Monday, February 28, 2005

A Night of Stars

Let’s start with the poker. It’s gonna be a long flight. Please make yourself comfortable.

Not a lot of poker this weekend, owing to the anniversary festivities, but I’ve made a full-time switch from the Party Poker SnGs to those on Poker Stars. The structure on the latter is so much better suited to my game at this point. I played 5 two-table $20 SnGs this week and monied thrice, including a win. The win was one of those times when everything went right. Tripled up at Level 4 when I flopped top pair, the nut flush draw and a gunshot draw. I was behind (to two pair and a made straight), but not very far behind and you know what Doyle says. Turn brought the flush and I was in control. I knocked out everyone at the final table, coming out on the good and holy side in three straight coin flips vs. the small stacks.

And then, heads up, I dominated. I have to thank some folks for that (and I’ll get to it later in the post), because I played my ass off and ran my opponent out of the tourney inside a dozen hands. I would likely have not been able to do that a week ago.

So, Poker Stars is getting all my SnG action for the foreseeable future. Party Poker remains my cash game home, though. How could you ever fully leave such a collection of idiots?

I also played an MTT on Stars yesterday. Finished 167, which is in the money for a tidy profit of $3.44. I will be buying myself sumpin’ purty. I also groused and wallowed over the finish for quite some time. Here’s why:

I had tripled up when I needed it most. I pushed at Level 12 with pocket 5s having only 5x the BB. I got called in two places: AKs and AQo. Flop is 775. WEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!

With chips to play with, I set out to do some stealin’. Twice, the player one to my left re-raised me all-in on my steals. Maybe he had something, maybe he just had a read on me, I don’t know. I wasn’t trying it from obvious positions. But I folded, not wanting to risk my stack on coin flips (or worse). I was hoping to catch him later.

And I was patient. A short time later, I got KK in the SB. And my nemesis pushed from UTG. Thank you Jesus. He had me covered by only a couple hundred chips. Doubling up would have put me in the top 15 in the chip count. I called; he had 33.

Sweet revenge is nigh!

Unless a 3 comes on the flop. Godammit.

My dear and patient wife was very proud of how I handled the beat (rising slowly and silently, grabbing a beer and a smoke and heading to the patio to be alone with my anguish). Stuck in my craw for a while. Yeah, I done good. I waited for my spot, didn’t throw all my money in against a maniac until I had him dominated. That I lost the hand seems a cruel twist. It HAD to be that guy.


The Mrs. also played a $6 SnG yesterday. Actually, make that two. The first one was sort of an aborted attempt, however. Why?

”Honey, what’s Omaha Hi-Lo?”

In her inexperience, she had signed up for an Omaha SnG. And it was too late to get out of it. I have, at most, a passing acquaintance with the rules of the game. With strategy? Absolutely none.

Yet, we held our own for a while. Even swiped an entire pot with a boat and no qualifying low. As the game went on, we sorta figured out good starting hands and such. And here’s the crazy thing: If we didn’t get sucked out in two straight hands on the river, we mighta won the darn thing. I still really didn’t know what I was doing. And I couldn’t even read the hands quick enough at showdown. But I’m gonna guess there’s money to be made online at Omaha if this table was any indication.

The she finished 6th in her NLHE tourney when a guy chased and made runner-runner straight to her flopped TPTK.


Random quote from the dear and patient wife during the Oscars extravaganza:

"I'm sick of looking at Star Jones' back meat."


Sticking with poker, I’ve added a few new links. I mentioned some assistance I’d gotten recently in regard to my heads-up play. It came from the good folks at Ship It Poker as part of their Heads-Up Doctrine, especially in regards to raising 80% of the time on the button. Which I did to great effect this weekend. These guys are good. They make me feel dumb. Fortunately, I have no ego and me feeling dumb is not a rare occurance.

Human Head gets a nod of the noggin’ because he’s funny and articulate and, most importantly, one of my best friends’ nickname is “Big Head.” So, call me a Huge Cranium-o-phile.

Lacerated Cards references Slayer in his blog title. Do I really need to say more?


Stupid Liverpool. They get a dream start against a "struggling" club and instead of continuing to play positively, they sit back, try to absorb the pressure and hit on the break. Which is a crappy strategy. It's Houllier's strategy. It's even worse when your team can't maintain any possession and keep turning it over in the midfield. Chelsea came out of the break and completely dominated the proceedings, getting a deserved win. But I'm totally displeased with the Reds' performance.

There have been some signs of life this year at Anfield. Not so much the middling results, but at least a return to attacking soccer under Benitez, a nice change from the dullness of Houllier. But not yesterday. And the injuries to Xabi Alonso and Cisse are no excuse.

Oh, and Harry Kewell sucks. Long. And hard.

Still, I don't mind paying off America's Wingman. It's not like he can drink it all by himself. I mean, I know he can drink it all by himself, just that he won't. He's a sharer that way.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Happy 5th Anniversary!

Our silhouettes look so young!

I love you, Mars. Posted by Hello

Friday, February 25, 2005

Blink: Don't Miss It

"He's got a big pair."

The thought was instantaneous. From the small blind, my opponent simply completed. We were on the bubble and I held J4o in the big blind. I don't know why I knew. Only that I did.

Now I know. My adaptive unconscious. As Malcolm Gladwell writes in his fascinating new book, "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking," the adaptive unconscious is "the part of our brain that leaps to conclusions." It's instinct. It's our first impression. Where does that information come from? Is it reliable? How can we make it work for us when we need it most? And how does it compare to decisions made after careful and thorough contemplation?

Gladwell argues that our instantaneous reactions are at least as useful as rigorous analyses. Perhaps even MORE dependable without reams of data muddling our perception.

The brain is able to process so much information, much more than we are able to consciously tap in to. In the case of the poker hand above, my brain did all the thinking for me. Behind what Gladwell calls the "locked door," our adaptive unconscious is processing everything around us. And when the small blind just checked, it screamed at me, based on the patterns it recognized from prior play. However, because this all takes place behind the "locked door," we tend not to trust it. Would you invest your money with a broker who couldn't explain to you why he likes a stock, only that he does? Aren't these snap judgments known as "rash" decisions?

But they are not rash, simply because we are unable to explain them. Early in the book, Gladwell describes an experiment at the University of Iowa. Subjects were give four decks of playing cards--two red, two blue. The cards were assigned a monetary value--positive or negative--and the idea was to make the most profit. What wasn't known was that the red decks had high variance, while the blue decks provided a slow, but steady profit. After selecting about 50 cards, the subjects had figured this out enough to alter their strategy and favor the blue decks. But they couldn't articulate why until they had turned over about 80 cards!

The researchers then went a step further. They put some gamblers to the test and hooked them up to machines to measure their stress levels. The gamblers exhibited elevated stress levels to the red decks around the 10th card. At the same time, they began to favor the blue decks. They had figured the game out. Yet, they didn't REALIZE they'd figured it out until around the 50th card. Their experience in games of chance/skill enabled them to process the information much quicker, quicker than they even knew.

Such was the situation I found myself in my poker hand. My brain had processed the patterns of my opponent's play, unconsciously. It would be several minutes before I would consciously recall how he'd raised my big blind several times previously. How those seemed obvious steal bets to me. How the call was a trap being laid. My experience with poker, familiarity with different situations, with my opponent, it was all packed into that split-second unconscious thought.

Often, we don't have the luxury of deliberation. In fast-moving times of stress, it is our adaptive unconscious that guides the way. If you step in front of a bus, you don't sit there and debate the merits of various escape plans. You instinctively get the hell out of the way. Not the case in poker. We don't want to act too rashly. We go "into the tank," running the math, the potential range of hands, etc.

Which is what I did when the flop came Jack-high. He checked it to me--perfectly in line with the trap I suspected, by the way--and I mused on what to do. I was short-stacked, I reasoned. I could use those chips. I have top pair heads-up, a bettable hand, even with no kicker. He could have 10s. Or 9s.

I bet 400, the pot and half my stack. He raised me all-in.

Gladwell tells the story of retired Marine officer Paul Van Riper. A veteran of Vietnam, Van Riper was a "gunslinger," an aggressive and successful war tactician. Van Riper was summoned by the Pentagon to take place in a massive war game, one that now bears an eerie resemblance to the invasion of Iraq. A “full dress rehearsal for war.” Van Riper was to play the part of a rogue commander in the Persian Gulf.

On the second day of the exercise, Van Riper's team managed to sink 16 American warships. He routed the US military. A US military armed with the most advanced simulations, the most in-depth analyses, matrixes to cover every possible event, a vast sea of data. Why? They were paralyzed by too much information. In their desire to know everything, they not only overloaded their decision-making systems, but limited their adaptive unconscious. The adaptive unconscious is agile, allowing it to come to swift conclusions. Loading it down with extraneous--and lugubrious--data nullifies its effectiveness. While the government went through it's rote paces, Van Riper utilized his experience and adaptability to dance around the behemoth.

There is much to be gleaned from information in the game of poker. Name your game, your limit, your style, there is a book for you. Technology is available everywhere for the online player. Pokertracker allows us to look back on our play, to find our leaks, analyze our hand selection and betting patterns. This information is, undoubtedly, invaluable to learning the game. It adds experience and provides data for processing by the adaptive unconscious and the brain at large.

Gametime+ and similar programs are another story. To my mind, that is too much information. And while it may be useful at the moment, I’d argue that it ultimately inhibits one’s ability to assimilate the patterns and situations of poker. If you consult a chart every time you call, raise or fold, is the pertinent information really shaping your future judgments, especially in the adaptive unconscious? Is the person at the blackjack table with the hand chart really learning how to play the game? It’s lazy, leaning on all that information, believing—like the Pentagon—it will get you through any troublesome spot.

