Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Quick Hits

Just a few fast facts to get us through the day.

Perfect 10s: Took a second and a third in 3 tourneys last night, making a crucial error in judgement in the out of the money one. 15/30 blind level and had pocket 10s in the BB. A minimum raise from UTG+1, one caller and a raise to T200 from the button. With two potential callers of that bet behind me, I just called. I wanted to go all-in, actually rolled my mouse that direction, but it was early, the T200 didn't cripple me (took me back to my starting chip level) and I didn't really have a read on the big raiser on the button. Sure enough, the other two call as well.

Flop is Q8Q. And I check. Goddamit. I wish I hadn't done that. I could have made a T200 bet there and at the very least narrowed the field. Two chances to put the pressure on and I passed on both. Regardless of what they were playing, I think I was too tight here for the competition. Checked around to the button who pushes. After much deliberation (I figured him for an over pair), I fold. He gets one caller. They flip over AJs and 44, respectively. I want to shoot myself for giving them too much credit. For assuming they know what the (expletive) they are doing. Gotta get into pots with these aggressive guys. For the record, the board goes runner-runner 5s to give AJs the pot.

Didn't recover from that play, though looking over the hand history, it seems more card-related than tilt-related.

Nice read: Later, in another tourney, my dear and patient wife was having a look. I get Q7o in the BB and only SB completes to see the flop, which is AQ4 rainbow. SB bets 100. Out of nowhere, I hear:

He would have raised it before the flop if he had an ace.

Only I didn't say it. I had yet to even think it. Yes, it was my dear and patient wife. I could barely supress my joy and surprise long enough to raise the bet. Which, naturally, induced a fold. She was very proud.

Crazy Eights: Got the schedule for our MLK birthday weekend soccer tournament in Vegas. Um, it's possible I may have preferred to NOT play games at 8 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. Honestly, the first games of the day should start at noon for everybody. Though I guess you can look at it one of two ways. Either you have to get up very early. Or stay up very late. The latter is probably more likely for me. I'll be sure to switch to water and Gatorade around dawn.

Lastly, All Hail Otis.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Festivus, Cont.

After yesterday's not-entirely-lucid "Airing of the Grievances," today's missive will be a variation on the "Feats of Strength." For our purposes, the "feat" in question will be the ability to lay down a "strong" hand.

"Why did I just win that tourney?"

That was the question I posed to The Mrs. after winning my lone $20 SnG attempt last night. She didn't know--or particularly care about--the answer, but I told her anyway:

Because I FOLDED!

Right. Not because I isolated and picked off the fish one by one. Not because the deck smacked me around. Not because all the players were terrible, but because I held on to my chips in situations were I had little or no edge.

To be more specific, I was pretty much the short stack the entire game. Found nothing to play through 3 orbits. This did, however, give me plenty of looks at my fellow players, a loose/weak group by and large. Six or seven to the flop and all would fold to a significant bet. The hands that did go to showdown were generally of the check-check on the river variety. Once the blinds got to 25/50, it tightened up pre-flop considerably, a couple times even folding all the way around to the BB.

It was under those conditions that I finally got a hand. AJo, one from the button, and I was first at the pot. Of course, my 3x raise was re-raised all-in by the button. The temptation was so strong to call. I figured I might not get the chance to double up again with my dwindling stack (now down to T530). I then figured I might be dominated. At best, two overcards. And folded. Don't know what he had.

I was still at the same chip level when the BB came around, with the table down to 5 players. I see Cowboys. All fold and SB completes. I check, because I need to double up. Flop is Q87 rainbow. SB bets 100, I raise to 200, he calls. Turn is another Q and he puts me all in. Now, I had a momentary fear of the trip Queens, but quickly flashed back to a previous hand he'd played EXACTLY the same way with nothing but unpaired big cards. I didn't think he had big cards with just the call pre-flop, but I was quite confident he wasn't holding a queen. Furthermore, with my stack size, I was pretty much compelled to call. He showed 96o for an open-ended straight and, contrary to the laws of party poker, did not make it on the river.

I was back in. But I was not done folding. Got to the bubble with one huge stack (over T5000) and three minnows. Big stack didn't have the slightest idea how to use his chips and doubled up both the other players, raising their blinds all-in with 32s and 85o. Dumbass. Meanwhile, I continued to fold my bad cards until I had no other choice. Went all-in with A6o. Managed to double-up over a J9o call from the BB. Then I dealt a severe blow to that same player the next hand when he raised my BB from the SB, I re-raised with AQ and he folded, leaving himself only T150! He folded! A first-ever play on party poker. He soon went out. Big stack eliminated the other remaining player and we went to heads up with me at more than a 4-1 chip disadvantage. I worked my way a little closer with a couple steals. Then put him out, doubling up in two straight hands. My A10o all-in gave me a slight lead and then inthe subsequent hand, I made a gunshot on the turn, beating his second-pair.

I should mention the guy who finished second is the guy who re-raised me all-in when I made what I consider a crucial lay-down. Bastard was also sitting im my lucky seat.

After that, I returned to Cloutier and McEvoy and ran across one of their "Tips from the Top." I'm paraphrasing here, I think, but I went something like:

If you can't lay down a winning hand, you can't be a winning player.

It seems a little counter-intuative on the surface. But I certainly know from my own experience since becoming a regular player that the most difficult thing to do in poker is lay down a big hand. Especially when already heavily invested in a pot (I know, it's not my money any longer). For me, it was not something I could learn in a book. I read Jones before I'd ever played a single hand in anger and the words still echo in my head: "Find a reason to fold." But I had to experience the situations where this advice applies--and make the WRONG decisions, incorporate the WRONG thought process--before it clicked. This has been the biggest improvement in my game, by far.

Speaking of which, my party poker acct. presently sits at an all-time monetary high after last evening's win. Furthermore, in the month that I've been writing this blog (Happy Milestone to me!), I've had my biggest monthly win ever in December (yeah, it's only been 6 months since I started playing online, but still....). Having a place to talk about my play--and, in the process, further analyze it--has been a real benefit. Tapping into the vast knowledge of the poker blogosphere has also been a boon to my feel for the game, not to mention a laugh bleeping riot reading all the Vegas recaps.

Now, I need help. Anybody have a general idea about what kind of in the money and win percentage I should strive for in SnGs? What's a solid ROI? Yes, 100% would be great, but not exactly realistic. Is there a barometer? A benchmark?

As of last night, I've cashed in 34 of 81 $20 single-table SnGs since I began the blog, for a ITM rate of 42%. 15 of those were wins for a win rate of 18.5%. ROI is just under 30%. Now, I'm aware that's probably not enough sample size, which begs the next question: What is? 200? 300? For now, I've moved permanently to the $20 level and my record-keeping from prior months is spotty at best, so 81 is all I've got. My personal feeling is that the numbers are decent, but lots of room for improvement. I've got too many bubble finishes (15), for one.

Any help would be appreciated.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Black Sunday

While contemplating the metaphorical blimp crashing into my metaphorical Super Bowl, I give you the four hands that put me out in yesterdays' four $20 SnGs in descending order numerically, but ascending order of brutality:

4. My 55 falls to AKo on the bubble.
3. My nut straight on the turn falls to a boat on the river.
2. My Hilton Sisters fall to a flush on the river.
1. My pocket jacks fall to J3o.*

*That is not a mis-print.

It is the worst beat I have ever taken. By a long shot. It was the fourth tourney I played yesterday. I'd had rotten luck from the start (though much better luck in limit games; more to come). Beat #2 above actually came on the first hand of the first tourney I played. Bet T300 on the jack-high flop. All-in on the rag turn card. And up pops the flush on the river. One hand. Thanks for coming. Bad, but not a rare occurance on party poker. Not by a long-shot.

