underneath MGM Grand, Las Vegas 11/3/06

LAS VEGAS -- "This is probably not a good idea," I say as I push $91 into the pot with my flush draw against a guy who looks like a real-life version of Eric Cartman.

Of course, things that haven't been good ideas have been my forte for a while and ever since I've been in Las Vegas I've been walking around with a totally sick-to-my-stomach feeling.

That's from the girl, who has invaded my thoughts and done something that I'd never before thought possible: Taken away my city from me.

I see the bright lights of Mandalay Bay down the strip and think of the Four Seasons tower where we stayed.

By the time I checked in Thursday night at the Sahara, it was 10 p.m., which made it 1 a.m. on the East Coast. I was already tired. I quickly fell asleep. But I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and quickly tried to make up for lost time. I ambled down to the Sahara's poker room. There were some drunk kids in a 5-handed game. It looked good but I wanted to get my feet wet in a full ring. I passed.

At Bally's, known for their late-night donkfests at the NL tables, the dealers were just arranging decks. No one was there. I ended up at the MGM Grand, but there were only a few tables open. The poker room looked lonely.

"November is always a slow time of the year," the lady at the deli next to the MGM Grand poker room tells me. There are only a few tables open, at 4 a.m. on a Friday morning.

The turn comes, a blank. I have 9Ts of spades, with a four-flush draw, a gutshot-straight draw and top pair. And now my percentage chance to win is slowly going down the drain.

I've been here before. It doesn't take much to alter your play in poker and when it does, you can be in for a train wreck. Even the pros, watch Daniel Negreanu on High Stakes Poker when he finds himself down $700,000 after a multitude of suckouts. He's not the same player and it shows.

There's nothing you can do but ride it out and take everything that comes to you.

The river comes, an A of spades.

"Flush," I say, flipping over my cards and collecting the pot. I breathe a huge sigh of relief. And like a bubble popping, my scared feeling of breaking up with Kelley is over. Trading one fear for another sometimes does the trick.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

It's good to be l337

Greetings from the Crown Room Club. Whew. I came to the airport and the line to the security checkpoint was all the way to the middle of the Atrium. So I walked around to the elite frequent flyer line and -- no line! I scrambled up and through the checkpoint. Sweet!

Minutes earlier, I got an earlier flight to Vegas and then walked all the way across the long economy parking lot to my car, where I left it this morning (covered a story on the security checkpoints here) and pulled out my luggage. Like a true gambler, I left my bankroll in the trunk of my car. I figured it would be safe enough and anonymous, Raiders of the Lost Ark-style while I worked off the rest of my day downtown. LOL.

In other news, my miles from a couple restaurants credited to my SkyMiles account today, crossing the 25K mark so I had enough to get a free ticket for the blogger weekend. I'll be there Dec. 7-11. Can't wait.

I don't know what I want on this trip. It's part wounded-cat escape, it's part wanting to sit down at a table like Wild Bill in Deadwood and "go to hell my own way," like Mark quoted the character in a post.

I like being able to see my folks again and my Maui grandmother. I hope my schedule permits running.

I hate packing

Only an hour to go before I take the train to the airport. I always hem and haw over spending money to go there instead of going to equally-fishy Tunica but when the trip comes, it's always the perfect time.

It really hasn't been that long since Sham and I went to Tunica but all my stuff was all over my room. My live casino log book. My "closer" T-shirt, the SPAM shirt. It was such a pain to get everything together. I'm bringing my portable DVD player and a stack of High-Stakes Poker CDs (Thanks, Mark!). I usually get a little audience on the plane, people crowding around to see poker in the air.

One plus: I finally figured out that my little Sony Cybershot's Memory Stick fits in a slot created for it on my Vaio, so hopefully you'll see more pictures on this blog.

In my carry-on I included a blank bubble mailer. I thought about unceremoniously sending back to Kelley from Vegas this leather-bound case that contains a deck of cards and a notepad, perfect for the plane -- she gave it to me when we were in the Four Seasons. But I won't. No reason to be mean.

Everyone has to follow their own path, man. Mine is always, and more frequently, westward.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

My VIP level has been upgraded

...to silver on Titan, according to this e-mail I just received. This despite the fact I hadn't been playing with them long before the UIGE.

Now if they'll only allow U.S. players, I'll be all set. LOL.