I'm the guy who was always the first done with the test. I'm the guy who answers the "Jeopardy!" questions before Trebek can get them out. I'm not trying to be impressive. It's just that's the way I work. Part of it is genetic impatience. The rest is just trusting that first impression. Has it gotten me into trouble? Of course. But there is such a thing as too much information. Especially in situations, like poker, where everything CAN’T be known. Take the maniac who just raised pre-flop...again. Instantly you know he’s been doing it 40% of the time. Which tells you nothing as far as what kind of hand he’s holding this time. Like the US government in the war simulation example, all that knowledge is no defense against an unpredictable opponent, even a stupid one. All you really have are your wits, your practiced ability to correctly read the situation. Feed the adaptive unconscious with relevant knowledge and get out of the way. Your instincts have great value. Don’t talk yourself out of them.

What? The hand? Oh.

I called the raise. He flipped QQ. I went out on the bubble.

Clearly, I need work.

Thursday, February 24, 2005


This is gonna take some doin'.

If you haven't heard, the next leg on the WPBT Live Tour has been set up by CJ.

I'm already committed to being in Vegas three weeks prior for another soccer tournament.

In order to attend both, all my negotiating skills will have to be taken out of mothballs. That charm I so effectively used on the dear and patient wife early in our courtship will need to be resurrected. If necessary, I'll pull a "Kobe" and fall to my knees while holding jewelry. Talk about your "outs."


Call me River Boy.

After last night's inflaming of the Klan, I pulled another huge pot on fifth street. Got dealt KK in the SB on a .25/.50 NL table at Stars. Only one limper, so just a minimum raise from me. BB folds and limper calls. Flop is a pretty KcQh5c. I chuck a fiver into the pot and get called. On a draw, I presume. Turn is Jd. I chuck a tenner into the pot and get raised to $25. Broadway straight, eh? Nice catch. Or maybe just two pair. Whatever. The hard fact is that I AM NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO FOLD TOP SET! I even re-raised him all in.

He did have A10o. A queen spiked on the river to fill me up.

I must be living right.

I had better tighten it up, though.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Hitler Loses His Composure

What are the 10 filthiest words in the English language? I'll let you ponder that question while I relate the following tale which resulted in me being called nine of them in short order.

I was admittedly playing loose. I do that sometimes when I just arrive at a table, in this case, a .25/.50 PL on Party. Try to get some action later. About five hands in I peek at Ah10h and lead out with a minimum raise. Only the button calls. I think that's good news. I saw him call a big pre-flop raise with KJo in the SB just a hand earlier. So, we're both loose.

I also admittedly rammed and jammed my draw when I flopped two hearts (eight-high). I like to do this a lot, too (though, obviously, more in limit games), when I'm crafting my maniac table image. He called my pot bet on the flop. I've got him on overcards. Turn is a rag and I go ahead and bet half the pot. Loose? Oh yeah. And he finally gets around to raising me. Well, I've got outs and now I've got pot odds to call the raise.

I catch a heart. He's got AA.

Got your 10 filthy words?

The first this fella went with was "effing n-word."

Now, I'm a non-confrontational guy. I even summoned a glimmer of remorse for the suckout, prior to the comment. I've certainly been there. I'm also not easy to offend. Yet, this guy immediately turned me into a Hulk-ish version of myself, which, for the uninitiated, is not a large violent being, but rather a condescending, ultra-smart-ass pedant. I'm not proud.

"Nice manners," I typed. He replied that I engage in certain practices with homosexual men. Or perhaps roosters. Could be taken both ways. I wondered if he used that mouth to make out with his sister. He countered with a bizarre suggestion that could really only be accomplished with a power drill and a penchant for necrophilia.

Seeing I was clearly out-played in the filth category, I opined that he should re-buy so I can draw out on him again. How doing it the first time has made me positively giddy. How it really couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

I think I may have tilted him. Though I didn't get his last $6.

Anyway, dude, if you're out there. I hope you've calmed down and that your white supremicist rally went down okay.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Ignore This Post

The Man is keeping me down.

Still working on my attempt at a scholarly, learned post about first impressions and poker. Obviously, it's slow going, as that is not my usual route. Much writing, re-writing and editing has ensued, a process slowed by a big steaming pile of work.

Here's the worst poker player ever to tide you over:

$25 PL Hold'em - Saturday, February 19, 21:40:34 EDT 2005
Table Cool Moves (Real Money)
Seat 1 is the button
Total number of players : 10
Seat 1: Worst Player Ever ( $23.35 )
Seat 2 ( $28.65 )
Seat 4 ( $2.25 )
Seat 5 ( $91.3 )
Seat 6 ( $56.1 )
Seat 7 ( $16.25 )
Seat 8 ( $25 )
Seat 9 ( $24 )
Seat 10: Yours Truly ( $24 )
Seat 3 ( $24.5 )
Seat 2 posts small blind [$0.25].
Seat 3 posts big blind [$0.5].
** Dealing down cards **
Dealt to Yours Truly [ Kd Kc ]
Seat 4 calls [$0.5].
Seat 5 calls [$0.5].
Seat 6 calls [$0.5].
Seat 7 calls [$0.5].
Seat 8 folds.
Seat 9 folds.
Yours Truly raises [$3.75].
Worst Player Ever calls [$3.75].
Editor's note: Everybody else folded.
** Dealing Flop ** [ Th, Js, 6s ]
Yours Truly bets [$9.75].
Worst Player Ever calls [$9.75].
** Dealing Turn ** [ 4s ]
Yours Truly is all-In [$10.5]
Worst Player Ever is all-In [$9.85]
** Dealing River ** [ 9d ]
Yours Truly shows [ Kd, Kc ] a pair of kings.
Worst Player Ever doesn't show [ 4h, 8s ] a pair of fours.
Yours Truly wins $0.65 from side pot #1 with a pair of kings.
Yours Truly wins $47 from the main pot with a pair of kings.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Re-Buys and Re-Drinks


I have spent the last 62 hours in one of three states: drunk, asleep or hungover. It is the last which I have lugged to work today.

Having to work on a holiday is bad. Having to drive to work in a biblical thunderstorm because your train isn't running due to the holiday is worse. Having the storm knock out the power at your workplace for two hours, leaving you with little to do but plead for the clock to move faster is just plain horrible.

I don't know what lapse in judgement sent my dear and patient wife and I to the bottle last night. It became a frenzy, a sloppy descent into a stupor. Maybe because she was kinda pumped about my Final Table finish, much more so than when I informed her at 4:30 a.m. on Saturday. So she wanted to sweat me while I played another. So, onto the 4:45 p.m. $10/$1 tourney on Stars. And onto the mixing of Double Bloody Marys at 4:46.

A pretty tame tourney. I was cold-decked the entire time. I could barely keep my stack out of the bottom 10th percentile. I felt like a bug trying to crawl out of a wet bathtub. The highest pocket pair I got was fives. I went out with AJs (naturally). Flopped the jack and got called by pocket 10s, who made a runner-runner straight. Not that I can complain or anything. I caught a one-outer this weekend. No bitching about bad beats for a week. It's in the rules.

So, another two hours plus in a poker tourney and that's probably it for the weekend, right? No? "Let's play another one!" slurred my dear and patient wife.

It just so happens there's a $10/$1 re-buy starting on Stars in seven minutes. Oh, serendipity!

I'd mentioned my previous re-buy experience, so fastened myself in for some serious early round action. It was not to be. My table was very tight. I got dealt a couple big hands (including my first AA in what seemed like a millenia), but couldn't get any action. Nobody else really could, either. Coming up on the break, I was just below the starting chip count, so I re-bought. And got the T2000 add-on for good measure. Still a well-below average stack, but plenty of chips to play with.

I got moved right after the break and the table was much more to my liking. Some loose action going on and I started to slowly chip up. Late in Level 7, I made a killing with K5o in the BB. One limper and SB see a flop of Kc 10s 5c. SB makes a bet, I re-raise, limper re-raises, SB goes all-in, I call, limper calls. Limper has a crappy K7o. SB has a frightening QcJc. He is, in fact, a slight favorite with his draws. But he doesn't catch and I triple up, promting a celebration of Swedish teen-ager proportions, if Mattias Andersson had been pretty much drinking for 3 straight days.

It was soon after that, or thereabouts, that my dear and patient wife asked me the strangest of questions:

Do you have any pot?

Well, of course I don't have any pot. I haven't had any pot in roughly seven years.

Don't you keep some around for emergencies?

Yes, I have a little survival kit: a Mexican seed bag, an empty 7-Up can and some Chef Boyardee raviolis.

Now I have to re-focus, because getting high DOES sound like a good idea and my mind starts to wander.

I make it to the second break with an above-average stack and get moved again. To the steroid table. Lots of aggro rage going on there. I soon found out that stealing was not an option. Multiple pre-flop raises on every pot. I need to pick my spots. I lay down JJ once pre-flop. The guy who forced me to lay it down then started playing at me with all his worth. I let him, for a time.

Until I busted him with my pocket 10s to his pocket 8s. An ace came on the flop (the only overcard) and he re-raised my bet all in. A third player in the hand folded. Good thing, too. He said he had jacks. I would have had to fold if he stayed in. But deep in my adaptive unconscious, I KNEW my 10s were good when I got heads-up. Cue another drunken celebration.

Then I fucked up. Late in the third hour, I made a bad play. Tried a steal with Q9s and got re-raised by the BB. It wasn't that much more for me to call. In fact, it was an easy call and even when he showed AKo, I had live cards. But I didn't improve. And worse was the fact everyone saw I played Q9s. They were playing at me before, but now they REALLY played at me. And I lost a couple of pots I would have won if I'd had any respect at the table. My aggression had become uncontrolled, riding a wave of Ketel One destined to crash headlong into the shore. Unimproved medium aces called me all the way down; missed straight draw with bottom pair called me all the way down. Nobody would give it up.

Me, in my drunken reverie, realized this just a little too late. I was down to 6x the BB and had to push with 10s again. Got three effing callers. Worse, they had all four overcards live (and AK, an AJ a QJ). The jack is what ended me, 135 from the money.

And that's where the party ended, for me anyway. I was angry at my stupidity. Nothing worse than an angry drunk who's also depressed at choking away his stack. I power-smoked a couple butts and passed out.

My dear and patient wife apparently had some more fun, owing to the kitchen remnants of what appeared to be quite a late-night feast. I also found a highly entertaining e-mail in my box this morning.