But #1...oh...#1. It went something--and by "something," I mean "exactly"--like this:

Level 1, I'm one from the button with pocket jacks. Three limpers to me and I raise to T100. Folded to the BB who calls. Two of the three limpers call, as well. Which is ridiculous in itself. Three callers on a nearly 7x raise. It's ABSURD that there are three valid hands to call with there. ABSURD.

Flop comes 10 7 3 rainbow. BB bets out 90. Huh? Now, a man of sound mind and body here thinks a set or a pocket overpair. Except I knew the BB was the guy I wanted. See, he'd already doubled up once earlier. In that hand, he raised K9o pre-flop in MP. And went all-in with an ace on the flop. Magically, he won (thanks to being called by a worse player on Q10o).

So, I raised all-in, knowing FULL WELL I was way ahead. I thought he might have A7. Five outs, max. I gave him too much credit. He had J3o. Pause to contemplate the thought process that compels one to call a huge pre-flop raise with J3o. Extrapolate that further to calling the pre-flop raiser's all-in with bottom pair.

You can figure the story by now. Another 3 spiked on the turn to put me out. I still can't believe it. I was visibly shaken. In the most literal sense. I was trembling like Kathryn Hepburn with the DTs. I want to hurt that man. I want to grab him by the lapels and go Neidermeyer on his ass, spittle and expletives flying. I demand my revenge.

So, of course, I've tagged him. And I'm going to stalk him until my dying day. Every time I log on, I'm going to look for him and try to sit his table. Every. Single. Day. I also invite you all to e-mail me, and I'll give you his screen name. I want him to suffer. If you take a pot off him, however, you have to promise to type in chat: "That's for playing J3o" or something like that. Not convinced? Okay, more snapshots of his play from the remainder of that particular tourney (in which he finished 6th, despit having T2800 with 8 left):

Called 3x pre-flop raise with K6o. Went to the river with K-high.
Called minimum raise in the SB with 107o. Miraculously folded on the flop.
Called an all-in on the turn with a pair of 5s with A, K and J on the board.
Called a minimum raise with 42o. Called all-in on a flop of A A 5. Caught his gunshot on the river, at which point a boat had already been made. Dead. Money.

You know where to find me.

The Good News is, that in between tourney's 2 and 3 yeaterday, I decided to play some limit ring games. I got Cloutier and McEvoy's "Championship Hold 'Em..." for Christmas and devoured it already, so I figured I'd play with some fresh ideas in my head. Er, giddyup. I was playing 2/4 and doubled up my buy-in in less than an hour. Won the very first hand I played with 107o in the big blind (flopped top pair; called all the way down by two folks holding middle pair).

The most fortuitous hand was when I caught The Hiltons--both dressed attractively in red--when UTG. Raised and got two callers, including the gentleman just to my left who had already re-bought at least once. Jack-high flop with two hearts and my bet gets two callers again. Turn is a scare card, in several ways: King of hearts. I lead out regardless and only the gentleman to my left calls. I expected a raise there and was surprised not to see it. Could he still be betting the jack? Slow-playing a pocket over-pair? Or just waiting to jump on the river with his kings or a flush. Whatever. The river is the ace of hearts. I do a double take. "I do believe I have the nuts!" I say to nobody in particular. Bet and am called. He turns over 53 of hearts. Dang. So close to getting sucked out on and the poker Gods come thru. See, you DO want people playing crap cards to a pre-flop raise. Hard to remember that sometimes on party poker.

Then took a huge pot with a hidden set of tens against two players with TPTK.

All in all, a slightly profitable day and solidly profitable week. So, why is it that I want to crush J3o so badly? I'm not a vengeful person. Perhaps it's just that his play struck a chord in me that had not been struck before when playing poker. I re-read the "hate" paragraph again and I come off like an ass. But I won't edit it. It's how I felt at the time (and feel on a lesser scale every time I think about it). Am I going too far? Damn. I'll accept any advice on how to deal.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Egg Blog

I'm sitting here at 11 p.m. on Christmas night, happy wife and child sleeping the sleep of the satisfied, experiencing an almost perfect nexis of the things I love, family notwithstanding.

I just ran over a $20 SnG, I tripled up on the first hand of the subsequent--and in progress--tourney (that's right, I'm writing to you, devoted readers, in the midst of an SnG. -EV, but what they hey, I'm Happy!), I'm listening to my new Nirvana box set (Disc 3) on my new personal CD player (with those funky headphones that take a bit of getting used to) and pouring Bass Ale down my gullet.

While some might look at the above as a signal of a drinking/gambling/music problem, I maintain it's the most fun one can have with oneself.

Merry Christmas everybody.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Season's Beatings

Anybody else get those form letters from distant acquaintances every year? Man. When did everybody I’ve ever met in my entire life decide that I needed to know what’s going on with them? On top of that, since when did their lives get so great? Has nothing bad (or even mediocre) happened to these folks in the last 12 months?

Little Richard entered kindergarten this fall and he’s at the top of his class.
Bob got seven promotions this year and is better looking than ever!
I’m happy to report I’ve magically lost 60 pounds and my breasts have naturally grown nearly two cup sizes!

Or what about being subjected to the ubiquitous end of the year wrap-ups/lists from every hack columnist/pundit in the country?

No, I’m not perturbed.

In fact, I’m inspired. So, here is my Christmas form letter/yearly wrap-up.


Seventy-five degrees on New Year’s Day. We had to wear sweat pants to the beach (lol!).
Went to see how the new house is coming along. Doesn’t seem to be much change from our last visit, but there were a large number of Latino gentlemen drinking beer in what will soon be our den.
I see Janet Jackson’s boobie! A lot of complaints about this and I agree. This was at least 10 years too late to be stimulating.
I continue to go to work day after dreary day without an end in sight. Only 35 more years.
Howard Dean. Good times.


Our 4th wedding anniversary. We’re less sick of each other than we were last year at this time. But more sick than four years ago, naturally.
Ah, Valentine’s Day. Nothing like a marketing-driven faux holiday to bring back romance. Didn’t get any sex, though.
No matter, apparently there’s some kind of war going on? That seems more important, though I can’t seem to get any information on it.


Spring! That wonderful time of the year when I get to abandon the family for a week in Arizona with the A’s. Trouble in the desert, however. I was unable to stave off an insurgent tequila attack and my liver was briefly under enemy control.
Spanish voters capitulate to terrorism like a Barcelona striker writhing in the box after a strong gust of wind.
Hard at work on potty training The Boy. He’s doing really well. Except for when he smears his “accidents” on the carpet. Trying to eliminate that issue before moving into the new house.


A lot of packing. Packing is fun. Packing brings a family together, like being locked in a cage with hyenas.
Two-week delay on the move-in. Something about too much Bud Light. We celebrate by eating microwave macaroni and cheese on boxes.
Some good news. The doctor says penicillin will clear this thing right up.


Move in! The house is beautiful. Here’s to hoping we can make the first mortgage payment.
So much stress. Started smoking again. Congratulations to me. While happy for the return of carcinogens to my once healing lungs, there are drawbacks: chest pain, wheezing and The Mrs. chastising me all the time.
I start playing online poker. That should relax me.


Ronald Reagan dies. His final regret is not making it to the season finale of “The O.C.”
My two best friends just moved out of state. One to some place called New Hampshire, which I think is part of Greenland. But I met some of my new neighbors. They declined when I offered a beer. That bodes well.


So much stress. Started doing heroin again. Congratulations to me. While happy for the return of incapacitating nods, there are drawbacks: drooling, vast missing blocks of consciousness and a vague idea that The Mrs. is chastising me all the time.
Yankees looking to trade for Randy Johnson. Steinbrenner’s got a hole he wants filled and only The Big Unit will do.
Governor Ah-nuld fails to get state budget passed on time. Solves impasse by threatening lawmakers: “Come with me if you want to live.”


A wonderful month to visit my relatives in St. Louis. Hot? Check. Muggy? Check. Freezing sleet/rain out of nowhere? Check. Hypothermia? Check.
Election season overload starting to take over. I think I’m voting for socially securing my privates.


Hurricane Ivan pummels the crap out of the Gulf States. Displaced residents forced to take refuge under Michael Moore.
The Boy starts pre-school. Comes home sick, spitting and saying “Oh yeah?!?!” all the time.


Fall in Los Angeles, when the trees turn a slightly lighter shade of green. It’s magical.
The Mrs. got a promotion. Now she’s only slightly underpaid, instead of grossly underpaid. Somewhere Gloria Steinem just shit a brick.
And my favorite holiday! All Hallow’s Eve. This year, I pushed the envelope and went as a functioning adult.


Bush and Dick win proving the universal postulate that double entendre and sophomoric giggling will sway the undecideds every time.
Whoa. That Cabinet is emptying faster than the weed drawer at a Humboldt State frat house.
I start a blog. Clearly, no good can come from this. Behold Exhibit A.


Thank God this year is almost over. Just one big hurdle to get over: those yearly “HEY, WE’RE DOING GREAT. IN FACT, MONUMENTALLY BETTER THAN YOU!” letters from fourth cousins, twice removed.
Holiday season is starting to get to me. So much stress. Started cross-dressing again. Congratulations to me. While happy for the return to the unparalleled embrace of a silk undergarments, there are drawbacks: constant shaving, runs in the nylons and The Mrs. chastising me all the time.

It has actually been a wonderful year from top to bottom. Started with AK suited and the board hit me pretty regularly. Small pots, monster pots, and yes, suckouts. All good. All part of life and learning. Merry Christmas to everyone. Hope you get a reasonable percentage of all the things you want this holiday season and I offer up a prayer for peace, good will on Earth and a minimum of bad beats in the New Year.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Dangerous Toys

"I don't think that word means what you think it means."
--Indigo Montoya

I have, the the last couple days, been privy to a refreshing--and profitable--new play by the fish. I'd like to personally thank each and every one of them for their complete misapplication of the concept of the check-raise in the $20 SnG single-table tourneys.

I wrote a week or so back about the predictability of the play at these tables and how it had been such a long time since I'd been trapped by clever play, such as the check-raise. At the time, I couldn't recall the last time it had happened.

Well, it has happened to me at least a dozen times recently, and all I can really do is offer my sincere gratitude.

As poker players, we embrace the check-raise. Feigning weakness, inducing a bet and trapping that money in the pot. Lovely. But the play is still one that needs to be undertaken with some caution. One must understand the terrain they are traversing. You don't want to give a free card to someone on a draw. You need to KNOW there will be a bet behind you. And, most importantly, you need to be reasonably sure you have the best of it.

Which is where the fish come in. Last night, in a single tourney, I had three players check-raise me. On bluffs. Each time I bet out, I had a hand. Not a great hand, but a hand. And there's the rub. For example:

I'm on the button with presto. Three limpers to me and I raise it 3x. Two callers. Flop is Q42 rainbow. Checked to me and I bet out 200, assuming that will take it right there. One fold, then a raise all-in. Now, for one I've already got my chips in the pot. If that player makes an all-in bet in the first place, I have to seriously think I'm second-best there. And odds are I'll fold. But now, I've already got 200 in, his all-in from a much shorter stack than mine means I'm almost certain to call. Which I do. And beat his unimproved J8o (him actualy being in the hand at this point is a cause for another time).

Now, this very thing happened two more times. Once, I had TPTK for an easy call. Another, I had four to the nut flush and a gunshot draw. A tougher call, but once again, I was already pot committed and the raise was for less than a quarter of my remaining stack. I called that one, too, and though I didn't catch, my ace high was good enough, much to my shock and amusement.

Bottom line, if you're bluffing, you don't want a call. But if you're check-raising, you're more likely to get a call! So bet out.

If you're at my table, however, keep it up.


I'd like to give a hearty cyber pat on the back to Otis for snagging an honest-to-goodness paying gig. Blogging a WPT event. In the Bahamas.

Otis and his co-horts over at Up For Poker offer consistently entertaining, informative and literate writing on poker and life. Though he doesn't know me from Adam, I'm a big admirer of his work. He wrote this amazing story a couple months back and it had a profound effect on me. It spurred me to re-connect with my Dad. We weren't exactly estranged. Distanced is a more precise description. But reading that made me put pen to paper. Long story short, Dad rolls into town tomorrow to spend the holidays with my family for the first time.

A toast of the egg nog to Otis. And Dads.

Friday, December 17, 2004

The Boy wields The Hammer Posted by Hello

Joe Boxer

Yesterday, I did something I'd never done before. I put my underwear (boxers, for those of you who keep track of such things) on backwards. I didn't realize it until a few hours later and since it wasn't uncomfortable, I declined to completely disrobe at work to fix it.

So, the first day of my 37+ years that I put my underwear on backwards is the first day in Tim Hudson's 30+ years that he gets traded.


I think not.

Considering I also missed my train for the first time ever, it's clear that doing the Kris Kross thing with one's undergarments is a bad, bad omen.

You can rest assured I double-checked this morning.

So, does anybody have any superstitions at the poker table? Good luck charms? Reptile sunglasses?

I tend to sit in the same seats when playing at party poker. I have a couple three favorites. And there are others I avoid. Do I think it makes my cards better? No. But, at the very least, it eases my mind. Makes me more comfortable. Can't hurt, can it? I don't think so.

I definitely think state of mind has a lot to do with success or failure in poker or any type of gambling. And it can be influenced by a lot of things, gambling-related or not. For instance, when I play blackjack, I like to have a good time. Yes, sometimes that good time--with its attendant drinking and conversation--impairs my ability to cards. But I've found my results FAR more promising in those situations, rather than those where I am living and dying with every card that falls, wound so tightly that my kidneys hurt. (I'm sure I could find a happy medium in there somewhere, but I'm all about the extremes, baby)

It's similar at my virtual poker table. Silly as it may be, if I have it in my head that I "always get crappy cards when I sit at that seat," then that's going to work against me, even as I KNOW the very idea is riduculous. So I take my preferred seat, don't give it another thought and off I go.

So yeah, I think it has a small effect. And is a harmless habit if one doesn't attach undue significance or stockpile a massive arsenal of "idiosyncracies." 'Cause then you're obsessive-compulsive.

So, what's your silliest superstition?


Dropped a bit of the bankroll last night. One 2nd-place finished in 3 $20 SnGs (and a 4th and a 5th). Pretty run of the mill stuff, except I had the other guy on the brink when heads up and my set of 8s got cracked by the nut flush. Too bad.

Had a horrible time on the $25 NL tables, losing my only buy-in. Just couldn't hit. Pocket 10s and get 3 overcards on the board. TPTK falls to a hidden set. And so on. Played for more than an hour there and never once went above my buy-in. I did go past the raked hands limit for my free party poker jacket, however! Though I think I'd prefer the $3.50 production price to go into my account.


I've got two big challenges ahead of me this weekend. One, I need to finish the Christmas shopping. Two, I thought I'd devote some time to the Step Challenge on Party. Not sure which one's gonna be tougher.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Kill Me Now

** Dealing down cards **
Dealt to Atlanta [ Ad, As ]
Dealt to Oakland [ Jc, 3d ]

Tim Hudson traded to Atlanta

I hate everything.

Red Hot Poker

This really shoulda been the title of my blog. Damn it. "One on One" was one of the finest films of my childhood and if you've seen it--and recall it--then the double meaning will cause you spasms of laughter. Or not. Perhaps it's only me. Anyway, a toast to Robby Benson and G. D. Spradlin.

As you may surmise, I'm on fire. I'll get to that. First though, check out all the Vegas trip reports from the bloggers. Any link to the right will do. Iggy also provides links and updates to all the new convention content. These guys and gals are a riot.