R.I.P. H.S.T

Tale of Two Cities, my ass. The greatest opening line ever written remains:

We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.

If you've ever written a single creative word, you owe a debt to Hunter S. Thompson. If you've ever found yourself under the influence of high-powered blotter acid, raise a tribute to Dr. Gonzo. If you've ever done both simultaneously...well...maybe you best stay in bed today.

R.I.P. H.S.T.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

I'm Not Cherry

PokerStars Tournament #5286077, No Limit Hold'em
Buy-In: $10.00/$1.00
588 players
Total Prize Pool: $5880.00
Tournament started - 2005/02/19 - 03:15:00 (ET)

Dear JoeSpeaker,

You finished the tournament in 5th place.
A $323.40 award has been credited to your Real Money account.

That is not a mis-print. My first Final Table.

They say you need some luck to make it that far in these tournaments, but I really didn't. Not until we got down to three-tables, anyway. I'd only been able to maintain my stack through much of the third hour. And then I took a hit, my AQo running into AA. Suddenly, I was the smallest stack left in the tourney. And Lady Luck kicked in.

I don't remember the exact specifics, owing to the late hour and the liquid courage (and foraging through the hand history is not something my sleep-deprived brain wants to do). I know I caught a runner-runner straight to make my smaller pocket pair a winner. I know I caught a 3-outer on the river to stay alive. My tablemates and some railbirds started coming up with nicknames for me, nearly all of them good-natured.

But really, that was nothing.

I made it to the final table and watched three get knocked out quickly. I and a couple others had the smallish stacks. Then the hand: I re-raised a 4x opening raise for more than half my stack with 55, hoping to win it right there. He came back over the top and I was stuck. Fold and I've got enought for maybe two orbits. Call and hope for a coin flip. I chose the latter. I didn't get my coin flip. He showed 77.

Flop came all clubs, no improvement. I don't have a club. He does. Rag on the turn. I'm down to one card, one out. The five of hearts spikes on the river. The table/rail go friggin' insane. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say I wasn't the only drunk guy.

It was at this point, I thought tonight might be my night (this morning might be my morning). I could never, in a million years, be able to adequately explain how I felt when that card fell. Now, I'm closing in on the chip lead.

Alas, it was not to be. I got AKo in the BB and re-raised the button, who calls. The flop is a fairly enjoyable KQ9 and I bet about a third of my stack (half the pot). He comes over the top, all-in.

I think his name was sdgamer. Or something like that. He was the recipient of my runner-runner beat earlier. He took it like a man. He was a heckuva player. He got his revenge, flipping J10s when I called.

I've only had four hours sleep. I'm hungover, my head is pounding, my hands a little shaky.

I feel great.

Playing With Confidence

The confidence which can only be summoned by 8 or 12 Bass Ales.

I'm actually down a middling amount for the evening, based entirely on the fact that I got sucked out on at a Poker Stars .25/.50 NL table, at which point the table broke and I love run-on sentences.

No, seriously, this guy took me for $40--eliminating my profit--holy shit, I just got dealt the hammer for the first time, where was I...oh yeah, as soon as that hand was over, the table broke. had to fold the hammer I pulled it back up and I was the only one there. I clicked "leave table" and it asked me if I was "sure." Well, no you stupid machine, I'd like to sit here all night by myself.

(The above sounds funnier in my head)

Anyway, I'm in Hour Three of an MTT on Stars ($11 buy-in) with an above average stack and holy shit, I just got dealt rockets and playing my ASS off won the pot with rockets.

The only real problem is the chip leader directly to my left.

And the beers.

Anyway, thought I'd write this up before I get uncermoniously dumped on the bubble. More interesting this way.

Take Two

Um, nevermind.

I am, at this point, weilding my stack. Throwing it around like a pervert's weiner at cheerleader camp.

I've made the money and am fourth in chips with 50 still in. I'm giddy.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Gut Feelings

Today's thoughts will not be ordered. You've been warned.

Those are the kind of opening sentences I settle on when I've tried to write dozens of others with varying degrees of failure, ranging from "idiotic" to "couldn't be crappier."

Friday finds me lugging around back-to-back positive poker sessions, something that has not happened since...let me don't know. Can't find it in my notes. Perhaps that's because the last time it happened Cro Magnon man was still writing pictures on cave walls.

Regardless, Mistress Variance (now appearing nightly at The Body Shop) popped up and gave me a big ol' soul kiss on Wednesday night. Last evening was more of a peck on the cheek sort of deal, but I'm happy for even the slightest attention from this fickle muse.

I've noticed something else. My head no longer resides in my ass. No matter how loathe I am to admit it, this down-turn has been exacerbated by my sub-standard play. Tilt, both obvious and covert, sent me on chasing expeditions, to the wrong tables, wrong limits. Basically loosened me up more than a Bangkok hooker on Ecstacy.

I made too many plays HOPING I was good, as opposed to KNOWING I was good.

For the last two nights, I've managed to turn that around, not only winning pots--and making the correct bets--when I had the best of it, but also divining when I was behind or beaten.

A good example from a .50/1 PL table:

I limp with KJs in LP and see a flop that comes Jc 9s 4d. UTG leads out for $3. I raise to $6. All folds to the original bettor who simply calls. Now, I know that play. I like to lead out when I have good draws, too. I recognize it. And I think it's more likely he's playing Q10 or 108 than it is that she has a jack. I'm on alert.

The turn is an 8. UTG bets the pot. I spend a little time trying to assess all the possibilities, but I ultimately come back to my first instinct. My hand isn't all that great anyway, and it's with little reluctance that I fold. He shows Q10, for which I thanked him, since it makes me feel pretty good about myself AND gives me some blogging material.

Another example from the same table:

Again, I have KJs, this time in the BB. Again, the flop comes jack-high. I bet $2 and a solid player raises me. A jack for sure. and he wouldn't raise with a crappy kicker. Now, I went ahead and played this one all the way to the river, but cautiously. Ended up check-calling on the turn (for $3) and then getting a check-check. He showed AJs. Yes, I lost a little money there, but the possibility existed that I could have lost a lot more. By tempering my aggression, I saved some bets.

Maybe I could save more by just throwing KJ away whenever I see it.


So, I've finished reading "Blink." It is terrific. Apart from being smart and engrossing, it gives rise to a number of intruguing questions regarding poker.

I plan to blog about this at length in the very near future. But that requires some research and constructing an actual coherent narrative, so I'll get this quickie in while the content is fresh.

For those unfamiliar with the work, it's about our "adaptive unconscious," that part of the brain that operates our first impressions. It explains how those impulses might actually be more useful than rigorous study, especially in times of high-stress or crisis (like say, a WSOP final table).

There is a fascinating chapter about reading facial expressions and reports of people with the uncanny ability to correctly judge a situation (or a statue or a tennis player) in a fraction of a second. These same people also can not explain why they feel that way. They just do. Obviously, each of these items would have an application in poker.

So, there's your teaser. Or, just as likely, a complete turn-off. Either way, listen to your first impression and come back to read. Or not.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Prodigal Bankroll

Hello, old friend. I've missed you. The way you put a hop in my step, a gleeful tone in my voice, a rush of adrenaline in my bloodstream. It's been too damn long.

Yes, I booked a huge win at Party Poker last night. My biggest in two months. A rare positive session in six weeks of banging my head against the wall. But it didn't start out that way. Playing hard to get, I guess.

Sat down at a couple $25 PL tables. Dropped my first buy-in when I cleverly kept betting my pocket aces into flopped quad 9s. Dropped my second to a LAG who kept raising my TPTK until we were both all-in on the turn. I had him out-kicked. He rivered the fourth spade on the board for a flush. Not an auspiscious beginning.

I was holding my own on the other table. Flopped a couple big hands, but couldn't get paid off. Proceeded to steal a couple other small pots and was up a bit.

But the first table was where the money was going to come from. A lot of big pots. A lot of big stacks. A lot of folks chasing to the river and even calling with their ace high. Patience, my son. Patience.

I continued to make a slow steady climb on the other table, never getting myself into a compromising situation. I flopped the nut flush draw on one hand, but with a bet and a raise in front of me (and a pair on the board), I laid it down. Danger hand. I was right.

Back to the first table, things are wild and woolly. I am mostly a spectator for the better part of 45 minutes, but I doubled up once with a BB special (A5o and making a set of 5s). And I've put my eyeballs and remaining brain cells to work. I've got a good read on several players, chief among them a guy I'll call Big Wave Chaser. BWC played a lot of hands. He led out a lot on the flop and turn. He called an equal number of bets on those streets. He also folded quite often on the river. The few times he didn't, he made his hand and got paid off. So there he was, one among four players at the table, with stacks in or near triple digits. If only I could get at 'em.

Eventually, I completed with AJo in the SB. Anyone who recalls my Vegas trip report knows how much I love this hand. It's my "lucky" hand. It's The Boy's nickname (AJ). I know it's not an especially good hand, and can go south on you faster than Peyton Manning in Foxboro. But I'll almost always play it. Certainly for an extra two bits. Position be damned.

I'm not one to say I told you so, but the flop comes J J 7 with two hearts. I bet the pot, BB calls and (YES!) so does Big Wave Chaser. I put the former on the case jack and BWC on a flush or gunshot straight draw. The turn is a beautiful two of clubs. I again bet the pot. BB comes out firing and raises it all the way up. BWC calls it and I re-raise all-in. Both call. I have to say, at this point, I'm a little nervous. There could be a 77 out there. Or a J7. I'm even having a hard time believing Big Wave Chaser is on a draw at this point. That turn bet was $45 per person.

Whatever. I don't even have time to fully integrate all that when the river pops...AN ACE! It's OVAH! I rocket off the couch. The only thing I can see is the $152 pot being pushed to me. I break into song. Into dance. Just an unabashed expression of joy. Very professional of me. Very much keeping that emotional even keel that is so necessary in the game.