I actually have first-hand knowledge of what it's like to meet a bunch of people whom you know only through the internet. I may have mentioned my A's obsession once or twice and how that obsession led me to an online community of like-minded folks. Eventually, as it must, such relationships led to a groups of us meeting in 3-D back in 2001. A's spring training in Arizona. There is some trepidation in these kinds of things. Fortunately, we had at least one common denominator. More fortunately, there was alcohol. And we left that weekend as friends. The spring training meet is now a regular occurance, with more and more people joining in. In addition, we expanded the palate of our frivolity to include a Vegas weekend the past two years (in November, to bookend the baseball season). This past trip, we had A's fans from as far away as Mexico City. To my mind, it's unusual for a large--and growing--group of people to connect so well. But maybe not. Common interests (baseball, poker, tiddlywinks) are certainly a gateway to those relationships. But surely it's more than that. Maybe this internet thing isn't as impersonal as the psychologists would have us believe. Maybe one's perception of others is able to penetrate the relative anonymity of the medium.

Regardless of the sociological implications, I'm glad y'all had a good time. I resolve to horn my way into the next one, if only see the look on Al's face when I ask for a splash of cranberry juice in my quintuple SoCo shot.


Now, this has been my finest week of poker in a long time (knock on wood). Took a 1st and a 3rd in two $20 SnGs last night and also made a bit on the $25 NL tables. On the latter, I doubled up with TPTK, then narrowly avoided losing it all seconds later. Got AA one from the button and raised five limpers to $2. Two callers. Flop was QJ8 rainbow and I raised a small all-in bet ($3.50, I think) to $10. Got called by UTG. K comes on the turn and my inner self starts screaming that I'm in trouble. UTG checks and the voice demands I check right back. I was right. River was a 10, completing the nut straight for me and severly disappointing UTG, who indeed had A10. Could I have laid down my rockets on the river if I didn't catch? Something to ponder. Regardless, I made it up to her later when I donated $10, her set of 9s topping my pocket 10s. Final tally was +$11.80.

My SnG win was an interesting tble to say the least. Still had 10 players in midway through Level 4. Partly due to some serious pot chopping. I was in the lead to triple up early on when all-in with Big Slick of spades against AQo and AJo. Sadly, two pair came on the board and I won 19 chips. Better than a suckout, I suppose. Also split another pot later with the same hand to another AK. Fortunately made some hands later. Second night in a row, pocket 7s was the turning point. This time, I flopped the set and cracked JJ. Then won a coinflip with my AJo against 9s.

Ended up heads up with a solid player. He was also a fun guy to have at the table. A lot of witty chat. I don't chat a lot while playing, but he sucked me in and we had a running commentary going most of the night. So, a random shoutout to SuperZP. Thanks for the good time and for letting me win.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Fish, Party of 10

I am not a patient man. It's wholly genetic. As such, my table selection sometimes boils down to first come, first served. I just don't want to sit there for 20 minutes monitoring tables before playing. I get itchy.

So I've made a compromise. I'll get on the highest average pot table I can find available, then pull up two or three other full tables to keep an eye on.

I did this last night on the $25 NL tables. My first choice proved too tight. You could get more nickels out of Carl Polhad than you could the denizens at that table. I folded probably a dozen hands before getting AA in the BB. Three limpers and when I raised it up to $1.50, they all folded. What?

But one of the other tables I pulled up looked to be quite juicy and I joined at the earliest opportunity. Forty-five minutes later, I'd more than doubled up. Pulled a pair of big pots, one with top pair/medium kicker (called all the way down by middle pair) and one with K5 of diamonds on the button (hey! A drawing hand!). Flopped two diamonds, four players to the river where I made my flush and one guy who caught a straight paid me off.

By that time, I'd gotten to the bubble in a $20 SnG and had to leave (I don't like playing another table when it gets late in the SnGs). I'd spent much of the first 40 hands folding. I think I saw 2 or 3 folps in that time. Just unplayable hands. Then I doubled up on two consecutive hands, 77 holding up and AK outkicking A4. Ended up finishing second to a very good player. A highlight was taking out third place when I flopped the stone cold nuts (held A7 of clubs, flop was AA7). Checked it all the way to the river and then got him to put all his chips in. The river card gave a potential flush or straight, but it turns out he held the case ace (and a 5). He was trying to trap me as I was trying to trap him. Funny game.

So yeah, one of my better nights since entering the blogosphere. I read on one of the blogs today that discussion during the Vegas weekend centered on the next blogger get-together/tourney/carnival and that Hollywood Park in LA (okay, Inglewood) was mentioned as a potential site. Giddyup.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Drawing of the Three

I hate limping in the NL SnGs. Just hate it. One reason is the hyper-aggressiveness one finds at these table. You can virtually count on a big raise from late position or the blinds if you get a lot of limpers. Second, and most important from my current perspective, is that I just don't feel comfortable playing limping hands. If I can't raise with it pre-flop, I'd prefer to leave it alone. I get myself into trouble with these hands (suited connectors, Axs, Kxs, J10o). I know this is a hole in my game. At this stage of my development, I'm caught between trying to build bankroll and experimenting with different play. I feel these are sometimes competing interests. Yet, if I want to reach my goal of building bankroll and moving up limits, I'm going to NEED those other arrows in my quiver.

My tight style is providing a solid ROI, but there's the gnawing and certain feeling I could enhance my wins with more varied play. And I have made some small strides in that area. I'm more prone to steal, throw out the occassional bald-faced bluff. Those plays, however, are directly derived from--and benefit from--my tight style. It seems to me I'm doing well because I'm a better player than those I'm against. Which isn't really self-complimentary considering the players at Party Poker. But when I start to step up, that likely won't be the case.

So, time to take some chances.

Anyway, back to limping. I just don't do it very often. I did it twice last night at Level 1 of a $20 single-table. Both times, the player to my left threw in a huge raise. Too early to tell if he was a maniac, but he took down some chips with those plays. A short time later, he did it again. And showed. Crap. 107o or something like that. I don't get that. Trying to create a loose table image? I didn't think so. Hubris? Self-congratulation? I thought that was more likely at the time. And I ducked down in my little hidey-hole just waiting to spring something on him.

But before I could get the chance, I took another bad beat. I'm starting to feel like Tina Turner. Pocket Qs. Big pre-flop raise. Called by BB. No overcards on the flop, but two clubs and I bet 200. BB, who checked, calls. Qd on the turn gives me a set and I put BB all-in. He calls with 12 outs. Club flush draw and gunshot straight. He hits the latter on the turn and I'm crippled to T400.

I crawl back into my hidey hole.

It takes another orbit and then some, but I get the rockets. Down to T330, one from the button, I limp (c'mon hyper-aggressive guy, c'mon). God Bless him. Raises to 225, Mr. Gunshot Straight calls and I go all-in. Both call. I win. Back in the game.

Not two hands later, Mr. Hyper-Aggressive is at it again. I minimum raise with KJ of diamonds, he upps it to 200. One caller before me. I call. Flop is Qc10d6h giving me an open-ended straight and backdoor flush draw. I check. Mr. Hyper-Aggressive bets 800, putting me all-in. Immediately, I knew--KNEW!--he had nothing. Too big a bet. Still, my hand isn't in the greatest shape. I take my full measure of time and call. He flips J5 of hearts. No improvement and I've doubled up and crippled Mr. Hyper Aggressive. I was pumped.

Ended up knocking out Mr. Gunshot Straight on the bubble (payback, baby). Sadly finished second. The eventual winner was another aggressive type, with an odious personality to match. No, I don't know him, but considering he typed in a racial slur after every pot he won, I think I'm safe in assuming he's not the type you want your daughter to date. Anyway, I had him down and out. I flopped two pair and called his all-in. He had bottom pair and an Ace and one of the latter spiked on the river (at which point he typed in a racial slur). That pretty much crippled me and I held on for second.

Soon to come: Playing more drawing hands.


Time to add another link. As before, reading my blog gets you special consideration. So thanks to darice for stopping by and commenting. Medical school AND poker. He can apparently caluclate pot odds and remove your spleen at the same time. Check him out.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Four-letter Word. Starts with 'F'

Party Poker is broken.

It seems the software is not giving some people a fold option. No other way to explain this weekend.

No, no bad beat stories coming. Boring. And I don't want to re-hash them anyway. Suffice to say, there were half a dozen times this weekend where I could only gape at the computer screen, stunned into speechlessness. It wasn't just me taking the bad beatings, either. I actually saw a guy call a post-flop all-in with 65 of hearts. With a Ad Kh 10c board. Runner-runner 5s won him the hand. I actually saw a guy call two--who showed pocket Aces and pocket Queens--pre-flop all-ins (at Level 1) with 96 of diamonds. He caught a straight, which caused pocket aces to wish bankruptcy on him.

Honestly, the reason I've made a permanent move to the $20 SnGs is to get away from these people. I guess they're following me.

I did manage a couple wins to keep the damage at a minimum. And I didn't tilt. I gave myself a rash just itching to take these guys out, to isolate them with the nuts (which, now that I mention it, I lost an all-in despite flopping the nuts, too), but I'm happy to say I didn't change my game. Didn't get desperate and start chasing hands. I just kept putting all my money in while ahead and getting drawn out on. My patience is getting better. Ditto for managing my rightous indignation.

Somehow, I do still continue to be surprised at some of the play. It might even be worse than ever. Which is good. If I can maintain my sanity long enough for it to come back around.


Looking forward to the tales of the blogger tourney. some rough sketches up already. I was going to provide alternate entertainment: a powerful and moving tale of my dear and patient wife's company Christmas party this weekend. That would largely entail me remembering a majority of the evening. As it slowly comes back to me, I'll try to relate. The steak dinner may have been the worst thing I've ever voluntarily eaten. It had the consistency of shoe leather and half the taste. I knew we were in trouble when it dawned on me that nobody had asked how I wanted my steak cooked. The point was hammered home when I saw them unloading the food from a rental truck. Oh well, I forgive them. They did have an open bar, after all.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

I Did It!

No, it didn't go to showdown, but...

$25 NL Hold'em - Thursday, December 09, 23:29:58 EDT 2004
Table Table 11329 (Real Money)
Seat 1 is the button
Total number of players : 10
Seat 1: Dean3408 ( $19 )
Seat 2: havemeyer ( $65.25 )
Seat 3: jbthehat ( $66.5 )
Seat 4: Tknobber ( $25 )
Seat 5: BigPines ( $48.15 )
Seat 6: pokerdude747 ( $0 )
Seat 9: rvbirddog ( $88.5 )
Seat 7: Hero ( $19.4 )
Seat 8: cashman888 ( $29.4 )
Seat 10: stompit ( $20 )
havemeyer posts small blind [$0.25].
jbthehat posts big blind [$0.5].
** Dealing down cards **
Dealt to Hero [ 2c 7h ]
pokerdude747 has left the table.
Tknobber folds.
BigPines calls [$0.5].
Hero raises [$2].
cashman888 folds.
rvbirddog folds.
Dean3408 folds.
havemeyer folds.
jbthehat folds.
BigPines calls [$1.5].
** Dealing Flop ** [ Kd, Th, Qc ]
BigPines checks.
Hero bets [$5].
BigPines folds.
zpablo has joined the table
Hero shows [ 2c, 7h ] high card king.
Hero wins $9.55 from the main pot with high card king.

I need a cigarette.

The Final Countdown

The giddiness, the anticipation, the outright terror of the poker blogosphere is reaching a fever pitch in anticipation of this weekend's tournament/convention/bacchanalia at Sam's Town in Las Vegas.

I can only manage to wade through the thick haze of my envy and quote my buddy Red to offer glad tidings and good cards to those of you lucky enough to be going:

"I'm so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it's the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain..."

Have a time, folks.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Poker is a Fickle Mistress

While this is not a new, nor particularly insightful, observation, rarely does her mind change so quickly.

I spent a frustrating 40 minutes on a $20 SnG table, watching my fellow players just bleed chips away playing second and bottom pairs. All the while, I sstared at 83o after 83o in my hand. When I did get playable cards, the board could not wait to miss me by as far as possible. And I went out in 6th to a rivered gunshot.

Fed up, I headed to the $25 NL tables, posting a blind one from the button. I get Kings. I call a raise to $2, as did two others. Flop is A72 with two hearts. Pre-flop raiser bets $3 and I know he has an ace, but what the hey, it's only $3. Turn is K of clubs. I raise his $5 all-in. He calls with AJo and I double up. Within 20 minutes, I'm up another $30, making two other (hidden) sets.

What was I saying about needing to play those tables more often?

There's Only One...

...Steven Ger-rard!

"(Liverpool) has to be in the Champions League for the finances alone, but also for all the players this is where we want to be playing and where we want to be seen."
--Steven Gerrard, Liverpool captain

Nine minutes from crashing out of the Champions League group stage, needing two--TWO!--goals to advance, the Cardiac Reds, and their captain, come through. Neil Mellor in the 81st (okay, that's two--TWO!--vital goals from Mellor in two weeks; Armaggedon is clearly just around the corner). And a vicious 30-yard strike from Gerrard four minutes from time. Really quite unbelievable. The footballing equivalent of a two-outer. Worth, in this case, about £5m. Brilliant.

As an aside, Beyer Leverkusen also advanced to the knockout stage, meaning Champions League football for US International Landon Donovan, who re-joins the German club on Jan. 1. DaMarcus Beasley's PSV Eindhoven also moves on (Beasley's scored three Champs League goals for the Dutch leaders). Invaluable experience for the two young stars.


Jay Brown held his 10th birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. It was one of those events where the anticipation of a boy was nearly too much to take. For me, at least. When the big day dawned, my parents sent me off with $10 for video games and skee ball, a large sum back in those days (you know, before cable TV). At some point during the proceedings, I lost a five-dollar bill. Distressing, but not fatal. Full of innocence and hope, I asked a cashier if anyone had turned in a five-dollar bill, 'cause I lost one. He, raging with acne and teen-age contempt, sneered at me, making no attempt to conceal his bitter laughter. "You've got to be kidding," his manner shouted. I don't recall what he actually said. The look was enough to make my eyes well up quickly. But the worst part was a feeling in the pit of my stomach, like a hole had been cut out of it. I'd lost something at that moment. I couldn't articulate it to any degree, but I knew I'd lost it forever.

My churning insides soon turned to dread, as I feared telling my parents that I had wasted half of the large sum of money they had given me. Much to my surprise, their reaction was one of empathy, of drying my now-flowing tears and bathing me in consolation. Sometimes us kids don't give our parents enough credit (which all changes when YOU become the parent).

Really, from that moment on, I've never taken anything that wasn't mine. I've found wallets, jackets, bags of groceries, and once, famously, had a $200 Vegas feast unwittingly comped to somebody else's room. I have always returned such "found" money. It doesn't make me a saint. It's just a natural consequence of what happened to me way back in the '70s.

So, what am I to do with the money (yes, $5) I just found on the sidewalk outside my building? My first thought--really--was to give it to the security guard at our front desk in case someone came looking for it. Thought 1a was, well, that's five extra bucks for the security guard. So, I decided against that. I resolved to give it to the first homeless person to approach me (and the over/under on my walk from the office to the train station is generally 3). But wait!

Not two--TWO!--minutes after finding the cash, I return to my desk and my boss comes out of his office and says, "Does anybody have $5 I can borrow?"

I gape at him. And then I'm up and telling the entire office the story.

He didn't take the fiver, though, after I told him it was ticketed for some lucky panhandler.