As my breathing becomes regulated, I am curious to see what I was up against. Did I need that ace? SB had QJ, so I had him the whole way. Big Wave Chaser? Pocket ducks. Ouch. A 3-outer on the river. And a few choice words from BWC in chat. I empathize. but I don't respond. Instead, I break into a familial conga line:

Daddy Caught a Three Out-Er
Daddy Caught a Three Out-Er
Daddy Caught a Three Out-Er
Daddy Caught a Three Out-Er

Big Wave Chaser lasts one more hand. Too bad. Because it's TWO hands later when I get dealt two red 10s. A minimum raise from UTG and several callers. I raise it the pot (around $6) and get 4(!) to come along to the flop. So much for table respect. The flop is an attractive 8 5 2 with two spades. UTG leads out with a weak $2 bet. I bump it up to $10. Button calls, as does UTG. I am officially worried about Button. Earlier, he slow-played pocket kings, taking out my TPTK. He's been fairly tight since, if a little passive (when last to act on the river with the KK, he checked). So he could very well have an overpair. The other, I like him for spades.

Turn is Kd and UTG bets $5. Still on that spade draw. I bump it to $15. Both call. Ugh. River--God Bless Party Poker--is the 10 of clubs. Is it possible I just hit a one-outer?!?!?! UTG checks (I knew that was coming) and I bet $30. Button calls. UTG folds. Pot is pushed to me, all $160 of it. The button? The cause of all my fear and loathing? A8o. Um, okay. I was good all along.

Now, Antonio Esfandiari can call me "retarded" all he wants, but it's now almost 11 p.m., I've just dragged over $300 in pots in the span of five minutes and my nervous system is in full spasm mode. I fold three more hands and get the hell out of Dodge with 12x--12x!--my buy-in.

Needless to say, I woke up in a very good mood this morning.


Reason #57692 to love Party Poker: Transferring your baseball fantasy keeper league fees to the commissioner's account, instead of writing a check and mailing it.


D'oh! Canada

So, hockey is cancelled. Nice work, fellas. You guys should work in government.

I have only recently become something of a hockey fan. I grew up in California, after all. Not a big market for professional winter sports. Until three years ago, I'd seen a single hockey game live and that was the California Golden Seals in the '70s. I followed the playoffs, even watched certain series that intrigued me, like when Gretzky came to LA and they made their run to the Cup Finals and the more recent Kings-Avalanche seven-game skirmishes. I was happy for Ray Bourque.

But I wouldn't have called myself a fan. More importantly, I didn't have a firm grasp on the game's strategy. That all changed about three years ago. My buddy Salk had caught the hockey bug from somewhere and goaded me into attending a Kings game at Staples. Wow. What a difference. The game just does not adequately transfer to the TV: the pace, the intricacies, the physicality. I found it a lot easier to assess the game live. I found it a lot easier to recognize the tactics, the developing patterns. It's a lot like soccer, in a way: triangle passing, moving to space, over-lapping. I was instantly hooked.

Part of it, to be sure, was the atmosphere. Hanging and drinking $10 Newcastles with Salk became one of my increasingly rare "Boys Nights Out." The crowd for Kings games is BY FAR the most entertaining of LA sports crowds, more passionate, more vocal, more "real" than any other.

But the game was important, too. This was the year with the LAPD line: Jason Allison, Adam Deadmarsh and Ziggy Palffy. I appreciated the team's blue collar style, if not necessarily their penchant for offensive defensemen. Just an entertaining team to watch. Until they all got injured and released, of course.

So, do I miss hockey? Not really. For one, poker takes up a lot of those hours I'd spend watching. For another, Salk moved away. I miss going to the games at Staples, but that ship had sailed already. I'm not sure what I'll do when (if?) they ever return. It's not like the baseball strike in '94 where I boycotted going to games for several years because it hurt me so bad. I'm not that deeply ingrained in hockey. So, I have fewer reservations about forgiveness. I'll watch. If it pulls me back in, so be it.

I would not mind having the whole lot of 'em rounded up and horse-whipped, however, just for being so stupid.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


"They're dogs! And they're playing poker!".


Hit the $25 NL/PL tables last night on Party. Pretty much a roller coaster session. Got AA twice and got paid off both times. Once by Big Slick and once by Cowboys. KK flopped a boat; I flopped quads. Sorry fellas, I've been on your end. Pocket Jacks, not so lucky. Really, I WANT K9s calling my pre-flop raise. I WANT that. Not when he spikes a King on the turn, though. Also got sucked out once when I caught top two pair in the BB with 96o. My pot-sized bets on the flop and turn put my opponent all-in. She showed pocket 10s (unraised pre-flop) and hit her 6-outer on the river to make a straight. Painfully gave back a chunk a bit later when I read a guy for a medium pair. I had KQs and made a big bet on a scary flop (A A 10), thinking I'd get him out of it. No such luck and I folded to his all-in.

The lesson, of course, is that I shouldn't be making plays like that. There are enough hands that are being played badly by others, or where I'm holding the nuts and get callers, that I shouldn't "force the action." It's not a role in which I have much experience or positive results. Goes back to the patience needed in these games. You aren't going to push anyone off a hand, even a crappy, second pair-bad kicker hand. Not at this level.

Played two tables for most of the night. Both started out with some wild plays/players, but tightened up as the evening went on. Obviously, my bankroll did a little less moving around later on, as well. I love the tight nature of these games, especially in regard to the resistence to raise pre-flop. I'm happy to limp in in MP with pocket 7s, hoping to make a set and make a big score. The 11% of the time I flop that set--and the resulting big pot--more than makes up for the times I drop 50 cents by folding when it misses me. Excellent risk-reward if the deck hits you. But if I'm looking at 10s or higher, I'm raising the max. It seems a lot of others are reluctant to do so, or only raise the minimum, which doesn't eliminate anyone. I've cracked two or three big pairs from the blinds, because I got to see free--or nearly free--flops. Conversely, I've gotten callers when I've made a big raise and punished them when they caught a piece. A prime example the other night when I saw KK and raised the max at a PL table (something like $3). Got called by two players. Flop came KJ6 rainblow and I bet $5, hoping to take some folks along for the ride. I got max raised by one player, other folded and I went all-in. He called with KJo. Which he should have laid down to the pre-flop raise. Even though the flop nailed him, it still cost him plenty. Premium hands, people. Or hands you can play cheaply that can pay off big.

Not that everyone doesn't already know that. That's the thing about my introspective, strategic poker posts: they're written at a 6th grade level.


Only 10 more shopping days until my dear and patient wife and I celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. For those of you scoring at home, that would be the "wood" anniversary (insert Levitra joke here). You know, five years seems like a pretty darn good accomplishment to me, and though it really isn't all that difficult to be married to my wife (the converse may or may not be true), I think wood is kinda weak. Seeing as I'm not much of a whittler, I'm at a loss for the theme gift. I'm told that silverware is an acceptable, optional gift for El Cinco, but I'm imagining the look on the wife's face if she opens a package of silverware on this magical day.

Generally, we tell each other pretty explicitly what we want on these gift giving occassions. Anniversaries are different. All I need to do is encapsulte the full spectrum of my feelings in a single gift.

No pressure.

This is a Public Service Announcement...With Guitars

Dear Commuter Train Rider,

If you weren't such oblivious half-wits, I wouldn't feel the overwhelming urge to list the following rules of etiquette regarding our daily ride along the rails. However, you have proven your complete disregard for my well-being on too many occassions, at times narrowly avoiding catching an mp3 player to the throat, a fact owing only to my rigid self-discipline and fear of being locked up.

What follows would seem to be simple common sense. Please read carefully. And for the guy who sat across from me today, please have someone else read it to you carefully.

As you know, there are four seats to a "bank," two facing front, the others facing back. If a single person is sitting in this bank, it is incumbant upon you to sit only in the seat kitty corner to the current resident. This posture maintains maximum arm and leg space for both riders. If you have a preference for a window or aisle seat, or for a specific direction you like to face, and that seat does not put you kitty corner to the ensconsed rider, find another bank of seats which fits your anal retentive desires.

If your hair is styled in such a way that it looks like it's trying to escape from your head, do not sit next to me. If you think that maroon sweater is compatible with your purple pants, do not sit next to me. If you think a shower is something that only happens when someone is pregnant, do not sit next to me. If you're going to spend your ride writing, periodically jabbing your elbow into my ribs while I'm trying to sleep, do not sit next to me. Yes, I'm talking to you. I don't know you, but I hate you. If you sit next to me one more time, I'm going to throw you out the window.

If you are forced to sit next to an existing rider, please note the arm rest. If it is already being used, tough shit. First come, first serve. If not, feel free to put your far-too-hairy-for-a-girl arm on it. If it is being used and the user takes it off for a moment, say, to put a book in his bag, it would be considered extrmemely rude for you to immediately take control of the arm rest. While technically not illegal--commuting by train is truly survival of the fittest--it may cause someone with less self-control than I to beat you repeatedly about the head and shoulders.

If you are a huge fat guy who has strategically chosen the aisle seat, thereby sealing off the entire bank of seats with your mass, you're gonna have to resist that put-upon sigh when I politely ask to get by. See, your vulgar body has proved an adequate deterrant to the entire car, so there are no seats left. Trust me, if I had my druthers, I wouldn't go anywhere near you, for fear of being eaten. Mad props to you for solid execution of your master plan, but you've been bested this time.

If you like to stare at people for long periods of time, I urge you to please consider sitting somewhere else. You're creeping me out.

I know your intentions are good. It's a thoughtful and neighborly thing to do. But don't. I'm not an idiot. I'm not going to sleep through my stop (aided by the fact my stop is the last one). You do not need to nudge me awake at every goddamn stop to see if it's time for me to get off.

If all the seats are occupied, I'm happy to ride along with you. When 3/4 of the train empties at the Industry stop, however, there is no need for us to continue our little close-quarters pow-wow. I will not be offended if you quickly rise and go find an empty bank of seats elsewhere. I will, in fact, be appreciative. You should be, too. So, if it's I who makes a move to less encumbered pastures, do not give me that look. You know which one I'm talking about.

I hope this primer helps you to enjoy your Metrolink experience. I should mention that if you are one of the dozen or so hot Asian chicks that gets on at Industry, you may disregard all of the above and sit anywhere, as long as I can get a good look at you.

Faithful Rider

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Magician and Potions

Driving home last night, I happened to catch Antonio "The Magician" Esfandiari being interviewed on a syndicated radio program. He's in town for the LA Poker Classic. Only caught the last 10 minutes or so, but he seemed fairly down to earth. Didn't get drawn into some jabs from callers, including one guy who claimed to be 19 and said he and his krew (based on the young man's apparent hatred of proper sentence structure, I'm almost certain he'd spell crew with a 'k') would tear Antonio's a new one in two years. The Magician said he'd happily tote his bankroll to this gangsta's home game. Otherwise, the questions and resulting advice were fairly mundane ("play tight!"). He did say one thing that hit home with me, using the word "retarded" to desribe someone who leaves a table when they are winning.

I'm certainly guilty of that, taking the profit and making a run for it. I think it probably stems from blackjack and other -EV games where you want to take your chips before the house edge comes back around. I've carried that over to the poker table. His reasoning is that if you're winning, you must be a) playing well b) getting cards and, most important, c) have built up a solid table image. I'm not sure the last matters too much online, since the tables rotate players so quickly, but it all makes sense. Goes back to my obsessiveness about bankroll. "If I quit now, I'll be up $40 for the day." I know that's not the way to look at it. One life-long session. And maybe I blew the chance to make another $40. Something to consciously work on.


On another note, I have to get this out of my system. I apologize in advance.

The biggest scumbag in the whole sordid steroids and baseball affair is Jose Canseco. I don't think he's lying, per se, though how some commentators can accept his word is beyond me. I mean, he DID deny using steroids at every turn during his career, calling it a "ridiculous rumor" when the Washington Post's Thomas Boswell wrote an expose in 1988. So, while I don't really accept Jose's word, I think there are nuggets of truth there. Certainly, he embellished quite a bit, but odds are performance enhancing drugs have been prevalent in the game for some time. Yet, his crimes are that he's injected himself into the lives of others, like a serial name-dropper yearning to be defined by the company he keeps (and make some headlines--and cash--in the process). Regardless of whether the accusations are true, Jose's self-serving tome ("Every sentence begins with 'I'," was my friend Donny's review) is just the latest depth to which he has sunk.

Of all the people named in the book, Canseco is the one who did the least with his ability. Instead of owning up to that, he uses the steroids as a crutch. "I would have never been any good without the drugs," he insists, a built-in excuse for the way his career went from the sublime to the horrid in rapid order. He's telling us he was never any good in the first place, so his precipitous fall should not be surprising. No way that fall could have been predicated by his bloated ego, his destructive behavior or his refusal to work on improvement.

Contrast Jose's career trajectory with that of McGwire's or Palmeiro's or Pudge's. By all accounts, McGwire was a workout fiend. By an equal number of accounts, Canseco hardly ever lifted weights with the rest of the Bash Brother era A's. Even Walt Weiss, Canseco's best buddy during those halcyon days agrees that Jose just stopped working. As for the claims Canseco personally injected McGwire and others (a claim he partially retracted on "60 Minutes," changing "often" to "once or twice"), you couldn't find a single person, then or now, who would agree that the two were even remotely friends. Again, I don't mean to suggest McGwire is innocent. Certainly, there's enough circumstantial evidence to warrent an investigation. The point is that Canseco's envy for what McGwire accomplished, for his angelic treatment in the media is a primary motivation for "ratting out" baseball.

Baseball, in its typical manner, will attempt to shove this under the rug as soon as possible. No inflammatory rebuttals from the Commisisoner's Office. That would only give the story more legs than it already has. There will probably be some change to the steroid policy, hailed as a giant step forward, but falling woefully short.

The biggest problem in all of this is Canseco's lack of remorse. He makes no apologies for using the steroids. He's almost proud of the fact, the pied piper leading the masses down the path of improbable bulk and shrunken testicles. "The Chemist." He obviously revels in the nickname, most likely because he gave it to himself. No mentions of the health perils, only that a program of steroids must be carefully and rigidly controlled. What a fine example to set. Put it right up there on the mantle with the car-ramming arrest, the nightclub assault, the concealed weapon charges, the domestic violence, the home confinement and the rest of the "highlights" of Jose's career.

Do I seem angry? I guess I am. I always feel cheated when someone wastes their talent. Canseco was fortunate enough to have the world by the short ones and he squandered it. That he publicly doesn't find that to be a big deal rankles those of us who would like to think we'd do a lot more with those gifts if given a chance.

Anyway. Hugs, Not The Cream. Or The Clear.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Bowling for Flush Draws

Wanted to thank everyone right off the top for your kind words and thoughts about Donny's mom. She really was something else and I passed along the condolensces to the family. They had a wonderful service, the type of service that highlights all the joy she gave over the years, rather than the loss we all feel.

I am, by and large, a "silver lining" type guy and this weekend was no different. It came in the form of spending time with friends whom I've not seen in a while, reminiscing about what she meant to us, filling each other in on our lives. Despite the sad occassion, I got to spend time with my three best friends from high school, the four of us not having been all together in nearly five years. The fact we had so much catching up to do is the only thing that kept me out of the poker room.

Not really, but a funny thing happened. One of the above mentioned friends, Shot, and I had an entire Friday night to get ourselves into trouble. We tried. We drove around looking at old landmarks (our childhood homes, parks where we smuggled our 12-packs, houses where we'd relations with high school girls). One place that still remains is Granada Bowl, the iconic bowling alley and, in our parents' warnings, a "hang-out for hoods." As we drove past, a new sign burned itself into my retinas. "Poker Room" it said.


I wanted so badly to go in there. Not so much to play, but to see the clientele amassed there on a Friday night in the sticks. My interest was purely anthropological. Alas, Shot was driving.

What you need to understand about the four of us is that collectively, we are screwballs. No bones about it. You get us together for 30 seconds and we instantly fall back into our familiar rythym. Sadly for nearly everyone else, that means we're 14 years old again. I make no apologies for this. We even asked Donny if it would be okay to come back to his house after the service. We know we're idiots. And we didn't want to offend the family, something we can accomplish merely by our presence. We were assured it was okay. Or rather:

Me: Are you sure we're not going to make any waves by showing up?
Donny: It's 50-50.

So we showed up, stayed mostly out of the way, kept the silliness to a minimum, paid our proper respects, drank beer for nine hours and got kicked out of the house around midnight. Mission accomplished.


I'm sure I've mentioned how lucky I am to be married to my dear and patient wife. Here's another reason why: She is happy to ignore Valentine's Day. For one, our wedding anniversary is 12 days away (please, no gifts) and we focus on that as a more adequate barometer of our feelings for one another. A card is permissable (and, I haven't tried out the theory yet, but I'm guessing NO card might be a problem) and/or a little token of appreciation. But nothing ostentatious. And certainly no flowers or chocolate.

Which makes the phone call I got this morning all the more curious. "I'm on a mission of love," she said to me. So I've got a V-Day surprise coming my way later.


My heart is full of love today. Love for the two guys who quintupled me up last night on the $25 PL tables with their absolutely horrid play.

First hand: I've chipped up to $33 or so by taking some small pots. I see a free flop in the BB with A3o. Flop comes A63 rainbow. Lovely. I bet the pot and get one caler (UTG+1). Turn is another rag (a duece, I believe) and I bet the pot. Am raised for his entire stack (another $7 to me). I call. Nothing of import on the river and I take it down. UTG+1 was playing KK. No pre-flop raise. And then a raise on the turn when I've bet out twice already. Does he think I do that without an ace? Well, whatever. Thanks.

Second hand: I'm sitting about $65 and I get 44 in MP. I limp and call a minimum raise, along with 7 others (a lot of family pots at this table, I'll tell you). Flop is 10 8 4, all of diamonds. Checked to me and I bet $5 to see what's what. I get two callers (one behind, one in front), no raises. Nice, no made flushes just yet is my read. The turn, sadly, is 6d. Caller in front opens for $5. Five bucks. Into a $21 pot. With, what I assume, is a made flush. Perhaps even the nut flush. Well sport, you've just given me sufficient odds to call and hope for one of my 10 outs. Other player folds. River? SIX OF SPADES. Fill me up, baby.

My new favorite player bets the pot (NOW he bets the pot). I raise all-in. He calls with, yep, the nut flush. I am giddy. I am astonished. I am in triple digits. I am also going to spend ALL my Party Poker time at the $25 NL/PL tables for the foreseeable future. My results there lately have been fantastic. So many ways to kill the goose. If I hadn't flushed most of those wins down the SnG toilet, there'd be a lot less whining in this space.

One other poker highlight to mention. Has anyone ever played one of those $10/1 MTTs on Poker Stars with the unlimited re-buys in the first hour? Ohmylord. There were 27 re-buys at my table, one guy responsible for 8 of them. One player had nearly 40K in chips at the first break thanks to calling nearly every all-in and making like 6 straights and 3 flushes. He was leading out for T2000 every other hand. And getting callers. Who did a lot of re-buying. It was insane.

Is that behavior usual in these types of tourneys? I planned all along not to re-buy (though I figured I'd take the T2000 add-on for $10 at the first break if I could get near an average stack). I think there were about 500 entrants and 800 re-buys. Which meant I was getting quite an overlay on my $11. But I could never compete. I got no premium hands and was pushed off my marginal ones by the huge pre-flop raises. Naturally, the hand I went out on, Mr. Big Stack caught a 3-outer on the river.

An outside shot at some live play this Saturday night. I've offered to freeroll the Mrs. and a friend at the blackjack tables--and at the bar--to get in some action. Need confirmation from her friend and to decide were to play. This place is closest, but the new poker room here is supposed to be excellent. I don't suppose anyone out there can provide a review? It would be much appreciated. I imagine I'll be sampling both--and others--anyway.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Alright, let's get this thing back a rollin', shall we?

I played poker last night. I didn't lose. This should be on the breaking news page. I didn't win much, but I went to bed with more in my account than when I logged into Party Poker. I consider it a great victory, on par with Pvt. John Winger's almost single-handed defeat of the Czechs back in '81.