Life is strange. Hadn't thought about Chuck E. Cheese in years.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

"The A's are ruining my life."
--Me, September 2004

They used to say I had an "addictive personality." And it was true. So, what happens to an addictive personality when he grows up a little and learns to control his impulses, but still has a genetic desire for the adrenaline rush? He becomes obsessive. Or I do anyway.

I don't mean it in a bad way. I AM obsessive. But only about a couple things. And it used to be only one thing: The Oakland A's. The team has the ability to alter my mood. I forage far and wide for tidbits of information on the club. I watch or listen to 150 games a year. From April to October, they consume my thoughts.

I uttered the above quote a few months back as the team went asses up down the stretch, which was a new experience for them and me. For the first time I could recall, I just wanted the season to be over. Put me out of my misery. Which they did, in excrutiating fashion, butI was thankful they spared me further pain. Of course, like it always does, it went away after a week or so. It's not debilitating. I'm not one of those who needs to be reminded by pontificating newspaper columnists--or family members--that it's just a game. But it IS important to me.

This is my long-winded way of getting to the point that the medal stand is now a little more crowded. Because now I'm obsessed about poker, too. By the time I hit the shower every morning, some poker thought has already entered my head. The previous evening's result, while not exactly setting the tone for my day's mood, certainly has the ability to move the needle a few ticks either way. More, if it's a dramatic (traumatic?) session.

My A's obsession caused me to seek and find like-minded souls on this here internet and I found a place where my emotional instability is shared, along with so much A's minutiae. And now I find myself wading into the poker blogosphere in search of same. It's all just a little bit of history repeating...


Another bubble finish last night in a $10 SnG when I folded about 70 hands. If that's an exagerration, it isn't much of one. Just a bunch of completely unplayable hands.

Which made my subsequent win in a $20 SnG that much more surprising. The deck repeatedly pummelled me about the head and shoulders. Caught the pocket rockets on the third hand and managed to get 600 chips from a guy who called me all the way down with second pair (and an Ace on the turn). God Bless that guy.

Took a dominant chip position early by busting pocket 7s with my AQ. Upped it even further by calling a short stack all-in (about a fifth of my chips) with Big Slick and catching two aces on the flop to bust his Hilton sisters. Put out another with the rockets--AGAIN!--topping his KK. See what I mean?

Coasted to the money, picking up chips here and there to get me to 5500. Then, the coup de grace.

Got JJ on the button, raised both the others all-in. Both called(!?). SB shows AA. BB shows QQ.

Uh oh.

But a Jack spikes on the turn and it's over, Johnny. A Party Poker Special.

I also played some $25 NL. Hopped around a bit from table to table, but couldn't really spot any fishy ones. Ended up with a loose/passive group. I REALLY need to play more $25 NL. The experience of the single-table SnGs is invaluable here. Didn't see a check-raise in over an hour at this table. Every time it was checked to me, I bet regardless and took down some pots with overcards. Even made some pot-building bets on draws--something I don't do very often-and induced folds. Just got to make sure to avoid the blogger table.


Back to baseball, arbitration deadline passes, winter meetings beginning, trade rumors flying. Usually a fun time of year for baseball fans. For me, not so much. Seems a foregone conclusion that the A's will deal Tim Hudson. Will be a sad, sad day (or eight). It will be easier to take if the A's get Marcus Giles in return.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Maiden Voyage

As promised, my dear and patient wife made her initial foray into the world of online paker last night. Due to the insane and exciting nature of Monday Night Football and her repeated questions, my running diary of the event left much to be desired. I do remember some things.

I'm proud to report that she has at least absorbed an idea of what starting hands to play. I rarely had to prompt her, though she did want to see a flop with Q6o at Level 1. When she saw my frown, she mucked it. The flop, naturally came JJQ. She glared at me.

"You would still be vulnerable to a better kicker or a Jack."
More glaring. Turn is another Q
"Nevermind what I said about the kicker."
"Look at (my avatar). See how angry he is with you."

She took down her first pot with AJ of diamonds, pairing with a Jack high flop. One player called her all the way down with QJ.

With AQo in the BB, she raised out all but a single limper (good girl!). Flop came 876 of spades. Check, check. Turn is a 5d and she checks, then raises his 30 bet (NO!!!!!!!). Other player raises to 90. "That means he's made his hand, honey." She calls anyway. River is a 9d for a straight on the board. She check calls a 60 bet and falls to a flush. A made flush checked on the flop on a $5 table. What universe is this?

She doesn't see any more flops for a while until she gets J9o in the BB. Sees it for free and it comes QJ9 with two clubs. Bets out 100 and is raised by the big stack. Folded back to her and she goes all in. He flips over A8 of clubs and makes his flush to put her out in 7th.

"It was the right play, honey. You got your chips in while ahead. Nothing you can do."
"I see why this game pisses you off sometimes."

So now she wants to play more. Fine with me, but she has to read a book or two first. And watch me play some more. And get her own bankroll.

I played a couple $10 tourneys after that. Nothing to recommend about them really. I got no cards. And when I did, I was dominated. For instance, AQo on the button. 4x raise from UTG, re-raise from CO and I fold. They show AK and JJ. I limp in with 44 in MP, BB raises 3x. I fold. He shows KK. The only two playable hands I had in 25. That's the kind of night it was.

Ended up with a 4th and a 6th. The bubble loss was a little annoying. I was third stack with about 1200. Two others around 3000 and a short stack at 800. My blinds kept getting raised and I had nothing to call with. Short stack was about to be blinded off (this after staying alive earlier by catching a 3-outer on the river). Had 400 of her 560 in the BB. Button raises to 800. I call with A5 of spades. BB calls all-in. Two spades on a ragged flop. And runner-runner ducks for three dueces on the board. I fold to river bet from button who caught a pair of 7s for the boat. BB/Short stack shows QQ. Damn! I went out a couple hands later with A9 to big stack's pocket 10s.

There WAS an interesting development in this tourney five-handed. Medium stack to my left went all-in pre-flop on 4 straight hands. He won the first. The next 3, he was ahead on all. Lost all 3 to straights. He was not pleased.

Was talking to a buddy last night about making a pilgrammage to our local Indian Casino here shortly for some live play. It has just expanded and is having a grand re-opening this Saturday. It's supposed to be a top notch place now (designed and built by the same folks who did the Palms in Vegas and it has some of the same restaurants and looks very similar). I advanced the idea that I could generate an interesting table image if I wore all three pieces of my free party poker merchandise (hat, t-shirt, denim shirt). His response:

"You might as well show up dressed like Spock."

Good times.

New Link Alert

I've added BadBlood to the poker links. I don't really have a system for doing this. I read numerous blogs, some once, some repeatedly, and I'll list them as I get around to it. BadBlood gets today's prize for a fine post about reacting to a river beat with a child within earshot. I have SO been there. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, he mentions Slayer. Slayer, if you don't know, is the greatest band ever. A reference book I once consulted described their seminal release "Reign in Blood" thusly: "(It) brings metal to its ultimate conclusion."

Top that.

I've also added April to the list due to the simple fact she was kind enough to comment here, such is the level to which I crave human contact. And her blog name is outstanding. Thanks, April.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Mrs. Fish

My dear and patient wife wants to play poker. Tonight. On my Party Poker account. So, I promised I'd let her play a $5 SnG. I further promised wouldn't make any comments unless she asks, which she won't. My dear and patient wife doesn't know what she's doing. It is going to KILL me to sit there and hold my tongue. All in the name of marital harmony. I think I'll probably keep a running diary of the event.

Last night, she watched over my shoulder as I played a $10 SnG, something she doesn't do very often (read: never). She had many questions and I was happy for the interest. I tried to explain to her, best I could, why I was making certain decisions. She was mostly concerned with my folding of what she perceived as "quality" hands. A couple times, she wondered why I didn't call bets. I told her I thought I was beat. And I was, thankfully. Even more thankfully, I won the thing, so I didn't come off a complete jackass, explaining all my sound strategy and bombing out in 7th.