I finished third in a $20 SnG and I had to work extra hard to do it. No hands to ponder during the first couple levels, but it was clear the table was pretty tight, save for one bully. He was throwing his chips around pretty liberally and chipped up with blinds and limpers. I was simultaneously playing on a $25 NL table with much the same result. I don't think I'm going to do this any more. Here's why:

I finally get a playable hand--The Sisters--on the $25 NL table. I make it $2 to go one off the button. Two callers. Flop comes with 10-high. It's checked to me. I bet half the pot and take it down. While all this is happening, I get JJ in the SnG. I'm first to act in MP and I call? I didn't mean to call. But it wasn't that I hit the wrong button. I just spaced.

Much to my good fortune, no other players behind me, though SB completes. Flop comes with a king, but it's checked to me. I bet half the pot and take it down. Strange, eh? Nothing to do for 20 minutes on either table and I get almost the exact hands on both at the same time, with eerily similar results.


I fold another 10 hands or so in the SnG. We're down to seven and I get KsQs. First to act and one off the button, I minimum raise. Only the BB calls. Flop misses me completely, but--again--it's checked to me and I drag the pot with a T100 bet. Tight-weak group we have here. Except for the bully, who's pushed his way up to chip leader at around T2000. And he's out in 7th within the next two hands. Got caught on a steal and couldn't give it up, then lost with 99 to AKo.

I'm back around my starting chip count when I get respect again, raising with pocket 7s. Button calls. Only one scare card on the flop (a king) and I bet out, getting a fold. That kinda stuff never happens at Party. Okay, rarely.

The very next hand, I make a play I don't make very often. And I mean that in a good way. I guess because the table was so tight, I didn't think twice about folding my pocket 8s with a 3x raise directly in front of me. This is quite a breakthrough for me. Last week, this hand puts me out of the tournament.

The raiser gets re-raised all-in and calls. They show Ks and 10s, respectively. I pat myself on the back repeatedly.

Next hand, I haughtily fold KJo. "My starting hand club has become exclusive!"

Unless, of course, I'm in on a flop at the $25 NL table when it's my turn to act in the next SnG hand. In which case, I'll call UTG with Q7o. An instance of complete brain dead-ness. I guess I thought I was the BB and went looking for the check button in the middle there. Whatever. Miraculously, I get to see a flop, but it bricks and I just gave away T100 because I'm an idiot.

Now I'm forced by the cards to sit on my hands for some time. I make one steal attempt, but the BB calls and bets out on the flop, so I muck. I'm all the way down to T495 with six players still in and blinds set to go up to 150/300 the next hand. Mercifully, I find A9o on the button. Thankfully, I'm first in and push. SB folds and BB takes his entire time bank to call. All I can say for his decision is a) thank you and b) well, he DID have two live cards. Those cards being 8 and 5 off-suit. I made aces full of kings.

Which sets up the very next hand and what I like to call my Karnac Play of the Day. Folded to me and my 55. And my first instinct is I don't want to play them. Not a great hand six-handed. At minimum, a caller/re-raiser has two overcards. I've only got 900 chips and a minimum raise takes 600, so it'd have to be all-in. But, and here's where I make my first cogent thought about it, I couldn't call a re-raise with my 55, so I'm just gonna toss it.

An all-in right behind me, a call from the BB. Pocket sevens and pocket tens. Both make sets. Down to 5.

I lose my big blind the next orbit, but steal it right back. I fold until my next BB and I get to see a flop with J9o. God Bless that flop which comes jack high and my bet wins it. I'm now barely in 3rd chip position, but still just more than 4x the BB.

I happily fold my A8o to a raise and re-raise the very next hand. A9o makes a straight to suck out on a set of jacks. That's now the third hand of the tourney I'd have gone out on if I had played a trifle more loosely ("trifle more loosely" being my euphemism for the crappy way I played quite a few hands last week).

I manage a steal, but am still the short stack on the bubble. I fold twice, taking me into the money when pocket 9s gets corrupted by two bigger pairs on the board, giving KQ the pot and me third place. I'm forced to push straightaway with A4s and take show money when KQo pairs the latter.

And I'm elated. Well, maybe elated is too strong a word. Satisfied, I guess. I zero back in on my $25 NL table, find myself up $15 (that table also turned out to be tight-weak and I stole some pots post-flop) and quickly take the money and run.


My little poker playing ban has not precluded me from staying knee-deep in my addiciton. I've been reading "Positively Fifth Street." The best possible recommendation I can give this book is that I've not slept on the train home the last 3 nights, for the first time in...oh...ever. It's just too good to put down. I feel like something of a dolt for not having read it earlier, but all the reviews played up the parallel tale of Ted Binion's murder so much that I was turned off. True crime is not my bag, baby. Which is a genetic anomaly since both my parents and wife are literally glued to Court TV 24 hours a day. "In Cold Blood?" Sure. "The Executioner's Song?" Okay. But that's where my interest ends.

Of course, the book is so well-written and the accounts of Binion's murder are expertly weaved into a more universal theme that compares/contrasts perfectly with the tournament. I'm enjoying every word of it. Perhaps more than if I read it before I started playing poker myself. The detail of the hands is excruciating. It's taken every ounce of my resolve to not let my eye wander down the page while in the midst of a hand. I literally feel his fear when he stares down Cloutier. Repeatedly.

I also picked up this book on my Sunday trip to the bookstore. Not the kind of tome that's up my standard alley, but my interest is definitely piqued. Anybody read it yet? I'd be anxious to hear what you thought.


I also watched a sometimes-riviting, sometimes-boring documentary on Sunday night: "Some Kind of Monster." Now, I'm a Metallica guy from way back. It wouldn't be stretching it to say they changed my musical life. I'd been very much a Top 40 guy
all along until a couple of my buddies introduced me to the early Judas Priest, Scorpions and Iron Maiden stuff. I liked it. It mixed well with the testosterone that had begun percolating in my teen-age body. But Metallica...well, that was a whole different animal.

We'd taken to going to our local record store and picking out "heavy metal" albums based on an imperfect system of the coolness of the band's name and how menacing they looked in the jacket photos. The first we bought was Exciter's "Heavy Metal Maniac." The second was Venom's "Black Metal." The third was Metallica's "Kill 'Em All."

By the time I heard the break in "Four Horsemen," it was over.

Has taken its toll on you
The lines that crack your face...


For the rest of the '80s, speed/thrash/heavy metal was all I listened to. Slayer, Death Angel, Vio-lence, Kreator, Possessed, Death Angel, Helloween, Celtic Frost, Sacrifice...and on and on.

Of course, Metallica continued to crank out albums, though not fast enough for any of us. Then came the "Black Album," which has its inspired moments, but is not, at its heart, the Metallica I love. Then the mediocre "Load," and the largely unlistenable "Re-Load." Then WAY too much publicity whoring by Lars culminating in the Napster money grab. Suffice to say, the Metallica star had fallen in my life.

Yet, they still have a hold on me. I actually bought St. Anger. And I even find moments in that album where their genius shines through (the opening to "Some Kind of Monster" for instance), but the production sucks and the overall tone is that of an aging band chasing a (nu-metal) trend.

Regardless of ALL THAT, I was very much looking forward to seeing the documentary. I was mildly disappointed. To be sure, there are inspired moments: a teary Dave Mustaine unburdening his weary soul, his years of torment, to an uncomfortable Lars; Lars' "fuck" speech to an unmoved James, the obvious pain of the fired Jason Newstead (and Hetfield's explanation: "My reaction to hold on to things I love is to choke them to death") and the unintentional humor of the therapist acting like an actual member of the band.

However, as a documentary, it fails. The biggest change isn't even seen onscreen. Pre-rehab James Hetfield is an angry, disheveled bastard. Post-rehab James Hetfield is thoughtful, clean, even, by his standards, verbose. But the viewer never gets to see the profound changes. He's gone. He comes back. He's different. We don't get the process, the breakthroughs, just the before and after. Furthermore, his return sparks a great deal of friction which is never really explored to its depths. We know WHY it's happening, we just never get to see any resolution. We see the band seemingly happy and with a new bassist, but the issues raised by James' return are never dealt with to any degree of finality.

Oh, and Kirk Hammett is a weepy sycophant with nothing even remotely interesting to say.

For the sake of argument, here are my top 5 Metallica songs:

1. Seek and Destroy
2. Blackened
3. The Four Horsemen
4. Master of Puppets
5. Creeping Death
5a. Eye of the Beholder

My list. I can cheat.


Hearty congratulations to anyone who made it all the way through this. I wonder if there is another human in the universe who could possibly be interested in each of the topics. I'd say it's 9/5 against.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


There has been so much I've wanted to blog about lately. The bulk of it devoid of actual poker content. I still haven't gotten back on the horse since Sunday, though I have been reading almost exclusively about poker since then (both the printed and cyber word).

Yesterday, I actually got halfway through a list of things that are good. A feeble attempt at an uplifting yin to the recent yang bitchings around here. I was enjoying it, regardless of its simple-mindedness. Then I got blind-sided. And side-tracked.

Not sure how this is going to come out, but here goes...

Donny and I have been friends for most of our lives. From little league right up through today. For most of that time, we lived in close proximity to each other--sometimes even in the same room--first in our hometown of Livermore, later here in L.A. We have shared in the high points of each other's lives: graduations, promotions, weddings, births or simply a long-into-the-night booze-addled conversation. We have shouldered our burdens together. We are, at the most basic, family. He's my combative older (by 12 days) brother. He's the one who delights in pulling out the KISS "Love Gun" LP I bought him for his 11th birthday. The one with the constant stream of e-mails alternately mocking my foibles and praising my successes. The one I am reminded of ten times a day by a song, an event.

Donny's mom died on Sunday.

Somebody once asked me if my career de-sensitized me to death. I didn't really have answer at the time. I have been fortunate in my life that I have yet to lose someone close to me. I have both parents. I have both my maternal grandparents (my paternal grandparents both died before I was born). All my extended family. So, I didn't really feel like I could answer the question adequately. Because I've never REALLY been put to the test.

But, my job isn't really about death. It's more like a tribute to life. When I say this, I usually get a "yeah, sure" look or a "nice euphamism" comment. But it's true. There is mourning, of course, but also room for celebration, for remembering fondly the events of lives that have touched us. Not to mention a caution that such celebration should not simply be reserved for the end, but should be practiced always.

Donny's mom was old school: Methodist, strict, military wife. The works. I once made the mistake of dropping an f-bomb in her house (in my weak defense, I didn't know she was there). Trust me when I say you did not want to be in my shoes at that particular time. "Shame" seems an adequate descriptor for how I felt.

But she adored us. Patient with our immaturity, which we never failed to express in myriad ways. She was always skeptical of our latest scheme, yet gave her blessing with that smile which changed her entire visage. Not the least of which--and what I'll always remember--was that twinkle in her eye. That knowing look that said everything: "You boys are crazy, but you're my boys. I feel your excitement and I'll be here for you when it inevitably all goes wrong."

I hurt for my friend today. I dread the day I have to make those same phone calls about my own parents.

And I'm also thankful for having known Donny's mom.


On that note, that's probably all from me for a few days. I'll be out of town this weekend, heading up north for the funeral.

Sorry for bumming you out. I just had to get something down.

Monday, February 07, 2005

It Could Always Be Worse

My wife: That bad?
Me: (grumble grumble grumble) Stupid poker.
Wife: It could always be worse.

In "1984," the ultimate torture is Room 101, where Winston's greatest fear--rats--is offered up to aid in his "rehabilitation."

What's your greatest fear?

If you think I'm going to tell you about the guy who called 3 bets cold before the flop with his 102o and sucked out both me (holding AA) and another fella (holding KK), no, that's not my greatest fear. It would most definitely suck to have to replay that single hand over and over again from now until eternity, each deal of the cards erasing the memory of the previous hand. Wait. I'm talking myself into this being my greatest fear.

It isn't. Yet.

Anybody out there old enough to be aware of current events in 1976? I am. I was a freaky kid that way. Was reading the newspaper and watching the news at a very early age. Too aware for my own good, I think. I was an anxiety-ridden 9-year-old, with way too many thoughts and nightmares about the Cold War and what I presumed to be its natural conclusion: Nuclear Holocaust.

Aiding this particular fear was the presence of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory located within spitting distance of my childhood home. Every 4th grader worth his tetherball knew my hometown was a primary target for the Red Menace.

Still, not my greatest fear.

In 1976, a busload of school children disappeared off the face of the Earth in Chowchilla, CA. They were kidnapped by an odd trio of misfits, a couple, if memory serves, from wealthy, connected San Francisco families. The kids were shoved into a moving van and buried in a gravel pit. In. My. Hometown.

They managed to dig themselves out after a couple days and all survived.

Not until the horror of their ordeal went to work on my imagination.

As if that weren't bad enough, along came "Quincy," Jack Klugman as everybody's favorite M.E. It was my parents' favorite show. One episode featured a kidnapped young girl buried alive somewhere on a beach. I've not been the same since. The very idea of being buried alive transports me right back into my 9-year-old head, summons the cold despair of those nights I laid awake in abject fear.

I'm no longer anxiety-ridden. I mellowed in my 20s. The Cold War is over. But I can't watch "The Vanishing." And I'm not crazy about tight, enclosed quarters (in an elevator, for example), either.

The moral of the story? Taking repeated bad beats is way better than trying to dig yourself out of a shallow grave.

Yes, this is how I go about looking for a bright side.

One Word: Strategery

This hand I played in a $6 MTT on Saturday has been reverberating in my head for most of the past two days. It illustrates perfectly what I love about poker. Looking back on it, I've approached it from every single angle. The goal not being to determine if my play was correct, but to explore alternate ways to think about it. The end result, hopefully, is to run through those possibilities while it's happening, instead of only in retrospect.

We were well into the second hour of the tourney. About 500 players left (out of 2000). I was sitting with a better than average stack of just over T8000, blinds at 150/300. I found JhJd on the button and I raised two limpers 4x. Both blinds folded, UTG called and CO folded. I put UTG on AK, AQ or medium pair, figuring he'd have re-raised with an over-pair.

The flop came 10c 2d 3d.

UTG bets out T1000. I take my time trying to figure out what it means. I ultimately decide he's got me pretty well pegged on JJ or thereabouts. I take the bet to mean he's got two overcards and/or a flush draw. If he's got both, he's a slight favorite.

I go ahead and push. I've got him covered by T1500, though a loss here would cripple me. Obviously, I hope to take it down right here.

He calls and shows Kd8d. Which is what I'd hoped for. Eleven outs, instead of 14. A terrible call by him on the pre-flop raise. But, here he is with a chance.

The turn is 8h. The river? Do I even need to tell you it's a diamond? The four, to be exact.

But this is not about getting rivered. It's about the other ways I could have played it. Ways which didn't occur to me at the time.

For instance, what about just calling the flop bet? Risky, to be sure. Showing a little weakness, for one. But also a defensive play. If a scare card falls on the turn, I can get away from the hand, maintaining an average stack, allowing me to still compete and pick the right spots. If no scare card comes, his odds of making his flush (or king) have dropped dramatically. He's now a 3-1 underdog. He certainly doesn't bet into me on the rag turn. I now have MORE the best of it. And a solid player would be likely to fold to my all-in (no question that's the only thing to do there) with only one card to come. Of course, this guy called a big pre-flop raise with K8s, so...

On the flip side, if a scare card DOES fall, now I've got to make the tough decision. By simply calling, I've forced myself into a dicey situation. His betting into me on the flop is also something that I have to factor into any play he makes.

So, what about this other play? Is it something I only came up with because of the manner in which I dropped the hand? I get the sense the guy plays it out until the end regardless, so the result is probably the same. But the idea of protecting my chips when I'm just slightly ahead is something I've not given much thought to. I am, undoubtedly, a novice player in the MTTs. As such, I find I'm looking to double up and steal blinds almost exclusively (and getting heads up with small stacks when I'm flush with chips). In this particular situation, my aggressiveness, my desire to double-up obscured alternate plays.

I don't think there is anything wrong with how I played it. I think there's something wrong with the fact I didn't run through all the possible ways TO play it.

For me, right now, I feel like it's best for me to minimize the number of difficult calls I need to make. Pushing on the flop certainly accomplishes that. Not sure it helps my growth as a player, however.

Any and all thoughts are appreciated.

Sunday, February 06, 2005


I have a buddy who is prone to flying off the handle at any time, on any subject, in unpredictable circumstances. As such, we nicknamed him after the "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" character in the title.

I'm THIS close to going "Cheswick."


Welcome to my poker hiatus.

I will not bore you with the deatils. It is nearly impossible for me to relate the implausibility of the suckouts I have endured this weekend. The one thing you can count on is that it happened with malicious consistency. Time and time again.

On the positive side, I played well. Timely folds and pushing my big hands when I'm ahead. Only to get sucker punched. It is scarcely solice, however.

Sure, there's the need to maintain an emotional balance, to not let the suckouts affect your play. I think I've done a good job of that. But when it's going against you, I'm a firm believer you need to step back. I arrived at that conclusion based on past experience where I didn't do exactly that. And it hurt the 'roll.

The worst part, to me, is having to sit around for a few days with the bitter taste that comes with dropping a chunk of cash. Re-playing the hands and wishing for a different conclusion. The only real salve for that is to win. And, I guess, time.

It's part of the gig. I know that. Doesn't make it any easier to take. I've maintained a positive outlook on it. Until now.

The task now is, to turn it BACK into a positive before I play again. Right now, I feel like if I absorb another bad beat, I might just empty all my online accouunts. In fact, in the wake of the most recent beat (that would be my pre-flop all-in with AA losing to K10o when a four-on-the-board flush materialized, making me, yet again, Bubble Boy), I pondered just that. An emotional reaction, to be sure.

Ultimately, I don't want to do that. I do need to step back, re-evaluate my play (who knows, maybe it HAS affected me) and head back in in the right frame of mind.

Keep a good thought, can ya? And I apologize in advance for what promises to be a week of dour introspection in this space.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

I Repent

Whatever it is that I've done to anger whomever is responsible for the following, I beg forgiveness.

So, I played a couple $20 SnGs tonight.

AQo v. KQo. I flop a set of aces. My all-in is called, incredibly. Turn is Jack. River is 10. I'm out in 5th. I was a 98.38% favorite.

AcKd v Ad8h. I flop two pair, both hearts. My all-in is called. Turn is a heart. River is a heart. I'm out in 6th. I was a 94.65% favorite.

All you can do is get your money in when you're ahead. And break something.

Update: Twenty-six minutes later.

There's power in prayer, people. Pocket 9s in the SB at a $25 NL table. A lot of limpers and I make it $3 to go. Two callers. Flop is, I kid you not, 9 10 10. One caller to my $10 bet. He also calls my all-in on the rag turn. Sorry sir, K10o no good.

I'm off to bed, having booked a $0.95 win on the evening. I might actually get to sleep now.

Poker, she is a turbulent mistress.

Friday, February 04, 2005

The Name Game

I deal in death, people. Professionally.

Which is how I ended up with the stupid name of this stupid blog. Very f-ing clever, I am. I'm the guy with the witty comment/comeback that occurs to me days after I needed it.

So I made a couple changes.

For one, what I assumed would be a blog with a wide breadth of ideas and posts has turned into an almost singular tunnel of poker obsession. While I hope to expand the topics, there's no denying what dominates the discussion. For two, The Obituarium is a stupid name for a poker blog, as it doesn't remotely conjure poker. Now, had I any sense at all, I could have combined my vocation and poker into any number of clever titles:

Drawing Dead
Dead Man's Hand

Okay, not so clever, BUT BETTER than The Obituarium.

Anyway, this is what I'm going with now. No need to change the links or anything.