As mentioned in the previous post, I like to be aggressive late in tourneys. In particular, on the bubble. A lot of players will just keep folding and hope for someone to get knocked out. I try to use that to my advantage. Now, this is far from a hard and fast rule. It depends on the other players and the chip counts. But last night, both were favorable.

I was just abusing the player to my left. I had pulled off a couple steals earlier, so pressed my luck when we got down to four. With the blinds at 100/200, I raised him 3 straight times from the SB. Only once did he call and immediately folded to my flop bet (if memory serves, my best hand of the 3 was K9o). After the third time, I turned to my dear and patient wife and said, "He's not going to put up with that any longer."

So, naturally, my next hand in the SB is two black aces. I may very well have this guy tilted, so I raise it 4x the BB. He uses his time bank (I'm imagining him with steam coming out of his ears) and finally calls. Flop is ragged with two spades. I put him all in and he calls with 62 of spades. Turn is a spade (!!$#&##!). River is a spade (YES!!!!!!!). Too funny.

Now for a conundrum. I'm pretty sure I did the right thing, but did I do the RIGHT thing?

Same tourney, 3-handed. I get those skanky Hilton sisters in the BB. Button, who is short stack, goes all in. SB calls. I call. So there's no side pot. I get a set of Qs on the flop and it's checked to me. Dutifully, with poker etiquette (is there really such a thing?) in mind, I check. We, in fact, check it all the way down.

Would it have been wrong (or, at least, frowned upon) if I bet there? I understand there's no side pot to bet at, and if I induce a fold, it's one less chance to knock out a player. But I'm trying to win this thing. I have a 3-1 chip lead after taking down the pot. I could have won it right there if the other player catches something on the board. My hand is pretty well hidden. I'm more than reasonably sure I'm going to knock out the button with my set of Qs.

It's been bugging me. I want to bet there. Would I be wrong? Did I blow my chance to get chips by not raising pre-flop and it is now my honor to check it down?

Any and all viewpoints will be considered.


Thank you folks for your responses. Of course, you are all correct. The lesson here, as always, is I'm an idiot.

But, at the risk of furthering my public humiliation, I want to explain where I got this notion, where my betting would be seen as a faux pas of sorts. The idea--or, more precisely, what I THOUGHT was the idea--was in my head from an old 2+2 thread. That thread pointed to an online article by Daniel Negreanu.

It was interesting to me when I read it (a couple months back, I guess), because it had not occurred to me previously.

Of course, the part I failed to grasp was the BLUFFING part (not to mention the multi-table issue). To add insult to injury, there's a companion article that SPECIFICALLY addresses my situation the other night (#5).

Thanks, again to those who responded.

Touched By Greatness

Iggy pimped me.

Moment of silence.

As previously mentioned, I was inspired to begin here by the poker blogosphere. The links show those who've been influential, from poker strategy (Iggy, HDouble) to drunken tales of frivolity and pictures of hot bartenders (Al) to some very good writing (Otis, Pauly) to The Hammer (Grubby). There are plenty of others I've passed through with varying degrees of interest and I will endeavor to add them to the links list as time goes by.

Which brings me to my next culture phenomenon. I admit it. I not only watch "The O.C.", but I love it to the point of distraction. Yes, I'm 37 years old. I am only able to admit this publicly, if anonymously, after seeing the show revered by at least two other poker bloggers. God bless you guys. With all this hulabaloo over "Desperate Housewives" being a guilty pleasure for male viewers, the strong allure of "The O.C." for middle-aged married guys has been over-looked. First of all, it recalls the very best of 90210 camp with its overwrought storylines and emotive acting. Second, Seth Cohen is genuinely funny. You could watch a year's worth of "Married to Jim" and get fewer true laughs than from a single Cohen soliloquy. Third, you get to hear some good music, though I wonder about the huge sell-out move of appearing on this show. It seems from the last two episodes that the club scenes are going to be a regular fixture and feature "new" bands (talk about pimpage). But The Killers? They're already all over the radio. What ever happened to artist integrity?!?!?! I know, I'm a dinosaur. Fourth, Summer, yes. Marisa, meh. Julie Cooper, passable. Kirsten, YES! I miss Haley, though. Not enough to watch that awful "North Shore," however.

My wife, "reality" show junkie, does not share my enthusiasm. In fact, she mocks it. At every turn.

"Are you going to watch your teen-ager show?"
"Yes. I'm also going to download Slipknot ring-tones and buy a Von Dutch trucker hat."

Eventful weekend at the tables. It occurs to me that posting hand histories isn't the greatest way to get people interested in reading the blog, so I'll refrain from that (for the most part). Still kinda feeling my way here, folks. But I did have a roller coaster ride on the SnGs the past few days and it got me to thinking about posting my evolving strategery.

Early on, and not only for the stock reasons, I decided to play ultra-tight on the SnGs, especially the first two levels/orbits ("Honey, what's that noise?" "It's my ultra-tight ass. It's squeaking"). Obviously, rigid starting hand requirements are part of this. Also, I like to get some sort of handle on what kind of players I'm up against before committing chips. But really, the over-riding fact of my early foray into the SnGs was that I didn't trust my post-flop play in the single-table format, one with which I had little experience. Not like the micro-limit ring gams which you can play on auto-pilot, or something close to it. So I'd stay away from suited connectors (unless cheap and in LP). Likewise, AJo, A10o and their Kingly cousins. I just didn't feel comfortable playing those hands post-flop against 6, 7 players.

So that worked just fine. Playing mostly at the $10 level, you see a fair share of maniacs and if I only saw one or two flops out of the first 20 hands, I'd probably seen two or three players out. Now, theoretically, I've got a bit of a read. And--again, theoretically--a tight table image. So, at this point, it's raise or fold poker. And that's the basic plan. That's when my tournament started.

The problem is I ended up short-stacked too many times. I'd get to the top 5 and with escalating blinds, I'd have to make moves. And, a lot of the time, I'd make impatient moves and get knocked out. Or, I'd get my big hand, move in and get called by a big stack who'd draw out on me. I was relying too much on coin flip situations. Or, my table image was so tight, that I couldn't get any action when I wanted it. Another problem is that there are a lot of chips to be had in those first 20 hands. Maniacs, while unpredictable, can be very lucrative. And I'd more often than not see those chips flowing to players not playing premium hands, players willing to see a flop. So I rarely got to dictate the action at the table by getting up early.

I'd say the above philosophy is still at the core of what I do at those tables. But I'm also willing to play a little looser early on. A little controlled aggression. I used to be hesitant about raising in late position in these games when 4 or 5 have already limped in. Most often, the raise doesn't get them out. The flip side, of couse, is more chips in the pot if my hand gets made. I'll do it now. Not automatically, but with the right hands and right players. One thing I'm not willing to do is to showdown weak hands. I find that building a loose table image isn't a good tactic for me. Later on, I'd prefer they fold to my bets, big hands or bluffs both. If they perceive me as loose, bluffing is out. I like to hammer people late with pre-flop riases, put them under pressure. The fewer hands I showdown, the better.

I also almost never slow-play. I don't entirely trust myself. I don't entirely trust Party Poker. Yeah, I probably let some people hold onto their chips when I can get them, but, for right now, it's a more comfortable play for me.

(I do have one hand from the weekend that deserves mention here: Five-handed at a $20 table. I get presto in the BB. Folded to SB who completes. Flop comes 522. I smooth call SB's 50 bet. Turn is K. I smooth call SBs 125 bet--I'm thinking he just hit one of his overcards. River is a 7. SB checks and I KNOW I have him beat. How many chips would he be willing to give me? I went with 300. He called. I won. What was he playing? AA. Three things. One, I fold presto to a significant (say, 4X) pre-flop raise, even heads-up. Two, I thought at the time he was slow-playing me (even as I was slow-playing him). But now I think he feared the duece, since I could hold any two cards sans the pre-flop raise. Three, he actually came out of it okay, since I couldn't put him on pocket Aces with the pre-flop call. If I had any idea he was holding the rockets, I could have hammered him. Those cards are tough to lay down.)