Now, onto the living. Booked a small win at Party last night. I am thankful for even the smallest of wins. My game is shambolic right now. Dealing with a little crisis of confidence that is, among other things, muting my agressiveness and causing me to second-guess apparently routine decisions. So last night, I played a $20 SnG and reverted back to ultra-tight mode. And did fine. Doubled up when I had a monster, folded every other time and finished 3rd. I think I'm going to stick with that for a few days (though I'm not planning on much play this weekend). Always a crap-shoot playing that style in the Party SnGs, with the small starting stack and rapidly escalating blinds, but I just feel like I need to go back to basics. Too many times lately I've found myself in a hand with no idea of which direction it was headed. Which shows up pretty quickly in the results. Gonna do some re-reading/re-studying this weekend, too.

Lastly, I'd like to give some online respect to my dear and patient wife (who is also an occassional--yes, occassional-- reader). She was awarded the 2004 Rookie of the Year for her company. It's a rather remarkable achievement since she's only been with them since May, yet managed to out-produce folks who'd been there the entire year. Remarkable, but not surprising. To me anyway. We're all very proud of her.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

The Morning After

Played poker online last night
Saw people, places, and things.
I barely had arrived,
My wife asked me to describe
The people, places, and every last thing.
So I unpacked my adjectives.

I unpacked "frustrating" first.
Reached in and found the word "worst."

With all apologies to Schoolhouse Rock.

Yeah, I'm still a little disappointed in how things worked out. I'd looked forward to the tourney for some time and to go out within 10 minutes was a real kick in the groin. That my later foray into the $25 NL tables on Party ended up with me dropping a pair of buy-ins (both of them against pocket Ks) isn't exactly solace.


I did enjoy lurking for a while on some of the tables. The one I was knocked out on turned into a Hammer Throwing competition, though I missed The Good Doctor's already legendary cracking of AA and KK. That table would have made Gus Hansen cower in fear.

A real life picture of Dr. Pauly.

Congratulations to on_thg and the rest of you check-cashers. It really is a splendid thing that such an event even exists. Thanks to Iggy for setting it up. I'm going to spend a month learning how to play poker in anticipation of the next one.

Thanks for coming by. And much appreciation for the comments I've gotten lately from those who've recently found the blog. Very cool.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

We're #144! We're #144!

We're coming to you live from Obit Central here at the Desert Mansion. To prepare for the tourney, I have recently completed the following:

1. Crack a beer
2. Have a smoke
3. Regulate my breathing

151 players.

I almost feel like I don't want anything to play in the first hour. How's that for confidence?

Oops. Pocket 9s in the first hand. I raise 4x and win T30. WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

I just started to list my table, which included fhwrdh, Jeff and darice. And I got moved. After two hands. I am not happy about this development.

My NEW table:

1: NemoD
2: RickLang
3. DrPauly
4: kingtutt
5: MacDKnife
6: Yours truly
7: KennyCasino
8: MtDewVirus
9: SoxLover

6:03: America's Wingman goes out. The world mourns.

I get pocket 9s again and drag a small pot.

Well, I'm pissed off. Out in 144th because I'm too stubborn to re-think a hand in the middle. A major issue for me.

I get pocket 10s on the button. Three limpers and I raise 5x to T100. Only UTG calls. I put him on AK, AQ or a medium pair. He re-raises me if he's got a bigger pair than I, I'm pretty sure. Flop comes jack-high with two clubs. UTG checks and I bet 125. He raises to 250. Now, my first impression is that he's trying to buy it. I don't see him calling with AJ and certainly not KJ. A set is possible, but I'm doubting it. So, I re-raise to T500 and think I'm taking it right there. Which was a good thought. I wish I had recalled it.

Because he called.

At which point it should have been apparent to me that he had, at minimum, hit the jack.

Since he didn't fold.

Which would make my read incorrect.

So I should revise it.

Turn is another rag and the bastard checks it to me again. Me, a bigger bastard, as well as a fucktard and a dumbshit, well, I pushed. He called and showed QJo.

Well, I could have never put him on that on the flop. And, to be perfectly honest, he should have given serious consideration to folding to at least 2 of my first 3 bets.

But when he DIDN'T, from then on, it's all on me. And I willingly gave away my last 900 chips.

I'm bummed. I wanted to play longer. I wanted to play better.

I do think I got the first tournament report up, however.

Come and Get Me

Just a little housecleaning today:

First and foremost, the WPBT event this evening on Poker Stars at 6 p.m. Southern California time. When I checked last night, there were 70 entrants. I'm looking very much forward to it and my main goal is to not look like a moron. Odds of that happening are set at even money. Again, my name on Stars is JoeSpeaker. If I end up at your table, it's one less person you need concern yourself with. I'd offer a bounty, but a) I can't think of a good one and b) knocking me out isn't exactly a prize-worthy feat. None of which precludes mocking me in chat. Do your worst.

My tournament game face includes carefully chosen pieces of music to fortify me. I hope to not need Alice in Chains' "Dam(n) That River."

Played a bit online last night for the first time in a few days. I'm just not feeling the love from Party. My recent forays into live play have been so much more rewarding. Of course, there's no way I can satisfy my jones with the bi-monthly trips to the card rooms, so...

Actually had a winning session, a rarity lately. Finished a disappointing third in a single $20/$2 SnG. Had half the chips when we got into the money, put my two opponents all-in when ahead and lost both hands. This has been the prevailing theme with my SnG results lately. So frustrating. But I picked up a check, which I augmented by doubling up on a $25 PL table and grabbing another 5 BBs in a $1/$2 game. Considering the bludgeoning I took last week, I happily accept.

Some Commerce trip reports up courtesty of fhwrdh, StudioGlyphic and Al. Check them out.

T-minus 5 and a half hours.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

In the Poker Dungeon

A glance at my notes reveals:

At 10:30, I lost the bar.

I told you this place was huge.

The group had scattered to the four winds, some to the tables and a few of us up to the tournament room to watch the action. Some familiar faces, but no real action to report. Plus, I didn't have a drink. And my fingers were starting to itch. Too much poker playing going on, none of it including me.

I made my way downstairs and found the list for 2/4. Unfortunately, I was only going to be here for the rest of the night and winding up in the fourth column of initials was probably not going to get me to a table before the summer solstice. So I made an executive decision to hit up the 3/6 list, which was much shorter. And it became apparent that you shouldn't wander far from the list if you wanted to sit as soon as possible. If the three barely recognizable blurts of your initials went unheeded, you were passed over. What is it with the electronics in these places? You get better acoustics at Denny's. Anyway, I stuck close, jostling for position with other addicts, almost getting pitched onto a 4/8 table numerous times. I remained drinkless. Furthermore, I'd lost track of the bloggers, though I figured I'd see them eventually in the big room as they made their way to the tables.

Ah, the best laid plans...

I was called after about a 15 minute wait and led, against my will, out of the big room. Down a stark hallway. Through a custodial closet. Into what appeared to be somebody's basement. Clearly, I was in an overflow room, with overflow humans. Folks who appeared to have not seen the light of day in several weeks. Most of the players at my table were Asians well into their AARP years. Between the lot of them, they may have been able to combine for a full set of teeth. This was not exactly the game I had in mind; not exactly my crowd. I resolved to request a table change as soon as I found a floor person. Sadly, one was as noticably absent as a cocktail waitress. Which is to say, completely non-existent.

So, at this point, I'd pretty much lost everything except my bankroll, and I didn't feel really good about hanging onto that, either.

It soon became apparent, however, that there were a couple donators at the table. One, a ruddy-faced Bill Paxton look-alike ran through two full racks pretty quickly and I'm pretty confident they weren't his first two of the evening. When he finally sulked from the table a couple hours in, I couldn't believe my misfortune at not getting any of those chips. Another older gentleman paid me off twice almost immediately, playing top pair/no kicker. But that was it for me for the first 3 hours. I got literally nothing to play. Most of the hands were raised pre-flop, often without reason. So I spent a lot of time folding and talking to the gentleman to my left, who turned out to be fairly entertaining.

He looked a little like Hal Holbrook, if Hal Holbrook were middle eastern and hadn't seen a dentist in the last 25 years. And he was a solid player. On top of that, he wasn't out to take anybody. "I bet my top pair!" was a common refrain from him. "I check the river for you" was another. He was never untruthful. He knew when he was ahead and seemed to care about saving people bets.

Eventually, I started to get frustrated. Aside from being cold-decked, I was plenty perturbed about the lax enforcement of basic table etiquette. There was a lot of non-english speaking, even more players betting or folding out of turn. I was about fed up. It was then I took a walk, trying to find the bar--again--and/or a friendly face. No luck on the second, but I returned to the table refreshened by a pint of ale and a little pep talk I gave myself about being patient. It didn't realy take.

I chased a couple draws and failed to hit. Did a lot more folding. Not once did I stare at premium cards. Found myself stuck about $60. It had been at least 2 hours since I'd dragged a pot. I was not feeling this place--this dungeon--and was about to call it a night when the table broke and we got herded back into the big room.

It was now about 1:30.

Things were about to change, but first they got weird. With 83o in the BB, I saw the flop for free and made top pair. Now, this is nothing to get excited about, but it was the first pair I'd seen in a while. Still, when the SB bet, I folded. And watched runner-runner 3s come off. Two hands later, I folded J10o on the button to three bets pre-flop. Naturally, I would have been holding the nuts. Time for another pep talk.

And then I started to hit. Then I started to play back at the wild Asian raisers. Got myself a couple free cards and made my hands. I was rollin'. I slow-played AA (something I would normally never do, but I was feeling frisky) and capped the betting with one other player on the turn with the board showing Jack-high and two sixes. A third 6 hit on the river, muting our raising war, but his pocket 7s no good. And he was a little angry I was holding aces. "You were not betting like you had aces!" he railed. That was kinda the idea, buddy.

I eventually ran my roll up to +$50 or so. Got sucked out on a couple times late, however, and ended up $2 to the good. That's right, two bucks. After 5 1/2 hours of play.

I never did re-connect with the blogging crew and I feel bad about that. They were really the reason I was here and I enjoyed every minute I spent in their presence. I'd like to thank all of them for making me feel welcome and for the laughs.

Until next time...