Obviously, the more I learn, the more hands I see, the more different situations that arise, the basic philosophy wil continue to evolve. What's so interesting about this game is how one problem presents itself, and while one works to find a solution, that solution opens up other avenues for questioning. It's brilliant. A curious mind never sleeps.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

$20 Questions

Weird, small-sample statistical anomaly from the last week and a half:

17 $10 single-table SnGs: 7 in the money. Zero first, one second, six third.
7 $20 single-table SnGs: 5 in the money. Two first, two second, one third.

To me, there's no real discernable difference in skill between the two levels. Depends on the players you end up with. Can't choose your tables like the ring games. Sometimes, I find myself on an ultra-tight $10 table; others a maniacal $20 table. I'd been following a fairly rigid pattern of playing the $10 games during the week and the $20s on the weekend, when the $10s tend to be more unpredictable (read: populated by folks with varying amounts of alcohol in their systems). But last night, after finishing out of the money in the 6th of my last 7 attempts at the $10 level, I played a $20. And won it. Made me wonder.

Regardless, suffice to say I'm happy the above numbers aren't reversed.

Jason Giambi is a 'Roid-Head

In perhaps the worst-kept secret of all-time, Jason "I've only lost four pounds" Giambi has admitted to being a steroid user, during both his A's and Yankee tenures. There is nobody who rooted harder for karma to rise up and kick G's ass than I. Yet, I feel shame--for him and the game--more than anything else today. That guy was a God in Oakland. He owned the fan base. He owned the team. And he dissembled his way right out of town, lying to ownership and fans alike, always painting himself as the victim when a clear analysis of the contract negotiations revealed a hidden agenda the entire time. I openly admit I rooted for him to fail. And it seems I've gotten my wish. But I feel no redemption. He certainly doesn't deserve any sympathy. But he's tarnished his entire career, including his highlights by the Bay.

I'd be glancing over my shoulder if I were Jason. I'm certain Steinbreener has a phlanx of lawyers pouring over his contract, seeing if The Boss can extricate himself from G's massively bloated deal.

I don't expect to see Selig & Co. to weigh in with ay punishment. More likely, they'll spend a couple minutes figuring out the best way to get the issue out of the news as quickly as possible.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


Such is the sound of my heart sinking as variance toys with me.

Rough night last night. Squeezed in three $10 single-table SnGs, with only a third-place finish to show for it. Upon careful analysis, it seems I played pretty well, except for a couple notable mistakes. The details:

First tourney, I barely get warmed up before I'm out in 9th after seeing only 4 flops. It was an inauspiscious beginning as I folded K3o on the first hand only to see two cowboys on the flop.

I get into my first hand--the last of Level 1--with KhQc on the button. Folded to me and I make a 3x raise which is called by both blinds. Flop comes 2cAsTs . Checked to me. I throw out a 75 bet trying to take it down and am raised by the SB. I fold.

Couple hands later, I get AdJd. Two limpers. I minimum raise. Get two callers, including the SB from the previous hand (foreshadowing). Flop is a nice 9dAhKd. I bet out T100 and am called by (let's call him my nemesis). Flop is 10s, so I have top pair and 12 outs, if needed. This time, my T100 bet is raised. I call the 100. River is a rag. I check. He bets. I fold and he flashes Big Slick.

I go out a short time later when I flop a straight and lose to a rivered flush. Which bears mentioning. There were more flushes last night than at halftime of the Super Bowl. Unbelievable.

Second tourney was a bit more eventful. Worked my way up to T1200 early on with pocket 4s and Big Slick. Then took a big hit with KK. Down to 5-handed. Folded to me and I raise 4x the blinds on the button. A big bet, but trying to get out any ace. Because, well, I always lose with this hand. Sure enough, BB calls and two aces on the flop. I throw out a 200 bet to see what's what--hoping I'm up against QQ and am raised. I fold and--AGAIN!!!!--am flashed Big Slick. Maybe time to call it a night. Maybe time to just minimum raise those cowboys. Now short-stacked I'm forced in in the BB with K6o, catch nothing against and ace and out in 5th.

I'm not too discouraged, though, because I feel like I've just gotten the worst of it. Not like I've just been giving away my chips, though a couple agressive bets have lost me some. And things immediately brightened.

Second hand of the third tourney, I get QJo on the button. I limp and get a Jack high flop. Checked to me and I bet out, getting two callers. Turn and river are rags and I bet both reasonably hard, though not as hard as I would have bet them had I a few hands to get a read on the guys who call me all the way down. Both with Ax. No pairs. Picked up about 600 chips and I'm liking this table.

Very next hand, I get AA. Make it 60 to go, two limpers and button (he of Ax the previous hand) calls. Flop is Kxx. checked to me and I bet 300, hoping there's a king out there. There is. Button has it and re-raises all-in. I call and am up to T2300 only 3 hands in.

Lot of folding follows as the cards decide I've had enough for now. And a funny thing happens. After four players go to showdown, I pull up the hand history to see what they were playing. As I attempt to close it, I accidentally hit the raise button. I have Q7o. But, as luck would have it, I'm on the button and nobody's in the hand yet. BB calls. Flop misses me completely, but BB checks. I throw out 100 and induce a fold. Clearly, thing's will be going right for me on this table as long as I don't screw it up (foreshadowing).

I now also am led to believe that I have the table respect that comes from a) folding a lot b) showing down only the best cards and/or c) having by far the big stack. So I start stealing. And it works to perfection. The problem: I can't get any action the couple times I get premum cards.

So, I limp in with KQo one from the button. Flop is Qd5c2h . Checked to my right who bets 200. I call. Everybody else folds. Turn is a 10, the second club. My right goes all-in. I go into the tank. No pre-flop raise, so I discount AK (considering my night, probably not the best idea). Could have caught a set at some point, though 10s seems unlikely. I decide I'm ahead and call. He shows 77. I get a superfluous Q on the river and I'm steamrolling this crew.

I fold and steal until we're 5-handed when I catch a straight on the turn. I lose T600 when I put short stack all-in and he makes a boat on the river.

I slowly get all of that back and we're down to 3 when I completely blow it. SB minimum raises my BB. I call with AsKc. Flop is raggedy to say the least: 4d7h2h. SB throws out 500 and I fold. Actually, I WISH that's what happened. I called it. Why? I'm not entirely sure. I think the fact he bet half his stack signalled to me he was trying to steal it. It's not out of the realm of possibility he was playing overcards like me. He'd done it previously. And maybe that's the problem. I talked myself INTO the hand, instead of talking myself OUT of it. Find a reason to fold, dummy.

Whew, glad we hashed that out. So I don't have to mention he went all-in on the turn, which didn't improve me and I called that one, too. River is no help and his Js7s doubles him up.

I think over-confidence might have hurt me here, too. I was feeling pretty bullet-proof. Perhaps "terrifically dense" would be a better way to put it.

So, now I'm the short stack and (stop me if you've heard this one before), go out a few hands later with top pair crushed by a rivered flush. But I deserved it.

Dinner out with the (extended) family tonight so I probably get to marinate in that play for another day before heading back to the tables.

On the non-poker front, A's ace Tim Hudson and his agent are making petulant demands and setting deadlines for his contract extension (he'll be a free agent after the upcoming season). Huddy is pretty much 1a. on my list of all-time Oakland A's players (just behind Dave Stewart) and the one player who personifies the A's return to contention after many dark years in the '90s.

Basically, the A's owners are gonna have to pony up some dough to keep him, an act they've not shown much affinity for in the past. If form holds, Huddy's departure will rank right up there on the disappointment scale with the McGwire trade. I won't, however, wish him ill will and pancreatic parasites like I have certain other former Athletics with the initials Jason Giambi.